Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Prince Ali!




I apologize in advance to all future siblings of Ali, because although I am certain I will love the rest of you one day as much as I do him, right now this little man completely owns my heart. 

Sometimes I tell your dad learning to love him was easy, it didn't change me like I thought it might. But, loving Ali has transformed me. It's the kind of love that tests you, breaks you, the kind you completely must surrender to as that is the only way to experience it entirely. It is Motherhood.

The first year of your life was spent in a whirlwind. I think most of the year I walked around in a dark gloomy sleep deprived place wondering why I was coping so terribly with motherhood when it was something I wanted to experience forever. The fact alone that I was using words like 'coping' for motherhood was bizarre, I always imagined it being described as 'celebrating' or 'enjoying' but not this. I had such a happy time carrying this little ball of cuteness inside of me, but why was I so miserable now? Needless to say, It was not a fun time for me. Ali, you definitely challenged me in ways I did not know. Raising you pushed me to become a better person, to quite my complaining about how difficult this task is and instead throw myself into it with both feet.

Year Two
Now I can use words like celebrate, thrive, enjoy to describe what it is I experience with you in my life. And it's not because raising you became easier this year (you colored my carpet blue this week and rubbed Goldfish cracker mush on it last week,  no it definitely has not gotten easier!). But this year, I changed my own prospective on motherhood. I knew it was not going to get any better if I continued down the path I was headed, and so I constantly remind myself that God has blessed me with an amazing healthy active child who I could completely destroy if I did not fix my attitude. I have made it my goal to enjoy every single moment of your life. We've spent this year teaching you the ABC's, 123's, colors, animals, words, and nursery rhymes. Meanwhile, you spent this year teaching us so much more!

Recently a very evil thing happened in the world we live in, where small little angels were killed and taken away from their parents. These sort of things happen in the world we live in all the time now apparently, but this time it was very close to home. That day I hugged you so tightly when I got home and cried a lot, because I knew that I am a lucky Ammi for having you in my life. I wish I could protect you from all the evil this world knows, but I cannot. Instead, I will enjoy every bit of your creative, adventurous, generous, loving nature and hopefully teach you the traits of a strong, kind, caring man by loving you selflessly and unconditionally. So that one day you can grow up to be a father who also will experience this kind of love.

Today you are two, but I pray that you live to be 98 more with each year better than the last. May all the universe's happiness be yours. Always remember to say Please, Thank you and Alhumdulillah. And never be fooled to think that you are too old to rest your head on your mother's lap, you will never outgrow it.

My Prince Ali, today we celebrate you!

Friday, December 14, 2012

A man open fired at an elementary school today, killing many children.

I can't stop thinking about this. It hurts my heart to think about the poor children who lost friends because of this mentally sick man, who lost a part of their innocence today. I can't stop thinking about the parents who sent their children off to school and they won't ever get them back.

This is not a matter of gun control, it's just not. Columbine happened 13 years ago and Virginia Tech 5 years ago, but today it seems nothing has changed because a tragedy just the same has occurred again. In my 26 years of life I've seen enough breaking news alerts to know gun control laws only makes it harder for the sane to get access not the insane. The insane somehow always find a way to spread devastation and mayhem. The issue raised from this awful situation is to cure mental health issues lurking beneath our world. TALK to your children, teach them how to cope with their emotions. Most importantly, love the heck out of them. Because, we can't rid the world of all Crazies but we can be proactive to address any emotional distress in our own homes.

To parents of the sweet innocent souls that we lost today, as we hold our children tightly tonight thoughts and prayers for you encompass our minds and hearts.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

101 Questions for Muslim couples to ask before marriage

This is a excellent questionnaire for all Muslim couples looking to find out more about one another before taking the big leap. It covers pretty much all the bases: children, finances, hobbies, health, goals, past relationships, and religious beliefs.

My husband and I filled it out part jokingly when we first met 6 years ago, but it was a nice exercise to see the other person’s reaction to questions. Even if he jokes about most of the awkward questions, it is interesting to see what he has to say and how he says it; like if he takes things lightheartedly or if he’s dead serious about topics.

We were both pleased to find that our views on a lot of major important issues aligned pretty well. And the funny thing is, the few things he mentioned on here that I didn't like about him, 6 years later I still don’t! (Honey, if you are reading this then you know I love you not in spite of those things, but because of it all!!!) 
Who knew this questionnaire would actually share so much about our personalities, I never would have guessed! Although plenty of these answers you can gauge from conversation (or Facebook stalking), there are still things which don’t always come up so it’s nice to get them out in the open. I mean, how are you casually supposed to ask a guy if he’s into polygamy or if he’s down with getting checked to see that he hasn't spent his college days spreading around STDs.



Of course this isn't something you would send out to every guy you meet without seeming a bit ‘hypercritical’, but it’s a helpful tool to gain insight on someone you’re seriously considering as a prospect for marriage. Try nonchalantly mentioning it to someone you’ve  been talking to for a few weeks/months, and get an idea from the conversation it sparks. Who knows maybe like us 6 years later, you'll be laughing about the things you wrote down, it makes for a great item to add to your wedding keepsake that's for sure!



I know this has many religious questions that apply to Muslims only, but contact me if you’re interested and I’ll send you the Word file so you can add/revise questions to suit you!



A useful prelude would be ‘I saw the most interesting thing on Pinterest today……’

(my husband can tell you that’s pretty much how I start all conversations he loves hearing. Right, babe?!)


 

 Double click on the images to enlarge.





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sesame Street birthday party - Part 1: The Invite!

I can’t believe it’s almost 2 years since our lives were turned upside down by this little monster we call Ali. In this short time he has completely stolen my heart and ruined my carpet/walls. No I’m not speaking of a pet, I’m talking about my son! Although, some days I think getting a pet would’ve been easier. All jokes aside, it’s true; parenting is challenging but it is SO rewarding and just the sight of his smile beaming after a long day at work is enough to reassure me that indeed my life is perfect. But I’ll save the teary eyed ‘can’t believe my baby is growing up’ post for later. 

Currently, I’m in party planning mode overdrive like the crazy mama that I am. My little man is turning two and I am just bursting with ideas for the party I want to plan for him. We started out wanting to do a casual small birthday party but due to my obsession with planning nothing ends up ‘small’ or ‘casual’. I’ve decided to go with a Sesame Street theme since he’s currently in love with all things Elmo and Ernie-Bert (said as one word), but mostly because Ali is a monster in himself so he deserves a spot on Sesame Street! 

The first item to tackle on our party planning list was the invites:

To me the invitation defines the party. Personally I love sending out mailed invites the old fashioned way, but after spending several hours on Etsy realizing how ridiculously people spend on invites I decided to go with online invitations. Being a child of the new age, I know email invites not only saves on costs but guarantees a faster responses from my guests too. In college I would create event invitations via Facebook for simple gatherings all the time, however for this event I wanted to try something a bit more sophisticated, stylish yet possessing the same ease of delivery and response.

I wanted the invite to set the tone for our party, that it’s fun, whimsical and just a bit different than what you might expect. 
 
Enter: Paperless Post

I was shocked that I hadn’t heard of this website before, since they have some of the most creative designs I’ve ever seen! Also, I loved the amount of options the website gave me, they have both e-cards and paper cards too. While some require payment, there is a wide variety of free cards too, especially if you are emailing. I had already created a .jpg file of the invite I wanted to use and was easily able to upload it into a template. I tried this on other websites, ahem Evite, and none of their templates would allow my image to fit correctly. It was requiring me to reformat the size which then compromised image quality. No such issues on Paperless Post! 

The best parts:
1) free download of their IPhone app. I’m able to track my event, see who’s responded and who hasn’t, change event time/location all on my phone. And if you’re a mom on the go you know this is a blessing! Plus you get 10 ‘coins’ for downloading the app which can be used towards future card purchases. You can earn more coins from liking them on Facebook or referring friends. (great way to earn those snazzy paper invites for free!)
2) you can track if people have opened the email (can’t use the ‘it got lost in the mail’ excuse, I saw you opened that email liar liar pants on fire!) and you are notified if email addresses are invalid so you can follow up with guests.
3) The website does not require guests to register in order to respond to your event (some websites require it or if you’re using Facebook Events it’s hard to send to someone who doesn’t have an account)

No, I’m not being paid to rave about this site, but trust me once you start browsing through their selection you’ll see what I mean. I’ve already picked out styles from their bridal/baby shower invites that I plan to use it in the future. 

If you’re a busy girl who is on a time/money budget, but still wants to set a classy tone for your event this is probably the invitation station for you. (See what I did there with the rhyming!) 

PS- Take a look at the invitation I created for my son’s birthday.
This was all using Paint software (free on every computer in the world) and some copy/pasting of images I found on Google. Who says you have to pay a ton for adorable invitations.
From one mama to another: Go ahead click on the image to enlarge, right click and save it. Then go into Paint and take your own creative liberties on it, just like I did  :)

 
 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Holiday Family Extravaganza



It’s been a busy few weeks! November sort of flewby. Thanksgiving was great. My sisters and their families who live out of state all came in for the weekend and it was a wonderful time catching up with family. It’s so great to see our family expanding mA. We now have 8 grand kids in the family with 2 more on the way. By next year’s Thanksgiving reunion we’ll have 6 kids below the age of four all under one roof. Needless to say we’ve become quite accustomed to the rowdiness!

This year was the first time I contributed a few items to our Thanksgiving dinner. I love cooking in general but in my family full of amazing cooks I’m pretty much the baker. It doesn’t help that I have a chocolate loving husband either! So this year, the dessert table was all my responsibility. I made: pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes with cream cheesefrosting, apple crumb pie, and 7 layer magic bars.

For dinner my mom made roast leg of lamb along wthe turkey (both of which were AH-mazing!), but I helped with the side dishes.We all LOVE a good green bean casserole topped with fried onions so that was definitely on the menu. This year I also tried to spruce up the usual boring ol’ mashed potatoes by making what I call Cheesy baked mashed potatoes. It was pretty simple and just a bit more fattening (by a bit I mean A LOT), but tasted great! My 14 year old nephew who is well on his way to becoming Top Chef also prepared a pasta dish for us using his own b├ęchamel sauce. By now I’m sure you can tell we are big foodies and take our Thanksgiving meal seriously. Everything turned out fantastic and we were stuffed turkeys by the end of the night. 

But to continue the never ending eating marathon, Friday morning I put my newly purchased waffle maker to use and made Belgian waffles for everyone (using my own recipe for the batter too!), we went out to downtown Princeton at night, saw their newly lit Christmas tree then headed out to an amazing Pakistani restaurant in the area called Taste of Punjab. It's a no frills sort of place but their food is yum-may! It was a weekend filled with tons of chatter, eating and very little sleeping but it’s one weekend out of the year that we’re all able to be together so we thoroughly enjoy it! 





All our little munchkins minus one!

The Fab Five!

Yes I do enjoy dressing up him up like the little man that he is!

Below are recipes for our thanksgiving weekenddishes:
Pumpkin cupcakes(this recipe doesn’t include it, but I just added in semi sweet chocolate chipsinto the batter because we are chocoholics!)


I used a store bought crust because honestly Ijust didn’t have time to knead out dough. But I will say, I wasn’t too satisfied with the crust’s thickness (Pillsbury brand). Maybe next time I will have to attempt making my own! Also, I followed this recipe for all the ingredients, measurements and cook time, but I chose to make my own crumb topping rather than doing a lattice crust.

For the crumb topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 Tbsp butter

Mix flour, brown sugar and the butter gently in abowl until it takes on a thick breadcrumb consistency add in choppedwalnuts/pecans/almonds to your preference and sprinkle on top before poppinginto the oven!



I added extra butter to make them extra creamy.These were definitely a hit!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eating Skinny!


So I stumbled up on this article and it got me thinking:

Practically everything on this list are things my Desi mother has been unconsciously feeding us for years. Remind me to thank her for the amazing metabolism I had for most of my life. I say that because lately I find my metabolism majorly slummed and it’s probably because I’ve taken out all the great stuff from my diet that I used to eat before. The more I think about it the more I realize that this may be the secret why I never saw my mother/grandmother ever doing all the crazy diets or intense exercise routines most American women succumb to in order to control their appetites. Even reflecting on myself, as a teenager while I was still eating mom’s home cooked desi meals I wasn’t thin but I was able to maintain a healthy normal weight without much struggle at all. And the moment I added in a mix of exercise into my routine I was able to drop weight quickly. Nowadays it’s like I breathe air and I’ve gaining 10 pounds!

Desi women are not skinny by nature; we have wide hips and curvy midsections. It’s just who we are. Butttt I wouldn’t call Desi women obese. The main things I see women of south Asian descent have is good self-control when it comes to food and a pretty good metabolism. I’m not talking about us Desis who grew up here and been subjected to tons of junk food loaded with sugars and carbs. I’m talking about the real home grown edition of Desi, like our moms and grandmas. I know I have AWFUL self-control when it comes to delicious food. Pizza, mashed potatoes, lasagna, and chocolate cake I can’t remember the last time when I said ‘oh I’ll just have 1 helping thank you’. But true Desi women who grew up eating wholesome home cooking just ate less and that was their unconscious effortless portion control/ weight loss regime.

So according to the article, these are the ingredients I need to bring back onto my plate:

Chili peppers – The first thing you think of when you hear the words Indian/Pakistani food is spicy. Ultimately, you aren’t a Desi if you can’t handle the heat. And it was only when I grew up and read up on it that I found out that the spicy taste does wonders for your metabolism! Yay spicy food! :)

Pine nuts- As a kid I remember my Ammi and Dadi roasting up chilgozay (pine nuts) to snack on in the winter. Meanwhile, in the summer time my mom would dry out the seeds of all sorts of fruits for us to munch on. I specifically remember cantaloupe seeds but I know pumpkin and sunflower seeds were definitely something we ate while pretty much oblivious to the massive amounts of nutrients they are loaded with. Something all women are known to do is eat out of bored, but Desi women hit it on target by nibbling on something that would suppress appetite in addition to decrease their fat stores!

Cinnamon sticks- I never knew it until I started cooking myself, but cinnamon is common a spice used in most curries. I put whole sticks of it in my Pulao to add aroma, but if you ever cook curries with garam masala it’s one of the main ingredients in it. Who knew it’s a metabolism booster?


Red Lentils – Every Desi child knows what daal is, masoor ki daal to be specific. And, whether you liked it or not you definitely ate it a few times a month if not weekly. I personally LOVE daal with kaali and khutti daal being among my favorites; plus it’s honestly one of the easiest meals to prepare. The added bonus, all the protein and good fiber in lentils is great at keeping you full for longer.

Fennal tea- I drank gallons of it post-delivery as my mom insisted it will help sooth my breastfed son’s digestion and mean less gas for him from all the things I eat. Little did we both know that it actually helped me lose a ton of my baby weight! Too bad I stopped drinking it as soon as I stopped breastfeeding; I need to get back on this stat! (buy some fennel boil it in water, tea doesn't get much simpler than that!)

Overall- After a long and tiring day at school/work, while it’s easy to pick up food at the drive thru or cook 2-minute ramen noodles (loaded with sodium and preservatives that only cause you to bloat!), small efforts like cooking up some daal and adding in a dash of ‘lal mirch’ will do your body good..


**There are a bunch of other items this article mentioned that I personally do love eating (apples, watermelon, raspberries, avocados), but they aren't very 'Desi' so I'll just mention them here and encourage everyone to add them into your diet!

(photos courtesy of Google Images)