My husband wore shorts on our wedding day

This isn’t really a story about shorts. It’s actually a story about bucking trends. A story about letting go, staying true to yourself, and never ever trying to change the person you love. Because hey, you love them. That’s reason enough, isn’t it?

It’s an interesting phenomenon the Wedding Day. Packed with historical traditions that most people have forgotten the symbolism to (I mean, why do we wear garters and have 10 bridesmaids?), it’s one of the few events in life where people can get so caught up in the hype, they forget what it is exactly they’re there to do – commit to your partner and promise to love them just a little bit more tomorrow, than you do today, and never try to change them, among other things.

With divorce rates on the rise, and currently every third Australian marriage ending in divorce, it’s a grim outlook for a newly married woman such as myself. You’d hope, as you stand up at the alter (or garden gazebo in my case) that this will be your one and only time standing here; staring into the eyes of the man you love. You’d also work your damn hardest to keep the love flowing freely and the communication open to try to avoid being yet another statistic. But life happens, and while you can try to safeguard your relationship against such situations, at the end of the day, you can only control yourself. Not your husband.

For me, the idea of having a big white wedding was terrifying. It just wasn’t an option, as I didn’t want to stress, or plan, or over plan, or for it to lose any of its meaning. But don’t for a second think that I’m anti weddings. In fact, I love traditional weddings. I love all the joy, and fun, and celebration of these events especially when it’s what the couple want. Not what their family want. Or their friends want. But what they want. If that happens to be an oversized dress, horse drawn carriage, far too much makeup, and the local gypsy community rocking up, then hooray for you. Enjoy your special day.

Which brings me to my point, I guess. There’s no right or wrong way to get married. In fact, there’s not really a right or wrong way to do most things in my opinion. For every situation there are hundreds of thousands of different outcomes, the key is finding which one works best for you. If that means getting married in a garden, with only two guests and your husband-to-be wearing cargo shorts because he wants to, then all the more happiness to you.

Here we are walking hand-in-hand into our gazebo…

I think it’s easy to be lead too much by what other people think. Worrying that if you buck a trend, or not do the norm, you will suddenly become the hot topic of conversation among your outer circle. I know I used to worry about such things, before I came to realise that if you surround yourself with happy, positive people, they’re happy and positive in all aspects of life. Including yours.

So, if you find that you make decisions based on how you think you’ll be judged and perceived, here’s what I say to that…STOP! It’s a hard lesson to learn, but at the end of the day, the majority of people just want you to be happy, and in order to be happy you have to stop living someone else’s life and start living your own. It’s as simple as that really.

Tell me…

What is your idea of a dream wedding?

Do you think it’s important to stay true to yourself in these situations?

Do you agree it’s easy to get caught up in wedding day hype?

Stay Happy,
Yx

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Taking ‘The ‘Bul’ by the horns

There’s such a deep sense of history to Istanbul, you’d be forgiven for being completely overwhelmed on arrival. Especially when hitting the more touristy area of Sultanahmet, a suburb that tantalisingly takes you back thousands of years to an era when underground cisterns captured the city water, harems were in use at Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar’s tiny alleyways made way for rug dealers and jewellery aficionados, and of course, the two greatest monuments in Istanbul’s vast archive of ancient treasures – Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmet Camii (or, the Blue Mosque) – stare each other down in one of the greatest architectural stand offs of all time.

There’s so much to see in this small area of town, you could almost forget that Istanbul is, in fact, one of the largest cities in the world. Separated by the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is the only city in the world that sprawls across two continents – Asia and Europe. And it sprawls alright, as far as the eye can see, with houses slowly spreading over the mountains like a rash that doesn’t look like going away anytime soon. It never ends; you can travel an hour down the Bosphorus and still see no end in sight – an overwhelming view for any traveller wanting to explore a city, but one that shouldn’t deter you.

It had been a while between Turkish delights for me. The last time I landed in the place was twelve years ago, visiting family with my Turkish father and just happy to be off school for an entire term. Ten weeks we had in Turkey; ten glorious weeks of playing in an entirely new country with customs and cultures so vastly different from my own upbringing in Australia that my innocent teenage eyes were completely opened to a new outlook on life.

I was transformed in Turkey, as I’ve heard many people have been before me, it’s like a wise old Grandfather showing you the way to a more fulfilled, open, welcoming way of life that revolves around family and traditions and, on a general level, just being a really nice person.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of going to Turkey, you may agree with me that the Turks are the kindest, most welcoming people of any country in Europe. They love human interaction, talking to you on the tram, going out of their way to show you directions, giving up their seat on the bus. This is just their nature, they don’t want anything in return, save for a badly pronounced teşekkür ederim (translation: thank you) and a brief chat about life ‘where you’re from’.

Twelve years on and I have returned to this megalopolis. Once again with my father, along with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law. And a lot has changed in terms of population, infrastructure and tourism, but most of the gems of this gargantuan city have remained, too.

There are, however, many more places to explore in the city of Istanbul that require you to venture outside the tourist bubble of Sultanahmet. I would recommend hopping on a ferry to Büyükada, the largest island (its name literally translates to Big Island) of the nine island ‘Princes’ Islands’ about an hour or so down the Bosphorus. It’s worth the journey if you’re after a more relaxed day in Istanbul, like any big city, it’s a hectic combustion of people and cars and traffic and animals and boats and trains and trams and…well, you get the idea, so a day on the islands is a welcome refuge from the 13,255,685 people who call Istanbul home.

On arrival to Büyükada, you’ll be greeted by a world that seems to have stopped evolving some time ago. In the best way imaginable. There are no cars allowed on the island, so horse drawn carts ferry the affluent Istanbulites around the small streets and into their sprawling holiday houses. There are bikes, walking tracks, beautiful seafood restaurants, beaches and plenty of shops to part with your lira. My personal favourite are the floral headdresses for sale that mark your island visit upon return to the mainland. A must for any woman, I think.

Closer to shore, the small waterside ‘burb of Bebek, on the European side of Istanbul, is one of the wealthiest suburbs in the city. It is here that you will find your up-market restaurants, packed with upper class diners all wanting their fine dining experience by that water. It’s small, to say the least, but the area is pretty enough to warrant a visit and is a must for foodies visiting this city. Small, quaint coffee shops like Happily Ever After perch next to some of the chicest eateries in town, the most notable being Lucca – the Ivy of Istanbul, which seats celebrities who want to be seen, and parks more designer cars out front than ever imaginable.

But for a true taste of modern Turkish culture, you can’t look past a night out for dinner and drinks in the Galata area between Tunnel and Taksim Square. Hidden in the back alleys of this trendy part of town are hundreds of tiny little restaurants, each serving mezze style Turkish food and so packed with young locals, you’ll be lucky to find a seat. You have to be quick around here, the second you see an opening you need to pounce, as just sitting amongst this hectic menagerie is sure to get you excited.

The food is, of course, delightful anywhere you eat. The drinks are even better. But it’s the entertainment that sets this area apart from any other in Turkey. In Europe even. Expect to be visited by musicians strumming up-tempo tunes that have an almost hypnotic ability to make you dance. And dance many people do. On tables. They tap and sing and high kick their way along the table, not because they’re drunk, merely because, like most Turks, they’re simply high on life. And once you visit Istanbul, I’m pretty sure you will be too.

 Tell me Happies…

Have you ever been to Istanbul?

Do you want to go?

Where was your favourite area?

Signs of Happiness: Always remember…

That’s it’s OK to think you’re just a little bit wonderful. Because you are. We all are.

Never to be confused with narcissism or selfishness or a complete loss of grounding (because let’s be honest, there’s nothing wonderful about any of those things) the ability to look at yourself from an outsider’s perspective and say that, hopefully, ‘yes, I am wonderful’, is a rare quality to find in someone. Gosh, I know I don’t always think it.

We are, on a general level, our own hardest critic, tending to pick out flaws and imperfections to obsess over rather than the good bits. The nice bits. The friendly bits.

So next time you’re obsessing over your not-perfectly-toned thighs, or your slightly annoying (which most people would probably find adorable) laugh, remember this…

Stay happy,

Yx

Seriously tasty chia seed parfait

You put your fork down, chew your final mouthful of dinner, and bam! it hits you. That instant craving for something sweet, something delicious, and something preferably not too naughty.

Or maybe you don’t care about the naughty bit, maybe you’re reaching for those chocolate cookies and not giving two shits whether your pants fit tomorrow. More power to you sister. Although, that might not be the healthiest option for your heart in the long run.

But herein lies the conundrum, you want something sweet, but healthy. And by healthy, I mean not laden with butter, sugar, or cream. Three of the dessert world’s most prized ingredients, and three things I try to steer clear of the majority of the time. Remember that bit about heart health just a few seconds ago, yep, that’s why.

Wanting to incorporate a healthy dessert into our weekly mix, I stumbled across this amazing raw food dessert blog called Sweetly Raw. Heather, the creator, is insanely clever when it comes to creating such things, and I was inspired by her Chia Seed Pudding Parfaits.

My creation is similar to Heather’s, although I didn’t have all of her ingredients so had to improvise. The recipe involves layering a healthy banana, prune, and honey ice-cream (quick, easy, and dairy free) with chia seed pudding, fruit, and a tiny amount of chopped nuts and granola on top. YUM!

Here’s the visual from both angles…


And here’s what you need to make four of these glasses…

For the ice-cream

4 x frozen bananas

1/2 cup pitted pruned

2 tablespoons of raw honey

1 x medium sized Tupperware container lined with cling wrap

For the chia pudding

4 tablespoons of chia seeds

3 cups of almond milk

For the fruit

1 x peach chopped into bite sized pieces

1 x plum chopped into bite sized pieces

1 x punnet of blueberries

NB: You can cut whatever fruit is in season, it’s totally up to you.

For the nuts and granola

1/2 cup finely chopped nuts, shaved coconut, and lightly toasted oat flakes

And here’s what you do once you’re sorted…

Start by pouring the almond milk and chia seeds into a glass bottle or container with firm lid. Shake well. Place in the fridge to chill and continue to shake it up every 5 minutes or so. Over time you will see the chia seeds expand and turn into more of a pudding texture.

Now, to make the ice cream, simply cut the frozen banana into quarters, and throw into a food processor or blender with honey and prunes. Whiz until it’s the consistency of ice cream. Once you’re happy with the texture, place inside the Tupperware container lined with cling film and pop in the freezer to firm up a little more.

While you’re waiting for your ingredients to chill, chop the fruit, wash the blueberries, and get the nuts and granola ready. Now, it’s time to layer and prepare the parfait. Grab cups similar to mine, or cocktail glasses if you want to make it more fancy. Start the layering process with a scoop of the banana ice cream, following up with the fruit (peach, plum and blueberries), then pouring the chia pudding on top of that, before sprinkling the granola. Repeat this process until you get to the top.

Once you’ve layered everything, pop the cups back in the freezer until you’re ready to serve. If you have any fresh mint spare, add a sprig of that on top, too. Dig in!

Tell me Happies…

What do you think of these parfaits?

Are you into Chia Seeds, too?

Do you get a hankering for sweet things after dinner?

Sometimes all you need is a knock at the door

When the news presents you with stories of 8-year-old boys being killed, dismembered, and frozen in their killer’s freezer, it’s only human to question where the world is heading. Where we, as people, are heading.

Sure, history has proved that psychos have lived amongst us since the dawn of time – Herod the (not so) Great died in 4BC and is known for the murder of his entire family and much of his community – but it seems the problems are getting worse. Much, much worse.

When I was a child, playing in the playground without having your parents shield you from the prying eyes of the local paedophile was common practice. As was being able to ride your bike to school, walk home from netball training, and go to the movies with your friends when it’s dark outside.

Take my parent’s time of growing up and you had even more sanctity. My father, for example, tells tales of his young life in Istanbul that reads like a fairytale. Climbing trees, flying kites, and roaming the neighbourhood for your next laugh before being called in for dinner. My mum was the same, having grown up in Coffs Harbour, which back then was a small country town. Everyone knew each other, watched out for each other, protected each other.

I wrote here on The Happiness Cocktail some time ago about our lack of community in the Western world. I know that little Leiby Kletzy was from a hugely community-focused neighbourhood, but since my travels through Europe these views have only been strengthened. In Turkey, Italy, Greece and Croatia, there was an overwhelming sense of belonging amongst the people, which, in turn, made you feel safe, protected, and like someone always had your back.

My 85-year-old grandma has her entire building on speed dial in Istanbul. She recently woke in the middle of the night with chest problems and called her neighbour from downstairs. It was 2am and her neighbour was there in 20 seconds. If only Natalie Jean Wood, the poor 87-year-old woman in Surry Hills, Sydney, had that same network of friends, she might have not been left to rot in her home for 8 years. 8 YEARS her dead body was left there. How does this happen?

But here’s how life takes you on a rollercoaster and delivers you back from evil; after reading that article about the 8-year-old boy in Brooklyn and taking the time to question whether there was anyone good left in the world, I got a knock on the door. It was our neighbour here in Asheville, North Carolina (the friendliest town in the world), holding a 6-pack of beer and introducing himself. He simply said in his thick southern accent, ‘Hi, I’m Max. Your mum told me you were coming and I thought I’d come and introduce myself. Let’s be friends.’ And with that, I welcomed Max into our home, our life, and our beer collection, and remembered that yes, there are plenty of good people still left in this world. Let’s all be one of them.

Tell me Happies…

Do you make an effort to be friendly to people?

Do you think we’re losing our sense of community?

How can we all band together to bring this sense of community back?