Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back to Work 'Grab and Go' Lunch Ideas

Pretty soon it's going to be 'back to school', which for me translates to 'back to work'.  I've always found that in the summer, when I have time to prepare all my meals, I really put in all my effort to carefully select what I want to eat and then make everything fresh.  It seems reasonable to want to do this when I go back to work and I always start with the best intentions.  In fact, the first two weeks I'm waking up early, making a fresh salad etc etc.  Then something usually happens.  The carefully created beautiful lunch turns into a 'grab and go'.  You all know exactly what I mean by a 'grab and go' - it's the grab a piece of bread and ketchup packet you have in your fridge because you're either 1) tired or 2) figured it's the end of the week, so why go food shopping?  What happened to the beautiful fresh mozzarella and brushetta salad, the gorgeous grilled calamari or mediterranean tuna salad from the summer?  Every year I tell myself that I'm going to make this for lunch:

This year, I want to hold myself to my word.  If I've learned anything from this summer, it's that there is just no comparison to wholesome, clean, homemade food.  During those stressful 'grab and go' days (which you sometimes can't avoid) - why not have some better choices on hand?  Imagine grabbing some olives, a can of tuna, some cherry tomatoes and some sliced cheese?  It takes just as much time to grab those things as it does the bag of chips or the bread and ketchup :)  In fact, you can get really creative with changing up your 'grab and go' days.  Next time you're at the grocery store, check out all the amazing canned fish, smoked fish, European vegetable spreads (the Balkan Avjar is amazing and packed with veggies), antipastos, portioned sized cheese cubes, olives etc etc.  You'll have people thinking that you just got off the plane from the Mediterranean.  Now, don't get me wrong, every time you have the opportunity to make something fresh and use organic fruits and vegetables or make a meal from scratch, that's always the best.  The fall and winter months are perfect for soups, stews, baked pasta dishes.  However, it's always wise to stock up on something that you can take with you in a pinch and this is still fairly healthy.  A can of tuna with a side of Ajvar will be much healthier than a chemical laden 'hot pocket'.  Convenience doesn't have to be unhealthy - it just has to be well thought out! 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Changing of the Seasons

The reality of an amazing summer gone by is slowing starting to sink in.  However, I love the flow of the seasons and I know that as Fall/Autumn starts to creep in, it will bring some amazing culinary and personal adventures for me.  I can't wait to make some pumpkin and butternut squash soup, pumpkin-spice pancakes,  hot apple cider - Yum!  Fall is an amazing season full of hearty dishes and great aromas, spices, soups and stews.  Lets not forget how beautiful fall is - with the bright and warm coloured leaves and comfy sweaters.  A big part of me is getting uber excited for all the great things to come.  Summer, however, is still here!  Before I can allow myself to get too excited for 'all things comfort' - I want to bring into the next season all the wonderful things I learned this summer.  I find that each summer, I grow as a person.  I gain some new insights, some fresh perspective on things.  This summer has been about letting go of my inhibitions.  I traveled to a magnificent country - Spain!  I explored a whole new world of culinary adventures.  I started this blog :)  I said good-bye to all the heavy makeup (although I keeping the classic red-orange lipstick) and I've finally learned to 'listen' to my body and appreciate it's wisdom.  I'm truly HAPPY to be in my own skin and to appreciate the person I am and flow into the person I'm becoming.  I love that it's a 'process' and that there is no rush, no judgement, no regrets, just 'moving forward' in pure acceptance and self-respect!!!  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Your Body - The Struggle, Message and Treasure of Embracing Your Truth!

This summer I had a pretty significant a-ha moment.    Let me begin by saying that I have always been body conscious.  Throughout my life I have been at different weights - at times, thin and at other times, overweight.  I can relate to the feeling of going shopping and being able to wear whatever I wanted, to crying in the change room because I hated the way I felt in the clothes I was trying on.  It's one of my life struggles.  One thing that I have noticed is that no matter what my weight is, when I look back at photos of myself at various times, I realized that I judged myself very harshly.  I'd look at a photo where I felt like I gained a few pounds and I look 'great'.  Or I'd look at photos of myself when I was very thin and realize that I wasn't very happy at that time or didn't even look my best.  Lets add to this whole equation that I've been on every diet known to man - I've tried 'everything' from atkins to being vegan, to the blood type diet etc etc.  My a-ha moment came when I was in Spain this summer and at one of the local beaches.  I noticed women of every shape and size, every height and weight and I left with this sense of peace and self-acceptance.  I finally had the understanding that we truly are all different and we shouldn't be striving to look and be something that we're not.  Not every women is 6 foot tall and a size two.  We have succumb to the unrealistic vision created by unrealistic individuals in the fashion industry that there is only one model of beauty and that is the tall, overly-thin woman.  Yet, when I was at that beach in Spain, I saw truly beautiful women.  What made them beautiful is that they all 'owned' their own bodies and were proportionate to their own weight/height.  Everyone looked the way God created them to look.  They looked like real women not barbie prototypes.  There was no judgement on that beach and in fact, every woman gave off this energy that they were comfortable in their own skin.    I realized right then and there that the issue isn't always with what size we're wearing, its how good we feel in our own bodies and how we treat ourselves.  Do we accept ourselves?  Do we treat ourselves with kindness?  Do we even allow ourselves to feel beautiful? or have we placed on ourselves this unrealistic agenda that we can only feel beautiful once we're a size 6.   The second that I stopped comparing myself to everyone on the beach, decided to embrace my body and allow myself to feel attractive, was the beginning of my own sense of self acceptance.  From that place, I was able to make choices that really reflected how much I accepted and appreciated myself.  It's 100% true that you need to value and love yourself first.  Once you're able to do that, you no loner need the outside world and it's approval of you. That being said, the goal, therefore, should be to strive to 'feel good' and do something good for yourself everyday.  It's about loving yourself and your body, giving up the judge/jury dynamic and doing something everyday that celebrates the gift of being 'you'.  So, what does that really mean?

Understand that your body-temple was created for you and only YOU can give yourself the gift of loving your own body.  It's 100% only your responsibility!  Therefore, give yourself permission to love every inch of who you are.  Once you begin to accept yourself and love your creation, you will WANT to give yourself the best: the best food to fuel your body, the best messages to encourage yourself, wearing the colours that look best on you, wearing clothes that highlight your best features, doing an exercise that makes your body feel amazing, listening to what your body needs - Perhaps it's telling you that it needs more sleep or that alcohol/coffee/dairy/gluten etc etc doesn't make you feel the best.  Once you know you are deserving of the best, you must give yourself the best.  Knowing that something isn't right for you, but continuing to do it, isn't an act of self-love.  It's the opposite.  I realized that for me, I love eating a Mediterranean diet, more fish and vegetables, less meat and bread.  However, I also saw the value of moderation and not denying yourself something.  It's enjoying that glass of wine with gusto, eating that piece of bread without self-judgment/hatred afterwards.  It really comes down to how do you treat and talk to yourself?  If you're talking to someone you love, you don't belittle them for making a wrong choice, you help them acknowledge and see why it wasn't the best choice and be aware of it (i.e. wow, I really overdid it last night - I can't handle red wine like I used to, I feel bloated after eating all that bread etc etc etc - whatever the case may be) - but 'own it' and then give yourself permission to forgive yourself and take responsibility for making a better choice next time.  When you love yourself, you treat yourself like your best friend.  So become your own best friend to yourself - tell yourself you look great, acknowledge when you do something amazing.   You will know when you are acting on your best behalf when you choose that healthy meal and know you are deserving of feeding your body the best....and....... you will also know that you are being your best friend when you have that piece of cake and feel in alignment with your choice and don't beat yourself up afterwards.  Life is too short to not love the person you were created to be.  

Take the time to see the uniqueness that is you.  Look at your creation in the mirror and allow yourself to appreciate every inch of who you are.  We often identity ourselves as our bodies, but at our deepest level, we are beings of light who have a greater purpose.  When you embrace and recognize that the being within you is eternal and that your body is simply a temporary vessel, you will know that your true worth can't be weighed or assigned a number.  Yet, the vessel you are in was assigned to you for a reason.  Perhaps when you finally accept, love and appreciate that vessel, you will see the true worth of what lies within it!  The true treasure that is YOU!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Breakfast Blessings..........

One of the things that I miss the most about travelling, is waking up and having that inner knowing that you are somewhere far away from your everyday reality and enjoying breakfast with this feeling lingering in the back of your mind.  I don't know what it is about 'enjoying breakfast' while being away from home, but it has transformative abilities.  I think that part of the reason is that breakfast for me is always a time for reflection.  I'm a morning person and I relish in those early morning moments of philosophical 'a-ha's'.  Breakfast is one of those meals that when organized correctly really is amazing.  You have the quiet, reading the paper kind of breakfast which is amazing (and equally reflective) or you can have breakfast with your family/friends, where everyone is in that semi-awake state; more authentically themselves and highlighting what the day will bring.  For me, I love both scenarios.  However, when you're travelling, these moments are always intensified.  At a hotel, you are often having breakfast with your family, surrounded by other travellers you'll never see again.  Yet, you are drawn to them - Where are they from?  What will the day bring for them?  The inner-stylist in me loves to see what people are wearing and just people watch.  I think the best moments of the day come when you can reflect like this.   Then, you have the breakfast with your family that you are visiting or staying with.  You get to sit down with them, catch up on all that's happened since you've last seen them or get excited about what you plan to do that day.  Sometimes you even get to enjoy the type of breakfast where people come down in 'spurts' - you know the one where your Uncle is up at 5:30 making coffee, half of the family is making their way downstairs to the table, just talking , looking at the paper and talking politics, what's happening in the city etc.  Then the 'late crew' wakes up just in time to eat with everyone else, some of them with just one eye open because they literally just woke up.  I love being the observer of this type of scenario because everyone is just being themselves :)  Plus, how awesome is it to see your family that you know you may not see again for a couple of years - you cherish these moments because they are the ones you will remember the most.

Now, I can't talk about breakfast while traveling unless I bring up the food.  Visiting my family here in North America, it's usually pretty consistent - some type of toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee, orange juice etc etc.  Then there is my favourite breakfast, the European continental - croissants, buns, a selection of breads/pastries, various sliced meats, cheese, yogurt, fruit, coffee with steamed milk (my favourite) and perhaps some hard-boiled eggs.  I love the coffee and open faced sandwich idea for breakfast.  I try to make a healthier 'bread' version by using the European Wasa oat-crackers with cheese, Baltic salami, a touch of mayo and salt/pepper.  This somehow transports me back to Europe.  However, I have to say that my 'favourite' breakfasts were in Paris.  Since I'm the morning person, I'd wake up before everyone else, walk down to the local cafe (which was conveniently located across the street from the Patisserie-Bolougerie) and sit there with my Cafe au lait, people watching, thinking, philosophizing etc.  Then when the Patisserie opened, I'd usually grab a few croissants or a quiche slice to bring back to the hotel.  I had so many amazing moments during that trip and yet Breakfast was when I was able to let it all sink in.  This brings me to the best part of breakfast - coffee.  To me, coffee and reflection go hand in hand.  No breakfast is complete without a good, strong cup of coffee.  I often wonder how many amazing creative ideas, a-ha moments, plans, novel lines and inspiring moments came about during a morning cup of coffee.  We all have those moments that are sacred for us.  For me, it's usually a combination of traveling and breakfast where I feel the most connected and in-tune with life and those around me.  Recognizing this is a true blessings in and of itself :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Coffee, Lipstick and Consumerism :)

I really love that anyone can order a coffee just the way they like it.  Starbucks makes it possible for you to order a tall Pike's Place or a double shot, soy skinny vanilla latte with a dash of cinnamon :)   Society sometimes rolls its eyes with it takes you 5 minutes to put in your coffee order, but one thing that we take for granted is that we have that privilege.  I've been thinking a lot about consumerism and commercialism.  In an attempt to declutter my wardrobe, I've come across so many things and a lot of 'stuff' that I just don't need.  It's bothersome to think that all it takes for some of us is to see a 'SALE' sign and we're buying 10 things of something that we don't need.  Yet, there are times when we really do need that white shirt or new purse.  So what's the real issue?  It's not knowing what you have, what you need and who you are!  Consumerism isn't bad in and of itself - it's how you 'respond' to it.  Someone once told me that the true definition of 'responsibility' is to be 'response-able'.  Your ability to respond to what's in front of you is your true personal power.  When you respond to that inner need of wanting more, you become the person who buys 10 things you don't need.  However, when you respond to your inner-compass of knowing what you truly need, you will respect and enjoy the fact that something you 'really need' is on sale.  Commercialism and the 'sale' isn't the problem, our ability to respond to our own needs/wants is what we truly need to look at.  So how does this all relate to Starbucks and Orange lipstick??? :)  When I began to define myself vs allow society to define me, I discovered a new sense of freedom in a world that tries to control me and my spending.  I was always in awe of someone who could walk into a department store, go straight to what they needed and walk out, enjoying the rest of their day.  I used to be the person who would walk into a department store and within seconds, I'd be at the makeup counters, walking out 2 hours later with makeup I never intended to buy and makeup that I didn't even need.  It would be like a scene from the movie 'Shopaholic' where the protagonist gets the visa bill and thinks it belongs to someone else because she doesn't remember half the things she purchased.  When you have an INTENTION behind your every action, you cannot be swayed by the pull of commercialism.

It all comes back to grounding yourself and knowing who you are in the midst of a material driven world.  You almost have to compare yourself to a Buddhist seeking inner peace in the midst of chaos. You need to be able to stand in the most commercial department store and not be 'swayed' by the commercialism.  You need to define yourself and love yourself in a world that is constantly trying to tell you what you need in order to be and feel worthy.  Did you ever think about why we are so in awe of those who break the rules?  or why we love stories like 'The Little Prince'?  It's because we remember our true nature and the privilege that comes with the freedom of choice to be 'ourselves'.  When you think about it from this perspective and you aren't swayed by the sales, ads and the 'definition of beauty' defined by others, you can benefit from everything around you.  So go ahead and order your favourite coffee and wear your favourite lipstick.  Own your definition of you!

Monday, August 8, 2016

'Tuna Melt' Scrambled Eggs or Omelette

Who knew that combining two classics could result in such a tasty dish?  This may just be my new favourite egg recipe to make.  If you love the taste of a 'tuna melt', this is for you!!!

I've been wanting to try this for a while, but it took a crazy 'tuna salad' craving to make it happen :)  The idea actually came from my cousin Eddie in Spain.  I remember talking to him about making omelettes and he said he put in tuna to his egg dishes.  That combination stuck in my mind for some reason and I knew at some point I would try it.  Interestingly enough, today is Eddie's birthday!  When I realized that last night I made a tuna salad for dinner (just a can of tuna, Polish 'babynias' mayonnaise from Starsky (an amazing Polish-European inspired grocery store here in Mississauga) and salt) - I had about 2 tablespoons worth of tuna left over and decided, let's try an 'Eddie Omelette'.  I combined the leftover tuna salad, 2 organic eggs, some applewood smoked cheddar and tried to make an omelette.  For some reason, I could flip the omelette properly, so it became more of a scrambled egg dish :)  When I sat down to try this dish, I actually said 'WOW' out loud.  This is an incredible combination and it's incredibly simple at the same time.  I will definitely be making this again.  I can this this being such an amazing dinner too - add some sliced tomato and a glass of chardonnay and all is well with the world!!!  Since it's 9:30 here is Mississauga I'm going to forgo the wine, but at some point, I will raise a glass to say 'Happy Birthday' to Eddie!  Thank you for this amazing recipe idea!  Miss my family in Spain so much.  They are incredible, amazingly happy people and I am blessed to know them!!! :)  Gracias Eddie!!!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Spanish Beach Food :)

It's been almost two weeks since I've returned home from my Spain trip.  I'm really missing my family and reminiscing about all the amazing experiences I had.  One of the things that I really miss is having lunch by the beach.  I had some amazing food in Spain and one of the things I really loved about it was that everything was so fresh and tasty.  Normally, I don't like the taste of fried foods, but the Calamari I had at the local beach eatery was 'amazing'.  I found that the fried calamari was never heavy and greasy - instead, it was light and airy and the calamari itself was fresh and tender (not chewy or rough as it sometimes can be when it's not locally made or fresh).  The lemon beer we had in Spain was also such a perfect compliment to the calamari.  This was my favourite 'beach treat', along with patatas alioli (garlic-potatoes) :

One of my other favourite beach treats was a fish or tuna based salad.  One of the things thats always so amazing about being near the sea is having more fresh seafood options.  I loved this fish based salad that I ordered at a local beach eatery in El Campello - it was refreshing and it inspired me to start making salads with different combinations of ingredients:

This is a Mediterranean salad at it's best - salad greens, tomatoes, fish, onions, olives, corn and a feta type cheese.  The green olives were a great addition to this salad and since I've come home, I've become a bit of an olive fanatic.  I'd actually love to learn more about olives and olive oil in general.  There is a reason that they are a Mediterranean staple and it's worth learning more about the health benefits as well as all the different varieties of olives/olive oil.

Enjoying lunch has a whole new meaning for me and although I won't be having fried calamari and lemon beer for lunch once I return back to work, it will always be on my mind :)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Orange-Red Lipstick

One of the reasons that I had to include the word 'lipstick' in the name of this blog is because I have a healthy addiction/obsession with finding 'the' perfect lipstick colour :)  I call it a 'healthy addiction' because: first, I need to somehow rationalize it as somewhat okay and secondly, once I find this 'perfect shade', I feel like my lipstick obsession will somehow come to an end.  However, both rationalizations are probably untrue :)  Hello, my name is Renata and I'm a lipstick junkie!!!

I have a feeling that some of you feel my pain and have probably responded by just saying "Hello Renata..... I'm __________ and I'm a lipstick addict too".  You know what?  That's totally OK!

I have to admit that recently I've re-defined the way I see and wear makeup.  One of my earlier posts on this blog is about having a healthy relationship with your self and loving your uniqueness.

When you 'manifest' your best self, you essentially are wearing the best look for you.  For me that has always been a natural look with a sophisticated red lip.  Here is where the lipstick addiction comes in - there are so many amazing reds, its hard to love just one!  That being said, I've just narrowed down my lipstick obsession to one particular type of red - an orange/coral red!

This past October I invested in getting a professional colour analysis done (I want to devote another post to this topic, as it was a life-changing experience and the analyst Jelena Heger has an incredible eye for colour -  She is both the colour consultant and owner of 'Unique To You Colour Consultation' in the Toronto/Hamilton area).  Jelena's analysis of me was 'Warm Autumn'.  Since I've been naturally gravitating towards the orange-reds, it speaks to how when you are 'in-tune' with your best energy, you will attract the palette that looks the best on you.  One of the orange reds that I'm currently 'addicted' to is Maybelline 'Craving Coral'.  I received a swatch book from Jelena's analysis and this shade is a 'perfect' match to the 'orange-red' swatch.  In the second photo, I'm wearing YSL #13 Le Orange (a colour in between the orange-red and tangerine swatches - another stunning lipstick choice for an orange based red lip) 

It's not everyday that you hear a lipstick addict ready to settle down with one signature colour.  Perhaps manifesting your best self really does lead to 'freedom' from past expectations and addictions.  Hello, my name is Renata and I'm officially embracing orange-red lipstick as my signature!!!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

What's Your Comfort Food?

Ahhhh, comfort food!  I think that we each have a favourite comfort food.  Many times it reminds us of a special, comforting memory or it just brings us back to feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  I remember as a child, always loving lazy Saturday mornings.  To me, there is no better comfort food than pancakes.  I love the whole process of making them, the smell of the pancake batter as it first settles on the pan, the mouth-watering smell of maple syrup.  In fact, my mouth is watering right now as I type this :)  As I grew older and started to enjoy cooking myself, I learned to take pancakes to a whole new level.  In the autumn months, it became all about the 'pumpkin spice' or 'apple fritter' pancakes.  In the summer, it was all about the blueberry, peach or lemon-poppy pancakes.  In the colder winter months, nothing is more comforting than chocolate chip and banana pancakes.  Basically, pancakes are my go-to feel good food.  That being said, I've had a love/hate relationship with comfort foods as well.  For many years I struggled with trying to eat gluten free and even eating Paleo for my health.  Giving up grains was amazing for my health and I never felt better, but denying myself some of my favourite foods was difficult.  Since spending time in Europe and particularly my most recent trip to Spain, I had to come to terms with a concept called 'moderation'.  As much as I love and still eat a diet based on the Paleo/Lower-Carb approach, there are times that you just have to allow yourself to indulge in some comfort food.  Living in North America where everything is available to us all the time, we sometimes develop an unrealistic and unhealthy approach to eating.  Treats and comfort foods in many parts of the world are only consumed once in a while or on special occasions.  When you indulge in a rich dish, you savour it and eat less the next day.  BALANCE is the key word when it comes to comfort food or any other thing in life.  It's important for us to return to these life-lessons.  In a world where many of us are entitled and have almost everything accessible to us, learning about balance, self-control, moderation and true appreciation of life's best foods and flavours is vital to our ability to appreciate good food and a good life!!!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer Makeup Look

I'm always creating and playing around with makeup.  I tried at one time to pursue a career as a makeup artist and actually have a makeup artistry certificate.  However, I decided instead to focus on my teaching career and do freelance makeup on the side.  That being said, I am still very passionate about colour and creating looks using colour.  One of the great things about the summer, is being able to play around with more golden, bronze and warm peach shades.  These colours really bring out a tan and they increase your natural 'happy energy'.  I really feel that colour and energy go hand in hand.  That's why it's always important to wear something that makes you feel amazing and happy, regardless of what the fashion industry is trying to sell you.  The colour of the moment is the one that makes you feel the most alive and great while you're wearing it.  Don't get me wrong, I love following style and fashion trends sometimes, but I take from them only what speaks to me.  One trend that always does seem to be consistent is 'corals' for summer.  How can it not be?  It's synonymous with the warm turquoise ocean waters and when put coral against any golden tan, you have the most beautiful combination.  Ocean blues, golden tans, sunny yellows and coral - the palette of summer :)

This is my favourite golden coral look.  I love combining warm bronzers/highlights (Anastasia Glow Kit is my current favourite) with a warm peach-coral lip.  In this photo, I'm wearing NARS Catherine lipstick.  My eyes are naturally a grey-green-blue, so to create that ocean mystique, I blended Urban Decay LSD liner with Demolition liner and applied this to the upper and lower lash-line.  I then picked a warm pink blush to compliment the whole look.  Last but not least, I always fill in my brows with a complimentary golden brown eyeshadow shade.  It adds definition to the brows, but also gives your brows a more defined, elegant natural shape.

The summer is all about sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful weather.  If you're looking for an elegant makeup look to go with a fun summer party, this is a winner.  :)

Stuffed Eggplant and Garlic Potatoes

If you were to ask me what my favourite 'Comfort Meal' is, I would definitely have to say 'Garlic-Cream Potatoes' with Stuffed Eggplant.  I don't know what the combination of these two foods do in my stomach, but they marry each other and love each other :)  I wanted to cook a meal for my family in Spain to both thank them for hosting us and also because to me there is no better way of telling someone you care, than to cook for them.  It's the highest level of 'Thanks', especially when you put your whole self into making the meal.  Growing up, people would always comment that their grandmothers food was the 'best'.  I've come to understand that this is true because it's made with 'pure love'.

My grandmother never really cooked with eggplant, but she made the best potato dishes.  She was able to roast them perfectly - crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.  It took me years to understand that the trick is to pre-boil the potatoes and then roast them with as many herbs as you have available.  The Greeks do this too, with their amazing oregano based herbed potatoes.  However, growing up Eastern European (Ukrainian), we weren't cooking unless we had at least one head of garlic nearby.  My Alioli potatoes start with my Grandmother's trick of pre-boiling the potatoes, then roasting them with salt, pepper, lots of herbs.  I like to add mushrooms too.  In a separate bowl, I add about 4 or 5 cloves of crushed garlic, a few tablespoons of mayo and some soft cheese (something that you can cream together well - goat cheese or brie are usually great options).  I also add some extra herbs to this garlic sauce.  Once the potatoes are almost ready in the oven, I take them out, pour over the garlic sauce and then continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes.

The roasted-stuffed eggplant is actually quite easy to make and I love playing around with different variations of this dish.  I made a vegetarian version for my family in Spain.  However, I'm made this dish with turkey, lamb and even tuna.  It also depends on your taste preference.  Sometimes I'm in the mood for a more moroccan herb lamb eggplant and sometimes I want a more French inspired herbs de provence turkey or chicken eggplant.  Go with whatever your palette wants :)  I basically just cut the eggplants in half, hollow them out (keep the eggplant peices to use in another dish) and then roast/bake the eggplant haves for about 20 minutes until tender with a fork.  In a sauce pan, start cooking your filling.  Start with a flavour base, add some veggies, whatever sauce you're craving, add the meat if you wish too.  Once the eggplant halves are ready, stuff each half with your filling and top with whatever cheese/sauce you desire.  Sometimes I'm making a more middle eastern/mediterranean version, I'll use goat cheese or feta.  If I'm doing a traditional Italian version, I'll use mozzarella, or when I want to go crazy with the herbs de provence, I'll use brie etc etc - the variations are endless and the cheese options are endless too :)  Once your stuffed eggplant/garlic-sauce potatoes are done, pick a nice wine to compliment everything.  I personally prefer reds and I find eggplant can be quite heavy for a vegetable, so I actually like a Cabernet-Sauvignon for this dish.  However,  I try to pair the herb-flavours too.  For the French herbs de provence flavours, I like a Pinot Noir.  For the cumin, moroccan/middle eastern flavours, I sometimes will venture into a heavier white wine like a Chardonnay.  It all depends on your personal taste, as well as the flavours you choose to create :)  Hope you enjoyed this post!!!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Why I LOVE to Cook........

One of the reasons that I really love to cook and experiment with recipies is not only because of the finished product, but the 'experience' itself.  Amazing food today can be found in many places.  In fact, it's very easy, convenient and sometimes necessary to pick something up to eat or eat out at a restaurant.  Culinary discoveries at restaurants can change your whole world and help you appreciate food.  Yet, nothing replaces the 'act of cooking' in and of itself.  I've been told by many people that my grandmother would come home from a long day of work and to distress she would 'have' to bake.  Many people would say "she's nuts, who would want extra work after working all day?".  However, to her, baking was something that helped her relax, focus, find meaning from her day.  I feel the same way about cooking.  Cooking can put me in a meditative state.  It somehow allows me to use all my senses at once and I 'forget' about the day.  It's all about consciously choosing what seasonings, herbs to add, smelling the food once it begins to reveal itself and watching all the colours and ingredients transform.  When I'm making an omelette, for example, there is something soothing about hearing the eggs crack, watching the omelette bubble on the pan, smelling all the other ingredients added to make this your own, personalized omelette.  Then, afterwards, when you sit down to eat, there is a sense of satisfaction and personal reward.  This is one of the reasons that I love to cook for myself.  I also take a lot of pride in trying an incredible meal at a restaurant and then trying to re-create it at home, sometimes giving it my own spin.  It becomes a mission for me to try and guess what flavours were used, how it was made etc.  Cooking is something I love because it requires all of me: all my attention, all my passion, all my creativity.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Are you manifesting your best beauty look???

Every person, male or female, has their own idea/perception of what is beautiful.  In fact, I think that is beautiful in and of itself.  As someone who is a certified makeup artist, loves to travel and people watch, I've come to appreciate and now 'accept' my own version and standard of beauty.  I've spent countless hours and money, trying to look a certain way, copy a certain celebrity, wear a certain brand of makeup etc etc.  Yet, I never really felt satisfied no matter how great others thought I looked or how many compliments I got.  Every person needs to reach a point in their lives, when they realize that living in the present moment vs trying to be somewhere else or someone else is the key to true inner acceptance.  It's in this space of present-acceptance that I finally decided to ask myself - what look and style really serves me? Am I filling my life with this authentic vision of myself?

Inspiring questions often lead to inspiring manifestation.  My own reflection lead me to embrace a classic look that I've always admired - a clear, fresh. natural look with a sophisticated red lip.  I've worn this look many times, yet it wasn't until I truly validated myself as 'worthy' of owning my femininity that this look finally had meaning beyond just putting on some cosmetic products.  You see, anyone can put on a lipstick, scarf, hat, tie etc and TRY to feel great.  However, unless you validate that you are worthy of feeling amazing, the material 'thing' you put on will have no value and you will still feel empty and have a need to continue searching for the 'next' thing to make you happy (because you don't feel you bring value to it).  Yet the second you allow yourself to be and feel valuable, is when you will manifest yourself beautiful with minimal effort.  Your style/look will flow into manifestation........  Now THAT is true beauty!!!

Tapas Alicante

Just a few days ago I returned from an absolutely amazing and life-changing trip to the South-East of Spain.  It was in this magical place, where I tasted some of the BEST food in my life.  One of the restaurants that I visited was 'Tapas Alicante', where the food and wine were so good that I literally had a surreal experience.  I had to pinch myself to remind myself that what I was tasting was 'real' and actually happening in the present moment.    The fact that I felt 'transported' to another level of culinary experience says something about the quality, flavour and freshness of this food.  I've tasted calamari multiple times, but having grilled calamari in Alicante is an 'experience' in and of itself.  It was 'tender' and just melted in your mouth.  Some of the other dishes that I experienced were: Patatas Bravas topped with a fried egg and sausage, sliced potatoes with sautéed onions and beef cooked to 'perfection' and perhaps my absolute favourite was the croquettas.  I don't think I can even begin to explain in words how amazing the cheese croquettas were at 'Tapas Alicante'.  It was like eating the most rich and flavourful 'cheese bomb'.  They served the croquettas with honey and it was the perfect accompaniment with this dish.

The wine :) Wow, there something to be said about enjoying amazing food with wine.  It just brings all the flavours to a whole new level.  Finding the right wine to go with multiple dishes and tapas is essential to having a mouth-watering experience.  Since it was my dad's birthday this day, he chose a medium bodied red.  It went perfectly with all the food.  I personally prefer red wine, but sometimes with a lot of seafood dishes, I like venturing towards a white.  Needless to say, wine just 'completes' the food-tasting experience.

Although I'm just highlighting one of my many food experiences in Spain, the food at 'Tapas Alicante' was quite possibly my absolute favourite.  If you ever get the chance to travel to Alicante or the surrounding area, definitely check out this restaurant.  You will have the most amazing food experience!!! :)

A moment in time............

One of the most transformative experiences of my life was traveling to Paris a few years ago.  It was the ideal trip for me because I was 'open' to a new experience and ready to transform my life.  I fell in love in Paris almost instantly because of it's charm, the amazing food and treats and also because I felt the most comfortable in my own skin.  It didn't take me long to want to be and channel everything 'Parisian'.  I visited the 'House of Chanel', where I purchased one of my favourite red lipsticks 'Gabrielle'.  I got a hair cut in Paris (something I've always wanted to do) - the great Coco Chanel said that "a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life".  I was definitely ready for that.  Today, I'm back to my long locks, but at that time, getting the short gamine cut and wearing a classic red lip was exactly what my soul needed.

One of the great things about traveling (no matter to what destination) is that you unlock a part of yourself that you always 'knew' was there, but you needed to be 'away from home' in order to realize it.  My most recent trip was to Spain and it was life transforming as well (and deserves it's own post). Yet, there was something about being in Paris at a certain 'moment of time' in my life that was necessary for my own personal growth.  It was sort of a 'Hero's Journey' milestone for me.  I think I truly started to understand just how 'transformative' this trip was when my cousin took this photo of me (on the right) while sitting in a cafe.  I had just purchased my new 'French Summer Hat' and was enjoying people watching.  I decided that during that moment in time, I wanted to lean my hand up against my cheek for the photo.  A few nights after that, we went to a restaurant that had photos of many actresses from the 40's and 50's, old Hollywood Glam era.  I was mesmerized by the photo of this woman (the left of the side by side photo).  To this day, I don't know who she is, but I couldn't help notice the similarity in our pose.  I often think - what was running through her mind in that photo?  Was she in a place of inner-transformation?  

I think that one of the reasons that I created a side by side photo of us is to remind myself of how I loved the person I was becoming in Paris.  It brought out a certain energy in me that was 'timeless'.  Seeing this woman in the photo made me realize that her moment in time (in Paris) was just as 'timeless'.  There is something very reassuring knowing that we're all on a journey and at some level, our stories are all connected, even if they happen in different eras and times.  The human experience is just another 'moment in time' for each person, yet the lessons are often the same.

Since my trip to Paris 3 years ago, I've had many new experiences, some great and some not so great, but the person I discovered in Paris (that inner 'true self' of everything I am and ever could be) has remained with me and I look forward to reconnecting her with each new day :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Welcome to my NEW blog!  I am excited for this new venture in my life.  I have no many different interests and I wanted to find a way to reflect and express all the things that I'm passionate about.  I decided to name this blog 'Herbs, Wine and Lipstick'.  First, I love to cook and as many people know, it's simple ingredients and a blend of various herbs/spices that create the best flavour.  I absolutely love using herbs in dishes :)  Secondly, I had to highlight wine.  I really love wine!  There is nothing better than discovering a new glass of vino that brings a dish or mood to life.  It's passion in a glass!!!  Finally, I can't have a blog without sometimes wanting to write about lipstick.  I have a healthy obsession with red lipstick :)

I am really excited to create a new 'blog space' where I can share with you some recipes, musings on life and makeup looks.  This is not just another 'lifestyle blog' idea.  For me, this is the next step in a new journey towards authenticity, embracing my self and bringing validation to this life-journey.

I really am excited about all the new adventures that await: the recipes, the discoveries of new wines/foods and perhaps some new insights into what's really important in life :)

Blogger, Teacher, Foodie and Makeup Artist