Québec City and Le Carnaval

While I was home on semester break, my family and I decided to take a vacation together.  Last year we went on the memorial cruise, so this year we wanted to do something different, and closer to home.   We decided on Québec when we found out that their Winter Carnival or Le Carnaval de Québec coincided with my trip.  We knew it was going to be cold five hours farther north, but it is winter, so it was going to be cold at home too!  It is one of the oldest cities in North America, and the only fortified city as well.  We stayed just outside the walled city, and right off of Grande Allée, one of the cities oldest streets, filled with cafes, restaurants and bars.

In and around the walled city, the architecture takes on a distinctly European look.2014-01-31 14.55.29 

Between hearing the French on the streets and the architecture, if you ignored the people walking around posh areas in snow pants (with no ski slope in view) you would swear you were in some Francophone part of Europe. 

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I particularly loved where the old and new cities met.  On the right there is a historic building, in the background a modern high-rise and in between an urban ice skating rink. 

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After touring around the Old City, we headed about 10 kilometers out of town to check out the Ice Hotel, or Hôtel de Glace.  While I wouldn’t want to sleep there, it was amazing. It had almost everything a typical hotel would, including a bar with drinks sold in ice glasses.

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Some of the rooms were plain while others were intricately decorated with carved ice bed frames and snow murals on the walls. 

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Many of the hallways were artistically carved and lit as well. 

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There was a chapel, complete with an ice alter and pews, and apparently many weddings are held there.  It was very lovely, but it would take a special kind of wedding dress as the temperature was about 20°F. 

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The Winter Carnival was very entertaining.  It catered to families and adults.  Private outfits had set up booths to advertise their wares, like outdoor winter spas and heated hammocks.  There were food stalls selling everything from fried dough to poutine to grilled trout.  There was a bar that sold beer and wine as well as hot wine in ice glasses.  There were also many fun activities, like tubing, sledding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.  One night when it was snowing my brother and I participated in a game of human foosball.  We won. 

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There was even a stand that had set up an ice fishing area, with a heavy layer of ice laid over a reservoir stocked with trout.  When you exited there was a stand where you could buy a grilled trout or get the one you just caught roasted. 

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The ice luge

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There were also some amazing snow sculptures.  It was a competition, and the snow artist had a limited amount of time to complete their sculptures.  Many of them worked over the night, and we stopped by to watch for a while.  In the morning we went by again to see the finished products.  Some were based on fairly large concepts. 

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While other were abstract. 

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And some just right out there. 

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We had a great time in Québec, not just because of the city and the carnival, but because it is so nice to spend time together as a family.  Between getting the old house ready to sell, moving to the new house and getting Mom’s new place all settled in, there is usually always something to do at the house (or one of them.)  I don’t mind this, and am really glad I was there to help out during at least part of the transition.  However when there is always a project to work on, it is hard to get quality family time.  Going away to Québec for part of my trip was great. I was able to hang around the house, relax and help out on  few projects, but also have some really great time with my family while we did nothing but be a family.

Nana, A Centenarian

Born October 5, 1913, she immigrated to America on the SS Carpathia with her parents and three of her six siblings (the others were yet to be born).  They arrived on December 2th,1919 on the SS Carpathia.

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She moved to England in her twenties and worked as a companion to an elderly woman.  She joined Women’s Royal Air Force just a week after Sarah Churchill, in 1941.  She met my grandfather and married him in 1942.   She had almost completed her first BA, but her college in London had been hit by the Blitz and all records were lost.  She was told if she could find three professors to vouch  for her, the school would transfer her credits.  Unable to do this, she began again when she relocated to the U.S.

After she moved back to the States, she had six children, two are still living.   Of those who have died one was a twin who was stillborn, two died in their twenties, and my father who died almost two years ago.

During this time she finished her second B.A. completed a M.A. a M.F.A. and a Ph.D.  She has written several books, contributed many articles to the MetroWest Daily News and painted many beautiful pieces of art. 

An amazing storyteller, for decades she has regaled us with tales of her life and our heritage.  Stories of her family, about putting out magnesium bombs in London during WWII, and of our ancestors in Roman times. 

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Happy Birthday to Nana, someone who enriches us with her presence, wisdom and we are lucky to have in our lives.  If you have met or know Nana, feel free to call or send a card.  I am sure she would love to hear from you.  If you need her number or address please contact me. 

Belated Cruise

Before my father died he wanted to take one last vacation with the family.  Unfortunately he died just a few days before we were supposed to leave.  So this year, during school vacation, my family and I decided to take our “Last Cruise” as a family of four.  Like the slightly morbid and irreverent family we are, we decided that everyone should go—so we brought Dad.  He is small and doesn’t take up much room, so we didn’t have to buy him a ticket. We did bury some of him next to my brother, but he was a wanderer and explorer, so we wanted to honor that too.

So the whole family went on a cruise, and we had a great time.  It was really special to just be together, with no distractions or work.   We didn’t take too many photos because we were just having so much fun!

We were active most of the trip, trying to avoid the consequences of the open buffet!  Mom and I jogged each morning, and twice we climbed the Rock Wall.  The first time my mother didn’t make it to the top, so she dragged us back the next day and she rocked it! (Bad pun intended!  Sorry!)  She made it all the way to the top and rang the bell!

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Doing it another time allowed me to try the harder path the second time around.

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Elliot and I had lots of sib bonding time.  Though I kept getting the evil eye from the single girls because they thought we were a couple.  Apparently we don’t look alike as much as we did when we were young!

(Example A: Stone Cold Fox)

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Elliot had picked out a shore excursion in Cozumel Mexico that included ATVs and wild animals.  I was a little wary at first, but we had a lot of fun.

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They were raising money for conservation efforts and we were able to meet some of the species they were trying to help.

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In Cozumel, I passed a store named “Deniz”  and HAD to stop in.  Of course, the owner was Turkish.  He had moved to Mexico five years ago.  He thought his path in life was set, he was in his fifties and had never been married.  But, as it happens, he fell in love with the woman he hired to help run his store.  They married a couple years ago–he is 60,she is 35, and they have the most beautiful baby, named Deniz!  So I got to practice my Turkish, and he was excited to speak it.

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It was a lovely trip, which sounds a little like bragging after hearing about that cruise ship that had to be towed in from sea while the passenger reenacted Lord of the Flies.   It was a vacation, and a time to let go and say good bye.  As I mentioned previously, we had brought some of my father’s ashes with us.  We used this time to scatter his ashes around the Caribbean Sea.  We thought he would enjoy it as a (partial) final resting place.  So we returned to NH with one less corporeal family member, but some good memories of all four of us on vacation.

The Things He Was

One year ago today, my father died.  I could lament all the things he will miss. (Weddings, Grandchildren, and General Awesomeness)

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However, I feel this day deserves a celebration, because my father was truly amazing.

For starters, he had some good stories.  The first time I was going to bring Bülent  home, we had to take down the twin bed in my room and set up the old double he and my mom used to share.  Apparently he bought it in the sixties and I was treated to the entire history of the bedframe.  Which I suppose was only fair as I only set it up to share it with my BF.

Also he started the Wellesley Fuck Truck, oh, I mean the Cuddle Shuttle.  When my father went to Brown in the 60’s he took some time off.  In that time he chartered (and drove) a bus between Wellesley (all women’s school I went to) and Harvard, MIT and Dartmouth (all men’s at the time).  When he stopped driving the bus and returned to Brown, the student body at my school demanded a  replacement bus from the administration.  I was also slightly wary introducing myself to alumnae from the 60’s and 70’s should they remember my last name, via my dad. 

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He was awesome with kids.  Seriously.  He rocked the 2-10 age group like a rock star.  Reading stories, finding age appropriate activities on-line. 

Dude rocked the babies 

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He was a feminist.  My body was my decision from way back.

He was a family man.  I never doubted his devotion to us as a family.  He would love nothing more than spending time with us.

He was a reader and lover of books.  Both my parents instilled this in me.  There is still nothing more exciting than opening the first pages of a new book.

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He had strong hands for a computer guy.  Often his knuckles were bleeding from some home improvement project, but he never noticed it unless one of us told him. 

He talked to everyone and anyone, often creating friendships and bonds with strangers who entered his life. 

He swore like a sailor when appropriate.

He was a fighter.  Life couldn’t have been easy.  There have been tragedies and triumphs.  He was diagnosed with cancer back in 1998.  He fought with a vengeance.  Our family, and those who know us were able to appreciate that time we had.  Of course we wish for more, who doesn’t?  No one wishes they had less time with their beloved family members.  I am glad I had the time I did and the memories I had.  I have learned many things from my father, raunchy jokes and tragedy included, and am glad for everything I had.  Every movement of it. 

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Hoşgeldiniz to 2013

Welcome to the New Year!  I hope everyone had safe and happy New Years celebrations.  Bülent and I have been so busy lately that we welcomed the New Year from bed, where we had been snuggling and watching movies.  It worked for me!  Start the New Year as you mean to continue right?  I am sure many people are thinking about New Year Resolutions and how to make changes.  I think I am just going to continue the journey I started several months ago, trying to appreciate the good, and live a more balanced life.

It has been a difficult year.  This day last year I was packing my bags to go back to the U.S.  I  had taken a leave of absence due to my father’s health and was supposed to head back at the end of the semester in late January.  I had spoken to my family a couple of days before and I had decided to change my plane ticket on December 30.  It was expensive to change a ticket two days before the flight, but it was the best decision I ever made.  My father’s funeral was on the original date in January on which I was supposed to arrive. 

I had taken the semester off and my school had hired someone to take my place, so I stayed in N.H., grieving and healing with my family.  It was difficult to be separated from my husband for six months, but has changed our relationship for the better.  We are stronger and more united, we know there is nothing we wouldn’t do to help the other…been there, done that.  We have now had bad and trying times and just love each other more for our individual responses to them. 

My time in the U.S. last year was very precious to me.  It allowed me to spend time with my mother while she needed me, and while I needed her.  I was able to get to know my brother as the man he is now, as opposed to the boy he was when I left.  I was also able to get to know his long time girlfriend, who is as lovely inside as she is out.  I went to my college roommate’s wedding and celebrated her happiness with her, and our college friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in five years.   I drove from Texas to New Hampshire, meeting Bülent’s dearest old friends, and visiting mine along the way.   I also went to BlogHer ‘12!

My oldest and dearest friend made me an Auntie—albeit in a terrifying way.  Due to her daughter’s insistence to make a (extremely early) entrance I was able to meet her in the NICU before I came back to Turkey.  

Health wise: Bülent and I went vegetarian (almost six months now) and I joined a gym a few months ago.  The breast lumps have been vanquished—well not vanquished but at least identified as benign.  To top it all off, our dog, Butterfinger, is not letting cataracts get her down.   

The year has been challenging and rewarding.  I am hoping that this next year will be easier, because we kind of need a break.  But we are starting the year off right.  Last year my dad wanted to take our family on a last vacation, a cruise, due to his limited mobility, but he died before we were able.  

Well, we are taking that fucking cruise.  Come January break, my mom, brother and I are going to go.  We are going to celebrate what was, what is and what is to come, because that is what life is all about.  So 2013—bring it on!

Another Flat Jules Sighting!

Every year there is a 5k race at our town’s Old Home Day. When I went home in June my mom asked me if we could  train for it and run it together. We thought it was going to be in early August. Unfortunately, the race took place after I left for Turkey. My mother and I still trained for it all summer. My mother rocked that race and ran it in a little over 30 minutes. While I was not there in person, I supported her by doing my own 5k run in Marmaris that day.  I was a little disappointed to not make the race with her.

However, my Dad had a great idea… Flat Jules also made an appearance! After the Wellesley Reunion, my BFF from college mailed her to me, signed by all of my friends.  So my parents cajoled Flat Jules down from her room in the attic for some photos with my mom after the race.

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My mom graciously shared her race number with Flat Jules!

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While we did not run the race together, we did have a great time training together this summer.  It also gave me a great new outlet for stress and a new hobby.  I have run almost every day since I have returned to Turkey, around the track in Ankara and by the sea in Marmaris.   Maybe next year we will do another 5k together!

Camping in Maine

A few weekends ago I went camping in York, ME.  As a kid we always used to go camping on the Maine Coast or up in Canada.  Many of my best childhood memories are tied up with swimming in the icy cold water, sitting around campfires and hunkering down in the pop-up with my family.

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So when my family had a chance to go a few weekends ago, despite my father’s illness and chemotherapy regimen, we all jumped at he chance.  We drank beer, played scrabble, listened to the ocean and hunkered down in the camper while a magnificent thunder storm rumbled and dumped rain on us.  2011 Summer 060

When you grow up some things change, or become more complicated.   Heartbreak can no longer be cured with a kiss and a cookie.  But then again, some things never change.  Icy water+Camper+ Family = Always a blast!

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Summer BBQ

I LOVE food.  ALL FOOD.  As my husband will attest while shuddering with repulsion and distaste, I will eat anything.  I will try anything once or twice (sometimes you need more than one tasting.)  I have no prejudice when it comes to food and will eat it mild or spicy, hot or cold, offal or vegetarian.   Seriously.  One of my favorite foods in TR is Kokoreç—lamb intestines…YUM!

But, there are some things that I miss.  Like tender, fresh, native summer corn and  Pork, Pork, Pork, Ham and Bacon…

While my husband was here we had a lovely barbeque, including some of my favorite things that I missed the most.

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Sweet NH Native Corn…

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Salad of Field Greens picked from Mom’s Garden

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Homemade Potato Salad

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Hotdogs, Hot and Sweet Pork Sausages

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YUM!

Fun Times with the FamFam

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Chemotastic!

This week we are back on chemo–Dad’s third round. While he does have some side effects and major fatigue he is in a pretty good spirits. When I came back he warned me that sometimes when he doesn’t feel well he is a ornery bastard (his terminology might have been just “cranky.”)  However, lucky for all of us he has been pretty chipper and not so cranky, though we would have overlooked it if he had been curmudgeonly.   His taste buds have  been slightly altered so we have been plying him with ice cream—so that have helped too!

Recently, we had some good news.  Apparently our darling SOB has started down the lovely path of telling Cancer to “F*ck Off!”  His nasty, fancy, rare tumor is starting to shrink significantly.  We just need it to keep doing so and his prognosis will alter dramatically.  Honestly, I think he is too stubborn for this bitch of a tumor to beat him.

I can hardly believe I have been home for more than three weeks. Alas it is true. On Sunday I drove down to Massachusetts with Bulent and dropped him off at the airport. We won’t see each other in person for a month. I will be exhausted by the time I get to Turkey. The problem is, I don’t sleep very well by myself. I am kind of like a toddler in that I talk myself to sleep–but I prefer an audience. Plus… I like to snuggle. My parents’ dog is too big and skittish to sleep with and the cat used to be feral and is not super cuddly. It likes to love you from a distance and on its own terms.  My brother will let me hold his hand during scary movies, but we are a little too old to cuddle.  Anyway he has a gorgeous girlfriend who he would prefer to snuggle with anyway.

So life in NH is going smoothly and without crisis.  Plus, the neighbors are still spoiling us with yummy soups and dishes like Pad Thai!  I may no longer be in the city or “Far from the Sticks,”  but our “sticks” are the place to be!

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