Saturday, December 24, 2016

zChocolat: A Bundle of Joy

For me, food is identity. It is history and tradition. But most of all, it is love.
It is all of that, because in sharing it, you create bonds. Bonds related to generations before you and those that are to follow. Bonds to your family and all your loved ones. You create memories and gift magical moments which will stay with you forever.

Chocolate is a symbol of love, but it also stands for passion, for care and friendship. Its ingredients make us relax, give us a feeling of comfort and give us joy.

So this Christmas, why don't you gift your loved one something from zChocolat's Holiday Collection ?! zChocolat is always on top of my list when it comes to gifting highest quality products with a story and with heart. They represent Pascal Caffet's true passion as a World Champion Chocolatier.

I have received my Go-To Gift Bundle this week at the office, where we were all in pre-Christmas mood, and my joy was enormous. The bundle is made of traditional and exotic assortment with a complimentary praline assortment. Each assortment is packed in an elegant black pouch containing a booklet with the description of each numbered chocolate and its containing flavours. Next to the booklet, I found a personalized message addressed to me, an added extra to make me feel even more special. If you plan on sending such a bundle at last minute as a gift, you can include such a personalized card to make your loved one feel appreciated and loved.

Christmas, the time for creating memories and giving love to close ones, is just around the corner. A few clicks away, and this "bundle of joy" can reach someone who is special for you. So...what are you waiting for? Go ahead and make a gift of love!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Turkish Sweets in Istanbul

If you are in Istanbul, this is for sure a place which should be on the top of your "To Do" list. I was lucky enough to stumble upon it by mistake (and what a happy mistake that was), because what you find inside this sweets shop in Fatih is a real paradise.

With a history of over 130 years, this family shop continues to make sweets like in the days of Osman Effendi, the founder of this Ottoman sweets shop. To honor him and their tradition, the name of the shop was changed to  OSMANLIZADELER, meaning "Sons of Ottoman".

There are a lot of sweets to choose from, and at the Turkish Delight counter you even get to taste. That will make your choice even more difficult, because everything is just yummy! You have a lot of pistachio, raisins, rose petals, coconut etc adorning the tasty sweets. My favourites were those made from watermelon - a truly unique desert!

Next time I'm in Istanbul, this place is for sure one of my first destinations. And so should it be for you ;)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Easter Duo - An Easter Choice from zChocolat


From when I was just a child, I remember the sun, the green grass and the blooming nature around me on Easter days. And something special called the Easter egg hunt. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles would hide for us, children, coloured Easter eggs, chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies in the fresh grass. It was a competition to see, who had the best strategy and nose for finding as many goodies as possible. But it also was a joyful game filled with laughter and happiness on our faces. We were happy for those small things we would find, because we knew they were gifted with love.

When I received the Easter Duo from zChocolat, I immediately thought of those happy moments. In the two boxes with chocolates, each piece is a new discovery. Once you open the boxes with 18 pralines and 36 solid chocolates, you will find charming little chocolate seashells, chickens, eggs, crabs, fish, bunnies and many more. White chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate, there is a discovery with each piece you take. And once you bite on the pralines, you taste the hazelnutty crunchiness - just amazing. It reminded me of another zChocolat product I love and have previously written about - the zChocolat spreads. What the duo does most of all is to enable you to share the joy I felt when I was a little child: the joy of searching and discovering new treasures, of sharing the happiness with the loved ones and of sharing the love. Because each and every one of these pieces are made with love and a huge attention to detail. 

Each recipe is formulated by Pascal Caffet, World Champion Chocolatier, by following French tradition: no alcohol, no preservatives, high cocoa content, low sugar and 100% pure cocoa butter. All products are presented in a stylish cotton pouch which has a front pouch in which you can find a booklet about the products but also send a personalized message to the receiver of the chocolates. It is like a greeting card and it adds a very personal touch to the products. Wrapping can be also personalized. But what counts the most, is that they can be delivered the next day worldwide, leaving no excuse for the Easter bunny!

So wherever you might be engaging on an Easter Egg hunt, zChocolat Easter duo can reach you and amaze your taste buds as well. Believe me - it's worth it!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Turning 30 - 10 Facts Which Make You Feel Good About It

Recent events, such as being somehow been involved in planning a ten year reunion since finishing school or watching pictures of music stars or footballers, who were all very young once, when their posters hung up my wall, but now have grown older and more responsible as they have teenage kids, these recent events have made me think about my age, about myself, soon to turn 30. I admit, at first, there's this brief panicky moment, but then you start to think and come to the conclusion, that this might just be the perfect age.

I've made a list with some things which make me feel good about myself, about my age,...maybe some of you will relate to it:

1. You're the most confident you've ever been.
You pay your bills, YOU take your own decisions, you have responsibilities (for yourself, your team at work, your family), and all this makes you strong, makes you know exactly what you want to do, and when!

2. You're the healthiest you've ever been.
Ok, maybe not, but you definitely pay more attention than ever to your health: you work out, not  because it's a trend, but because you feel like it. You also know now, that it's beneficial, both to your body and to your mind. You may have an ache here or there, but you are fitter than ever. Some even take on competitions such as marathons, biathlons, triathlons, but also those who do their thing privately, at home, on their yoga mat, will feel wonderfully afterwards.

3. You keep a healthy diet.
And by that I don't mean that you starve yourself on a fruit bar (I have never done that), but it means that you know what good food is. You've stopped shoveling down your throat all the junk food you could get and now look for quality. You have started enjoying food also as art, so you even go to famous chef restaurants, but you also know how to cook meals (others also appreciate your food). You go to markets and know by now how to pick your food and ....if you're really careful about your diet, you by now eat local and seasonal products.

4. You keep a healthy drinking diet.
You don't drink as you used a few years ago.First of all, you know your limits now. Second, you don't need the feeling of numbness anymore. What you want is to appreciate what is there, in your glass. You ask for wine pairings for your dishes at the restaurant, you open a bottle of vintage champagne on a special occasion, you discover cocktails with a mixologist and discuss more about what is there in front of you.

5. You know what to wear.
Yes, you've heard and understood by now what dress-codes are, you have read some books about style and you've found yours. You know about fabrics and you choose quality now over the fast paced passing trends. Your wardrobe is now a mixture between high fashion (because you can afford this now) and some things from low fashion stores you used to fancy when you were younger. That's ok, because all that what you choose is stylish, of good quality, and can be worn many seasons to come.

6. You know your friends and foes.
You may have already undergone several spring cleaning sessions of your facebook account, and you don't have 1000 friends anymore. Nor are the 400 left. You know already that there are only 2-5 people you can count on at any time of the day or night, no matter their geographic location. You've stopped hoping for everyone liking you because you know, that is not going to happen. There are few who like us with all our good parts but especially with all our flaws. Cherish these people.

7. You've learned to enjoy your alone-time.
Not going out on a Friday evening used to frighten a lot of us. It probably meant that we hadn't been cool enough during that week in order for us to have made plans with other "kids". Today, you know there is nothing better than being able to say: I have me-plans. You can stay at home in bed with a great novel or watch a movie, you can even take weekend trips or walks in the park...alone. Because you feel good about yourself and there is no need for someone else's opinion. Because you've become a person you enjoy being around with.

8. You own something.
Some have a shoe collection, a collection of statement bags, a laptop, a car, a house, a pricy doesn't matter that much WHAT, but what matters is THAT you OWN something. You've earned it through your hard work and you can be proud of it. You've long ended the time when mum or dad used to give you money for anything. You work - you choose - you own. And it's a great feeling of accomplishment.

9. You teach.
No, not in school. You might however be someone's mentor at work. And this gives you another feeling of accomplishment: you've once received (guidance) and now you can give that  back, to someone else. And off work, you might have some younger relatives who look up to you. Guide them wisely!

10. You have investments.
I'm not referring to some sort of real estate fortune, but rather to your way of knowing how to plan long-term. You might have a private health insurance, a life insurance, a pension fond, and when you start buying furniture now (or other things), you don't stick to the student-cheapest-as-you-can-get mentality, but rather think of how you will use it in the years to come. You buy a good mattress or a pillow, because you know sleep is one of the most important things to a  happy life. You buy real jewelry instead of the shiny or plasticky one. You buy long lasting garments. You own art pieces.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy all that you have achieved. Sip a glass of Champagne and start making plans for the next 30 years. Oh,...and enjoy the cake! You've earned it!

Picture sources: 1, 2.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Istanbul Story: A Walk Through Gülhane Park

A wonderful way to pass a few (or even many) hours in Istanbul, is going to Gülhane Park. Gül means "rose" in Turkish, so the name of the park means rosehouse park. The flower arrangements are lovely, but what I valued the most was the shadow from the old trees, especially the tall plane trees. They help you escape the hot summer days and the hustle and bustle from the Sultanahmet or Eminonu area. The tranquility is wonderful for a city like Istanbul, where you can never hide from agitation.

This park was originally part of the outer garden of the Topkapi Palace, and was open as a park to the public in 1912 for the first time.

If you slowly walk uphill around the exterior wall of Topkapi Gardens, you will see a gate which leads towards the castle. And close-by a simple coffee and tea house with one of the best views of the Bosphorus which I had.  This was the best place to find tranquility in the oh-so-busy-and-loud Istanbul. It was the place where I found peace and enjoyed everything that was happening to me. So why don't you take a walk up there as well.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

zChocolat is Spreading The Love...

...the love for chocolate, that is, by having introduced this new series of products: the chocolate spreads.

I was more than overwhelmed when I received my own jar of almond spread, one of the 3 flavours from the collection. It's my favourite thing to have at breakfast or for sweet snack, and it goes particularly well on warm toast bread. It's also recommended on pancakes or warm waffles, but I wouldn't like anything to distract me just a tiny bit from the wonderful flavour of this spread.

By now you know have learned a great deal about the zChocolats' classic assortments from my previous posts. The chocolates are handcrafted in France by the World Champion Chocolatier and Meilleur Ouvrier, Pascal Caffet. For him, chocolate is an experience, which you will surely understand once you taste one of his 26 recipes created especially for ZChocolat, for which he uses no preservatives, no artificial colouring, 100% pure cocoa butter, modest sugar, high cocoa content, no alcohol, and only the best choice for the other ingredients as well, such as Piedmont hazelnuts, Iranian pistaccio, violets, raspberry, Sri Lankan coconut etc.

But let me tell you a bit more about this new line of products zChocolat has. The spread collection is a flashback of childhood memories. There are 3 jars to choose from in this collection: peanuts praline spread, hazelnuts praline spread and almonds praline spread. They are handmade, crafted from finely crushed peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds combined with at least 40% Ivory coast milk chocolate. It's delicious,  and it's a "nutty" spread for sure.The crunchiness of the spread is in perfect balance with its smoothness and it just leaves you craving for more. For more memories from the past, for more you-time when you enjoy a good sweet breakfast or an afternoon tea with zChocolat's spread collection, for more such delicious bites. Once again, this brand has now failed in surprising me and has done a great job in choosing this line of products to make. For children or adults who dream with every bite...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Passion in a Cup of Tea

It's the season of warm drinks - mulled wine, hot chocolate and teas being the favourites. 
I am really passionate about tea, black tea! There are at least seven different ones in my kitchen cupboard,  Earl Grey, Westminster, Assam, Darjeeling a.o. and I love to use different type of sugar to sweeten each one. Their perfume and flavours are so different, but in winter, there is a special extra which is missing. So I start using the black teas as a base for my WINTER teas.

One of these which I have created is a mixture of English Westminster with the content of one passion fruit for one liter of water. You will notice that it gives an exotic touch to the tea, makes it milder but also a bit fresher due to its soury taste. This tea has become a hit in our family and with our friends who were lucky enough to taste it. It really tastes great. But what tastes even better is the tranquility which having a cup of tea gives you. It's my favourite me-time: having a cup of good tea and reading a book.

I dare you to try my recipe. You will love it!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January - Winter Sale - The Month For Investments

Buy a sleigh in summer and a cooler/a fan in winter - but does this theory apply to closet shopping lists as well? For me it works - if you are on the look-out for classical items which are never out of fashion. But it applies also to services, cosmetics and other items. This is now the best month of the year to buy and invest in things, because most of them are on sale after the holidays. Here's a list of some things I recommend you to buy in January.

Invest in boots.
Yes, January is a good time for winter shoes in general. I am not referring to those one-time-one-season items in pretentious colours but rather to classical leather boots in black or dark brown, with a comfy sole, ideal for wearing every day and for many kilometers of walking. In the last years we've seen that, even if boots come out in fall in the shops, they are not required that much due to higher temperatures. However, when it starts getting cold outside, it's around boxing day or after New Year's Eve. So go out and buy those classic ones - at half the price. And they will last you for many seasons to come.

Cashmere - Invest in softness and cosyness.
Cashmere is one of the most loved fabrics this season as well as one which keeps you warm and comfy. But it's most of the time too expensive. My advice - buy in January! A beige cardigan or a camel brown or light grey sweater and a more colourful shawl would be nice additions to your wardrobe. You will see that you will easily manage to combine these items of clothing with everything that you already have in your closet and you will look very stylish and classy. Take a look at some pieces here from The Outnet, one of the most famous fashion outlets online.

Jewelry and Sweets - the gifts from the heart
If you start planning your Valentine gift in time, this is the perfect timing for the purchase of jewelry or chocolate, as their prices go down after Christmas and are always lower this month than they'll be in February. Just to name two examples, check out the Swarovski and the Godiva sale websites online for the markdown.

Cosmetics - investing in your outer beauty
Indeed, there are a lot of sales at really great cosmetics as well. Many, due to the fact that they have a Christmas packaging. But if you buy them for yourselves, that does not matter at all. I've also seen high end products such as items from YSL, Clinique, Guerlain, Dior etc being sold at lower prices. Sephora, a huge cosmetics retailer, is also advertising its sales products. You can get discounts starting 30-40%, so it's a great deal! Especially for the high end ones!

Travel. Invest in memories!
Or should I say, flights? Well, you start having all the early-booking offers if you are looking for tourism packages, but January is a great month for plane tickets as well. I've already bought 3 for myself. European travelers will notice that most of low-cost airlines have European tickets starting 25 Euros (for the return trip, that is)! But major companies such as KLM, Quatar, British Airways etc have now the period when they are posting lowered priced ticket offers for exotic destinations (starting from Europe). So imagine flying with around 500 Euros to the States or to Asia. If you're adventurous, now's the time to grad these offers!

As you're planning your newest purchases, I'm wishing you good luck and enjoy your acquisitions! Invest wisely!

(Picture Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - from top to bottom)
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