Monthly Archives: July 2014

Raising Happy Kids

I wrote a post a long time ago on the role of parenthood, and I’ve probably changed my mind on some details (and might change my mind some more before I’m ever a parent lol), but I still like the parenting objective I stated: “Put your child on the path to become their best self and become an independent responsible adult.” Of course you can’t control your child’s life choices or behavior in the long term, but I think the ideal outcome would be for your child to become a good person and happy adult.

I read an article called “7 Strategies to Help Raise Happy Kids” today and thought it had some really good ideas (plus you know I like the number 7… ;). Really you should just read the article, but the main points are below. And even if you aren’t a parent they are some good tips for just being a happy person :-).

Seven Strategies to Help Raise Happy Kids

1) Get Happy Yourself
I guess actions speak louder than words!

2) Encourage Play
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” (why couldn’t they make that proverb rhyme?!?).  Playtime, espectially “open-ended play,” helps them “develop their physical skills, learn to cooperate, and exercise their imagination”…and helps “prepare them for situations beyond what they are currently in.”

3) Teach them to Build Relationships
For most of us, positive relationships are necessary for happiness whether they be friends or family.

4) Teach Optimism

5) Teach Emotional Intelligence and Self-Discipline
“Kendra Cherry, author of Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition), defines emotional intelligence as “… the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.” It’s being aware of your emotions and managing them to fit the needs of every situation. This is an important skill that our children need to learn; it’s not something that they’re just born with.”

6) Encourage Effort for Mastery
“Expecting perfection is nonsensical, and if we place that expectation on our kids, then they’re being set up for failure. According to Carter, ‘Parents who overemphasize achievement are more likely to have kids with high level of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to other kids.’ ”  However, “encouraging effort teaches kids that they can always do something to improve their lives, which is something to be happy about.” …”With mastery comes confidence, leadership skills, initiative, and an enduring desire for hard work.”

7) Form Happiness Habits
“Some happiness habits (and are not limited to) practicing gratitude, celebrating every achievement (both big and small), acknowledging effort, exemplifying a healthy sense of humor, and allowing them to learn from their own mistakes.”


Florence Italy – June 2014

After Istanbul, Turkey for 4 nights with my coworkers Becky & Zina, and Zina’s mom and sisters – Becky and I went to Florence, Italy for 3 nights while Zina and her family stayed for a wedding in Turkey.

Thursday, June 19 we left Istanbul for Florence. We had scheduled a shuttle from our apartment at 5:45 am – I saw it at 5:35 but we were kind of slow getting downstairs and by the time we got down at 5:44 it was gone :(. Kinda lame since we had pre-paid for it and we weren’t late yet. But we found a taxi real quick and made it to the airport in plenty of time. We landed in Bologna, Italy and then took a bus to the train station and took the train (I think the bus from the airport would have been faster but oh well ;).IMG_3181


Our apartment in Florence was really cute and 1 block from the Duomo and Lorenze cathedrals which were some of the main attractions!



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By the time we found our apartment and had late lunch it was about 4:30pm which is a little late for a museum or anything so we walked around the city and took some pics from Michelangelo’s Plaza which had a nice view of the city :). (Left pic: Uffizi Gallery on the left and Duomo cathedral on the right; Right pic: Vecchio bridge.)

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Friday, June 20th, we started at the Duomo where we climbed LOTS of stairs – first to the top of the Dome and then to the top of the Bell Tower. We also saw the baptistry.

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Then we went to the Uffizi Art Gallery and then we walked around the Boboli Gardens across the river. The art gallery we saw tons of paintings of Jesus and Mary and lots of cool painted ceilings and the most famous painting was probably the Birth of Venus. The gardens were huge with lots of hedges a few statues and a couple flowers. And of course we walked across the Vecchio Bridge again.

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Saturday, June 21st we went to the St Lorenzo Basilica where there were the Medici tombs (which were huge!). We also went to the Santa Croce Basilica which was pretty (where I found a precursor to NYC’s Statue of Liberty — Liberty of Poetry) and the Vecchio Palace. We attempted the Academy Art Gallery with “The David” but the line looked like it was about 2 hours long and we had already seen some replicas around the city so we passed. We all did some souvenir shopping and each got a purse for pretty cheap.

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Vecchio Palace - 3rd times the charm! Thursday we tried to go but it had closed at 2pm (normally open utnil midnight!), second day we sat on the steps and decided we were too tired, and finally Saturday we toured it as the last thing of the trip lol

Picture Right: Third times the charm! We went to Vecchio Palace Thursday but it had closed at 2pm (open until midnight other days), Friday we sat on the steps but decided we were too tired, and Saturday we finally toured it as the last thing on our trip!


Overall Florence was really cute and it was nice that it was small enough that we could walk around the whole city in an hour or two. It was really clean and the only pets we really saw there we dogs on leashes (compared to all the cats & dogs in Istanbul lol). We found a good pasta restaurant for a late lunch all three days and then gelato for dinner :). Although it was really hard to find a grocery store and they didn’t sell too much breakfast food (we did find crepes one day tho!). The ravioli with green (rucola?) cream sauce was amazing!

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It was a GREAT trip but I was glad to be home and see Ben! He surprised me with roses, taco bell, cut up watermelon, cucumbers, and peaches for the car ride home from the airport! And then the best back rub ever at home! I felt very loved!


Istanbul, Turkey – Day 3

Day 3 (Wednesday, June 18)

Wednesday, we did a little souvenir shopping then at 11:30am took the Tram to buy ferry tickets  P1010453

and had lunch (pretty good quesadillas 😉 . The ferry left at 1:30, went up the Bosphorus River, and dropped us off at 3pm in Asia (my first time in Asia!) at a little town called Anadolu Kavagi. We looked at some souvenir shops, then hiked up to the Byzantine Yoros Castle. I think Zina’s family almost died from the heat but we made it! On our hike up we saw a bunch of dogs & puppies 😀 and on the way down I bought some bread and meat for them ;). My bag of food is hanging on the fence… thus their interest. It was nice to have a few hours on the ferry where we could sit and be cool :).


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Besides dogs, we saw dolphins when we were on the ferry near the Black sea and we saw TONS of cats in Istanbul… really tons of cats…like one was always under your table when you ate at an outside restaurant lol. These kittens were in a box on the street by our apartment and the cat below was chasing a laser light a guy had :).


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Then after the Ferry dropped us back off in Istanbul about 6:30pm, we had dinner and walked back to IMG_2998the apartment :). Zina’s mom had been wanting to try Kebabs that were ground meat like the ones below instead of meat on a stick. We also tried “pizza.” This restaurant was pretty good although I’m not so sure about lamb meat which was what we had there.


Overall I really liked Istanbul! It was beautiful and had tons of old buildings. We had a hard

Mini-pears... I thought they were really cute, but Zina's mom said they have a tree at home in CA so I guess they aren't that rare :).

Mini-pears… I thought they were really cute, but Zina’s mom said they have a tree at home in CA so I guess they aren’t that rare :).

time finding really good restaurants (sometimes it was a little too bland) but there were tons of little grocery stores with fruit and what not and lots of little stands with watermelon on a stick, fresh orange juice, and chocolate-filled croissants & bagels … which was really nice :).

Istanbul, Turkey – Day 2

Day 2 (Tuesday, June 17)

Tuesday we walked over to the Hagia Sophia; we got a bit of a slow start but we had already gotten tickets the day before so we got to skip the line! It was a Christian Cathedral from the 500s to the 1400s and then was a Muslim mosque until 1931 when it was turned into a museum. Sadly there used to be tons of mosaics which were mostly removed when it became a mosque. But it is really beautiful and huge!

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Then we went to Mosaic Museum and then the Archeology Museum which were pretty good. Then we finally found a really good place to eat! And it was kind of cool that we got to eat sitting on cushions on the ground :). (Below: tomato rice & mashed potatoes w really good chicken on top, and yellow rice w mushrooms in the middle).

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Then we tried out Istanbul’s public transportation and took the Tram to Dolmabahce Palace which served as the main administrative building for the Ottoman Empire from 1856 – 1922. It was HUGE but we couldn’t take pictures of the inside.

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Then Zina’s family took the tram back to the apartment and Becky and I went to Galata Tower which was built in the 1300s. (Galata Tower on the left, and pics below are taken from the top of the tower.)

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Then we took the underground metro to Taksim Square, which is a modern/touristy area of Istanbul with lots of stores and restaurants (kind of like Times Square in NYC). We just walked down the main street …way down looking for another mysterious restaurant… but finally settled for some mediocre buffet food and ice cream 🙂 and then took the metro and tram back to the apartment. The public transportation in Istanbul was really good – better than DC… but so far it seems pretty much every metro system is better than DC’s…


Istanbul, Turkey — Day 1

I love to travel and was looking for somewhere exciting to go to this summer but Ben said he needed to work on his dissertation this year :(. So I was looking for new travel buddies and heard my coworker, Zina, was going to Turkey for a wedding, so I talked asked if I could come along and talked my other coworker, Becky, into coming along too! Zina’s mom and 2 sisters, and us all flew from DC straight to Istanbul — we left Saturday at 11:30pm and 10 hours later landed in Istanbul at 4:30pm on Sunday! All 6 of us spent 4 nights in Istanbul at an AirBnB apartment, then Becky and I went to Florence, Italy for 3 nights while Zina and her family stayed in Turkey for the wedding :).

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Dinner Day 0: Hot apple cider/tea - apparently the thing to drink in Istanbul but super sweet!

Dinner Day 0: Hot apple cider/tea – apparently the thing to drink in Istanbul but super sweet!

Turkish Airlines were pretty impressive – gave us Turkish Delight, slippers, overnight kit (tooth brush, socks, chapstick etc), pillow, tons of movies, etc. I felt like it was pretty fancy but by the time dinner came around I was starting to get annoyed they wouldn’t just let me sleep ;-). Anyways, we landed in Istanbul, made our way to our apartment, and then found ourselves some dinner.  Dinner that night, was pretty bland — we probably stayed in a too touristy of an area? The apartment was decent and only a 5-10 minute walk to old town, but was a little sparse on the bedding, the beds felt like box springs, and the bedroom window didn’t close all the way so we could hear the street noise…but I was tired enough that I slept decently anyways :-).


Day 1 (Monday, June 16)



Monday we left about 8:45am and walked to Topkapi Palace – which was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans from the 1400s – 1800s and was huge and gorgeous! I loved all the painted walls and ceilings! We also had a rather pricey lunch there… but I did get my watermelon ;-).



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Then we walked over to the Basilica Cistern which has over 300 columns, was built in the 500s and provided water to the Topkapi Palace and other places until after the 1400s.

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Then we went to the Blue Mosque which was very beautiful! A mosque normally has 1 minaret but the Blue Mosque has 6. When being built in the 1600s, the Sultan was critiqued for being IMG_2940 IMG_2880presumptuous for having 6 minarets, since the only other mosque with so many was in Mecca. To overcome this critique the Sultan ordered a 7th minaret for the mosque in Mecca :).



Random sheep at the park :)

Random sheep at the park 🙂

Then we went to the Grand Bazaar (a huge indoor market), where you are supposed to bargain… I did bargain but I think we still paid too much…After we were sufficiently annoyed with people trying to get us to buy stuff ;), Becky and I RAN back to the Science & Technology Museum (back by the Topkapi palace where were that morning lol), we got there at 4:30 and it closed at 5, but I think we were done in about 10 minutes lol… we were so tired and my feet were dying plus the museum wasn’t that impressive… so we laughed and went and sat in a park for an hour :-).



For dinner, Becky and I wandered around neighborhoods looking for a mysterious restaurant on google maps…we never found it but after finding our way out of the neighborhoods (or the “ghetto” as Becky said ;), we found a decent place to eat with a Whirling Dervish dancer – they spin while they meditate/pray.

"Pancakes" - w cheese & potatoes, rice pudding, and hummus and tortillas

“Pancakes” – w cheese & potatoes, rice pudding, and hummus and tortillas

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