Here Comes the Jackpot Question in Advance

Maybe it's much 
Too early in the game
Ooh, but I thought 
I'd ask you just the same
What are you doing New Year's
New Year's eve?

Wonder whose arms 

Will hold you good and tight
When it's exactly 
Twelve o'clock that night
Welcoming in the New Year
New Year's eve

Maybe I'm crazy to suppose

I'd ever be the one you chose
Out of the thousand invitations
You received

Ooh, but in case 

I stand one little chance
Here comes 
The jackpot question in advance
What are you doing New Year's
New Year's Eve?

           ~ 1947 lyrics by Fred Loesser

Lena Horne, Barbara Streiseand, Barry Manilow, Diana Krall, Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, Harry Connick Jr., Zooey Deschenal and even the Head and the Heart sing it.  But Ella Fitzgerald is the one who sings it, in my humble opinion, the very best.  You can listen to her croon it right here.

Four years ago, what I was doing on New Year's Eve was eloping with Christian to the Seattle Courthouse.  The heavens were cooperating and it was a cold, clear night and an actual blue moon rose over the city, that rare event when we get an extra full moon in a calendar year.  My sister came to be my witness and Christian's old friend Dave was his.  After the quick ceremony we had a festive dinner at Tavolata, the restaurant where we had our first date.  We felt like everyone out in the world celebrating the New Year was joining in our party.  It was a giddy and magical night.  Ever since then, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" has been our song and each time I hear it I feel we are starting our lives afresh.

In addition to celebrating my wedding anniversary, I love the tradition of New Year's Eve to begin a brand new year, full of promise and hope.  The gift of possibility is a potent thing.  Now if only we can all remember to hold on to that feeling every day of the year, like Emily Dickinson wrote, "I dwell in possibility..."  

I wish all of you a year full of beautiful possibilities. May your lives brightly shine this New Year and throughout 2014!


A Christmas Memory...Or Two

The seeds of Shine Memoirs were planted many years ago when I had my first memoir piece published in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper with others from my grade school. Those few paragraphs now trigger happy sensory memories from my childhood Christmases in South Dakota: frozen hands from skating at McKennan Park, watching our breath as we sang carols, gingerly placing our delicate angel on the top of the tree, the taste of my grandmother's caramels and my mom's candy cane sugar cookies, the scent of cloves stuck in oranges, the purring of a kitten Santa brought one year and the gasp of realization that particular holiday my parents wrapped up a bib [typo above] and a rattle to tell my brother and I we had a new sibling on the way.

To be transported by words to another child's Christmas from an author with a considerably better literary pedigree than my grade-school self, I also wanted to share an excerpt from Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory.  Re-reading this story each year is one of my cherished holiday traditions and it never fails to delight me.

"Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar. 

A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable—not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "it's fruitcake weather!" 

The person to whom she is speaking is myself. I am seven; she is sixty-something, We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together—well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other's best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880's, when she was still a child. She is still a child. 

"I knew it before I got out of bed," she says, turning away from the window with a purposeful excitement in her eyes. "The courthouse bell sounded so cold and clear. And there were no birds singing; they've gone to warmer country, yes indeed. Oh, Buddy, stop stuffing biscuit and fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat. We've thirty cakes to bake." 

It's always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: "It's fruitcake weather! Fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat." 

                                                   ~ Truman Capote, opening paragraphs from A Christmas Memory

For those who associate Capote only with Breakfast at Tiffany's or In Cold Blood, you may be surprised to learn that he also wrote this heartwarming biographical sketch.  You can read the full story in many holiday anthologies, but a favorite of mine is Caroline Kennedy's A Family Christmas.  You can also listen to Truman himself narrate it on this television version from 1966.  May it kickstart some happy childhood Christmas memories for you. 


A Holiday Gift Guide for Budding, Expert or Want-To-Be Memoirists

As the holiday festivities continue, I hope you are enjoying plenty of homemade cookies, favorite carols and bright lights. We finally had a chance to decorate our tree last night. I was a little disappointed Xavier had no interest in this new activity as every waking moment he is obsessed with his trains. Regardless, I delight in finding just the right place for each ornament while I say to Christian, "Remember when we found this one on our trip to...." or "Remember so-and-so gave us this one?" I have a few strong opinions about Christmas decorating:  (1) I only like white lights on our tree and on our house, (2) I don't want too many ornaments on the tree so each year many decorations don't make the cut and (3) I consider holiday books to be decorations to be placed around and under the tree to show off their covers (friends tease that I like to "play bookstore"). While wrapping gifts, I was thinking about ways to remember Christmas Past, enjoy Christmas Present and continue traditions for Christmas Yet To Come and I thought perhaps I need a new special Christmas journal, which brings me to my holiday gift list...

To help you check off presents for your favorite people, here are a few suggestions for books to collect stories and memories. With regular use, these are gifts that will become invaluable over time. Don't forget to give yourself one or two!

1. Every Day:  A Five Year Memoir by Mr. Boddington's Studio. This little book will be stuffed into my own stocking this year. I love the idea of one-line-a-day journals and I plan to keep this by my bedside to end each day with a quick entry. A perfect way to distill a day into memory. I know busy friends who aren't big journalers have found them an easy way to document their lives. And the best part is, it isn't overwhelming to keep up.

2. 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers' Grotto with an introduction by Po Bronson. A cheap and fun mini-writing workshop to get to know yourself better. Including prompts such as "How do you feel about love these days" and "Name the trees that stood in the neighborhood where you grew up."

3. Listography by Lisa Nola. This is a fun and whimsical series for the list-junkies on your list. Yes, you should get one for yourself too. Choose from such editions as Film, Travel, Parenthood, Friends, Love, Music or the Original.

4. My Prudent Advice: Lessons for My Daughter by Jaime Morrison Curtis.  I gave this book to my sister to write about herself in a way that will be a keepsake for her daughter Mabel. A slim and attractive option, with topics such as "On Your Beginnings," "On Politics, "On Pain" and my favorite "On Seeing Beauty Everywhere." 

5. Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal For Girls And Their Moms by Meredith and Sophie Jacobs. Written by a mother-daughter duo who have keeping a journal together for years, this book has some fun and meaningful conversation-starters for an ongoing heart-to-heart. It includes a page for each to write their thoughts on the same topics to laugh, grow closer and understand each other better. Recommended for middle school or high school age daughters especially.

6. Memories For My Grandchild: A Grandmother's Keepsake Journal by Lena Tabori. This is the book I've given to all three of Xavier's Grandmothers:  his MorMor, his Grandmar and his Abu respectively. It is a beautiful book covering the major milestones in life, as well as space to paste photographs. It may be overwhelming for some people, so be sure to suggest grandmothers take their time and enjoy it in little chunks. I can't wait to visit these books in the years to come as each woman fills them up with her personality and life stories. (Note: there are books on the market for Grandfather's but I haven't found one I really love yet.)

7. My Quotable Kid:  A Parents' Journal of Unforgettable Quotes from Chronicle Books. A great gift for new parents or parents of young children. Kids say the cutest things and when reading back over all the silly-sweet phrases you were sure you would never forget, you will be happy you wrote them down. Trust me.

8. Blank Journals. Quite possibly the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Here in Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company is my go-to for beautiful journals like this one hand bound by Watermark Bindery. Go to your favorite local bookstore and peruse the options of blank notebooks, leather-bound volumes and handmade journals to fit the personality of the giftee. A blank journal is a delicious thing to hold in your hands and offers vital space to create, remember, rage, list, dream and play. You should probably have a new one for yourself for the New Year too. Go on, you've been good this year, haven't you?


Listen Up!

Imagine cousins curled up in pajamas in front of a fire, begging their grandfather for "One more story about when you were a kid, please!" Or a daughter asking her mother "What was I like as a baby?" while rolling out pie crusts together. Or a brother teasing his sister "Remember that funny-looking guy you dated in high school?"

Happy National Day of Listening

I hope you are all enjoying delicious leftovers from yesterday's Thanksgiving feast while playing cards or laughing or taking wintery walks or doing whatever your family likes to do together. While you are gathered together, take a moment to ask some questions and sit back to enjoy listening to some family stories. A few questions can get the ball rolling and you may learn some things you never knew about your family before.

David Isay, Macarthur Genius and founder of  StoryCorps also founded National Day of Listening, because "every life matters equally, every voice matters equally, every story matters equally." StoryCorps offers a great list of questions to kick off a conversation here.

I'll be using my iPhone to record some family interviews this weekend and I may upload the clips to YouTube to share with other family members. These conversations can happen naturally while cooking or eating or chatting over photo albums. A few quick  and easy tips on interviewing:

1. Sit together somewhere comfortable and quiet where you won't be disturbed.

2. Turn off cell phones.

3. Ask open ended questions that will get the conversation going, like "Tell me about your childhood." Or "Tell me about one of your most memorable holidays."

4. Listen. Nod. Use non-verbal cues to keep them talking.

5. Let the conversation flow naturally and ask follow-up questions to get more details you may be curious to learn.

6. Thank the person you and let them know what moved you or surprised you. Tell them know how much you appreciate listening to them.

7. Have fun! This doesn't have to be serious although it may bring up some emotional things. It may even be cathartic, but don't have any expectations. The idea is to honor someone by simply listening.

8. Just like Thanksgiving Day reminds us to be grateful throughout the year, the National Day of Listening reminds us to really listen, every day of the year.


My Thanksgiving Is Perpetual

"I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual...O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment." ~ Henry David Thoreau

Thanks to my dear friend Julie for sharing this quote with me last year. The words stuck with me all year and I am excited to share them today on one of my favorite holidays. Happy Thanksgiving to you all! 

And the celebrations continue tomorrow with National Day of Listening. Stay tuned...


Home, A Partial and Evolving History

Through my kitchen window I am watching a hummingbird drink from the feeder I just refilled after we've been away for several weeks. I'm thrilled to see him on this late November morning and it reminds me how happy I am to be home, especially as the holiday season is beginning. My father always said after a family trip, "It is wonderful to go away and it is wonderful to come home." I agree completely.

Home. I've made many places my home through the years, moving so many times it is difficult to keep track. I spent my first 18 years in the same house in Sioux Falls, then moved on to Istanbul, Boston, Missoula, London, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver and now back to Seattle. In each place, I've moved between multiple addresses. With each move I shed piles of stuff but my dedicated friends would groan to move my library yet again. But one year ago, Christian and I moved into this house and I thought to myself, we just might be here for a while.

One afternoon this past summer, the doorbell rang. A couple named Richard and Joan introduced themselves as previous owners of this house. We invited them in and they walked through telling us about raising their two children here over eighteen years beginning in 1964, how they'd loved the garden and how the house had changed since then. They also casually mentioned a resident ghost, a fire, and a few tragedies that had occurred here. They assured me it was a friendly ghost and that they themselves had spent the happiest years of their lives here. Joan promised to send me some documents she had on the house, including photographs and a profile on the yard in Sunset Magazine in the 60's. And she did.

Our house was built in 1906 and was one of two houses on the street. For many years it was called the Crockett House after the first family who lived here. Mildred Crockett grew up in the house and later lived here with her own family. She was a teacher who apparently always had her class sing Davey Crockett before class. She was also a poet and I have tracked down her book Westward Trek published in 1942 at the Central Library's Seattle Collection, which I can hardly wait to read. The wall in the front garden was built with bricks from the old Meany Hall on campus at the University of Washington. And our little family room was converted from a single car garage. It was such fun to look at their family photographs she included to show me the interior of the house when they lived here and how different it looked then.

Now the history of the house evolves with us and the happy memories we make here. One of the best things about our home is that we have a guest room, the first time in my adult life I have a room for family and friends to sleep comfortably. In the past year, we have tried to make up for lost time and have enjoyed hosting many visitors. I leave out a guest book for people to sign and it is a pleasure to flip through the pages to remember each special visit. With each house guest, each dinner party, each holiday and every normal day the history of our home continues to unfold.


What Are We Waiting For

While strolling the neighborhoods of Paris I have been remembering all the books I've read and  all the films I've seen that take place here. So many artists, writers and visitors have been inspired by the City of Light. I vaguely remembered the following poem was about Paris but had forgotten it was talking about the nuances of Paris in November until I just tracked it down in Caroline Kennedy's She Walks In Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems, a wonderful anthology I have given as a gift to many of my girl friends. Whenever or wherever in the world you may want to travel or whatever memorable event you hope will someday come to pass, here's a little nudge from the poet David Lehman.

May 2
~ David Lehman

Someday I’d like to go
to Atlantic City with you
not to gamble (just being
there with you is enough
of a gamble) but to ride
the high white breakers
have a Manhattan and listen
to a baritone saxophone
play a tune called “Salsa
Eyes” with you beside me
on a banquette but why
stop there let’s go to 
Paris in November when
it’s raining and we read 
the Tribune at La Rotonde
our hotel room has a big
bathtub I knew you’d like
that and we can be a couple 
of unknown Americans what
are we waiting for let’s go


Paris Pour Petits Garcons

Xavier, pronounced "eg-ZAH-vee-ay" here in Paris, is making himself right at home. His favorite things in Paris so far:

1. The Gare de Lyon train station. We took a train to Fontainebleau and he was thrilled. The metro and the #96 bus are equally as exciting.

2. The brocante markets. He has a keen eye and found this wooden train, a model ship and piles of books. He was chatted up by dealers and browsers and called "Monsieur Brocanteur."

3. Parc Gambetta, our neighborhood park in the 20th Arrondissement. There is no language barrier between toddlers running around a playground and he jumps right into the civilized fray of French children.

4. The clock in the Musee d'Orsay. He also liked any paintings which had dogs, cats or other animals like Manet's "Olympia." For some reason he kept moo-ing at the life-size polar bear sculpture "Ours Blanc" by Francois Pompon to the delight of other visitors.

5. Statues with dogs, stags or lions on them.

 6. Any space with room to run like Chateau Fontainebleau, the Jardin des Tuileries, Pere Lachaise and Jardin du Luxembourg.

7. The escalators at the Centre Pompidou. While my husband took in the art, Xavier and I rode up and down and up and down and ran around the rooftop viewing areas to look across all of Paris. I pointed out the Eiffel Tower, the gargoyle on top of Notre Dame and the beautiful rays of late afternoon sunlight piercing through the clouds, but he was more interested in saying "Jumping!" as he jumped continuously.

8. But the very best thing about Paris is his Auntie Cindy who knows the best patisseries, takes him to the park, instigates dance parties and gives him snuggles.


So Here We Are

Ah, Paris.

Christian and I have a system for pre-trip planning; he is the logistics guru and I am the culture-food-museum-experiential researcher. I comb through cookbooks, guidebooks, magazine articles, best-of-lists, UNESCO sites, and sometimes, if I'm lucky, children's books. Paris is even more delightful then usual when viewed through children's literature. Xavier at 18 months is not particularly interested in all of these stories and illustrations just yet, but I love them and someday soon I know he will love them too. Below are a few of my favorites to transport you to Paris, whenever you need a fix.






Xavier's favorite at the moment, is Bon appetit! Monsieur Lapin, a gift from his cousin Raphaele).

And my current favorite by Maira Kalman, whose work I adore....

"Allo? Allo Jacques?
Jacques, it is me, Mimi.
Oui. Oui. Mimi. I just got off 
the phone with Kiki.
Oh Jaques, not Fifi, Kiki.
Listen. Zouzou called Loulou,
Loulou called Coco,
Coco called Kiki,
and Kiki called me me.
Have you heard the latest?
Tout Paris is abuzz. Max is here!
Who is Max??? Mon dieu!
Sacre bleu! He is the coolest cat,
I mean the hottest dog,
He is Max Stravinsky.
The dog poet from New York.
That bohemian beagle. He's
staying at Madame Camembert's
I don't know what he's going 
to do, but I will call Tarte.
Tarte Tartin. She finds out 
everything from that bogus 
Barcelonian baron,
Federico de Potatoes,
who is a fortune hunter or
a fortune teller or something
but he is tres intelligent and
he always gives her the scoop.
Allors, I must run.
My souffle is sinking.
Jacques, there is something
in the air. Don't you think?
I think it is very, oh so very....


K is for Keyif: A Turkish Alphabet

I collect alphabet books because I think they are a charming way to organize little parts of the world. Since arriving in Turkey, I have been on the hunt and I have found two delightful additions for my collection which are unique as the Turkish alphabet has a few letters not found in English and does not use our J, Q or X. My first score was the above 1935 edition with a rather menacing-looking Ataturk inside the front cover discovered in the stalls at the 7th Antiquarian Beyoglu Book Fair in Istanbul.

My second find from the Istanbul Modern museum shop is illustrated with the colorful art of Turkish avant-garde artist Fikret Mualla (1904-1967).

While traveling, I have a habit of making my own alphabets to organize and commemorate a trip in my brain. Below is my Turkish Alphabet for this trip:

A is for Anatolia, the vast Turkish countryside of Asia Minor and a word that conjures up pastoral pleasures. A is also for the old town and harbor of Antalya where we are spending our last days in Turkey. A is for Ayran, the refreshing salty yogurt-water drink that goes so well with kebab. A is for Ataturk, known as the Father of the Turks. And A is for Arabesque, the islamic art motif of tendrils and curling vines.

B is for Byzantium and Yeats's poem "Sailing to Byzantium." B is for Bayram, or holiday, which we celebrated for Republic Day on the 29th of October in the coastal town of Kas. B is for the beautiful Blue Mosque, the Bosphorus that divides Europe and Asia, and the Istanbul Art Bienale. And B is for the Buyukonat Family - Tuncer, Hulya, Meltem and Gizem - my Turkish Family.

Bayram in Kas - speeches started at 9 am and the party continued all day and night

C is for Constantine who renamed Byzantium Constantinople after himself in 324. C is for Cukurcuma, the newly hip neighborhood full of bars and antique shops where we took an apartment for our week in Istanbul. C is for Canim, a term of endearment which means dear or darling. C is for Cay, the strong black tea we drink out of tulip shaped glasses and always sweeten with one sugar cube.  C is for the Chora Church full of Byzantium mosaics. And C is for Calligraphy, considered the highest of all Islamic arts because it writes the words of Allah.

Mosaics in the Chora Church

D is for Dolmabace Palace on the shores of the Bosphorus and home of the world's largest chandelier. D is for Divan, an excellent place for lounging. And D is for Durum sandwiches, our favorite Turkish street food.

Dolmabace Palace Gate

E is for the ancient library of Ephesus, which we didn't get to this trip, but I visited when I was a student here. E is for Ezan, the call to prayer which the meuzzins sing five times each day from the minarets. E is also for Efes Beer, Ebru marbled painting and black Eunuchs who held the highest administrative position in the Harem and often wielded great power.

F is for our feast at the Fetiye Fish Market, where we bought calamari, anchovies and sea bream then sat down in a restaurant where they cooked it for us for 6 TL ($3) with salad, bread, mezes, raki and wine. F is also for Ferries on which we criss-cross the Bosphorus drinking cay.

G is for Gozleme, the pancake snack found at markets and cafes filled with a variety of fillings such as meat, cheese, spinach, fruit, honey or tahini. G is also for Gulet, the wooden yachts plying the Mediterranean Sea along the Turquoise Coast on which I sailed 20 years ago and will again someday soon when Xavier can swim.

H is for Harem which means "forbidden" and evokes the romanticism, intrigue, luxury and boredom inside the inner world of Topkapi Palace. H is also for the Haiga Sophia, one of the most important Byzantine monuments. H is for Hamsi (Black Sea anchovies) which are in season now and amazingly delicious served grilled or fried. H is for Hamams, where we bathed as a family. And H is for the poet Nazim Hikmet.

I is for Istanbul Modern Museum where we got a slant of Turkish life through modern art. I is for the famous Iznik Tiles made for mosques and palaces. I is for Iskendar Kebab, another favorite food. And I is for the rural town of Islamlar where we breathed the mountain air.

Xavi and I taking a rest in front of some Iznik Tiles in Topkapi Palace

J does not exist in the Turkish alphabet (the letter "C"sounds like "J"). However J is for Justinian who ruled Byzantium from 527-565. J is also for Jannisarries, the elite guard of the Sultans.

K is Keyif, the art of pleasure and taking one's time. K is for Kalkan, our beach town on the Mediterranean Coast and Kaputas Beach, our favorite swimming beach nearby. K is for Kadikoy, the neighborhood I lived in on the Asian side of the city 20 years ago. K is for kedi, the Turkish cats Xavier loves to chase. And K is for Kahve which came to Europe by way of Turkey's coffeehouses.

L is for the ancient Lycian Federation and now the Lycian Way, a 400 km hiking trail from Fetiye to Antalya. We walked a section of the trail along the aqueducts from Kalkan to Patara with Alicia and Solihin. And L is for Lokum, also known as Turkish Delight.

M is for Merhaba, how Turks say hello. M is for Mezes, the many cold starters people enjoy with raki.  M is for the Maxx Royale Hotel where we stayed with my host sister Berna and her family. M is for the few crumbling yet beautiful Mosaics left from Christian Byzantine days. M is for the Minarets of Mosques piercing the Turkish sky. M is also for the Greek Island of Meis, where we popped over for an afternoon lunch.

The Harbor of Meis

View from the top of Meis (Christian hiked up, I didn't)

N is for Nar Suyu, the pomegranate juice we drink every day. N is for and Nazar Boncugu, or the blue eye amulet. N is also for St. Nicholas, the bishop from Demre, Turkey who is now known around the world as Father Christmas.

Baskets of Nar ready to be juiced

O is for Oludeniz (called the "dead sea" because it is so calm), the beautiful swimming cove where we spent a lazy day. Twenty years ago I swam here with my older brother Patrick and his now-wife Paula when they came traveling through Turkey to visit me. And O is for the Oszoy Family - Uran, Cansever, Zeynep, Aylin and Berna - my other Turkish Family.

P is for Patara, another ancient city and it's long and inviting beach. P is for Pestamal, the pretty Turkish cotton towels traditionally used in the hamam and now used on the beach.

Q does not exist in the Turkish Alphabet, but I will make Q for my Quest for the best baklava and Turkish Delight I could find in Turkey.

R is for Rumi, the great mystic-poet of Konya, Turkey. Rumi's full name was Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi which means "Love and ecstatic flight into the infinite" and the Islamic Brotherhood he founded takes its name, Mevlana Sufi, from him. R is also for Raki the national drink flavored with aniseed, sometimes called Lion's Milk because it turns a milky color when one adds water and ice.

S is for Serefe! the Turkish toast. S is for the great architect Sinan who built countless mosques and monuments. S is for the Seljuks, who swept across Turkey and founded a Turkish dynasty in 1037. S is also for Suleimon the Magnificent, the longest ruling Ottoman sultan from 1520-1566.

T is for the Topkapi Palace where we walked in the footsteps of sultans. T is for the ancient cities of Termessos and Tlos.  T is for Istanbul's Tunel, the shortest funicular in the world and the oldest subway after London. T is for Tugra, the sultan's signature. And T is for Tulip, originally cultivated from the Anatolian steppe and introduced to Holland by a ship from Constantinople in 1593 which set off the European craze.

Amphitheater at Termessos

U is for Uskudor Amerikan Lisesi where I attended high school in Istanbul. U is also for the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List which celebrates Turkey's Blue Eye, Noah's Pudding, Shadow Dancers, Meddah Public Storytellers, Asik troubadors and the Mevlani Sema Ceremony.

V is for Villa Huzur, our home for two weeks (huge thanks again to Alicia and Solihin!) V is also for Vienna, the city that twice pushed back the Ottomans in 1529 and in 1683 and whose bakers made the crescent moon-shaped pastry we all know today as the croissant to commemorate the victory.

W is for Whirling Dervish, the meditative, spinning prayer of the Mevlana Sufis. They "whirl" to music with one hand reaching up to touch heaven and one hand reaching down to touch the earth. We watched them one evening in Istanbul and visited their Mevlana Lodge in Istanbul.

Whirling Dervish

X does not exist in the Turkish Alphabet, but X is for Xanthos, the biggest city in the Lycian Federation, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where we saw a tortoise making his way through crumbling columns.

Tortoise at Xanthos

Y is for Yali, the waterfront mansions along the Bosphorus. Someday perhaps I will live in one.

Z is for Zeytin, the olive which grows on ancient trees across Anatolia. We eat olives every day for breakfast and there is a wonderful dish called Imam Biyaldi which means "the priest fainted" which is either from delight at the flavor of the dish or from shock at the price of the enormous amount of olive oil used in the dish.