Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday night out with our new friends in Istanbul


Thank you, Serafattin & Jen for a great night out in Galata. Looking forward to returning the favor when you visit the states! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Turkey, Turkey... Gobble, Gobble!


We've arrived safe & sound! Settled into our apartment in the Beyoglu district (Cihangir neighborhood) and are loving big time on the incredible culture of Istanbul :) 

Many (many many) pix to follow in the week ahead. We've yet to cross continents but here's what we've been up to so far in our 'hood on the European side. 

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all!

Day One of Fun_Istanbul


Friday, May 24, 2013

Remembering the Reason


To all those who have served before, 
to those who are away from their families doing so right now, 
and to those who will do so ahead, 
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE & BRAVERY

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all!




Thursday, May 23, 2013

Istanbul


Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
(sang in the tune of "Annie")

Couldn't be more excited for...

I've been soaking up my travel books and am all packed appropriately for a 10 day extravaganza to Istanbul :) 

It's the farthest trip I've ever taken and with that, 
I'm really taking the planning seriously. 

We've gotta make the most of a city that spans TWO continents!

Here's what's on the agenda for us
five adults with a five month old :)

- Bosphorus cruise & a boat ride to one of the Prince's Islands 
- The Grand Bazaar & antiquing in Cukurcuma
- Cooking class in the Spice Bazaar
- Visit a Turkish Hamam (bath house)
- Blue Mosque & Haghia Sophia
- Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts
- Topkapi Palace and the Galata Tower
- Bebek, Sarıyer and/or Rumeli Kavağı
- Fortress of Europe & Emirgan Park

***

A little bit about Istanbul

Country: Turkey

Region: Marmara

Province: Istanbul

Established: 
Byzantium (c. 660 BC)  
Constantinople (330 AD) 
Istanbul (1930 – to date)

Districts: 39

Population: 13,854,740

***

Did you know? 

Istanbul (İstanbul) is the largest city in Turkey.

Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus
one of the world's busiest waterways—in northwestern Turkey, 
between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea

Its commercial and historical center lies in Europe, 
while a third of its population lives in Asia.

The first known name of the city is Byzantium
originating from the name of the king, Byzas
whose colony founded it around 660 BC. 

After Constantine the Great made it the new eastern capital 
of the Roman Empire in 330 AD, the city became 
widely known as Constantinopolis (Constantinople).

 The vast majority of people across Turkey, and in Istanbul, 
consider themselves Muslim, and more specifically 
members of the Sunni branch of Islam.

Turkish Muslims perform the prayer ritual (namaz) five times daily, according to the tenets of Islam. Tourists do not visit the mosques during these hours. 

The ezan (call to prayer) is chanted six times daily. 
The exact time of the ezan changes from day to day 
and from place to place, according to longitude 
and latitude, sunrise and sunset, and 
geographical relationship to Mecca. 

Homage is paid to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; 1881 –1938 who was an Ottoman and Turkish army officer, revolutionary statesman, writer, and the first President of Turkey

He is credited with being the founder of the Republic of Turkey. His surname, Atatürk (meaning "Father of the Turks"), was granted to him (and forbidden to any other person) in 1934 by the Turkish parliament.

  His military campaigns led to victory in the Turkish War of Independence. Atatürk then embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern, secular and European nation-state
  
His face and name are seen and heard everywhere in Turkey; his portrait can be seen in all public buildings, in all schools and classrooms, on all school books, on all Turkish lira banknotes, and in the homes of many Turkish families. 
  
***

Key Words & Phrases

ENGLISH  TURKISH
Hello  Merhaba!
Good-bye Hoşçakal!
How are you? Nasılsın?
Thank you Teşekkür ederim.
You’re welcome Birşey değil. 
Please  Lütfen.
Do you speak English? İngilizce konuşur musunuz? 
I don’t speak Turkish  Türkçe bilmiyorum!
Pleased to meet you  Tanıştığımıza sevindim 
Where is the washroom? Afedersiniz, tuvalet nerede?
How much does it cost? Ne kadar?
Excuse me Afedersiniz.
Can you help me? Yardım edebilir misiniz?
Yes Evet.
No Hayır.
I don’t know Bilmiyorum.
Okay/Alright Tamam.
Welcome  Hoş Geldiniz.


***

MANY PIX TO FOLLOW!
    

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Inconvenient Truth


Confession: 
I not-so-secretly loathe exercising. 
I mean, don't get me wrong, I do it... 
I JUST CANNOT STAND IT!

Problem: 
You need to exercise

Stacey's Solution: 
Hot stubs, saunas, steam rooms and laying on my 
yoga mat half-assing bikram classes 
(all of which allow me to break out a sweat)

***

Much to my dismay, the following story's 110% true (however, my personal trainer's name has just been changed so that I do not publicly offend him on the worldwide interwebs) 

***

Remember that time I was a gypsy? Well, I ended up joining the gym. I'm in my 30's now and let's face it, these thunder thighs were only cute when I was 3.  So I hit up the steam room every day for a month and had a serious laugh when the Membership Director sent me a note saying, "Hey Rockstar! I'm thrilled to see you're making the most of Lakeshore Sport & Fitness. Since you have more than 15 visits in 30 days, you've won a series of free personal training sessions and a $50 gift card. Swing by my office the next time you're in and we'll get you set-up with a trainer."

WHAT?!??!!

So I waddled in to pick up my freebies 
and here's how the rest of the story goes...

***

PERSONAL TRAINING SESSION #1

{insert me meeting Tom for our assessment session. I step on the body measurement contraption and begin to pretend to press lots of buttons and make "doot-doot" noises like a robot. Tom is not impressed with my antics and takes his job VERY seriously. We sit down on the stretching table to review my stats}

Tom:
Ok Stacey, we've got some work to do. You weigh in at 145 pounds and 29% body fat. 

Me:
Nice!

Tom:
No, not nice. You are technically overweight for your height and women your age should have between 18-28% body fat.

Me: 
Oh man, I'm sooo close!

{my glass half full attitude perplexes him greatly}

Tom:
Stacey, how do you eat? 

Me: 
With my mouth :)

Tom:
For real. What is your diet like? For example, what did you eat yesterday? 

Me: 
Hmmmm, yesterday... Well, yesterday was awesome because my niece was born! I woke up, ate a banana yogurt, had a bunch of shit from the vending machine while sitting in the waiting room at Prentice Hospital, then we went to pick up M-Burger after she was born because my sister-in-law was craving a much deserved cheeseburger. Yummmm! And I had like four beers to celebrate with friends when I got home. But don't worry, I came in earlier this morning to steam it all out ;)

Tom:
Great. So what type of exercise do you do when you come here? That's a really good start that you enjoy working out -- half the battle is getting to the gym. 

Me: 
Ooooooh...well, don't tell them but I don't really exercise when I come to the gym. I pretty much just hit up the steam/sauna/hot tub trifecta and drink a boat load of water to re-hydrate. 

Tom:
Stacey, I am the "them" in that sentence.

Me: 
Shoot...

***

PERSONAL TRAINING SESSION #2

{after much banter and many of my antics, Tom tells me I need to FOCUS! and that I cannot take so long on my next water break}

Me: 
Is this fun for you to make me miserable? How much longer do I have to do this? Don't you think one rep was enough? Do people honestly pay you to do this to them? You were in my nightmare last night, Tom. You, and Osama Bin Laden...

Tom:
I'm doing this for your benefit, Stacey. You still have a ways to work down your body fat.

Me: 
Do you have a girlfriend? Because that is no way to talk to a woman! 

***

PERSONAL TRAINING SESSION #3

{the hour-long ass kicking session is winding down -- I'm feisty as hell and begin unlacing my gym shoes}

Tom:
Stacey, you're not done yet! For your cool down, I'd like you take a couple laps...

Me: 
Not gonna happen. I'll be cooling down in the sauna and taking a couple laps around the hot tub. 

Tom: 
Stacey! Please do not go into the locker room and sneak out the back door. You know I can't follow you in there. 

Me: 
Bye, Tom. See ya never! ;)

{after which I immediately refill my water bottle, grab my book from my locker and sneak out the back entrance to kick it on the roof deck} 


***

Weight on May 3rd: 145 pounds | 29% body fat
Weight on May 22nd: 144 pounds | 28.5% body fat

PROGRESS!!!!!

Hahahaha

***

Dear Tom, 
You know I love slash hate you. 
If anything, I thank you for the fodder for this blog post. 
All the best, 
Your absolute worst client
~Me :)
  
***

PS: If anyone would like to come hang for cocktails to spend my $50 gift card at the Lakeshore Sport & Fitness roof top bar this summer...VISITOR'S WELCOME!



Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My "Gniece" :)



I adore this little family :)


 Love, love, love, LOVE!

Happy 2nd Anniversary, 
Kendra & Stephen :)
   

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Sunny Disposition"


After reading the description, 
my order was a no-brainer...

Happiness :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Arts for All


I've had the privileged for the past several months to become part of an organization that is truly a game-changer in many children's lives. The mission of Arts for All is to create a world in which:
  • All children have access to artistic opportunities
  • All children gain self-confidence, self-expression, and the ability to work in teams
  • All children share in a stronger society and are better prepared to face life challenges and opportunities
  • The arts are valued in their own right and as a means of developing skills
Who could ask for anything more?!?!

As a member of the AFA Teaching Artist Staff, my "job" (aka: my honor) is to teach creative writing after school at Hammond Elementary on the southwest side of Chicago. The school is unfortunately on probation for low academic standing but the energy and spirit within it's walls would tell you different :)

My class consists of 5th & 6th graders who electively stay after school every Wednesday from 3-4:30pm to make me laugh hysterically. Well, let's be honest, that's not the reason they are there but that's definitely one perk of the program ;)

After five weeks of listening to all my babble about plot, scene and character development, we've started to write a collective play (which the students will perform live in June. YAHOOOO)

Although they were given many genre options to choose from, the unanimous vote was for "horror!!!" followed closely by "tragedy!!!" (followed closely by a write-in combining the two)
To be ten years old again... sigh

And so it's begun. The creation of "I Dare You!
Written, edited, acted, and directed by
the creative intellectual awesomeness of 
Cory, Amber, Adrianna & Yaritza. 

The class started off twice the size but the all-school mural project meets at the same time. Bust!  Today they started on 4th floor -- can't wait to see the final product!

Aaaaaand, I digress; per usual...

The nice part about a small class (or "team" as I call them), is that we joke around A LOT; and because it's an after school program, we're able to be silly while we write and expand our brain cells :)

Here's a lil' snippet of how class went down this afternoon:

Cory
Miss Stacey, say "cheese!"

Me
Cheeeeeese! 
Hey wait, how do you have my camera dude?!

Cory
It was on your other desk! Why do you always sit on that desk when you have a real one over there?

Me
Because my bottom doesn't fit in your mini-midget chairs and I don't like the real desk -- I feel too far away from you guys! 
I brought my digi-cam today to take individual head-shots of everyone for the playbill. Now hand her over and show me those pearly whites :)

{insert the girls giggling in the background while simultaneously squealing because they know they are each about to have their glamour shot taken}

Cory
You know, "we" midgets prefer to be called "little people"...

Me
Yeah, well I prefer to be called a Princess but I allow you to rock "Miss Stacey" instead

{insert howling laughter from the girls (as it doesn't take much to set them off) followed by increased high pitched squeaks as they primp their hair for their Kodak moment} 

Cory
You're craaaazy! Hey, you wanna hear a joke? 

Me
Obviously

Cory
How many kids with A.D.D does it take to screw in a light bulb? {pause} Wanna go for a bike ride?!??! :)

Me
{belly laughing for a solid minute straight until I realize that I am the only adult in the room and need to not revert to adolescence}

END SCENE

I heart these little people :)
  
Stay tuned for video clips of our final masterpiece... 
I dare you; literally ;)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thoughts on Field Trips


My cousin Kirsten is a 3rd grade teacher at James Ward Elementary in Chinatown. She is a phenomenal educator and her classroom recently excelled on their Illinois standardized tests as a direct result of her impact; incredibly inspiring to say the least!

I had the honor to be a chaperon on the 3rd grade class field trip to the Shedd Aquarium. 60 students, 6 adults and umpteen fish... It.was.AWESOME :)


My favorite part wasn't even the fact that the weather in Chicago was beautiful and the skyline looked like a painting. 

It wasn't even that I was able to see Kirsten in action (although that was very very special). 

It wasn't even that her students are absolutely wonderful little people who have SUCH great potential!

For me, the best part was when we took a break for lunch and crowded into a picnic area for everyone to rest and refuel. Listening to the kids talk to each other about "life" was so cool. You forget what life is like when you're 8 years old. 

My heart physically melted while watching several kids trade components of their sacked lunches. An apple for a cookie. A yogurt for a fruit snack... And I smiled a true smile when I witnessed one child say to another, "My mom always packs me an extra sandwich in case someone forgets to bring -- here, take it. I will share my chips too if you'd like."  

Surrounded by beluga whales and massive swim tanks, it was actually the little things that truly made my day :)


LOVE