El-Tanein Diet Week #22 and #23

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I’ve bunched these two weeks together because they represent the slow but steady climb to a regular active schedule. I’ve had a gym trainer show me the ropes when it comes to the machines so I focus more on a combination of weight training and cardio. Classes are good but, according to Johnny, I’ve got to deplete my glycogen stores so I start burning fat and the best way to do that is to do weights first. From now on, I’m going to try to alternate between upper and lower body workouts with cardio plus runs twice a week with the NRC (Nike Run Club).

Workout Tally

– (2) 5.8 km runs
– (1) 4.3 km run
– (1) 8 km run
– (1) 7 km run
– 1 session with a personal trainer
– Upper Gym Day
– Fitness Age Test

Outdoor Activity

Spent last Sunday running 8km around Mar Mikhael at 7:30 in the morning. Till now, I have no idea what it motivating me to keep going to these runs but it’s been rewarding to see my stamina improving little by little. I am still the last of the group, the caboose of the troop, but I’m still completing the runs so that’s what counts.

Nike+ App

This section’s now for the Nike+ screenshots of my runs since I’ve broken up with my Fitbit.

Week 22:

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Week 23:

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Best Meal(s) of the Week(s)

No meals of major significance these last two weeks because I was prepping for the massacres that will take place during week #24. It’s Christmas/NYE season and you know what that means: brunches and cheeses and wine and dinners and coffees and cakes and chocolates and panettones…OH MY THIGHS.

Other Highlights

Fitness Age Test: This is included in the sign-up at the gym. Always nice to be slapped in the face with the numbers. My cardio and muscle are great but what I need to work on is shedding body fat.#thanksgenetics

This info wasn’t surprising but it helps to know where you have the most trouble so you can plan your activity accordingly. My visceral fat level, which is all the cushion around your vital organs in the abdomen, is too high which, when not rectified, can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. With my family history, this is a red flag I was expecting too and even more of a reason to get my arse on track. The hardest part will not be the gymming, it will be sticking to a healthy diet. 

Workout Track of the Week(s)

After being sucked into another series-binge (I’ve graduated to American Horror Story Hotel which is a combination of Sleep No More and Se7en), I’ve been stuck on this track while other shows are on their winter hiatus. The show’s latest season itself isn’t groundbreaking but Lady Gaga’s performance is excellent and I don’t understand the strange charisma that Evan Peters’ character has but it’s there. At least the pop music phase is ending. Maybe.

Cheese of the Week(s)

I’ve got nothing so I’m going to leave you with a cheesy track.

 

Frank Capra and Choosing to Stay in Beirut

Capra’s take on the individual and collective, adventure and domesticity, and success and an ordinary life aren’t just applicable to the American Wonderful Life. While watching the above, I kept seeing the duality apply to Lebanon as a whole. Beirut is my Bedford Falls.

Many of the ambitious youth, myself included, dream of travel and growth beyond what the small country can offer us. There is a fear of being trapped, the constant threat of becoming obsolete in any professional field of the 21st century because of limitations that are not under your control. The push and pull represented in the film by Potter and Mary are also present in each of our lives thanks to our politicians and our people. We have our symbols of corruption and our symbols of hope – the little things that make you stay or the little things that bring you back, even if just for 10 days at the end of the year.

“But hope is not naive. It’s hardiness and resolve against a situation that cannot give us assurances or guarantees. The film shows us that a change of heart and perspective far from being powerless nostalgia in the face of an unusually divisive and fear-filled season can be a genuinely revolutionary attitude.”

I’ve been asked “You have an American passport, why don’t you just leave?” multiple times. Because, like George Bailey, it’s not about me.

Here’s to hoping 2016 brings more domestic adventure and ordinary success. Let’s do this, Lebanon.

23 Days Left to Help BETA

Close Up Of Cute Dog Looking At The Camera

Hear that rain?

Like the rest of the population here, the doggies of BETA will need to get through the winter ahead too. BETA, Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to repair their shelter’s roof. Home to 400 dogs and hundreds of other abandoned animals, BETA is helping the furry friends that have also been victims of our multilayered humanitarian situation.

BETA’s not a priority when it comes to donations, volunteers, and aid given all the carnage that is happening within and surrounding the country at the moment. Sadly, animals tend to take a backseat to humans. It doesn’t have to be either/or though, there is enough of us to help the many causes and ’tis the season to do good. ‘Tis the season for storms and plummeting temperatures too so let’s keep these balls of fluff warm & dry.

The BETA shelter is an old farm in Monteverde and the roof of the structure is in bad shape. It’s split into sections so any money raised will still lead to some improvements and whatever is left will go to the dogs’ medical care if it can’t be used to complete another section.

“One meter of plain roofing costs just $6, so however small your donation, it will still make a difference!”

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Based on their page, there is “no government funding for animal charities in Lebanon” so they rely purely on donations. Their goal is $35K and they’ve reached a little over $10K with 3 weeks to go – at that rate, they should make it but it can’t hurt to help spread the word to make sure they do.

10 Favorite Eats in Barcelona

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Most of these places have been mentioned in the El-Tanein Diet series posts (or posts of their own) but here’s a round up of my 10 favorite places of Barcelona. Every time I would dine somewhere, I would find 12 others I’d add to my google list on the way. My google list would be cafes, restaurants, and museums that I would investigate online later to see if they were worthy of a visit. After all, I had 86 days to take in as much of Barcelona as possible so I needed to be wise and selective. Yes, I take this shit seriously.

These are places I went to more than once, even if just for coffee, and could imagine them becoming my go-to locations if I were a permanent resident of Spain’s Catalonian city by the sea.

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For coffee, cava, and cheese:
El Jardi

Within the courtyard of the old Santa Creu Hospital is this cafe, a quiet spot to enjoy late lunch or a post-meal coffee. It’s behind the famous Boqueria market but still removed enough to be away from the crowded Las Ramblas. It’s an outdoor venue with string lights and simple tables; you’re basically hanging out in a garden with goodies. The hospital, eventually unable to keep up with the growth of the city and medical advances, was converted to libraries including Biblioteca de Catalunya.

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For a salad bar with a side of pie: Faborit

This cafe is located within Casa Amatller, the Cadafalch house attached to Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. With a panini or salad menu, you can get a filling, fresh meal for under 10 Euros and spend your lunch hour sitting in their outdoor terrace. They also sell beautifully packaged chocolate sets if you need some Art Nouveau souvenirs.

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For when you want a quiet dinner with your BFF: Casa Lolea

This is the 3rd time I mention Lolea on the blog because I really loved the restaurant. It’s just warm – that may be the best word for it. Staff is kind, food is good, and you feel at home. Did I mention the sangria bottles? It’s a sangria factory that has 4 special kinds produced and packaged in polka-dotted bottles. Great affordable gifts and/or accents for the home/office.

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For when you need a lunch break near Passeig de Gracia: Toto

Italian brasserie on Valencia. The service isn’t their strongpoint but the food is. Go for lunch to benefit from the menu del dia so you can have a 3-course meal for 16 Euros. The regular menu is pricier (also worth it) but you might as well save some cash so you can enjoy even more culinary experiences. Barcelona is not short on options, you’re just short on time.

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For when you need a break from jamon: Flax & Kale

Flax & Kale, flexitarian resto from Teresa Carles, is a vegetarian/vegan friendly spot 5 minutes away from Plaça Catalunya. The dishes are rich in veggies, grains, and oily fish. It has a juicery and an outdoor terrace on the second floor that opens in the afternoons. Barcelona is rich in cured meats and ham so when you’re looking for more fruit and greens, grab an acai berry bowl.

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For when you can’t get a table at Tickets: Lolita Taperia

I say this because the chef left Lolita (then Inopia) to open Tickets and you can tell when you eat here because the food is almost as good. I’ve been to both and Lolita is to Tickets what Toyota is to Lexus. It’s a casual everyday version of the more expensive sister. It’s not as meticulously prepared and it’s void of the “molecular cuisine” style which is fine because it’s all about taste anyway. And the waitress at the bar looks like Julia Styles and is super helpful.

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For when you need fried goodness: Xurreria Trebol

They’ve got homemade chips and giant churros loaded with flavored cream for 2 Euros each. Need I say more? Avoid the churro stands in the tourist-populated areas and head to this place instead. It’s open 24 hours during the weekend too so you can head there after you’re done partying till dawn and in need of a carbo-load.

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For when you’re not ready for Monday morning just yet:
Café di Marco

This is a small coffee shop on the corner of Arago and d’Enric Granados. There is nothing special about it but I used to stop here for a cappuccino and muffin on my morning walks to the office. The staff is kind and the cafe is filled with people starting their day or reading newspapers. It’s a cozy quaint place you can hide in until you’re ready to face the world.

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For when you want a fun night out with friends: Numeronueve

I think I took every visitor I had to this bar. Off one of the alleys of Passeig de Born, No.9 is a stone-throw away from Santa Maria del Mar. Tapas are great, sangria is even greater, and the staff are friendly. Music is a bonus. It’s not authentically Spanish if you’re looking for that sort of thing. But if you’re looking for good drinks and nibbles in a fun atmosphere, it never let me down.

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For when you want flavor for dinner:
Lascar 74

A “cevicheria” in Poblesec, Lascar 74 is where I had my first encounter with ceviche, a Peruvian seafood dish. Everything we ate was delicious, right down to the cheesecake that I didn’t order but kept eating off of my friend’s plate after I tasted a small bite. Interior is nothing fancy; simple decor for a satisfying dinner with friends. There’s no English menu but the waiters can explain everything for you so no sweat.

Honorable Mentions

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Can Ramonet in Barceloneta for paella

Hotel Barcelo in Raval for Sunday brunch. Open buffet plus a cocktail on the 360 degree view roof for 25 Euros

Mont Bar on Aribau for date night

Chök on Carme for cookies, cake, and cronuts

Brunch & Cake for brunch and cake

El-Tanein Diet Week #21

NRC poster

It’s been a slow return to the grind but I’m almost there. I’ve signed up at a new gym and I’ve joined Nike Run Club (NRC) so the workout tally should be more impressive as of week #23 once I find my regular rhythm.

Workout Tally

– 5.8 km run
– 5 km run

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Outdoor Activity

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My activity for this week was two runs with the NRC. The NRC is a group of peeps who meet every Tuesday and Thursday at the Nike store in Beirut Souks at 6:30 pm for a 5-6km run. It is open to everyone and it is free. As you run, there’s a coach who makes sure you’re running properly and keeps you motivated throughout so you don’t slack on the last kilometer.

I will admit that my first run was not pleasant but it was also my return to the fitness world after 3 months of fooding my way through Calatonia. That, and I had had soup for lunch that day. Not my smartest move, I know. It’s also because the runs are more about endurance than speed. For someone who does interval training, running at a constant pace for 45 minutes straight feels like a slow death. However, the second time around was better and the vibes in the group are welcoming. It’s not competitive or exclusive, it’s people getting together to move which was enough to get me to skip Bassem Youssef’s visit to AUB on Thursday.

Fitbit Flex

I forgot to charge it. I’m so bad at wearables.

Best Meal of the Week

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Souk El Akel in Mar Mikhael wins again. I brought dad this time around which was a mistake because he eats with his eyes rather than his stomach. In other words, he tries everything and passes the leftovers to me like I’m a compost bin. Meats & Bread’s WTF Burger was the star on the Christmas tree: black angus beef patty on lettuce and tarragon, melted cheddar, chips, and blueberry sauce.

Other Highlights

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AIGA ME Morning Toast: This Saturday was the 9th edition of our bimonthly breakfasts at Urbanista. Although it was a small group, the conversation was stimulating and was a good reminder that there are hungry minds in the region, minds that want to do more than what’s available to them at the moment. However, their frustration fuels their motivation to build something so maybe there’s hope.

Workout Track of the Week

I don’t know why I’ve become a 12 year old girl when picking workout tracks lately. I spend my days listening to rap and old school R&B then go workout listening to the Biebs and Jonas. Maybe it’s a new version of the Peter Pan Syndrome?

Cheese of the Week

It’s cold. Have some ohn-yan soup. I don’t know where Jamie Oliver is either.

10 Money-Saving Tips for Visiting Barcelona

1. Atrapalo

Similar to Groupon, Atrapalo is an online discount service. Along with packages and special offers, it also sells discounted transportation tickets (trains, airlines, cruises). One downside is that it’s in Spanish but you can always have Google Chrome translate the entire page – it’s enough for you to make your discount purchases and save a good 30 Euros (or more) on a train ticket to Madrid.

2. Menu del Dia

Most restaurants around the city have a lunch menu during weekdays which is a 3-4 course meal for 8-15 Euros. Sometimes, tourists are given the regular menu and thus, ripped off by paying the full price a la carte.

3. Nostrum Food Chain

Unless you’re using the Buzzfeed Food newsletter for easy recipes to cook packed lunches at your Airbnb flat (which is also very helpful), Nostrum is an affordable alternative for the office break. All dishes are easily microwavable, healthy, and light. The 10 Euro/month fan club card gives you discounted prices on the various plates too so you can walk out with a bag of sustenance for under 7 Euros.

4. Barcelona Metro Card

A T-10 (10 trips) card at 9.95 Euros for 1 zone was enough to last me 2 weeks at a time because I used my feet to get around the most. The card is multi-person and you can use it on the metro and buses. It may even count as one trip if you use both modes of transport within a certain timeframe. There’s other combinations of this card (more trips, individual user, etc) as well that you can check out here. If you’re only in the city for a few days and need unlimited metro access, one of the Hola cards might be a better option.

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5. Pinxtos on Carrer Blai

Pinxtos are bar food tapas that are priced based on the different toothpicks poking through them. In bars in Born and Passeig de Gracia, each pinxto can be anywhere between 3-6 Euros. However, Carrer Blai is street packed with bars that sell pinxtos for 1-2 Euros each so you can load your plate a few times, have a few cups of cava, and continue bar hopping in the Poblesec area.

6. Free Museum Days or Articket BCN Passport

Like most cities, Barcelona has free museum days (usually the first Sunday of the month or every Sunday afternoon, it varies depending on the museum) and the Articket museum passport option that gives you entrance to 6 main museums for 30 Euros.

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7. Fly-Foot

Fly-Foot is a MENA-centric tour agency that puts together travel packages for attending football games and, for a city that is home of FC Barcelona, they are the kind of service you want to know about. The money they save you on tickets can be used to buy a Neymar Jr jersey to wear to the game. Okay fine, you can wear Suarez too.

Call their Barcelona number [+34 (625) 46-45-32] or email them at barcelona@fly-foot.com

8. Barcelona Expats Facebook Group

This is a pretty active group of expats living in Barcelona. They help share insider tips, contacts for language courses, answer questions if you’re looking for a particular shop or product – it’s a good advice column. If you’re planning on sticking around in BCN for more than a month, join the little community.

9. Barcelona Metropolitan

Subscribe to their newsletter for a weekly email on what’s going on around the city. Besides the typical TimeOut website, they’re a decent resource for events and openings all over town.

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10. Casa Lolea Sangria as Barcelona Souvenirs

And finally, when you’re ready to pack up and head back home, stop by Casa Lolea first for dinner and a couple of bottles of sangria. It’s their specialty, the packaging is beautiful, and the bottles are a steal at 8-10 Euros a piece. Who wouldn’t love a gift like that?

Bonus: If you have to choose between Park Guell and Palau Guell, go for the Palau. Very underrated and less crowded.