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Friday, December 26, 2014

Ho, Ho... Huh?

'Tis the season to be jolly, at least that's what the song says. I actually really like how everyone is so into the Christmas spirit here. I know that a lot of people get stressed over Christmas shopping, but I'm not one of them. I am an expert shopper. This year was a world record, even for me. Black Friday, laptop... BOOM! All shopping done in two hours.

You can't really online shop in Beirut. There were about two destinations where I could do my Christmas shopping: ABC Mall and downtown. I do miss the tacky decorations along Hamra Street, though, and the smell of roasted chestnuts on every corner intermingled with shawarma roasting and manakeesh baking. I don't know if they still do this, but they used to play Christmas carols through loud speakers all down the main road as people shopped or sat in cafes. It was a nice counter-balance to the constant 'toot' of car horns and people yelling out of car windows because of traffic.

Over here, we get the Tacky Christmas Light tours instead. I have to admit, they are a lot of fun. The lengths people go to to make their homes look like the North Pole threw up all over the place just to blind your retinas is really quite extraordinary. As for music, there's even an incredibly annoying festive radio station solely dedicated to playing carols (no, it does not make me roll my eyes; no, I did not just roll my eyes thinking about it). And of course, every mall in the country plays Christmas music while you shop. (Side Note: Mariah Carey must get tons of residual checks this time of year. All I want for Christmas? Stop hearing that song!!)

Because I am so thoughtful and considerate, I pick out my own gifts and send the wish lists out so others don't have to stress about what to give me. These gifts rarely work out for me though. Although I am a great in-real-life-shopper, my online shopping persona is not so effective. I look at things online and think, Ooh, this would look so cute on me. Click, item put on wish list. I put so many things on my wish list that I often forget what I picked. So, come Christmas morning, when I open up the present and see what's inside, I'm almost always like, 'Oh... this is um nice.'

This year, for example, I got red pants. I opened up the box and inside there were red pants. They made me think of Mr. B and his red pants, for which I constantly made (make, he still wears them) fun of him. I think I must've been drunk when I was picking them out because, WTF, Anissa? Red bloody pants! Never Sits Still was like, 'But you picked them'! I did a quick recover and immediately professed my love for them while trying to remember what the hell other questionable pieces of clothing I sent out as part of my disastrous wish list.

I soon found out. A pair of still-can't-determine-what-color-but-could-be-some-kind-of-beigy-grey pants with giant pockets down the middle of the thigh with huge shiny buttons. Because, you know, my thighs don't look large enough as they are, so let's add more material and bling to accentuate them even more. Tres chic. Surprise, surprise, don't remember those either, but apparently, 'They were on your wish list,' said another gift giver, who shall remain anonymous because she is awesome, and I did pick the hideous thigh enlargers, so it's totally not her fault.

Ok, so the moral of the story is Christmas is not about the gifts (yeah right, but had to put that in there to stave off hate mail or any chastising about the true meaning of the Christmas spirit, etc), and also don't do your own shopping online.

In fact, if you're in Beirut, head over to Spinneys (or any number of official resellers and pubs) and get yourself a few bottles of this instead! (Shameless plug for J2 Vodka, but it's my blog!) The best present you can give and the true 'spirit' of the holidays!

Merry Happy New Everything!

Follow me on Twitter @anissarafeh 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Amusement Park Fun a la Libanais!

I'm just going to pretend that it hasn't been six months since I last wrote a blog entry. I'm going to be one of those people that sweeps things under the rug in hopes that no one will notice. (A six month absence isn't really such a long time in the blogosphere, right?) Sweep, sweep.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I had the immense pleasure of spending a weekend with Harry Potter. It was AWESOME! I hadn't been to an amusement park in decades, literally, because of my whole complete disinterest in roller coasters and such. But this was different. This was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To walk in Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley and take the Hogwarts Express was a dream come true! Yes, I am that much of a geek.

The long weekend trip could not have come at a better time. Benedict Cumberbatch got engaged (insert tragic crying emoticon here)... and I was definitely in need of a bright picker-upper. With Never Sits Still and her gang in tow, we headed to sunny Orlando for the vacation of a lifetime.

First thing was flying there. We found a great deal on some tickets, but at the airport, I discovered that this airline does not have assigned seating. It's a first come, first serve kind of thing, which made me kind of panic. My Lebanese blood started to churn as I imagined everyone fighting to get a seat. This was going to be a nightmare, I thought. Images of my life in Beirut and the enigma of the Lebanese people's inability to wait in line in a cordial manner consumed my thoughts.

But then I remembered, Hey I'm in the US now and Americans love to wait in line. Since I moved back here, I noticed that whenever there are two lines, there are always 800 people in one and only two in the other. Sure enough the ordeal was short lived and we all found seats with little fuss (and no bruises).

As soon as we arrived to our hotel, we dumped our bags and headed to Diagon Alley. WHOPPEE! I was literally jumping up and down in excitement, but with grown-ups dressed as cartoon characters on every corner, I didn't feel like too much of an idiot. But then on the second day, we decided to try some other non-Harry Potter attractions. As always, I styled my hair in the morning and wore a comfortable yet stylish outfit that I thought was suitable amusement park attire. Maybe in Beirut. Boy did I feel like an idiot after going on a water ride! I looked like a drowned rat.

While other people were screaming in fear, I was screaming because my hair got wet. I'm not kidding. Through all the 'Ahhs', you could hear me yell, 'My hair! My hair!' This one couple on the ride started laughing at me, and rightly so. They were like, "Um, why'd you dress like that?" I gave them death stares and said, "I'm Lebanese, ok? We only wear gym clothes to the gym!" Ok, you caught me. I didn't say anything, but laughed along with them. I really was a sight. I tried to imagine MadGlam in my predicament, with her gold and diamonds dripping all over the place. At least I'm not wearing jewelry, I thought.

I looked over at the couple that were mocking me (in good fun, but whatever) in their gym gear, hair in a hassle-free ponytail or a cap, and flip flops, and where 10 minutes before I was thinking, pick up a copy of InStyle, I was now thinking these people are amusement park fashion geniuses.

Before going on the ride of hair-disaster-hell, I saw people cramming into these giant hot air blowers and thought how moronic. It cost $5 and I was like, what a waste of money, suckerrrrsss! Guess where I headed as fast as my soaked, denim-clad legs could take me afterwards? You guessed it: the giant dryers. If my hair looked bad before, you can imagine how it looked after five minutes in those dryers. I sent a picture of myself to a What's App group of my peeps and one wrote back that I looked like Monica from the episode of Friends where her is so awful frizzy, she has to put it in dreadlocks. That was one of the nicer comments.

I looked around for a hat store or any place I could buy a hair band. I messaged the What's App group and informed them of my emergency hair rescue plan. Miss HotStuff responded immediately, "No no no, your hair will stick out at the sides and look worse." "No no no," I countered, "I look good in hats." Well, not to toot my own horn, but I do. Long story short, I found a hat. It cost $30 and was made of paper, but it did the job so I consider it a good investment.

The moral of the story is this: you can take the girl out of Lebanon, but not Lebanon out of the girl. And also, water + Anissa's hair = disaster that not even Harry Potter's wizarding can fix!

Follow me on Twitter @anissarafeh 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Madness with MadGlam

Pic courtesy of MadGlam
So the great RIC had the pleasure of MadGlam's mighty presence recently. Before she came, I warned her: "Are you sure you want to come to Richmond? I repeat: Richmond." And she fervently expressed her excitement at coming. I may be slightly exaggerating on the excitement part. It is RIC after all.

Anyhoo, I picked her up at the train station and she arrives in typical MadGlam style: wearing leopard print pants and sparkly shoes. But then there is the enigma that is MadGlam, she carries her own luggage and travels by train (first class, but still, by train).

The first thing she says to me is, "Take me to get a po-boy sandwich." And I was like, "What the @#$% is a po-boy sandwich?" I literally had to Google it. MadGlam turned to me, amazed, "You live in the South and don't know what a po-boy is?" Even with the Google image and description in hand I had no clue what she was talking about. MadGlam comes to Richmond and her first request is... a gargantuan sandwich?

Well, her wish was my command. We headed over to Pixie Minxie's, who is much more informed of all things RIC, and asked her about this mysterious po-boy and where I could procure one for my dear leopard-print clad friend. She immediately Yelped it and we found a place that was, of course, a million miles away. I had to use Google maps, because I'm one of those RICers who sticks to my neighborhood. If I have to cross a toll, I avoid the place at all costs. But this was MadGlam, so toll be damned.

After the po-boy, it was time to parrttyyyyy, of course. I had devised a plan beforehand with Pixie Minxie to take MadGlam to a typical, no frills bar. I thought, how hilarious it would be to see her in what my co-worker would describe as a 'Murica setting. She is used to glitz and glam, after all, not beer and buffalo wings. But when we got to the place, it wasn't 'Murica enough for her! My plan backfired.

"Let's go to a redneck bar," she then said. I laughed. As if. Pixie was like, "OK, I know a place." Wait... what? This is a serious plan now? "Uh, no. It's going to be full of truck drivers," I said. But apparently MadGlam really wanted to hangout with truck drivers. She met one on the train who told her he was best friends with drug dealers. She then thought it was a good idea to let him watch her suitcase while she went to the restroom. I told her she was nuts, he could've stuffed something in her suitcase! "No, no. I checked," she said, as if it were totally normal to hangout with truck drivers who are best friends with drug dealers.

So, of course, we ended up at a redneck bar. As soon as we got there, MadGlam went to the restroom and came out, eyes bright with excitement, "I love this place already! These ladies in the toilet - who complimented my pants, by the way - told me that last week, this 'skank' was so drunk, she couldn't wait to get to the stall, so she pulled down her pants and peed all over the bathroom floor." Oh. My. God.

To say I was horrified is an understatement (and since when does MadGlam use the word 'skank'?). But MadGlam simply took the drink I had ordered for her and went to the dance floor, where a live band was playing. Pixie is a laid back gal who is very cool and has fun anywhere. She grooved with MadGlam while I leaned against a pool table and tried not to touch anything for fear of contamination.

The band was actually really good and they played classic rock tunes that I love. I was surprised that MadGlam was so into the music, since she prefers Frenchie pop. She claimed to recognize a few of the songs - actually one song - but I'm pretty sure she still confuses band names with designer handbag labels ("No MadGlam, you're thinking of Balenciaga, this is Bon Jovi.")

She then decided she wanted to meet a cop. Don't ask me why. So she goes to the bartender and says in her French accent, "Hello, excuse me, are there any cops here?" He looked confused, so I explained that she is from out of town and it's on her to-do list. I realize now that that sounded really bad, as he then turned to her and said, "I can be a cop, baby." Oh. My. God. Unfazed, she turned around and went back to the dance floor. I laughed uncomfortably, asked for the tab and tried not to grimace when he said, "Sure, baby." Ew. Really?

When we turned to leave, we spied MadGlam chatting with a guy. "Shoo, was a he a cop?" I asked a bit later. "No, another truck driver, but I don't think this one is friends with drug dealers."

What can I say? There is always madness when MadGlam is around!

Follow me on Twitter @anissarafeh

Friday, June 20, 2014

Unleashing My Party Gene with J2 Vodka - Woot, Woot!!

Adam Aboulhosn makes J2 happen!
So, I know you're all wondering, where oh where can Anissa be? Still mourning the loss of her once-future-husband, George questionable-taste-in-fiancees Clooney? Sulking away at Tarjeh spending way too much money on lip gloss she will never use? Drowning her sorrows in caramel macchiatos from the only-fools-pay-$5-for-coffee Starbucks? Stealing Starbursts from unsuspecting 11-year-olds? I'm glad to tell you 'NO' to all of the above (except the Tarjeh thing - damn that place! Okay, and Starbucks - damn that drive-thru!). So what have I been up to? I'm happy to say that this week, I got to unleash my party gene - yes, even here in the mighty RIC! Yesterday, J2, Lebanon's first premium vodka celebrated its pre-launch in Beirut, and although I could not be there physically, I was definitely there in spirit.

The story of J2 is actually four years in the making. It started as a dream on a balcony in the mountains of Lebanon when two exceptionally forward thinking men decided that Lebanon needed its own vodka. Adam Aboulhosn and Paul Koder, his brother-in-law, were sitting together when Paul said, "Adam, let's make a Lebanese vodka." Adam, the founder of J2 said yes, and the rest, as they say is history.

There were many hurdles along way, but with a lot of hard work and a dedicated heart, J2 Vodka - which gets its name from the genetic marker of the ancient Phoenicians - finally made its entrance in grand style on the rooftop of the Lancaster Plaza Hotel. And what an entrance it was, amid the lovely backdrop of Beirut's shore! I couldn't be there, of course, but I saw a lot of familiar faces in attendance from the photographs splashed all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, like comedian Nemr Abou Nassar, DJ MadJam, band members from the Wanton Bishops, and Radio One personality Gavin Ford.

Although I was in front of my computer screen and constantly checking updates on my phone, I felt like I was there, clinking glasses of signature J2 caviar shots with other party goers and letting my party gene loose. Mr. B got to go and he gave me some firsthand accounts throughout the evening. This is a big deal considering that the World Cup is going on. But since England lost to Italy (sorry, mate) I guess he figured there was no better way to lift his spirits than with some good ol' J2!

MadGlam is probably reading this and going, 'Anissa, you have a party gene?' She has her doubts because when she came to visit last week, she dragged me to a redneck bar along with Pixie Minxie to hang out with truck drivers. I am not kidding. This was what she wanted to do. She had a great time, but I was miserable, trying to stand as still as possible so I wouldn't touch anything (but more on that later). And to make matters worse, there was no J2 there to make the night more enjoyable!

You might be wondering why I'm so excited about J2 Vodka. Well, as I said when I moved in November, I left behind my heart and it will be there, always. But at least now, I can pick up a bottle of J2 and have a little taste of my beautiful Lebanon any time I want.

So, yeah, even I have the party gene! Doesn't every Lebanese?

Follow me on Twitter @anissarafeh 

Like J2 on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @J2Vodka

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oh George, it could've been me!

Did I say 'could've'? I meant 'should've', it should've been me! I mean seriously, George, if you were going to end up with a Lebanese chick, why not me? Like your present fiancee, I too hail from the glorious mountains of Lebanon - albeit, the other side of the mountain, but many would argue that it is, in fact, the prettier side. I also speak Arabic (kind of, sort of) and French (bonjour!), and although I've never tried a case, I do object to a lot of things (there are how many calories in this caramel macchiato? I object!).

Admittedly, the similarities stop there: I wasn't born in Lebanon like Amal, no, I was actually born in Kentucky, like you. Ha! See how much we have in common? Also, I'm not a fancy lawyer, but I do own fancy handbags. And I'm not British, but hello, I have about three or four Burberry bags, and that's close enough. Oh, and I went to a British school for seven years and can do a killer accent. Just ask Mr. B, who as a native can vouch for my totally authentic Englishness.

I'd also like to point out that I have been a loyal fan since you played Falconer on the TV show Sisters, and remained loyal while you played Dr. Ross on ER and saw all your films. Ok, you got me. I missed The American. And the March of Dimes. And The Monuments Men. And Ocean's 512. But I really liked Syriana. And that movie where you played the lawyer that fixed things for bigwig clients, kind of like the male Olivia Pope, but without the affair with the president and designer shoes.

So what if over the years my dedication waned ever so slightly. Yes, I had a brief thing with Michael Fassbender. But in my defense, did you see the Jane Eyre remake? I mean, who wouldn't, right? And then there is the whole Benedict Cumberbatch thing. I'm going to plead the fifth on that one on the grounds that I may incriminate myself (psst, hey Ben, ignore this, I still adore you!). Despite these, um, transgressions, when I wrote my book and my publishers posted my biography on their site, I gave a shout out to you (as my future husband) and only you. But were you even remotely appreciative? No! So ungrateful, George, really.

Yes, so I should be the one wearing that ring and going to parties with Cindy Crawford and her husband. On second thought, Cindy still looks amazing and if I wanted to feel bad about myself, I could just sit in front of the TV and watch Victoria's Secret commercials all day. (OT but don't you just hate it when you're watching The Mindy Project and you think to yourself, hmm, I could eat a lovely bowl of ice cream right about now, and then that commercial comes on and you're just like crap, no more ice cream for me?)

Ok, I digress. You still with me, George? No? Well, you should be! (Psst Ben, call me!)

Follow me on Twitter @anissarafeh 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let's Get the Party Started!

Things just keep getting more and more exciting here in the RIC. I'm going to use RIC from now on, because I think it makes us Richmonders all the more cooler that we have our own INTERNATIONAL airport, and by international, I mean that you can fly to Hawaii or somewhere in Canada. But still, at least we have an airport.

No, seriously, Richmond is great. Very cosmopolitan. Just the other day, I attended my very first live minor league baseball game to cheer on our very own Richmond Squirrels. So what if I left right after the national anthem. So what if I only went because my niece was singing the national anthem. The point is, I went to the baseball game, stood in line to get in holding a ticket and everything and sat in the bleachers. Yes, bleachers.

As I looked around the stadium, watching people in baseball caps chug beers from plastic cups, I thought to myself, Wow, I've come a long way since sitting at a frou-frou beach club in Beirut while some ditz was taking selfies of herself at the pool bar carrying a Chanel bag. People were actually interested in the game, not looking around to see who got the latest plastic surgery procedure and/or $10,000 handbag. Different worlds indeed.

In addition to baseball, other fascinating things I've been up to is figuring out the black money hole that is Target - oh excuse me, Tarjeh. If someone can please explain how it is possible to go in for a stick of deodorant and end up paying $300, please let me know. I am convinced someone from Hogwarts has cast a mysterious 'spend all your money here' spell on the place, so that you end up with 10 different colors of nail polish that you will never wear and hair products that will sit under your sink collecting dust for the next 20 years.

I think it's really scary how much I love Tarjeh. Whenever MadGlam calls and asks what I've been up to, I really want to lie and say that I've been hanging out at all these amazing clubs and restaurants, but it's weird how  99% of the time when she rings I'm actually at Tarjeh. When she asks where I am, I give the vague 'running errands' answer, because I think the mystery will make me sound more interesting. One time I was on the phone with Miss HotStuff and going through the Starbucks drive-thru, and she was like, 'Starbucks has a drive-thru over there? That is so neat!' She lives in London and was totally impressed so I felt cool for three seconds.

So come on over to the RIC - it has everything: live sports, international airports, drive-thru Starbucks and a magical Tarjeh on every corner! Did someone say partayyy?

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Richmonder

Hello dear reader! Are you still there (yes, Mom, I'm talking to you)? Welcome to my new blog (actually, it's the same one but I just switched the word 'Lebanon' to 'Richmond' because I couldn't be bothered to create a whole new template). Anyhoo, it's been three months since I left Lebanon, the longest I have been away in 18 years, so I think it's fair to now call myself a Richmonder. Since you all know me as Anissa in Lebanon, I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce myself as Anissa in Richmond. I feel like maybe I need to make myself a little more relatable to my now much wider American audience (hey Mom, can you send this to your friends?). So here are some things you should know about the more American me.

(Disclaimer: I am not schizophrenicDisclaimer II: I am not a conformist. Disclaimer III: I still love Benedict Cumberbatch. Disclaimer IV: I know that has nothing to do with this blog.) 

1. I am still living with my sister and her family until I find a job, although I have been upgraded from nephew's room to bonafide guest bedroom. This is a good thing because a) I am no longer surrounded by Lego and b) There is a TV set.

2. I have never in my life had a Twinkie. My sister and brother-in-law could not believe this. An American who's never had a Twinkie? What sort of travesty against all things Americana is this? (My sister still watches General Hospital, so it is totally believable that she would react this way.) I told her not having a Twinkie was gonna be 'my thing'. I pictured it as this really cool conversational opener I would have with my new American potential friends when I met them for the first time. New Potential Friend: So, tell me a little about yourself. Me: Well, I've never had a Twinkie. NPF: No way! That is so neat and unusual. You must be a cool person. Let's be friends. Me: Yippie!

(Incidentally, I have also never been on a roller coaster, but that is mainly because I like having my internal organs stay where they are internally in my body.)

3. Because I am so exciting and have such an irrepressible sense of adventure, my new favorite hangouts are Costco, Kroger and Target (which I pronounce Tarjeh, because it sounds more 'clah' and I've still got some Lebanese in me).

4. Whenever friends or family from abroad chat with me and ask why I seem so distracted and I tell them that I'm busy working, in reality I am probably just playing Candy Crush. I went to the hairdresser the other day and brought my iPad to play. The stylist asked me about the game and I told her not to download it because it was like crack or meth. She gave me this strange look and I realized, this chick does not know me, she thinks I'm being literal. So I had to say that I've never done crack or meth, I just imagine that it would be like a Candy Crush addiction, except it doesn't age you by a gazillion years like those people in the meth mug shots that are posted all over Facebook so that people won't take meth. She looked relieved, I'm not kidding.

5. Do not put a Starburst candy in front of me, because I will do whatever it takes to take the entire packet away from you and eat them all. This is not a joke. Even if it's the jumbo sized Halloween bag. I will eat the whole thing. My niece got Starbursts for Valentine's Day. I waited til she went to bed and then stole them. She somehow heard me rustling through her things downstairs, came to the landing at the top of the stairs, caught me redhanded stuffing them in my face, and gave me this look of utter betrayal. 'You're eating my candy?' she cried. I did not flinch. 'You should thank me for saving you from cavities,' I said. 'Okay, you can have them,' she replied with watery eyes as she retreated, head down, back to her bedroom. I was moved for about 2 1/2 seconds, then proceeded to finish her Starbursts.

And there you have the essentials of Anissa, the Richmonder. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section and I will be sure to answer you in between Costco runs and Candy Crush sessions (unless, of course, you are Benedict Cumberbatch, in which case I will even give up my Starbursts!).