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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Mama’s Chicken & Potato Stew

I think you have guessed by now that I love to cook and love to post about recipes, this recipe is a childhood favorite and now that I have become a wife myself this dish is a favorite in my household as well.

When I posted the photos of this dish, or cooked it for family and friends, everyone raved about it and wanted the recipe, so I decided to write it here! It’s very simple to make but needs time for it to grow tender and melting. You can cook the same dish with meat as well, different spices of course, but same concept. Here’s what you’ll need:

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Meat stew

Ingredients:

  • salt and pepper (if you are cooking it with meat, don’t salt or pepper, the salt makes the meat go hard, put salt in the stew, and the meat spices have a generous amount of black pepper, unless you like your food hot).
  • potatoes (as much as you think you need)
  • chicken or meat (as much as you think you need)
  • one large onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • coriander
  • chicken spice or meat spice (if you cook it with meat use a dash of cinnamon while caramelizing the onion)
  • hot water
  • rice as side dish
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Chicken stew

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir onion, spices, salt, and pepper in oil until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir chicken in, let the caramelized onion and spices engulfs it, then cover it with tinfoil, and let the natural juices of both chicken and onion cook the mixture slightly.
  • Don’t let your chicken and onion go dry or burn; on the side, you’ll preheat a generous amount of water for your rice and stew.
  • Cover your stew with water and let it cook on law heat.
  • On the side with a frying pan, your cut and cleaned potatoes are ready to be golden and fried, fry them batch by batch and put them on an absorbing napkin.
  • After an hour or two, depending on your stove, the chicken would be meltingly soft, add your potatoes. Taste the soup, of it’s not as you like it add Maggi Chicken Stock Cubes. Leave them to cook.
  • On the side, squash your cloves, cut them, small size, add them in a small pan with heated olive oil, when they change color immediately add a splash of your soup on them, they will make the sweetest sound, than pour them on the stew and move them. The smell should be divine!
  • Chop your coriander however you like it and add it to the stew, give it a stir. Let it cook for 5-10 minutes and it’s ready to be served!

Delicious!!

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Bon appetit!

اذكروا ربكم

This is an older post, I posted it in 2013, now that I read it, I feel kind of nostalgic and far from my humble start in this blog. Hope you enjoy it! I think my grandma got it wrong in one regard, I can hear this Pigeon here in Kuwait as well!

When I was young, I lived at my grandparent’s huge villa… it was isolated at the time, of course now, the Jordanian population grow rapidly, and it had a huge garden surrounding the house, some of my friends called my grandparent’s house a “palace”… I never thought of it like that.

As a kid, I was very active and energetic, rarely slept for long, and it drove my parents crazy. So when mama put me to bed with a fairytale story, my grandma allowed me to be with her at dawn while she prayed and read Quran.

At a certain time after reading Quran, my grandma Saknat would take me outside into her personal balcony and tells me to listen… I did… She told me that our land [Palestine and Jordan] are one and there lived a type of doves that only lived in our holy land. This dove must not be eaten, harmed or disturbed… She told me few people tried cooking the bird but it’s meat would never get cooked… People knew then that this dove was not for us to eat… So at dawn they would wake up and wait for them to start praying too…

The bird only said one thing and repeated over and over again… “اذكروا ربكم” It means “mention God” or “remember God”… When my grandma first told me, I couldn’t believe it, but then I heard it too… very clearly… the birds spoke… they looked different from other doves, huger somehow, mama also was interested and it became a habit of ours to just wake up and listen to it.

And some people have the audacity to say there is no God! This story plays in my mind a lot especially at dawn while praying… I miss hearing that bird… it had been years since I last heard it, heard of it, or knew someone who did… only mama and I are left. A few years ago, tata [what I call grandma] passed away. That magical moment no longer exists in our busy city… Amman is no longer a place of magic or nature… it’s a full blasting city, filled of life, noise, 24/7.

People no longer can hear birds, the wind, the rustle of the trees leaves… see the blue sky fully, or the shiny stars… I miss Amman Ayam Zaman [Amman Old Days/Time]…

Please don’t forget the magic… life is filled of it… just stop talking and listen… and اذكروا ربكم…

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A Day on the Beach

Crunch crunch crunch. My feet goes as I hit the soft sand. I look around and it’s only me on the beach today. I slip from my clothes and walk on disturbing the clean sand with my footprints. The water is September cold. Pleasant but not so welcoming. I swim slowly making ripples in the water. Splash splash splash. Reaching the barrier between me and the wide gulf, I think to myself “am I safe or a prisoner?”, I want to be free like a mermaid. I lay down like a starfish absorbing the sun. The cold water tickling my fingers, thighs and toes while the rest of me hides enfolded in the warm playful waves. I feel like I’m meditating…. I hear nothing but tinkling and I think nothing. My ears are gates to heaven. I open my eyes and see the blue reflected back. I lay on blue. I’m surrounded by blue. I feel detached from the real world and the world turns upside down turning it’s back to me. It opens up to me. I’m swimming in the sky. I fly. I’m as insignificant as a bird. Small and free.I fly, I fly, I fly.

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Divine

Sometime ago, I wrote this story for a restaurant called Divine; they wanted something utterly untrue and entertaining to put on their dish mats. This is THE story! Hope you enjoy it! x

Sometime ago, in a country filled with fish and surrounded by sea, lived a sheikh and his princess, the sheikh had a sweet-tooth, the sheikh’s chef made all his favorite sweets everyday, from chocolate cakes to macaroons, which made them always staying at home. That made the princess unhappy. She missed seeing people and trying new things.

One day the chef had to return home, to his country, he had to leave his biggest fan behind to serve in his family’s restaurant. The sheikh was devastated.

His wife, a wise woman, went to the royal staff and announced that the royal palace will host a local competition, and the winner shall have a fully equipped sweets shop if they could make the sheikh’s favorite dessert and make him joyful again. Once the sheikh heard the news a sense of excitement and dread filled him; he was happy to have dessert again but afraid no one can make it the way his chef used to.

The announcement was made across the country and a young Qassem heard the news and rushed home after school to his widowed mother’s kitchen. Um Qassem was the best cook in the neighborhood but Qassem thought she was the best cook in the whole world. He told her about the Royal Competition but his mother refused to consider it, she told him she wasn’t sure she was good enough.

Qassem disagreed, so he made a plan, the next day he played sick and convinced his mother to make him his favorite dessert: A Chocolate Cake. When the mouth-watering smell filled the house and his mother placed the cake near the window to cool off, Qassem rushed over, put the turquoise cooking gloves on, with hearts all over them, and rushed to the location.

He got a number, subscribed his mother’s name and waited. The sheikh started tasting dishes and frowning some more. He looked unhappy, when he reached Qassem’s table, he smiled and looked at his wife saying “Look at this young boy!” he looked at Qassem and asked “Have you made this cake?” Qassem answered “No, your highness, my mother did.” The sheikh smiled some more, sliced a piece and tasted a crumb of the cake. His eyes closed and he took another bigger bite than another. He looked at his wife than at the boy and whispered “Divine.”

The princess and Qassem asked “What was that?” He said more loudly “Divine!” everyone smiled, Qassem laughed and his mother um Qassem won. The shop was established and their favorite daily clients were the sheikh and his wife. The name of the shop of course was, as simple as that: “Divine”.

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The Anticipation of Rain

This draft was saved on July 13, 2014 at 10:18 pm in Amman. Almost 2 years ago! I read it and liked it so much I had to post it for you guys!

As I was sitting on my desk writing, I felt a wind enter my room in a late July night. I turned my head and smelled it… rain. The smell of rain heavy in the clouds filled my nostrils, I walked to the window smiling happily; I have always appreciated a good rain storm. The thunder, clouds, the grey and white clouds in a summer dark night filled me with wonder, the lightning changing the hot air, striking at my nerves making me giggle.

Suddenly a golden cat appeared walking under my window in my neighbors twinkly garden, the sound of Athan filled the night sky, it was the last prayer of the day after a long fasting day.

It was Ramadan and the cat just sat there staring at me, its shadow wavering with the wind, I opened the window screen to watch the cat clearly. It stilled, watching me back, measure for measure.

I meowed, it didn’t. I did again, it just stared at me some more. Ah, it was one of them… the watchers. I went to my bureau and pulled my hairbrush.

Though my hair was long wavy and thick, I always needed to brush it before I bathed or it would be a nightmare to deal with the next day. Sadly, I couldn’t see the moon as it has moved to the other side; yesterday was the last day of the full moon… thankfully, perhaps I would sleep more soundly this night… no dreams, no visions. The full moon always brought me a horrible mood and intensified my dreams making them seems unbearably real.

I returned to my position as I brushed through my tangles of hair and the cat was still there fixedly staring at me, I smelled the air again and again, filling my lunges of the feel of rain in the air. I looked down at my stacked books and promised them secretly that I will close the window before I sleep so they won’t get wet.

The anticipation of the rain falling always filled me with an unbearable ache inside of me that I couldn’t ever decipher. What was it about rain that I loved so much?

Perhaps it was the sound of the raindrops, perhaps the smell of the soil and streets, perhaps the wetness I would feel while walking, feeling the smooth moisture hitting my face… my hair and making my clothes heavier and soul lighter… or maybe because I felt them everywhere… the creatures of light… angels, writing down our rain wishes, filling our words before even uttered, scribbling our darkest desires and secrets in the book of life, the book that holds everything since the beginning of time: Al-Lawh al-Mahfoûdh اللوح المحفوظ “The Preserved Tablet”.

Before the world was created by Allah, before there was anything at all, no heaven or hell, no angels, demons or humans. Allah created “The Pen” القلم, after that Allah wrote the story of the universe sitting on his Throne above water. It is said that the slab is made of a red ruby, the written words and pen made of light within light, attached to the Throne of Allah, he would look at it 360 times a day, watching the universe, seeing the events unfold, changing people’s lives and destinies according to their actions, behaviors, prayers and most importantly their secret wells.

Prescience is a very important factor in the lives of Muslims, they believe in it completely and depend on it… so do I. I like the mystery of the events unfolding.

After the story of the universe was done till the day when the world collapses and everything is done… the judgment day arrives and the story is finished. Allah held His pen again and ordered it to paint the universe, the tree of life was created under his throne, and then the whole universe was created and He said كن فيكون Be!

Thinking of that while the rain falls harder sends goosebumps down my spine, even in the shower while the hot water and soap cascades downward toward the drain.

I get out and look from the window, unbelievably, the cat is still standing there looking at my window. Maybe it’s counting the raindrops like I wish I could do.

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Really Red

If I could pick a color for this year, I would pick the color “red”.

Not only am I always in the mood to wear red lipstick, apply red nail polish and wear red dresses, I’m always blasting Taylor Swift’s Red album. Everything seems red, red is all I see, on TV, in books, in the news, everywhere. All I want is burning red.

Red smoothies, red ice creams, red polka dots dresses, red trousers, red heels, MAC’s red lipstick, Essie’s red shades of nail polish… it just seems like everything is really red.

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Wallis Simpson

I just finished rewatching W./E. for the hundredth time and I decided to share this weird article I read in a very creative magazine called Herself, hope you enjoy it! x

Paris, July 2013

Sometimes connections are everything. Through a backstage connection at Dior, I managed to trade two Rihanna tickets for my own sought-after ticket – a seat beside Wallis Simpson at the couture show. The Duchess turned and barely smiled, but she immediately invited me back to her house outside Paris after the show. On the way back to Moulin, we made a quick stop at the Van Cleef showroom – if she has one weakness, its jewels, the bigger the better. I’m the same.

Back in the country, in the expensive living room that was a cross between British antiques and oversized florals we settled in with tea, and Wallis’s beloved pugs.

LULU: You’re a difficult person to track down Wallis. I was afraid after my fourth email wasn’t returned that you had really escaped to somewhere exotic, and without an internet signal…
Wallis: Forgive me for not writing but this man is exhausting.

LULU: You mean king Edward… or just Edward since her abdicated his throne before her could marry you – it seems like such an archaic tradition… but also romantic…
Wallis: You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance.

LULU: You’re right, it’s one of the most talked about love stories – but ultimately he chose love over everything else…
Wallis: How can a woman be a whole empire to a man?

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LULU: Gosh… I never thought about it that way… have you always felt such pressure?
Wallis: A woman’s life can really be a succession of lives, each revolving around some emotionally compelling situation or challenge, and each marked off by some intense experience.

LULU: Like a cat, I have always been fascinated by the idea of having nine lives… and always being able to reinvent yourself. If you weren’t Wallis Simpson, what would you be doing?
Wallis: I would like to be head of an advertising agency.

LULU: I can imagine that actually, you seem to have a few things in common with Don Draper… confidence especially… but I think you’re better dressed.
Wallis: I’m nothing to look at. So the only thing I can do is dress better than everyone else.

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LULU: But Wallis, you captivated the world, everyone wanted to know who the American woman in London was, you were like an attractive dream, and the life of the party…
Wallis: Attractive, my dear, is a polite way of saying a woman’s made the most of what she’s got.

LULU: Well, you’ve got exquisite taste… you’re the woman who knows exactly what to wear all the time…
Wallis: All my friends know that I’d rather shop than eat.

LULU: Sometimes I simply can’t eat… because I have shopped so much… a journalist’s paycheck can’t keep up with Paris.
Wallis: If you can’t afford it, then there is no pleasure in buying it.

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LULU: Where do you shop when you go back home to America? Ralph Lauren? Oscar de la Renta?
Wallis: I never make a trip to the United States without visiting a supermarket. To me they are more fascinating than any fashion salon.

LULU: You’re right. It’s amazing how much of a culture can be summed up in the weekly markets… or a trip to the grocery store.
Wallis: If everyone looks at me when I enter a room, my husband can feel proud of me. That’s my chief responsibility.

LULU: But Wallis, you seem more new age than that… isn’t it an old-fashioned idea to be a ‘trophy wife’?
Wallis: You can never be too rich or too thin.

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LULU: It’s quite bold to say that, these days… especially in fashion, money and weight aren’t discussed often but then you’ve never been one to avoid controversy…
Wallis: Darling, they can’t hurt you if you don’t let them.

LULU: Sometimes it’s frightening to say or do what no one else is…
Wallis: Fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches.

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