WRITING: Summer Activities in Iowa

While we do live in Turkey, this Louisiana+Iowa couple still calls Iowa their home. (So sorry to all my Louisiana family and readers out there!) This is where Jason and I fell in love, got engaged, got married, and learned how to do married life together in our first little 90 meter duplex together in a small town of 3,000 people.

Fast forward 2.5 years, last summer in that same little duplex we were in the process of packing up our first home and determined to make the international move to Turkey together. It was stressful, sad, exciting, and all the rest of the feelings that come with transition! In the process (because we didn’t have enough to do!), I was also determined to see a few more sites in this beautiful state that I had come to love. Over at the The Coastie Couple I wrote a short post titled Summer Activities in Iowa

Here is the start of the article:

Being a Southern gal, I didn’t think there could be anything better than a windy road through a tall pine tree forest. But… after marrying my sweet Iowan man, I have found beauty in the square grid of roads lined with golden corn fields and blue skies that span for miles. I had a lot to learn about giving directions using N,S, E, and W, driving in the snowy winters, familiarizing myself with names of all the small towns, and discovering what to explore. 

Over the last 3 years we have definitely had our share of adventures including the World Food and Music Festival, Corks & Caps, Boone Scenic Railroad, the famous Iowa State Fair, and most recently the Pella Tulip Festival. But there is still a lot to see! Here are the 3 places I want to go this summer: Continue reading…

 

I actually only made it to 1 of the 3 activities mentioned. But I hope other America readers will take advantage of some of the fun summer activities Iowa has to offer. Click over here to read all the activities I wrote about on the blog post.

I would love to hear what activities you like to do in the summer month- no matter where you are located!

HOLIDAY: Swiss Hotel Lighting of the Tree

 

Since this is our first Christmas season in Izmir, I didn’t know what to expect. When I lived in Istanbul before, I never even checked to see if there were holiday events in the city, malls, or international groups. This time around, a little research on Instagram and Facebook events/groups showed many holiday events. We did make it to the IWAI Christmas Market before we left town early on our #funkchristmas2016 tour. Fortunately, we made it to one more event with some friends of ours for the Lighting of the Tree at the Swiss Hotel.

The evening was lovely. The hotel very thoughtfully decorated and an itinerary of Christmas music. While either the pianist and violinists played or the choir sang, guest enjoyed cookies, special tarts, and my favorite, mulled wine.

It was a perfect send off to our Christmas vacation the next day and for others a perfect start to their holiday season. If you are living in Izmir and are looking for Christmas events, this is one I would definitely recommend!

HOLIDAY: IWAI Christmas Bazaar

Picture from IWAI Website

One of the groups I found before moving was the IWAI – International Women’s Association of Izmir, a non-profit organization that blends international women from all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. This even includes Turkish women that have married foreigners, worked for international companies, lived abroad for a period of time, or want to help expats moving to Izmir. Throughout the year, the group holds regular coffee meetings, social events, and charity events. So when we moved, it was one of the first group events that I attended!

In December, IWAI hosted their Annual Christmas Market at the Swiss Hotel. Guests meandered through 60 tables arranged with goodies – from candies, scarves, jewelry, handmade Christmas items like ornaments and table clothes and even rugs.


Since Jason and I had already spent quite a bit on setting up our new home, I wasn’t really looking to buy anything special. So, instead, the food was the highlight. There were only a couple of food stands, but I managed to buy a jar of caramel, a cake pop(from the picture above), sweet potato chips, and banana chips (none of which are super christmasy, but a treat nonetheless!). I also loved meeting the small shop owners. I collected cards from a few of my favorite stands.

The market also served as a charity fundraiser. All guests paid an entrance fee and that money went towards a pre-selected group of single moms in Karşıyaka area of Izmir. Several ladies represented IWAI at the ceremony and presented the gift certificate from LC Waikiki to the ladies.

Picture from IWAI Facebook page

The group has been a great way to find new friends and provide support as we navigate expat living in Izmir. If you want to learn more about the IWAI, check out their website and Facebook page.

HOLIDAY: Celebrating Christmas in Izmir

huge tree in one of the Istanbul malls

This wasn’t my first Christmas overseas, but it was OUR first Christmas overseas. Within 4 months, we moved to Turkey, rented an apartment, and furnished it(mostly). So this year, our Christmas decor was a little meek. Ikea pretty much has everything you could ever need, including some Christmas decor. SO, while I would have loved to keep with holiday tradition of buying a real tree, we settled for a cute little fake one!

 

In anticipation of our 2016 move, Christmas 2015 ended with one big packed Christmas box for storage and one small box labeled ‘Christmas stuff 4 Turkey move.’ Thankfully, we didn’t have to open it again until we had our Christmas in Turkey!  Below is one of my old turkish ornament I bought from my old single days in Turkey. It has made it many places with me!

And this is our new turkish ornament we bought during our sailing trip along the Aegean coastline.

Some traditions aren’t hard to keep, here is our annual Christmas tree decorating time lapse!

 

Right before we left town, we did see ‘New Year’ trees – REAL ones – at a local grocery store! Next year we may have a real tree!

 

We may not of had a real tree, but we did do our 2nd annual advent calendar! 2015 was long year for my job, and Jason was a champ through all of it. By December, I was finally was coming out of the work fog, and I wanted to do something special for him to look forward to Christmas. Jason loved it. Every morning he woke up, check the back of the card and had something to look forward to for the day. This year was no different. And – since we had planned our #funkchristmas2016 tour, it made some of our advent activities really interesting!

Our advent calendar is nothing fancy, I printed a card template and wrote the dates on the front with activities on the back. Ikea once again came to the rescue with Christmas theme washi tape!

 

 

Along with our advent calendar, we had a few other decorations around our living/dining area. Ikea also had some fake garlands, and I grabbed one knowing it would look fabulous over our fireplace. Every year, I usually find a few free Christmas prints online. A couple I put in frames, others I just taped up with washi tape. Those few new items, plus our small box of treasures we brought from the states, made up our decor this year. And you know what? It was perfect! Simple and perfect.

 

One of our advent calendar events was baking Christmas cookies. This was three-fold.

1. Decorating (my favorite)

2. Eating of course (Jason’s favorite)

3. Gifts for our neighbor goodie bag!

 

By December, we had met most of our apartment building neighbors. Since Turkey is a majority muslim country, Christmas is not a celebrated holiday, but it is somewhat present. You can see Christmas trees, decor, lights and sometimes snowmen. ‘Christmas’ is more of a new year celebration and sometimes Santa even makes it by. 😉

For us, Christmas is our whole reason for life, and we are so happy to celebrate it. Part of our Christmas traditions is giving gifts to one another – family and friends alike. As a little gift for our Christmas celebrations, we shared little goodie bags with them! Along with the homemade Christmas cookies, we filled the bag with all the Christmasy foods – gingerbread cookies, chocolates, and a homemade hot chocolate mixture with a bag of marshmallows.

 

The goodie bags were a huge hit! (Plus, they were super fun to make.) Christmas touring in Europe was a blast. And I spent most of our December, and January mornings enjoying this view….

FOOD: Aşure – Noah’s Ark Pudding

Cheers to the first post about FOOD. Cheers to not just any food, but TURKISH food!

And yes, you read that right! We are here to chat about Aşure. So how do you say it properly? The ‘a’ is an ‘aah’ sound while the ‘new-to-you’ letter ‘ş’ is pronounced like the English ‘sh’ sound. The ş with the ‘ur’ is similar to ‘shur’. Finish it off by saying the ‘e’ like the letter ‘A’ and you basically speak Turkish now.

Ok, not really. But you at least learned a new Turkish word: ‘Aah-shOOr-EY’

First off, aşure is not just a Turkish dish. Other cultures throughout central Asia and the middle east share a similar type of dish. This dish is special to Turkey because the actual site of the historical Noah’s ark is said to be in eastern Turkey. Hence, aşure is also known as Noah’s Ark pudding. Originally a Jewish celebration, this dessert also marks the rescue of Moses from Pharaoh during which the Hebrews fasted. Sunni Muslims also connect this period during the year with the deliverance of Moses. Aşure is traditionally served on the 10th day of the Muslim month Muharrem, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

But before Moses and the deliverance of the Jews, the dessert come from the story of Noah and the great flood. When the waters receded after the great flood, Noah took whatever he had left from their food storage and toss it into one pot. As you will see below, there are quite the diversity of ingredients (some I would not normally put together!).  This large pot of food kept everyone well and alive until the waters finished receding. For this reason, aşure is usually made in large quantities and is shared with neighbors and friends standing as a symbol of friendship, diversity, and unity.

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What’s in it? Quite the assortment of grains, nuts, fruits, and sugar. It may contain but isn’t limited to: walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, apricots, raisins, currants, figs, chickpeas and navy beans. Depending on the family and region, ingredients like chestnuts, lima beans, bulgur wheat and pieces of fresh coconut will also be added. Spices like cinnamon, cloves, and another lesser known spice to westerners, cardamon, can be a main contributor to the sweet taste. So basically, anything goes.

FunkTravels Asure

The great plus about living in Turkey full-time is getting a home-cooked, traditional dish of aşure hand delivered by a neighbor. Just this last week, our 3rd-floor neighbors shared this sweet gift with us.  While I enjoyed it warm and cold, Jason wasn’t a big of a fan of it either way. The taste is a little … unique, but well worth the trying!

For recipes on how to make it yourself at home, click on some of the links below:

Ozlem’s Turkish Table Recipe

Turkish Food Recipe

All About Turkey Recipe

Video of the recipe

Questions for you:

Have you tried this before? Did you like it?

What do you think? Would you try this recipe at home?

If you do, let me know how it went and what you thought about it. You can always follow us through our move from the USA to Turkey via our 50 episodes of the FunkTravels Podcast.

See you next time!