Ask My Mom: How To Cook Your Favorites From Turkish Cuisine

August 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Culture, Discussion, Food

turkish food tableTurkish food is disproportionately represented by doner and other kebab varieties in the minds of many. Although it’s not immediately evident eating out around Istanbul’s bright Istiklal Caddesi, most dishes served in Turkish homes are vegetable-based. You might not remember the name of that spicy pepper paste or know how to work magic with lentils but my live chat guest has the answers to your kitchen questions.

Hulya Polat is an award-winning international broadcaster who managed to feed me growing up while working the demanding schedule of a journalist. A lot of Turkish dishes that seem complex (stuffed grape leaves; zeytinyağlı dolma) or excessively time consuming (lentil balls; mercimek köftesi) have tricks she’ll teach you so they’re easier to prepare.

The chat is open today, August 28th from 7:30pm-9:30pm US EST (11:30pm-1:30am GMT). Thanks everyone for participating!

You can eat around the world but often nothing we find on the road replaces our favorite meals we ate as children. My mom will be here for two hours today to help you with recipes, options for vegan-vegetarians, plus what dishes to look for to eat healthy in Turkey (yes, it’s possible!) I’ll also be joining – mostly to make sure there aren’t any embarrassing stories about me. Everything takes place in the comments below so don’t be shy, we look forward to hearing from you.

6 Reasons You Should Visit Hurghada, Egypt And One Why You’re Not

hurghada egypt marina

Hurghada, Egypt was something of a blank canvas for me where I kept asking how I could travel the world yet mentally miss such an attractive travel destination. I was last in Egypt right after the 2011 revolution, a memorable event in world history which continues to keep on average 100,000 tourists from visiting the country annually. The recovery of Egyptian tourism isn’t starting near the lonely Pyramids of Giza but rather along the Red Sea coast over 450 kilometers (~280 miles) away in places like Hurghada.

1. Hurghada Is Safe

Let’s get this issue out of the way first, Hurghada is far from the busy streets of Cairo physically and politically. It has a small population of around 60,000; roughly .00075% of the Egyptian total population of 80 million. Whereas thousands of protestors took to the streets to demonstrate against then president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, only a handful showed up in Hurghada to be readily ignored by residents making their way to work. Cultural revolutions don’t usually begin in resort towns unless the fuss is something related to beach chairs.

Mahmya Island

2. Direct Flights

Travelers are generally reluctant to opt for flights with layovers to smaller destinations or ones they might be less familiar with like Hurghada. Fortunately, there are a number of direct flights to Hurghada from places like Istanbul (round-trip flights on Turkish Airlines can be found for less than $350) as well as cities across Europe. Currently there aren’t any direct flights from the United States but you could take the opportunity to use multi-city flights to see more for less or get up to 70% off your ticket using MagicFare.

turkish airlines lounge istanbul simit

3. One Of The Best Places To Snorkel…

The Red Sea is home to one of the world’s 10 largest coral reefs and top three longest, over 2,000 kilometers (~1,240 miles). This reef system is home to over 1,400 endemic species of marine life where it was recently discovered that part of the coral is itself a new species. I’ve snorkeled in many waters, including off Socotra Island in Yemen, but 500 meters off the shores of The Breakers in Hurghada is the best I’ve experienced anywhere.

the breakers hurghada egypt

4. Scuba Dive…

Not surprisingly, Hurghada is Egypt’s second most popular (but much less crowded than Sharm el-Sheikh) place to scuba dive, rated by CNN as one of the top 50 worldwide. Whale sharks, scary sharks, a number of sea turtles to name a few, plus you can find Nemo here too.

hurghada egypt fish market

5. …And Kite Surf

On any given day there’s a 65% chance of winds over 14 knots (16 mph) blowing across the warm Red Sea waters in Hurghada. If you like the combination of water with wind while exploiting drag, Hurghada will welcome your kites. Most of the hotels in Soma Bay will store any water sporting equipment you bring so you don’t have to lug it every trip to Egypt. Those of you who want to get into the sport – usually after watching surfers for about 10 seconds – can take lessons and be on the water on your own in about 5 days. Flips and tricks optional.

kite surfing hurghada egypt

6. Now’s The Time To Enjoy Bargains On Pretty Much Everything

Nobody in Hurghada will argue with you that tourism there is hurting, leaving many of the hotels there operating at far less than maximum capacity. Fewer arrivals has resulted in noticeably reduced rates at fancier places like the Kempinski in Soma Bay. Apartment rentals are going up but right now seems to be the beginning of a tourism rebound you’ll need to take advantage of sooner rather than later.

hurghada egypt food salad

Why You’re Not Going: It’s In Egypt

Egypt is a country with such an abundance of worthy tourism destinations that many not-called-the-Sphinx are taken for granted. The Pyramids everyone is confused about, the sole backup of the entire Internet in Alexandria, and haunted palaces of devil worship obscure 760 km of Red Sea coastline. Media coverage and security concerns also pixelate the entire country. Bad news north in the Sinai Peninsula’s Sharm el Sheik resorts bleeds down to the calmer shores of Hurghada a 750 km (470 mile) drive away.

Known fairly well to Russian and other Eastern European tourists, plus nationals from German-speaking nations, the most surprisng thing about Hurghada is not that people are still visiting, it’s that they mostly aren’t.

Ford Asked Me To Find America’s Most Offbeat Road Trip Destinations In Their New 2015 Unminivan, Here’s Where I Went

August 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Car, Pictures and Video

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2014.

There are few offers sweeter to a traveler than, here’s a new car and an open road: go find the most interesting places you can. I was handed the keys to Ford’s 2015 Transit Connect minivan mutated unminivan in Las Vegas right after the 2014 Star Trek Convention, aiming to combine the best science plus fiction stops along the way to Chicago.

Turning On To The Extraterrestrial Highway

The official name of Nevada State Route 375, it was designated the Extraterrestrial Highway in 1996, about a 100 minute drive north of Las Vegas beginning in the ghost town of Crystal Springs.

The (Now White) Black Mailbox

Those of you who’ve seen the 2013 movie Paul might recognize this sole landmark within a 65 kilometer (40 mile) radius in the Nevada desert. It’s actually the mailbox of ranchers Steve and Glenda Medlin who live kilometers away but its proximity to Area 51 draws has made it an unofficial campground for UFO watchers. The box remains locked and is white because the former black one wasn’t bulletproof. More unusual than alien however was the rain, approximately 7.1 millimeters (.28 inches) or about 2% of the Mojave Desert’s total annual rainfall that fell within an hour.

Rachel, Nevada Population: 98

The only town along the Extraterrestrial Highway that has cleverly aligned itself pro-alien.

The Gates Of Area 51

The United States government officially acknowledged the existence of Area 51 in 2013, meaning they’ve probably moved the Roswell alien bodies somewhere a bit more secret. Although the signs imply otherwise, pictures of the back gate into the Area 51 are allowed; just be sure not to photograph any white vans that might be observing you. And don’t think of walking across the borders for a closer picture, in Rachel they warn that means a few hours of watching sand while held at gunpoint – for starters.

The Next Generation Of Solar Energy Technology In Delta, Utah

Meeting the head engineer on this project whose solar panels concentrate sunlight into electrical energy in a variety of ways (more technical details here) was a pleasure for my mechanical mind. From a distance these disks seemed almost abandoned, conversely, this might be the beginning of what solar power comes to look like around the world in the next decade.

utah delta solar delta utah solar power

Shoe Tree On The Outskirts Of Hinckley, Utah

On the outskirts of Delta and Hinckley, Utah is this tree whose origins are mysterious. But whoever threw the first shoe started a trend that hasn’t stopped over the past few years. It might not seem like anything interesting but when it’s the last roadside evidence of humanity you’ll see for 133 km (83 miles), a shoe tree sticks out.

Up House In Herriman, Utah

Located in a suburb of Salt Lake City (which might as well be Tokyo when you first see it after two days of desert driving) this replica house from the Pixar movie Up stands out in a neighborhood where all the other homes are some dull gray or brown. The original owners got permission from Disney, then sold it in 2012. The interior is also designed exactly as it is in Up, though you’ll need an appointment through their Facebook page to go beyond the front gate for pictures from the family currently living there.

Detouring Into The Wasatch Mountains In Alta, Utah

You’ll save around 60% off winter prices at ski resorts like the Alta Lodge in the summer which overlooks scenery that will enamor you with the state of Utah.

Lemonade For A Good Cause

On the way down after hiking at 2,700 meters (9,400 feet) above sea level, I recharged with some lemonade and cookies these kids were selling to help support children in need through the charity World Vision.

Driving The Dinosaur Freeway Near Morrison, Colorado

Construction on the Alameda Parkway through these Colorado mountains in 1937 uncovered a number of dinosaur fossils and footprints, originally noticed by some of the workers on the site. Dubbed the “Dinosaur Freeway,” 98 million years ago this was a major migration route for herbivores and the predators who ate them. Though I wouldn’t have known any of this without a tour of the ridge by the volunteers at Dinosaur Ridge. It’s worth the $5 donation just to find out the secret hidden in a flat layer of gray rock at the base of the ridge.

Carhenge In Alliance, Nebraska

The story of Carhenge is almost as interesting as the sight of cars sticking out of a Nebraska farm. The father of Jim Reinders, who studied Stonehenge while in England, passed away in 1982. Reinders’ father was a car enthusiast and (I’m assuming after several beers) he decided with 35 family members to create a memorial combining both father-son passions. Five years later, as agreed, the family members met to create Carhenge, which was designed in scale to Stonehenge. The land is maintained by the local group Friends of Carhenge who kindly let the Transit Connect be a part of it for an #unminivan moment.

Kool-Aid Days

This annual festival in Hastings, Nebraska where Edward Perkins invented the drink powder in 1927 is the town’s biggest event. Oh, yeah the biggest celebrity of the weekend was not easy to get a hold of but it was harder for Kool-Aid Man to make the hashtag symbol, though not for lack of effort.

 The Center Of America Is In Lebanon

Somewhat ironically, according to the U.S. National Geodetic Survey (NGS) the geographic center of the lower 48 United States is located at this spot, right outside of Lebanon, Kansas. Stranger, is the tiny, empty chapel right next to it.

The Future Birthplace Of Captain James Tiberius Kirk

In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (the whale one) Captain Kirk says, “I’m from Iowa, I only work in outer space.” Since the exact town wasn’t specified, Steve Miller, a Riverside councilmen decided to hold a vote to make it this town, population 1,040. Unanimously passed in 1985, now the town holds annual Trekfest, the last weekend in every June. There’s a museum at this birthstone, placed on land Miller owns – to ensure it can’t be removed by Earth politics.

riverside iowa kirk birth stone riverside iowa trek kirk birth

The World’s Once Crookedest Street

At least at one time, according to Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Snake Alley lost its winding record to Lombard Street in San Francisco when someone remembered it was there. The most memorable thing about the brick road designed by three Germans in 1894 was the biker in yellow who made three trips up it in the time I spent photographing Snake Alley.

Final Stop Chicago

In the end I covered 14% the circumference of the Earth (at 41 degrees latitude) over 4512 km (2,804 miles), many of it stretches of highway you could pull over on and hear absolutely nothing. Several studies have shown that people living in higher population densities tend to be more withdrawn from strangers plus displaying more overall stress and feelings of aggression.

Some of that might explain why people were so welcoming everywhere I stopped – with little or no advanced warning – telling me where I should go locally or where to stay. On one stormy night in Nebraska, an innkeeper overbooked the only “vacant” hotel in town. The manager was mentally unable to sort out the situation but it was quickly resolved by the group of very drunk softball players staying there with a few room swaps.

When I pulled into America’s third largest city, Chicago, from Snake Alley after 44 hours 12 minutes behind the wheel through 7 states, it seemed more alien than anywhere I had been to since Las Vegas.

Some Of The Best Costumes And Cosplay From The 2014 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention

August 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Culture, Money, Pictures and Video

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2014.

star trek las vegas cosplay 2014

The Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas organized by Creation Entertainment is the world’s largest gathering of Trekkies – over 12,000 – held annually in the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino. I’ve attended the past several conventions (here are my pictures from 2011, 2012, and 2013) noticing a once timid minority of cosplayers several years ago has rapidly inspired an evolving environment of creative costumes from all over the Trek universe.

Seeing the first Andorian walking around the casino drinking hard cider is actually what makes the Star Trek convention feel like you’re near the final frontier; not some aging lady on a respirator spending her last breaths futility trying to win millions at a slot machine. Completely fan generated, cosplay is one of the reasons nerds travel – it creates an organic atmosphere no overcharging corporate entity could imagine squeezing from their profits.

Those of you who’ve never been can take a look at my insider’s guide to saving money at the Las Vegas Star Trek Con after being tractor beamed for a visit next year by taking a look at some of the best costumes I was able to photograph earlier this month.

An Andorian Red Shirt And Terran From The Mirror Universe

star trek las vegas 2014 andorian mirror universe

Two Klingon Warriors

star trek las vegas 2014 klingon man woman

Elementary, Dear Data’s Georgi La Forge

star trek 2014 las vegas geordi

Data And The Borg Queen

star trek las vegas 2014 data borg queen

Horned Dog From TOS Episode “The Enemy Within”

star trek las vegas 2014 dog enemy within

Steampunk Red Shirt With Space Lincoln

star trek las vegas 2014 steampunk lincoln

A Borg And His Queen

star trek las vegas 2014 borg queen

Doctor Chaotica And Arachnia

star trek las vegas 2014 chaotica arachnia

Mirror Universe Terran

star trek las vegas 2014 mirror universe terran

Borg Cube And Seven Of Nine

star trek las vegas 2014 borg cube seven of nine


star trek las vegas 2014 hirogen

Starfleet Officer With Cardassian

star trek las vegas 2014 cardassian

Neelix And Kes

star trek las vegas 2014 neelix kes


star trek las vegas 2014 andorian

Federation President

star trek las vegas 2014 federation president

Mirror Uhura And Evil Spock

star trek las vegas 2014 uhura spock evil mirror

Zombie Vulcan

star trek las vegas 2014 zombie vulcan


star trek las vegas 2014 moogie

Andorian Elvis Taking A Picture Of Droxine From TOS “The Cloud Minders”

star trek las vegas 2014 cloud minders

I Laughed Every Time I Saw The Two In White From The Next Generation’s “Justice”

star trek las vegas 2014 contest justice

These were only some of the pictures I was able to take of those in costume and around the convention, you can see the rest in my Las Vegas gallery here.

Next Page »