Thanksgiving Day – Random photos!

thanksgiving day turkey and us

Friends for life! Thanksgiving day…1995 thereabouts..

This will be our second thanksgiving away from my friends in the States. I feel a bit nostalgic for it. Every year, my best friend would fly in from Bermuda. I met her in college many many moons ago :-) . She was one year ahead of me, and after graduation, she moved back home. Since Bermuda is a British colony, they do not celebrate Thanksgiving. We then decided that would be a perfect time to celebrate together. I remember we would have friends over, people who either didn’t celebrate it (foreigners) or friends who couldn’t go back home for whatever reason. Each year the number grew. Our first one was about 5 of us. I remember the biggest number of people we had was 30, l think that was in 1998!. My friend was always a trooper though, she would cook for all of us, and loved it. My job was to drive her to the grocery store and complain. I hate shopping with a passion, while she loved to compare the yams, pie ingredients etc. It was always so much fun. A day to hang out, drink, and eat entirely too much. My housemates always loved to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade. I hated that too! What a surprise. New Year’s parade l liked, but not that one.

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My best friend – She visited yearly for thanksgiving! 24 years straight..this has to be like 1993 because that was the old floors

This year, l am thankful for a lot of things. The big one being that l am alive and well. Since losing my sister, life seems so much more precious to me. It gave me a whole new perspective on everything. I read this yesterday:

“It’s a wise man who lives with money in the bank; it’s a fool who dies that way” – French proverb

I’m not saying one should go out and blow all their money of course. I am just saying sometimes we focus so much on saving, that we forget to enjoy the fruits of our labor. As a childless by choice couple, we have chosen to stop and smell the roses. I am thankful that we are able to do so, thanks to frugal living. Sure, we got derailed with my sister’s medical bills and ended up losing one of our properties, as she had no coverage to speak of..but c’est la vie !!! I have told all nieces and nephews to expect zip..nada..zilch..lol! :-)

My 2 house mates - my very first house. Owned 50% with the fellow on the left! Our new checker floors!

My 2 house mates – my very first house, owned 50% with the fellow on the left! Our new checker floors! Next year, we are planning to meet up at his place in Palm Springs for thanksgiving.

I am guessing 2005..

I am guessing 2005..

My favorite was her stuffing. I have no clue what made it so delicious. Turkey, l can do without!

My favorite was her stuffing. I have no clue what made it so delicious. Turkey, l can do without!

This for sure was 2006, our last thanksgiving in L.A. There is my dearly departed and very much missed pooch, Lucky..

This for sure was 2006, our last thanksgiving in L.A. There is my dearly departed and very much missed pooch, Lucky..

They are trying to start that Black Friday crap over here! :-( :-( :-( . I hope it doesn't catch on!

They are trying to start that Black Friday crap over here! :-( :-( :-( . I hope it doesn’t catch on!

 

So, today, on thanksgiving day, l give thanks for all the good things l have in my life..family,friends, and you. Have a happy and wonderful thanksgiving!!! What are you thankful for?

Home to the motherland!

home-nieces in nigeria

Some of my nieces at the wedding, with the littlest addition. boy, do girls outnumber the boys! :-)

 

 

Home is where the heart is, they say. I tend to agree, especially the older l get. I just got back from a trip to my country of birth, Nigeria. It was a 3 week visit with Mummy, and the rest of my siblings. It was absolutely wonderful. As l said previously, I am one of eight children by my mom. It was the first time in a while that all of us (except for my late sister) were in the same place at the same time. We tend to travel a lot. You will find that true about most Nigerians. They will travel far and wide to provide for their family. I was impressed as to how the whole Ebola thing was being handled. Upon arrival, you are asked to fill out a form detailing your flight itinerary, and contact details. Your temperature is taken at the passport control, and if it’s high or they have cause to investigate further, you are taken out of line for further questioning etc. Billboards, radio and television ads reminded people constantly what to watch for, do and where to report.

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My mom had suffered a stroke about 4 years back, and her short term memory is still not very good. Usually, it takes her about 2-3 days after my arrival for her to fully recognize me. Imagine my delight when she knew who l was, right from the get go. She more alert than the last time l saw her. Not bad for an 89 year old widow! My days consisted of hanging around with my mum, siblings and extended family, of which there is a lot! A whole lot.. :-) .

I also indulged myself with massages, body scrubs, facials. The exchange rate is so favorable ($1 to 175n) , that a massage for instance costs $9 for 1 hour, and that’s with them coming to your house, so of course l had one a week :-) . It was also a mere $6.50 for a manicure/pedicure, home visit. My sisters and l indulged quite a bit. I also needed a new pair of glasses. My sister made one phone call, and the optometrist sent over a whole bunch of frames that he thought would fit my face from a picture l sent him. I chose a pair, he took my glasses with him to duplicate the prescription and brought them back the next day along with my new pair. Total cost? – roughly $30. I made sure to tip generously. Life is hard for over 90% of the population, who exist on way less than $100 a month salary. Yes, l could have fought traffic and gone to the salons etc..but why? to save and extra dollar or so? .. Mmmmm… no!

I got to crash a party with my sister-in-law, so l can cross that off my bucket list. She had an invite to a 60th birthday party, and asked me to come along. Despite what it said on the invitation, l wasn’t even questioned by the guards. I was wearing the color theme. Not only was the table front and center, the food absolutely delicious, the entertainment fabulous, l even got a swag bag.

Part of the entertainment at the party l crashed..

Part of the entertainment at the party l crashed..

It was quite interesting for me to see. They are my tribe, but the culture and language is quite different.

It was quite interesting for me to see. They are my tribe, but the culture and language is quite different.

Getting past these cops was a breeze..

Getting past these cops was a breeze..

My siblings and l got to check up on a health center that we had taken upon ourselves to improve. It is located in the little village that my dad grew up in. To say it was in desperate condition would be putting it mildly, the birthing room especially, and the ancient equipment. It has improved vastly already, new roof, better equipment, paint etc. It was quite busy when we visited, and would have been inappropriate to take pictures. I refuse to show you the before pictures.

One of my favorite nieces got married. She recently moved back home after college in Dallas. That was a fun weekend. My outfits were tailored at the last minute, based on the measurements l sent home via email. I should have added a couple of inches, so as to allow myself to eat and sit comfortably. It was only after the first day that l mentioned how tight fitting it was, that l was told you had to pull the skirt up, then sit. What a relief the second day!!! :-) :-) :-) . It was a traditional wedding. There were 750 invited, l estimate at least another 300 “mo gbo, mo ya” which translates to “I heard, l came”.  My sister tried to be fancy by handing out this credit card invites, which you had to turn in to be seated…hah hah hah!!!.. didn’t work…it did provide quite the laugh for us though!!! This is Naija after all! :-) . You add it in to your costs. Just as I crashed that party, so did many at this wedding.

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This is called "spraying"

This is called “spraying”

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Groom and family asking for the bride's hand in marriage

Groom and friends asking for the bride’s hand in marriage

 

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The band serenading the bride. The talking drums are my favorite!

 

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Dancing and laughing her way in..

 

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home with family

l find myself embracing the simple things in life..like home, family… and laziness! :-) , How about you? any plans to be with family soon? holidays are coming up! Are you headed home?

Selling to Sold! – Our primary house

selling to sold

Goodbye house!

Selling..selling..sold!

Once we made the decision to stay in Europe for the foreseeable future, we had to decide on what to do with our main house. Our original plan had been to rent the house for a year. That way, we could always come back if we were tired of the journey. It has now been 18 months since we left the U.S. Frankly, the pull to go back is not there. There are people l miss, but most of my family no longer reside in the U.S. The same goes for my husband, most of his family are in Rome.Selling our primary residence was therefore not a very hard decision. We had a family rent the place shortly before we left. She signed on for a year, with the option to extend. She fell in love with the area and sub division and decided to purchase a home of her own. We used a realtor l had never met before and it was all done via email. I had heard her name often from the other women in the subdivision. She was awesome! To sign the escrow documents, we went to the U.S consulate and poof, Fedexed it back!

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Okay.. I will miss my own part of the bathroom!

Okay.. I will miss my own part of the bathroom!

okay..so l miss my granite countertop..

okay..so l miss my granite counter top..

We were left with two choices, rent it again, or sell it. We both decided on selling. Here are the reasons why:

– It was the biggest piece in our portfolio. Even though the rent covered the mortgage, insurance, HOA fees, etc..etc.. and even had some profit left over, it was still a big amount to pay every month. Just the 3 months that it was unoccupied while we  prepared to sell and to actually sell it was an outlay of over $16,000. This included having to turn all the utilities on, repairing things that had broken, painting, pool repairs and of course mortgage. I don’t like dipping into our savings when it’s empty.

– Renters are not the best at keeping your place in tip-top shape. For instance, the renter used the AC a lot. She did not change the filter (which cost like 10 bucks!). Instead, she just ignored the water that was seeping out of the walls from a back flow of the condenser. You couldn’t miss it. It was in the master closet. Anyway, end result was $1100 repair for something that could have been avoided. Her dogs also destroyed some doors and some part of the deck, but we were able to deduct damages from the deposit.

– To get tax-free profit from the sale, you had to have lived in the house for 2 out of 5 years before selling. Since we did not know how long we would stay abroad, we thought it better to take the profit now, than have to force ourselves to go back before we were ready.

– Property values in Texas never skyrocket, unlike California. There is just so much land, the hottest sub division today might not stay that way for long, and new one pop up continuously. Our house was only 7 years old, but a lot of people consider that old already, which is insane! Our last house in Cali was like 60 years old, and was still “younger” than our previous one.Right now, it’s a seller’s market as the economy is booming in Houston especially. We felt it wise to sell.

– We never look back. I tend to love things when l have them. That house was special to us. It was newly built, and we got to choose the cabinets, floors, etc. It was a wonderful house, but once we left, that was it. There is no insane emotional attachment. I always buy with selling in mind. For instance, l can’t swim, but made sure we had a pool so l could sell at a premium when the time came. My husband did enjoy the pool though..as did the neighbors. I was fine watching from under the pergola! Even if we moved back to the U.S, l am pretty sure we would try another state, just for kicks!

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– Despite the fact that we had property managers, it was still a pain to deal with. I liked using my own workers because they were like 60% cheaper than the workers used by them (they don’t really care very much since it’s not their money). Time differences made it a challenge.

Okay..so l will miss my big ass screen and movie seats

Okay..so l will miss my big ass screen and movie seats

that used to be in the theater room. Still don't know why she moved it..

that used to be in this theater room. Still don’t know why she moved it..

 

 

– We now have just two rental properties left. A lot easier to deal with and the profit is fine. If we do go back to Texas, we can move into the house that is currently rented and keep the condo as the only rental.

So far, we are happy renting for a change.. anything breaks, we just call the landlord. I must say we are awesome tenants though, perhaps because we have been on the other side. We take care of things! :-)

What do you think? would you have kept the property instead of selling? What about home ownership? is it for you?

 

 

Louis Vuitton bag. Is it worth my $2295???

 

 

As l was writing my recent post about the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, l thought back to the attached bazaar at the back of the mosque. It differs from the world famous Grand Bazaar in that it is much, much smaller.

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Louis Vuitton handbag

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Louis Vuitton tag

Louis Vuitton. The grand bazaar was just a bit overwhelming when we visited. It is a gigantic structure, almost like a little city, with never ending streets and shops, mostly selling the cheaper knock off brand of handbags, watches, clothing etc. Most are the “Made in China” ones, very obviously fake looking items.

 

 

 

 

The smaller bazaar at the Blue Mosque, has a fewer selection of stores, but better quality fakes so to speak. The ones that are “Made in Turkey”. Before before you pooh pooh the whole fake thing, take a look at your expensive piece of clothing and check out where it is made. Turkey is most likely one of the places. Anyway, the shops here look just like regular boutiques. Only difference would be that inside, they would carry different brands under the same roof. We walked into a few to admire the handiwork. I am not a big label fan, save for Ralph Lauren.

 

The last store we walked into had a really nice guy working there. He did not try to sell us anything. There was a second person seated who was taking in a new consignment of goods. We were fascinated with the way he was checking out the handbags etc. He had a magnifying glass with him, and was checking out the stitching, the engraving, every detail of the handbags. One of the Louis Vuitton bags caught my eye. I did what he did, checked it out thoroughly, and decided to buy one. I also bought a wallet. I had intended on keeping it for myself, and did actually use it twice. It’s a little too fancy for me, so l decided to give it to one of my sisters, who love the labels, but is not willing to pay the outrageous prices. The bag has real leather trimming, just like the real one. I even wet it a bit to make sure it changed color, unlike fake leather. He gave me the dust bags, and the long strap, everything complete with the logo.

 

 

 

louis vuitton wallet

Louis Vuitton wallet

Came with the box, bag and everything :-)

Came with the box, bag and everything :-)

 

I have checked the L.V website, and to the naked eye, the bag and wallet is identical to the ones online. There may be something missing, but l’m not sure what. Anyway, my sister is thrilled with the bag, and has received tons of compliments on it. People assume it’s the real thing. I don’t think she bothers to correct them :-) Oh..I kept the wallet for myself. I know l could  afford the real one, but l could never bring myself to pay $1500 for a bag or $795 for a walle!!!. Certainly not when l could get both for $165!!! For those of you with a little extra cash, you’ll be happy to know there is a Karl Lagerfeld designed L.V  punching bag that is now available and priced at a mere $175,000. Better get yours before they run out!

 

Now my brother wants a genuine, fake Rolex! The cheapskate :-) :-) :-) . There was also a Gucci scarf l am kicking myself for not buying! That l would wear. See why l need to go back???

What do you think of my bag and wallet? Does it fool you? Am l a horrible person for buying a knock off Louis Vuitton? Would you purchase a knock off anything?

 

Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed), Istanbul

 

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The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque is the more common name for the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It is one of the most historic mosques in Istanbul. It took 7 years to build, and was completed in 1616 during the reign of Ahmed the 1st. The mosque has one main dome, eight secondary domes and six minarets. It is truly a work of art in my eyes. We had the chance to see inside of this great building during our trip to Istanbul.

Where the worshipers wash up before entry.

Where the worshipers wash up before entry.

The Blue Mosque is located in the aptly named SultanAhmet Square in the old part of Istanbul. One of the sweetest sound to my ears since l was a child is the first call to prayer in the early morning. To me, it signifies the start of a beautiful new day. It was so nice to stand in the square and listen to the call booming from the sound system. It was fantastic, as it was echoed by nearby mosques.

blue mosque courtyard

Blue Mosque Courtyard

Outside yard - a couple of the trees were so cool! Like the Keebler Elf tree or something from Harry Potter

Outside yard – a couple of the trees were so cool! Like the Keebler Elf tree or something from Harry Potter

 

Lone woman hawking her wares. There is a little bazaar in the rear.

Lone woman hawking her wares. There is a little bazaar in the rear.

Our hotel was pretty close to the Blue Mosque, so we saw it daily, but we actually did not get to go in until the very last day. There was always such a big line that we passed on visiting every time. That last day though, it rained a lot, so there were fewer people. We were thrilled, as l had really wanted to see it. To get in, you need to remove your shoes, so no holey socks :-) . Your head must also be covered as a sign of respect. They did pass out scarves to people that needed one. I recommend dressing a bit demurely. A couple of girls were denied entry because of their skimpy outfits. It’s free entry, but you are not allowed in during worship.

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See why it’s called the Blue Mosque?

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blue mosque ceiling

Blue Mosque Ceiling

The prayer area behind me.

The prayer area behind me.

It is called the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles that cover the interior. There are more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles in tulip designs, just on the lower level. The upper levels have a lot of blue stained glass windows. It is a bit dark in there, despite all the hanging chandeliers. Everything in this Ottoman style mosque combined gives it a warm cozy feel, despite it’s largesse. It’s hard to describe, but you feel like it’s just you and God, unaware of the thousands that might be beside you. I highly recommend checking it out if you get a chance to visit the wonderful city of Istanbul. There is a bazaar to the rear of the mosque. Check it out, they have great quality knock-offs, better than at the Grand Bazaar :-)

Fountain in the square.

Fountain in the square.

Pope Benedict XVI actually visited the Blue Mosque in 2006. He said “May all believers identify themselves with the one God and bear witness to true brotherhood”. With all the troubles in the world right now, it’s food for thought.

What do you think? Does the Blue Mosque sound like a place you would like to visit? Is Istanbul on your short list?