Travel and Lifestyle

Soweto’s new chill spot is where the great food is at

As you drive up Vilakazi street in Soweto, away from the hustle and bustle of traders displaying beautiful hand-made African craft, you will find on your left, a beautiful, centrally-located restaurant called SUD. Home to a number of creative and delicious meals, SUD is the first restaurant to offer a culinary experience like none other in the area.

With a menu that accurately states the restaurant’s mission to cater to every palate, SUD offers a variety of delicious meals that will leave your taste buds dancing with delight. At the opening on Sunday, the 1st of September, guests were treated to a buffet display of some of the restaurant’s choice dishes. From Jalapeno poppers, to beer-battered hake fillet pieces and free range chicken lollipops, guests were tantalized by the delicious food, the beautiful environment and the very attentive serving staff.

I tasted almost everything and I would definitely recommend the chicken lollipops! The meat is tender, falls off the bone easily and is cooked in a delicious curry sauce that will have you going back for more. The beer-battered hake cups served with a sweet carrot-infused sauce were lovely , and the jalapeno poppers were spicy without being overpowering.

The restaurant’s menu is very creative with a dessert like Rooibos panna cotta, and sides like broccoli sprouts in plum sauce, crisp potato halumette with rosemary salt and a champagne and mustard mash (fancy!). For drinks, you can expect the in-house chef, Patrick to help with food and wine pairings, selecting from the restaurant’s impressive wine display. If you are looking to try something local and new, you can order a gin and tonic, and expect to be impressed by the exciting gin flavors from the local gin company listed by the restaurant.

SUD is located at 6877 Vilakazi Street, Dube, Soweto. The restaurant has an outdoor seating area for those who would like to bask in the sun as they enjoy their meal, an indoor seating area for those who would like to enjoy a fine dining experience, and a VIP section for those who would like to hold small, intimate gatherings. No matter what your preferred dining style is, SUD has the perfect spot for you!

Here, you can see the beautiful wine display
indoor seating at the restaurant
outdoor seating area

Next time you are in Soweto, stop at SUD for a bite and let me know about your experience!

Travel and Lifestyle

In Nigeria, Good Girls Don’t Wear Nose Rings

On a beautiful summer morning in the city of London UK, my sister and I woke up and made a decision we knew would not exactly make momma proud. We were going to the nearest Claire’s store to get additional piercings in our ears. I remember the excitement with which we skipped to the mall at Uxbridge for something as mundane as an extra ear piercing. But it was what it was – a defiance of an upbringing that had confined us so much, that our first opportunity to let loose brought about inexplicable joy and release.

For me, it was the excitement of deliberately testing the limit of cultural decency. A couple of years before that day, when I lived in Ibadan in Nigeria, I had unknowingly tested the same limit. That day, I had adorned my left ankle with a silver anklet that matched the dark blue knee-length denim skirt and white top I wore to my A’levels class. I thought nothing of it. It was jewelry and I loved jewelry. So imagine how shocked I was when I got a call from my mother later that evening asking if I had joined ‘a bad gang’. A bad gang? Where? What gang? You need to know how nerdy I am to understand how unlikely this accusation was. Yet, there I was trying to figure out the link between my activities at school and this band gang association tag. Yes, I did many teenage stuff, but way-before-bad-gang was where I drew the line. How did my mother reach this conclusion?

It turned out that a friend of hers who had visited her daughter at the school that day had seen me, and on noticing the anklet, figured I was part of a prostitution ring or helping armed robbers in cash heists. Because, in Nigeria, good girls do not adorn themselves with anklets, nose rings, toe rings, lots of rings on their fingers, belly rings, tongue rings, extra earrings… or any form of adornment that can be easily associated with women who are not under any form of control. So you can understand why me and my sister were excited to take our first step toward freedom by getting extra ear piercings. They were not in risque places but still, getting them was a step gained against the widely-accepted idea of what decent women ought to dress like.

I recently saw a tweet from a Nigerian man that made me think back to that day in London.

“Nose piercing and or breast baring in pictures is now the order of day. Even the supposedly Nigerian “good girls” have also caught the bug. I am seeing things.” – @Lexymma

I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read that. I would have laughed out loud and responded if it did not bring back the memory of being accused of committing crimes across the city of Ibadan simply because I wore an anklet to class. I would have been really amused if it did not remind me of the many times as a child that I saw beautiful women who gracefully embellished their feet and ankles with beautiful toe rings and anklets, only to be told they were women who could not get husbands because they were prostitutes or mermaids sent from the sea to mislead married men and steal them from their wives. If the women were light-skinned, the mermaid story stuck. If they were dark-skinned, they were aspiring to join the mermaids in the sea (a story for another day).

I tried to dig into why these fashion elements are so demonized in the Nigerian society, and the best reason I got was from the bible. A young Nigerian man pointed to the fact that the Israelites had built a golden calf using their jewelry; therefore, any woman who had extra jewelry on, was endorsing the actions of the Israelites and possibly plotting to build a calf of her own. I don’t know about you all, but building a calf is not what comes to mind when I put on my anklet or toe ring. I just want my feet to look pretty.

It really sucks that in Nigeria, decency is still pretty much determined by inconsequential actions such as wearing a nose ring or an anklet, and this unfortunately affects how you are perceived by society. It is not unusual for women to meet men who are cool with their nose rings (like this should even be a thing???), but when it is time to meet the family, cool guy pleads with them to remove these extra embellishments. Why? The parents just will not approve. It is not surprising to find men in Nigeria assuming that a woman with extra piercings or jewelry is down for whatever. The idea is that if she is dressed like that (referring to use of jewelry here), then she is the kind of girl who will be exciting for the night but not good enough to marry. I have also heard pastors preach about how holy their wives are by pointing out her natural beauty and lack of jewelry as proof of this holiness.

I usually don’t know if I should laugh or weep when I hear these things. How does a piece of jewelry determine a person’s sense of morality? How do people even come up with these things? Besides vilifying women who wear jewelry, a new wave is demonizing women who cut their hair in trendy styles. I remember a WhatsApp broadcast message I received recently where ladies who cut and dye their hair were accused of being part of a diabolical prostitution ring. According to this broadcast, these women are members of a cult whose mission is to ‘hook’ married men to their vaginas and extort money from them. Do you see the trend? Have you noticed it? The idea that women who do these things are simply trying to steal poor married men from their marital beds.

To be fair, in Nigeria, men with tattoos are regarded as cultists or robbers most of the time, so women are not the only ones who are suffering from meaningless dictates of morality that have no direct correlation with behavior. What I wonder about is how these rules came about. Who decided to associate anklets with prostitution, and piercings with looseness? Who is the ancestor who has imprisoned women and men in this box of decency, preventing them from expressing themselves through fashion choices that are really just fashion choices?

Anyway, I have been thinking of piercing my nose but people say it is really painful and uncomfortable. Decisions… decisions….

PS: My book is now available for pre-orders. Visit the homepage and click ‘Preorder I Died At 26’. Remember to submit the form before you click the ‘Pay now’ option that applies to you.

Travel and Lifestyle

La vie est amusante et belle à Niagara, Canada/ Life is fun and beautiful in Niagara, Canada

I love going out – selecting an outfit, getting dressed and smiling with satisfaction at myself in the mirror after all the bells and whistles are in place is something I find exciting. Staying out however is a whole different ball game. After two hours, I start itching for the comfort of my home. I long for the soft feel of my couch and the desire to rest my head on one of the cushions becomes really overwhelming. This feeling waxes stronger if I am outdoors on a cold day , in a social setting with too dull or too loud conversation, or if I am with people who are so particular about coming across as perfect, they are unable to state their truths in conversations.

So when I and my colleagues from the Young Water Professionals conference in Toronto got set to visit Niagara falls with an itinerary of about nine hours, I was very worried about the possibility of being overwhelmed by my desire to be home. I wanted to hang out with everyone, but I was also worried about finding out that we could not connect on anything more than our passion for functional and effective water services across the world. I got set anyway. Armed with my camera, I decided I was going to have an amazing day and fight that urge to be home after two hours. I would later come to realize that my resolution was not necessary.

We set off from Downtown Toronto and headed first for a water treatment plant tour in the Halton region. After about an hour of learning about how resident water technicians worked together to ensure the plant was effective in its water provision mandate, we headed for the Niagara region which was a little more than an hour’s drive from the water treatment plant.

Photo taken in Tawse winery wine cellar

Our first stop was the Tawse Winery in the area. This is a great place to stop for a tour if you are travelling as a group. The Tawse winery is set in the serene Niagara region surrounded by the beauty of trees with a water fountain in front of the building. Welcomed with glasses of Rosé, our tour guide passionately explained the process of wine-making, how different types of grapes birth different wines, and how even though they make champagne, they can’t call it champagne because the residents of Champagne in France would have a fit. We walked between the rows of different grapes, grown specifically for different kinds of wines and basked in the sun listening to reasons why the grapes were grown on slopes. Inside the winery, we were treated to a wine tasting session, surrounded by Tawse’s finest products.

Few glasses of wine and a lot of good information later, we set off for Niagara falls. This was the highlight of the trip and I really did not know what to expect. I had heard a lot about the falls. A colleague even described her visit there as a dream come true so I was really looking forward to it. As we pulled into the ‘city’, I could see why anyone would be excited to be there. Niagara is really where you cut loose, forget how old or heavy-laden you are and just have fun!

You can start by seeing the fall from the curb or even ziplining over it. Afterwards, get on the skywheel and get a good view of the city. I am terrified of heights but after one round on the wheel, I was able to start enjoying the view. Thankfully, the wheel is slow. I still have some childhood trauma from a hand-spun ferris wheel on the Bar-beach in Lagos. Some useful advice: Buy an adventurer ticket which allows you on to the skywheel as well as other select rides in the area, rather than a single ticket for the skywheel.

You will be spoiled for choice on what to do in Niagara, so don’t spend too much time thinking about it and just start with whatever is nearest to you. From laser-tagging to cart racing, there is a lot of action in Niagara and lots to see if you decide to simply take a stroll around. There are restaurants with live music in the area and great ice-cream stores. If I remember correctly, I got really delicious rocky road ice cream from ‘Sweet Jesus’. It was about ten dollars and I remember my friend frowning at the price. There are also shops to get touristy stuff like t-shirts, fridge magnets and even hoodies.

By the end of the day, as we drove back to Toronto, I had no urge to be in my bed. It felt like the child in me came out to play and I did not want to lock her back in. I ended the day with dinner at a Cantonese restaurant in Downtown Toronto, and as I laid my head to sleep later that night, I closed my eyes with the contentment of a day well spent.

Travel and Lifestyle

Brethren, It is Not by Faith Alone that We Lose Belly Fat

If I was asked to describe belly fat, I would call it the creeping invader of the late twenties and persistent friend of the late thirties. It is the friend that takes the vow of alliance seriously. It understands the importance of keeping secrets, and will happily stay put in waist trainers, barely trying to stretch its arms as friends and strangers admire our tiny perfect waist lines. It does not rat us out beneath all types and colors of shape-wear and does not hold a grudge by the end of the day when we let it flow freely, relieving ourselves from the strain of arduous breathing. It is the friend no one wants, but one we are likely to get if we keep thinking that we can wish it away as we trust in our ‘fast’ metabolism.

I used to be one of those people – I had so much faith in my fast metabolism, did not really understand why I needed to workout, and was able to eat almost anything without consequence. But as I turned a chapter after 25, I started to notice an undesirable horizontal expansion in places I would have preferred to keep tight and fit. This expansion, although slow in its encroachment, began to bother me and it was only a matter of time before it became a battle I wanted to fight wholeheartedly.

So I did what everyone was doing – I joined a gym in my area and decided it was time to start working out. In fact, I started to fantasize about the toned body I was going to build and was no longer a fan of my slim-but-not-firm body.

At first, I would go to the gym and spend 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, and another 30 minutes fooling myself into thinking the halfhearted crunches and sit-ups I was doing were sufficient for me to lose this layer of belly fat that I could not stop seeing, even though my friends and acquaintances claimed they could not see it. I guess I don’t need to tell you that by the end of three months, I was exactly in the same place I was when I started.

Frustrated, I delved into research and got the gist of what I was doing wrong – spending hours on a cardio machine was not going to help get the toned body I wanted. I needed to move with confidence into the intimidating weights section of the gym and lift weights.

After talking myself up for several days and strategically eyeing the times of the day when the weights section of the gym was close to empty, I eventually made my way to the weights and attempted to do a 25 kg deadlift. The contents of my stomach mixed vigorously together and after a few lifts (and by few, I mean three), I made a good decision to drop the barbell and walk stylishly to the ladies room. From there I went straight home. Deadlifts were certainly not my friend. The first time I lifted 40 kg a few weeks later, the room spun and my whole body shook. I sat on a bench for 20 minutes, hoping my body was not going to disassemble into bits. Those were the funny early days, and I wish I could say they yielded the desired results but they did not.

After every workout session, I was so ravenous, I would eat a steak with vegetables and ten minutes later, be found sitting on my couch eating a packet of plantain chips. I was insatiable after every workout. I remember going out with a friend for breakfast at a new spot he really liked. He suggested I order an omelette and I remember saying “Just that? I am really hungry!” He looked amused and when the omelette arrived, I understood why. There was no way I could finish the large omelette AND the slices of brown toast I had ordered. It was the first time I was defeated by food, but I still continued with my plantain chips routine and would occasionally snack on a chocolate bar, nuts and all other kinds of small bits. The result? I started to look bulky. My shoulders were wider, breasts larger, butt rounder and belly fat? Persistent. I remember standing in front of my bathroom mirror one day wondering what I was doing wrong.

I ate a lot of proteins – beef, chicken, fish fillets, and no carbohydrates. I used only olive oil in my cooking. I drank water and freshly-squeezed orange juice most of the time. Fizzy drinks have never really been my thing so they were not a problem. I had the occasional glass of wine and sometimes, when I was out with friends, I had cocktails and “100% juice”. But surely, those should not have been enough to undermine my efforts in the gym.

It took a presentation by some of my students for me to realize that not eating carbohydrates did not mean I was not getting carbohydrates. Did you know that your body converts proteins to carbohydrates when your blood sugar is low? I immediately changed my game plan.

Low quantity of carbs + lean proteins + healthy fats to yield a calorie deficit daily became the plan.

Thankfully, the results are now better. I have lost the bulkiness of an aspiring body builder and I am well on my way to achieving a toned mid-section – which is really the most difficult part for me. I mean, it seems all the fat I had in other parts of my body migrated to my belly to set up a defense camp against my efforts, but my mama did not raise a quitter so I am pressing on, not by faith, but by strenuous workouts in the gym.

My banana, berries and chia seeds smoothie packed with a teaspoon of gluten-free oats

I work out four days a week and on one of the other days, I do a 5km run within the neighborhood. I have split my body, not into parts, but into sections – my upper body and my lower body. Because I never really had a butt when I was younger, and I really wanted one, I hit my lower body with heavy weights and many reps three out of four days. (By the way ladies, hit that booty as often as you can. Don’t give up on it! Working out your glutes will do your body a lot of good). Chest, arms and back workouts are two days a week (I combine the third day of lower body workouts with light upper body workouts), and abs are every workout day.

I eat more fibre-rich gut-friendly meals. One of my favorite breakfasts is a banana, berry and chia seeds smoothie which I pack up with a tablespoon of gluten-free oats whenever I am feeling really peckish. For lunch, I indulge in delicious vegetable casseroles or a delightful mix of lean proteins, chickpeas, and vegetables. Dinner is always something light, like a delicious carrot and coconut soup recipe I stumbled on.

No, I no longer drink orange juice even though it is freshly squeezed at a farmer’s market near me. Water is my best friend. I start my day with warm water and lemon, and by the end of my morning workouts, I consume about one litre of water. I consume more during the course of the day.

Yes, I still hang out with friends and I enjoy an occasional treat of waffles and ice cream when the craving overwhelms me, but all in all, I am doing pretty good and a gut healthy diet has been the best decision I’ve made on this fitness journey. Still a work in progress but I am happy with how I feel. Yes, that’s me featured on this post.

I intend to post my workout regimen soon so keep an eye out for that. For now, get rid of all the fizzy stuff, give the cookies away and replace your baked snacks with baby carrots. Get into some cardio and body weight exercises at home, and if you are wondering what you can eat, my advice is to stick to food that grows, not food that is synthesized.

With all that said dear community, what are your workout and diet tips? Please share in the comments. I will be delighted to read about how you are all challenging the creepy invader called belly fat.

Travel and Lifestyle

Out and About in Downtown Toronto

If you are thinking of where to spend your next summer holiday, take a good look at Toronto. It is nice and warm in the summer, vibrant and not short of places to visit or things to do. I spent a couple of weeks there and had a really great experience. I had a great view staying in a high rise building

If you are wondering what to do in Toronto, keep reading.

  1. There are lots of places to eat: Downtown Toronto is not short of places to eat. Expect to be spoiled for choice in this vibrant part of the city. In fact, you are more likely to find places to eat than you are to find places to shop for fashion. I am not kidding. I stayed on Dundas Street East all through and was grateful for it. Not only is it close to the famous Dundas Square (Toronto’s version of NYC’s Times Square), it was easy to access a wide range of restaurants from here. There are a lot of Asian restaurants on Dundas Street West, so if you are craving Korean, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Thai…the whole shebang, Dundas Street West is definitely the place to be. I had really good culinary experiences with Hong Shing and Zen Q.

Downtown Toronto also has some cool breakfast spots. If you are looking for a delicious and filling weekend brunch without having to go to through the stress of making reservations, check out School on Fraser Avenue. The ‘Krispy Krunchy’ French toast with raspberry compote and brown sugar butter is to die for! The ambience is relaxed, welcoming and for a nerd like me, appealing. Why? You might ask. I’ll tell you. They serve juice in glass beakers! Haha! I mean laboratory glass beakers. The scientist in me couldn’t be more pleased!

If you are looking to eat at a chain restaurant, Sunset Grill is great to check out. I ordered an omelette and was told by a friend later on that I shouldn’t have. It was not as exciting to eat as I had hoped but I did see other customers eating more exciting stuff

OK. Enough about food. I could go on and on because I ate a lot from a lot of places but let’s move on.

2. Be sure to check out the art! Toronto is an artsy city, well, at least the downtown area is. I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario with a friend and saw really beautiful exhibitions. The ‘Infinite Mirrors’ exhibition by Yayoi Kusama was on at the gallery and it was quite the ‘limitless’ experience. Going through the gallery, you will be sure to find other interesting pieces of art.

3. There is a place for critically acclaimed films and documentaries. That place is the Ted Rogers cinema on Bloor Street. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the Toni Morrisson movie due to unforeseen circumstances, but it is a great place to hang out in the downtown area if you are into those kinds of movies.

4. Hire a bicycle and ride around the city. There is a lot to see in Toronto and one of the best ways to see the city is hire a bicycle and ride around town. Bicycle rentals go for about $35 for the whole day and an extra $10 if you want to keep the bicycle overnight. Here are some pictures I took around the downtown area.

5. Get on a sightseeing tour bus and see the city: This is as touristy as it gets. The tour bus has a pick up point at Dundas square and tickets are about $40 if I remember correctly.

6. Check out ABC books on Yonge street: If you are into old books at pleasingly low prices, then this is the shop to check out. I left with two fiction books and a memoir of imprisoned women in Iran, and parted with only five dollars. Yep $5. Definitely the cheapest purchase I made in Toronto!

7. Go to the beach: Yes, there are beaches in Toronto and if you are there for the summer, the beach is a great place to go and let loose. Volleyball is one of the popular beach sports in Toronto.There were groups around almost every volley net playing very competitively, I might add. The great thing is that Canadians are really friendly people, and will likely invite you to join them. I went to Woodbine beach, which is about twelve minutes drive from Dundas street, met a couple of guys, had some Canadian lager, went out to dinner with them, and at the end of the evening, we were all following each other on Instagram. Yep! And Oh I discovered I have lost my volleyball touch.

8. Some noteworthy additions: China Town and Kensington market are great places to check out in the downtown area. If you are looking to purchase souvenirs, tourist hoodies or decorative material, China Town is certainly your plug! And your way there, stop by the Lucky Moose grocery store to get your dose of fresh fruits. If vintage clothing is your thing, then certainly you must visit Kensington market!

Toronto is certainly not the cheapest place to holiday, but it is really lots of fun! I went to the Niagra area and visited a winery, a wastewater treatment plant (can’t run away from being a water specialist), and of course Niagra falls, but I will save that for another post.

Hope you enjoyed reading! Do share your fun holiday moments if you have been in Toronto!

Travel and Lifestyle

Hello Toronto!

I love travelling! There is something about it that opens my mind and removes from me, mental barriers that I can’t shake off in my regular space. Perhaps it is my constant desire to find something new and exciting that makes travelling a worthwhile experience.

This week I am in Toronto, Canada and boy oh boy, am I loving the vibe of this city! I took an Ethiopian airline flight from Johannesburg – the least stressful option in the category of non-direct flights. The route was Johannebsurg to Addis Ababa (two hour layover – change planes); Addis to Dublin Ireland (one hour stop for refueling, no plane change required) and then Dublin to Pearson International in Toronto. The airline service was excellent, lots of leg room in Economy class and good culinary service. I had to decline one of the meals because I really did not want to leave feeling like an oumba-bumba (nope, that’s not a word).

From Pearson International, I took an uber to my friend’s condo in the Downtown area. One thing to note if you are planning a trip is that ubers do not take cash in Toronto. If you select cash as a payment option, your booking will be cancelled. So remember to activate your card for your trip so you can use it for those bookings.

Toronto is beautiful, I am currently staying in the downtown region, a few metres from Dundas square (Toronto’s equivalent of Times Square in NYC) so I am right in the center of the action. I am here for a Young Water Professionals conference, and will explore the city more after the conference ends.

For now, here are some pictures I took with my phone.

Highway from the airport.
Dundas Square
Pride festival on the weekend of 22 June 2019
Travel and Lifestyle

Beautiful Africa: I Visited Tunisia and I Absolutely Loved It!

This is a late post about Tunisia, considering it has been about nine months since I visited. But every time I look back on the pictures and reminisce about the few days I spent there, I find myself wishing I could be back there. The same applies to my trip to Greece. I constantly find myself looking forward to going back to Greece. I should probably write a post about that. But first of all, Tunisia.

Tunisia is located in North Africa, and is bordered by Algeria, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea. The official languages in Tunisia are French and Arabic (from my understanding) and the official state religion is Islam. If you are looking for a great holiday spot at an affordable price, keep reading. I have outlined all the processes I followed.

Departure point: Johannesburg, South Africa

Arrival: Sousse, Tunisia

Visa Application Process: I applied for the visa at the Tunisia Consulate in Pretoria South Africa and it took about 20 working days for the visa to be approved. From what I understand, it is important to have an invitation letter form Tunisia in order to visit (not sure if this applies to other non-African and North African countries). The visa cost about 80 USD. I paid ZAR 1100. The process is seamless as long as all the required documents are submitted. If you are unsure of what you need, call the consular office in your city to be sure.

Flights: Surprise, surprise! Flying to Tunisia from South Africa is a whole process. The quickest airline that could get me there was Qatar Airways – not that I was complaining. Qatar Airways is an excellent airline to travel with. Irrespective of the cabin class you fly in, you can be assured of quality service and a comfortable trip! The entire trip to Tunisia including a brief two-hour stop-over in Doha was about 17 hours in total, and cost about USD 600 for a return ticket.

Arrival in Tunisia: We arrived at Tunis Carthage International Airport during the day. It is not the most ultra-modern airport you will see. It actually reminded me of the Murtala Mohamed International Airport in Lagos. There is nowhere to hang out and wait so it is really a good idea to have transport waiting for you by the time you land. Except you want to hire a car… which I didn’t. I had the hotel arrange my transport. From Tunis, we drove for about two hours to Sousse – a sea-side city. Besides the beautiful landscape, there was nothing much to see. The driver had bottles of water to keep us hydrated during the drive. The weather was quite warm but not uncomfortable.

Path on the beach leading from the hotel to the seashore. Doesn’t it just look like a wedding venue?
Picture was taken by me.

The Hotel: Concorde Green Park Palace Hotel is located in Port El-Kantoui in the city of Sousse. The hotel is magnificent! It is located on the bank of the Mediterranean Sea, has comfortable rooms and an amazing selection of foods at every meal service. As a foodie, this was, of course, my favorite part. I ate so much, I started to think the hotel attendants would have to roll me out like a car tyre on my last day.

Took through from the balcony of the hotel. Beyond the hotel grounds is the Mediterranean Sea – perfect for a walk in the evenings or even horse riding.

Things to do in Tunisia: From the front gate of the Green Park Palace hotel, I and my colleague took a cab and went to the Medina. We had a very friendly taxi driver who offered to drive us to Monastir – the next city. The distance between both cities is about 20km. In Monastir, we visited the souk sibit – which is the Saturday market. Here, I bought delicious candied nuts, a golden Africa pendant, small gifts for friends (e.g. keyholders), a sun hat and a couple of female jalamia. Things were much cheaper here than at the stores close to the hotel. At this market, you can get lots of fresh dates and fruits. If you would rather buy a Jalamia in a less busy environment. There are shops down the road from the hotel that accept both Dinar and Euro.

Candied nuts from souk sibit in Monastir

I also got to weave a rug in Monastir, but of course, the rug trader expected me to buy rugs. I couldn’t afford them so it was a no from me. This is something to bear in mind about Tunisia. The traders will do everything to convince you to buy their products. They will say all the sweetest words to make you think you need what they are selling. Know that you can negotiate their prices and work on your haggling skills if you want to get a good deal. If you are not interested, firmly say so and keep moving.

I also had a bracelet weaved by the roadside for about five dinars. It took less than five minutes and had the letters of my name woven into it. Pretty cool if you ask me! You can go horse-riding in a carriage for about 12 dinars, drive around the surroundings of Bourguiba’s palace and if I remember correctly, the driver said something about a Bourguiba museum, but I was knackered.

Note on Currency: You can spend euros in Tunisia, but if you choose to change to the local currency which is Dinar, you can do so at the airport. One tip though is that you must insist on a receipt before you go through with the exchange! If you don’t get a receipt, you will not be able to change your leftover Dinar to Euros on your way out. Some hotels offer currency exchanges from dollars and euros to dinar so you can do your currency exchanges based on how much you need daily. Tunisia is not an expensive place so you might not need that much.

So yea, that was Tunisia for me. It was great. The people were friendly, I did a couple of YouTube videos while I was there. Please check them out on my YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9CaGAuFNmM

Below are more pictures from the trip!

In Monastir
Weaving a rug in Monastir
A view of the hotel during the day
Travel and Lifestyle

My Experience with Gluten-Free Spaghetti

Hello everyone! Welcome to this new section of my blog.

I have realized that motivation is not all we need to get through life yea? We need practical ideas and choices about our lifestyle. Sometimes, we need a little help with making the right food choices, visiting the perfect restaurant, doing the right kind of exercise… you know, everyday choices that help us live the motivated and fulfilling lives we desire. So, I have decided to blog about my choices, places I visit and things I eat to stay healthy, and hopefully the exercises I do (filming them still presents a challenge). I hope you find these posts helpful and I hope they push you to make good or better choices. Many of these posts are will be in the form of reviews so, let’s get started with the first one – gluten-free pasta!

Recently, I started to notice something weird about my body. My stomach was distended for hours after eating, my body felt blocked up and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed after eating like an overfed python, hoping for digestion to happen fast. But it didn’t. It was so bad that I felt slow, and my body felt like an extra weight I had to carry around with me. This happened every time I had carbohydrates – especially refined carbs. I could have a basket of fruits and vegetables and not have the same reaction. But one serving of pasta and I felt like I had to drag myself everywhere. I started to keep a food diary and voila! the common factor jumped out at me – gluten was killing me slowly!

So I decided to start trying gluten-free options. I live in South Africa where gluten-free options are more expensive than regular options and can sometimes cost five times more. Yep. You read right. Five times more. Thankfully, my gluten-free spaghetti did not cost that much. The regular option I used to buy cost R16.99 while the gluten-free option (image below) cost me R31.99 – twice as much. The option I found was made of corn and rice flour. My buddy in the USA told me she had gluten free option with corn flour only.

I got home and got to work. Sorry guys. I forgot to film the cooking but this is really what I did:

pasta-2.jpg
If you are in South Africa, you can get this from a local Pick n Pay grocery store

  • I let some water boil in a pot, added a sprinkle of salt and a teaspoon of grapeseed oil.
  • I added about 100g of spaghetti. I didn’t break them and left to boil. First thing I noticed was that the pasta dis not cook as quickly as the regular option. After boiling for about 8 minutes, I noticed it the pasta was getting sticky. I took it off the stove and poured it in a colander. I rinsed it with cold water to get rid of what I call the ‘starchiness’. The spaghetti was still tough as though it had not been exposed to any heat!
  • I put it back in the pot and poured some water over it. I put it on the stove for another three minutes and took it off when it had softened a bit. I had to do this because I had prepared meatballs and pasta sauce and planned to complete the cooking in the sauce.
  • I drained the spaghetti in the colander and added it to the sauce I already prepared. I lowered the heat and left it to simmer for an additional two minutes. I was scared of overcooking it.

Then I served myself a pretty portion (image below) and this is what I discovered. I will do the cons first.

pasta
I sprinkled some parmesan on it and some chopped parsley

  • the spaghetti was grainy to taste. It did not have the smoothness of normal semolina-derived pasta and that grainy-ness was annoying to me. It felt like I was eating bits of rice really.
  • It still didn’t feel like it had cooked through even though the packet said it cooks in ten minutes. From the way it felt though, one extra minute on the stove and it would have been overcooked.
  • It had an after-taste that came across as egg-ish. But hey, I don’t have a professional palette but that what it felt like.

Pros: 

  • No distended tummy after eating. I could still feel my abs – all one and a half of them.
  • My body did not feel clogged or slow. My energy level was boosted instead. I didn’t have an overwhelming urge to lie down like an overfed python.
  • A very good pasta sauce can cover up most of the after-taste. Mine was a thick sauce made with fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper and onions but I could still catch a bit of that egg in the middle of my tongue.

So there you have it. You know what to expect if you decide to go for gluten-free spaghetti. But if you’ve tried a different kind of gluten-free pasta and gotten different results, please share in the comments. XOXO

Travel and Lifestyle

You Can Snap Out Of It

It is 2017, but to be honest, I feel like I carried 2016 with me into the new year. I’ve learned in the past couple of weeks that things don’t change, and everything really boils down to perspective. However, it is very easy for perspective to be clouded. It is very easy to see the things that are not working out, especially when we have high expectations that they should. We gradually dig ourselves into a dark pit because our perspectives are skew and before we know it, we lack the motivation to do what is necessary.

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What if I tell you, you can snap out of it just as easily as you dug yourself into it? You probably won’t believe me, but the truth is you can.

You see, I have come to learn that everything we do in life boils down to decisions. Our decisions shape our lives, determine how we approach situations, and most importantly, how we rise up after a series of unfortunate events. I realised recently that making a decision to not stay down can easily evoke the motivation you need to get back up. Making a decision that defies the state you are in, can shift your perspective and help you power through.

So what’s that cycle you are stuck in? What’s that thing that’s sitting on your back, weighing you down and stealing your joy for everything else? Make a decision to power through irrespective of how you feel, and watch your motivation return. Have a super week! XOXO

Travel and Lifestyle

Feed Your Body the Right Stuff

Junk food, sodas, lots of caffeine, loads of sugar, saline and growth hormone injected chickens… eating has never been more of a challenge than it currently is. I find myself having to read labels over and over again to ensure I have not missed anything. Then I start wondering if I can believe what I am reading. Are free range chickens really free range? Or have they been injected with all sorts of steroids and growth hormones to ensure they mature from birth within one week? Are organic products truly organic, or have greedy business people found a way to convince us to buy poisonous foods at more expensive prices?

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The important thing is to make a choice to eat healthy. No, I am not asking you to be skinny, nor am I saying there’s anything wrong with having a little junk in the trunk. However, from personal experience, I have come to realize that when we eat healthy, we become more energized. We find it a lot easier to face the day, and we tend to be more attentive because our bodies feel lighter. When we indulge in junk food, our bodies become an extra weight for us to carry. We are less energetic and sometimes even slow in our thinking. Yes, it’s just food but it can make a big difference in how your day goes.

Start choosing the right foods; choose to prepare your own meals; aim for fresh produce when you cook; avoid processed foods. I found many ways to make vegetables taste appealing when I decided to get off the junk food bandwagon. I found recipes to combine fruits and vegetable for healthy detoxifying smoothies. Feeding your body with the right stuff is highly crucial to your emotional and physical health. Keep your body healthy and happy. It may seem insignificant, but it is a big contribution to your overall wellbeing.