I spy with my little eye... pretty damaged countries.

I don't want to get into politics or militancy, HOB is not the place for that, but last week's events were heavy, and I agree with my compatriots' reaction to terrors: insisting on keeping a normal lifestyle. No fear is one of the biggest mottos that have been heard and read in Paris, it applies to France but also to Lebanon that was bombed on the same week-end and didn't get half of the attention Paris did. Whether it's Paris, Beirut, Bamako, Syria... there is no rule when it comes to reasoning with irrationality. The only thing we, as civilians, can do, is keep moving forward as peacefully as possible and keep remembering how beautiful our countries and values are.
So this post is my little contribution: this is (surprisingly) not about Paris but about the underdog, about Lebanon, where Lil'sis got married two month ago, I hadn't shared these pictures yet, and I think it is time to remind ourselves of the pretty things.

She welcomed us in Beirut with fresh pistachios and rose.
The morning of the wedding I got her a little present.
After a quick stop a the Embassy and we headed to Jbeil for an amazingly sunny and chilled afternoon. Lil'sis and her husband had insisted on a beach day, and we are all grateful they stood their ground.

Probably the only moment my mother chilled during this whole week-end... 

Lil'bro and cousin celebrate the happy bride.

And this is how why we keep swords around in Lebanon: to cut wedding cakes! What else?

I spy with my little eye... Pink October with Chantelle.

I am usually not one for email chains and for campaigns, but having lost young women on both sides of my family because of breast cancer, this cause has become very close to my heart. It is a difficult disease to prevent, so I encourage all the ladies out there to get checked and to pay attention to what is happening in their bras. Do it for you, and do it for your families.
Now I am not very skilled at tracking the changes in my body; if/when I notice something different, I usually just shrug my shoulders, and decide that it is nothing significant... until someone drags me to the doctor. But if you are a 30something woman who has a family history of breast cancer, you can't afford the luxury of acting like a child, got to find a way to be responsible. As unexpected as it may sound, on top of being a womanly pleasure, beautiful lingerie has become part of my strategy to keep an eye on my breasts.
And when it comes to lingerie, Chantelle is one my go-to brands. Here are my favourite pieces from the AW15 collection:

I love the soft pink colour and lace of the Idole set. Just a little bit of lace so get into Autumn slowly.

Black "plumetis" instantly put me in a Parisian mood: time for the androgynous look, a man white shirt, red lipstick, black pants and heels. Simple and efficient.

And since I am in a Parisian mood, I picked an other classic: the white Superbe set. I paired with my red Louboutins and The Little Black Jacket Chanel exhibition book. Black and white with a touch of colour and Chanel, could it be any more Parisian?

I spy with my little eye... a turban, 1930's style.

This is a long belated post... I met Alice from Brothers and Sisters a couple of months ago, it's our common love for hats that brought us together. She is a little ray of sunshine and I instantly loved her style. The only thing is: as much as I like hats, I consider turbans a special breed. They are very common in the Middle East because they work well with the "modest fashion" movement (a very stylish alternative to the veil), but we don't wear them as easily in Europe.
When she showed me her collections, the first thing that came to my mind was the 30's, so it was an evidence that I should pair it with my grandmother's 1930's lace dress... I just needed to locate it in my suitcases! And thanks to this first long week-end of the year, I finally did!

As fun as it was to shoot these 2 items together, I still feel pretty shy about the turban.  I think it comes naturally to the ladies in the region, when for me it is more of an effort: Ascia from The Hybrids and Dee from Street Style Savyy are 2 great examples. Give me a cloche or a bibi and I am instantly in my element, but a turban... I need to work at it, it's just out of my comfort zone (such profound reflexions, this post is the exact opposite to the last one, oh well, can't be serious all the time!).

Oh, and the black and white picture I am looking at on the above photo? My grandmother, the one who purchased and wore that sexy 1930's dress. Way to go Nina!

For more turban, have a look at Brothers and Sisters website: www.brothersandsisters.biz

I spy with my little eye...the 30 things I know for sure.

Ramadan is a time to reflect on yourself and the way you live your life. Being an expat in the Middle East, this usually rubs off on me. The work days are reduced, the city is silent, families leave the country, it is 40 degrees Celsius outside, there isn't much to do until sundown, so I end up reading, cooking and enjoying some quiet time. A couple of months ago I came across Sandra Bienkowski's list of 48 things she knows for sure on the Huffington Post, that made me think of the 30 lessons I have learned so far, which is a good way to start this Holy month of Ramadan:
1- Find something everyday that makes you smile.
2- Know yourself and learn to handle your fears/shortcomings. No one should have to manage them for you.
3- Spend time with people who make you smile.
4- Life isn't that serious.
5- Be curious, never say never.
6- Hair will grow back. Don't be scared to experiment.
7- Always wonder if things that make you sad or stress you out will matter in 5 years time.
8- Challenge yourself, but do it on your own terms. What matters is how you feel.
9- Listen. A lot.
10- The only way to know is to go for it.
11- Take time to reflect. Don't forget to breathe.
12- Never think that you are done growing up or learning.
13- Don't give advice unless you were asked. You don't necessarily know better and have no right to judge.
14- Learn when to walk away or go for a run before you say things you might regret.
15- It's ok not to know where you are going in life. Trust that you are doing the best you can with whatever you have and know at the time.
16- Embrace the decisions you took. However it turns out, you did the best you could.
17- You have a right to say no.
18- Immediate emotional reactions are rarely a good idea.
19- Remember that everything isn't about you.
20- Indecision is a decision.
21- Brains are sexy.
22- Everything doesn't have to be perfect. Starting somewhere and perfecting along the way is better than doing nothing.
23- Being consistent will take you far.
24- Don't underestimate details: they can make or ruin someone's day.
25- Listen to your body: you only have one.
26- Allow people to come and go in your life, you never know what the future holds.
27- Learn a lesson from every experience, good or bad.
28- Be polite and mean it.
29- Try. At least once.
30- Don't take life changing decisions when you are feeling really high or really low.

Ramadan Kareem ya'all!

I spy with my little eye... the case of the banana bread.

I love to bake and I usually go for simple hearty recipes, I can't really be bothered with rose petals and frosting, so knowing that, banana bread should have been a hit. But being a bit lazy at times (and maybe a bit over-confident), I figured I didn't need a recipe, I could just alter one into a banana bread, so I started by adding mashed bananas in a yogurt cake... epic fail. The consistency did not blend properly, and I ended up with a stone, literally. Then I tried to add bananas to a sponge cake, there again, big fail: for some unknown reason, it refused to cook. For my third attempt, I actually picked a recipe on the internet: this one wouldn't raise despite the baking powder. To be honest, I would have given up after this third attempt if my friend M. didn't keep on presenting me with her perfect banana breads, which kept tickling my stubbornness. Eventually I declared defeat and asked her for her recipe, that has since, never failed. Funny how sometimes the simple things are the hardest thing to achieve.

M. was traveling recently and she was emptying her fridge, so she turned to me with a smile: "Here Flo, would you take these 2 ripe bananas? Maybe time for a banana bread?". We both laughed at my baking experiences and disasters, so now that I have it all figured out, I thought I would share the love and recipe:
- 1 cup of melted unsalted butter
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2-3 ripe bananas
- vanilla
- cinnamon
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
Basically just blend everything together and bake for 45min at 180 degrees celsius. 

I spy with my little eye... the Austrian escape.

Anybody who's been in Dubai for more than a year is familiar with the need to escape. I love the sandpit and I chose to be here, but every couple of months, I need to get away. Every couple of months, I need to get back to greenery, history and simplicity, and last month C. and R. wedding in Austria was the perfect escape: a short flight, a long week-end, a lot of laughter and memories. Despite being Irish, the couple decided to get married in Poysdorf (norh of Vienna), where they bought a lovely little farm, and to keep it very very simple. The most important for them was to make sure people would be able to make it, so they prioritised logistics over grandeur: most of the details were handmade, the bride found her dress in a second-hand shop, friends made the cakes, the invites, the brunch the morning after was hosted by the couple etc... It was simple and warm, they made sure we were taken care of and organised transportation, hotels, hydrated and well fed. 

After a 5h flight, I discovered Poysdorf, Austria, wine region.
Austria wouldn't be Austria without beer and cold cuts...

The morning of the big day, I woke up and realised I was going to have to dig deep in my memory to manage breakfast in german: despite studying german for several years, sign language sounded like the better option, that's how bad I am...

After failing at putting together one single german sentence, it was time to put on the wedding attire, hope for a sunny day and head to church. 
I have a peculiar relationship with churches: they make me giggle, and I am always interested in looking the exact opposite to where the action is... which is how I caught the groom giving the choir the signal to start singing for the bride's walk down the aisle:

The ceremony was short, sweet and joyful. And the... it was time to celebrate!

A big Merci to the lovely couple for such a fun week-end! It looked and sounded like them: warm, joyful, Irish, Austrian, simple, very well organised, attentive... with lots of wine!

I spy with my little... the highlife vintage style posters.

Dubai is getting more and more quirky and I am loving it! Markets are popping everywhere, there are more and more restaurants that look like actual bars (aka unpretentious, and smiley), food trucks are appearing on the beach etc... You can even find people who don't take themselves or Dubai seriously, how amazing and refreshing is that?
Clare Napper, a former Saatchi and Saatchi Bristish designer, who's been in Dubai 8 years, got inspired by both our expat lifestyle where everything is easy, and Roger Broders depictions of France touristy sites in the 1930's-1940's. I love the satire and honesty of her observation, as much as the retro style of these simple, yet spot on posters. Yes golf sucks in summer, yes, Jumeirah Janes are lost without their nannies, yes, the Palm is a posh neighbourhood... all these things that make me roll my eyes but also make Dubai what it is are condensed in this collection of 18 artworks.
To see the full collection, click here: www.highlife-dubai.com

I spy with my little eye... Spring time with Chantelle!

Spring is coming! I am not one to change my wardrobe with every change of season, but I have a tendency to crave new lingerie when in Spring and Autumn. When Chantelle new collection landed in my mailbox a couple of days ago, I instantly fell for Merci ensemble in grey. I loved the romantic subtle colour and art deco patterns, it made me think of a lazy Sunday afternoon in the South of France, in an old rustic house full vintage wallpaper and cracking wooden floors...

I realised after I shot this picture I had picked the same model but in a different colour... That tells you how much I loved it. As much as I like a classical style, I think Parisians have it a little bit too easy: you can't really go wrong if the only colours you wear are plain black, white, navy, beige or grey. That's just lazy fashion if you ask me. I like to add a touch of colour (it's Spring, let's go crazy!), for example that pastel yellow ensemble would be perfect under a grey sweater and black carrot pants!

For more information about Chantelle new collection, click here.

I spy with my little eye... The Paradis - French Kitchen.

The french restaurant Le Paradis du Fruit was always one of my favourite places to catch up with the girls in Paris. The concept of healthy, light cuisine wasn't really popular in France 10 years ago so this little gem was a novelty at the time: I remember I discovered frozen yoghurt thanks to them. So when I heard they were opening a branch at The Beach, I couldn't wait to check it out. 

They've always been known for their healthy menu but also colourful interior design featuring Philippe Starck details. Just walking into the restaurant feels like you've had a shot of vitamins!

I was happy to see that their menu is still as healthy and appetising as it used to be: the salads and smoothies without any added sugar are the highlights. But since I was there for breakfast, I decided to go unhealthy and get the French breakfast... You can get the French girl out of Paris but you can't get the croissant out of the French girl.

I started with a kiwi/apple/mint smoothie that looked a bit surprising to be honest because the kiwi and apple juice didn't mix nicely, but it was refreshing to see something normal and not utterly perfect in Dubai. The very few juices I make at home tend to look a bit strange too, which is why: 1- I stopped making them, 2- I could tell this was freshly made. It was tasty and light, just as promised.
Then I tucked in the pain au chocolat: I hadn't had such a light and buttery pastry since La Serre, and my lovely breakfast buddy Tjasha who definitively knows a good croissant when she sees one agreed that it was one of the best she had had in Dubai!

The bread selection with home-made jam were nice, and the coffee very good, but what I appreciated best after the menu and pain au chocolat is the service. It was fast, efficient, smiley and french! Whether I was talking to the waiter, the manager, or the guy making smoothies and juices behind the bar, everybody was speaking french, it definitively felt like home!

Happy gal! Thank you Le Paradis - French Kitchen, I will be back!

More information on: http://www.leparadisdufruit.ae/

I spy with my little eye... a road trip to Saida and Tyr.

What I loved the most about Beirut was the joyful, constant and loud mess! Jumping in a car with all the cousins, turning on the cheesy music, singing and dancing while racing with my uncle's car, stopping on the way for mana'iches, fooling around at the check points, and ending up by the sea, feet in the water in December.

Yallah, let's go to Tyr!

But first, let's stop in Saida to visit the old soap factory (that just happens to be in a gorgeous house).

Saint Exupery said that love wasn't looking into each other eyes, but looking in the same direction... Looks like lil sis' and her boyfriend are on a good track.

Might as well get coffee and pastries while we're here... We haven't eaten in 1h30, we definitively need a snack...

Then let's have a tour of Saida's soukh. (Note to self: shopping with a Lebanese family is the best way to test one's patience.) Bananas anyone?

Or maybe 10kg of fresh meat?

And my personal favourite: the disco veggie stall!

Eventually we got back in the car and headed to Tyr to find... the sea.

Cousins made plans to cross the sea.

And Lebanon gifted us with a gorgeous sunset. What an amazing day!

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