Food

15 Apr

I tried to think of something clever for the title of this post you are about to read, but the only thing that kept coming to mind was… well… food. A self-declared foodie, it’s one of the things I absolutely love about life. How have I gone so long with this blog without ever sharing my love for the delectable treats that grace my pallet every so often?

That being said, those who follow me on Instagram (@sab_abraham) know that I enjoy making myself a feast as much as I do eating it. So I thought, why not share with all of my fellow foodies some of my favourite meals I’ve put together?

To start the food category of my blog, here is one recipe I absolutely loved (with some minor modifications):

The Cheesy Black-Bean and Quinoa Taco Bake

I found this delicious recipe on Pinterest and I was immediately drawn to it by a few of its listed ingredients: Cheese, Cilantro, Jalapeño, Lime, Avocado and Quinoa.  Anything that combines these six ingredients had to be winner.

The recipe at first seemed a little daunting and, may I add, a little expensive with the different types of cheeses, spices and extremely long list of ingredients. However, I gave it a try and it was totally worth it (my husband who was a little skeptical by its “hippiness” was also surprisingly pleased with the dish!)!

For those who want to attempt a go at it, please note the following suggestions:

  • For the cheeses, I only used mozzarella and a a bit of leftover cheddar. It was delicious, although i don’t doubt the other types would have been good too.
  • I skipped the beer and only put half a cup of water.
  • I put the juice of two large limes instead of one, but honestly, next time I may add a third to make it extra tasty.
  • I did not bother with the queso fresco, nor the head of lettuce.
  • I did not crumble tortilla chips in it but did serve them as a side for dipping.

Also, I followed the instructions by cutting all the toppings (tomatoes, avocado, cilantro) and adding them on top of the warm dish at the end but I didn’t find this to be a great idea if only one or two people are going to eat this. The recipe could probably serve up to 8 people, so when we were done eating, we had to scrape all the toppings off the remaining casserole so that it wouldn’t brown in the fridge and turn into a big mush. So for those who will only be a couple to enjoy this meal, I suggest you cut just enough tomatoes and avocado for your respective dishes so they stay fresh every time you help yourself to a new serving.

#nomnomnom!

Taco night at our house: a delicious and healthy alternative! Black Bean and Quinoa Taco Bake

 

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My pledge to all my acquaintances

8 Jul

I miss writing for this blog. I have been so caught up with writing ALL THE TIME for my now full-time job that I often don’t feel like coming home to write some more. I am currently reading the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and at one point she reflects on her career choice, having switched from a professional lawyer to a full-time writer (her true passion) and she says something I thought only applied to me: “I don’t actually love writing, but then practically no writer actually loves the writing part”. haha! How funny and true, I thought. Maybe only other fellow writers can truly understand this feeling. You think about writing all the time, your dream is to publish books and books, there’s no better emotional therapy than writing out your thoughts until you feel you have sufficiently laid out all your feelings on a piece of paper, yet being assigned to write a story and facing a blank word sheet not knowing where to start can be oh so frustrating. BUT, once you do get your story going, and the words are flowing, the image in your head is becoming more and more vivid, you know you’re on the right path and in the right field. It’s exhilarating!

So, all that to say, I do miss putting my random thoughts and stories on this blog for my followers, I just had to get over the writing-all-the-time brain hump. Ha!

So what have I been up to? Observing relationships, mainly my own with random people, some close, some far. For example, a while ago, I ran into someone I knew from high school. I use the word “knew” lightly as although I knew who this person was, and I may have spoken to them a couple of times over the course of the four years of high school, I by no means “knew them”. I was walking down Bank street when I saw her walking towards me. Within the few seconds I had before I would we crossed each other, I thought to myself, “do I stop? Do i say hello?” Before I could decide, she had already made the first move. She was joyful in her approach, seeming genuinely pleased to be running into me. We spoke for a few minutes about what we had been up to for the past ten years (marital status, baby status, career…) before we parted ways. Although the conversation was just what one would expect from an acquaintance, what struck me was my initial reaction versus hers.

I am quite certain that had I been quicker to make a decision on whether or not to approach her, my thought would have been to either ignore her (no clue who you are) or give her a quick nod and smile (I think I know you but not enough to chat). She, however, was more than happy to talk to me and engage in a quick five minute debrief on our lives.

This made me question my behaviour. Why was that my first instinct? Why didn’t I care to know how she was doing or what she had been up to for the last decade? I’m no better nor am I more interesting than her, so why did I think that was the thing to do?

As I began to think this through, I remembered all other instances where I had been confronted with a similar situation and where my instinct was again, the same. Where was this strange behaviour coming from?

I don’t like it, and I am going to do something about it. The next time I see someone I know, I pledge to say hello. To ask how they are doing. To show I care. If that encounter with my fellow classmate taught me anything, it was that it never hurts to ask someone how they are doing. She made me feel like someone who was worth a few minutes of her time and I am pretty sure I can do that too.

I also pledge to blog more. Really, I do. xo

CHECK YOUR FACEBOOK TIMELINES!

27 Sep

Facebook, you have wronged me… and so many others! I just noticed a message a friend of mine posted on her Facebook today to friends that reads:

Check every year of your timeline people! Facebook has posted your private messages on your timeline!!!!

She’s not kidding. My initial thought was it can’t be… but then my nerves got the best of me, and I went through my timeline. Sure enough, my “private” messages were out there in the open for all to see… if someone took the time to go through your profile, year by year!

Mark Zuckerberg, you have some explaining to do. You’ve made it now ABUNDANTLY clear that absolutely nothing is private on Facebook.

So friends, family, readers near and far…. hide your timeline posts ASAP.

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

19 Sep

How much of our personal struggles should we share? How much detail is too much detail before our audience becomes uncomfortable? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I have never been one to shy away from sharing challenges I’ve encountered in life, whether they are related to my career, marriage, family or health. I NEVER EVER do it hoping for some kind of pity. NEVER. Pity is probably one of the things that truly irks me. I also NEVER share stories if they will bring others down. EVER.

I do answer questions though when people ask, even when they are beyond the realm of small talk. I should however precise that I will only ever divulge information that affects me personally and does not involve others. Why? Because I feel if people have the guts to ask sensitive questions, I should have the guts to share. BUT, and a large BUT, I will not share negative stories if all I can see in them is the negative. I have to find the light within the dark before I open that emotional space to others.

Example? My recent stillbirth. I simply bring this topic up because I constantly have people asking me what happened to  the baby. It was an incredibly difficult time for me to lose him at 23 weeks of pregnancy. His cause of death was the umbilical cord accidentally wrapping around his body blocking the circulation of oxygen and blood. It was an unfortunate incident that could not have been prevented. I can share this story without tears. And this truly perplexes many people, often leading to questions like “but how are you really feeling?”

I’m fine, I say. I was sad. Very very very sad. I cried a lot at first. But after a couple of weeks of being in this sully state, I came to think, how long will I keep crying?

And that’s when it came to me. I will keep crying until I decide I am done. And once I decide I am done, I really will be done. I will look for positives and will refocus my thoughts on good. It was unfortunate but nothing I could have done would have prevented the accident from occurring. So what will dwelling on it do? Nothing. It will simply hold me back. I believe in mourning and taking the time to grieve a loss and live in the moment of sadness. Be present to your feelings. Then, LET THEM GO.

That’s when I share my stories. When I am prepared to find the good. If I know I am in a state where I will be receptive to finding opportunities, I open up my little dark book and I share my stories. It is unbelievable how much our experiences, good or bad, connect us with others. Often we think nobody will be able to relate yet we are surprised by how many actually can.

This is why I absolutely love the work I do. I love writing. I love communicating. Our stories can touch so many. When I was prepared to talk about my loss, women from all walks of life began sharing their own stories. When I spoke about being unhappy in my workplace and my fear of quitting an incredibly “safe” job, people expressed their own stories of regret. They told me about the mutual feelings they shared and their inability to revisit their career choices due to many different circumstances including a mortgage, children, a collection of debt, etc.  By sharing those stories with me, these people offered me a new perspective. I was in a position where I could take financial risks. I had no dependents. I still have the ability to seek something I love.

What I love is sharing stories. Writing. Thinking creatively and pushing the limit. Engaging my community in issues I care about. And having my community communicate with me. We are a product of our experiences. Let’s own them and not sweep them under a rug.

Regards, a hard worker.

8 Sep

“The problem with youth these days is they can’t sit still in a position. They are moving up the career ladder too fast. Unlike in my days,” says an older woman I know. “When I was her age, I was the office binder B****. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t complain. I did it for years knowing one day I would be doing something else.”

YEARS? A Binder B**** for years? A tedious and probably mind-numbing job, this position requires a person to sit on the computer hitting print, punching holes, and preparing organized binders of briefing material executives can take with them to meetings. Now, sitting in a team leader type role, she sits around the lunch table criticizing the “youth” of my generation and commenting on our sense of entitlement and inability to appreciate the very fact of having a job. She judges and finds fault in the ambition of some of our mutual colleagues, my close friends, and probably me… indirectly, of course.

I sat there and listened, reflecting and not saying anything. This conversation that was taking place was not between her and I but with another a woman of her age group and level. In the past few years, I have heard this criticism over and over again by my older colleagues and acquaintances. Since when did ambition, higher education and a strong appetite for success become subjects of complaint? The young people of my generation who are moving up the corporate ladder are not simply getting these privileges handed down to them for free. They moved up based on merit. Most of those I know, including myself, have been promoted based on knowledge, competency, skill and a creative mind.

Yes, I’m sure in every organization there are a few bad apples that somehow made their way up simply by taking advantages of certain connections. But even then, can you fault them? In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about “Connectors” which he describes as “having a foot in so many different worlds, they have the effect of bringing them all together”. Some of the world’s most successful people made their way by maximizing on social skills and honing in on their personal connections. And, why not? It is not difficult to recognize a person that shines in the workplace. Someone who is always up for the task, regardless of the challenges it may present. The larger your network, the more people witness your talents and the more opportunities you open yourself up to.

Perhaps that’s the difference here. We Echo Boomers (or members of Generation Y) at an early age have been exposed to an advancement in technology that has allowed us to expand our social networks. We can connect with people across the world in seconds  allowing us to delve into a virtual space of shared knowledge and ideas. We are learning to brand ourselves and our stories in our formative years. We now have the opportunity to leverage an extended network of contacts that some of our baby boomer colleagues and Gen Xers did not have early in their career.

Times have changed and so have people. Schools are teaching us to think Big. Go after what you think might not be possible. Some of the greatest risks come with the greatest rewards. So, if you have the guts – DO IT. Who cares how old you are. If you think you have something to offer then go market the crap out of yourself. Let people know. Get online. Get challenged. Don’t accept mediocrity. Connect.

That’s why I decided to resign from my workplace. Leave a great position, great people and great salary. I want more and I know I can get it. I want to be creative. George Lois, a great advertising communicator once wrote, “there’s no such thing as a cautious creative”. Time to take some risks.

So to that woman who made those above-mentioned comments, Please don’t be Envious. If you want to move up, then prove yourself. Don’t just sit around a lunch table criticizing those who do.

Regards,

A hard worker

Picture Me Sunday

4 Sep

Just a quick note to say I hope it was great long weekend for everyone! I spent part of my weekend honing in on my beginner photography skills. My girl friend and great photographer, Julie Hahn, spent a good chunk of yesterday teaching me all about the many features of my new Nikon 3100 camera. We sat at Starbucks going over terms such as “shutter speed”, “aperture”, “ISO setting”, and “noise”.

After all the bla bla (good and insightful bla bla of course), I took my camera home to begin practicing some shots. Just getting your fingers used to the manual function and controlling the settings properly is not as easy as it seems. No wonder the AUTO feature exists for us amateurs!

Here are a few I took at home which showcase some of my redecorating projects I took on while off work after the baby.

My pillow project and new color scheme

Rug, table and lamp

My favorite chair

Bedroom – project incomplete

Our garden tenant… still waiting for him to pay his share for the prime real estate he occupies.

His little home under my shed.

What do you think so far?

The beauty in tragedy: a dedication to Norma Jean

31 Aug

People who know me, know that I love reading New York Magazine. I love the style and stand the authors of that magazine take on all aspects of society including politics, economics, real estate (specific to NYC of course) and pop culture. I don’t necessarily agree with all the articles, but what I do enjoy is the bold statements that are often made and the edgy vocabulary used to describe the most meaningless of topics. They can make talking about women eating their own placenta seem hip and cool.

But that’s beside the point of this post. I was recently doing my routine check of articles online when I discovered a piece highlighting the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death which is in fact this year. I love Marilyn. Not for her acting ability, which in my opinion is questionable although I know she worked hard to master her craft, but for her many imperfections which ironically makes her so beautiful and … well … Perfect in the way any human being can be. Her exterior beauty was certainly eye-catching, but the true allure to me is the complexities and irrationality of her reported emotional behavior and lifestyle.

Here was a woman who spent a great part of her life standing in the spot light. Followed by fans, media and adoring men, yet was consumed by loneliness. She made her way from a childhood of sexual abuse and foster homes to a world of wealth, power and blatant sexuality which she used to her benefit. And what’s wrong with that? During a post-war era that had women portrayed in aprons baking cookies and having children, here was a woman who put sexual freedom out in the open. She took the woman out of the kitchen and turned her into an icon of female empowerment.

I find her fascinating.

In a recent boozy debate over the meaning of life and how we deal with the personal challenges we are faced, a friend of mine said:

“Sabrina, happiness is simply a state of mind.”

I thought to myself, what a great choice of words. As I’ve often stated, life is simply a set of random circumstances. The meaning we associate to them is fully in our control. Happiness is not a bi-product of good fortune or good luck but simply in the way we interpret these random occurrences. It is the angle we choose to view life and how we want it to be.

In the context of Marilyn, some could say she had all the right circumstances in her adult life to keep her happy. And yet, for a woman who made such an impact in Western society and was adored by many, even to this day, she spent her life in a state of self-loathing. She wrote and wrote in an attempt to make sense of her life and emotions, yet she seemed to fall deeper and deeper into a dark place. Beyond her photos and movies, the words she put in journals is where I truly see her beauty. And I’m not referring to the great Marilyn Monroe, but the late Norma Jean – a woman full of strength who was defeated by her weaknesses. So in dedication to Norma Jean, here are some of my favorite excerpts from her writing published in Fragments: Poems, intimate notes, letters by Marilyn Monroe.

Fragments: Poems, intimate notes, letters by Marilyn Monroe

Fragments: Poems, intimate notes, letters by Marilyn Monroe

Fragments: Poems, intimate notes, letters by Marilyn Monroe

Life strikes AGAIN

28 Aug

Believe or not, life has struck again. Remember in a recent post I mentioned I had gotten into an accident with my new SUV?? And remember I mentioned that it was STILL at the auto body shop getting fixed?

This happened on July 27th. I had just left work and was on my way to my esthetician’s place, Maria, to get my eyebrows waxed. I’ve been going to see Maria for years… being around her is like second nature to me. Although one would think getting waxed would be a painful, even dreadful, experience, for me it is quite the opposite. I’ve been going to see Maria since I was at least 15 years old, when puberty had plagued my skinny body with black fuzzy hair leaving me with a solid uni-brow and a mustache a grown man would be proud of sporting.

Nonetheless, I was off to my monthly routine that day. I was in a happy mood: carefree, enjoying the summer heat and simply delighted to be ending a Friday on a good note. I was looking forward to the weekend ahead which I had planned on spending in Montreal to celebrate my girl friend’s bachelorette. All was good.

That’s when it happened. Right there, in the midst of my bliss, I get rear-ended. It was incredibly sudden. Too fast to even digest. By the time I heard the other car’s screeching tires, I was being flung forward, my head nearing the windshield when my seat belt locked me back in place, possibly saving my life. I heard the shatter of metal and glass. I saw the pearl bracelet Stevan gave to me on my birthday snap and pearls slipping off my wrist one by one.

I experienced an inexplicable wave of emotion in those few seconds. Relief? Anger? Sadness? Fear? I couldn’t comprehend. All I could think of was F***! F***! F***!!!!!!! I jumped out of the car, rage rushing through my veins. The driver of the other car steps out and shortly after, her 9-year-old son. Luckily, everyone escaped the incident uninjured but the cars didn’t have much of a chance. Hers was a complete right off. Mine had less damage but significant enough for it to still be in body shop getting fixed.

A few days post-accident, my brother dropped me off at a car rental company to temporarily replace the wheels I no longer had. After going through the normal process of filling out paperwork, checking the car for damages and getting the keys, I drove off. Part of me was anxious. How much bad luck could someone have in one year? Maybe I had met my quota for the year, I thought to myself. My mom would advise me to put a rosary in the car to protect me on the road. Should I put one in this car, even though it is just a rental? I decide it isn’t necessary, my car should be ready in no time.

Close to a month later, I am still driving the rental. Although it’s no Hyundai Santa Fe, I’m getting quite at ease with this replacement car. I’m comfortable taking it out for long drives, parallel parking it in tight spots, and giving it speed when needed. And sure enough, just as I begin to relax again behind the wheel, I get REAR-ENDED AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!

How could this be? In both cases, I have done NOTHING wrong. In both cases, I was waiting to turn left. The first time, I was waiting for traffic to subside so I can safely turn left. The second time I was waiting for pedestrians to cross. How could this be? In my 10 years of driving, I have never been in an accident. Now, in less than a month, I get hit twice!

I found myself on the verge of tears. Why were all these things happening? Was I the most unlucky girl ever? Or, was I the luckiest for coming out of these accidents unscathed? It reminded me of story I once read, about a man in Croatia who had escaped death 7 times. Now I’m not comparing myself to this man by any means, but here I was, faced with another set of random circumstances. Shitty as they may, some good did come out of it.

1. I wasn’t hurt in either situation, neither was my husband who was with me the first time.
2. My SUV was not a right off and is still being fixed.
3. I was driving the rental and not a newly repaired SUV during the second episode.
4. The first time around, the cars were so badly hit that they actually got stuck to each other. It took 3 hours, 2 tow trucks and two teams of firemen to pull them apart. The high light? The TWO TEAMS of FIREMEN of course!
5. I still managed to get my eyebrows waxed… I mean I was right there! 😉

My SUV and the car that hit me being pulled apart by the jaws of life!

Me with the rental… not as big of a deal this time around, but still annoying enough to ruin someone’s day.

Part 1 – Italy

21 Aug

I mentioned in my last post that I recently did a little travelling. It started off as therapeutic treatment to cure two broken hearts post the death of my baby. It was about two weeks after the tragic day, Stevan and I were sitting on the couch thinking of ways to cheer us up and get us out of our funk.

“Was there anything you wanted to do before the pregnancy? Something or somewhere perhaps?” he asked me. It took me less than a couple of seconds to answer that question, “Well, I want to get away… and I’d love if it were to Europe”.

I have had the opportunity to travel lots in the last few years, from South America over to Asia and back, but never had I stepped foot in any European country. I had dreams of walking up cobblestone streets in Florence, admiring high-end fashion in Milan and watching Flamenco shows in Barcelona. And so, we found a cheap deal flying from Toronto to Porto, Portugal and jumped on it.

Our backpacking adventures took us directly from Porto to Milan where we spent a few days. We visited some of the classic monuments like the Duomo of Milan, sipped on my all-time favorite drink Campari-Soda at 9 euros a glass, and visited a delicious little restaurant recommended to me by my girlfriend who studied in Milano called Bianco Latte .

Piadine Stracciatella

My meal at Bianco Latte: Piadine Stracciatella (crepe wrap stuffed with tomatoes, leafy greens and a cream-like cheese… goat cheese perhaps?)

Campari Soda

My signature drink, Campari Soda with a side of olives

Me in front of the Duomo

After a few days, we hopped on a train and made our way to Firenze (Florence). We hadn’t booked a place to stay here, so we walked through the town going in and out of hotels trying to find a place to accommodate us. We didn’t realize this at first, but apparently Madonna was in town that weekend and hotels were booked more so than the usual with people who were there for the concert. Finally, one kind gentleman who spoke a bit of French, told us he knew a lady who rented out rooms. “Casa Antonia”, he said. He gave us directions and off we went. Sure enough, 5 minutes later we stood buzzing at the front door of Ms. Antonia’s home. A very lively and jovial woman greeted us with a big smile, big hair and clearly a big heart. She had four bedrooms and only one of which was empty.

This turned out to be one of our best stays. Not only did Ms. Antonia greet us with a delicious breakfast everyday, but the room was spacious and clean and in the heart of all the action! We spent the days walking around eating gelato and the evenings savouring in delicious wine, fresh bread and bistecca alla Fiorentina (a massive piece of T-bone steak cooked rare, practically blue, but a signature meal apparently!). We would then walk around listening to musicians playing on the street, allowing ourselves (or myself at least – I think Stevan was watching Moroccan men sling shot neon lights into the air) get swallowed up by the sweet sound of the violin and drift into a world of romance and pure happiness.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Enjoying one of too many espressos in Florence.

We spent almost 3 days wandering around aimlessly, soaking in the extreme heat and beauty of Florence, before getting back on the train. This time, our destination was Rome. We met a lovely older couple on the train who spoke but a few words of English, and based on what we understood, they were world travelers, grandparents to five children, live in Napoli and love Canada.

What I found funny yet comforting somehow was the fact that people on the train (specifically in Italy) were so chatty among each other. Complete strangers would delve into long conversations, laughing and sharing snacks. Slowly more and more people would join in. It was as though a train full of strangers would transform into a group of friends travelling together for a short commute. Unfortunately for Stevan and I, we understood nothing, but were entertained by it nonetheless. Why are we so afraid of people here? Why do we want… and do anything for… solitude? I often see people go out of their way to put their bag, book, coat, whatever, on the seat next to them simply to prevent someone else from coming within close proximity. Perhaps what I saw on the train in Italy wasn’t the norm, but it sure was refreshing.

Finally, we arrived at Central Train Station in Rome and walked a short 10 minutes to our bed and breakfast. A quaint little place on the 4th floor of a building. For some reason, I was really looking forward to seeing the Trevi Fountain. After relaxing for a bit, we went on a mission to find it. According to our map, we were located a few steps away. We walked along the directions laid out for us until we came across a large fountain.

“Is this it?”, I asked Stevan. “Its a large fountain so must be it”, he responds. I was disappointed. Little did we know that Rome hosted a number of monumental fountains scattered across the city. After walking for hours and consulting our map, we came to the realization we had been nowhere near the Trevi Fountain. We eventually made our way, visiting many other popular sites including the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, several ancient ruins before we landed on the Trevi Fountain. It was beautiful. I closed my eyes, made a wish and tossed a coin into the fountain of dreams. I will be back.

The famous Trevi Fountain

When life hands you limes.

17 Aug

So I’ve been missing. Missing for a long time.

Truth is, my life has been anything but peaceful. In the past year, I can say I did a lot of maturing. Life kicked me in the ass, told me to grow up and pulled me out of my cocoon. However, to clear up any mis-interpretations, the lack of tranquility in my life is not a negative state of being. I went through happy events: buying our first home – buying an SUV (yes so adult-like of me) – travelling to Italy, Spain and Portugal with the hubby – getting my wedding planning certification – coordinating a full wedding for a client from start to finish… yup things were exciting. However, I have been struck by some misfortunes as well: miscarriage/stillbirth – car accident (my new SUV is STILL in the auto body shop getting repaired) – budgetary cuts at work forcing me to re-compete for my job (luckily I passed and position saved!)…!

As a girl friend of mine once said, “welcome to life Sabrina”. Yes indeed. Life has been nuts-o!

I am however, and forever will be, an eternal optimist. I was handed limes (no not lemons!) and turned those bad boys into delicious Key lime Cupcakes. Yummmmmmmm. And I am happy again.

My Key Lime Cupcakes