Ishtar Esmail

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Cacao Energy Nut Balls

The perfect pre or post gym snack. Also, the nut balls are a great dessert treat that will hit the spot! This recipe makes approximately 20 Cacao Energy Nut Balls.


  • Approximately 18 dates
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbs coconut oil – melted
  • 2 tbs raw cacao powder
  • chopped pistachios for coating (lightly toasted makes them devine)


  1. Process the nuts (except pistachios) in a food processor until chopped. Next, place them in a big bowl.
  2. Now process the rest of the ingredients, and add them into the bowl with the chopped nuts.
  3. If the mixture is too dry, add some more coconut oil or even a dash of almond milk.
  4. Form mixture into balls and roll them into the chopped pistachios to coat.
  5. Keep in mind – these balls are quite sticky so you will need to place them in the fridge for at least half and hour to firm up. I prefer eating them the following day!

Glass City: Venice, Italy

May 20th, 2015 – Arrival Day

We arrived in Venice, Italy in the late morning. In order to get to the famous water island, we had to take a bus followed by a water boat taxi. The ride in was quite the treat. The waters were high and choppy making for a water spraying journey.


The Boscolo Venezia Hotel is where we stayed. Part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, this hotel has an authentic italian style that has definitely been preserved through time. The main lobby was adorned with glass chandeliers – extravagant, bold and breath-taking.

Upon touring the hotel, I learnt of its’ famous secret garden. Also known as the church’s garden. It is one of the few gardens located within the city. A walk through the garden allows you to enjoy the sounds of birds chirping, layer upon layers of colourful flowers and to the very back is a gate leading out to a platform leading to nothing but endless water.

May 20th, 2015 – The Grand Canal & Rialto Bridge

Today was the perfect day to walk through the city and take pictures – minus the drizzle. We visited the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark. The craftsmanship and detail of the inside of the church was remarkable. The detail of the artwork and use of gold was plastered throughout. I can’t imagine the amount of time it took to create it. Unfortunately, given the extensive amount of art, it was no surprise to see that only sections of the church have been thoroughly cleaned leaving many others to look covered in dust and dirt.

Later that day we walked towards Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal. The streets along the way were filled with shops filled with high end merchandise to venetian masks to murano glass wear. The restaurants at the Grand Canal were much pricer than near our hotel. The meal was tasty, fresh and expensive. I do have to say be careful when you order a fish, the price does rack up quickly.

The best part of Venice – the enjoyment of simply walking everywhere! It never gets old when every corner holds another spectacular view.

May 21st, 2015 – San Marco


We hoped for better weather today but it seems we brought our rain from Vancouver. It didn’t stop us from jumping into a Gondola and getting a tour of the inner channels within the city.



The bright coloured boats were on every turn. It made for some exquisite instagram worthy photos.

Our stops included:

  • Campanile di San Marco – the St. Mark bell tower, the highest structure of the city.
  • Piazza San Marco – San Marco square which is a beautiful piazza that many flock to. Interestingly enough, during the months of October to March its access is often prevented due to the high tide.

We experienced this when the tide was high that evening and flooded parts of the streets.

  • Basilica di San Marco- the stunning church we visited that has five domes and is made of gold, statues, glass and carvings.
  • Palazzo Mocenigo – this palace was built to house one of the most illustrious families in Venice.
  • Santa Maria della Salute – the church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was built in 1630 when the plague killed many.
  • Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) – this bridge connects the Palazzo delle Prigioni and Palazzo Ducale. It’s called the bridge of sighs because in the olden times, convicts – after their trial – were forced to enter the prison through the bridge. After getting their last glimpse to Venice, it is said they would let out a sigh.




March 22nd – Venetian Ghetto

Today we decided not to head to San Marco Square (which was about a 25 minute walk from the hotel or a 5 minute water taxi) but rather wandered our local neighbourhood and a few bridges later, we arrived in the Venice Ghetto. The name of this area refers to the district where the Venetian republic segregates the Jews. This enclosed neighbourhood was not given a negative meaning. In fact, Venice had a separate living area for Turkish and German merchants as well. This area while a tad run town in certain parts, was actually quite beautiful and lively. During the evenings, many art exhibitions take place here. During the day, you will find many bakeries, a school, and several artist owned shops.

Mid-day took an interesting turn. We all decided to get a pedicure from 70 – 100  Garra Ruffa fish. These fish originate from Turkey and are known as cleaner fish since they eat away your dead skin. It’s a wonderful sensation and it feels as if the fish are kissing your feet and surprisingly I did not find it overly ticklish besides when they were on the bottom of my feet. My feet were both soft and smoothe after a 10 minute encounter and it only cost $ 10.00 euros for the experience.

In the late afternoon to evening we shopped! Venice delivered shoes, purses and jewellery.  We all felt like kids in the candy store. Surprisingly the prices were reasonable for the quality.

My Favourites:

1. The Canal & Boats – Picturesque wherever your days adventure took you!

2. The Murano Glass Jewellery – absolutely amazing what they can do with glass.

3. Pizza – I could eat it everyday!

4. Walking everywhere. It was such a great workout everyday!

5. Shopping – Because, literally wherever you go its nice to take a piece back home with you.




Whistler Wonderland: The Winterscape


February 19th/2015
Squamish – Shannon Falls, British Columbia – Canada

This weekend I truly took the phrase #TouristInMyOwnCity to heart and escaped to the mountains; Whistler, Canada to be exact. A #WinterWonderland where one can breathe in the cool fresh mountain air and enjoy the serenity of nature from lush evergreen trees and deep blue waters to the snow caped mountains. It’s hard to believe this hidden gem and world wonder is less than a two hour drive outside of Vancouver, British Columbia – Canada.

Sea-To-Sky Highway 

My great escape began on a chilly February morning with way too much excitement. The route gave us a quick tour of Downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park. Driving the sea-to-sky highway was spectacular to say the least. While we did experience a few droplets along the way, it couldn’t possible dampen the mood. We enjoyed breathtaking views while driving down windy roads. We peaked through luscious vibrant green trees to see sapphire blue running water and snow capped mountains.




Sea-To-Sky Gondola

Driving along, I remembered my dad mentioning Shannon Falls as being the perfect rest stop and worth a visit. Unfortunately, we just missed the exit so we decided to stop at the very next one with the hope of being able to walk on over. We parked at the Sea-To-Sky Gondola and watched as gondola after gondola ascended up into the sky towards mountains covered by airy clouds . From here, we were fortunate enough to find a path that would lead us to Shannon Falls.



Shannon Falls

Lucky for us, it had just drizzled and boy were we in for a treat as sunshine was poking through the sky lighting up the path all around us. It was at this point that nature truly took my breath away. Remarkable how light and nature take on a whole new meaning in the wild. You walk or run when it suits you, sleep when the sun goes down and wake when the light returns.When we finally stopped taking pictures and marvelling at thunderous water pounding down the rocks, we jumped back into the car and continued on our journey. To hungry to wait to eat in Whistler Village, we took a break in Squamish and hit up the local White Spot for some comfort food. You guessed it; burgers and fries!


Make sure your equipped with a warm winter jacket,  a pair of boots and thick socks. I highly recommend clothes you can layer as you never know what weather you make encounter on an adventure.

I was wearing 

TNA Alps Hat

Aldo Brown Ankle Boots

Roots Cozy Fleece Black Leggings

Mini Bega Satchel Bag

Community Aureus Grey Sweater Dress

Under Armour Infrared Avondale Ski Jacket





No more stops were made the rest of the way but the views around each bend were enticing us to take breaks all along the way.  After unpacking, we headed to our first stop of the night, Amsterdam Brewery. Whistler much like Switzerland is known for outdoor food and drinks regardless of the weather. Naturally that meant we found a nice spot on the patio with a heater to enjoy some beers under bright red lights. For dinner we ate at the Mexican Corner and then it was time to head to bed so we could rise for the slopes early the next morning.

February 20th/2015
Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia – Canada

Light streamed across my face and a crisp breeze crept through the crack in the window. Morning had come and I was going to embrace every moment! The day brought about a feeling of uncertainty and excitement.  Once fitted for skis, we glided our way to the ski bench and were lifted high about the trees and snow below.

Mother nature got me like……………………………………………….Woah!


It’s this landscape where the mountains whisper to you. A place where you can hear your own echo. Where one can embrace the stillness and solitude of one’s existence and the serenity of being a tiny speck in this brave new world. The snow flowing freely down the mountains. A trail-less destination.


After a super charged morning we headed to Brewhouse for some beers to unwind and take in the character building landscape of Whistler – Blackcomb.



That evening we discovered a quaint spot called Beacon Pub & Eatery. Dressed to impress in my best pub clothes! We loved the live band and atmosphere with dim lighting and friendly strangers. You literally will run into an aussie accent on every corner. Try not to fall in love! BPE will serve you up a delightful drink and warm you up with some delicious comfort food eats. A favourite location among the locals and centrally located in the main square.



I was wearing. 

Club Monaco Leather Tights

Gray Aritzia Top Similar Here

Michael Kors Leopard Clutch Similar Here



February 21th/2015
Whistler Village, British Columbia – Canada

After a thrilling day skiing the day before, we thought about spending the Saturday at the Spa. It sounds crazy to spend a full day at one but we found out just how easy one can find themselves lost to the day. We headed to Scandinave Spa near Spruce Grove in Whistler and drove through a rocky terrain complete with a one way bridge and free flowing water. It’s true what they say about going to the mountains – you come here to get lost.



Upon arrival, we had to wait 15 minutes for a spot to free-up because the baths are so busy! The Nordic oasis was majestic!  Overlooking incredible mountain vistas and valleys, we were engulfed by dense spruce and cedar trees. It was beyond beautiful sitting in the hot baths looking over Lost Lake. The hot baths invigorated and cleansed our minds and bodies. The waterfalls and clean air gave us time to ponder and appreciate our surroundings.


To enjoy the full health benefits of these baths, we followed the Spa process – warm the body for 10 to 15 minutes, 20 to 30 second cold rinse, followed by 15 minutes relaxation. We of course repeated this process 3 to 4 times! Good to keep in mind that the Spa does not allow you to talk. It was absolutely wonderful!


That evening we walked around Whistler Village and discovered quaint shops and neat statues! The mountains blanketed the skyline whilst walking from gully to gully in the village.



One of my favourites was Purebread. Filled with detectible desserts and snacks served up with steaming hot lattes and coffees.




We even managed to find some rings – Olympic ones at that. Oh, and tried our hand at bob sledding.



Okay I lied – the bobsled is stationery but I did have a flashback to cool runnings!

February 22th/2015
Lions Bay, British Columbia – Canada

Of course after the weekend we had, we did not want to leave. The drive back to Vancouver was as picturesque as the way there. Interestingly enough the drive back offered a different view that we didn’t get to fully enjoy on the drive in.


Running water on one side and giant mountains on another. Simply a marvel – mother nature’s glorious statue.


Which house is mine? Let’s live in the mountains –


No filter required – this is oh natural…


The craftsmanship and detail on this piece needs a close up.


Caught in the moment …


Come here to get lost.



All mine.


Be wild when your young, so you can smile when your old!


A picture doesn’t do this justice.


Everyone needs a travel companion – I found mine 😉


Happy Travels Everyone! Thanks for reading. Until  my next adventure —

Creative Design from Ishtar Esmail!

This website is dedicated to sharing my designs, travels and inspiration. I offer design and consulting services for both digital and print. Get it touch. Big or small, I’ve got a solution when you need it.