Thursday, December 27, 2012

Flash Mob, Turkish Style!

Here is a video of the flash mob my son participated in. This Turkish translation of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" fits the melody perfectly and has a great summary of the message.

I'm taking some time off until January 3rd to spend time with my family, to rest, and to reflect and set goals for the coming year.  

May God bless you richly during these last days of 2012.

Happy New Year,

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Most Important Gifts We Can Give

Every year I tell myself I’ll buy Christmas gifts early to avoid the last minute rush, and every year I find myself in the same place: out shopping the week before Christmas! Gift giving is one of my favorite love languages. I take joy in planning and trying to find gifts that will please my family and friends, but I can get so caught up in shopping that I forget the most important gifts of all.

What gifts can I give to Jesus for His birthday?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

How to Have More Joy and Peace This December

December can turn into a treadmill of activities that leave your mind and heart too numbed to hear the words of the angel in Luke: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” 

The first week of December we had out of town visitors, our weekly English club, and went to a Christmas worship event. I had guests for dinner, and hosted a Women’s Christmas party at my house.  All were wonderful, blessed events, but I breathed a sigh of relief last Sunday and looked forward to a quieter, more restful week.  

Things didn’t turn out like I expected.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Traditions That Work for Overseas Families

“I was born in El Salvador, but I don’t speak Spanish.  I’m supposed to be both American and Salvadoran, but I didn’t grow up in either place. I grew up in Turkey, where I’m a foreigner.” My daughter said this just the other night when we were discussing Christmas.

December can be a bittersweet month for cross-cultural workers and their children.  Back home we know people are decorating their homes, listening to carols, going Christmas shopping, and rehearsing for Christmas choirs and pageants, but here in Izmir-on-the-Aegean, it’s business as usual.  In fact, the weather begins to gray, and early sunsets, combined with spiritual darkness, can make for a dim and gloomy month.

If you’re overseas, maybe you don’t feel much like celebrating. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Enjoy Christmas for a Whole Month

After our Thanksgiving dinner, I’d no sooner packed our leftovers into containers for the fridge, when my daughter said, “Let’s put up the Christmas tree tomorrow!”

“What?” I said. “I need a day or two to recover. I don’t know if I’m ready for Christmas yet.”

Now a few days have passed, and I’m beginning to smile again as I think of decorations and candles.

At the same time, I have to admit that Christmas is a mixed bag for cross-cultural workers.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving Tree and Pumpkin Pie in Olive Country

Our living room is the only one in the building decorated with a pumpkin, pine cones, dried berries, and a Thanksgiving tree.  My tree makes me smile and reminds me to count my blessings as I count down the days to my favorite holiday.  We’re far from home. Except for a few scattered American friends, no one else around is celebrating, but I enjoy creating my own traditions. So this week we’ll have our traditional FRIDAY NIGHT Thanksgiving with friends we’ve chosen to call family: Turks, Mexicans, Brazilians, and ONE American!

My favorite tradition is our Thanksgiving tree with its paper leaves.  As guests arrive, we ask them to write down on a leaf what they’re thankful for. After dinner, everyone shares what they wrote, and together we give thanks to God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

Here is my recipe for pumpkin pie, one that you can still make even if you’re far away from the land of Libby’s canned pumpkin and Eagle Brand evaporated milk.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Ministry of Small Things for Busy Moms

Even small flowers brighten the environment!
Do you ever feel that caring for your home and family is so all-consuming that you don’t have enough time or energy to reach out to people in your community?  You know that ministry to your family is your high calling, but sometimes you struggle with wishing you could do MORE. If you’re a cross-cultural worker/mom maybe you feel like you might as well be back in your home country since you spend all your time at home with the kids anyway.

If you feel that way today, take heart and consider the ministry of small things.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pressed for Time

Okay, I have a confession to make that’s going to sound obsessive compulsive: I use a kitchen timer to help me with time management. This might sound like something you’d expect a from a software engineer in Silicon Valley, but not from a cross-cultural servant/housewife who lives in the Middle East, where time management is NOT a high priority.

I started using a timer for home school to keep my kids and me on task. We work for 25 minutes, take a 3 minute break, work for 25 minutes, and then break for ten.  Twenty five minute work sessions are supposed to help you to focus on your work and avoid interruptions. (This is the Pommodoro technique, named after the red tomato kitchen timer.)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

God's Power Through Our Ordinary Lives

Do you ever feel like you’re out of resources? Like you don’t have enough time, enough money, enough inspiration or creativity?

Last Sunday evening after a weekend conference, I looked at the calendar and panicked.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Favorite Fall Soup

What is October like in your part of the globe? Is it fall or spring where you live? In our Aegean city, it’s pure joy to be able to spend time outdoors without dripping sweat now that summer is finally over. We're enjoying cool sunny weather and occasional rain.  Another thing I enjoy about fall is making soup again. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Real Life Hospitality

This week I had yet another cooking-for-company fiasco.  I put two whole chickens into a hot oven at 5:00 p.m., and then for some reason turned the oven OFF without noticing. At 6:00, just a half hour before my guests arrived, I opened the oven door to take a look and found two stone-cold, raw chickens!  Panic! My husband saved the day by wrestling and cutting them up for quicker cooking. Waiting for the meal to cook made for plenty of time to chat with our guests.

Even though I’m a cross-cultural worker in the Middle East, I spend most of my time going grocery shopping, cooking, taking kids to appointments, cooking, cleaning house, home schooling, and cooking. Sometimes I ask myself, where does ministry come in here? I don’t have much time for preparing Bible studies or planning outreach events...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Was Your Name? Mine is Mud!

Overseas living gives us plenty of opportunities to laugh at ourselves. After all, it is humbling to move overseas and suddenly find that in your new country you're less competent than most children. Sometimes even grasping people’s names when you meet them is difficult, let alone trying to have a conversation afterwards. So for me, it’s therapeutic to be able to enjoy a good laugh, even at my own expense.

(I'm having a busy week, so this is a re-post about something that still makes me laugh.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Do I Have Time to Home School and Be a Cross-Cultural Worker?

Do you ever wonder where all your time goes?  I ask myself that question almost every night before bed.  Last week I enjoyed reading Sidetracked and Scatterbrained, where a friend in Mexico wrote about her typical day, so now I thought I’d share with you what my day as Olive-on-the-Aegean is 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mind in the Gutter or Fixed on God?

I’m embarrassed to say this, but one danger of being a cross-cultural worker is that I can become so focused on the spiritual growth of others that I neglect growing myself.  I’ve spent hours preparing Bible studies, listening to peoples’ struggles and encouraging them to trust God and be more like Jesus in their daily lives.  Then when my own life gets bumpy, I see that I also worry, fret, and get grouchy! I constantly remind myself to take my own medicine, to practice myself what I counsel others to do.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Taste of Turkey: Moussaka

Turks are masters at one hundred and one ways to cook eggplant, and if you think you don’t like eggplant, most likely you never had it well prepared. Moussaka is my easiest Turkish company dish. In fact any friends or family who read this now are probably rolling their eyes because they've eaten this so many times at our house. I can cook this in my sleep, so it gets me out of many binds. Just last week after a day of souvenir shopping I rushed home with out of town guests at 6:00 p.m. to whip up this taste of Turkey:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Small Starts to Big Dreams

Do you have any big dreams or projects that you would love to undertake if only you had the chance? Maybe you dream of writing a book, or taking up painting, or starting a ministry to street children. But then life gets in the way, and you’re so busy that you can barely get by doing the minimum. You never get around to taking steps towards your dream.

One dream I’ve had for the last two years is to start a women’s ministry group. My vision is a group of Christian women who meet to encourage each other and use their hobbies and interests to reach non-believers with God’s love. But starting a group like this seemed impossible since I’m already a wife, homeschooling mother, house keeper and church planter.
All or Nothing Thinking

Maybe the greatest barrier towards fulfilling our dreams is all or nothing thinking.  We think we have to launch out on a big dream with a big start, but then we never get around to it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How to Support Your Third Culture Kids in Local Schools?

School finally started this week in Turkey, so my home schooled kids can no longer feel sorry for themselves because they have to go to bed at a decent hour and get up to study from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. while their Turkish friends play in the park all day and night. Every year we start a few weeks earlier than the local schools do, so it’s a relief when school starts, and my kids’ friends have to study just like they do.

One of the biggest challenges of overseas life is education for the children.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Five Ways to Deal with Culture Shock

When I first moved to the Middle East in my 20’s, I had a blissful honey moon stage. People seemed so hospitable, and I was enthralled by everything Turkish. Even riding a dolmuş, a blue and white mini-bus with blaring Turkish pop music and evil eye charms swinging from the rearview mirror, made me smile. But at 6 months I hit a wall and had my first bona fide cross-cultural crisis. I cried for two days and felt like I hated everything about Turkey. I was desperate to catch the first plane home, but sheer grit made me stick it out.

Your first year overseas, moving back and forth between enchantment and frustration with your new country is normal. Here are five ways to deal with culture shock.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How to Survive Your First Year Overseas

3 friends with 3 months, 12 years, and
 3 years experience in the Middle East.

When you first move overseas, every day poses a mystery waiting to be solved: how to get a phone line, how to communicate to the electrician that the lines he installed last week are loose, how to buy furniture and appliances using a bargaining system you don’t really understand.  Even going to the corner grocery for bread is a stressful event.  Then you start language study and things really get interesting!

Your first year overseas is a crash course in cross-cultural adaptation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Another Blooper to Write Home About

As the door opened and our elegantly dressed hostess invited us inside, my husband and I walked into a room of 25 women with Islamic veils tossed over their shoulders.  Suddenly the room fell silent, and all eyes were fixed on my husband, the only male in the room. Our hostess continued smiling and politely ushered Jose into a side room. My face flushed, and I prayed desperately, “Oh God, couldn’t I just disappear right now?”  

Here was another blooper to write home about.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What's Your Greatest Challenge?

Do you ever feel like daily problems and life issues are magnified because you’re working overseas? Today I hope to hear from you about your life.  What is your greatest difficulty living and serving overseas?  If you’re like me, you find that regular, daily struggles are intensified by cross-cultural stress, but living overseas also brings a whole new set of challenges.

My Greatest challenge is trusting God with my children.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Finding Freedom in Simple Routines

My hall closet has a life of its own.  Every August I de-clutter and organize it, but over the course of the school year, from September to May, it slowly deteriorates into a chaos.  Extra items I can’t find a place for get shoved in there, papers and supplies get shuffled, and entropy seems to reign. One of the realities of life in Turkey is little storage space, so my house has one small closet to store empty suitcases, school books and supplies, craft materials, shopping bags, a Christmas tree, ladder, and a broom! 

Just like my closet, my life as a cross-cultural worker also tends towards entropy. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Enjoying Summer's Bounty: Turkish Style Vegetables!

Are you set to enjoy the last weeks of summer? Or are you tired of the heat and wishing for fall already?  In Turkey, summer’s all about vegetables: eggplant, tomatoes, squash, and green beans.  On hot afternoons delicious smells of frying peppers travel up and down the stairs of our apartment building as housewives make dinner. Kızartma, fried vegetables, is a popular dish served with garlic yogurt. Vegetables of all varieties are cooked in olive oil, tomato, and garlic.

“Olive oil won’t make you fat,” my Turkish mother used to tell me.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

One whole month of summer vacation sounds exciting, but then when I think of all my projects, I start to get anxious.  How to best use my time? I’m hoping to recharge my spiritual batteries and spend time reading, reflecting, and praying about my plans for the fall. How am I going to balance that with my house organization projects, preparation for next year’s home school, editing my husband’s doctoral dissertation and on-going ministry?  Can you relate?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Truck Driver Attitudes and Judging Others

Sometimes the view from our balcony is better than television. Last week as we ate dinner, a full blown shouting match erupted on the street below us.  Within 5 minutes 20 neighbors came out to their balconies to behold the spectacle.

A white truck and a blue hatchback approached each other nose to nose in the narrow street below us, with no room to pass each other.  Both drivers slammed on their brakes and got out of the cars yelling that the other would have to back up his vehicle.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

5 Minute Mental Makeover

If I’m a cross-cultural worker who is supposed to be like Jesus and love and serve others sacrificially, then why do I feel so grouchy and unmotivated to do anything?

These thoughts crossed my mind as I made a list of what I needed to do to get ready for our house church meeting last Sunday: 
  • Mop the kitchen and living room.
  • Clean the bathroom.
  • Make a pasta salad and a dessert.
  • Get out the dishes.

On a hot summer day, just thinking about all this activity made me break out in a sweat. My energy was sapped, and my thoughts went from bad to worse.  Who wanted to have a house church meeting anyway? Um, are workers like me supposed to even ask questions like this?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Simple Mediterranean Meal for Busy Days

Simple meals you can prepare on a busy day are what I call rescue meals. The humble Turkish Breakfast is versatile enough to double as a light lunch or a simple evening meal. 

Schedules and mealtimes tend to slide around here in the summer time. People stay up late, and most stay at home moms and their kids sleep in. Breakfast might be at 11:00 or 12:00, melting into lunch, and sometimes it’s the only meal until evening.  Even at night, in a pinch after a busy day, a Turkish woman might open the fridge and say, “Let’s get out the breakfast things.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ways to Beat the Summer Heat

For a Texas girl plunked down on the Aegean coast, complaining about 36 degree weather seems wimpy.  After all, where I grew up, temperatures soared above 40degrees for days on end.

But that was with central air conditioning.

One of the realities of life in Turkey is no central air AC.  I know I should be thankful for the wall units we turn on for a few hours to fall asleep at night, but lately I’ve had a bad case of the “hot grouchies.”  That’s what I call the complaining, irritable spirit that sets in after I’ve melted onto the kitchen floor with no energy to do anything by 9:00 a.m.

How to cope? Every summer I’m faced with the choice:  Will I let the hot grouchies take over or will I make up my mind to enjoy a slower pace?  I try to take lessons from nationals on how to embrace the summer slow life. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

When the Clock Becomes Irrelevant: Village Henna Night

We thought the henna night was supposed to start at 8:00, but we weren’t socially ignorant enough to arrive on time.  We got there at 8:30, but the tea garden was still empty. Workers strung up lights and prepared the sound system. Finally at 9:30 the first guests arrived.

Bahar’s parents hosted her henna night in their village 5 days before the wedding. At this important celebration, the bride and groom’s hands are tinted with henna as a sign of blessing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cracked Vessel Hits the Ground Running!

When we returned home from furlough, I hit the ground running. While still in America, we got the thrilling news that my Turkish sister Bahar was engaged.  I got back May 17th, with just five weeks to help Bahar prepare for her June 23rd wedding. As the matron of honor, I fell into the roles of wedding coordinator and mother of the bride, so it’s no wonder I’ve had no time for blog posts.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Enjoying Life Where You Are

Photo Credit:

I remember the fretting I did before our family returned to America for a whole year in 2009. “What are we going to eat?” I wondered.  I was thinking about olives, olive oil, olive paste, fresh cheese, red peppers, fresh herbs, vine ripened tomatoes and fruit from the market in Turkey.  

Then we came back home for a year and got used to sweet corn on the cob in the summer, sugar snap peas, delicious peanut butter, corn tortillas, corn chips, enchiladas, and convenience foods. Beef was relatively cheap, and bananas tasted good all year round.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Never Say Never

Homeschooling was something I said I’d never do.  

That was for geeks and fringe types, right? If I lived in America, I’m not sure if I would home school or not, but in 2003, the thought of my 6 year old struggling to learn reading in a language he barely knew was not very appealing. 

Early Home School Activity

So his first year of school, my son went to Turkish kindergarten three afternoons a week, and did English home school in the morning.  He actually hated kindergarten, which I’d always thought was supposed to be fun. One of my worst memories of our first year in Turkey is of a morning in November, months after school had started. My gregarious, outgoing son, whom I’d supposed was adjusting well, burst into tears and clung to my waist.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rescue Lunch for Chaos Days

What do you do on those chaos days when cooking seems overwhelming? It’s tricky around our house because my kids did not grow up eating sandwiches, and frozen convenience foods are non-existent. For me, a great rescue lunch using simple ingredients from the pantry is hummus.  We serve it with toasted pita bread wedges, carrot sticks and cucumbers for dipping. Finish off with sweetened vanilla yogurt for desert, and you have a great meal.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Unlikely Friend, Unlikely Sister

Unlikely friends

“Would this bright, beautiful Turkish girl even be interested in spending time with a middle aged American housewife like me?” That was my question when I met Bahar about 8 years ago. She was a social butterfly with a million friends, a Chrstn graduate student from a Mslm background. I was a stay at home mother, unsure about what kind of ministry I could possibly have outside my home since caring for my husband and two kids was overwhelming enough.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Living Through Elevator Fiascos and Other Changes

The cross-cultural life is an adventure, but it’s not always comfortable.  You never quite fit in.  Things are always changing. When you’re in your foreign country, it takes years to learn the culture and language and make friends. You miss home. 

Then you visit home and feel out of place. You don’t even know how to push the buttons in an elevator. This happened to me the other day. In an airport elevator, I pushed what I thought was the second floor button, but nothing happened.  I pushed it several times before realizing that I was actually pushing a label. The button was the RAISED KNOB next to the second floor label, so I tried pushing it quickly and hoped the man standing next to me hadn’t noticed!  Every time I come home, I forget how to work the little machines at cash registers that take your credit and debit cards. It feels like learning to walk all over again.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to React to Life's Unexpected Turns

Have you ever noticed that no matter how carefully you plan, life has a way of taking unexpected turns?  Last Wednesday my daughter and I spent the night in Helsinki, Finland, the last place on earth I would have expected to visit. We had just the clothes on our backs. No pyjamas. No toiletries.

A bus stop in Helsinki

My husband and son were travelling from Turkey to the United States on a different airline, and we planned to meet up in New York City to spend a day sightseeing before we continued our trip home together.  I was excited because I’ve dreamed about going to New York City all my life. We planned our day carefully: Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Broadway, and Lombardi’s pizzeria.

The first hint that things were not going as planned came when we checked in for our flight.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Grumbling Guests or Thankful Visitors?

Last night I landed in New York with my daughter, and today today we continue our travels with my husband and son.

 Here is a re-post on one of my favorite pet peeves: we foreigners who complain about our host countries:


When you live overseas, it’s easy to fall into the habit of criticizing everything you find different or challenging in your host culture.  In Turkey, foreigners complain about bureaucracy, disorganized traffic, lack of planning, people arriving late, people arriving early, or people not showing up at all.  It’s easy to see the negative side of everything.  I should know.  I just spent one and a half hours waiting in two lines in order to apply for a new cell phone account.  It was my third trip to the cell phone shop in one week.

Cultivating Wonder and Thankfulness

Instead of grumbling about my host country, I want to cultivate a sense of wonder and thankfulness for God’s allowing me to be here.  Recently I wrote about life changing lessons I've learned from Turks.  Last month I had several “Where else but Turkey?” experiences that reminded me again to appreciate the kindness and generosity of Turks.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Most Wonderful Problem

When I saw face Gizem’s Facebook message, anxiety welled up inside me: “Can we come over to see you before your trip?” I surveyed the littered suitcases, and summer clothes piled up on the floor in my bedroom and thought about our weekend schedule:

Friday night:   Visit with friends

Saturday:         Breakfast out with friends
                        Shopping, housecleaning
Sister for dinner

Sunday:           House Church meeting.

The only free time I had was Sunday afternoon.

Should I invite Gizem to come with her husband? When was I going to start packing for our trip? We were leaving early Wednesday morning, and I hadn’t even started packing home school supplies, gifts for people back home, and winter and summer clothes for four people.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Countdown to Furlough: Vacation or Marathon?

A photo with my dad and brothers from my last furlough 

I have five days to get ready for my two and a half month marathon vacation.  I need to see several friends, get our spring clothes out of storage—it’s still winter here!—pack suitcases, organize, and pack school materials, and clean my house for the people who will stay here while we’re gone.  I wrote a breath prayer for myself this week: “Holy Spirit of Peace, order my steps.”

I have mixed feelings about our time at home.  I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also a bit scared of our schedule. Everyone says, “Oh I hope you get to rest,” but I’m not sure if this is a vacation or a marathon.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kid Friendly Fast Food, Turkish Style

Do you ever find yourself staring into the depths of your refrigerator at 5:00 p.m. , wondering what on earth to cook for dinner?  This happens to me more times than I care to admit.  Menu planning sounds like a great idea in theory, but I’ve never been able to do it for longer than one week a year.

My favorite Turkish fast food restaurant in Istanbul, a meatball place!
photo credit:

For those busy days when I’m short on time and inspiration, a good default menu for our family is köfte and pilav (meatballs and rice).  Köfte is classic Turkish fast food.  Of course fast food is a relative term since we live in a slow food culture, but I can make this meal in 35-40 minutes.  I start with the rice and make the meatballs while it cooks. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Keeps Me Going When Life is Overwhelming

Do you ever feel like everything happens at once? Last weekend I had two different sets of houseguests: friends from another city in Turkey who came to speak at our team retreat and friends from out of country who stayed in our home while we were away. In between packing and leaving for our retreat, the weekend included making a birthday cake and hosting a quick celebration, preparing a few meals for different guests, and stripping the beds twice to change sheets.

I was honestly happy to see dear friends and open my home to them, but rather than being motivated by genuine love and hospitality, I felt harried and stressed. I was in a “Let’s Get Through This” mode.

At the retreat, God’s voice broke through to me loud and clear:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Birthday Suit in a Turkish Bath

Photo credit:

I’d always heard about Turkish baths, but I never dreamed of going. Who would want to sit in a room full of naked women? I never imagined that regular city dwellers ever went to a hamam.  Surely that was for village people who didn’t have a bathroom at home.

But when my friend Ezgi told me she went every month and that it was fun and relaxing, I was curious, so my Turkish sister and I set out one Saturday morning to meet Ezgi at the hamam.  On the bus, I started getting cold feet.  What on earth was I getting myself into? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Best Friend in 2012

Now that it’s February, have you forgotten your New Year's Resolutions? Did you set any goals in January?  I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, but I’m intrigued by an idea I got from several fellow bloggers: choosing a WORD for the year, a word that encapsulates your hopes for 2012. Different friends chose words like Rest, Communion, Peace, and Surrender. 

I chose the word FELLOWSHIP for 2012.  This year I want more than ever to cultivate close fellowship with Jesus.

One reality of life as a cross-cultural servant can be loneliness. 
You’ve left your loved ones back home.  You sometimes struggle with feeling out of place in your new country.  It takes time to build friendships, both with nationals and with other cross-cultural workers, who often seem to come and go anyway. Do you ever feel this way?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What I Learned about Friendships with Nationals from Backgammon


Little did I know what I was getting into when I offered to play backgammon with Yeşim. Her eyes gleamed as she leaned forward and rolled the dice.  By sheer instinct she expertly moved the pieces along without even having to count or think. She won 6 games and let me win one.

Backgammon is the national board game of Turkey. You see people sitting on the street playing, and you hear the click of the dice as you walk past cafes. I learned backgammon as a child and am familiar with the rules, but believe me, that doesn’t cut it when it comes to Turkish backgammon!

Yeşim came over at 3:30 for a bit of advice and prayer.  We spent the afternoon drinking tea, eating cake and talking.  After we prayed together, I asked if she wanted to stay and help me make pizza and eat dinner with us.

In the afternoon, I was the abla (older sister) offering advice and prayer. When I got out the backgammon board after dinner, the tables turned and Yeşim became the expert.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ultimate Turkish Comfort Food

Rice Pudding (Sütlaç)

Can you imagine a dessert made with wheat kernels, beans and chick peas? Last month several neighbors rang our doorbell to drop off sweet friendship offerings: bowls of aşure. I love aşure, but I have to admit it’s probably an acquired taste.  You might have to live in Turkey for five years before you can get used to the idea of a dessert with beans. 

Making aşure is literally an all-day affair that I haven’t undertaken in a long time.  Wheat, beans, chickpeas, raisins, currants, dried apricots and figs are all boiled separately, and then made into a pudding that is garnished with chopped nuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon and pomegranate.   During the first month of the Islamic calendar, women make it and take bowls to their neighbors.   

When your neighbor leaves you a bowl or a dish, of course you are expected to return it with something you’ve cooked or prepared yourself.  No one ever returns a dish empty. In December and January, I was too tired of holiday cooking to consider making aşure myself, so I returned several bowls with a humbler offering: sütlaç (rice pudding).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ways to Give More than just the Leftovers.

Why is it so easy to let the relationships closest to you slide? If you’re like me, family members are the first ones you take for granted. Last week I wrote about Giving Your Marriage More than just the Leftovers.

My husband is my best friend, but it’s easy to overlook him during daily routines with two teenagers excited about life and bursting at the seams to talk about everything. It’s easy to overlook him as I rush out the door to the supermarket, or get ready for an occasional evening out with girl friends. Through the ins and outs of life, we can end up going our separate ways in the same house if we’re not careful to cultivate oneness.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The 23 Year Love Affair that Pre-Dates my Marriage

A colorful look at Turkey.  English starts on the 12th second of the video.

I fell in love with the Turkish people when I was 24 years old.  I remember how I sobbed on the airplane when I had to return to America after a two year stint in Istanbul.  For reasons I could hardly understand, I felt that my heart would break over leaving Turkey.  I felt almost the same way three years ago when we had to leave for a one year furlough in America.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Giving your Marriage More than just the Leftovers

One of my favorite photos of my husband and I, taken 3 years ago.

When was the last time you sat down and had a great conversation with your spouse? On the tail end of a week of stressful conflict, my husband and I recently had a wonderful coffee date.  We had already spent enough time talking through the issues, which we both later agreed were trivial. Our coffee date was just for fun.  We sat in a pastry shop holding hot mugs, looking out at the cold winter day and sharing our ideas, plans, goals, and thoughts with each other. This conversation spilled over into the rest of our week, and we came together at several different points to continue the dialogue.  This awakened in me all over again the delight of discovering my husband.

Cross cultural life involves stress and adaptation issues that can be hard on a marriage.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fashion on a Shoestring Budget: 3 Lira Fun!

10 lira sweater + 3 lira scarf + 2 lira earrings = 15 lira outfit!
Don’t you love it when you stumble on an fashion bargain that you happen to love and then people compliment you on it later?

“What cute earrings,” your friend says.

And you say, “I got these for two lira on the street the other day.”

One of the perks of life in my Aegean city is fun fashion finds for cheap. A few weekends ago, my daughter and I went shopping at our Saturday pazar (market).  People from all over town come to our pazar for its treasures: costume jewelry, cheap perfume, jeans, sweaters, coats, scarves, sweat suits, and designer factory rejects.  It’s best to get there early because by 12 noon you can hardly push through the crowd.  You have to be really committed to the concept of fashion finds for cheap to brave the afternoon mob.

My daughter and I ambled around for an hour, getting lost a couple of times in the maze of stalls and examining countless treasures.  We ended up with sweaters for 10 Lira (US$ 6.66) and matching 3 lira scarves.  Practically a new outfit for $13 lira!

Of course I don’t know how long we’ll be able to wear these sweaters, but they’re fun and didn’t unravel in the first wash. Even if they fall apart by spring, I won’t care.  I can wear anything happily for only one season if I paid just 10 lira for it. And you never know; six years ago I found a tailored burgundy blouse for 7 lira at the same market, and I still get compliments when I wear it. While home on furlough two years ago I found two sweaters in favorite colors, royal blue and emerald green, for $5 on a sale rack at Target, and they’ve made it through two winters.

Personally, my life is so busy that I have to stumble upon clothing bargains.  I don’t have time to drive all over town looking for the cheapest thing.  Sometimes I pay more for the sake of simplicity.  Get what you need NOW, and then you’re done.  So it’s doubly fun when I run across something I like for cheap.

What’s the best fashion bargain you’ve found recently? Did you find it while travelling or living abroad?