June 26 2018

My Heart… On a Plate

This year I got the most beautiful Mother’s Day treat ever: a bouquet of stunning Tulips, my absolute favorite, and a very yummy, freshly made breakfast.
That would’ve been more than enough to make me very happy, but there was a very lovely surprise waiting for me.

Later that day an amazon package with my name on it was delivered to our doorstep.
You know that moment when you’re sure you didn’t order anything but you start doubting yourself and questioning your memory?
Well, after  a few attempts at guessing what’s in the box, I finally opened it, and in it was a gift note from my husband, wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.
I peeked in to find a very special gift that made my day even more beautiful; a gift that checks four boxes of things I absolutely love: books, food, influential people and… (drum roll)… Palestine.
It was a cookbook about delicious Palestinian dishes by a person I really really admire.

The book is “Palestine on a Plate” by the awesome Joudie Kalla.

I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this book for a very long while, but swamped with a series of many unfortunate events, I just forgot all about it.
I’d never expected, in a million years, that my husband would be the one to get it for me, because I recall mentioning it to him only once, a long while back, and well, because I know for a fact he’s not into cookbooks. 😉

Where do I start?
I love this mouthwatering book, love its hard elegant cover, love the design, photos, the choice of colors, plates and cutlery. You can sense the book’s originality and creative style in every single bit of it really, even in the dish names.
I absolutely love how chef and author Joudie Kalla made sure to provide the Arabic dish names before their English translation.
I also found it very unusual for a cook to name many dishes after people who passed on the recipe, which adds a very pleasant personal and original touch in my opinion; and I like it because this is very much how my mom does it; in her small recipe book, you’d find many recipes named after their creators not the dish itself, and I find this very impressive, reflecting a very strong personality and a sense of confidence many women lack.
I mean how many women would actually tell you, that the meal you just went crazy over was not their original recipe? not so many, but a few including my mom (me and my two lovely sisters), and Joudie Kalla would.

The dishes themselves are fantastic, each page I turned took me to places and times I long for.
And although the same dish has many versions depending on what region of Palestine you’re from, which means different cooking techniques and slightly different flavors, but all resulting dishes are scrumptious and carry this distinctive Palestinian touch that makes every single dish stand out in a special way. So even if the recipe on the book differs from how you’re used  to making it yourself, don’t be afraid to try it out.

Another thing I absolutely adored was Kalla’s original Palestinian- Western fusion dishes, such as: ‘Figs with Labneh & Honey’, ‘Za’atar Scones’, ‘Freekeh, Fig & Pistachio Cake with Lemon Zest’ and ‘Medjool Date Scones’ to name a few.
And needless to say, my absolute favorite section was the “Vibrant Vegetarian”, which is really an amazing display of the best and most delicious Palestinian Vegetarian _and Vegan_ dishes that made their way to many other cultures, and that, to me, resemble vegetarian cooking at its absolute best.

Besides all of this, I couldn’t have picked a more perfect timing for this gift, for there’s no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than being immersed in pages of meals from your home country, not only that, but it also happened to be a few days before the start of Ramadan, a month that brings the best out of people’s culinary skills (and their experimental urges) in creating the perfect meals to gather loved ones for breaking fast; it was also a couple of days before the Palestinian Nakba Day, and what better way to commemorate a culture than reviving its heritage and its cuisine that’s being robbed away by its occupier.

As for the author, I’m one of her biggest fans. I’ve been following her on social media for years now, sharing her videos and tweets, and I’m just impressed with her pride in her Palestinian descent and identity, and her persistence to preserve the Palestinian cuisine, heritage and culture.
From insisting on publishing a book with the word “Palestine” in its title, to hosting public dinners showcasing Palestinian culinary masterpieces, to never failing to mention her love for the Palestine that runs in her blood, Kalla succeeded in planting her name, her work and her beautiful spirit not only in our kitchens, but also in our hearts.

I love “Palestine on a Plate”, and highly recommend buying it. An awesome gift idea, and a great way to treat yourself, while supporting Palestine and reserving its culture and cuisine.

It is worth mentioning that Kalla is expecting the release of her second ccokbook BALADI: A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea, in October 2018.

May 28 2018

Apraxia of Speech: The Struggle To Get Timely Diagnosis

I’ve recently learnt, that May is Apraxia Awareness Month.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, Apraxia of Speech (AOS) is an uncommon neurological disorder that affects the brain pathways involved in planning the sequence of movements involved in producing speech. The brain knows what it wants to say, but cannot properly plan and sequence the required speech sound movements.
[source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)].
It could be congenital or acquired and could affect children as well as adults. It’s also known as Verbal Apraxia, Verbal Dyspraxia, Developmental Apraxia and Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) when present in children.
—> More info can be found here: Apraxia Kids, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), 

When I started investigating my younger son’s speech delay, I did a lot of research and my research led me to suspect that my son could be suffering from CAS, but neither our family physician nor our pediatrician would help me with the diagnosis, saying that a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) would be the person to diagnose Apraxia… But as it turns out, of all the provinces in Canada, the one I live in, Ontario, restricts speech language pathologists from communicating the diagnosis of CAS. (Yep, and the doctors I’ve been to weren’t even aware of this fact).
I’m not sure if there is any other Canadian province that limits the SLP’s authority as is the case in Ontario, but as far as I know (and please enlighten me if I’m wrong), it seems like Ontario is the only one. Continue reading

January 19 2016

Eight Years Apart

8years A year ago, in December, as many of you already know, I was blessed with the addition of my sweet baby boy: Arkan. And as many of you also know, he’s my second child, my first being my awesome son Adam, who, as many of you don’t actually know, is 8 years older than Arkan…
Yes, yes, a huge age gap, I’m perfectly aware of that, and believe me, every single person I meet manages to stress out this fact one way or the other. I remember when I was pregnant with Arkan, some people tried to “prepare” me for the harsh reality that is awaiting me, some tried to “warn” me about the many downsides of having siblings with such a huge difference, and many tried to conceal their shock with hesitant smiles, or tried to show support by saying the wrong kind of things, like: “well, what can one do? just try to look at the bright side”, “at least they’ve got each other, you know”, “let’s pray it’s a girl and hope for the best!”, “I have the same situation at home and I can’t begin to tell you what a nightmare my life has been, but then again, every experience is different”.
It doesn’t really bother me that people think this way, and I don’t mind it, as long as I know that it’s all governed by good intentions. I love sincere people, people who honestly care, even if they don’t know you, even if they know they’ll never ever see you again.
And among the many who tried to scare the hell out of me, there were a few who made sure I don’t let any negative comments steal my excitement, or ruin my experience.

The once helpless little baby is now one year old. The age gap that many people tried to scare me of, was a beautiful bliss I’m so thankful for. I’m enjoying motherhood just as much as I did with my first one. I don’t have to worry about jealousy, nor fighting. My older son is a very responsible and caring helper, who is enjoying our new addition as much as we are.
I know they won’t share many things together, and that each will have his own world that is almost a decade away from the other, but they’ve got each other, there will always be a point where their two worlds will intersect, a rare  miraculous bond I’m so glad for .
The point I’m trying to make here is that you shouldn’t let anyone scare you no matter what the circumstances. Whether you have an only child, or twins, or siblings with a very small age gap, or a very big one, every experience is different, and each one has its own positive and negative sides. Focus on the bright side, work around the dark corners, and you’ll end up with a magical experience like no other.

When I was pregnant, I suggested Adam chooses a nice book to buy for the baby, and he chose a lovely book that had the feature of playing musical instruments. It was so sweet, and when he came to the world, Arkan loved it . I was so proud of Adam’s choice of books.
A year later, for Arkan’s first birthday, I suggested Adam picks another book as a gift to his baby brother, and well, let’s just say, this time, his choice wasn’t as mature nor sensitive 😀 Of all the lovely baby books out there he had to choose this: Toot.

null

What can I say… boys will always be boys!
P.s. The whole family enjoys this lovely, very funny & extremely cute book. 

September 11 2015

Bullying Parents into Accepting Ontario’s Updated Sex-Ed Curriculum

Latest update with regards to Ontario’s “new & improved” sex-ed curriculum is that the government will allow schools to force sex-ed on kids, according to Ontario’s Minister of Education that is.
Parents opposing the updated sex-ed took this as a stab in the back, after being promised to have the option of withdrawing their children from the sex-ed lessons. We were hoping that we’ll all agree to disagree and there will be some middle ground that will leave every one happy. Now not only don’t we have the right to say no, but we have a great chance of being forced to have our children learn what we’re opposing. Wynne’s reflecting the very “liberal” views of her party, and showing the world that parents’ rights, if they happen to disagree with her, are not applicable… so much for the “inclusion” she’s trying to force on our children, and a very strong lesson in “anti-bullying” and “accepting differences”!

This announcement came at the same time the news of the Polish government backing down on the explicit sex-ed as a response to the massive parent protests went viral, having people  around the world admire and respect the Polish government for listening to its citizens and caring about what they think and how they feel more than anything else.

And since parents against the new curriculum are being called all kinds of things, I believe I need to make a few things straight here:

  • Parents opposing the new sex-ed curriculum are very well educated, open minded & responsible, and have in fact read the whole curriculum, not just the manipulative parental guides to it.
  • Religion is not the only reason for the objection, many atheists and non-religious parents are saying no to the new sex-ed. It’s a matter of principle and morals.
  • Many Parents are not aware that sex-ed is already part of the old curriculum, and that homosexuality, disease control, contraceptives and much more are already being taught. So we’re not against awareness as long as age-appropriate, we’re against irresponsible, unnecessary explicit and age-inappropriate sex-ed which is the case in the updated sex-ed.
  • Aside from the fact that the whole ‘consultation prior implementation’ process was a huge scam, (I for one was here since 2010, and neither I, nor any single person I know was consulted), Parents are speaking up and taking a firm stand to show their objection through protests, rallies, strikes, polls, speeches, social media involvement, since 2010 until today; but Wynne doesn’t seem to be interested and continues to ignore, claiming that those are just a “minority”.
  • Claims of the new curriculum being based on scientific & psychological studies shattered when experts exposed its dangers and flaws (an interesting video about sex-ed in general is available here. And you can find the videos specifically discussing Ontario’s updated sex-ed on this website, just scroll down you’ll find a video of 3 parts).

 

This is a great website that wraps up all what I’m trying to share here, and provides videos & PDFs relevant to the subject.

I did share my point of view on the matter earlier, explaining why I was against the updated sex-ed curriculum, and I’m still against it. I still believe, that apart from the responsible, age-appropriate sex-ed, which children were receiving, it’s a very personal matter whether you want to expose your children to more or less awareness and sexual knowledge. I still believe a unified program that doesn’t respect diversity nor accommodates religious, cultural, or social values is a huge mistake. If this means calling me an unfit parent, then I proudly am.

 

May 30 2013

Long Live the Book

Today in the library while scanning the bookshelves in search of some interesting children books to get for my son to read, a cutely illustrated cover caught my attention, as did its title: It’s a Book.
To be honest it got me curious… what would be inside a book titled ‘It’s a Book’? I flipped it over -as I always do with books of interest- hoping to find some kind of a summary to give me a hint. This is what I found:

itsabook

And that’s when I decided to give it a quick read. I must say I very much liked what I read. How do I put it? it’s a very simplified way of reflecting our very complicated lives today. Now that communication -the cool type- is done online, briefly, socializing with hundreds of people at the same moment, and still managing to be entirely isolated from our surroundings. Our complicated lives in places where one can only smell electric wires, see shiny screens, tap keyboards, touchscreens, click a mouse here, plug in an earphone there, surrounded with all kinds of noises and radiation there is.  Today, where books belong in a museum, or the facade of an antique store, or in an article about extinct inventions.

The author and illustrator Lane Smith has beautifully addressed one of the most irritating problems of our time: forgetting about the simple pleasure of reading a book, just a book, the music you play when you turn its pages, the unbeatable scent of its printed paper… forgetting about books, their simplicity.
How did it become so hard for parents to indulge their little ones with the pleasures of reading, just reading, away from passwords, screens, videos, games, and all that jazz. I’m not against “all that jazz”, but I hate how many parents, and even teachers, are encouraging the online activities more and more to the point where they’re subconsciously -or consciously- keeping them away from books, forgetting that books too can develop their skills just as good, and that books too can be interactive instruments that enrich knowledge, improve behavior, and spread awareness.

I’ll leave you with the book’s awesome trailer. As for me, it’s time for Adam’s bedtime story, guess which one that would be? 😉 

">
ألزهايمر

  الذكريات؛ تلك اللحظات التي نختزنها في عقولنا فتعود بين الفينة والأخرى لتذكّرنا بطعمها الحلو الذي تلذّذناه يوما ما، أو هي ربما تلك اللحظات التي تفرض نفسها على ذاكرتنا لتذيقنا مرها من جديد. الذكريات، إمّا نحبّها أو نكرهها، إماّ تلحق بنا أو نلحق نحن بها، تهرب منّا أو نهرب نحن منها، كلّها جزء من حياة البشر؛ وهي بحلوها ومرّها، ليست فقط قطعة من ماضينا، بل هي محرّك حاضرنا ودافع مستقبلنا، دون الذكريات لن نكون ما نحن عليه اليوم، ولا غدا، ولا بعد 20 سنة.

اعتبر جبران خليل جبران أنّ “النسيان شكل من أشكال الحرية“، فهل هو فعلا كذلك؟ هل يمكن أن نعد النسيان حرية حتى لو لم يكن خيارنا؟  وهل النسيان هو فعلا “أسهل طريقة للحياة” كما قال عبدالرحمن منيف؟

 قضى -ولايزال يقضي- كثير من الناس سنوات عديدة وأعمارمديدة باحثين فيها عن دواء سحري يعالج جراحهم ويمحي أتعس ذكرياتهم  وسمّوه النسيان، مفترضين أن النسيان هو الحل المُطلَق لكل مشاكلهم، فكيف لإنسان لا يتذكر أن يتألّم من الذكرى؟ ولكن فات هؤلاء أنّ التسيان حين يهجم لا يفرق بين الحلو والمر من الذكريات، وحين يسكن عقلا قد يحلو له أن يحتلّه بالكامل طاردا كل شيء في أسرع وقت ممكن… لم يتوقعوا أن النسيان متعب ومؤذي مثل التذكر أو حتى أكثر. وحين بدأت معاناة النسيان تنتشر بدأ هؤلاء الناس صراعهم للحصول على عكس ما كانوا ينشدون: دواء سحري يرجع لهم ذكريات حياتهم، كلّها أو حتى شيء منها، غير آبهين بما تحمله معها من سعادة أو كآبة .. أي ذكرى تعيد لهم إحساسهم بإنسانيتهم وكيانهم ووجودهم.

كثرت الكتابات والمقولات  عن فوائد النسيان، حتى أنّ الكثيرين تغنّوا به ولحّنوا له بديع موسيقاهم، ولكن قليلا ما نرى -وخاصة في عالمنا العربي- توعية أو تطرُّقا للنسيان بوجهه الشرس أو لمعاناة مرضى “النسيان القسري”، الذين لم يختاروا أن ينسوا ذكرياتهم ، على الأقل الحلوة منها، بإرادتهم، إنّما سُلِبَت منهم تلك اللحظات غالية الثمن عُنوة وبلا أي رحمة.  وهنا يكمن تميّز أقصوصة “ألزهايمر” للكاتب الراحل غازي عبد الرحمن القصيبي. فلم يكتب القصيبي عن المرض من ناحية علمية أو طبية مملّة، بل ناقش المرض وشرحه بطريقة مرحة، مستندا على مبدأ”شر البلية ما يضحك”، فيسرد تفاصيل ما يمر به مرضى الألزهايمر بخفّة دم رائعة، شارحا مرارة تجربتهم، والتضحيات التي يقدّموها هم ومن يعرفونهم، متطرّقا للمواقف المحرجة والمؤلمة والمخزية التي يفرضها المرض على ضحيته وكل من يحيط به.

 من أكثر ما أعجني في الأقصوصة، إبداع القصيبي في الإشارة إلى مواضيع مهمة جدا وحسّاسة من خلال سرد القصة الرئيسية، قصة مريض الألزهايمر،  ونجاحه في مناقشتها بشكل واضح وصريح وسريع  دون إطالة غير لازمة ودون انتقاص من متعة قراءة القصة. فقد قدّم القصيبي انتقادات اجتماعية واضحة مثل المراهقة، كيف كانت بسيطة قديما وكيف نجح الغرب في تحويلها إلى أزمة نفسية يصعب التعامل معها؛ وموضوع الاختلاط في عصور الإسلام الأولى وفي عصرنا الحاضر، وكيف أن الأمة العربية تعيش على الأطلال أسيرة لماضيها، هذا عدا عن تطرّقه للسياسة وانتقادها هي الأخرى بأسلوب ساخر قوي جدا، مثل السياسة الأمريكية-الصهيونية وتأثيرها على العرب… كل ذلك بأسلوب سلس بسيط وذكي للغاية.

وهكذا بدأت رحلتي مع كتابات القصيبي بآخر أعماله، وبعد رحيله، نعم، فقد نُشِرُت “ألزهايمر” بعد رحيل القصيبي، أي أنّها كانت آخر أعماله، والغريب في الأمر أنّ مكتبتي فيها تقريبا كل أعمال القصيبي التي سبقت “ألزهايمر” ولكنّني لم أقرأ أي منها بعد، واخترت “ألزهايمر” لتكون أوّل تجربة لي  مع أعمال القصيبي، والسبب هو الموضوع الذي لطالما أثار اهتمامي من جهة، ومعرفتي أنّ الأقصوصة وُلِدَت عند وفاته من جهة أُخرى. ويجب أن أعترف أنّ القصيبي -رحمه الله- نجح بكل بساطة بضمّي إلى قائمة معجبيه، فقد أبهرني أسلوبه السلس الرائع وذكاؤه في طرح أعقد الموضوعات بكل بساطة… وها أنا أنصح الجميع بقراءة هذه الأقصوصة المتميزة.

Category: Arab Societies, Books, Posts in Arabic | Comments Off on
ألزهايمر
October 3 2011

ليلة واحدة في دبي">
ليلة واحدة في دبي

دبي هي نيويورك … وهي دلهي

هي باريس… وهي القاهرة

هي الرياض وبيروت

دبي هي أنا، وهي أنت

دبي هي كما تريد أن تراها… كما تريد أن تراها

من رواية “ليلة واحدة في دبي” لهاني نقشبندي

في آخر أياّم إقامتي في مدينة دبي كنت في إحدى المكتبات أبحث عن بعض الكتب لأشتريها وإذا بعيني تلمح عنوان “ليلة واحدة في دبي”، والذي كان كافيا لجلب انتباهي وغزو قلبي وإقناع عقلي بشرائه على الفور، لأنني أحب دبي، ولأنني أردت أن آخذ معي تذكارا من نوع آخر في ذاك اليوم، ولكن عندما رأيت اسم المؤلف كنت على يقين أن اختياري في محلّه، فكثير منكم يعلم أنّني من محبيّ كتابات الكاتب الصحفي هاني نقشبندي، ومن متتبعي رواياته باستمرار.

لم أتمكّن من البدء في قراءة الرواية إلاّ مؤخّرا، ولكنّني حين بدأت لم أستطع التوقف. فكما هي حال كل روايات نقشبندي، فإنّ الأسلوب اللغوي السلس، والرمزية التي تضفي غموضا ممتعا على القصة، يحوّلان صفحات كتاباته إلى مغامرة فكرية شيقة فريدة من نوعها.

يطرح الكاتب قضايا إنسانية -وغير إنسانية- عديدة موجودة في زمننا وتغذّيها مجتمعاتنا المدنية بفوراتها الحضارية وسباقها  نحو التميز. تساؤلات عن الذات، عن الأنا، عن الأهداف، عن الأولويات،
عن الطموح، العقبات، الحلول، الطبقات، النفوذ، المال، وعن موقع الحكمة والبساطة في خضمّ هذه الفوضى العارمة.

هذه الرواية تجعلنا كلنا نفكر؛ في حالنا، هل نحن راضون عن أنفسنا وحياتنا أم لا؟ هل نستحق ما معنا أم لا؟ هل نحن قانعون بمن معنا وبمهننا وبوضعنا في المجتمع أم لا؟ هل سنظل نجري لنملك المزيد؟ هل نسينا إنسانيتنا؟ هل نجري في حلقة مفرغة؟ ما هو الآخَر بالنسبة لنا؟ ما هو مبدؤنا في الحياة؟ من هو شريك حياتنا؟ هل يجب أن نتغير؟ هل الحب هو الاحتياج للآخر؟ هل فعلا ينفتح باب عندما يُغلق آخر؟ هل الفرص أبدية؟

 لقد أحببت فعلا فلسفة الرواية، وأحببت الحِكَم الكثيرة التي سُرِدت فيها والمفاجآت الفكرية التي تخلّلتها، كما أعجبتني وصدمتني نهايتها المفتوحة. هي رواية تحكي واقعنا، وتعكس عالمنا الغريب، الكبير الصغير. ما أغرب الحياة، وما أعقد النفس البشرية.

 دغدغت هذه الرواية ذكريات جميلة عشتها في مدينة العجائب دبي، ففي كل وصف لشارع أوحي أو مجمع تجاري لي ذكرى جميلة، وفي كل ركن من أركان هذه المدينة الآسرة عشت تجربة فريدة من نوعها. أنصح كل محبي نقشبندي، وكل محبي دبي، وكل محبي الرواية العربية بقراءة “ليلة واحدة في دبي“.  رواية مختلفة وفلسفة شّيقة مثيرة.

Category: Arab Societies, Books, Dubai Diaries, Posts in Arabic, Women | Comments Off on
ليلة واحدة في دبي
August 17 2010

The Eldridge Roster, by Stephen Ames Berry

Few days ago I received great news that made my day big time. I literally danced and walked through the apartment like a hyperactive squirrel celebrating this great news. The news of online publishing “The Eldridge Roster“.

It all started few years back; I met this very kind, open-minded, very well educated, extremely funny person, online through my blog. He became a loyal reader and started sharing his two cents on almost every thing I wrote. I couldn’t help noticing how different his writing was from all other readers who left their comments. His unique sense of humor, and his very different style of writing, the level of his knowledge and the way I got attached to reading his comments forced me to ask him about his background and profession. I wasn’t shocked to learn that one of his professions was actually being a writer, a very talented one if I may add. And so one email led to the other and I  knew that he’s already written 4 science fiction novels and was almost done with the 5th one. So I asked about his latest book and he was so sweet to send me the script before it was published. He also gave me the honor of proofreading it for him.

I must say that I’m not a big fan of science-fiction, so I was afraid this job will take forever to be done, but I was shocked to find myself enjoying every word of every line of every paragraph of every page of this book. I was so impressed. Loved the writing, the story, the plot, the characters… everything. The Eldridge Roster was such a page turner, extremely exciting, and very very interesting. It was shockingly suspenseful. The element of suspense works its magic from the very first chapter, accompanied with very well structured characters, a little bit of sweet romance, and detailed descriptions of places and surroundings. Scientific theories are explained to readers in the most easy way, making the whole science fiction bit a delight rather than a confusing complicated point as is the case in many science fiction novels. I also loved the very informative dialogs which are clearly based on a lot of scientific as well as historic research.

One of the things I truly loved about this book was how the writer squeezed his unique sense of humor and sarcasm in the conversations, in such a lovely natural way that helped add this “down to earth” effect, making it such a delight to read.

This book MUST be made into a movie, its story and plot are way much better than a lot of science fiction movies/shows we watched and are still watching.

I highly recommended The Eldridge Roster, read it, and trust me, you’ll love it as much as I did.

P.s. only translators know what a nightmare proofreading can be, simply because of the mentality of writers and their extremely subjective, personal, and protective way of dealing with editing their original texts. But with Stephen, things were nothing like that. I would like to thank him for his open-minded approach, which made this experience enjoyable and so much fun. THANK YOU, wishing you lots of success to come, and looking forward to reading your 6th book :)

Category: Books | Comments Off on The Eldridge Roster, by Stephen Ames Berry
May 4 2010

“The Sandwich Swap” by Her Majesty Queen Rania

Category: Books, Media, International, Women | Comments Off on “The Sandwich Swap” by Her Majesty Queen Rania
October 13 2009

<div style=”direction:rtl;text-align:right”>هيفاء بيطار: تميّز في الكتابة، وجرأة في الطرح</div>

Category: Arab Societies, Art & Literature, Books, Posts in Arabic | Comments Off on <div style=”direction:rtl;text-align:right”>هيفاء بيطار: تميّز في الكتابة، وجرأة في الطرح</div>