Friday, May 27, 2011

Beypazarı - A Slice of Loveliness.

This week's quest for beauty took us to a little town called Beypazarı, about 100km from our home in Ankara.  It's famous for silverware, carrots and soda water...  an odd mix.  But we went for the Ottoman architecture, the cobblestone streets and the museums showcasing traditional Ottoman homes.

It was a beautiful day.  A true spring day.  I spent the entire car ride gazing out at the colourful wildflowers covering every hilltop, field and valley.   The entire countryside was in bloom.  Even the mounds of forgotten construction waste, camouflaged under a cloak of springtime colour, had become beautiful.  Man Oh Man, I love this time of year!

Being a weekday and early in the season, the town was virtually empty of tourists.  In fact, besides one primary school field group, I think we were the only non-locals.  Which, of course, suited us fine.

We found a park in the centre of town and headed straight to the nearest restaurant to quench our thirst with a couple of schooners of cold and frothy ayran (plain yoghurt shaken with water and a little salt).  Yummy!

The next hour or so was spent happily wandering around town, checking out the museums and taking pictures of the restored houses.  Since there were no tourists, it didn't take long to see everything we wanted to see.  So by lunchtime we were ready to head out to nearby Inözü valley for some lunch.

We found a sweet garden restaurant in the valley right on the riverbank and enjoyed a couple of hours eating, relaxing, and playing with Kaya.  While we were there we found out from one of the waiters that there was apparently a lovely big lake about 30km away.   With only half the day gone we decided to check it out.

Karagöl (Black lake) is a deep crater lake surrounded by a lovely forrest of pine trees.  Even though it had started raining before we arrived, the whole atmosphere by the lake was so peaceful and calming.  We had a cup of tea from our thermos in the car, took in the view, and leisurely (and a little reluctantly because it was still drizzling) started on our way back home.

Here are a few pictures journaling our day.  I hope they give you a bit of a feel for the loveliness of our day.

The moment we stepped out of the car, Ky went up to this old lady to show her his tool box. 

In a lovely restaurant, awaiting our ayran.

Restaurant decor.

Kaya begging for a sugar cube he discovered on the table before we had a chance to hide the container ...  the begging didn't work by the way.
Helping "Teyze" (auntie) unpack her stock for the restaurant.

Testing out his ironing skills on the table.

An exmple of some of the Ottoman houses.

Cobblestone lane.

Mosque minaret.

Neighbourhood life.

More neighbourhood life.

Contemplating whether or not he could climb this pole ... he decided against it.

Intriguing caves in the rocking cliffs above the restaurant in Inozu valley.

Look at the expression on that little boy!  It's like, "Ahh mum, another photo?  C'mon!"

For a second we thought this was the beautiful lake we'd been told about ... it wasn't.

This is the lake we came to see.

A self-conscious pose in front of the lake...

An old truck adding some character to the forrest.

Another lake view.

Scepticism? Suspicion? What is that espression?

A manly pose by the truck.

Snack Time

By now you'll know that our baby doesn't typically eat junk food.  So what does he eat?  A few people have curiously asked what a nutrition-conscious mummy like myself feeds her little one at snack time.

Well.  First of all we don't have set snack times.  We allow Ky to graze all day long.  He loves food. All food.  In fact there's not a single food that he won't eat.  Of course there are foods that we've offered and he's initially spat out in surprise but always on one of the next times we offer the food again, he'll inevitably eat it.  He has no allergies or sensitivities.  And since he was 1 year old when the entire world of food was completely opened to him (at approximately 1 year of age, the immune system is sufficiently developed enough to be able to digest most foods without allergies developing) we have tried hard to offer as many taste sensations as we can find.  Some of his favourite foods include marinated black olives, grilled anchovies, blue cheese, roasted garlic, chickpeas and all kinds of lentils, plain sour yoghurt, watercress (which he collects from the vege garden outside), and dolma (seasoned rice stuffed grape leaves).  He also loves fruit, every kind of fruit, but especially berries and watermelon.  And of course he loves desserts ... unfortunately ...

He eats every meal with us and we never make anything especially for him.  He eats what we eat (in much smaller portions).  In between meals he eats whatever he can get his hands on.  On the rare occasions we have junk food in the house (such as tahin helva or dark chocolate), we keep it well hidden and out of reach, so whatever he can see he can have.  By the way, we never buy biscuits, cakes, chips, soft drinks, fruit juice, flavoured yoghurts or lollies anyway, so keeping junk food away from him at home is not really an issue.  For drinks he mostly has water, but he also loves kefir and ayran (plain yoghurt mixed with water) and herbal tea (which I make according to his state of health or emotion.  For example, if any of us get a bit sniffly, I'll make an immune-boosting tea, or if it's late afternoon and I want Ky to start settling down for bed, I might make a calming tea).

When we go out, I always pack a little snack pack for him with foods that can easily be eaten without making too much of a mess.  Typically, the snack pack will include a container of mixed sun-dried fruit.  A piece of fresh fruit or a container of mixed, sliced fresh fruit.  And a container of raw veges and raw cheese.  Sometimes I'll throw in a boiled egg or a couple of pieces of dolma or even a chicken drumstick.  Depending on what we've got on hand.  Oh, and there's always a bottle of water too.

This is what we took with us when we went on a day trip out of the city earlier this week.  Clockwise from top: a container of sliced tomato and cucumber, cubed goat's cheese, and black and green olives; a boiled egg; a container of sliced apple and strawberries; a container of sun-dried apricots,  figs and grapes, and hazelnuts; a bottle of water.
So there you have it.  One of the reasons why Ky is a happy, healthy, rosey-cheeked, energetic little boy.


I gathered these from the vacant lot right across the street from our house.

Even Ankara is beautiful in the springtime!  Just beautiful!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Project Pants Part 2!

Thanks to my friend Jess who introduced me to a fantastic sewing blog, I had a nice new pants pattern to try out!  These ones were heaps easier than the first pair I made.  It took me just a few hours to whip them up.

The hardest part was getting around to putting them on Ky for a picture.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a camera that worked today, so I used hubby's samsung tab to take the pictures ... as you can see the stupid thing doesn't take very good shots when the subject is moving.  But if you squint you can kinda see the little fellow trying out his new duds.  Do you like his poses?  (He's following the directions of his baba.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'm a Mindful Mother!

Today I came across a very thought-provoking blog by Monica over at Holistic Mama.  She described three types of mothers:

1. "Natural" mothers who live solely for their children and are absolutely fulfilled by the role as mother.
"They can do copious amounts of floor-time, and usually experience empty-nest syndrome. They don't concern themselves much with their own needs. They tend to form friendships almost exclusively with other mothers and enjoy talking about their children."
2. "Also" (my word, not hers) mothers who see their mothering role as only a small part of who they are as women.
"They love their children but feel best with them in nurseries, schools, or with nannies/childminders. They don't spend hours contemplating the impact of their choices on their children or analysing to death their child's behaviours. They have many personal needs. Alone time is either for creativity or simply 'me time'. Their choices tend to go with the social (family or larger community) flow."
3. "Mindful" mothers who are conflicted between their innate need to personally do absolutely all they can for their children, and their desperate need to meet their own personal needs simultaneously.
"She spends a lot of time pondering her children and their lives. She analyses her choices. She is not content with having someone else raise them (sometimes, to educate them). She wants to be with her children but she can't sit through lengthy floor-time. She has many personal needs and sees all the needs of her child. She desperately needs to give expression to other aspects of herself. Alone time is almost always for creativity (in the broadest sense). She is not fulfilled by her mothering role. She is a mindful mother, but she is more. She often struggles with the conflicting aspects."
As I read the first description, I immediately felt myself to be a "natural" mother.

Before Kaya I never felt completely satisfied with life.  I was always searching for more but never knew what "more" was.  I spent years studying and training to be a psychologist but in less than a year of working in the field I realised it just didn't resonate with me.  So I left and spent several months driving a campervan around Australia.  I came back and started studying to be a naturopath while flitting from job to job and country to country.  I worked in government administration in Australia, as a teacher in Japan, as a cashier in a theme park, as an entertainment host on a cruise ship, as a secretary, as a massage therapist, as a personal assistant to a Captain on another cruise ship...  And then, while trying out life as a resident of Turkey, I became a mother.

Finally I felt a sense of satisfaction.  Everything in my life became about Ky and for Ky.  Every book I read was about parenting.  Every website I browsed was about parenting.  Every thought I had and plan I made was about parenting.  Because I was breastfeeding everything I ate, drank, smelt or touched was with Ky in consideration.  And every other minute of the day and night was spent with my baby - baby-wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding.  And I felt more satisfied with life than ever before.  But.  But.  I deep down I felt a kind of emptiness.  I felt lost.  I felt like I'd lost myself...  And I felt guilty for feeling this way...

Back to Monica's blog.  When I got to the third description my heart skipped.  This was me!  Exactly me!

I do constantly agonize over every little decision I make for Ky.  Have I researched 'this' enough?  Do I have the skills or experience to parent like 'that'?  Is this really the right way when mainstream tells me it's wrong even though it feels right?  Maybe I should study this a bit more?  He wants me to dance with him to the same song for the eleventh time but I really feel like writing or reading or sewing or painting...    I need to think of a new sensory activity for him, but I really just don't feel like going to all the effort right now... Do we have to walk around the block again?  I'm so tired...  If only he would sleep a bit longer, I really need this quiet time for myself...

It's true that I'm not completely fulfilled by my mothering role.  And I certainly am a mindful mother.  But I am more than a mother too.  And after reading this blog and seeing the many many many comments by her readers with similar feelings, I finally feel understood.  I feel a sense of belonging.  I'm not alone in feeling conflict between being the "perfect" mum and wanting more for myself.  Somehow reading Monica's blog has allowed me to feel more comfortable admitting to myself that I want more and it's okay to want more.  I should not compromise my Self.

I've copied Monica's declaration below.  Isn't it just perfect?  I've also printed out her words to remind myself of the importance of being an authentic parent both for myself and for my child.

Mindful Mama - Authentic Self
: a declaration 

Parenthood is a gift.
I have many passions.
My child is my heart.
I am a multifaceted being.
My child's needs come before my own.
Not 'in place of' my own.
Nothing is a sacrifice.
I choose to do from love.
I am there when my child needs me.
I take space for myself.

Mindful Parenting

I value every aspect of my child's world as soulfully, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally significant in his development as a person.
I think about and weigh up challenges, issues, and potentials, as well as small daily living, and its impact on him.
I make decisions that I feel are best for my child but might be challenging for me.
I move towards an ideal of parenting.

Authentic Self

I express all that I am, without apology.
I am open and flexible with my opinions, philosophies, and beliefs.
I relish the perfection of my imperfection.
I do not compromise my Self. 
I live noone's life but my own.
I do not ignore my passions or what brings me joy.
I am mindful but not obsessive as a parent.
I allow myself a full voice (I weep, grieve, shout, laugh, as I need to). 
I recognise and honour every aspect of myself  (woman, creatrix, writer, mother, soul...)
I make challenging decisions from love, instead of guilt, obligation, or martyrdom.
I respect everyone, I help many, I nurture some, I please myself. 
I don't demand that I reach an ideal.
I let go what no longer works for me or adds to my soul. 
I recognise that authenticity is everyone's right - what is right for me or my child is not the same for everyone.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Pocket of Beauty


The capital city of Turkey.  The "gray city".  The city in which we live right now.  The city I reluctantly call home.  I don't like this city at all.

The weather in this city is horrible - it's either freezing cold or unbearably hot.  The pleasant temperatures of spring and autumn seem to last all of about 10 seconds.  Although, granted, the seasonal colours do last a couple of months, which I LOVE.

The landscape in this city is awful - there are no forests, no beaches, and only a few lakes and streams.  It's a dry, barren, hilly land neglected by Mother Nature.

The city itself is a sprawling mass of disorganisation.  Everywhere you look you'll see evidence of ultra modern urbanisation.  And everywhere you look you'll also see evidence of impoverisation.  Brand new high rise buildings reach up high into the sky stretching far away from the decayed slum houses at their bases.

In the suburban areas reaching out in all directions from the city, expensive residential properties are built right along side densely packed communal shacks.  There doesn't appear to be any kind of design or consideration for layout.  Instead, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of identical villas will suddenly appear like a rash across a naked hilltop.  Buildings are completed before streets, lighting, sewage and water considerations are even made.  And the discarded building materials are typically just left in piles beside the property until the next construction project simply builds over the top of them.  As a result even the most luxurious estate will be surrounded by a muddy (in winter) or rocky (in summer) mess for years and years.

In terms of entertainment, well there really isn't any.  There are never any major concerts or performances held in Ankara because there simply isn't any venue to accommodate them.  If you're lucky, you'll find a local band playing in a random bar somewhere.  But that's if you're lucky.  There are a few interesting museums but they're not the type of places you visit more than once.  Of course there are also nightclubs and plenty of restaurants.  But for us, parents of a little one, going to a restaurant is only a special treat.  Otherwise, the only thing to do is shop.  If you love shopping, then maybe Ankara is the city for you.  Many times locals have proudly told me that Ankara has more malls than any other city in the world.  I'm not sure if that's true or not but I'm almost convinced.  There are literally dozens of mega malls within a 20 km radius of our home.  Unfortunately for me (and fortunately for my husband) I don't like shopping.  And I don't like malls.  However I do like going to the movies so the malls do provide one advantage for me when the grandparents offer to babysit.

The worst thing for me, however, is the lack of opportunities for nature-loving.  I love to go bushwalking.  I love picniking by a beautiful lake or wild river.  I love looking for pretty rocks and shells while walking along the beach.  I love the icy shock of diving under a waterfall.  I love camping (real camping, not the pitching a tent in a caravan park type "camping").  I love looking for birds and butterflies and creepy-crawlies with Ky.


Ankara is certainly not the nature-lover's paradise.  All the greenest areas are controlled by the military and access is prohibited, so there's nowhere to bushwalk.  Picniking means jostling for a dirty table in a crowded, treeless park with nowhere for the little ones to play because the grass is invariably covered with rubbish thoughtlessly left behind by other picnikers.  We're nowhere near the ocean or sea and there's certainly no waterfalls to enjoy nearby.  Even the creepy crawlies have abondoned the city.  The only bugs you're likely to come across are ants ... not very exciting even for a little boy.

another *sigh*

I refuse to let this place get the better of me though.  So that is why, this morning, with hubby and bubby, I embarked on a mission to find some beauty in this city.

And you know what?  We found some!

It's called Keçiören park, and it's a 40 minute from our house, on the other side of the city.  But it's  pretty.  Ignoring the sounds of the traffic on the main road running along side the park, I was able to look around me at the flowers and trees, breathe deeply, and imagine we were in the countryside far away from bustling Ankara.  We had a lovely day.

I've decided this mission isn't complete.   Every week we will take a day trip in search of more beauty.  The beauty of nature is everywhere and I'm determined to find it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Project Pants!

I noticed the other day that all Ky's pants seem to have shrunk....!  I thought about letting the hem down on some of the nicer pants so they'd last a bit longer but that thought lasted no more than a nanosecond before I dismissed it as being a tedious and boring thing to do!  Instead, while the newly operational sewing machine is still a novelty to me, I thought I'd make some new pants.   More than a year ago (while I was excitedly waiting for my new sewing machine to arrive....) I found this lovely tutorial over at and have been dying to try it out.  I worried that it was too ambitious for a novice like me but thought "bugger it, I'll give it a go!"  

I decided not to include the lining to make it a little easier on myself.  But that meant altering the instructions which I obviously wasn't very good at doing because I ended up having to use this little thing

a LOT more than I would have liked!

Eventually, even with the help of a certain little boy who climbed on my back, turned the machine on and off, stole my scissors, cut up my material, tipped out my pins, wrapped cotton so tightly around his fingers that they turned purple, hid my quick-un-pick three times, I got the pants done.

There was, however, one mistake that I couldn't be bothered fixing properly:

This messy seam was the result of not attaching the contrasting fabric to the underside of the pants properly (due to my seriously poor skills at altering patterns).  So when the pants are turned up this is what you see.   Not a good look.  Instead of unpicking the whole lot (the quick-un-pick had gone missing AGAIN!) I decided to just trim off the threads and sewed the seam flat.  It turned out okay.  Not exactly professional looking, but not bad.

I really love this colourful fabric!  Do you like the pockets?  I was very impressed with myself for being able to make them, especially the tricky front ones.

And here's the end product being modelled by my little prince.

By the way, what do you think of the "Om" applique I made for his shirt?  Nice hey?