I heard your heart sang love love love

Is this the only month I write a happy and optimistic post? Possibly. Not because the rest of the summer goes downhill after that but because I probably get far too busy and lazy enjoying it. So this post isn’t about anything in particular, just an amalgamation of things that I like. First of all, I just finished watching season 4 of Mad Men and it was so awesome. I love the show and I also just love the style of that era. The way things looked just perfect and of course the show makes everything look beautiful, the women’s hair, their clothes, their struggles and triumphs. I wish I remembered more of the 80s but I don’t remember the things like the style and the feel of the era. I remember the 90s really and I long for them even though I know childhood and adolescence weren’t particularly easy.

Anyway, back to Mad Men, I’m listening to a Man Men playlist and just checked out these black and white shots from the set of the show. So lovely. And here are a few lovely things I’ve been up to.

Trying to pick a nailpolish

A wedding in the park

Our bikes resting while we rest

Pumpkin pie and chocolate cake

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Day 3: The Healing

Considering how badly day 2 went, and considering how I was surprised at how quickly I unraveled alone with my own thoughts, day 3 went remarkably well. I was doing far better in terms of energy and walking ability than I had in a while. I proceeded to avoid the pressing issue of a job hunt and made myself happy by getting myself some blue flowers and baking some coconut muffins.

I got quite carried away with the thought of them. I made a dozen all for myself with no thought of what to do with them later as HD doesn’t eat coconut. I modified the recipe with swiss chocolate and less sugar. I also paid no heed to the gigantic mess I made. Later on, it took me about 3 shifts of cleaning to clear it all up.

Finally, I ended the day with a series of TED talks on the subject of ‘Sex, Secrets and Love’. To be honest, this collection did not have an awful lot of sex or secrets, but all the talks were really good in their own right. The one that hit home was this one connection and vulnerability. Maybe I was on some sort of high that night but it made a lot of sense then and I was lost in the profoundness of it. I felt like that speech looked right at me and asked me why I wasn’t letting myself feel belonging. To be easier on myself, third culture kids do have a harder time with belonging. I remember when this poem by iamwatercolor described me the best. Also this one by her as well:

limbo

how stubborn are we
castaways of culture
climbing over the walls
only to peep through the cracks

And here is the TED talk:

brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

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The Breakfast Series

One of my more recent discoveries is figuring out how gyms make money and why trainers are really experienced salesman. My first encounter with a trainer was in guise of a ‘free assessment’. Here I was asked to remember the last time I remembered feeling healthy, energetic and perfectly happy with how I looked. I was also asked to think back to the last 10 years of keeping my weight and diet in control. Touché sir. I can tell you the exact memories and scenarios, I guess many people can. Then I was made to realise how incapable I am of turning this around and actually meeting my fitness goals on my own. On a piece of paper, he even drew abs for me. I told him those didn’t look like mine but probably much more like his; a statement he did not deny. Clearly I need a trainer to help me pump iron so I don’t get bored doing it and also to keep my from living a life of disappointment and struggle.

At the moment though, I cannot bring myself to accept his proposition of help and a wonderful life. Working out with a trainer will remain a dream for now. What I have been working on is trying to sort out my diet on my own. It turns out that I am lactose intolerant. Don’t laugh at me, chances are quite high that you are lactose intolerant too. It is far more common than I had realised but luckily not harmful. On top of that, I am trying to avoid gluten too. A year ago I didn’t even know what gluten meant and I am still trying to figure it out. If I buy into the hype, I would believe that it will not only help digestion but also solve every other problem in my life. It always comes down to food, doesn’t it?  Don’t believe me? Google it.

Despite those limitations on my diet, here are a series of breakfast photos that I have seriously enjoyed. Breakfast is still my favourite meal of the day and it photographs so nicely especially when travelling.

HD’s ommelette upon my return

Dinner at my friends’ flat in Geneva (ok so this isn’t beakfast)

Scone, jam and green tea at Dublin Airport

In Texas!

I have been travelling the past week folks! HD and I went off to Houston, his hometown. I think I have recommended some unusual travel destinations on this blog. I mean who in the world would enjoy a trip to Houston, Texas? Well the answer is anybody and everybody. Ideally you’d want to go in the spring or fall. We went in February and got lucky as the city had warmed up to temperatures in the 20s C. Not that it gets very cold here to begin with but still, I got my perfect Karachi winter weather right here. I had been a bit rueful that I didn’t get to go to Karachi this winter but the Houston trip made up for it. On arrival at the airport, the same humid air greeted us as we stepped outside. We quickly adjusted though as it wasn’t that hot.

So as a Houston novice, the first thing I noticed was the space. Due to the vast amount of land available, the highways are wide; they criss-cross over and around each other making loops around the city and cutting across it. The buildings in the downtown area are large and imposing, and the Uptown District boasts the huge touristic shopping mall, the Galleria which has about 3 million square feet of space. So folks, when I took my first steps inside it, I stepped straight into Neiman Marcus’ shoe section. It was quite a shock as I hadn’t heard of that store before nor had I ever been surrounded by so many designer shoes. (I know, I make Geneva sound like a tiny village.) Prada, Chanel, Manola Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Dior, YSL, my head was spinning. So I tried on the most pink pair of Jimmy Choos I could find with the biggest bow. The bow can’t be seen in the picture below but they were so pretty that the women trying on shoes in front of me started admiring them.

I’m going to skip over all the other places to visit in Houston and fast forward to the food pictures. We went to a Persian restaurant called Kasra that served delicious food. If I can figure out how to cook chicken like that I might actually start eating it again happily. (I don’t like chicken.) The meat platter was great and so were the different types of rice with the dried pomegranate flakes.

Other finds include the Chocolate Bar in Rice Village which has different kinds of chocolate, candy and cakes in a very quirky and fun setting. I aso discovered Mungo which is a Mongolian restaurant with a pretty sweet concept. You choose all your ingredients, filling up your bowl with the fresh meat, veggies, sauces and spices for your dish and have it cooked right then. Here’s my bowl.

I’ll finish with a picture of Houston at night-time from wikipedia since I wasn’t able to take a half decent picture from a moving car at night. The views were indeed gorgeous.

To eat or not to eat

Some of my discoveries in America have been food-based. Be it cooking at home or just eating out, I have been doing more of both. Husband dear and I have had a few nicer, healthier experiences when eating out, but mostly eating out has meant grabbing something on the run. I have familiarized myself with quite a few fast food places, including taco bell, chilli’s (it probably doesn’t count as fast food but it’s cheap and not necessarily healthy), the mexican food van on the street (i loved it!) and Subway. Previously I had only been acquainted with McDonald’s (since it is one of the few American fast food places open in Geneva), Burger King (but I never ate there), and also Subway (because it exists in England). Subway was a part of my regular diet during law school and so was Pret a Manger (which I really like and recommend for its healthy and green ethos), pad thai and doner kebabs with fries and coke. Anyway fast forward to post-law school when I lived at home, didn’t eat out much and lost a bunch of weight… here’s the kicker… without even trying.

Fast-forward to now and I put it on again. Need I say more? It’s not just the eating out, did I mention I enjoy cooking? I discovered that I even like to bake. Cakes and such of course. I have used the egg, flour, sugar and butter combination so many times I feel guilty stocking my shelves with these things. The first cake I baked was a tres leches for husband dear’s birthday. It also lots of heavy cream and sweetened milk to boot. It was delicious here’s a picture.

The chocolate cake I made wasn’t as amazing as I had imagined but we still ate a lot of it. I also remembered reading about a very quick brownie-cookie recipe that would satisfy a chocolate desert craving quickly and dug it up from Ximena‘s blog. (Check out her 15 minute emergency brownies.) Yes it is awesome and you don’t even have to wait 30-40 minutes! It bakes in 6 mins flat. I used chocolate powder instead of real milk chocolate the first time and it came out tasting of dark chocolate. The next time I used the real thing and added only a bit of the powder and the batter turned into goop that would not go on to the cookie sheet in cookie-sized dollops. So I just poured it in and let it bake just like that, and even though I took out a large flat amorphous … chocolate thing from the oven, it was delicious. Husband dear and I finished it in one sitting.

In the spirit of cutting back and going back to that ideal weight again, I have been exercising and setting some goals. However, as I was eating my gourmet burger (yes it was gourmet and not fast food, with delicious avocado slices in it to boot) with fries and blue cheese, I realised that I really didn’t want to give up nice food. I mean I thought I could but it is very nice to go to a nice place and truly enjoy a burger or a nice Italian pizza. The real thing at a nice Italian restaurant in Geneva (not the crap they have for delivery in the US, yes I said it). And the real deal in pasta. I love pasta and tomato sauce, and pesto sauce and linguine. And seafood and Thai and noodles. And bread and cheese and croissants, pains au chocolat, pain aux raisins and pain a la vanille.

Well this post was supposed to be about something else entirely. It is a subject kind of related to food but in a diametrically opposite way. It’s supposed to be about jeans. Jeans that don’t fit. I have jeans, office pants, a couple of skirts, some dresses, shalwar kameezes, shirts, tops and even underwear that doesn’t fit. I may have held on to it for too long now. I haven’t shopped properly in ages because I have been waiting to get back to my old weight to do so. So I have a limited amount of clothes that I do wear and that is just beginning to seem ridiculous now. I have passed my deadline to get rid of these things once but I never did, some of those clothes are brand new and so pretty. If I became a stick again, they would look so awesome on me. However, the chances of my fitting into the jeans I wore when I was 19 are quite slim. Should it hang in the closet like a spectre of the past and a mockery of the present? But I loved those jeans then and I still do.

I am wondering, should I just let go of the idea of losing weight and just embrace the new one? I am by no means overweight and still intend on exercising and eating healthily most of the time. Just no longer with the intention of fitting into those clothes. The super-organiser in me wants to pull out everything that doesn’t work anymore and donate and/or sell it. It will be a weight off my shoulders if nothing else. What do you think dear reader? Ever given up on that new year resolution so resolutely so early on in the year?

Ljubljana, the hidden paradise of Europe

I am not an authoritative guide to Ljublana, the capital of Slovenia, but having spent 2 days and 3 nights there, I felt I must give praise where it’s due. Slovenia is a fairly young country, gaining independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. As such, I do not know of it being a widely known vacation spot, but I feel that it should be.

It’s capital is a lovely city that has a very artsy vibe and a charming city centre. It has a large student population, it’s university being ranked the 37th in Europe. Lovely cobbled streets make great walks along the river that is lined with cafes and restaurants and nice quaint buildings. The food is especially good and there is plenty of variety. During our stay there, we had Chinese, Greek and Mexican. We had a breakfast in bakery that served us croissants and pains au chocolat fresh from the oven along with frothy capuccino and tea. The next day, we had a full breakfast meal, of eggs, toast, different spreads and freshly pressed orange juice. The food is very reasonably priced and the decors are very artsy and sometimes daring or different. One of the restaurants we went to was owned by an artist who named his place ‘son of a bitch’ in Spanish. Most importantly of all, the people were all extremely friendly. I don’t think I have come across such helpful people in all of Europe and they all spoke English!

Have I mentioned everything there is to do and see? Definitely not. There is a castle on a hill, museums, markets, etc. Do I strongly recommend it? Definitely yes. Here are some pictures to convince you.

Cravings guaranteed

Since my last post was pretty sad, let me assure you now that this one talks of happier things. Well, one of the happiest topics anyway: food. Now, I never thought I was an avid food lover like some of my slightly larger relatives claim to be. Of course I enjoy some dishes immensely and I do like to eat more frequently in the day than some people, but it may be possible that food is on my mind because now I am supposed to be on a diet. Yes that’s it, I have to lose some weight. I am at least one size over what I was last summer and have trouble fitting into some clothes… ok so I can’t fit into any of my trousers.

Going on a diet (or thinking about going on a diet) has also made me realise that I am addicted to chocolate. I generally enjoy all kinds of deserts, but if it’s chocolate flavoured then all the better. I love all sorts of chocolate cakes, biscuits, breads. Until recently coco pops for breakfast were a morning ritual. For them I would get out of bed happily. Lord knows how I weaned myself off that one. So this isn’t just a post dedicated to any food, it’s dedicated to chocolate; and since I am not one to do things half way, this is a picture of chocolate.

Chocolate fudge to be exact. Home-made even. What happened here was that I got such a craving for sticky sweet chocolatey fudge that I made some myself. All you have to do is mix some butter, marshmallows and chocolate in a pan. No I do not know in what quantities, I kind of just throw them in and see how it works out but it’s best to start off with a little bit of butter otherwise it just oozes out of the fudge. Let everything melt and then mix it well together on low heat. Then take it out, pour the mixture into a bowl or a plate and let it harden. To get it properly solid it will need to go into the fridge for a while. As it turns out, at this attempt I was craving fudge so badly that I did not go out and buy plain milk chocolate, I used the one at home which had nuts in it. Needless to say, my nutty fudge turned out to be a gooey delight.

A couple of days ago, I got such a craving for Nutella (that wondrous hazelnut chocolate spread) that I spread it on two slices of bread for dinner. Another diet-busting idea I had was to add nutella to my afternoon fruit snack. So I had strawberries dipped in nutella.

If you’re feeling like you’re on a sugar high after reading all that, here’s a picture of a slightly healthier snack I made. It involves cutting up whatever fruit I find and adding nuts and double cream. Yes I actually ate that without adding chocolate chips.