Istanbul through my lens

July 2, 2015

This trip to Istanbul last summer was a special one. A gift to my son for his sixteen birthday from my family, he, my sister, and I had four unforgettable days in one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Spread over two continents, home to more than 14 million people, Istanbul is a vibrant city, offering a wealth of history, interesting scenery and distinguished cuisine. Colours, colours, lots of colours, sounds, fragrances and flavours will instantly set you in a hubbub of locals, tourists, vendors, shoppers, restaurant owners, retailers, fishermen, drivers, street dogs and hungry cats. Mosques, churches, palaces, markets, bridges, towers, boats and water, water, lots of water will surround you just to prove to you that you are walking in one of the world's great places - a crossroad of civilizations, religions and cultures. So, we had a lot to do and a lot to see here... and we did it, walking the streets of Istanbul from early morning to late at night. From the Sultanahmet district (our hotel was located there) with the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome, the iconic magnificent Hagia Sophia and the impressive Blue Mosque, through the Grand Bazar (I didn't really enjoy it), Galata Bridge and the fantastic 17th century Spice Market (Egyptian Bazaar) to a pleasant cruise trip through the famous Bosphorus Strait, we immersed ourselves in every possible sight of this place. We visited the kitschy, in my opinion, Dolmanbahce Palace with its fantastic garden and my personal favourite the beautiful Topkapi Palace. We literally ate our way through the city - simit, gozleme, baklava, kunefe, watermelon, white cheese, roasted chestnuts, rice pudding, turkish delight, the famous dondurma (ice cream cone on a stick, sold from a street vendor who teased us performing awesome tricks with the ice cream before finally giving it to us). We ate kebaps and pilaf at a wonderful roof terrace with a spectacular view, but nothing could compete with the freshly caught fish sandwich on freshly baked bread with pepper and tomato straight from the grill of a man and his wife who skilfully prepared this delicious dish on the waterfront promenade right in front of the arriving boats. We drank tea, turkish coffee, ayran and boza. We experienced the most warm pouring rain and the most magnificent sun set over the beautiful skyline. But most of all, we enjoyed the extraordinary cultural experience that lies around every corner of the city. I felt Istanbul foreign and at the same time so very humanly close - unpretentious, hospitable and beautiful in its unique way.  

What are your plans for this summer, dear friends?

The Last Peonies

June 17, 2015

They hatch from the green flower buds overnight and the world witnesses a spectacular performance of beauty, colour and perfume... They just go wild on the stage for a week or two and then the show is over. But the huge, superb pompons of artistry and poetry are exquisite enough to make me forgive their short life. The fragility of their perfection makes me carry all this gorgeousness in my heart as I am reminded once again that nothing is permanent in life. My heart is like a blooming garden...

Sharing at Home Sweet Home / Feathered Nest Friday

Dandelion Cookies

May 26, 2015

" If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of our true smile is an awakened mind. Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding. 
When I see someone smile, I know immediately that he or she is dwelling in awareness. 
Our smile will bring happiness to us and to those around us. Even if we spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in our family, nothing we buy could give them such happiness as the gift of our awareness, our smile. And this precious gift cost nothing. At the end of a retreat in California, a friend wrote this poem:
I have lost my smile,
but don't worry.
The dandelion has it.
If you have lost your smile and yet are still capable of seeing that dandelion is keeping it for you, the situation is not too bad. You still have enough mindfulness to see that the smile is there. The dandelion is one member of your community of friends. It is there, quite faithful, keeping your smile for you. 
In fact, everything around you is keeping your smile for you. You don't need to feel isolated. You only have to open yourself to the support that is all around you, and in you. Like the friend who saw that her smile was being kept by the dandelion, you can breath in awareness, and your smile will return".  
                                                                                                                          Thach Nhat Nanh "Peace Is Every Step"

You would love these dandelion flower cookies. The dandelion is not an usual addition to a dish, yet with its honeylike taste and earthy texture, dandelion blossom makes for delicious cookies, muffins and cakes. The molasses and the dried apricots blend perfectly with all spices and dash of vanilla. Dandelion cookies with glass of milk or tea are the perfect treat for every part of the day. Fun to bake especially with your kids, they will certainly make you smile.

More about the dandelion flower here.

Dandelion Flower Cookies
(recipe from the book "Cooking with Flowers" By M. Bacher; makes about 16 normal sized cookies)


1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 ( 1 stick) cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp.  molasses
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup dandelion petals
100gr. dried apricots, chopped in small dice


Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir to combine flour, oats, baking soda and allspice.
Beat butter, sugar, molasses, and vanilla until smooth and light in colour. Add egg  and beat until fluffy incorporated.
Blend dry ingredients, dandelion petals and apricots into butter mixture and mix just enough so that any streak of flour disappear.
Scoop small bolls of batter 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies have spread but still flexible, about 12 minutes.

* The dandelion is generally considered safe in food; however some people may have allergic reactions  to it. Gather dandelion flowers from areas free of chemical treatments or fertilizer. Pick in a sunny part of the day, so the flower are fully open and prepare right away. Once picked, they do not last long. 

What keeps your smile for you these days?


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