Fall-in-love Fudge Brownie Cake + Celebrating One Year

Fall-in-love Fudge Brownie Cake + Our 1 Year Wedding Anniversary | Ruby Josephine

Fall-in-love Fudge Brownie Cake + Our 1 Year Wedding Anniversary | Ruby Josephine

On Marriage & Love

Last Monday marked M's and my first year of being husband and wife. Well, if you are counting from our first wedding anyway. I think I have mentioned in passing that we got married 3 times which is not your average thing to casually say, so let me explain.

Coming from different countries and cultures, the question of how to get married was almost as weighty as should we get married. In the end, we decided to fly to my hometown of Minneapolis- his first time to the U.S.- and get married officially in the Hennepin County Government Center. I wanted to show him my hometown, be with my parents, and we wanted our real paper-signing to be something small + special. That day, January 9th, is the day we are now celebrating. It was the day we drove through -20º windchill to go meet the judge, accompanied by my parents, my aunt and my best childhood friend who had been living with me in Tangier and watched our whole love story unfold. It was the day when we exchanged vows, tried not to cry, and had a celebratory brunch afterwards at the Nicolette Island Pavilion. It was intimate, simple, and absolutely perfect considering the complexity that had been the journey of getting the two of us together in that space at that time. 

We followed it up with wedding number 2, a week later, and invited a larger handful of family and friends to my parent’s house for an evening of revelry and good vibes. Number three was the most grandiose and labor-intensive: the Moroccan fête. Really, I should just dedicate an entire post to the rollercoaster of that day, but I will say that the result was spectacular and sparkling. It was a once-in-a-lifetime extravagant affair- a beautiful way to re-launch us further into our new togetherness.

I have to say that marriage is not something I was prone to fantasize about when I was younger. In fact, this whole thing caught me completely off guard and kicked me way-far out of my comfort zone. I finished my solo travels, landed in Morocco with my first job teaching dance and then suddenly here comes this man who throws everything I had vaguely planned for my life out of balance in just a little over one year. Once an engagement was on the table, I obviously had to cope with this through excessive reading, because that's what I do. Our decision to get married happened to coincide with the release of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Committed, which became my sort-of marriage bible at the time. I had to stop myself from constantly exclaiming to M, “and look what it says here!”  Eventually, Gilbert’s final definition of marriage became my inner mantra-

“A little bit of privacy in which to practice love.”

I was consoled and reassured that being married does not mean you have to fit into any kind of mold- it is what you make it. Exploring what it means to us is something I have actively chosen to view as an adventure and so far, it has been more so than I could have imagined.

The journey of learning how to love in marriage is a colossal and ongoing task, but the beauty that I have found within it’s depth is that not only does your heart start to crack open for that one other person, but in general you find more capacity within yourself to love the world. Everything entwines and connects and I must say, it is an exciting path to tread on.

On Cake

I made this cake to bring to M’s family the first time I met them. They loved me and still beg me to make it again to this day. I made it for M on Valentine's Day the second year we spent it together. He proposed to me 3 months later. I’m not saying that this cake is magic… but there’s definitely something special in it. It seemed appropriate, therefor, to make it for an occasion as special as our first year anniversary. For some balance, I topped the rich & fudge-y cake with light, vanilla-scented whipped cream, and obviously could not resist making a batch of sugar cookies on the side, since I had the perfect cookie cutters for the day.

Fall-in-love Fudge Brownie Cake + Our 1 Year Wedding Anniversary | Ruby Josephine

Fall-in-love Fudge Brownie Cake + Our 1 Year Wedding Anniversary | Ruby Josephine

The recipe for this amazingly simple fudge brownie cake is below, and if you want to try my absolute favorite sugar cookie recipe that my family has been making since before I can remember, you can find it on my ancient food blog, That’s So Vegan. I de-veganized it here and used 2 eggs instead of egg replacer, true to the original Mr. Cookie Baker Book. To decorate, I made a basic royal icing and smashed a couple raspberries in it at first just for color, but the flavor was lovely as well so I would highly recommend it. This is possibly the first time that the image in my head of what I wanted this cake to look like made it into the sphere of reality. Finally.

Make this cake and feel the love. <3

Fall-in-love Fudge Brownie Cake + Our 1 Year Wedding Anniversary | Ruby Josephine

Fall-in-love Fudge Brownie Cake

Adapted from taste.com.au, makes roughly 12 servings

  • 250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 150g (1 cup) all purpose flour
  • 225g (1 cup) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and thoroughly butter + flour a 8" or 9" round baking pan. In the original recipe they call for a double boiler and you can use that if you prefer, but I always just melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan, stirring constantly with a spatula until it is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. In a large bowl, sift out the flour, then mix in the sugar and salt. Add the chocolate + butter, then whisk in each egg one by one. If you are using chocolate chips, fold them in at this time.

Pour the batter into your prepared pan, spread evenly and bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let it cool for ten minutes before removing it from the pan and cool it down completely before you add any frosting or whipped cream. It is also absolutely delicious on its own, too, so feel free to leave it bare and dig in.

Fall in love with chocolatey goodness, share it, enjoy. xo

Soft Intentions + Curious Baby Steps for 2017

Looking Ahead to 2017 | Ruby Josephine

There are many things this year that are hanging tantalizingly in the air just out of visibility. While certain large decisions are pretty much settled- being married, being based in Tangier, the planted seed of this website- there are a lot of unknowns going into 2017. Dance, my personal work, travel ideas, and a couple other large life-changers (that I don’t want to jinx just yet) are all swinging around, waiting to drop and burst into what I hope will result in new adventures.

Because I have come to see how suddenly life can surprise you, I never make too many permanent statements as regards to my new years resolutions. I prefer soft intentions, background vibrations and goals in the form of curious baby steps. Being unashamedly my mother’s daughter through-and-through, I have begun taking a page from her book by starting out my 2017 envisioning with a single word. I spent the good part of a day writing down every word that popped into my head until one stuck and felt right.

Vibrance.

I suppose technically vibrant is more commonly used and I found plenty of  online debates on whether vibrance is a legitimate variation of the former adjective, but when it came down to it I just liked the ance at the end because it felt more twinkling, less abrupt. Mary Oliver says in A Poetry Handbook, “words have not only a definition and possibly a connotation, but also the felt quality of their own kind of sound.” So vibrance is my word of 2017.

Therefor, my ultimate top-of-the-tree goal is to bring more vibrance to everything in life. I want to bring more vivacity and authenticity to my dance and writing work, even more luminous care and focus to my marriage, conscious positive energy to all of my relationships and friendships, and keep following the glimmering wave of creativity that has been gaining momentum these last couple months.

Ruby Jospehine | rubyjosephine.com

Under this tree-top of vibrance stems other more specific intentions, such as cultivation of knowledge and interests, focusing on productivity over “busy-ness,” and balancing health and how to work more efficiently from home. Finally beneath these spiral the little details- the reachable specifics. This is the year I finally want to become not just conversational in moroccan Arabic, but literate in the classical reading and writing. I also am determined to learn calligraphy. I already have a beautiful set of pens and ink gifted by my always-artistically-supportive parents so I really have no excuse not to try. Among these new interests I would also like to get yoga certified (or at least put in some hours towards it), improve my headstand/handstand inversions, travel somewhere with M that we both have never been, read at least 3 books a month and develop and redesign this blog, which is in fact already in motion (!!).

For the past 2 years I have merged all of these intentions, goals, and details into one portable mind map to slip inside of my moleskin planner for the year so that it’s always with me if I need a mental refresh. There have been years when I look back at the wishes and intentions I set in January and see with surprise that they have absolutely no relevancy in my life anymore, and that’s fine. That can be great actually, because it means that so much growth has happened that old wishes have been discarded for new and, let’s hope, more shiny ones.

Looking Ahead to 2017 | Ruby Josephine Looking Ahead to 2017 | Ruby Josephine

So with that, I hope that the major surprises of this year are good ones and that any bad ones can be handled with as much grace and robustness as possible. I hope that this intention set here can move me forward in a thoughtful and conscious way, being present in every moment. I hope the same for anyone reading this- I would love to hear about how you usher in the new year, as well. I hope 2017 holds vibrance for all of us. 

Cheers to the unknown.

The Annual Transition: Looking Back Through 2016

The Annual Transition: Looking Back through 2016 | Ruby Josephine

It’s that time when everyone is doing year-end wrap-ups and I honestly don’t know where to even start.

So much has happened this past year that I can barely wrap my mind around it all. Some people I know are calling it one of the worst years to date, and while I definitely had my train wreck moments, it has somehow brought me a contradicting sense of peace and fire-y ferocity within myself.

In my personal life, this year has been a wondrous life-changer. Getting married not just once, but three times (because of our two vastly different yet complimenting cultures) definitely started my new life with M with quite the bang. We rode the high of wedding number one into number two and into a slightly-more-stressful-but-still-amazing number three, creating a string of pure joy in discovering what it means to be married- so far anyway. It is an adventure I did not exactly expect to have, but has been an incredible surprise at every turn.

The Annual Transition: Looking Back through 2016 | Ruby Josephine

In between all of the wedding hoopla I can’t really believe that I had time for much else, but somewhere in there I danced a solo in a performance tour around northern Morocco, choreographed a quartet for an art festival through the French Institute of Tangier, moved into a spanking new apartment with M and furnished it from scratch, did my first gig as a body double in a major mini-series filmed in the Sahara desert, took a dance intensive in Amsterdam and classes in Madrid, wrote a sort-of-novel in a month, taught daily dance, barre and yoga classes, and started this very blog. Wow.

It was not what I would call a peaceful year, but somehow the fatefulness and alignment of a lot of the things that happened brought a what-will-be-will-be kind of inner peace that flowed me through 2016, with some unexpected (and sometimes very expected) hiccups of anxiety along the way.

The Annual Transition: Looking Back through 2016 | Ruby Josephine

The ferocity, on the other hand, was planted after the biggest hiccup of all, the election that singlehandedly slapped away every time I have ever said “I am so not interested in politics.” That day along with the growing awakening to the fact that something needs to be done about the world we live in, have seriously inspired me for the coming year. I feel motivated in a way that I never felt before.

I have heard from many people, artists especially, that they feel like art and having a creative career are no longer relevant things. They don't matter anymore in comparison to the catastrophe of the U.S election and all of the war and violence being waged around the world. As valid as those feelings and emotions may be, I believe this year has shown that art is more necessary and relevant than ever.

I want to make things that matter.  I am more inspired than ever to try to use art to give voices to people that need to be heard, because the voices we are hearing loudly these days are doing nothing but anger and depress us. We need louder rumblings of the hopeful, of the generous, of the pulsing heart that still exists in human kind. Art can give voices to these kind of people.

I saw a talk while I was home in Minneapolis called Big Ideas: Words for Change at the Loft Literary Center and one of the panelists, Téa Rozman Clark, said at one point “Share the information you want to hear.” This has stuck with me as a sort of mantra as I start to brainstorm not only new dance ideas, but new writing and even posts for this blog. If I am not satisfied with the information being fed to us in the news, in the headlines, in the pessimistic rhetoric that appears even on facebook, then I should just create the kind of information I would like to be hearing. I personally think we need to hear more words of hope. Discover more faith in each other. In Krista Tippett's latest book, Becoming Wise, she defines hope in a way that I believe everyone needs to hold on to, writing that it is "distinct from optimism or idealism. It has nothing to do with wishing. It references reality at every turn and reveres truth." This is exactly the type of hope I would like to see even more of- the kind that can illuminate the good that I know for a fact still exists.

That, I suppose, is a long-winded way of explaining one of my many resolutions for the new year, but for the moment this is where I am looking back, trying to just relish in the delightful moments from 2016 and using the less-delightful to push me into an active 2017.

2016 Wrap-Up | Ruby Josephine

I wanted to share, to finish, just a slightly-scattered list of the things that have been my rocks of inspiration over the past year. Maybe we can glean some things to bring into the next:

-Every single On Being podcast episode ever. But especially these: Craig Minowa on Music and the Ritual of Performance, Alain de Botton- A School of Life for Atheists, Krista Tippett and Pico Iyer on The Mystery and Art of Living, and Naomi Shihab Nye: Your Life is a Poem.

-On that note, I referenced it above and I’m only in the beginning chapters, but I can already tell I'm going to love Krista Tippet’s book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.

-The #realdietstories bloggers have been posting, inspired by Renee Byrd of Will Frolic for Food, because the internet can always use some more #realness.

-Agnes Obel’s new album this year, Citizen of Glass. I listened to Familiar on repeat for at least two months straight.

-Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I referenced in my very first post not so long ago. I go back to this book every time I start to question my artistic integrity and remind myself what it means to be creative. It is a topic I have explored pretty frequently in 2016.

-The epic return of the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life because god did we need some comfort and wit at that point in the year.

-I suppose their big single actually dropped in 2015, but I just discovered the girl group A-WA this year and watched their music videos obsessively.

-This was the year I attempted to learn a 4th language- Spanish. Basically the furthest I got was binge-watching Gran Hotel and calling it studying, but seriously that ended up being one of my favorite shows that I discovered in 2016 to fill the hole Downton Abbey left at the end of 2015.

-Sia killed it again with her modern-dance music videos this year. The Greatest in particular was the greatest in a haunting and beautiful way, plus the catchy song became my anthem for a while.

-General amazing female power boss vibes from the past year- specifically loved gifting several of these mugs by Sara Cornelius.

-Agnes's Cashew Kitchen love letters which I always love finding in my inbox each week. Filled with authentic thoughts and quiet inspiration.

-Discovering edX as an amazing online course platform. During the summer I took an incredibly thought-provoking Harvard course titled Islam Through Its Scriptures that I am still looking back to and frequently referencing. The possibilities with online self-education these days are mind-boggling and I can't wait to delve into it more in the next year.

Happy New Year, everyone! We have made it through, and to start out the next year on the right foot I’ll be sharing with you some of my own reflections, wishes, and inspirations for 2017 very soon. xo

The Annual Transition: Looking Back through 2016 | Ruby Josephine

Maple-Glazed Chai Biscotti with Candied Ginger

Maple-Glazed Chai Biscotti with Candied Ginger | Ruby Josephine

Maple-Glazed Chai Biscotti with Candied Ginger | Ruby Josephine

Maple-Glazed Chai Biscotti with Candied Ginger | Ruby Josephine

I keep sitting down to write and all that comes out is the randomness and scatteredness of my mind these days. I’m filled with nothing but images, drinking in my family while I am here with them and relishing the snowy crisp Minnesota days. My notes, between here and our short sun-soaked Florida weekend, are this:

I guess the gulf of Mexico will fill me today.

Love-filled familial gratitude. Anchored in the ocean.

Dance involving slow-moving crowd bobbing back and forth

Snowy Mississippi landscape far below washed in the pink faded watercolor hues of the sun setting too early.

Have conversations with your everyday objects as a form of awareness.

I am all abstractions. Trying to uncover the luminosity in things- isn’t that a part of Christmas? For me it always has been I suppose. Those glimmering soft moments that us secret introverts crave.

Since my mind can’t seem to settle enough to get something more coherent on paper than this, I’ll keep it short until the twinkle-light-whirlwind of Christmas is over. Perhaps afterward, one of those scribbled mind-drops will unravel itself into some kind of elaboration.

For now, there are biscotti. They are quite frankly, absolutely delicious. Biscotti is something I have always loved in theory and in execution can be a bit underwhelming. I have had many that are lacking in flavor or just way too cardboard-dry, but these are different. These are bursting with cozy chai spices and pops of ginger to sizzle up your taste-buds a bit, while the maple drizzle finishes them off with an extra sweetness to complement your morning coffee. Give a jar of these with a bow as a last minute gift, or whip some up to munch on throughout Christmas morning.

Maple-Glazed Chai Biscotti with Candied Ginger | Ruby Josephine

Maple-Glazed Chai Biscotti with Candied Ginger | Ruby Josephine

Maple Glazed Chai-Spiced Biscotti with Candied Ginger

makes about 18-20 cookies, adapted from Food & Wine

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground clove
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter or vegan earth balance, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup chopped candied ginger

Maple Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp almond, soy, any milk you want
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp maple extract (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt and spices. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugars until the mixture is creamy + fluffy. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, then fold in the candied ginger.

Separate the dough into two pieces and form logs out of each, roughly 6" long and 1" thick, but you can adjust depending on the shape of biscotti you prefer. Bake the logs for 30 minutes or until the edges begin to feel firm. With a very sharp knife (this is key to avoid crumbling), cut the logs into 1/2" slices on a diagonal and arrange on the baking tray. Place in the oven for another 10 minutes, flip them over, then 10 minutes more on the other side. Remove from the oven when they start to get golden brown and feel hard to the touch. Take out and let cool for 15-20 minutes.

While the biscotti are baking or cooling, make the maple glaze by whisking all the ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Once the biscotti are mostly cooled, generously drizzle with your glaze, put on a pot of coffee or tea, and dunk away.

Happy holidays everyone! I hope they are love-filled and luminous. xo

Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies with Pecans + Orange

Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies w/ Pecans + Orange {wheat free, dairy free} | Ruby Josephine Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies w/ Pecans + Orange {wheat free, dairy free} | Ruby Josephine

A funny thing has happened in the past year and a half. Every time I relay to someone that I am flying back to Minneapolis, I say without hesitation “I am going home for the holidays” and yet when I then say how long my trip is, I conclude with “I am flying home at the end of the month.” I suppose learning to call two places home is part of growing into full adulthood, but there is something curious about it when the two places are so vastly different.

Before I delve any further into this idea, I have to admit something. I did not finish NaNoWriMo. I could make all sorts of excuses about how I got busy and was preparing for my quick visit to London before heading to the states, but the truth is I just completely lost steam. I may not have written 50,000 words, but I made it to a whopping 38,000 words filling 114 tiny typed pages which, considering the longest thing I’ve ever written is a 20-page political theory essay in college, is a huge accomplishment. Frankly, I am surprised that I was able to get that much material out there, especially since it was all personal experiences, stories, and anecdotes. I have not reread through the entire monster yet (I’m a little afraid), but I am decently pleased with the opening paragraph:

Living in Tangier has been a quilt of experiences, sewn together to create something of a whole person, just trying to be. The biggest struggle for anyone living in a different culture, context, country, is reconciling a sense of self with being in a place so foreign to one’s base. There is a constant ebb and flow of confidence and self-knowledge. One second we know everything, the next it all flies out the window with the whipping Tangier winds. Sometimes it feels that all of my roots in Minneapolis have been pulled out from under me and replanted rather haphazardly in this big tangle in Moroccan soil. It has become my job to untangle, replant, reground.

It continues on to talk about how exactly I have been trying to deal with this mess of tangled roots and I must say, just writing it all out clarified so much for me. I was recently skimming around Brainpickings and came across this quote by Alison Bechdel, “it’s by writing… by stepping back a bit from the real thing to look at it, that we are most present.” What a perfect summary of my past month. By writing about my transformation through Morocco (that is really an ongoing process), I began to feel so much more present and settled in my daily life there until I finally reached a point where I was reasonably comfortable with my identity and sense of self.

There’s just one issue. Coming back home to Minneapolis now, I am totally rootless. I have been replanted in Moroccan soil and when I return to my warm and welcoming childhood home, I float kind of awkwardly between comfort and discomfort. It is not a bad feeling exactly, but it is just the sense of being somewhere that used to define you and then suddenly you don’t quite belong. I think Minneapolis is a fabulous city, but I am not in my element here anymore. Maybe that reconciliation comes with time, maybe not at all. If you had asked me three years ago if I would ever call Tangier home with such certainty I probably would not have believed it, so who am I to predict any of life’s amazing curveballs?

I am truly curious, does anyone else experience a similar awkward detachment when they return to their original "home?" We have so many clichés and sayings about what home is- it's where the heart is, there's no place like it, etc.- but how do we define it for ourselves? It seems to me that it is an ever-fluctuating concept.

Given the strangeness of being here, I tend to gravitate away from old high school haunts and towards things that bring peace. My sanctuaries of Minneapolis are daily dance + yoga classes, the beautiful, full house I grew up in, our two sweet furball cats, pulling all of the books I want to read off of our library of shelves and devouring as many as possible, and baking my heart out.

Cats & Cookies | Ruby Josephine

Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies w/ Pecans + Orange {wheat free, dairy free} | Ruby Josephine

As much as I love combing the Tangier Souks for hidden gems, it feels so good to have familiar ingredients at my fingertips. Dark chocolate chips, Trader Joe's pecan pieces, and flours of all varieties, especially now with my Dad being mostly wheat-free. Being in my Minneapolis home for the beginning of the holidays would not be complete without an inaugural cookie baking session. These crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside beauties developed from picking around my parent's pantry and getting inspired by a favorite wintery flavor combination: chocolate + orange. Made with coconut oil, spelt and almond flours, they not only feel a bit healthier than your standard chocolate chip cookie (so it's fine to eat like 5, right?), but also have a lovely depth of flavor. These are definitely headed straight to the annual holiday baking repertoire.

Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies w/ Pecans + Orange {wheat free, dairy free} | Ruby Josephine

Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies w/ Pecans + Orange {wheat free, dairy free}

Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies w/ Pecans + Orange {wheat free, dairy free} | Ruby Josephine

Chocolate Chip Spelt Cookies with Pecans + Orange {wheat free, dairy free}

Makes 16-18 cookies, adapted from Kelley's recipe at Chef Savvy

  • 1/2 cup solid coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup superfine almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl, cream together the coconut oil and brown sugar with a fork (get ready for a good arm workout) or with a handheld mixer until combined and there are no white pieces of coconut oil left. Whisk in the egg, vanilla, and zest. In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, and salt, then add the dry ingredients to the wet in two parts. You may want to use your hands on the second batch as it is a pretty thick (but sticky) dough. Once totally combined, fold in the chocolate chips and pecan pieces. Roll the dough into small balls, roughly 1.5"-2" in diameter depending on how large you like your cookies. Place them spaced apart on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Midway through the chilling, preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC). After an hour is up, bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes or until the top feels mostly firm, but still a little soft in the center. You do not want them to be totally hard or you will have very crispy cookies- I personally like them best with a little chewiness on the inside. Let them cool for about 5-10 minutes and eat to your heart's content.

xo

Apple Upside-Down Basbousa with Orange Blossom Cardamom Cream

Apple Upside-Down Basbousa w/ Orange Blossom Cardamom Cream | Ruby Josephine Apple Upside-Down Basbousa w/ Orange Blossom Cardamom Cream | Ruby Josephine

I have mentioned a couple times that I am pushing myself through National Novel Writing Month (granted, the election drama put me behind a bit), but I have not revealed what exactly I am writing about. Truth be told, I am not sure it falls under the category of “novel,” exactly, but more like a quilt of short stories, tied together by some over-arching theme that I am hoping will reveal itself eventually. For now, it is simply my stories. A record and reflection of my past 3 years living in Tangier, Morocco.

Honestly, I feel kind of weird about admitting it. Every time I sit down to write I ask myself, why I am doing this? Why am I, at only 24 years old, writing my own personal stories? Who is going to care? What kind of wisdom can I possibly convey?

Here, though, is a bit of wisdom that has dawned on me the past couple days. Please excuse the metaphor, but you do not have to know where you are going to get on the road. I am a believer in what I consider acts of micro-fate. Often we hear the word fate used when we talk about major life events- meeting the love of your life, finding a career in something you are passionate about, moving to a new city, etc. However, fate can, of course, play a hand in much smaller instances. Micro-fate is that small and mighty force that leads the little things in life on their own courses, unbeknown to us. This seems to happen especially during the creative process. For example, I have no idea where these stories that I’m telling for NaNoWriMo are going to go, but I am allowing it to be out of my hands and occasionally, these acts of micro-fate lead me to write something that surprises myself, clarifies a thought, or reveals an idea. You just never know and that is something I love about writing or any creative process, for that matter.

 

I don't know exactly where ideas come from, but when I'm working well ideas just appear. I've heard other people say similar things - so it's one of the ways I know there's help and guidance out there. It's just a matter of our figuring out how to receive the ideas or information that are waiting to be heard.

-Jim Henson

 

Even when you plan meticulously for something, it does not usually turn out how you imagined. Every single dance piece I have choreographed, I come in and tell the dancers with utter confidence “here is the theme and here is the story arc and this is what the dance is about.” By the time the dance has made it through the rehearsal process and onto a stage, if you ask what that performance was about, I will most likely tell you a completely different story from the one I began with.

Funny enough, I actually set out to write this very blog post about what it is like to live a life between two cultures, but somehow an act of micro-fate has turned it into talking about micro-fate. I was originally going to use that theme to lead into this amazing cake because it is the delicious fusion of two cultures coming together to make something awesome. Like my marriage. Which I also had wanted to write about. Instead, all of this came out, so here I am setting my own example.

Apple Upside-Down Basbousa w/ Orange Blossom Cardamom Cream | Ruby Josephine

Apple Upside-Down Basbousa w/ Orange Blossom Cardamom Cream | Ruby Josephine

This cake comes from the inspiration of brainstorming Moroccan-American fusion dishes for a Thanksgiving that can celebrate our first of this holiday as a married couple, merging the best of our two cultures, as well as toasting to my best friend (also from America) who was recently engaged to her own Moroccan boyfriend. The four of us are planning a small-scale, cozy, fusion-ish Thanksgiving evening.

Basbousa is not actually 100% Moroccan, since it is a traditional yogurt and semolina cake made widely around the Middle East and Northern Africa. However, it is very popular here and I got the base for this recipe from my lovely lousti (sister-in-law), so by mixing it with some American-apple-pie flair, it feels like an appropriate way to celebrate a cultural coming-together. Which is something we need more than ever these days.

This cake is warm + comforting, spongy + light, deepened by the hints of cardamom and orange blossom lingering in the syrup and decadent whipped cream. It comes together so easily, so there is really no reason not to make it.

Apple Upside-Down Basbousa w/ Orange Blossom Cardamom Cream | Ruby Josephine

Apple Upside-Down Basbousa w/ Orange Blossom Cardamom Cream | Ruby Josephine

Also, just for some inspiration, here is a great Thanksgiving story told by the wonderful Ann Patchett: Collecting Strays at the Thanksgiving Table 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Be grateful, be generous, spread some fierce love.

Apple Upside-Down Basbousa w/ Orange Blossom Cardamom Cream | Ruby Josephine

Apple Upside-Down Basbousa with Orange Blossom Cardamom Whipped Cream

Makes 8-12 servings

Cake

  • 2 large apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar or ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 container (75g) plain yogurt
  • 90g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 110ml (1/2 cup) oil
  • 500ml (2 cups + 2 tbsp) whole milk
  • 500g (3 cups) semolina flour
  • 3.5 tsp (10g) baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom

Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 100g (½ cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp orange blossom water
  • ½ tsp lemon zest

Whipped Cream

  • 250ml (1 cup) full-fat whipping cream
  • 65g (½ cup) powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/8 tsp (one large pinch) ground cardamom

Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC), grease a 9" round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan and arrange the apple slices in whatever pretty pattern you like.

In a large bowl, whisk the 3 eggs until frothy, then mix in the vanilla, yogurt, brown sugar and oil. Pour in the milk and stir. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the semolina, baking powder, salt and cardamom, then add the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring until the mixture thickens a bit, although it will still be a fairly runny batter. Pour the batter over the apples in your prepared pan and stick in the oven for about 50 minutes-1 hour (depending on your oven times may vary), or until a knife comes out mostly clean from the center.

While the cake is baking, prepare your syrup by mixing all of the ingredients over high heat in a small saucepan, then once it reaches a boil turn the heat down to simmer until it has cooked down about halfway and begun to reach a more syrup-like consistency. Remove from heat.

Once the cake is finished baking, take it out of the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. While it is cooling, you can whip up your cream by whisking all of the ingredients in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer until peaks form. Carefully flip the cake over onto a plate, upside-down of course, and carefully pour the syrup into all of the apple crevices while it is still hot, so that it can absorb the flavor. Slice it up and serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream.

xo

Creativity, Friendship + My Woman Up Podcast Debut

Ruby Josephine for the Woman Up Podcast, Illustrated by Safiyah Moulana | rubyjosephine.com

 

If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.

-Elizabeth Gilbert

 

Today I am so excited to share the first bud from a fruitful collaboration with Aida Azlin- my debut co-hosted episode of the Woman Up podcast.

It is a sad but true fact that it is not always so easy to make real, deep-sea-level friends in Tangier. Between communication barriers, the gossip and drama that seem to constantly be twittering about, and the general lack of non-sketchy places to go out and meet new people, it can be hard to find someone with whom I can really connect.

The true friendships I have made have always sprung up from random and seemingly fateful sources. Being extras on movie sets, sitting in a café and spotting someone reading an English book on psychology, and emails out of the blue about contemporary dance connections.

Most recently, I have gotten to know a lovely young woman who is originally from Singapore, living in Tangier the past several years, and is one of the most loyal clients in my fitness classes at Eden Club. Yoga, dance and barre workouts- she shows up to them without fail, plus she speaks fluent English and often when you meet someone else who understands you even when you talk too fast, you tend to cling on for dear life. We started chatting occasionally before and after class about this and that, where we were from, what we did in Tangier, etc. One day she told me in passing that she runs her own online business and my ears perked up. I had to start the sun salutations, but that bit of information stuck in my brain until the next day when she offered me a ride home after class. I asked her more about this business and she launched into telling me all about The Shawl Label and this online community she has created for mostly Muslim women, but also just young entrepreneurial females in general. Seriously inspiring.

img_7796

We started getting super hyped, rambling on together about website layouts, pretty fonts, curated instagrams and generally nerding out about online design and business stuff. I could not quite believe that this friendship had been handed to me, right as I’m in the beginning of building up this blog and getting more interested in creative entrepreneurship. I’m becoming a more and more firm believer in destiny and the idea that when you go into anything with your heart planted at its core, something in the universe is going to give back. My friendship with Aida has been just that- one of those rare and star-crossed chance encounters in Tangier.

Since we originally bonded over our mutual creative spirits, we decided that choosing creativity as our theme on her Woman Up podcast was a no-brainer. It is what I tend to write about here in this blog, not to mention what I eat, sleep and breathe.

In this first episode, we discuss what being a creative individual means to us and how to live a creative life, sharing personal anecdotes, stories, bits of inspiration and giggling quite a lot. It also includes me awkwardly talking about how sometimes I have to make it very clear to certain people what kind of dance I do, so that they don’t get “the wrong idea.” If you are also a dancer in a country where modern dance is not really a thing, you will probably feel me on that one.

Not only am I excited to share this first episode, but I am so honored to be among these other four amazing, strong and diverse women who make up the Woman Up squad for this season. You can check out the whole lady crew over here.

So without further ado, check out my podcast debut below, or listen at The Shawl Label or on iTunes!

I should mention that because I’ve had so much fun already recording these episodes with Aida and I have been so inspired by various other podcasts lately, I am starting to brainstorm launching one of my own. This idea is really at the baby seed of conception right now, but I would love any and all input. Is there anything in particular you would be interested in hearing me chat about? People to interview, subjects to breach? Let me know in the comments!

xo

Fierce Love

Fierce Love | photo via Ruby Josephine Yesterday I felt an unwelcome emotion that I have not felt in ages, if ever.

Hopelessness.

Excited optimism turned to grim uncertainty to sudden dark hopelessness in the span of one long sleepless night. It did not feel like a pain that was even within myself, but something more collective. Hurting for everyone who had also been excitedly optimistic the night before, everyone who was rooting for a woman who was about to change America's history, all of the photos and posts saying "can't wait to wake up and tell my daughter she really can do anything because a woman is now president." I guess we spoke too soon and yes, it's heart-breaking. I (and many others I think) decidedly ignored the rumblings of this possible storm and now we are shocked in the face of the torrent, asking ourselves what the actual fuck just happened?

It's okay, we can feel that shock. The day after is for grieving, wallowing, letting the awful news sink in, but we have to be aware of where it settles in ourselves. It could easily settle in that feeling of hopelessness. However, I am determined not to let it sit there festering. What I suggest instead, and what I will try to do, is let it morph into ferocity. Not anger, not hatred, but fierceness. A fierceness to keep pushing forward against those moving backward. Fierce love, understanding and attempts to make empathy go even deeper.

I may not be living in America now, but that does not mean I plan to abandon it and run away. No place is perfect, anyway, not even Canada. From near and far we have to spread the message that although yes, initially a lot of us were scared by this turn of events, we will not live in fear. We will not be motivated by it, as so many before us have been. Fear is what builds walls. Instead, we have to open up even more than we thought we could and connect.

If there is anything I have learned so far living in Morocco, it's that you can't truly begin to understand another culture or point of view through education alone. As much as I am all for reading anywhere + anytime, reading books or the Quran or Wikipedia can give good general surface-level information, but it leaves ample room to continue to insert your own judgements and values. You have to get closer. Meet people, have conversations, shake hands and hug, see other people doing normal daily things just like what you do. We are all human and we all believe what we believe for a reason. If you want to really stand stronger together, yes of course educate yourself, but more importantly, reach out and meet people. People who think differently from you, come from opposite backgrounds and ideologies and just be open to them. Listen and be thoughtful in your response. Have mindful conversations. Try to understand that everyone's place on this earth is valid, so give them their space to be themselves and embrace them for it. Respect disagreement. Be a mirror for positivity.

Be fierce in your love for human beings, for our country and for the world.

That is my plan anyway.

It is now day two of the storm and I am trying. I am dancing my spirit back to life, trying to reach out to friends and family afar who are also hurting, vowing to make connections that are deeper and stronger, and planting that seed of ferocity.8txbmrgtp

Pumpkin Spiced Scones with Maple Coffee Glaze + NaNoWriMo 2016

Pumpkin Spiced Scones with Maple Coffee Glaze (vegan) | Ruby Josephine Pumpkin Spiced Scones with Maple Coffee Glaze (vegan) | Ruby Josephine

The funny part about working a steady part-time job and having everything else freelance, floating up in the air, is the uncertainty and constant surprise of which projects are going to be pulled down from the sky, take over your life and when. After a summer-full of gathering up movement inspiration and working towards certain dance goals, suddenly here I am in November, sitting sedentary for half of the day, writing frantically, exercising nothing but my mind, and dancing strictly during the classes that I teach a measly 10 hours out of each 168-hour week.

How did this happen?

Truth be told, it is 100% self-inflicted. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that last month I decided to attempt (for the second time) National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. One of the major reasons I relaunched this blog is not just because it’s fun (which it is), but because I have been wanting to get back to writing and improving my style. There is no better way to improve than constant self-enforced practice, so that is what I have been striving towards here and I figured diving into NaNoWriMo is the giant next step to take. Never having been very good at long-form writing of any kind, the first week has already been a challenge, to say the least. However, so far I am on track and have made the word count every damn day.

NaNoWriMo + Coffee | Ruby Josephine

What I’m writing might be just terrible. It might never be seen by anyone else’s eyes but my own, but I figure it’s like sketching a bunch of rough drawings or doing a lot of off-balance pliés and tondues in your first ballet class before jumping on stage. This writing is my rehearsal process.

To inspire and motivate myself, I’ve been rereading parts of the brilliant Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott in which right off the bat she begins with “good writing is about telling the truth,” and then immediately reassures us that “after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.” Well-put and all-too-relatable to this whole novel-writing process so far, yet I keep pushing through it. I am determined to get that cat clean.

Not only am I writing for at least a couple hours every day this month, but I am also working on extensive research to improve the overall design of this website by teaching myself code and other ridiculously confusing computer-y things, carving out a few mornings a week for some solo studio time, plus a recent + beautiful newfound friendship has blossomed into collaboration, as I will be co-hosting and appearing on my first ever podcast. The lovely Aida Azlin, brain and soul behind The Shawl Label, is re-launching her Woman Up podcast- a source of inspiration and advice for young modern women trying to make their way through the world. I will be guest hosting the second episode of this season, chatting about how to lead a creative life, which is an important topic applicable to everyone everywhere. If you are interested in listening to us converse about what creativity means to us through a beginning of nervous giggles (we were both a little microphone shy the first time around), our podcast will be released on Aida's website + on iTunes Thursday, November 17th.

Woman Up Podcasy

One of the many odd things about me is it seems the busier I get, the more I bake. I have less time for it and yet it becomes more of a necessity- the dire need for something comforting + sweet, made with my own two hands. The original recipe for these scones is from Adrianna over at The Cozy Kitchenas part of the epic #virtualpumpkinparty of 2016 that was beautifully organized by Sara + Aimee. I had frozen a couple containers of homemade pumpkin puree in anticipation of making some recipes from the list, and this particular creation with its warming chai spices popped out at me. I hadn't made scones in so long and these were calling my name.

Pumpkin Spiced Scones with Maple Coffee Glaze (vegan) | Ruby Josephine

Pumpkin Spiced Scones with Maple Coffee Glaze (vegan) | Ruby Josephine

Pumpkin Spiced Scones with Maple Coffee Glaze (vegan) | Ruby Josephine

P.S. My favorite mug, strategically placed in these photos, is a little hint at my December plans. After the writing is finished, the dancing will commence again!

Pumpkin Spiced Scones with Maple Coffee Glaze (vegan)

Adapted from The Cozy Kitchen's Pumpkin Chai SconesI didn't have some of the spices or black tea on hand, so I improvised a new glaze and veganized the whole recipe. Adrianna's black tea glaze sounds amazing, though, so please check out her original recipe as well!

Makes 8 scones

  • 420g (3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cardamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp cold vegan margarine or butter
  • 75ml (1/3 cup) soy milk mixed with 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade

Glaze

  • 125g (1 cup) powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp strong-brewed coffee
  • 1/4 tsp maple extract
  • 2 tbsp soy milk (add more or less depending on how thick you want your glaze)

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the cold margarine either by grating it into the mixture or cutting it in with two knives until it is broken up and combined with the flour in medium-sized crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the curdled soy milk, sugar and pumpkin puree, then fold it into the dry ingredients. I used my hands to fully combine them, then knead the dough for just a minute so it can come together, but not so much that it toughens up. Form it into a thick disk and cut evenly into 8 triangles. Separate them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and stick the dough in the freezer while you preheat your oven to  425ºF (220ºC). Once it's hot, bake the scones for about 25-30 minutes or until they feel firm from the top and are turning golden brown on the edges.

While they are baking, make your glaze simply by whisking all of the ingredients together, adding the soy milk last and adjusting the amount based on how much drizzle you want out of it. Take the scones out of the oven, generously top with the glaze and serve warm with coffee/tea/etc.

xo

 

Rain-Soaked + Solo, A Romantic Weekend in Madrid

Rain-Soaked + Solo: A Romantic Weekend in Madrid | Ruby Josephine Rain-Soaked + Alone: A Romantic Weekend in Madrid | Ruby Josephine

Rain-Soaked + Solo: A Romantic Weekend in Madrid | Ruby Josephine

A city in the rain is as romantic as you make it. You can walk arm in arm with a loved one through the glistening cobblestones, finding cozy nooks in cafes and whispering into mugs of tea, or you can be chilled, damp and groan that you can’t properly take pictures without getting your camera wet and you wanted to see that lovely park, but what’s the point now.

What about when you’re alone?

One unfortunate thing that I tend to do right before a trip is I completely glamorize solo travel. I get so hyped for the adventure, the people I’m destined to meet and the wondrous places I will see and lavish around in, it is as if my brain compartmentalizes and all at once forgets that sometimes solo travel is just aimless and uncertain. I arrived in Madrid at the Los Amigos hostel to find that everyone there spoke mostly only Spanish (which I do not) and seemed to be traveling in pairs. Suddenly the awkwardness of traveling alone flooded back to me and I thought to myself “What in the world? Why am I still doing this?”

That first night I had my one and only social engagement of the weekend, which was to have dinner with my lovely friend and dance coworker, Natalia. She has been killin’ it in the Madrid dance scene ever since leaving Tangier after we did a performance together, so it was amazing to catch up with her over decadent tapas (think brie + caramelized onions). She had an early morning, so I wandered back to the hostel on my own afterward. I watched groups of friends spilling out of bars, buzzing with lispy Spanish and tipsy laugher, wishing a little bit that I had a group of friends to share the brisk night with. However, my love of any city in the early morning tends to outweigh my inkling to check out the nightlife, so I went to bed early.

I awoke at 7 to dark skies and heavy rain. I hate to admit this, but I instantly wished I had a companion there to walk arm and arm in the rain with me. Sucking it up, I put on some red lipstick and marched myself out onto the soaked, deserted 8am streets. I found the coziest, homiest café possible called Matilda, nestled myself in a corner table with some pan con tomate, a cappuccino and Mary Oliver’s Poetry Handbook while some calming Mozart played quietly from the owner’s laptop.

Cafe Matilda, Madrid | Ruby Josephine

Cafe Matilda, Madrid | Ruby Josephine

In between reading, I typed little notes and quotes into my log of phone reminders and scrolled through some old notes as well. I paused when I found this quote that I had copied a month or so ago:

She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of- to think; well not even to think. To be silent, to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others… It was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless.

-To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

Oh. That was what I needed to read in that quiet morning moment. I was instantly reminded that while solo travel may not be glamorous, it can be softly luminous, as we open ourselves up to simple and various experiences that we can only see without the distraction of another person’s needs. We can people watch for hours, blending in with the wallpaper. We can take ourselves on strolls at our own pace and stop to look at things without asking another to slow down. This introverted and yet open mode of travel was what I set out to do for the rest of the day. No need to glitter or expand- I could just be there.

I walked until my feet hurt, went into any and every shop that drew my attention (mostly bookstores, plus I could have gone way too crazy at Muy Mucho, the home-goods store). I sat in cafes with all of that local organic “hipster” food, as my husband calls it, just because that is what I tend to miss the most when in Tangier. I got a fabulous sandwich at the cute & whimsical Martina Cocina and avocado toast with macadamia nuts at Café Federalwhich is, by the way, where you absolutely need to go if you also love local organic hipster food.

out on romantic walks through a rainy city.

Cocina Martina, Madrid | Ruby Josephine

I did spend two hours in the company of others during a dance partnering/contact workshop I signed up for a while ago at the beautiful Estudio Tom Danza, led by Alejandra Illmeer, which was my excuse for going to Madrid in the first place. While it was wonderful (and gave me some good dancer bruises to bring home per usual), it was, in the end, only a piece of the whole weekend experience.

After dancing for two hours straight, I was in dire need of churros, obviously. I headed over to one of the more infamous churro places in Madrid, Chocolaterías Valor that has been serving churros + chocolate since 1881.

Being single in this moment, I was sat at the bar. Why is there a stigma against women eating alone? Is it just in my head? Of course there are some places that you can eat by yourself and easily blend in as if you were a painting of a sailboat on the wall, but being the only soul on the bar stools in a crowded churro restaurant, surrounded by tourist families and loud-talking Spanish couples, the several sidelong glances of pity that you get from a waitress can be ego-shrinking. In general, I try to just own it and thwart any looks of pity with a hair flip and my I’m too cool anyway stare. Which is a work in progress to say the least. I determinedly put on that face and ate my entire plate of churros, licking chocolate off my fingers and enjoying every greasy bite.

Churros in Madrid | Ruby Josephine

Rain-Soaked + Solo: A Romantic Weekend in Madrid | Ruby Josephine

This too-short weekend getaway marked my 4th or 5th time to Madrid, but each experience of the city has been different, to say the least. Making frequent trips to one place can end up marking time in an interesting way. Each trip has highlighted where I’m at and what I need in that particular moment of life. This past weekend all I needed was some solitary reflection, cafés for the creativity + the food, some dance for the soul, and to take myself out on romantic walks through a rainy city.

Rain-Soaked + Solo: A Romantic Weekend in Madrid | Ruby Josephine

Rain-Soaked + Solo: A Romantic Weekend in Madrid | Ruby Josephine

out on romantic walks through a rainy city.

out on romantic walks through a rainy city.

Rain-Soaked + Solo: A Romantic Weekend in Madrid | Ruby Josephine

Go wander alone, lovelies

xx

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine plus a #virtualpumpkinparty! | Ruby Josephine

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine plus a #virtualpumpkinparty! | Ruby Josephine

Waking up in Tangier this month has been a constant toss of a coin. On one side is a hot, Indian-summer sun and the smell of roasting smog, while the other is spontaneous blasts of rain on and off all day with bone-chilling salty sea winds. No crunchy leaf-strewn ground to savor and no dependable sweater-weather. True to Tangier form, natural, lovely chaos ensues.

As someone who is, to put it lightly, an organization freak, a country like Morocco can at first come on pretty strong. When things are not on time and nicely packaged I can tend to get a bit, well, impatient. Living here has been both a good growth experience and test of my limits since controlled chaos is one of the main functioning mechanisms of Tangier. It exists in the market, the workplace, weddings, traffic, even just getting together with a group of friends for a coffee. I actually got behind the wheel of a car once since settling here and while I was initially terrified, I was shocked by the ease of it all. You quite literally just go with the flow, seemingly following no rules except your own heightened awareness. In general, going with the flow of things and having a certain amount of flexibility (and patience) is a good rule of thumb here.

Amid the daily bustle, chaos and schizophrenic weather, it is always nice to have some dependability. Among many things that I can always count on, one of them is my trusted vegetable guy. This is something I love about life here that just doesn’t happen in the same way in the states- I have been buying vegetables from this same man without fail for the past 3 years and many more to come, I’m sure. Always at the same market stand in Souk Barra (the Grand Socco), he consistently greets me with a big smile, a handshake and a long string of various ways to ask how I am doing on that particular day. What is great about this guy is that if for some reason I can’t seem to find something I have been craving, I give him a list of what I need, he disappears for several minutes and returns with handfuls of beets, basil, spinach, anything. Plus as a bonus, he always throws a couple lemons or apples into my bag insisting “cadeau, cadeau” (gift in French).

This is precisely how I obtained two kilos of fresh pumpkin last week. I told him that 1 kilo was going into a tagine with loos (almonds) and lHam (meat) and he was thoroughly impressed by my display of Moroccan domesticity.

Believe it or not, this is the first traditional tagine that I have attempted. I have made other things in our home tagine like shakshuka, but this was the first time I really dove headfirst into some hands-on Moroccan slow-cooking.

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine plus a #virtualpumpkinparty! | Ruby Josephine

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine plus a #virtualpumpkinparty! | Ruby Josephine

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine plus a #virtualpumpkinparty! | Ruby Josephine

This recipe was dictated to me over the phone from my wonderful mother-in-law who I swear has magic powers in the kitchen. Some of this magic, it seems, was transferred through the phone connection because oh-my-god this tagine is incredible. Seriously. The process and long cooking time may seem daunting, but it is surprisingly easy to put together and the result is beyond worth it. I’m considering remaking this for a fusion Moroccan-American Thanksgiving dinner next month since it will be our first holiday as a real-life married intercultural couple.

Speaking of holidays… I should mention that this post is part of an online celebration happening today. I am so thrilled to be part of the official #VirtualPumpkinParty of 2016. Because who doesn’t love pumpkin and who doesn’t love parties. The real reason I bought two kilos of pumpkin last week is in anticipation of this day, knowing I would need some extra pumpkin around to try some of the other amazing recipes all of these fabulous bloggers are whipping up today. Check out the full list below the recipe!

pumpkinparty1

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine plus a #virtualpumpkinparty! | Ruby Josephine

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine

Makes about 6 servings, gluten-free

For the tagine:

  • 1 kilo (a bit over 2 lbs) beef preferably with bones, chopped into rough large chunks
  • 2 tsp smen*
  • 1 tsp ground or fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp powdered saffron
  • 1 beef-flavored bouillon cube (in Morocco everyone uses Knorr)
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley, minced (roughly ¼ cup)
  • 4 onions, sliced thinly into rounds

For the pumpkin:

  • 1 kilo (about 2 lbs) fresh pumpkin, chopped into large cubes or slices
  • 50g (roughly 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup raisins (optional)
  • ¼ cup blanched almonds
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

Begin by placing your meat in a large bowl + rubbing it thoroughly with the smen, ginger, turmeric, pepper, saffron, crushed bouillon cube, and salt (if you don’t mind getting a little dirty I would recommend using your hands for this). Make sure each piece is well covered in the mixture and set aside. Heat olive oil in a large tagine or in a large stew pot. Once it’s hot, sauté the garlic just a couple minutes until it begins to brown and add your meat, adjusting the heat to the lowest setting possible. Toss beef with the garlic and add parsley + onions. Mix everything together, place a lid on it and let it start cooking away over very low heat. This will cook for about 1 1/2-2 hours or until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone, the onions are completely soft and buttery and you have a bit of a sauce bubbling away at the bottom- you don't want it totally dry. During the cooking time, check every 20 minutes or so to give it a stir and flip the meat. Try not to add any water to the tagine since the onions will release their own juices to keep everything saucy. If for some reason the liquid dries up, just add a tiny bit of water or stock two tablespoons at a time.

While the tagine is bubbling away, make the pumpkin topping. In a saucepan combine all of the ingredients and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally until the pumpkin is soft all the way through.

In a smaller pan, heat the canola oil and add blanched almonds. Fry, stirring frequently until they turn golden brown. Drain the oil, let cool and then pat the almonds dry with paper towels.

Once everything is ready and the tagine is fully cooked, it's time to assemble. Arrange the cooked pumpkin and raisins among the meat + sprinkle your toasted almonds over the top. If you used a traditional tagine, I recommend eating it moroccan-style directly from the dish wish large hunks of fresh bread, or you can serve on plates with couscous or any other grain. It is, of course, delicious by itself, but it's always extra yummy to have something to soak up the sauce.

*Smen is a traditional salted and fermented butter. It is similar to ghee but has an even stronger, richer flavor. You can often find it in global/ethnic foods stores (I found it once at Holy Land in Minneapolis), but you can also sub it for ghee if that's all you have access too. You could also use salted butter, but it won't have the same richness and depth. 

Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine plus a #virtualpumpkinparty! | Ruby Josephine

And for more pumpkin madness:

Cake Over Steak • Quick Pumpkin and Kale Risotto + Arancini Twigg Studios • Sausage Stuffing Baked in a Pumpkin Donuts, Dresses and Dirt • Pumpkin Spice Latte Popsicles Cloudy Kitchen • Pumpkin Cake with Vanilla German Buttercream Vegetarian Ventures • Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Hummus Eat Boutique • Pumpkin Scallion Dumplings A Little Saffron • Pumpkin Stuffed Shells Two Red Bowls • Pumpkin & Maple Caramel Baked French Toast Wallflower Kitchen • Mini Pumpkin & Cinnamon Sugar Donuts Wit & Vinegar • Pumpkin Butterscotch Banana Split Style Sweet CA • Pumpkin Creme Brulee Cake Nommable • Pumpkin Biscuits with Mushroom Thyme Gravy With Food + Love • Cinnamon Raisin Pumpkin Seed Bread Hortus • Creamy Roasted Squash Soup + Pumpkin Risotto Sevengrams • Vegan Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Jojotastic • 1 Pumpkin, 2 Ways: Pumpkin Trail Mix & Dog Treats Grain Changer • Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Girl Versus Dough • Pumpkin Cranberry Flax Crisps Earthy Feast • Pumpkin Grits + Pumpkin Home Fries + a Fried Egg Harvest and Honey • Truffled Pumpkin Papardelle Alfredo with Frizzled Sage Tasty Seasons • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Broma Bakery • Pumpkin Butter Pop Tarts Tending the Table • Roasted Pumpkin and Barley Salad The Sugar Hit • Super Soft Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls Delicious Not Gorgeous • Waffles with Spiced Pumpkin Butter and Brown Sugar Walnut Crumble Taste Love and Nourish • Pumpkin Bread Pudding The Green Life • Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Skillet Cookie (Vegan) Foolproof Living • Pumpkin Creme Fraiche Pasta with Sage The Monday Box • Pumpkin Mini Bundt Cakes Design Crush • Pumpkin Whiskey Cocktail The Road to Honey • Pumpkin Pie & Chocolate Layer Cake My Name is Yeh • Roasted Pumpkin with Yogurt and Hazelnut Dukkah Give Recipe • Orange Chocolate Pumpkin Bread Heartbeet Kitchen • Magic Vegan Pumpkin Pie Fudge Beard and Bonnet • Marbled Pumpkin Muffins Eat Within Your Means • Vegan Pumpkin Blender Muffins Snixy Kitchen • Pumpkin Tapioca Pudding with Candied Pumpkin Seeds Ruby Josephine • Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine Lab Noon • Pasta Bake with Roasted Pumpkin and Saffron Sauce, Pistachio and Goat Cheese An Edible Mosaic • Pumpkin Spice Chia Seed Pudding Hey Modest Marce • Mascarpone Pumpkin Pie Inspired By the Seasons • Pumpkin Applesauce Smoothie CaliGirl Cooking • Pumpkin Praline Cinnamon Rolls with Spiked Cream Cheese Glaze Sally’s Baking Addiction • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake Well and Full • Spicy Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus Appeasing a Food Geek • Cheese Fondue Stuffed Roasted Pumpkin SweetPhi • Pumpkin Chili Biscuit Bake Warm Vanilla Sugar • Buttermilk Pumpkin Doughnuts Mademoiselle Poirot • Cinnamon-Pumpkin Mousse on Honey Panna Cotta topped with Hazelnut Brittle Heart of a Baker • Pumpkin Sticky Buns with Vanilla Bean Frosting Flourishing Foodie • Massaman Curry with Pumpkin and Chickpeas Ginger & Toasted Sesame • Pumpkin Jeon Lindsay Jang • Best Ever DIY Pumpkin Spiced Latte Fix Feast Flair • Hokkaido Pumpkin + Sage Mac and Gouda Will Frolic for Food • Pumpkin Kale Patties with Coconut Cilantro Rice A Couple Cooks • Pumpkin Pecan Baked Steel Cut Oats Vermilion Red • Pumpkin Pie Souffle Britnell • Vegan Pumpkin Pie Displaced Housewife • Brown Butter Pumpkin Donuts Sweet Gula • Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting La Pêche Fraîche • Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes Kitchen Konfidence • Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary Brown Butter Sauce Loves Food, Loves to Eat • Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding Kale & Caramel • Goat Cheese & Sage-Stuffed Pumpkin Challah Okie Dokie Artichokie • Pumpkin Chorizo Chili with Sweet Potatoes + Pinto Beans Salted Plains • Easy Pumpkin Bread Liliahna • Chicken Legs with Pumpkin and Tortellini TermiNatetor Kitchen • Whole Wheat, Pumpkin & Brown Sugar Brioche Vermilion Roots • Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin Celebrate Creativity • Pumpkin Mini Cheesecake Tarts Serendipity Bakes • Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake So Much Yum • Vegan Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts The Brick Kitchen • Pumpkin, Pecan & White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches Lisli • Pumpkin Pie Cake Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt • Pumpkin Pie Dip Fig+Bleu • Pumpkin Granola The Speckled Palate • Pumpkin Caramel Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies Cook Til Delicious • Fall Cliche Cake (Pumpkin Spice Cake / Maple Cream Cheese Frosting / Apple Cider Caramel Sauce) Floating Kitchen • Chicken and Pumpkin Chili The Wood and Spoon • Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Burnt Sugar Frosting Fork Vs Spoon • Pumpkin Streusel Muffins Lemon & Vanilla • Pumpkin and Coconut Caramel Flan Dunk & Crumble • Pumpkin Chocolate Icebox Cake Chicano Eats • Pumpkin Butter Pan de Muerto On the Plate • Pumpkin Pancakes, Salted Caramel & Pecans Rough Measures • Cosy Pumpkin Spice Latte (Caffeine and Dairy Free) Brewing Happiness • Pumpkin Ginger Breakfast Cookies A Butterful Mind • Pumpkin Cheesecake with Vanilla Whipped Cream The Little Loaf • Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies Fork to Belly • Pumpkin Gnocchi The Little Epicurean • Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie Bourbon and Honey • Spicy Roasted Pumpkin with Honey and Feta What to Cook Today • Spicy Pumpkin Noodle Soup Food by Mars • Pumpkin Pie (Grain-Free, Diary-Free) The Bojon Gourmet • Pumpkin Butterscotch Pudding Oh Honey Bakes • Pumpkin Cake with Gingersnap Toffee Long Distance Baking • Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake The Jam Lab • Pumpkin Madeleines Dipped in White Chocolate The Lemon Apron • Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf with an Olive Oil Glaze Sun Diego Eats • Thai Pumpkin & Sticky Rice Cakes A Cozy Kitchen • Pumpkin Chai Scones with Black Tea Glaze A Cookie Named Desire • Pumpkin Shrubs Eating Clean Recipes • Vegan Pumpkin Chia Pudding Kingfield Kitchen • Vegan Fresh Pumpkin Soup Drink and Cocktail Recipes • Pumpkin Dirty Chai The Pig & Quill • Pumpkin Sage Cannelloni (Dairy-Free) My Lavender Blues • Pumpkin, Banana & Olive Oil Bundt Cake Betty Liu • Pumpkin + Pear Butter Baked Melty Cheese Happy Hearted Kitchen • Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin with Tahini Yogurt + Hazelnut Dukkah InHappenstance • Pumpkin Scones with Maple Butter Live Eat Learn • Pumpkin Gingerbread Hot Cocoa

A huge thank you to Sara at Cake Over Steak and ­­Aimee at Twigg Studios for organizing this lovely virtual celebration of fall.

Eat pumpkin and be happy xo

Peach Almond Snack Cake + In Defense of Food Blogs

Peach Almond Snack Cake (gluten free) | Ruby Josephine Peach Almond Snack Cake (gluten free) | Ruby Josephine

As an artist, a Taurus, feminist, American young woman I will admit that it’s probably one of my biggest character flaws to become easily defensive and indignant about various things. Both the humbling experiences of living in Morocco and being married have squeezed some of this out of me, but it still flares up from time to time. One thing that I can get oddly defensive about is the fact that yes, I blog about food sometimes and yes, I love baking. I constantly feel like each one of these statements needs to be followed up by BUT I’m a feminist, or something along those lines. Which is absolutely ridiculous. Why should I even need to say that.

There is this stigma I have heard too many times that food blogs are something for bored housewives, but let me tell you the people I have met throughout the years of having various blogs (That’s So Vegan + Half Full) are wise, intelligent, and thoughtful individuals who work hard manage what they do (shout-outs to Amanda, Renee, Heidi, Sara and Angela who I’ve been following for years and have always inspired me). Having your own blog is essentially having your own business if you do it right and nothing about that is easy on the mind.

I’m trying to get better at just saying flat-out I love to make cakes without any indignant follow-up. Let's all just stop apologizing for things that bring us joy. I’m also trying not to get so precious about the “image” of this blog, which is way easier said than done. You read all of these articles about writing for a certain niche and how to gain followers and blah blah blah, then you start overanalyzing everything you post instead of having fun with it. I have to constantly keep reminding myself why I’m here:

  1. I have yet to find any contemporary dancers writing and blogging about the life and work behind their career, so I’m putting my pointed toe out there.
  2. I want to improve my writing by forcing myself to write weekly- and publicly.
  3. I really, honestly missed food blogging. I love the community, I love the sharing, I love the way food always brings people together- even online.
  4. I would like to see if there are other dancing, cooking, writing, creating people like myself out there and, quite simply, make some new friends + connect.

That is my reminder. Here, for everyone else to see and to repeat back to me if I ever start to get indignant, obsessive or insecure about blogging. It is so important to keep the process joyful, because as the wise Anne Lamott says in Grace (Eventually), “Joy is the best makeup.”

Peach Almond Snack Cake (gluten free) | Ruby Josephine

Joy is also cake. For me, the smell of peaches and toasting almonds wafting through our apartment is something that incites nothing but pure delight. Peaches are almost out of season here, which means you can find crates of them for crazy cheap prices, yet woefully speckled with bruises and bumps. Sad-looking yet great-tasting peaches happen to be perfect for baking. If peaches are totally out of season where you are, frozen or canned will work just fine in this recipe as well. This breakfast or snack-time treat is crumbly, moist, not-too-sweet and bursting with flavor.

I am a strong, independent young woman and I made this cake. No apologies.

Peach Almond Snack Cake (gluten free) | Ruby Josephine

Peach Almond Snack Cake (gluten free) | Ruby Josephine

Peach Almond Snack Cake (gluten free) | Ruby Josephine

Peach Almond Snack Cake (gluten-free)

Makes about 12 servings, adapted from my oldie-but-goodie apple cake recipe on Half Full

  • 175g (1 3/4 cups) whole almonds ground into a fine flour
  • 60g (2/3 cup) oat flour (you can make your own by grinding rolled oats in a food processor. Use gluten-free if necessary)
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 2 large eggs
  • 90g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or any kind of milk you have on hand)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large peaches, cubed

Topping

  • 55g (roughly 1/2 cup) chopped almonds
  • 3 tbsp oats
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Preheat your oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and butter up a rectangular cake pan (9x13" is standard, but you can use smaller for a thicker cake). In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder and salt. In a larger mixing bowl, mush up the banana then whisk in the eggs, sugar and butter, milk + vanilla until frothy. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until combined. Fold in the cubed peaches and spoon the batter into your prepared cake pan. Make the topping by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl with your fingers until it's good and crumbly, then sprinkle evenly over the cake. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the center is solid and doesn't wobble when you touch it. Let cool for about 10 minutes, slice and enjoy.

xx

Turmeric + Ginger Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Turmeric + Ginger Roasted Root Vegetable Soup- hearty and warming for cool fall nights via rubyjosephine.com Turmeric + Ginger Roasted Root Vegetable Soup- hearty and warming for cool fall nights via rubyjosephine.com

I have finally reached the end of a long weekend of non-stop movement. Between planning and executing classes for the open door days at Eden Club Femme & my first contemporary courses at the conservatory for the new school year, my mind and body have been in a frenzy of trying to remember correct music cues and those 8-counts I choreographed last week.

In moments like these, this other side of myself kicks in. I’ve been thinking about this lately since I showed my husband a video of me leading a hip hop class and he looked at me dumbfounded and said,“I’ve never seen you like this!”

I think we all have these multiple personalities that rear their heads when the moment strikes. While I would not describe myself as a “serious” type of person, I am certainly not naturally spontaneous and overly bubbly. However, if you put me in any situation where I have to perform- whether it is in an actual stage performance or teaching at the front of a crowded studio- this switch turns on and I light up like an overly-glittery lawn reindeer. I honestly don’t know where it comes from, but it has served me well as an actress in high school productions, a dancer, and a teacher.

I’ve never quite understood those typical “theater” types who are just so on all the time. You know, those people who are constantly lively and bursting with energy and to whom I always want to ask but how do you save any for your work? I guess that’s the difference between being a total extrovert and an extroverted introvert (it’s a real thing). My personal supply of vivaciousness has a limit, and it needs some quiet time to build itself up again. Once it’s there? Watch out.

So, despite the cranky protests of sore muscles laying stagnant overnight, I’ve been trying to wake up earlier to enjoy at least bit of peace and quiet before I put my sparkling high-energy teacher face on. Just 20 extra minutes of reading, sloooow stretching, or sitting and staring into space while sipping coffee (which is a much-needed underrated activity) helps me recharge for the next full day of classes.

Turmeric + Ginger Roasted Root Vegetable Soup via rubyjosephine.com

When I get this busy, which in my line of work tends to be at random and sporadic times of the year, obviously any attempts at cooking elaborate meals go out the window. Which is why I took some initiative before the madness started and made a huge batch of this lovely roasted root vegetable soup complete with some healing spices to fight off any unwanted sickness that can creep in and take advantage of one's stress. Even though it hasn’t been quite cool enough in Tangier to warrant chilly-weather meals like this one, my circumstances call for something body-warming and comforting. This blended bowl of goodness certainly does the trick.

Turmeric + Ginger Roasted Root Vegetable Soup via rubyjosephine.com

Turmeric + Ginger Roasted Root Vegetable Soup via rubyjosephine.com

Turmeric + Ginger Roasted Root Vegetable Soup via rubyjosephine.com

Turmeric + Ginger Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Makes about 6 servings, vegan + gluten-free

3 medium sweet potatoes

5 large carrots

2 medium potatoes

2 large turnips

1.5 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 tsp ground cumin

salt + pepper to taste

1 red onion, diced

1 leek, chopped

4 cloves minced garlic

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

4 1/2-5 cups vegetable broth or water (I used water with a vegetable bouillon cube)

First things first, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Chop up your potatoes, carrots, and turnips into cubes and spread them out on a baking tray. Drizzle the vegetables with 2 tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, turmeric, cumin, ginger and salt and pepper. Mix well, cover with foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour or until all the veggies are soft on the inside and starting to brown a bit on the outside.

In a large soup pot, heat the remaining two tbsps of olive oil and add the onion, garlic, and leek. Sauté until the onion is translucent, then dump in all of your yummy roasted cubes. Stir for a minute, letting flavors combine, then pour in your vegetable broth or water (use more or less according to how thick you like your soups) and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, slow it back down to a simmer, and cook for about 15-20 minutes. After about 5-10 minutes, taste the broth and see if you want to add some extra spices or salt to your liking. Once everything is good and soft, pour the soup into a blender (I had to do it in 3 batches) and blend until smooth and creamy. Serve with crispy bread and whatever toppings you like. In the photos, I used extra pepper, oregano, and hemp seeds. This soup gets even better overnight as the flavors come together, so it's great to save (or freeze) for delicious leftovers during your own busy week.

xo

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam + Encounters with Sufism

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco via rubyjosephine.com Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco via rubyjosephine.com

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco | Ruby Josephine

 

There are few emotions about places for which adequate single words exist: we have to make awkward piles of words to convey what we felt when watching light fade on an early autumn evening or when encountering a pool of perfectly still water in a clearing.

This sentence, written by Alain de Botton in his collage of wisdom The Art of Travel, kept turning over in my mind as I gazed out over dusty glowing mountaintops on a day trip to Moulay Abdessalam.

Let this be the awkward pile of words that I use to try to convey the magic of this place.

One of the many mysteries of life is that whenever you learn something new, some previously unknown bit of information or a person you had never heard of, suddenly this thing or person starts popping up everywhere you go. It could be because our attention is now so focused on it or it could just be one of those bizarre coincidences of fate.

Whatever the reasoning, I’ve been having one of these experiences lately. I was first formally introduced to Sufism, the mystical, devotional branch of Islamic thought, when my husband recommended that I read the book The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. While in all honesty, I wasn’t blown away by the novel itself, I was touched by the “rules of love” presented through the friendship of the spiritual teacher Shams Tabrizi and the infamous Sufi poet Rumi. The rules include nuggets of wisdom such as “Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.” The book in this sense is a wonderful introduction to Sufism as a belief focusing on the spiritual side of religion and expressing it through artistic and emotive passion.

Ever since I read that book I seem to be seeing Rumi and Sufism everywhere. References in the podcasts I listen to, titles popping up in bookstores, taking a course through HarvardX on Islam through its Scriptures (more on this in a future post) that explored intensively the origins and theology of Sufi thought, and now, this past weekend, our close friends invited us on a day trip to Moulay Abdesallam, which until we got there I had no clue was a Sufi center of Morocco.

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco via rubyjosephine.com

This small town is famous for being home to the first visited shrine in Northern Morocco: the tomb of the Sufi and Islamic leader Moulay Abdessalam Ibn Mashish. Born around 1146 and supposedly a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, he became one of the first Sufi influencers in the country and founded his own branch of Islamic pedagogy. Not only did we learn all of this from the placard just before the ledge of the mountain Jabal al-Alam where his tomb lies, but through the heartfelt stories generously poured out by the locals who wandered around this ancient pilgrimage site (which were then generously translated by Marouan and his friend Mohammed to my friend and I who just barely caught the words “good man” and “prayer” somewhere in there).

The tomb of ­­­­Moulay Abdessalam is situated on the side of the mountain, a humble white and green structure built around a noble, overarching oak tree that is planted exactly over where he is buried. When approaching this area, everyone takes off their shoes not only as a sign of respect as you would in a Mosque, but because the ground is quilted with pieces of cork, taken from the local cork trees that spring up all over the countryside nearby. Padding around in our socks on the soft terrain, we saw prayer groups reading scripture and doing Duaa (specific, repetitive + wishful prayers read from the Quran) for people in need, families lounging underneath the tomb’s tree, basking in the shade, candles being lit on the window-ledge looking into the tomb’s interior, and finally, looking outward, a vast view of layered rolling hills swathed in mist, with a dusting of houses and villages far beneath. In contrast to the city air of Tangier, we all felt our lungs being cleansed and our eyes de-fogging the higher we climbed.

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco via rubyjosephine.com

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco via rubyjosephine.com

As we went further up to the very top of Jabal al-Alam, the view stretched further and further until we reached the peak and came upon the cave where Moulay Abdessalam was said to have meditated and prayed daily- a small, empty space with just a single visible circle of the hills in the distance. While Marouan and Mohammed were told stories and explored the cave, my friend Evie and I sat, staring at the scene before us, drinking it in and chatting idly, trying to make sense of this place we had somehow wound up in for the day. Even though there were aspects of the pilgrimage that were a bit lost on us, you could still feel that this place is charged. It has a soulful energy expressed in the sprawling cork trees, rock-strewn mountainsides, and through the kind eyes of the people living there. The Sufi values of love, open-heartedness, and devotion to Allah and nature are all palpable here.

Rumi wrote poems of love that have a multiplicity to their subject matter. Is he writing about love between two people? Between humans and nature? Between humans and God? I’m pretty sure it can be all of these things in one, as you feel in the spirit of Sufi people and places.

 

A moment of happiness,

you and I sitting on the verandah,

apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.

We feel the flowing water of life here,

you and I, with the garden's beauty

and the birds singing.

The stars will be watching us,

and we will show them

what it is to be a thin crescent moon.

You and I unselfed, will be together,

indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.

The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar

as we laugh together, you and I.

In one form upon this earth,

and in another form in a timeless sweet land.

-Rumi, Kulliyat-e Shams, 2114

 

All of these poems on love, all of this focus in Sufism on passion and devotion. This kind of swooning over a certain place and waxing on about love has been criticized throughout history for being “namby-pamby” (Lord Byron when referring to Wordsworth), and “cheesy,” to which Paolo Coelho has the perfect response in this On Being podcast. He says to Krista Tippet: “ I’m talking to you from Switzerland, and here cheese is something that’s considered one of the most important things, you know? … So I’m going to defend the cheese itself, not as a derogatory word, but something that it is positive.”

So putting the fear of sounding cheesy aside, let me conclude this awkward pile of words by saying that no matter what religion you are or what background you come from, there are certain places on earth that have an energy that makes you feel connected to something deeper, whatever you may call that something. Even after a single day of exploration, we all agreed that Moulay Abdessalam is one of these places. We returned to Tangier that night buzzing with that lovely feeling of getting too much fresh air, and I was left with a feeling that my fascination and exploration of Sufism- and spiritual religions in general- is destined to continue.

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco | Ruby Josephine

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco via rubyjosephine.com

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco via rubyjosephine.com

Day Trip to Moulay Abdessalam, Morocco via rubyjosephine.com

Maple Muesli Banana Bread + The Balancing Act

Maple Muesli Banana Bread | Ruby Josephine Maple Muesli Banana Bread | Ruby Josephine

While millions of pumpkin spice lattes are brewing in America, here there is only the slightest change in breeze temperature to signal the seasons changing. This is about the time of year when a bittersweet sort of homesickness kicks in.

The longer I live in Morocco, the more wildly these feelings seem to fluctuate. When I first moved here almost 3 years ago, I was in a frenzy of learning to be myself and have a life in a place where no matter how hard I try I will always be a gauwria (foreigner). I was humbled daily and learned so much that I felt like a dog constantly chasing the tail of cultural understanding. I probably still am, to be honest.

It took me a year or so to realize that what I am really living is a balancing act. A one-woman, core-shaking balancing act, wobbling between who I am and who I am willing to adapt myself to be. The back and forth between past self and present/evolving self never seems to slow; it just springs around from month to month, surprising me with sudden bouts of homesickness followed by crazed passions for the country I’m in now.

One of the most poignant and truthful articles I have read about being a foreigner is a thesis paper written by Wu Zhou, a Ph.D. student in Canada. I happened upon this paper when I was doing research for my most recent choreography project, Bodies Between Borders which premiered last spring. Since the performance was about what happens to the human condition when it crosses over into foreign territory, I did some googling on pieces written about those kinds of experiences. This work, The Lived Experience of Being a Foreigner, popped up and spoke to me on a deep level. Zhou writes the following about trying to accept the condition of “foreignness:”

To regain peace and confidence, a re-organization or reshaping of self is needed. This process is threatening, as one has to alter one’s own identity, in order to accept this reincarnation.

Boy did I ever relate to that statement. It has been a struggle to rediscover a calm center inside of myself among the chaos and confusion of Tangier. Communication breakdowns, cultural misunderstandings, and the inability to do certain things independently have all threatened my previously confident sense of self.

Speaking to my concept of the balancing act, he also writes in the conclusion,

...One has to find out the new connection between one’s present existence and one’s past, and make it meaningful to one’s own future.

These wise words are exactly what I am now striving to do. You cannot totally discard where you came from, just as you cannot completely assimilate to where you ended up. You can only take the pieces from each experience and put them together into a perhaps slightly messy yet beautiful whole.

Maple Muesli Banana Bread | Ruby Josephine

So at the moment, I am embracing the feelings of homesick nostalgia as a fragment of what completes who I am these days. I am letting myself sink into (but avoid wallowing in) wistfully shutting my eyes and imagining that crisp fall smell in Minneapolis, when the lakes become sharper blue in the cool air and leaves turn to fire and crumple.

To share a slice of my nostalgia with Marouan (because that’s what marriage is about, right?) I decided to bake the feeling into a loaf of banana bread, infused with midwestern maple and made hearty with some whole-wheat flour and muesli. This twist on traditional banana bread is warming, crumbly and delicious- exactly the remedy I’ve needed.

Maple Muesli Banana Bread | Ruby Josephine

Maple Muesli Banana Bread | Ruby Josephine

P.S. Shout out to Marouan for helping me with the photography + snagging the first bite.

Maple Muesli Banana Bread | Ruby Josephine

Maple Muesli Banana Bread 

Adapted from Rachael's Super Simple Banana Bread over at Eazy Peazy Meals

Makes 1 loaf

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 75g (1/3 cup) melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 65g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp jam (I would recommend apricot)
  • 1/2 tsp maple extract
  • 75g (1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 75g (overflowing 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 80g (3/4 cup) muesli (if you don't have muesli you can use any mixture of rolled oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit- use what you like, but the rolled oats are a must)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Topping

  • 35g (1/3 cup) muesli
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Preheat your oven to 175ºC (350ºF) and grease + flour a loaf pan. In a large bowl, mash up your bananas and whisk in the butter, sugar, syrup, egg, jam, and maple extract. In a smaller bowl, mix the flours, muesli, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold to combine. Pour into your prepared pan. Make the crumble topping by smushing together all ingredients in a small bowl with your fingers so that it gets coated + clumpy. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter, place in the oven and bake for 50 minutes-1 hour. Stick a knife in the center to see if it's done, or take out when the top is golden brown. Let cool about 10 minutes, remove from the pan, and slice.

Maple Muesli Banana Bread | Ruby Josephine

xo

Dancing Daily + A Poem in Motion

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp | Ruby Josephine The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp has become an incredibly influential book for artists of all mediums, but if there is anything I have learned as a dancer from reading this manifesto multiple times, it's this:

Ruby, you need to dance every single day.

I mean, my God, Twyla Tharp gets up every day at 5:30am to train. She writes “It’s vital to establish some rituals- automatic but decisive patterns of behavior- at the beginning of each creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.” Personally, I have been creative as long as I can remember so art as a general way of life is pretty engraved into my DNA. However, oddly enough, dance as a ritual is something that doesn’t come quite as naturally. It is something I have had to seriously work at.

I think when we as artists and creative types finally “decide” on our chosen areas of expertise, it can seem like it should be this wonderful I finally found my passion kind of moment.

In reality, it’s terrifying.

Suddenly we have to be an expert, bursting with talent and knowledge on everything there is to know about whatever art form you chose. Then comes the internal questioning. Who am I to call myself a dancer? What about everyone who is way more adept at this than I am? Why am I doing this? The all-knowing Twyla Tharp directly responds, “Turning to something ritual eliminates the question."

Although I could come up with hundreds of reasons why I love to dance, I still struggle with the insecurity of calling myself a dancer. For me, one of the ways to deal with this struggle is to make myself dance. Every damn day. Even if it’s only 10 minutes of random little movement studies, when I dance every day I feel like a dancer (although I should note that it is also completely valid to call yourself a dancer under any circumstances you want- this is just how I deal with my own inner brain chatter).

Now one thing that’s hard about dancing alone either in a studio or my living room on a daily basis is coming up with material. When I used to take writing courses in high school, we were always given prompts to ease the ever-pervasive writer's block. Writer's block is a commonly known malady, but let me tell you that choreographer's block is a real thing and equally as maddening. I discovered it can be eased by a similar treatment- specific prompts. Why had I never thought of approaching dance in the same meticulous way that I used to approach writing?

The most recent prompt I have come up with for myself was inspired by all of the poetry I’ve been reading lately and the interviews with poets that I’ve been listening to on my absolute favorite podcast, On Being with Krista Tippet. Quite simply, I decided to dance a poem. I have always loved the interconnectivity of words and movement, so it seemed like the perfect exercise with which to begin.

I took a random book of poetry out of the old English library in Tangier because I loved the cover art and the title: Out-of-the-Body Travel. Written by American poet Stanley Plumly, the poems in this work evoke the gritty, dusty life in rural Ohio during the depression and the bleakness of cornfields. Since about 70% of the reason I left Oberlin College is the location (or lack thereof), I could relate.

I instantly fell in love with this poem, Early Morning Rue, to which I decided to create a mini-dance. I could prattle on about how the imagery speaks to me and whatnot, but I think it’s better to let the poem and my movement phrase speak for themselves.

Here it is, the first of what could be a new series on this blog: A Poem in Motion. Filmed in my living-room-doubling-as-a-studio with an accidental flip-flop in front of the frame. The perfectionist in me is trying hard to let go and just get some work out there, so here goes.

 

EARLY MORNING RUE

By Stanley Plumly

 

The fields in fog, the low, dull resonance of morning.

 

There never was an old country.

Only this privacy, the dream life of the deaf,

the girl looking into the mirror above her head,

prone in paralysis.

 

And this one loneliness,

poverty or purity of choice, driving cold

in the general direction of the sun before dawn,

coffee in the truck, and bread, the cab light on,

and nobody, nobody else on the airstrip of the road,

 

going to work.

 

[youtube width="640" height="400"]https://youtu.be/0SHavVLx5ZU[/youtube]

 

To anyone reading this, I'd love to hear from you. What are your daily rituals? Creative habits? Share with me.

xo

Mlouwza (Moroccan Almond Cookies) + Eid Kbir

Mlouwza- Moroccan Almond Cookies for Eid Kbir | Ruby Josephine  

If you happened to be out in the streets of Tangier anytime on Monday, you would be greeted not-so-pleasantly by trashcan bonfires, men covered in soot and dried blood carrying machetes, ram horns and hooves strewn along the gutters, and pained bleats from remaining sheep.

This is not the apocalypse, this is Eid Kbir, also known as Eid al-Adha.

Contrastingly, if you were to get out of the emptied streets and into almost any home, you would find something much more welcoming: warm kisses of hello, family laughter, large platters of sizzling meat doused in spices and garlic, home-baked bread and sweets.

Almost three years living in Tangier, three of these holidays have now passed. Before coming here, I knew virtually nothing about Islamic culture and traditions, so the first time I was invited by my husband (then recent boyfriend) to his family’s house for an annual sheep slaughter, needless to say I was nervous, but determined to stick it out with an open mind and willingness to learn. By the third time round, I must admit I’m still not exactly thrilled by the butchering of the sheep itself, but I am practically a veteran in terms of helping with the meat preparation each year: cutting up the liver, making chouwaya (grilled kebabs), and helping to cook up tagines. The most important thing- as with any major holiday- is simply sharing the time with family and friends.

I was discussing Eid with one of my dearest friends from the States who grew up with me in the same neighborhood and somehow has also found herself living in Tangier (fate, I tell you). She was saying that recently she has been meditating and reflecting on the significance of this holiday, especially since she is an off-and-on vegetarian. What can we glean from this day, being obvious and humbled outsiders to the history and tradition of it all? She mentioned how in everything we consume, there is always sacrifice, and isn’t it so true? We cannot feed ourselves without taking away from something else. Even if it is not as obvious as the sacrifice of an animal life, there are always laborers toiling, wildlife disturbed, bees buzzing endlessly from bud to bud. Eid is the time to dwell on these sacrifices and give as much gratitude as we can find in ourselves to those who help feed us. I have witnessed the beauty in the extensive care, prayer and thanks that are given to each sheep that is consumed during this holiday. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could be as mindful about everything else we eat?

Mlouwza aka Traditional Moroccan Almond Cookies | Ruby Josephine

On that note, let’s be mindful of each delicious nibble of these traditional Moroccan almond cookies- mlouwza (ma-lew-za). Almost every holiday in Morocco seems to be marked by the sharing and swapping of Halwa (sweets). Even if I am not always super willing to get my hands dirty in terms of washing sheep parts, I am completely willing to bake my heart out for beloved family and friends.

I made these to share with my in-laws with the help of another one of my closest friends here; she is my go-to-girl for authentic, homemade Moroccan anything. This recipe in particular comes from her mother, no doubt passed down from her mother and so on and so on, so you know it’s the real deal. Traditionally I've heard these cookies don’t contain lemon, but her mother decided to add some zest since it gives a lovely freshness to each chewy bite. They look so pretty, yet are surprisingly simple.

Mlouwza (aka Traditional Moroccan Almond Cookies) via Ruby Josephine

Mlouwza (aka Traditional Moroccan Almond Cookies) via Ruby Josephine

Make with love and share.

Mlouwza (aka Traditional Moroccan Almond Cookies) via Ruby Josephine

Mlouwza (aka Traditional Moroccan Almond Cookies) via Ruby Josephine

Mlouwza (aka Traditional Moroccan Almond Cookies) via Ruby Josephine

Mlouwza- Moroccan Almond Cookies (gluten free)

makes about 4-5 dozen small cookies

  • 700g almonds, blanched and peeled
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 6-7 eggs
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 heaping tablespoon apricot jam
  • powdered sugar for topping
  • Preheat your oven to 175ºC (350ºF) and line a cookie tray with parchment paper.

Once you have blanched and peeled your almonds, dry them with a dishcloth or paper towel and take a large handful (about ¼ cup) to save for the tops of the cookies. Slice each of these almonds in half and set aside for later.

Grind the remaining almonds in a food processor until there are no big pieces left (you may have to do this in two batches), then add the sugar and grind again, this time until it forms a sticky paste.

Separate 4 eggs, cracking the yokes into a large mixing bowl and saving the whites off to the side in a small dish. Whisk the yokes together with the lemon zest, baking powder and jam. Stir in about 1/3 of your almond paste and once that is combined, mix in another whole egg. Add the next third of the paste followed by the second whole egg. Mix in the last third of almond paste. The mixture should be thick, but still slightly sticky and malleable. If it seems to heavy, add one more egg.

Roll the dough into about 1” round balls and flatten slightly, dipping one side in powdered sugar. Press your thumb in the middle of the cookie to make a print, then while keeping your thumb there, take a knife and make four slits on each edge around the cookie for the flower-y effect. Place on the baking tray with at least 2” of space in between each one. Grab the almonds you sliced earlier and take each half, dip it into your saved egg whites and place in the center of each cookie. Bake in batches for 15 minutes (times may vary depending on your oven) or until the bottom edges turn a bit golden brown.

Let cool until they firm up a bit, then serve with mint tea.

Eid Mubarak <3

 

 

Four Years Ago Today

Four Years Ago Today | Ruby Josephine

 

I knew the first day might be awful and uncomfortable, and for the most part I was right. Everything is so foreign that the tiniest things feel like big accomplishments- finding a phone, getting an Oyster card, etc. Suddenly the idea of traveling alone seems crazy. Every second all I want to do is call my mom and ask her what to do. Where should I eat? Should I go out or rest? Every minor decision seems major and overwhelming.

Four years ago on this day I wrote this on the first page of a little red moleskin while sitting on the floor of the St Christopher’s Hostel in London, trying not to let tears drip onto the page. This is a snapshot of a woman who has just realized the gravity of the risk she took.

That was day one of my journey out into the world.

Four years ago today I decided to leave Oberlin College, leave my home, my family, friends, and everything comfortable to spend 9 months traveling and living abroad, practically alone with no itinerary after the first 3 ½ months.

In that moment there was no way that I could foresee the force that was coming my way. The force of curiosity, energy, love and everything else that carried me from country to country. There was no way I could have predicted the adventures, the people I met who inspired and changed me, the heartbreak, the discovery of passions and interests. In that first moment all I felt was the loss of what was behind me. Which is normal, I think. We grieve what we left before we can move forward.

Somehow, that first day, I found the willpower to pick myself off that hostel floor and go get some Indian food at a nearby restaurant. I made friends in the lobby with an Australian woman who loves Jane Austen as much as I do and a handsome Irish doctor. A week later I found myself an apartment and started my inspiring internship at Tender for the following three months, in which time I visited the National Gallery almost every other weekend.

London | Ruby Josephine

Four Years Ago Today | Ruby Josephine

I continued moving forward through Paris, Ireland, Amsterdam, northern Norway, Belgium, Spain, my first two-month stint in Tangier, Cyprus, and Italy.

Four Years Ago Today | Ruby Josephine

 

Four Years Ago Today | Ruby Josephine

What’s incredible is that trip was only the beginning. After a bleak summer at home in Minneapolis trying to figure out what I was doing with my life, I booked a one-way ticket to Iceland and spent two weeks there on the most breath-taking tour of the country.

Four Years Ago Today | Ruby Josephine

From there, wanting to find a new dance scene, I moved on to Berlin. I stayed aimlessly for three months, feeling like a lost child in a cold forest of grey and graffiti, and finally the longing for sunshine brought me running back to Tangier.

Four years ago today, how could I have known that I was starting a hurricane? A whirlwind of emotions and events would follow, swept along into the eye of the storm, shaking my core and making it stronger.

Four years ago, if you had told me that in 2016 I would be living as a choreographer and dance teacher in Tangier, Morocco, married to a wonderful Moroccan man who was one of my first dancers in a project here, and continuing to travel and have adventures, I would have laughed and made some indignant comment about marrying young.

Never say never.

Engagement in Tangier, Morocco | Ruby Josephine

Tangier, Morocco | Ruby Josephine

As I was flipping through that old, weatherworn red moleskin today, I also stumbled on something I wrote near to the end of that first trip. It said:

There is a purpose for everything. You may not know why you’re making a decision at the start of it, but by the end there will be a reason. Everything is a life lesson, an experience, a blessing in disguise, or just a damn good story.

I still firmly believe this. Call it fate, call it destiny, call it whatever you want, but it holds true.

A hell of a lot can happen in four years.

 

Orange Blossom, Date + Fresh Fig Oatmeal

Moroccan Summer Oatmeal- orange blossom water, honey, cinnamon, dates and fresh figs spice up your normal morning routine | Ruby Josephine Blog I am still working on pulling together an exhaustive wedding post, so in the meantime let me just say:

Hello September, where did you come from?

It hasn't quite hit me that we are reaching the tail end of this particular season. It's still just as hot, I've started up teaching dance and yoga at work again- still on the summer class schedule, and everyone else is still at the beach. I must admit I am happy that summer in Tangier is coming to a close. Everything intensifies a little bit with the sun beating down and the thunderous nightly winds. The first couple weeks of this in late June and July can be energizing and exciting, but after that a sense of humid exhaustion starts to creep in. The crowds become too much- getting squished in between slow-walking families and trying to dart around guys in the street selling squeaking stuffed dogs and giant balloons. The traffic is perpetually blocked and the heat just amps up the smell of everything.

I’ve been waking up and standing out on my balcony every morning at 7am just to marvel at the fact that the city can actually get quiet again. It stays that way only until the fog lifts from the hills in the distance and then chaos ensues once more with a sunny bang.

Early morning in Tangier, Morocco | Ruby Josephine

Early morning in Tangier, Morocco | Ruby Josephine Of course, I’m not wholly down on Tangier summers. There are also gloriously lazy days spent at beaches outside of the city center, evenings of people watching in late-night cafes, and the best part? What grows in summer climates. July and August mean an influx of the juiciest peaches, little carts selling the fruit from cactus plants, and- my absolute favorite- fresh figs. I truly cannot get enough. Before coming here I had never tasted one before and when I did I promptly began to buy about a kilo every other day. The later in the summer, the riper the figs, until this time of year they start to burst and drip from the bottom of the skin like honey.

Moroccan Summer Oatmeal- orange blossom water, honey, cinnamon, dates and fresh figs spice up your normal morning routine | Ruby Josephine Blog

Moroccan Summer Oatmeal- orange blossom water, honey, cinnamon, dates and fresh figs spice up your normal morning routine | Ruby Josephine Blog Now that it is officially September, I think that not only calls for starting to pull scarves and leafy-hued clothing out of the back of the closet, but also warmer comforting breakfasts. This particular recipe fuses summery flavors into a fall-friendly bowl of goodness. Maybe it is a bit silly to post a recipe for oatmeal since it is one of the simplest things to whip up, but this specific union of ingredients is just so delicious that I have to share. Plus my wonderful dad, being the creature of habit that he is, eats oatmeal every single morning so if nothing else this recipe is for him to change things up a bit.

Moroccan Summer Oatmeal- orange blossom water, honey, cinnamon, dates and fresh figs spice up your normal morning routine | Ruby Josephine Blog

Moroccan Summer Oatmeal- orange blossom water, honey, cinnamon, dates and fresh figs spice up your normal morning routine | Ruby Josephine Blog

Moroccan Summer Oatmeal 

vegan, gluten-free if using gf oats

makes 2 servings

2/3 cup rolled oats or instant oatmeal 1 1/3 cups soy or almond milk 1 ½ tsp orange blossom water ½ tsp cinnamon 2 tsp honey pinch of salt Fresh figs, cut in half Chopped dates Optional toppings: chopped almonds, extra honey, hemp hearts (shown in pictures), any seeds or nuts

Easy. Mix the first 6 ingredients on the list in a medium-small pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the oats have reached your desired consistency. Serve up in beautiful bowls, top with figs, dates, an extra splash of milk and any other topping you want.

Make some coffee, breathe in the morning, and enjoy.

My Moroccan Wedding: Hands + Henna

Moroccan Henna Ceremony | Ruby Josephine Blog Hands have always fascinated me. The delicate movements and waves in the finger bones, the way a single gesture can communicate something more powerful than words, the way they accompany our speech, how they can exude and gather energy. It seems fitting therefore, that I happen to be marrying into a culture where the day before the wedding, the bride’s hands (and feet for that matter) are ritualistically coated in the most beautiful and intricate henna I have ever seen.

Traditionally in Moroccan weddings, henna is separate from the main marriage celebration. All of the women closest to the bride- in this case my mom, my husband’s mother and sisters, childhood friends who made the long journey to Tangier and my best girlfriends from here- gather to celebrate, dance, eat sweets and drink tea. Personally, I will take this over a bachelorette party any day.

For the event, I was dressed by my sisters-in-law in a simple caftan and wore a veil most of the time, as it symbolizes the purity of the beauty possessed by the bride (although they didn’t account for the slipperiness of my non-Moroccan hair- that thing just would not stay over my face). Once fully robed I was ushered out to greet all of my smiling supporters and seated in the center of the salon to let the henna ritual begin.

Moroccan Henna Ceremony | Ruby Josephine Blog

Moroccan Henna Ceremony | Ruby Josephine Blog

Moroccan Henna Ceremony in Tangier | Ruby Josephine

The majority of my afternoon was spent sitting with my hands in the air and feet propped up for about four hours, letting the henna dry, chatting with and watching the dear women in my life as they shimmied, clapped, stomped, laughed, ate, and received their own henna as well. Despite my legs periodically falling asleep, I was overwhelmed by the happiness in the room. Hands were waving, hands were painted, hands were expressing and everything was just beautiful, in the least superficial sense you can imagine.

Moroccan Henna Ceremony in Tangier | Ruby Josephine

Moroccan Henna Ceremony in Tangier | Ruby Josephine

Moroccan Henna Ceremony in Tangier | Ruby Josephine

Moroccan Henna Ceremony in Tangier | Ruby Josephine

I have this beautiful little bedside book of sonnets by Pablo Neruda, with both the Spanish originals and English translations (part of my quest to learn Spanish this year), and as I was reading them last week this one suddenly spoke to me. Ever so appropriately, I wanted to share this love poem about hands for the occasion of my own hands’ love-filled henna ceremony.

Cien Sonetos de Amor, Pablo Neruda | Ruby Josephine Blog

Sonnet XXXV

Pablo Neruda

Your hand flew from my eyes into the day.

The light arrived and opened like a rose garden.

Sand and sky throbbed like an ultimate

beehive carved in the turquoise.

 

Your hand touched syllables that rang like bells,

touched cups, barrels full of yellow oil,

flower petals, fountains, and, above all, love,

Love: your pure hand guarded the ladles.

 

The afternoon… was. Quietly the night slid

over a man asleep, its celestial capsule.

Honeysuckle set loose its sad savage odor.

 

And then your hand fluttered, it flew back again:

it closed its wings, its feathers I had thought were lost,

over my eyes the darkness has swallowed.

 

Moroccan Henna Ceremony in Tangier | Ruby Josephine