eat well, travel often, dream big!

If anyone follows Twitter Tuesday’s popular hashtag is #traveltuesday.  I decided to incorporate this into my posting schedule and dedicate Tuesday’s to all about Morocco day.  I’m going to start the ball rolling today with a post about henna.  From my first visit having henna done was something that I began to associate with Morocco.  Usually visits coincided with a celebration (the normal reason for having henna done) but even if there was no celebration I always had it done before coming back to the States.  It’s really very relaxing and I’m stuck waiting for it to dry sitting down – no getting up or wiggling fingers.  (Like a mini vacation for me!)

So here I am with my hands done.  This was for my husband and my wedding party in Morocco.  This time there was a lot more henna in a very intricate design.  Different designs have different meanings and different regions have different designs.  There are also three colors of henna, a black version, a dark brown version and a red version.  I’ve been told there is an additive of some sort mixed into henna sometimes to make the color last longer.  Word to my light skinned friends who might have this done in Morocco- make sure there’s no additive.  It really penetrates into light skin and can take much much longer to wear off. 

Here you can see on my right hand some henna that I had done on my first visit to Morocco.  (ps that’s the husband next to me ;)).  Not a great pic but it’s all I’ve got!  This was done by a local woman in djem al fna for about $10 USD (in 2004).  

Did I mention it’s usually both hands and feet that are decorated.  This time it was for my engagement party.  A very nice floral and leaves pattern.  This up close photo makes it easier to see.  The paste is green when it goes on and a thick paste.  You have to sit still and let it dry – usually about 2 hours but the longer you can leave it the better.  This night my feet and hands were wrapped and in the morning, the dry part of the paste was scraped off.  The longer you leave the paste on the darker the design will be and the longer it will stay.  

This design was VERY elaborate and took a long time to put on and to try.  But it was beautiful!  As you can see it went all the way up to the middle of my calves!  

If you’re headed to Morocco and want to get henna here are some tips:
  • Locals know best – seriously.  There are women in the community who families hire to do henna for their parties.  That’s who you want to do your henna.  They know what they are doing and are good and fast!  If you’re staying in a riad ask the owners if they can get someone to do the henna for you.  If you’re staying in a hotel ask the concierge.  
  • If you feel like you paid a good price you did.  Just like with any purchase in a bargaining economy, don’t feel cheated if you find out someone had henna done cheaper than you.  If you feel you paid a fair price for the work – you did. 
  • If you don’t have any connections to have henna done, ask at an herbalist in the markets.  Herbalists sell traditional medicine and can help find you someone to do henna for you. 
Have you ever had henna done?  Do you have other tips to share?  I would love to hear about it!!

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         In 2008 my husband and I went back to Morocco, the first time since we had been married with our then 1 year old son.  I had desperately missed Morocco and all of the things that I had grown to love and associated with that magical place.  We were able to have a…
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     One of the most important areas of my life as a working mom is meal planning.  I don’t write this to exclude those who don’t have children, nor those who work in the home – because meal planning can be just as useful and vital to them!  Be forewarned setting up a good system does involve a little bit of work on the front end however in just a short time this work will pay off.  I am going to share my system for meal planning, beginning with focusing on simply planning dinners

  • Brainstorm a list of go-to meals.  These are items that can easily be put together, that are staples in your cooking repertoire.  Sort them out however it works for you.  I like to make a list of actual meals (ex. Spaghetti or chicken stir-fry) and also make a list of no-cook meals (turkey sandwiches, grilled cheese and tomato soup).  This way if your plans don’t work or someone else steps in to cook there is an easily accessible list of favorites that can be easily done.
  • Keep a standard list of items that are always in your pantry.  Check out my Moroccan pantry staples here.  Always check these items before shopping – having them on hand will make you able to cook any number of things.
  •  Prepare to plan 1 to 2 weeks at a time.  I only plan one week at a time because it allows me some flexibility to be creative and find new ideas.  I also grocery shop weekly so changing my meals based on what’s in season and on sale is important.  Some people plan a month at a time – these items are totally up to you. 
  •   You can make your plan handwritten or electronic.  I like to use Google calendar because it allows me to make a calendar just for meals and to add the recipes into the note pages.  I can also send a text message to my phone in the morning and again in the late afternoon to remind me what’s for dinner that day.   I can pull anything out of the freezer before work, or put dinner in the crock pot before work. 
  • Go through your grocery flyer and see what is on sale for the week.  You may want to alter ingredients or recipes based on what your budget for that week is and what is on sale. 
  • Begin filling in your plan!  In the beginning use your go-to list until you get the hang of things.  I would add in 1 or 2 meals for the week that were new recipes I had found or ideas I had.  Also plan one day towards the end of the week for leftovers or takeout.  This is a great idea for a busy evening as well.
  • Double check your pantry, and make a list of the items you need for the week.  Shop your list.   

Taking it a step further.

Prepping – As often as possible I prep as much as possible beforehand.  This means chopping up a container of onions at the beginning of the week, potentially baking, and partial cooking meals and then freezing.  Especially during a busy week this is helpful.  I also do this in the mornings if I know I will have a late night.  This way everything is ready and the final step is to simply put it together and cook.  (Note: this is also great if someone is stepping in to put the meal together who doesn’t generally do it – think husband or mom/grandma).

Lunches – These can be built into the menu plan as well.  Some ideas;

1.       Dinner leftovers – just make some extra and pull it out before serving the meal to ensure there is something left!

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Salad or sandwich remakes using leftovers

3.       Dips with veggies and/or fruit

4.       Before picking up dinner dishes, make lunches at night so that the morning is smoother.
  1. A similar system will work by getting things ready the night before 
  2. Baking can be done one day and frozen to be thawed overnight and heated in the morning
  3. Just having a plan makes it easier even if morning is simple like toast or cereal.
Final Tips

-          Keep it simple, start with dinner and use your go-to list until you’re in a groove.

-          Begin collecting recipes to try and add them to a database such as Google Notebook or Springpad.
-          Feel free to swap days and recipes, keep it flexible and do whatever makes it easier for you
-          Map out the trouble and or busy days  and make sure an easy option is there, such as a crock pot meal or a pre-cooked, frozen meal that can just be heated up.

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Try creating your shopping list as you add meals to days, this will eliminate going back and viewing the recipes again- saving you time. 

Best of luck and please do share with me what worked for you!!!

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     In 2008 my husband and I went back to Morocco, the first time since we had been married with our then 1 year old son.  I had desperately missed Morocco and all of the things that I had grown to love and associated with that magical place.  We were able to have a Moroccan wedding party and aqeeka (this is like the Muslim version of a baptism party) for our son.  One of the things that we had to do while we were there was to try and register our American marriage and get our son’s birth registered.

     Sounds simple enough right?  If you think so, you would be wrong.  We had to take the train from Marrakech to Rabat (almost 4 hours) to try and complete the paperwork, only to be told they couldn’t do it because we lived in the USA.  (Funny they told us in the US we would need to do it in Morocco..) After an exhausting two days of travel and bureaucracy we got ready to go home.  We had just enough time to stop in a corner shop near the train station to grab some food for the train.  We picked up some rounds of bread, spiced olives and black olives and grilled kofta.  Everything was wrapped in paper as we hurried to catch our train.  As we neared Casablanca we took our lunch and set ourselves a small picnic on the table in our carriage.  Maybe it was our frustration and exhaustion but something about that meal tasted so good.  It was very simple and yet as we both sat eating and looking at each other in silence we realized it just might have been our favorite meal together.  It was after those days of frustration and anger that we both realized we really needed each other and that no matter what we had each other’s back. 

     That’s why every olive I eat reminds me of this picnic on the train and the epiphany of our marriage.  

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