Monday, June 18, 2018

Levantine Arabic: Week 1 Summary

Learning Arabic: Week 1

I just finished my first week of learning Arabic, and I have discovered a few things:
  • My throat hurts from trying to properly pronounce words
  • This probably wasn't the easiest language to start learning
  • I have a long way to go....
I think the last point is one I am going to be feeling for some time! Learning a language can really be defeating! Something that was so easy to me (saying hello), now makes my brain hurt. I'm sure my face looks something like this when trying to pronounce words perfectly.
Camel Struggling

It will be worth it, and I know I will look back to this moment and laugh that it was hard to say hello. However, while you are there, it doesn't feel so good. It is difficult to not be hard on myself during this time, but I try to gently remind myself that I am just starting and doing great for trying.

I can't put on rose colored glasses all the time, and do have to be real with myself. It is difficult with a full time job, friends to see, and daily life errands, to keep up with studying a language!

This week I did not do the best, as I am trying to set a new routine into my schedule. I thought I was going to do the Mango app while driving to work; however, I discovered I wanted to see the words on the screen. So I needed to sit down and have a time where I could see the words and go over the lesson slowly.

This became an excuse for me to not study, and I really started to procrastinate. However, I did finish Chapter One of the Mango App like I was planning. This chapter was easier, so this will have to be something I keep in mind going forward. As things get more difficult, it will be easier to slip behind.
Arabic: Chapter 1: Lesson 1-3

With this in mind, I think I will enter next week with a renewed energy and focus. I will try to carve out time to specifically sit down so I can focus on the lesson. We shall see how it goes....

If you are also learning a language, I would love to hear how your first week went. Hearing the stories and struggles of others, I think will help any language learners!
Levantine Arabic: Week 1 Summary
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How to Choose Which Dialect of Arabic to Learn

Which Dialect of Arabic to Learn

I have recently started learning Arabic and have quickly found out there are several types. Who would have thought that when I picked a language, there would be sub-languages to choose from? In Arabic there are several different dialects that are spoken, as it is a diglossic language. Below are the more popular forms of Arabic.
  • Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) - You may also see it written as Fusha, Fus7a, or فصحى
  • Egyptian Arabic - A dialect of Egypt
  • Levantine Arabic - A dialect of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan
  • Maghrebi Arabic - A dialect of Morocco, Tunis, Algeria, and Libya 
  • Sudanese Arabic- A dialect of Sudan
  • Arabian Arabic- A dialect of Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, and other Gulf countries. 
Different Dialects of Arabic

I will try to not provide an opinion on which is the best form of Arabic to learn, as this can be an opinionated and heated topic. I will say, that each dialect of Arabic has its' own benefit and purpose. It is important to think about why you want to learn the language, and pick the dialect while remembering your primary purpose.

If you want to learn how to read, write, and study the Qur'an, you will want to start with MSA. This is the classical form of Arabic, what is commonly taught in schools. If you sign up for Arabic class in college, for example, it will most likely be MSA.

However, if your desire to speak and have conversations with other Arabic speakers, you will not want to learn MSA, and will want to pick a dialect.

Reading Arabic

The dialects are derived from MSA, which is why some will argue you should start learning MSA before a dialect. However, if you go to an Arabic speaking country and use MSA, you could possibly be not understood. The difference from MSA and dialects can be that drastic.

Therefore, if your primary purpose is to speak and hold conversations with others, you will benefit from skipping MSA and picking a dialect. 

This is where I will slowly step away and definitely will not express an opinion on which dialect to learn. I believe it will depend on the learner; however, I will provide why I choose Levantine Arabic.

The people I knew who spoke Arabic spoke were from Jordan and Palestine, making it easy for me to immerse myself in Levantine Arabic. 


Also when I thought about traveling, the countries that peaked my interest were Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon. So it quickly became clear that Levantine Arabic would be my dialect of choice.

However, I will admit there are cons to picking Levantine Arabic. Until very recently, media and entertainment was done in Egyptian Arabic. When I learn a language, I get excited about watching soap operas and other shows. Honestly, there aren't as many beginner options in Levantine Arabic as there is in Egyptian. 

There are definitely several things to consider when picking which is best for you; however, try to keep in mind the reason you want to learn Arabic. If you think about this, the choice should be pretty clear! 

Have fun on your journey of learning, and click below to start learning Levantine Arabic yourself!

Arabic: Chapter 1: Lesson 1-3

How to Choose Which Dialect of Arabic to Learn
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Monday, June 11, 2018

Learning Levantine Arabic: Greetings, Gratitude, and Goodbyes (Mango Unit 1, Chapter 1)

I decided to cross of a long time wish of mine and learn a second language. I picked Arabic as I have family and friends who speak this language and could lean on them for help and advice. I decided to blog about my journey learning Arabic in the hopes of helping others!

Overview and Tips of Chapter 1
  • This chapter includes 20 vocabulary words, and it is a great introduction to what a conversation in the Middle East would start like. 
  • The grammar you will learn will be very basic, but it will lay the foundation for more advanced conversations in the future. 
  • Don't get frustrated at the pace of this lesson. It may seem slow and too basic; however, alternatively, the pronunciation of Arabic words may seem daunting. I completely respect either feelings, but keep with it! You'll start having fun soon enough. 
Grammar Lessons of Chapter 1
Mango Unit 1, Chapter 1, Slide 1 Mango Unit 1, Chapter 1, Slide 2 Mango Unit 1, Chapter 1, Slide 3 Mango Unit 1, Chapter 1, Slide 4 Mango Unit 1, Chapter 1, Slide 5 Mango Unit 1, Chapter 1, Slide 7
Practice outside of Mango
  • Visit my Memrise course to go over and practice the vocabulary used on the Mango app. 
  • Download a list of Chapter 1's vocabulary. 
  • This chapter does not go over the writing of Arabic letters. If you're wanting to learn to speak, stick with the app. If you have the goal to learn to read and write, visit this YouTube video to get a fundamental understanding. I like this one as it shows how to move your mouth to pronounce each letter. 
  • If you want more help with Arabic pronunciations, try this video out!
  • KeefakLite App: The Introduce Yourself course is a great pairing with the Mango Chapter. It introduces additional vocabulary and similar description words than the Mango App. For example, Mango teaches the word bkher for fine, while the KeefakLite App teaches mnih for good.  
  • Check out this video explaining greetings in the Levantine dialect. I like this video as it begins to introduce that there are specific responses to other people's greetings. 
Learning Levantine Arabic: Greetings, Gratitude, and Goodbyes (Mango Unit 1, Chapter 1)
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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Amazing and Heavenly Cinque Terre

I wish you could hear the sigh I make whenever someone mentions they are traveling to Cinque Terre (translation, Five Lands). This place is truly a traveler's delight and is one of the few places that truly recharges and inspires me on so many levels. If you're lucky enough to be traveling here, know that there is no "right" way to visit the five towns. You will enjoy it no matter what!

Cinque Terre Header

Where is it: Tucked away in the northwest part of Italy, the five towns in order from north to south, are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore.
Map of Cinque Terre
Vernazza at Dusk

Getting there: The best way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. You can travel by car; however, parking and driving on the narrow roads deters even the most confident drivers. If you are flying into Milan, you can easily catch a train that will take approximately 3 hours to get to Monterosso, one of the five towns. Alternatively, you can catch a train from Florence (3 hours), Pisa (1.5 hours), or Rome (4.5 hours). The trains are so easy and routine that you can even arrive from France. To start planning, visit

Vernazza at Sunset

Things to do:
Travel from town to town: This may seem like an odd suggestion of what to do in the area. Certainly the highlight of most vacations is not the shuffling from one place to the other. That is fair and true for most places; however, Cinque Terre is different. If you are hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza, you are wandering through basil fields and breathing in the wonderful aroma. When you are sitting on the ferry sailing to Riomaggiore, you can imagine what it was like for fishermen back in the day bringing in their haul.
Cinque Terre Hike

There are three main options to get to the towns: hike, boat, and train. Each have their own pros, and I would suggest doing a cocktail of all three!

  • Hike: The five towns are connected by trails and you can walk all the way from Monterosso to Riomaggiore. We stayed in Monterosso and really wanted to hike the main coastal trail (Blue trail or SVA2). We grabbed a breakfast at our favorite bakery and hit the trail before 8. We were told if you were on the trail early enough, you did not have to pay the entrance fee. We were able to pass the ticket booth and get started on our hike with the cool morning breeze. This was also nice as the path between Monterosso and Vernazza is the longest and most hilly part of the hike. Each path has its own character and it is fun to explore and discover each one. We were never bored on any part of the hike. 
Cinque Terre Hikers

My tips and suggestions for the "Blue Trail" are:
    • Pack swimming gear: The hike can get hot, and you pass different areas where you can get in the water. You might want to save the swimming stop for Manarola, as it has amazing deep water swimming.
    • Be a smart hiker: Pack a hat, enough water, and other items you may need. It is a day hike so you don't need much, but make sure you have the necessary items to keep you hydrated and safe. 
    • Enjoy where the path takes you: As I mentioned each path has it is own character. Take it slow and allow yourself to experience each one. The whole trail can be done "quickly," in 4 hours. However the point isn't to race through it. We reserved the whole day for the hike, which allowed us time to take unexpected breaks and get the full experience. 
    • Take the train or boat back: There are round trip hike options; however, we decided to take the scenic trail one way, and then the train or boat home. We kept our way back up in the air, as we were going with the flow. It was nice knowing we either had a fast way back, the train, or could cool off in the sea breeze on the boat. Ultimately, we took the train as we were hungry and ready for a shower, saving the boat for the next day.  
Cinque Terre Trial
  • Ferry: In a perfect world, I would save the boat ride for the day after the hike. It was fun catching it from Monterosso and seeing the path I walked the day before from a different perspective. The boat leaves from Monterosso (weather permitting) hourly, generally starting at 10:30 am until 6:00pm. The rates vary depending on which town you want to visit. There is also an option to go to Portovenere, which is beautiful, just not considered one of the "five lands." 
Cinque Terre Ferry

  • Train: Save the train for when you are wanting to get somewhere, and somewhere fast. The towns are approximately 5 minutes apart when traveling by train. There are options to buy a Cinque Terre Treno Multi-Service Card. We had crunched the numbers, and decided that we weren't going to take enough train rides and hike on the same day for it to pay off. At the time we traveled, we would've had to hike and take three different train rides i n one day to break even. However, visit the site and see if there is an option that works best with your itinerary. 
Cinque Terre View
Visit the Towns: Like the paths in between, each town has its own character and is worth a visit. It’s great to wander in each town with no expectations and see if you get the "vibe" the town is known for. Here’s a summary of each town's reputation:
  • Monterosso al Mare: I’ve heard this described as a resort town; however, I would argue that it’s not as commercial as other resort areas. It has a large beach, which is fantastic after a day of hiking, and a great place to finish the day with its nightlife. The town is the perfect mixture of old and new, as it has tried to keep its charm while rebuilding after pirate raids, floods, and bombing during WWII. If you are wanting more than a relaxing day on the beach, Monterosso has several sights to see such as historic churches, WWII bunkers, and a castle!
    Cinque Terre Monterroso
  • Vernazza: My favorite part of this town was sitting on the rocks close to the harbor watching the port activity. I could spend hours soaking in the sun and watching the boats rock in the wake. The town is small, but has all the necessities (ice cream and cafes).There is also a castle, Castello Doria, in Vernazza, and the hike up provides breathtaking views of the town. This is probably the most popular town of the five, as it has the reputation of being the most authentic. Due to this, hotels and rooms can be difficult to find, so book early if you want to stay in this particular town. 

  • Corniglia: I feel like Corniglia is commonly the forgotten town of the five. Maybe it is because it isn't located on the water and is high up on the cliffs. However, due to this, it is calmer and less tread upon. I like that Corniglia is quieter and find it easier to talk to locals who are working there. If you are up for a bit of a hike down (and back up), the beach is more remote and can be a great place to relax after a busy day.  
Cinque Terre Corniglia

  • Manarola: The most popular part of Manarola has to be the Punta Bonfiglio. Here you can get a breathtaking view of the town, water, and truly capture the "Cinque Terre Spirit." If you are doing the Blue Trail hike you will run upon it and not be disappointed. However, don't get your picture and head on to the next town; Manarola has a lot to offer! There are amazing and flourishing vineyards that hug that town which provide a great place to rest.
Cinque Terre Manarola
Cinque Terre Punta Bonfiglio

  • Riomaggiore: There is no denying that this is the fisherman's town. We arrived by boat which puts you out at the bottom of a steep hill, and you can see where the fishermen pull up their boats and unload their haul. Just a few steps off the boat, you will start to see amazing hole in the wall places selling the freshest fish. We grabbed some and did the hike up the hill to the San Giovanni Church. This provides amazing views and has a fun garden you can walk through. 
Cinque Terre Riomaggiore
Cinque Terre Riomaggiore water

Must Eat:
  • Il Pescato Cucinato, Riomaggiore: Great fresh fish where the husband and wife work as a team. She cooks the fish that he brings in!
Riomaggiore fish

  • Wonderland Bakery, Monterosso: ·  This is truly a Wonderland, as I commonly dream of this place! We stopped every morning and made friends with the owner. He would explain each treat to us while we sipped coffee and made sure we grabbed seconds before heading out for the day.
Wonderland Bakery, Monterosso

  • Ristorante Belevdere, Monterosso: This is the place that introduced my husband and I to "squid ink pasta." It was the most amazing meal, and we still talk about it to this day. The prices are affordable, portions are large, and the view is amazing. This is my number one suggestion for all the restaurants in Cinque Terre.  
Where to Stay: Albergo al Carugio We really enjoyed our stay at Albergo al Carugio and the owner was very hospitable and provided some great insights on the area. The rooms are fairly basic, but have everything you need, and this is what we wanted since we knew we be spending time outdoors.
Amazing and Heavenly Cinque Terre
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Best Paleo Granola

Granola can be so expensive it boggles my mind, and I hate it when the taste doesn't add up to the price. Then, if you add gluten free or Paleo in front of the name, you will be paying astronomical prices with an even worse taste. Well if you are like me, you'll love this recipe.

Best Paleo Granola
Why I like this recipe:
  • I purchase a large amount of almonds and pecans from Costco, and then chop them all in the food processor at one time. I put all the chopped nuts in a ziplock bag and measure what I need as I make a batch. This saves time chopping the nuts each time I want to make this recipe. 
  • This is my preferred granola recipe, regardless of whether I'm doing Paleo or not. It's so tasty!
  • One batch is enough for several breakfasts, so I have granola all week to help with the busy mornings.  
  • Also a create recipe to consider for a crowd or brunch event. 
Paleo Granola Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped almonds
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the almonds, pecans, coconut, seeds, and raisin into a large bowl and gently mix together. Then mix the remaining ingredients in a microwave proof bowl (or measuring cup), and microwave quickly for 15 seconds. Add the warm mixture to the nuts and thoroughly mix together.

Paleo Granola Baking

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and gently press the granola onto the sheet. Make sure to press down to the rim of the baking sheet and compacting together. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown and fragrant. Allow the granola to cool for 30 minutes before breaking apart into desired consistency. Store in an air tight container until ready for consumption.

Finished Paleo Granola

The Best Paleo Granola
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