Thursday, July 17, 2014

Great Reads

For a while now I've been going through a bit of a rough patch.  Life has been stressful in almost all aspects, aside from family, which is a sweet relief.  I am back east visiting them this week in fact, and when I opened the car door and saw my mom, dad, and brother I broke down crying for a good few minutes.  They were shocked.  It's been a bit overwhelming in Chicago, trying to be happy.  it really shouldn't be so hard, but sometimes it is.  I've found some interesting articles that have given me some perspective or are just plain interesting.  I hope you enjoy and learn a few new things.

Wow, Psychology Today kind of blew my mind with this article about the fat in women's hips and why men love it so much as well as why it is so necessary for healthy, intelligent children.  Eternal Curves makes me proud of my body even more than before.  It talks about an interesting biological reason why men like certain body ratios on women and how the modern view of the stick thin model is not what men actually want (or women should unnaturally strive for for that matter).  It links the fat in women's hips to the amount of Omega-3 fats stored.  This fat is a signifier that when the woman has a child she will have plenty of Omega-3 fats to grow a big brain and an intelligent child.

On a fun and informative science website, this article about foods that prevent and cause cancer as made clear by the actual evidence. It is quite a nice read.  Short and sweet, it makes a good few points about keeping cancer prevention simple through healthy diet and lifestyle choices.

The Food Mood Connection is a nice little article identifying some great foods for lifting the mood and handling stress better. "So, if eating lots of refined carbs and sugar may exacerbate our responses to stress, are there other types of food that make us more resilient?"  This is the question posed to open the article, and it's a great one to ask. We all talk about avoiding stress causing foods and minimizing mood swings, but we don't often talk about maximizing mood stability, or focus, or or emotional wellbeing with food.  We talk about maximizing the iron or the protein in our food, but not what it can do for our mental state.

Secrets of the Creative Brain is a wonderful article that I've been afraid to even close due to fear of forgetting it.  It focuses on how creativity is correlated with mental illness and distress.  It sheds a lot of light on the creative mind and how to recognize it in yourself or in others.  One of my favorite quotations from the article:

"Having too many ideas can be dangerous. Part of what comes with seeing connections no one else sees is that not all of these connections actually exist."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fitness and Food so Far


When I restarted my Flirty Girl membership, I attended Abs and Booty and Beginner Belly Dancing.  Abs and Booty was a serious situation.  It forcefully handed my booty to me on a silver platter of sweat, fire, and controlled breathing.  If you want to be humbled and pushed take this class.  Oh my goodness.  The belly dancing was fine.  It was dance class, not really like the typical classes there, but it really worked my abs.  It's something I've always felt connected with, being arab and all, and my mom loves belly dancing.  So I had to try this class.  Since then I've taken some seriously difficult classes.  They really don't fool around here.  You might not take it seriously with a name like Flirty Girl Fitness.  It kind of makes you think of those girls at the gym with designer gym clothes, hair and make up done, and a cell phone in hand.  This is completely different.  Though there is an overlap in the designer work out gear.

Andrea from Edible Alchemy

In other news, I will be coordinating the food at Feastival, a wonderful annual event that raises money for a local food co-op called Edible Alchemy.  I've worked with them in the past for events and helping to do ordering with farmers for the weekly shares.  It's a great team of people and a unique experience.  The party uses mostly local ingredients and gets the party goers involved in education, play, and of course eating!  I'm really excited to be more involved this time.  I might even stay past 10:00PM!  Who knows!  It does go until sunrise....

Results of my dessert workshop

I do give private cooking classes and workshops here in Chicago too, so I'll be amping those up as summer continues.  My work as a waitress is no longer satisfying my financial needs unfortunately, not because my expenses have increased, but my income has decreased by about half.  I'd rather work there less regardless, but I'd rather earn money doing these kinds of events in place of waitressing.  This year will be a time for growth.  I'm excited about it.  Now everyone in my life understands where I am at and where I need to be it is easier to make the decisions I need to make.  It is the time for change and growth.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesdays are the BEST

It's been a crazy week somehow.  While I love a good challenge and hard work, when we have these 3 day weekends at the brunch restaurant, I just get wiped out.  Another reason why I would love to cook more and serve less.  Managing too, that'd be great.  I had a lovely daydream while I was on my bike yesterday and in it, my boyfriend won the lottery because of a ticket I got him as a silly gift and that allowed both of us to take some time off of work and I thought of what my life would be like if I won the lottery or someone close to me gave me a bunch of money.  It was a nice little daydream.  One I hope will come to be real in the nearer future.  Though, maybe not due to winning the lottery.

Now, my doctor has me on this no added sugar and no soy, dairy, or wheat diet, and I have been feeling much steadier with my energy levels.  I would think this is mostly due to the lack of sugar in my diet.  At the end of a busy day I still seem to be holding strong and am motivated to clean, or do another activity without feeling exhausted.  That feeling is so good.  I used to just come home and be able to do nothing more than sit on the couch and watch some Orange is the New Black, which I still do because it's awesome, but now I can go meet a friend or make a more interesting dinner!  What a treat.  I also seemed to have lost some weight in the form of body fat, which I won't complain about, but I have maintained my strength and muscle tone.  All the things I've been wanting for so long but just couldn't seem to muster on my own.  Thanks Dr.'s orders!

I love Wednesdays because I have my favorite yoga class at the studio by our new apartment with one of my favorite teachers.  AND it's the Green City Market in Lincoln Park!! Yay!  So I go and have breakfast on Wednesdays and enjoy the sounds of the people, the tastes of the fresh fruit!  It makes me so happy!  Some past pictures of farmer's market treats:

Savory Crepe from Abby's Crepes
The most streawberry-y strawberry eclair EVER!!!
This week also brought with it another visit to my lovely cooking client!  I go over to her apartment and teach her how to make tasty and healthy meals, and often random dishes she requests the day of for her friends.  On Monday she wanted fresh and summery, not too much food, and something as a peace offering to her angry friend.  And so, I have some pictures, but unfortunately not that many.  We started with Gazpatcho.  We made a more savory one with the basic ingredients and gave it a bit more kick with jalepeno.  Then we made a slightly sweeter one with watermelon added in instead of jalepeno.  We prepped some peppers for stuffed peppers, which I do not have pictures of after cooking, as I left before it was all done.

Then we made a delicious black bean salad, which I completely forgot to capture, but it was so good!  We used the dressing for the salad, which was a simple lime, cilantro, and olive oil, to marinade these little shrimps in.  Made some simple BBQ skewers and quickly cooked a couple to try right away.  The rest she was bringing over to her friend's grill along with the rest of the food.  It all turned out really great!  Now I'm off to the farmer's market!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Commitment to Fitness

Well hello again.  What a pleasure to see you so soon.  Part of my recommitment to myself and general pursuit of happiness is my recommitment to fitness.  I have always been quite active and one of the more muscular types.  I like to rough house, climb mountains, and be strong enough to beat most people at arm wrestling, it's a weird pride thing I've had since middle school.  So, compared to the average 26 year-old American lady, or Arab lady, I am fit.  BUT, I am not exceptionally fit by my standards.  I do understand the dangers of "by my standards" especially in the post-eating disorder world.  I showed you a picture of Ashley Horner yesterday and I stand by that picture and what she represents.  To me she represents hard work, commitment, and NO EXCUSES!  If you really want something, you can make it happen!  Just be happy and healthy about it.
On that note, I cannot seem to manage to get myself into the gym on these beautiful, or warm but not particularly gorgeous, days.  I want to play and be silly and, ideally, be outside.  La Fitness doesn't quite do that for me.  Also, and I know this isn't an excuse but it is a realistic psychological influence, the gym by my work is really run down and dark.  The gym by my new apartment is gorgeous and lovely and very affordable!  That gym also has a special partnership with the yoga studio I'm a member at.  So that shift is going to happen very soon.
A shift that already happened yesterday is that I committed to a Flirty in Thirty Challenge at Flirty Girl Fitness.  Flirty Girl has been one of my favorite "gyms" since I discovered it last summer.  It is all classes, though they do have a small weight and cardio room for special members.  They have dance classes galore as well as yoga, weights, and ballet style kick-your-butt classes.  The music is super upbeat and motivating and it's ALL WOMEN, which I really like.  Perhaps it is from my days at an all-girls summer camp, but I feel so much more free and comfortable when it's only women.  And so I had my butt handed to me last night and every minute of this morning has shown me new parts of my body that can feel sore.

Yes, these are my "Before" pictures.  I thought it would be fun to do a "Before & After" with these classes and my commitment to fitness.  It's harder to keep going when you don't see the results.  So this is my way of being accountable and showing myself that I can make changes.  One thing I haven't mentioned is that my new Dr. put me on a gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free, dairy-free diet.  I have some not-so-fun chronic body issues, and he said this might help.  The soy and dairy part is really no big deal as I don't really consume them regularly, but the sugar and gluten part is hard for me.  I have a sugar problem.  I'm actually on week 2 and have impressed myself thus far with my ability to say no.  I want to stick to it though so I can see if my issues go away.  I can feel myself flagging after 2 weeks.

Here is to commitment and remembering that putting yourself first is the best way to help those around you!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Ashley Horner
A while ago I read The Happiness Project.  A wonderful book by Gretchen Rubin about her interest in simply increasing her happiness and general satisfaction with her life.  One of the things she does is create an accountability chart.  Each month she has things to focus on like blogging consistently and she has to check off if she did it or not.  It hold her accountable to her self.  I did this for a month and it really worked, which is a miracle to this queen of inconsistency.  I was blogging regularly, dry-brushing, and I forget what else.  Recently, I've obviously not been on here much, but I have been speaking weekly with my brother about our progress with our goals.  It's been working wonderfully, just to have someone who knows where you're at and who is inspiring.  When we talk I always come out of the conversation feeling like I can do anything, which in fact I can, or I used to believe that.

I've also become a fan of Ashley Horner.  She's a single mom of 2 and is in amazing shape.  She is modeling and training people. She still plays and travels with her children.  How does she do it?  How do all of these amazingly accomplished people do it?  Do they put their relationships aside to do it, or do their relationships foster this kind of growth naturally?  How much time are they putting into their commitments?  Why am I not there?  Am I too distracted by socializing?  Is it actually possible for me to wake up feeling well-rested again?  Why don't I crave salads anymore like I used to?  Where did my yoga practice go?  Is this all part of being 20 something or is it just my iconic inconsistency.

King School Graduation
I remember being told by multiple teachers from middle school through high school that my one consistency is my inconsistency.  I still think about that.  I still see it being true.  I would score a C on one test and a week later score an A on the next one.  I was more of a B student in the end, until it was strongly implied that I was incapable of achieving high scores in school.  Then I buckled down and focused.  I worked HARD for years and committed.  I ended high school with a 4.0 and the year before I held high honor roll the entire year, 3.7+.  I want that focus again.  That hard working Lia that refused to just be Okay at everything.  But now, there is guilt to a greater level.  Guilt and anxiety caused by me? society? my relationship? my family? does it matter from where?

Courtesy of Kris Carr's Facebook
The thing to remember is that guilt and anxiety and FEAR do not serve anyone.  It is time to let go of it all and move forward.  I'm taking steps financially to open my own business in the semi-near future, but until then it is time to step it up.  I just turned 26 last week.  I've rounded the corner into what I view as the age when people start taking you seriously by default (I'm aware this isn't true, it's just my "real adult" number).  I've always had a complex of seeing myself as a kid, but now I can't.  I see myself as an adult.  And one of my strongest values?  Being fit as an adult.  Having a healthy diet CONSISTENTLY!  Working in an environment and job I love until I'm my own boss.  There really is no time better than right now.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Favorite Habits from Mommy

As much as I'd love to ramble on about how awesome and amazing my mom is, I thought it would be more fun for you and myself to think on some mommy influenced habits, preferences, and lessons learned.  Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Reading about psychology and self-help
  2. Lingering at coffee shops
  3. Loving Europe, especially coffee shops in Europe ;)
  4. Getting lost faster than your average directionally impaired person
  5. Maintaining logic and a fair amount of objectivity in emotional circumstances, usually
  6. Labneh and honey
  7. Listening to arabs talk
  8. Sharing clothes with my mom
  9. Never leaving the house in sweatpants, except in college a couple times....
  10. Staying active.  I credit my mom with the less rugged activity I enjoy and my dad with the more rugged
  11. That compliments are just as meaningful as insults, not meaningful at all.  The intentions, though, those are meaningful.  They don't reflect you, but the other person
  12. Day spas are good for the soul
  13. Money comes and goes and we'll be okay no matter
  14. There's a lot you can do with lentils
  15. The kitchen is a magical place
  16. Fresh bread is a miracle drug, or just a drug
  17. Observation first, calculated decisions second, action third
  18. The scientific method is just as applicable to relationships as it is to anything else
  19. You actually CAN choose how you react to something
  20. You can actually choose most things about yourself
  21. Making mistakes is a necessary part of life and nothing to be ashamed of.  If you don't learn, then be ashamed but also patient with yourself
  22. Take a joke
  23. Eat veggies!  And cake occasionally
  24. I love my mommy

Friday, May 9, 2014

Settling Dust

What a whirlwind it has been.  Looking back, these last 5 months have been nothing but change with a heavy sprinkling of chaos.  I'm glad May has arrived and my life seems to be settling down again.  Let's take a look back on this past winter, do some spring cleaning.


  • I found out my sister has been really really REALLY sick and took an awesome road trip with her from Chicago to Phoenix.
  • I decided I needed to change everything in my life and travel for at least a year to live life properly (aka freaked out)
  • I quit all my responsibilities and obligations as a result (continuation 1/4 life crisis)
  • Had my first Christmas away from my mom and dad
  • Lived with my dad's first wife and my sister for a month in beautiful Phoenix
  • Finally bonded and connected with my sister, taught cooking and food lessons, and fed them yummy food


  • Returned to Chicago for a month
  • Did not work, felt great
  • Tried to repair some of the damage done by my rash decisions, did not feel great
  • Got my first tattoo
  • Held my first weekly food workshop series


  • Went to Kenya
  • Saw amazing animals and visited "real Africa"
  • Reconnected with an old friend
  • Got slapped in the face with a different perspective
  • Realized I had been ungrateful and scared
  • Ate amazing food
  • Discovered some of my new favorite places (Lamu!)
  • Returned to Chicago


  • Reunited with the love of my life and Chicago my home
  • Decided to stay and work on myself instead of running away from my bad habits, which is itself a bad habit
  • Decided to be patient with growth and change instead of expect it to happen immediately
  • Decided to recommit to everything I loved about my life here
  • Roommate discovers and is bitten by bed bug
  • Return to my sister for divorce education in Wisconsin
  • Sister trip to warmer more relaxed climates, ending in Phoenix again
  • Harry gets on a plane and travels to see me (milestone)
  • Visit Antelope Canyon, Sedona, Grand Canyon, and ride a hot air balloon
  • Fell in love all over again
  • Returned to work at brunch restaurant


  • Temporarily moved in with Harry while bed bug situation is not smoothly dealt with
  • Unfortunate roommate tension flares
  • Lease terminated early
  • Harry and I find and move into a beautiful apartment together
  • Realized my stuff is bed bug free (relief)


  • Hired as a personal chef
  • Finally did a pull up
  • Moderately broke but exceptionally satisfied!