growing pains

all three of my girls have been, at various stages of their lives, relatively tall for their ages.  as a result, they have all, at one point or another, experienced some growing pains.  literally, achy backs, sore knees, weird shin-related pains that seemed to come out of nowhere.  when faced with complaints over these pains, it always took me a minute to realize what was actually happening. i would ask all the usual mom questions, “did you bump yourself? fall down and don’t remember? jump on the trampoline for too long?”. only once we’d managed to go down this list did it occur to me that these were just growing pains. here today, gone tomorrow as the bones and the muscles and the ligaments all caught up to one another.

my own growth was relatively average in compared to my girls.  in addition, i was a relatively clumsy child too so when i had an odd pain it almost always had some sort of mishap attached to it! this is probably one of the reasons it always took me so long to recognize what was happening as their limbs expanded.

this year though, completely unexpectedly, at the ripe old age of 42, has been filled with growing pains!  not your usual growing pains, of course, although i have had my fair share of achy shoulders, stiff neck, and out of the blue stomach aches, but growing pains, nonetheless.

for me, living through the pandemic has laid bare truths and realities that i had somehow previously managed to keep hidden, lurking just under the surface of my consciousness.  so many feelings and hurts i had attributed to bad timing but good intentions; kindheartedness with a lack of empathy; good natured self-centeredness; necessary sacrifices that would eventually receive due recognition. 

i have written before that it seems to me the pandemic amplified us.  our personalities, challenges, fears, strengths- uncertainty, stress and worry has placed them on clear display- to embrace or reckon with as the situation requires.

for me, this has come with a whole slew of growing pains.  in particular, i’ve realized that there are so many things that i just need to let go of.

first and foremost, the idea that my truth is less true than those of others; it’s not. mine is just as true; but i really don’t need to convince anyone of this. i know it. that’s enough.

also, the shame that sometimes comes with putting my own truth first. that’s got to go. the idea that self-care is selfish goes high on the list of things to throw out.  regret and “what ifs”.  these are pretty useless too.

turns out that letting go of all this is painful.  literally, not just figuratively, i have woken up some mornings with a persistent ache, a kind of grief, as not just my soul, but my body too, tries to acknowledge what is being released. 

and with these growing pains, just as in the case of a child, there comes a new sort of space.  i’m the same size, clearly, as i was last year, but i feel bigger.  there is more of me to fill with new ways of being, new ways of thinking and new ways of feeling.

and just as it is for children, i can tell that these growing pains aren’t going to be a one day, one week or even one month thing.  it’s going to take a while and i am likely to have a good deal of aches in the process.

this week it’s my neck. it’s a sensitive spot for me and where i deposit a lot of sadness.  i was really sad this week, but instead of taking some advil and using lots of china gel i worked hard to be sad. to be really sad and get through the ache that way.  i slowed down and watched as the sadness washed in and out like waves on a beach.

there’s something coming in behind the sadness. i don’t know what it is quite yet, but it feels hopeful and strong. and i have the new space to hold onto it when it gets here. 

alara and alegra’s ooey gooey joyful brownies

if you live in istanbul you are hopefully enjoying this snow day as much as we are!!! the city is quiet and beautiful and watching the snowflakes fall is actually meditative in its own way. 

the snow brought us a LOT of joy- we made a snowman, had snowball fights, made snow angels, drank hot chocolate and of course, baked brownies- yum!

our brownie baking actually happened on saturday, while we were waiting rather (im)patiently for the snow to start.  we knew we would want dessert that night so alara and alegra figured out a way to use up a batch of caramel we had made mid-week for apple dipping.  

the result some of the most indulgent joyful caramel brownies i have ever tasted!  

they humored me and made them gluten free but feel free to use regular flour if you prefer; and don’t worry if you have left over caramel sauce, it is just as delicious on its own and perfect for dipping fruit or making ice cream sundaes 🙂

easy caramel sauce:

ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 12 tablespoons butter- cut up into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt flakes

instructions:

  • have all ingredients at room temperature 
  • heat sugar over medium high heat in bottom of a large saucepan-whisking continuously
  • once sugar is melted add butter and stir until melted
  • remove pan from heat and slowly add cream
  • whisk until cream is completely absorbed and caramel is smooth
  • add sea salt flakes and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes
  • store in a glass jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks

gluten free caramel brownies:

ingredients:

  • ½ cup dark chocolate- chopped into pieces
  • ½ cup milk chocolate- chopped into pieces
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup salted caramel sauce

instructions:

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius (375f)
  • line a baking dish with parchment paper and set aside
  • in a large pot melt butter and chocolate together- allow to cool slightly
  • add in eggs, sugar and vanilla extract- mix well
  • sift gluten free flour on top and mix in until just combined
  • pour brownie batter into prepared dish and spread evenly
  • place large spoonfuls of caramel sauce on top of batter and use a knife to swirl into the batter
  • bake for 20-25 minutes for fudgy brownies; 30-35 minutes for more cakelike ones
  • the caramel will bubble, and the batter will seem to be shaky but don’t worry! once the brownies cool down the mixture will harden, and you will be able to cut and serve 
  • serve warm with ice cream if desired 

don’t postpone joy

this was laurey’s signature motto.  

a cancer survivor, laurey was a pioneer of farm to table cooking; basic but delicious catering; and later, upscale deli style restaurant dining in Asheville, nc.  a catered dinner from laurey’s was the first time i ever tried oven roasted seasonal vegetables and all of her meals always, always featured dessert- more often than not brownies and cookies- true comfort food.

throughout this whole pandemic laurey’s motto, don’t postpone joy, has been popping into my head at the oddest moments- just before i go to bed, right as i get out of the shower, as i’m cleaning up the kitchen after yet another meal, while i’m hanging up the laundry or taking out the trash.  

i love the sentiment, but how do we hang onto joy these days? 

the covid crisis seems to be on the cusp of getting worse yet again. the most recent mutation is likely to cause more illness and effect members of the population that were previously less vulnerable- especially children, which terrifies me. the situation in the u.s. is heartbreaking and nearly impossible to even grasp.  turkey has done a pretty decent job of getting its daily infection rate under control this past month- but this has come via strict weekend lockdowns, evening curfews and the complete closure of schools, restaurants and bars. to say we’re all a little stir crazy might be the understatement of the year.

the recent events in the united states are just awful.  i don’t know whether to stop listening to the news all together or to listen even more carefully with the hope that things may actually change in the upcoming months. i know that many observers, especially those living abroad, believe that the ideals touted by americans are not real- the black lives matter movement; a daily covid death rate of 4,000 people; the insurrection at the capital; the fact that the president believes he is within his rights to lie about a fair election and encourage violence against fellow citizens- all of these seem to prove that america is not what it seems.  with this i wholly agree- but america represents an idea; the hope that things can be different, and i choose to continue to believe in that idea- while accepting wholeheartedly that things need to change. but will they? 

at home we are done. my older children seem to be on track to graduate from high school via zoom- alara has never actually met any of her teachers in person and whether asya will even be able to go to college in the fall is unclear. alegra seems to be in the best position of all of us; luckily ten-year olds still love running around outside, even in the rain and sleet, so she has been able to see some friends and keep up a semblance of her “normal” life. erim has the art of online card game down pat.  he connects to his friends on the phone and joins the game on his ipad and has had many happy hours trading manly insults while attempting to trounce his buddies- lockdown weekends feature two games a day so he has gotten pretty internet savvy, i must admit.  as for me, i had so many plans for this year; and of which have been postponed

and there we are. so how do we manage to not postpone our joy in all of this?

i honestly don’t know.  i do know that we are so grateful for all our privilege and comforts. our warm home; our well stocked kitchen; our personal electronic devices that keep us connected with school, work, and friends; and our health.  but joy has been a little hard to find this winter. 

we’re trying. today the girls baked gluten free caramel brownies (recipe coming up in the next post).  i have a chilled glass and a cold bottle of champagne ready to pour while i watch the crown this afternoon. our fireplace is warm and toasty and ready for some smores this evening. and we’ve got our fingers crossed that it will snow tonight and we can make a snowman tomorrow. 

what about you? what is bringing you joy today? 

first dessert of the new year… apple crumble!

tonight was fish night at our house- at least once a week we try to have a fish dinner; we always have potatoes next to our fish and we always have some type of dessert too.

there is a saying in turkish that goes sort of along the lines of “after fish, sweets should be eaten”- and we take it pretty seriously- so as i ordered the fish this morning, i also ordered a yummy chocolate cake. but soon after i discovered a huge surplus of apples lurking in the pantry!!!

and so apple crumble was in the works 🙂

this is a super simple, gluten free and vegan recipe that was loved by all the carnivores and herbivores alike in our house… (and don’t worry; the chocolate cake won’t go to waste- plenty of chocolate lovers live here too!)

ingredients:

apple filling:

mix together-

1.5 kilos apples- peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces

5 teaspoons lemon juice

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

crumble topping:

mix together-

¾ cup brown sugar

½ cup almond flour

¾ cup gluten free oats

pinch of salt

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

instructions:

preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius

mix apple filling and crumble topping in separate bowls

spread apple filling evenly into an oven proof baking dish

spread crumble topping on top of apple filling in an even layer

bake for 50-60 minutes until top is browned and filling in bubbly

serve warm (and with vanilla ice cream or sorbet as desired)

they changed the rules again….

new rules… and a new food delivery app too!

last march, with the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, turkey shut down swiftly and strongly. schools, restaurants, bars, shopping malls; even outdoor spaces were closed almost overnight.  banks and other essential businesses were allowed to operate on very limited schedules and most people remained at home.  as the pandemic picked up speed in turkey more stringent rules were put into place- including limits on travel international and domestic travel; complete curfews on the weekends; and rules requiring children under the age of 20 and seniors over the age of 65 to remain at home- with the exception of a three hour “outside time” window once a week.  

it was a very quiet time for families in turkey; trying for the thousands of families who did not have an economic backup plan and extremely stressful for the millions of people who live in crowded small apartments. the overall uncertainty that was felt across the board didn’t help.

but the silver lining of the hardship was that these measures seemed to work. at no point did the turkish hospitals get completely overwhelmed. ppe was available to anyone who needed or wanted it- and with people sheltering at home, a surplus of protective material soon existed. not once did i hear of a shortage of ventilators.  demographics probably helped.  the median age in turkey is 31.5 years old.  this virus preys on the weak and the elderly. 

by the middle of may turkey was opening up again. new rules (again!) shopping malls were open. restaurants and bars too; with limited seating and outdoors spaces open only; but open, nonetheless. schools remained closed but people were able to travel and many did. turkey is a beautiful country and there is so much to see. we took advantage of canceled international trips to see parts of the coast that we had never visited before. it was almost, almost, possible to forget that a deadly virus had kept us shut up in our homes just a couple of months ago.

but, as expected, the second wave is here. en force. and in their effort to keep tourism alive, th current regime did not disclose the numbers of daily infections in a transparent and thorough manner. only the number of daily patients admitted to the hospital was reported to the public. reasons for death that could conceivable be reported as anything other than covid 19 were recorded and conveyed as such.  the result has been harsh. with a lack of information upon which to base their decisions people have continued to move about, congregate and socialize. 

for a variety of reasons, the government has finally started to disclose the actual numbers of infected citizens.  some say that the who has put pressure on the government to issue proper statements. some say that the vaccines will be distributed based on per capita infections and that is the real reason behind the recent disclosures. and some just say that the time has come; tourism season is behind us and the general population has not yet been able to grasp the reality of the situation. 

regardless, the rules have changed- frequently in fact- in the month of november.  halfway through the month schools were shut down again, as were restaurants and bars. unfortunately, the overall effect was not quite enough.  with no curfew in place people have stopped going to restaurants- but started going to friends’ houses. restaurants and bars are open for take-out and delivery, which has resulted in continued person to person contact. 

as hospitals have filled up and the number of exposures has multiplied the government instituted new rules; yet again, last night.  hopefully this will help. but it basically means that we are back at home- locked down.  it’s ok. and if it helps, then it is really ok. 

what is strange though is that every time the rules change our world changes too.  once we become accustomed to a certain system is just seems to flow. and then, when the flow is interrupted it is almost as if we start from ground zero  and let me tell you- readjustment is a real pain. inevitably there is a small blow up at home (usually on my part) and it takes us all at least a couple of days to fall into a familiar and comfortable pattern. 

and that is where we are. again, adapting to a new reality. figuring out how the new rules work and creating yet another new existence within these confines. it’s ok. we’ll get there. 

i am eternally, and possibly frustratingly, optimistic- so- in light of all of this constant change all i can say is this– thank goodness for the distraction of december and the festive season!!! here’s to the season of light… 

a salve for my soul…

an aegean sunrise in november…winter in the air

summer was a time of sweet respite and great repose for us this year.  with the pandemic in full swing, we were unable to maintain our usual crazy travel schedule that often had us bouncing from one continent to another: an invigorating yet rather exhausting tradition. 

instead, we spent a lot of time at home, quietly, and the trips that we did take were much quieter and lowkey than previous years.  although most things were open here in turkey over the summer we still thought twice about going out to restaurants or visiting friends in their homes.  rather than take risks we chose to go out for dinner at off hours; made an effort to meet up in gardens or on balconies; and often made plans to take walks with friends or play in the park rather than getting together for drinks or an at-home playdate. 

we took long walks in nature; spent hours swimming, snorkeling and paddle boarding; and took advantage of the warm weather to hold a number of scaled down celebrations outdoors rather than needing to cancel them altogether.

the end of school vacation doesn’t necessarily mean the end of warm weather in turkey, so we took full advantage of online school, continuing to travel to the aegean coast at every opportunity.  whenever possible we would pack up the schoolbooks and laptops and escape the city… setting us a “mini-school” for each of the girls wherever we happened to land that week. although we knew that the coronavirus was still a force to be reckoned with the combination of being in the open air and having less people around us was a constant source of comfort.

it’s hard to believe that today is the last day of november and that turkey has been dealing with covid-19 on a full-time basis for just about 9 months.  the much anticipated second wave is here-full force-and istanbul, in particular, has become a true hotbed of virus transmission.  with numbers rising (and the government finally acknowledging the true extent of infection); new measures are being put into place and life is inevitably going to start slowing down again.

writing this blog and sharing snippets of our daily life was a salve for my soul during the first months of 2020 and i can’t think of a better way to end this difficult year than to return to it. our summer hiatus has been restful and inspiring, and i have much to share; stay tuned for more musings, new recipes, at home activity ideas, book recommendations and more…

ps. here are a bunch of our favorite 2020 summer moments. as strange as it was, this summer is sure to be unforgettable in its own way! 

so many celebrations this summer!

alara and alegra’s birthday- and mine and tunc dede’s too….

there was A LOT of outdoor time… hiking, biking, riding horses and seaside time too…

we learned a bunch of new games and new skills too…

school started…online…which meant exploring could continue 🙂

and with the blessing of good weather we were able to celebrate halloween outdoors in full costume!!!

“something spooky this way comes…”

it was a wonderful summer despite it all and we are so grateful to have been able to celebrate at all… these memories will certainly help sustain us in the coming months-

i banged my head…

on the branch of an olive tree…

…and out flowed the tears.

tears that had been building for a week, or maybe a month, or maybe even a year.  a lot of tears.

tears of sadness; for all that the world and humanity is experiencing right now.

tears of disappointment; for all the disappointments we are all facing right now- cancelled plans, uncertain futures.

tears of anger; towards all the people who don’t seem to understand the nearly insurmountable issues facing us- as human beings- all around the world.

tears of shame; for all the comfort and ease that my privilege affords- as people lie dying in hospital beds- or worse, on gurneys- i am able to hike through centuries old olive groves with my healthy family surrounding me.

and tears of just plain old hurt; because banging your head hurts and why, as women of a certain era, have we been taught not to show our pain or our suffering?

why can’t we be strong AND vulnerable at the same time? why can’t we feel DEEPLY; and, as a result of these deep feelings, cause change in our worlds?

by contributing what we is within our reach- money, for some, because it always helps; time, for others, because it is a true gift; conscious parenting, because we raise the next generation; real friendship, always, because what could be more helpful than a shoulder to lean on?

every day we talk about a post- covid world. what will life be like when we return to “normal”- whatever that normal might be?

i don’t want to go back to the old normal- it was too much yet not nearly enough. all at the same time. too much consumption and not nearly enough production. too much taking and not nearly enough giving. too much “me” and not nearly enough “us”.

and so, as we hiked the ancient lycian way- a centuries old trade route used by the lycians to travel up and down the aegean and mediterranean coasts-and i banged my head on the olive tree branch, i decided that it might just be ok to be strong AND vulnerable both at the same time.

strong enough to climb over rocks, to hop over loose stones and to hang on to branches and roots to propel myself forward on the path. but vulnerable enough to say, “this hurts… this all hurts. sometimes so much that it feels unbearable, unsupportable, and just too much.”

and to cry. to let tears flow; because really, if we’re not going to cry now, then when should we?

the view from a peak on the trail- overlooking the bedri rahmi bay and the city of fethiye in the distance

beautiful boat bundt cake…

this week was the bayram, or eid, here in turkey, and we were lucky enough to manage to come to the south of turkey for a short escape from the city.

the weather has been typical late spring weather for this area. Hot midday and cool and crisp at night. we did some hiking, some swimming, a lot of reading and relaxing, and a whole bunch of cooking.

one of our favorite recipes to make on vacation is a very light, gluten free almond cake. (we also made a not at all light chocolate cake- not gluten free so not for me- and a banana bread that was a full flop- we combined two recipes and it did NOT work out at all!)

but this lemon cake is delicious. we served it warm out of the oven and it was gone within the hour. i was secretly hoping for a little slice for breakfast, but no dice.

it is so simple that i don’t know why we have never made it at home. but you know, some things just taste better in some places. so, this is our beautiful boat bundt cake… enjoy!

ingredients-

  • 4 organic eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup fresh almond milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 lemond rind
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds (alegra says to try chia seeds if you don’t have poppy)
  • 2 cups almond flour (we added a couple more tablespoons to make the dough more doughy)

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • grease bundt pan with olive oil
  • mix eggs, sugar, almond milk, and olive oil with hand blender
  • add baking powder, vanilla extract
  • mix in almond flour slowly until you reach a doughy consistency
  • fold in poppy seeds and lemon rind
  • pour into bundt pan and place in over
  • bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
  • allow to cool for 5-10 minutes
  • invert on serving dish and serve warm with a glass of turkish tea 🙂

a special thanks to birdal abi for sharing this recipe with us!!

taking back control…

it seems to me that a big part of this pandemic is going to involve people taking back control…

a lot of us, not all of course, but many of the people with whom i have spoken over the past months of self-isolation, have found this period of forced slowing down and restricted movement to be invaluable in helping them to discern exactly what is really important in their lives and what, well, just isn’t.

we had all, people from all walks of life, widened our horizons and looked to bigger-higher-harder goals- this is not a bad thing. however, it runs the risk of creating a world in which instead of just enjoying, appreciating and perfecting the many wonderful recourses and little luxuries that already exist; social media and instant access to more, to “better”, to the “ideal” lands us in a perpetual state of wanting, wondering, striving.

and so, i find many people around me taking their own reigns firmly in hand and pulling hard– slowing down and taking back control on some many levels.

globally, people are rethinking their finances-this we must all do- and reassessing what is valuable to us. to each their own; priorities are personal.  for some, it may mean investing in a new computer to facilitate online learning; for others, a good bottle of wine once a week may be a necessary luxury; while for others it may mean focusing on creating a strong savings account for future use.  and meanwhile, the unfortunate reality is that for so, so many none of these things are even possible as the pandemic causes widespread job and income loss.

travel too, is being reassessed.  summer is time for vacation for most of us and as these plans become secondary- who wants to risk an unnecessary airplane flight right now- i see people hard at work on their homes and gardens. making them comfortable and more useable; creating family friendly areas; cleaning out and making space for what is really important. grateful to be able to slow down and enjoy their time and environments with loved ones.  honestly, for me, this comes as a bit of relief after a number of years of nearly dizzying summer travels.

but most of all, i see so many people taking back control of their very beings, of themselves

physically, emotionally, intellectually… people are coming back to and into their own…asserting their control- and with it their power.

one beautiful friend has started a long-anticipated diet and exercise regime; and with more time at home, she is sticking to it, and she is thrilled! another creative soul has started a cookbook project long in the planning. yet another has enrolled- and already completed- a handful of education courses all geared towards a longer-term project of furthering early childhood education here in turkey. 

as for me, i’m finding my voice again. somehow, in the crazy everyday busyness of parenting three kids in a bustling metropolis; it got lost.

it is so nice to hear it again- echoing in my ears as i go about the business of my day.  making decisions; some of them really tough ones- and trying to guide my family through these truly strange times; my inner voice is there, steadily growing louder and more confident again.

what do I want, what do I like, how do I feel- all this had gotten lost in the shuffle. it’s all slowly re-emerging. 

what’s coming, i’m not quite sure yet, but changes are happening. some have been small; some feel rather massive- but either way- i’m taking back control and remembering my power.

rainbows all around…

today was an extra active day here at our house…

we read some great books and then everyone wanted to take a turn doing our art activity; there’s nothing like a little painting and printing to start off a long weekend in lockdown!

this activity is super fun and easy and great for all ages.  kids as young as 18 months can even give it a try (with a parent’s help, of course)- and even the teenagers in our house had fun with it.

materials-

  • an old cd or large jar top
  • washable liquid paints
  • paintbrush
  • lots of paper
  • scissors

instructions-

  • cover the shiny side of the cd with generous amounts of paint
  • we painted large stripes of each color for a more “rainbow like” effect
  • flip the cd over and print on the paper
  • twist cd on paper to create a swirled effect
  • allow to dry thoroughly and then cut out round prints
  • use as notecards or gift cards or even fancy to do lists