Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy 35th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Mirza Clan 2013, 2 parents 5 daughters 4 son in laws and 10 grand kids. Mash' Allah

My sisters and I threw our parents a surprise 35th anniversary party earlier this month. The thing with surprises in our family is that all five of us sisters majorly suck at them! We are very close to our mom and speak with her almost daily, which made hiding the whole planning/prep of this party a huge task. We also rely on her immensely to advise us whenever we’re doing a big event, so the lack of her guidance was definitely felt. “How many paper cups do we need? Are two trays of biryani plenty? Should we buy back up naan in case the caterers don’t provide enough? Where is soda on sale?” These are all questions Mama Mirza would have a simple answer to. So, we struggled without her a bit, but in the end we pulled it off and they were both surprised and very proud. Goal Accomplished.

Planning an anniversary party for your parents:

Set a budget and begin brainstorming early
It makes it easy to know what you can and cannot do if you know how much you plan to spend. We had a decent size budget since all 5 of us were pitching in, but still we began planning for the party about 6 months beforehand, simply because four of us are working moms and living in different states so it was a lot of late night group IChat’s where we’d hash out details. Once we were all on the same page about how much each person can contribute we were able to figure out quickly how the costs would be divided up.
Book the hall
The most important task to get out of the way for a big event is to set a date and book the hall. We shopped around in our area for nice places. We spoke with fancy banquet halls and also local VFW halls. In the end we decided it was best for our budget to stick with a local VFW hall where we could spend more on décor, cake, food, and entertainment. Make sure to start calling places at least a month in advance, especially if your event is around a holiday because most halls, especially nice ones, are booked up quickly.

Book the Caterer
Again this was tough without mom since she’s always the one to know which caterer makes the best nihari and which now charges too high a rate. It took a few phone calls, but we got a good deal at Nawab Grill and ended up having a great amount of food that our guests really loved too.
Our menu was: Chicken Biryani, beef Nihari, Baghare Bangan, Chicken 65, Naan, Salad, Raita, Ras Malai all for $750 which was more than plenty to feed 100 guests. 

Invite your guests
I’ve used Paperless Post in the past for my son’s birthday party. Read here how I feel about the website. I really love their designs and again, we found one that was elegant yet simple and it went nicely with our theme! 

There was supposed to be another tier of pom poms at the top, I got lazy.

Party Décor 
This is where your budget can go out of hand since it’s all about how extravagant or simplistic you want to be. Nothing a few trips to the dollar store, amazing savings and Costco along with a creative mind can’t solve though. My little sister was in charge of this area for our party and she did a wonderful job. We had an elegant theme of Grey & Coral Pink for the party. We made the centerpieces at home along with the banner found via free download here.  Mariam created these great programs to place at each table with a love quote on the cover. I loved the Mr. & Mrs. sign for their chairs but we just didn't have time to put together the ribbon, so we stuck it on the door where they entered from and it ended up being a cute addition!

 Order the Cake
This was my first time working with Piece of Cake by Saba Mendha. She did a great job bringing my ideas to life. I wanted a simple white cake with a thin grey ribbon on each tier and a big coral colored flower on top with some stylish yet simple piping work one each tier. She did just that. We had one layer vanilla with fresh strawberries and another with chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. Both cakes tasted great! My only critique would be that I imagined the flower being larger than it turned out, since it was the only ‘pop’ part of the cake I wish it was a bit bigger. Also, the piping work wasn’t totally clean, but I understand that she’s still a new cake artist and it wasn’t a big deal to me. Taste and look overall were great. She was on time with delivery and very open to my ideas for the cake design. I loved her professionalism and great taste of the cake! 

Write a Speech

This was tough because I’m a sap. Also, I never have a spare moment to collect my thoughts. I would start thinking of things on my drives to work but usually I’d be a mess of tears by the time I got to my desk. So it took some time, and some Googling of wedding speeches, which I found were all quite useless. So here, use mine and put your own creative liberties on it, I’m glad to help since Google, for once, was inept:

Sab se pehle mein kehna chahoungi ke aap saab humare ammi aur abu ke aziz dost aur rishtedaron mein se hain, aur humme bahaut khushi hai ke aap unki zindagi ke iss ehem din ko celebrate karne mein humare saath shamil hosake. Humari dua hai ke Allah tala ammi abu ko 35 aur khushiyon bhaare saal ata farmein. 

 “Firstly, I would like to say thank you to all our guests. You all are mom and dad’s most dear friends and relatives and we are very happy that you are able to join us in celebrating this special day in their lives where we honor their marriage. We wish that God grants our mom and dad with 35 more years filled with happiness.” 

Abu and Ammi, your marriage has always been an excellent example for us five, in every aspect of life. Every child thinks their parents are the best, but the real truth, sorry to tell the rest of you, is that my parents truly are the best. You two have taught us many lessons through our lives. But the most important one you taught us is that it is your ikhlaq, manner, generosity, your ability to be a good friend and a helpful neighbor that makes one a better person. And you both have shown us that a big part of being a better person means to be an ideal spouse. A spouse who shows respect in public and in private, who cares for not just one another but for each other’s families. Seeing the amount of patience you both have had in the past 35 years with all the situations that life put you through is what inspires me when I know I’m losing my patience! 

Mom, to us you are the ideal woman. We call you a Spartan because you are a warrior. You are the ideal standard by which we measure all our life goals. I cannot imagine the difficulties you went through coming into this new country without your family and very few familiar faces. But you did a great job at everything that came your way. you raised 5 children, worked full time, had numerous house guests and random visitors popping over all the time and never once did I see you struggle. I only saw you open your doors and your heart to others, you always told us that Allah puts barqat (blessing) in a home that has its door open for loved ones and that no situation is difficult if you keep in mind the blessing that come with it.  

Dad, you are our hero. It’s true that every girl’s first love is their father and I can speak for all five of us when I say you are definitely ours. You have an unending amount of patience and love to offer us. You have taught us what it means to be an excellent son, father and husband.  

I have learned from seeing you both that no human and no marriage is perfect, only Allah is perfect. But Allah (SWT) gives us a spouse to complete us so that their strengths make up for our shortcomings, and together we are whole. We pray to always see you two being whole together with a long and healthy life iA. 

we gift wrapped as shoebox and had paper/pens for guests to write down memories for our parents to read later on as a keepsake from the party.

Prepare a Slideshow
Everyone loves looking at old pictures of themselves in the '70s with crazy hairdos and stylish bell bottoms. Just don't go crazy, remember that people can just browse at a lot of these pics on a Facebook album too so keep it short sweet and add some sappy songs to pile on the nostalgia.

My happy child in front of the Slideshow area

Cake cutting

Friday, March 15, 2013

Meal Planning - Eating Healthy

At the beginning March I started an initiative to cook more fresh meals at home. With both of us working full time and sometimes working late hours we had gotten in to a rut of having home cooked meals maybe 1-2x a week with dinner for most weeknights being a bowl of cereal, ramen noodles, or chocolate covered pretzels. Further, we never have an organized grocery list, often that meant coming back with things found on sale, like 10 boxes of pasta and sauce. This generally ended in lots of ‘spinach alfredo pastas’ or ‘grilled cheese and tomato’ sandwiches. While there isn’t anything wrong with those meals, I wanted to try something different and less carb loaded. Also, we are still figuring out where we fall on the whole organic vs GMOs debate. We go the organic route on major items like milk, bread, and eggs but will skip on other items. We just knew that eating fresh vegetables and meats with less preservatives where we can control the amount of salt and oil we put into our food was the best route to take.

With a full time job, cooking up daily meals and especially planning them out was not an easy task at 6 pm when the toddler is cranky/clingy and all you want to do is warm up something quick! So I decided to give this whole Meal Planning business seen all over Pinterest a shot. This way we could finally incorporate more vegetables into our diet, lessen the reliance on rice and pasta dishes while also creating a more structured grocery list for specific items only. This month my main focus was soups. Being in last stretch of winter (hoping it’s the last!), making a warm bowl of soup is the perfect way to heat up on a cold night and it’s the best way to incorporate loads of healthy ingredients too. I planned it out so that we would only have chicken (no beef!) with rice once a week, Daal with chapati bread once a week and some form of vegetable soup weekly (the remaining days being for leftovers! Working Mama only cooks hot meals 3 days a week shooooot!). It worked out well because we had enough soup left over most nights for lunch the next day and that meant less money spent eating out at work or less snacking on junk in attempts to skip lunch. Win, Win. 

Halfway through March we have fared well in sticking to the meal plan, here are a few pictures:

 Tomato Basil Cheddar soup 
(using Greek yogurt instead of cream)

 Minestrone soup 

my own spin on it: onions, fava beans, potatoes, cilantro, spinach, carrots, pasta, tomato sauce, chicken broth, topped with parmesan cheese and chopped basil.

I ended up using canned tomatoes in both these recipes even though we had fresh ones at home because 1) we have a million cans of this stuff taking up space in my pantry! 2) I checked if using canned tomatoes was really all that harmful and for these two weeks I decided we’ll take our chances with BPA. 

 In two weeks the only time I’ve veered off the chart was on ‘Leftover night’ when I made a beef burger (ate it so fast no time for a picture!). I tried to keep it somewhat healthy; seasoning the beef with finely chopped green onions/cilantro, salt, pepper, and fresh minced garlic and only using half a teaspoon of olive oil to pan fry it. I topped the burger with fresh avocado slices and had it on an asiago cheese demi roll from Panera. Can I just say this burger was AMAZING. It was SO juicy and just the right amount of flavor to go with a bread that has a bold taste. This was one cheat day I’m glad I took!
Courtesy of Google Images. But it looks pretty similar to mine!
I have to say, this meal plan wasn’t entirely intended to help us lose weight as much as it was to keep us away from snacking on Nutella covered everything and in that respect it was pretty successful. I have felt more full and less tempted to eat sugary, fatty snacks filled with suspicious ingredients. Girl scout cookies arrived in the house FOUR days ago and not a box has been opened, that is MAJOR. It’s a nice change to have a fridge stocked with vegetables, and being a meat lover it was a different experience having beef only once in two weeks! Being a Desi girl I love me some rice so lessening that was a tough choice, and while I could opt for brown rice instead of white, again, I’m a Desi girl and I don’t mess with that. Rice on my plate is white or not at all! But overall, I can feel the difference from the changes already. My stomach is not nearly as bloated by the end of week two as it has been in a while.

This meal plan was only for our 5 day workweek, but we plan to incorporate weekends next month. This was just a test run to see how we do. We slowly wanted to incorporate healthy eating, fresh vegetables and maybe just save chocolate indulgences for the weekend! ;)