22 August 2014

It's Been a Long Time, Michigan

Since moving to Turkey I have been back to the States, once briefly last summer for a baptism. I have not, however, been back to Michigan to see my family. As a visit seemed due, I was again being given the privileged of being a Godmother, and my Mom's family was having a very belated Christmas party, I was able to kill birds with this visit.

Knowing that ticket prices would soon get even more ridiculous with summer upon us, I bought my ticket back in May. In order to get something not horribly expensive I had to give up the dream of taking the direct flight to Chicago, Newark, or Baltimore on Turkish Airlines and instead bit the bullet with a United flight that included not one but two layovers. However for the $500 price difference I was willing to put up with United.

For reasons beyond my ken, the guy who checked me in at Ataturk only checked my bag to Frankfurt (layover numero uno) and couldn't be bothered to tell me why; in English or in Turkish. Two hours is enough time to transit normally through Frankfurt but to go through immigration, pick up my bag, re check in, go back through immigration and security, AND get to the gate the hour before the flight stupid American airlines insist on? Naturally I had to wait ages for my bag. I haven't actually checked into a flight in Frankfurt for some 14 years-and the airport has changed a bit since. After 10 minutes of trying to find the United counter (counter 501 fyi) I finally found someone who worked there and asked. At least my German got a pretty decent workout that day. With just over an hour to go at this point I wasn't sure they'd even let me check in but everything seemed to be smooth sailing once I found the counter. Immigration and security were a breeze. I love German efficiency. Smooth sailing until I was in my seat that is! It was a full flight of course so when someone came by saying that my seat was his (econ plus, bulkhead, aisle for which I paid extra) I was ready to throw down to keep it. Until the flight attendant, after taking our tickets and doing whatever it is they do, beckoned me forward. Forward. I was in the first row of econ so there was nothing ahead of us except for business class. No one, especially on United, ever actually gets bumped to business. But it happened to me! It really was smooth sailing after that!

My little brother has been my airport pick up since I left Michigan 12 years ago. We laughed this time as I think it was the first time I've ever landed in daylight. My DC/Baltimore flights never got me in earlier than 11PM. On our way to the 'ole homestead we continued our tradition of a stop in at Meijer. Meijer is the greatest store ever and I feel sorry for all the states that don't have them. Think Super Target/Walmart but BETTER. And doing it long before those stores ever got the idea. I had been compiling a shopping list of American foods I wanted to bring back to Turkey and picked them all up there: Mac & Cheese (7 boxes), Twinkies, fajita mix, Cabot Seriously Sharp white cheddar (2), asiago, bacon (2 lbs), smokey link breakfast sausages (2 pkgs), Crystal Light lemonade, oatmeal, chocolate chips, and lemon bar mix (2). Before leaving I also added orange slices, Double Stuff Oreos (thanks Jenn!), and four bottles of wine from my collection to the mix.

In preparation for the (belated) family Christmas party my mom baked and frosted a bunch of sugar cookies that she wanted to decorate with food markers. I was razzing her for making them all heart-shaped and thought it limited the decorating possibilities. She told me that if I wanted to decorate them I could do anything I wanted with them. I could write "Go to Hell" on all of them if I wanted. So when she left to pick up my sister from the airport I tool her at her word.

She was less than pleased to see it when my brother texted her a picture and said she hoped I were hungry because I would have to eat all the cookies I did that to. I don't like sugar cookies. So with some brilliant ideas from my brother and dad I turned them all into heart-related puns and illustrations.

You give me heart burn

Heart beat
It was nice getting to see my family but within an hour of the party I remembered how exhausting it is to be around them all! Both my parents have pretty typically poor Catholic huge families and my mom's are all creative types with equally huge personalities. And because I'm as bad at mingling with my own family as I am with anyone else I didn't get to spend as much time with some of them as I'd have liked but it was still nice to see everyone. I did get a fair amount of time with a couple of my favorite younger cousins. Amanda and David made me dinner one night: flat bread with pulled pork in a red wine, blackberry jam, blackberry balsamic sauce with roasted fennel and prosciutto wrapped asparagus on the side. Homemade (because with Amanda everything is always homemade) brownies and coffee ice cream for dessert. Amazing. Thanks to Amanda's cheese plate, my mom who came with me (as I cannot be trusted to drive) is now a convert to the religion that is Cheese.

Heart attack


Speaking of food...I don't think I stopped eating the whole week. And honestly my clothes felt a little tight when I got home! My brother made chicken fajitas for me. His are so good. He cooks the meat, onions, and peppers all together and puts cheese right in the mix to make it gooey goodness. My mom mixed up a big batch of chicken and cheese for sandwiches-a family thing we've been eating since as long as I can remember. My dad roasted two big pork shoulders for the family party so there was pork then and lots of leftovers. I also put away some Hudsonville ice cream; a local product you can really only find in West MI which is a huge shame because they make THE best ice cream. Truly. It's not that Turkish food isn't good because it is! But all Turkish all the time gets a little boring.

Beheading of Saint Valentine


Sick at heart/Purple Heart
My bff since the second grade had the most beautiful twins a few months ago and asked me to be Godmother to her son. She kindly arranged the baptism for the weekend I was in MI so I could actually be there for it. The baptism was lovely and the twins were really well behaved. What I most enjoyed though was being able to catch up with my girlfriend's family! I GChat on the occasion with her brother but haven't seen her parents in years. She combined the baptism with a belated birthday party for her 3 year old so Auntie Andrea  got to watch my honorary niece (who associates me with Merida from Disney's Brave so, I'm cool) open her presents. Which consisted of a bizarre combination of princessy things and dinosaurs. Both interests courtesy of her uncle. I can't wait to see what he introduces her to next! Ballroom dancing and monster trucks?

Open heart surgery

Heart of Darkness
It was a good trip home. Not the least because they had a cold front so the weather was in the 70s (F)! which was a majorly nice change from the hot and humid we've been having in Istanbul. My sister came from Florida for a few days so this was the first time in four-five years we've all been together. Who knows when the next time might be, but until then; stay Pure, Michigan!

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