Thursday, October 22, 2015

Treasures in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia

Greetings my friends.  If you recall, back in June I visited Istanbul, Turkey.  I shared with you some photos from that trip.  At that time, I mentioned that I would share more photos at a later time.  I'm a little bit late in posting this but I hope it may be something you will enjoy seeing.

Hagia Sophia was constructed as an Byzantine orthodox church beginning in 537 and until 1453 served as the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople.  From 1453 until 1931 it served as a mosque.  In 1935 it was opened up as a museum.  It is quite fascinating to see this magnificent building that holds treasures from both religions.

This is a mosaic that is located on the second floor of the museum.  On the left is the Virgin Mary with Christ in the center and St. John the Baptist (forerunner) on the right. To this day, you will find this same icon in present day orthodox iconostasis.

Here is a placard describing the mosaic pictured above ...

And here is a picture showing how the mosaic would have looked like in it's original state ...

Another mosaic in the museum showing Christ and I believe the other two are Ss. Constantine and Helen ...

Again, on the second floor of the Hagia Sophia there is a marble divider/door.  In this picture you can see the cross design in the marble* ...

I thought I had a better picture than this but this is one of the doors of this magnificent building.  There is a raised horizontal bar on the door.  If you look closely, you can see there there would have been a vertical bar too at one time forming a cross.  Sorry for the poor picture.

Here is a picture of the interior of the Hagia Sophia.  The scaffolding is still in place due to the ongoing restorations.  Can you see the magnificent calligraphy from the time it served as a mosque?

Here's another view without the scaffolding...

The area around the Hagia Sophia is so beautiful with fountains and a beautiful park area which leads to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque aka Blue Mosque ...

On this trip I did have the opportunity to go inside the Blue Mosque.  The admission is free, however you are asked to wear a long robe/head covering before entering (that's me with the sunglasses) ...

The architecture inside the mosque is quite amazing ...

This is a photo of the artistic tiles in the ceiling ...

This was my second visit to this area and if I return to Istanbul one day, I will visit again.  The area is very well maintained and very tourist friendly.  There is a clean, well maintained, small bazaar area next to the Blue Mosque.  And, there are some great restaurants too in the area.

1.  Hagia Sophia means "Holy Wisdom in Greek"
2.  Byzantine "of or relating to Byzantine Empire" i.e., Eastern Roman Empire
3.  Iconostasis is "a screen of written icons separating the nave from the sanctuary in an orthodox church".
4.   Patriarchate of Constantinople is in modern day Istanbul and the current Patriarch is  Bartholomew I.
5.   The Blue Mosque was built between 1609 and 1617 and has six marinets.  

Speaking of Turkey, I will be returning again.  This time to a town in the south of Turkey on the mediterranean.  We are now officially Turkish homeowners after purchasing a home there this past summer.  It will be a fun time (I hope) putting the house together and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Antalya province.  I will keep you posted.

Until next time, my best wishes to you,


Linking up with:
Five Star Frou-Frou ...
Amy at Five on Friday ...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Trip Along California's Central Coast

I had another post written and ready to share with you this week but instead I thought you might enjoy seeing these pictures.  It's Friday so I'm linking up with Amy over at Five on Friday.   And, I'm joining in at Willy Nilly Friday.   My husband and I drove up to Santa Barbara this week.  It's only about 150 miles one way but you have to "drive through" Los Angeles and that is what takes the time due to the horrendous traffic.

We booked a cottage near the ocean through Airbnb.  I love Airbnb but this time I wasn't dealing with an owner directly, I was dealing with a third party management company who had put their listing on Airbnb.  And, the experience was not fun.  

Here's a photo of the living room which has a lovely view of the ocean off the outside deck.  We arrived early afternoon and were so looking forwarding to spending four nights in this place.

But after the first night it was so unbearably warm in the unit we struggled. We woke up after the second night and asked for our money to be refunded.  There's more to the story but basically it was not safe and secure.  Although, we enjoyed the lovely sunset from the deck on our last night there.

We did have the opportunity to visit  the Danish town of Solvang, CA on Tuesday. Being Danish, I grew up in a Danish farming community in Ellensburg, WA. As a child I used to hear about Solvang and my first visit to this lovely little place was back in 2009.  The closest thing we have to Solvang in my home state is Leavenworth, a Bavarian themed town in central Washington.

On our last visit, we ate Danish food and this time I wanted to do the same.  We found a charming little cafe and we both ordered Danish meatball opened faced sandwiches with red cabbage and fresh cucumber pickle garnish.  We also drank a glass of cold Danish beer :)

One of my favorite places there is Jule Haus, a year round Christmas store.  I bought an advent calendar from Germany and some Danish themed napkins from Sweden.

Below is the Dannebrog (Flag of Denmark) napkins along with the seagull napkins I bought.  The seagull napkins match my Danish Bing and Grondahl china that I inherited from my Grandma.

I was so pleased to buy these seagull napkins only to find when I returned home that I had a new set in the china cabinet!  Now, I have two sets which I'm sure will last me for years.

Does your town have a windmill in the center of town?

Last time we were in Solvang we were on Highway 101 (it goes north and south along the coast of California). This visit, since were were in Santa Barbara, we went over the San Marcos pass.  It was a beautiful drive.  It reminded me so much of my home state of Washington.  Down here in southern California I never get to see nature in it's natural setting.  All power poles are underground, all areas are landscaped, all developments are planned.  I drank in all the beautiful natural sites that I haven't seen in a long long time.

As you may know, California is in the midst of a terrible drought.  It has really shown its ugly face this year especially.  We stopped at a vista point along the road and we discovered this reservoir.

Below is a photo of the dam.  I have never seen a dam without any water.  It's such a shame.  You can make out a black line to the right of the's a large hose that is connected to the reservoir which is located to the right.  They are having to pump the water through the hose.

Here is the reservoir.  If you look at the light coloring near the water, this is where the normal waterline should be.  It is so very, very low.

Here again you can see the light colored area near the dam.  It's as though this reservoir is almost empty.  And there are many more like this in the state.  It's really heart breaking.

I wanted to share with you some information about the indigenous people of this area:
1.  The Chumash are a Native American tribe that has lived in the central coast area for thousands of years. (The word "Cachuma" mentioned above has Chumash roots)
2.  The name Chumash means "bread maker" or "sea shell" people.
3.  The only Chumash Band reservation is the Santa Ynez Reservation located in Santa Barbara County.
4. Before the expansion of the Spanish missions in the 1800's, the Chumash numbered into the tens of thousands with their territory encompassing 7,000 squares miles along the central coast of California.
5. Today the Chumash are a thriving community with economic self-sufficiency.  They earn their revenue from the Chumash Casino Resort which is a popular entertainment destination.  (I know because I stopped there for an hour...)
I really enjoyed discovering this beautiful part of the central coast of California.  Although we cut our trip short and came back home, we did tour the lovely city of Santa Barbara and ate lunch at the Fish House.  We hope to return again in the near future.

It's always a pleasure to hear from my readers.  If you wish to give me some feedback in regard to my posts that would be most appreciated.  Do you like reading about travel, needle arts or recipes? I was looking at my statistics lately and the needlepoint post had a lot of views.  But, I don't think it appeals to everyone.  It like me looking at a quilting blog.  I love seeing the quilts and their designs but never in a thousand years will I quilt. But, I can admire the handiwork of others.

I'll sign off today by sharing my favorite photo of the day.  Gray skies and clouds have appeared for today and I am keeping my fingers crossed for rain!

Wishing you the best,


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Autumn Watercolor Gift Tags

Hello my dear friends. Thank you to everyone who read my last  post and for your comments.  I didn't link to any parties last week since I didn't think it would be appropriate.  But, I'm back this week to share with you a fun little project I've been working on.

I don't know what gave me the idea, but I painted some little gift tags.  There were some little bits of watercolor paper at my art table and I started drawing and this is what I came up with...

I also had some longer pieces of paper that I thought would make good bookmarks ...

I tried to keep to a autumn theme but got carried away thinking about winter ...

This is a fun and easy project you could do with your children or grandchildren.  Any thick type paper will work and although I used watercolor pencils, you could use colored pencils or markers.  I bought some twine from my local TJ Maxx to make the tags look a bit posh...

They are great to add to a wine bottle, baked goods or a special gift ...

 To recap, here's what you will need:
1.  Thick paper (watercolor or art type paper)
2.  Watercolor pencils (or colored pencils or markers)
3.  Scissors to cut out shapes
4.  Colored twine for hanging*
5.  Artist brush and water (if using watercolor pencils)

 *I didn't have a small paper hole punch so instead I made a hole in the top of each tag with a large darning needle and used a small crochet hook to thread the string through the hole...

My little grandson loves to draw and create things.  Last year at this time we made some colored ornaments to give to his teachers.  A handmade gift tag could add to the charm.

I'm linking up this week with Amy over at  Five on Friday. I am so fond of this wonderful group of friends I have met via this party.  If you have a chance, pop over and meet some wonderful bloggers.

Have a great weekend,


And, as always, Lilly thanks you for all the hugs you send her.  She's trying to give you a wink in this picture ...

 Also linking to the following parties:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Life's Sadness

Hello everyone.  All is well here at Lilly My Cat.  If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that I like to share positive things with you.  But, sometimes, real life creeps in and it can jolt you for a bit.  That's what happened this past week.

It was so sad to hear of the Umpqua School Shooting  in Oregon.  My heart goes out to all the families and loved ones affected.  I'm aware of what a community goes through when this happens.  It happened to my little town of Moses Lake back in 1996 when Barry Loukitis killed two students and his teacher at Frontier Middle School. I remember this day very well.  I was waiting for my children to arrive home from school when I heard all kinds of sirens going off. My dad had given me a police scanner back them and I knew something was going on.  When my children arrived home safe and sound, they informed me of what they had heard.

We knew one of the boys* that was killed; he and his family were members of our church.  Our pastor had a lot to deal with during this time.  It was a community of about 12,000 people so most everyone had some kind of connection when this tragedy took place.

Fast forward a few years to this past week. After doing some routine errands we wanted to escape the heat.   It was a very warm day and my husband and I decided to go to lunch at the beach.  We parked in the parking lot and purchased our parking ticket.   When we arrived at the restaurant, it was at least 13 degrees cooler.  We enjoyed our favorite meal watching the waves of the ocean and the surfers perfecting their craft.  After lunch we were going to walk on the pier but the sun was shining it's brightest and we had to walk back to the car to extend our parking.

Between the parking lot and the ocean, there is small green grassy area.  After extending our parking, we found that our beach chairs and umbrella were in the trunk so we set them up on the grass.  It was quiet and we were enjoying the view of the ocean, shaded by the trees.  There were a line of cars parked behind us and one of them was running with the driver inside.  I didn't pay much attention since I had pulled out my needlepoint and was busy stitching.

After a few minutes, my husband commented on the driver since her head was down.  I said "maybe she's bent over texting since the sun is shining".  You could hear the car engine accelerate.  A few more minutes passed and my husband said "I think she's having seizures since she's jerking".  We walked over to the car and I knocked on the passenger window - no response.  My husband walked over to the driver's side window and knocked - no response.

At this point, we called 911.  I was a bit hesitant since I never interfere with people and their personal space but obviously, this was different.  Within three or four minutes, the sheriff arrived in the parking lot.  He went over to the passenger door and luckily it was unlocked.  He then opened the driver's door and immediately knew what was happening.  The driver was had overdosed on heroin!

I was scared - I don't know why.  When my husband had looked in the window, he could see what he thought were bruises on the driver's leg.  Turned out they weren't bruises; they were track lines from injecting heroin.  The ambulance arrived within another minute and the sheriff cut the seat belt to free the driver.  They put the driver on the ground and immediately started oxygen and I think they gave the driver some type of shots too.  The driver regained consciousness within a few minutes.  They took the driver away in the ambulance.

The sheriff spoke with us and told us he could not arrest the driver for possession of heroin since the 911 call was in regard to the driver being unresponsive.  The sheriff did find the heroin "kit" in the car.  After awhile, the towing company arrived and towed away the car.  The sheriff was extremely kind to us and did his job well. 

Here's what surprised me that day.  When I hear or read of drugs these day, I immediately think of pills.  Not hard line heroin.  The area we were in that day is a very safe, family oriented place.  The driver looked like any ordinary person, driving a late model car.  But, obviously, this was not the case.  Why would someone want to do this to themselves?  I spent about an hour googling heroin addiction and how the veins in the arms collapse hence the need to inject in their legs.  How they have to wear long sleeves and pants, to cover their track lines.  And, how they are never sure what strength of heroin they are injecting into their bodies.  Sad, very sad indeed.

I'm hoping that this person will realize they could have died.  If the car engine had stopped, with the windows rolled up on this very warm day, I think it would have been the end. Or, if we would not have called 911 that day, would the driver have woke up from this overdose?  Maybe, this person will change their life but of course, we will never know.  I hope she gets the help she needs. 

It was a wake up call for me.  I always am positive with life and only see the good. After this experience, I feel that our world is really broken in places.  And, I don't know what I can do to fix it.

with my best wishes,



*There is a second part to this sad story.  The boy who was killed had a cousin.  The cousin killed his mother and sister later that year in our same little town of Moses Lake. . .