Before the world can truly reveal itself you must take a period of meditation. A time of reflection. To pre-game, to set a cosmic course of action by stating your intentions and making them manifest. This is the driving force behind Sketching Sights. To become one with the elements of each and every environment that strikes me.
Dreaming of old Bagan I left brush and paint to guide themselves across the stars to secure my itinerary.
Scattered about the enchanting valley of Bagan are the remains of some 2,000 structures (monasteries, temples and pagodas). Historically this land housed over 4,000–each one thoughtfully placed and with purpose.
With this country of monks, gold clad domes and incantations opening its doors I see no other location more relevant to our cause at Yallah’Bye. That is, to document indigenous cultures at risk in this world of globalization.
Until next time–Yallah’Bye
We stumbled away from Another Kind of Sunrise high on good food and despite this the lure of chocolate never wore off. I felt like a child longing for a view into Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. Knowing that what lies beyond contained the secret of cacao alchemica; that is, the transformation of cacao from plant to biodynamic and holy confections.
Rounding the alley we found ourselves in the presence of a true American pioneer- ZenBunni
Bohemian and whimsical in equal measure the storefront carries the timeless essence of passion and sustainability. After repurposing an old broom closet husband and wife -Zen and Bunni- created this space using clay and mud from their property outside Los Angeles. If that isn’t admirable enough, this was followed by a final dusting of cacao powder (the walls are chocolate!). Thus encouraging any and all to take a trip down the rabbit hole.
Below the counter ten artfully prepared recipes await for you to explore the world of dopamine enhancers.
This is the kind of chocolate in which it’s a shame to chew. That which you’re drawn to for the sensation of all those well balanced compounds like phenylethylamine and cannibinoids; a recipe for childlike giddiness.
We sample the “Lost Salt of Atlantis” following up with an order for the Rainbow Pack (which comes with 9 chocolates and a little crystal) and several bars (Maui Turmeric Ginger, Cali Almond and the Shiva Rose). It’s hard not to smile after breaking a bar in your mouth. Sit back and let the good times roll. But know your limit. Between Jaclyn and myself, we could have cleaned out this store in one sitting!
With one final pass we bid farewell to Zen as our last day in Los Angeles comes to a close.
Our original plan had us on the road, leaving L.A. at 9am. It was just past noon as we left ZenBunni. And that is how to travel consciously.
Abandon your precepts and break the rules. Otherwise ZenBunni, Another Kind of Sunrise would have been nothing more than chalkboards I probably wouldn’t have seen and Abbot Kinney just another place-name on a map.
One last thing–ZenBunni is up for a Guinness World Record for smallest chocolate shop. How cool is that?!
until next time–yallah’bye
*Photo credits to Jaclyn Joslin
Calling all philanthropists, all investors. This year brings my first opportunity to attend the travel writers conference, Tbex, in Cancun, Mexico and i’m looking for a little support in the financial arena. Now, I know that sounds like a load of drunken debauchery in the midst of Maya ruins but there is just so much more to it!
Between the 11th and 14th of September, Tbex will include one-on-one networking with experts in the travel industry. Writers, businesses, publishers and masters of this or that field. Three days of lectures, classes, and hands-on training. All of which could propel me from the seat of an amateur to a full-time professional travel writer.
Since 2012 i’ve been working on my memoir chronicling archaeological research and cultural exchanges across the Middle East. A time immediately after the great Arab Spring and before the hopes and dreams of the Syrian uprising became a brutal civil war. By attending this conference I will be able to pitch my manuscript to a wide audience of publishing houses while also making my name relevant.
Here are the links to my campaign and to the official Tbex site.
If nothing more please share this campaign with your community. Any support would be extremely appreciated. All sponsorship and contributions will be noted.
A special thank you to my first donor Kaori Nishimoto of Fragments of Travel. Kaori “Likes traveling, talking with locals, and finding “common” in different culture”. Her Instagram feed dazzles from Morocco in the west to Japan and China in the East. With an eye for detail she captures the soul of travel through the art of photography. Do be sure to pay a visit to her site.
33% funded thus far!
Thank you and Yallah’Bye
All cities come equipped with a beating heart. A cultural core that stimulates the genius in urbanites giving them a unique identity to stand apart from the rest of the world. Some cities, like Los Angeles, race to the tune of several hearts and it was on our way out of L.A. that we came across one such nucleus while on the hunt for breakfast in a seemingly deserted town at 9am.
It was reggae music that came first, then voices and finally we found ourselves part of a small crowd, down a tight alley, in front of a makeshift cafe where a young woman stood with confidence between the grinding of coffee beans and noting of detailed orders. We were the last in what became a line as the crowd dispersed leaving us alone with chef Lela Buttery.
Biologist and self-described food sorcerer, Lela “yes, my last name really is Buttery,” Buttery projects her addicting personality and revolutionary approach to diet. Talking us through her own philosophies and menu items such as Buttery Brew and Paleo Granola we were quickly becoming entranced.
After placing our order (Buttery Brew, Farfurina’s Paleo Granola, a Meri Acai Bowl and a Dandelion-Lavender-Ginger Tea) we set out on a tour around the tight alley.
Not only the chocolatier but a handful of other merchants lie beyond the cafe/cereal house.
Food ready Lela called us back to the cafe at the entrance of this quirky alley.
With the Buttery Coffee to wash it all down I dove into my Paleo granola a boy and emerged a caveman (no offense Neanderthals), in a complete food-centric rage. Ravaging every morsel of berry and gluten-free granola. All balanced by the tart grass-fed whole-milk yogurt. Jaclyn was equally pleased with her spicy gingery tea and acai bowl.
Lela gave us the rundown on Buttery Coffee and the wrongful villainization of butter in our society. Freshly roasted coffee beans (from Handlebar Coffee) are brewed and married to equal parts ghee and raw coconut oil. It’s royal, decadent, smoothly silken, and seductive. All without being overly sweet. I’ve never been fond of coffee, nor lattes, nor mocha-whatevers. This miraculous concoction spoke my language.
Jaclyn and I move about the cafe, savoring our bowls of cereal and sipping our brews like children with hot chocolate on Christmas morning.
Art and greenery envelop the alley giving it an organic, natural feel.
*A note on the UniWolfCheeta- Diana Garcia is the mastermind behind these Unicorn-Wolf-Cheetah hybrids which are part of her series titled “I’m Not a Wolf”. Indeed, you are not a wolf. They can be seen down the street on Abbot Kinney, in Mexico City, NYC, and Austin, Texas. This mytical creature gets around, you could say.
Only a quarter of the way through the alley we’re ready to move on to the next shop as the rest of Abbot Kinney stirs to life. We meet the owner of ZenBunni, a regular at AKOSunrise as he ordered his breakfast and assured us that the shop would now be open.
On we march to chocolate paradise where the door has been peeled away leading us down a rabbit hole…
Let’s save that for next time
P.S. I can’t close without noting that the food sorcerer, Lela Buttery, authored a book titled We Can Do Butter. It’s an informative goldmine covering sustainable living and sourcing better quality food. Full for recipes, scientific evaluations, and logic the book serves it’s purpose well. If you’re one to question the world of commercially processed foods do take a look at her site.
until next time–yallah’bye
*All photos taken by Jaclyn Joslin
There’s a new craze going from town to town, calling on travelers to break the mundane and deconstruct that rigid barrier between local and outsider. This movement is manifest in vehicles such as Airbnb.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept think of it as a refined, more mature approach to hosteling or couchsurfing. Which never really took off in the US so I decided to try my hand at this more popular alternative.
Maybe it’s the communal aspect or the in-house local expertise that I find more inviting but I’ve realized that hotels now feel too impersonal to me. Sure, it’s great to unwind after a day of sightseeing in a private suite but that’s not why I travel.
It’s more about sharing stories with people of other vocations and nationalities.
Airbnb allows for unprecedented twists on traditional travel. Instead of the Hilton in Marrakech, rent a Riad inside the Medina. Avoid that resort on the Mediterranean by staying in a secluded bungalow on the same beach but away from “touristopolis”. In fact, it’s easier to rent a castle than to book a room at an all-inclusive resort through their website! They’re on to something and I’m on to them.
So we decided it was time to give Airbnb a chance. Two weeks ago today Jaclyn and I found ourselves in California, at the front door of a stranger’s house that we met online. Nothing kinky, just a little getaway for my 25th birthday.
It had taken a while to narrow down our choices for accommodation. From furnished houses to empty apartments we searched until coming across the listing “Cabin in the Garden”. A 20 minute walk from the beach the cabin shares property with a communal house of four, a tree house overlooking a vegetable garden, and serves as a spiritual retreat from the Los Angeles beat.
We had several interactions with our host via email and poured through reviews left by previous guests. It was clear that this home was an open place. One that welcomes all people and strives to leave little impact on our planet. Quirky hippie vibes and a “come as you are” mentality was invite enough.
When it came down to it we found ourselves spending half the price we would have for a hotel in the area. Our host and other house guests fed us priceless information about local restaurants, helped us weigh what sights were worth seeing versus those of hype, and made us feel like a part of LA.
But if there’s still an air of awkwardness when you walk up to the front door of a stranger’s house who is about to open their world to you–just embrace it and go with the flow. Otherwise, book that hotel room that would cost twice as much.
How could we not walk away with a sense of peace? Overall our visit couldn’t have been better–moving with the Angelenos in their easy-going ebb and flow contradicting the norms of “big city” livin’. It’s a wonderful place.
Interested in booking the Cabin in the Garden? Here’s the link- LINK
until next time–yallah’bye
*photo credits to Jaclyn Joslin
This is how I discovered Kanafeh
I had been in Jordan for several weeks and my love affair with Arabian sweets had reached a lofty peak. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honeys and syrups that would flood through heaps of pistachios on my plate.
I had reached junkie status and began seeking out a greater high, exploring labyrinthine neighborhoods to reach legendary bakeries. But it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.
An unmarked door led to an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 100f degree day, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. They were using round, shallow pans and alchemy to produce what many call “Arabian cheesecake”.
This “cheesecake” was Kanafeh
A definitive oxymoron- soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of simple syrup and rose water. Good enough to make one prostrate in reverence to the baker.
The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that the Arabian culture opened up before me, so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.
Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it- “A rose by any other name” and all that-
There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)
- 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
- 1 cup- Ghee
- 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)
- 1 cup- water
- 1 1/2 cup- sugar
- 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Pistachios (crushed)
- Almonds (whole or crushed)
- Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)
As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)
Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.
At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.
Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)
As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.
Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.
Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.
With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)
Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins
At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.
Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.
Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.
OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.
So, any takers?
Built in 1348 as the re-imagining of an earlier structure the tower has gone from hosting inmates, as a prison, to holding great secrets as an observatory for the astrologer Takıyeddin Efendi. What’s more, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi the 17th century aviator… if you can call him that… achieved, through his scientific mastery, sustained flight that actually carried him from the Tower, over the Bosphorus, and landed him safely on the Asian side.
Busking Euro-Gypsies surround the base of Galata as if worshiping an idol, strumming rhythms on deep acoustic guitars and homemade drums. Like a great heartbeat at the core of an old world metropolis.
From the balcony (at 51.65m) a rewarding panorama of Istanbul waits to expose all the secrets of modern life. A warmth emanates from the Ottoman palaces, the mosques, and grand Genoese structures all spilling their histories across the skyline. If that’s not cool enough to warrant a visit then maybe the swanky cafe on the top floor will get your attention…
This is the lure of the Orient. Of the East.
It’s safe to say that the visual arts have always been an extremely inspirational medium to me. This is especially true when it comes to Islamic Art. The heavy use of geometrical forms and the rhythm of mingling patterns that move in harmony with passages from the Quran.
Traditionally, many schools of Islamic thought have avoided the use of human figures in their artistic endeavors; Sharia law even forbids the use. Perhaps to keep ones practice of Islam clear and void of idolatry. The resulting style became known as Arabesque playing hugely on vegetal, geometric, and scriptural elements. And this only scratches the surface. Other schools of thought, inspired by the Chinese and Mongols, did, in fact include depictions of men and women at the time.
So it’s clear that, like many genres, Islamic art can’t be neatly defined and the pieces i’ve brought to the board today span many centuries and borders.
Now, before I digress once again, I present a powerful collection of Islamic art currently on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City, Missouri.
Folios From a Qur’an. Abbasid Period (750-1258 C.E.)
Ink and Gold on Vellum. Arabic language using the Kufic script.
Tabriz, Iran, Turkman School. 1480 C.E
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Today’s Life and War 6
Gohar Dashti- Iranian (2008)
Tile with Inscription
Iran. Seljuk Period ( 1038-1220s)
Ceramic w/ turquoise glaze
Stories of Martyrdom (Women of Allah)
Iran. Seljuk Period (1038-1250s)
Fritware with opaque turquoise glaze
Detailed shot of Mosaic from an arched entrance portal known as an iwan.
Isfahan, Iran. Safavid Dynasty (1501-1722)
Glazed ceramic tile and gold leaf.
Hamra Abbas- Pakistani (2008)
The exhibit goes on to include textiles, more ceramics, and even a short animated film which plays on the colonial occupation of India. A great display of the wide variations in Islamic art through time and space.
So, I absolutely urge you to pay a visit to the Nelson-Atkins. That is… if you’re in Kansas City already!