I just need things to be simple. For a little while at least. I need things to flow, be easy, and just work. I need to start being on time to work, have a handle on my kids, actually get projects and work DONE, and be able to post a bit more regularly. But I feel like I’m failing at just about all of these things. I feel like I’m just playing catchup and each day I slip a little further back on the path no matter how fast I think I’m running towards my goal. I know in my head that I’m not alone in this feeling. Most people feel like they aren’t accomplishing as much as they could. But the problem with this whole feeling inadequate feeling is that it isolates you. In those moments it makes you feel like you are the only one who just can’t get their act together. Continue reading
So it’s holiday season. One of my favorite flavors that comes up around now is peppermint chocolate. You can find it in truffles, or cookie exchanges, or that addictive peppermint chocolate bark that is sold at Williams Sonoma. I’m a fan of mint chocolate no matter what time of year, but there’s just something more festive about it now. There’s a special sort of magic in the air when houses and stores sparkle with twinkle lights, and when people are a bit more ready with a smile. It’s the time of year where soup kitchens are overrun with volunteers, donations to charity organizations go through the roof, and everyone is a little bit more willing to lend a hand to a stranger. Or at least that is what I hope for. We are also living in a world where mistrust seems to be running high. Political heads and community leaders are counting on this and rallying people into a frenzy. “If you see something, say something” has honestly run amok. My three year old daughter has had to deal with more racist encounters then I think I ever had to deal with in my entire childhood. Why should she ever have to? What the hell is wrong with people where they feel it’s open season on babies? Today there were additional peaceful protests by the Black Lives Matter movement. They marched to the airport, and the whole thing dissipated in no time. We need movements like this to wake people up. To get them at least thinking about the world we live in. There have been so many cases where, even with video evidence, the victims get no justice. As a person of color, how do you not support something like this? But there are also so many communities and individuals who just don’t want to get caught up in “the drama”. They think that by being a model minority, they and their families will be safe. I can’t buy into that. Thank God, my family hasn’t been involved in anything as scary as what happened to Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, or Sandra Bland, but there is always the chance. And even if we were safe, I’d like to think that my privilege wouldn’t blind me from the realities of other communities. So I’m asking you to just take a moment and think about your neighbor this holiday season. Whether they are a person of color, or Muslim, or part of the LGBT community, or just something that is just different than what you know or recognize, take a minute to think about them and support them. That’s what I feel like the holidays should really be about. There is so much potential for goodness right now. Please don’t squander it by passing it out only to your own.
- FOR CAKE
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably dutch processed like Valrhona)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of hot water
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 cup yogurt (or sour cream)
- 2 eggs
- FOR FROSTING
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
- FOR CAKE
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Whisk together all the dry ingredients
- Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until there are no lumps
- Divide batter across three 6 inch round cake pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. About 35-40 minutes
- FOR FROSTING
- Beat butter on medium speed until smooth and fluffy
- Add 2 cups of powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Beat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add milk and peppermint extract. Beat for 1 minute.
- Add remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar and beat until thick and fluffy. 2-3 minutes.
Six months huh? Hah, I feel like there are times where I take the “part-time” part of this blog a little too seriously. But between a big move from NYC to the Twin Cities in Minnesota (with a toddler), to switching my job situation, to finalizing our daughter’s adoptions, to other family stuff… I just couldn’t seem to find the time. Or rather, the energy.
This is the first time in our little girl’s life where we haven’t had a family support system to fall back on. We were lucky enough to be less than 10 minutes from both sets of grandparents, which meant plenty of weekend mornings where I could just sleep in. If you’ve met my kid, you’ll know she’s feisty and a handful. She’s always been surrounded by adults, and so she now thinks she’s 25. There was always someone ready to hang out with her, play with her, keep her entertained. Now she only has us. Add trying to potty train her, a bought of pneumonia, and her first ear infection to the list and well, I’m surprised I’m not rocking back and forth in a closet somewhere.
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.
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.
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?
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. 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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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? 🙂
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
A few years ago when my husband and I were thinking about starting a family, I just couldn’t picture myself with a kid. I mean come on… a kid… that’s such a huge commitment! So much responsibility! I felt that my life would be over, and it would be all about this new baby. Hah. I know. I sound crazy. I was just so afraid of losing my sense of self. There were a lot of panic attacks, and a lot of hand holding from my husband’s end, but eventually the idea grew on me. I started to think of this future baby as someone I could be friends with, someone I could share things with, and someone who I could love.
One of the ways I got over the fear was imagining scenarios of me and this future baby / kid doing things together. I pictured us going to the park, or sitting in our future backyard just enjoying a great late Summer / early Fall day. Flying as high as possible on a swing and feeling that moment of exhilaration when you jump off midswing. I pictured us reading together before bedtime and introducing her to all the worlds that could possibly be imagined in books. From exploring new planets, to swimming in the middle of the ocean, to befriending dragons, to scolding monkeys. There’s nothing that can’t be achieved in a good book. And, because this is me, I pictured us baking.
Hah I know it’s so June Cleaver, but somehow it’s such a “Mommy and me” iconic imagine that I just can’t get out of my mind. Both of us in a sunshine filled kitchen, with this little munchkin standing next to me on a chair while we whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies (like these, or these, or these) or some cupcakes. I pictured those cupcakes coming out of the oven, and the two of us decorating them with a smear of frosting or just straight nutella and maybe some colorful sprinkles, laughing and sharing secrets, while her father sat at the kitchen table reading a book or grading papers looking up and smiling at us. “Baba look what Mama and I made! Want one?” The two of us would walk over to him, me holding glasses of milk, and her proudly but carefully carrying a plate of cupcakes. We’d sit together and share an afternoon treat while we talked about all the stuff she was learning in school and the new discoveries she’d made that week. This perfect little family moment.
As is blatantly obvious by all these posts, I love chocolate. Truffles, cakes, frostings, pudding, cookies, etc etc etc. There’s just something about the taste of the ingredient that takes me to another place. I don’t remember when I had my first chocolate covered strawberry, but that opened up a whole other set of emotions for me to experience. Since then, my go to “I don’t really want to bake but I have a craving” dessert has been a sort of fondue of 60% chocolate and strawberries. It’s quick, simple, and satisfying.
Raspberries… ehh… I wasn’t about them. If there was a show down between the two red fruits, I’m pretty sure I would have picked strawberry hands down. Until I started getting serious about chocolate that is. A few years ago, I walked into a Godiva store, nervously picked out a few truffles and walked out with my little gold satchel. I think there was a hazelnut praline of some sort in there, and a raspberry truffle. Life changing. There was a certain tartness in the raspberry that the strawberry didn’t capture. And it worked so well with the dark chocolate. I let it melt and rode the waves of the mingling flavors.