Book Review: ‘I Used to Have a Plan: But Life Had Other Ideas’ by Alessandra Olanow

Book Review: ‘I Used to Have a Plan: But Life Had Other Ideas’ by Alessandra Olanow
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Updated 11 May 2024
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Book Review: ‘I Used to Have a Plan: But Life Had Other Ideas’ by Alessandra Olanow

Book Review: ‘I Used to Have a Plan: But Life Had Other Ideas’ by Alessandra Olanow
  • The author’s storytelling talent and introspective reflections on her personal journey make this book an excellent option for people searching for inspiration and a deeper understanding of life and human experience

“I Used to Have a Plan: But Life Had Other Ideas” is a captivating book by New York-based author Alessandra Olanow. Her book was published in 2020 and talks about a self-discovery journey and resilience.

Through her beautifully crafted stories and storytelling, she takes readers on a journey of self-discovery and invites them to learn through the unexpected experiences that shape their lives.

Through the pages of this book, Olanow shares her personal experiences of how she managed to overcome life’s unpredictable circumstances. With her honesty and interesting narrative, she speaks about the lessons learned on her life journey. From her professional experiences to her personal relationships, Olanow’s story exudes authenticity and reminds the reader that life rarely follows a straight path, which makes life realistic and beautiful at the same time.

One of the strengths of Olanow’s book is her ability to describe the depth of emotions and how she talks about her personal struggles during some of the hardest moments in her life.

She expresses her opinions and reflections on life’s challenges by encouraging the readers to reflect as well on their own journeys, motivating them to overcome their obstacles too.

Moreover, regardless of the ups and downs she encountered, she explained how she maintained a sense of hope and resilience.

Additionally, the book is enriched with evocative descriptions of the places the author has lived and traveled to. Whether she was exploring the busy streets in one city or immersing herself in the serenity of nature, her ability to paint a colorful picture through her words takes readers to these places, allowing them to travel with her in thoughts.

Overall, this book is interesting and inspiring at the same time. It reminds readers of the beauty and resilience of accepting life’s unexpected turns and celebrating the beautiful moments too.

The author’s storytelling talent and introspective reflections on her personal journey make this book an excellent option for people searching for inspiration and a deeper understanding of life and human experience.
 


The best TV shows of 2024 so far 

The best TV shows of 2024 so far 
Updated 20 June 2024
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The best TV shows of 2024 so far 

The best TV shows of 2024 so far 
  • From warlords in feudal Japan, through post-apocalyptic wastelands, to a stalker in Scotland

‘Baby Reindeer’ 

Richard Gadd’s autobiographical drama is the most talked-about show of the year, though not always for the reasons its creator — or Netflix — would have wanted. The streaming giant is almost certainly regretting the “This is a true story” splash at the start of the series, when adding “based on” could have saved them at least some of the cash it will likely lose in lawsuits from the real-life people that the too-easily-cracked characterizations have exposed. But the legal and ethical fallout shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Gadd’s painfully honest depiction of a wannabe comedian (himself) and his relationship with an unhinged female stalker is original, compelling, infuriating, and sometimes, at least in the early episodes, as funny as it is horrifying. And Jessica Gunning, as the stalker, Martha, turns in an extraordinary performance that should earn her a slew of awards. 

‘Fallout’ 

An adaptation of a post-apocalyptic video game was one of 2023’s finest shows (“The Last of Us”) and, thanks to “Fallout,” the same will likely be said for 2024. But the two shows — like the two games — are vastly different. Yes, “The Last of Us” had monsters in it, but it was largely grounded in gritty realism. “Fallout” is far more cartoonish, both in its aesthetic and its violence. It’s set in an alternate history in which a nuclear exchange between the US and China in 2077 drove many survivors underground into bunkers known as Vaults. More than two centuries later, a young woman, Lucy, leaves her Vault and ventures into the wasteland that used to be Los Angeles to hunt for her father, who has been kidnapped by raiders. Having been raised in the safety and the — ostensibly — polite society of the Vault, Lucy is woefully unprepared for the horrors that await her in the outside world.  

‘Ripley’ 

The plot of Steven Zaillian’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s psychological crime thriller novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley” is fairly straightforward: Tom Ripley (the excellent Andrew Scott), a down-on-his-luck con-man in 1960s New York, is hired by the wealthy Herbert Greenleaf to convince his wayward son Dickie to return home from Italy, where he is living a leisurely life at his father’s expense. But Ripley sees a chance to transform his life — if he’s willing to cross some serious boundaries. Zaillian draws out the suspense with lingering shots of the Italian seaside town where Dickie is living and long sections without dialogue, carried by Scott’s commanding performance. The anomaly of shooting the series in black-and-white only helps it stand out all the more.   

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ 

Farewell, then, Larry David. Or at least the version of Larry David that anchored this brilliant largely improvised sit-com over 12 series and 24 years. In this final season, Larry doesn’t suddenly see the light and transform into a decent human being. Instead David continued to find new ways for his misanthropic character to make us laugh and cringe in equal measure. The final episode is titled “No Lessons Learned.” That’s all you need to know, and all fans would have wanted. 

‘Shogun’ 

Kudos to FX and Hulu for making a success of a show that, the majority of the time, is in Japanese. John Blackthorne, the hero of this historical drama adapted from James Clavell’s 1975 novel, is loosely based on the English navigator William Adams, who became a samurai for the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century. The show’s beautifully paced mix of political intrigue and brutal combat is compelling viewing. 

‘True Detective: Night Country’ 

With a female showrunner, Issa Lopez, and two female leads (Jodie Foster as detective Liz Danvers, Kali Reis as Trooper Evangeline Navarro), the fourth season of the anthology series naturally enraged online trolls. But this tale of the simultaneous disappearance of eight scientists living at the Tsalal Arctic Research Station in the small town of Ennis, Alaska, during the winter period when the sun never rises is immediately gripping. Lopez leans into the supernatural horror elements that were an undercurrent of the acclaimed first series, and Foster and Reis are a badass double act.  

‘Masters of the Air’ 

Executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks signed off from their trilogy of miniseries based on the events of World War II (from an American point of view) in spectacular fashion with this show focused on the Eighth Air Force, which was engaged in some of the war’s most-dangerous missions in Northern Europe. “This is not a narratively complex beast, replete with twists and turns,” our reviewer wrote. “Rather, it’s a show that seems to belong to a bygone era: a lovingly made, epic chronicle of remarkable people doing remarkable things during remarkable times.” 

‘Mr & Mrs. Smith’ 

When it was announced that “Fleabag” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge had walked away from this spy series (loosely) based on the 2005 film starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, which she was meant to be co-creating and starring in with “Atlanta” creator Donald Glover, there were fears the show would flop. Instead, Waller-Bridge’s replacement, the Japanese-American actress Maya Erskine, is excellent as the Jane Smith to Glover’s John Smith, matching her partner’s easy onscreen charisma all the way and giving the show a grounded heart around which to base its often-outlandish storylines. “Mr & Mrs. Smith” was a lot of fun.  


Recipes for success: Chef Yann Lohez offers advice and a tasty tomato salad recipe 

Recipes for success: Chef Yann Lohez offers advice and a tasty tomato salad recipe 
Updated 20 June 2024
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Recipes for success: Chef Yann Lohez offers advice and a tasty tomato salad recipe 

Recipes for success: Chef Yann Lohez offers advice and a tasty tomato salad recipe 

DUBAI: French chef Yann Lohez has spent 15 years working in five-star hotels across the world, with stints at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, Geneva’s Kempinski Hotel, the Evian Resort in France and now The St. Regis Riyadh, where he is the executive chef.  

His passion for cooking began in the quaint countryside school where his mother cooked for 80 children. 

“Every morning, during the break between classes, my classmates would ask me to go to the kitchen and ask for the menu,” Lohez tells Arab News. “I would rush to the kitchen and smell the food. I have all these memories in my head and it stuck in my DNA.”  

The St. Regis Riyadh. (Supplied)

The first dish he tried to make on his own, he recalls, was mayonnaise.  

“My grandmother always made egg noodles for Sunday lunch, and my task was to make the mayonnaise. It’s a great memory. I remember this dish was amazing,” he says. 

Here, he discusses his favorite dish and his top tips for amateur chefs. He also shares an heirloom tomato salad recipe.  

The St. Regis Riyadh. (Supplied)

When you started out, what was the most common mistake you made? 

I faced a lot of challenges, especially when making pastries. For pastries, you always have to follow the recipes and you have to follow the technique. And as a cook, you make the recipes yourself. It was difficult for me to follow a proper recipe. Cooking is more about the sense and the feeling, but for pastries you have to follow the recipe exactly to get the right consistency. It was challenging. I always say I’ll never be a pastry chef because I don’t want to follow all these recipes. That was my challenge. 

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs? 

Let’s take steak for example. When people are cooking at home, they take the steak from the chiller and put it straight in the pan. This is a mistake. You need to keep it at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. When the protein is in the chiller it is very hard, so you need to make it more tender. And you definitely need to add some marination. You add the sauce, the olive oil and some spices in order to overload it and allow the spices to turn into fiber. Only then do you cook your steak. 

Greek Mezze. (Supplied)  

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish? 

It’s not an actual ingredient. It’s patience. And love. Whoever you’re cooking for — you, your family, your friends or even for customers — without passion you cannot achieve the right dish.  

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food?  

Not really. I always go to the restaurants to enjoy, not to give criticism. It makes me happy to explore different cultures, different food and different ways to cook. And it gives me inspiration.  

What’s the most common mistake you find in other restaurants? 

It’s about how you engage with the guest. Sometimes the waiter is too close or too eager to interrupt. When I’m in a restaurant, I want to be free and enjoy the food and not be disturbed every five minutes.  

When it comes to food, I’m French, so I like my meat to be rare. It’s difficult in this part of the world to get rare meat. It needs to be not cooked on the inside, but hot. Very few restaurants make steak the way I like it. 

Slow braised beef checks orzo ragout. (Supplied)

What’s your favorite cuisine? 

I don’t really have one. I’m very open-minded about food and food culture. I think it’s the best way to get new ideas. I love Indian food. I love Arabic food. I love Asian food. When I go back to France, I love to have traditional slow-cooked meat or something buttery or creamy.  

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home? 

Omelet. It is very, very fast for me to make. I am very passionate about it also because my father raises chickens and I always get organic eggs. I think it’s the best way to get the right protein as well. An omelet gives you power throughout the day. It really takes five minutes to make. You can make it with anything, whatever you have at home. 

Wild ceps Aquerello risotto aged parmesan. (Supplied)

What request by customers most annoys you? 

Sometimes the guests do not respect the team. Mistakes can happen. We take the opportunities to learn from our mistakes, but there is no point in showing a lack of respect to anyone. 

As a head chef, what are you like? 

To answer this, I’ll tell you a bit about my background. As I told you, my mother was a chef, but my father was a military policeman. So I learned that discipline is very important to get things done right. However, with this new generation, it’s very important to be fair and to be close to them. You need to lead by example. That is what is most important. I’ve had chefs who shout a lot, but this mindset doesn’t work anymore. I don’t shout in the kitchen. I’m strict, but I want to be close with my team. That’s the secret of success.  

Chef Yann’s heirloom tomato salad recipe 

Chef Yann’s heirloom tomato salad recipe. (Supplied)

 

INGREDIENTS: 

160g goat cheese; 10g honey; 2g Espelette chili  

For the Bloody Mary jelly: 0.5L tomato juice; 5 drops Worcestershire Sauce; 2 drops tabasco; 10g vegetal gelatin; 2g celery salt  

For the heirloom tomatoes: 1 beef heart tomato; 2 Black Krim tomatoes; 1 green zebra tomato; 2 yellow pineapple tomatoes; 8 cherry tomatoes; 1/2 bunch chervil; 1/2 bunch dill; 4g oregano salt; 2g three pepper mix  

For the basil oil: 200ml extra virgin olive; 1/2 bunch basil leaves  

For the Kalamata soil: 50g kalamata olive; 50ml balsamic cream sauce   

INSTRUCTIONS: 

1. In a small bowl, mix goat cheese, honey and chili with a fork. 

2. Roll four balls of 80 grams each. Wrap each of them in a 15cm x 15cm square of cling film. Close it by bringing the four corners together and turning to get the shape of a tomato.  

3. Put the four balls in the freezer for three hours, until they turn hard, then remove the plastic and insert a skewer into each. Keep in the freezer until your Bloody Mary jelly is ready. 

For the Bloody Mary jelly 

1. Heat all the ingredients for the Bloody Mary jelly in a pan and whisk until the jelly becomes smooth.  

2. Soak the goat cheese balls in the jelly on their skewers until you get a red, shiny color. 

For the heirloom tomatoes 

1. Cut all the tomatoes into different shapes. 

2. Keep four green tomatoes for decoration. Fry them for 30 seconds. 

3. Seasoning is important. Add salt and pepper five minutes before plating. 

4. Use the chervil and dill leaves for decoration. Dry them, along with the tomatoes, for five hours at 60 degrees.  

For the basil oil 

1. Put the basil leaves and the olive oil in a mixer and blend. Strain the oil through a coffee filter to get clear green oil. 

For the Kalamata soil 

Dry the olives for five hours at 60 degrees (same as the tomatoes). When they harden, allow to cool, then mix until you get a powder. 

PLATING: 

The plating is always a chance to bring your creativity to the stage. My only advice is to reflect nature on the plate. Start with the beef heart tomato slice in the middle as a base for your goat cheese balls. Don’t forget to add a tomato stalk to them to create ‘realistic’ tomatoes. Create a garden around this with the rest of the tomatoes. Add olive dust and a dot of balsamic cream sauce for the acidity. The dish should be served at room temperature. 


Four of 2024’s top video games so far 

Four of 2024’s top video games so far 
Updated 20 June 2024
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Four of 2024’s top video games so far 

Four of 2024’s top video games so far 

‘Crow Country’ 

SFB Games’ survival horror is a throwback to the glory days of the PlayStation 1, reminiscent of the eerie “Silent Hill” and the classic “Resident Evil.” It’s even set in the Nineties. You play as special agent Mara Forest, investigating the titular abandoned amusement park, which was shut down when its owner mysteriously disappeared and is now populated by mutated former customers. 

‘Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2’ 

Developers Ninja Theory took a big swing with this sequel to its 2017 award-winning action-adventure game, and it paid off handsomely. The titular Pict warrior, who experiences psychosis, is once again brilliantly voiced by Melina Jürgens and the bigger budget has been used wisely, immersing you in the action as Senua hacks her way through the horrors of 10th-century Iceland. 

‘Animal Well’ 

Playing as a blob might not sound like the most enthralling experience, but Shared Memory’s nonlinear platformer in which you (the blob) must navigate a labyrinth filled with animals, solving puzzles along the way will have most players hooked within minutes. Simple to grasp, but increasingly tough to crack, “Animal Well” can quickly become an obsession. 

‘Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown’ 

Thirteen years on from the last major installment in Ubisoft’s action-adventure platformer, a new hero — Sargon — picks up the mantle. Sargon must leave his clan and embark on a sprawling journey to the cursed Mount Qaf in order to rescue his people’s kidnapped prince. It’s a fantastic-looking game with a well-balanced mix of puzzle solving and combat-based button bashing.


Birthday tributes pour in for French Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair

Birthday tributes pour in for French Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair
Updated 19 June 2024
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Birthday tributes pour in for French Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair

Birthday tributes pour in for French Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair

DUBAI: Birthday tributes poured in this week for part-Saudi model Amira Al-Zuhair, who has celebrated her 23rd birthday.

Among those sending warm wishes on Instagram were friends including Stella Ferro, the model manager at Elite Model World which represents Al-Zuhair, Saudi entrepreneur Aisha Almamy, Egyptian actress Ghada Abdel Razek and French Algerian designer Xavier Belmahdi-More, founder of Eddine Belmahdi.

“Happy birthday, my love,” wrote Ferro on her story, sharing a picture of Al-Zuhair. Almamy added: “Happy birthday our Amira,” playfully hinting at the Arabic meaning of the model’s name — princess.

Instagram/ @amiraalzuhair

Al-Zuhair, born in Paris to a French mother and Saudi father, has made her mark on the fashion world and appeared on the runway for an array of renowned fashion houses such as Missoni, Maison Alaia, Brunello Cucinelli, Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana, Giambattista Valli, Giorgio Armani, Elie Saab and many more.

Earlier this month, Al-Zuhair walked in Louis Vuitton’s high jewelry show in Saint-Tropez, which was attended by celebrities such as British actress Phoebe Dynevor and Thai actress Urassaya Sperbund.

The collection was designed by the house’s artistic director of jewelry and watches, Francesca Amfitheatrof.

Instagram/ @amiraalzuhair

Al-Zuhair wore an intricate chunky choker featuring a wide structured design with a lattice-like pattern in gold. It was adorned with diamonds and featured a large yellow gemstone as a focal point.

The catwalk star shared a picture on her Instagram story of herself with Amfitheatrof and her fellow models, where she wore a cut-out black top paired with oversized black salwar pants.

In May, she walked the runway for the Chanel Cruise 2024/2025 show in Marseille, France. She sported a vibrant yellow ensemble featuring hot shorts paired with a button-down top and coordinating cardigan, along with a beige hat, a gold choker embellished with blue detailing, chunky earrings and a chain belt adorned with pendants.

In addition to her runway appearances, Al-Zuhair has featured in campaigns for high-profile brands such as Prada, Chanel and Carolina Herrera.


Sonia Al-Sowaiegh on making music and ‘relatable’ humor

Sonia Al-Sowaiegh on making music and ‘relatable’ humor
Updated 20 June 2024
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Sonia Al-Sowaiegh on making music and ‘relatable’ humor

Sonia Al-Sowaiegh on making music and ‘relatable’ humor

DUBAI: From starring in a campaign for US label Calvin Klein to singing and amassing a loyal following on TikTok, Saudi Bahraini talent Sonia Al-Sowaiegh is working to conquer the entertainment space.

Better known by her online persona, “Shessonia,” Al-Sowaiegh says she wanted to be a singer from the age of eight. Her discography, she told Arab News, is geared towards evoking emotions.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia (@shessonia)

“I don't care if my music goes viral or not, I just want to make one person laugh or make someone’s day,” she said. “Obviously I have goals … but those don’t equate to my goals of making people feel something and resonate with something.”

Her first EP, “Adulting and Adapting,” which was released in 2020, was inspired by the anxiety of transitioning into adulthood.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia (@shessonia)

“I didn't know how to maneuver and act like an adult when I felt like such a child inside,” she said. “That inspired so much of the album because I wanted people to relate to the feeling of being lonely when you are forced to go out there in the world and experience heartbreak and being broke all by yourself.”

She added: “Sadness really is motivation for me to write. Every time I am sad, I write.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia (@shessonia)

But behind the emotional music, Al-Sowaiegh shows her bubbly side on social media, more specifically on TikTok. With videos gaining millions of views, she describes her content as “relatable Khaleeji” humor.

Like many others, her TikTok journey started in 2020 during the Covid lockdown.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Sonia (@shessonia)

“I started posting on TikTok, making fun of other people as a joke, and then my videos went viral. So I started making lifestyle-ish story time (videos) just putting my makeup on and telling extreme stories that happened in my life,” she said.

Al-Sowaiegh is keen to encourage young Arab creatives to put themselves out there and follow their passions.

“Be yourself. If you have a drive inside you that makes you feel like you want to do something, do it. Don't get advice from someone who tells you not to do it,” she said.