Monday, September 26, 2016

Homemade Brownie Mix & Recipe

Ok. So, I’d been kind of waiting for this to happen. Wondering how soon my epic fail would arrive. And I’m afraid this was it.

I’m sure the recipe is still great. Maybe. It works for some probably. But I don’t know what it was. They looked so delicious. The result’s not so bad either. But they taste really bad. Or maybe my idea of a chocolate brownie tastes completely different. Maybe I’m just preset in my chocolate ways. But this didn’t work for me. I’m so sorry.

I pinned this from Crazy for Crust. And followed the recipe as mentioned.

The Brownie Mix:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cocoa
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Brownies Recipe:
2 cups brownie mix
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tblspn water

Mix all the ingredients together and pour in a 9x9 oiled pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350°F.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Immigration... Are you really ready for the big move?

Deciding to move from your homeland can be daunting. Virtually disguised as a universal answer and the revolution your life awaits, it is but simply a humble iceberg. Capturing from afar, beautiful when near and inevitably, a solid forceful kick in the leg.

When I made the decision to move, it was more so nodding to the opportunity than exclaiming ‘that’s it, I’m off’. I didn’t have an academic goal in mind nor an employment offer calling me in. I never had the lifelong dream to fly out or travel the world. In fact I always thought I was so patriotic that nothing could bring me to actually move out. And I wouldn’t dwell more on exactly why I made the decision to go through with the process simply because my reasons could be mine alone and it potentially wouldn’t mean a thing to you. What I can share is what comes with this decision and whether anyone contemplating the same is truly ready for the package deal or not.

Why, though? Don’t just decide to move or have vague ideas about why you’re moving. Even thinking, and for the longest time I said this too, “for a better life” is extremely vague and questionable. I say this because in the first few difficult months you tend to question your motives repeatedly and to have a clear goal in your mind helps keep you in perspective. Do you just want another passport so you’re globally classified differently? Or do you want to build your life in a different place according to their standard of living? Are you just seeking exposure, higher education standards, ‘the bigger picture’? What is it really that your heart desires? What is it that would make you stay if you don’t find what you’re looking for? 

Money makes the world go round. This is the big one. Think about it. Do you have enough savings that could support you for the first 6 months? This includes, in addition to the application and/or consultation fees, airfare, food, local transportation, short term temporary accommodation unless you are staying with family or friends initially, long term residential deposits and rent, utilities cost, monthly groceries etc. How much cash are you going to carry and how much amount will you bring in via wire transfer or bank drafts? A lot of times, if you’re completely new to that particular place, you wouldn’t have any idea about average costs. I would recommend do lots of research, read forums, join social media groups to understand before you have a figure in your head. Know that this figure may vary not just by country, but by city and even neighbourhood. 

How much baggage do you have? And I don’t just mean the luggage. Whether you’re going as a student or a permanent resident, understand that in moving or in life, you cannot build something new if you have a lot tying you back. It can be as big as a real estate or business investment or as small as an inactive bank account or mobile service. I remember when I was in the process of getting my new drivers’ licence here, I had to turn in my Pakistani drivers’ licence and although it was the tiniest of things but I felt so odd doing it. Have a clear conscience when making the big move. Close down your bank accounts, mobile service, employment and rental contracts. You do not want to have your car parked somewhere, a vacant house, furniture that no one will use, an inactive status. Have a serious conversation with your closet. Give away anything you aren’t taking with you.

Iron Will. How well do you adapt? Are you knitted strongly to your family, your morale dependent on having a support system close by? Do you gel well with your surroundings? If you’re going as a student or have a job opportunity instantly or are social enough to connect with your community abroad, it shouldn’t be too hard to ‘find your people’. However, if you’re settling in slowly without a daily group of people to interact with, at work, kids’ school, college, mosque or church etc. it can get pretty lonely. And that’s when you need your support system to kick in strong. In comes the brilliant technology of today’s age. I have been on FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp more after leaving Pakistan. It also helps if everyone you know is available in every time zone.

Don’t be that person. Lastly, please don’t be the kind of person who A) gets stuck in conservative mode, refusing to change your wardrobe, refusing to mingle with anyone but your native community, refusing to learn the language, carry around that scandalous look on your face as if the culture shock wasn’t inevitable  or B) that person who completely switches personalities, changes their alias to Dave (sorry Daud, but it’s not cool at all), posts inappropriate pictures on social media, starts talking in a fake accent and thinks it’s outdated to celebrate Eid. As opposed to contrary belief, it is OK to be YOU. I’m personally extremely fortunate to be in Canada, a place that celebrates and respects diversity and doesn’t unconsciously push you to ‘conform or leave’. People come over from all over the world here and continue to live with their values and customs in a Canadian way. And that’s beautiful to me. Don’t be pressurized into living a false life, or putting on a fake face. Pave your own way through the world, be who you want to be and feel dignity and honour in your roots. 

Monday, September 5, 2016


It’s been quite an eventful time since 2015. A lot has changed. A lot has evolved. It’s made me quieter, more introverted, more thoughtful. Does one age more in uncharted waters? Do we grow wiser in unfamiliar circumstances? I wonder…

One of the biggest changes perhaps was the move from Pakistan to Canada. That too at a painfully sensitive and unimaginably hormonal post partum phase. A friend suggested I chronicle the journey. I agreed. Somewhat to quench my longing for putting everything into typed words. More so, because we both felt assumed it may help someone relate to my experience.

Nonetheless, here I am. Starting tomorrow, I am going to try to journal my entire experience to date. Till then, to my courage pumping SoundCloud playlist it is.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Free Printable Quote: Forgiveness and Peace

The last post gave me the idea to offer the mentioned quote as a free printable. It's A4 portrait sized but you can print it smaller too. I hope you like it.

'Forgive, not because others deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace.'

Download the file here.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ramadan Diaries: Finding Peace Within

25th Ramadan, 1437 AH

It’s never a good sign when I’m up at 3.00 am and staring into the dark. For one, I’m at my weakest in this moment. I know it. I can feel it in the depths of my heart that it’s dark and low here. And yet here I am. 3.00 am. Questioning my existence and purpose. It’s also Ramadan. So there’s that. Back to square one trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life.

I’ve always heard and read how this month is like the cleansing of the soul and how it works best when you focus on a specific thing you want to change or eliminate. All my life. It’s just been the words and never the epiphany. It’s so weird. It’s been so easy to just fall into the routine of fasting, the ambiance, the sermons, the race, the hunger and the food. And it’s ironic because sometimes we only truly find the answers when asked the most basic of questions.

Recently, while explaining why Muslims fast to a non-Muslim friend of mine, I found myself saying words that hit home.

‘…it’s in our most vulnerable physical state of hunger and silence that we find strength and peace within and the empathic connection to the people around us.’

Yes. I said that. She was a little impressed. I was too.

For the first time in my life, I sincerely felt Ramadan. It is not about the hunger. It is about finding peace.

For the first time, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve this month. A specific goal for the soul. By Day 30 of Ramadan, I wanted peace within. I wanted to let go of all the hurt and resentment that’s chained me for decades.  Yes I can be a terrible Aries when the time comes.

forgiveness and finding peace happiness quote

25 days in, I’m still working on that. I’d like to think that I am going to miraculously transform but it’s the hardest battle I’ve ever fought.  But I know if I am able to achieve just this one thing, I can come out stronger and happier.

Did you have a specific goal this Ramadan? Have you nearly achieved it?

Have you found peace?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

12 Ways to Reduce Paper Clutter & Organize Home Filing

This is one project I am always looking to improve. I hate paper clutter. I feel like it makes up the most mess in the house. And it never ends. Even though a lot of organizations have switched to electronic correspondence, still envelopes, advertisements, receipts, flyers etc. just seem to keep on piling up, don't they? But with a little effort, it can all be organized. And we can all save some of those precious trees while we're at it.

This is what I did to reduce paper clutter and organize home filing. I hope this helps you too. 
  1. First, I made sure I switched all regular monthly correspondence to electronic instead of postal mail. This included the bank, revenue agency, utility billing for electricity, home tv & internet, mobile and health insurance.
  2. Next I got a little red sticker from our apartment management to put on our mailbox to indicate that we do not need any promotional flyers, coupons, newspapers etc. You can also do this with your home mail box or communicate to the post man. 
  3. With my favourite stores for shopping, I subscribed to their offers electronically so any coupon or sale notification comes in my email. You can open the coupon on your phone and they can scan it right there at the cashier counter.
  4. A lot of good stores now will also send you the receipt via email instead of giving you a paper one. If this option is available, go for it.
  5. Start using a mobile or ipad app to record your budget and expenditures. If it's a good one, it'll also give you an option of scanning and saving your daily receipts. So you can easily do that and throw the receipts in the recycle bin. You cannot imagine how amazing these apps are and what a whole new perspective they give on spending.
  6. People of the World, embrace the recycle bin. Especially if you're in a place that actually does it. Back in Pakistan, everything went in the garbage except when you actually made the effort to collect all paper and give it to someone or some place who recycled. Here in Canada, it's an essential part of daily life. There's recycle bins every where and mandatory. So it helps a lot. Get rid of all the paper clutter. No you will not need it. Just throw it away. 
  7. Make sure you have 2 trays near your printer. One with new paper. You can use this for professional use and formal correspondence. The second tray can hold your paper that's already been  used in one side. You can use this to print out home stuff, even for cutting and pasting. This significantly reduces your paper use and cost. 
  8. There are some really nice apps for your phone that automatically save complete contact details by scanning a business card. You can use that and throw away the million cards lying around. No seriously, don't buy that 'business card book'. Don't. Seriously.
  9. I got a really nice file box for the important paper work. You can find one at Staples or Walmart or any good stationary store. It usually comes with pre-printed labels but I did a mini makeover to mine. I covered all the label faces with washi tape and stuck peel off labels at the centre of each pocket to customize my labels.
  10. I have separate box files that hold our educational, professional documents i.e. transcripts, certificates, degrees, appreciation letters, employment and experience letters etc. All in chronological order.
  11. Also, I have separate files for each family member that holds all medical records, in chronological order again.
  12. Last but not the least, get to it faster. Things pile up quickly when you think 'oh I'll file this later' or 'I'll scan this later'. But just try to get to it faster and even the important stuff won't start looking like a mess.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nutella Banana Muffins

A home should always smell of baking. Always.

I pinned this from The 36th Avenue and so glad I did. God bless you Desiree!
Here's how it goes down. There's a step by step picture guide below as well.
  • Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.
  • Mash 4 ripe bananas and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar and 2 eggs. Get some arm workout in there if you're using a whisk.
  • Add 4 cups of all purpose flour and 1/2 tsp salt. You'll probably need to get in there with your (clean) hands now if you're not using a processor. The mixture is going to turn into soft crumbs.
  • In a 1/2 cup warm water, add 2 tsp baking soda (I used baking powder because I realized at the last minute I didn't have any baking soda) and mix. It's going to turn foamy. Add this to the mixing bowl.
  • Now add the mashed bananas and 1 cup chocolate chips and mix super well.
  • Spoon into a muffin tray and top it off with a dollop of Nutella.
  • Use a skewer to swirl it around or make a pattern if you're feeling adventurous.
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Garlic & Parmesan Baked Potato Wedges

I pinned this from Le Creme De La Crumb. This one is super easy and delicious. I will definitely be making this very often.

Here’s what you’ll need:
3 large potatoes, cut into wedges
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
freshly chopped coriander or cilantro for garnish

To be honest, I didn’t measure out anything. I just cut the potatoes, coated them in olive oil, parmesan cheese and seasoning in a mixing bowl, laid them out on a baking tray lined with aluminium foil. 
Oh wait, you had to preheat the oven at 375 F. Do that, wait 5 minutes before popping the tray in if you haven’t already been smart to preheat the oven beforehand. Then just keep an eye out to make sure the cheese is melted and the potato edges turn perfectly rustic brown.

The original recipe said bake for 25-35 minutes but mine were done in 13-15mins. I think it had something to do with my cutting skills. Gordon Ramsay would eat me alive if he saw my wedge cutting skills. 

Note to self: must learn to cut wedges.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DIY Candle Glass to Washi Taped Coin Holder

I love scented candles. Especially the ones that come in glasses or jars because it's great for reuse or recycle. After the candles have melted away, I wash them out thoroughly and use them for multiple purposes - serving pre-set desserts, sipping breakfast juice, refrigerating home-made sauces or salad dressing in, dropping house keys in etc.

This was a fun project I recently did since I had a lot of leftover IKEA candle holders. And also a lot of loose change in one jar that we were always rummaging through. I still haven't gotten the hang of loonies, toonies and the likes. So if you like the idea, you can change it up and make it work for you too. Here's what I did.

Microwave the leftover candle holder for 10 seconds at a time until you can easily pick off the candle base with a butter knife. Do not worry. I assure you it will not blow up. Now wash the glass out thoroughly with warm water. Decorate with washi tape. I used numerical stickers as well to indicate coin value for each glass. Voila!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I Want Happy.

Realizing you need to make positive changes in your lifestyle isn’t complete unless you set goals and work towards them. I thought I knew that, until I noticed the absence of personal ambition. But more importantly, I knew I wanted to be happy but I just didn’t know how to be without appearing thankless for what I had. Wanting happiness doesn’t mean you’re not happy with what you have. It just means you also want the naive kind of joy your younger self felt.

Setting specific personal goals help steer me. Simple words get to me faster. So does making lists. So while I was scribbling in my little notebook, making a list of what I feel I need to do or change, I still felt like I was all over the place without direction. That’s when I found these words on Pinterest. And I knew this is where I should begin.

It sounds straightforward, almost magical. But 3 months later, I’m only 1/3 of my way in and feeling envious of people who may have achieved these three hobbies. 

Are you one of them? And are you happy?