Tree Decorating, a Photo Montage

Because mere words won't do yesterday justice I thought I would let our photographs tell the story. 
Without further ado, our "un"Thanksgiving dinner and tree decorating marathon.

An Untraditional Thanksgiving: Hanson Style

Our Thanksgiving was not like any other we have ever experienced.  Most noticeable, Husband Jared was present.  Not just physically, but really with us.  Not worried about a 3am wake up call for Black Friday and not at the store Thanksgiving Eve preparing.  What a gift.  We also chose to travel.  Not wanting to spend the day focusing on all the differences in our lives this year or the absence of those family that we were missing we took a "3 hour tour" to Pamukkale.  We visited Lydocea, another one of the churches mentioned in the Book of Revalations.  Pamukkale, where there are white travertine, calcium deposits filled with thermal spring water and Heiropolis an ancient city with an incredibly preserved stadium and the martyrion of St. Phillip. 

The Citroen was loaded, snacks were packed and the Things were equipped with I-pods and sailing study guides for the drive.  Lydocea was the first stop.  After 3 hours of driving through Aydin, and several other Turkish cities we arrived.  We were able to practice our Turkish with the security guard in order to pay our entrance fee and then we were released to take in the grand scale of Lydocea.  There were two ampitheatres, the agora, the temple, and the baths that were still standing.  Some of the ruins dating back to BC times.  Traces of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine control were all prevelant among the site.  Lizards scattered in between the giant marble stones taunted Thing 4.  He did catch one by the tail, an unsuccessful venture for the lizard.  The lizard wound up losing the tip of his tail in the struggle.
From there we followed the signs to Pammukale.  Unsure what to expect we found ourselves gazing in awe at the beauty before us.  White mountains that looked like mounds of cottony snow stood tall against the blue sky.  Aqua pools filled with warm spring water and running water cascading down the "white mountain" filled our ears with soothing music.  We took our shoes off and began our hike to Heiropolis.  At the bottom of the hill we encountered a fellow American who offered some friendly advice for the kiddos, words of caution.  And then we were off.  The sheer magnificence of the surroundings was breathtaking.  Things went from pool to pool feeling the water, shouting words of astonishment and excitement.  A true natural marvel.  Pammukale is an Unesco World Heritage site and from what I have been told there is only one other known place quite like it in the world.  And we were there.  Remarkable.

Upon reaching the top of the mountain the Antique Pools awaited us.  These are said to be ancient healing pools from Roman times.  Thermal pools filled with "healing waters" and remnants of grand columns and artifacts.  They are sunken and one can sit on the remains of architecture, over a thousand years old.  After perusing the pools and deciding unanimously that the six of us would like to go for a swim we found ourselves at the base of the ancient city of Heiropolis. 
Here stands one of the best preserved stadiums and the crypt of St. Phillip.  An ancient church whose symbols are obvious for all to see.  A Star of David, a cross, sacred soil so rich to our Christian history and the actual place where St. Phillip was stoned and crucified. 

We made the trek to this site all the while the menacing clouds crept closer and closer.  It was apparent we were going to be caught in the downpour.  Our time at this place was cut short and we hurriedly made our way down the travertine mountain.  Being careful not to lose our step, yet trying to keep pace we eventually succumbed to the rain.  Starting slowly with tiny drops and continuing with pellets of rain drenching us on our way to the car it was quite a sight to see I am sure.  The six of us running, ok sprinting down the mountain, Thing 4 on Thing 1's back.  What a visual, a memory not soon forgotten. 

And from there, soaked to the bone, we found our hotel.  Not just any hotel, a pansion, a house turned hotel.  They had a family room large enough for the six of us and with beds for everyone.  The Melrose was charming and authentically Turkish.  Enough said there.  We were greeted warmly by the owner, Mehmet and offered tea and shown to our room.  Thankfully we were able to change into dry clothes and then be on our way to dinner.  After driving through the town of Denizli and around we decided that we wanted to see the travertine at night time with the reflection of lights.  It was gorgeous.  And then we found Mustafa's.  A restaurant where the attendants stood outside waving us in while we drove by.  Deciding it was worth a try we parked and ventured in for our "Turkish - Thanksgiving" meal.  We dined on lamb, stuffed aubergine, fresh bread and chicken kebabs, and for dessert, why baklava of course and fresh yoghurt with honey.  Delicious to say the least. 

After a good night's sleep, and I use the adjective, "good" loosely, we enjoyed our kahvalti, thanked Mehmet and were on our way back to Urla. 

And that was the conclusion to our untraditional and very memorable Thanksgiving in Turkey.

Thankful Thursday #52, special edition, Thanksgiving

* This photo was taken last weekend from our friends' garden.  Husband Jared opened the gate from their garden and was seaside, just in time to capture the scene above. 

520. Family
521. Breakfast in Bed
522. Photographs
523. Way FM streamed from Husband Jared's Ipod
524. Road trips
525. Extermininators
526. Baroque turkeys, decorated by Things
527. No Thanksgiving dishes today
528. Sunshine-y mornings after the rain
529. Jesus

Thanks for Tuesday

A quote to ponder this Tuesday.

You cannot do a kindness too soon
because you never know how soon it will be too late.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ahoy Matey

 The Things have begun sailing lessons. An 18 hour course to prepare them for the open seas.  I wonder if there is a special course to prepare the sea for the 4 of them? 

The boat above is where their learning takes place.  After 4 hours of technical, classroom learning they ventured to practical, hands on learning.  They shared their vast knowledge of knots and sailors' terminology.  After doing so, Husband Jared asked if they said, "Ahoy Matey" to each other.  And maybe we giggled.  I might have joined in with a few, "Arggs".  Oddly enough the Things did not find that the least but amusing. 

Quads and Friends, Friends and Quads!

Recently Things 3 and 4, Husband Jared and some friends got muddy. 
Real muddy.  Real messy. 
They were on a trail, riding on this:
There may or may not have been squeals of sheer delight from Thing 4.  And quite possibly Husband Jared as well.  Thing 3 was even allowed to navigate that large piece of machinery.  Safely and slowly, and with Husband Jared of course. 

The boys waiting for their turn. Girls first. 

The girls, before the mud. 
Daddies were on duty for the day.  Moms were busy shopping at the Kemeralti for Christmas crafts.  The kiddos took full advantage of the opportunity presented to them.  Dads + Kids= FUN!  They not only rode the quads but jumped in the bounce house, attempted to rock climb and even talked the Daddies into more play time. 
Everyone arrived home in one piece, thank you Jesus, with smiles on their faces and a muddy mess of laundry for this Mama.  Good enough.

Doğal Yaşam Parkı

On Wednesday the six of us headed out for a field trip.  We rode the ferribot across to "the other side".  That is the literal translation of the city, Karşıyaka.  The Things were ecstatic.  We practiced our Turkish, drove the family van onto the boat and took our seats on the top level.  We enjoyed the view as we ate our simit and drank our çay while crossing the bay.  The above title is the name of our destination.  Translated it means Natural Life Animal Park.  Or zoo for all intents and purposes. 

We paid our 7 TYL, roughly $4 US dollars and headed in, not quite sure what to expect.  To our delight it was fantastic.  The animals seemed to be well looked after, the grounds were beautifully maintained and despite the mosquitos we experienced a show at each exhibit.  The lions were close enough to touch.  Interesting side note for you C.S. Lewis fans, lion in Turkish is "Aslan".  Sound familar?  There were peacocks and brown giraffes, zebras, gazelles, and yes even a guinea pig and squirrel exhibit.  Separate of course and something that gave us all a chuckle! 

Although we were not able to travel the entire acreage Thing 1 managed to capture the above photos of what we did see.

 And just a funny side story.  As we were trekking along, a family on the same path overheard our conversation in English and stopped to ask the Things where they were from, in English.  The Things all replied that we are Americans but that we are currently living here in Turkey.  The conversation continued and I said hello and when I told the mom that we were residing in, "Urla", she had no clue what I was saying.  After three attempts Thing 4 walks up and says, "Urla" and she says, "Ahh".  And that was that.  I was confident that I had pronounced Urla the same way that Thing 4 had, apparently not.  On the way home Husband Jared and all the Things gave me a language lesson.  Go figure.

Thankful Thursday #51

* Not the greatest quality of photo but a photo of life here in O'live Park.  These goats are our neighbors, well between the barbed wire and half of a stone wall.  They were scouring the olive trees and in the distance you can even see one in the tree, on a branch. 

510. my Daddy
511. aha moments with the Things
512. ferribot rides
513. adventurous spirits
514. kahvalti
515. reading in bed with Husband Jared
516. the miracle of new life
517. sister-in-laws, all three of them, who are more like sisters than "in-laws"
518. trips to the cicekcilik (flower nursery)
519. good grades on our first language exam


Well not really a "mini-me", but definitely a mini Husband Jared.  Yesterday Husband Jared and Thing 4 went to work together.  Thing 4 insisted on packing a work bag just like Dad, taking the I-pod and wearing "work clothes".  Here are the two together, preparing for their day.
The afternoon went well for the two of them.  They had lunch together, sent emails, made important phone calls and talked to employees.  Oh and Thing 4 played video games with one of the supervisors in the store.  Fun.  When they arrived home, Thing 4 declared, "that this work stuff makes yout tired".  Husband Jared agreed. 

Thankful... Redux

The "Thankful Thursday" for this week should have been titled, Thankful for FREEDOM.  It should have said for #'s 1-10 that I am thankful for all the men and women who currently are and the ones who have in the past, sacrificed their lives for my FREEDOM.  For the ones who bravely put themselves on the line day in and day out.  Thank you.  I am grateful to be an American. 

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thankful Thursday #50

500. people who help when they don't have to
501. bowling with friends
502. starry nights
503. late night Bible study with girl Things
504. art projects
505. flowers to plant
506. forgiveness
507. unexpected SKYPE chats
508. holding Husband Jared's hand
509. our new treadmill

Our Thankful Project

* I tried to flip this photo and it just won't cooperate so turn your head sideways to view, sorry!

For the last two years our family has created a "thankful tank".  The "tank" has been a used tin that we decorate together and then fill it with strips of paper.  On those pieces of paper are random thanks.  Anything from being thankful Mom made yummy chocolate chip cookies to a thank you from a sibling for playing a game, etc.  Or just a thanks for good behavior at the market.  Can I get an Amen? 

Anyhow, we had not brought the "thankful tank" with us to Turkey.  The Things reminded me of this and we set out to create a new one.  At a local craft store here, or at least the closest thing to a craft store that we could find, we purchased our new tank and necessary supplies.  Today the Things painted our tank.  They did fabulously. 

The goal of this project is to create an attitude of gratitude.  We keep a stack of paper next to the tank and whenever the mood strikes the Things, Husband Jared and I are able to write our thanks and deposit it into the tank.  Then on Thanksgiving we read all the thanks aloud.  It is such a treat to hear all the thanks.  In past years the tank has been overflowing, literally.  The Things' faces will light up when a thanks is read about them, and in turn my heart lights up.  Often times they weren't aware that the small act of kindness or generosity they shared would be such a big deal.  It is. 

While we were painting today Thing 1 told me I should share this idea on my blog.  So here you are.  I honestly don't remember where the idea came from.  What I do know is this is something the Things have enjoyed being a part of.  And Husband Jared and I have enjoyed hearing all the thanks, out of the mouths of babes.

A Nice Weekend

Friday Husband Jared returned home from his business trip.  I was grateful. Two younger Things missed their Daddy and stayed home with him to put together our new treadmill.  The two eldest Things were off to the mall with their friends.  Wow, did I ever feel old.  I accompanied them, of course.  And although I tried to stay out of the way I did manage to spot them at the bookstore.  More like I heard them and their friends' laughter.  Delightful.  They met me at Starbucks when they were finished and we chatted a bit about their evening and all the funny incidences that took place.  I am so thankful for those times when they share and laugh with me.  We giggled all the way to the car and all the way home.  I even laughed when they critiqued my driving.  I don't like the parking structures here.  Very small and difficult to maneuver in.  It is like learning how to drive all over again. 

Saturday was spent at the Kemeralti, open air market.  Think Grand Bizarre on a smaller scale here in Izmir.  The Things, Husband Jared and I traversed through crowded streets and chatted with shop owners and negotiated some deals.  I came home with an Ottoman inspired mosaic lantern, a find.  It is a great keepsake of our time spent here and it will soon be hanging in our kitchen.  We watched the United game and the Things played with friends, and of course a few extra children were at our home for sleep overs. A good day.

Sunday was full of activities for the Things.  Thing 2 and Thing 3 went to the horse stables to watch their friend Eva jump.  She has her own horse and the girls were quite excited.  Thing 4 had football and Husband Jared took him and his buddy for training that morning.  Thing 1 and I stayed at home to clean up the mess that had been made the night before and review some grammar homework for her English class.  A successful uninterrupted chunk of time was quite a treat for the two of us.  All we set out to accomplish was done which meant we could head out for khavalti, Turkish breakfast.  We found a place in Urla, called Yoruk.  It is a rustic cafe in the mountains with outside seating.  There are women making fresh gozleme, and a wood fired oven for the pide. 

We indulged ourselves in the kahvalti tray which included, clotted cream and honey, fresh cheese, sundried tomato paste, olives and fresh apricot and blackberry jam all accompanied by fresh pide bread.  It was gastronomically amazing. 

And then we came home, watched football together and played cribbage.  The evening ended with the Things cooking spaghetti and fruit kabobs for dinner.  What a treat.  They even cleaned up the kitchen and dining room when our feast was complete. 

A nice weekend indeed.

Thankful Thursday #49

490. the smell of fires in the fireplace
491. pumpkins
492. friends, new and old
493. the nature that surrounds me
494. grace
495. new days, new beginnings, new opportunities
496. new Bible study
497. laughter
498. singing, not mine but the Things'
499. date night

Pumpkin Pie

It is that time of the year again.  The pumpkin is in season and the Things are asking for pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread and now pumpkin pie. 

We have a new friend, Aysun.  Aysun is an organic farmer here in Urla and every Tuesday she delivers fresh, in season produce to our home.  She travels to village farms locally as well for there bread and eggs.  Last week when Aysun brought our order she asked me if I knew how to make pumpkin pie.  Come to find out here husband had lived in New York for 2 years and had developed quite a fondness for it.  "Of course", I replied and then she sheepishly asked me if I would teach her how to make it.  "Why yes, I would love to", was my immediate response.  And with that we had ourselves a cooking "show", Hanson style of course. 

Here it was Wednesday yesterday and on Tuesday I had cut the pumpkins, and set them in a pot overnight with a bit of sugar.  There is no canned pumpkin here.  These pumpkins came directly from Aysun's garden to my home, whole.  Cleaning required.    Once you have let the pumpkin sit over night the next morning it needs to be cooked on the stove top and then pureed.  Quite a process but so worth it.

By Wednesday afternoon the Things and I were ready for our lesson, pumpkin pureed and pie crusts waiting. 

 I assumed they Things would not be interested and would rather be off playing.  Oh no, they were involved in the entire process.  Everything from rolling the crusts, to combining cinnamon and pumpkin puree.  They even made their own mini pumpkin pies in our clay baking dishes.  Not to mention a flour fight when Aysun told them of a Turkish tradition in the kitchen.  Similar to the salt over the shoulder, well apparently here they throw a pinch of flour over the shoulder.  The Things obliged and threw it directly into my hair.  Good times.

When all was said and done and messes cleaned Aysun had a delicious pie to take home and the Things and I had 4 beautiful mini pies to enjoy after dinner.  And enjoy they did, right down to the last crumb.  We all had made new memories of our cooking class with Aysun, me especially. 


Early morning beeping from the smallish black appliance on Husband Jared's nightstand
Cold, brisk air meeting my face on the walk to the car
Dewy windshields and doors and mirrors
Dark streets, empty
Bustling airport, crowded, kisses good-bye and waves
Into traffic, on the road, again, home to sleeping Things
Sun rising, fishermen fishing, hazy morning at sea
Waking, alert, coffee brewing, mind wandering
Random and inspired and anticipating a new day

Four Things and Halloween

* It should be noted that this photo was taken after much negotiation and pleading from this Mama. 

The Things were all invited to a "neighborhood" party with their friends.  Trick or Treating to all the expats houses and sleep overs.  All of which left this Mama mourning the notion of her babies not celebrating Halloween with her.  There were no pumpkins to carve here, no bonfires to be shared and no chili with neighbors.  The Things did not even want me to help them get ready, no make up application, hair styling, etc.  So after nearly getting on my hands and knees Thing 1 agreed to have a friend take a photograph of the four of them together.  Well thank you very much. 
I apologize for sounding the pity party here.  It did make my heart smile that they all recieved invitations and were invited to share in the festivities.  And I am sure had I asked I could have stayed with them.  Or at least if I asked the parents.  Lest you feel sorry for me, don't.  Husband Jared and I had the house to ourselves on Friday night.  And when the Things inquired about our evening they were dissappointed to hear that we stayed in and didn't even venture to a restaurant.  No, we didn't.  We picked up pide, watched a funny  movie and talked without interruption. 
And that's all I have to say about this weekend.