Saturday, November 24, 2018

My Home Away from Home in Istanbul

Hello dear friends.  It's been awhile since I wrote so I thought I'd give up an update of what's been happening.  I was in Turkey for a month and returned back home a little over a week ago.

A few years ago, two different acquaintances told my  husband and me about this beautiful country of Turkey.  At that time, we thought there not a chance we would ever go there.  Fast forward a few years and it's our favorite place to be!  I think the reason why we love it is because it's a huge country, with a modern society and yet retains the charms of it's past.

(Turkish lunch of pide and borek along with tea = $3.25 for two)
We purchased a new high rise apartment on the Asian side of Istanbul in an area called Maltepe.  We had viewed this development over four years ago when they were building it.  Do you recall when the Turkish Lira crashed back in August?  It was bad for Turkey for good for investors.  Hence, the new place.

That's our place in the middle of the photo in the high rise with the pillars. Those who regularly follow my blog, know that my husband is a Copt.  For many years when the children were growing up we'd go to Egypt for vacations.  It was fun back then but everything changed with the revolution back in 2011.  Our last visit there was in 2010 and the city had become so overcrowded that it was almost impossible to get around.  And, it was a chore to get anything accomplished.  

Fast forward to 2014 when we discovered Turkey.  First of all, geographically, it's a huge country.  President Erdogan has continued the modernization of this country by building on it's infrastructure.  There are major highways, tunnels, public transportation and other amenities to name a few.  For example, while Greece is the neighboring EU country, Turkey is far more developed. And, the people are welcoming and never stare at you if you're a foreigner. (believe me, this is something that irritates me to no end)

Along with all the modernization, there still is the old ways like the weekly public markets.  I loved going to the market each week and finding amazing foods at a fraction of the prices we pay here.  And, best of all, there were no tourists.

Turkish are very accomplished builders.  We bought this place after only seeing it one time.  A fast decision but one that turned out OK.  Above is the kitchen. Since this photo was taken we have added a large island cabinet to the side of the cooktop area.

My son and his fiance' decorated the interior.  They had custom made furniture made for very little money.

Since this photo was taken, an area rug has been added.  Sorry for the poor photos but the first week we were there, we had overcast weather.

The unit is roomy with an upstairs that has three bedrooms and two more baths.

My husband loves to sit in the wingback chair and watch the sea in front of him.

There's still some work to be done but it should be enjoyable in the summertime to sit outside on the deck.

Those are the Prince's islands you are seeing in the distance.  My husband and I love to travel but we're now at a stage in life where we want conveniences.  At the same time, I want to stay in a country where I can feel I can blend in and be part of the culture.  Turkey is a place where I can accomplish that.  Yes, the language is a bit of a barrier. But, when Ataturk took over, he changed the Turkish alphabet into Latin letters.  It's very easy to pick up words that you can actually read vs it being in Osmanli alphabet.  A new metro/subway was built in 2012 and it's just a few minutes walk down the street from where we are.  It's easy to get around in this huge city.  And, Turkish love using their credit cards and debit cards.  Also, items are priced with bar codes just like here.  You can see why I love shopping there as it's so easy.  I hate being in a place where you get ripped off because you're not one of the locals.

There was plenty of time for my knitting too, when I wasn't busy helping with the home. I don't mean for this post to be political in any way.  But, Turkey is a very organized country that has embraced the modern world and yet retains the charms of the Ottoman Empire.  I love organization and I don't do well with chaos.  Something must be going OK with Turkey as the people have disposable income. I've never seen so many restaurants/tea shops as in Istanbul.  As for the language, they are willing to have patience with you. I felt bad on my part that I only know a few Turkish words.  My plan is to attend language school next time I go there.  For an American who is used to big spaces, big cars, all kinds of consumer goods, Turkey has all of these things.  And, best of all, Turkish produces most of it's consumer goods themselves.  Excellent quality and beautiful designs.  And, the people are polite and welcoming.

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse of my Turkish life. Wishing you all the best,

PS - My children say I have gone down the rabbit hole as I signed up for Instagram!  You can find me there if you wish.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Eating Turkey

Hello.  I've been gone from blogland for awhile as I've been busy eating my way through Turkey - the country!  Not everyone loves to read about travels but everyone needs to eat so I thought it might be fun to see some foodie photos...

We discovered Cafer Erol by accident as we wanted to drink some tea.  It's a three floor tea/coffee/pastry shop with lots of eye candy to enjoy.  We sat upstairs on the second floor and it was atmosphere heavenly.  I actually enjoyed it more than when I had tea at Laduree in Paris.

I loved seeing these huge chocolate bouquets and I don't even eat chocolate.  Wouldn't it be fun to give one of these as a gift?

Being Danish, I'm a big fan of marzipan.  I've never seen such a display of fruits and vegetables made from almond paste such as this.  They also had plain almond paste you could buy for baking purposes.

With it being autumn, seeing these red candied apples brought back memories of my childhood.  Cafer Erol  began business back in 1807 and is still going today.

We are finding our way around our new neighborhood and had to check out the weekly farmer's market down the street.  They offered a wonderful selection of fresh fruits and vegetables along with other vendors.

There are a group of nine islands named the Princes' Islands, easily seen from Istanbul.  Four of the islands are open to the public and can be reached via ferry.  One day we took the ferry across and discovered a delightful place.

We ventured to the largest of the islands, Buyukada.  The seafront promenade is lovely and I loved seeing this Ottoman style pomegranate stand.

Almost all of the restaurants served fresh fish but we decided upon kofte' as we had eaten fresh fish the night before.  The islands are located  in the Sea of Marmara.

I don't recall that I've ever been to such a quintessential place as Buyukada.  The streets behind the seafront wind around with tree lined streets and quaint Ottoman style homes.  

If you are a regular reader of Lilly My Cat you know that our family has a home on the southern coast of Turkey.  My son and husband decided that they love the cosmopolitan feel of Istanbul; hence our home in Istanbul on the Asian side of the city.  You can see the Princes' Islands from the balcony of our home.  Sorry for the dark photos but it was overcast.

Lots of people ask me why Turkey?  There's lot of reasons but for me and my family, it's a place where you can still experience the history and feel of times past and yet be in the modern world.  Yes, there are Starbucks in this huge city but for me I love the little tea and coffee shops.  The modern ones are beautiful inside and the older ones are timeless.  Istanbul is an amazing city where the people take care of their city.  And, they are very courteous to visitors.  

I hope you have enjoyed this small taste of Turkey.  To complete the meal, I'll leave you with a cup of traditional Turkish coffee.

Until next time,


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Banking Tales

The grandchildren are here for a few days while the parents are away on a business trip to NYC.  So,  it's a fun but busy weekend.  My husband had cleaned out his "change" drawer and I thought it was a great idea to have my little grandson count the change, write down the amounts and then we'd go to the bank to have it exchanged for bills.  Then, he and his little sister could go and buy a small toy with the money.  It was meant to be a math lesson.

(this is not the coin; this is from an old coin bank I have)

We left home in time to get to the bank before it closed.  My husband has had his account at this bank for over 48 years.  And, I worked for this same bank for over 25 years.  Now, with online banking, and banking apps for my smart phone, I rarely go into the branch.

It was surprising when we walked into the branch yesterday; they had partitioned off a wall and it was half as big as it once was.  There were NO other customers in the branch.  We went to the teller/cashier to ask about having the coins exchanged into bills.  She told me, "I can take the coin, send it to the coin counting department and then credit your checking account".  I replied in a shocked way that "you've got to be kidding me"!  Here's what we had:  $2.50 in dimes, .44 in pennies, .95 in nickels and $2.25 in quarters.

Now, I remember all my years of working at the bank all too well.  We didn't accept huge bags of coin without being rolled.  Yesterday, I had a very little amount.  The teller could have easily counted this out, and given my grandson the bills.  What happened to the custom of teaching your children to save money?  In the old days, the children would come in with their savings passbooks and deposit their coins into their accounts.  Times have certainly changed.  I was so, so upset.  We walked across the parking lot to the drug store where the children picked out two small toys and the extremely helpful cashier readily took my grandson's coins.

Banking has certainly changed now days.  My husband and I actually bank with two banks and we have never paid any fees all these years.  The banks have become so greedy and I feel for their customers.  Back in the old days when I started, the banking hours were between 10:00 AM and 3:00PM.  The cancelled checks used to be returned to the branch each day, where they were daily filed in each customer's file and at the end of the month, the checks were mailed out with the statements.  Long gone are those days, as these days you don't receive your checks and you're lucky if you even receive a paper bank statement!

There was drama back in those days too.  I worked for the same large branch that I went into yesterday but it was in a small, Eastern Washington agricultural town.  The people made their living by farming thousands of acres of land.  It was a regular Mom and Pop/ Leave it to Beaver kind of lifestyle.  The branch manager had always been a man back in those years.  It changed one year when a woman became the branch manager.  It wasn't that she was a woman.  I'm not prejudice.  It was because she was a woman who was totally out of her zone.  She came to our little town and had no desire whatsoever to understand our lifestyle.  She was there only to "climb higher" on her corporate ladder.  I'll never forget one day she called a staff meeting, and basically threw candy at us down the table like throwing bones to a dog!  I was appalled.  Back in those days, I was too shy to ever say anything.

But, not too long afterwards, things changed.  You see, the branch I worked at was actually two separate entities; the operations side of the branch and the commercial lending side of the branch.  I worked for the commercial lending side and my daugher, who was in high school at this time, worked part time for the operations side.  This new super woman manger, who was a very cold hearted person to say the least, one day called me into her office and told me that the commercial banking side was closing and that I couldn't work there as long as my daughter was working there.  I lost my cool and told her exactly what I thought.  Including her throwing the candy at us like we were a dog!

Over 25 years of working and having a great work record/ethic, she wanted to get rid of me.  We had a union so to speak and I immediately contacted them.  You see, my family and I were planning to move in a few months to the west side of the state, where we had purchased a new home.  I was going to transfer to the branch over there.  It all turned out OK in the long run, but I had no respect whatsoever for that manager.  I don't know what happened to her and I really don't care.  I do not like cold hearted people.  And, now days, I will not waste my time with them.  I remember my fellow employees at the bank telling me, "Wow, Pat, we overheard what you told her and we didn't realize you'd speak up.  Good for you!"

It turned out fine and it wasn't the first time I had a glitch.  Years earlier, I was expecting my son and working full time in the lending department.  I had been very ill with the flu and missed a few days of work.  The manager (old guy)  for the lending department said something to me to the likes of maybe quitting work.  Of course I said no, as I was insured through my work.  After my son was born, I became a part time employee.  A new person took my place who was of the same faith as the manager.  He (the manager) bent over backwards to accommodate her when she had a problem with her knee and came to work in a wheelchair.  He never told her to quit her job!  Funny thing is, this old manager guy, who didn't do his job as he should, later got demoted/fired.

I did work for a wonderful vice president of commercial lending for a couple of years, who was a very smart and accomplished woman.  She didn't have to fake her way up the corporate ladder as she was not only smart but did her job extremely well.  She came into the branch to fix all the bad loans that the old guy manager had ignored all those years.  And, she did a great job.  I loved working for her and she knew her stuff so to speak.

When I arrived at new branch where I was transferred, some more interesting things happened.  The manager was a woman, again.  She told us we could not wear pants to work.  If this would have happened today, I would have complained.  Back then, I kept my cool.  Funny thing is, she was married to a "guy" who had been in prison.  Their marriage fell apart, he killed her dog (they didn't have children), burned down their home and he went back to prison!  Talk about drama. . . we had a guard at the branch (without any firearm) to protect us during this time.  What a joke now that I think bout it all these years later.  She went on to break up a marriage and start a relationship with another banker.

After yesterday's episode, I have no use for banks.  Although I'm a preferred customer or whatever you want to call it, it comes down to the operations side of the bank only wants to sell you something.  You can't even go into the branch today without an appointment!  There's another woman branch manager down the road who is a ruthless person. She runs her branch like a prison guard watching over his/her prisoners!  What a shame that this is what has happened to an industry that used to have loyal employees because the bank was loyal to them.  Things have certainly changed.

I think I have to accept change more readily now days.  But, it hard to accept change when the old ways used to work so well.  Life is good so I have no reason to complain :)

That's about all I have to share today.  It's warm here in SoCal. We've had a couple of warm nights which is unusual for us.  How I long for cool weather.   Until next time,

With my best wishes to you,


Friday, September 14, 2018

There's a Worm in my Blog

 It started last night when I had just sat down to read a bit before retiring for the night. I found I had a message on my Ravelry page asking about a pattern. The pattern link I had previously shared was no longer available. So, here I was late at night goggling to find where I could find the pattern and update my Ravelry page. 

I found the link but in the meantime, I found that someone had taken my photo, and pattern info and posted it on their website!  Without giving any credit to me! Was I upset? Yes! Not long ago, I read on one of the blogs I follow, that someone had actually taken the authors complete post and put it on their website.  This kind of behavior is beyond rude!
What is wrong with people today?  I'm not a fan of Pinterest, but at least if my photos show up on that site, so does my blog address to give me credit for the info.

above is the screen from the website
As you can see above, this photo belongs to me as it's the dress that I knitted.  This woman has thousands of patterns on her website and yet says ". . . work of many talented people. . .who have donated them to share. . ."  She has a very lame disclaimer on her website.  I did not donate this to her site!  She stole this info from my blog and gave me no credit whatsoever!  She trolls the internet daily I'm sure to post these patterns, asks for a donation to cancer research, yet, she has monetized her blog with tons of advertising!  She's a scammer if you ask me!  And, to top if off, she has over 1,500 followers.  Beware people that you are following a very fraudulent website!

I think I've had my head under water for too long.  I can't believe what people can do for their own satisfaction.  I love to find ideas online and if I find them on someone else's blog and share it on my blog, I always leave a link to the original author. It makes me so, so happy to share links to other wonderful blogs that I discover.  I would never ever take credit for someone else's work or photos, or whatever.

I think I've calmed down a bit now since I went outside and worked in my garden.  My thoughts and prayers are with those along the Carolina coast dealing with this horrific hurricane.  Enjoy your Friday and your weekend too, everyone! Until next time. . .

With my best wishes,


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Reflections and Knitting!

Hi everyone.  September is here and it seems like the summer months are a distant memory.  I like to keep up on current events but lately the news has been so very depressing.  Sometimes it boggles my mind what I read in the headlines such as boycotting In-N-Out Burger, or the ridiculous law that the Egyptian parliament wants to pass on making it illegal to name your newborn baby a western name!  I've never heard of such madness before.  It was somber yet refreshing this morning to watch Senator McCain's funeral where everyone came together for the good of mankind.  So, to relax what little mind I have left, I indulge in my crafts. . .

My husbands two brothers and their families from the east coast joined us for a week here in sunny California.  We had a wonderful time together and ended our visit at the Montage Resort on the Pacific Ocean where we enjoyed coffee on the terrace.

I finished knitting my astrantia socks which will be given to my daughter.  You can find all the specifics here on my Ravelry page if you wish.  

I had a good laugh about these socks after my son sent me the above message.  Yes, the yarn cost $26.00 but what can I say?  If you're a crafter, you buy what you like. . .
I am so very excited about my current knitting project.  If you recall, a couple of years ago I went to a knitting retreat in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  I received this huge cone of natural, undyed silk thread.  Originally, I had started another pattern but it just wasn't to my liking.  I found this new pattern and I'm in love with working on this.

It's my first time really knitting from charts and I was hesitant.  But, luckily, the charts are well written with easy stitch icons to memorize.  I do have proper stitch markers but they would be placed at the yarn overs which make the yarn overs not tight enough. Hence, my homemade yarn markers work great.  It's been fun seeing the pattern take shape, especially the edging on this particular pattern.

I've also have my crochet hook handy to do a quick crochet project now and then.  I bought this particular variegated thread in Turkey.  I found this pattern on Becki's website; she shares some beautiful things she creates.

I hope you have a fun and safe holiday weekend.  I'm off to my backyard where I'll be sitting by the pool with my knitting needles in hand.  Until next time . . .

With my best wishes to each of you,


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Lazy, Hot Days of Summer

Hello dear readers. Is it hot and dry where you are?  Right now it's 100 degrees outside in the shade.  Hence, I'm inside writing to you!

It's lovely to eat outside in the evenings but the last couple of nights,it's still been in the 90's.  Which, for us here on the west coast, is very unusual.  When the sun sets, the temps drop but not this week.  The photo above is from my daughter; she hosted a dinner party last week with an Italian menu.

The news around here is wild fires.  Unfortunately, one ignited yesterday afternoon in our area.  You can see the smoke above taken from our back yard.  It started in the early afternoon with about 50 to 75 acres. . .

When we retired last night, the fire had scorched 4,000 acres and was still burning.  The was the scene last night from our back yard.  It was scary to say the least.  I called the Sheriff's dept. to ask about procedures for evacuation.  Luckily, we weren't in danger but we slept very lightly last night.  The fire is still burning this afternoon in some very deep, hilly terrain.  The drought conditions from past years has made the perfect storm for a wild fire.

It's enjoyable if I can make it outside early enough to enjoy the setting before the heat sets in.  Otherwise, we find ourselves stuck in the house for the afternoon, away from the blazing sun and cooled with the A/C.  I long for the days when I can turn off the A/C!

I finished the first project from my Craftpod box.  For someone like me, who doesn't know how to embroidery (luckily, I have a huge book showing all the embroidery stitches), I was pleased to make this little needle case.  I turned the raw edges inside as I'm not fond of the raw, fray edges of fabric.  I think it's from those years in junior high when my mother was teaching me to sew.  She was a perfectionist in her sewing and I thank her for that now :)

Yesterday I had an appointment with my dermatologist.  I went thinking it was nothing unusual but I'm so happy that I made the appointment.  Turns out that my normal skin tag that is normally frozen, had to be biopsied.  Although I've not received the results yet, I'm not worried but I do want to share with you that if something seems not right with you  in regard to your health, please seek medical attention.   You never know what could be happening.

Thank you for your kind comments.  It warms my heart (maybe I should say "cools") to hear from you.

Until next time,


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Craftpod Crafting

Hi everyone.  I hope you are enjoying the hot, long days of summer for those of you in the Western hemisphere :)

Awhile back I came across Craftpod via a blog.  It looked like so much fun with everything being included. 
Before I left to go to Turkey in June, I placed my order for the Summer Craftpod.  I thought it was a good deal considering the shipping to the US was just under 5 GBP.  Upon my return home in July, there was my little Craftpod box waiting for me.  Sheer delight!

I couldn't be happier with the contents as it's a surprise as to what you will receive.  How fun is that!  The first little kit will be a needle book.  I had long wanted to make one of these and now I'll have my own.

Also included is a cross stitch piece which was designed by the talented Lucy of Attic 24.  I'm a little bit hesitant to start this as it's out of my comfort zone; I do needlepoint but not counted cross stitch.  Wish me luck. . .

And, to complete the box, here are the little goodies that make it so special.  A beautiful print by illustrator Brie Harrison, a rose enamel pin from, proper tapestry needles, button, and a lovely tea bag.

 It's going to be a fun afternoon stitching my way along to happiness.

Speaking of happiness, here's a photo of Laguna Beach from last week.  It's always a popular place but especially during these hot summer days.  Lilly sends her greetings to everyone, too.  I love hearing from you and reading your comments.

With my best wishes,


Friday, July 20, 2018

Staying in Venice and Istanbul

 Hello my friends.  Sorry I've not posted in a long time but I just returned home from Turkey this week.
My husband and I spent three weeks at our home in Turkey before the rest of the family joined us to continue the vacation.  I've come to the conclusion that our family "travels" as their hobby.  The photo above was taken at a wine tasting we enjoyed in Greece.

We enjoyed our time in the south of Turkey before venturing off for rest of the vacation.

Our first stop was Venice.  It was my third visit to this amazing city but this time I had the pleasure to stay three nights in this magical place.

My daughter rented two different apartments for the family and we stayed in this unique place where we had our own private courtyard.  It had been completely renovated and was very modern and comfortable but I missed the old world charm a bit. 

Venice is an interesting city.  The population now is around 55,000 residents; it used to be close to 175,000.  As the people have left, the homes have been bought up by investors who can rent them at a high rate of rent. Thereby, the average, younger Venetian cannot afford to live in Venice anymore.  It's a very sad case. Also, many Venetians are against the cruise ships coming into their city.  I totally agree with them.  Cruise ships can ruin the unique atmosphere of a place.

The apartment my daughter and her family stayed in was a perfectly styled Italian apartment with Venetian glass chandeliers.  It overlooked a canal and the light that came into the room was amazing.

Here's the beautiful hallway with the wood floors and a wall of framed handpainted watercolors.

I'm hoping to recreate one of these watercolors. . .

On our last night in Venice we had a family dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant.  It was in a square but there was a private courtyard behind.  We had spied this place a day earlier when the waiter told us about the menu.  The waiter from the restaurant next door saw us and told us "You don't want to eat there - it's owned by Pakistani's and is not Italian food".  My husband was shocked and told him "I'm Pakistani".  He isn't but that wasn't the point. Later that day, we went to lunch at this restaurant and it was the best Italian food I've ever had.  The owner is Italian but all the servers are from Bangladesh.  They were so kind to us and offered superb customer service.

  Hence, the last night in Venice we returned to the same place for dinner with all the family.  I didn't realize until later that Rome and surrounding areas of Italy has the second highest population of Bangladesh immigrants outside of London.  They are an integral part of Venice and I admire their ability to learn a new language and adjust to a different cullture.

We left Venice on a cruise and upon our return, we took a flight back to Istanbul.  I love this city, too.  

Again, my daughter had booked two different homes for us to stay in the area of Balat/Fener.  This area is off the Golden Horn and is the old Greek and Jewish part of the city.  Of course, now the demographics have changed.

At first look, the neighborhood can look a little rough in parts but it was quite charming and we felt safe too.  They were putting in new streets with beautiful pavers.
The home we stayed in was actually five floors; the bottom floor being a separate studio apartment.  It had been completed renovated to a classic style with beautiful period furnishings.

One of the unique features was this stunning, original wooden ceiling.

And, the stairwell continued to wind up each floor. Our Greek friend, Dmitra, joined us in Istanbul and told us about the Greek community of Turkey from the turn of the century who would have lived in these kind of homes.  They were well off merchants and other successful traders.  After World War I, many of them returned to Greece where they were thought of as a kind of aristocracy among the other Greeks.  Many  more left in the 1970's over the issues with Cyprus.  

The neighborhood is transitioning and becoming a very artsy area.  There were some lovely little cafes a few steps away where they served their style of "Turkish breakfast".

From the top floor balcony, we had a great view of Phanar Greek Othodox College.  It was built by an Ottoman Greek architect beginning in 1881.  The red tower is a well known landmark.

Also nearby, is the  Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople where the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I resides.  

It was an enjoyable time to be with the family.  However, it's always good to return home and get back to my routine.  Lilly was patiently waiting at the door for us when we arrived Tuesday night.

I hope you are enjoying your summer.  It's been unusually hot and humid here for this week but our normal, dry, hot weather is expected to return on Monday.

My best wishes to you,