My Brother Earned a Meme

I have been home visiting my family for winter break.  I love my family, but also feel very lucky that we are friends too.  Not everyone has a brother or a mother that they would chose to be their friends.  I have been having a great time with both, but hanging out with my brother is particularly fun.  And on that note, he has earned a meme.  Generally he is a great guy, but in the last week there were two really amusing incidents which illustrate his matter of fact stance on equality.


Elliot has never been one to discriminate, but as he got older and more aware, he became a feminist and an equal rights supporter.  The best part is how nonchalant he is about it, it is not something he believes, it is just something he does.

While I was home for winter break my mother and I were considering going out and getting pedicures.  But then we had a discussion about not having enough time, and we decided to forgo the pedicures.  My brother was in the room and was aware of the subject, but not participating.  My mother then switched the subject from human pedicures to the dog’s nails.  Elliot still wasn’t paying attention fully yet when mom asked him if he would give her, Pumpkin–our Rhodesian Ridgeback, a pedicure.  Unaware of the subject change, he glanced at me, shrugged and said, “Sure. But I am not sure how good I will be at painting the edges.”  He was willing, if not able, to give me a pedicure.  Instead, together we ended up taking care of Pumpkin’s nails.  He wielded the trimmers, while I held the huge dog still.

The next day we were picking up a four wheeler.  We had to get it repaired for the new owners of our childhood home. We had to move a table with two large (occupied) rabbit cages on it to access it.  Once we had access to it, it was still a little tough to get it up on the truck.   We only had two narrow boards and a hand winch to get the massive four wheeler up on the back of the big truck.  We started out with Elliot working the hand winch, while I guided the four wheeler up the boards. Then we changed places thinking if someone had to push it over the edge of the truck bed, it should be him.  Feminism aside, this dude is way stronger than I am.Image

So there I was, slowly winching the four wheeler up the steep boards, and Elliot is somewhere off to the side.  I called out to ask him what he was doing, and he said he was standing away from the four wheeler so if the sagging boards cracked he wouldn’t be in the way.  It made sense.  Though if the boards did crack, I would be the one holding the the ATV by the hand winch with no other supports.

So I finally finish winching the four wheeler up, and the ATV is completly up on the bed.  After, Ell comes around from the side. I hadn’t seen him the whole time.  I asked him what he was doing in the garage when I was getting the four wheeler up onto the truck.  His reply, ” I was petting the bunnies. They are really soft.”

So there you go, from pedicures, abstaing from the assumption he would do the heavy lifting, to petting bunnies, for equality in all ways, my brother.  Though I have to say, I was dissapointed.  I would have liked to pet the bunnies too.  Image

A 9 Day Bayram!

This year Kurban Bayrami started on a Monday (1/2 day) and ended on a Friday.  Since it connected to the weekends it made a 9 day HOLIDAY!   Bülent and I wanted to take advantage of this time and check out some places we haven’t been before.  Based on the weather we decided to do a northern Aegean road trip.  Our original plan was to leave right after work on Friday and drive straight through to Foça, a 9.5 hour drive.  However, even if we never stopped to use the bathroom  (Like that is possible with my bladder capacity! HA!) we wouldn’t get there until after 2 a.m.  So Friday afternoon we changed the plan. We decided to hit the road, but stop in Uşak, a city on the way, about 400 kilometers from Ankara. 


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It is an inner Anatolian city, but part of the Aegean region of Turkey.  Occasionally I find the smaller inner Anatolian cities pretty conservative.  However, Uşak was a really nice city.  Their central street was pedestrian access only with tons of bars and cafes.  It was pretty lively with a wide range of people, even though we arrived at 11 pm.  The next morning the streets were filled with families shopping and young people getting brunch and old men in their Aegean Style hats people watching. 


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The next day we hit the road to begin our Aegean tour.  On the trip we stopped by Izmir, Foça, Ayvalık, Alibey Island, Assos, Bozcaada and Bursa.  We had such an amazing time that I will be doing a blog post about each of our main stops.  What was really special was that even though we were busy for the whole trip we got back and felt relaxed and rested. 

Christmas in Vienna

This year for Christmas we decided to do something different.  For the last three Christmases we have been in Ankara.  It is usually pretty quiet, there are some expat arranged parties, but somehow without family it seems a little hollow.  The malls are brightly decorated for New Years, but in Turkey Christmas has always seemed a little anti-climatic.  In the past we usually have a special dinner on Christmas Eve and go out to brunch on Christmas since I have to work the next day.  I am lucky to have an employer who give me Christmas Eve and Day off, many others have to work.   

This year the stars aligned and Christmas fell on a Monday and Tuesday, combined with my regular day off (Wednesday) and the weekend, gave me a five day break for Christmas.  My friend Lisa told me about the sales Turkish Airlines was having, and we decided to make the most of it!

Bülent was in the Czech Republic the week before Christmas, guest teaching at a couple of different universities.  We decided he would take a train and meet me in Vienna.  I was able to get a great flight out of Ankara on the Saturday before Christmas.   It was wonderful! The air in Vienna emanated Christmas cheer, we kept coming across Christmas markets, lured by the scent of sausages, cookies and hot punsch (a warm alcoholic beverage).

Rathausplatz Christmas Market

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Christmas Ornament Stalls

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We walked a lot during this vacation, we set out with a vague itinerary and then just ambled around the city.  We would have liked to go to more museums, but many things were closed for Christmas—naturally.

The Museum Quarter

Most days, we looked at the map before we left the hotel room, but not after.  We had a vague idea of where we were going, but did not feel the need to pull out the map and check to make sure we were going in the right direction.  It was an adventure, and planning everything and stressing out about where we we going would have ruined it.  For Christmas Eve, we ambled. We started out near our hotel at Rathausplatz, and walked by the Votive Church and the the University of Vienna. 


From there we checked out Hoher Markt. We went into some shops, everything was bustling as people were trying to finish their shopping to get home for Christmas Eve.  We visited some grocery stores and could not believe the price of produce.  I could get a kilo of apples in Ankara for what a single one cost there. 



We saw the famed clock, but decided not to wait for its figurines to move across the face of the clock to show the passing of time. 


From there we headed to Stephansplatz and saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  It was so incredibly large that mist shrouded the upper levels and you couldn’t even see the whole steeple.



We found Stephansplatz, the area around St. Stephen’s Cathedral, to be a little too touristic. 



There were many of the same shops I would see in mall in the U.S. and Ankara.  There were some beautiful buildings, but the men in old fashioned cloaks hawking concerts were a little distracting.


After our walk we wet back to the hotel room, warmed up and relaxed.  Later we went out to the Rathausplatz Christmas Market for some punsch, then had a nice dinner.   Most of the Christmas Markets closed on the 23rd or the 24th, but the Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market was still open on Christmas.  We decided to go there for Christmas day.  The Christmas market was lovely and festive.  There were many food vendors and stalls selling souvenirs and gifts.  The Schoenbrunn Palace Museum was open as well.  We had coffee at the café, took a tour through the place and then wandered through the Christmas market buying gifts for family and friends.  There was even a band playing Christmas Carols in the center of the market. 2012-12-25 15.23.00


I have to say it was one of the most romantic and relaxing vacations we have had in a while.  Just the two of us, no distractions, for five whole days. It was also the most Christmassy Christmas I have had in a while.  I definitely think we will try to sneak away for a weekend at the Christmas Markets next year—Maybe it will be our new Christmas tradition! 

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season! 

Best wishes for the year 2013!

Back to US Road Trip Adventures!

In the beginning of the summer we did a road trip.  We started off in Texas with a visit with Bülent’s BFF Shawn.  I was able to visit with Shawn again and meet his wife Larinda.  They were great hosts, I had never been to Texas before and they had planned an awesome trip.  We visited in Fort Worth, near their home, then hopped in the truck and started the first leg of the road trip.  We drove to Austin, took a look around and then headed to the Salt Lick BBQ, a little bit out of town.  There was meat, meat and more meat!  It was amazing!

From there we drove to Fredericksburg where we hit up a few wineries and then stayed in an adorable cottage right off the main street.  A former German settlement, the buildings and cuisine have an authentic German flair.  I went running each morning we were there (Not optional: The food was amazing.  Example: Duck Hash with Eggs.  *Duck* Hash!)  It was fun, because running along there was so much to look at and enjoy.  The town had lots of great local wine, since it was close to the wineries.  It also had some really fun kitschy shops where you could buy useless but amusing things.

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For your information the glassware, jam jars with stems, was billed as “Texas Crystal Wine Glasses.”  Clearly all about the class.    There were also quite a few fudge shops.  This is pretty typical in tourist towns, apparently people walking the streets for souvenirs love to court diabetes and heart disease and pack away that delicious mixture of sugar and butter.  There were also some novelty treats.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

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Chocolate Covered Jalapeños

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Chocolate Covered Pickles

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I talked with the teenagers selling the atrocities, and and they insisted people actually bought the “treats” and that they were pretty good.  I pressed them, Really?  They are actually tasty?  The boys said they liked the bacon and jalapeños.  But they remained suspiciously quiet regarding the deliciousness of the chocolate covered pickles.

From there we went to a small winery near Luckenbach, named Sister Creek.

June 2012 116It was a small place and informal.  When we said yes, we would like to see the winery, we we told to just on on through and come back to taste when we were ready.   We had run of the place.  It was like a dream!

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Generally I prefer dry wines, Sister Creek had a lovely Muscat Canneli  that was fairly sweet, almost effervescent and delicious!  We bought a bottle to bring back to NH and another for a hostess gift on the return leg of our road trip.

From there we went down to San Antonio.  We spent a night enjoying the River Walk, and in the morning went to the Alamo.   Then we drove back on up to Fort Worth.   I had never been to Texas before, and Shawn and Larinda went to great lengths to plan a lovely vacation and show us around the state.  From pit BBQ to wineries to Chocolate covered bacon, we had a blast!

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The Road Trip Begins

Last Friday Bülent and I  flew to Dallas from our respective cities.  We have had a blast visiting with friends in Texas, and made a mini road trip from Dallas, to Austin to San Antonio and back.  There will be lots coming on our time in Texas but it needs its own post.  Our plan was to fly down, hang out, buy a car and drive back to NH.  And today it commences.   Bülent is picking up the car this morning and from there we will be hitting up cities willy-nilly in a northerly direction.  YAY!  It should be blast, and give me lots to post about.  I may be trying to post from my phone, so bear with me.

Romantic Getaway: Büyükada

Bülent wanted to make my last weekend in Turkey special, and so planned a lovely getaway for us.  We drove up to Istanbul and took a ferry to Büyükada (Big Island.)  It is the largest island in the Princes’ Island group in the Sea of Marmara.  The ferry ride was only about 20 minutes, and then we were there!

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There are no cars allowed on the island except for emergency vehicles.  People, who don’t wish to walk, zip around on bikes, or ride in horse drawn carriages.

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There were many beautiful old mansions and houses with sea views.  Walking around there was something lovely in every direction.

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We had a great time there. There were no cars—so no traffic.  It was very relaxing to have no place to go, nothing more important to decide than which of the water front restaurants we would eat at.  We just sat at the water, watched the sun set and meandered off to dinner.  Certainly a romantic evening!

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I can’t wait to go back!

Amazing Travels: Istanbul

I have just been on a one in a lifetime trip. Thank you Mom and Dad. Now, I know people out there are thinking, “Sure, tell us about your sponsored vacation, Little Rich Girl.” Totally not the case. The last time I was in Europe I went with a girl friend, low budget backpaking. We stayed in hostels to save money, would eat the provided rolls and Tang for breakfast, sneak a couple of rolls in our pockets for lunch and for dinner eat whatever was cheapest, that we didn’t think would kill us. It was winter, so we would go to the grocery store, buy cheese and bread, and hang it in a plastic bag out the hostel window at night to stay fresh. Back to the current vacation.
I got engaged in February and have been with Bulent for almost 5 years. We thought it was time for “Meet the Parents” Transcontinental style. Since my parents were planning on flying all the way to Turkey, they thought it would be fun to visit several places in Turkey and Greece. Bulent and I drove up from Marmaris to join them in Istanbul, a city I have not yet visited.

We stayed in a charming apartment with a view of the Bosphorous very close to Taksim Square, Istanbul’s version of Times Square. Lively with pazars, and bars and pedestrian streets, it was a blast.
The view from the apartment was lovely

We visited Dolmabahce Sarayi (“Doll-ma-bah-che Saw-rye-i”). Dolmabahce was an opulent seafront Ottoman palace used during the empire’s last 80 years. It had a tremendous amount of European artistic influence. The palace was incredible and boasts 14 tons of gold in decoration. Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish republic spent his last days there.

Later we went to Kapalicarsi (“Cup-uli-chur-shi”). It is an Ottoman-style covered tunnel with carpet, jewelry and leather shops. It was a maze of shops, ranging from swords and shoes to jewley and carpets. The vareity was truly amazing as were the negotionations. I speak a little Turkish now, and it was suprising how much it counted when haggling about the price. All the shopkeepers would bust out smiling when they heard it, and knock down the price right away. The beggining price offered to me was usually less than my mother could bargain down to on the same item.

The third day we had a packed schedule, the problem with Istanbul is that it is such an amazing city with so much beauty and history. I think that you could live in Istanbul your whole life and not be able to see all it has to offer. On the day of the championship sight seeing we hit up three amazing places, Topkapi Sarayi, Sultanahmet Cami and the Ayasofya.

Topkapi Sarayi (“Top-cup-i Sorr-I-i”): An Ottoman palace from 1400s used as the Ottomans’ adminstration building for 400 yrs. It was filled with artifacts and riches from the Ottomans’ reign.

Photo by sl4mmy

Sultanahmet Cami (“Sull-ton-uh-met Jum-ee”): An Ottoman mosque built in 1600s. It is also known as “Blue Mosque” because of the beautiful hand painted tiles that adorn its walls. It is still a mosque currently, and so you can only visit during non prayer times of the day. Even then, speaking is restricted as people do pray during those times as well.

Ayasofya (“I-yah-sophia”)or Hagia Sophia, a church-turned-mosque-turned-museum. It was built as a cathedral between the years 532 AD and 537 AD(Hagia Sophia). When the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in the 1450’s the cathedral was converted into a mosque(Ayasofya). This building was truly amazing in its beauty and sheer size.

To give you an idea of the immensness, this is the stone stair case to reach the top.
It is at least a 10 minute walk.

Origionally, when it was a church the ceilings were covered with mosaics, but when it was converted into a mosque the mosacis were plastered over. It has been under renovations for many years, as you can see there is alot of resortation needed. Slowly the plaster is being removed to reveal the underlaying mosaics. However, the issue is, that in reomving the plaster to unover the mosaics, important and historic Islamic art would have to be reoved or destoryed. For example the Islamic calligraphy below.

The next day we left for Efes the ancient Greek city. After all the sightseeing we were a little tired. However, we knew Efes was going to be amazing. So we hopped in the van, and started our roadtrip south. This is my brother. I had just told him how long the trip would be, you can tell he is thrilled.

Tomorrow: Efes