Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Soul Camp

As a treat to myself I decided to attend Heather's Summer Soul Camp. Well, camp started yesterday and I'm already feeling myself being more intentional about summer. It's so easy, for me anyway, to let summer just shoot past and not really enjoy the slower, easier days. For the next ten days at least I plan to slow down and enjoy it a little more. To start I decided to skip my regular class at the gym knowing a very intense sub was teaching. Since I'm not a fan of being screamed at while I work out, I chose to take a long walk instead. A very peaceful, if hot, walk along the neighborhood trail.

The last picture is from my son's riding lesson last Friday. He is riding one of the most beautiful horses in the barn, Tetska. And, yes, it was cool enough, in Texas, in July, for a jacket.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

This Week In My Kitchen

Joining Heather's bloghop.

A weekly collection of photos from the center of my home. 
Cheese Boreks...the link isn't the actual recipe my husband used to make these, but it's close.

Seasonal berries.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I just liked the way the chandelier over the breakfast table was reflecting on the pantry door.

It's Ramadan so we are eating a lot of soup. This is red lentil with sweet potato.

More soup. This time Pasta e Fagioli
Biscuits to accompany all the soup.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Different Kind of Royal Land

Istanbul is also a royal city, but could not be more different from England. Teeming with people, speaking so many different languages they can't even all be identified, it is truly a meeting of cultures. There is almost a carnival atmosphere to the streets with the myriad street vendors and shop owners continuously urging you to buy their wares or partake of their food. You can feel the striving to be a part of the western world in the modern tram line and Mercedes' and BMW's that ply the streets. At the same time you know you are in a conservative Muslim culture when a man in shorts seems out of place despite the warm temperature. The sights and sounds are arresting; the overwhelming size of the ancient buildings, the athan going off at the appointed time, the spices in the markets, all those languages. A very unique experience that I highly recommend.
Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque)

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia). I've long wished to visit this amazing structure and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, it isn't being maintained very well. There is scaffolding set up, but no work was actually taking place. I haven't been able to determine if this was due to it being the height of the tourist season or if it's an abandoned project (which is how it seems).  It is my hope that Turkey is able to find the necessary resources to adequately preserve and maintain this astounding piece of architecture.

Aya Sofya

Aya Sofya

Icon painting at Aya Sofya

The passageway to the balcony at Hagia Sophia. This winds up and up. It was humbling to traverse this crude stone ramp while thinking about the fact that people have walked here since at least the 5th century.  

The Basilica Cistern. An underground water source built in the 6th century. The entire structure measures 212x453 feet. It is massive and eerie. The almost lyrical sound of dripping water adds to the otherworldliness of the Basilica.

The pillars used to hold up the roof of the cistern are recycled from locations throughout Turkey.  There are two representing Medusa that are placed so that the heads would have been under water. Some have assigned meaning to this, but I suspect that they were placed this way simply to make them fit.


Chamber at Topkapi Palace. A 15th century era home of the Ottoman rulers. These three pictures hardly do justice to this amazing place. Windsor Palace has nothing on this place in size.

A dome in Topkapi.

Windows in Topkapi.


Dolmabache Palace as seen from the Bosphorus boat tour.

French style pastry, baklava and Turkish tea. It was pouring rain outside as we sat in a little galley attic space having our tea. We tried to wait out the rain, but eventually faced the fact that we were going to have to brave it. That was quite the experience as this part of Istanbul doesn't really have storm drains. Water was running about 2 feet across in all the gutters. I had already fallen while we were in Windsor and didn't want to fall again trying to jump over these mini rivers so I had to wade through the nasty water. We were soaked to the bone by the time we finally made it back to the hotel.

Classic Turkish kebab and our favorite sparkling lemon water.

The street view from our hotel.
 The Hotel Ambassador has a lovely terrace were breakfast is served with this amazing view of the Blue Mosque. To the left was Hagia Sophia.

The Blue Mosque.

In the Land of the Royals

We celebrated two major milestones last week with a trip to London and Istanbul. Last October we hit 20 years of marriage and in April my husband turned 50. This first set of pictures is from London. My favorite place in the city was Hyde Park. Ironically, I don't have any pictures from there. My second favorite place we visited was Windsor Castle, which is actually in Windsor, about 30 minutes by train from the city. Our time in London was enjoyable, if busy. Much time spent on the London Underground (my least favorite place) getting from one place to another. I love the way the Brits talk, not just the accent, but their lyrical way with words. The food, however, left much to be desired, except the French pastry shop! Their palates are a little too bland for me. And they don't believe in cold beverages!! This Texan got more than one funny look after asking for a cup of ice. Enjoy the sights.

Westminster Cathedral

Westminster Interior

Turret at Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Tower of London

Tower Bridge

Chelsea FC stadium

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

The iconic fish and chips, which I could not bring myself to eat.

French pastries, which I had no trouble eating.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Alphabet of Now

Lindsey at A Design So Vast does these alphabet of now posts every so often. I love the idea and decided to borrow it.

A--Amin, my dear son. I see you growing into a wonderful young man every single day.

B--Books. I have far too many stacked up waiting to be read.

C--Club sports. I'm wondering what the point is.

D--Driving. I'm finding that I like doing it less and less. I used to love to drive. There is just so much more congestion everywhere these days that I find it frustrating to drive.

E--Elementary school years have officially come to a close for our family. It's bittersweet.

F--Fitbit. I have a new friend and she's walking more steps than I am. The perfect motivation to get me moving more!

G--Graduation. My daughter's 6th grade graduation is tomorrow. I can hardly wait to see her spiffed up. She isn't a dress up kind of girl.

H--High school. I will have a child in high school next year. How is that possible?

I--Index-Card-a-Day. Daisy Yellow is doing this wonderful project. I do not know why I find it so much easier to create on a little index card than I do a bound book.

J--Journaling. I've been keeping a small daily record for about a year now. Only recently have I realized how useful it is.

K--Kite flying. Not sure why this is the phrase that kept coming to me.

L--London. My husband and I will be there very soon!!

M--Mornings. Get to sleep in a little now that schools out!

N--Now. Always trying to figure out how to appreciate the current moment.

O--Overwhelm. I'm proud of myself for saying no to some activities in these last weeks of school, which kept me from being overwhelmed as I get us ready for the upcoming trip.

P--Pinterest. The biggest time waster ever invented!

Q--Quiet. I find myself craving it more and more these days.

R--Reading. The most recent book I finished was Home Sweet Anywhere. A fascinating story of a couple who sold most of their belongings and have spent the past few years traveling, mostly abroad.

S--Speck.  May you rest in peace big guy. You will be much missed.

T--Turkey. The other destination on our travel itinerary! Istanbul to be exact.

U--Unusual. The guy who has been taking care of our pool since we moved in six years ago vanished about a little over a month ago. Not showing up, not returning calls. I'm still puzzling over what happened to him. It's unusual because he's always been so reliable.

V--Vera Bradley. I'm debating about getting a backpack for the upcoming trip. Really I'm trying to talk myself out of it...

W--Weight lifting. I need to get back into the twice a week habit.

X--Xeriscaping. Our backyard needs landscaping after the loss of the big tree in December. I want to put in native plants that are water wise since our area is constantly in drought conditions.

Y--Yoga. The big 'ah' in my life.

Z--Zephyr, zoo, zebra, ziggurat, zero. A list of 'z' words, none of which have any real meaning for me right now, but were all I could come up with!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Learning That Comes From Discomfort

There were several ideas I encountered at The Festival of Faith & Writing that warrant deeper thinking. It will probably take me until the end of the summer to get all those posts completed! I'm starting with something that Vinita Hampton Wright said in her  writer's workshop: "When we are uncomfortable it's because we are on the verge of learning something, stay with the discomfort."

I've been thinking about this in relationship to parenting my children, especially as they approach their teen years. Adolescence, per definition, is a time of discomfort.  A time of learning how to be in this world. Learning how to navigate more complicated peer relationships, and increased academic expectations. And, in today's world, how to navigate social media. How to effectively manage their time and responsibilities.

 My daughter, in particular, is currently coming to grips with the fact that life isn't always fun. That it can be boring and repetitious at times. No doubt, I could ease some of the discomfort for her. I could allow her to opt out of band and the required, boring daily practice. I could allow her to avoid a situation that she's finding boring and babyish and at times slightly humiliating. I'll admit there are times I feel like a bad parent for not easing some of this discomfort, for not making her road easier. But dwelling on the idea in that one quote reinforces what I know in my core; in easing her discomfort I would actually be making things harder for her in the long run. I believe just one of the long-term consequences of easing discomfort for our children is that they end up fearful, unsure of their own abilities and place in this world. Basically we take away their chance to fully develop self-esteem and character.

The bottom line is when I take away my children's opportunity to learn, to persevere through the hard stuff, I take away the opportunity for them to grow into the kind of people I want them to be. The kind of people who will be able to handle both life's joys and heartaches.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.


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