Ending the year on a positive note: best of 2012

best of 2012

One of my new year resolutions is to be more positive, worry less, keep my dad’s 100 theory in mind and celebrate my achievement no matter how small or simple they are.There is enough negativity around me, around everyone, enough gloom.As my friend Spree so beautifully stated, sometimes all we can do to fight the creeping shadows is shine. Each of us has a unique light and the world needs every bit of light to fight all the hurt, injustice and blinding darkness. No matter how faint your light is,no matter how bone tired you are, no matter how hurt or damage your soul might be, let your light sparkle. Your smile might be all that a depressed person needs to say, this too shall pass. I can make it through . Your determination might bring someone back from the edge of despair. Your kindness might change someone’s life. Don’t underestimate yourself, don’t let the darkness put out your light..let it shine.

So to end 2012 I have decided to compile my ” proud of ” list. Things about my blog that I am proud of achieving

1. I kept the blog going, in February my blog turns two.I am proud of my little space on the web and thankful for the support of each and every reader, commenter and friend who have cheered me on in this adventure.

2.My photography has improved through the past 12 months. Sure there is still a long way to go but I am truly enjoying the journey.Looking back on how my pictures looked at the begining and how they are now puts a big smile on my face

3. Getting to “know” people from around the globe through their blogs or comments , sharing their experiences, being able to look at the world through their eyes makes life so much richer. I am honored and proud to be one of those little dots that connect the world together.

4.last but not least: a list of the posts I am most proud of, they may not be the most popular but to me they were a challenge met,a lesson learnt , a sweet memory or maybe a fear conquered.

Caramel chocolate thumb cookies

Birthday chocolate cake

Mille-feuille recipe (homemade Napoleon recipe)

 The walnut lesson

Pita bread recipe – how to make pita pockets

Empanada Gallega

Filled pate a choux swans

Maamoul (Stuffed shortbread cookies)

Ramadan drinks, sweet tamarind and qamar el deen

How to make your own feta cheese

Petra, the rose red city half as old as time

How to make a birthday circus train cake

Clementine orange dessert balls

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Fabulous Food Fotography Friday : The walnut lesson

Today I am taking part in my friend Jehanne’s Fabulous food fotography friday (the F in photography is not a typo :) ). It is a weekly event to work on your food photography skills, get inspired and above all have fun :)

Come join in the fun and share your images and thoughts

Looking at a walnut always reminds me of what my mum used to tell us when we were kids. A walnut looks like the human brain and it is loaded with nutrients that are good for your brain :) I love walnuts not only for their nutritional value but because every time I look at them I am reminded that so many people may look hard and harsh on the outside but if you take a look inside they are fragile and delicate. The walnut lesson however doesn’t end here, if you look at it from another point of view, some people may seem smooth and simple from a distance just like the walnut-shell but if you know how to crack their code,  you will get a maze of twists and turns.

Ginger paprika toasted pumpkin seeds

The sky lights up and before I get to the window, I hear the rumbling of thunder. I open the window and the smell of the wet earth washes over me. I close my eyes and remember my fifth grade teacher reciting a French poem about the wonderful smell of the earth when the first raindrops dance over the ground. I open my eyes to make sure that I am not imagining it all and with a big smile sit by the window enjoying the beauty of the first shower of the season.Thinking what a wonderful world this would be if those little raindrops could wash people’s hearts the same way they wash the trees and houses.

If only!

for now, I have to settle for the symphony of those little raindrops on the window.  Fall is officially here.

Today I am a guest at Claire’s wonderful blog Promenade Plantings. Claire is off on vacation for a week with friends and family and I volunteered to write a guest post for her while she was away. If you have never been to Claire’s blog, I strongly suggest you change that.Claire has a passion for gardening that shines through her every post. She enjoys taking care of her plot near her house in St  Leonard’s in England and shares wonderful seasonal recipe using her own ingredients that she grows lovingly in her little plot (like this amazing roundup of courgette recipes). She also shares breathtaking pictures of flowers and glimpses into her trips and travels.If all that is not enough Claire shares posts that are deeply insightful.posts that make me think or smile and above all they make me happy to be a dot in her connected world of dots :)

With the refreshing fall showers and cold morning breeze, autumn brings apples, figs, pomegranates and of course, pumpkins. For some people , pumpkins are only good for pumpkin pie and jack o lanterns. Well I am here today to tell you that there is so much more that those bright orange orbs can offer and we’ll start with toasted pumpkin seeds

Toasted pumpkin seeds make for a wonderful snack, they are great when you have friends coming over or when you are craving something crunchy and want to stay clear of the chips. What I love about toasting pumpkin seeds at home is the fact that I can play around with flavors. You can always play it safe and only add salt but if you are feeling adventurous try paprika, ginger, garlic powder or your favorite spice and come up with your own seasoning mix for toasted pumpkin seeds

To get the recipe for these ginger and paprika pumpkin seeds head over to my guest post at Claire’s blog

Petra, the rose red city half as old as time

We will pick up our trip from where we left off in part 1. At the treasury or Al Khazneh.

The name, the treasury comes from the fact that it was first thought to be a treasury for the pharos of Egypt (that was before it was determined that the Nabateans built Petra). The purpose of this magnificent building which is over 40 m high and  is strategically placed at the end of the Siq remains a mystery, some think it was a royal tomb while others think it was a library. Its purpose may still be a mystery but one thing is for sure, it was built and placed  to strike awe in the hearts of the visitors of Petra and it still does 2000 years later

It is amazing to see the Khazeh at different times of day, the dance that light and shadow play across the beautifully carved rose red stone is mesmerizing

If you leave the khazneh and start walking towards the heart of the city the first monument you come across is the one in the picture below. The locals call it the thief’s palace because a famous thief hid in it for months while the search for him continued until he was finally captured. Currently there are excavations in it and you are not allowed to go in but it is said to have some of the most beautifully colored stone walls

All over the place there are donkeys, hourses and camels you can ride for a price. Donkeys in particular have been trained to climb the 800+ stairs leading up the the high place of sacrifice. Sadly because we had the kids with us and the climb takes over an hour  even with the donkeys we didn’t go. The place of sacrifice is located on a mountain top that overlooks the entire Petra area, the view from the top is said to be worth the hour climb.

This little guy was shy and kept hiding from me as I was trying to take his picture

I wish you could see the speed the donkey was going down the stairs

Note the donkeys climbing the stairs

If you keep walking you will come into the street of facades, some consider this the ceremonial part of the city while others think these were tombs.

We went into one of those carved buildings which was two stories  as you can see

 This is the view from inside

and this is the roof, the marbling of the sand stone is nothing short of amazing

As you enter heart of the city, the Nabataean theater is located on the left. It was built in the first century AD in the form an arc that is 95 meters in radius and 2.23 meters in height. It is carved in the rock . The Theater consisted of 45 rows of seats that were thought to accommodate 7-10 thousand spectators.

 Leaving the theater behind brings you to the court or the urn tomb, this is the first of a number of buildings that are located high up on the side of a mountain,  this one I did climb.

This beautiful building is thought to have been a tomb at the time of the Nabateans but then it was changed into a courthouse during the Roman occupation of the city and those arched rooms were turned into cells

If you walk around the clif you come to a building with the most magnificent facade , this building is called the silk tomb due to the colors in its facing

  With this we come to the end of part 2, I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the walk around Petra with me.

Coming Soon

Candied watermelon peel,  John’s Feta cheese and more of Petra , stay tuned

A trip through the seasons and a month’s worth of pictures

When I was a kid, there was a movie I loved based on a story from the European literature about a little girl who lived with her mean step mother and step sister (I know what you are thinking. No, not Cinderella). They lived in a country ruled by a spoiled princess who  killed prisoners because kill was easier to spell and shorter than forgive. On new year’s eve the princess decides she misses spring and a basket full of spring flowers to decorate the table at the new year’s party. She announces a basket full of gold is to be rewarded to the person who can get her a basket full of spring flowers The mean step mother sends the little girl into the forest and tells her not to come back till she gets the flowers.The little girl’s pleas , tears and reasoning can’t save her from the snow or the heart of stone her step mom seems to have. The step mum throws her out then closes the door.

The girl walks into the forest,lonely, sad and cold wandering not sure where to go or what to do. As she walks on and on, hour after hour dragging her feet , she finally collapses in the snow calling out to her deceased mother and father.  A distant wolf cry scares her enough to summon all the energy she has left to get back on to her feet. She is drawn by a distant light shimmering in the snow. She gets closer, wondering if she’s dreaming or if she has died already and that glow is her mother and father waiting to welcome her.She takes a few more hesitant steps to find twelve hooded figures gathered around a fire. The call of the dancing warm flames overcomes her fear and she walks in. The twelve figures turn out to be the spirits of the twelve months of the year, the girl tells them of her dilemma and April asks his brother to grant him one hour of spring to make the flowers bloom for the poor girl. They grant him his wish because they have all seen her suffering through the seasons of the year, seen how hardship did not erode her soul or make her bitter. She has always been kind and helpful and they thought she deserved a chance.

December calls back the snow, the wind dies out and the sun comes up melting the snow, the ground is covered with a green carpet of grass and flowers and animals leave their hideouts jumping between branches and running across the ground.The little girl fills her basket with flowers and leaves thanking April and his brothers for their kindness.

Why am I telling you the story? well,the month of March reminded me of it. Remember when I told you I took the kids hunting for snow? The first week of March brought the kids their wish

It snowed for 3 days, they played, built snow men and had a snowball fight

The very next week the temperatures soared to 26 C and it was actually too hot to stand in the sun for too long. We went for a drive hunting for spring this time.

The third week started with beautiful spring weather, not warm but not too cold either.This time around we paid my mum’s aunt (the one who has the cherry trees, I made cherry jam off last year) a visit.

 

Spring didn’t last long, dusty windy weather followed.We had a couple of days when the dust was almost like a fog,the weather reminded me of Smidgen’s post.Everyone was looking to the sky for rain to clear the air.

The month ended with grey skies, rain (I am actually listening to the rain drops on my window as I write this) and temperatures dropping a couple of degrees shy of zero.

I hope you enjoyed this trip through the seasons, and I hope your March was a little less crazy than mine.

 Before I let you go, tell me dear reader, what is your favorite season and why?

My next post will be about preparing homemade yogurt, here is a preview of what is coming next.Stay tuned

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