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

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.

major mommy meltdown…

so last week i lost it. no, really. i really 100% lost it. household objects were broken, there were a lot of tears, curse words flew like arrows and anger and frustration erupted

from every part of my being.

it was a stunning display of unregulated emotion. but i was, at that moment, incapable of any type of reasonable regulation.

i wish i could say there was a specific issue or event that set my major mommy meltdown in motion. but there wasn’t.  it was just a ton of pent up feelings all colliding together.

self-isolation, or sheltering in place, or quarantine- however you would like to describe it- is really, really tough. this is truly a to each their own situation. i KNOW our position is better than that of many- in turkey, for sure, and abroad for sure too. but it doesn’t make it less hard.

and; this is not where any of us thought we would be right now. (literally we were supposed to be in miami for our nephew’s graduation!). so, as lovely as slowing down has been, it was unexpected, and we were unprepared.

my meltdown had a lot to do with setting good boundaries; or rather my lack of ability to do so.

boundary setting has always been one of my biggest struggles… i’ve always been an overly empathic person; getting married right after college, having children early on, and adjusting to life in a new city all just increased my hyper-awareness of others and their needs.

back in the “old days”; “normal times”- pre coronavirus- i had a system.

i gave everyone who needed something from me all that they required- constantly. but then they would all go off to work or to school and i would recoup. i could be quiet and calm and recharge my batteries by reading or doing yoga or just sitting.

but now there is no real downtime. we are all together all the time in a single space. frustrations, disappointments, irritations and excitement, elation, and pleasure too are all happening all the time.  these are big emotions and they are now swirling around me all the time, often unchecked, and often with little chance for me to recover.

last week it all came to a head. too many questions, too little compassion, and just too much overall; i was overwhelmed, and i snapped.

the next day i was exhausted. all those emotions that had come rushing out had taken their toll. but i sat down with my family and together talked- a lot- about how we were all feeling. about how best to regulate some of our feelings. about trying to remember each other’s needs a bit better, and more often. it felt really, really good.

and as a wise woman reminded me later, this is it.  this is life.  and this is family.  it has sharp edges and soft curves.  it is a series of small adjustments and tiny shifts that come together to create an imperfect balance. a balance that frequently requires re-examining and new approaches.  there is no “perfect formula”; there is loving and listening and caring enough to change- even just a little bit- in order to keep the beautifully imperfect flow; flowing. 

our last family trip before the coronavirus pandemic began in full force was to south africa…

cinnamon bun heaven…

we are having a crazy day here at our house!

we have yet another LONG weekend lockdown (this time four full days); there is a mini-heat wave happening; supposed to be a pesticide spray happening in our neighborhood (so all our windows are closed and we are boiling); we spent 30 minutes chasing the chickens around to get them cooped up before the spraying started (it still hasn’t!); and the electricity just went out.  everything already felt a little surreal when we woke up this morning but now all this is just really a bit extra.

so, our usual saturday live cooking session has been postponed. but we didn’t want to leave you all hanging on a saturday!

so, here is a fantastic recipe for cinnamon buns that we first made last summer on vacation… it is relatively easy, just be sure to plan for some time to allow the dough to rise 🙂

ingredients-

            for the rolls-

  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter + some for greasing your pan
  • 1 package instant yeast- mix with small amount of warm water allow to sit 10 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups gluten free flour (regular flour works too if you’d prefer)

            for the filling-

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

for the glaze (completely optional)-

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
  • grease a baking dish with butter
  • melt 6 tablespoons butter and mix in milk
  • add in yeast, sugar, salt and vanilla extract, mix well and allow to rest for 2 minutes
  • slowly combine flour and wet ingredients – mixing well between each addition
  • add flour until dough if formed- you might need a little more or less that 4 full cups
  • knead the dough slightly then form into a ball
  • cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for 1 hour
  • meanwhile mix brown sugar and cinnamon together and allow ¼ cup butter to soften
  • after an hour, sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and roll out dough
  • dough should be about 1.5 centimeters thick- cut edges so dough is straight
  • spread soft butter all over your dough and then sprinkle on the cinnamon mixture
  • roll the dough into one large roll and then slice into 2-centimeter-wide rolls
  • place in baking dish with each roll touching each other
  • bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes- check to make sure they are baked through
  • make glaze by mixing powdered sugar and milk- mix well
  • pour over warm buns
  • serve immediately with a cup of tea and enjoy!

this recipe was adapted from “she likes food”

sole simplified…

our latest fish at home meal was another great success!!

…and we managed to use up some of the freezer food to boot!

sole meuniere has always been one of erim’s all-time favorite dishes to order. the girls like it too; i mean really, what’s not to like- delicious fish and a ton of butter 🙂

but cooking a traditional sole meuniere at home has always felt a little daunting, a little decadent.

so, i started digging around to find a version that might be even just a little bit lighter; both in terms of process and product. this simplified oven version turned out to be perfect. it was also a huge relief to be prepping the fish for the oven since i also realized that i didn’t have a skillet large enough to hold the whole fish- so the classical stovetop version would have literally been impossible.

you only need a few basic ingredients and the cooking time is short too.  we also made a lovely green salad, some roasted new potatoes, and some fresh grilled baby zucchinis for a simple, satisfying spring dinner…

ingredients-

  • 2 dover sole fillets (feeds 2-4 people depending on age and size)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 180 degress celsius
  • line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper
  • place clean fillets onto baking sheet
  • season with salt and pepper to taste
  • sprinkle chopped parsley and small pats of butter on top of fish
  • place 2-3 lemon slices on top of each fillet
  • squeeze juice of any remaining lemon slices onto fish
  • bake for 10-12 minutes- fish should be light and flaky
  • transfer to serving dish and serve immediately
our grilled baby zucchinis…

this recipe was adapted from andrea beaman’s life is delicious

craving caramel…

as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and our recent self-isolation we have discovered that pretty much everyone in our house (with the exception of erim) absolutely ADORES popcorn!

we started out making it once or twice a week on movie nights as a treat.  at that time we were using a neat air popper i purchased a couple of years ago.  then we perfected making it with olive oil and sea salt on the stovetop- delicious. this caused our popcorn consumption to skyrocket and become a daily thing.

i frequently added copious amounts of ground curry, cumin and turmeric to my share; which i have to tell all you spice lovers, is a wonderful way to eat popcorn.

and then this week, as part of our “enjoy what we have challenge” we decided to attempt caramel popcorn. i have to admit i really thought this was going to be a major flop… i was WRONG!!

this recipe is super simple, it didn’t take us too much longer than our usual popcorn time, and we even ended up with a little leftover caramel for dipping apple slices the next afternoon.

so if you, like us, are craving caramel… we highly recommend this popcorn. but i will warn you, it is truly addictive!

ingredients-

a big bowl of air popped popcorn (made from about 1 cup unpopped kernels)

1 cup unsalted butter

2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cups heavy cream

instructions-

preheat oven to 150 degrees celsius

line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper

pop popcorn and spread on baking sheet in an even layer

in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat

add brown sugar and cream- whisking constantly until all ingredients are combined

bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes- stirring continually

remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes

pour over popcorn and mix well

place in oven for 10 minutes or longer depending on how crunchy you like your popcorn

remove from oven, mix well and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes

good movie, glass of wine… sit down and enjoy while fresh!

a little challenge…

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE this week we have a little challenge for you… with all the cooking going on at home- three meals a day, (and some snacks too) everyday, is a lot! add to this the nervous grocery shopping that seems to happen each week before the weekend lockdown; we have found ourselves with too much food! and as more and more people are affected by the pandemic globally, it is a hard truth that while we find ourselves with too much; there are SO many people who find themselves with not nearly enough. according to the world food program, a united nations agency, disruptions in the food supply chain, decreases in donations to food aid programs, and school closures could cause the global number of people facing acute hunger to double this year.  this would mean that up to 265 million people could be in danger of being malnourished, or worse starvation. around the world, the repercussions of these changes, coupled with strict lockdowns in many countries such as india and kenya, have made finding healthy, nourishing food extremely difficult for at-risk groups. and, as a result of school closures an estimated 368 million children have lost the nutritious snacks and meals they normally receive; creating a significant risk of underdevelopment and other growth issues. with all this in mind; and looking at the abundance that we are so privileged to have, we have started a little challenge for ourselves.  this week, with the exception of fresh vegetables and fruits sent from a local farm, we will not buy anything new. no new bread- if we run out we can try baking our own. no new sweets- we will bake, or just skip the cookies this week. if someone doesn’t like the kind cheese we have left- that’s ok, we can make hummus or try something new. no new drinks or juices- we’ll finish what we have. no more meat- if we finish what’s in the freezer then we can have a couple of vegan days too. we have plenty. And focusing on what we have rather than what we don’t have seems like a pretty good plan these days… so feel free to follow along- and join us too! i’ll be posting a daily picture of our fridge as it empties out, and sharing more recipes too as we go through the week; stay tuned

PS: this recent article from new York times explains the global situation in a very clear, child appropriate manner… you can find it here

a little peanut butter connection…

the other day alegra and i made peanut butter cookies and read some great bedtime books on instagram…

live instagram, facetime, houseparty, zoom… these have all be hugely important tools for us during these times of self-isolation and social distancing.  honestly, if you had told me two months ago i would be doing at least one live video on instagram every day i would have thought that you had lost your mind!

i am actually terribly shy and really pretty self-conscious too; so the idea of being live daily in front of an audience, even a virtual one, would have been something hard for me to believe.

but i have to say that i am enjoying it immensely. i have reconnected with a lot of old friends and their children, students from my lola days have been hugely supportive, and new followers have found us too!

here is the recipe for the cookies, it is a basic peanut butter cookie recipe that is pretty much foolproof… feel free to add in the chocolate chips at the end like alegra did, or use chunky peanut butter instead of smooth. i am thinking about trying almond butter next time to see how that works- i will keep you posted!

ingredients-

  • 1 cup organic peanut butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large organic egg (or 1 flax egg)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • optional add ins- chocolate chips, raisins, shredded coconut

instructions-

  • preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius
  • line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • mix all ingredients together- adding in extras if you want
  • form dough into small round balls and place on baking sheet
  • cook for 5 minutes and make cross shapes using the back of a fork
  • cook for another 7-8 minutes depending on how crumbly you like your cookies- (cook shorter for chewier cookies)
  • remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes of baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack

serve with milk or tea for a perfect afternoon snack!!

choices must be made…

last night, as part of its plan to slowly reopen metropolitan life and the national economy, the turkish government announced a handful of changes to current co-vid 19 restrictions.

next week, young people get to leave their homes for the first time in nearly two months. so do older citizens; those over the age of 65. each group gets separate days. hairdressers, barber shops and malls can all open their doors again on monday- but must follow strict social distancing and sanitization procedures.

it makes me nervous.

but i can understand that people need to get out of their houses. not just because so many residents of istanbul have been cooped up in small, crowded apartments for the past two months and need the psychological relief of getting out; but also, because people must go back to work and make money. the turkish economy did not enter the global pandemic in a particularly strong position and there are so many people who need to reestablish actual incomes to meet their basic needs.

it is scary to be thinking about all these spaces reopening.  it worries me, the thought of people being out and about again.   i don’t like this path to reopening because it leaves a lot of grey area.  there will be choices to be made now. i liked the clear mandates; the government telling me what i can and cannot do. where and how i can go.

i admit, fully, that my privilege allows me this luxury. 

i have a large, comfortable home; plenty of good fresh food; enough money saved to weather this storm; a private outdoor space that my family can use freely; the girls’ e-learning is just fine, they are busy and engaged; my parents, and erim’s, are all safe and healthy and we can see them- from a safely masked distance- at least once a week; and we have learned how to connect virtually with loved ones who are further away.

having all three girls at home all the time has been, for me, heavenly. i thrive on being a mother and my family all together fills my heart. with no formal school or afterschool activities to rush off to we have had time to eat long meals, cook, do yoga, take walks, watch movies and pop popcorn slowly- the old-fashioned way.

i have been happy to stay at home, to enjoy my people, and to slow down.

but now, with no clear understanding of how it will work, we are being allowed – kind of—to speed up. and with that comes choices…

some decisions seem easy, and probably will be, for many of us.  having gotten the hang of online shopping; i won’t be going into a mall anytime soon.  so many of our favorite restaurants are now offering takeout or delivery options, so no need to risk that. and schools will certainly be closed through may.

but what about socializing? if we can go to a mall can we go sit on a friend’s front porch? our nephew was supposed to graduate from college this weekend; can we raise a glass of champagne to his success? should i bring my own glass? decisions and choices must be made…

and the biggest, probably most difficult of these, involves my children.  on their day of “freedom” (4 hours next friday) can they see their friends? how safe will that be?

i trust my girls.  they are intelligent, worldly, understanding children.  they fully grasp the potential danger of this disease- if not to themselves directly, then to their loved ones.  but they are also human. And i get it. it is amazing that we can connect virtually, but i really want a hug too.  leaning, literally, physically, on a friend is irreplaceable.  we are naturally social creatures. we thrive in close knit communities. we need it. And oh, have we missed it!

so here comes the hard part.

i knew it was coming. i was dreading it. the choices. each of us will have to weather the storm of the coming weeks and months in our own way. in ways that feel “ok” to us.  but i know that saying “no” when other parents say “yes”- staying in while others go out- is going to be hard.  and so, starting next week, we’ll do our best to weigh our options, cross our fingers and continue to take each day as it comes.