Tuesday, August 05, 2008


The wedding went off without a hitch. The best day ever, hands down. And now...

We're off to the south of France next week! We can't wait. Cream, butter, and more cream and butter. Wine. Lavender fields. French bathtubs. Bicycles. Pastries. Lazy days. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Meeting with the bride

I know I know, I have not been posting for a long time. Actually, this is still not my post but I need to post it for my mom. I tried my best not to lose its meaning while translating.

When I first saw her lovely smile, I felt warmness in my heart. I remember telling Celal she was very sweet, as if she is one of our family members. Their meeting in Spain and then her arrival to Istanbul made me so excited. I am too happy that my son believed the truthfulness of his love and decided to live his life with her. After meeting her mom, Mary, I was even happier to know she is the daughter of a mom like her.

(aka Celal's mom)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Down on the corner

The outdoor garden where we will host our rehearsal dinner

We just made a reservation for our wedding rehearsal dinner, so we wanted to share the details with everyone. It will be on the Monday prior to the wedding at Kosebasi restaurant around the corner from our house (Kosebasi actually means "corner"). This is one of our favorite kebap restaurants in Istanbul! They have delicious mezeler (appetizers), lahmacun (mini Turkish lamb pizzas) and grilled kebaps. The branch by our house (Fenerbahce) is in an old restored mansion, and it is best in summertime when you can sit outside in the garden area under the trees. We think it will be a great representation of Turkish cuisine for our guests arriving that day! For all of those who want a taste of Turkey, they have a (very pricey!) sister location on Madison Avenue in New York City called Pera Mediterranean Brasserie. The Roasted Whipped Eggplant, Warm Hummus, and Adana Kebap are especially delicious!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Provence region, France

Just two weeks to go until the first guests arrive! We are trying to finish up the planning for the big day. I won't even get into my napkin holder meltdown here, but basically I've just been holding it together. I'm so anxious for the big day. Luckily, on the walk home from the gym last week, there was a cocktail party at one of the retail businesses across the street where a lovely cocktail trio was playing. (We have been looking for a decent trio for a few weeks now.) We sat on the curb a little bit away from the party as to not scare away all of the guests, and listened. They are great! We hope the guests enjoy them as much as we did that day.

Ladera Resort, St. Lucia

We have been asked by so many people where we are going on our honeymoon, and we are stumped. At first, it was Thailand. Massaman curry is the best, and the beaches, I have been told, are heavenly. That idea molded into something a little closer to home - a nice, cozy, relaxing trip to the south of France, where we could leisurely bicycle through the lavender fields and vineyards, sip on some wine, and replace our blood with butter and cream. Now, we are leaning towards something Caribbean... maybe Puerto Rico, Antigua, or St. Lucia. It will be very convenient as we are planning to visit the States after the wedding. I think we are looking for something relaxing, romantic, a bit of nightlife, and good food.  But, essentially, we are very confused!

That's my bicycle, Jumby Bay Resort, Antigua

Jumby Bay Resort, Antigua

Monday, June 16, 2008

Red and white

No, those aren't the new wedding colors. Those are the colors of Turkey's flag. It's European Championship time, and Turkey just won its second game and qualified for the quarterfinals... mayhem ensued on the streets of Istanbul. Enjoy our little video above, and please excuse our late-night hideousness :).

Jen & Celal

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

a few things

Someone else's photo of the show Troya

We're back home again after a long day out in the jungle that is Istanbul. Celal is sitting happily on the couch watching Turkey v. Switzerland (European Cup) futbol game and eating fruit as usual. I figured I'd hammer out an update before heading off for a good night's sleep.

Last night, we went to see a show called Troya, a faux-Broadway production. The costumes, dancing, and (real) sword fights were quite a thrill, but the story and characters were a yawn. I should really catch up on my history (meaning, I need to rent Troy with Brad Pitt) since Troy is only a few hours away from here. Anyway, our friend works in the film industry so on some special occasions she is nice enough to line up tickets for us to events, and we had four excellent seats. We went with Celal's uncle and his adorable eight-year-old daughter (I'm sure she was happy when we headed home).

Celal's mom took us home and stayed the night with us so we could go around today and run errands in the city today. We woke up pretty early for how late we went to sleep (which was my excuse today for not going to the gym, as well as the fact that we got home around 9:15). First on the agenda today was wedding bands. We already had a jeweler in mind, Burtacin, that we met with a few months ago, and we went back today to drive him crazy :). His shop is in the crazy circus that is the covered bazaar (he also has a location in New York City on Mott Street). I decided on a set of tri-color rings that I scouted out online. I can wear all three together or separately (I am not having them connected). Celal picked a simple raw rose gold band for himself. I also ended up ordering a pair of champagne topaz earrings that I will wear on the big day. 
My wedding bands will be like this

After finding our way to daylight through the pushy vendors, we ate a quick bite and headed off to our next destination - our new wedding organization that we are using. (The previous one that we thought was "the one" was a mere hoax. She put together a sample for us, and apparently the words we told her at the meeting went in one ear and out the other.) In any case, the new lady is a doll, and her assistant speaks English, which is a big plus for me. (It is quite a headache of translating for both Celal and me when the meetings are in Turkish, though my Turkish has improved significantly over the past few weeks!). So, our new organization will be putting together a sample for us sometime soon... Romantic Ottoman garden will be the theme. At least that's what it is at this point :).

After our meeting there, we sat in more traffic (did I mention that half of these days out is spent in city traffic? This city is huge.) We headed to Istinye Park, the best new mall in Istanbul. They have stores from the Gap and Zara to Gucci and Louis Vuitton, a huge cinema (where we just saw Sex & the City... we loved it! Next on the agenda is 21), great Chinese restaurant (among many other restaurants we haven't tried, including Mongolian barbecue), and even a small bazaar with fresh fish, meats, and fruits. So, we got lost in the mall for a few hours where I tried on a dress I will be wearing for the henna night. I am actually ordering the same dress online, since it is half the price :). 

So, that's about it for now. More updates to come soon!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"The Dress, the Beads, the Baskets," Oh My!

Take one excited bride-to-be, add one proud mama, combined with two weeks of intensive shopping to create the experience of a lifetime. I was so surprised when Jen called to say she would be coming home to look for a wedding dress. I loved that she wanted me to be the first person to see her in the gown. Even though her own special dress was not the first she tried on, I will always remember the waves of joy and pride I felt to see her prepare for one of the most important days of her life. It truly brought tears to my eyes. Of course after an extensive search, my tears of joy turned to tears of, “Are we there yet?” Honestly, it was like looking for a “Needle in a Haystack.” It didn’t help matters that we both suffer from a severe case of indecisiveness. Finally, we found the “One!” or so we thought. We weren’t absolutely sure, so we kept on searching only to find ourselves back where we started. It probably sounds biased, but she is going to be the most beautiful bride Istanbul has ever seen.
Beads, beads, beads consumed a good portion of our time. We put our creative minds together to fabricate wine charms for the wedding tables. We searched every craft and bead store within a 10 mile radius to find just the right sizes, shapes, and colors. Once again, it took longer than expected due to the many aisles filled with everything pretty. The “To Do” list didn’t seem to be getting any shorter. In fact, every time we checked off an item, one of us seemed to add on another. Flower girl baskets were especially a challenge. They needed to be rustic but romantic; a difficult combination. After canvassing the typical stores in which one might find such a commodity, Jen spied exactly what she was looking for, in of all places, the grocery store!
The hustle and bustle of those two weeks in May left me weary, worn, drained, and downright “pooped.” However, I wouldn’t change a thing; I savored every minute of the journey! Thank you Jen and Celal for the gift of a lifetime.
I couldn’t be happier for my daughter Jennifer and her future husband Celal. They have found true love with each other, and are the “cutest” couple I’ve ever seen. As an added bonus, Celal is part of a warm and loving family. I felt so incredibly welcomed during my Christmas visit. I’m looking forward to joining together as one big happy family

Thursday, May 29, 2008



I inherited a whole set of sweet teeth from my mom. I turn into a five-year-old when it comes to a piece of food that contains sugar. Living in a city with a bakery on every corner, you would think that I would be in wedding cake heaven. Well, Turkish cakes tend to be a little different than their American, French, or Italian counterparts. The cake is not sweet enough to me. The frosting is usually fondant (I am a buttercream fan), and many cakes have nuts and fruits and sugar glazes. While these cakes are delicious in their own right, they are not wedding cake material. I mean, I am even happy with a simple cake from Publix. But, alas, there is no Publix here. Not to mention, Celal doesn't even like wedding cake!

We attended our friend's sister's wedding last summer and they had this gorgeous mountain of cream puffs covered with an oozing layer of the chocolate sauce (called profiteroles) instead of a traditional wedding cake. While a majority of the bakeries here serve profiteroles and you will see it on many restaurant menus, we called her up to ask where they ordered theirs, as it was especially delicious. Well, it was done by the place where they had their wedding, but she suggested that another bakery, Manolya Pastanesi, is even better, and many have called it the best place in Istanbul. Since Manolya means magnolia in Turkish, and my cousin and I have had a longstanding obsession with the Magnolia Bakery cupcakes in Manhattan, it just seems right. We have also spoken with our wedding coordinator at the location and she will ask their chef if he will do the mountain for us. Fifty pounds of cream puffs sounds like a good idea to me!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wedding, wedding, everywhere

We are here! Just a little busy. I made it back safely to Istanbul after my two-week visit to Florida, along with my wedding dress. I love my dress! It is not your everyday wedding dress and not what I had pictured, but I think it is perfect. I tried on so many dresses and shoes there that I nearly swore off shopping for life. I still have yet to find shoes, among other things...

Just one of the dresses I tried on , and what I had in mind when I started shopping..

We met with another wedding organization company yesterday and we think she's the one! We (well, mainly I) are having a hard time deciding on a wedding theme. I thought we had it figured out until we put it all down. The overall gist of the theme will probably be a "romantic garden" theme, but achieving that is another story (...one that I don't know yet). Hopefully Ebru at the wedding organization will be able to provide some direction for us. It is quite different here with weddings, as most couples pretty much have the same thing - luxurious and over-the-top. They don't seem to focus a lot on the little details, like the types of flowers, or a theme. There are a lot of lilies, white, and organza organza everywhere. Not to mention, the DJ's standard setup includes a projection screen (for the obligatory slideshow) and "volcano" fireworks for the couple's entrance. In our opinion: tacky.

If I had my pick of flowers it would be peonies and roses, but unfortunately peonies only have a short season in late May through early June. The ones that the gypsy sidewalk sellers have are also quite a bit smaller than the peonies I prefer. We are still trying to decide on a color theme, and will probably be including hydrangeas, one of my summer loves, and perhaps some lisianthus. Instead of throwing rice or blowing bubbles at us after the ceremony, we are thinking of having dried lavender, which smells heavenly! I also love the smell of jasmine so maybe we will be including that as well. Every day I have to remind myself to not get too caught up in the details, but I'm sure most brides go through the same stress as I am. I never imagined the stress that wedding planning would bring. Sometimes I just feel like I am going insane. Luckily, Celal is very helpful and supportive of his little bridezilla. We will persevere!

I also just received news that my cousin and her hombre got their tickets to come here! I can't wait to go salsa dancing!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mr. Celal & Miss Jennifer

My mom's old friend's daughter works for a movie company and knows this guy that works at a gossip magazine (similar to US Weekly). She told my mom she could have this guy come to our wedding to do a little feature on us. I don't know if I like that idea but I will accept the offer if we are on the cover. Otherwise, I need to think about it. What does Paris Hilton have that we don't??? I am sure the lines will be similar to this under our picture while cutting the cake: "The biggest steel trader and fabricator of Turkey, Mr. Celal, married the famous American artist, Miss Jennifer." Jen will only be in the magazine if they say she's a famous artist.

I am going to pick up the rest of the invitations and envelopes this week and we will start giving them once Miss Jennifer comes back.

I may be the biggest steel trader and fabricator of Turkey but I still have time to post here while I am at work. Now, that's something! I need to work...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Turkish wine charms

After going on a real scavenger hunt for materials, starting at Michael's, leading to Bead Need, Tuesday Morning, and then AC Moore, we finally were able to get started last night on our little wine charm project. Here are some photos of the progress. We have just finished up about 90 of the little charms in six different colors. We are not certain about the final design on the charms, but tentatively they will be as pictured (perhaps with gold accent beads, or beads all around). What a fun project!

The memory wire and turquoise color beads. The word turqoise is believed to have originated from the French word for "Turkish," describing the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean shores of Turkey.

We found these Ottoman-looking beads at AC Moore.

Putting together the charms

Artisan at work (my mom)

The six different colors of charms: Turquoise, deep purple, pink, green, gold, and chocolate brown

A completed sample design

Head. Spinning. Need. Sleep.

I finally have a chance to write! I arrived safely in Florida late Wednesday night and have been going nonstop with my mom ever since. I am the luckiest girl in the world to be marrying my prince, the one I love with all my heart. I just wanted to say that before I go into the mundane details of wedding planning because it is really all about our life and future together... not the color of the favors or the flowers or the dress that I wear. Anyway, I am having so much fun (of course, missing my sweetheart and talking to him as much as possible).

On Friday, I tried on my first wedding dresses. It was such an amazing feeling to see myself as a bride! I also tried on a few dresses today, and I may have found the one. It is somewhat difficult to decide because most of them look pretty to me. Also, it's been kind of funny in the stores - other people in the stores ask when the wedding is, and when I say July they say, "This July?!!!" I suppose it is not customary here to plan a wedding in a few months, whereas it seems to be the norm in Istanbul. Of course they ask where the wedding is as well, and one lady was too funny with her southern accent saying, "ISS-tan-bull?! Why'd you wanna do that?" Besides that, I am also trying to buy a dress off the rack, as they say. I had some idea that dresses take a while, but most of them take months to order! This industry is ridiculousness. So, I have cut my selection down a lot (which is actually a good thing since I have the worst indecision disease). We will also be checking out Miracle Mile down in Coral Gables this week, and then I will have to decide.

We have just been running around to all different stores looking for little things like favor boxes, envelopes, thank you cards, flower girl baskets, little beads and parts for these wine charms we are making... my mom and I stayed up until 1am tonight making the little dangle charms for them. We took a few photos but I have no energy to plug the cable into the computer and turn on the camera and... yeah. Not happening now. Anyway, I think they are going to be a beautiful little accent at the tables. I know I am the only one that cares, but it's fine with me :).

Yesterday was my mom's birthday also, though we still spent all day running around for wedding stuff. Then we ate at Brio's, a delicious Tuscan restaurant, with delicious non-Tuscan bread and a variety of Italian dishes. I certainly can say that it has been nice to have such a variety of food (and variety of everything, actually). We have variety in Turkey, but not like here.

That's all folks. I am off to bed...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The hairdresser didn't make the cut

This morning started with a phone traffic. Making a wedding guests list is a tough job! I talked to my mom, uncle and grandma to finalize it. After an hour of discussion we came up with the final list.

Normally, Turkish weddings are huge. I mean HUGE. Two years ago my friend's wedding had 235 people. Last year my other friend's wedding pulled 285 guests. This is pretty much the average amount of guests at a Turkish wedding. You might think that is a lot of guests, but listen to this: My brother's friend is having a wedding this summer and one thousand guests are invited!

We even talked about inviting my mom's doctor and the hairdresser to our wedding. (My mom's doctor made the cut.) Another issue with making the list is the chain. If you invite this specific person, you need to invite others. Then if you invite those people, you have to invite some more people. When I thought I was done with the list, grandma added eight more people (and she already told most of them they were invited). Luckily my mom removed two of them. I will still have some people that I have never seen in my life in my wedding. Well, you need to make your family happy too.

The Today Show

I just arrived in Florida late last night and my mom woke me up to tell me that Matt Lauer is broadcasting live from Istanbul this morning! It is day four of his "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" segments on the Today Show. Here are the links:

Where in the world is Matt Lauer?
Lauer takes a quickie tour of Istanbul
Istanbul: What you need to know
Fascinating facts about Turkey
In the Blue Mosque of Istanbul
A whirlwind tour of Turkey
Tempting Turkish dishes
How to go to Istanbul

Slideshow: Where in the World is Matt Lauer?

Text: Istanbul: Where East Meets West

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Big round belly

Since Jen is going to Florida tomorrow, today was busy. We went to see two wedding organization places to check out what they had for the decor. Then we went to pick up the invitations. We love them! However, there was one thing wrong. The ribbon on it was 1mm thinner than the sample one they showed us and supposedly there is a color difference that I cannot see. YES! Jen caught these details (and I thought I was anal). Imagine the next three months... GOD HELP ME! We also went to pick up the ring (after having it resized) and ate an out-of-this-world beyti kebab at a nearby kebab (kebap in Turkish) restaurant. The owner of the restaurant loves to talk and read Turkish coffee fortunes. It will sound weird but he is a cute man with a big round belly.

Monday, April 28, 2008

From there to here by kayak

Bebek, Istanbul

We are SO excited to hear that some of you are actually considering the trip for the wedding! It will certainly be good times. After I get an idea of who is definitely coming I'll have more information as far as what type of stuff we can do (sightseeing, eating, lodging, etc.). I would love to spend some time to show everyone around the city and make it a memorable time. One night to mention that is already in the works is the Henna Night (Kına Gecesi), which will be the Saturday before the wedding and hosted by Celal's mom. More details about that will be posted soon.

For flights, I have found that Kayak.com is usually the best. The main airport here is Istanbul Ataturk International Airport (IST). From NY, both Delta and Turkish Airlines have direct flights (about 10 hours), which are listed at $1368 right now (however, just last week I checked and there was a direct Turkish Airlines flight for $760!). There are a few cheaper 1-stop flights as well, starting at about $1200. From FL, flights are about $1400, though there are no direct flights. A few one-stop options are British Airways and Alitalia, but Alitalia sucks. From CA, I haven't done too much research, but I believe the tickets are about the same, and there is also a one-stop flight through British Airways and probably others from LAX.

Unfortunately, the summer months are the most popular and most expensive, and it costs about half as much in the winter time, as is generally the case with travel to any European country. Unfortunately, I'm just not a winter wedding kind of gal. For those that are going crazy about oil prices, the ticket prices haven't changed too much in the past few weeks, surprisingly enough. (In addition, gas here is about $10/gallon. Cars are also 2.5x more expensive than the States. And traffic is still worse than LA.)

That's all for now folks! Hasta luego!

Iznik tiles, Topkapı Palace

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Strawberry Jell-O

Turkish School: Celal

I am sure most of you have no clue how to pronounce my name and even Jen is still perfecting the correct pronunciation of her future husband's name. So, here is a little lesson.

I have heard so many versions of it such as Chela, Cecil, Silal...

Here is the proper way:

Celal (JE-lal) Yes, kind of like J. Lo
Celo (my nickname) (Jello) Yes, like strawberry Jell-O

You want to know how to say my last name? You will need to pass few classes with at least a "B" first.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wedding Wednesday

A few good reasons we are having the wedding on a Wednesday...

1. WEDnesday.

2. We don't have to oblige to a minimum of 200 people at the wedding. Do you know how many cheek kisses that is?

3. I cried like a little baby to have a good photographer. We researched till the wee hours of the morning trying to find one in Istanbul. We fell upon a few that were mediocre, but most of the styles were cheesy and look like they were shot by a drunk uncle with his 3.2 MP digital point-and-shoot. I decided for us that we wanted a wedding photojournalist and thus narrowed the selection even further. We searched and searched on WPJA's site and fell in love with Bartosz Jastal, a Polish photographer. He ended up being booked every weekend this summer, so we decided on a Wednesday. There you have it. Our photographer and his assistant are flying from Poland for our wedding! We are so excited!

A princess forest!

After nearly exhausting an ever-shrinking list of outdoor venues for the wedding, we decided to drive over and see Cemile Sultan Korusu. The photos online looked decent and we had a few other places to see that Saturday, but since it was the closest to our house we decided to check it out first. As we gayly sang in unison to George Harrison's "I've Got My Mind Set on You" on the radio, we just had a feeling about it, and we were right. It has a beautiful view overlooking the Bosphorus, the second bridge, and Rumeli Hisari (a medieval fortress). It has a beautiful breeze. There are rolling hills of grass and winding roads through the wood and rainbows and unicorns. The pictures do not do it justice. So, we decided then and there.

We later fell upon an interesting story about the property. The gist of it is that Cemile Sultan was a princess (one of 37 children!) born in 1843. When her dad became a Sultan, he bought a palace for her on the Bosphorus. Korusu means "grove" in Turkish, and it describes the property behind the once-existing palace. Unfortunately, they destroyed the seaside palace in 1914 because the taxes were too high and the large mansion in the grove burned down in the 1952 and was not rebuilt. Well, after it has been sold from owner to owner, the property is now rented by the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and is used as a members-only social club (pool, tennis courts, park areas, restaurant, etc.). We can't wait!

Turkish school: Four eyes

Dört gözle bekliyoruz (dirt GOES-lay BEK-lee-your-ooze) - We can't wait!
(literally - "We are waiting with four eyes!")

Hoş geldiniz!

Welcome to our super fantastic wedding blog! We plan on posting here throughout the next few months before the wedding with rants, raves, and other useful information for our national and international guests and fans. We are already in the whirlwind of wedding planning and are just finishing up the invitations, so if you're on the list you'll get one in the next two weeks.

Turkish school: Welcome!

Hoş geldiniz! (hoesh GELL-diniz) - Welcome!
(literally - "You come with coziness")

Hoş bulduk! (hoesh BULL-dook) - Thanks!
(in response - means "We find coziness here")

Thanks for visiting our blog and please check often for updates on our insanity.

With love,
Jen & Celal