Our family has an ongoing tradition: we decorate the house and find any excuse to exchange gifts. This year was no different. My five year old nephew Salem anxiously awaited to rip to shreds the gift wrappings and freaked out in excitement over every single toy and book he received. I mean, just geek out at the sight of one of his favorite Avengers.
And being the birthday month for both my stepdad and I, we get extra lucky when it comes to presents. This year being my second holiday and birthday home, I totally lucked out by getting a few things off my wish list and a few gag gifts like my fresh set of Golden Girls shot glasses to add to my collection (thanks Mama!). Yep, love the girls and have seen every episode at least 10 times!
However, we all agreed that my sister Heba won with the gift giving this winter season. She made both my mom and brother cry with her freaking awesome sentimental gifts. For the record, I never win in this family but I’ll keep trying. hehehe
On Christmas Day, most of us have the weekend or at least the day off. So, as per tradition, our extended family gets together over delicious seafood thanks to my hostess with the mostess cousin, spoil the kids rotten and laugh to tears, literally.
This year, I learned that as an older auntie, I have to get my nephew a car when he turns 18. Thanks for setting that in motion to the universe my dearest cousins! hehehe
Our Muslim (and interfaith) family may not religiously celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah but what our family does celebrate year round is life, love and togetherness. So if we get a day off or a long weekend, we’ll be together. It’s as simple as that!
To all my wonderful peeps reading, may you and yours have a joyous and blessed holiday season! Here’s to the same in 2019, God Willing.
San Francisco. The city by the bay. The Bay Area. My hometown. Within the city’s many hills and along the city’s many beach shorelines, there are stories to be heard, history to be made, secrets to be revealed and delicious food to be eaten. Every year, the San Francisco Bay Area sees millions of tourists and natives like me come to discover it all. With that, I’ll regularly rant on happenings around my town not to be missed and yumminess to be achieved. Join me!
BUT FIRST, A QUICK HISTORY LESSON
This California peninsula city was founded and established in 1776 by colonists from Spain, naming it after Saint Francis of Assisi. Part of the foundation of the city started with the Presidio and Mission districts. Soon after, the gold rush brought in the influx of gold seekers and Eastern settlers. And in just the last hundred years or so, the city saw everything imaginable.
1906 brought about the largest earthquake to date, causing one of the most devastating fires the West had ever seen. It was rebuilt, in part, by the influx of immigrants who came from all over the globe to start a new life and contribute to the greater Bay Area. The “decade of love” protested a senseless war whilst demanding equality, tolerance and some form of peace. The belief that love is love put San Francisco at the helm of the LGBTQ community activism, being the first in the nation to have same-sex marriages (before Prop 8 came about).
We make history and get very hungry in the process. And while being the most culturally diverse metropolitan city in the country, we’ve become the most gastronomical one too. One can eat their heart out then head to the city’s many museums, music halls, art galleries, comedy clubs or movie screenings. Once outside, one can ice skate the many rinks open in the winter, swim the ocean seas in the summer, walk through the many green parks in the spring, or bike their way through one of the best cycling city in the world all year long. That’s my city!
HAPPENING AROUND TOWN
This week, I’d like to highlight theContemporary Muslim Fashion exhibit being held at the de Young through the 6th of January, 2019. I’ve been to the exhibit multiple times and plan on going again before it closes. This is a historical first for such an exhibit and of course, where else would such a colorful and truly inspiring exhibit be than at the de Young?
Tickets average $30 per person but members get in free! Side note: If you’re a true fan of art, a Fine Artsmembership is worth every penny. With lots of exhibits to see and membership perks to enjoy at both the de Young and Legion of Honor.
San Francisco Symphony last week held a screening feature of A Nightmare Before Christmas and it was truly spectacular! They’ll do it again with the screening of the holiday classic, Home Alone.
Want to go ice skating? We’re spoiled for choice all across the city. Just for the holidays, there are three ice rinks: one right in front of City Hall, a second in the middle of Union Square and a third at the Embarcadero Center. There’s also the Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center which is open all year round.
And if you still need to shop for gifts, look no further than the upcoming Etsy’s Maverick Holiday Market happening at the Crocker Galleria December 19th. Nothing beats buying from your local businesses, right? Shameless plug: I’ve started a small boutique shop on Etsy too!
This week, I’m highlighting an old favorite spot of mine, Bursa on West Portal. They truly serve up really good Arabic food with touches of gourmet and home. My favorite dishes are both the chicken and beef kebabs, succulent lamb stew, and the piping hot pastry cheese rolls. Just thinking about those cheesy rolls makes me hungry!
I’m not a fan of the seasonal pumpkin spice lattes (because yuck) but I did miss the occasional winter holiday coffee drinks. As a huge fan of Peet’s, I’ve been hooked on their peppermint mocha and the dark chocolate orange mocha. They are great pick-me-ups especially on those cold Monday mornings as you head back to work.
The wildfires in my home state of California has been devastating. The Camp Fire in Butte County has claimed over 40 lives, burned over 110,000 acres and only 30% contained as of writing. This fire has been so far the worst in California history. A second fire in Southern California’s Ventura County deemed the Woolsey Fire is fast spreading. CAL FIRE reports as of this writing that the fire has spread across over 91,500 acres and only 20% contained. There have been five injuries, three of which are firefighters and I’m praying there will not be reporting of causalities.
Being almost 200 miles away from Butte County, the billowing smoke has affected the air quality here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve used my rescue inhaler over twice a day since the fires began. I’ve stayed indoors as much as possible over the weekend, dunned a face mask when one was available to me but I keep thinking, how are the people in the heart of this disaster even coping?
The first responders have put their own lives on the line helping people evacuate and attempting to put out this fire. Many of them are from Butte County and have family forced to evacuate and lost their own homes in the fire.
So how can we help our fellow Californians in their times of need? Below are a few organizations I’m aware of that are on the grounds. Your donations in the form of finances and time would be greatly appreciated.
Islamic Relief USA has a Disaster Response Team that is helping those affected by the fires in both northern and southern California. The California Community Foundation has a Wildfire Relief Fund currently supporting recovery and preparedness. Benevity is supporting the American Red Cross’ efforts on the ground.
According to the Sacramento Bee, shelters have been receiving “generous but useless donations”. Meaning, kindly check what is needed before donating your entire stash of hygiene products. If you can’t donate things like underwear or backpacks, the best thing to do is to donate a gift card from say Target. Your time is also highly appreciated but please inquire ahead, your safety and that of others come first.
I’ll update this post with any additional information I come across on how we can continue to help those affected throughout California. If you have additional information to share, kindly email me or post them in the comments below.
For help, support or information for Butte County, please go buttecounty.netor call 211.
UPDATE – 16 November: GoFundMe has created a central page with verified campaigns to help the victims. The same has been done by Charity Navigator, listing all verified organizations on the grounds in both Northern and Southern California. The California Fire Foundation is providing both financial and emotional support to the firefighters and the fallen officers and their families. Let’s be sure to showcase our support and appreciation to the amazing firefighters and first responders.
For details on the current air quality in the Bay Area, go to airnow.gov and enter the zip code of your area. As of this writing, it’s lingering at 233 here in San Francisco which is “very unhealthy”. According to KTVU, we are experiencing the worst air quality in the world. I took this picture this morning of the smoke looming above the Sunset district. Due to the air quality, most schools and universities are not open today or the rest of the week.
UPDATE – November 21: I’m sure there are many small businesses supporting the victims of the California wildfires. One of them is San Francisco’s QSpa, located on both Steiner and Divisidaro, off the Haight. Right now, QSpa is donating 100% of the proceeds from the sales of their $25 in-house cuticle oil to those affected in Butte County. For $15, you can bring back your empty bottle for a refill.
Final Update – December 1: The Camp Fire may be fully out but there is still much to do to help our friends get their lives back to some form of normalcy and rebuild the many towns affected. I want to be able to continue to showcase my support in any way possible. Therefore, all season long, I’ll be donating some of the proceeds from Ms. Hala’s Boutique to the Islamic Relief USA and the California Fire Foundation, two of many amazing organizations helping our friends across the state. Please continue to share this post and add on it to with any additional information in the comments below.
Today is November 6th, midterm election day! ☑️ Have you voted yet?
I finally got my vote by mail ballot a few days ago, so took out my fancy pen and voted. Every time I vote, I think of the sacrifices of the suffragettes, the civil rights leaders, and my immigrant family who have made voting for many of us possible.
As Oprah said last week, honor our ancestors and GO VOTE!
The Castro Theatre is one of the oldest and historical theatres here in San Francisco. In one of the most vibrant and colorful districts of the city, it only makes sense that this iconic theatre showcases colorful, thoughtful and beautiful works from local to global film makers.
I’ve come here many times to check out foreign films and film festivals over the years before moving abroad. Since moving back, I’ve been anxious to watch a screening here again. Most recently, I’ve watched movies during the Arab Film Festival and have not left disappointed.
I can’t imagine a more beautiful theatre for a movie buff to appreciate here in the city than I have at the Castro Theatre. I can’t wait to go back!