random kindness

Few days ago we had a car accident. Time stood still for a long moment. The car was hit from behind by a brainless guy who was late for work. My car was thrown in the air and nearly flew over the rails of the bridge we were crossing. A miracle made us hit the concrete rail and land back on the bridge. No one got hurt. My mother, my daughter and my dog were with me. What happened after was a an overwhelming flow of people coming to our rescue, helping us deal with everything from contacting the police, the car insurance and offering moral support while waiting to handle the aftermaths. A police man named Rabih arriving on his Harley told me to consider him as a brother and offered his help. Still under chock I started yelling at him and accused him of not being harsh enough on the hundreds of brain dead drivers (!). He took it very well and smiled apologetically. Two other men approached us and stayed with us until we could leave the place and could go home. They never left our side and it felt nice not to be alone under the boiling sun, in the middle of a congested bridge, with a smashed car and overwhelming emotions and anger.

A total stranger also showed up, presenting himself as the son-in-law of my husband’s company driver. I had never met him, and he came to help with a smile.

I never had the chance to ask for the name of all these people nor thank them properly. They stopped and offered their assistance without getting anything in return. Spontaneous kindness.

So THANK YOU kind people.

THANK YOU miracle.

🙂

kindness

 

 

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happiness quartet

I wrote a long series of posts on happiness, a while ago, on this blog. You can search under the tag happiness and you will stumble on 25 steps to happ(y)ness.  My goal was to find 52 steps (as in 52 weeks), and it is never too late to add to the list.

Many years later I am still thinking and searching. Today while sweating on the elliptical, I felt happy for a moment. Despite the effort, the heat, the pounding heart, the body trying to cope and compete with the 20 something mermaids beside me, I felt happy. It hit me that my brain was being drugged by dopamine, the happiness hormone and it felt so good. A revelation to me. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells, responsible for our happiness. But it does not work alone, usually it is part of a team; the happiness quartet includes dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins (also called D.O.S.E).

These hormones can be released through several steps. One of them is regular exercise. Which I discovered today. My only regret is that I havn’t discovered it long time ago, like 25 years ago… I would have been able to shift my moods with running shoes or a swim or a brisk walk in the park.

Other steps to enhance the happiness hormones in the body is to sleep well (dah!), eat certain food (almond, banana) get a massage (it can reduce stress by 30%), get out in the sun (no wonder that depressions are increasing in the winter dark days), listening to your favorite music also guarantees dopamine release in your brain, meditation (a total increase of 65% of dopamine!), and finally never ever underestimate the true benefits of a true long hug (at least 10 seconds). One more: eat loads of dark chocolate!

So there you go. Easy and accessible ways of enhancing some happiness hormones in your life.

What makes YOU happy?

happiness hormones

happiness

 

 

Life lines

Living in this part of the world keeps you busy with appearances. My entourage never seems to age. I feel like the only one approaching the fabulous 50 on the fast track whereas women around me seem to be stuck between the 35th and 40th round.

It is an issue no matter how you deal with it. My first personal encounter with the word Botox was at the dentist, who naturally was only 30 cm away from my face and had all the time of the world to scrutinize every inch of my face while dealing with my teeth. He mentioned casually a friend who gave botox fillings and who was very good. I chose not to be offended and smiled my way to the end of the session.

The second time was at a facial massage session, kindly offered by my brother for my birthday. Same remarks from the beauty parlor woman. I needed to attend to my lines now before it was too late she said. Again I chose to smile my way and left and never returned.

Why do people think that we should flatten our facial lines in order to be happy? Personally I think that it does give you a fresher look when done discretely. The person shines and seems relaxed and stressfree. Not a bad thing after all.

On the other hand, ironing our face might sometimes send out a signal that we want to hold on to youth, to carefree years, to a life without worries. An impossible task and yet. Often we see deformed shapes as the result of too many injections. That is the scary, irreversible part. The one I run away from.

My old friend once told me: cherish your life lines and don’t call them wrinkles. They tell your story. They are real. You worked hard to get them (that is the funniest comment I heard about wrinkles).

Although I agree with her, I also tend to think we own our body and we should respect it and take care of it and embellish it the way we feel is right for us.

With this I leave you with Fabulous Baddy, whom is just a crazy and funny as life should be. With life lines and all.

baddy winkle
Fabulous Baddy Winkle, 90 years old and still kicking!

Culinary moment in Madrid

Four days in Madrid is not enough to get all the flavours of this addictive city. However it is certainly enough to give you a taste to come back for more. One restaurant is worth mentioning; El Imparcial Madrid. Created few years ago in the previous location of the newspaper El Imparcial Madrid (keeping the name was a genius decision), the restaurant is barely noticeable from the streets as the front shop is actually a concept store,  mixing cultural events with books, posters, gift items and so on. We would never have experienced it should our landlord not have recommended it.

Entering the place takes you through displays of funky books and artifacts. The stuff that looks good in a shop but looses parts of its charm once you take them home (am amazed at how attractive and cleverly displayed these places are).

To access the restaurant you take the beautiful stairs up to the first floor, greeted by eclectic decor on walls and hanging artifacts.

The restaurant is divided into one main large very lit room and several antichambres for more cosy environment. All furniture seemed to be taken from another era. Retro style. Mirrors. Gold bordered tables. Plush chairs. Round marble tables. Windows offering cosy view of the street and loads of light into the space.

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The welcoming and gorgeous setting makes it difficult to dislike the rest of the experience. The food menu is charming, with traditional spanish items such as Patatas Bravas, and Ceviche, but with a little twist transforming it into a delightful and urban feel. Nevertheless not an extraordinary culinary experience. The price bracket is correct, dishes ranging between 6-18 €. I would recommend to stick to the many starters and Hits dishes as they offer a myriad of flavours (in comparison to the extensive pizza list that were normal and a bit flavourless.). Our selection of dessert fell on a delicious crème brûlée with red fruits (2 tiny blackberries !).

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Ceviche de corvina con guacamango

A definite must when you visit Madrid, especially if you fancy places with a modern but retro twist and excellent wine.

Spain. Madrid. New building of the newspaper El Imparcial (The Impartial). Engraving. Colored.
Madrid. New building of the newspaper El Imparcial (The Impartial). Engraving. Colored.; Private Collection; (add.info.: Private Collection); Source: Bridgeman Images.

Back when it all started in 1908.

 

 

 

 

 

 

how to keep slim for a sugar addict

It is not a secret. I love food. I love looking at it. I love thinking of it. I love making it. And you tell me to keep slim. Mission impossible. From my youngest age, where my female hormones kicked in and rounded my shapes, I remember being in love with bread, pasta, spinach pies and chocolate cakes. There was always a reason to bake or cook and invite friends over. Sitting in my childhood’s kitchen, mixing flavors and spices while discussing world issues with my closest friends are deep anchored memories.

My relationship to food is a mystery but not a totally strange one. Throughout the years,  food become also a remedy for boredom, for unhappy thoughts, a place that I knew would provide me with warmth, comfort and also gratification after a long tiring day (how many times didn’t I hide chocolate in the cupboards and then binge on them late night, between baby shifts and sleepless nights?).

Bad habits grow and stick like caramel. It takes tremendous effort, concentration, will power, focus, and stamina to break them, to live without them and finally to replace them by better ones. It can take years. Don’t believe anyone who says habits die after 7 days. They have no clue what they are talking about.

Am still struggling but I have found a way to sneak behind them.

Last year, at the peak of my weight (I had the same weight than when I delivered my daughter and that was without being pregnant; that’s when you realize that you have lost control and that some habits were just taking over), Facebook started sending me suggestions about a group called Whole 30 ( FB must be the biggest spy on this planet, how else would it know about my long terme diet struggle? :)).

Whole 30 is basically a detox plan that lasts 30 days. The rules are simple; you avoid certain food products for 30 days, which is the period your body needs to detox and get rid of bad habits (hmm). It also is meant to help you deal with your sugar dragon (later about that; it never goes completely away), get rid of toxins, clean your organism. The product groups are : Grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol.  Eat everything that is whole and not processed. Sounds easy?

whole 30 chart

Well, I did it for 6 months. Lost 9 Whole kilos. Felt amazing. Light. In control. Deprived from the constant need of food. Ate because I was hungry. I managed to stick to the plan for this long because it became easier and easier. A way of life. I didn’t think of calories, or counting. I knew what I could eat and what I shouldn’t be looking at.

Unfortunately Came Christmas.

One gingerbread cookie after another throw me slowly back to the crazy cycle of sugar addiction. It became harder and harder to say no. And my body didn’t listen to me. My cravings got back.

6 months later I am finding a middle ground between Whole 30 and letting myself indulge. A gourmet eater will never cease to love eating. But I can take “Whole 30/15/45” breaks in between and thus calm my rollercoaster.

What is your plan to stay slim? I would love to hear about it 🙂

For more info on Whole 30.

 

 

 

Back to Blogging :)

Good evening sweet people… Years have passed by without a word from me. I apologize sincerely for that. Basically I found a job that occupied most of my time, leaving little time to the creative mind and much less to this sweet place where I was happy to share thoughts and recipes with you.

It is 2018 now, and I am ready once again to write (this passion has never left me) and my paths have brought me back to what I love most; writing, cooking, photographing and sharing. I am starting a new journey, which might or might not bring me to write a cookbook with my cherished recipes.  This platform is going to be my testing ground where I will be posting anything related to this exciting endeavor.  I hope you will enjoy this adventure with me and I would appreciate any feedback related to the upcoming posts.

I salute each one of you and look forward to connect with you again.

Greetings from my balcony where coffee, sun, flowers and street vibes are becoming my best friends 🙂

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{bake} easy yummy date cake

Baking makes me think of other things…

Let me explain…

Living these days in Lebanon is worrisome. We are in the middle of an unknown era where each hour can change the lives of too many. Having experienced war since my 5th birthday (born and brought up in Beirut), waiting for the next car bomb to explode brings fearsome and very annoying memories to the surface. Mind you, i am lucky in so many ways but today my life is about raising two beautiful children and making the best decisions to ensure that they at least grow up with some sense of security and carefree moments.

So I turn to baking. Because baking is about smells, textures, the anticipation of flavours melting in your mouth, the mixing of ingredients who by magic turn into rewarding comfort food.

So here is what i baked this morning:

ready to be tasted
ready to be tasted
served with white tea! a treat...
served with white tea! a treat…

DATE CAKE

ingredients:

185 g dates (without stones) and cut into smaller pieces.

1 tsp baking soda

2,5 dl boiling water

90 g softened butter

115 g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence (or powder, works fine)

2 eggs

185 g flour

1,5 tsp baking powder.

how to:

The making is quite easy and forward.

In a bowl add the dates, the boiling water and the baking soda. Let it rest for 15 minutes while you make the rest of the cake. This will soften the dates and makes it easier to mix with the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, mix  with a mixer (or by hand with a wooden spoon, that will make you burn extra calories!) the softened butter with sugar and vanilla. It should become a light brown homogenous dough. Add one egg at a time, and mix well. Then sift half of the flour and add it to the dough, by mixing with a wooden spoon (here i suggest avoiding the electrical mixer, as it will remove the fluffiness of the dough). Add half of the date mixture. mix again. then add the rest of the flour, the baking powder and the date mix.

Give it one last blend by hand(spoon) and pour into a greased cake pan, any form will do. I am using the round one with the whole in the middle. the result is beautiful.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 35-40 minutes, in the middle of a pre-heated oven.

When baked let it rest for 10 minutes before you remove it from its form.

Sift white powered sugar sprinkle over the cake!

done!

Bon appetit!!!