Konya

 

21167

A few months ago, we had the blessing to find ourselves at the tomb of Mevlana Rumi. A place I have longed to visit after reading a book of Rumi’s poetry I bought in Waterstones many moons ago. 

We boarded a high speed train at the newly built Ankara Rail Station for a 2 hour journey to Konya, the city in which the mausoleum of the world’s most read poet, Mevlana Rumi is located. A sufi, a mystic, a saint.

The weather was grey and foggy. The roads were paved with icy sludges of the remaining snow. The air was filled with a mystical energy. 

 

 

20305

Araf Hotel Breakfast

Araf Hotel was our hotel choice via booking.com – I chose it mainly because it was available for a reasonable price, had good reviews, and was within walking distance of the Mevlana Museum, where Mevlana Rumi’s mausoleum is situated.

The food in Konya did not disappoint. We had Etli ekmek, which is a long, thin, roll-up pizza spread with delicately spiced mince, at Sufi Kebap opposite Mevlana Rumi’s tomb.

 

 

 

26072We sampled Anatolian cuisine at Lokmahane restaurant – a cold apricot and dried fruit soup (?), lamb that fell off the bone, and buttery bulgur. The customer service was lovely; we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. Our attentive waiter even went as far as feeding us each our first forkful – quite an experience! 

During the cold winter nights, we found ourselves sipping hot drinks at a small coffee shop called Hi Coffee – fennel tea, hot chocolate, and brownie bites. It was surreal and amazing at the same time to be drinking coffee whilst facing Mevlana’s masouleum in a hippie space with crystals everywhere and Turkish translations of Sigmund Freud’s works on the shelves. 

Last weekend, we were blessed enough to pay another visit to the home of Mevlana Rumi with the intention of joining a retreat from the U.K led (appropriately) by Rumi’s CaveRumi’s Cave, with Shaykh Babikir. The hotel of choice was Bera Mevlana – still within walking distance of the mausoleum of Jalauddin Rumi. 

 

The hotel was spacious and so was the room. The package included breakfast and dinner – there was a plethora of healthy options and salads at dinner time, and breakfast was nice and simple. 

IMG_6638

 

The retreat was amazing, with lectures from a Professor on Rumi, a trip to the whirling dervish ceremony that takes place every Saturday at the Mevlana Culture Centre and also the opportunity to participate in an authentic Mevlevi dhikr. 

 

 

Last weekend, tourists from every corner of the world flocked to visit the mausoleum, rubbing shoulders with locals from other parts of the country who were taking advantage of a national holiday. Young ladies could be seen snapping away selfies amongst the tulip-adorned gardens outside. Everything was a lot more busy and crowded than it was during our winter visit.

There are also many other historical sites to visit in Konya, including the mausoleum of Shams-e-Tabrizi, and the small but interesting Karatay Madressa Museum. Other springtime attractions include the Tulip festival and Butterfly Garden – both of which we didn’t have time to visit!

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Advertisements

Stories of teas (and how to make the perfect cup of masala chai)

Over the years, we have been exposed to our fair share of teas in many places, beyond the English cuppa.

There was the little tulip shaped glass which contained more sugar than tea (usually Lipton or Ceylon) served in the alleyways of Zainabiyya, Damascus. On other occasions, we sipped floral herbal teas, a blend of wild flowers and herbs (see here for more details), in the living room of friends who have long since left. And then there is another commonly consumed hot drink in Syria is ‘mate‘, a caffeine-rich tea that comes from South America. It is described as having the’“strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate” all in one cup!

teastrainerI gave up caffeine when we lived in Jordan, so chamomile and herbal teas were my new friends!

I found that the Saudis tended to favour copious amounts of lightly flavoured cardamom coffee  when hosting guests. During a road trip, when we stopped for drinks at the little street stalls, they would sometimes have Yemeni/Adani tea on their menu; a good milky cup of tea, sometimes spiced with ginger and cardamom.

Tea is generally consumed without milk in the Middle East. However, wherever you find Pakistani and Indian expats, you will be sure to find a top notch cup of tea with milk (albeit the evaporated ‘Rainbow’ brand kind)!

Qatar was a step up in the tea game. The famous Karak tea can be found in most places, Qatar’s answer to masala chai but with a twist. This twist is that the tea is sweetened with condensed milk. A cup of tea is a sure-fire way to get sugar rush! If you find yourself in Doha, try Chapati & Karak at Katara for a cheap, cheerful and sweet cup of tea with flaky bread. Londoners can also sample their tea (for a higher price!) in Knightsbridge.

tea

Now, a Turkish tea is a different story altogether. An important aspect of the culture here in Turkey, tea is often brewed using two stacked kettles: A small pot of very strong tea kept hot on the top of a larger one filled with boiling water.  A small amount of strong tea is poured into a little tulip-shaped glass, before the desired strength is achieved by adding the appropriate amount of hot water. The funny thing is I didn’t know that when I ordered tea off a self-service local vendor. I filled up my paper cup to the brim with strong tea. It was a bitter learning experience, literally!

Here is my recipe for the perfect cup of tea, born of Indian/Yemeni roots, nurtured in Syria, perfected in Saudi Arabia, and enjoyed in Turkey.

teaa

Ingredients (makes two)

A decent sized pot

5 cardamom pods slightly crushed open

3 cloves

3 black peppercorns

Half a cinnamon stick

Thinly cut slices of fresh ginger

Tea bags (or loose leaf tea if you are a purist but I am not there yet!)

PS. These are my favourite tea bags to use

Your choice of milk (cows, almond, oat etc)

Water (1 and 1/4 cup)

Choice of sweetener (honey, brown sugar etc)

Optional: a tiny piece of a fresh vanilla pod (I just cut mine in to tiny pieces to use)

masalas.jpg

Place the pot over the heat and the spices in the pot. Now this is the trick, tea hack, secret to this tea – toast them (yep, toast!) for about 30 seconds, or until they are slightly fragrant. This ‘toasting’ facilitates the release of their oils and permits the spices to flavour your tea more.

Then add water (I add 1 and 1/2 cup of water for every 2 cups of tea that I make). Let it brew a little. Let those spices infuse the water.

Once the water is simmering, add your tea bags. Clipper tea bags are quite strong. Depending on how potent I desire my tea to be, I use either 1 tea bag for 2 cups for a medium strength brew. If I fancy something stronger, each cup gets a tea bag!

Turn the heat down low, and when the tea has brewed, pour in the milk and stir. Watch the tea until it foams up. Take it off for a few seconds, and then place it back on the stove and let it foam up once more.

The only three things left to be done are pour, sweeten, and enjoy.

Peace out tea people.

teacup

Midas Touch Craft – Natural Beauty Product Making DIY Workshop Review

I found myself queuing up outside Queensborough Community Centre on a cold Sunday morning, my body still adjusting to being back on the cold, British soil. On my left, a little playground on an estate, and on my right, not much. In front of me, a group of eager but recently awoken women chattering about the workshop that we had all signed up for.

A late night search on Google for natural DIY Beauty workshop yielded some very expensive results. I was losing hope, when I stumbled upon a 3 hour course for £29 in which we would make 5 products! I was delighted, and immediately signed up.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – or maybe I was – I envisioned a gentle lady and approximately 5 other people with goggles and lab coats standing around metal worktops conducting a very scientific composition of beauty products – precisely measuring and weighing ingredients we would find in our kitchen pantries. The reality, however, was a very down to earth community hall with about 7 or 8 newspaper lined tables, with 6 chairs around each one .

Upon arrival, we queued up outside, before the co-ordinator, Naz, ticked off our names on the register. Then, we were guided to a room, took off our coats, and took our seats. On my table were two German-speaking friends, a mother and daughter from Hungary, myself, and another lady (whose name evades me, sorry!). We started chatting, and she said this was her Midas Touch second workshop – her previous one was all about making hair products. I regret not taking more photos (!), but on our table were some ingredients in plastic containers, and then a few more plastic containers and bottles inside another plastic container. I was hoping we would use glass jars, but I know that would drive the cost of the course up, so fair enough!

Our very enthusiastic and chirpy co-ordinator, Naz gave us an introduction as to how she got started with natural beauty. She accredited her energy to copious amounts of coffee. It was nice to be greeted with such passion, and she definitely knew how to captivate her audience. She also said it was a not for profit organisation – with money being donated to cancer research (her friends/family getting diagnosed with cancer led her to start Midas Touch Crafts up).

Naz talked us through some ingredients for our first project – a lip plumping lip balm. Her instructions were thorough. We had a little plastic spoon (smaller than the ones you get when you buy ice-cream) and she directed us as to how to mix the ingredients. There were 5 volunteer helpers present who then carefully poured hot wax into our lip balm jars so they could set. It was pretty straightforward and easy.

The next 4 projects (a lip scrub, a leave in hair conditioner spray, a cellulite body scrub, and finally, a body moisturiser) did not have such thorough instructions. On our table, some ladies had different spoon sizes, so being told add a spoon or two was confusing. During the body scrub, Naz forgot to mention the need to add coffee until after we had completed the process, but we got through and made our products. The helpers were around if we had questions. My suggestion would be to have a set of clear laminated instructions, which could then be re-used for future workshops, on the table. Once or twice, we forgot the measurements or the instructions, and pretty much just winged it!

IMG_3425.JPG

The product making processes were peppered with talks and tips from Naz – how to whiten your teeth naturally with activated charcoal, how her dad healed his arthritis with arnica oil, and the benefits of essential oils. I was familiar with some of her ideas through my readings on the internet, but other participants were intrigued, curious, or dubious about some of the claims. On our way to the station, a couple of girls said they were amazed at the idea of using everyday ingredients to make your own products. Another said that while it was a fun weekend session, she would stick to commercial products, and that she thought claiming arnica oil was a cure for arthritis was a little far fetched for her. It made me realise that like our opinions, our skins and bodies vary – what works for one may not work for another.

img_3426

 

Overall, the session was a fun, relaxed, and casual gathering of women who wanted to learn something new. I like the products I made, but not necessarily the consistency – I feel that using a teeny tiny plastic spoon to stir the products may have been the cause of the gritty texture of my body butter and lip balm – but I definitely took away ideas and basics. We were told we would be emailed the recipes we used on the day, and some other recipe e-books too, so I am excited to see what I can make in my kitchen.

 

For more information, check out http://midastouchcrafts.com

 

5 skin-care tips!

jane

As cold winter days approach, I find myself thinking about my often-neglected skin-care regime. I have noticed the difference in my skin when I make a conscious effort to make time to care for it. My skin has phases – too oily, too dry, break-outs, and all the other problems skin can face. However, the following steps have helped me to improve my skin.

h20.jpg

1. HYDRATE:

Drink your way to good skin. The cold winter days combined with harsh central heating can leave your skin feeling dry and rough. Think green (kale!) smoothies, hot water with lemon in the morning and coconut water – the goodness will shine out of the pores of your skin. There are many (free) apps out there to remind you to drink more, or to help you keep a record of how much water you are drinking throughout the day.

 

 

 

towels.jpg

 

2. OIL CLEANSING:

On the days I wear make-up or travel around the city/public transport, I find my skin needs more TLC and cleansing – it almost feels like the pollution sticks to your pores. I have used wipes, exfoliating scrubs, micellar water, and the like, but nothing comes as close to removing all the dirt from my face as oil cleansing does. The internet is full of different ways and methods to oil cleanse, but I’ll share my own way of doing it I take a little of my oil of choice of oil (jojoba, sesame, olive, or sweet almond) into my hand and start massaging my face. I take my washcloth (preferably made of organic cotton or bamboo) and soak it under warm water for a few seconds. I wring it ever so slightly and place it on my face for a few seconds (get those pores opening up!). Then wipe away the oil, and repeat the process again – you will be surprised how much dirt comes off!  I do this every other night.

3. MOISTURISE:

Yes, we constantly hear it everywhere – moisture, moisture, moisture. It is the key to avoiding dehydrated skin. I have pretty dry and sensitive skin so the moisturisers are best suited to people with a similar skin type. Of course, you should shop around until you find what suits your own skin best. I have experimented over the years and now have a few favourites:

Weleda: Skin Food (click on the photos to be taken to the Amazon page):

I use this moisturiser as part of my night-time skin care ritual twice a week. It is super thick and very hydrating. It is best applied patted on to the skin rather than rubbed. You only need a small amount, and this smells delicious!

 Body Shop Hemp Face Protector

I love this light-weight but intensive facial moisturiser. You only need a tiny amount on your face to keep it hydrated all day. This would be a great winter purchase! Not as yummy smelling but I quite like it!

Evening Primrose Oil

This is by far my favourite oil ever! It really helped calm down the redness on my face. I cut open a capsule and rub the oil on my face nightly . My skin is still soft and moisturised, when I wake up and my skin tone has really evened out.

DIY Facial Toners: I use rosewater on a cotton pad and rub over my skin – smells great!

For a more intensive toner, I use diluted apple cider vinegar with some water on a cotton pad. Be sure to do a skin patch test and avoid your eye area!

sleep.jpg

 

4. SLEEP

This one needs no explanation. Get your beauty sleep!

 

 

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

5. EAT WELL

There are books and articles that tell you how to eat your way to good skin. Some days my skin feels like my diet inside out – it mirrors what I eat. If I eat junk, I look ‘junk’! Some people report that giving up dairy helped managed their break-outs and acne. Find what works for you and your skin. Look for triggers that affect your skin – Spicy food? Too much sugar? Get yourself feeling and looking good by eating well.

 

What are your favourite ways to look after your skin?

My green cleaning secret

greencleaning

As a teenager at home, my designated chores were washing the dishes and mopping the bathroom and kitchen floors once or twice a week.

I remember being instructed to pour some bleach into a bucket of hot water, and then using that to mop and clean the floors.

Fast forward to when I got married. I knew bleach was a cleaning agent, and on my first supermarket shop as a married woman, I purchased a bottle or two. I was excited to get my first load of laundry in the washing machine. I vividly remember holding that bottle of bleach and saying to myself “pour a little bit in the detergent section! It will make things extra clean!” Suffice to say, that was my first lesson in how not to wash clothes!

Everywhere we have lived, the smell of bleach has permeated the air around us; from the mosque toilets in Makkah and Madinah to freshly mopped kitchen floors at some friends’ houses. People associate cleanliness with bleach but it is a highly corrosive and toxic liquid that irritates the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract (read this article for eye opening information re: bleach). If you google the dangers of bleach, it is pretty shocking. So when I had my daughter, I started to look at greener and cleaner alternatives.

I have tried the good old baking soda and vinegar cleaning combinations. I have tried more eco-friendly products from brands like Ecover and Method. However, a couple of years ago, I stumbled across this product whilst shopping in a department store, and bought one to try it out. It sat at the back of the cupboard for a few weeks, but late one night, I was scrambling in my cleaning stash and picked it up to test out.

plates.jpg

What am I talking about? The e-cloth (click me!) !

The best thing about using an e-cloth is that it only requires a splash of water! No chemicals, no funny smells and no irritation. It works on bacteria, grease, and dirt and leaves your surfaces gleaming. Ok, I know this is sounding like a sponsored post but nope! This is just me, genuinely sharing a product that has made a difference to my life!

And yes, it is a bit weird at first, to think of cleaning without soapy bubbles and chemical-laden spray bottles, but you get used to it. Since my first experience of the e-cloth washing up pad was positive, I have gone on to try the rest of their range: glass polishing cloths (great for smear-free windows, and I even use them to wipe my eye-glasses clean and my laptop screen too!), tea towel (quick-drying and super-absorbent), and finally the bathroom cloth. So now my green cleaning secret is out! PLUS it is environmentally friendly!

(All blue highlighted links show the products on Amazon)

Do you have any green cleaning tips to share?

You can find out more about how the e-cloth works on their website: http://www.e-cloth.com/pages/how-cloths-work.

Here are some alternatives to the e-cloth: (I haven’t tested or tried them out though!):

http://www.deeplyclean.com

http://www.enjo.com

 

Nature journaling 101

img_3100

We have recently discovered the joys of nature journaling in our home education journey. Nature journaling is all about observation, documenting what you see around you (vegetation, trees, animals etc) and your feelings, to put it quite simply. There are many forms that a nature journal can take, and many resources available online, that I will link below, to help you discover what exactly you would like to explore in your nature journal.

 

 

IMG_2917.JPG

 

We currently have the blessing of living in a very green environment, near a nature reserve in Turkey. There are pine trees adorning the pathways, juniper berries glistening in the sunshine, conkers and pinecones carpeting the ground at our doorstep. It truly is a beautiful place. It only seemed natural to document the beauty we see around us, and also to explore the emotions it stirred up within our souls.

IMG_2867.JPG

 

I find myself unable to name common trees or mini beasts that we find along the way, and so this is just as much a learning tool for me, as it is for my daughter.

John Muir is quoted to have said ‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ‘To be outdoors, to observe what is around you, to then translate it in to a picture, drawing, sketch or painting is quite fulfilling, and a reminder of the vast and beautiful grandeur of God’s creation.

 

Here is some guidance on starting a basic nature journal with kids:

  1. Decide where you want to go (a local park, woodland, beach, your own garden etc). Take a  good quality note-book and some pencils or sketching pens, and any other supplies you may need.
  2. Find some animals or trees and plants you would like to focus on.
  3. Think about the details of your focus – the colour, the size, the surrounding environments. Nature journaling means that you will observe closely, really see something, and not just look at it.
  4. How does what you see make you feel? 
  5. Make a note of your observations, reflections. Take photos, for reference, if needed. Collect something to take back home with you, if possible – try not to take something from a tree or plant that isn’t already on the ground.
  6. Get drawing (if you are fortunate to be able to do so in the moment, go for it!) If not, get home and draw.
  7. Search for further information at the library, or the reference to learn about your plant/tree/animal.

Recommended links where you can learn more:

img_3102

Our works in progress

 

Handbook of Nature Study

The Nature Journal as a tool for learning

An Autumn point of discussion: why do leaves change colour? (England)

Autumn activities

 

 

We were also lucky enough to discover a nature walk in our locality for children by an organisation called Usturlab (Astrolabe). They conducted a ‘Forest Explorers’ walk where they looked at different trees and plants at Ankara Botanical Park. The children were given a tour and information about the local vegetation and then created a collage of the different bits they found. Totally recommend this walking tour, if you find yourself in Turkey! Here are some photos from the day:

img_3086

 

img_3089

 

How do you connect with nature? 

Bedtime with children: 3 tips from my experience

Peace all,

coffee-cup-bed-bedroom

I know bedtime is a big parenting struggle, and so I thought I would write a few words from my own personal experience. These are some things I discovered along the way. Some may seem pretty obvious, some may not. My intention is to put this out there in the hope that it may be of some help.

The following three things worked for us:

veggies

  1. Ensure your child is well-fed:

 It is hard determining how much sleep your child needs on a given day, especially if they are going through a growth spurt. My daughter can have a huge appetite on some days, and barely touches the food on her plate on others. There have been nights where I have exhausted myself in trying to get her to sleep, and then realised that perhaps she is hungry. Eating late at night is not ideal, especially after she has brushed her teeth and completed her bed-time routine, BUT it gets both of us out of what could be a stressful situation. And, well, who doesn’t fancy a midnight toast or some yummy dates dipped in cashew butter?!

pexels-photo-85599-large.jpeg

    2. Use up all that energy!

I picture winter as a cosy time of hibernation indoors in which we all snuggle up with hot chocolate on the sofa. The heating is on, our toes are warm, and my daughter is snuggled up in bed. Except sleep does not come so easily. Again, another ‘aha’ moment is that we didn’t even set a foot outdoors today (home-schooling con’s!). As a result, I try and ensure (whatever the weather/season/country) that we get ourselves out the door, breathe in some fresh air and get playing, walking/hiking, running or anything active. On the days that we aren’t afforded the luxury of the world outdoors for whatever reason, we resort to indoor activities like yoga (here’s a link to our favourite Cosmic Kids Yoga youtube channel), or just turn up the music and get grooving (or in my case, tripping over and knocking things over). Sometimes, we chase each other and jump on beds, tickle-fight or pillow-fight. Kids need to be moving and active, and tired enough to sleep soundly.

storytime

  3. Establish a bed-time routine

I cannot stress how important routine is for my child. It is hard, I admit, between the moving and travelling, but we do my best. I found that my daughter thrives when the day is more predictable; when her body knows when to start winding down. Find what works for you. Maybe a bath, brushing teeth, pj’s and then a bedtime story. A song, a du’a (prayer) or a warm drink (chamomile tea is a good choice) that signals bedtime is here (although I can’t promise that the kid/s will be happy about it!) . Give yourself at least an hour to wind down and get the routine started, and try to begin the ritual at the same time every night if possible. Some kids need a comfort item like a blanket to help fall asleep, but our daughter never got attached to anything (well, not counting me, that is). Take turns with your partner, if needed, to give yourself some space and time too, as a mother.

As mamas and babas, no day is easy but the rewards are tremendous.

And the best part of sleeping is waking up to each other in the morning with messy hair and funky breath, and hearts and eyes full of love and gratitude.

pexels-photo-54283-large