Saturday, February 6, 2016

couscous friday

There's this marvellous thing that happens on Fridays in Morocco: couscous. A staple of kitchens across the Maghreb, couscous is crushed semolina that is steamed to a delightfully fluffy consistency and served with a stew of meat and veggies. Highly labour intensive, couscous typically happens on Fridays, the holy day in Muslim tradition, when families get together after prayers to enjoy a meal together. Pedro says it's very much like Sunday lunches with the family in Portugal, which no doubt is Christian in origin.

During the past six months in Morocco, I've been sampling couscous when I can get it, and what I have noticed is that it can vary considerably in flavour depending on who is making it. It can be bland or overly buttery, and it might be served with cinnamony caramelised onions (my favourite), or dried fruit— a happy discovery made at a restaurant in Meknès.

Couscous is often served with a glass of leben, a sour-tasting buttermilk. The idea is that drinking water will expand the couscous in your stomach and cause you unwanted distress, whereas the leben will aid in the digestion of all that goodness you just ate. Whether it expands or not, you are guaranteed to feel full and slip into what is lovingly referred to by my colleagues as the Couscous Coma. Try teaching a classroom of eighteen sleepy kids after a couscous lunch on a Friday, when you yourself could just curl up for a nap!

Well at least there's always a glass of mint tea to help wake you up.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Well it was one hell of a busy day yesterday, and I'm afraid I didn't take a photo of myself for my annual birthday post. Here in its place is a fine horse in the Place el Hedim in Meknès, posing in front of the famed Bab el Mansour gate. Thirty-seven, here I come!

Friday, January 29, 2016


In the same amount of time that it used to take us to drive from Büyükçekmece to Taksim, we drove from Rabat to Meknès, one of Morocco's four imperial cities (the cities being Rabat, Fes, Marrakesh, and Meknès). The tight, labyrinthine alleys of the old medina remind me of Urfa, though more colourful— with more yellow and pink, specifically.

Though it's so close to Rabat, Meknès feels like a world away...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

that feeling

the scent of cumin, the yellow of turmeric

There's a cumin-scented treasure trove of herbs, spices, clays, and various other earthy goodies in a musty basement off one of the main alleys in the medina. Nutmeg and pumice stones, indigo dye and rose tea—
I wanted to take it all home!

But my eye caught something sparkly—was it graphite? No, it was for the eyes of women, I was told. The shopkeeper placed a little glass vial of the powdered stone in my hand, and explained that it needed to mixed with liquid for eyeliner.

I bought two, but I won't be putting any of it on my eyes— I have a different purpose for it in mind...

Saturday, January 23, 2016

i took a walk

I've been down lately. There's a pit inside my chest, and it has been difficult to know what to do to get rid of it. So I started feeding some pushy little buntings on my balcony, which made me feel better. I tore apart my classroom and reorganised it to open up more space, which my students seem to appreciate, and that felt good. I bought some rose tea, and orange oil for my incense burner, which has been soothing. I painted a picture with some new watercolours, and that sparked some creativity.

I took a walk.

Beauty is everywhere in Rabat— from intricate geometric architectural elements, to the cascades of bougainvillea that never cease to bloom, there's a lot of loveliness to get lost in on a walk.

I ended up at the Jardin Botanique d'Essais, a green, shady strip of tranquility that feels worlds away from the motorbikes and beeping taxis.

The scent of leaves and layers of birdsong lifted my spirit, and I began to feel like a girl again, inspecting beetles and examining owl pellets under trees. The last couple of days have been brighter— lighter.

Monday, January 11, 2016

and the stars look very different today

Oh David Bowie, how much I have loved you all these years!
We've lost a god today, a true artist.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

happy places

There are places that one finds in life that somehow have a centering, calming, and joyous effect on the soul. The memory of my Grandparents' buttered toast and pipe-scented house in California, the balcony in Boudha where I taught my dear After School Artists during the monsoons, the breakfast table with Pedro— I have a lot of these happy places. One of them happens to be the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, where I never tire of wandering through the galleries, though I have been there several times. Familiar brush strokes, colour palettes I know too well, and creamy marble that feels like home. It's like visiting a beautiful house full of old friends, who never seem to age though I do.

This holiday, I spent five hours at the museum one day— just me and Sargent, Monet, Manet, Turner. I went to Ancient Egypt, to Medieval and Renaissance Europe, the Ottoman Empire, and beyond. With the new sketchbook that my Grandma sent me for Christmas in hand, I sketched a few of my favourite pieces. Most of all, I just looked.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Thursday, December 31, 2015

here's to ends, and new beginnings

What better way to end the year than with a farinheira-stuffed chicken accompanied with roasted potatoes and chestnuts, good wine, and beets? Visiting Portugal has a terrible effect on my waistband, but Pedro's mum is such a heavenly cook!

So long 2015!

leaving the scene of the crime