Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getting ready

Look at this grown up little man! He is really not a baby any more. As you might have guessed things are pretty busy around here (and I'm guessing you are all pretty busy too)- not much time for posting on ye olde blogge. I have quite a few little projects on the go, but no unveiling before Christmas!

It feels strange to be digging out the bathers and summer dresses when it is so cold here - I keep thinking 'surely it won't be warm enough to wear this'. We have been packing ready for a trip home for Christmas which means seeing all my family that I have missed so much and showing them how much Yashar has grown, lots of yummy christmas food, kids playing at the beach, lying in the hammock, dinners with old friends (preferably outdoors and with the rosy glow of some good wine!), spending lots of time with Senol...I am so excited!!! I keep thinking of Yashar, with his little backpack on, walking out of the gate when we arrive.

My plan is to post a photo each day we are away, but you know, the thing about plans...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chestnuts and persimmons

Thanks for all the pumpkin soup ideas! I am definitely going to try adding some curry powder this week (getting more pumpkin at the market tomorrow) and I like the sound of adding some chilli and ginger. Yum!

Well I haven't been around here in a little while for a couple of reasons. This week is a national holiday here in Turkey for Kurban Bayrami - The Sacrifice Feast - where rams and cows are sacrificed. The traditions is that 1 third of the meat is cooked immediately, another third is given to the poor and another third distributed among relatives and neighbours. Of course I think that sharing the meat with the poor is a wonderful practice, and I like to think that I am pretty open to different cultures and practices, but...ah... I'm not so into the slaughter part. Don't worry - no photos here. In the morning we saw lots of cows in the back of trucks, but when Senol's family were calling me to see the slaughter in the backyard (a butcher came to the house to do it) I was like 'no way!' and hid in the living room with Yashar.

The other reason I have been MIA is that Yashar got a pretty nasty infection, and has been though a lot the last couple of days, including very high fevers, night time rushes to hospital, a blood test, cold baths (the paracetamol and ibuprofen wasn't working in getting his fever down) and generally getting poked and prodded too much :( He was such a good little trooper. Although he cried during the tests and cold baths, and even though his fever got as high as 39.6C, he soon gave us sleepy little smiles when we showed him the fish in the aquarium at the hospital. Poor little man. The doctor and nurses were fantastic and I am happy to say that he is recovering well.

So instead of taking photos of cows being sacrificed and an anxious visit to the hospital, I thought you would prefer some more photos of our neighbourhood that I took on a little walk and drive we went on just before all this. Warm chestnuts, winding narrow streets, the Bosphorus and persimmons hanging like lanterns from the tree.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Seasonal recipe

Remember when I mentioned my brilliant idea a while back - a seasonal recipe each month. Well believe it or not - I actually got around to doing it! The recipe this month, while not exotic or mind blowingly original, is yummy! It is also so easy and spot on season wise here.

It's my Mum's Pumpkin Soup! My sister reminded me about it when she put together a whole lot of recipes for me because I was running out of ideas for food for Yashar (what a good sister I have - and Yashar loves it!).

The thing that used to put me off making pumpkin soup was chopping the damn thing up! But here at the Pazar (our weekly fruit and vegie market where I took the photo above) and even at the supermarket they have a guy whose sole job is to chop up the pumpkin for you on the spot - yay!

1 diced onion
1 peeled and cubed pumpkin
Chicken stock
Bay leaf
Nutmeg (I didn't have any, but added some paprika instead)
1 tablespoon of butter

Fry onion in butter. When soft add pumpkin and enough water with stock to cover and add bay leaf. Simmer until pumpkin is soft, take out bay leaf and vitamise with a pinch of nutmeg. Return to saucepan until ready to serve. Serve with a dollop of cream, a sprinkle of nutmeg and bread.

There are few variations with this recipe - I know my Mum sometimes adds curry powder and I think coconut cream (?). Sweet potatoes are also nice to use instead of pumpkin but at $20 a kilo here...

Do you know of any other yummy variations for me to try out? I am going pumpkin soup crazy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Yashar Update: All Rugged Up

I get Yashar all rugged up before going out now. The weather is starting to get cold! He has got used to wearing his little beanie now. He used to try to get it off the minute I put it on.

We are so lucky with our apartment because we have discovered that in Autumn and Winter the sun streams in our front windows in the morning, heating up our living room like a little glass house. Yashar likes to rest his head in the warm sun. I wanted to say that the sun, streaming in in the mornings, sparkling off the Bosphorus is glorious, just glorious - but really 'glorious' just sounds sooo uncool. So, you know, the sun is like, way cool... and stuff.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The watchful eagle

This is another little illustration/artwork I have been working on. I am so happy with how this turned out. I think it shows what I love about a hand drawn sketch that I talked about in an earlier post, while also making the most of the strong, flat colour that you can get using digital colouring.

I really enjoyed the process for this one. I did a quick sketch and then took my time inking in the detail. Then I put it into photoshop and coloured it. As always, the detail shots give you a better idea of how it actually looks.

I had my dear little 2 year old nephew Riley in mind when making it (I can just picture his smiling little face as I write this!)- hoping that he might like it as a Christmas present. But I am not sure if it is too fierce looking. What do you think? I might try to see if I can come up with something a little more colourful and fun in time to suit the fun little boy that he is. Knowing how long it takes to get things done here though, it may not eventuate :( If not, then hopefully this will be something that he can grow with.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Photos from the hood

I realised that I hadn't posted many photos of our neighbourhood, so here are a few before the Autumn leaves totally disappear.
The leaves on this very old wooden house are amazing - such a vibrant pink.

The house is very dilapidated and boarded up, with a Doberman and a Rottweiler guarding it - which keeps us from taking a closer look at some of the beautiful details we have spied :( I heard on the grapevine that someone on a neighbouring property has bought it and the next old house along and will probably pull them down at some stage. Until then we get to enjoy a peek as we pass by (and a fright when the dogs appear with a snarl!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yashar update: It's a tough life...

The presents have been arriving from Australia for Yashar's birthday. It's been lots of fun receiving the packages (too bad for the postman though that has to come up all of those flights of stairs!) Thank you everyone! We miss you all so much. Yashar has loved opening the packages - although sometimes it can be a very serious business: Sometimes not so serious:

And sometimes he opens so many he just gets all worn out, it's a tough life ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nerd indicator #2: Don't be evil

To keep up the nerdy image (thick rimmed glasses and all) I just finished reading The Google Storyand I totally nerded out about it. I couldn't put it down!

The book starts with the development of the system and technology of the search engine while the Google duo (Sergey Brin and Larry Page) were at Stanford and then goes through the rise and rise of the company. The book claims on the back cover that "This book was not created, authorized, or endorsed by Google Inc." But they wouldn't really have anything to complain about and I totally wouldn't be surprised if they funded the whole thing. The author even attempts to make the whole computer/software/business story a little risque and sexy (attempts not succeeds) with a chapter called 'Porn cookie guy', another called 'Playboys' and another about the 'burning man' festival with mention of getting naked around a burning effigy. He also quickly argues himself out of the small amount of criticisms he makes and provides many favourable comparisons with 'evil' Microsoft. And despite the obvious bias I still bought in to the whole 'don't be evil' Google mantra wholesale! It makes Google look like the cool guy from the Apple Mac ads and Microsoft the PC guy.

I loved getting info about how the ranking of search results works, the conditions at Google offices (massages, time to work on your own projects, free ice-cream days etc) and the floating of the Google stock which made many of the employees super rich. There is even a whole chapter on the apparently legendary chef who cooked up nutritious organic food for all the employees.

And now that I have finished with Google I dipped into Sacre Cordon Bleu: What the French know about cookingand I am already addicted. It starts with the burning of recipe books by celebrity chefs and then Micheal Booth, his wife and two young children are off to Paris so that he can study at the famous cooking school - Le Cordon Bleu. By the time Madame Raffarin shows them around the Parisian apartment full of shelves of dusty antique books, vast oil paintings and fading velvet curtains with views of the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower (and then they excitedly spy the boulangerie and chocolatier on the street below) I was hooked! I am already dreaming of moving to Paris or at least having an extended holiday there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some things I am loving at the moment

My glasses! After wearing my contact lens way too much I decided to give my eyes a rest and dug out my glasses. Bordering on nerdy, the rims of these are pretty prominent and the arms are nice and thick. I forgot how much I liked them! And now I can pretend I am super intelligent!

And this book looks sooo good! It is bills open kitchen- bought by my sisters for Senol's birthday last weekend. I love the glowing fading light on the cover and my favourite photo inside is this one (sorry about my crappy photo of this gorgeous photo - it looks a hundred times better in real life):

I love how he writes about the relationship between food and family. He writes "I want my family to grow up with good memories around food. A freshly brewed cup of tea with a slice of cake still warm from the oven or a tart made from freshly picked apricots will become part of a happy memory..." I want that too! I have some very happy memories of making cupcakes with my mum. I am so looking forward to when Yashar is old enough that we can bake yummy memories together.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yashar Update: A little bit of Possum Magic

Yashar was enthralled by this book (Possum Magic) that arrived in the post for his birthday. The illustrations (by Julie Vivas) are gorgeous and I love this story - I remember reading it when I was little too. It starts with "Once upon a time, but not very long ago, deep in the Australian bush lived two possums" and later leads to eating vegemite sandwiches in the far north of Australia and lamingtons in Hobart. So Australian and very, very cute.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Water for Constantinople

Belgrade Forest (Belgrad Ormani) is amazing because it is so close to the crowded streets and busy traffic of Istanbul but is so green and fresh and, well, it's a forest. It was fairly crowded around the main picnic area where there are also a couple of restaurants, but once we started walking it was so quiet and peaceful. We saw many people carrying huge bags of mushrooms they had picked - but we weren't game. I remember reading somewhere - maybe in the book A Year in Provenceabout places where you could take the mushrooms you had picked to be checked to make sure they weren't poisonous. I wish they had that here. Am I being too cautious??

Because the paths were rough and Yashar was still sleeping when we arrived we stopped off at the picnic area for some rice pudding - best in warm weather, but always a favourite of mine!

The forest was part of the setting for the water supply system for the Byzantines and Ottomans who used aqueduct bridges to supply water to Constantinople. Parts of the bridges are still standing like this one we drove under on the way to the forest. History really does permeate everyday life here - it's so easy to forget how rich and interesting the history is when you drive under it and walk past parts of it every day.

Yashar loved looking at all the Autumn leaves and the lake and touching the bark of the trees. We loved it too - a little bit of stillness to take back to Istanbul.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A party in the forest

I am still amazed that Yashar is now 1. What a year it has been. Lots of changes. Lots of adjusting and lots of fun and happiness.

For his little party we put up some autumny forest decorations after being inspired by our recent visit to Belgrade Forest (which was so pretty, calm and green that I will definitely be posting a few pictures from there soon). Nothing overboard with the decorations - at this age the kids didn't even notice the decorations were there and, of course, I think handmade decorations are the best kind! Yashar and I went for a walk and collected some gorgeous Autumn leaves that are blowing around and piling up on the paths at the moment. Then I sewed some together just using a needle and thread to make the chains of them and attached the rest of them to the walls using blu-tac.

We got the poster on our trip to Sweden - so gorgeous! And the little boy in it has something Yashar'ish about him. It is by Elsa Beskow who wrote and illustrated children's books and I think this illustration was originally from a song book. Her illustrations are some of my all time favourites. Some of the books have been translated into English and are just beautiful. (We also bought Children of the Forest while we were there.)

And of course there was the cake! I made a bunny from the same book that my mum made our cakes from - Australian Women's Weekly Childrens Birthday Cake Book -
we used to love looking through the book and choosing the cake we would have that year - I particularly remember loving the piano cake with the little music book sitting on it. The cover looks a little dodgy but this is a great book! I cheated a bit though and bought the cakes to make it up - no oven makes baking pretty hard!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy 1st Birthday!

What a happy weekend we had. Yashar had lots of fun opening his presents and playing with all his friends. I can't believe he is already one year old. I'm so proud of him. I will tell you all about his birthday very soon!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Parenting Books

This book - Baby Love by Robin Barker - has been my guide for the past year. I read it and reread it constantly. My sister gave it to me after finding her own copy so useful. Particularly being here in Turkey, far away from my family and friends' support and guidance, it really was my source of advice and information that I felt I could really trust. I liked its approach - relaxed and realistic - and also how comprehensive it was. My sister-in-law would often ask me questions just before rushing to the doctor and the book always seemed to have the answer and saved her many unnecessary trips. Saying 'my book says...' became a running joke between us.

Before coming here I had romanticised ideas about what looking after babies and bringing up children would be like here. I thought that because of the strong family focus here, having babies and parenting would be more natural and easier, with good experience and knowledge being passed down from generation to generation. This has not always been my reality here though. For example there is a startlingly high rate of cesareans here (according to this article around 39% which is double the maximum rate recommended by the World Health Organisation - in some private hospitals the rate is as high as 95%!) and many doctors are notorious for their over prescription of medicines. Old wives tales also abound. Apart from that, my own ideas about parenting have meant that I need other sources of guidance. Plus I just love books!

Now Yashar is almost one year old and I have found myself rereading the last section (9 - 12 months) of Baby Love and wondering where to next? I have copies of Raising Boys (a book recommended by my cousin who has three boys) and The Creative Family by Amanda Soule on their way. But I need more! I guess I am fairly relaxed in my parenting and don't enjoy being preached to or a one-fits-all approach.

Do you have any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rubbish Stuck

I often wondered how the rubbish trucks made it around the narrow streets here three times a week - I have enough trouble squeezing my tiny little car between the walls and the precariously parked cars...

and now I know...

they don't always make it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Technique: More about that little painting

Warning: this may get vaguely technical ;)

I cut myself off in my last post about this little painting because I didn't want it to become an essay...but I still have more to discuss!

This time I experimented a little more with the technique I used. I applied the paints much more thinly (they are watercolours but last time I used them more like acrylics). And I used a brown pencil to outline and do some detail and shading (last time I used grey lead). What do you think?

I also messed around with Adobe Illustrator ('messed around' being a very apt description). I was trying to use the 'live trace' and 'live paint' tools but I really wasn't happy with the result. Live trace is a tool that converts an imported bit map image (in this case a digital photo of an ink drawing) into vector content (lines and fills on Illustrator). You can then use live paint to colour the drawing 'intuitively'.

I tried varying the settings for live trace but just couldn't get a result I was happy with and the whole process just gave me no happiness. Painting usually makes me smile. This just made me frown. This is one where the lines were closest to something I was happy with and I quickly filled in some colour to get an idea of how it would look. But I found no matter how much I changed the settings for live trace, the result just looked too computer generated for me. I think there is something special and real about a hand sketch and this just didn't have it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thank you!

I wanted to say thank you for all the comments about my latest illustration. They made me so happy and were so motivating - I think I might do some more!

And I also wanted to thank Shannon Lowe, a contributing editor at BlogHer and writer of the blog Rocks In My Dryer for mentioning me and my blog in her recent article Expat Moms Chronicle Raising Kids in a Foreign Country. What a nice surprise and a great article!

Flowers for you all!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Yashar update: Busted!

He can't even walk, but some how he manages to climb into and stand up in his Baba's sock drawer! What are you up to mister?? Nothing, I promise!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I have climbed to the top of the tallest tree...

I finally managed to finish another little painting/illustration type thing (photos still not quite right- maybe I need a scanner?). It really is a slow process - because I am doing this while Yashar naps - it always seems that just when I have got everything ready and am starting to get into it I hear a little voice and the door to his room rattling as he tries to grab onto the door handle from his cot. But that's ok - it's fantastic to be able to have this time to spend making things and then time to spend with Yashar as well.

I was inspired to do this one when I heard this song:
I have climbed to the top of the tallest tree
And no one knows I'm here
And I could hide for hours and hours
And I can see for miles
And I have never fallen
And I will not come down
And the sun is shining

I don't know the name of the track or who made it so if you know please leave a comment - I would love to know.

While I was doing the last picture I think I mentioned that I wanted to work on colour with this one. So I looked at magazines and just around the place generally for groups of colours I liked. Then I spent a lot of time just mixing paints and making little swatches to play around with. Of course I still want to work on colour more, but I am happy with how it turned out.

I made it for my dear little niece Ruby and thought the colours would be cute in a little girls room. I am so sad to be missing out on seeing her grow (she is just a few months younger than Yashar). So I hope my sister can point to the picture and tell Ruby about her Aunty Verity.