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Jul
08
2014

Join us for The Happy Detox Breakfast Challenge!

The Happy Detox Breakfast Challenge

Good morning dear friends!

How have you been?

I’m very happy and excited today because I get to bring you something that my dear friend Claire Stone and I have been working on for some time: The Happy Detox Breakfast Challenge!

Now of course you may be wondering:

A Happy Detox? A Breakfast Challenge? What is  this all about?

You may also be wondering whether I went mad during my vacations and if that’s why I’m using the words happy and detox in the same sentence, but I promise you that’s not the case.

You see, Claire and I love food (we even built careers around it!). We love all food, but to be honest, we love a liiiite bit more the type of food that makes us feel amazing, the kind of food that gives us energy for hours. And energy is such an important thing to have during the Summer, because the days are longer.

Summer makes us want to squeeze as much sun and goodness out of every day as possible.

Summer inspires us to live fully and we believe that eating tasty food is part of a full life. Kate Moss may think that ” Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels“, but we beg to disagree.

Eating should be fun, easy and enjoyable- but it can’t be so when we are stressing out about what we should be eating, what we shouldn’t be eating or about the way we look.

We believe the equation  is simple: + energy – stress = happier YOU! (And happier me too!), and in order to help you achieve this we came up with this very, very simple challenge that has the power to make you feel better, give you loads of energy and kick start healthy habits!

Are you in? Great, we were hoping you would be!

Here is how this will work:

The Happy Detox Breaklfast Challenge will take place during 5 days and 5 days only: from Monday July 14th, to Friday July 18th.

During those 5 days all you will need to do is change your usual breakfasts for the ones we suggest. We will provide you with a printable shopping list when you sign up, and you will receive the recipes on the day before to the one they correspond, so that you can prepare whatever needs to be prepared. You will also receive 5 emails full of encouragement, and will have access to a closed, private facebook group where we will be providing support,answering doubts and cheering you all the way.

Oh, and did I mention that all this is FREE??

Yes. It’s true. Totally and completely free of charge. 

REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHEN THE NEXT DETOX WILL TAKE PLACE, SUBSCRIBE IN THE BOX BELOW THIS POST

 

Have some questions? We have answers!

1- Why should I join this challenge? Well, we called it a challenge because we wanted to make it exciting. To be fair, we could have just called it ‘try five nice recipes for breakfast for a week – here they are’ but that really doesn’t sound, and feel, very exciting or inspiring. Doing a challenge means you have the support of other people doing it too, and you know it’s not forever. It is just for a few days, and you can go back to boxed cereal on day 6, if you decide to. Five days of lovely, tasty, fresh breakfasts will give you a shed load of zing, will fill you up and help reduce your sugar dip later on, meaning that you may well skip the mid-morning biscuits without even noticing. You might even find yourself looking brighter and pooping better – who doesn’t want that?

2- Will I be able to eat? But of course. Eating is very much what breakfast is all about. This Challenge is just a fun way to get you thinking about breakfast differently. You might feel inspired to detoxify the rest of your meals for the week (in which case, check out Claire’s Detox) or you might not. And that is totally up to you. We just want you to eat a really lovely summery breakfast every day for a week.

3- Why only one detox meal a day? Great question, and the answer is simple. Trying to start a new way of eating can be tricky. If you go full-on into a new diet/healthy eating regime, chances are quite high that you’ll end up missing chocolate too much, and will break down and go on a chocolate frenzy. But, do it with little baby steps, and you are much more likely to enjoy it, stick with it, and feel the benefit.

4- Why breakfast? Ahhh, because breakfast is both easy and hard. Easy, because you generally eat it at home so in theory, it’s the meal that you have most control over, and hard because it’s one big old habitual meal that seems to have been the same forever. You’ve probably been having your puffs since you were a kid, and rarely think that you might be able to have something else instead.

5- Will this help me lose weight? It might do. It might not. Swapping sugary cereal for something seasonal will certainly help reduce cravings for snacks later on and will fill you up with goodness instead of rubbish, so potentially it might help shave off the odd pound or two. (Ignore this though if you intend to eat loads of cakes and biscuits later on in the day as a reward for eating a good brekkie!)

6- I need something more, what can I do? Well, that depends on what ‘more’ you want. If you just mean you want more food, go ahead and eat more. Nothing better than a bigger breakfast to fill you up. If you mean that you want more TASTY GOODNESS in your life, we suggest that you join Claire’s  Power Up Five Day Summer Detox, which basically takes things to the next level in terms of feeling fab, eating brilliantly and getting the very best out of the Summer foods around.We do recommend, however, that you  wait until the end of this fab challenge before jumping on in. This Challenge will set you up perfectly for Claire’s proper Detox (still with loads of foods, of course) because you will be used to planning, you will be all pumped up by having stuck to your initial smaller commitment, and you will be (hopefully) happier by having  seen the benefits that detoxing even in smaller amounts can have on you.

The Happy Detox Breakfast Challenge

So, are you ready? Let’s do this together!

Here’s how this challenge will work: 

1- First, you need to register by signing in in the form below.

2- After you register, go to your inbox and click on the confirmation email so that we can send you the emails

3- Immediately after you confirm, you will receive an email welcoming you to the challenge, containing a link to the downloadable shopping list, and giving you access to the facebook group. We have also included a bonus recipe to help you prepare.

4- Take the shopping list and go get your fridge and pantry plenty of goodies!

5- On Sunday evening, you will receive an email with the recipe for Monday morning

6- Every day, for the duration of the challenge (from Monday to Friday), you will receive an email full of good vibes and support, and the recipe for the next day.

REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHEN THE NEXT DETOX WILL TAKE PLACE, SUBSCRIBE IN THE BOX BELOW THIS POST

NOTE: I am NOT an affiliate of Claire’s detox. I have been doing them every season since Spring 2012 and I love them, which is why I recommend them. But I make no money whatsoever if you buy it and I wanted to make that clear.

May
21
2014

Behind the scenes of a product photoshoot-Batty’s bath

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How many times have you looked at a photo, in an ad, in a magazine and wondered how it was taken?

Have you ever wondered how much work goes behind a photograph- or whether it’s as easy as pressing the camera shutter and getting lucky with the light? 

I know I have. Before becoming a photographer I used to spend hours going through magazines, marveling at every photo, wondering how they had brought the products or the food to life: ” Did the use flash? Did they have those amazing studio lights I always see in backstage videos? And how did they get those colors right? What kind of camera does that photographer use and why did he chose it? Which lens is she using and how does that choice affect the final product? Why did they chose this styling? Why was the product placed in this way? Who is this photo targeting as a customer? ” It was never enough for me to look at a photo and think ” oh that’s pretty”, my nerdy brain needed to know what was behind the photographer’s every choice.  It is perhaps only logical, then, that I became a photographer myself- curiosity led me here.

And something tells me that you are curious too.

I know because my most liked photos on instagram are the real ones, that show life as is, and because when Mayi Carles posted a cellphone pic I sent her via whatsapp of the backstage of the photoshoot of  Life is Messy Kitchen’s cover, her feed went bananas.  Behind the scenes photos humanize us, don’t you think? They show us that with hard work, dedication and a couple of tools, we can all create beautiful things.

So, in this spirit, I decided to show you the behind the scenes of a product photoshoot I did recently for Batty’s bath, an organic skin care company from Canada. You won’t see any flashy equipment, or dozens of people, or a big studio or special effects, mind you…but you will see the very artisanal way in which I work and I hope you will like it.

Behind-the-scenes-blog

 Jamie (a.k.a Batty) contacted me at the beginning of the year to photograph a new line of acne products she was developing. We sent some emails back and forth, she filled some styling questionnaires that  I send to all my clients and then, in order to get a better idea of exactly what she was looking for, I created a pinterest board where we could both add ideas and discuss them until finding the perfect one. I also offered Jamie to do a test shot, so that she could make sure that I had in fact understood her vision before shipping her products from so far away.

elements

I took the test shots on a cold winter morning, while my mother (who was visiting us in Cyprus) took care of Luka and Zoe. The photos were to be taken in a natural setting so I depended on the weather, and had to postpone the shoot twice due to the rain. So, the first day of Sun, I bought a flower bouquet and, the day after, ran to the nearby park as soon as the sun rose.

I took the photos with curious joggers stopping to see what I was doing, and amid  sleepy students walking by the park to get to the nearby school. I lied on the grass, ran away from sprinklers and changed the products’s styling about a gazillion times.And after a couple of hours, I was done.

I sent the photos to Jamie, who loved them, we signed a contract and I waited for the products to arrive.

behind-the-scenes-park

Jamie sent her products beautifully packed, with utmost care and I was so happy when they arrived! I immediately selected fresh flowers for a bouquet, arranged a babysitter, and prepared everything I needed, which included:

- The camera (I use a Canon 7D), with fully charged battery (and a spare one)

- A 50mm lens and a macro lens (70-300)

- Light diffusers (one big, one small) and clamps to hold them in place

- My trustworthy and super flexible tripod

- Foam boards, to bounce light

-The flower bouquet, tied with a purple ribbon to match Batty’s bath labels

- The products, packed separately to preserve them

- A shot list, with diagrams and notes of how I wanted the photos to look.

 

shooting-2-blog

 I arrived at the park at 6:30 am, waited for the first sprinklers to go off and then found a spot where the sun wouldn’t hit too hard for at least a couple of hours. This was easy because I had already gone to the park a couple of times to study the light, so I knew where to position myself. Still, I couldn’t avoid having to diffuse light, as you can see from the photos below.

shooting-3

 

shooting-4

The photoshoot, of all 5 products, took a total of 3 hours, and then it was time to get home to edit the pictures, which took several hours more… All in all, between prep time, shooting and post production, it all took approximately 15 hours of work.

shooting-blog

shooting-blog1

Here are some of the final photographs. You can see the rest of them at Jamie’s shop, Batty’s bath.

Batty's bath photoshoot-behind the scenes

 

Batty's bath photoshoot-behind the scenes

 

Batty's bath photoshoot-behind the scenes

Batty's bath photoshoot-behind the scenes

Have you ever hired a photographer to photograph your products or do you do it yourself? Tell me in the comments below!

May
14
2014

Thrive: my word for 2014

Choosing a word for the year is a powerful thing, a life altering experience that I can only recommend.

At the beginning of 2013, I wrote a blog post about how my word for 2012 (Integrate) helped me cope with the series of curve balls that the year threw at us, how it helped me become whole again after feeling that my brain, heart and soul had been shattered. You see, 2012 was the year when Luka and Zoe were assessed for Special Needs and were found to have developmental delays requiring Speech and Occupational therapy, as well as Sensory issues. 2012  was the year when and we had to learn not only how to help them but also how to deal with our own pain and confusion in the process and how to advocate effectively  for them before schools who were fearful and, thus, reluctant to  adapt as recommended by the children’s therapists. (It is both an irony and a lucky event that I have a postgraduate degree in Human Rights Law).

2012 went by and made us stronger. And even though we were still very much in survival mode when 2013 arrived, I was ready to move forward from the pain and welcome a new stage in our lives. I was tired of feeling sad and, so,  Forward was my word for last year, and forward I moved. Not because things were easier, but because when they were not, I was reminded by the mere whisper of my word that getting stuck in the bad was ultimately a choice: a choice I decided to reject. From old school, to new school, to homeschooling, from letting go of my old career to embracing a new one, from paralyzing fear to the courage to jump into the unknown with nothing but faith: every decision was marked by a deep desire to progress and let the past behind.

December came and I felt in me the need to release the old one, and chose another word. I knew I wanted to go one step further this time: I didn’t just want to move forward, I wanted the movement to be positive, I wanted to grow. This year, I wanted to go deeper, and put some thought into making my word a reality, and so I got Leonie Dawson’ s ” Create your Amazing Year” workbook and planner an,  one cold day of  January, I spent a morning at a cafe connecting to myself, dreaming and planning.

Thrive

 

Dreaming…If you have been through a crisis of any kind you certainly know how difficult, almost impossible it seems to dream and how liberating it can be when we are finally able to do it again.  When I sat down at that cafe earlier this year and started planning 2014 and dreams and hopes started coming out of me, I felt reborn.

Thrive

And in that moment I knew what my word for this year had to be:  Thrive

THRIVE

This year I want to wave a gracious goodbye to the past, without regrets or ill feelings of any kind. Forgiveness is, for that reason, a big part of my year.

This year I want to love deeply- and this includes learning to love myself, a task at which me and my inner self critic have always had a very hard time. For this reason, this year I am committing to self-care without shame or blame. I want kindness to be at the center of my relationship with me, for the first time in my life.

This year I want to prosper. For this reason, I am committed to working on my money blocks and on overcoming my scarcity mentality. I want to feel (not just know) the Universe as expansive and abundant.

This year I want to learn new things and to share what I learn.

This year, I want to flourish and help others do the same.

Why am I telling you this in May? Because I will turn 38 years old in 17 days. Because any day is a good day to start living with intention. Because it’s never too late to dream again.

What are YOUR dreams for 2014? What are you hoping to leave behind and what are you hoping to embrace in the next 7 months? 

Tell me in the comments below and let’s find a way, together, to make those wishes come true!

Apr
23
2014

Banana walnut bread {gluten free, vegan, sugar free}

 

banana-walnut-bread_4blog

 Today was a crazy day.

You know, those days when you plan to do this one thing and be finished by 10 am and then life gets in the way and suddenly it’s 10 pm and the one little thing is still lingering in your to do list and you could almost swear that it’s giving you the look and  saying ” Hey, weren’t you supposed to take care of me 12 hours ago?”

 Today was one of those days and this blog post is that one little thing.

banana-walnut-breadblog

 

 

I had baked this banana bread early in the morning, and let it to cool down while I prepared my studio. I don’t know whether I had mentioned this before, but I have a mobile studio, that, due to lack of space, I set up here and there so it takes a while and a few trips back and forth to the kitchen until everything is quite like I like it. So today, I followed my routine and when  I was just getting ready to start shooting, the phone started ringing, someone knocked at the door, the cat jumped on the table, the kids had a fight…and a 15 minutes photo shoot took 2 hours.

It’s life, it happens.

I took the pictures. I downloaded them to my computer.I edited them.

And then my website crashed.

I called the host, I tried to access it a million times, I wrote the post in word, I checked again and again and again and nothing. Until 9pm.

banana-walnut-bread_3blog

 

 

So, with a little bit of delay, and the patience to accept that which I cannot control, here’s the recipe!

Banana walnut bread

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds, 9 tablespoons of water, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup vegetable milk (soy, almond, rice, oat-whichever is your favorite),  1/2 cup barley flour (or other gluten free flour), 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3 ripe bananas, 3/4 cup walnuts (coarsely chopped).

Preparation:

1)Pre-heat the oven to 180C-375 F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

2) Mix ground flaxseeds with water and set aside for a few minutes, to let them integrate

3) Mix seeds, oil and milk and whisk until smooth.

4) Sift flour and baking powder and add to the liquid ingredients.

5) Mash the bananas and add them to the rest of the preparation, together with the walnuts

6) Pour the dough into the loaf pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon, and place it in the oven for about 45 minutes (or until a stick comes out clean when inserted in the middle)

7) Remove the loaf from the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes, then invert into a wire rack for it to cool down completely.

Have you had crazy days like this? Let me know in the comments below!

banana-walnut-bread_2blog

 

One more important thing before you go!

My friend Denise Duffield-Thomas of Lucky Bitch has just released a crazy mega bundle of her newest manifesting tools.

Denise is a money coach, and she is amazing. I bought her book, Get Rich Lucky Bitch last January and I had so many A-HA moments while reading it that I enrolled in her bootcamp too.

Her new bundle of products is absolutely great- and you know by now that I never recommend anything that I don’t absolutely love because I value your trust more than anything.

So, if you are interested, check the bundle out HERE *

But hurry up because the sale ends midnight EST on Friday. Denise won’t be repeating this, so it’s a great chance to get a bargain!

PS: Denise also has some amazing FREE resources  that you can check out first:

The free resources require subscription (it’s totally worth it!). You can also check Denise’s blog HERE.
____________________

*Yes, it’s an affiliate link

Apr
16
2014

Coconut Machalebi {dairy free, egg free, wheat free}

Coconut Machalebi

 

My husband and I joke that we are pretty much like the couple in Tina Fey’s movie, Date Night.If you have seen the movie (which is hilarious and I totally recommend), you know that Claire and her husband Phil like routine and go every week to the same local restaurant for a date. Then, one day, they decide to spice it up and go to a posh Manhattan restaurant (without reservation), take someone else’s table and then the movie turns into a funny thriller.In our case, the action part came a few years ago, when we both worked in peacekeeping, and now we have more or less settled into a routine that we love.

Where we are 100% like the Fosters is in our restaurant routine: once we find one that we love, we rarely change, we become regulars and end up knowing the waiter’s names. Every city we  go to, we fall in love with a couple of places and become loyal customers. Back in Abidjan, our hearts belonged to Nuit de Saigon (Vietnamese cuisine), Maroush (Lebanese cuisine), and Restaurant de la Paix (also Lebanese cuisine), in Belgrade we chose Kosava and Tribecca, in Florence, Ristorante Pinolo and Open View (overlooking the Arno)  in Barcelona, Ugarit (Sirian cuisine), and here in Cyprus, we love Karvounomageiremata, Sitio and the Syrian-Arab Friendship club. I’m sure there are plenty of other great places, but these are the ones we adore.

Did you notice a trend in the list above?

Yes, we love Middle Eastern cuisine and we always find a middle eastern restaurant wherever we go.  Hoummous, tabbouleh, fatayer, fattoush, falafel…you name it, we   have probably tried and most certainly loved it. But for some reason, before coming to live in Nicosia I had never tried Middle Eastern desserts (except Baklava, of course). Then one night, we were given a complimentary Machalebi with our mint tea and  I was smitten. The texture was so soft it almost melted in my mouth, and its sweet, rose flavour was utterly delicious.

The problem was that it was made with milk and cream- and as you know, I don’t eat dairy. So I came up with my own version.

 

Coconut Machalebi

I checked a couple of recipes, changed this, removed that, and ended up with this recipe: My coconut machalebi, made with equal parts coconut milk and coconut cream, lots of rose water and a little bit of sugar.

And the best part? It takes about 15 minutes to make so it’s ideal for those times when we don’t have loads of time, yet want to impress our guests with an unusual, exquisite dessert. It is also pretty allergy friendly because it doesn’t have dairy, eggs or wheat.

I chose coconut milk and cream because of their luscious texture, but if they are hard to find where you leave, just replace them by other non-dairy versions. In this occasion I used caster sugar so as not to affect the pearly white texture of the dessert, but if you prefer not to use refined sugar, you can use coconut sugar for a change. It will then be brownish in color, but still yummy.

Coconut Machalebi

 Here’s the recipe:

Coconut Machalebi (serves 6)

Ingredients: 1 can (400 ml) coconut milk, 1 can (400 ml) coconut cream, 3/4 cup cornstarch, 1/3 cup caster sugar, 2 tablespoons rose water 4 tablespoons of pistachios, roughly chopped. For the rose syrup: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup caster sugar, 2 tablespoons of rose water.

Preparation:

1) In a bowl, mix coconut milk and cornstarch until the latter dissolves. Set apart.

2) Put the coconut cream and sugar in a saucepan and bring it to the boil, then reduce heat to minimum and let it simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring constantly to prevent the sugar from caramelizing at the bottom.

3) Once the sugar has dissolved, add the coconut milk and cornstarch, and the rose water and let the preparation simmer until it starts to thicken, stirring with a whisk.

4) Once the preparation starts to thicken, remove from the heat and whisk vigorously to ensure a smooth, silky texture.This will also allow the preparation to cool down a little bit.

5) Pour the preparation into ramequins or small bowls, add a teaspoon of chopped pistachios, cover with foil and let chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the rose syrup.

6) Prepare the syrup: Put water and sugar in a saucepan and bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the rose water and let the syrup cool.

7) Remove the machalebi from the refrigerator, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of rose syrup to each ramequin and serve.

Coconut Mahalebi

 

 

 Do you have a favorite cuisine? Let me know in the comments below!

Apr
09
2014

The big O of overwhelm, and everything I have been doing this month

Good morning dear friends!

I know, I know, it has been AGES since I last wrote here. Do you still remember me? I’m Marcela. You haven’t seen me in a while, I know, but I promise I have been thinking about you!

So, what happened? Why haven’t I been here, you may ask…Well, since it’s confession time I’m going to be completely honest with you, my dear readers who have been with me for quite a while. It’s a simple formula, really:

Homeschooling + housework +mothering + lots of work = OVERWHELM

As I mentioned in this post, back in December, our routine was pretty much turned upside down when we found out that we would have to homeschool our children. Homeschooling is a serious responsibility and, even though we are accompanied by the most wonderful therapists*, who are helping our children develop and who are guiding us through the process, there was still a steep learning curve involved in it. In addition, our children had left school feeling very nervous and vulnerable for all they had been through, and it took a few months for them to relax and be at ease again.

When a major change happens in our lives, it always takes some time for us to find our center. A new center, a new normal. When two major life events occur at the same time, the shock to our routines is even greater. And when changes are sudden, we sometimes are reluctant to let go of the past and step into our new reality.That is what tends to happen to me. I tend to disregard the change and try to do it all, wonder woman style.

Except, of course, that I am not wonder woman.

So what ends up paying the price is my self-care and, after a while, overwhelm makes a noisy entrance. The big O of Overwhelm is the big elephant in the room that, time after time, I refuse to see.

During these past months of trying to do it all and failing at it, I was also sick more times than in the past 5 years. I was, literally, exhausted and given that my mind refused to acknowledge it, my body decided to force me to rest by getting ill.

Finally, in late January, I got the message and decided to stop,to prioritize, to go back to the fantastic system designed in  Life is Messy Bootcamp, and to plan.

So I prioritized family and work, and this blog lagged behind until I managed to find a way to come back.

And now I have, so here I am again. And I am so,so happy to be back.

Would you like to know what I have been working on? (hint: it’s exciting!)

Here are the details:

1) Photographing Life is Messy Kitchen

The big secret is now out, so I can tell you that I have been photographing Mayi Carles’ s upcoming cookbook, Life is Messy Kitchen. It is going to be a wonderful book, with TONS of recipes and MANY pictures that I hope you will love. How many pictures, you may ask? I will only reveal that I submitted 495 (though of course not all of them will be included). Here’s a sneak peak at what is inside.

Life is Messy Kitchen by Marcela Macias Photography- The big O of Overwhelm

 2) Photographing recipes for Heartmade blog:

Another super cool, super fun job: Since January I became the official photographer of the kitchen section of Mayi Carles’s Heartmade blog. I photograph two recipes per month and they are all delicious, dairy free and, mostly, gluten free,so be sure to pass by Mayi’s blog to get them. The pictures below are only some of the recipes you can find there.

Recipes by Marcela Macias Photography- The Big O of Overwhelm

3) Photographing Mayi Carle’s products for her etsy shop and the planners of her Life is Messy Bootcamp

Yes, I have been working with Mayi a lot and I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful client. Everything she does is so beautiful and she works with such attention to detail that photographing her products is a real treat. She has also talked about me in her blog, which moved me deeply and made me feel incredibly thankful for our collaboration.

Products, by Marcela Macias Photography-The Big O of Overwhelm

 4) Photographing the coolest book about juicing, and some gorgeous products

I was also honored to be chosen as a photographer by amazing creatives such as Marbel Canseco, Laura Fischer Smith, Raquel Deville and my very favorite nutritionist, Claire Stone. Take a look at the work I did for them, below.

Lifestyle and products by Marcela Macias Photographt-The Big O of Overwhelm

 

So there you have it. That is what I have been doing these past three months.

Now that I have spilled the beans, I need your help:

I want to bring you a recipe for next week’s post but I can’t decide which one! So tell me: SAVOURY OR SWEET? What are you craving these days?

Let me know in the comments below !

 

 

 

 

*Our children have developmental delays that require Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy and the assistance of a Special Needs Teacher. We are also supported by a wonderful parental counselor,who has held our hand for the past two years and has supported us emotionally during this process. All this, that once seemed so terrible, nowadays just IS, and it doesn’t affect our commitment to living a happy life and to teach resilience to our children.
If you are in Nicosia, Cyprus,  you are confused and scared and your child needs any of these therapies, feel free to email me. I would be happy to recommend our amazing team of professionals.
Jan
13
2014

Homeschooling Luka and Zoe: Montessori activities

 

 

homeschooling, family, children, special needs

Good morning dearest friends!

Today’s post is part of  the Montessori Inspired Activities for Preschoolers book tour.

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When we started our homeschooling journey, a few months ago, there was a lot of confusion. I have decided not to discuss the details or the reasons that led to that decision because I would like our children’s life to remain as private a possible, but I will say that it was sudden and it was preceded by a lot of stress.

I had never planned to homeschool my children and one of the things that worried me the most was what to do with them all day long, how to make sure that they learnt what they needed to learn and that they were stimulated and engaged with the activities I could prepare- and how to do all this on a budget, because the decision didn’t come with a winning lottery ticket.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I was used to planning tons of activities for he Summer months…but this was a longer period of time and, to be honest, at first I fell scared. Montessori inspired activities for preschoolers (Remember when I first talked about it in this post?) was Godsend during those days and it still is one of the books we use more often at home.

montessori-inspired-activities

Why? Because the activities are super simple to put in practice in a matter of seconds, most of them can be done with things you already have at home and kids love them.  Besides, all activities are very adaptable to each child’s development and Jo provides suggestions for increasing difficulty when your child is ready, so I can make small twists here and there and they never get bored!

PicMonkey Collage

Every day, we make at least a couple of activities from the book, whether it is threading beads, pouring, building structures, observing shapes, matching, or simply spooning or preparing a snack. The beauty of the Montessori system and the genius way in which Jo has made it accessible, is that the everyday is transformed into a learning experience.

Take the pictures above, for example. The sculptures that Luka and Zoe were building were supposed to be made with marshmallows. But we noticed that the styrofoam peanuts that came with the packaging of my new computer had a similar shape, so we had tons of fun using those for hours. Then we talked about the shapes we created, about balance (why a structure made with two peanuts only was falling down, for example) and did some matching, by grouping shapes together. Finally the shapes became characters and we ended up inventing silly stories! A whole afternoon of fun with a couple of packaging peanuts!

Or check the home made sensory box below. We made it by adding different kitchen items and small toys (but we keep changing the toys, to be honest). The kids use it as a sensory box, as a way to de-stress by just playing with the orzo and rice in it, as a ” swimming pool” for their toys during creative play and we also practice fine motor skills by spooning objects in and out, or by transferring them using pincers.

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So, my friends, if you need a book that you can use with your children over and over again and that is full of simple activities that your child will love, look no further. This book is my Bible**

_____________________________________.

 * Montessori inspired activities for preschoolers was written by my friend Jo Ebisujima . Over 6 years ago Jo, who lives in Japan with her husband and her 8 year old son and runs the course My Organized Chaos ,  started blogging about the Montessori activities that she did at home when her son was little. As they were on a tight budget so many of the activities were done using everyday household equipment. Jo believes that the Montessori method should be available to every child.

The book is also available on the Book Depository with free International Shipping

**None of the links in this post are affiliate, which means that I don’t make money if you buy the book. I participated in this blog tour because I truly love the book and I am thankful to Jo for having written it.

Jan
11
2014

New year, new beginnings: welcome to my new website!

Good evening dear friends!

Oh my, how I have missed you! I never intended to take such a long break, but life took over and last December (including all of us getting sick at the same time!) between work + homeschooling and getting the new website ready I hardly slept!

But now, the new website is finally ready I’m so eager for you to see all the big changes! Because this time, though not immediately apparent, the changes are not only cosmetic.

Do you remember how this blog started? Do you remember the old logo I had designed myself the best I could following an online tutorial? Do you remember the blue and white polkadot background? Here’s a pic to make you travel back in time, to those days of May 2011.

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 The first recipe I posted was one of cupcakes made out of failed swiss meringue buttercream, and the first party, my very own 35th birthday. And so I blogged for a year about my life, my cooking and my children. And then, just a few days after the blog’s 1st birthday, the blog got a drastic face-lift by the super talented Jessica Sims. After hundreds of emails and months of work we changed colors, fonts and layout, we categorized posts and made the blog more user friendly. And it looked like this:

TCG old

 

And now, over 18 months from that day, it’s time for a new change. And a bigger one at that.

Because The Celebration Girl hasn’t only changed fonts, categories and background colors. No.

From today, this blog starts to be a part of something bigger: a new career path. A career built around what I love doing, what I have long wanted to do, and what I believe.

my new website


Will you join me in this new adventure?

Dec
05
2013

A Christmas Gift guide full of heart-made products

Good evening dear friends!

Here we are again, at the beginning of the Christmas season, with the year almost reaching its end, and what a year this has been! 2013 has been an intense year for us and this year I have the feeling that December arrived without me-the all time Elf- being quite ready for it. Has this ever happened to you?

So  I thought that a good way to begin the advent would be to bring you a Christmas gift guide, to help you in your shopping early on. But this is not just any gift guide, it is a one made of products I love, products made with love themselves, and created by passionate, dedicated inspirational women that I was incredibly lucky to meet, for the most part, at Mayi Carles‘  Life is Messy Bootcamp. I want to make it very clear that none of the links below are affiliate links (with the exception of the link to my amazon store). I obtain no commission if you shop through them, I am simply sharing with you what I like.

But before we begin in what you will give to others, you may be interested in these yourself:

a-Beth Sutherland’s Magical advent Christmas planners.
Beth has created a series of pretty and practical planners to get you organized this Christmas season. It was designed for busy Mums who would love some easy peasy structure as well as access to wonderful ideas and tips to make the most of their family’s Christmas experience in a pleasant and relaxing way.It includes over 30 different printables,including shopping lists, gift lists, activity lists and many more. Beth also has an free series of advent emails and posts you can sign up for, that are bursting with fun and production ideas to help make your 2013 Christmas season the best.

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b- Kim Gosney’s  30 day energizer , which starts tomorrow, is a project created to give your business and  your life a burst of energy before the year ends and to help you dream a wonderful 2014. It’s free, it lasts 30days and it aims to put the fun back into your workday and put your energy behind your BIG dreams for 2014. -

energize

Now let’s get started!

1) Gift to bring order into chaos and energy into projects: 

 My Organized Chaos - This is the perfect course for mamas who want an organized home, organized parenting and an organized mind but don’t know where to start or how to go about it.

This month the course comes with  a free call  to help you  “Get You Partner On Board”, which will include tips, tricks and deep discussion on how to get your partner doing more at home and with the parenting.
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2) Gifts for the crafty persons in your life: 

Mariana, the name behind the shop, has the ability to make everything cute and is generous enough to share her talent with us. Check her etsy store for different sewing kits and other handmade objects.
MeiasMarias_store
I talked to you about Raquel last year, when I became fascinated with her soft toys made out of children’s  drawings. Now Raquel has created a workshop to teach us all how to sew   those dolls and soft toys ourselves. She now has a special offer, of 2 workshops (for making single colored toys and multicolored ones) for only 49 euros. You can read everything about them here.
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3) Gift for the little explorers in your life: 

Jo Ebisujima (the creator of My Organized chaos) is also a talented crafter with a passion for education, who makes beautiful cloth treasure maps printed with eco friendly inks, and that are perfect for little explorers everywhere. Well designed and durable, they can even be thrown in the wash if accidentally dropped in a swamp whilst adventuring. It was designed with kids with imagination in mind, which is why it has no words so it can be used by any child of any language and they have total control of the names of the places they are off to explore. Jo is offering my readers a free shipping discount, and all you need to do is use the code THANKS13 during purchase.
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4) Gifts for the women in your life:  

a- Natascha Ratzlaff’s Purple peacock jewels, which are victorian inspired elegant, exotic, sensual and totally goddessy (is that a word?), as you can see from the picture below. Plus if you use the code CELEBRATIONgirl20 during purchase either at Natascha’s etsy shop or on https://www.facebook.com/purplepeacock2011 you will get a discount!

 

 

filigree earrings

 

b- Giardinoblu: Italian artist Francesca Mancini creates stunning pieces of jewelery out of organic materials, such as rice (yes, that stunning ring is made with rice!) He shop, Giardinoblu, is an independent lab that works with organic and eco jewel in unique pieces only, by recycling and upcycling material and getting its inspiration from Nature. Check it out here.

 

 

giardinoblu

 

5- Gifts for those  in need of inspiration and a little push to align their lives to their true purpose

a- Andrea Hiltbrunner’s Blossomize your life 2014 planner. Andrea is an intuitive mentor and guide for women who want to discover their heart’s desires and treasures that lie within themselves. This year, she created a 2014 planner designed to to help women grow their vision for their lives so they could reach their full potential. She called it the Blossomize your Life Planner and it is available with a Pay what you Wish option.


blossomize

 

 

b- Kimberly Gosney’s 365 day project, a lovely 365 day business coaching program to achieve the business and life of one’s dreams. The best part? The payment for one full year is a donation to Pencils of Promise so that new schools can be built for those who have no access to education. You can hear Kimberly speaking about her project HERE (get ready to feel inspired)

 

365 days

 

 

 

 

6- Gifts for the Spanish-speaking photography aficionado:

My dear friend and amazing photographer Jackie Rueda has created gift certificates for her courses. The amazing thing about these is that Jackie’s courses fill up really fast (sometimes as fast as 3 minutes!) so getting someone a secure place in one of her courses is a double gift. All courses are absolutely fantastic and  I couldn’t recommend them more.
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7)  A gift for the readers, the naturalists, the scientists and pretty much everyone else

I have just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, The Signature of all things and I couldn’t recommend it more. A truly wonderful read for anyone passionate about good literature. You can see the book trailer here.

the-signature-of-all-things
And that’s it and but it’s not all! I happen to know from a good source that talented artist Iluska Ikeda (a.k.a Mrs Ricefield) is organizing an online Winter Art Camp for children and adults alike! I think this would be a great gift for budding artists, so I will let you know as soon as it is open for registration! In the meantime, you can check Iluska’s art work here and her blog here.
May you have a wonderful, happy week, my dear friends!
Dec
02
2013

Finding the way back to (a new) normal + Vegan & refined sugar free apple pie

Vegan refined sugar free apple pie

 

 

 

Good evening dear friends!

It’s been such a long, long time since I last visited this, my happy place, since I last talked to you, my dear friends. Summer came and went and so did most of Autumn (my favorite season!), and it is only now that the advent is almost upon us that our lives have regained some sort of normality, of calm and that I begin to find the way back to the words I have been wanting to write for a while.

So here I am, listening to The Piano, which is the soundtrack with which I have written every post of this blog, and thinking about the roller coaster of emotions that have been the last few months (pardon the cliché).

You see, On the 1st week of October: 1) We pulled Luka and Zoe out of their new school, worried about the high levels of stress that they were enduring and, advised by a psychologist,  decided to home school them (insert worry, doubts and sadness), 2) We lost our babysitter ( a big deal for expats like us, trust me) and 3)  I started working, from home, on the most amazing project I could have ever dreamed (insert jumps of joy and huge smiles).  Our daily lives, and the plans we had for the immediate future, as you can imagine, changed pretty much overnight, and it has taken a while for all of us to re adjust and find the calm and quiet of a new normal.

 

 

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During all this time there were many occasions in which I sat at the computer with the intention to type a new blog post, only to be met by the most atrocious writer’s block. It seemed as though I had run out of words or, rather, as if I had too many words waiting to be said,  too many raw emotions inside of me battling to be put on paper first.  Should I talk to you about the sadness and worry for our children’s well being that had haunted us during September, or should I talk about the relief we found when, unexpectedly and surprisingly, we decided to home school them? And how to discuss the joy, hope and personal fulfillment that  the new project I am working on had brought into my life? How could I piece those feelings together, in a blog post, or two, or three, when I was still dazed myself by all that had occurred?

I couldn’t.

And the more I thought about it, the more daunting the task seemed. As days and then weeks passed by, this first blog post acquired mythical proportions and it became more and more difficult to write.

Until this week, when  I realized I didn’t have to do any of this: that I can  take my time to write about it all in greater detail when the words come to me  in their own time, and that I could just come back here being me, the confused, worried, joyful, warm and simply  happy me that I have always been. And that I could just say hello to you again, bring you a piece of pie, and ask you (like old friends do):

How have you been, my dears, during all this time? 

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And speaking of pie, here’s the recipe I promised:

 

Vegan & refined sugar free apple pie

Ingredients: For the crust:400 grs all purpose flour, 200 grs margarine, cold (the best quality you can find, preferably from the health food store), 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, 1/4 cup very cold water. For the filling: 2 big Granny Smith apples, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in cold water, 7 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon.

Preparation:

1) Make the crust: Put flour, sugar and margarine in the food processor. Pulse until the flour reaches a sand-like consistency. Add water while the processor runs, until the dough separates from the bowl. Wrap the dough in foil and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour. Note:  If you don’t have a food processor, use two knives to incorporate flour, sugar and margarine.

2) After one hour, pre heat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in two. Roll one half and cover the botton of a pie dish with it.

3) Prepare the filling: Peel and finely slice the apples and put them in the pie dish. Mix the dissolved cornstarch, coconut sugar and cinnamon and pour it evenly over the apples, to coat. Cover the dish with the other half of dough and bring it to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden. Serve warm and, if you are feeling decadent, accompanied by a scoop of good quality vanilla bean ice cream.

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