Friday, December 9, 2011

Cooking My Way Back Home at home

A sensation hit suddenly. Yesterday, for the first time in my life I returned to a place I consider my own. Foreign as it is, crazy as where I have settled may seem, and as far from my family I may be, it feels like I am home. After over two years of roaming around it is nice to be able to crawl into my own bed and dream vivid dreams, go to the kitchen and prepare comfort foods with elements collected throughout my travels, and sit in my room to write these words.

My uncles Mitch and Jon recently wrote a cookbook titled Cooking My Way Home. Told through a collection of recipes, it is a unique account of how hard work, dedication and enthusiasm for something you are passionate for lead to the realization that sometimes the best things can be explored in a space you call your own. Mitch and my aunt May are the most amazing chefs I know and have continued to inspire me through their devotion to good food. Now they made it possible to share that love and some of the dishes that came out of it with the masses. Cooking My Way Home pushes the limits of conventional cookbooks by proving one can be a chef of high caliber without leaving the home kitchen. The recipes are tried and true and turn out just as good as if you were to sit down in one of Mitch’s amazing restaurants. Everyone I know who has attempted to cook from the book were pleased with the outcome, including my wonderful grandparents who claimed the braised lamb shank from the book prepared by my grandma was the best they had had (a strong statement when you are in your 80's). The holidays have hit with quickness and I know there will be a lot of cooking (and eating) happening soon. I will be using the book as a manual to cook some things in my home away from home this Christmas in Istanbul, and I recommend you pick up a copy and do the same.

Check out COOKING MY WAY BACK HOME on the NY Times Notable Cookbook list and order your copy today!

Happy holidays and love to all!



Sunday, October 9, 2011

An oldie, but goody to get the writing bus moving again.

Here is a little something from my traveling past, to celebrate temporary stability, hopefully siz smuggles, in Istanbul.

All aboard……the night train.

2:30 am Nis, Serbia

I briefly say goodbye to my dear friend Nenad and board the night train that had arrived in a timely fashion, an unusual occurrence for this line I’d been told. Foreign travel does not always come easy, and this was one of those moments where a basic knowledge of the language, or in this case, the ability to decipher the local alphabet will insure you arrive in your planned destination. I note this because the cars separate mid trip leaving a misinformed traveler with a potentially detrimental detour.

I climb into the correct car and was instantly overwhelmed with by intense conflicting energies surrounding the various nocturnal persons on board. I realized soon after finding seat that I had entered the smuggling car, as admittedly I had been warned could happen travelling overnight on this line.

After being in a city with 60-70% unemployment the idea of black market trade as a form of survival, brings little shock to my mind. Good people make a living buying and selling what they can with little profit and high risk. Life for many is a dangerous game.

What began as an unnerving stake out by some of the passengers, soon turned into frenzy. Cartons of cigarettes with comical names were ripped apart and stuffed into every last crevice of the train. Panels in the cars compartments were being removed, bags were being packed and re packed again and again. Sleep was not an option on this trip.

Before reaching the border the chaos finally lifted as an air of tension rose. The train came to a halt and the heavy-footed Bulgarian border control stepped on. A waiting game commenced, and as the controller approached our compartment I watched the previously confident, spunky woman seated across from me started to sweat. After a small amount of questioning the pressure had ended and her lighting of a cigarette acted as a sign of relief.

The train’s successful release resulted in a sort of upheaval. All that had been safely stored earlier was recovered including the packages that were forced upon my fellow car mates. In addition the cigarettes were now being sold and older village women and rough workmen alike were purchasing cartons at a premium price. If this was not enough to take in at 6am, unbeknownst to me I was situated in front of what was presumably an illegal drug smuggle. I watched in awe as a lanky, sinister character wedged his way above the aisle between my compartment and the window. Once secure, he pulled out a giant knife, popped open one of the roof panels and quickly cut out of the insulation 10 small carefully wrapped packages, whose content one could only imagine was meant to stay undisclosed. The passenger flow in the aisle was undisturbed, and people passed under this shady character without hesitation. All I can do is, assume this was not a rare occurrence and I was the abnormal passenger.

As we finally pulled into Sofia’s main station I was in a delirious state, digesting my dose of surreal reality. Think I will stick to daytime travel from now on.

Monday, December 20, 2010

To those living in La la land....

consider supporting my favorite local non-profit Machine Project this holiday season, memberships also make great gifts :)

Then fry your life away at their annual fundraising party....good fun, good coronary, good cause.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Holidays are fleeting past and I miss my family most around this time of year (especially my Gram Athena), lots of love to you all. My mother has requested an update, so here it goes:

What a year. What a world.

Currently, I have been able to create a life within Istanbul with the luxury to be both removed from and immersed in the culture. This optional and anonymous nature makes for very exciting possibilities day to day; not seeking permanent place, because I have an idea where I want to end up, just finding temporary refuge in a city with a creative outlet and a little bit of comfort.

The fact that I am in a foreign country cannot escape me however, and is very apparent when I exit the rather modern western interior of home and into the neighborhood; a sort of village within the city where scrap collectors announce there needs and sweet toddling carts, their presence.

I also cannot overlook when I pass by an all girls school where scriptures are being recited in a rather cult like fashion.

Or am blessed with an intrusive call to prayer at 6 in the morning.

I am not here to ignore these moments, but embrace that I can live my life amongst them. No interruption or criticizing, but learning and choosing which aspects to participate in and which I prefer not to.

A good exercise in acceptance, and proof that coexistence is real and possible.

I have really developed an interesting way to look at life, embracing the present moment and accepting that in my eyes there are only a few things found to be true. Everything else is up to interpretation and becomes a battleground for the egocentric.

This is a period of intrinsic knowledge development, full eye opening experiences and challenges by which to grow. Here are some of the highlights this year (please also take these as a deep Thank You to those who contributed to the experience, you know who you are!):

-Meeting my Chilean twin Julian…Serydarth connects the best of the best.

-Being humanized by fresh humanure in the Tuscan mountains of Garfagnaga.

-Italy, it’s people, and all of its splendors!!

-Mutual understanding and the enjoyment of life with the lovely Joicy!

-Falling in love with the Balkans!! Music, cultural diversity, beautiful languages, and hot headed nationalism. This includes the countless bus rides, the ‘living in a car experience’ in Malakaland, and the unexpected 'ending up in' Turkey one morning in June.

-Learning about creating a homestead in the most sustainable fashion in Krushevo, Bulgaria.

-Permaship and the path to Istanbul (Andrew you have done more for me than you know!)

-Morocco, tranquility and trances.

-Visits from old friends and a beautiful brother.......Beer Gardens, following the World Cup (Germany and Holland during the finals was not planned), and a Spritz introduction!

-Maya opening up the Dour for music, a new found love for Belgian everything, and my lovely covoituraging hosts to Paris….. a lesson in ask and you shall receive.

-Non-hostile, hostel life and my worldly family in Pisa.

-The renovation of my current life c/o Cynthia, Angelika, and Emiliano. A Big GIANT Thank You.

-The opportunity to take a PDC with the masters, thanks to the Permaculture Institute of Turkey.

-‘Stumbling upon’ the passage Hazzopoulo and finding (my) Aponia.

At the end of 2010, my hair a bit darker, my wit a bit sharper, and my mind a bit clearer….I have a realization:

I do not live in a dream world, but in the real world living my dreams. Lucky me.

Luck Bless You. (XX Aponia)



Oh and if you are not bored by the self –absorbed ranting by now, here’s a little extra food for thought…

Let go lovies, just live; and keep in mind this set of Alex-isms, some cliché but all carrying some truth through personal experience thus far.

Be inspired and it will inspire others effortlessly. Trust yourself and people will trust you.

Do what you have to do to survive even if you feel it is irrelevant at the moment, you can always develop a way to connect what you have learned later on. There is always a way to maintain integrity of a goal while developing new skills.

Any skill you learn will come in handy some time in the future, and you are able to learn anything if you really want to and put in time and effort.

With this said there are some things I just don’t want to learn, which I think is ok too.

Be yourself and stop questioning things, everything will fall into place if you have good intention….and thankfully it has so far for me.

Don’t ignore the ignorant; open their mind to something new (if you can, of course).

This world has so much potential for universal happiness, so start making choices that feed the happiness. I have much hope for 2011!!! Happy New Year......

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

A sea of people swallows you whole.....Istanbul don't steal my soul!

The ambient sounds of the city have shifted from church bells ringing in the distance to the call to prayer.

I have made it to Istanbul and I believe I made the right decision. The city is 'out of control' in a good way. Imagine LA with twice the population and cultural whiplash. A month and a half will do me good.

Follow my daily adventures here and maybe you will understand why:

Tilt a whirl wind tour….and my heads still spinning

Alas, I’ve stopped.

Where did I land? Italia of course…

My return came not by surprise or chance, but necessity. Sammy, my youngest brother, was visiting Italy with school and I could not miss the chance to see him. It was a brief but worthy trip that brought me back to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Venice. I enjoyed every moment with my sweet bub, but felt a little like the crazy vagabond sister and hope I did not embarrass him too much crashing in his hotel room, and looking like a real ragamuffin, as gram would say. I must note here that I am soooooooo very proud of my brothers and am thrilled to see what fine young men they’ve beco

me. This visit made me realize more than ever how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family, the youngest being the most brilliant of all (I can say this because we all agree)!


After Istanbul in June I really did not stop. Essaouira, Morocco for the Gnaoua festival of music. Germany and Holland to visit my dear friend Daniela from SF. Then back Italy by land via Belgium for the Dour festival, hitching to Paris, covoituraging to Southern France, trucking to Casale, train-ing to Venice and now living in Pisa, where I work in the best hostel in the world Walking Street Pisa with my dear friends Marco and Anna.

This part of the trip was filled will such randomness I do not know where to start. I have posted albums and will take any questions if the photos do not speak for themselves.

Sammy and friends http://www







Moroccan Trance




Stay hydrated.

My pauses never come without a stint of grief, for good reason. When you beat your body up for extended periods of

time, it has a way of retaliating…this time in the form of renal colitis (particle matter passing similar to kidney stones). My body managed to stage three ailments over a period of a week, strategically amplifying the pain from one to the next without actually killing me. It was a dreadful spell that left me missing home more than ever. My trip to the emergency room for diagnosis was the highlight of this ‘low point’ due to the fact that I conducted the entire process in Italian, including understanding the diagnosis, truly an accomplishment in my eyes. Walking past the leaning tower sick as a dog, I still enjoyed watching countless tourists prevent the tower from falling down, and realized I would not want to be sick anywhere else in the world (except home that is). I could not express my internal laughter because of the pain, but I really love this aspect of the city.

After this episode I often would ride the bike that I purchased for 15 euro back to the surreal Piazza dei Miracoli to read my book and admire the giant landmarks that seem as though they spontaneously arose from the bright green carpet of grass.

I can describe the scene in one word, miraculous!!

Hostel World

I cannot end this post without

briefly describing how fun it has been working at Walking Street. Marco and Anna run the hostel as if it were a home for the weary travelers that are usually just passing through to visit other parts of Toscana or Cinque Terre. They’ve created and amazing atmosphere in a beautiful historic building with no outside help. The couple work their asses off and made me r

ealize how difficult working in ‘hospitality’ actually is. With that said I really enjoy meeting all of the guests from around the world and have even developed a new tangent of my project because of it based on nothing other than ‘identity’ (considering the diversity of my sampling, I could not resist…more info to come!).

We have created a strange little family at Walking Street Pisa, communicating by way of a weird mix of Italian, English, and Thai (since Anna is from Thailand), with the occasional Japanese and Spanish bits. There have also been some guests in residence that have added to the goodness. The presence of sweet Morvarid from Iran, Norbert from Hungary, and a Chilean family (Lorreto and her aunt and nonna!) have really strengthened the sense of community within the hostel and make the experience and dinners that much better.

Another notable experience to add to my nonstop adventure.

I will be returning to Istanbul soon, to build a garden and prepare myself for India. Am I ready? I will have to be.

Tales from the east are coming soon.

The Daily Green News Feed