How do you celebrate a 4-year anniversary at work?
We think such an important employee milestone deserves a delicious corporate gift, so when the time came to celebrate our Social Media Manager’s 4th year with the company, we sent something we knew she’d love: Chocolate Covered Strawberries. Sempronia was kind enough to film the unboxing and taste the first one one camera for us. Check it out!
We’ve all heard people say that it’s better to give than to receive, but would you believe that being generous is tangibly good for you? That’s right, according to Dr. Devin A. Byrd, Behavioral Sciences Department Chair at South University, there are mental health benefits to altruistic behaviors, and gift-giving is definitely among those.
From searching for just the right gift to fit your loved one’s personality to wrapping it and sending it, the very act of shopping for someone else provides “an emotional lift,” according to Dr. Byrd But even more than the ‘feel-good’ quality of giving, your generosity sparks positive memories of the person you’re shopping for which also provides a mood boost. Another bonus is that the gift itself creates a noticeable link between the two of you. Especially in this modern age, when many people will celebrate holidays at a distance from one another, the act of sending gifts when you can’t be there is a way to strengthen bonds. And of course, there’s nothing more important to mental health than your social support network. Gift-giving is a way to help keep it strong even when they’re far away. You may be saying, “Okay, that’s great – yes, it feels good to send a gift, but it isn’t like it has any physical health benefit, right?” Wrong! There is a ton of research showing that those who are generous on a regular basis (i.e., they help out a charity, they perform random acts of kindness, they surprise people with gifts, etc.) are healthier and live longer. Stephen Post, professor of Preventative Medicine at Stony Brook University, found that regular generosity had a positive impact even on people suffering from chronic illnesses.
You might ask, “How does that work?” It turns out that things like shopping for another person, spending time helping them, and even talking to them during a time of a need, turns your focus from your own day-to-day life, and onto the other person. Researchers think that this reduces internal stress. Stress and the cortisol it produces are major factors in the development of almost every chronic disease you can think of. Reducing stress is directly linked to better health.
But perhaps the best way that giving is good for you is that it generates a sense of gratitude. “Of course it does,” you might say, “when you send a gift or spend your time, the person you give it to is thankful.” And yes, that’s true, but gift-giving also invokes a sense of gratitude in the giver! When choosing a gift, or thoughtfully supporting someone we care for, we’re often also expressing that we’re grateful for that person’s role in our lives. This creates a cycle of contentment, stress-reduction, and even creates a hormone called oxytocin, which is responsible for making us feel connected, warm, and empathetic.
I know the holiday shopping can sometimes seem like a chore, with crowds, planning, and the time crunch, but we hope this little PSA will help you keep in mind that’s not all it’s about. For every gift you decide to send, you’re recalling fond memories, reaching out to the ones you care about even from afar, and you’re preparing yourself a big dose of happiness. So when holiday shopping looks like a mountain of work remember how very true it is that it is better to give than to receive – and science proves it!
Now, You’re Almost Ready to Give – What’s Next?
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October 7th is National Frappe Day, so it’s the perfect time to indulge in delicious frappe drink. With cold weather right around the corner, this might be your last chance this year to enjoy this cold, but oh-so-delicious beverage.
The word frappé comes from the French language, and it means chilled, but the drink itself is a version of coffee that first became popular in Greece and Cyprus. Now, a version of it has spread all over the world thanks to Starbucks’ famous Frappucino, and McDonald’s Mocha Frappe, which actually don’t have a lot to do with the original recipe.
The first frappé was made in Greece in 1957. The story goes that its invention was equal parts accident and desperation for a morning caffeine fix. One of the employees of Nestle Company couldn’t find hot water for his morning cup of instant coffee so he decided to make it with cold water and ice in a shaker instead. The drink turned out to be a hit – it looked gorgeous with its foam topping, satisfied sweet tooths and caffeine cravings, and took less than a minute to make. Before long, all the local baristas were serving it. To this day, the frappé is the number one drink in every cafe in Greece.
In the US, the frappe turned into a sort of coffee milkshake and most westerners have never actually tried the real frappé. But since today is National Frappe Day it’s the perfect opportunity to do just that! As an added bonus, doing it at home is cheaper and easier than going to your local coffee shop!
1 ½ tsp Instant Coffee (or more if you want more foam)
1 ½ tsp White Sugar
Milk or Water to taste
And any toppings you like!
Step 1 –Put the coffee and sugar into a shaker or a BPA-free plastic bottle and top with just enough cold water to cover the mix. Then shake quickly for about 30 seconds. If it’s foaming a lot, you’ve done it right!
Step 2 – Pour the contents into a tall glass and add ice cubes along with milk or water to taste. Stir until everything is mixed and enjoy. If you’re looking for something a little extra indulgent, this is where your toppings come in! A little bit of whipped cream, caramel, or chocolate syrup will make it feel just like Starbucks.
You can make this cool-looking, famous drink at home in literally 1 minute! Get fancy with your toppings and you have a perfect drink worthy of an Instagram shot! Impress your friends the next time they visit with your barista skills or pamper yourself and your loved ones with this frappé recipe, but beware, it is highly addictive, and you might not want to go back to your old way of having coffee!
If you are one of those people who’s always looking for food inspiration from different cultures, here are some delicious, traditional Jewish recipes inspired by Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), which is just around the corner.
One of the holiest days in Judaism, Rosh Hashanah commemorates the creation of the world. It traditionally features sweet foods to symbolize the cycle of life and people’s hope for a “sweet” new beginning. Special challah bread, along with apples, honey, and pomegranate, makes the centerpiece of the celebration and becomes a tangible symbol of the holiday’s deeper meaning.
Challah, a rich, golden loaf related to Russian and Polish babka bread, came to Jewish cuisine from Germany and quickly became one of the most popular traditional dishes. Though you can always buy challah from a bakery, making it at home is a wonderful way to connect with tradition and create a perfect loaf that will be a big hit with both children and adults not only on Rosh Hashanah but any other celebration.
We are always hunting for new authentic recipes that are easy to make at home and this one hits the mark. If you want to surprise your loved ones and receive tons of compliments this delicious 6-ingredients Challah will do the trick in 5 easy steps:
Jewish Challah Bread
What you need:
1 1/2 Cups water 4 Teaspoons yeast 2/3 Cups sugar 2/3 Cups oil 4 Eggs 1 Egg yolk (or more if needed) 3 Teaspoons salt 2.5 lbs. flour
Step 1. In a large bowl, mix lukewarm water, yeast, sugar, oil, eggs, and half the flour with a cake beater. Add salt.
Step 2. Add remaining flour and thoroughly knead with the dough hook or by hand. Let the dough rise for one hour.
Step 3. Divide the dough into 3 equal-sized pieces. On a floured surface, roll the small dough pieces into ropes about 1-2 inches thick and 10-12 inches long. Pinch 3 ropes together at the top (it will be easier to do so if the ropes are thinner at the ends) and braid them. Let the braided challah rise for 30-45 min. If the dough is a little sticky, lightly grease your hands.
Step 4. Whisk 1 yolk (or more if needed) with a little water and about 1 teaspoon of sugar. Brush the top of the challah for a sweet crust.
Step 5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake until the top browns to a rich golden color, and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it with a spoon (about 25 to 35 minutes). Let it cool before cutting and enjoy!
Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year.” Because of this, there another tradition of serving fish for this holiday, often with the head still on. An old symbol of fertility and wealth, fish dishes are quite popular on the Rosh Hashanah table. Having tried many holiday recipes featuring fish, we’ve agreed that the one below is one of the most delicious and simple among them. With only 4 ingredients and 4 steps to follow, you’ll have a healthy Jewish inspired dinner and still have plenty of time to spend with your guests.
Baked Fish Fillets with Honey-Lemon Butter
What you need:
2 1/2 Cups honey 3 1/2 Cups butter 3 1/3 Tablespoons lemon juice 1 Tablespoon lemon zest 150g (5 to 6 oz.) White fish fillets Lemon slices (optional)
Step 1. Beat honey, butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest until smooth. Set aside.
Step 2. Arrange fish fillets on a greased baking sheet. Lightly season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Step 3. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). Bake fish until opaque and firm, about 10-15 minutes.
Step 4. To serve, top each portion with 1 Tbl. Honey-Lemon Butter (see step 1) and a slice of lemon (optional).
Now, You’re Almost Ready for Rosh Hashanah – What’s Next?
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Did you know there’s a whole holiday devoted to paying it forward? That’s right, long before that movie taught everyone the phrase, the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha (or the Festival of Sacrifice) was encouraging people to celebrate sacrifice and accomplishment for the common good. Starting on the evening of September 12th and ending the evening of September 13th, celebrants around the world will spend the day in lively celebration of their accomplishments, and the joy of sharing their success with everyone around them.
It is said that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, at God’s request – although God stepped in and prevented it, replacing Isaac with a lamb. Eid-al-Adha celebrates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice for God’s plan, and it is a tradition to re-create the event on this holiday. Muslims who can afford it humanely sacrifice an animal, and no part of it goes to waste. Usually, the animals owners keep one-third of the meat for themselves, offer one-third as a gift to family and friends, then give the final third away to those in need. When those who can afford it give back, no one can go hungry.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to give back on Eid-al-Adha if you don’t happen to live on or near a farm, and one of the best ways is with other kinds of delicious foods! To help you get in the spirit of giving back, we’ve put together 3 recipes that are easy to make in bulk so you can cook up enough food to share with your friends, family, and the less fortunate.
First, an easy to customize Granola! This a great treat to have on hand for a quick breakfast, or a light snack. Make a batch to share at the office. You can also keep a baggie or two in your purse or car in case you see someone on the street looking for a helping hand. Giving out money can be a bit risky, but handing out a delicious snack is a safe and easy way to make sure that at least today that person got fed.
What you’ll need:
3 cups rolled oats 1 cup cashews 1 cup slivered almonds 1 cup dried fruit of choice (I like ½ sliced dried apricots and ½ raisins) ½ cup coconut oil ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil ¼ cup brown sugar ¾ Teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (148 Celsius). As the oven is preheating, mix the oats, nuts, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together the oils and salt, make sure they blend well. Pour the oil mixture over the oats and nuts, then stir them making sure to get everything evenly coated.
Spread the mixture out over at least 2 non-stick sheet pans. The key here is to make sure there is one thin, even layer so the ingredients can dry out and bake properly. Place the trays in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Make sure you stir the mixture every 15 minutes or so it browns evenly.
Once the mixture is browned, remove it from the oven and put it into a large bowl. Now mix in your dried fruit until it is evenly distributed. You can enjoy it right away for a warm and delicious treat, or add it to ice-cream or yogurt for something extra decadent.
For sharing, make sure the granola is cool before putting it into separate zip-lock bags (or mason jars). This granola will keep for about a month if kept dry and properly sealed.
The next recipe is a delicious Flatbread. This is a great go-to recipe for large family dinners, as you can easily make a tray of meats and cheeses to go on top of it.
What you’ll need:
2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon instant yeast 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup warm water
First whisk together the salt, sugar, yeast, and water in a large bowl. Let this mixture sit until it begins to froth and bubble, then slowly add the flour and mix until it is fully combined. If you notice the dough is very dry you can add a little more water, but make sure to add it very slowly as the dough should be moist but not sticky. Once it feels right, cover and let it rise on the counter for an hour.
For the best results you’ll want to grill this bread either on an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan. It provides a crispy and unique outer texture, while allowing the bread to rise to a delicious light, fluffy texture inside. While the dough is rising, preheat your grill of choice. If you are using an outdoor grill make sure you move the rack so it is a few inches off of the flame.
When the dough has risen, move it onto a well-floured surface and knead until it is soft and smooth. Then, cut the dough into manageable portions (I recommend 8-10) and roll each one out until it is a good size for your grill pan (no more than 6 or so inches in diameter). Brush one side with olive oil and place it on the grill; as that side cooks make sure to brush the other side with olive oil. You can put more than one piece on your grill (or grill pan) but make sure not to crowd them too much as they will puff up. When the bread is a nice light brown and begins to puff up, flip it. When the second side is browned remove from the grill and get ready to enjoy!
You can enjoy this bread all on its own, or with delicious toppings. I recommend tomatoes and herbs with a light drizzle of olive oil.
The last recipe is a delicious spin on an overlooked food: Crunch Roasted Chickpeas with Za’atar! Za’atar is a delicious Middle Eastern spice mixture that is quickly catching on around the world as a spice blend to dip snacks in. You can easily find it at most ethnic food markets, or make it yourself at home.
What you’ll need:
2 cups cooked chickpeas if they are canned make sure to rinse them well 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons za’atar ½ teaspoon salt
The most important step is to spread your chickpeas out onto a paper towel. Pat them dry, and let them continue to air dry for an hour. Then, heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) and line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.
Spread the chickpeas evenly over the pan and bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, or until crunchy. Make sure to rotate every 10 minutes, and keep in mind that if they aren’t completely crunchy they will continue to dry out some as they cool.
Put the hot chickpeas in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil, za’atar, and salt. Enjoy right away, or when cool. Make sure to only store completely cooled leftovers in an airtight container. Will keep up to a week.
Now, You’re Almost Ready for Eid-al-Adha – What’s Next?
Schedule your gift now, so you don’t forget. Browse Eid-al-Adha gifts to USA, Canada & 200 countries, and make sure your gift is delivered on time!
Think you have an unusual gift idea? Here’s how other people like to impress! .
Working in a company like GiftBasketsOverseas.com (GBO) is like visiting Disneyland for the first time. Every day is something new and exciting, you never know who you are going to meet or what is going to surprise you. Perhaps the most interesting part of being a GBO team member is dealing with customers with unusual, or sometimes even mind-blowing, order requests.
Our customer support members have seen and heard it all, literally. From customers asking to organize a surprise concert with their recipient’s favorite band to delivering a coffin with a single rose inside. We took a vote and are excited to bring to you the 3 most usual orders our team has had the privilege to handle: so far!
Starting with third place: a STEAK!But not just any steak, no this customer wanted to help their loved one celebrate their birthday with a juicy birthday steak. We really went the distance with this order, down to the small detail of making sure there were birthday candles sticking out of a mouth-watering 16 oz, medium rare slab o’beef – perfectly seared, of course.
Honestly, while unusual, we’re pretty sure this birthday steak thing could catch on!
Coming up in a close second place: a DRUM. But not just any drum, this one had to be covered with a skin of a young goat. The client made it clear the goat had to be young and there was no room to argue. We don’t know exactly why it was so important, but we do our best to always deliver what the customer asks for as closely as possible.
When you deal with global gift delivery, you’re bound to get orders that seem a little weird to you. That’s the beauty of our business! We get to learn about new cultures and traditions. It really helps our whole team keep in mind that what seems like a normal gift to us may be a huge no-no in another part of the world.
And finally first place – a MALTESE PUPPY. This might not sound that exotic, but delivering a live animal as a gift anywhere in the world is tricky. Finding a specific breed of dog, in good health, from a reliable seller that is ready and able to be safely delivered is a very tall order.
In the end, the logistics of the order, as well as the request itself, made this our most memorable and unique order to date! But really, getting a cute pet sent right to you, we admit it, we were jealous!
We can go on and on with the list of unusual custom orders we receive and successfully fulfill every month. The ability of our team members to go above and beyond at work only makes such requests more popular among our customers. Stay tuned and we’ll continue sharing our unusual experience with you!
Now, You’re All Ready For Gift Giving – What’s Next?
Start preparing for upcoming holidays and special occasions. Browse gifts to USA, UK & 200 countries, and make sure your gifts are delivered on time!
Whether you’re starting a new semester at college or your children are going back to school after a summer break, you always want to make the most out of those last few days away from school. No matter how long your vacation lasts, it never seems enough and by the end of it you always wish you had couple of extra days. The panic of the vacation coming to an end usually rolls in about a week before; that’s when you start stressing out and frantically trying to finish all the plans you had for the summer. But that can leave you with nothing but anxiety and a headache. We know there’s no magic wand that can turn the last 7 days of your summer break into 7 weeks, but here are some helpful tips to make each day full of fun relaxation.
Option 1: Staying In
Going back to school often means spending most of your time away from home, that’s why turning into a home body for a few days seems like a smart idea. If you do so, you can not only enjoy time with the kids, but also finish all the little things around the house you’ve meant to fix for months. Get your DIY on and paint a wall in your living room, move the couch, organize a bookshelf, or finish putting together that scrap book you started three years ago.
If you enjoy cooking, this is the perfect time to make a delicious homemade meal for a romantic night in with your spouse or for the whole family. Open up that dusty cookbook of yours that’s been sitting on top of your bookshelf since time immemorial and create an amazing dinner that will fill your loved one’s stomachs and hearts with joy. While you’re at it, you could get some cooking done in advance and pop some quick and easy to heat-up meals in the freezer. You’ll thank yourself once school starts.
Option 2: Go shopping
If you’re a shopaholic or simply enjoy shopping every now and then, vacation is the perfect time for this guilty pleasure. Take your best friend and go to your favorite mall. You can finally make it a day trip with no rush or pressure. Just take your time and enjoy. By the way, the end of summer is a sale season which makes it another great excuse to buy yourself a little gift, renew your wardrobe, buy home appliances, or new get gear for your hobbies.
Option 3: Pamper yourself
Wasn’t shopping part of pampering yourself? Well, it was and it wasn’t. When we say pampering we MEAN pampering and that includes treating yourself to a massage, taking your time at a nail or hair salon, doing a beauty treatment you’ve always wanted but couldn’t find time for or simply spending the whole day relaxing at the beach.
Or, if you see getting a haircut as a chore why not try some more adventurous things. Go explore a bar you’ve always wanted to try, go fishing, or try a new sport. With that said, just go ahead and do whatever makes you happy, even if it’s just another day in reading a good book. The whole point of pampering is to doing what you enjoy guilt-free!
Option 4: Enjoy time outside
Before you or your kids are surrounded by school walls once again, make sure to enjoy the warm weather to its fullest! Moving any activity you would normally do at home outside is a great way to start. Go out to do your morning exercise instead of staying in, grab a blanket and eat your lunch at a local park, or finish your day with an evening run in the neighborhood.
For those more adventurous, we suggest spending a day at an amusement park, going for a hike in the forest or mountains, or even camping. If you prefer less active leisure, plan a weekend getaway and explore the nearest town. Fresh air and lots of positive emotions will make you forget about everyday problems and help appreciate every second of the last days of your vacation.
Option 5: Don’t mind being practical
This tip has nothing to do with fun but trust me, you will thank yourself for it later. It won’t take much of your effort, but can become a real lifesaver during hectic times at school. It’s simple. Next time you go food shopping, make sure to grab as much of your favorite ready-made food as possible and stock up your freezer. It will come especially in handy on those rainy days when you don’t feel like going out, or need to finish your paper and eating out is not an option.
You can also get a head start on packing school snacks. Pack carrots and celery for a mid-day pick-me-up. Try your hand at homemade granola, or make a meal plan for the next few weeks. You should also take a minute to get everyone’s school bags ready, and maybe even plan out first-day outfits. Nothing is worse than realizing that must-have item to complete your look is in desperate need of a wash! Have faith, being practical will pay off!
Option 6: Spend time with loved ones
Whatever you do, the most important thing is spending some quality time with those you love! Finding time for this simple pleasure might be difficult when your kids are back to school or you’ve started a new semester. So, whether it’s your friends or family you want to be with, get as much time in with them as possible during the last few days of your vacation. Once school starts, you just won’t be sure when you’ll be able to do it all again!
Now, You’re All Ready For Fall – What’s Next?
Start preparing for upcoming fall holidays. Browse gifts to USA, UK & 200 countries, and make sure your gifts are delivered on time!
Long Distance Limbo, Pt. 1 – Your Relationship Isn’t Real! Myths and Misconceptions
– Sempronia Hobgood GiftBasketsOverseas.com
Long Distance Relationship – the “blind date” of the modern age: no other relationship “phrase” has the potential to make people react like you’ve recited the chant to summon Cthulu, except perhaps, “We need to talk.” If you can get past the funny cats and even more questionable content on the internet, you’ll find virtual oceans of questions about the legitimacy of long distance relationships. We’ve seen everything ranging from “It’s not a real relationship,” to “How do you make it work?” We’re wondering where all the confusion is coming from.
Has the media hyped up the idea that relationships must be tactile and clingy or they are nothing at all? Worse yet, have we bought in?
To help get some answers, here are 4 things you need to know about long distance relationships before you pass judgement:
1. You Can’t Handle The Truth! You’ve heard this one: people have long distance relationships because they can’t handle “real ones.” We’re here to tell you that some towns are so abysmally out of candidates for real companionship, that looking elsewhere is actually the better option. We don’t have to name names, you know if you live in one of these.
Seriously, even if your town if is full of look-alikes of your idols, why limit yourself? In this day and age of instant connections, easily obtained webcams, free international communication, and even ridiculously fast international delivery services, chances are better than ever that you’ll find someone who fits you. Someone who piques your interests, shares your values, and expands your horizons if you increase your pool of potential friends and love interests to include connections you can make on the web – responsibly and safely.
The fact is, long distance relationships of any sort (and there are many) can be just as complex, fulfilling, rewarding, and even fun as the types of relationships society is more ready to accept.
2. You Can’t Possibly Know Each Other Not living next to one another means you have tons more to talk about. You don’t have the same friends, you likely don’t run across the same things, maybe you’re countries apart and have different cultures. In this way, distance can be a perk. Distance gives couples the opportunity to explore every tiny detail of a partner’s life, and, in turn, to come up with fun ways to spill theirs.
While “normal” couples often spend time turning into vegetables watching their show of choice cuddled next to each other in silence, those who live apart learn to fill the distances with discussions, meaningful messages, heartfelt romantic gifts, creativity, and honesty. It can mean admitting the dark things you’d rather hide, learning to take the time to treasure each moment you can connect, and finding creative ways to remain a part of each other’s lives, even far away. If we’re brutally honest, cuddles would be great, but they aren’t everything, and living without them is doable.
3. It Can’t Be Real…(you’re not doing ‘it’) Another misconception is that long distance relationships are sexless, depressing things for those who can otherwise not “get any.” Wrong! Suffice it to say there are ways around such things, and, believe it or not, despite our severe lack of teleporters, it is not impossible to visit one’s far off love.
Plus, while love-making for many traditional couples can become routine, couples that are separated have to become inventive to keep the fires of romance burning. They get flirty, they learn the art of intellectual foreplay. If you didn’t know, pictures are fun, presents don’t have to be mundane, and phone calls don’t have to be about talking.
For the record, when separated loves do come together, they have drawn up ideas nearly as complex as battle plans for what they’ll do when they’re together. The moments apart make the ones together sweeter. And despite the myth, after months of only talking, long distance couples certainly have more tactile things to do.
4. Long Distance Relationships are all Romantic Here is the grand-daddy of Long Distance Relationship myths. You don’t need Cupid to be involved in a long distance relationship. If you’re interacting with someone on a regular basis, you’re in a relationship with them. Whether it’s a business relationship, a family relationship, a friendship, or something else. Keeping up with your school buddies from home on Facebook? Or enjoying weekly raids with your WoW guild? These modern activities have sparked awesome, long-lasting, healthy, relationships that were at one point in time long distance only.
But it’s not just computer and video game enthusiasts, even businesses are jumping onto the long distance relationship bandwagon. Are you Skyping or emailing with team-members from departments in other states, or working on international issues with co-workers or customers across time zones? You’re in a long-distance relationship.
And don’t forget about the circumstances that can bring distance to families – both joyful and sad. Sending your overachiever for a semester overseas? You’ll be doing the long distance dance. Or maybe your family homes a hero who’s deployed overseas. Yep, that’s a long distance relationship too.
And of course, there’s one of the most common kinds of long distance relationship – the ones where family members or friends have simply moved to other cities, states, or countries. In fact, there are so many types of long distance relationships, we’d be surprised if you aren’t in at least one.
Long distance relationships are nothing new. Ever since civilization started people have developed ways to connect with each other from afar. Messengers on foot, packages and gifts in ships, carrier pigeons, smoke signals, telegraphs, telephone, even Twitter. Why? Because there have always been long distance relationships, and we’re just getting better at them.
It’s the final day of Ramadan. Ramadan Kareem! And tomorrow is a delicious celebration of Eid al-Fitr. If you’re looking for some last minute recipes to sweeten up your Eid al-Fitr meal, or you want to try something new and scrumptious for your next celebration, there are some easy, mouthwatering recipes below.
Start your celebration with a refreshing drink that’s family friendly, and that will definitely leave your family and friends asking for another pitcher. Here’s our recipe for Mint Lemonade (or Lime-ade).
3 Cups of Sugar
1 2/3 Cups of fresh lemons (or limes) quartered and de-seeded, but leave the skin on
1/8 Cup of fresh mint leaves
4 ¼ Cups of Water
Ice cubes to serve
Add the water and sugar to your food processor, process on high until the sugar is dissolved completely. Then add the mint and lemons – almost whole. Pulse until everything is chopped as small as possible and the flavors are infused into the liquid. Strain the liquid well, and chill. Serve over ice.
For the next recipe, you can really get creative. Mahshi is a great favorite across the Middle Eastern world, especially in Egypt. These will take a little time, but your friends and family are going to love the succulent vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs; you can even add your favorite meat to the mix to make them heartier. You can mix and match your favorite veggies for stuffing, and play with the spice profile, but the recipe below is traditional Egyptian version of Mahshi.
1 Cup white, short grain rice
1 Large onion, diced
1 Large onion cut into thick rings
½ Cup of tomato sauce
A half-bunch of parsley, cilantro, and dill (you don’t have to use all of these, and can substitute your favorite herbs here)
½ Cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ teaspoons of olive oil
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of allspice
Salt and pepper to taste
A serving of any of these vegetables: 8 zucchini (particularly short, fat ones); 8 eggplants (again look for small, finger length ones); 20 cabbage leaves (parboiled and with the middle rib removed); OR 20 grape leaves, parboiled
Start by sautéing the diced onions (NOT the onion rings) in oil until they’re wilted. Combine the pepper, salt, tomato sauce, cinnamon, and allspice. Simmer for three minutes. While the onion mixture is simmering, rinse the rice, finely chop the herbs, and add the rice and herbs to the onion and tomato sauce mixture.
Core the vegetables (or prepare the leaves for stuffing); when coring be careful to keep them as whole as possible. When you’re using eggplant, make sure to put it in a bowl of water after coring, but before you get to stuffing it.
Carefully stuff your vegetables with the rice mixture, but leave the top ½ an inch empty because the rice will grow as you steam it.
Add a ½ teaspoon of oil to a non-stick pot, cover the bottom with your onion slices – these will make a tasty barrier so your vegetables steam without touching the bottom. Place your veggies on top so that they’re standing up (and your rice stuffing doesn’t escape). Add ½ Cup of broth, and simmer on low until the rice is tender (usually about 15-20 minutes, but be patient and check each one for doneness). When they’re done, serve the stuffed mahshi and discard the onion slices.
And finally, a recipe that tops off the celebration with something sweet, of course. Your whole crew is going to love this decadent treat that looks a lot more complicated than it is. Impress them this Eid al-Fitr with a luscious Kunafa.
1 Cup of water
1 Cup of sugar
1 can of sweetened, condensed milk
2 Cups of heavy cream
7 Tablespoons of powdered sugar
1 Cup of butter
1 package Kunafa Dough
First, boil the water and add the sugar. Dissolve the sugar thoroughly and boil for 3 – 4 minutes, until you have a simple syrup. Turn off the heat and set it aside. Whip the cream until it’s foamy, and set it aside as well. In a big mixing bowl, start working with the kunafa dough by pulling it gently apart. Slowly add melted butter and pull the strands apart, moistening them. Sprinkle the dough with the rest of the powdered sugar, mix thoroughly, then separate the dough into two halves.
Press the first half into an oven tray, press it into the edges, and pour the foamy cream over it evenly. Press the second dough half on the top, and flatten it gently. Bake this in the oven at 360 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on top. Pour the sweetened, condensed milk over it, then add the sugar syrup. Cut whatever sized chunk you want and serve while it’s warm, creamy and delicious!
Wedding traditions aren’t just about exchanging vows and rings. There are so many non trivial ways to say “I do.” From the well-known bride tossing her wedding bouquet, the couple’s first dance and the cutting of the cake, to wearing something old, new, borrowed and blue, American wedding customs became very popular around the world. But other countries too have their own beloved wedding customs. Some of them are heartwarmingly romantic, some are a little weird, and some might even make you uncomfortable. But what binds these disparate traditions from near and far is one simple thing: love!
1. China: Stars, Colors & Chicken Liver
In Chinese tradition, a middleman was used to cement a lengthy engagement. Once a man found a woman he wanted to marry, the go-between person would present gifts to the girl’s parents and consult an astrology expert to check the auspicious nature of the match. Modern Chinese wedding ceremonies also place a heavy importance on auspicious dates. It’s common to ask fortune tellers consult Chinese almanacs and analyze the prospective union.
A traditional Chinese wedding features a full procession, with the bride escorted to the ceremony in a covered sedan chair. Red is the main color in Chinese weddings, symbolizing love, good luck and courage. For centuries, Chinese brides wore the traditional qipao, a long bright-red silk dress with intricate gold embroidery, that covered her whole body, revealing only the head, hands and toes. According to an old tradition, the bride wears a red veil to hide her face, and her mother or attendant holds a red umbrella over her head to encourage fertility in the new family. Throughout the ceremony the bride changes gowns several times to demonstrate the opulence of her family.
In Daur region in China, there is quite a disturbing tradition that requires future husband and wife to dissect a chicken and check out its liver: if the liver is healthy, the couple can set a date for the wedding. If not, they should hold off on the marriage until they find one that will tell them otherwise.
2. Japan: Lady in White
Japanese ceremonies were traditionally held in Shinto Shrines. The bride’s skin is painted pure white from head to toe, she wears a white kimono and a big white hood hiding the “horns of jealousy” for her mother-in-law and signifying the desire to become an obedient wife. Throughout the ceremony a bride wears several costumes, first changing into another kimono in red and then into a Western-style dress. To symbolize their union, the couple drinks sake together, becoming husband and wife the moment they take the first sip.
3. Korea: It All Starts With a Duck
While in Fiji a groom must present his future father-in-law a whale’s tooth, in Korea a man gives their mother-in-law wild geese or ducks. The monogamous animals represent a man’s pure intentions and loyalty to his bride. Nowadays, brides and grooms exchange wooden geese and ducks on their wedding day instead as a symbol of their commitment.
4. India: Forget Jewelry
Indian weddings are surrounded by numerous rituals and ceremonies. A popular pre-wedding tradition includes a special engagement ceremony during which bride and groom exchange rings and their families exchange gifts and sweets. The ceremony is usually held at the bride’s home and is followed by decorating the bride’s body with henna art. As part of the visually stunning traditional Indian wedding, bride’s palms, wrists, arms, legs, and feet are painted, in tattoo fashion, with intricate henna designs to represent the joy, hope, and love of the occasion. The elaborate skin art takes hours to make and it lasts about two weeks making additional accessories totally unnecessary.
5. Malaysia: All About Numbers
There’s a Malaysian tradition of exchanging wedding gifts between the bride and groom-to-be. The number of gifts is very important – it must be a minimum of 7 or more gifts of an odd number. The minimum of 7 gifts for the betrothed bride generally includes a diamond or gold ring, brand new outfit, pair of shoes, handbag, traditional shawl or scarf, special container of aromatic and symbolic betel leaves, fruits or food gifts. The Malaysian wedding ceremony also incorporates some Hindu traditions including painting hands with henna. At the ceremony, each guest receives an artistically decorated hard-boiled egg to symbolize fertility. And before the wedding a groom might send his future bride child-bearing presents, such as trays of food with origami flowers and cranes made from currency bills.
6. Fiji: Toothy Treasure
In Fiji, a man have to find an unusual gift if he wants to propose to the beloved one. Before asking for the hand of the woman he is in love with, the groom must present his future father-in-law a whale’s tooth.
7. Jamaica: Everyone’s a Critic
Jamaican weddings are a community affair, with the entire village often coming together to help plan the big day. Before the ceremony villagers line up in the street to take a look at the bride and call out negative comments and publicly criticize her if her appearance isn’t in tip-top shape. If the majority is critical, the bride must go home and make a second try at looking her best. 8. Mauritius: Go Large or Go Home
Many brides-to-be around the world go on a strict diet to lose weight before the big day. Not so in Mauritius, where young women are often forced to gain some weight before their wedding, sometimes causing them many health problems later in life. In Mauritania, a large, full-bodied wife is said to signify good luck and prosperity in marriage.
9. Kenya: Some Spitting Allowed How would you like to be all dressed up in your wedding finery and have your dad spit on you? In Kenya, as the newlyweds leave the ceremony, the father of the bride spits on his daughter’s head and chest in order not to jinx the good fortune of the married couple.
10. Venezuela: Missing In Action
Don’t wait until the wedding reception’s end to chat up a Venezuelan bride and groom — they could be long gone. It’s good luck for the newlyweds to sneak away before the party’s over without getting caught; it’s also good luck for whichever guests catches on that they’re gone.