When I go to Turkey, there is one mezze I cannot pile high enough on my pita. Even better, Murat’s Auntie makes us a large container every time we come, so for the entirety of our trip we have some for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack every day. The delectable dip is a mixture of walnuts, red peppers, and a variety of spices, and I had not tasted anything quite like it until Murat’s aunt sent over her secret sauce during my first visit.
As Murat and I neared the end of the homemade jar during my first visit, I mentioned that he should get the recipe from his Auntie. As is typical when on vacation, we forgot to ask before packing up and returning home. On the subsequent visits we were treated with the same gift each time, and I started to more aggressively remind Murat to get the recipe. I had to make this at home. I found the reason for Murat’s reluctance to share the recipe when he finally admitted, “Jacqueline, Teyze doesn’t give away her recipes.” Was it a joke? “But we’re family!” I protested. But her recipes are of such epically secret proportions that family or not, it didn’t matter.
So, I determined that through trial and error, I would figure out how to make acuka myself. I searched many recipes online, and even found out that some call acuka ‘magic sauce’ – ya, it’s that good. A big reason why I may not have run into it so much here is because the main ingredient is pepper paste. While this might be found at Turkish specialty grocers, it’s not exactly easy to get in the US.
So my first task was to figure out how make the pepper paste. Without the paste, there would be no acuka. I combed the internet and watched YouTube tutorials, and realized that traditionally the pepper paste is sun dried in large saucer-like plates on rooftops. Not exactly a viable option for me. But like always, the internet pulled through.
Using Auntie Saniye’s YouTube channel (at least one auntie was willing to share their secrets!) and the recipes found on A Simple Pantry's, Tanya Zouev’s and The Aegean Delight’s pages, I was able to learn the spices and techniques that go into making acuka. Our kitchen became a test kitchen and experimental acuka lab. Through multiple iterations and taste tests, I feel that we have an almost-authentic homemade Turkish mezze at our fingertips. It’s not quite Murat’s Auntie’s, but in some ways, that’s the fun of it. To keep tweaking the recipe slightly every time, adding notes to my Google Doc, and hoping that one day, it tastes just like Ferser Teyze’s.
Step 2 - Make Acuka:
Every year, the Babson Players alumni group puts on a summer production at Babson College. The show takes place on campus, and since I have not lived near Boston since graduating, I have never been able to participate.
As COVID turned life into virtual reality, and our lives became anchored over a computer screen, so did this year's alumni production. An unexpected positive outcome of the virus was that, with no in person rehearsals possible, the Players were pushing forward with their summer show but doing so over Zoom. To my utter delight, I am thrilled to say that for the first time in ten years, I am acting with the Babson Players again as Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors.
The Players were and are a group that brought me the most joy and the happiest memories during my time in college. Who I became was greatly shaped by that 'club,' which was so much more than that. I distinctly remember that after a long day, knowing a rehearsal would be at the end of it energized me and made me feel like I had somewhere I really belonged. Being on stage felt comfortable, and the people I was surrounded by were kind, fun, and like minded.
I was determined to continue my stage pursuit, both during college and after, and moved to New York to carve out a career for myself in theatre. I loved performing and felt compelled to make acting a full time career, but after a few years I began to feel the exhaustion of rejection, and the burnout of taking jobs I didn't really believe in to earn more money and another credit on my resume. Deciding to leave acting made me feel like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, and I felt fulfilled in other pursuits and creative career choices.
What I wasn't able to realize until now was that just because I moved away from a professional theatre career didn't mean I had to stop doing the thing that gave me the most joy. I could have let go of the hustle, but I didn't' have to walk away from the happiness I felt in channeling different emotions, playing new characters, and (let's be honest) being a general ham. This show has allowed me to let go of any need to 'prove myself' as an artist, and it has brought the fun of theatre back into my life.
When this show is over (view it here on July 31 - please tune in!), I'm going to continue to look for other community theatre opportunities, virtually and, once we can start coming together again, in real life. I'm sorry it's taken me this long to figure out that I could leave the stress and keep the fun, but now that I see that I'm not turning back. A family friend of ours (who, incidentally, has had an excellent career in entertainment) once said, "the only bad theatre is no theatre." Time to take that advice for myself.
I gave myself too much leeway the last nine months. I became so wrapped up in minute by minute minutia I lost focus. Perhaps it was the rush of last year post wedding. We experienced a fairytale and returned to New York to a whirlwind of speeding time that consisted of business trips, immigration interviews, a new job, and an apartment and borough move. Time was rushing, racing, flying, and then the world came to a screeching halt on March 13 and all the balls I was juggling remained suspended in the air, and I slowly raised my head to examine them.
Then three months of quarantine passed, and there was no excuse not to write. But though the three months stretched, they also flew, and days turned into weeks and no thoughts made their way out of my head and onto paper. Time stood still and there was nowhere to go, but the writing muscles became atrophied and the motivation faded.
“Regular life” started to pick back up and before I knew it, it was July 3rd. Hamilton came out on Disney Plus and I streamed it along with millions of others. The music spoke to me through its genius, poignancy, humor, and truth. One song’s chorus chanted “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” And I was jolted awake. We are all running out of time, each minute, each day. Why have I let this strange time in history push me to sleep?
So I thought, what should I write about? I took the first step and recognized I have no time, I’ve got to write again - but I doubted I had anything valid to share.
But I do, if I continue to notice the small things.
Murat and I wanted to take a walk in Brooklyn yesterday, and being new to the neighborhood and the borough I Googled where to go. I found the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and thousands of users had shared their reviews touting the loveliness of the park. One review stopped me in my tracks and stayed with me all day. They wrote, “It remind me holding my woman,s hand making me feel so important.” The purity of this statement made me cry. My heart swelled thinking about this person, and the feelings this place stirred in them.
Murat and I stepped out into the 90 degree heat and began walking the promenade. We found stunning views and a walk we had no idea existed so close to our new neighborhood. As we turned around and began to head back, I took Murat’s hand. He gave me an audible, ‘aww’ and a firm squeeze. I too, felt important, and I think so did he. My tears flickered again, with the human privilege of feeling important and reciprocating that feeling to someone I love.
My wedding website says that I have 31 days until the big day. I’ve never particularly liked countdowns. They make me feel as though I am ticking my life away, making me forget that it’s not just the milestones in life that matter, but the moments in between. I dislike putting so much weight onto one day, event, or holiday. Countdowns make them so exceptionally fleeting, they become immediately replaced with nostalgia and a framed photograph or Facebook memory.
wrapping paper that covered the gifts, now just a memory of a wonderful day. There is no reason why the wedding shouldn’t feel like this multiplied tenfold, and much of me is consumed by wanting to say “SLOW DOWN, I’m not ready for the planning and anticipation to be over!” But time is never listening.
Philosophizing aside, I am beyond excited. Seeing all the plans, the Pinterest boards, the screenshots, the dog eared pages of magazines coming to life is the stuff of little girls’ dreams. And I’m blessed that I’ve been indulged by my partner and my parents to have my dream wedding on the island of Crete. It is not the easiest place for guests to get to, its distance meant my parents could not join me for walk throughs with wedding coordinators, and compromises have been made to allow for cultural differences and logistical necessities. But even from afar, there has been a lot of joy in planning, and I hope everyone feels just as indulged as I in 31 days’ time.
had a special day, but being called by a number at City Hall like you are at a deli waiting for a pound of ham wasn’t the ‘wedding’ we’d always dreamed of, and it was important to us to have our family and friends celebrate in our union and love.
I keep picturing September 21st over and over in my head, though I hope to let most expectations go on the big day and just celebrate and enjoy whatever unexpected or crazy thing happens. If DJ Nikos misses a few ‘must-plays,’ or the flowers don’t turn out Pinterest perfect, or the meltems in Crete is so strong my hair comes undone and tangled, it won’t matter. I’m ready to soak in the fact that Murat and I put up with years of long distance, and that in turn, my family and friends are willing to travel long distance to rejoice in our long-awaited wedding.
For me, Fiddler on the Roof is the rare piece of art that evokes nostalgia without schmaltz, and somehow incites a myriad of emotions every time you see it. This production, even more so than others, stung my eyes with tears and caught in my throat the moment the company stepped onstage singing “Tradition” (or “Traditsye”). The emotion, which is always there in the show, was brought to new levels of realness, feeling, and understanding in this particular revival.
My tears hardly stopped during the entirety of the production. Whether out of laughter due to a babbling matchmaker, sentimentality as the company sang “Sunrise, Sunset,” heartache for a community grappling with religious persecution, or even just the sheer sweetness of a poor tailor finally saving enough money to get a sewing machine, my cheeks were rarely dry.
The set, while minimal, was stunning, as though parchments of the Torah hung around each corner of the stage, a constant reminder of the characters’ faith, and the solid foundation on which they built their lives. Subtitles were extremely well done and unobtrusive, on each side panel of the stage.
It naturally makes sense to tell the story of A Fiddler on the Roof right now. The history should never be forgotten, but we are sadly seeing it repeated day after day through religious persecution, uprooting of families, and fear and bigotry of “the other” all over the world, and close to home. A Fiddler on the Roof shows us just how similar we all are, as a family that could easily be my own or my neighbor grapples with tales as old as time - letting go of the past, embracing the future, and making sense and balance of the two. Last week, there were points when I didn’t even feel like I was watching a show. The performance solely in Yiddish made me feel as though I was peering into a window, observing a day in the life of a regular family bound to a tragic fate. Rejoicing at their triumphs, laughing at their jokes, and desperately wanting to protect them from the tragedies and anti-Semitism they were forced to endure.
A Fidler Afn Dakh was one of the best productions I’ve seen in a very long time. The show’s three hours moves at a remarkably brisk pace, is bursting with musical theatre greats in acting, voice, and dance, and reminds us of where we’ve come from, and the journeys that still lie ahead.
When do you finally concede defeat, walk away, or as the English say, “give it up as a bad job?” Murat and I are at a breaking point over something that we thought should be exceedingly simple.
We have encountered over six months of thwarted attempts to add Murat, my husband, to my bank account. As we are married and live together, it is hard to imagine something like this would be difficult.
When Murat arrived in the US, we wanted to add his name to my bank account, so he would have access to our funds and his own debit card in the US. I’m sure you are thinking, “well, that does not seem like an unusual or odd request.” However, the series of unfortunate events below is instead what our young, foolhardy selves have been subjected to, the bureaucratic process and red tape mountains aging us beyond our years…
And then…the Banker looks concerned. She asked Murat to input his information again, since the computer froze. He does, and she gives us the same pitiful look as just a moment ago. A fellow Banker comes over and asks ours if “she’s also having problems with the system. It seems like it’s down.” Our Banker asks us to wait while she tries to sort out what’s happening. When she returns, she hands Murat a water bottle for his troubles. He looks at her puzzled, and she informs him that she is “so sorry, but the systems have just gone down, and we can’t complete the steps needed to have him join my account.”
Do we cry? No. Although our stomachs churn and our hearts sink, we are not that surprised. We laugh in the face of adversity and look forward to using a new water bottle! Ahhh, the spoils of war.
Perhaps the Banker recognizes the deadness behind our eyes, and sees remnants of a once young, care-free couple. She offers to make an appointment with her for two days later, and assures us that upon return, she will help us complete the mission we set on so very long ago.
We will return. We will not give up. But I’m becoming slightly worried and convinced that there is a higher power doing whatever it can to stop us from completing this task. I can’t help but wonder, should we listen to the signs?
High rent, high transport fees, high grocery bills, and way too highly priced cocktails are what you expect and undoubtedly encounter in the city that never sleeps. But despite the ever-climbing prices and cost of living, there is something the city offers often for free if you actively seek it out, and that’s culture!
Last weekend we went to the Lincoln Center Campus for an amazing day of free performances. Lincoln Center hosted a ‘block party’ to celebrate their the 60th Anniversary; it was fabulous.
It made for such a lovely weekend activity and at no cost (I really mean no cost, we even resisted the gelato stand!). From the morning to the afternoon we enjoyed multiple groups and solo artists who were stunningly talented and beautifully engaged with the diverse audience, which ranged from young to old, families to singletons.
From opera, to a 30-piece band, to a wind quartet were some of what we got to enjoy and engage with on a rainy Saturday. It was perfect.
Even some of the pricier Broadway shows can be seen for a lot less if you’re willing to explore the different ways of getting tickets. There are so many programs available if you take the time to do a little digging. I recently got to enjoy the some of the best dancing I’ve ever seen in a musical theatre production. Kiss Me, Kate at the Roundabout was absolutely fantastic! I truly could have watched the second act opening number of ‘Too, Darn Hot’ over and over – the precision, athletiscm, and stamina of the dancers were jaw-droppingly incredible. At the climax of the number, everyone around us seemed to be buzzing with the same energy that was coming from the stage.
As much as I wanted to see Kiss Me, Kate, I was skeptical that I’d get the chance. Broadway shows are notoriously expensive, and it would be quite a sacrifice to buy two full priced Broadway tickets.
I poked around Roundabout’s website and found the “Hip Tix” membership page. It was the perfect program – totally free to join, and if you’re between 18 and 35, you can get two tickets for $25 each, no matter the age of your ticket companion! There seemed like there had to be some kind of catch, and I was waiting to be denied my tickets at Will Call due to missing one part of the fine print. But as I approached the Box Office window, I was greeted by a smiling worker who graciously handed me our tickets.
I’m learning that the trick is to not be frustrated by the high prices, but to explore what a city full of culture and enjoyable activities has to offer. If you can’t beat the system, join it!
Despite the lack of kitchen space in our lovely hobbit hole, we still manage to get creative and enjoy finding and trying new recipes. Right now, it doesn't matter that our shelves are at maximum capacity, and that the top of the fridge, above the cabinets, underneath the bed, and all manner of nooks and crannies have become storage centers for dishware and dry goods. We're learning to live with that, and know that more space will come soon enough. Luckily we are both organized and borderline anal-retentive, so we manage to fit everything into the tiny spaces like a puzzle.
The other night, I made sweet potato and black bean tacos. It was my second time making it, and now I've confirmed that it's a recipe that will be used over and over again. It's easy, it's healthy, it's delicious, and - you get to eat a burrito (or several) for dinner. Could there be any other result besides absolute enjoyment when dinner includes tortillas and guacamole?
A couple weeks ago we were visited by a film crew in our little hobbit hole. No, there was no nearby robbery, neighborhood fire, or transportation delay that needed locals to spew their commentary. The camera crew arrived due to, none other, than my brussels sprouts video!
Earlier last month Misfts had a promotion on Instagram that encouraged customers to share with the company why they subscribed to Ugly Produce. Once you shared your thoughts, you would be placed in a raffle to win a free veggie box. That sounded like a good deal to me, and I hoped my brussels sprouts video would give me an edge in the raffle!
Two or three weeks went by, and I completely forgot about submitting my brussels adventure for the raffle. It was quite a surprise when I opened my inbox and found an email from the Misfits Head of Marketing. She told was going to be featured on a Reuters report, and asked if I would like to be a part of it.
Two days later we had a reporter and cameraman at our door. I think they were slightly taken aback by the size of the tiny home, but we made it work. A lot of footage was taken and many questions were asked for a very short sound byte, but the time spent was fun and interesting. We also ended up getting a free veggie box, as they sent one over for the shoot. I may not have won it in a raffle, but the end result was just the same!
Click the pic to be taken to the report!
As one who lives to eat, I’ve never understood those who eat to live. My relationship with food is a joyous one, and my life is enhanced by experiences at restaurants and family made home-cooked meals that give you both permission and encouragement to take seconds, then thirds.
Despite my love affair with food and my constant thought of ‘when will I eat next?,’ I never felt at home in the kitchen or comfortable doing the cooking myself. It even made me slightly anxious, and often left me paralyzed with visions of smoking pots and fires in the oven, quickly followed by me grabbing my phone to order take out. Suddenly, in the last few months I’ve come around to the idea of experimenting in the kitchen, and I’ve found I really enjoy it! Often when I begin, I have no idea how a recipe will turn out and have many doubts regarding my culinary abilities mid-way through, but most of the time, it actually turns out very delicious.
I’ve been documenting some of my trials (and errors) and wanted to share my adventure in Brussels (spouts) that happened a few weeks ago.
I've since made this recipe again and they came out just as delicious. Even Murat, who swore up and down he'd never eat brussel due to traumatizing childhood memories involving boiling the offensive vegetable, took seconds. High praise indeed!
Reflecting on my experiences with the world, my neighborhood, and my home.