Silent Souls

Have you ever sat in a garden and waited, sitting so still, for flowers to bloom, to open and close?

I used to do that a lot as a child. Just sit, wait and watch flowers; each night a different flower, I called them moonflowers. They opened all of sudden, shaking a bit as if they waited for humans to fall asleep, so they would wake up while they slept, and I knew then like I believe now, everything, everything has a soul.

They would shake a bit, stretch, and open up a bit, petal by petal, making sure no noisy humans were awake to watch the magic of nature as it changed and became full of soul. I’ve always loved that.

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Once I’ve seen them, I would laugh and greet them like old friends, talk a bit to them, water them if their sand was dry with my little red can, yawn in my white cotton nightgown and tiptoe back to the house, barefoot and happy, sometimes dirty. Dreaming of flowers, trees, animals, moons, sky, sun, wind, rain and all my silent friends, and they weren’t silent in my dreams.

I think I never believed I was one of the humans; childhood has that effect, it makes you feel like grownups have their world and children have their own.

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Lived-In Luxe

A few years back, I was studying Interior Design, for almost two years, and because we almost share the same classes with Graphic Design, I changed my specialty and jumped into the graphic world. If I had continued after graduation for another two semesters, I might have been holding both degrees. I was excellent at both.

Little did I know, that a few years from that point, my life and career path would totally change and take me in a different direction, and both options would be more of a hobby, but I’ve been always open to change. Look at me now! I’ve moved in two months from my hometown Amman, leaving behind my family, friends and blooming career in social media and blogging for love. I got married without a wedding or planning, or even a waiting apartment.

After eight months of living in a hotel, I missed the feeling of a home, I missed my things, my closet, and my books. Mostly I missed Amman’s larger spaces. In Kuwait, the prices for larger apartments is absurd, but lucky for us, my husband found a new building and he leased our apartment which happens to be located in the heart of the best three locations in Kuwait and most importantly it’s near a bookstore!

Our families wanted to help, and they did, but the rest was on us! Hamad and I were a bit preoccupied in being newlyweds! It took us sometime to make our small apartment into a welcoming, beautiful home.

Little by little, our small apartment jumped from being empty to being full of things, and from being white and new, to being colorful and homey. I’ve been in love with colors since I was a child, I know that the new decor trend is the white-on-white spaces, mostly Scandinavian with minimal things, but it’s simply not me. I like white, but I love things.

A few days ago, I was recently inspired by Arhaus to share my dream living room! I was super excited for the project because funnily, I was already writing about the best things to have in a living room in small apartments!  Eventually it changed my post into something a bit different.

If you love decorating like I do, I’m sure that you have walked into different stores, with different budgets, took many photos, and imagined both your current home and your dream home. I have always done that. But since I got married the dreams became more demanding, I even made a plan of my dream house, which is suitable for a family, guests and many friends to entertain and have over.

So, without further ado, this post is going to have THREE living rooms! One is the “real life” one that I have right now, the other is going into two sections, the homey living room one for family and close friends and the luxuries living room one for guest and meetings.

REALITY

In my current apartment, we only have one space for one living room and a dining table, the kitchen is too small to have a tiny dining table. We went crazy and bought the dining set without measurement because we loved it SO much, and it was too large! (don’t do that!)

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When we visited our friends, I discovered a lot of different trends they make in their homes, some I didn’t care for but wondered about; in Kuwait most of the renters (even my neighbors!) put the dining table right beside the entrance door, which I found peculiar and uncomfortable. They complained of the tiny space, I suggested that they play around with the furniture, or change the dining table into a smaller one.

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In any case, here is how our home is set; when you enter into our home, you are welcomed by a lot of natural light, because we rarely close the curtain. In the middle you will find an uneven U-shaped sofa set facing the TV, the sofas are comfortable, colored brown and deep cream with colorful pillows with different patterns, in the middle there is a round glass and gold center coffee table, with a golden tray, adorned with vases, and candy. Right behind the love-sofa, you will find our dining table, which is made of rusty gold and mirrors which are surrounded by purple velvet covered French chairs, they look regal but are very comfortable.

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On the same wall as the TV our white bookshelves from floor to ceiling is covering the wall facing the dining table, giving our living room a soul (we are still shipping my books from back home little-by-little, the rest are in the spare room which I turned into a tiny studio and a bookworm reprieve). The walls are still not completely covered with photographs and art. We are still collecting (we need some greenery as well!), I paint a bit, but my mother is the true artist in the family and she promised me at least two paintings for our living room. We have a large mirror beside the TV on the other side (though I wanted a large golden rimmed one), to take selfies right before leaving the house (not kidding).

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Both my husband and I work a lot in freelance jobs and love TV white-noise. My husband is a graphic designer as well, so our moods are similar, even if our tastes differs. I have a work station, my orange and natural wood desk and modern orange chair that reminds me of the 60s, a silver lamp stand and many pens, notebooks and knick-knacks. I write and do some social media gigs, though I’m still working on my FOUR novels, two in Arabic and two in English. One is almost done and ready for publishing. We are looking for used pianos of good quality at the moment to put beside my desk. We love music. So our living room is a bit cramped but we absolutely love it. I always feel happy to come home.

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We are thinking constantly of painting the walls, but I’m so moody, for a few weeks I’m convinced that I want Venetian yellow, the next I want apple green! So we’re sticking with the white walls for a while. Also, I MISS having a balcony, especially in Kuwait’s spring time.

Some of my favorite decor shops are Ikea, H&M Home, Pottery Barn, West Elm and The One. Now, I can add one more shop to my list.

FANTASY

I have always fantasized about my dream house, I’m still not sure in which country I would live, but I know exactly what I want. So in this section you are going to view one of my dreams. I know that I want high ceilings in my dream house, I want it to have both an oriental and european feeling to it.

Upon entering you would come across a large othmanian door, not showing a glimpse of what’s inside, once your enter, you will stand in a large spot of natural sun from above, playfully making rainbows from a large crystal chandelier, that is in the center of the foyer. in a small hall of arches you will enter into a large living room, with a fireplace, a grand piano, floor-to-ceiling windows and exotic velvet and leather couches with curtains made of silk and beads, persian carpets and fresh peonies. Right upstairs, there will be an inside balcony, that I can see the guests before coming down. This room will be separated from the rest of the house, and close by, it will have a guest bathroom. Privacy is important.

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In an inside section, only for close friends and family you will enter into a large space, it will have the family living room, casual large dining table and an open kitchen all facing the outside garden and swimming pool, the whole wall will be made of glass, the floors will be light caramel or of a spanish pattern, and not so soft or slippery, we don’t want any injuries! In the far end, there would be a huge fireplace, rugs, wide L shaped sofa and large leather armchairs, that you can sit, sleep and watch movies on,  while waiting for home cooked meals. I want a porch with another dining table made of wood, and an outside Arabian oven for pizzas and pastries, swings and lots of space for games and relaxation.

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No matter how many details I add, it would never do the space justice, I only know that it’s my dream space. I never think in term of items, but the whole feeling and color of the house. I hope you enjoyed reading and sharing my enthusiasm, and I hope you like my three mood boards!

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Seeds in Mud

When I was young, I used to believe that if I ate the seeds of fruits, they will grow in me like a garden because we are made of mud.

That didn’t stop me from eating seeds, of course. It still doesn’t. I find it weird when people are annoyed by seeds, like lemons, melons, watermelons, oranges, apples and tangerine. I’m not talking about huger seeds, I’m talking about the small innocents, that taste bitter or not there at all.

When I started understanding science, and how complicated our bodies truly were, and how simple the soils were, I understood that a seed grows in an empty object, never occupied by a soul. That’s why when we die we become like fertilizers. It’s our souls that makes all the difference.

Just a morning thought while chewing my tender, juicy tangerine slices… it feels like rays of sun in my mouth while little droplets of white interfere gently…

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My 7 Favorite YouTube Series

One: Female Show | في ميل

Female is a Jordanian series produced by Kharabeesh starring Tima Shomali and Rajae Qawas, that was so successful it ran for 3 seasons so far (I’m hoping for more!) and was aired on TV. The title means something different in Arabic, it means “askew” which comes from an Islamic belief about women. The series is among my favorites! It’s like Modern Family but ten times better because it reminds me of my home, Amman. My husband knows that whenever I’m homesick I would replay the series. It’s a MUST watch! It’s fun to me as well, because most of the cast are friends of mine.

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Two: The Rania Show | رانيا شو

The Rania Show another Jordanian gem, starring Rania Kurdi, an actress and a singer, about 5 very different women: Arwa, Olla, Em Rami, Madam Ghalia and Sasha Abi Nijmeh, selected from the Jordanian street in short but very hilarious sketches that shows her many talents. Some sketches made me laugh SO hard I almost peed myself!

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Three: The Autobiography Of Jane Eyre 

The Autobiography Of Jane Eyre is an online modern adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, produced by Kalamatea and AoJE Production. I watched it maybe 5 times over, I LOVE it. It’s so real, and addictive, I wish there was more series like it. It’s truly a must watch for classic lovers.

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Four: Emma Approved

Emma Approved is an online modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, produced by Pemberley Digital, starring Joanna Sotomura as Emma Woodhouse and Brent Bailey as Alex Knightley, who were sizzling hot together! My favorite couple of all the YouTube series! I hope they stay together forever (so teenagery of me!)

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Five: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an online modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and it’s the very first series that introduced me to the whole YouTube series world. It’s produced by Pemberley Digital. It was a bit stiff at first but funny, with Elizabeth (Ashley Clements) just talking to the camera and telling us what happened, it got more interactive by the end though. It was very good. My favorite was the girl playing Jane, Laura Spencer. A dream come true to all Mr. Darcy’s fans out there!

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Six: AnneWithAnE

AnneWithAnE is an online modern adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. It’s cute, seems to be fan-made, not very professional but I would have loved if my friends, when I was a teen, would play-act a favorite book with me. So darn cute!

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Seven: The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy

The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy is an online modern adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, produced by EpicRobotTV. It was amazing in season 1, but for some reason I felt detached in season 2. Need to continue. So funny and cute.

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So, this is my list so far, do you have a favorite series? I’m open for recommendations. Any language would do, if it was done properly (and with subtitles) I’m no Karou!

Buying Books in Kuwait

I can’t believe it, but next month, after the new year would mark two years of marriage and two years since I moved to Kuwait! You can almost say I’m a local now! After the success of my previous post Where to Shop for Books in Kuwait, I got a LOT of questions, so I decided to write down some of the tips I would have found useful when I arrived here.

I’ve went out of my way to find books in Kuwait and I discovered many interesting things; you see Amman is open, there isn’t many secret locations and underground ways to buy anything (as far as I know) but Kuwait is different, there are layers, surprises and many ways to locate what you are looking for.

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The way bookshops even arrange their books is chaotic to me. Upon entering a bookshop no matter where you enter, make sure to browse the WHOLE shop! You might find what you are looking for because the system isn’t accurate, a shop clerk might tell you: “We don’t have the book you are asking for.” While you are either holding it in your hands, or just stumbled upon it. This happened to me a couple of times in Jarir Bookstore and That AlSalasil, still, they’re my favorite bookstores in Kuwait, the staff are friendly, they’re clean and there are more options in both stores than any other place in Kuwait, also there is always new books to see every few weeks.

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The other thing is, if you like books in English, you must be patient, they are NEVER set together, they would be scattered. You might find a great fiction book set in the Young Adult section, or YA in Kids section and so forth.

If you are looking for the Arabic Classics be ready to be disappointed, your chances to locate a translated edition is higher than the actual book, many are prohibited which I find absurd like Kahlil Gibran and Alaa Al Aswany’s books! So if you have a list certain of books, I recommend Beirut or Cairo for the oldies, or sudden book fairs and small stationary shops, yup, you heard me, they have a LOT of great editions, because the merchandise are chosen by the owners. Still, many of my books are still from home, Amman.

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Another good way is to browse Instagram for individual sellers like Chapter One Bookstore and LAVENDER STOP, they both deliver to your house door and take a delivery fee. I bought a book from Chapter One, I felt it was over the price (I later found the same book, half the price) but the packaging was so cute.

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Another good place to find books is used bookstores such as Q8books, people from all over, giveaway and donate books, your chances are high in finding books as good as new! I used to buy books from Bayt Lothan but it closed, I found such great editions, it’s a shame.

In any case, if you have any other questions or inquiries, please comment below, thank you for reading!

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The Habit of the Great

My mama used to say: “Journaling is the habit of the great.” and she is right, any person can write, because writing is thinking on paper, but only a few people can make words come alive, those we call: writers.

I kept a diary before I learned to write well, my mom always has kept a diary and still does and I wanted to be just like her; but unlike my mom, I wasn’t consistent. I kept on changing methods, learning new words and languages, and got hugely influenced by books and characters who kept a journal like Jo March, Anne Shirley, Judy Abbott or Bella Swan.

I discovered that a journal comes in many forms, and writing can be put down on paper in many ways. So, no, there isn’t a wrong way to write. Here’s my list:

  • You can keep a journal to write about your mundane day-to-day life.
  • You can write a journal for special occasions or moments of great impact.
  • You can make your journal your confidant and write your feelings, inner thoughts and great ideas.
  • If you have an artistic gene, you can make a journal scrapbook or fill it with photos, newspaper clippings or even sketches.
  • If food means the world to you, your journal can be an entry with a recipe, or food memories.
  • A journal can be kept for an interesting time of your life, like traveling, grieving, moving to a new country, starting your new business, getting pregnant, telling your life story (it might even become a memoir!).
  • It can be like writing a book, you tell a story to yourself, every day a chapter.
  • It can be a spiritual and meditative journal about discovering the world and God.
  • You can keep lists, make charts, pros and cons, make the best decision about some kind of choice.
  • It can be about keeping secrets of others, when you need to unburden. (Don’t tell anyone you are doing that!)
  • If you are a witch it will be called a “Book of Shadows” where your spells and potions are written down.
  • It can be about experiments, science and new discoveries like Leonardo da Vinci.
  • It can be a gift to your daughter or friend about a time that belonged to them but affected you like pregnancy or a wedding.
  • Your journals can be a printed copy with a paper for each day, or a small paragraph like a Twitter post, as for me, the longer and blanker the better, I like mine without any limits.

You see where I’m going with this? Journaling is about your life. You can write about anything that interests you. I’ve been almost through all of them, I scraped, wrote, adding clippings of newspapers and magazines, writing poetry, I felt, I cried, I kept flowers, cinema tickets, hospital name bands, receipt, recipes, magazines, polaroid photographs, lyrics, ideas, feelings, plans, wishes, hopes, dreams, nightmares, and so on.

Each time, the journal evolved, I evolved, my need to it differs everytime. I don’t want them published, or read by anyone else, truly. I even considered buring most of them at some point, it’s not about them being scandalous or anything, they are just personal, full or rambling and secrets reprieve from life. My words belong to me, no matter how silly or flawed, ask Bridget Jones.

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I Know; I Understand.

How many of us say these words “I know”, “I understand”, “the same thing happened to me once” when someone who trusts us is trying to explain what they are going through?

In truth, even when our dear ones are telling us something, they are editing their story, confession or feelings as they go along talking and all you want to say, “yeah, it happened to me too.”

It could have happened to you too, you might understand, but somethings are not that simple. You could have been injured or had a surgery, but the other person is terminally sick. So no, you don’t understand.

It could be that you suffered through your early years, stumbled a lot and hit a few walls until you fully embraced yourself and became a know-it-all, but the other person is still stumbling for different reasons, they might be weaker than you, had a harder life or simply are afraid of something you can’t comprehend.

It could be that you just broke up with your boyfriend of 8 months but that person ended a 20 years of marriage and is suffering from a horrible divorce.

It could be that you bought that Valentino dress for 800 $ but that person barely has 5 $ in their pocket to go to that wedding of a mutual friend.

It could be that your mother cooked a dish you hated and went out for dinner when that person doesn’t have someone to cook for them, and doesn’t have enough money to buy a meal in the food court.

It could be that you have many opinions about religions and politics and can solve things on paper but that person has been treated in a racist way and suffered through war, not on TV but real war.

It could be just a movie about abuse to you but to that person its flashback memories of their own abuse.

It could be that your grandma who you haven’t visited in months that passed away but that person has just been orphaned.

I could go on and on but the truth is people are different, they have different experiences and stories, no one can measure the amount of pain, loss, grief, sadness, depression or love the other person is going through even if you had went through something in the same category. People throw around words like “heartbroken”, “depressed”, “miserable”, “madly in love” a lot but only few people actually experience such feelings. Usually when someone goes through something like that, they have a hard time talking about it. When they do, they are sharing a part of their souls, they might only want someone to listen, to understand, to be kind, or they might just want to cry a bit.

Is it so hard just to listen? To feel what the other person is trying to say? Feelings, especially deep ones aren’t as simple as a Facebook or Twitter status, you can’t be witty when you are raw and honest, anger is the easiest feeling to talk about, but sadness and pain are private, you need compassion to comprehend.

If someone shares such things with you, you are dearer to them than you think. They value your time and your opinion and they need help. Don’t be half in if you can’t handle it, don’t say you understand if you haven’t been through it. Just listen.

And remember, people are always deeper than you think, the most carefree people have usually suffered the most, the people who give good advises have been through a lot, and the people who feel what you are feeling are irreplaceable.

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Happiness from Within

I woke up today with the strongest notion that happiness comes from within. If you are happy with yourself, the world will seem like a better place. True happiness comes from ourselves, not from our careers, relationships, life… it comes from health, love, kindness, compassion, but mostly from contentedness. If you’re content in your lot of life you will feel much better.

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10 of My Favorite Movies About Cooking & Food

One: Chef 

Chef is a 2014 film about a professional chef who, after a public altercation with a food critic, quits his job at a popular Los Angeles restaurant and returns to his hometown of Miami to fix up a food truck. He reconnects with his ex-wife and invites their young son to join him in driving the truck back to L.A. while selling Cubanos in various cities along the way.

This movie is among my favorites and most watched films, it has food in it, great ideas and recipes, its funny, family oriented, has great Twitter tips and social media presence, the relationship in it are wonderful and the soundtrack is amazing! Great movie to watch with the whole family.

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Two: The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a 2014 movie that tells the story of a feud between two adjacent restaurants in a French town: one operated by a recently relocated Indian family and the other, a lofty Michelin-starred restaurant.

Hassan Kadam is an extraordinarily talented and largely self-taught culinary novice. When he and his family are displaced from their native India and settle in a quaint French village, they decide to open an Indian eatery. However, Madame Mallory, the proprietress of an acclaimed restaurant just 100 feet away, strongly objects. War erupts between the two establishments, until Mallory recognizes Kadam’s impressive epicurean gifts and takes him under her wing.

I LOVE this film, its beautiful to look at, it’s delicious and very happy, sometimes sad and romantic, and has all the elements of a great magical realism movie where the dead wife leads her family to their new home.

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Three: Woman on Top

Woman on Top is a 2000 movie that I watched about a thousand times! A Brazilian chef, Isabella Oliveira moves to San Francisco when her husband, frustrated by her motion sickness, cheats on her.

The movie is set in the intoxicating rhythms of Brazil, the movie is spicy and sexy about the magic of food, love and music. Meet Isabella, a sultry enchantress born with the special gift of melting the palates and hearts of men everywhere. When she decides to break free from her rocky marriage and the stifling kitchen of her husband’s restaurant in Brazil, she spirits off to San Francisco in pursuit of her dreams of a real culinary career. Magical realism at it’s best!

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Four: The Ramen Girl

The Ramen Girl is a 2008 movie starring one of my favorite actress Brittany Murphy. The movie is about an American woman, who is stranded in Tokyo after breaking up with her boyfriend. Searching for direction in life, she trains to be a râmen chef under a tyrannical Japanese master.

Everytime I watch the movie, I feel like working hard and eating ramen! It’s so cute like a manga movie but real and inspirational.

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Five: Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup is a 2001 movie that is is based on the film Eat Drink Man Woman. It’s about three grown sisters, Maribel, Leticia and Carmen who try to cope and live with their father Martin; a veteran chef who is slowly losing his sense of taste. Martin has one simple rule: be at home for Sunday dinner and attendance is both mandatory and non-negotiable. A rift in the family develops when the sisters develop relationships and an obnoxious woman sets her sights on Martin’s affections.

One of my favorite movies, it’s so spicy and hot! The famous quote about glasses is from this movie: “Do you know why we clink glasses before drinking?… It’s so that all the five senses are involved. We touch the glass. We smell the drink. We see its color. We taste it. Hearing is the only sense that doesn’t participate unless we create it.”

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Six: No Reservations

No Reservations is a 2007 movie based on the 2001 German film Mostly Martha. Master chef Kate Armstrong runs her life and her kitchen with intimidating intensity. However, a recipe for disaster may be in the works when she becomes the guardian of her young niece Zoe while crossing forks with the brash sous-chef who just joined her staff. Though romance blooms in the face of rivalry, Kate needs to look outside the kitchen to find true happiness.

I remember watching this movie for the first time with my mom in Zara cinema, mama kept thinking that there was “no reservations” available. It was totally funny, one of the best movies ever, very romantic and yet amazing to watch with family. Great soundtrack and very touching.

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Seven: Burnt

Burnt is a 2015 movie about Adam Jones was once a top chef in Paris until drugs and alcohol led to a meltdown that put his career on hold because of his diva behavior. After moving from New Orleans to London, Adam gets a shot at redemption when his former maitre reluctantly hires him as the head chef of his fine-dining restaurant. Demanding perfection from his newly formed staff, the acerbic and temperamental Jones gets a second chance to fulfill his dream of earning a third Michelin star.

I loved the movie but I couldn’t stand the scene when Adam almost hits Helene in the kitchen, it made me hate him so much! So I couldn’t watch this movie more than twice.

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Eight: Simply Irresistible

Simply Irresistible is a cute movie filmed in 1999. After her mother’s death, mediocre chef Amanda Shelton is having trouble attracting customers to her family’s restaurant. While shopping for ingredients, she is given a magical crab by mysterious Gene O’Reilly. Afterward, Amanda’s dishes suddenly become excellent, inducing strong emotional reactions in everyone who eats them. Tom Bartlett, who is preparing to open his own eatery, tries her cooking and falls in love.

It’s such a romantic movie and I like the soundtrack a lot. 80s and 90s movies are the best!

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Nine: Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate is a 1992 movie. The youngest daughter in her family, the beautiful Tita is forbidden to marry her true love, Pedro. Since tradition dictates that Tita must care for her mother, Pedro weds her older sister, Rosaura, though he still loves Tita. The situation creates much tension in the family, and Tita’s powerful emotions begin to surface in fantastical ways through her cooking. As the years pass, unusual circumstances test the enduring love of Pedro and Tita.

The first time I heard of this story was in Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, I read the book and watched the movie and liked it so much, it’s magical realism but very different than anything I have ever watched before. My family absolutely hated it but I liked it. It’s sensual, weird and very very sad.

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Ten: Today’s Special

Today’s Special is a 2009 movie. In this super-feel-good foodie comedy, young Manhattan chef Samir rediscovers his heritage and his passion for life through the enchanting art of cooking Indian food.

At first the movie was centered about this Indian chef who refused his heritage but when he inherits his father’s restaurant, he changes and remembers who he truly is.

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Cotton & China Year

Two happy years have passed by so quickly since my love Hamad and I have been married! We got hitched in October 10th, 2014, moved to Kuwait in January 23rd, 2015 and have been dating since February 28th, 2008. So yes, we have three major anniversaries beside birthdays!

Graphic design joined us, living in different countries separated us, fate intervened and we were destined to join lives once again. They say marriage is hard, that the first year, “the paper year”, is what makes or breaks a marriage. So, I feel lucky that we didn’t face hardship in our union and I hope we won’t. In fact, I encourage more people to do it: to fall in love and get married!

To have that one special person who witnesses all your moments and you theirs is a treasure, to have a friend, a family of your own, a lover and a partner, is the most you can really have in this world. The world is a lonely place if you don’t have a person to love and to love you back in return, the world would seem empty and grey.

Each couple, of course, is different, I say if something works for you and your other half, that’s great. Your relationship shouldn’t follow a set of rules, or compared to other relationships. If you are happy with what you have, work it and enjoy it!

Happy anniversary to us my love! x

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