Gratitude and a million ideas to funnel…

As Thanksgiving has passed and December has really begun…

I am thankful even as my head spins and spins in circles.

spins with love.

spins with fear.

spins with the unknown, the excitement of that…the learning which way to go in that…

spins with longing.

spins with thoughts of tiny beings growing inside of me and nurturing ones next to me.

spins with ideas. many many ideas. Just how do you choose? Enlist help? Network? Patience?

Ideas have never been my problem it is the seeing them through, the patience it takes, the time devotion it takes…
Creative chaos

Upstairs my little two year old busily “helps” my saintly mother vacuum…I am pregnant…I think I need to find some more help…for my mother’s sake and ours…a schedule is a good thing.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough, and more.

It turns denial into acceptance, choas to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

-Melody Beattie

Out to hang Christmas lights. Play in in the inch of snow outside. Think. Enjoy mothering. Learn tips from the master…my mother.

The above is from the silk and stone line, calling it Mavisu Designs…what do you all think?

Handcrafted by artisans along the Aegean sea; Mavisu, the blue water of Turkey. Designed by a momma in Minnesota.


Do you ever read your baby book?

Do you have something to read?

Did your parents keep up your baby book?

Is this even part of your culture?

Not a Turkish thing but very much an American one…Where did it come from?…“Many baby books were giveaways from companies that sold baby-related products, from Mellin baby food to bank accounts”.

My youngest sister is almost crying reading this as she is the youngest of 4 and she has no baby book or a basically empty one in the least.

I have the most written in mine being the oldest of the 4. Progressively gets less and less down the sibling line as less and less free time is allotted for our dear mother with progressively more and more babies!

But to be honest I have only read mine maybe twice in my life so to my dear youngest sister you are not missing much:)

To our mother’s credit we each got a box in the basement stuffed with drawings, report cards and the like. We just went through it together a few months ago.

Alot was hilarious, more was just crap that got thrown away or reshoved into the box as we are a bunch of saps who can’t get rid of stuff. Poor mom is still stuck with those boxes(plus a ton of other stuff) in her basement.

For our daughter though I decided to do something a little different…

I didn’t want a fill-in-the-blank question and answer form so I got a gorgeous blank book from paperblanks, specifically Filigree Floral Ebony inspired by French textile design. Has a magnetic closure and a pocket in the back for “extras”. Good blog actually, gorgeous books and a wonderfully inspiring company I just found out…

Our daughter’s life has been extraordinary since day one, she flew across the world in a baby duffle bag at age 17 days. Her life will always be intertwined with death as she is the true light that kept us going showing us the full circle of life! A global citizen always she will be… Here is her’s and her grandfather’s song…

Beyond that she is an amazing little creature who is constantly evolving and growing (hopefully we all are) into her own little being…oh those terrible twos aren’t too bad but we had a tantrum this morning…goodness one for the book all because she ONLY wants to be OUTSIDE next to the neighbors chickens! I know…the excitement…real live chickens that she gets to feed…with her own tiny two hands!

Her book is mainly written by me; her mom(surprise) but has so many wonderful inserts from her baba of course, both grandma’s, her aunties and uncles, my’s dear friends that have visited us and who knows who else for the future…Those whose lives she has touched and are constantly feeding and stimulating her growing soul! I need to not get too crazy, write small and make the pages last until she’s older!

Currently I am working on a illustrated collage of her summer finishing up her second year of life, Didim 2011.

Full of her favorites; turtles “tutle”, swimming and the sea.

Yes, our daughter’s name is Mavisu which means blue water in Turkish.

Her two best comfort friends; mine + benim ponies= “minem pomo”. She has a recent stronger affinity towards the Zebra these days, who knows why?

We paid daily homage to these birds several times per day for about a month of pigeon nesting season.

The pigeon’s (or is it a dove’s?) nest on the third floor of our house that had three different mother birds (for her sake I hope or was it the same?) with 3 sets of twin eggs right after the other, although two different times one of the babies fell out or was pushed from the nest for my two year old with eagle eyes to find both times…slightly tramatic but we worked through it. The mother wouldn’t take the bird back though even when I put it back inside the nest using a piece of paper as to not get my scent on it. Harshness of mother nature up close…the mother not letting this ugly little chick under her to keep warm and then sat on it and smashed it…ekkk.

All birds are “ga” in my daughter’s vocabulary which is neither Turkish nor English but her own special language that I beleive evolved from “quack, quack”?? Everyone just goes with it…

Here is a glimpse of her oak tree growth chart with the Minnesota inspired squirrels her daddy loves to watch run around my mother’s yard.

Feels good to draw again…need to keep at the practice though!

Will post finished pictures when completed…

I L.O.V.E. love the illustration over at Rumisu!

Will finish the collage with some chickens for sure, a hammock, more sea and sun.

Drawing with her baba…I must write I am already impressed with my baby girl’s drawing and puzzle skills! Maşallah!

What else should I put in her book? current events? More pictures?

What is in your baby book that you cherish? facts? locks of hair? family history?

What is an individual heirloom or piece of your childhood that you cherish?

Are there traditions for children from your culture or family you could share?


Salad dressing recipe…and the secret ingredient is???

So do you think it looks yummy?

Well what is in there?

3 large potatoes steamed and cooled
1 cob of corn, cut from cob, steamed and cooled
1 large tomato
2 small cucumbers
1 small white onion
1 large handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

chop it all up to your liking, fine chunks or hunks…

And the dressing…(approximately- I eye ball and taste)
2 heaping tablespoons extra virgin GOOD olive oil (very, very spoiled by that here on the Aegean coast)
3 heaping tablespoons apple cider vinegar
dash of salt to taste

plus the, drum roll please, secret ingredient…

1 heaping tablespoon sumac flakes

No need to emulsify the oil blah, blah, blah just pour the ingredients right over whatever your salad of choice is for that meal.

Mix well and let it sit as the flavors meld. Dash of pepper could do you good too.

I use this dressing often be it simple green salads or a whatever is in the fridge salad. (My sister is the granola bar rockstar but my mom is the whatever is in the fridge SALAD rockstar!!!)

So my secret sumac ingredient, (sumak in turkish) is no secret at all of course. It has been used for centuries or more. But was very new to me and I believe is for most Americans.

I learned it from the old chef at our cafe…and it’s bomb! He was from Adana in the south east of Turkey. This spice is commonly used there, getting closer to the middle east, as a compliment with kebabs, mmm…mmm…spicy Adana kebaps with a side of an onion, parsley and sumac salad! yes please!

These photos are from a lovely lunch with my hubby yesterday. Despite the heat we sat on the balcony…it was nice our baby girl was napping…we could eat slowly and chat. He doesn’t mind me taking pictures during our meal…very supportive:)

The salad is nice but did you notice the fried cheese…yeah that’s right…fried cheese…

Hellim in Turkish…is a hard, salty(some brands/village varieties need to be rinsed because sooo salty) cheese sliced lengthwise and fried! Turning it into this gooey textured goodness…yum and yum…

Lots of bread is a must, no excuse in a Turkish meal. My sister-in-law wonders how people get full in America if you don’t eat bread with every meal? Do they just go about hungry?

Anyways the bread is always fresh and crusty and serves as a utensil almost, a catalyst really for dipped delights. In this case olive oil from the olive bowl which is always full, ready in the fridge! (There’s my cute hubby reflected on the spoon)

In my Midwestern town we were mainly exposed to black olives that were factory pitted in a can and about the only good thing about them is that it was fun to eat them off the tips of your fingers(You know what I mean right?). Maybe throw some green ones with reds pimentos around too, slice them on your pizza…I guess…

Basically I never really liked olives…

Then I came to Turkey and lived on the Aegean coast…

There are huge (CRAZY ones my husband bought off the side of the road, you can hunt them out like that everywhere here!), big and little, black and green, and pink, and brown and yum and yum…and you can taste them ALL before you buy them (another whole post evolving here)…

But after all that goodness…

This is why I stay…it’s those eyes that won me over even without words…

Well I spilled many secrets today…AFIYET OLSUN!

Homemade granola bars with a Turkish twist…

So my darling middle sister is this granola bar making rock star. She has a science back ground and I think loves and I know is good at formulating new concoctions. I need to ask her for her pina colada granola bar recipe…mmm.mmm. lots of coconut and dried pineapple. (Megs can you be a guest poster, seriously?).

Ever since we went to Brazil and drank fresh shucked coconut water and coconut popsicles on the beach I think that white meaty nut is heaven.

My baby girl loved it too at 11 months…

I have been doing my own searching over the internet for a good granola bar recipe…and many call for maple syrup, corn syrup, rice syrup, brown sugar…never found here. The thing with living abroad is everything is not so easily at your fingertips as in the melting pot/convenience culture that is the United States of America. Well especially not in our little resort town of Didim.

On the plus side what you do find is usually seasonal(meaning found only at it’s peak of flavor-exception- you CAN find tomatoes and a few other staples grown in greenhouses during the winters here too), most is locally produced or at least locally meaning from within the country(not flown from Chile to MN). What many Americans are trying to get back in food Turkey has not lost, yet?

It’s a balance beam…there have been many times I screamed into my pillow for some freaking options.

That said limited resources fuel creativity.

It makes you get back to basics and understand where things come from, how they are made.

My sister tells me all you really need is a good glue anyways.

And let’s be serious… granola is about the most versatile recipe on the planet…

The nuts, dried fruits and honey are all amazing here so this is my adaption of Smitten Kitchen’s thick, chewy granola bars. She has tons of great recipes just search her site!

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (I use the Eti brand if you are in Turkey)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon(if you want)
3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)

I used almonds, hazelnuts, sesame, and coconut

1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (I used tahini which is sesame paste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, haven’t found that here either)
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey(nice amount of honey, not overpowering)
2 tablespoons pekmez (This is a dark molasses made from grapes or mulberries)
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 F or 175 C.

Mix the above dry ingredients in a large bowl, The bottom wet ingredients mix in a smaller bowl.

Combine all well.

Layer an 8×8 inch(20x20cm) pan with parchment that goes up the sides and grease it all up. The pan and the parchment. Bake from 15-40 minutes(very vague but see below)

I didn’t have parchment although you can find it here. I just layed my mixture out on my broiler pan/cookie sheet thing. Looked like a huge cookie. I cooked it for only 15 minutes as my edges started to burn and I think my oven runs hot…trimmed my edges off and they were a hit!

So I know I am a bad blogger when I don’t have the whole process documented or at least the finished project but…

I translated this recipe to Turkish(pretty much by myself thank you!) Oatmeal-yulaf ezmesi isn’t used very much in Turkey but was happy to share this nutritional ingredient with my Turkish neighbors! As this place has taught me so very much!

When you don’t always have the right words pictures work too…in translating this I learned the words for bowl, melted…lots of good stuff…


How would you like to get a hand written recipe?

I ball just about everytime I get a handwritten letter from my mom in the mail. Not only does she have a way with words but her nostalgic cursive(who writes in cursive these days?-just my lovely mother)

In a time when everything is on the computer…don’t get me wrong there is some gorgeous fonts out there it is so special to see it written, illustrated. I appreciate these little things in life.

Do you?

Do you covet your grandmother’s handwritten recipes?(we do for the little green house project) Who has all of gram’s? And the love letters from the war?

Do you want to see my sister guest posting her recipes on here? Maybe I can figure out how to do a free printout? hmmmm…she has great handwriting too…

ok quick self…get off this lovely time sucker named the computer and go do your yoga before your two year old wakes up (sometimes one needs to write to oneself)!

The little green house…

I opened the fridge today and saw my little village cucumbers were wilting. They have great cucumbers here (persian cucumbers as Americans know them).

I brought them out. Washed them. Felt thier different levels of limpness.

Salvageable pile and compost.

Peeled and started chopping…

What to do with all these little green cucs?

My hands started working. My head wandering.

Cucumber patches at the little green house. Grandma and Grandpa’s days of their grand gardens.

Cucumber boats carved out of  leftover giants.

How spiny and prickly thier variety was compared to these thin skinned smooth little ones I was peeling now.

I made what I remebered of grandma’s creamy cucs. Chopped the onions, chopped the dill added some vinegar. Instead of mayo and sour cream I added the staple in Turkey of whole milk yogurt.

I reached for my tomatoes. Smelled…

The grand garden flooded in…

It’s summer now. The tomatoes are “real” again. Ones grown from inside the earth. Outside in the sunshine.

My Grandpa would bring his own “real” tomatoes with him to restaurants and stick them inside his burgers.

He had picked them straight off the vine next to that little green house.

What will become of that patch of land that nutured tomatoes, and cucumber, strawberries and asparagus, Rhubarb and raspberries- the patches I would run to as a child and pop fresh berries into my mouth.

What about that patch of earth that would freeze solid under 10 feet of minnesota snow.

Will it get plowed over with dozers and bobcats? Grandpa would have something to say about the job will do anyhow.

That patch of earth where generations of little feet had run around chasing the riding lawnmower for rides. Inhaling that sweet cut grass smell. That smell I love.

That place I love.

I love my grandpa and he just died, Leonard Etzel

He lived in a little green house with my grandma for a million years with a willow tree out front that lived and died along with them.

There is such happiness and peace knowing that he had been “ready to go” for a long time. He is with grandma now, backtogether again.

In grieving for grandpa it is not just grandpa you will miss for it is all that came with him. His jokes, his food obsessions; mush and “juice(bacon vinegar)” just two of the most recent.

How he couldn’t pronounce my foreign husband’s name though he would be sure to kindly ask, “How’s your husband?”(My own father, Kim was “Tim” off and on for 35 years). Just smile and say good! Our daughter was no longer Mavisu around that welcoming round wood table but rather “little Maud”.

There is Costcus and CaJun, BBq chicken wings, Smiles towards thoughts of tip jars for Saturday morning breakfasts.

The round kitchen table were there was always room to squish one more in or ate in rounds, “I’m done, your turn.”

Family gets wonderfully crowded when you had 7 kids and babies on down the lines.

I will miss it all…the food, the obsessions, the language, the kisses, washing his dentures for him, trimming his finger nails, scratching his itches, shooting the shit.  He just liked a good chat!

The willow; branches that hung long and strong and swung generations of kids decked out in willow headresses.

Making special trips to Grandpa’s to “pick up sticks”. Those willow branches down after a storm encumbered  the grass from being mowed EVERY single day.

The duct tape contraptions and fix jobs, the inquisitive mind that never forgot a thing but could not see nor hear(?).

The link to a previous generation; one that knew the great depression, one that fought wars that seemed very knoble, one little green house that had a lot of love.

As grandma had already gone to heaven, and so had his twin brother you wanted grandpa to be with them for him.

For him you wanted it but for yourself you wanted to just hold on  just a little bit longer. Hold on to gramps huge crooked fingers,  squeeze his tennis ball elbows just slightly as to not hurt him. Once more watch him adjust his trucker hat, give him a kiss and hear him say “love you sweetheart” as you loved him back so very much.

Because with gramps going that means the little green house, the willow stump, the rhubarb patch, the aspargus patch and did I mention the little green meeting ground, the meeting ground where you  are always welcome, the meeting ground for the 7 kids and their kids and theirs,  the seven branches of grams and gramps love and kisses.

Well…will be different now.

I feel blessed to have roots from the little green meeting ground and to know what “real” tomatoes taste like!

Thanks grams and gramps! We love you forever!

Also I ended up making grandma’s tomatoes. The smell was there…it took me back!

Tomatoes, lots of chopped garlic, chopped basil, vinegar, oil(I used some amazing olive oil as i now live in Turkey but that is another blog post), sprinkle or sugar, salt always and time…let the flavors mingle.

Did I miss anything mom? aunties?

Does cooking bring you somewhere?

What are your families favorites?