Thursday, February 22, 2018

Finding Peace in the Middle of the Storm: Yoga for Beginners by Ntathu Allen

Busy all day long, cleaning the house and doing basic household management, figuring out how to cope with the small kid's tantrums, wandering when the teenage years of the big girl will end up, doing a lot of extra search for more freelance jobs, while keeping up with the challenging assingments. This is only a small part of my hectic single mom schedule. Going with the flow is the best you - and I too - can do, but although I am trying to maintain myself a very Zen, denial-like attitude, stress is hiding waiting an single moment of weakness to jump into my life and take hold of it. 
I personally didn't grow up surrounded by too much Oriental meditation and yoga - my mother z''l, wanted once in a while to practice it but never actually did it - but when things are coming up and up into your life, you want to consider every single recommendation that might make your life easier and bearable. When time is a precious currency, you need to try those methods that do not require too much of your time, and recently I've read and reviewed a book suggesting how to get rid of stress while keeping working in your cubicle.
Probably I needed to start differently, by a Yoga for beginners instead. The book with this name by Ntathu Allen is an excellent simple introduction to the easiest methods for relieving stress for busy parents and entrepreneurs. A book of 'take-away yoga' practice, helps to 're-capture the calm and tranquility' and reconnect with both your family and a healthy work life. If you don't remember exactly any experience of calm and tranquility - yes, I am guilty as charged - then you can at least make an effort to follow some of the exercises, which do not require more than a chair where to start practicing. Breathing is by far one of the most important part of the practice. 'Any time you feel stressed and overwhelmed during the day, turn your attention to your breath', which among others will bring 'oxygen to your braind and body'. Without oxygen not only the stress and headaches are torturing your life, but the risks of cerebral accidents and strokes are significantly increasing. And you don't want to deal with that, isn't it?
Some of the exercises can be done alone, in some cases you can also involve your child. Putting aside a couple of minutes every day for your wellbeing is a very healthy practice that it is not impossible to introduce into your routine. Wake up a bit early in the morning or stay into your room a bit late when everyone is (finally) asleep and you can notice how things are starting to get better and better. Meditation is key to finding the best way back to yourself and towards mindfulness and a life with a better spiritual direction. According to Ntathu Allen, the main benefits of meditation are strengthening the mind, effective breathing habits, forgive others and yourself, enhances intuition, positive and healthy thoughts, connection to humanity and joyfullness. 
The book is provided with useful illustrations serving as a practical guidance for the yoga exercises recommended, and with many examples encountered in the author's personal life and yoga practices. A book recommended to anyone that promise to her or himself that this year things will be different, much stress-free different.

Disclaimer: Book offered by the author in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

About a Different Kind of Pepper: Urfa Biber (Isot Pepper)

This is less a post about recipes and cooking ideas, but has as main character a very special kind of pepper: Urfa Biber or Isot Pepper. Part of my selection from the Spice Kitchen UK collection, with whom I've entered a partnership part of their Brand Ambassador program, I've received a couple of spices to test in the next weeks and months, starting with the very special Aleppo pepper.
The inspiration of Monday's lunch was something a bit different: a very black looking powder called Urfa Biber. Biber means pepper in Turkish, the country of origin of this special kind of pepper. Practically, it is part of the red pepper family, produced through a process of 'sweating': drying of the seeds during the day, followed by wrapping them tied during the day. Compared to other peppers, they are less spicy, with a warm note which creates a pleasant balance of flavors. 
I used it twice for my lunch: spread modestly on my fresh tomatoes, and as one pinch used for by very special barberry rice - 1 cup Jasmin rice, plus 25 gr. dried barberries (or Berberizen as they are called in German). The other part of the meal were Turkey cevapcici, brought to me by the kosher meat Of Tov company. Especially in the case of the rice, the urfa biber was a great balance to the mild sparkling taste of barberries, without pungency of any kind. Given that the day before I had a 25 km. hiking this meal was not only easy to prepare but also full of energy and fresh vitamins (barberries are rich in Vitamin C). 
As for the urfa biber, my short documentation indicates that it has a great variety of uses, among which: on roasted eggplants, fried eggs, but also brownies. Testing in process so keep an eye on my blog for updates.

Disclaimer: Spices offered by Spice Kitchen UK, part of their Brand Ambassador Program, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Monday, February 19, 2018

Online Dating - Going Locally

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.

With Valentine's Day almost one week away, you had enough time to think about what your love life resolution for the next 12 months will be. Don't get me wrong. I will never start lecturing that only a life in two is worth living. Not at all. I haven't changed my mind claiming that, in fact, it some relationships and love stories are not meant to be, you better find the perfect ways to get the best of your life now, enjoying its perks as a perfectly happy single person. A physically or mentally abusing relationship, when you simply don't feel yourself and are hurt every single day is not worth living, only for the sake of the social conveniences claiming that any single person is a failure. 
However, life in two do have its own little pleasures, of sharing your meals and feeling with someone worth of your attention and your time. Love and intimacy are precious things that should be offered when the time has come for the right person into your life. 
But there are some people that feel perfectly fine on their own as there are people that cope hard with their loneliness. For those for whom Valentine's is not easy to survive with so much sparkles and hearts and its media branding completely on their own, it is about time to change something in your single life. With or without a relationship coach, you need to start by figuring up what you want from your love life in the next 12 months, just in time to not be single the next 14th of February. Deadlines when it comes to finding that unique person doesn't work well and can be very counter-productive, especially when under the pressure you can make a wrong choice, only because you wanted to check that box too. But you know what, if you are realistic enough with your business plans and don't want to build an empire in one month, must probably you will be wise enough not to dream too big about your love life either. After all, everything starts by knowing yourself, your potential and mindset.

Online dating can be an option

Now, that you got your objectives done, it is about time to start putting them into practice. Where you can find those single people is again a matter of what you are looking for in your life. It can be a Meetup group, or a social event for singles only, but it can also be done by getting busy with the activities you love the most. If you are into horseback riding, spending more time at your favorite club might bring you near some other potential half with the same hobby which is looking to find its match too. If you have a more traditional background, you can use a matchmaker whose input is based on feedback from people that know your potential match from real life and you skip a couple of stages that are quite time consuming when you meet randomly. 
Or, you can use a local online dating service. If you are new into it or reluctant about what you can expect, you can start by reading books and other online resources created by people that went there, done that. Learn about the etiquette and  why you can give it - or not - a try. There are so many options for any age and senior dating is no more a shame, but rather a normal way to start your love life, regardless the year you were born. 
Then, time to start getting to know your local online dating sites and apps, selecting what suits you the best and setting up your profile. You can use the same profile and photo too, and see what is going on and what the offer is. If you are for now more relaxed in terms of what you are looking for, adult dating sites can easily help you find likeminded individuals looking exactly for the same thing as you.
Although all the big online dating sites offer nowadays the chance to browse matches within your area, I personally will be very happy to use a specific online resource for my very specific local needs. The local-themed websites are very useful especially if you are new in a small little town or area and want to meet only people living there. Otherwise, in big capital cities, as you know, there is always plenty of fish. As I am living in Germany now, I can only envy the very organised British online dating initiatives, keeping in mind the needs of the local singles. It helps you to have a narrow but more successful focus. If you want checking the dating Buckinghamshire offer curious about Cornwall dating offers or fancy single men in Portsmouth, you have everything ready for you on your screen. Your love life can be only one click away.
Last but not least, after getting to know in writing your potential dates, you need to plan your first date. Carefully, in public spaces and being sure, as for now, to do not share too many private information, such as the home address, dare to meet him or her and see if you are meant to be. Spending too much time chatting online is not very productive, unless you are looking for a penpal, which is not what a dating site is for, anyway.
After each date, make a short evaluation and with a relaxed, drama-free attitude, see how things are going on and what can be done. Keep your sense of humour, your self-esteem and keep exploring life and its wonders. Everything is about the journey, not necessarily the destination, isn't it?

My Latest Skin Care Products Discoveries

I've been lately pretty busy trying new recipes and settling down a couple of new projects I am working on, plus my non-stop blogging about way too many topics. Somehow, I felt that I neglected a bit my usual skin care routine, and although I do have a couple of interesting products in my closet, I was rather either too lazy or too tired to start something new. The results were not satisfactory for my skin, therefore, the last week I finally went out of my bubble and got a couple of products to try. Yeah, even though I do have a whole shelf in my fridge only for my masks, it seems it is never enough so buying new ones sounded like the best thing to do.
My purchases were from ISANA, a brand that is usually fine both in terms of budget and quality therefore it haven't dramatically challenged my financial projections for the week. The results, in all three cases were good and at least for one product, I would love to keep using it for a longer time.
Here are my latest finds and a short review of their results on my skin.

1. ISANA Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream

I love to use repair products and creams in the night, because is the only time when my skin can really rest, staying under the same temperature for more than 3 hours, as during the day I am always very active and going out and back to the house is not always a great deal for my skin, especially when the temperature gap might be pretty big. I've started to use this cream a couple of days ago, and from the first use I felt how good it does to my skin. At first, there was a bit of stretching feeling, but early in the morning, my skin looked great, fresh and regenerated. It is already too early to assess all the positive things, as the recommendation is to use it for at least one month, which I will probably do. No allergic reactions, no fragrance, smooth texture. All I need to keep a product part of my usual skin care routine.

2. Sheet Bubble Mask

I love way too much the sheet masks, but I never tried before a bubble mask. Apparently I am quite late when it comes to trend updates, as they are quite a thing for a couple of time already. What those masks do have different from any other mask is that once you put the sheet on your face, a foam is creating little by little. This foam allows a deep cleaning of the pores, leaving your face deeply clean. Except the funny sound of the foam bubble, there is nothing else going on with this mask. I was relatively happy with the results and would love to try more such products.

3. Lips and Eyes mask

My lips suffer dearly during the winter and I always have to keep in mind to use extra lip balms. A mask that will actually kill all the unpleasant looking dried cells and give a more fresh look to the lips is always a good idea. Out of all the three products, I cannot say yet too much about this mask, though. It is easy to apply and didn't experience any negative effects, but I didn't see too much change either. It is recommended to use it a couple of times the week, which I am doing right now, so hopefully there will be more noticeable results to notice soon. However, it looks like a good idea, easy to carry on when on the road and easy to apply in between two, three busy assignments at home. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ready for New Spicy Adventures. Avocado Toast with Aleppo Pepper, anyone?

When your mail box smells of fresh spices, you know that you just received something too good to be true! The multi-awarded Birmingham-based company Spice Kitchen UK selected my blog for their Brand Ambassador program and my selection of spices that I want to try for the next weeks and months was sent super fast, with a very responsive and friendly customer service that I rarely experienced, sending updates about the products I've selected and the stages of the delivery.

I've worked previously with this family run company, back in 2013, but since then they grew up and I - hopefully - got more experience in terms of both cooking and understanding flavors, so I am very excited about my next cooking adventures. Stay tunned for a lot of interesting recipes, original or adapted from my very rich collection of cookbooks.
Besides the hand-made spices, they also create award winning teas, which ranges from Earl Grey to Strawberries&Cream. Spice Kitchen UK is also involved in supporting several charities. It also concerned about the environment, as most of the packaging is recycled from other local businesses, in order to reduce the environmental impact and carbon footprint as much as possible.

My package included a very exquisite mix of spices, many of them in my kitchen for the first time: Baharat - a rich Middle Eastern spice mix combining black peppercorns, cadamom, cassia, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and paprika; Isot Pepper (Urfa Biber) - a dried Turkish pepper with a deep raisin, smokey flavour; Harissa - a fiery North African chill mix with dried red chilli, garlic, coriander, paprika and caraway; Star Anise; Berbere - one of the building blocks of Ethiopian cuisine, combining red chilli, garlic, coriander seeds, fenugreek, black peppercorns, cloves, paprika, onion powder, black cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and salt; Aleppo Pepper - dried chilli flakes wtih a hint of cherry-like fruitiness; Carom Seeds; Sumac; Za'atar - the first time when I will use for the regular cooking other za'atar than the usually one brought to me from Israel; Ras el Hanout - a traditional blend from Morocco, with lots of ingredients such as turmeric, paprika, salt, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, sugar, all spice, chilli powder, star anise, cloves, rose petals; Fenugreek
And yes, my future in the kitchen sounds as amazing as it smells!
What I also liked a lot about the small packages was that there are hints about where to use them, for salads or meats, which is very helpful, especially for those who are wondering how to match them.

Initially I wanted to start my adventure the next week, but as I was in the middle of preparing the breakfast, I couldn't resist to not start already playing with my spices. I began by spreading a discrete pinch of Aleppo Pepper on my avocado toast. And from now on, there will be no other garnish to my avocado toast. 
The fruity, spicy flavor of the pepper - you need to use only a little bit - interacted perfectly with the crunchy texture of the bread and the fatness of the avocado. It makes it into a great balance, bringing it some fruity sparkling that stays with you for longer. 
A great choice and I am happy that I followed my creative mind for trying this combination. My first encounter with Aleppo Pepper, a spice that I wanted to try for such a long time, was also special and can't wait to give more substance to my foodie dreams. 

Disclaimer: Spices offered by Spice Kitchen UK for review, but the opinions are, as usual, my own

Easy, Skyr-based Scones

I've tried my hand on scones several times in the last blogging years, very often with tasty results. They are easy to prepare, always delicious and with a low chance of failure. All you need is a bit of imagination and some basic ingredients - like flour, baking powder and salt. The rest can be easily matched from the fridge or pantry.
Yesterday, I was thinking to have some of them again, because wanted to have some afternoon snacks and we were quite out of good treats.
You can have those scones with a cuppa or a big coffee mug, fill with jam - my latest love is a fig jam that I hope it will never finish - or add some extra cheese for some dairy taste. I was very happy to find an extra use of the Skyr Yogurt, an Iceland-made product which I instantly fell in love with a couple of years ago and would love to explore more in some next posts. Brought from Norway over thousand years ago, Skyr is officially classified as cheese. It has the consistency of the strained yogurt but with a much milder flavor.

500 gr. white flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon backing powder
300 ml. Skyr Yogurt
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds for the garnish

Heat the oven at 250C, at least 10 minutes before starting the baking. Mix the ingredients and let them interact with each other for at least 10 minutes. By hand, make small doughs and add them on a parchment covered tray. Bake it in the oven for around 20 minutes or until completely baked.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes
Make it into 20 tasty little scones. To be eaten immediately!

Bon App├ętit!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Product Review: Focus Supplements Caffeine and L-Theanine

For busy women, with a delicate balance between personal and professional life, winters can be hard. The cold takes a lot of energy and the never ending long dark days are very hard to cope with, especially more than three months when you can hardly see some rays of sun. When your kids are screaming for attention, the fresh pie is almost getting burned in the oven and you are messing up with deadlines, you know that you have to do something. Take a break, book a spa day or a weekend yoga retreat. If those options fail, at least you can consider do something to improve your focus.
Caffeine and L-Theanine by Focus Supplements is a British company producing dietary supplements. The product is delivered in a big black plastic bottle, without the safety for children closure, therefore you have to be careful to keep it far away from their curious reach. It contains 120 capsules, with a recommended serving size of 1-2 the day. The capsules are vegetarian, and contain L-Theanine (250 mg and Caffeine (100 mg.) plus Maltodextrin. The products are not suitable for persons under 18 years of age or pregnant women. The bottle should be kept in a cool dry area. According to the recommendation of the company: 'This supplement should be taken as part of a healthy lifestyle and not replace a balanced healthy diet'. 
I personally tested the capsules for a couple of days, when I was in the middle of a very busy and complicated work and family time. As I am actually trying to reduce the consume of caffeine at only one big cup in the morning, I tried to compensate the eventual need with those capsules. I always took them mid-day when I am usually craving for a second big cup of coffee. I kept being focused and in a very active mood and for me it was just enough. I didn't notice any allergic reactions, but as usual, if you really have some serious issues, it is preferably to ask a medical opinion before starting to use it.

Disclaimer: Product offered for review by Focus Supplements, but the opinions are, as usual, my own.