Pound Cake

Growing up I was taught I could be anything I wanted to be – an astronaut, a teacher, a doctor, an artist, and even President. School, especially elementary school, was about hope and encouragement. Dream big! Believe! Spread your wings and FLY! Hah at home, the message was a bit different. You are smart and can be anything you want to be, so long as it’s a responsible and financially sound path. No surprise my parents wanted me to be a doctor, or something ‘safe’ within the medical field. As I grew older, and my dad realized I was a girl, he switched his mind to just something short and safe within the medical field because I was supposed to have kids and a demanding career shouldn’t take away from a home life. Oh hello patriarchy!

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The idea of becoming a photographer or a journalist or an author was a pipe dream and something only ‘heroines in novels did’ according to my Mom :) Never mind that I was never found without a camera in my hand since the age of 8 when I got my first one, it was something that just wasn’t done. Years rolled on, I discovered I loved Math and decided to move forward as a Computer Science and Math major. The idea of becoming a photographer became a nice alternative life career I dreamed of when I got bored at work or frustrated.

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Here’s the funny thing about this generation though, the one that follows mine; they are crazy. They have jobs like mine – fiscally responsible, stable jobs – and they just quit. Quit! Or get laid off if we are going back to 2008 – 2010. Then they become playwrights. Um. What? I can’t wrap my head around it. I don’t know if it’s ballsy or if it’s ridiculous. Or in some cases (Cat cafes, Poodle hotels, very specific robot projects) a little bit of both. It reminds me of the time when I came very close to quitting my own job and joining a Photography internship. But the whole child-of-immigrant-parents-who-have-struggled-their-whole-life-to-provide-you-a-secure-future side of my brain kicked in. I’ll quit just as soon as I have the right amount of savings. Let me just get this one project under belt so I have a safe resume. And as soon as that kicked in, my doubts took center stage. Do I even have what it takes? Imagine the grueling hours and the minimal pay. Are you crazy? Just because you have this job doesn’t mean you can’t follow those dreams on the side. Be an adult Aaisha! So that’s what I did.

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Then we come to today. Maheen has finished his PhD and has a good job alhumdulillah (ie a paycheck) so I can take a break from work for a while. I’ve got some new dreams, this time chocolate related, but I still have my cautious nature. Do I do it? Do I take the plunge and test out a theory for a year to see where it takes me? I don’t know. I’m toying with the idea. At least I can say that I tried. What would you do? If you had a dream life outside of the one that you have, what would you be doing? And if you honestly had the chance to make the change, would you take the leap?

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Completely unrelated, here is a Pound Cake that my family loves. My husband and my Mom in law love vanilla, so this cake was right up their alley. I made it on a whim because they recipe was so simple, and we needed a lightly sweet treat for a drive Upstate. If you are like me or my daughter, you tend to lean more on the chocolate route, so our slices were smeared with Nutella. Let me tell you! Delicious! As you can see, little Razia jaan was a big fan when Nutella entered the picture. Give it a try and let me know what you think. But more than that, tell me what I should do. So conflicted hah.

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Pound Cake
 
Original recipe and video can be found on Joy the Baker's site - http://www.joyofbaking.com/PoundCake.html
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) sifted cake flour (I weighed out 150grams of flour, then sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 13 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature cut into chunks
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Butter or spray a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and butter or spray the paper.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
  3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended.
  4. Add the chunks of butter and half of the egg + milk mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about one minute to aerate and develop the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the remaining egg mixture, in 2 additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the egg and strengthen the cake's structure.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 55 to 65 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on a lightly buttered wire rack.
  7. The Pound Cake can be covered and stored for several days at room temperature, for one week when refrigerated, or it can be frozen for two months.

And some pictures of the munchkin ‘helping’ me with the shoot. She’s in the habit of wearing a birthday hat whenever there is cake involved. Don’t worry, her birthday was months before this and I had baked her a proper chocolate cake complete with Curious George embellishments :)

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Peach Tart

Does anyone else feel that they have multiple personalities that are nearly always fighting inside their heads? No? Just me? Hm. Oh no I see a hand up near the back of the room. Hi there. You too huh? How damn annoying is that?

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Part of me is a strong, intelligent feminist sort of woman. Jokes about sexism or patriarchy or privilege send me off the deep end in an instant. My family knows this. My friends know this. Hell even coworkers and acquaintances know this. Without a doubt I will always react, and it’s something they count on for entertainment. The word “princess” is never used in our house because of all the baggage and societal obligations it carries, and I don’t want my daughter carrying the burden of that word. My parents think I’m crazy and over reacting, but I know these are the sort of things I have to stay vigilant about. That and introducing the joy of reading and STEM subjects to her before the world tries to stamp out her intelligence in favor of selfies. Thank God my husband agrees.

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But. I really like Mariah Carey. She’s my go to karaoke-slash-blasting-it-in-the-car-and-screaming-my-heart-out singer. And Taylor Swift. God. What is wrong with me? Yes Taylor Swift. As in I own every one of her albums. At least I can blame Mariah Carey on the fact that I have an emotional connection from my early teenage years, but Taylor Swift? I’m 33 for goodness sakes. The sparkle teenage me (as I refer to her) lifts her chin defiantly when I argue with her, and just stares me down. “So? The music is FUN! Don’t think about it too much! You’re allowed to just. Have. FUN. You’re a teenager!” (I’m really not I try to explain to her. That’s part of the problem.)

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The thing is, that teenage me still lives in my head too. As in the real teenage me from when I was actually 16.  And she’s a sarcastic bitch. When I was younger, I had no filter. Some argue I still don’t but you should hear what goes on in my head when I’m having a conversation with some people, or scrolling through social media, or even just sitting there. “DSLRs have become the new point and shoot. Point. Shoot. No editing, no composition, no thinking. Oh but yea, you are totally a fantastic photographer. I mean I’d never think of taking a photo of that flower in your garden just straight on like that. Who needs angles? Artist. Pure Genius.” Some of the stuff is just plain mean. This 90s Lilith Fair loving me looks at sparkle me, squints her eyes and shakes her head in disgust.

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Life is difficult enough as is without having to juggle these three voices. Yes there are other personalities floating around in there, but these are my three dominant ones. As I started reading Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work Is Done by Susan Douglas (my current read) I realized all these conflicting views aren’t necessarily truly my fault. I’m a product of Feminism mixed with fake girl power media from the 90s / early 2000s (think WB / CW, Spice Girls, and the rise / fall of a truly empowered front woman singer / bands) and my wires have subconsciously crossed. I’m sure the internal conflicts will be a life long struggle, but here’s to smoothing over the transitions a little better. Hear hear!

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Speaking of transitions, Summer is coming to an end so I wanted to share this recipe for a Peach Tart with you all. It’s funny how no matter what sort of personality a peach has – ripe and juicy peak season, or something more subdued from the late Summer / early Fall – it always works. The layer of sugar melts and bubbles away, melding with the peaches that only enhances their flavor. It’s also brilliant that this recipe calls for olive oil in the crust rather than butter. It came together in an instant, and I have to say, this recipe is even simpler than my most basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. Try it out and let me know what you think.

PS – So there are a bunch of photos in this post because I am just SO happy and proud of these shots. The colors were just working, and the light was behaving beautifully. I barely edited these because everything just clicked in the originals. What do you guys think?

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Peach Tart
 
Original recipe from Food52 includes some step by step photos - http://food52.com/recipes/14217-peach-tart
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup mild olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 3 to 5 small ripe peaches, pitted and thickly sliced (about 1/2-inch wide)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oils, milk and almond extract. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and mix gently with a fork, just enough to dampen; do not over work it. Then, transfer the dough to a tart pan, and use your hands to pat out the dough so it covers the bottom of the pan, pushing it up the sides to meet the edge. Trim and discard excess dough.
  3. In a bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the butter. (If your peaches are especially juicy, add 1 tablespoon additional flour. I definitely did this for my peak summer peaches) Using your fingers, pinch the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly (sort of like cornmeal consistency).
  4. Starting on the outside, arrange the peaches overlapping in a concentric circle over the pastry; fill in the center in whatever pattern makes sense. The peaches should fit snugly. Sprinkle the crumbly sugar / butter mixture over top (it will seem like a lot).
  5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until shiny, thick bubbles begin enveloping the fruit and the crust is slightly brown. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or room temperature, with vanilla bean ice cream or whipped cream

 
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Strawberry Brownie Ice Cream

Every day, I wake up and think, “Here we go. Another day. Another day of yelling and fighting with people who are idiots, of bending every which way to finish my tasks on time. Another day of dealing with a commute that takes exceptionally longer than necessary because of train traffic, or signal problems, or taking the long way around so I’m not stuck in a stairwell that smells like fresh pee. Another day of working nonstop then coming home to a daughter who needs me, but I somehow just don’t have the energy to fully be present. Of looking at her with slightly vacant eyes while she demands I help her build yet another tower with her stack of blocks. Another day of just being exhausted, falling into bed around 11:30pm and passing out into a dreamless sleep until the next morning.” I close my eyes again for a few minutes just trying to breathe, then force myself out of bed to deal with all the drama that is bound to unfold.

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The day goes exactly as I expected, sometimes worse and sometimes not as horrible as the day before. I used to take small breaks between all the headaches by browsing Instagram, reading a book on my commute (when I manage to wrangle a seat), crying through the latest NY Times Modern Love article, or scrolling through Facebook. But now, even that doesn’t cut it. My personal feed is filled with the Hell on Earth that the people of Gaza are living through, my email is forever reminding me about all the people in NY who are without food* and shelter, and I can’t even get into the elevator at work without the little elevator TV reminding me of everything else that is wrong in the world. Try as I might to escape, I just can’t.

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Some days, the panic sets in. My soft heart and my imagination take hold of an image, a blurb, and run with it. How are they surviving? What series of events led them to where they are? God… how easily can me and my family fall into that same situation? To get injured and not be able to work, to watch out savings vanish in a matter of months trying to keep up, to fall to the fringe of society in what will probably feel like an instant. What can I do to keep my baby safe? My parents safe? My family intact? God… why is life so difficult?

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Those moments especially I want to just escape. I want to take everyone I love, move to a home that resembles a Southern farmhouse with a wraparound porch, and keep them all there with me. I want to feed them till they burst, and hug them till I’m full. I want to see my daughter be free to run as fast and as far as she likes without worrying someone is going to take her. I want my parents to just relax and not let their illnesses overwhelm them. I want a small slice of Heaven. I want a sense of peace that is not truly possible in this world.

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Days like that, when the panic rises and falls, I still come home exhausted, but my eyes now have a film of tears when I look at my little girl. When she finally goes to sleep I stand there looking at her and think, “Thank God for another day. Another day of having a job, and being able to get home safely. Another day where she is safe. Sheltered, fed and loved by everyone she meets. Thank God for all that I have.” Then I lay down and this time my shoulders ease and my heart relaxes just a little. At least for right now, for this small moment, I’ve found a moment of peace before that dreamless sleep takes a hold of me.

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Strawberry Brownie Ice Cream
 
Very loosely adapted from the Ample Hills Creamery Strawberry Ice Cream recipe. I don't have a favorite from scratch brownie recipe yet, so I used my favorite box mix brownie mix from Ghiradelli. You can also just buy the brownies honestly, then rough chop them into small chunks. I prefer slightly under cooked fudgery brownies because they don't turn rock hard when mixed with the ice cream and frozen.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen (and defrosted) strawberries
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cold whole milk
  • 3/4 cup skim milk powder
  • 2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 2 cups of very fudgey brownie roughly chopped (approximately)
Instructions
  1. Place the strawberries in a medium heat-proof bowl and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the sugar over them, tossing to coat them evenly. Cover the bowl and set aside over a bowl of slowly simmering water for 5 minutes.
  2. Unwrap the bowl; the strawberries should be sitting in a pool of red sugary water. Drain the strawberries and reserve the syrup (we won't the syrup in this recipe again, but you can use it in truffles, or a sauce, to pour over pancakes. Yum)
  3. Place the strawberries in the freezer 5 minutes to cool.
  4. Combine the milk, skim milk powder, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, and cooled strawberries in a blender. Puree until smooth. Add the cream and stir (don’t blend) to combine. Transfer the “strawberry cream” to an ice cream maker and churn it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Stir in brownie chunks. Transfer the ice cream to a storage container.
  5. Serve immediately, or harden in your freezer for 8 to 12 hours for a firmer (read: more scoopable) ice cream.

 

Chocolate Strawberry Icebox Cake

Eid Mubarak loves! It was a crazy month of fasting, and now it’s time to celebrate! As you may or may not know, Muslims all around the world spent the last 30ish days fasting from sunrise to sunset. Here in the US that’s more than 15 hours of fasting, in the middle of Summer. I had been dreading it honestly. Crazy NYC summers, feeling stifled by the humidity and the heat that seems to ooze through the very concrete of this damn city. Not being able come out from the under the weight of it all with a freezing cold glass of iced coffee or chocolate milk. Dread. ChocolateStrawberryIceboxCake6 But it wasn’t too bad! The weather has been mild to say the least, and I feel truly blessed. I know this season could have been so much worse, but through the mercy of Mother Nature / God, I made it through and I feel invigorated. I was taking time to reflect, taking time to prepare food at home, and spending more time with family again. Not just, “Hey did you do the dishes? Is time to feed Razia? Ugh, more bills??” But real time with real conversations. I was spending my lunch breaks thinking about the blog and where I want it to go, or taking walks and exploring the neighborhood. There were more connections with friends, and visiting people within the community. All in all I was taking time to just make things better. I was exhausted by the end of the night, but my head felt clearer. Hah, maybe it was just the lack of caffeine :)

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That brings me to one of my big updates – the new blog design. What do you guys think? I know I’ve been wanting to expand, but I hadn’t figured out what direction I really wanted to into. I actually still haven’t, but I’ve got some new types of posts coming to experiment. No matter what though, I wanted something cleaner, something more minimalist without feeling empty or sacrificing character. The typography and lines is what drew me into this look, along with the small pops of color. I wanted to force myself to work on my photography knowing it would be the standout piece. Ramadan was forcing me to simplify and reflect, and I hope those changes are also reflected in the blog. This is my creative space, my online journal, my little escape, and I want it to evolve as I do. I haven’t been posting much lately and I’ll go into why a bit more in the coming weeks, but there has been a common theme – minimize, let go, and be happy.

ChocolateStrawberryIceboxCake4 This icebox cake is actually the first kitchen project I took on in quite a few months. I was inspired by my friend Farhana ‘Biny’ who made one for her daughter’s birthday a few months ago. A simple concoction of chocolate cookies, whipped cream, and my own touch of strawberries, this honestly couldn’t get any simpler. It was a great way to ease myself back into the kitchen, and I loved the therapeutic repetition of the layers. A great project for those without an oven, or something you can do with the kids in your life. Just try it out.   Continue reading

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie

As kids, I’m sure all of us felt we were invincible. Jumping off flights of stairs, whizzing down hills at manic speeds on our bikes, or launching ourselves into the sky while swinging at the playground, daring gravity to pull us back down to earth. Scrapes, gashes, and blood were all part of life. We’d simply dust off the dirt caked onto our grazed knees and elbows, and hurdle right back into whatever destructive activity we were caught up in.

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Even when we caught those epic colds, the ones where we couldn’t breathe because we were so stuffed up, and our fever had us sweating bullets through the sheets, we rode it out. We cried, whined and complained, but we usually (hopefully) had someone there to make and feed us soup or daal khichri (a mix of rice and lentils cooked to a soft mush that was easy to eat and packed with healthy goodness), to rub Vix on our chests, and to change our sheets regularly. The sickness always passed, and out we were again, rushing into life with everything we had.

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We were not thinking about vitamins, or healthy living, or how drinking the right amount of milk would benefit us thirty years down the line. It never occurred to us that pizza for every single meal for an entire month doesn’t make sense. We were kids, and had our whole life ahead of us. We were superheros and gods.

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Fast forward to my early 20s and not much had changed hah. The activities were a little different, but probably no less destructive. I still hadn’t learned to eat right, still wasn’t really exercising regularly, and the only time I took vitamins was when I binge bought bottles from GNC, swearing I was going to get on track. Sure I was sneezing a bit more when Spring arrived, but I was sure I was ok. I’d never had allergies before, how could I just develop them overnight? And sure I wasn’t as quick as I was before, but it was probably because I wasn’t always in sneakers. Those particular flats weren’t meant to run in you see.

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Now here I am in my 30s. I have come to terms with the fact that I definitely have allergies, and that my inability to sprint has more to do with my wonky thyroid condition and age than it does with my shoes. Never have I felt older than I did after my daughter started to walk / run. Was I ever that young? Did I ever have that sort of confidence? My God, did I have that level of energy? It feels like a lifetime ago.

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If you are a regular reader / browser, you know this is not the healthiest blog out there. This blog is about stories and indulgences. But as I look at my parents’ health fraught with heart attacks and high blood pressure, I have to wonder, should I at least try to make some healthy desserts? This was my first real try of subbing whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. The next iteration of this recipe might make use of honey rather than sugar, but we’ll see. Do I like this cookie more than, or even as much as my regular chocolate chip cookie? Or my Almond Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie? No. But would I be willing to sub in this cookie now and then? Sure, why not.  There’s a satisfaction that comes from the heartiness of the whole wheat flour. It adds a sort of nutty undertone. The cookie is also sturdy, so although I didn’t like it on its own, I loved it with milk. Somehow it seemed to hold more milk, so when you bit into the cookie, it was incredibly satisfying. I’ll let you guys bake up a batch and decide on your own. Definitely let me know what you think.

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie
 
Original recipe found on Food52 - http://food52.com/recipes/25844-whole-wheat-chocolate-chip-cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces or about 1 1/3 cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
Instructions
  1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then scrape the batter out onto a work surface, and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
  4. Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between them, or about 6 to a sheet. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown.
  5. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool, and repeat with the remaining dough. Enjoy with a large glass of milk. They'll keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I miss my friends. All the ones that have had to move away, and all the ones that are still around but either I’m too busy to see them or (more often) they are too busy to see me. I miss not having responsibilities and just hanging out. I miss feeling like I belong. I hate that Facebook makes me feel like I’m always on the fringe; sitting on the outside looking in with glimpses of other people’s lives and all the fun they are having. I hate having the nagging feeling in my heart that people only call me when it’s convenient and they have no one else to hang out with, but won’t invite me to the regular parties. I just miss my friends.

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I know I’m an adult and these feelings are very high school. I know I’m independent and live in one of the most amazing cities in the world. A city that has a million and one things to do if I just made the effort to do them – great film houses, theaters, dance shows, culinary spaces, classes from pottery to photography to painting. And yet I feel awkward doing these things on my own. Well everything except films that is. When the theater darkens and the screen flickers to life, I am perfectly content in losing myself in the story playing on the screen. But when the lights come back on, I want to be able to discuss what I just saw with someone. To duck into a café for a quick dinner or coffee and go over everything we had just experienced.

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Years ago, hah back when I didn’t really have close friends, going to films and shows and the museum were fantastic ways to spend an afternoon or evening. I’d wander in, take my time, and just soak it all up. I’d stare and reflect, take it all in, and let it wash over me. I’m not sure what happened in the past 10 years, but what used to be my solitary mode of escape somehow started to make me feel more alone. I still enjoy the actual process, but now I crave doing it with someone else and being able to talk about it. I miss the discussions.

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Robert Linxe Chocolate Truffles

Wow 2014 is really flying by! Can you believe half of January is already over? I originally sat down to write this post on New Year’s Day and next thing I know, it’s the 14th. It’s been a whirlwind of work, finishing up tasks that have been sitting around forever, and getting my to do lists in order. But mostly work hah. Year end at a finance firm is not a fun time. Now why can’t I get a job where I can just relax, and they still pay me? The dream right? :)

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So back to lists. If you know me, you know I love lists. I blame the math side of my brain. Even if I don’t finish every task (which, honestly, who ever does?) it still helps to have things organized and noted down. It also makes things feel so much more manageable, don’t you think? There, on this sheet of paper, are all the tasks I have to finish. And as I finish each one, I giddily draw a nice thick line through each item. So. Satisfying.

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My love of lists goes into over drive when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. I know I know… I barely keep up with my resolutions and abandon a huge majority of them before Summer even hits, but it’s still fun for me. It’s also such a great way to reflect. What was important to me last year? Is it still important? How have things changed? What do I want to accomplish this year?

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123 Tart Crust

Earlier this month, my husband and I got to take our first real trip alone together since we were placed with our daughter. We are usually go-out-and-see-things-rent-cars-to-take-random-roadtrips-hop-on-buses-to-go-exploring sort of people, but this time we decided to take a different approach. I’ve been incredibly stressed at work, and my husband is working through (what feels like) miles upon miles of paperwork for job applications. We didn’t think we’d have the energy to do our normal exploring thing. So we decided on Mexico. Water its own special shades of blue and soft sand, we got a room with a view you couldn’t look away from. I bought a pile of books to catch up vacation reading, downloaded a bunch of movies / shows, and we were ready to go.

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We were bored in less than a day, and missed our munchkin even before then. It’s strange how things change when you become a parent. I never thought I’d be the mom type, and even made my husband swear that we would do just a couple vacation once a year to get away from the little rugrat. Never did I think I’d be calling and skyping with her daily, or thinking about her at every turn. “Oh look at that kiddie pool.. Razia would have loved that! Aw look at that sweet little dress… should we buy one for Razia? Can you imagine if Razia was here?” Daily. Hourly. Strange. The whole trip made us reflect on family, and how lucky we were that we even had the option of taking this trip without her.

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It’s funny how life works out sometimes. For example, when I first met my mom in law, she was just my friend’s mom (or, more accurately, the mom of the guy I had a crush on hah). Then my husband and I got serious, got engaged, and finally got married. This woman who I thought was pretty cool, who would always bust my husband’s chops, and who was such an awesomely strong woman, became my mom in law. But it’s more than that; she’s also become my rock for so many things, including helping us raise our daughter; she’s someone I can’t imagine my life without. I’m sort of an oddity in my own family. I’m too loud, too head strong, too obnoxious, and too demanding in comparison to my mom and my sisters. I’m also not as well kept as they are, and wasn’t as social as they were growing up. All these things that caused me to be the odd one out, are actually things that my mom in law loves about me. Strange.

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Eggless White Chocolate Mousse

The chocolate world is quite a divided one. You have the snooty dark chocolate lovers that crave the bitter and complex flavor profiles, the average Joes who want the simple flavor of milk chocolate with the caramel undertones, and those in the white chocolate camp that just want something smooth, light, and barely sweet. I usually fall into the hoity toity dark chocolate world, whereas my husband and mom in law lean more towards white chocolate.

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For the most part, I’ve never bothered to waste money on white chocolate so I’ve only ever been subjected to the overly sweet mass produced kind. You know the ones I’m talking about. The white chocolate that you find in cookies from Subway or your local grocery store bakery, or the stuff that they layer with peppermint for peppermint bark during the holidays. I don’t know what it is, but it just tastes like sugar to me, and that’s not what chocolate is about.

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Then something happened. My husband and I have a few fancier-than-the-local-takeout-spot date night dinner spots we like to visit. I usually always go for a crème brulee (because nothing beats crème brulee that uses real vanilla beans mmmm) and my husband will favor a tiramisu. One night we ended up getting a slice of vanilla cheesecake, and it arrived as a cheesecake and white chocolate mousse combo. I was skeptical, squinting at it with distrust, hoping it didn’t overpower the cheesecake portion.

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Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

Does anyone else feel insanely overwhelmed sometimes? Like no matter how many to do lists you make, or no matter how you try to keep to a schedule to try and get everything done, somehow there just aren’t enough hours in a day? Lately I feel like I’ve just been play catch up; just trying to stay afloat. My to do lists are just about useless because even if I try to do just ONE thing, that one thing seems to suck up the entire evening.

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About a week or two ago, NY finally started feeling winter, and I had no winter jacket to speak of. So Monday after work I decided that I would leave work on time (hah.. hahah… oh stupid me) and go to the store with my husband to pick up a jacket. I had a very definite idea of what I was looking for – a generic puffy jacket that hit mid thigh or lower. In my mind, I’d go to the store, buy this jacket, then come home in time to feed my daughter dinner and spend time with her before bedtime. What ended up happening is that I left work 40 minutes late, caught the absolute worst train delays, got to the store tired, and by the time I got home it was my daughter’s bedtime and I was exhausted.

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