Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kizkalesi Castle in the sea - a Turkish fairy tale

   Once upon a time a king lived in a beautiful castle by the sea. (See above). Eventually, he was blessed with a lovely little daughter. But a prophecy told of a tragic future for the princess. Someday she would be bitten by a serpent and die.  Even the king himself could not change this fate said the soothsayer.
     But the loving father was determined to try and so he built another castle out in the ocean (see above) and sent his daughter to live in it. The two castles were close enough that the father could visit his daughter and bring provisions to satisfy her every need and whim.  All went well for many years. But one day, the princess received a basket of delicious looking grapes from the mainland.  As she reached in to pluck a grape she was bitten by the snake hiding inside. And because this isn't a Disneyfied version she died, leaving behind a heartbroken father and two magnificent castles.
    If you didn't like the snake bitten maiden story there is another one involving pirates.  And a third, and possibly more accurate one about the castle being built after the First Crusade.  Whatever version you choose, it's a great place to visit. These castles are about 2 hours from where we live. We've been there twice before but never had the chance to get out to the maiden's castle.
  But recently when a new friend came to visit, a group of us went back again for a day at the beach. A Turkish beach is an interesting place to people watch. You see everything from bikinis to full Islamic swimsuits. The beach itself was shallow and calm, a perfect place for the little kids to splash and the older kids to play frisbee. And while we were there, we rented a couple of paddle boats and paddled out to the maiden's castle.
 Due to illness and other commitments, I only had my oldest and youngest with me. But we had brought along some darling young ladies. So my 17 yr old son found himself sharing a paddle boat with three cuties! He did not complain.
 In fact, here he is doing a happy dance on top of the castle wall.
                                                               The boy has moves!
   And here he is with his harem. They were all a lot of fun and had a great time.  I managed to suggest that we put all the little kids in one car and all the big kids in  my the other car.  So if you know my son at all, you can imagine that he had us laughing all the way back to the base.
     We had a wonderful day in a wonderful place with good company. I love the ocean and I'm up for a day at the beach any day.  But I have to admit that when its the Mediterranean ocean and there is an ancient sea castle to explore, that does up the coolness factor by several notches. So I was doing the happy dance too.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Teacher gift quilt - "Gateway to Imagination"

 Ta-da!! Here it is - the coolest teacher gift I have ever pulled off! When I saw this Moda Bakeshop Tutorial I knew I wanted to make this quilt.  The recipe calls for a jelly roll but I thought it was a great way to use my 2.5 inch scraps instead. And since my youngest son Rory (the only one in public school full-time this year) had an amazing teacher, it was easy to decide who to make the quilt for. I enlisted the help of my friend and fellow quilter Lisa whose daughter Astrid has the same teacher.  So after a giant joint fabric pull and a division of blocks, we created this in a relatively short amount of time.
 Lisa also does beautiful cross-stitch so she created this for our label. I left the naming up to her and she came up with "Gateway to Imagination." I love it. The backing fabric you see there is Turkish fabric. I love it for quilt backs because it comes double wide - no seam backs are awesome! We used a few solid Turkish fabrics on the fronts but as they tend to curl weird when pressed I tend to avoid them in piecing when I can.

We split the blocks up. I think we each did 8 blocks. Lisa sewed them into rows. I did the applique word strips and sewed it all together into a quilt top. Then Lisa enlisted a friend of ours to machine embroider the titles of Rory and Astrid's favorite books on several of the book spines. (By several I mean like 35 or so).
 These pics were taken before we washed it so some of the marking lines are still visible.
 Knuffle Bunny trilogy, Mo Willem's Pigeon books, The Stinky Cheese Man - this is some great literature here!

 She also stitched Rory and Astrid's names into the top left hand block.

I was in charge of the machine quilting.  I loosely followed Melissa's quilting ideas in the original tutorial with a few additions.  My castle is a bit shorter and has a yellow brick road and a bridge.

 I stitched an ocean with a little boat along the bottom border.
And the right border was a magical bean stalk ending in the clouds.

I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to pull off all this fancy FMQing. But the quilting gods smiled on me. I didn't have any trouble with timing and only the green thread broke on me a few times. Speaking of thread - I am generally a white or black thread quilter. Lucky for us, Lisa had an amazing collection of variegated Sulky threads in lots of colors. Lisa also attached the binding, using this great fancy scallop stitch, and she made a hanging sleeve for it so Ms. Harvey can hang it in her classroom next year.

We were even done a day early - how amazing is that? Rory and Astrid did a great job keeping the secret from their teacher. All she knew is that we were taking her to lunch on the last day of school (which was a half-day).

Here we are presenting it to her. The kids are so excited. And so are the adults!
They had a great time showing her where all their favorite book titles were. (Incidentally, Astrid is the friend I made the frilly skirt for in this post.)
Here is one last shot of Ms. Harvey with her students and her new quilt. If you are only here for quilt eye candy, you can stop reading now. If you want to know why Lisa and I went to so much effort for a teacher appreciation gift, hang in there for one more paragraph.

Ms. Harvey is one of those teachers you pray for.  She had infinite patience, creative ways to manage the chaos of a room full of little people, and a particular love for squirrely little boys. She was fabulous.  And talking to her at lunch just increased my admiration for this woman. She has been teaching for DoDs schools for 36 years. She started in Berlin when it was still a divided city and her phone lines were bugged. She then taught in Italy for a number of years. She has lived and taught here in Turkey for over ten years.  Have you been reading the news about the protesting and rioting in Turkey recently? Here on base we are pretty isolated from it. But Ms. Harvey lives downtown. Her 9th apartment floor apartment balcony overlooks the park where the protestors are camping out. She told us stories of watching the police fire water cannons and rubber bullets. Of listening to the Turkish people bang on their tea kettles and flick their lights on and off to show support to the protestors as they marched down her street. She could see them calling to the young people, telling them which way to run to avoid the police. One night the tear gas was so bad that even nine floors up it hurt her eyes.  She has a front row seat to the history that being made right now.  Makes for a fascinating lunch conversation.  And one awesome teacher! Now I'm just praying that the principal decides that she needs to teach 2nd grade next year!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prom Pics - Modest is still hottest!

Ah, prom. That magical night when teens dress to the nines and hope the evening lives up to their high expectations. Here on base we have a very small school. This means that any high school student who would like to attend prom is welcome to attend prom. Delaney decided that she would like to go. Not with a date, since by family and church standards she is still too young to date, but with a whole group of friends. 

Back in the fall we had ventured downtown to look for formal dresses and discovered that modest dresses are just as hard to find in Turkey as they are in the states. So for prom we went a different route. We had her dress made. From a sketch and a set of measurements, a tiny little Turkish dress fairy named Aysha made Delaney this beautiful dress.

 Isn't she beautiful? Aysha also took us shopping for the jewelry and shoes and hair combs.
Here is Aysha. She made every dress in the picture except for the right hand blue dress with the black scarf. And each dress fit each girl absolutely perfectly.
Delaney's entrance to the prom with her good friend Kareese Kaw-uh.  This was called the Grand Promenade and each couple or pair was announced as they came through the door. The military knows how to do pomp and circumstance.

So did Delaney's evening live up to her expectations? Yes and no. She had a great time with her girlfriends getting dressed up and taking pictures. The decorations and party favors at the prom were great as was the included dinner. Did she get swept off her feet and dance the night away with Prince Charming? No. (And I'm okay with that.) Sometimes the point of the evening is just to dress up and have fun with your girlfriends. Because high school boys are still just high school boys.

Did you notice something unique about her dress? And it wasn't just among her group of friends. She was the only girl in the entire school whose shoulders, back and chest were covered. And while I'm not attacking anyone else's standards, I will stand up for my own. And I will say that I'm so proud of my daughter for choosing to maintain those standards. She chose this dress design.  I admit that I may be a bit biased, but I thought she was the prettiest girl there.