Exploring The Mini Shrines In The Villages of Christian Lebanon

Beirut, as seen from Broummana in Mount Lebanon
Beirut, as seen from Broummana in Mount Lebanon

Many of you know that I’m Lebanese and that I try to go back to Lebanon at least once a year. Last year, I posted two blogs about my visits: one about my  March 2016 trip and one about the Feast of the Assumption, which falls on August 15th. You all enjoyed my posts so much that the former post appeared in the Aramco Expats online edition and the other one resulted in my getting more emails than any other post!

Given that it’s August 15th today, the day of the Feast of the Assumption, I thought I’d show you, in pictures, how much the Virgin Mary is celebrated in Lebanon. It’s a national holiday there, and everyone named Mary is celebrated! I drove my dad crazy when we would go for walks as I stopped to photograph every shrine we passed. Making it a challenge to find unique and hidden shrines added to the fun.

In these photos, you’ll find shrines dedicated not only to the Virgin Mary, but to other saints that are important to Lebanese Christians. These include Saint Sharbel, Saint Elias, and Saint Thecla. You can read more about the saints specific to Lebanon here.

This post is meant to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to walk and drive around the small Christian mountain village of Broummana, 20 minutes east of Beirut, in the Mount Lebanon Governorate. You will hear church bells ringing all day on Sunday and on other days of the week. Going to church is a daily activity for many. Outings to visit churches or larger shrines are common all year round. It would be an understatement to say that people in this small village are religious because they are very religious! Many activities revolve around the local churches. Check out this huge church square overlooking beautiful mountain views:

Church veranda for public use and celebrations
Church veranda for public use and celebrations

The mini shrines are typically at the front of people’s properties, near the road, for others to see and enjoy. They can be on trees, set high on pedestals, or set in the woods. And, they can be indoors at public places like hospitals.

These shrines are so much more than the physical structures because they represent a devotion to God and to the saints they depict. They’re a daily reminder about the blessings of life and the need to pray and feel connected spiritually to God, nature, and each other. It’s common to cross oneself every time you pass one of these shrines and to say a quick prayer. There’s a sense of peace, belonging, and comfort as you walk around and see the number and variety of shrines.

Have a look at all of the different mini-shrines and bigger shrines dedicated to saints, below. The captions will tell you more about each one:

Public mini shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary
Public mini shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary
Mini shrine on the side of a road with Virgin Mary inside
Mini shrine on the side of a road with Virgin Mary inside
Mini shrine for Saint Elias on private property
Mini shrine for Saint Elias on private property
Shrine to the Virgin Mary at Bhannes Hospital
Shrine to the Virgin Mary at Bhannes Hospital
Indoor shrine for the Virgin Mary at Bhannes Hospital
Indoor shrine for the Virgin Mary at Bhannes Hospital
Mini shrine dedicated to Saint Sharbel, the Virgin Mary, Saint Elias, on private property
Mini shrine dedicated to Saint Sharbel, the Virgin Mary, Saint Elias, on private property
Mini shrine for the Virgin Mary high on a pine tree
Mini shrine for the Virgin Mary high on a pine tree
A shrine for Saint Thecla, in a church square
A shrine for Saint Thecla, in a church square
Mini shrine on private property, dedicated to Saint Thecla
Mini shrine on private property, dedicated to Saint Thecla
Outdoor altar and shrine for the Virgin Mary, hidden in the woods
Outdoor altar and shrine for the Virgin Mary, hidden in the woods
Outdoor altar and shrine for the Virgin Mary, hidden in the woods
Outdoor altar and shrine for the Virgin Mary, hidden in the woods
Virgin Mary mini shrine on private property
Virgin Mary mini shrine on private property
Shrine on the grounds of Deir Mar Chaaya, a monastery
Shrine on the grounds of Deir Mar Chaaya, a monastery
Mini shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary
Mini shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary

 

Mini shrine for the Virgin Mary outside an old-style Lebanese villa
Mini shrine for the Virgin Mary outside an old-style Lebanese villa
One of my favorite shrines, this mini shrine used a mirror to incorporate nature
One of my favorite shrines, this mini shrine uses a mirror to incorporate nature

So, what do you think? Have you seen so many shrines in such a concentrated place before? Many Catholic and religious parts of the world have such shrines and I’d love to hear where you’ve seen some!

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Bringing A Little Bit Of Europe To A Summer Outfit

Repeat Cashmere Top; Marc Cain Lug Soles; Furla Stacy Bucket BagThis post is a tip of the hat to European styling and designers. As I write this, I realize there’s a lot to talk about when you think about American vs European designers and the different approach to design and style. Hmm, I’m thinking this could be the topic of another blog post, but I digress.

This very simple outfit shown is a little bit outside of my comfort zone in that the top is flowy (where I usually prefer more fitted clothing) and the shoes are lug soles, which I’ve blogged about before (and a little higher than I would choose for every day wear). It’s a casual outfit, yet it has some details that make it more stylized.

Repeat Cashmere TopI gravitated towards this top because it’s navy and because it’s soft, made of silk. It’s also not plain, having some raw edging and tie-dye detailing which I like. The back has a keyhole button and loop closure and the slightly elasticized hem is a separate piece of fabric with more subtle tie-dye detailing along the seam. I paired it with classic white pants because I liked the contrast with the blue. This top is by Repeat Cashmere, a 40 year old clothing company based in Holland that I was familiar with because I love their winter sweaters and cotton blazers. Continue reading

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Wearing Orange…White, And Blue, For That Pop Of Color!

Wearing orange
Wearing orange

I’ve been told I wear navy all the time, and that’s true! It works for my skin tone, I’ve blogged about, and I’m just more comfortable in blues. One way to mix things up is to add bits of color to the blues I wear – and, orange is one of my favorite ways to do this. It’s not much different than red, white, and blue, which is often seen together. Orange is just a softer version of red.

In these photos, I’ve styled this orange merino wool sweater with white jeans. I like the contrast of the orange and white together. Merino wool in the summer is fine if it’s lightweight and a finer knit and it’s actually a good idea in the air-conditioned indoors. Continue reading

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Of Bell Sleeves And Bucket Bags

Bell Sleeve Top from Banana Republic; Furla Stacy Bucket Bag

Summer is passing by so fast and, before it’s over, I want to share a few of my favorite fashion trends. In this post, I’m combining bell sleeves and bucket bags, because, well, time.

Bell sleeves are making a comeback. I remember bell sleeves being big more than ten years ago. I had a super stylish blazer that I hope I haven’t given away – you may see it in an upcoming post! And, I’m seeing more bell sleeve jackets on websites for the fall.

This top works for me because it’s petite. It’s hard to get the right length on the bell sleeves if you’re short and I find that the sleeve length is key in getting an outfit to look proportional. I love the light blue color and the oxford fabric, which gives the top some weight and shape. I’ve paired it with white jeans because that’s mainly all I wear in the summer.

Bell Sleeve Top from Banana Republic Continue reading

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My Delicious Chocolate Orange Cake!

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

Almost everybody loves a good chocolate cake, but last week, I made a simple addition to my usual recipe to make an amazing chocolate orange cake. For some reason, I can’t follow a recipe without making a small change, adding a twist, or substituting an ingredient. It’s more fun that way, and I get to experiment in the otherwise strict domain of baking!

The following recipe is based on my go-to chocolate cake recipe, the ‘Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake’. I love that name. I’ve made it for guests and they love it, too. It’s very chocolate-y and it uses cocoa powder in both the cake and icing.

Chocolate Orange Cake
Zesty Chocolate Orange Cake

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Fun With OTS (Off The Shoulder) Tops!

Rayon Top From Reitmans

The ‘Off The Shoulder’, or OTS, trend has been around for some time now and it’s nearly impossible to go into any store without seeing some variation on this theme! Simply put, an OTS top exposes your shoulders. I love this trend.

There are also ‘cold shoulder’ tops where just the top of your shoulder is exposed in an otherwise regular style top. I think that’s an even sexier look than the straight across OTS look because it’s just an ‘exposure’ of the shoulders and not the whole décolleté! Continue reading

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Monochromatic Linen Scarves In The Summer

Kala Scarves
Handpainted Linen Kala Scarf

In my last post on scarves, I showed how a contrasting scarf adds interest to an outfit. Well, a monochromatic scarf can also enhance an outfit!

The scarves here are by the Canadian-based Kala Scarves. The Spring/Summer 2017 collection includes a wide range of fabrics, from lightweight wool/silk, modal/silk, to linen. There are many colors and designs, some abstract and some with summer themes like boats. In the warm weather, I love wearing linen for its lightweight texture.

Kala Scarves
Handpainted Linen Kala Scarf

In these photos, I’m wearing two different rectangular linen scarves with the same jacket. Because the scarves are handpainted, each one is unique and a piece of wearable art. No two scarves are exactly the same! I love the pink/red patches of color on the neutral cream and beige backgrounds. The tweed jacket has pink and red threads in it and I think the linen scarves dress up the jacket even more. On its own, the jacket is smart casual and can make any jean outfit look put together. By adding the linen scarf in the same tones, there’s that extra layer of color and richness. Plus, if you tend to run on the cold side like I do, you can use the scarf as a wrap in the air-conditioned indoors! Continue reading

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The Best Shortbread Sugar Cookies For Canada Day!

Canada Day Cookies
Canada Day Cookies

Today marks the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation! As an immigrant to Canada, I cannot be more grateful that I live here. I’m more proud every year and I love celebrating everything about Canada. When I first moved here, I kept asking people how Canada was different from the United States, where I had lived prior to moving. It was a lot of fun to hear what each person thought was the major difference. After living here for more than 25 years, I can tell you what is different, but that would be the subject of another post! Let’s just say that our cities consistently rank as the top livable cities in the world and that, along with Canada’s diversity, is one of the reasons I love living here.

This year we’ve seen lots of fun activities going on around the country in celebration of Canada’s 150th, also called Canada 150 by the Government of Canada.

Continue reading

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My Basic Morning Skin Care Routine

Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash, Reversa Cleansing Micellar Solution, Reversa Solution for Oily and Acne Prone Skin, Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen
Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash, Reversa Cleansing Micellar Solution, Reversa Solution for Oily and Acne Prone Skin, Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion

This is my first beauty post!

I thought I’d dip my toe into the beauty blogging world and share some of my favorite go-to products, starting with five that are part of my morning skin care routine. I’ll share more in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

I wouldn’t describe myself as having beautiful skin. I battled acne as a teen and in my early twenties and I was very self-conscious about it. It defined who I was for a few years. I was on a couple of different medications until I found the right one. And, finding the right one was a game changer for me. Then, things settled down, acne-wise, but I experience breakouts from time to time. Over the years, I’ve figured out what works for me and why. I’m very picky about the products I use in terms of how they address acne and oily skin: they can’t feel oily on my skin. The less greasy they feel, the more likely I will be to incorporate them into a regular skin care routine!

Let’s start with these five items that are part of my daily skin care routine. Continue reading

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Current Fave: Floral Embroidered Jeans

Floral Embroidered Jeans
Floral Embroidered Jeans

I first started blogging about two years ago, as part of a Digital Strategy Certificate I was getting at the University of Toronto. I had a lot of support from family and friends and a lot of input. One of the comments I got was that blog posts can be short and sweet. That’s what this one is!

There’s not much to say about these floral embroidered jeans, other than that I love them and that I get lots of compliments on them, from friends and family. Unsolicited compliments, too!

Floral Embroidered Jeans
Floral Embroidered Jeans

I got these at a local boutique in Toronto. I tried them on and then walked out of the store because I’m not an impulse buyer. But, I walked right back in because I didn’t think they’d last and because they hit a few summer trends: light wash, skinny, ripped, embroidered, and floral embroidered jeans. They’re so easy to style, too: with a plain white t-shirt, scarf, and sneakers; with a navy classic blazer and flats/mocassins; with a long-sleeved shirt in navy or white; and, with tanks and flip-flops. Continue reading

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