I need your help! A travel incentive and Free Ad Space for you!

Friday, July 25

Well praise the Lord and glory be! As of today, i'm finished with my summer semester, and it feels so good. I have three fabulous weeks off school before I gear up for the Fall semester. It's like I can now enjoy summer for what it really is…VACATION! {cue the BBQ's, watermelon and long lazy summer nights!}

As you could probably tell, the last few months have been a little sparse on this blog. Somehow when your husband has a heart attack, you have 5000+ pages of textbooks to read for school, and visitors from around the world are gracing your doorstep, the ol' blog gets shoved to the wayside! {womp womp, poor bloggy!}

But, I'm SO excited to share with you what's coming for the rest of the summer and this Fall! Here's a bit of a sneak peak:
- The rest of our Turkey and Greece pictures! {stayed tuned next week for our Cappadocia pictures! Kevin and I went on a hot-air balloon ride in the most incredible spot in the world!}
- More travel tips {such as what to pack/ what to wear/ where to go/ etc.}
- And a series on something that is very near and dear to my heart…extending peace and loving our neighbor {in a very surprising place}. Intrigued? Well, stay tuned for this exciting announcement!

So…now is the FUN part!! I need your help for two things!

1) First…I keep forgetting that I have an F.A.Q. section on my blog that I haven't filled out, haha! If you have a question for me, write it in the comments, or email me, and i'll be sure to include it in my FAQ's! Easy peasy, right?

2) Second, and more importantly, I have a FUN offer for you all! Remember this post where I shared all about our experience with using Travel Credit Cards? {which is basically what gets us all around the world for free!} Well…at that point in January, we had just started using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and our experience was really great! Now…7 months, and one trip later to Turkey/Greece, and we are FULL ON BELIEVERS in this card!

Right now, the Chase card is offering a really sweet promotion! If you are looking to sign up for this card, and you let Kevin and I refer you, you will be given 40,000 points, AND Kevin and I will receive 5,000 bonus points! {just as an fyi, to get the bonus points, you have to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months! I used mine to pay for my tuition and kevin used his for work related expenses!}

Need a refresher on what makes this card so great? 
To start with, if you use this card to pay for travel related expenses and restaurants, you get twice the amount of points per dollar! {score!} Secondly, you can redeem your points through a variety of different airlines {more airline options and dates available to you!}. Third, there are no foreign transaction fees {which is a HUGE plus when you travel abroad} and the card has a chip embedded which allows you to comply with European technology! {which we have found SO incredibly useful!} We literally could not believe how easy it was to book our ticket to Turkey with this card! And just as an FYI if you are wondering how far your 40,000 bonus points can get you…well, we used those points to get our flight to Turkey and only had to pay the remaining $300! That's right, we had only had our card for 2 months before we got a round trip ticket for almost free! So if you get this card now, chances are you might be able to fly somewhere in the very near future!! {You can read more about the card here}

So, if you are interested in applying for this card, here is what you can do: 
1) Email me to let me know you are interested! {It's ok if you are not 100% sure! All that happens is I put your email address into the referral program, and Chase will send you an email. It's up to you if you want to actually go for it!} 
2) Once you apply for the card, let me know, and I will offer you FREE AD SPACE on my blog for two months! 
3) Start to Travel! Woo Hoo!! 

**And, as usual, please remember that Kevin and I by no means endorse credit card debt! We only charge on our credit cards what we have in our bank account, and we pay our statement on time every month. We have just found that utilizing travel credit cards is a great way to save money on your trips! For more info on using credit cards responsibly {and having a zero tolerance for cc debt}, see my post here.

Hooray! So…quick recap- send me any FAQ's you may want me to answer, and email me if you are interested in signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card!

Also, my friend Erika just wrote a powerful, thought-provoking article that I think everyone needs to read! {read it here} Plus she's hilarious and authentic and you need to meet her!

Happy Weekend Friends!! 

Top 7 things to do in Istanbul, Turkey

Monday, July 21

"If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul"
Alphonse de Lamartine

The quote above? Not an understatement. True as can be, Istanbul is a site for the world, and in it are treasures for the eyes and excitement for the mind. Kevin and I were a bit swept away by Istanbul..and it only grew on us. 

Despite the endless supply of activities, Kevin and I pinpointed our top favorite things to do/see/eat in this city! I hope you enjoy! 

1. Moques: 
Capturing the skyline are the impressive and highly ornate Mosques of Istanbul. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out which mosques to visit, however, we would recommend visiting the Hagia Sophia (which is now a museum), the Blue Mosque, and the Suleymaniye Mosque (which is the biggest mosque in the city). Each has their own unique story to tell, incredible architectural feats, along with gorgeous mosaics and colors:) It is a feast for the eyes. Visiting each Mosque gave us a pulse on the religious life of the city, as well as a context for the historical underpinnings of the last few hundred years. {for more pictures of the beautiful mosques while on our trip, click here}

2. Turkish Baths {Hammam}: 

This was by far our favorite experience in Istanbul. To begin, attending a Turkish Bath is an extremely cultural experience. I was bathing side by side (naked!) with many local Turkish women, and it felt so genuine. I would recommend visiting one of the Baths at the end of the day, when your feet need a break and you could use some extra pampering. The Baths around around $50-60 a person, and you can either find a co-ed bath (where they give you a bathing suit) or a segregated bath (where you go naked). It will feel a bit crazy intimidating at first (!!!) but soon you will relax and just enjoy the process. The first bath Kevin and I did was segregated. I changed out of my clothes, and took my towel and bath bag (they gave me) into a gorgeous room that was hundreds of years old that was essentially a sauna..it was hot! I laid down on a marble slab in the middle of the room, and let my body sweat all the toxins out. Then, a Turkish women pours hot water over you, and begins to use a loofa to scrub the heck out of your body! (it actually feels really good!). Then she covers you in a bubble bath and massages you, followed by rinsing off your body and a good hair wash. I have never felt more relaxed. Then, when your wash is done, you can take all the time you want to sit in the hot tub/pool before you go back out and change. I would recommend the Cemberlitas Hammami {segregated} or the Süleymaniye Hamamı {co-ed}. But whatever you do, DO THIS! 

3. Grand Bazaar and Spice Market: 

You cannot go to Istanbul and not shop at the oldest outdoor mall in the world, the Grand Bazaar! There are so many gorgeous items to behold, you will be wishing you had an extra suitcase to bring everything home! Part of the fun is watching all the shop keepers guide you into their store…they come up with some pretty hilarious lines, haha! A mile away from the Grand Bazaar is the Spice Market. I actually preferred the Spice Market, as it felt more authentic and Middle Eastern to me! I loved sampling the dried fruit, turkish delight, and other interesting items! It's an experience you won't forget! {to see more of our Grand Bazaar and Spice Market pictures, click here}

4. Topkapi Palace:  
The Topkapı Palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign. As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. Essentially, this palace will give you a taste of how the royal sultan's lived for centuries! I literally kept thinking about the little sultan in Aladdin, hoping Princess Jazmin would pop out at any time haha! One word of warning…the Topkapi palace is at the top of a hill, and requires some exercise to get up there. I would recommend seeing the palace at the start of your day, as opposed to the end of your day. Kevin and I were like walking zombies at this point, and fell asleep in the gardens, haha whoops! But it is an amazing site, and there are some beautiful views of the ocean below! {More pics of Topkapi from our trip, see here}

5. Walking tour of Istiklal Street
 {Taxsim Square & Galata Tower}: 
The main attractions in Istanbul are divided between the "old city", called Sultanahmet {where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace are} and the "new city" of Beyoglu {where you will find Taksim Square, Istiklal Street, and the Galata Tower}. This street is filled with incredible shops, cobblestone alleyways, vines climbing walls, and adorable coffee shops. I could have spent all day on this walking tour! If you are going, make sure you do the Rick Steve's walking tour! Start at Taksim Square and end at the beautiful Galata Tower! {buy some fresh squeezed juice along the way!} For the entire walk of Istiklal street from our trip, see here.

6. Bosphorus Cruise: 
One of the most unique things about Istanbul is all the waterways converging on its shores! Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus—one of the world's busiest waterways— between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. So much water is just flowing through this city it's unbelievable! The views are just stunning! Take a cruise along the Bosphorus to see the gorgeous homes, palaces, mosques, forts, and other interesting buildings along the coast. Make sure you have your camera, because it's just stunning! For the basic hour and a half cruise (which is like $5 a person) just head over to the Emınönü port. Just as an FYI, you will have So many people coming up to you when you are around the Mosques asking you if you want to take a Bosphorus cruise. Simply decline {unless you want to be scammed} and just head straight to the port! More Bosphorus pics, see here. 

7. Food: 

Istanbul is full of all kinds of surprises, and food is no exception! Kebabs, a major staple in the city, are literally found on every corner! If you are searching for cheap food on the go, look no further! Kevin bought a kebab almost every day for $2.50 and it was enough to fill his hungry traveler belly! I loved trying the vegetarian dishes, filled with lots of cooked tomatoes and other vegetables! The white beans were my favorite! They also had some wonderful falafel, hummus, and other mediterranean dishes!  One of our favorite things to do in the city was try new foods! Be adventurous in Istanbul, and I think the cuisine will surprise you:) Our favorite night in Istanbul was when we found a rooftop restaurant, and ate our yummy meal while staring out at the dreamy lit skyline! 

Anything I missed? I'd love to hear!! Happy Monday! 


Thursday, July 17

Epp! It's summer. I love the heat, the fresh cherries, apricots, nectarines and peaches too! Happily, I only have one more week of school before I can fully claim summer as my own:) Yesterday I went to the park. I took the fresh flowers I had at home {thanks Trader Joes!} and just sat to admire all the beauty around me.

I walked in bare feet, relaxed on a blanket, and pulled out my latest monthly package from the Pennie Post cards! I got these cards in the mail at the beginning of July, and this month's theme was "farmer's market". Aren't they adorable? How can you not just love this little "mon petit chou". 

There really are so many small pleasures to be thankful for every day, even in the midst of busyness. I loved this quote by Celia Thaxter, that says, "There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart". Isn't this just so true and powerful? How wonderful that we can cultivate a warmth that radiates from deep within our souls when we thrive on contentment. The most magnetic people I know are those who are content with whatever the circumstances. 

I hope you are having the loveliest of summer days! Happy early weekend dear friend! 

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” 
Henry James

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart. 
-Celia Thaxter

Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....

Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape

Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

dress: Lulu's //  hat: forever 21 // necklace: oh hello friend // blanket: sari bari //
 belt: vietnam // ring: turkey // bag: cambodia // cards: Pennie Post