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Showing posts from March, 2016

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" Is Back!

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When I first watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” in 2002, it was a revelation. I recall how enjoyable my family and I found it, both for its easy humor and its mirror portrayal of our own lives in the US as Lebanese-Americans.
Realistically, you could have substituted any Lebanese family for Toula Portokolas’ boisterous clan, and the storyline would have been unaltered. The strong matriarch who cunningly bows to her husband’s traditionally dominant role (“The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head anyway she wants”). Big family feasts more centered on pleasing the eye than sating the stomach. Boys named after their fathers or grandfathers. The importance of faith and church on Sundays. And of course, the never-a-dull-moment family chaos contrasted with the relatively mundane calm of American households.





My brothers and I could relate to Toula’s family on every level. More importantly, our classmates could at long last begin to fathom and accept our unique …

A Bittersweet Mother's Day

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Maybe it’s just me, but hasn’t the commercialization of Mother’s Day in Lebanon shot through the roof this year? Wherever I go, I see elevated levels of hype surrounding the date, with competitions, campaigns, sales, promotions, festivals, and giveaways all to mark the occasion.
The Spot Mall in Saida organized a campaign where they reunited an expatriated Lebanese with his mother on its premises. Nearly every vendor on Facebook, from OMT to Allo Taxi, is soliciting followers to contribute their fondest memories of Mother Dear. The best one fetches a coveted prize. Even my bank surprised a handful of lucky mommas, catching them off guard in branches and presenting them with bouquets of flowers or cute little knickknacks.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing, and you’ll never catch me proselytizing. I, too, am of the school of thought that mothers are our angels on Earth, and that no one will ever love us more unconditionally. 
From the minute we are conceived, they carry and nourish …

16 Signs You’re No Longer A Kid

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If there’s any question I’ve come to abhor in my young adulthood, it’s this heavyweight: “How old are you?” Four words strung together were never more lethal.
Sure, women over 25 generally shy away from revealing those mystical numbers. I share in that, particularly because I can get away with a more modest number. Most people mistake me for a 22- or 23-year-old, and I’m praying that’ll persist for several more years (a girl can dream, can't she?). In the meantime, I’ll keep pretending to be a fresh college graduate.
Jokes aside, the second reason I find that query so offensive is the fact that it incorporates the miscreant word “old.” Why can’t we swap it for “young” and pose the question thus: “How young are you?” Imagine how much more willing we’d be to admit our ages if properly buttered up. It’s all in the diction, really.
The sad reality is that we are getting older, and here are 16 signs you’re no longer a kid (in society’s eyes, at least):

1. No one tells you “you’re too youn…

The Best Value Friday Date Night in Beirut

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Sometimes I hesitate to disclose my favorite restaurants or new discoveries for fear I’ll come back to a full house and be turned away. Worse, I worry that the management will become so haughty with the influx of customers that it'll lose its tight hold over excellence. Do you ever feel like that? That you have to guard your gems closely so that they retain their luster and exclusivity?
I suppose by now it’s no secret how much I cherish Le Gray. Situated in the heart of the Beirut Central District, on prime real estate opposite Annahar, the five-star property is luxurious, hip, and artsy. Where other high-end hotels suffer from the aforementioned condition, distinctly doling out self-importance and attracting the like-minded, Le Gray is at once casual and classy, comfortable and refined, accessible and select.
My first experience at Le Gray was precisely three years ago, at a Sunday Mother’s Day luncheon hosted at Indigo on the Roof. I remember the service being impeccable; the atm…

In the Kitchen With Lebanese-American Chef Rayya Danielle

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Many folks I meet automatically assume I possess culinary flair because I’m a seasoned food blogger. I like to draw the distinction between food writer and chef, if it's not already self-evident. The former documents, describes, and stirs up the appetite through vivid imagery and details, whereas the latter cooks, creates, and pleases.
Now I don’t mean to deprecate myself by saying I’m null in the kitchen. I stood next to my mother long enough to know how to prepare some Lebanese classics, and I did live all by my lonesome for three years in grad school. So I know a thing or two about simple, fast, and healthy fixes. I assure you, I would never starve, but the extent of my innovations would likely fall short of admission to the Cordon Bleu.
When I do have time, I love to dabble in the kitchen. Ask my husband about the numerous eggless cakes I hatched up around the Christmas season, from banana-chocolate chip bread to orange and lemon loaf. I even concocted a decadent molasses cake …