Thursday, January 23, 2014

Let them talk...

Let them talk…and by that I mean really let the other person finish his sentence. Nothing is more annoying than being interrupted mid-sentence or in the middle of one's train of thought. When my husband and I have an argument, I get angrier when he interrupts me than I was about the original disagreement. Of course, he realized that and now we argue in a very civilized manner ;)

Jokes aside, I think listening is a skill; some people are naturally good listeners while others need to learn to hold their horses, come out of their self-absorbed sponges and learn to listen to the other person.   We are all eager to put in our two (mostly twenty) cents in but let's learn to be more patient. There are a lot of lonely people out there who sometimes just want to share their emotions;  they are not always expecting a solution from you to their problems, they are not always seeking advice and they are not always seeking reassurance. They just want to shoot the breeze with another human being.

I am a big talker; I'd strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere and talk about almost anything. When I was younger the conversation would end my being about, well, me. I was open and frank and shared my world views and my plans for the future and sometimes I would seek the listeners' support/approval. At that time, that was my idea of an enjoyable conversation. Showing everyone how  sorted I was (or at least I thought I was) and how I had things figured out at such a young age. I guess when you are a teenager some degree of one's self-absorption can be forgiven. Today, I can admit that because I look back and see that I could have spent some time listening as well. I'm glad I learned that with age.

My husband now jokingly asks me what I know about someone whenever he sees me talking to someone at a random place. For example, once we finished our ice-cream at a Carvel in Atlanta and my husband went to the car to buckle up our toddler son to his car seat while I went to pay the lady at the cash register. I noticed that she had a north-eastern accent so I asked her where she was from. That question and my appearance of genuinely listening to her response was all that it took for her to give me details of her life over the last five years. She told me how her and her husband lost their jobs and decided to move to the south to start a business but things were not going well. She then went on to tell me how her mother-in-law got very sick and they had to buy last minute expensive plane tickets to go see her before she passed away. To make matters worse, her husband cracked his tooth on some nuts from a condolence basket that somebody had sent to him and now she had a staggering dental bill….there's more to her story but the point of narrating it here is that sometimes people are lonely and all they want is an ear that seems interested.

I have to admit that I encourage people to talk to me. I ask them prodding questions. I think communicating is the best way of connecting with people. We are all rushed for time but sometimes giving five minutes of your day to be caring to someone won't put you behind on your dead line (yes, only five- I was done listening to the Carvel lady and wished her luck in that time.) 

So when you engage in a conversation, listen and hear the person out - it may actually make you grateful for the life you have.

Here's an interesting article on people who talk too much. Todays' recipe is from the www.frugal that you can make while listening to your family member or friend talk about their day :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Say "Yes!"

I want to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year. I have a great feeling about this year. I think it will bring good things to good people. I just hope I don't have to eat my words at the end of the year 
;) But that is what this post is about; positive self-fulfilling prophecies. Say yes to everything you think you can do. Say yes and do it! Surprise yourself by your accomplishments and live your best life by doing so. Think positive thoughts and make things happen.

I want to be clear about these self-fulfilling prophecies; they may be called "self-fulfilling' but they actually require work in addition to the positive affirmations :). I can sit here all day and think about running a half-marathon but unless I actually start training for it, it's not going to happen. But once I train, and give it my best physically and mentally, I will be able to jump over hurdles along the way. I will find the time to train, the strength to overcome my mood on lazy days and find ways of motivating my family to come to the park with me (everybody needs to be fit!)

The same applies to you; whatever you want to accomplish this year whether it is physical fitness, a flourishing career, financial success or doing more for a charity, don't just think about it - get up and put the wheels in motion. Thinking is the first step, believing the second (and constant) but working on it is definitely what will get you there. It's like me wanting to be more consistent on my blog. I thought about it a lot last year but this year I will actually do it :) 

Make this year matter. Make it so special that when you will look back at 2014 you feel it was a year well spent; whether it was reading all the wonderful books that you have been putting off, a new instrument you wanted to learn or spending more meaningful time with your family and friends. Do it consciously and make it matter. Get out of the daily grind- you have done it year after year. Do something new. Say yes to a great year ahead! 

I am excited about posting and sharing my thoughts with you this year- whatever they may be about. I will also continue to find yummy recipes for you and make it part of every post because food fits every situation. Today I am sharing an appetizer recipe that has been a hit every time I have made it for parties. Its a simple and you can make it in minutes. I also add corn and mint to make it even more tasty. Healthy, easy and delicious? Say "Yes!" :)

Spicy Black Beans and Avocado Canapes

Sunday, September 15, 2013

If that ship has sailed...

If that ship has sailed don't you think you can get on a speedboat and catch up to it? I always thought that was a possibility, maybe because I'm an optimist. Very few people are very lucky, for others opportunities are few and far between. Don't you think it would be a shame to miss out on something just because you didn't pursue it with your best effort? I think it would be totally tragic.

Life is full of unplanned occurrences, glitches and bumps along the way. Our most perfect plans are vulnerable to unpredictability. You can take this unpredictability as a reason to become hypertensive and fearful of the future or see it as factor of excitement in your life. If everything worked out as planned, then there would be no stories to tell, no problems to solve and perhaps nothing left to talk about! You can't prepare for every challenge beforehand but you can develop the strength and devise a plan to overcome the challenge when faced by it. So back to catching up with our sailed ship; perhaps a helicopter if not a speed boat? Don't have the means for either then how about just swimming? C'mon if Diana Nayd can swim from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64 you can surely do a few strokes too ;)

Exhaust all possible resources before you wave adieu to that ship. And once you do, don't look back knowing that you tried whatever was humanly possible. Don't fret, obsess and regret. Somethings are not meant to....but those that are may not always come easily.

If you have a story to share of how you didn't let an opportunity pass you by, even though you were faced with difficulties, then please share them with me. 

Since our theme was nautical I decided to end this post with a seafood "salad"- maybe it will help you stay in shape for that swim :) Enjoy!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Family Recipe - Aaloo & Puris

On my list of top 10 things that really annoy me, not sharing a family recipe is definitely up there. Food is meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone at any time. Another list topper is not giving people credit for their recipe or claiming it as your own. C'mon, that's just lying or hiding the truth; both are wrong :) Share great recipes & extend your food legacy; give others credit for their recipes and extend theirs. After all, their food filled your tummy and your day with yumminess. 

In my last post I promised to share my favorite traditional Pakistani breakfast recipe. It's what my mom made on weekends for us and I still ask her to make it whenever we are together. I hope you will try it too and enjoy it with your family and friends. Here is what you will need.

Ingredients for the Aalo curry (potato curry):

1) Five small golden potatoes; washed and thickly sliced (peeled or unpeeled)
2) 1 teaspoon red chili powder
3) 1 teaspoon salt
4) 1/4 turmeric powder
5) 1 tsp tamarind juice
6) 1/2 cup water

For tempering the Aalo curry:
7) 1/2 tsp onion seeds (kalonji)
8) Half white onion sliced
9) A few green chilies, whole, stems removed
10) 1/4 canola or vegetable oil

For the Puris (fried puffed bread):

1) 1 cup whole wheat flour
2) 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3) 1/2 tsp onion seeds
4) Water for kneading the dough


Wash, (peel or not) and thickly slice 5 small golden potatoes. 

Add 1/2 cup water, salt, red chili powder,  turmeric powder and tamarind juice. Boil on low/medium heat till potatoes are tender and some water remains. 

Heat 1/4 cup oil and add 1/2 small sliced onion, green chillies and 1/2 tsp of onion seeds. Fry till onions turn light golden.

Temper the potatoes by pouring the oil with all the ingredients on top of the cooked potatoes. Cover and set aside till ready to be served.

Mix whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, onion seeds and water. 

Knead to make a soft (but not sticky) dough. Make small balls from the dough (slightly bigger than golf balls). Flatten it on a hard surface and roll out into flat circles (like tortillas). 

Cut each circle into 4 triangles. 

Heat oil in a deep wok and fry two puris at a time.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Note: Don't bite into the green chillies (unless you are used to that kind of heat- they are mainly for fragrance and garnishing.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Abstinence and my absence of mind.

Abstinence and absence of mind will go hand in hand for me this year. If I don't eat, I basically don't remember much and my whole day is like a fog. I'm truly scared of this year's holy month of Ramadan, mainly because this is the first time in my adult life that the fasts will be so long- almost 16 hours long.... basically a 16 hour long fog for me. I am a very unpleasant person to be around when food is missing from the scene, ask my nearest and dearest. I am also a useless person to be around when I don't have access to frequent doses of caffeine and carbohydrates. To make things remarkably difficult, I have a robust toddler on my hands who is always bursting with energy, bless him. You get the picture, it will get ugly. 

At the same time, I am also very excited about fasting; I see it as a test of my will power, strength and my believes. I see it as a challenge and love the devotion and dedication that it requires. Fasting can really whip one into shape and instill the idea of discipline that we might have been lacking during the rest of the year. It's a fixed schedule of eating, praying, sleeping, reading etc. What is also great is the flat stomach that is at its lowest level in the hours closest to sunset ;) Go weigh yourself then, it will give you enough energy to jump off the scale with joy, I promise.

People often say that Ramadan is a good time to kick your smoking habit. I disagree. Don't make any big changes in Ramadan. Fasting is serious work, don't make it harder. Look forward to your reward at sunset and enjoy it. What I would recommend though is to carry over the discipline of Ramadan onto the next month and use it then to get rid of a bad habit or to get yourself into a healthy routine. 

Ramadan is so much more than just abstinence from food but for the purpose of this post food is what I want to focus on (of course, as always.) Ramadan calls for abstinence during the day but allows you to indulge after sunset and, man, do people spread out a feast. Here are some yummy ideas to add to your own spread whether your observe Ramadan or not :) Carb up people! It's going to be a long race.

1) Simple Pakora recipe

2) Fruit Chaat

 3) Kaala Chana Chaat

4) Jalebi - Mmmm...Best when served hot!

5) How about a twist on samosa and french toast?

I hope you will try some of the yumminess and report back :) Check in next week for one of my favorite breakfast dishes. It's a family recipe that I would love to share with you. See you then!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The mane attraction.

If your hair looks put together then most probably you will too. A lot of women and men spend long hours and countless dollars trying to get the right kind of hair/hairstyle. You kind of have to invest in hair - it's sitting on top of your head! I have had long hair my entire adult life mostly because I have developed an attachment to it and will suffer from separation anxiety if I cut it off.  Mine is straight and I like to style it in different ways. Here are some of my current favorite products and hairstyles.


- The sock bun. Perfect for those days when I have no time to style my hair any other way.  I just make a high pony tail and roll my hair inwards with the insert. Before the inserts became common I would literally use a sock but that never worked really well. Inserts are available at any accessory shop like Claire's, Icing, ULTA etc.

- Curls/waves. I use the old school hot rollers. Curling irons/rods are just not for me. With my long hair it would take me forever to sit and curl sections of my hair one at a time. Instead, I put on the hot rollers, do my makeup and take the rollers off- voila! soft wavy/curly hair with half the time and effort.

- Keeping things straight. The best style for your hair is the one you were born with. Since mine is straight anyway, I let my hair air dry, divide it in two sections (top and bottom, not left and right) and then quickly run a hot flat iron through it. Sometimes I use a protective, anti-frizz spray to prevent damage from the heat and keep the frizz out.


- I don't spend big bucks on salon brand shampoo and hair conditioners. I've tried them and haven't seen much of a difference between those and regular drug store brands so why spend more? I like L'oreal's Total Repair 5, Herbal Essences Hello Hydration and Aveeno's Living Color shampoos and conditioners.

-  L'oreal's Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm is great for weekly treatments to make hair soft, smooth and shiny. I noticed a considerable improvement in the shine and general health of my hair.

- Aveeno's leave-in treatment is good for those days when you haven't deep conditioned your hair and feel like your strands need some moisture. The only drawback with this is that I felt like I was going through the bottle very fast. Nevertheless, it's a good product.

- Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth Anti-frizz creme. Let me just say that it is not a great "anti-frizz" as it claims to be. So if that is your primary concern and you have thick and coarse hair, don't bother with this product. Having said that, it works pretty well on my long straight hair. It leaves it soft and smelling great, not sticky or greasy. It also takes care of a little frizz for me. I use it more as a hair refresher than as an anti-frizz cream.

- John Frieda's Frizz-Ease Heat Defeat Protective Styling Spray. Protects from heat of styling tools like flat iron and curling rods and controls frizz.

I don't know much about what works for curly or coarse hair so if you do then please share your favorites with us :)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Notes to and from a new mommy.

I still consider myself a fairly new mom because my son is only 21 months old and, just like him, I am learning something new everyday. Over this period of time I have learned a lot about myself, the baby, of course, as well as about adults who are eager to dish out advice; most well-intentioned and less judgmental than others.

Here are a few things I would like to say to people wanting to "help" the baby and the mother :)

-Keep your advice to a minimum. Offer advice when the mother asks you or when you see the mother doing something that could potentially endanger the baby's health (which is highly unlikely.) Don't blabber on about how you did a certain thing in your days. Gently offer your two cents at the relevant time but only if it will make a significant difference. 

- Inundating the mother with your words of wisdom could actually backfire. You could end up overwhelming an already exhausted individual.

- ASK what the mother (and even the father) need help with- don't assume. Everyone's situation is different. Maybe the mother wants a stretch of five to six hours of sleep at night. Depending on your relationship with the family, offer to watch the baby one night a week by staying over until the mother finds her bearings. If the mother prefers to watch the baby herself but needs help with laundry or cooking then offer to do that and do it graciously.

- Please, please, please offer to help mothers when you see them traveling with children and infants. If they don't want your help they can say no. It's a lot harder to ask for help and hear a, "No," than to offer help and hear a "No, thank you."

- If a mom is visiting you with a small child and you do not have small children to look after yourself then take some burden off of her. If her child gives trouble at night, offer to watch the baby one night. If you work, offer to help on a weekend. I have heard the argument that the mother has to watch her own baby and its her responsibility and that others shouldn't be expected to pitch in. My answer to that is that it's not about responsibility or expectations, it's about helping someone - everyone deserves a break and a new mom more than anybody else. 

- DO NOT expect a new mom to help YOU with something. I know it sounds ridiculous but I have seen it happen.

-It is nice to visit the mother and baby and I am sure they would appreciate the company...for a little bit. All I wanted to do with any down time I had was to sit there silently and do nothing. I just wanted to relax by myself. So don't plan a day long expedition  unless you are going with the intention of helping and not just entertaining. Send the mother for a nap, put the baby down for a nap and sterilize the bottles- that is how you help :)

I had a very difficult time with my son for the first six months because he had severe acid reflux, constipation (which caused gas) and he started teething early. All those led to him being very restless and he would wake up every two hours at night and napped for 30 minute stretches during the day. Nursing was also very challenging for me. To top it all, we had moved to our new house the day before I went into labor so most of our things were still in boxes when I brought my son home. I had never been so tired as I was in the first six months after giving birth. Maybe I needed more help than an average mother because of my particular situation; everyone's situation is different, so ask the mom/dad and help!

Few things new mother's need to remember which might help them deal with their new (adorable) situation a little better:

- People forget how hard it can be to take care of a child- don't hold it against them. You'll forget too unless you make a note of it (like I am doing here.) Even mother of several children forget once the children have grown up.

- Everyone was not created equal- you are a unique individual and so is your baby. Your babies growth process will be different from other babies and the way you handle your child will be different from other mothers. Follow your natural instincts - don't sweat it.

-If you can't handle something at a given time- ask for help, don't feel like you must deliver all the time. Even those around you might not know what you need until you ask.

- Nursing is NOT EASY. It is supposed to be the most natural thing but, in the first few weeks, I felt it was the hardest thing I have ever done- harder than natural labor! It is important that you make it your priority and try and get yourself and the baby comfortable with the process so your baby can benefit from the milk made especially for him/her. However, having said that, you can only do what is "humanly possible," as my best friend said. There are many other aspects to being a mother; nursing is just one of them. Do your BEST and if it doesn't work, supplement with formula and be satisfied with whatever you did and focus on your child's other needs. My other bestie (I know I have smart friends :)) said that in the big scheme of things it is more important how you raise your child than if you nursed them or fed them formula. You are not a bad mother if you didn't nurse your child for a certain number of months. 

If you have a great mom then learn from you mother like I have but at the same learn from your child as well - let him/her guide you on your journey to motherhood. Trust yourself; you are the mother and you know best. You will always put your child's needs first because, after all, there is no ME in motherhood :)