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?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Real Reason I'm Here

Roman ruins an hour from my house.

My husband always says that the real reason God brought us to the Middle East was because He wanted to mold and shape us. We thought we were coming to share the message and encourage others in their faith.  Perhaps God did bring us here for those reasons, but He obviously had so much more in mind because we’ve learned far more than we’ve taught. We’ve received more than we’ve imparted, and we always come back to the point of realizing that the task here goes beyond our own strength and capacity.  Any small way in which God has used us is a miracle of his grace alone.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Not a New Year's Resolution

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, especially if they have to do with diet and exercise.  This year, however, I do want to acquire a new habit, even if I’m not calling it a resolution.

I want to work on memorizing scripture. Not just verses, but passages. Not just to check a box off the Christian “To Do” list, but to focus my thoughts on God and His words to me. I want my mind to be renewed.

Most days I’m in serious need of a mental makeover by 5:00 p.m.  I start the day on a positive note, but often home school, housework, e-mail, errands, visits, and phone calls leave my mind worn down and overwhelmed by late afternoon.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy Cooking in 2012!

Happy New Year!  I don’t have any profound new year’s reflections, but here is another taste of Turkey for you. 

Part of the fun of living here is learning how to cook Turkish food.  I view cooking as a creative adventure, and that’s particularly true here since local food is delicious, but no one uses recipes. I use a combination of cooking websites, advice from Turkish friends, and trial and error in my own kitchen to figure out how to make local dishes.