December 31, 2009

Global Good Luck Traditions for the New Year

After last NYE I became interested in good luck traditions after my Latin sister in law and her family introduced me to eating 12 grapes at midnight to bring good luck for the 12 months to come. I can definitely say that a couple of my grapes were far more sweet than the others but all in all a satisfactory year. Here are a few other traditions I came across from a random site: 

  • Austria: Green peppermint ice-cream in the shape of a four-leaf clover for dessert.
  • Brazil: Lentil soup on the first day of the new year because lentils are believed to signify wealth.
  • Denmark: You would be happy to find a pile of broken dishes outside your house because people save their old dishes to break outside their friends' doors. 
  • China: Every front door is painted red. 
  • Germany: People leave a bit of every food on their plate until after midnight to ensure a well-stocked larder. 
  • Vietnam: Preparations are made in advance by cleaning the house, polishing silverware and pay off all debts. Smart people. 
  • Wales: Opening the back door and shutting it at the first stroke of midnight to release the old year and it's bad luck, then opening the front door on the twelfth stroke to welcome the new year and it's good luck. 
  • Sicily: Eating lasagna, but avoiding all other noodles because they will bring bad luck. 
  • Spain: Eating 12 grapes, one with every stroke of the clock for every month of the new year. 
  • Peru: Eating a 13th grape to ensure good luck, I don't know about this one... 13?
  • Rome: Festivities for three days then exchanging gifts such as honey to ensure sweetness and peace, money for prosperity and lamps for a year filled with light. 
  • Thailand: Throwing water on one another to bring good rains during the coming year.
  • USA: A masked ball and a kiss at the stroke of midnight with the mask symbolizing evil spirits from the old year and a kiss for the purification into the new year. 
  • Norway: Indulging in rice pudding where one serving has an almond within. Guaranteed wealth goes to the person who has that lucky almond.

I wish you all good luck for the coming year, and I hope you are able to celebrate this night in the fashion that brings you most happiness!

December 28, 2009

November & December '09 Playlist

I've been listening to the most random songs lately and haven't had any time to find different fun tracks, but luckily a couple of my music muses helped me out biggers with this playlist! x

When I Go - Slow Club
Nothing Compares to You - Dan Kelly
Always Like This - Bombay Bicycle Club
Monster Love - Goldfrapp
Bunny Club - Polly Scattergood
How Deep is Your Love - The Bird & the Bee
Thinking Drinking Sinking Feeling - Slow Club
Forever Young - Youth Group
Blister in the Sun - Nouvelle Vague
Heads Will Roll - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Pursuit of Happiness - Kid Cudi ft. MGMT, Ratatat
Watch the Sun Come Up - Example
Society - Eddie Vedder
Down - Jason Walker
Yellow - Jem
Before it Breaks - Brandi Carlile
That Year - Brandi Carlile
Satellite Heart - Anya Marina
Doesn't Mean Anything - Alicia Keys
Gloomy Sunday - Billie Holiday
I Am Strong - Polly Scattergood
Something to Believe In - Aqualung
Wuthering Heights - Josh Pyke
Alive - Kid Cudi ft. Ratatat
Tik Tok - Ke$ha
Feelings Gone - Basement Jaxx
Supernova - Mr Hudson ft. Kanye West
Runaway - Tom Novy ft Abigail Baliey
I Don't Believe You - Pink
Don't Stop Believin' - Glee (the video for this is so good)

jones the grocer

For those days you just need an escape from Abu Dhabi (to those of you who need that every day I'm sorry... AND you're in luck), find your way to Jones the Grocer. It's located in a pretty random place but it's like a hidden gem. With a contemporary atmosphere, Jones the Grocer is where you can go to eat, have tea or coffee, and peruse the organic products and fresh breads and pastries from the bakery. For you cheese lovers there's also a cheese room, bring a jacket because it's freezing and you'll want to spend some time in there.

They describe their menu as "international with an Australian influence." Not so sure what that means but I had the Pumpkin & Feta Salad and the Wagyu Burger and tried some of the Pumpkin soup. I would recommend the soup as an entree because of how large the serving is, but the salad was very refreshing and the burger was divine. The beef is so tender and combined with the cheese just melts in your mouth and satisfies your taste buds with such rich flavor. It's a pretty penny but it's so worth it.

Apparently it's extremely busy at lunchtime during the week, but trust me once you experience it you'll find that right time to get your jones the grocer fix!

December 26, 2009

Raw Chocolate Pudding

I must say I impressed myself after cooking a simple but delicious Christmas feast. The menu (I know, I'm just assuming you care): baby spinach salad with an orange-cinnamon vinaigrette, an applesauce-rubbed turkey, sweet potato & marshmallow casserole, and dried fruit and quinoa stuffing with fresh cranberry sauce and gravy on the side. Wanting something different for dessert, I made a recipe I was recently introduced to - chocolate pudding that doesn't require any cooking! Let me just state that if you don't care for cooking, this post will not excite you. The secret ingredient that gives it the great consistency is none other than the perfect avocado! I can't stress enough how important it is for the avocados to be fresh, otherwise you'll have a foul aftertaste. I adapted the recipe slightly by adding flavored maple syrup extract, if you can find it I highly recommend it. 


Music: anything Glee
Mood: looking for a quick and satisfying dessert

¼ cup pitted medjool dates, soaked
¼ cup agave nectar or honey
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp maple syrup natural flavored extract (optional)
¾ cup mashed avocados (1 ½ avocados)
¼ cup & 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa or carob powder
½ cup water
¼ cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted with skin removed (for those who can handle the nuts)

In a food processor, process dates and agave nectar until smooth. Add the avocado and cocoa powder, mix until creamy. Add water while mixing slowly until you reach your preferred consistency, you might have to add more than ½ a cup. Add the vanilla and maple syrup extracts. Pour mixture into serving cups and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts for an extra crunch. Store in the refrigerator. Servings: 6

Need Some Friends? Try Bahrain :)

Apparently Bahrain made it to #1 on the world's Friendliest Countries list. The data was found by "The Expat Explorer Survey" done by HSBC Bank International.... if that even matters. I don't really find that too hard to believe, the only thing I think of when Bahrain comes to mind is the friendly social life everyone is part of. Then again, considering it's about one sixteenth of a freckle on a zoomed in map, it's size and lack of EXTRA exciting things to do at all times (I know, I know it's getting better) makes a social life necessary for survival.

The rest of the list is:

#2 Canada
#3 Australia
#4 Thailand
#5 Malaysia
#6 South Africa
#7 Hong Kong
#8 Singapore
#9 Spain
#10 USA

Apparently "the UAE received some of the poorest scores on the integration scale" alongside the UK...  that's just perfect...

December 18, 2009

Michelle Danner Acting Workshop *Update*

I had previously mentioned an acting workshop I’d be attending in Dubai held by well renowned acting coach Michelle Danner. Saying it was such an amazing experience is an understatement. I can honestly say I learnt more in the 4 days with her than I did in the 4 years I studied acting in college. That’s really sad isn’t it? The two classes she taught were On Camera Audition Technique and the Actor’s Golden Box. We really covered so much information, we got to work with scripts and have mock auditions that were recorded. We also experienced a set of different exercises to open ourselves more emotionally, which I think was pretty life changing for a lot of us. Additionally, we analyzed acting techniques and choices actors made in some films/ plays. It was all so helpful and I'm sure I'll carry the notes I wrote in my mind wherever I go. I’m hoping Michelle finds her way back to Dubai sometime next year because I am definitely up for a round two and I know I speak on behalf of all the wonderful friends I made in her class.

Among the many films that we should all have in our database, this is a list that Michelle gave us to watch:
  • On the Waterfront, Elia Kazan
  • Sling Blade, Billy Bob Thornton
  • El Mariachi, Robert Rodriquez
  • Crimes & Misdemeanors, Woody Allen
  • Naked, Mike Lee
  • Marathon Man, John Schlesinger 
  • The Grifters, Stephen Frears
  • Reversal of Fortune, Barbet Schroeder
  • A Face in the Crowd, Elia Kazan
  • A Place in the Sun, George Stevens
  • The Great White Hope, Martin Ritt
  • Sophie's Choice, Alan J. Pakula

6th Dubai International Film Festival

It's the second film fest I've experienced in a span of 3 months and just like the first I wish I watched more films. My stay in Dubai the past week was probably the most hectic week I've had in a while so it gives me peace of mind to convince myself I had an excuse for only watching 4 films. These films are Brothers, Amreeka, City of Life and La Teta Asustatda (The Milk of Sorrow).

Brothers was great, I had no clue what to expect in the beginning but am always up for watching a movie with Jake Gyllenhaal. Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire are also part of the cast. I was mostly impressed by the eldest daughter who is about 8 years old, she should be recognized for her performance.

I had been hearing about Amreeka for a long time so I'm glad I got to finally watch it AND have the opportunity for a Q&A with the director, Cherien Dabis, the casting director and the two main actors. Cherien Dabis was full of life and seems like such a cool person to work with. I have to say the grandma was hilarious, if you're from Palestine/ Jordan/ Lebanon or any country nearby you're practically watching your own grandma. They are all the same! One of the best parts is when she calls her daughter in Illinois to check up on her after hearing about an earthquake in California, how typical.

City of Life directed by Ali F. Mostafa is sort of like Crash a la Dubai with the "every person can change someone else's life without being aware" type thing. I'm so glad that this kind of film was made because it will encourage other filmmakers to tackle similar themes and convey them to the public. Everyone always needs that push, especially here in the Arab world where being the first to raise certain issues is not always easy. The cast was pretty impressive too, Natalie Dormer, Jason Flemyng, Ahmed Ahmed and The Narcicyst (who I never heard about till now). I'm not going to lie it was funny watching the "spoilt Arab boys" hitting on the foreign girls at the club 400.

I should actually say that I watched 3 and a half films because I walked out of La Teta Asustatda (The Milk of Sorrow). I'm sure it's a great film but I guess I wasn't feeling too appreciative and just had a long day. From what I gathered, thousands of women were raped and murdered in South America in the 80s and 90s and apparently a type of disease is passed on to women who suffered during this time. Fausta, the main actress who is actually very pretty, has this disease and is living a paranoid life so she inserts a potato in her vagina to protect herself from anyone who tries to rape her. There was an actual shot showing her cutting the roots of the potato, which was growing inside of her. It's really sad she had to do that... and sad I had to see that... don't know if I can eat a potato again. I spose I should be more grateful...

Act Up - UAE's First Playwriting Competition *Update*

I was able to attend Act Up at the jamjar in Dubai. The place is actually really cool, a stage on the far end and practically a carpet of bean bags for the audience to relax on and a bar on the side, what more do you need right? With my piece being survival tips to living in the UAE, the lady performing it divided it, and performed a tip between each of the skits. It was interesting and weird to see something I wrote being performed. It has definitely made me want to give writing a shot though. I was lucky to get some exposure for it in Emirates Business 24/7, in the article "Life, love and class wars inspire Dubai Playwrights."

December 5, 2009

Gold Class vs. Regular Cinema ie village

Last week I had the opportunity of watching New Moon (is anything else showing?) in two completely different theatres, and honestly feel like it wasn’t the same film. First in Gold Class and second in a regular cinema. For those of you who aren’t aware, the Gold Class “option” means that you basically pay around $26 for a ticket but get an exclusive experience and sit in a theatre filled with lazy boys. Before entering the theatre you have the option of ordering the regular confectionary goods or actual meals/ latte/ iced coffee/ tea style. The theatre obviously cannot take as many people as a regular cinema, which is great. You get served your order as the previews go up and if you need anything else throughout the film you can press a button on your chair and a waiter will come. It’s pretty much amazing onwards because even if the film sucks you can snooze comfily…. I was tempted to sleep. Of course considering I had been counting down the days to New Moon I didn’t let myself give in to dreamland.

Second, the regular cinema. It started off on a great note with some kid bumping my latte out of my hand. At least he picked it up after it fell all over the side his thob. After the Gold Class experience, I felt like I was watching it with villagers. I don’t know why 90% of the viewers took it upon themselves to quiet down the crowd… it got to the point where it sounded like a helicopter was landing on top of us.

People were talking throughout the whole film and would cheer whenever Edward and Bella kissed. Is that really necessary? At one point when Jacob tried to kiss Bella (yeah I’m just assuming you watched it) and she moved away some guy actually yelled out “you should be thankful!!” #1, I’m not sure what gave him the impression he was at home. #2, the fact that he was actually giving a frustrated opinion during New Moon made me question his sanity… and my safety. #3 you’d honestly think the girls would be the ones who were more involved. I guess guys here in the UAE share soft spots to rejected werewolves. That’s fine. He clearly didn’t get the memo that it’s just a movie though. To add to the embarrassment, viewers would randomly scream at different moments and somehow that would be hilarious. People can be so daring when the lights are out.

I don’t think I’m going to shell out $26 every time I go to the cinema, so if it’s Gold Class or the village I think I’ll wait till movies are out on DVD…unless it's something good... you know... NOT Harry Potter or any other Twilight film :p

As for the movie, to start off with reaaally subtle with the full moon in the beginning. The second book was my least favorite, but I think the movie did it justice. It’s great to see all the amazing visual effects they were able to use with the higher budget. Thank God Jacob ditched the wig. And I don’t hate Kristen Stewart, sure I’m a little jealous she’s involved in such a cool franchise but if Bella’s supposed to be a really haunted person then she fits the role perfectly, even with her weird breathy reactions and awkward arm movements. Does anyone else think Edward’s nipples are a little questionable? Also I do think a bit more reaction from some of the characters wouldn’t have hurt. How normal is it that Jacob can just bounce effortlessly into Bella’s room before she knows he’s a werewolf? And Edward could have been a tad bit happier she trekked out to Italy in what seemed like a minute to save him. Just maybe. Does anyone else think Jasper gets way too little credit? Love him.  

December 1, 2009

World Aids Day!

"by respecting and protecting ourselves and others we can stop the spread of HIV and end HIV prejudice.

5 things you can do to respect and protect:

1. find out the facts about HIV and talk to your friends, family and colleagues about HIV- make sure they know the reality, not the myths.

2. know your HIV status: get tested if you have put yourself at risk.

3. always use protection.

4. if someone tells you they are HIV positive, treat them with respect and don't tell others without their agreement.

5. wear a red ribbon as a symbol of your support for everyone affected by HIV, and to raise awareness."

world aids day 

Flourless Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies

There's nothing that makes me want peanut butter more than watching Brad Pitt savor a spoon of it in Meet Joe Black. I'm assuming I speak for myself there... or maybe not. I've had a pretty ongoing obsession with peanut butter for more than a year now. First it was creamy peanut butter, then it was Wholefoods' honey roasted peanut butter that's freshly ground and worth gold to me, and now it's just any organic crunchy peanut butter with honey drizzled on top (because Wholefoods doesn't deliver to the Middle East).

If you like peanuts, there's so much goodness that comes with them. While peanut butter doesn't beat chocolate for me, it still melts in your mouth and is a great snack to get your energy back up. A great source of protein and delicious with apples. What I suggest doing is getting a tablespoon of it out and sealing the lid.... with superglue, then putting it back in the fridge because while it's filled with great nutrients, it's also full of fat and you don't want an overdose, even if it's the good kind of fat.

I decided to try out a few recipes using peanut butter and came up with this yummy one:


Music: The Seed 2.0 - The Roots
Mood: energetic

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup agave nectar or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup organic unsalted peanut butter
¼ cup flaxseed meal 
½ tsp baking soda
pinch of kosher salt
¼ cup unsalted peanuts chopped
¼ cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Warm the applesauce and in a bowl dissolve the sugar in it then add the vanilla extract and peanut butter.  In another bowl combine the flaxseed meal, salt and baking soda then mix them into the wet ingredients. Add in the chocolate chips and chopped peanuts. I used a spatula to make sure it was combined well, it wasn't that fun and I might have gained a couple arm muscles. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Since no flour is used, the mixture can be quite sticky so I use two teaspoons to scoop out the batter and place on a greased pan. Bake on the middle shelf until lightly golden and slightly puffy around 12 – 14 minutes. Servings: 12 cookies.

I hope you enjoy them!

Opposite Sex Friendship, a Myth?

I’ve been asking this question for a while and thought I’d share some views on it. The question at hand: can boys and girls be just friends?

It’s something to think about because I keep getting different responses. I have personally always gotten along well with boys and find that hanging out with them can be so drama free. I know I speak on behalf of many girls when I say that. The thing is, is it possible to keep these friendships with guys completely plutonic? Also, if a boy is nice to a girl does it automatically mean he’s interested in more than a friendship? If a boy is friendly to a girl, how is she supposed to know if he wants to hang out and appreciates her friendship or if he has other intentions?

If in fact she starts assuming he has other intentions but nothing has been said, how does she let him know she's not interested in a discreet way just to avoid any awkward moments? It would be nice if a code existed that you could mention to let someone know from the start if it’s a yay or a nay.

There have been times when I’ve enjoyed a boy’s company and have made every imaginable comment that I’m not interested in a relationship with him, like “I’m not interested in anyone right now,” or “I’m at a place in life where I want to be single,” and the boy will still hang around. This gives me the impression he realizes our relationship is not swaying in that direction and that he genuinely wants me as a friend. Suddenly though, he’ll just stop talking to me, in which case I’ll assume he thought there was hope then realized it wasn’t going to happen and decided not to waste his time. Of course by the end of this I end up being the rude unworthy one (not sure how that happened when I made myself clear).

This is too frustrating… is that the only reason boys will go out of their way to be friendly with a girl? If a guy is friendly should we assume otherwise and not waste any of our time making a friend then losing him if we aren’t interested in him? What is the best way to let a boy know you’re not interested but that you enjoy his company and that he honestly shouldn’t be hopeful because it ain’t happening? Is there even a way or can we just not be friends?