Tag Archives: week of love challenge

Last Day of WOL + Chocolate Covered Strawberries [recipe]

15 Feb

Good morning, world! It’s Friday and I am so grateful.

Stefano and I had a very nice, low-key Valentine’s day celebration, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

IMG_2040[1]We ended up having southwestern-style stuffed bell peppers (recipe next week) and a big ol’ salad.


We exchanged cards and had some lovely conversation, but we were basically just waiting until we could get to these:

IMG_2042[1]I decided to try my hand at chocolate covered strawberries because I don’t think I’ve ever even had one and I know I’ve never made them. Luckily, it turned out to be pretty straightforward.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Makes 12 strawberries


  • 1 dozen strawberries
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, doesn’t matter!)
  • Optional: shredded coconut or other toppings to sprinkle on.
  1. First I washed and dried the strawberries and laid them on a cookie sheet that was covered with parchment paper.
  2. I put a big pot of water on the stove, then made a make-shift double boiler by putting a glass bowl inside and turning the heat up to medium.
  3. After added the chocolate chips to the double boiler, I made sure to stir frequently and keep a close eye on the melting status. Pro-tip: Be sure not to get any water inside the bowl – it will totally ruin the consistency of the chocolate.
  4. As soon as the chocolate was melted through, I turned the heat down to low (make sure you don’t burn the chocolate) and started dipping away.
  5. After placing the chocolate-dipped strawberries on the tray, I sprinkled some shredded coconut on each strawberry (you want to do this while the chocolate is still hot so it will stick!).
  6. Once I finished dipping and topping the strawberries, I popped the whole tray in the fridge and sat down for dinner. By the time we had finished eating, the chocolate had hardened and those little babies were ready to eat!

This is such an easy yet indulgent treat and you can make as few or as many as you want – the recipe is totally flexible.

Since today is Friday, it is the last day of the Week of Love Challenge. Sad days! I was enjoying making the conscious decision to express my love to the people I care about. Today’s challenge is to remind us that we are all connected to each other and it is up to us to care for the people all around us. Therefore, I present to you the Random Act of Kindness Challenge!


Can’t wait to hear about the wonderful RAKs you do today!

This weekend I have so many things to look forward to. Tonight is a birthday dinner for my friend Ellen at Ardeo Bardeo. I have been there for brunch before, but this will be my first time for dinner. Then on Saturday, I am going to bust a move or two at a Zumba party with Allison! The event is being put on by Vida, one of the gyms in DC and is taking place from 5-7 PM at the U Street Music Hall. DMV-ers, come join the party (and after party)! I’m sure I am going to look ridiculous, but it’s going to be amazing.

On Sunday I have to prepare for the arrival of a special guest. My friend Lars is visiting the US for the very first time from Germany and will be hanging out with me until Wednesday. I am so excited to show him around, but I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to make sure I help give a good impression 🙂 I have plenty of day-time ideas, but if anybody from the area wants to recommend places to go/things to do in the evenings, I am totally open to suggestions.

Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? Spill!

Wishing you the happiest of weekends – I love you guys!

WOL Day 4 + A Valentine’s Day Surprise

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m so happy to have all you dear readers in my life, so I want to send you all a huge hug and all my love. 

fbstefFacebook wanted to make sure I was sending my love, too. Has anyone noticed the massive increase in ads on that site recently? It’s getting a little crazy.

IMG_2033[1]Last night I came home to a Valentine’s Day surprise of my own. Somebody had sent me flowers! I was very confused, because I figured if Stef were going to do it then he would just bring them himself and save himself the shipping/delivery costs. However, when I opened up the box, I was so happy to see that they were from my lovely mother and had a very sweet note attached. I just adore her!

IMG_2035[1]They are a perfect way to brighten up the room and all the beautiful colors remind me that spring is just around the corner. Thank you, Mommy!

As you might remember from earlier this week, Valentine’s Day is my very favorite holiday. People go on and on about how you should express your love to the people you care about all year round and not on some designated holiday, but guess what? We’re all human and sometimes life gets in the way and it’s nice to have a reminder that we should appreciate our loved ones a little more. Just call me Sara Hallmark.

SO. Today is the big day, which means there is most definitely a Week of Love Challenge ready for everybody. This one is focused on your significant other, if you have one. If not, no matter! Make this one all about you, because you’re worth it.

WOLThursStefano doesn’t have work tomorrow, so we can actually have a celebration tonight. We don’t usually make a huge deal out of Valentine’s day, seeing as it directly follows Christmas and our anniversary and precedes Stefano’s birthday in March. Usually we’re all gifted out, so we either go out to dinner or stay in and make a nice dinner ourselves. This year will be the latter and I’m looking forward to actually sitting down and having a nice leisurely meal over some good conversation.

This will be our sixth Valentine’s day together and I still remember our very first one. We had only been together for about a month and I remember being extremely nervous – we were still at that stage where any silences were awkward and we were kind of uncomfortable being alone. Stef picked me up from my house and we drove downtown to a fabulous pizzeria (which has since closed). He was so excited to introduce me to “real Italian pizza”. Some of you may know this, but Stefano is half-Italian and has much of his extended family still living in Italy, making him a self-proclaimed pizza expert.

This was my first taste of thin-crusted, Italian pizza and also probably sparked my interest in all things Italian. The dinner itself was enjoyable, but the most memorable part of the evening was getting lost on our way back home. At one point, we were trying to get directions from his dad and he drove down a one-way street in the opposite direction. After nearly driving into an oncoming car and a brief panic attack, we laughed about it the whole way home. It was at that moment I realized that talking to him was as easy as breathing and I had no reason to feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. Since then, silence in conversation is a rare occurrence between the two of us, but when it happens it is comforting rather than awkward.

Even before 2007, Valentine’s Day has always been my favorite. I think it started in elementary school when the day was all about making cards and sharing candy with my classmates. The good valentines were the ones with fun sized candy bars, we always threw away the cards that were just writing – no sweets included. It was so much fun to decorate my valentine “mailbox” and hunt through the fun cartoon cards I would receive. My favorites were the Disney princess-themed cards because I was all about Jasmine.


I don’t remember ever feeling left out of the day because I didn’t have a boyfriend, because I never really considered the holiday a romantic one. My friends and I shared valentines and ate candy and sent each other flower-grams in high school, so it was all about celebrating love between friends and family.

If you don’t want to celebrate and hate the holiday in general, you could always take a page out of Jessica Biel’s book and throw an anti-Valentine’s Day party.


I saw let’s spread the love and embrace the fact that it’s perfectly acceptable to eat candy for breakfast. Also, consider it a pre-celebration of how cheap chocolate will be tomorrow. Which is fine because chocolate is good for you, right?

Have a wonderful day, lots of love to you all!

Food for Thought: What are your thoughts on the big V-Day? Love it, hate it, or couldn’t care less?

Inside My Snack Drawer + WOL Day 3

13 Feb

It’s hump day, everybody! Halfway through the week before a much needed long weekend.

Can you believe Valentine’s Day is tomorrow??? I feel like every single holiday is sneaking up on me and I’m so not prepared. I am hoping to get crafty this evening and make some goody bags for some loved ones in the area. Next year I want to be more on the ball and send them to all my friends – even those in faraway places.

So today I want to talk about one of my favorite food places: the snack drawer at my desk. As most of you know, I pack my lunch every day and always include snacks for the mid-afternoon slump between lunch and the end of the work day. I’m generally pretty good about estimating the amount of food I will want, but some days my appetite is out of control and my stomach just feels like a black hole. Enter, the snack drawer.

IMG_2027[1]My office has a basket of snacks that will appear occasionally in the kitchen and my gym often has different kinds of bars at the front entrance. I take those times to add to my snack drawer and I don’t think I have ever actually bought any of snacks. As you can see, I have an assortment of bars, as well as my very favorite Nut & Chocolate trail mix from Planter’s. I like to keep my snack drawer full of things that have lots of protein so they’ll fill me up and power me through the rest of the work day and my gym time before I can get home for dinner.

The other day, I tried Zone’s Perfectly Simple bar for the first time.


This is from the makers of ZonePerfect protein bars. The idea behind Perfectly Simple is using fewer, all-natural ingredients. Here’s a look at the data:

Serving Size: 45 g bar
Calories: 170
Fat: 4 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 8 g
Sugar: 19 g
I like that there’s a good 10 grams of protein in there, but 19 grams of sugar? For a 45 gram bar, that makes 42% of this baby sugar. Luckily, all of it is fruit-based, as the ingredients include Soy Protein Isolate, Apple Juice Concentrate, Sweetened Dried Cranberries, Date Paste, Roasted Almonds, Dried Pomegranate Seeds, and Cinnamon Powder. I like that there’s no added sugar (except to sweeten the cranberries).
I thought the taste was pretty good, though I don’t think I will ever get over the grittiness of protein in these bars. Just not a fan.
The verdict? With a couple grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein, it did a good job of filling me up until I was home to make dinner, but I still prefer whole foods, like an apple with some peanut butter, over a bar.
Do you have a snack drawer where you work? Which kinds of foods do you like to keep stashed for emergencies?
One mini meal I have been really into is an open-faced sandwich with a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese and some slices of smoked salmon.
IMG_2029[1]I nom’d on that as an evening snack while watching the State of the Union. Did anyone else watch it? My favorite part of it was Joe Biden’s tie.
joebidentieLOVE that purple.
Politics aside, there was a line of President Obama’s speech that really stood out to me and inspired today’s Week of Love Challenge.
Preach, Barry, preach.
When talking about raising children, the focus of parenting is often on the mother. For a long time, this was because mothers did (and still do) spend the most time caring for children. However, father figures are so important in a child’s life. Be it a biological or stepfather, an uncle, or even a beloved coach, having an important man in your life is crucial. Like female role models, male role models set an example for what it means to be an upstanding citizen who plays a positive role in their community.
My dad has always treated me like I am capable of anything. I was a fearless child growing up and he never held me back from trying new things because I was a girl. If I wanted to play soccer, he made sure that he practiced with me and didn’t go easy. When I wanted to study Arabic, he was always there to help me understand concepts that were difficult to understand. He is a fierce advocate for me as a career and education-minded woman.
Coming from his background, this could be a big surprise. My dad is Egyptian and is the only person in his family to live outside of Egypt. As many people know, the culture surrounding women there is generally not what it is in Western countries. All of my female relatives married young, had multiple children, and didn’t work. Many of them never reached higher than an elementary sch0ol education. Every time I visit, I am asked when I am getting married and starting a family, which is practically unheard of for a 23-year-old in the States, but very common practice back in Egypt.
Still, my father has always valued my desire for higher education and has never once suggested that I should be more focused on domestic life. He supports me in everything I do and pushes me to challenge myself by encouraging me to apply for a job or to look at graduate programs. As far as he’s concerned, I can do anything just as well, if not better than my male counterpart.
As a result, I have grown up with self-confidence and an assuredness that I can do anything I set my mind to.
So let’s give it up for the dads, grandfathers, husbands, uncles, stepfathers, teachers, coaches, and other male role models that play such an important part in our lives. Like yesterday’s challenge, this could mean anything from sending them a heartfelt email or posting a sticky note on the mirror in their bathroom to remind them how much they are loved.

WOL Challenge Day 2 + [Recipe]

12 Feb

Good morning loves! How did day one of the Week of Love Challenge turn out for you? I got some wonderful feedback from people about how it was helpful for them and it put a big ol’ smile on my face. I won’t deny that my eyes started to tear up when reading Allison’s blog this morning. If this week helps even one person, then I feel like it is a huge success.

You ready for day 2? Today is about honoring the female presence in your life. Being constantly bombarded with celebrities, models, and other female examples in the media, it is difficult to focus on the women who matter; the women in your life who cheer you on, build you up, and catch you when you fall.


via Pinterest

This could be your mother, your sister, your aunt, your cousin, your best friend. Is there a woman who helps you be the best you? Let her know! It could be something as simple as a phone call, email, or text message. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could get crafty and create a care package for them to remind them how much they inspire you to be better.

WeekOfLoveTueI am fortunate to have so many strong, wonderful women in my life. My mother, grandma, and aunt are such strong role models and my close girlfriends are forces to be reckoned with! I know that life gets busy and they don’t get upset if they don’t hear from me in awhile, but life is short and if you love somebody, don’t hesitate to tell them – not even for a moment. No matter how small, I am sure that they well appreciate any sweet gesture you make.

Speaking of sweet…I promised you all that I would have a recipe for you and I do! This is for basbousa, which is a Mediterranean dessert. I know it to be Egyptian, but I know that Turks and Greeks and even other Arabs have different names for the same thing. It has already appeared on the blog, but I didn’t include a recipe the previous time. After making it twice and having positive feedback both times, I figured it was time to share the recipe. A lot of my American friends say it reminds them of a honey-drenched corn bread.



Serves 12

For the cake

  • 2 cups fine semolina
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • Almonds for decoration (optional)

For the syrup:

  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (or orange blossom water, if you have it on hand)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  1. Preheat the oven to 345 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients.  Add in the melted butter and milk and stir until well combined.
  3. Put in this mixture into a buttered, shallow medium sized oven proof dish.
  4. Bake golden brown on the top and edges, about 40 minutes.
  5. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup by dissolving the sugar a saucepan with hot water.
  6. Increase the heat to medium and then bring the mixture to a vigorous boil and cook until it coats the back of a spoon like a syrup.
  7. Stir in the lemon juice or orange blossom water and allow to cool.
  8. As it’s cooling, mix in the hone.y
  9. Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes and then cut it into squares or diamonds (I can never figure out the diamond shape). Carefully pour the syrup over the cake. It looks like a lot of syrup, but the cake will absorb all the syrup, leaving it nice and moist. This might take a couple of hours (I usually leave it overnight). Optional: Add one almond to each slice for decoration.

IMG_2030[1]Have a wonderful Tuesday, beautiful people! Don’t forget to share what you’re doing for the week of love challenge – share the love!

Week of Love Challenge

11 Feb

Happy Monday! I had a wonderful weekend – the sun was out and it was beautiful in Washington (hope all of you in the Northeast are safe and have your power!).

I got a little workout in…

IMG_2022[1]Ate some tasty food while indulging in some reading material…

IMG_2024[1]Do you love Zooey Deschanel as much as I do? I think she’s just fabulous.

I also got into the kitchen and did some baking – recipe to come tomorrow! Let’s just say it’s sweet, delicious, and not at ALL good for you.

I’m really looking forward to this week because Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. Scoff all you want, but what is better than a holiday that reminds you to love your friends, family, and/or significant other? I think we could all use a reminder now and then, even it is triggered by a Hallmark holiday.

vdayStef doesn’t have work on Friday, so we’re going to make ourselves a really nice dinner on Thursday night. I prefer cooking with him than going out on a day when restaurants are totally packed with couples and everything feel very rushed. I’m also planning on getting crafty and making some Valentine’s day goody bags for my roommates – gotta share the love.

Since we’re in the week of love, I decided that this week’s motivation should be about loving your body, since the most important person to love is yourself. Before you can have a meaningful relationship with anybody else, you have to first have a good relationship with yourself.

A lot of these photos were taken from NOW’s Love Your Body Campaign, which occurs every year.

2008_soulbody cat3-card cat3-2012-card

A different way to look at priorities:

BodyHeart is another great group that helps promote healthy body image through one-on-one coaching and group coaching. Here’s an interview with the founder, Amber Krzys, who talks about loving your body and yourself all the time.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day and in honor of loving yourself and your body, I’m challenging my dear readers to take this week as an opportunity to express love for your family, your significant other, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors – whomever! But, as always, loving yourself is first. We are going to start off the week with this challenge:

WeekofLoveMonI find that mirrors are the most prime opportunity for people to feel bad about themselves. They take the time to pick out things they don’t like, features they wish they could change. This time, we’re turning the tables. Every time you see your reflection today, I want you to remind yourself of the traits you like about yourself. They don’t have to be physical features, though they definitely can be! I want to see how you feel by the end of the day.

Please share with friends and family, so they can spread the love as well. As always, you know how to reach me 🙂

Have a wonderful start to the week of love!

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