All posts by Ms. Hala

SF Sundays – Summer of Love, Colors and Laughter

My second summer back in the Bay and I couldn’t be more excited. I feel like this summer especially there are so many exciting things to see, do and eat yet so little time. From a parade that’s filled with colors and pride to local delicious eateries like no other, the city is the place to be this summer if you ask me.

Are you ready? I sure am, yalla!

HAPPENING AROUND TOWN

c/o KQED

June is Pride Month and it goes with out saying that the San Francisco is home to the largest pride parade of it’s kind in the country. The annual San Francisco Pride Parade will take place June 30th. The parade will start at the Embarcadero, head down Market Street and ending at the Civic Center Plaza. The day prior, will see lots of activities, live shows and celebrations of local heroes.

Last year, over 50,000 people marched and many more came out in support. I can only imagine how many this year will be out in our great city celebrating. Grand Stand tickets are still on sale now, so don’t miss out!

c/o SFMOMA

All this summer, Andy Warhol’s From A to B and Back Again will be exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Now through September 2nd, and for the first time in the US since 1989, his retrospective works are being exhibited. This is truly a one of a kind treat and we in the Bay are so lucky. If you’re a member, it’s free, otherwise most admission tickets are under $40! You can even have a private group tour set up for a slightly higher fee, #JustSaying. However, on June 29th, I’m organizing an outing with the local InterNations arts and museum group for an afternoon at SFMOMA. Join like minded art lovers from around the world for an afternoon that’ll be filled with fun and lively conversations.

Lots of really good comedy is coming our way this summer, too. As a loud laughing fan of stand up, I’m already getting tickets left right and center for all these amazingly talented funny people coming to the Bay, many starting at just $25! Here are just a handful of confirmed shows that I’m super excited about:

c/o Chase Center
  • June 21 – 23: The massive comedy festival that is Clusterfest is three days of laughs, music, podcasts, drag queens and fun! Anyone else geeking out as I am that Leslie Jones is now confirmed in the line up? YEEEEEEES!
  • June 22: San Leandro’s Arts Commission is holding it’s 1st Annual Comedy in the Plaza. This free event should be a blast since it’s being emceed by one of my favorite local comedians and TV personality Brian Copeland.
  • July 12 and 13: Mo Amer is coming to Cobb’s Comedy Club for four shows already selling out fast. I’ve seen him perform live and let me tell you, this dude is HILARIOUS! He was recently featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and is currently featured in Hulu’s original series RAMY.
  • July 25: The hilarious Greg Props will be recording his hit podcast The Smartest Man in the World live at the historic Punchline! He also has a few shows lined up later in the week but if you’re a fan of the podcast, this isn’t to be missed.
  • December 7: Yes it’s past summer but it’s my birthday and I’m super excited! Why? Because on my birthday, my biggest celeb crush that is TREVOR NOAH is bringing his Loud and Clear tour to San Francisco’s new Chase Center. It’s like we were destined to meet on such a special day, you know? hehehe
  • December 21-23 and 26-30: And since I celebrate my birthday all month long, I’m so excited that the Bay Area’s very own Ali Wong is coming home for the holidays. She’s bringing her Milk and Money tour to the beautiful theater that is The Masonic. We aren’t even through June yet and this funny lady’s first show is already sold out, WOW!

YUMMINESS ACHIEVED

The best thing I’ve loved about eating my way through my hometown is discovering ones that have been open for at least 20 years, that I’ve passed by on numerous occasions and some how missed out on. Until now! For the last year since moving back, Toyose has been my go to spot at least twice a month for either take out or late night dinner with my gal pals.

When I say it’s a legit hole in the wall, I mean a hole in the wall. Toyose is literally a home garage converted into a laid back eatery in the Outer Sunset. A fusion of Korean and Asian American cuisine, they have some good stew pots, fried rice, tempuras and katsu plates. My go to lately has been their spicy chicken wings… Oh my God, they are so finger licking good in every sense of the word that I keep forgetting to take a picture of them.

They are only open from 6pm to 2am so expect to wait some nights for about a good 20 minutes or so. Just walk in, write your name on the board and the number of people. You’ll be seated and quickly served by some friendly faces. I’d use the wait time to check the menu and figure out what you’d like to chow down on. I’d totally recommend for groups to order a bunch of plates and start sharing.

You’re welcome!

Disclaimer: This rant was not sponsored or paid for by the events or restaurants listed unless otherwise noted. If you’d like me to check out and rant about a happening around town or a yummy eatery for my SF Sundays rant series, please email ha@mshala.co.

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Eid Mubarak!!

Eid is here peeps! May it be a day filled with joy as we celebrate a new beginning with our loved ones and community at large.

Just because Ramadan has come to a close, we don’t return just to our old ways. What have you learned this past month and carry it forward with you. Know that you didn’t just detox physically, but spiritually too.

May God accept your fasts, prayers and zakat… May God bless you and yours with a joyous and delightful Eid… ameen.

From our family to yours, Eid Mubarak!!

Paid Your Zakat Yet?

If the answer is no, now is the time to do so!

First, what is “zakat”?

Zakat (or Zakah) is an Arabic word now used universally to mean “obligatory charity“. As prescribed to Muslims with means, it’s obligatory to make an annual contribution of 2.5% against all assets one holds for a minimum of one year towards charitable use.

A good example might be one has, after expenses, a $1,000 in the bank, gold or silver worth $5,000 and a car worth $10,000. Their total assets are at $16,000 and they’d pay a minimum of $400 against that.

Have you feared to present before your consultation charities? Then when you do not and Allah has forgiven you, then [at least] establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. And Allah is Acquainted with what you do.

The Holy Quran, 58:13

Check out this Zakat Calculator by Islamic Relief USA

With fasting, we purify our bodies, minds, spirits as well as our material things. To do so, we sacrifice a bit of everything to bring forward our renewed selves. Fasting from food to bring in good energy. Fasting from day to day worrisome thoughts to bring in happier thoughts (think meditation). Fasting from earthly things to remind ourselves of the bigger picture through worship and Quran reading. To fully complete the month of Ramadan, one must give their zakat before Eid ElFitr (Festival of Breaking Fast), hence the term “Zakat ElFitr” (Zakat of Breaking Fast).

Remember, zakat is also giving your time and reminding others to do their part as well. Many get caught up with work, family gatherings and Eid shopping that a kind reminder is always appreciated. I know I appreciated the one I received yesterday and I hope this post as those I’ve written for the last several years serves as your kind reminder to fulfill your zakat.

Who qualifies to receive zakat?

The idea of zakat is to support those in need. That can be in the form of food, shelter, legal services or any other means to help them live a decent life. What do you have that others may have less of? If you were in a bad situation, what would you need to get out of it. It’s hard to put ourselves in another’s shoes sometimes but one of the main ideas of Ramadan is just that. Living with little food, little energy, but lots of dedication to get through it.

With that said, there are so many organizations, both locally and internationally, out there in need of our zakat to continue the amazing work they do not just in Ramadan but year round. I recommend checking on those that have been highly rated by Charity Navigator, many of which four star rated.

I personally would suggest the following organizations:

  • Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) for their amazing efforts to provide medical aid to children across the Middle East. They are currently supporting refugee children in dire need from Palestine, Yemen and Syria.
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for their dedication to helping local communities at large with legal services, training and support. They are currently supporting those in need through the disastrous border immigration response and the xenophobic Muslim Ban currently in effect.
  • Islamic Relief USA for their excellent disaster relief responses, meal plans across the globe and orphan sponsorship programs. You can select one or multiple programs you want your zakat to go towards.
  • Project Feed SF for feeding neighbors in need right here in San Francisco for over 10 years now. This and other amazing campaigns worthy of your zakat are listed under Launch Good.

Insha’Allah this information is helpful to you all. May God accept our fasts, our prayers and our zakat… ameen.

SF Sundays – Ramadan in the Bay!

We’re now starting week two of Ramadan and so far, I’m doing well… despite my major caffeine withdrawals. #TheStruggleIsReal! But in all honesty, fasting is such a beautiful way to reflect and detox both mentally, physically and spiritually. It is said that the first ten days are for mercy, the second ten days are for forgiveness, and the last ten are for protection.

God willing, this month inspires you all to give back to your community, come out with some self-improvement, and appreciate the little snacks in life. So… what’s for iftar?

RAMADAN HAPPENINGS

With Ramadan in full swing, there are lots to do and enjoy. You don’t have to be Muslim to try fasting and join others for good food and conversation at iftar gatherings. If you’re a student preparing for midterms, find your campus’ Muslim Student Association who usually host a one day “fastathon” before coming together for iftar. Those are always fun and a great way to learn about and meet your fellow Muslim classmates. If you’re not a student but eager to learn, head to your local masjid where more likely than not, like the the South Bay Islamic Association (SBIA), hosts a weekly or nightly iftar gathering.

Here are a few cool happenings around the Bay this Ramadan season:

May 15 – Muppies and Islamic Relief are partnering together for their 2nd Annual Delicious and Community-Building Iftar at Mela Tandoori Kitchen, in San Francisco. Trust me, this is not to be missed and it’s for a great cause!

May 18 – The Arab Cultural and Community Center (ACCC) is hosting their annual Ramadan Iftar. Meet community members and learn about the latest ACCC activities in one of the organizations popular annual events. Tickets are limited so get yours now!

May 19 – As it’s the season of giving, head to the Ramadan Feed 2019 by San Francisco’s very own, Project Feed. On their 11th year, people chip in, gather together to pack lunches and distribute it to the city’s less fortunate. They do this monthly but it’s always more special during Ramadan. And after doing so much good, head to the 4th Annual Cupertino Eid Bazaar and give yourself a head start on that Eid shopping! Find amazing clothes, jewelry, and accessories from local Bay Area vendors.

May 25 – The Algerian American Association hosts their 2nd Annual Ramadan Iftar in San Francisco’s ACCC. This event is free, all they ask is you bring something sweet to share and toys to be donated to children in need as holiday gifts.

May 26 – Before you break your fast, head to Mehran Restaurant in Newark for their 4th Annual Eid Bazaar. For a great iftar and cause, the Bay Area chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) is hosting their 6th Annual Benefit Iftar in Menlo Park. PCRF does amazing work with the children of Palestine, Yemen and Syria in dire need of medical treatment, be it here in the US or their home countries.

HAPPENING AROUND TOWN

You also don’t have to miss out on some cool happenings around town just because you’re fasting. Especially after breaking fast and getting a good boost of energy, you’ve got good reasons to head out on the town.

Image result for cooking with carpenter
c/o cobbscomedy.com

Starting this week, Cobb’s Comedy Club is hosting a three-part film series, Cooking with Carpenter. This series, hosted by comedian Chap Opitz, explores director John Carpenter’s best movies with a themed three-course meal and of course a screening of one of Carpenter’s classics.

This is now officially Oakland Art Month! In this inaugural celebration, there’s much to see, do and enjoy by Oakland’s diverse local artists of art’s many forms. And while you’re in Oakland, check out the Old Oakland Artist Showcase. This public art project by Civic Design Studio highlights the spirit and vitality of The Town through its artists.

A few more fun things coming up this summer for you to plan ahead for:

  • May 25 – 26: The 41st annual Carnaval San Francisco festival is on Memorial Day weekend with Los Tigres del Norte headlining May 25th. Themed “La Cultura Cura” (“Culture Heals”) this year, expect the festival to be colorful, beautiful and joyfully loud!
  • May 29 – Jun 13: Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. The 18th annual SF Documentary Film Festival tells us true stories from around the Bay Area and the world… makes one wonder if 16 days is truly enough time.
  • June 16 – August 18: The line up for the free 82nd Stern Grove Festival have been announced. Even though it’s free, you can reserve your picnic tables now.
Clusterfest - June 21-23, 2019
  • June 21 – 23: The massive comedy festival that is Clusterfest is three days of laughs, music, podcasts, drag queens and more laughs. LOL!
  • June 17 – September 5: This summer’s Free Outdoor Movie Screenings has already started but it’s still going strong. Catch the next batch of movies on the roster to be screened, like Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy Rich Asians. Yes it’s free but you best reserve your spots because they go so fast!

GIVEAWAY WINNERS!

What better way to thank my readers of this rant series than to do a shameless plug of my humble boutique with my first blog giveaway? Congratulations to JD Evans, you’re the giveaway winner! I hope you’ll enjoy the beautiful Game of Thrones inspired jewelry in time for the epic series finale happening May 19!

If you missed the giveaway and want to get your hands on these beautiful necklaces, be sure to use the discount code RAMADAN2019 at checkout! Ramadan sale is happening now through June 4th.

Disclaimer: This rant was not sponsored or paid for by the events or restaurants listed. If you’d like me to check out a happening around town or a yummy eatery to rant about, please email ha@mshala.co.

Picture of the Day

For iftar last night, my brother made his famous Thai curry dish, followed by his delicious banana pudding! Layers and layers of goodness in a cup…

So much for losing weight this Ramadan season 🤣

Travel Link Up – Favorite Staycation Spots

Travel bloggers come together monthly for the Travel Link Up, a fantastic way for bloggers to come together to write and share posts of a particular theme. Even though I’ve been behind, I try to join whenever I can. This month’s theme is “favorite staycations” and I just had to take the opportunity to brag a bit about my hometown region and a far away favorite. 

Staycations are like adding a fun boost to the weekend that’s usually set aside for family, laundry, errands and TV binge. When you are in need of a vacation but can’t go so far or for so long, it’s good to hop in a car, a train, or even a short flight to enjoy a quick break from the mundane.

Here, I’m going to focus on two of my favorite staycation spots since I’ve lived in two different parts of the world. One being in my hometown of the Bay Area and the other being from my expat life in Qatar.

Let’s go far then bring it back home.

Muscat, Oman

IMG_20161209_112439-01.jpegDuring the five years of my expat life in Qatar, I was lucky to be able to go on weekend trips to near by countries like the UAE and Kuwait. Many of which literally meant time with family and friends or at a hotel spa getting a well deserved pampering session. I got to do a little bit of both with some adventure when friends and I headed to Muscat in 2016 for a long birthday weekend.

Barely an hour flight away (think SF to LA), once I landed, I went straight to the hotel where I indulged in a mani-pedi pampering session before chilling on the warm private beach with a good book. Yes, Muscat in December is like a sweet summer day in San Francisco. It’s seriously perfect beach weather, warm but not too humid, light breeze and clear skies for the most part.

As an IHG member, I got a sweet deal at the Crowne Plaza Muscat. It’s very much a chill out hotel that I’d go back to again. Great spots to eat, excellent services and did I mention they had a private beach?

IMG_20161209_165408-01.jpegOnce my friends caught up though, we went exploring! Headed to Bimmah’s infamous sinkhole and clear beaches before driving out the city to the canyons of Wadi ElSham. This is a trek everyone should do once in their lives, absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.

Canyons are no joke and as an out of shape person, it wasn’t too hard to trek through some of the rocky narrow parts. And if you’re a swimmer, you’ll love the varying spots where you can take safe dive, come back up and trek some more. I went as far as I could before the path was too narrow for me and alas, I’m no swimmer but I still enjoyed exploring and watching the waters ripple below.

Nature truly beckons here in Muscat, where you can lose yourself in awe of your colorful surroundings.

Monterey Bay, California

I’ve been a tourist in my hometown since repatriating back home over a year ago. There is still so much for me to rediscover as I eat my way through town and see the changes that have happened over the course of my absence. I did get to rediscover an old favorite for a few staycations, including a birthday weekend late last year (I know, I’ve developed a pattern! =P ). On a good day, it’s a short hour and a half drive to this small historical beach town.

IMG_20190331_134903-01.jpegOnce a mainstay for sardine fishing and canning, Monterey has become a hub for marine preservation and exploration. My brother got his scuba diving license there before we took my nephew to his first aquarium adventure. He got to see all the different kinds of jelly fishes up close before finally seeing his favorite, the hammer head shark, swim by.

Just a half hour away, one can head to Moss Landing for an afternoon of dolphin and whale watching. It’s an absolutely glorious experience, highly recommended!

Make it a true girls trip and head to the Monterey Plaza Hotel for a beautiful room, a day at the spa and dinner by the sea. The hotel even offers perks and packages, especially if they know you’re there for a special occasion. They were sweet enough to offer us freebies from my favorite coffee spot there, Tidal Cafe -home of the best chocolate scones, EVER!- as a birthday gift.

So tell me, where are your favorite staycation spot(s)?

Ramadan Kareem!

May God bless you all during this holy month with much reward, goodness and joy.

Ramadan Kareem to one and all!

.اللهم بارك لكم في هذا الشهر المبارك بالثوب، والعز و الهنا

!رمضان كريم عليكم جميعاً