A Visit to the Turkish Consulate

 

In 2014 my book Understanding Turkey Today was released by Mitchell Lane Publishers. It was fascinating to research. I was lucky enough to have some help from Heather and Cengiz Cigeroglu. Heather taught art at a school in Istanbul and Cengiz grew up in Turkey. They were super generous with their time, teaching me cool things like how to make a kid-friendly version of ebru (Turkish marbled paper) and also how to cook some delicious recipes eaten by people all over Turkey. Here’s a photo of my first attempt:

 

Menemen

Menemen

After reaching out to the Turkish Consulate in New York during the research process, I was invited to meet the Vice Consul, Sadik Serhat Akkoç. So this past Thursday I headed to the consulate where I was able to present a copy of my book as a gift. There we spoke about writing for children and adults, education in the US and in Turkey, and so on. Later that evening the Vice Consul and his wife hosted me to a beautiful dinner full of traditional home-cooked specialties – from soups to pilaf to stuffed peppers. It was, hands down, the most delicious meal I have ever eaten. We talked about culture, food, family and so many other topics. I learned so much and very much hope to go to Turkey in the future to learn even more about this fascinating country!

Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee

Turkish Delight coated in edible rose petals

Turkish Delight coated in edible rose petals

Utah — Petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch

Growing up on the East Coast, petroglyphs were something I’d never actually seen in person. When I was in Utah recently, I had the chance to spend a morning at McConkie Ranch just west of Vernal in the area now known as Dinosaurland.

Even though McConkie Ranch is privately owned, the public is welcome to explore the petroglyphs and pictographs on the property. Don’t know the difference between the two? Petroglyphs are images chipped into the rock. Pictographs are painted onto the rock. The petroglyphs here were made by the Fremont people about 1,000 years ago. Trails are well marked and it’s easy to get around.

One of the many petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch

One of the many petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch

Petroglyph People

Petroglyph People

On the sunny, crisp morning when my daughter and I visited McConkie, we had the place practically to ourselves. Payment is just $4 per car and on the honor system. A metal trash can full of walking sticks for loan is available. Inside the little cabin at the entrance is a metal cash box and a fridge full of beverages. Post-it notes and business cards from visitors wallpapered the inside of the cabin. I left mine too. Everyone is supposed to register in the guest book — there were people from around the globe who’d recently stopped in.

 

The petroglyphs were abundant — it seemed at every turn, we saw a new image.

The rock formations here were spectacular as well, as were the blooming cacti along the trails.

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Cactus in bloom

One of many cool rock formations at McConkie Ranch

Cool rocks and sky

Incredible contrast between rock and sky

McConkie Ranch is just one of Vernal’s gems…keep posted for more! If you can’t wait to see more, check out the following website:

http://www.dinoland.com/

Utah — Fossils and Fun

One of the coolest things about visiting Utah is checking out the state’s many paleontological sites and research centers. On my recent trip, I was able to learn about how many different dinosaurs once tramped in the land we now refer to as the Beehive State. Did you know that the Allosaurus is Utah’s state dinosaur? I had a great time seeing Allosaurus bones — among many other dinosaur bones — at Dinosaur National Monument’s famous Wall of Bones. So cool! Want to see more of this great site?

http://www.nps.gov/dino/planyourvisit/quarry-exhibit-hall.htm

Another highlight of my trip was a visit to Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden. Park Director Casey Allen was kind enough to give me a tour of the museum, as well as the fascinating onsite lab. I was able to view some fossils that were in the process of being cleaned up and put back together. One of my favorites was the salamander-like Metaposaurus from 280 million years ago.

Metaposaurus from 280 MYA

Metaposaurus from 280 MYA

I also loved seeing the many fragments that make up the Aetosaur below — It is estimated that the million or so pieces of this creature will take about 7 years to put back together. It takes a patient and brilliant paleontologist to do this job!

Aetosaur

Aetosaur

The 100+ full scale sculptures at Eccles Dinosaur Park was incredible. In addition to learning about these vast dinosaurs, I wasn’t above goofing around a bit too!

Being silly at Eccles Dinosaur Park -- This place is a blast for the whole family!

Being silly at Eccles Dinosaur Park — This place is a blast for the whole family!

Utah Trip — Post 1

I just got back from a fantastic trip to Utah. The itinerary that the Office of Tourism put together for me and my teenage daughter Acadia was incredible. Since we saw so many terrific sites, I’ll share them over the course of a few posts. Arriving in Salt Lake City was a breeze. I couldn’t get over how close the airport is to downtown. Apparently, it’s about the closest downtown area to any major international airport in the country: a 15 minute drive at most. Utah’s culinary scene is hip. We started our trip with Sunday brunch at Pago. Just look at the gorgeous waffle I had:

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Another fantastic foodie spot was Tin Angel. The artworks for sale throughout the restaurant made for a festive atmosphere, but the menu was diverse and the food delicious. From bikers to hipsters, everyone was welcome and felt at home at this spot. The raspberry caramel bread pudding was to die for! Here are a few shots of the artworks on display  — and the food, of course — when we ate there:

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One of the many cool artworks for sale at Tin Angel

 

Beautiful pasta with fresh bread at Tin Angel

 

Cadi enjoying her drinks (including butterscotch soda) at the Tin Angel

Cadi enjoying her drinks (including butterscotch soda) at the Tin Angel

Lest you think all we did was eat on the trip, we also had a fascinating look into our family history with librarian Sandra Joseph at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. Genealogy is very important in Mormon culture. The FHL is open to anyone and its friendly and knowledgeable staff will take the time to help you find out about your own family tree. It’s well worth a stop when in town.

My next post will be the start of the dinosaur-related sites we visited…Come back soon and check it out!

Heading to Utah

This coming week I am going on a super-fun assignment to Utah. I’ve been invited by the state’s tourism department to share some of the fascinating and fun sites to visit throughout Utah. My teenage daughter is the VIP for this trip, so our itinerary includes the following:

Want to see more?  I’ll be sharing photos — stay tuned! Keep your eyes peeled for an article in Kiki magazine too!

 

Getting the Gigs — Highlights Foundation workshop

This past week I made my first (but definitely not last) trip to the Highlights Foundation facility in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Set in the countryside, there were beautiful walks and trails to be enjoyed during our free time.

A lovely view near the Barn

A lovely view near the Barn

Award-winning author Larry Dane Brimner led the workshop, titled “Capturing the Spotlight: Getting the Gigs.” It was a fantastic opportunity to learn from Larry and other well-established authors about the nuts and bolts of school visits, promoting one’s work, connecting with librarians and teachers, etc. I had in depth-conversations with Selene Joy Castrovilla, Melanie Hope Greenberg, and Vicki Cobb (among others). The small group size made it comfortable to talk to everyone in the workshop, whether presenter or attendee. I cannot wait to go back to another Highlights workshop and look forward to continuing friendships with everyone I met here.

Larry Dane Brimner and I enjoying the view of the countryside -- and Selene Castrovilla's author car!

Larry Dane Brimner and I enjoying the view of the countryside — and Selene Castrovilla’s author car!

Selene Castrovilla's AuthorMobile

Selene Castrovilla’s AuthorMobile

Hanging out with new friends Jodi Moore (right) and Selene Castrovilla (center)

Hanging out with new friends Jodi Moore (right) and Selene Castrovilla (center)

I was so thrilled to meet one of my favorite author-illustrators, Melanie Hope Greenberg.

I was so thrilled to meet one of my favorite author-illustrators, Melanie Hope Greenberg.

Vicki Cobb and I had lots of great chats about nonfiction writing.

Vicki Cobb and I had lots of great chats about nonfiction writing.

Chicago Trip

This past week I went to Chicago where I got to explore some of the same stomping grounds as the character Francisco in my new picture book Francisco’s Kites. I traveled to Pilsen, visited the National Museum of Mexican Art and then headed to a pupuseria to try El Salvador’s favorite snack food. I also noticed that there’s a kite festival in Chicago that I’d love to attend next year in conjunction with my book. So much inspiration!

Pupusas in Pilsen

Pupusas in Pilsen

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A great pupuseria in Chicago

Chicago's Kids & Kites festival

Chicago’s Kids & Kites festival

Visiting Students at Colgate University

This week I am visiting two different classes at Colgate University to share my book Francisco’s Kites with the students. One class, taught by Dr. Anna Rios, is focused on immigration issues. The other is an introductory Spanish class taught by Pilar Mejia Barrera. We are talking about the inspiration for the book, the research and writing process, and how picture books do or do not reflect different communities, such as the Salvadoran community in Chicago where Francisco lives. The Colgate students have asked many insightful questions and given me food for thought, to be sure. The visits reminded me how much I enjoy being in the classroom.

 

Francisco’s Kites

Welcome to my blog!

It’s a sunny day here in upstate New York and I am super excited. Why? My new website has just gone live. Designed by Shari Kreisberg-Therrien, it is a good reflection of me and my writing. There’s lots of color, full text articles and peeks at all my books. There are even some funny tales from my past hidden in the site if you poke around. What are my favorite pair of shoes? Where was my first job? The new aliciaklepeis.com site has these details and lots more!

I’ll be posting about book signings, new publications and whatever else catches my attention. I’d love to hear from you!

Haw Par Villa 1991

I took this picture when I went to visit my pen pal Mei Sien in Singapore back in 1991. This month we’ve been writing for 30 years!!