Making changes, Taking chances.

Food

La Dolce Far Niente…

Forgive me dear reader for this prolonged absence.  I have been a nomad for the past month or so.  Since I last wrote, I have been to Geneva, Lake Como, Milan, Florence, Siena, Pisa, Rome and this past weekend, Istanbul. 

September 14th is a day that will go down in (my) history as the day on which I presented to the company CEO.  The meeting was long, intense – and a huge success and will hopefully make its mark in the ‘dana annals’ as a career maker and a life changer.  It has certainly changed my outlook on work.  If I can prepare for a CEO visit in 3 weeks, I can do anything right?!  This meeting has changed my benchmark for stress, making everything else feel so effortless in contrast.  This meeting also made me realize how far my boundaries stretch.  Not for my ability to present to a CEO but for my ability to survive an incredible amount of stress, lack of sleep, lack of food, pressure, change, frustration and political nonsense.  As for the career maker part, only time will tell..  So following the three weeks of utter torture leading up to this big meeting, I escaped on a much needed vacation on September 16th, as soon as it was over. 

In that period, I crossed the fields of Tuscany, took in the magnificent architecture and history of la bella Italia and the Ottoman empire, ate a lot of incredible Italian food and traditional Turkish cuisine and indulged in too much gelato, baklava and kunafe.  I laughed a lot, fought a lot, walked a lot, loved a lot and really lived.

You see dear reader, the happiest moments in my life somehow always fold back to one thing: freedom.  My wanderlust soul craves adventure and liberty from the corporate chains that tie me down.  With travel comes peace of mind.  Even when I am walking endlessley for hours, complaining because of my aching feet or from dragging around my over-packed luggage; somehow on vacation, the pace of life suddenly slows down to accommodate me.  The biggest decision of my day becomes what I will have for lunch and all traces of stress, frustration and anxiety that may have found various ways of etching themselves into my face are suddenly erased.  If I must be honest, food also makes me immensely happy and the discovery of food through travel is even more special.  There is much to tell you about all these wonderful places I visited but I prefer to let my photos do the talking.  I hope you enjoy this photo food journal.                                                                                                            

Italian cuisine (from left clockwise)  1. Pizza Marinara with basilico in Roma  2. Pizza il funghi in Pisa  3.  Insalata mista in Milano  4. Spaghetti il pommodoro in Roma

Italian pizza

 

 Istanbul (from left clockwise) 1. grilled prawns on an eggplant puree bed with frisee and a sherry vinagrette at the Istanbul Modern  2. a doner kebab vendor  3. beautiful lanterns in the Grand Bazaar  4. Turkish Delight  5. Chocolate flavored baklava  6. Coconut covered turkish delight  7. Kunafe

Istanbul, baklava, Doner kebab, Turkish Delight, Kunafe, Grand Bazaar, lanterns

During my time away time, Steve Jobs crossed over to the other side.  In homage to his positivity, perseverance and passion and in honor of the incredible change he has brought to our everyday lives, remember to “stay hungry, stay foolish” and travel. The world is a vast and beautiful place.  Earlier this year I took a trip to Paris and fell in love.   Dare to explore this beautiful worlds’ depths.  You dont know what could be waiting for you..

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Another year older

It’s been inexcusably too long since I’ve posted something.  This is mainly because I have been overwhelmed with a work-related negative piece of news that I did not take well and still have difficulty accepting.  In the process, I have learned that some people are excellent at playing the game of politics and somehow evading responsibilty to the almost-malicious extent of hurting others in the process.  What has been more overwhelming is the realization that my whimsical belief in the adage ‘what comes around goes around’ has been nullified.  Why have we been brought up to believe that good things happen to good people?  And that the bad guy always loses in the end?  In my life it seems quite the opposite.  Those who master all the bad skills seems to constantly emerge on top.  I will stop dwelling on the negative however I did want to justify my absence so here I am dear reader working through a weekend for all the above reasons.  The corporate world is unforgiving.

Thankfully, Thursday presented itself as a ray of sunshine in otherwise very stormy skies.  It was my birthday!  And how serendipitous to make such an important learning at this point in my life.  Maybe I have always known it but refused to accept it.  Today I solemnly swear that my career is taking a back seat to my life post this magnanimous meeting.  There is alot to look forward to…

Yesterday was incredibly special. I wish I could replay it.  The thought of being the center of attention is always daunting but the reality of it incredibly contagious.  The calls, the emails, the messages, the surprises, the thoughtful gestures, the gifts and the company were just perfect.  Despite the negativity of the past week, I couldnt help but feel extremely grateful for everything in my life.  I’m a very fortunate girl.  I just need to make a few tough choices to improve the quality of my life.  Right now, my bedroom is a sanctuary of joy filled with lots of balloons and the remains of gift wraps and bags.  

Another year older and certainly one more wiser.  May this be the year when I decide to put myself before my job.  Until then, I’ll just have me another piece of chocolate cake.


And the celebrations continue…

So in just the first week of August we celebrated two birthdays and an anniversary.  Following my last post I have consumed a considerable amount of sugar and taken lots of celebratory photos!  Among the last two celebrations were my parents  33rd wedding anniversary and my sisters 30th birthday.  Both big wows.  And with them desserts to match!

Given it is Ramadan, we are consuming very little of what mountain of desserts has quickly accumulated at home and severely craving them during fasting hours.  Moreover, this means I have resorted to much store-bought sugar relief over creating my own delicacies but fear not dear reader, this baker has not yet laid down her spatula.  Stay tuned for lots more to come… for now, enjoy my mouth-watering photos of the desserts we have so enjoyed devouring!

The last celebration of the month is my own.  Soon to be another year older… *gulp*

Orange-infused chocolate mousse cake with a macaron almond base

Happy Anniversary mum & dad!

Happy birthday sis!

xoxo


August: the month of love

August is a month of many celebrations.  Birthdays, anniversaries and lots and lots of dessert.  Given we are in the holiest of months – Ramadan – the first celebration of yesterday saw the replacement of the traditional birthday cake with the uber traditional Arabic “knaffeh“.  Now there are many variations on this rich and syrupy dessert and many will strongly argue for the reasons behind the deliciousness of the version they prefer.  You typically lean towards one base.  It is an intriguingly patriotic type of dessert.

Yesterday, we celebrated with both versions, known as “kheshneh” (rough) and “na3meh” or (fine) in English.  This is because the family is not unified in its love towards one.  You can see the patriotism point I was making!  The difference between these two is in the dough.  Both are assemled similarly: a base of cheese – wonderfully soft and melted when warm – covered with a thick layer of dough, topped with crushed pistacios and drizzled with an incredible amount of that sugary-sweet gooey syrup.  The ” knaffe kheshneh” has a hair-like dough tinted a bright orange color with a bit of a crunch.  The “knaffeh na3meh” has more of a compact rich dough that is soft, more buttery and more indulgent.  You can see where my allegiance goes!

Knaffeh Kheshneh

Knaffeh Na3meh

Most Arabic desserts are similar in their construction.  I also brought home some of the delicious desserts that are triangular in shape, known as “mtaba2”.  This consists of a phyllo dough filled with cream or cheese and once again topped with crushed pistacios and drizzled with that famous syrup known as “atter”.  These are an absolute favorite of mine.

Mutaba2 or Triangles (my creatively inventive English name!)

Happy Birthday dad.

Still a few more celebrations to go…stay tuned for more sugary love!


Summertime and the living is easy…

This has turned out to be exactly the weekend I needed.  Restful.  After the travelling of the past two weekends, and the stressful meetings of last week, my mind, body and soul finally got a chance to rest.  Not as much as I would have liked but enough to feel somewhat renewed.  I noticed earlier this afternoon that alot of my weekend has happened in twos.  I sat by the pool both yesterday and today, watched two movies and had a burger twice (me! the junk food hater!) – Gourmet Burger & Shake Shack.  I cant believe I lived in New York City for 4 years and was oblivious to the existance of Shake Shack!  Yum! 

Being a stickler for efficiency and a self-confessed loser at wasting time, this weekend has been particularly rewarding because I was able to rest AND be extremely efficient… I managed to cross three things off my to-do list that have resided there for at least 3-4 months:  1. I finally renewed my drivers license (over 2 months expired!)  2. I finally hung up the three frames I bought months ago (beautiful! love my new bedroom) and 3. I FINALLY baked those cupcakes for H! (a year late request!). I havent baked in a while and this morning reminded me how much I enjoy the process and the rewards of seeing raw ingredients transform into heavenly delights.  I must say that these are probably the best tasting cupcakes I have made.  I made a few changes to the frosting that kicked up the yum factor significantly.

(Vanilla cupcakes fresh out of the oven)

(Frosted and decorated)

Now here’s the bummer.  My intention with these cupcakes was to surprise H at work.  The always reliable H who picks up the phone without fail and answers BBM messages faster than you can believe happened to have a busy day today!  I could neither reach her through messages or by phone and after much effort and patience, my baby bro received a special cupcake delivery that put a huge smile on his face!  At least I managed to tickle someones tastebuds!  What this means however is that point 3 above is back on the to-do list!  Whether or not I had to bake them for H, this is definitely something I want to further enjoy and explore.  Look out for more baking experiments and lots of photos.


Happy 4th of July!!!

In homage to my years spent in the US, I am still fond of the many US holidays that grace the American calendar.  Despite living there for four years, I never got the chance to experience 4th of July in the US.  Still, it is my duty to wish the land that enriched my resume a big thank-you and a great big happy birthday.  To my American peeps celebrating, Happy 4th of July!  Enjoy the long weekend!!


Beirut-ing – Part #1

It’s been a while since I’ve penned my thoughts down.  Let’s see.  Since my last post, I learned a massive lesson in controlling my need for speed.  This involved a cop car, sirens and a HUGE dent on my credit card bill.  I also failed my detox miserably.  I did however learn that you cannot meander off the path for any exceptions (even just one scoop of Haagen Daaz Belgian Chocolate ice-cream) because once you do, there’s no turning back.  I learned this lesson one day into my 2-week detox.  Nonetheless, I managed to accomplish what I intended to with the detox in a mere few days, and unintentionally too!  I lost a couple of kilos to allow me to nicely fit into the dress for the wedding.  I spent the past weekend in Beirut despite the mania leading up to the upcoming meetings.  It was a beautiful wedding and perhaps the best part was meeting and getting to better know a few new people.  It gives me comfort to know that there are that many nice people inhabiting my desert.  I really should work less and devote more time to socializing.  Attached is a shot I took from our breakfast table on Friday morning.

Beirut carries with it so much nostalgia for the days gone by.  It reminds me of my college days and my rambunctious and restless character, wanting to take in everything and squeeze so much into so little time.  I must say, it seems nothing has changed!  I also got to savour some of the familiar and local delicacies I love: Saj, Manakeesh, and the largely underestimated merry cream from Bliss House as well as spend quality time with the BFF, the god child, the sis and the BF.  The perfect round-up.

On matters of the heart, things got a little shaky early in the trip but were back on track.  Long distance is like a time warp.  Events are disconnected because so much of what happens in between seeing each other is lost in the memory of cyberspace and phone space.  Alot of the communication also happens in your head.  Sometimes I wonder, did I have this conversation or did I imagine the conversation in my head and then think that I had it?  Hmmm… I think you get what Im saying.  The point is a cliched one.  Communication is key and the lack thereof makes room for issues.  That combined with the pressures of family.  My big question is, how do you start a relationship long distance ?  Does the path less followed, or rather, the more difficult path lead to rainbows and pots of gold?  Does anyone out there have any advice?   

The happy news is that I’m 3 days away from getting back on a plane, direction Beirut, for another wedding and hopefully more quality time with the BF.  For now, it’s best I catch up on my sleep given my late arrival last night offered me only 4 hours of slumber.  I wake up to French class and a ridiculously busy day at work.  Life is good.


Paris on my mind…

 

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It’s been a month today since Paris.  Amazing how time has the ability to warp past you at lightning speed so that memories only a month old start to feel so distant.  Attached are a few of my own photos from the magical city of lights and love.  Two weekends filled with lots of laughter, discovery, love and food.  Somehow the world is more whimsical in sepia. 

Paris je t’aime.


0:27:39

 

There’s something you should know about me. I’m the epitome of black and white, an ultimate extremist.  I’m not proud of it, especially when the extreme I happen to be on is the destructive one, enter the excessive indulgence in chocolate and candy this past week.

So here comes my confession. I did not in fact run when I promised I would. I apologize for that. But the morning I have spent today, (I believe) compensates for that shortfall and demonstrates the new commitment I’ve made in the opposite extreme.

I promised you plans were being made but more than that a lot of psychological preparation. I’ve decided to go on a detox for 2 weeks and I’m strangely excited about it. This means no carbs, no dairy and no sugar for the next 15 days.  Yikes!  I also finally made it to the gym this morning. What a liberating feeling! It’s been a year and 6 months since I ran my first 10K and 1 year since I’ve been to the gym. I expected not to last 5 minutes so I’m secretly proud of my performance. I decided not to push it too far today. I did 3kms in 27mins. Not very ambitious but I feel great and Im reassured I can regain my stamina if I persevere.

I then made my way to the spa for some much needed R&R.  I spent 20 minutes in the Jacuzzi followed by a 60 minute detoxifying seaweed body wrap and a 60 minute Elemis facial.  Bliss. 

The treatment was amazing.  I was scrubbed with salts and then slathered with a very fishy smelling seaweed paste.  I was then wrapped in plastic like a mummy and my spa bed was immersed into warm water with barely enough wiggle room making me feel like I was back in the womb.  During that time my therapist gave me a scalp massage that I felt released a lot of confused thoughts and tension.  I could almost see ideas leaving my head in cartoon bubbles.  20 minutes into the treatment and I think I had sweated out all the toxins in my body.  A messy treatment but strangely soothing despite being mummified.  I felt immediately great afterwards: lighter, happier, more zen.

This was followed by a healthy lunch and a mani & pedi in a beautiful bright coral – perfect for summer.

It’s been an interesting week overall.  The company offsite from last week definitely helped boost my morale.  It’s been a productive, positive week and I’m very proud to say that I managed to leave work at a relatively decent hour almost every day.  For me, that’s big progress. 

Better work-life balance (so far!) and a healthier approach to life.  I’m very happy with this start! 

Happy Friday to all!


Running for …

So the master plan hasn’t kicked into gear yet unless you count point #4 in my list below (baking).  A delicious blueberry cheescake.  Ok, so I didn’t bake it myself but I generously enjoyed it.  You must be reassured dear reader that I am neither giving in nor making excuses.  The planning is happening behind the scenes and is in full gear.    I have decided to tackle point #2 first.  Running. 

I’m hitting the gym after work tomorrow.  It’s been a year.  I can’t wait!

Soon enough, I’ll tackle point #4 head-on so watch this space for some fabulous photos of my own baking.