eat well, travel often, dream big!


So first off a little apology for having review overload this week but I’ve got so may great things to share! Last month I read The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau with the BlogHer book club. This was Dau’s first novel and I was drawn to it initially because of the setting.  The main character Jonas is from an un-named country in the Middle East (though I’m sure anyone with a little bit of geography and cultural sense can figure out the intended country). The other characters are Christopher a US soldier and his mom who is searching for any news about him after he disappeared. I really love stories that have a strong setting, that is set in another country or unique location and a really good plot line.  This hit all those points.
At the start of the story Jonas is a 15 year old boy living in an unnamed Muslim country.  He is orphaned after an attack on his village and is eventually relocated to the United States.  His host/adoptive family (it wasn’t really clear the relationship) are the typical middle American family who are endearing in their attempts to help Jonas but it’s clear they are woefully unprepared and not interested in Jonas maintaining his traditions. Jonas struggles through high school and college and ends up having court-order therapy sessions that bring out some of the trauma he underwent.  He also remembers a soldier, Christopher Henderson whom he credits with saving his life. Christopher disappeared after he and Jonas met and Rose, Christopher’s mother has been searching for any information about her son.
The book splits between Jonas’ story and Christopher, from the present to the past making it a little frustrating to read.  I won’t give away the end, and even though I did like the story it also upset me.  I’m curious to see how others read the story, which character(s) they relate to because for me it was Jonas. The elements of the story that I didn’t like was the complete disregard for Jonas’ culture and religion. It seemed like the underlying message was that he was given his great gift to come the US and his new family really wasn’t involved with him. They were more interested in converting him than providing him a safe and welcoming home to live in.  I think the biggest struggle with the book was what was the main message – was it meant to be a story about soldier’s that went missing or about the cost of war in general?  The focus seemed so heavy on the loss of Christopher when Jonas’ entire family was killed.  I had to feel that this was somehow a commentary on the value that is place on American lives vs. others lives.
I’ll be discussing this book for a few weeks with the BlogHer ladies and hoping to add a different perspective.  If you’re looking for a new read, pick this one up and leave me a comment (and join in on the book club discussion).  I would love to know if you had the same feelings I did.
**This review is a paid review for BlogHer book club, all opinions are my own.

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I’ve shared a packing post in the past but it was when I was packing five suitcases for my three guys to live out of for nearly two months.  Packing for a weekend trip is a whole lot easier!  It seems that no matter where we are going or how early I start to pack I always forget things for me. Never for anyone else – just me.  This time I’m making sure I triple check my suitcase before we go.
One of the struggles I face when picking out new clothes is finding items that are modest, flattering and comfortable. It seems that you can pick one or the other but rarely all three. A little while ago I was contacted by Fresh Produce to review one of their items.  I have looked at their clothes before and was impressed that they had many options available for someone who has modest dress requirements.  There are longer length and loose capri pants (that work for me), cute cruise wear for your next adventure, and colorful caribbean clothes. There are also several maxi dresses and longer length dresses as well.  The item I chose to review was the What it Seams skirt.  I chose this skirt because I’m always looking for long skirts and have been searching for some type for one made out of material similar to yoga pants. They pack a lot smaller, are easier to wash and air dry (if needed), and are comfortable.  The What it Seams skirt fit the bill!

Free Produce Skirt


You’re even getting a rare glimpse of me – well at least the skirt on me!  I’m 5’4″ and this skirt is asymmetrical – it is shorter in the front than in the back.  So far that hasn’t been a problem and I haven’t tripped over myself. The color I have on is called Oyster and it’s a darker color of gray.  I love it.  Seriously love it and want to have one in every color. (The great thing is that there are soooo many colors!)


Fresh Produce Skirt 2


Look at that two pictures of me!  This skirt is a staple in my wardrobe now and I am deciding which color will be my next choice.  Fresh Produce ships to 200 countries so any of my readers can pick up these great items!


Make sure to visit their webpage, Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up with the latest news and watch for specials and coupon codes!

** Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this review however I did receive this skirt to review. As always all opinions are my own.

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This weekend MarocBaba and I are going away for our anniversary and to cover a city that I grew up in love with. It was the closest really big city and my aunt, who lived there, would take me every summer for a week or two to “babysit” her kids. But really, we just did a lot of cool things! I credit those early experiences as one of the reasons the world opened up to me. If you follow me on Twitter you might already know where I’m talking about but I’m keeping it a secret for now. But we have some important decisions to make and I’m counting on you to help me make them!
Last year when I went to the Midwest Mom’s Media conference I took the train. I have used trains in other parts of the world but as a means of domestic transportation I hadn’t really tried it out. Well, after that trip I was hooked! It was so nice not to have to worry about missing an exit, stopping for gas, etc. etc. that I knew for our next closer to home trip we would take the train instead of driving. So we’re doing it on Saturday!
Of course the most important part of any journey is what you eat on the way. Our trip happens to coincide with lunch so I’m planning a really great meal to take along. Yesterday I reached out on my Facebook page to see what thoughts some of my friends had on what to bring – wow! I have some super impressive friends! Now I need even more help to narrow it down. Check out some of these suggestions;

photo from Vegetarian Times

Moroccan Whole Chickpea Hummus - Vegetarian Times from my friend Kelly


from Food Network

Dana’s 5-ingredient Broccoli Salad from my friend Noura


from Wheat Belly

Mocha Walnut Brownies {Gluten-Free} from my friend Laurence


from Olga of Mango & Tomato

 Potato Salad with an Indian Twist From my super talented blogging friend Olga


Then there were EVEN MORE suggestions;

  • Spicy Deviled Eggs
  • Pressed antipasto sandwiches
  • Asian-style coleslaw
  • Jarred Salads
  • Gorgonzola-stuffed Dates
  • Watermelon, Feta, Basil Salad
  • Gluten Free Vegetable Pizza
  • Ceviche
  • Hummus or olive spreads
  • Fruit Salads

How is a girl to decide?
It’s got to be good, easy to transport and gluten-free.  Are you up for the challenge?  Leave me a comment and share your favorite picnic/train food suggestion or vote on some of the suggestions above!



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a century of moroccan eating
Read more about the 1910’s {The Protectorate} and 1920’s {Great Depression}


I’ve always admired the history of the Berber people in North Africa.  They’ve survived on the cusp of society in rural areas and went head to head with major world powers like the French colonials and Arabs for centuries and have managed to retain their culture and language. It’s a feat that anyone who can claim Berber heritage should be proud of. I’ve chosen the 1930’s to bring in the Berber’s because it was at this time they had just succeeded in winning the Second Moroccan War (Rif Wars).  The history of the Berber people go back thousands of years to prehistoric times and while the histories are limited, it is evident that the Berber’s fought the Romans, Arab, Spanish and French invaders, ultimately winning and retaining their lands and way of life.


In the 1930’s, after defeating the Spanish colonizers life more or less returned to normal.  Living in rural areas many Berber’s farmed or were involved with animal herding or other agriculture endeavors. They are also well known for their beautiful tapestries and rugs. What’s even more interesting is that the Berber populations of Morocco at this time were Muslim, Jewish and Christian.  However it wasn’t long until the Jewish Berbers emigrated to Israel and the Christian Berbers assimilated and moved to France after Moroccan independence. However, the Kabyle community in Algeria has decent-sized Christian minorities, both Protestant and Roman Catholic.


Sadly, the success of the Berber tribes in the Rif Wars did not solidify their position in the eyes of the Arab rulers.  The Berber language, the first language for many Berber’s, was not allowed to be spoken or taught in schools or used openly. Arabic (and later French) were the only language permitted.  This gave Berber’s unequal footing in education and some argue the prohibition was intended to wipe out the Berber language and culture. Because the Berber language is oral by nature it has been passed down to subsequent generations.  The literacy rate for 15-25 year olds’ today averages 80%, for earlier generations this number was much lower.  Not being able to speak Berber and not have the ability to learn to read and write Arabic created a big challenge.


Recently there has been an opening up to reduce the discrimination and embrace the Berber populations of Morocco.  The language can now be taught and used in schools.  There is an Amazigh TV station and multiple radio stations. While there still remains a disparity between urban and rural dwellers in Morocco things are beginning to look better that they did 80 years ago.

A lot of Berber foods are similar to other Moroccan foods. Recently I was introduced to Tanane by a Twitter follower Khadya of La Beaute Berbere. I had never heard of this recipe but was so happy I was!  This recipe is from Southwestern Morocco, the Agadir Tanane region.  You can use the marinade on anything, meat, fish, vegetables just make lots and enjoy!


Tanane – Full Recipe on Kayotic Kitchen, note I substituted lemons for limes and loved it.

If you’re really adventurous and have a hole you can dig in your backyard try a whole roasted goat in a hole Berber style.

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Chorba d’Crevette {Moroccan Shrimp Soup}

Last weekend both of my boys had Friday off of school. I have been busy with work lately and MarocBaba has been weighed down with school but we wanted to do something fun for the boys. Let’s face it we both needed a break from the daily grind too.  Friday morning we packed up a lunch and went to the Minnesota Zoo.  You have to know that K loves animals.  He’s nuts for animals and so the zoo was sure to appeal to him.  Apparently we had the same idea as half the state of Minnesota because once we got to the zoo, it took us nearly 30 minutes just to get through the gates.  The weather was supposed to be nice but after an unseasonably warm spring it felt cool.
Minnesota Zoo Kids
We spent the entire day there and had time to visit the Middle Eastern grocery store on our way out of town. Once we were home we were all left with a chill. This in-between season when it’s not really winter and it’s not quite spring yet sometimes leaves me scrambling for what to make.  We needed something warm but not something heavy.  I have been hunting for new ideas for Moroccan recipes and this was one my mother-in-law suggested. I was skeptical but in the end I loved it too.
The base for this soup is Saffron Roads’ Classic Culinary Vegetable Broth. The ingredients that make up the broth compliment the ingredients and add a little extra flavor.  This recipe is gluten-free, low fat and very inexpensive.  When I began cooking this I was immediately overcome by how the ginger comes through in the smell and taste (in a good way!) If you can, use fresh grated ginger – it will make a huge difference and is worth the little extra effort.

Chorba Crevette - Shrimp Soup


Chorba d'Crevette {Moroccan Shrimp Soup}


  • 1 medium onion grated
  • 2 Tbsp good quality butter
  • 1/2 leek
  • 1/4 c rice
  • 3/4 c fresh or frozen shrimp (I use cocktail size)
  • 4 c Saffron Road Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Tbsp crushed ginger
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • extra salt and pepper to taste


  • Begin by grating a medium onion into a bowl and roughly chopping 1/2 a cleaned leek.
  • In a large pan add 2 Tbsp butter and turn heat to medium high.
  • Once the butter begins to melt, add the onion and leek and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Next, add the ginger, saffron, turmeric, and pepper and stir.
  • Once everything is combined add the vegetable broth and rice.
  • Cook 15-20 minutes until the rice is tender.
  • Add the shrimp last. Once the shrimp are pink the soup is ready!
  • Add salt and pepper as desired to taste.
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At Home in Marrakech

“Immediately when you arrive in Sahara, for the first or the tenth time, you notice the stillness. An incredible, absolute silence prevails outside the towns; and within, even in busy places like the markets, there is a hushed quality in the air, as if the quiet were a conscious force which, resenting the intrusion of sound, minimizes and disperses sound straightway. Then there is the sky, compared to which all other skies seem fainthearted efforts. Solid and luminous, it is always the focal point of the landscape. At sunset, the precise, curved shadow of the earth rises into it swiftly from the horizon, cutting into light section and dark section. When all daylight is gone, and the space is thick with stars, it is still of an intense and burning blue, darkest directly overhead and paling toward the earth, so that the night never really goes dark.
You leave the gate of the fort or town behind, pass the camels lying outside, go up into the dunes, or out onto the hard, stony plain and stand awhile alone. Presently, you will either shiver and hurry back inside the walls, or you will go on standing there and let something very peculiar happens to you, something that everyone who lives there has undergone and which the French call ‘le bapteme de solitude.’ It is a unique sensation, and it has nothing to do with loneliness, for loneliness presupposes memory. Here in this wholly mineral landscape lighted by stars like flares, even memory disappears…A strange, and by no means pleasant, process of reintergration begins inside you, and you have the choice of fighting against it, and insisting on remaining the person you have always been, or letting it takes its course. For no one who has stayed in the Sahara for a while is quite the same as when he came.
…Perhaps the logical question to ask at this point is: Why go? The answer is that when a man has been there and undergone the baptism of solitude he can’t help himself. Once he has been under the spell of the vast luminous, silent country, no other places is quite strong enough for him, no other surroundings can provide the supremely satisfying sensation of existing in the midst of something that is absolute.

He will go back, whatever the cost in time or money, for the absolute has no price.”

― Paul BowlesTheir Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue: Scenes from the Non-Christian World

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Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Lettuce Wraps 2

One of my favorite go-to recipes for a quick dinner is chicken stir fry. We’ve been eating a lot of rice and while I normally would serve stir-fry with more rice it was time to change things up. There really is no “right” way to make these. The ingredients can be whatever you have on hand.

  • 1 lb chicken breasts cut into cubes
  • mixed vegetables
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup nuts such as cashews
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 head of Bibb (Boston) lettuce washed and separated


Lettuce Wraps



1. Heat vegetable oil, ginger, salt, and garlic on medium heat in a large pan and add the cubed chicken.


2. Brown the chicken and when almost cooked through add the hoisin sauce and chicken broth.


3. Once the liquid heats up again, add the vegetables and cook everything until tender.  Add the nuts last so that they keep a crunch.


4.  Fill each lettuce leaf with the chicken filling and serve hot.  This is also great the next day served cold.

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a century of moroccan eating
Although the Great Depression didn’t reverberate around the world until the very late 1920’s, this was not an easy decade in Morocco.  In the first six years of the decade the Rif Wars raged between Berber nationalists and Spanish imperialists. Known as the Second Moroccan War these battles raged from 1920-1926.  By 1924 the French also got involved to put down the rebellion. Several thousand Moroccans, Spanish and French lost their lives and in the end the the Rifian forces gave up due to the superior technology and manpower of the foreign forces.
Moroccans during this decade lived virtually the same as they had for the decades previous.  While the French and Spanish built up the country, they did so to better lives for themselves with little concern given to native Moroccans. Estimates state that the French living in the country were making 8x’s the amount of money as a Moroccan. It was also during this time that wealthy Europeans and even Americans began to visit North Africa as the “exotic” Africa.
In 1925 the Marriage of King Mohammed 5 took place.  This vintage video shows some of the ceremony.

This next video is a newsreel from the 1930’s.  It is classic orientalist narration which is a bit hard to listen to.  All of the 1920’s footage is without sound so I’m sharing this one.  Around the 4 minute mark they show the “native quarter”.  I enjoy the peek into the past but didn’t enjoy the narrator!

Now my very favorite video find while doing research was this Great Depression Cooking video.  I know the recipe is from Tunisia but it’s not far removed from the Moroccan version and I love the story 94 year old Clara tells about her father! I’d imagine that this dish is something that might have been on a table in the 1920’s in Morocco.  It’s only vegetables and couscous, simple and low cost ingredients.
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