29 July 2011

Friday Replay- Iran: Women in Community

Good morning! First of all, thank you for all of you sweet responses to yesterdays hair post. You all helped out a lot and help me to decide to grow my hair back out. I'm gonna go for the look that Leslie posted (see comments). So cute! Thanks for your help!


Today I'm starting something called Friday Replay where I get a chance to replay some of the posts that I wrote  back when the only people reading were my mother and husband. So many of them mean a lot to me, and show my heart a bit more, so much so that I want to share them with the many readers I'm blessed to have now! First up, "Iran: Women in Community."

This past weekend I had the privilege of celebrating the near arrival of my dear friend’s first child! Her baby shower was beautiful and the people there, even more so. My friend is Iranian. She moved to the states 2 years ago with her husband who is working on his PhD at our university. We met at an International Thanksgiving dinner 2 years ago, and we got together often so she could practice her English.

I have many Iranian friends, so I was not prepared for the wonderful surprise that awaited me at this shower. It was unlike the other times I had hung out with large groups of Persians before. This time it was all women, and it was wonderful! I was able to observe so many wonderful differences between their female culture and my own; differences that ought to be celebrated, and perhaps adopted.

I know that the gender issues in Muslim cultures can be a hot topic for Americans with so many of us holding to feminist ideologies. Many of us have a tendency to struggle with a Muslim woman's position in their society, in their family, and the implications of modest dress and head coverings. Many of these misunderstandings and assumptions are born out of fear and the unknown. It wasn't until yesterday that I realized I had made any assumptions about my dear friends, and wasn't until yesterday that I was finally able to see this aspect of their culture for what it is...a celebration of all things female!

While many Iranians are quite lax, there are some who hold to a more modest code of Islam. As the party progressed and more and more guests arrived I couldn't keep from chuckling. These gorgeous women would walk in covered head to foot and when the door closed the "veil" was lifted to reveal awesome party clothes, the cutest shoes, and gorgeous jewelry. I wanted to punch myself for all the times I had assumed they hated dawning what I saw as oppressive clothing, understanding now that underneath it all, they looked like absolute divas. 

Soon the food was served and morale was high. Ladies laughing, shouting, cheering, joking. There was a female comradery present that I have never felt when surrounded by a group of my own American girlfriends. It was an understanding that all the women there were strong and beautiful, successful mothers, daughters and wives. A sense of pride in unity of culture and tradition and a celebration of those things Persian. It was a safe place, a place where one could be understood, defended, and set free.

I'm sure many of my friends would be the first to tell you that like all women, they struggle with their appearance, their body type, their insecurities and their fears. Most aspects of being a women are just universal, but they seemed to have something right that I was just missing.

Tea was served, cake was cut, and Persian music was blaring. The ladies took turns dancing in the middle of the room, each cheering on their peer, whistling, chirping, laughing. It was a wonderful time to celebrate the beauty of each one. A wonderful time to see my very lovely and very pregnant friend dancing and enjoying this exciting moment in her life. I was happy to witness it all (and even happier to capture all these moments on camera)!

I left the party wanting more. More freedom with my friends. More enjoyment in who we are. More celebration in all that it means to be a woman- the success, the fertility, the beauty, the tradition, the love and the family. And most of all....more dancing.  

Question of the Day:

What are your "girl time" traditions? How do you celebrate what it means to be a woman. 
If your a man, what do you love about the woman in your life? 

28 July 2011

Ladies, I Need Your Advice...

Good morning lovely  blog friends! I need help. It's nothing major, quite trivial really, but it's a dilemma none the less. I don't know what to do with my hair. If you're a woman, you understand. Sometimes you just feel like throwing your hands in the air and shaving it all off so you don't have to deal with it anymore. (No worries, I won't actually do that.)

Currently my hair is in a short angled bob...the same haircut everyone else has. I've had this hairstyle off and on for about four years and I feel like I need to stick with a change. Here's some looks I've had over the years they range from very short to long (well, the longest I've ever had anyways.)




Which do you think looks prettiest on me? 
Should I grow it out again? 
Keep it the current length but a different style (need ideas!) or...
go really short (even though my husband would die if I cut it like that again...)?

27 July 2011

Travelogue: Rabat, Morocco

Kasbah des Oudaias

As mentioned in this post, John and I honeymooned in Spain and Morocco. Our few days in Rabat were some of our favorites out of the whole two weeks. Rabat just has something. There's an electricity about the city, the people's smiles are contagious and their surroundings are picturesque. I love Rabat because even though it's a big city (the capital of Morocco) it still has a small town feel and you can really relax and enjoy the culture there.

Overlooking the Atlantic from Oudaias

Rabat is a coastal city bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It has been the country's capital since 1912 when it was moved from Fez. The city is broken up into two worlds- the new city and the old medina. The newer side of the city has nice hotels, bus and train stations, and lots of places to shop. The streets are impeccable (compared to other Moroccan cities, and other parts of Rabat) and are lined with tall palm trees.

John and I walked through the new city, but spent most of our time in the medina and surrounding areas. Our hotel was inside the medina walls in a beautiful old dar (house) owned by a French woman. If you make your way to Rabat I highly recommend the Dar Zouhour and it's central location. See my review here

Overlooking part of the city

John and I spent much of our time checking out the major sights and exploring tiny alleys.The oudaias is a great place to do this. Just inside the kasbah walls is a beautiful neighborhood. The whole place is painted in stark white and vibrant blue. On a sunny day the color is almost too much to handle, it just pours happiness into your heart. This is a must see, and on your way out you can take a walk through the tranquil kasbah gardens.

Warning: Men stand at the entrance to the oudaias telling you that you aren't allowed in because prayers just finished up. That's a lie. Blow right past them as politely as possible, anyone is welcome in the city and you can walk in, prayers or no prayers, as long as you stay out of the mosques (generally speaking Morocco does not allow any non-Muslim to enter the mosque, but in some cases you can stand just outside to peak in at a particularly historic one.)


Typical Moroccan doorway. Beautiful!

Another great sight to see is the medina and market (souk) at night. After dark, around 8 or 9pm head over to the souk and get lost in  the crowd. Moroccans love to be where the people are. If they go to the souk and it's not crowded they will go home until later when it's packed out. It is the place to be and it is full of new sights, sounds and smells. If you miss this, then you will have missed Morocco entirely.  Keep some cash in your front pocket for street food and hole in the wall restaurants. There's lots of great shopping around here, but bargain hard.

John and I at Le Tour Hassan

Lastly, but certainly not least-ly, make sure you take a walk over to Le Tour Hassan and the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V. The Tour (tower) is an unfinished minaret built by Almohad sultan Yacoub al-Mansour in 1195. It was intended to reach 60m (the tallest in the Muslim world), but only made it to 44. Even at it's current height, the tower impresses.

The beautiful mausoleum (not pictured) is the burial site of the late King Mohammed V, much loved by the country and visited by many throughout the year. It's a solemn place to visit, and it is great to see all the care put into the design work inside.

To the right of the mausoleum is a large and beautifully decorated mosque. Go visit this area near the time for one of the prayers so that you can stand in the square between Le Tour Hassan, the mausoleum, and the mosque when they sing the call to prayer from the loud speakers. We enjoyed watching the locals flock to the area and leave soon after prayers were finished-  culture happened right before our eyes!

Rabat holds a special place in our hearts and we talk about going back all the time. Even though we visited many beautiful cities in the country, Rabat stood out among them all!

Question of the Day:
What's your favorite sight that I saw?

26 July 2011

Do the VOO

You won't believe what I dreamt about last night. I spent 8 solid hours of sleep dreaming about making enough Vegan Overnight Oats (VOO) to last an entire year. I had buckets and buckets or chocolate VOO, pumpkin pie VOO, blueberry and banana VOO. Apparently I've got VOO on the brain. I hadn't even heard of these little goodies until about a month ago when I stumbled upon Oh She Glows. I'm so glad I did because it's a great way to start my day off on the right foot, and gives me the energy I need to plow through the first half of my work day. Even John eats them, and if a boy enjoys cold vegan cereal  that's got to say something!

                                                                                          Source: ohsheglows.com via Hannah on Pinterest

Vegan overnight oats are oats soaked overnight in the refrigerator with almond milk (or other milk substitute), chia seeds, and assorted toppings. You can mix up a batch in a jiffy before you head to bed, and when you wake up breakfast is ready to rock and roll.

All my life I have been eating hot oatmeal, so the first time I tried these the cool oats took a little getting used to. I think the texture caught me off guard a little, especially with the bloated chia seeds floating around in there. But the more I eat them and try different varieties the more I enjoy them and the quicker I eat them up!

I realize the vegan overnight oats may be a deterrent for you die-hard carnivores. I've never been too gung-ho about meat in the mornings (or at all) so it didn't bother me. But I assure you that you can get the protein you need through these oats with much less unhealthy fat since it is animal free. The chia is high in omega 3s, fiber, and comes with 3g of protein per tbsp (for more about what chia has to offer see here.) Top off your oats with a nut butter of some kind and a small scoop of nuts and you've got yourself a well-rounded breakfast! Or you can smother it in chocolate for a yummy treat....

                                                                         Source: thehealthyfoodie.net via Hannah on Pinterest

 Here's a few of my favorite VOO recipes:

Carob Banana VOO
Blueberry Banana Pie Overnight Oat Casserole
Easy Vegan Overnight Oats
Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats
Overnight Oatmeal (non-vegan)

Question of the Day: 
 Have you ever tried overnight oats? What's your favorite combo?

22 July 2011

Asparagus, Spinach, and Bacon Pasta

This pasta is so yum! I got this recipe from one of my Cooking Light magazines back in 2007. I'm not usually a fan of real bacon and typically opt for the turkey bacon kind. But you have to go all out for this recipe because the bacon grease that is left behind is essential for bringing the flavors of the pasta together. Asparagus is my all-time favorite vegetable and this recipe really does it justice. Make this next week and you won't be sorry you did!

Asparagus, Spinach, and Bacon Pasta
Serves 4

8 ounces uncooked pasta of your choice (I used farfalle)
2 bacon slices 
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion 
2 1/2 cups (1-inch) slices asparagus (about 1 pound) 
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth 
4 cups bagged baby spinach leaves 
1/2 cup (2 ounces) fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded and divided 
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cook pasta according to the package directions.Drain; keep warm.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add onion to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute. Add asparagus and broth to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Add pasta, spinach, 1/4 cup cheese, and pepper to pan; toss well. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and bacon.

What is your favorite vegetable? 
If you don't have one...why didn't your momma tell you to eat your veggies?!

21 July 2011

Virginia Trip, Part Two: Washington D.C

The Capital Building

Washington, D.C. It's one of the most beautiful American cities I've seen in terms of architecture. Being there, it was hard to believe that the buildings were real. I've only seen them in print these 24 years and seeing them in person was a bit surreal at first. I love that feeling. It always fills me with a sense of privilege. I've seen history with my own eyes. Do you know how many people in the world will never leave their village? I really do thank God for all that I've been blessed to see in this world!

My favorite building was the Smithsonian Castle (so Harry Potter-like!). My imagination was really able to run wild looking at that building. Unfortunately I couldn't snag a good picture of it, maybe next time. As far as all the political-y buildings, my favorite was the capital...hands down. We had a tour of its rooms and all the paintings and statues were exciting to see.

I wanted to share with you some of the best pics of the day...enjoy!

The front of the capital, flanked by the House and Senate

John and I with our nephew Zeb leaving the Thomas Jefferson Library

The Supreme Court Building

The Back of the White House (sadly, no Obama...)

Our zoom lens captured a sniper in bullet proof vest!

The Washington Monument

The Vietnam Memorial Wall

Me and honest Abe!

What is your favorite building in D.C.? Why?

P.S. None of you told me how flippin' spread out everything is there!! I think I walked about 1,000 miles in that one day. I'm still sore from it! It's ok though, I forgive you. ;)

20 July 2011

The End of an Era

I had planned to tell you all about my D.C. trip today, but got side-tracked last night and forgot to upload my pictures. Why you ask? Oh, only an evening showing of...

Yup, John and I headed out to our local Regal, free movie passes in hand (yes!), to see one of the biggest blockbusters of my generation (well, aside from Titanic, maybe.) Even though it's only four days after its release into theaters I feel like we were late in seeing it. Everyone has been talking about this movie both in person and in the blogosphere, and for good reason- the movie kicks arse (as Harry might say)!

What a great ending to it all. I don't think I blinked the entire time.  The ending was a complete surprise as I've never read the  books...

I know, I know.

I won't give anything away too much in case there happens to be one lonely soul out there that's waited to see it longer than I have. What I will say is that my favorite part about the movie is the role Neville plays. Throughout the series he has held a special place in my heart, and I so enjoyed seeing him in action to fight the epic battle against evil! Rawr!

On another note, are we the only ones that bring homemade goodies to the theater as snacks? We hate paying for popcorn or candy, and honestly don't like eating candy any more as we've done a lot in our daily diet to reign in our sweet tooth. But last night I did cut up a couple pieces of this to smuggle (MUGGLE!) into the theater. I felt a little awkward busting out our Pyrex cups and clinking around with metal forks but the joy I felt in the midst of my consumer anarchy made up for it!

How about you? Do you bring your own homemade snacks into the theater?

19 July 2011

Virginia Trip, Part One: The Epic Journey

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We're back from Virginia and had a wonderful time. I can't wait to show you all the awesome pictures I got in D.C. I really enjoyed trekking around our nation's capital and taking in all the history we have there.

But first, a story. And man, is it a brutal one. We're laughing about it now, but let me tell you, our journey started out rough. I got off work at 5:00pm on Thursday and headed across town to drop off my car and meet John so we could get on the road. We were driving my sister-in-law's car up there and then flying home. Her car is a piece of spit and broke down before John ever left. So I met him at AutoZone to get a new battery installed.  ($80.00)

The start of our journey to Virginia...a stop at the mechanic.

I followed John out of the parking lot, battery now fixed, and realized that the brake lights were permanently on. We decided the car was unfit to drive across five states unless that was fixed (and weren't sure if it would be, even then.) At 6:00, after lots of frustration and disappointment, we dropped it off at our mechanic hoping that he could fix it on Friday morning so we could drive it up the that day.

It turns out he was able to fix it before he left work Thursday night! 30 minutes later and another $80 later, we were on the road and feelin' fine!

Look at us....so happy...so naive....

Llama cloud.

Yay! We're actually driving north!

About an hour into our drive (8:30pm) we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for some feel-good food. We deserved it after an afternoon of high stress. While we were waiting for our food John went to the car to check the fluids. The car has a minor oil leak and he wanted to make sure the levels were good. The oil well was completely dry and we had only driven about 50 miles since we left Orlando with the tank full. He poured in 3 quarts of oil and came back in to eat. 

We talked about it and knew there was only one thing we could do, there was no turning back now, we'd have to make it work...

9:15 PM....11 quarts of oil.

We would have to buy up as much oil as we could and stop every 50 miles in our 900 mile journey to refill the tank. That's what we did. We bought that Mobil station out of every single quart they had and stopped every 50 miles to refill the tank. 

Our journey was supposed to cost about $180- $200 total (for gas and such). But instead it ended up costing $500. Not the price his sister or my in-laws were expecting. The trip was supposed to take about 13 hours and it ended up taking 17, not what we were expecting. The car was supposed to only need a couple quarts of oil to get there, but instead took 24...not what the car was expecting.

But at 7:30 in the morning, when we stopped and saw the Virginia state line, it was all worth it. We had just a couple hours left and a few more oil stops until we were settled and could sleep a bit and enjoy time with family. I tell you, that Virginia sign never looked so good! It was an epic journey, a ridiculous journey, and one we'll look back on and laugh about forever...

14 July 2011

A Weekend Getaway Full of Firsts

Well my friends, this is my last post for a little bit. My bags are packed, my stretchy pants are soon to be on, and the car is fully stocked for a red-eye drive to Virginia tonight. I'm going up for a long weekend with my husband to visit his our family, and it will be a weekend full of firsts...


 The first time I've visited Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer.

The first time John and I have done a major road-trip together.

The first time I've had to drive through the night to get somewhere.

The first time I'll get to spend three consecutive days together with my favorite little siblings and nephew .

My adorable nephew, Zeb.

My favorite little siblings, Mei Leigh and Jin Tao

 The first time all of John's brothers and sisters have been together under the same roof since our wedding back in October.

And the first time I get to go here...


That's right folks, I'm heading to D.C.! Words cannot express my excitement. I have never been there, and that fact has become an embarrassment I can't live with much longer, and won't have to come Saturday!Since I'm a capital noob, I need your help (see bottom of post.)

We're day tripping with my sister-in-law (Chelsea) and her husband (Justin) to see all that we can see. Justin works for a Senator and has gotten us a private tour of the capital building. (*jumps up and down*) Thank God we just got the new zoom lens for our d-slr because I'll need it to capture such a beautiful city. I can't wait to share my pics with you guys.


I've really been keeping my fingers crossed that I'll get to cross paths with Mr. Obama. That would really round out my trip and knock another "first" of my list..."shake hands with president or presidential candidate." He's a big fan of the "thumbs up," so I would even settle for exchanging one of those if need be.

So, this is it until next Tuesday. My apologies for the radio silence. But I will be thinking of you all every time I snap a shot, and hope to be able to put some of your recommendations to good use...

If you've visited or live in or around D.C. do you have any tips on things we must do or places we must eat?

13 July 2011

Linguini with Shrimp and Tomato Cream Sauce

So, I don't know about you, but I've been following Eat Live Run for quite some time now. She was actually one of the first blogs I got to know and helped inspire me as I sought out a blog to call my very own. I had been eying this recipe for some time, and finally made it a few weeks ago (find it here.) I quadrupled the recipe to feed my guests and everyone really enjoyed how light and fresh it was for summer. I stuck to the recipe, and only changed the type of pasta I used. In the future I think I would add a little white wine to the mix as well...that way I can have the whole bottle left over to drink.

Ingredients (serves 1):
4 ounces shrimp
1/2 cup canned tomatoes
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 large basil leaf, chiffonaded
1 tbsp olive oil
enough dry pasta for yourself (or more for a group)
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of sea salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Drain and set aside, reserving about a half cup of the cooking water. Heat a cast iron skillet to high heat, adding the oil once the pan is hot. Quickly add the shrimp and cook for about fifteen to twenty seconds, just till the tails start to curl upwards. Immediately add the garlic and saute for about ten more seconds. Now, add the diced tomatoes and heavy cream and stir everything together. Add back the cooked pasta to the pan and add a little of the reserved cooking water to combat dryness. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
Serve with basil and Parmesan cheese.

12 July 2011

Bok Tower Gardens (Lake Wales, FL)

Bok Tower and its gardens are located about an hour outside of Orlando in Lake Wales, Florida. I had been to visit years and years ago, so long ago that I barely remember it and had thought for all these years that the tower was a lighthouse and not a carillon.

The carillon bells play ever half hour and the sounds resonate throughout the gardens, which are the best in Florida for getting a glimpse of native Florida flora and fauna. Edward Bok (the editor of Ladies Home Journal) built the tower and gardens in the early 1900s. The tower is one of the most well crafted buildings I've seen in terms of detail and design work. 

Here's some more pictures from around the garden. I hope that it can entice you to visit next time you're in our area. It's a great way to spend half a day and play with your camera!

My dad and I at the entrance.

These old Florida trees were everywhere and dripping with beautiful moss.

Close-up of the singing tower.

John and I at the reflection pond.

The first waterlily I've ever seen.

Heavy brass doors lead into the tower...tell the story of Adam and Eve.

The koi in the pond were ginormous, and very hungry. I almost touched one... :)

These lily pads were huge (about 3 to 4 feet across) and covered with spines underneath.

This mushroom was straight out of a fairytale.

Rows and rows of Florida citrus trees.

Which is your favorite picture from my day at Bok Tower?