Friday, March 29, 2013

Mother of Five Evades Death and Celebrates with Sushi

Today I screwed my courage to the sticking place and ventured out to downtown Adana. My goal was to practice driving to the places I would need/want to visit while my parents are here. I took along my good friend Karen who has lived here for nearly two years and will be leaving this summer.

The first place we drove to was the airport, which I will have to go to in the middle of the night so I wanted to be very comfortable with the route. Luckily the construction detour that made it tricky is now mostly finished so getting there is fairly easy.

Next we drove to the Roman bridge. Along with the big mosque, this is one of the places I have seen from the road but haven't actually visited yet.  I do want to be able to take my parents to both places though. We didn't go to the mosque today because it is Friday, the Muslim sabbath so it was packed. But I know where to park now and think I can do that one on my own as well.

The bridge dates from 384 AD and until 2007 was one of the oldest bridges in the world open to motorized traffic. Since then its only used as a pedestrian bridge and a venue for events. Karen showed me where to park at the Hilton to be able to walk across the bridge.  Instead of parking there we drove down one more block so we could get some pictures of the bridge and the mosque.

As we walked we came across this:
 And this:

 That's a sheep carcass hanging from the tree. Just to the right is a sheep market. I'm sure the sheep was purchased there, then killed and skinned right there. The skin is on the ground to the left.

Once past all the lifestock, we were in position to take some great photos.
 Pretty great, huh? The Turkish name for this bridge is Taskopru which translates as stone bridge.

Next we drove to Old Adana which was terrifying. Friday must be a big shopping day because the whole district was packed with people, cars, and buses. All the cars and buses were trying to kill me and all the pedestrians were trying to jump in front of my van. Seriously. Everybody was honking and merging lanes and Karen was trying to tell me places I could park and which streets had which shops on them but all I could think was "We're going to die, we're going to die!" After driving through twice and still feeling like nothing she said was sinking in and there was no way I was ever going to be able to navigate this on my own, I cried uncle and we left.  Maybe in another year I will be able to do that one on my own but for now I'm still going to need some kind friend to take me.

Our next goal was more successful. I wanted to be able to drive to the women's market by myself. I sort of remembered the way and after Karen's coaching the first time through I was able to drive it without her help a second time. On the way home she showed me where the sushi restaurant up by the university is. Since we hadn't eaten lunch we stopped in. It felt so good to be out of the car and out of the traffic. By this time I had a splitting headache but a soda and some sushi were just the ticket!
I like Turkish food but it was fabulous to have something that wasn't turkish food or base BX food court fare. And I happen to love sushi.
Right outside the restaurant was this beautiful tree which along with the lunch and great conversation, help calm my spirit and my blood pressure.

Little by little I feel like I'm getting better at getting around here. Its still challenging but there's hope. (Except for Old Adana on a Friday.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Frilly Skirt Fun!

After my marathon sewing session last week finishing Delaney's quilt,  I lost my sewing mojo. Which is weird because I never do that.  I leave my sewing machine out and set up in the same room that I homeschool in and I sew at least a little every day.  But not this week.

Until yesterday when I realized that my youngest son's birthday party invitation might be an opportunity. Because the party was for a 7 year old girl. And with my only daughter being already well into her teens there has been a serious shortage of little girls in this house for a good long time.  So I decided to make a frilly skirt. As luck would have it, the girl in question came over to play that day so I grabbed a tape measure and threw it around her waist. And then I measured my son's waist too so she wouldn't get suspicious.

I had the perfect fabric purchased right here in Adana's own fabric district.
 This is just one piece of fabric, with three different shades of polka dots and the flowers. And from the left side of the picture to the right is only half the width of the fabric.  A lot of the fabrics here in Turkey are double wide - about 96 inches in width. I think I paid 7 or 8 lira per meter for this which translates to about $4 per meter.

So to make the skirt I simply cut apart the smaller of the two flower sections and two of the polka dot sections. I used the entire two meter lengths of the darker blue and the flowers but cut the light blue into a 33 in piece.
 I used my serger to ruffle the to bottom sections together. This was a new skill for me and it took me a couple of tries to get it right. But when it worked it was so fun!

After sewing the ruffled bottom layers onto the top section I used some elastic thread to add four lines of smocking in lieu of a waistband. Small rolled hems on the top of the skirt and the bottom of each of the frilly layers and it was done!! All in one night and it was so fun to do!
Sorry for the horrible pictures but you get the idea.
 I'm so excited for Rory to take it to the party tomorrow and I hope that his friend likes it as much as I liked making it!

Missing you

          I have found myself homesick this week. At odd times and unexpected ways.  This morning I had a berry smoothie after getting home from the gym. It was thick and icy and good and tasted almost but not quite as good as a Jamba Juice from my favorite shopping center.  And there was no orange cranberry roll to go with it. :(

 Earlier this week I was driving the Excursion (which used to be my vehicle and is now Geoffrey's) at a whopping 18 mph and a country music song from Brannick's burned CD started playing.  I had one of those sensory memories that comes from a smell or a sound - that of flying up highway 281 towards Canyon Lake every Thursday driving my daughter to piano lessons listening to a country music station. Passing that ridiculous and enormous metal bull parked on the side of the road in its own trailer and an advertisement strapped to its back. Taking the left turn at the corner of that wildlife ranch where we would often spot zebras or the critters we dubbed 'gazantelopes' for lack of any idea of the actual name.

We were only in Texas for two years.  But by the time we left, it felt like home. I guess it has seemed like that with each place we've lived.  Maybe it will happen here as well and three or so years from now I will be missing the sights and sounds of tastes of Turkey.

There are some things I love already. Like the salad. Is that a goofy thing to love? Its called salata here, shepherd salad, and has lettuce, peeled and chopped tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, green onions, and parsley on it.  I have Aytin make it every week. She doesn't use a bowl but puts it instead in a 9x13 glass baking pan with the lettuce on the bottom and all the other vegetables on top. Then she drizzles it with olive oil and something called nar eksili sos. That's pomegranate syrup. Oh. My. Goodness. This stuff has ruined American salad dressings for me forever. Nar is light and tangy and slightly sweet and brings out the flavor of the vegetables so much better than nasty old Ranch or Italian does. Thursday nights I eat as much as I can (give me a break, its salad!) and then whatever is left becomes Friday lunch. Yum.

The other thing I love is how there are good people around. I have always felt that Texans are good people, helpful people. I have thought this since the first time we were stationed there way back in 2001 and I had to drive back from Arizona with three little kids and a spasming back. But Turkish people are kind and helpful too.

There is a toll highway here in this part of Turkey. Before January we could buy $20 toll cards here on base to use whenever we traveled. But there is now a new system which requires the purchase of a sticker to go on your car. Purchasing this sticker involved figuring out where they were sold, when these places might or might not have them in stock and when the computer system involved in setting up the new account might or might not be operational. Then there was a form, all in Turkish that had to be filled out correctly and the proper documention shown. All during business hours, of course, which precluded my husband handling it.

We would need the sticker for my parents' upcoming visit but I was rather at a loss as to how I was going to accomplish its purchase.  But as of this morning I can cross that off my to do list! The owner of one of the shops in the alley graciously took me to an office where he had comfirmed the stickers were available, helped me fill in the form and handled the transaction for me. What a blessing! (He will be getting some banana bread this weekend.) 

Life for a military family involves a lot of hellos and goodbyes. Honestly, I would hate to live in the same place my whole life.  I do like the adventure. And I like collecting good memories and favorite things in each place we live.  Even if that does make me homesick sometimes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Twisted PEZ quilt - finished!

 I'm still figuring out this whole naming your quilts thing.  It does make a quilt seem more like a unique work of art instead of just a sewing project, doesn't it? Since this quilt was made with a Pezzy layer cake and the Twister tool, I thought Twisted PEZ was an apt moniker.  It also sounds a little like a punk band which adds to the whole teenager vibe as does the texting abbreviations fabric we chose for the border.

This quilt has a bit of a history. My daughter Delaney purchased the layer cake with her own babysitting money while we were still in San Antonio. She laid them all out and sewed the squares together along with the white border. But then that whole pesky cross-global move thing happened and it sat for a while in the UFO pile here in Turkey.  Meanwhile I accidentally used the orange fabric we had purchased for the border and binding in a baby quilt. My bad. But I did help her pick out some new fun fabric and ordered it for her. And found the pink binding fabric here in Adana.

Eventually we got it out and she used the twister tool to re-cut and re-sew the squares and added the black border. This is not her first quilt. She has done a baby quilt and a jeans quilt. But there were still some sewing lessons to be gleaned from this project and a few tears of frustration as well. A seam ripper was used. More than once. 

After the top was finished it sat some more in the sewing cabinet. Then last Saturday I was ready to sandwich and baste my Freedom Star quilt and I asked Delaney if she would like to sandwich her quilt as well.  Sandwiching is my least favorite part and I always recruit her help as it is much easier with two people.  And since I was going to be crawling around on the back porch anyway I thought we might as well get both quilts ready.

I fully intended to start quilting my star quilt. But when Delaney said she would really like me to do the quilting on her Pezzy quilt,  I grabbed that instead and started. I'm not sure why. Old habits of putting your kids' needs before your own I guess.

I sewed two echo lines inside each pinwheel and then around the whole pinwheel center all with my walking foot which required a lot of pivoting. (ugh) Then I decided to try some free-motion in the negative space on the white border.  I did two rows of pebbling and a larger row of figure eights. I think it went better than it ever has. No shredded thread, no skipped stitches, no thread breakages. I wish I could say why it went so well but I have no idea. Same machine, same thread, same operator.
Close-up of the quilting and the fun border fabric.
I did a simple elongated scallop stitch on the black border with my walking foot and bound it with some pink fabric bought here in Turkey. One cool thing about fabrics here is that most of them are 93 inches wide so they are great for binding. It only took 4 WOF strips to bind this thing and I had almost a yard extra. The back is a fun pink, green, and black plaid.
Delaney was at a friend's house watching movies last night so when I finished I put it in her room and then went to bed. When she got home she came in and woke me up to tell me how much she loved it. Yay!! Success.  (By the way, if you are wondering what she looks like, scroll down a few posts. She's the gorgeous blond with the viking helmet on her head.)

So even though it wasn't my quilt, I'm still counting this as a finish for me and crossing it off my WIP list. Now I can move on to :
 Quilting my Freedom Star HST quilt.
 Finishing Jayne's Ten Little Things baby quilt.
And Carson's grizzly quilt. He's waiting very impatiently.

And even though it is already late Saturday morning here in Turkey and this is not strictly a quilting blog, I'm linking up with Crazy Mom's Finish It Up Friday, TGIFF, and Can I get a Whoop Whoop? Cuz it makes me rather giddy to see my amateur efforts alongside all that gorgeous quilty eye candy.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A date to the mall - keeping it real

Today was a family day - which means a day off work for all active duty personnel. It was not, however, a day off of school. Which kind of defeats the purpose of calling it a family day, don'tcha think? Anyway, these last couple of months have been uber stressful for Geoffrey so this day off was a blessing for him.  He spent the morning golfing with one of his work friends. The golf course here on base is quite nice, and very cheap. So he's been trying to do a bit more golfing. He even talked me into going last Saturday. It was my second time golfing in 13 years but I did okay and enjoyed it.

After lunch Geoff and I headed off base. We stopped at the furniture store in the alley to check on the bookcase we are having repaired and looked at some bedroom furniture we need to have made. No decision yet but we are close. It would be great to have it done before my parents get here next month so we'd better hurry up.

Then we drove across town to the M1 mall.  I had been there before but Geoffrey hadn't. It's a large very modern mall with some pretty pricey stores in it.  The Turks you see there tend to look a bit more affluent and European in dress than the ones you see in Old Adana although there is a mix. I enjoyed myself but was at times a bit uncomfortable. And I realized today why living here seems easier for Geoffrey than it is for me (aside from his stressful job).

First, he is not a rule follower. If a rule makes sense he follows it. But if it doesn't, he won't. (This doesn't apply in his professional life, of course.) And he doesn't expect others around him to automatically follow rules either. So the traffic here doesn't surprise or alarm him. Another odd unique thing about Geoffrey's driving is that if there aren't enough things going on to warrant his attention, he doesn't pay attention. At all.  On deserted or familiar streets he will run red lights, miss turns and blow through stop signs simply because he wasn't paying attention and missed them. But in complete traffic chaos in a strange place he constantly knows where every other car around us is and can find places based on horrible directions and his own innate map. And since he has complete confidence in those abilities he never feels alarmed or nervous.

I, on the other hand, like to know exactly where I am going and how to get back at all times. I get lost easily and feel very anxious if I don't know where I am. I am a devout rule follower and I'm always surprised when other people aren't.

Second, Geoffrey is not afraid to look stupid. I know that sounds cruel but it's true. One of the things you have to get used to here is that there is no such thing as browsing. As soon as you walk into a store, there are people trying to 'help' you. In the alley where the shop keepers speak English this can be annoying. But at the malls very few people speak English.  So it's a different ballgame there. When I walk into a store and ascertain that the clerk doesn't speak English, that is the end of the conversation.  I respond to their greeting in my limited Turkish, of course, but if they don't speak English I'm not going to ask them if they have the shirt in a different color or if they know where I can buy a particular item they don't sell.  Geoffrey will. He will carry on a long monologue way past the point at which it became obvious that no one understands a single word he is saying.  He will use primitive sign language and speak in short, loud words until he looks like every caricature of an American tourist you have ever seen.

And somehow it works. Today at the mall we went into Praktikar, the equivalent of Home Depot, and Geoffrey wanted some polishing compound to use with his buffer to clean off a metal door. The two clerks he asked had no idea what he was talking about. Ten minutes later he has 5 clerks around him who all still have no idea what he is saying.  Twenty minutes later he is in the back office on the computer with five different people trying to find some place in Old Adana where one of them thought he could purchase it.  And a half an hour later, he is finally leaving the store with the polishing compound he needed.  The manager had found it in a different department.

I hate looking stupid. I hate not knowing what I'm supposed to do or how things work. I'm not a control freak. I am generally a flexible person. But I like to know what is going on. Today before we left the base we stopped at the Turkish cantina to turn in our empty 5 gallon water bottles and get new ones.  I've done this several times since we got a water cooler. But today the clerk asked me if the empty ones I had turned in were the Hayat brand or the Evril brand. I had no idea. I hadn't even noticed there was two brands of water. Apparently one is more expensive that the other and if I bought the more expensive kind without having returned empties of that same brand I would have to pay a deposit. I was completely flummoxed and feeling so stupid to not know which type of water I had purchased the 3 or 4 other times I had done this. Finally the clerk I had given the empties to outside came in and told us which brand it was.  I was so grateful I could have hugged him.  So not being able to read signs or ask questions or understand what people are saying to me puts me completely out of my comfort zone.

Finally, although Geoffrey hates having people he knows pay attention to him (think birthday parties, congratulations, awards, etc.) he doesn't mind it when complete strangers stare at him.  I am the opposite. Bring on the singing telegrams and the standing ovations. But let me be invisible in a crowd. I know people don't mean to be rude or menacing. I know that I look, dress and speak very differently than what they are used to seeing. But I hate being stared at.  It makes me want to go hide in a closet. And when I am in Adana it seems like everyone is staring at me. It's disconcerting to say the least.

Anyway, we did stop in the Gap store at the mall. My favorite jeans in the world are Gap jeans and I wanted to see if they had them. We found these great Gap T-shirts that had various cities stitched underneath the GAP logo. Cities like London, San Francisco, New York and. . .

Okay so its not Adana but its still in Turkey. And someday we will get to Instanbul.
They did have my jeans. Since the sizes are different here I tried on two sizes. I was about to buy the larger one but let the clerk (who did speak some English) talk me into the smaller of the two. She reminded me that they stretch quite a bit when you wear them. I am still debating whether or not I should've purchased the other pair. I'm a cheapskate at heart but I will pay full price for these jeans (they are that awesome). Oh, if you're curious I'm referring to their 1969 curvy cut jeans. If you have a curvy figure, you should try them. Your tush will thank you. The only problem I have with these jeans (and it has happened 3 times now) is that they wear through in the inner thighs. Yes, I have tree trunk legs and that is the problem. The solution is to iron denim patches on the inside of the thighs as soon as you buy them so when they wear, they won't tear.

So in the states they cost $75 full price and they hardly ever go on sale. Today I paid 149.99 TL for them. With the current exchange rate that is $83. Ouch!!! But we did get a coupon for 30 TL off our next purchase, which we immediately used on a sweater for Geoffrey. All the same I really hope I picked the right size.

I hope that with time I will feel more comfortable here. Honestly I had hoped that after 7 months I would feel more relaxed and confident venturing off base than I do. It has been more of a challenge than I thought it would be. So for those of you who have remarked that my life seems so exciting and adventurous here I thought a little candor was in order.  There are many times when I realize that I left my comfort zone 7000 miles away in Texas and it's the thing I miss the most.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Germany - Girl Trip

    After some internal debate and no small amount of guilt (it was during a stressful hospital inspection for hubs) I recently escaped to Germany for a week with Delaney. We almost didn't make it on the plane due to a problem with our residency permits and passports and a very um.. excitable Turkish Passport Police official.
    When I signed us up for Space Available Air Travel at the terminal the week before I had explained to both the US and the Turkish officials there that my Turkish residency permits were about to expire so I had turned them in for renewal along with my brand-new official government passports. Therefore I would be traveling with a photocopy of my residency permit and my tourist passport. There were assurances all around that it would all be tamaam (okay).  At worst, I would have to pay $20 for an entrance Visa when we returned. No big deal. Well, cometh the hour and cometh the angry Turkish man and it was not tamaam.
     This was one situation where I was glad I didn't understand Turkish because there was a lot of yelling intense discussion going on. But everyone except the Passport Police kept assuring me that they would work it out so I didn't stress. It was actually kind of amusing. In the end I had to leave the terminal, drive to the Wing building and collect my expired Residency Permits and my official Passports from the Pass and ID. Luckily they were still all there and not at the consulate yet.
    In the end, we made it on the plane squished in between a bunch of Navy guys coming uprange and flew to Ramstein. Once we landed we were very glad we had packed hats, gloves, scarves and coats as spring had not yet arrived in Germany.
    Our purpose for going was to visit and help out a friend of ours, Jayne. Due to a contract problem with a Turkish Obstretrician, you can't have a baby in Turkey right now. So all the preggos have to go to Germany 4 weeks before their due date and stay 2 weeks post baby, or until the new passport shows up. They call this madness Storknesting. So Jayne had been in Germany with her two rambunctious toddlers and her well-meaning father for a month without a car, in snowy weather and very very pregnant. Not the most ideal situation for keeping one's sanity intact.
   Since Delaney is a frequent babysitter of said toddlers and sits with them every week in church and I am their Primary leader for the last half of church, they are pretty familiar with us and were over-joyed to see us. We took them to the park and on stroller drives through the large BX complex and put them down for naps and sent Jayne and her dad out to the movies and such.
Here are the cuties! Did I mention we also fed them sugary snacks and put them in silly hats? Aren't we helpful?
The BX there is amazing. Easily 10 times the size of our BX. Delaney had lots of fun shopping. She was sorely disappointed though when she couldn't find new boots. And maybe even more so when mom did find a great pair of shoes for herself.
Love the picture! She needs to make it her new fb profile pic.
Here is Jayne with her cute preggo belly.  No, you can't rub it. 
     I really like Jayne. And I like her kids, who have personality and spunk coming out their ears. I even like her dad, who was a bit of a character and capable of turning every conversational topic into a discussion of the sad state of American politics and the plight of the small business owner.
    She reminds me so much of myself when I spent my days chasing after two little curtain climbers.  Just like I did she worries about her kids' crazy and sometimes naughty behavior. Together we roll our eyes at mothers of quiet calm little girls who glare disapprovingly at the highly unstable ball of kinetic energy that makes up her four year old son.  She doesn't believe me, but back in the day my oldest had hers beat for parental exhaustion hands down.  It's hard to see my calm 17, fairly responsible son as a child who could inspire his mother to smash plates on the back porch from sheer frustration. (In my defense, I only did this at night after he was in bed and I always swept up the shards. It's surprisingly satisfying to break something on purpose after a long day of restraining yourself and over-taxing your patience.)
   And Delaney likes Jayne, who is her Young Women leader and does a fantastic job. In a place where like minded friends are a bit harder to come by, she manages to be mentor, leader, and friend to my daughter.  They share books, watch entire seasons of Warehouse 13 together and sometimes just hang out.
    So spending a week with her, even in the midst of Storknesting difficulties, was great fun. Since we didn't have to shovel it or drive in it, we enjoyed the occasional snowfall. We did get off base a few times. Once to church in a regular size ward (congregation) which was wonderful but kind of strange at the same time after attending our tiny branch for 7 months. Jayne and I also did a USO tour on Saturday. Delaney was supposed to come too but she got sick in the middle of Friday night and opted to stay home. She decided this was providence as Grandpa ended up needing some help babysitting. Then on our last day we were able to spend some time with our Uncle Frank and Aunt Crystal, the same family we had visited on our October Germany trip. But as this post is getting a little long, I'll save the details of those two excursions for next time. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Women's Market Visit

    I've already blogged about our great local market here when we can buy fruits and vegetables that taste so much better than the produce in the states. But there is another kind of market you can visit called the Women's Market.  At a produce market the vendors will all be men. But at the Women's Market the products are all created and sold by women. It's a much different experience.
   My daughter Delaney has been dying to go to the Women's Market but since the market is held on Wednesday, her school classes prevented her from going. And then miraculously, there was a Wednesday with no school. So off we went.
   I drove with my trusty friend Karen navigating. I even brought my GPS so I could mark the spot and possibly get back there on my own.  I have to admit though, I'm still rather terrified of driving here in Turkey and it hasn't improved much in the 7 months we've been here.  For many years I have considered myself a brave person. The kind of brave that will drive from Florida to Arizona by herself with four children because hubby was in Korea and I wanted to see my family for the summer. The kind of brave that can evacuate due to a hurricane (sans deployed hubby) and not stress too much about it.
     I thought that strength and independence would serve me well living in a foreign country. But driving in Turkey takes a different kind of brave. Roller Coaster brave. Dirt bike riding brave. Snow skiing downhill at high speed brave. Basically, adrenaline junkie brave. And if you know me at all, you know I am not that kind of brave. I am a mouse. A timid one.
   Nevertheless, we made it and I even found a place to park. The Women's Market is divided into two sections: handmade items and homemade food.
Aren't we cute?  I ended up buying the one Delaney is wearing. And I LOVE it.

 This time of year you can find a lot of knit and crochet hats and scarves. All colors, patterns and yarn types.  The skills of these ladies are unbelievable. I ended up buying a hat and two scarves. Delaney bought a hat.  One of the scarves I bought is the softest yarn I have ever felt. Its orange and fuzzy and I walked around petting it the whole time. Seriously.  I'm not a cat person but it was like wearing a kitten around your neck (without the bitty claws).  We paid from 5-10 Lira for each item. That's about 4-7 dollars. Incredibly cheap. When I was in Germany last week and saw similar scarves for 20 Euro, I appreciated all the more how inexpensive things are here in Turkey.

Here is the hat Delaney bought. The cute flowers on the side are a bit hard to see but they are darling.
 You can also buy jewelry there. These funny mustaches necklaces cracked us up. You could also buy a mustache ring or earrings.  Delaney and I both purchased necklaces and Delaney got some matching earrings as well. Not of mustaches. These had crocheted chains with large metal flower pendants. Very cool.
   Behind Delaney is our friend Melody. She just moved here recently so it was fun to take her along. She has a great attitude and is loving the adventure of Turkey. 

There are also lots of scarves of the type used to cover hair for sale here, often with intricate crochet around the edges. Tablecloths, doilies and darling crocheted baby clothes are also offered. And because the women vendors are not as pushy persistent as male vendors tend to be, shopping there is a much more relaxed and enjoyable experience.

Once we finished the handmade section, it was time to check out the food. Nearly all the food is made right there so you can watch it being created. The most fascinating was these little nut filled fried pastries.

This older Turkish woman starts with a small blob of dough then rolls it out with a thin dowel to an impossibly thinness.

 Then she puts small piles of chopped nuts in a line down the middle of the dough, fold the dough over a couple of times and then pinches in between each mound.

 She then cuts them apart into these little boat shapes and they are fried and then dipped into the sugar syrup that nearly every Turkish dessert includes.

They are good but you can only eat one of them before you are overwhelmed by the sweetness. We bought some of these and some tiny donut holes that looked delicious but were way too syrupy. My favorite is the scone fry bread that is filled with a potato and cheese mixture. Yum!

So now you know what a trip to the Women's Market in Adana is like. Come visit me and I'll work up the courage to drive you there myself!