Monthly Archives: January 2013

a gift worth a million smiles of heart

It’s the thought behind each gift which makes it so very special. Yesterday, my 8-year old niece presented me with a gift, wrapped up beautifully and tied with a ribbon where she slipped a beautiful pink rose. ‘Baby Doll, what did you get me?!’ I asked her with excitement. ‘Oh, it’s nothing new she told me… These are things which I had in the house: It’s a writing pad because you always write, a folding cup so that you can carry it in your bag when you travel, a teddy bear magnet because you love magnets so much and a rose which you have to put in water! Oh, and do you remember this wrapping paper? You gave it to me’, she said with a smile. The innocence of children, the purity of their thoughts and their unconditional love in everything including gifts which bear no price tag yet they are filled with so much unconditional love! A gift worth a million smiles of heart indeed!ViolettaGift

Peace starts within

Earlier this week, I attended an amazing brainstorming session for ‘Walk of Truth’, an NGO which aims to raise awareness among people of different ethnic, religious and national identities about the value of cultural heritage in all its forms. I plan to write more about this at a later post, however, I would like to share a quote which acted as great food for thought and discussion by Kathy Barrett, a fellow participant: ‘Peace is a process and it starts within until we bring peace to the world.’ As part of the brainstorming, one of the stories I shared was about a presentation I attended about a year ago… In his presentation which was part of the project UNCOVERED., Palestinian curator, Jack Perkesian, showed how artist Mona Hatoum, used Nablus soap as a medium to depict the division of Palestine. At the 2004 World Economic Forum, Perkesian explained how they used soap bars from Nablus to create a wall which was the backdrop to the stage. At the end of the event, the artist called the audience to take a soap bar with them… the result was heart breaking…. People were tearing the soap bars out of the wall giving a message of PEACE to put an end to this ‘separation’. Take a few moments to read the below. I hope it touches you as deeply as it touched me…
It’s not just for washing your hands: By Jim Quilty, Daily Star staff
BEIRUT: During the 2004 World Economic Forum, held that year at a Dead Sea resort in Jordan, organizers commissioned Palestinian curator Jack Persekian to engineer a Palestinian Cultural Evening. When the designer-branded WEF delegates assembled, they found a stage decorated with an installation made from thousands of bars of Nabulsi soap. Its curious design
was comprised of a meters-high wall, punctuated by cylindrical towers topped with flood lamps. When the event ended, delegates were invited to come up on stage and take a bar of soap from the wall. It would be a memento, they were
told, of the ceremonies. Many did. Persekian’s depiction of this incident was the climax of “Nablus Soap,” his illustrated talk at the Beirut Art Center Wednesday evening. As his photos documenting the event clicked past on the screen behind him and chuckles arose from his audience – one photo finds Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa inciting a small avalanche as he gleefully yanks down a soap bar –  you couldn’t but speculate how many of the assiduously non-partisan delegates were aware of the politics of their gesture.

live passionately

lovelife As I reflect on my path of life, I can say one thing with certainty- my philosophy has always been to attempt to use PASSION as the main ingredient in all that I do – work, cooking, running, my relationships with friends and family, etc- simply by adding a touch of spice to every idea and moment in life. ‘WHY?!’ you may ask and ‘where do you always get the energy to create an event out of nothing?’ My reply is simple: Our daily routine can become VERY monotonous whether we are wearing our hat of work, motherhood, singlehood- you name it… Hence, it is important to be CREATIVE, and simply add that magnificent touch of spice to all that we do- one day it may be sweet lavender, or.. bitter cardamom, and, at times bitter sweet canella (cinnamon)..! Wrapping up, I would like to share with you one of my favorite quotes by a much loved author and poet, Maya Angelou:
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

longevity secrets

longevity ‘I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.’ –Diane Ackerman
Today, a dear friend posted the following article on her Fit to Inspire ( FB page: Blue Zones: where people ‘forget to die’
The author of The Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest shares 9 secrets of longevity:
• Move naturally. “Do your own house and yard work, go up and down your stairs with your laundry, knead your own dough “Incorporate more movement every hour.”
• Know your purpose. “Take time to recognize your values, strengths, talents, passions and gifts.” Reflect, and work on yourself.
• Down shift. Relieve chronic stress by finding time each day to nap, meditate or pray.
• The 80% rule. Cut 20 percent of your daily calories with proven healthy practices: eat a big breakfast, dine with your family, and begin each meal by expressing appreciation.
• Plant slant. Eat mostly plant-based foods, and small portions of meat no more than twice a week.
• Wine at 5. Drinkers live longer than non-drinkers.
• Family first. Living in a loving, thriving family can add up to six years to your life. Work on a positive, committed relationship and stay close to your aging parents and grandparents.
• Belong.“Those with the most social connectedness tend to live longer,” Be part of a group of healthy-minded, supportive people.
• Right tribe. Good friends have a positive effect on your longevity. Support them and adopt healthy behaviors together.

the joy of dining

TurkishChickenZucchiniDelice “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” –Virginia Wolf
Wise words indeed by Virginia Wolf, and may I humbly add that dining with good company makes a meal even more special and enjoyable. Last night’s dinner guests shared a love for nature, walking, running, cycling and travels. Good company, an interesting conversation and a scrumptious meal coupled with fine wine always guarantee a memorable evening. The chicken recipe I shared with you a couple of days ago is captured in the photo above along with the zucchini délice (recipe below). Ingredients 3 medium-sized zucchinis ¼ cup plain flour 6-8 tbsp olive oil ½ cup strained yoghurt 1/3 cup chopped walnuts pinch of salt pinch of chili powder Preparation Steam the zucchini, drain the water, allow to cool and then mash them. Fry the flour in the olive oil until it becomes a thick paste. Add the zucchini mash and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from fire, add the yoghurt, walnuts, salt and serve. Sprinkle with chili powder and a good dose of love!

a menu with a touch of spice (part 2)

a touch of spice

a touch of spice

This weekend is over and I cannot stop smiling at all the delightful moments it had in store for me- glorious weather, a liberating run with one of my dearest friends, supermarket shopping (with lots of excitement) for tomorrow’s dinner with… a touch of spice, a wonderful Indian dinner feast hosted by an incredible foodie (a night to remember), a play date for Luna and Grace in the park and pure bliss absorbing all these simple pleasures.
As with any dinner planning, marinating is key the night before, and as promised, I am sharing with you a succulent Turkish chicken recipe taken from ‘A Squirrel in your kitchen’
500g chicken, cut in kebab size cubes
2-3 white onions
½ cup milk (or, coconut milk)
1/3 cup olive oil
15-20 cherry tomatoes
3-4 green peppers (cut in cubes)
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Peel the onions and pulse in a blender until onions are finely minced. Squeeze out the juice and in a bowl, mix the onion juice with the milk, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the chicken cubes to the marinade. The more hours the chicken marinates the better! You may place the chicken on skewers, and thread cherry tomatoes and green peppers in between the chicken, or simply cook the chicken pieces alone in a non-stick pan and thereafter toss in the cherry tomatoes and pepper. Serve with rice and vegetable pilaf.

a menu with a touch of spice


Emelkisir A few years ago I was reading an article and came across an incredibly smart idea: What if you organized your menu plan into a spreadsheet that you could also use as your shopping list? What an awesome idea, I thought, and I have since used Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings to plan the week’s menu and shopping list too! Next week will begin with a menu for dear friends who share a passion for nature, sports and travelling. The menu will have a touch of spice from Turkey (a zucchini delice, grilled eggplants with pine nuts, a bulgur salad and chicken marinated in olive oil, milk with… a touch of spice). Two of these recipes are featured in ‘A squirrel in your kitchen’ and I would like to share these with you. The first recipe is a bulgur salad from the kitchen of a beloved friend, Emel Ertas in Turkey and the second is a succulent chicken recipe which you have to stay tuned for till tomorrow.

½ – ¾ cup bulgur (used for meatballs)
(the tiniest version of cracked wheat, koftelik bulgur)
green peppers
greens of your preference: lettuce, fennel, raw cabbage
olive oil
lemon juice, or, vinegar, or, pomegranate sour sauce
salt and pepper
Slice all the greens into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Pour boiling hot water on top of the mini bulgur – (water should be 2 cm over the bulgur level). Wait until the bulgur absorbs all the water and is soft, and finally mix in the greens. Add olive oil, lemon juice (or vinegar, or sour pomegranate sauce), salt and pepper, and… it’s ready to eat!
About Emel
It is the simple things which connect international students in a foreign land, yet, it is those simple things which stay with us for life… Certain fears and anxieties, those first illegal drinks at fraternity parties, talent shows at International Day gatherings and… all-nighters, talking about everything and nothing…Although Emel and I had kept in touch during the first years following our graduation, we lost contact for many years thereafter. Who would’ve thought that after so many years, we would re-unite in Constantinople, or, Istanbul, as the rest of the world knows it? This special old friend had planned the perfect vacation not just for me, but the friends whom I was travelling with. We relished a series of wonderful culinary experiences, explored the mystique of Bosphorus by dark, and danced the night away under the moon of Istanbul. It was truly an experience of the senses. But, above all, I had a chance to spend some quality time with my friend, 15 years into maturity and wider horizons with fewer barriers…