Hey Sand Stars!

During my twenties, I was continuously apologising for not ‘fitting in’ with a particular stereotype. I was concerned that people may not understand that my quirky, carefree, bohemian demeanour and sense of humour was only an aspect of me. I was concerned that they may not realise that the other side of me was very determined, into seeking knowledge, hard-working and unwavering in the morals and values of my faith and upbringing.

I know SO many people- especially women -who, too, seem to struggle to marry the different aspects of their personalities and thus be themselves completely.

When I was growing up, my siblings and I were encouraged to think outside of the box and have big dreams. We were also encouraged- most importantly -to be true to ourselves, no matter what others may think.

The latter has (and still is) quite the journey.

We’re told to ‘be ourselves,’ but society has indoctrinated us with images of perfection (Victoria’s Secret models; this means you…) and that we need to be earning this much and that much to be happy. We’re told that we can ‘have opinions’ but not talk about those opinions (side note: opinions are not judgement, as some may think).

Today, I’d like to tell you that I’ve chosen to just BE.

And HOLY SMOKES, it’s pretty darn cool.

I strive to be a better person, a better Muslim, a better business-woman, a better musician; but I’m happy with who I am right at this moment.

You should be, too.

There’s a reason we all look different- we’re as unique and beautiful as snowflakes. So, revel in your individuality and just BE.

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YOU know who you are!

 

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Make peace with who you are right now. Photography by PhoTah

Wishing you all the best!

And, as you celebrate yourself, remember to…

Live, Love & Laugh Littlepianodiva Style!

M

x

 

 

Hey Sand Stars!

I hope everyone’s enjoying a happy summer. As many of us have wound down after a busy first half of 2016, it’s important that we take this fabulous, fun time to travel, eat and make merry with our friends and loved ones.

Due to work commitments and other constraints, however, many of us need to look at alternatives to journeying to far-flung magical locations (yes, Europe- I will miss you this year! 😦 ). Living in Dubai, I’m grateful to be surrounded by fabulous resorts which often have awesome deals for summer staycations.

Atlantis The Palm is most probably the busiest high-end 5-star hotel in Dubai. My stay at the resort was an epic time full of of relaxation and tanning (courtesy the hotel’s luxury accommodation and Royal Pool); serious fun at Aquaventure (side note: make sure you stay hydrated if you’re outside for long periods of time- trust me, heatstroke is NO fun, compadre). For casual dining, check out Asia Republic (close to Aquaventure)- they honestly have the BEST Thai green curry EVER.

For fine dining, check out Ayamna for delicious Lebanese cuisine (see Facebook for some photos from my experience).

Considering the resort is extremely busy (as most family-focused holiday properties are); the indoor aquarium was very quiet and relaxing. For the more adventurous folk; try many of the hotel’s unique experiences such as swimming with dolphins etc.

Upon my return, I felt very refreshed and ready to tackle a pile of work and personal projects with more motivation and gusto than I had before my getaway.

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Atlantis The Palm’s Unique Lobby

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My ‘Little Mermaid’ Moment with a New Friend at Atlantis The Palm’s Aquarium

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Obligatory Pool Selfie

Make time to have fun and unwind this summer and then hit the rest of 2016 with everything you’ve got! (PS: for some ideas on what to pack and where to go when considering travelling, check out Holidays In Heels. PPS: Theme song of this getaway: Relax, Take It Easy!)

Live, Love & Laugh Littlepianodiva Style,

M

x

 

 

Hey Sand Stars!

I’m currently reading a dark, Gothic novel set in Victorian times. As you know, my fashion is inspired by my environment or pop culture.

I usually wear a lot of black (I can see a few colour-loving friends rolling their eyes) but I guess since I’m channelling my dark, inner Victorian heroine, the hue is becoming even more common in my outfits these days.

My family and friends continuously ask me one thing: WHY do you wear so much black?

I love versatility in terms of the items that I invest in- and black is a very versatile colour (or non-colour, if you wish). Also, truth be told; I feel rather sophisticated in head-to-toe black.

Interestingly, I’ve noted that when I’m feeling particularly down or (on the other end of the spectrum- very confident), I tend to gravitate towards a LBD or black skinny jeans and flowing blouse.

I’m trying, though, to inject more colour into my wardrobe. There has been research into how different shades represent/attract certain frequencies.

Now, while I may be trying to gather more blues, yellows, greens and reds- I’ll still hold onto my ‘black mood’ 😉

*Music inspiration of the week: Chopin: Nocturne in C Sharp Minor – a haunting and ethereal piece of piano music from a genius!

Live, Love & Laugh Littlepianodiva Style,

M

x

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Black Accessories to Punctuate a Dark Mood: H&M and Forever 21

Hey Sand Stars!

I’m super excited to be working on WONDERFUL projects in the realm of music and my other passions. However, I had to make time to do some Eid baking as the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Fitr is this week!

One of my favourite childhood treats was Hungarian Tart, which Momma Littlepianodiva would often make for us to have with our tea- we felt so posh! 🙂

 

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Hungarian Tart

Here is the recipe I used:

2 tblspn castor sugar

125g butter

1 beaten egg

2 tbsp cooking oil

Half tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking powder

2 cups flour

Apricot/strawberry jam for spreading

Cinnamon

Icing sugar

Cream the sugar and butter, then add cooking oil and vanilla essence. Beat the mixture well and slowly stir in the beaten egg. Sift the flour and baking powder. Knead the mixture into a dough and divide into two portions. Lay the first portion in a greased cake tin and prick with a fork. Spread jam liberally across the top of the dough and grate the second portion of dough on top. Dust cinnamon powder on top, just before baking for about 30 minutes in the oven, at 180 degrees Celsius. When baked, dust icing sugar on top and cut the tart into squares whilst hot. Serve by itself or with vanilla cream or custard.

Bon appetit!

Live, Love & Laugh!

M

xxx

Hey Sand Stars!

OK. Let me be brutally honest: I’m not very good at exercising. I enjoy it for a few weeks and then I get distracted by life.

Or…you know: CAKE…

Anyway, I was introduced to a new fitness craze called Speedflex (which originated in Dallas), which has its Middle Eastern headquarters is right here in Dubai. A typical session can range from 30 minutes and focusses on providing a high intensity, low impact cardio and resistance workout.

The machines used (you are guided by personal trainers who adapt the workouts to your individual needs) may look simple enough, but they are unique in that they make adjustments depending on how much force you apply. The coolest thing about the training regime is that you don’t feel muscle pain, the same way you would had you worked out intensively on your usual gym equipment! That means I could go straight into 6-inch-heels for a performance the very next day after training!

An induction session includes a health assessment so that you are aware of the areas in your body and overall health that needs work. Trainers work with you to reach your personal fitness goals; even in a session that could include about 8 people or more. Your fitness levels are monitored throughout the course of your training so you will be able to visualise your progress. Trust me, seeing your heart rate up on the screen is a real incentive to keep going!

I enjoyed my first session and- for someone who gets rather intimidated by fitness machines and training sessions -I could actually complete the training successfully in one piece and with a smile! Considering that the clientele ranges from 20-60 years old, I reckon anyone could reach the level of a Speedflex ambassador such as Alan Shearer (former England football captain).

The Speedflex Middle East headquarters is at the JA Ocean View Hotel in Dubai and the centre manager is the lovely Brit, Kayleigh Dawson, a 23-year-old enthusiastic and knowledgeable fitness enthusiast and former swimmer. For more on Speedflex and the training schedules, check out www.speedflex.com. There is a Ramadan promotion on now too, so don’t miss out on keeping healthy!

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First Stop on the Speedflex Train!

 

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Getting Summer Ready (and serious about my health) on the Speedflex System

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With Speedflex Centre Manager Kayleigh Dawson

 

Hey Sand Stars!

In my line of work, I have to make sure that I’m on time: be it for meetings, performances, piano tuition or appearances. I’m not much of a watch wearer, but when it comes to work, I have to admit that I need a little bling on my wrist to keep me on schedule!

There are a number of watch brands that I love and Anne Klein is one of them. One of my current favourite models is part of a gift set. The watch is set in a rose-gold toned bracelet. The pearl-coloured dial subtly shines in the light and the piece is water resistant. The watch comes with three additional bracelets: one gold-toned bangle with white enamel filling; one gold-toned bangle with a clear, Swarovski crystal-accented centre piece, and one gold-toned chain bracelet.

The fabulous part is that you can wear the watch with the bracelets in various ways, or all pieces separately! The watch and its accompanying accessories are perfect for feminine, boho-chic looks like below:

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Photography by Pho-Tah. Watch & accessories by Anne Klein. Blouse by Meher & Riddhima.

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Watch Set by Anne Klein

The other Anne Klein timepiece that is on my list of favourite accessories, is a classic, elegant beauty with a black leather strap and a dial with Roman numerals. This watch means business! It’s perfect for corporate wear, but versatile enough to add a classic edge to an androgynous look like a baggy white shirt and skinny, ripped jeans.

Personally, I found that the watch can amp up a LBD- ideal for a busy day of meetings, teaching, performing and then dinner with the girls:

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Watch by Anne Klein

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If you’re in Dubai, check out Hour Choice stores to get your hands on Anne Klein watches.

M

xx

Hey Sand Stars

A recent collaboration with a watch brand has made me think about the concept of time.

We live our days like robots: Get up. Go to work. Come home. Sleep. Repeat. Often, we are so wrapped up in work projects, our family, partners or friends and life’s little (or big!!) issues that we forget to simply stop and focus.

It’s important to be present in each moment to give time its’ due: because not one minute is returned. One way to practise being more present is to do mindfulness meditation at least 2o minutes each day (OK, I only do 10 minutes; but that’s a start!) The aim is to meditate, using your breath as an anchor when thoughts or emotions and sensations in the body arise. Have a look here for more details: Mindfulness.

By being mindful and focussed on the ‘now’, we actually end up being more productive, less judgemental and more objective. This allows us to be more successful in our professions and stronger to deal with any situation, because we are not ‘feeding’ into heightened emotions like anger or sadness. Although one should allow and acknowledge the presence of emotions (such as the latter); mindfulness teaches us to be more observant of these emotions than allowing them to take over our sense of perspective.

There are a number of guided meditations that can be found on Youtube. I suggest you alternate and find the one that works best for you.

Let’s all try and be present for each moment in time; let nothing pass you by. Life is precious and every minute is a treasure.

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Photo: stacykeibler.com