June 29, 2014

Exploring The Back Roads

This weekend, we went saw some parts of Istanbul that tourists normally don’t see. I am sure that we will have to go for a few more trips because there are roads and alley ways that weave among thosand year old buildings. They just continue forever, the more you see the more you understand there is SO much more to see!

We started out in the Tourist-y section of the Misir Market (Spice Market) and wandered through the side streets. The close buildings and small shops reminded us of Divisoria in Manila. You could buy ANYTHING in this area.

There were two story toy shops, crafts stores, hardware stores, clothes, shoes, rugs, gun shops next to the bakery, you could buy tobacco to roll (everyone smokes here) and next to that some fake money…just in case you need some! HAHA

 We spent time browsing cake and bakery stores, which made us both miss Moana. He would have loved the area there. They had all kinds of trinkets.

 After we ate at a popular restaurant that overlooked the Galata Bridge and the Bosphorus. It was a gorgeous view on a gorgeous day. We took a stroll over the bridge and  Lucky liked seeing all the buses come and go. We thought it was fun to watch all the fishermen. Especially since below the bridge there is a second level for fish restaurants.

Our last stop of the afternoon—for tourism anyway because we went shopping for vegetables afterwards—was at the Galata Bakery that is famous for their chocolate baklava. I didn’t think baklava could be any more rich than it already is, but when you add a chocolate dimension into the picture it is way over the top!
The Lucky Dragon gets free gifts wherever we go!

June 22, 2014

Traditional Turkish Breakfast

This weekend Lady Hiva and I had a traditional Turkish breakfast. Over the last few weeks we have eaten all of the ingredients here and there, but this was the FULL experience.

Turks use so many tomatoes and peppers for their foods. They sell tomatoes here like Americans sell bananas—they are sold in bulk and no matter where you are, they have them for sale. Naturally, a Turkish Breakfast includes tomatoes! Other items are several flavors of cheese, bread, fruit, nuts, eggs, and cucumber. All of these ingredients I LOVE—oh I forgot to mention the olives (which I don’t love ever since I threw up a whole can of black olives on the back stairs of my Aunt Heidi’s wedding, but hey, that leaves more for someone else, right?).

Typically, Lady Hiva is anti-tomatoes, but ever since we have been in Turkey she has learned to love them. One of her favorite dishes so far was a raw salad with diced tomatoes, onions, parsley, and walnuts. I was happy to see her even try it because it was 75% tomatoes and then the next day she bought all of the ingredients to make it at home! I guess things change…I am still not liking olives though. I have really tried too. I eat  a few and then the lymph nodes swell and my gag reflex begins to make me salivate and I have to stop before it gets too far. So props to Lady for loving tomatoes now! HEHE

One of our friends booked a beautiful restaurant for the breakfast and we all went. The view was spectacular! The restaurant was in a private club park on the Asian side of Istanbul that overlooked the Bosphorus. We sat right next to the window as we ate. The waiters brought out plate after plate of foods that you eat until you are full—we all wanted to try and eat as much as we could and soon were full but still had SO much food left.

It was a a gorgeous day so we sat by the pool and enjoyed the view and the sea breeze. Lucky did not appreciate that we were so close to a blue pool and we were not letting him into it. I promised him we would go when we arrived back home.

However, that changed when we stopped to shop at the street market for some vegetables and the beautiful sunny day suddenly turned to lightening and RAIN! We were soaked by the time we pushed our cart of vegetables up the hill to home. Memories, memories. I guess any normal day needs some type of adventure!

June 20, 2014

Most Recent Reviews of COUNTING CANDLES

It has been fun to see there are several people reading COUNTING CANDLES. There are more reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. But I also am seeing more reviews on book review blogs. I found several while looking tonight and I think that Lady Hiva was getting sick of me finding ‘just one more’ and wanting to read it out loud to her! HAHA

But in all honesty, it is great as a writer to see that the words you put out there for people to judge are making an impact. That is the root of writing—to express something in a way that changes or impacts somebody. The last few weeks have been full of emails, texts, comments and tweets about COUNTING CANDLES and it is exciting for me to see that.

I was telling someone the other day that the characters have become my friends and I find it fun to talk with people who have read the book and hear that they too have become part of the character’s lives. You can see that same effect in these reviews. Some of the reviewers talk about specific characters that touch them.

So if you have read it, I would love to hear which characters have touched you! I have linked several of the reviews here so you can all see them.

June 18, 2014

A Trip to the Capital

I had some meetings in Ankara this week and Lady Hiva was not about to let me go there without her and the baby. So we made it a family trip! (I am always happy to have them come along anyway).

The flight is rather short from Istanbul and thanks to Mickey Mouse and some snacks Lucky Dragon was a patient little guy.

Our first impression of the city is how calm it was. It is still a city, but compared to Istanbul the streets felt empty and life was at a slower pace. Instead of as much packed into one area as possible, the roads were wider and had less traffic. There was quite a bit of construction though, that reminded us of the Philippines.

I had meetings while Lady and Lucky explored during the day. At night we went out to find things to see.

We went to the one big tourist attraction in Ankara after work one day—Anitkabir. This is the resting place of Ataturk, or the Father of the Turks. Ataturk was the man who led Turkey against the Ottoman Empire  in 1923 and it became an independent state. He is also the one who gave women rights, changed the language to Latin alphabet from an Arabic alphabet  (hallelujah, Ataturk! You made my life at FSI so much better!), and gave all Turks last names.

It is an ENORMOUS space. There is an inner courtyard, one big mausoleum, a museum, and all surrounded by gardens. The high marbled walls are lined in gold and red shiny tiles. The only thing in the room is a marble coffin where Ataturk is resting.

There is a museum under the mausoleum that covers the period Ataturk was president. The reforms he instituted were revolutionary. He changed the alphabet and everyone learned how to read and write again (although this increased literacy rates exponentially), he made it so everyone had a last name and gave women rights in the country. It is an impressive square dedicated to an impressive man.

It was a short, but great trip, but we are glad we went. Lady Hiva was most excited about being able to shop at the commissary for American food and cleaning items! She is already plotting a return trip when we have Mongoose to “load up on everything!”