My Photography

Monday, January 27, 2014

Enjoying the sun in Sunday

Yesterday morning three friends from work and I went to La Sqala-- a chic traditional Moroccan restaurant close to the coast of Casablanca. As one of my colleagues is leaving Morocco this week, and we thought a Sunday girls' brunch was called for before she goes.

The restaurant is located in what was a once small Portuguese fort on the ocean, but now Casa's giant port stretches far out in front and you can barely see the water from the vantage point of the antique cannons that still guard the entrance. The open-air restaurant specializes in Moroccan cuisine and takes up the back of the fort. It's very popular among tourists and Moroccans alike. Because of my curiosity Othman and I had gone in to see it before, but we've never had reason to eat there since we eat homemade Moroccan food with his family on a regular basis. 

While I was brave enough to bring my camera (I usually don't go out with it unless I'm with Othman) my nerves got the best of me next to the busy street in front, so I didn't get a picture of the cannons and front fa├žade. But the inside is well documented!

Apparently 11:30am on a Sunday is the time to be there, so we sat and chatted a bit, and I took some photos of the front and back entrances as we waited for a table. Here is the back, which leads out to the old medina, one of the oldest parts of the city with tiny winding cobblestone roads and tiny shops and market stalls to match.

Lining the walkway from the front entrance are these tagines, aka traditional Moroccan crockpots. Any dish cooked inside of it is also called a tagine, and there is an endless variety. From eggs with ground beef and tomatoes to potato-carrot-zucchini with lamb to artichoke hearts with peas, there is a tagine to satisfy any taste. They cook over small fires for a long time before being served piping hot in the bottom of the dish. You eat with your fingers, scooping up the food with bread, because it's both the traditional way and the easiest way.

A more removed view of the inside front entrance. Above the doorway are some Arabic inscriptions, but don't ask me what they say!

I've always loved Moroccan ashtrays, because they don't emit that cold-ash smell like open ones do. Considering there are no laws against smoking in public here, these ashtrays make smokers in restaurants and cafes a bit less annoying.

One of the bigger and emptier dining areas, with traditional Moroccan deco.

And the other side of the room. The entrance to the right of this picture is big and open, but this was the most sheltered part of the restaurant, probably used more during dinner time. 

 More tagines.

 Our table. Moroccans love tiles, which cover floors, walls and tables alike.

The view from our table-- the path leading from the open-air kitchen to the seating areas all around.

When we moved this unneeded ashtray from the middle of our table we realized it was covering a big hole normally used for umbrellas. I guess they have more than one function!

Time to eat!

The other ladies split a traditional Moroccan breakfast meant for 2, and couldn't finish it among the 3 of them. Since sugar and wheat were the standard I got some eggs on the side (which took forever to come because they were cooking in a tagine!) and eyed their food with jealousy. Moroccans really know how to make breakfast pastries, let me tell you. 

Even though I don't eat it anymore (and never was really supposed to... oops), I agree with most everyone that has ever been here that Moroccan bread is incredibly good. It comes in small circular loaves (though generally lager than these) and is soft inside with a sightly harder crust. It's very different from any bread in the US and doesn't really resemble French bread either. It is simple but delicious, and Moroccans eat a huge amount of it. Also, the Moroccan government heavily subsidizes basic food ingredients (wheat, sugar, milk etc) so each loaf of bread costs only between 1 and 2 dirhams-- 15-25 US cents!

On our way out...

A lovely morning with good friends! Seeing as it's January we were all bundled up, but yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day, and sitting in the sun in a courtyard sheltered from the wind we quickly shed our outer layers and enjoyed the sunshine. As is often said about Morocco, this is a cold country with a hot sun. When in the shade or as soon as the sun sets it gets quite cold in the winter, but when in direct sun, even in January, you can heat up pretty quickly. I'll take it. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Around the house

Little things can truly bring great joy.

This Arabic calligraphy for example. It says "Othman and Claudia" and we got it from a Libyan-Saudi Arabian man, who spoke perfect French, on the streets of Toulouse. The ink is natural henna. Gorgeous.

Or these magnetic spice pots that Othman's cousin Jessika gave us for Christmas. They make me feel so chic as I sprinkle ginger into my soups.

And my winter windowsill plants are beginning to bloom! They suffer a bit in the summer, but they're happy as can be now. 

Othman brought them home as a surprise, one last year and the other the year before. I'm hardly a gardener, and very allergic to soil, but these guys are pretty low maintenance.

I love these two bridal shower gifts that made an appearance at our wedding.

This homemade wedding gift helps break up the dark color of the bedroom walls (our landlady painted right before we rented). 

This beautiful, hand-carved gift was one of the best we received at the wedding. A true labor of love which we appreciate so much. I still haven't found the perfect place to showcase it, but it floats around the house and is always within eyesight.

This little project makes me happy! Real vanilla extract is made with alcohol, so I have yet to find it here in Morocco. Imitation is difficult to find but does exist, but has so many horrible ingredients that I stay away from it. (Here people use little packets of vanilla-infused sugar in their recipes, but since I don't eat sugar it presents an problem.) 

Organic vanilla beans from my mom and vodka from our duty-free layover in Spain, plus a couple of months, will make one happy me. 

Pay attention to the little things, revel in them, appreciate them, and your days will be filled with joy. =]

Monday, January 20, 2014

Off to the art store...

I guess it's official: I caught the painting bug. Since coming back from France I've been impatient to get another canvas and start a new project. I was really sick last week (thus the lack of posts, but doing much better now!) and had to pass on an invitation to go paint with Ingrid at her house, which really bummed me out. 

This afternoon I'm excited to be finally heading off to the art store, and as I was organizing my painting things to see what I need, I realized I never posted a good picture of the painting I gave Othman's cousin Jessika for Christmas. I did it in the two days between getting done with work and going to France, and I really loved the result. I got the basic pattern from a painting that one of our Mandala Workshop leaders did, number 8 in this gallery, but made it my own, of course. Can't wait for the next one! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A day trip to Rocamadour

Ok so here are the last of the photos from our vacation in France! I ended up with a full 7 gigs of photos and videos from the trip, so you can understand why it took so long to wade through them and put together coherent posts. 

The car ride featured in the previous post was on our way to Rocamadour,  one of France's most famous historical sites. I had never heard of it, but apparently it's a famous pilgrimage site as well. It's built on a pretty impressive cliff above a river, and is made up of a town at the bottom, and a series of churches/chapels as you go up. We went with Jessika, Leny and the girls, parked at the bottom and climbed the steps up to the top. It was a bit of a climb but I was actually expecting there to be more stairs by the looks of it!

The view from the road-- pretty impressive.
 The basilica at the top isn't accessible from
the bottom part, so we didn't see it.

Cute family


In the town below. I love moss-covered
French roofs-- pretty!

It really is medieval.

This was above a tunnel (pictured in the last
photo) but wasn't somewhere we had access to.

The reason for all the pilgrimages-- a small
and unassuming wooden Black Madonna.

I liked this little side chapel cut into the rock, and thought 
the statue was interesting.

Sweet sweet sisters! As you can see even the stairs are
 made from old cut stone... falling down would hurt. 

This is apparently the fragment of a famous sword
Durendal which according to legend was presented
 to none other than Charlemagne by an angel. He
then gave it to his nephew Roland. Check out
Wikipedia for some more info.

On our way back down, in front of the
aforementioned tunnel.

Hopefully we'll be back to visit soon!!


In other news, after a lengthy legal process (don't get either of us started...) Othman and I finally officialized our marriage here in Morocco last week, yay! We went out for dinner to celebrate and had a lovely time and some delicious sushi.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fish fish fish

I went back to work this week, and though I've been to busy to post, last Sunday I took some pictures with this post in mind of a wonderful dinner Othman and I made together.

Although Casablanca is on the coast we eat far too little seafood from day to day, and this meal was an attempt to keep up the fish intake! We got this beautiful fish from a shop that specializes in fresh seafood, owned by a favorite of Othman's uncles. For those of you in Casa, Poissonnerie Marisco is around the corner from the Velodrome Carrefour Market. Their fish is super fresh, the shop is very clean and it all comes at an affordable price-- cheaper than any of the grocery stores. They'll even deliver! We've never been disappointed with the food or the service, and I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Ready to go in the oven, rubbed with olive oil and
stuffed with lemon slices, fresh mushrooms and
herbs (dill, parsley and cilantro). 

Boiled new potatoes with butter and herbs. Yummm.

Polish miseria salad, an absolute favorite of mine since rediscovering
 it this summer when our Polish pseudo-relatives came for the wedding.
 I was convinced I found the recipe on this blog and just spent many more
 minutes than I should have rereading Nichole's posts (like this one, a favorite
 of mine coincidentally posted on my birthday last year). While apparently
 she didn't supply the recipe, I grew up with her mother in law's version,
and while mine isn't quite up to par, it's still delish.

Fresh mushrooms sauteed with butter and red wine.

Ready to eat! Not quite as pretty now, but much more tasty.

Homemade, easy, delicious and GAPS-friendly dinner, along
with some fancy french mustard. Doesn't get much better than this.