Sent Antuan Kilisesi / St. Antoine Church

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Saint Antoine of Padua Church is the largest Catholic church in Istanbul. Construction began in 1906 and it was opened for worship in 1912. Istanbul had approximately 40,000 Italian members of the community at the time, and the church was built with them in mind.

Located along the bustling Istiklal street, it is still a popular church today, run by Italian priests, holding mass in Italian, Polish, English and Turkish. I think when people think of Istanbul they don’t necessarily think of beautiful churches, so if they stumble across it whilst walking down Istiklal street, it can be a bit of an unexpected hidden gem!
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The church has red brickwork on the outside and is beautifully designed. At the entrance there is a statue of Pope John XXIII who served there for 10 years, he was known to have a fondness of the city of Istanbul.  The ceiling inside is a shade of blue, making it feel particularly bright, and the sun shining through the many stained glass windows adds to the beauty. For a small charge (I think it was 1tl) you can buy a candle to light – we bought two and placed them together.
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We visited in the second week of January and they still had Christmas decorations up – inside we were greeted with huge wreaths, trees and tinsel and outside, a massive tree decorated with red and white poinsettias and a nativity scene. I love Christmas so I was so pleased I got to see it all beautifully decorated – it really was stunning!
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P.S click on any of the photos above to enlarge them and see them in all their glory!

The Christmas Poinsettia – Ataturk Çiçeği

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It’s that time of year, Christmas Eve, Eve, in fact! Where festive things are all around, twinkling lights, pretty trees, tinsel, enough food to feed the 5000, endless tubs of chocolates, and perhaps a poinsettia or two!

It’s the latter that I want to talk about – up until last year I had no idea that our festive red poinsettias have a link to Turkey, and not the kind that forms our Christmas dinner!

In Turkey these beautiful flowers are called ‘Ataturk Çiçeği’. I have read that they were Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s (founding father of Turkey) favourite flower, and named in his honour as he encouraged the cultivation of them in the country – the beautiful red colour certainly matches well with the Turkish flag, doesn’t it?
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I have 3 poinsettias adorning my table at the moment, a deep pink one which was a gift from a friend, a glittering, sparkly red one, and the one in the middle which is almost completely green, and overgrowing, as it has been in my house since last Christmas! When I got it last year it was red and glittery like my new one, and reduced to £1.50 in Tesco, so a real bargain! It’s not red anymore, though I have that read sticking it in a dark place for 12 hours a day will make the leaves turn red again so maybe I will try that… I tried to jazz it up with some fake berries. I’m amazed I managed to keep it alive, I’m not very good with plants… I’m a big fan of Christmas and start getting excited about it half way through the year, so I joked that the only reason it was still alive is because it’s always Christmas in my heart… of course Berkay said no, it’s because Ataturk is always in his! 
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315 days down, 50 to go!

 
Christmas is fast approaching, with just 9 days to go, and just 16 days until 2015 comes to an end. This means we are getting ever closer to Berkay’s army service being completed and that huge obstacle being lifted.

He’s officially been in for over 45 weeks now, with another 7.5 weeks to go. 10 months down, less than 2 to go, but potentially even sooner than that. His 12 months mandatory service will officially be finished on 4th February 2016, but as he has been unable to take any holiday during that time, he believe’s he will be able to finish up to 18 days early, so he could be ‘free’ as early as next month! How good does it feel to say that!

Strangely, the year doesn’t seem to have gone that slowly, and I think a lot of that is due to the time of year he started.  Although the beginning of the year went slowly, the run up to Christmas seems to make everything go 10x faster, and now its only a matter of days until the year is over!

I’ve been keeping up with my marble jars, moving a marble from the ‘days to go‘ jar into the ‘days down jar‘ every night before bed. It’s almost like an advent calendar, and I do it everyday without fail. The first real exciting moment was when the jars had equal numbers of marbles in both, but now they make for a much more pleasing sight with just 50 days in the ‘days to go’ jar, compared to 315 in the other.

The last few weeks haven’t been very smooth for Berkay. At the start of November he got sent to Diyarbakir which is a fairly dangerous place to be in the army at the moment, and his fellow soldiers from the same base were out on missions to hunt terrorists every few days. We were unsure when he would be going back to Kayseri, but finally, after what felt like a really long time, he got told he was being sent back and he made the 12 hour coach journey back to Kayseri with the rest of the soldiers at the base on Saturday. Even that was dangerous, and they all had to wear bulletproof clothes for the first part of the journey. Coincidentally, Saturday was Berkay’s 26th birthday (he’s so much older than all the others doing their national service, he’s like the army grandad haha). What a way to spend your birthday eh? At least he’s back in Kayseri now where he will hopefully stay for the rest of his service.

Further testing times for Berkay came 2 weeks ago when his granddad passed away. They weren’t particularly close as he isn’t to any of his family, but he was a lovely old man whom I met a few times, and it was obviously very sad. Had he been at home in Fethiye, Berkay would have made the journey to Denizli for the funeral, and he did intend to take time off from his army service but after talking to his commander they decided it would be too difficult as leaving the base would mean people needed to escort him to the nearest city, and then he would have to make a 20+ hour journey to Denizli by road, as flying was ridiculously expensive. The long journey would have meant he would miss the funeral anyway, as in Turkish culture this happens very quickly after death. Not being able to be with his family, despite their differences, upset Berkay and he was very frustrated by it all, but he seems happier now and he too is counting down the days to freedom!

50 days to go… hopefully less!
  

Turkey in the snow!

IMG_9876-0 Whilst it’s always nice seeing clear blue skies, sunshine and beaches, it is nearly December, so I thought I’d share some more festive photos of Turkey as most of us have never seen it before.

The photos aren’t recent, and believe it or not they weren’t actually taken in winter at all, but in April this year during a freak period of cold weather in Denizli! I was in Turkey for a week visiting Berkay during his army break and we had travelled from Fethiye to the Denizli province, to his small home town of Beyagac. We were there for 2 days and the night before we travelled back to Fethiye we woke up to snow! It was all over the news about how unusual such cold weather and snowfall was for April and we had to drive for 4 hours back in it through the mountains.
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Seeing snow is always a bit of a novelty when you live in England, it rarely happens over here, but over in Turkey with all the mountains and high ground it’s pretty much the norm in winter. Since it’s such a rarity for me, I made Berkay stop the car so that we could build a little snowman. It may sound a dumb thing to say, but it was absolutely freezing and instead of having the cool aircon on in the rental car like we had been using a few days before in Fethiye, we had the heater on instead.

I’m not sure exactly where we were, but it was a very remote area of Denizli, hardly any villages or houses, although we did drive past a snow-covered mosque and a couple of villagers. For the most part, we had the whole lanes to ourselves and the views were postcard picture perfect. Only two days previously we had driven through the same route and it was completely clear, so there had been quite a lot of snowfall overnight.
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Driving through all the pine trees covered in snow, and with the wind blowing all the snow off their branches and making little mini-blizzards was so pretty, it was very Christmassy, which felt weird to say considering it was Spring. Some of the pictures I took were so festive I thought about having them printed for Christmas cards this year, nobody would ever guess it was Turkey in April! 
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It was quite surreal driving through the snow for half of our journey and then as we got a few hours closer to Fethiye the white snow clouds turned into clear blue skies, and snow covered fields turned into warm green ones instead. The only trace of snow was on Fethiye’s Mount Babadag which had also had a fresh covering of the white stuff the previous night.

I just love seeing snowy Turkey pictures, although its usually snow capped mountains from down below that I see. If you are ever in Fethiye in very early spring, you’ll see for yourself how magical the snowy mountains in the distance look, and the stark contrast in the temperature and weather between the different seasons which really surprises some people.

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Berkay’s birthday, rescuing puppies and cake..

Back in December it was Berkay’s 24th birthday, it fell on the day before I was due to fly back to the UK.
He had arranged to have a half day at work, so we got to spend the afternoon and evening together. I woke up early to make him a special Turkish breakfast – eggs, cheese, bread, tomato, turkish sausage and çay, with balloons! I managed to hunt down a birthday card in Fethiye (why on earth are birthday cards SO expensive there?!) and Boncuk even wrote one for him herself, “to my human”.
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Off Berkay went to work, and after a bit of packing I walked to the hotel to sit and have a few hours with Boncuk. Around lunchtime Berkay finished work and met us, we planned to take Boncuk out for long walk together but didn’t get far… 2 minutes down the road she stopped to sniff something in the grass, we went over to see and it was a tiny dog laying on a pile of twigs and rubbish, hardly moving. We tried to pick her up and see if she was ok but she yelped and wouldn’t stand…nobody knew who she belonged to, although a restaurant owner nearby said he had seen a truck dump her there the day before. We were really concerned about the poor dog and didn’t want to just leave her because she looked so sad and poorly, so we rang a local vet who we knew worked with street animals and provided treatment for them for free through the animal aid charity. We took her on the bus and she just laid on Berkay looking really scared and sad, I don’t know how anyone could dump her! The vet done some scans and xrays and found nothing much wrong, just a bit of fluid around her belly due to a dog bite which he cleaned up and disinfected, and a serious vitamin D deficiency which had resulting in the puppy’s legs being bowed, we suspect this is why she was dumped. Once he had treated the bite and given her some painkillers and vitamins we took her back, we couldn’t keep an eye on her ourselves as we had nowhere to keep her, so we asked a nearby cafe to watch her. I was worried they wouldn’t look after her but we went back a few hours later and they had given her a box with a tshirt in, a blanket, food and water. The best part was that someone else had seen her, fallen in love and arranged to pick her up in a couple of days! That was our good deed of the day done.
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By the time we got home and I finished packing a few more bits, it was time to get ready and leave for the restaurant we had booked – Mancero. We got dressed up, hopped on the dolmus and went. We got off wayyyyy too early by accident, but it turned out well as it meant we could admire the beautiful view just after the sun had gone down. We walked along the promenade and the sea looked absolutely stunning with the yellow, orange and blue tint of the sky, a few fishing boats were out which looked lovely in the foreground with the multicoloured horizon behind.
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We had a lovely dinner in Mancero, but I’ll write about that in another post! Then we headed back to Calis and to Hüner cafe, where we’d arranged to meet friends for some birthday cake.
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Funny story about the cake.. Berkay rang up to order it, then I told him to ring them back and ask for it to say ‘happy birthday askim’…as if I had arranged it for him… because I thought it was cute but didn’t know how to ask them myself…hahaha poor Berkay ordering his own cake eh? It was delicious and we had good company, including our two best friends and their twin boys… Adorable… look at the teddy bear bums!
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I love these photos of us, we look so happy.
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We had a lovely evening, although there was a very sad atmosphere lingering over us knowing it was our last evening together… It’s funny looking back at these photos knowing it was 7 weeks ago! It doesn’t feel like that long ago, yet it does feel like years ago at the same time!


Happy Christmas!

Although I still can’t quite believe it’s Christmas eve already and I still doesn’t feel very festive at all, I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

My Turkish friends and family don’t celebrate Christmas, but trees, decorations and Father Christmas’ can be seen in shops and restaurants as they have begun to associate these festive things with new yeear rather than Christmas itself. Before I left Turkey, we had one last trip to Erasta shopping centre and was surprised to see a fully decorated Christmas tree!
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Berkay isn’t here with me for Christmas this year and having spent the last 3 together, it’s going to be hard. Still, I’m grateful I have family to spend it with, especially my over-excited 3 year old sister who is a very good distraction – I can’t wait to see her face on Christmas morning and embrace my inner child by playing with her toys!

For Berkay, Christmas doesn’t mean much, it will just be like any other day, he’ll be working and spending the evening alone with Boncuk. Before I left Turkey I dressed her up in a Santa hat and tinsel, my very own little Santa Paws, she wasn’t too impressed though.
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Thank you all for reading, sharing, liking and commenting on my blog, it is much appreciated. Once the busy festive period is over I shall be back posting regularly hopefully, and although I’m already wishing 2015 to be over with and 2016 to arrive, I hope it’s a happy, healthy one for us all.

Happy holidays.
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New Year’s Eve

While most people spent New Years in the warm at parties or celebrating with friends and family, me and Berkay decided to go up to London and watch the fireworks..
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First we took a detour to the O2, where we had lunch at Chiquitos, I booked in advance thinking it would be busy, but we were the only ones in there when we arrived at 2pm, perhaps everyone was preparing themselves for the night ahead. We had a lovely meal, with nachos to start, then Berkay had a half chicken with piri piri sauce, and I had the piri piri chicken fajitas. Well, if you can’t have actual Nandos, you might as well order the closest thing possible, right?
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After lunch we headed straight to Westminster station on the train, we got there around 5pm. Everyone had warned us to get there early in order to get a good spot, we wanted to be facing the London Eye directly from Embankment, and not on one of the bridges like we had 2 years ago. It was a good job we got there when we did, as there were already people sitting down along the whole length of the barriers, apparently some had been there since 11.30am, crazy. We found a good spot almost centre of the London Eye, and there were only 4 people in front of us, so we had a good view.
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We sat on our little fold up chairs and ate our snacks. For 7 hours. I still can’t quite believe we just sat there waiting for 7 hours, literally just staring at the London Eye praying the time would go fast, every dong of Big Ben we breathed a sigh of relief that another hour was over! We didn’t bring anything to amuse ourselves, we had no mobile or internet signal on our phones, and were very very bored. A few little arguments broke out over people pushing in and others complaining about being pushed and shoved, that amused us a little at least, it’s good to be nosey, or ‘people-watch’ as my mum calls it.

We were pretty cold, but thank goodness the rain held off til about 11.45pm. Everyone was too excited by then for the rain to bother them. We couldn’t move out of our spot for the entire 7 hours either, so no toilet breaks for us!
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Finally at midnight, Big Ben struck and the fireworks started. They were really impressive. We had been told beforehand they were ‘multi-sensory’, each of us had a special wristband that lit up and changed colour in time to the music and fireworks, and fruit smelling spray, mist, bubbles and confetti were blown out by huge canisters, when the fireworks were red we could smell strawberry, when they were orange, we could smell orange, etc. It was definitely different! They lasted over 10 minutes and the sky was completely lit up, beautiful!
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Trying to make our way back to the train station after the fireworks wasn’t so fun, hundreds of thousands of people all pushing and shoving, drunk people falling over, smashed glasses and bottles lining the streets, it was a real obstacle course, made all the worse by the rain making everywhere slippery. We followed the crowd of people and ended up in Trafalgar square, which wasn’t where we needed to be… but 4 somewhat helpful policemen later we eventually got there and boarded the packed train. By this point we were half asleep, freezing, busting for a wee and achey, but it was all part of the fun.

Not a drop of alcohol was consumed but we still had a fab time and got some great photos. Can’t say that I fancy waiting another 7.5 hours next year though, the fireworks were amazing and so much better in person, but not sure they are really worth all that waiting around!

Happy New Year everyone, hope 2014 is everything you wish it to be.

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A day out in London..

Last Saturday me and Berkay hopped on the train and went exploring in London.
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Central London is only 25 minutes on the train from us, so we left at 1130 and arrived at London Bridge before 12. We took a little detour and found Borough Market. It was so pretty as there were still Christmas trees and decorations everywhere, some places were even selling mulled cider, yum. There were hundreds of stalls, the first row we saw were all selling cooked food, hotdogs, burgers, stews, soups, rice dishes, kebabs.. Berkay wouldn’t eat any of it as the meat was cooked on the same grill as the pork, which he doesn’t eat. We carried on walking through the market past stalls selling cheese, olive oils, vegetables, biscuits, wine, bread, chocolate fudge… the list is endless. We spotted this stall, and a huge smile swept across Berkay’s face… He chatted to them for a while and bought sigara boregi (pastry with feta cheese) and yaprak dolma (stuffed vine leaves). Also note the sign says ‘Turkish Deli’… of course we all know this as a delicatessen counter, but in Turkish ‘deli’ means ‘crazy’, so this sign of Berkay posing under a sign effectively saying ‘crazy Turkish’ is quite amusing 😉

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After walking around the market, we headed back to London Bridge station and went on to Waterloo, we took a walk along Southbank, which had a few fun things to do, one of them being this ‘pedal powered snowdome’ . There was a tree inside and when people sat pedaling the bikes, the snow fell down inside the globe. I can’t ride a bike so thank goodness these were well supported and fixed to the ground. We had great fun!
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We were quite amused by the street entertainers at Southbank too, flexible Jamaican dancers, men in cat outfits and people pretending to be statues, this man was my favourite, he literally stood still, didn’t move an inch or even blink in the 20minutes we were stood watching him. Not one blink! How is that even possible?
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We popped into the Namco game station at County Hall and used a few pennies in the 10p machines, then walked past the London eye, and across Westminster Bridge towards Big Ben stopping to pose for the typical photos along the way!
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Next stop was Hyde Park Corner, where we left for Winter Wonderland. Going on a Saturday probably wasn’t the best idea because it was so busy, we had to queue for 30 minutes just to get in. We eventually did get in and had a walk through all the Christmas market area, past the traditional hog roast stalls (sorry Berkay!) and through to the area where all the rides are. Along the way we stopped at a few of the stalls where Berkay tried to win me a Minion toy, it was massive and so cute, we must have spent about £15 trying to win it, darts games, ball games, trying to throw rings onto bottles, buzz wires, he tried hard bless him but didn’t manage to win 😦
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The unfortunate thing about Winter Wonderland is that everything is so expensive, although I can understand why as they must spend millions setting it all up for just a month or two of the year.  It is really impressive. We bought tickets to go on one of the cheaper rides, and that still cost us £4 each. It was an awesome ride though, spinning and spinning around so fast we all got ridiculously dizzy and couldn’t walk in a straight line when we got off! There were lots and lots of rides, some house of fun types, some rollercoasters, sky drops, swings… they all looked really impressive lit up when it began getting dark.
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Just after 5 o clock we headed back to London Bridge and walked along to a nearby Nandos, Berkay’s favourite. Of course it was delicious, what’s not to love about spicy chicken, chips and garlic bread? 😉 (Diet starts tomorrow…boo!!)

We got back home at 8 o clock and were knackered after our busy day. The weather held up all day and was lovely and sunny, as you can see from the photos. It made a nice change and was a lovely day out.  It certainly made a difference for Berkay to see the city in the sunshine instead of rain for once!
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Christmas Day!

Well, it was nearly a week ago, but we had a nice Christmas.

Dad was working nights on Christmas eve, so me, Berkay and my step-mum were on ‘constuction duty’ helping Father Christmas build and deliver his presents… We were up til gone 1am helping him.

My very exicted little sister left Father Christmas a mince pie, a cupcake, a glass of milk and a carrot for Rudolph, we tried to convince her to leave a glass of baileys out, but she wasn’t having any of it..
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This is what we all woke up to on Christmas morning, Father Christmas even wrapped up the living room doors so no little people could get downstairs into the presents before Dad got home… Little did we know that neither of the ‘little’ people would wake up til gone 9.30!
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We all went up to Dad’s room and opened our stockings, me and Berkay had our own ones, which you can tell her was thrilled about! Apparently Father Christmas knows Berkay loves Nandos, as his stocking contained 7 bottles of Nandos sauce!
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After crumpets and the traditional Bucks fizz for breakfast, my brother and sister ran through the wrapping paper into the living room and were greeted with presents. It took a good few hours to open them all, my little sister was amazed by it all and wanted to play with everything before opening the next.. I miss being a little kid, but have great fun playing with all her toys myself!
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Berkay got me some lovely presents, one being a traditional Turkish cay kettle, and another this Fethiyespor shirt, I wanted one before I left in September but didn’t have a chance to get one, now I can wear it with pride! He also had a skirt specially made for me, I had one similiar before that was my favourite, but it had holes in it and was ruined so he took it to a dress maker and got a new one made, how thoughtful!  Bless.
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After presents it was dinner time, Berkay tested out one of his new bottles of sauce and ended up using about a quarter of it on his potatoes, he must be the only person in the country who has Nandos hot sauce on their Christmas dinner!!

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After dinner we went to my step-mum’s Dad’s house for a buffet and a little evening together, poor Berkay didn’t enjoy it very much as pig was pretty much the only thing on the menu, bless him.
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Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a very happy New Year to everyone, we’re off to London tomorrow to watch the fireworks along embankment, wish us luck, I expect we will end up very wet, very cold and very squashed, it’s all part of the fun!!

Early Christmas..

3 more days til Santa, but Christmas came early for us today, as we celebrated at Mum’s house.
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We woke up this morning after a night of sharing the sofa bed with the dog, who was also feeling very festive.
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We had crumpets for breakfast and then opened our presents, while still in our pajamas, as per Christmas tradition 😉
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Even Boncuk got some presents, she wasn’t forgotten! 🙂
We ate a huge Christmas dinner cooked by my mum’s partner (apparently having pickled onions with roast dinner is not normal?!) and had yummy dessert along with countless chocolates and other treats.
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Of course we all had Christmas crackers and wore our cracker hats too, everyone has to have a silly cracker hat photo, right?

We’re currently watching rubbish films on TV, and waiting to go back to dad’s house soon. Work tomorrow and Christmas Eve, time is flying. Berkay has been here a week tomorrow already… Crazy.

He’s here for 2 more weeks until the 5th Jan, which I suspect will also pass by very quickly, unfortunately. Poor Berkay is bored out of his mind and probably can’t wait to go home 😦 I’ll have to get Dad to find him some jobs to do while I’m at work all day tomorrow, he’s already washed the car and done some babysitting duties, bless, anything to keep him amused!