Happy birthday, America! You are the land of the free, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to have been born and raised in such a brave country. As a Pakistani-American, Punjabi-American, American, I’m always questioning what it means to be truly American, while holding on to my home-base culture and allowing myself to feel the benefits and freeness of America. It’s important to me to have a cultural blending, so I don’t entirely miss out on the culture my family came here with, but still having the choice to decide what serves me.
What does it mean to be an American? The beauty of it is that it’s totally up to you. And that power of choice and thought in itself is ultimate freedom.
Oops I definitely totally forgot to be updating my blog! It’s been a busy couple of months with hubbz and I buying our first home! We’ve traveled a lot since my last blog update. Here’s a quick rundown…
In July we took a cruise on (NCL of course) from Venice, Italy and it went to Croatia, Montenegro and the Greek islands Corfu, Mykonos, and Santorini. The cruise was called the Greek Isles Cruise. We first decided to take this trip when we went to Italy in 2016 and saw cruise ships departing out of Venice and thought we would love it, especially since we could Greek island hop! We were so right and sailing away out of Venice was majestic. We were looking forward to Santorini the most of our ports, but were delighted and surprised when we docked at Montenegro. It’s a lesser known European country and its beauty was amazing!
A memorable adventure in Santorini was walking down the stairs in the blistering sun, navigating through donkey poop! Unfortunately there was an intense heat wave during our trip. I would definitely recommend avoiding July/Aug to travel to Greece due to the heat and swarms of tourists! Now this is why we cruise like spoiled Americans, we can always hop back on the ship for some unnecessarily strong American a/c. 🤣
Anyways, looking back it was a great adventure and we truly enjoyed our cruise experience and the ports. I also must mention we got an Aft facing balcony which gave us a panoramic view of each port as soon as we arrived. We literally woke up to God rays shining on a different beautiful island every morning.
As natural foodies, we enjoyed the local fare. The branzino in Greece was delish and in Venice we grabbed some more branzino along with some yummy pasta and gelato.
Here are some pics from the Greece cruise:
Hubbz and I on the cruise ship, Montenegro
Before we closed on our house, we took a trip to Hawaii. We had been there for our honeymoon but only stayed on land in Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, while we cruised on NCL. This time we knew we wanted to visit Oahu and Maui again, and stay in Honolulu as well. We had such a foodie experience with fresh local catches and nonstop mai tais. We got to make a friend in Honolulu and bonded over science, culture, and travel, which was super fun! We captured gorgeous glimpses of natural beauty. We even got to wear our Nakhre queen and Wakhra Swag tees, but I didn’t get a pic of hubbz in his, *womp womp*. Here are some pics:
Mai tais at the four seasons
Turtle bay resort Oahu
Hawaii has its own unique Pacific beauty with various terrains and landscapes amongst and within all the islands. Hawaii always has a special place in my heart. 💓
Well there’s my update! Lately I’ve been focused on work and furnishing the house. So exciting!
Happy Hump Day! Although it’s a short work week, it definitely feels like it’s dragging. Ugh! I can’t wait for the weekend; hubbz and I are off to Ohio for a family wedding. I had ordered a saree online from India, pre-stitched since I really can’t put a saree on, despite several YouTube tutorials for the modern day “ABCD,” but it hasn’t arrived yet (major ugh!). This means *back up shalwar kameez to the rescue* will have to suffice. Anyways, the sun was finally out today and I decided to make a staple vegetarian dish that my mom always makes. I totally can’t remember how to say “beans” in Urdu/Hindu, so let’s call this:
1 onion, chopped
4 small roasting potatoes, white (or your favorite kind), peeled and chopped
2 cups Haricot Vert (French green beans)
1 oz ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 small tomato, chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup water
salt to taste
Note: You can get the ginger-garlic paste and curry powder at your local Indian store.
Fry onion in oil until brown. Then add ginger-garlic paste, stir, and add potatoes. Add water, curry powder, and cover to boil until potatoes are done, about 10 minutes. Add chopped tomato, and tomato paste, let cook about 2 minutes. Add French green beans and salt, cover and let cook 5-7 minutes. And you’re done!
Happy Friday! The weather outside is bummy, so I’m definitely spending my Friday night at home. Couch + wine + Netflix = blissful rainy day. I have some weekend plans with hubbz and luckily the weather is supposed to be sunny Saturday and Sunday. I can’t wait to be on a boat on a warm, sunny day! Anyways, I haven’t traveled in a while, but June is full of fun travels, so I’ve been stocking up on dresses, sandals, and makeup. I love Sephora and Ulta for my makeup shopping, and both stores tend to have exclusive shades for the more prestige brands, i.e. Stila, Too Faced, Tarte, Anastasia Beverly Hills (ABH). I follow a bunch of makeup lines on Instagram and saw a model wearing ABH liquid lipstick in Poet. I went the same night to Ulta and grabbed myself an ABH Catnip lippy (Poet was sold out😔). Catnip was a gorgeous pinkish-berry-mauve shade, and looked great on my skin tone. As a medium-dark brown South Asian women, it’s sometimes hard finding the right shades in makeup, and even then the hues may not be pigmented enough to really stand out on my skin. Luckily, the ABH liquid lipsticks are all super pigmented. They apply creamy and dry to a matte that doesn’t need much reapplying throughout the day. The best part about the matte is it doesn’t stick to cups, so I can drink my Starbucks and wine without the annoying lip stains! For a nude, I usually reach for the Urban Decay Amulet, which is a metallized pinkish beige. Recently, I decided to add another ABH lippy to my vast lipstick collection, so ventured out to Ulta to explore. I was super happy to find ABH Ashton, which was a caramel shade with slightly reddish undertones. This was the perfect nude for me! If you have medium-darker skin the ABH Ashton might just be your nude, which is such a difficult shade to find!! I’m so in love with this shade and the whole ABH liquid lipstick line 👌🏾👌🏾💄💄. Now go off into the rows and rows of eyeshadows, bb creams, eyebrow dips, and glow kits…under the fluorescent lights. Find your nude and become one with it. 💄💋💖
Hello! Welcome back for a quick weeknight recipe. Aditya and I mostly prefer ethnic foods, so I’m always interested in cooking non South Asian meals (since this is the default in our house). Tonight I felt like a Hispanic dinner would be so yummy so I made a quick trip to Trader Joe’s on the way home from work. Trader Joe’s had everything I needed, and I already had some essentials at home – adobo, saffron, garlic, sazon, rice.
Growing up in Leominster I was always surrounded by a good mix of ethnicities! I had a lot of Hispanic friends who would share their foods with me. How lucky was I?! Spanish food is one of my favorite, always wholesome, comfort foody, and so rich in flavors!
So here’s the recipe. This took me like 30 minutes…so easy. Seriously though!
1 cup rice (I used jasmine)
1 lb chicken breast
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp olive tapenade (mix of olives and capers, get it at TJ’s)
3 hot and sweet cherry peppers (found at TJ’s)
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 bell peppers
1/2 cup peas (optional, add 5 minutes before rice completion if using)
1 medium onion
1 packet sazon (I used no msg Badia)
1 tsp adobo
1tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of saffron
Chop onions, bell pepper, cherry peppers, and chicken into small pieces. Sauté chicken for 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat (this can be done while preparing the base to save time.) For the base, start by frying onions in oil. When brown add green pepper and garlic. Add more oil if needed. Rinse rice in cold water until water runs clear, let sit in water. Add tapenade, cherry peppers. Sauté 2 minutes. Add broth, wine, saffron, adobo, sazon. At medium heat add tomato sauce, boil 5 minutes, until base becomes thick. Add chicken to base and cook 2 minutes. Drain water from rice and add to pot. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 7 minutes. Check pot and if rice is sticking move around and cook 8 minutes more on medium low. Check to make sure rice is done and enjoy. Muy sabroso!!
Happy almost Spring! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged but I’m back at it again. I’ve been literally hibernating all winter, and it feels great! Although how odd it is that it’s 68°F today!!! Nothing much has been going on lately, other than my habit of hashing out short-term and long-term goals.
Anyways, I’d like to outline a few of my experiences from Fall and Winter; my trips to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Goa, and Mumbai. I’m fortunate to have family all over the world. For the European trip, Aditya and I traveled with my family, and for the India trip we traveled with my his. They were both fun trips and we got to see such gorgeous sites. Although I’ve been to Amsterdam and India before, this time around was way more fun with my sister in Europe and Aditya throughout all trips.
In October we had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam for a family wedding. We picked out some Indian/Pakistani outfits for the mehndi and reception, and an American dress for the ceremony. The wedding was beautifully decorated with delicious homemade Pakistani food galore. On non-wedding days we were able to venture out into Holland and explore. I subscribe to Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast traveler as well, and a post about “Geithoorn – the Venice of Holland” popped up on my Facebook feed. We got a chance to squeeze in a quick trip to visit Geithoorn and take a canal cruise to see the city and history. There are no cars here; everyone travels through the canals, like in Venice, although this placed smelled a lot better! It was very quiet and quaint, like a sleepy village out of a fairytale story.
My parents spent most nights with family, but we (my sister, cousin, and hubby) got to venture out into Amersfoort downtown and Amsterdam most nights. We explored the many bars and nightlife and had a lot of fun together. Here we also took a canal cruise through the narrow, winding, and plentiful Amsterdam canals.
The Dutch know what’s up
Fields of Holland
Copenhagen was a really cool experience, even though we only had a few nights there. Denmark has been noted as one of the happiest countries in the world, and that was truly evident in our time there. Everybody was very friendly and the overall vibe was calm and relaxing. It was rainy throughout our whole Europe trip, but we managed to stay warm and keep moving. We got to see Stroget, which was a long street of shopping, known as one of the longest pedestrian streets for shopping in Europe. We strolled through Nyhaven, which is the waterfront area that has the picturesque colorful houses that we often see as stock photos for Denmark. We took a canal cruise and saw the Opera House and Little Mermaid. After all this we were tired, but still managed to find our way to Tivoli at the end of Stroget. Tivoli was so magical! Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest amusement parks and was an inspiration for Disneyland. Here we went on cool rides and saw beautiful lights and castles. We also got to drink lots of Glögg, a Danish mulled wine, with a generous shot of rum and liqueur. This later became the drink of the night for Christmas at home, so yummy!!!
Hubby stirring cauldron
Experiencing European culture is always interesting, especially exploring the deep, rich history which varies just by crossing borders not too far from the next one.
In January we had the opportunity to go to Goa and Mumbai for Aditya’s cousin’s wedding. This was a bit of a struggle for me, being of Pakistani origin, because getting a visa was a long process and a nuisance. Luckily I did get it, but it’s a shame what is going on over there, and that these ideals are happing over here. I’m lucky that love transcends borders and that the ignorance does not transpire through our families, or at least the ones we choose to keep around!
I’ve been to India before, but only to northern areas. This was my first time in Goa and Mumbai, and I was nervous and excited. Goa was a relaxed beachside state, with lots of fish dishes and historic sites to see. We got to visit Aditya’s families’ temples, and we got to see some other historic sites and churches as well. Goa has a Catholic and Portuguese history, so it was cool to see those influences in the culture and architecture here. We stayed in a really, really cool villa and spent nights relaxing on the beach.
Breakfast with a view
Villa Portuguese style
St Francis remains
Chilly chicken and yummy kingfisher
Next up was Mumbai, which I was imagining in my head to be like an Indian Manhattan. It surely was! It was totally comfortable and I hardly had any culture shock experiences because it was so city-like, and most people knew English. I can get by on Hindi, but it’s nice to know I can speak English, too. There were beautiful lights and skyscrapers, shopping, food, and the hustle and bustle of any major cosmopolitan city.
Meeting my in-laws was nice and spending moments with them for the wedding was truly quality time. We got to catch up with our cousins and grandma, meet our new baby niece, and witness a beautiful union at the same time. For this wedding I brought some lovely pink saris. Luckily we had a beautician come and wrap my sari on professionally. She did a great job, and I was wonderfully desified for the wedding. The wedding was the first Marathi wedding I’ve been to, so it was cool to see.
As far as exploring Mumbai, hubby and I stayed in a couple of hotels to capture the action. We explored some cool restaurants, delicious Indo-Chinese food, hip malls, and took a personal driver from the Taj to show us all the key sights in Mumbai. The most magical sight was the India Gateway, and we had such a perfect sight of it from our hotel room in southern Mumbai. The fact the city is oceanside made the whole touring experience even better. We got to see so many highlights, and stop near the water to take a breather, peering out at the Arabian Sea and imagining how ironic it was that Pakistan was just across this flowing waters.
Happy Friday! I’m back to blog about some Italy details. Aditya and I did over a week in Italy for our 2nd wedding anniversary. Italy was amazing. You could feel the richness in history, the depth of the Italian culture, and the beauty of the ancient gems. Italian food is really bold and flavorful! Since I’m not quite into meat other than chicken and fish, I didn’t have many options other than pizza and pasta. Italians are more into seafood and cured meats. The wine, however, is exceptional and strong. The people are kind, but since it is Europe, we found ourselves often frustrated with poor service (snooty Americans!). Every now and then we would have to speak Spanish since some Italians didn’t understand English. We took a sigh of relief when we took refuge in a Pakistani cafe (how ironic, huh!) late at night, where Aditya lovingly spoke Urdu and got us some Pakistani rice to ease our otherwise cheese/carb/tomato palettes.
I must add that in several tourist spots it felt a bit strange to see armed guards with huge guns. That’s also something we don’t really see around here. Anyways, coming through with some deets…
We flew Alitalia non-stop Boston to Rome and traveled by the high speed Italo in club level seats so that we were assured no pick-pocketers (a common threat in Italian trains). Flights were purchased through Priceline, train tickets were purchased on raileurope.com, hotels were purchased on various sites (I scooped out the best deals). We took Viator tours and ItalyOnABudgetTours, and we loved them! These we actually booked last minute so that we could really feel what we wanted to see and do once we landed in Italy (if you know me, waiting until the last minute is usually blasphemous! But worked out so well).
Here’s a breakdown of our itinerary and major highlights:
Venice – 2 nights
St Mark’s square and basicila
Florence – 3 nights
Uffizi Gallery Museum
Tower of Pisa and Cinque Terre
Naples -2 nights
Castell del Ovo – Fort
Rome – 3 nights
St Peter’s Basilica
Castle Santa Angelo
Daytimes were filled with touring, waking up at 5a.m. and running around exploring.In the daytime I really felt the Mediterranean sun! At night we relaxed to some date nights and nightlife. Nightlife was mostly quiet, nothing overly crazy.
Venice was a quaint city. The city is entirely on water so you travel through the canals on a waterbus (vaporetto). It was really pretty and cute. We only had two days there since there’s not too much to see other than the overall city.
I had a hunch I would love Tuscany and I did enjoy Florence a lot. Here we checked out the Uffizi and saw some Da Vincis. We got a panoramic view of Tuscany from Piazzele Michelangelo. My favorite part of our trip was Cinque Terre, which was a few hours away from Florence. Cinque Terre was heavenly!
Margherita (best pizza we had!)
A and Pisa
da Vinci, Uffizi
Cinque Terre, Tuscany
Cocktails at McDonald’s
Galileo Museum (how they thought our universe looked like)
Tower of Pisa, Tuscany
Next stop was Naples. Naples was not such a great city (lots of crime) but we stayed near a Fort, so we were near tourist sites and we had a beautiful view of Mt Vesuvius. We absolutely had to check out the Amalfi coast. We took a tour that drove us all the way up the Amalfi and a boat cruise as well. It was beautiful! We also checked out Pompeii.
Nightime in Naples
Amalfi – Mediterranean Sea
A in Pompeii
Lastly, we ended our trip in Rome. Aditya and I love natural beauty but also enjoy city life and it’s wonders. Rome was a breathe of fresh air and was reminiscent of NYC but with an ancient vibe. Here we checked out the Colosseum, Vatican, and Sistine Chapel. The famous Michelangelo painting of God and Adam was nice to see, but I was unimpressed (not sure why just that piece was famous). The entire Sistine chapel overall was impressive, however, so Michelangelo’s other work seems to be underrated. Italy had such great and talented artists, including Michelangelo, Raphael (The School of Athens), and da Vinci ( some pieces in Uffizi, Florence). An appreciation for good art is a must when visiting Italia!
The ancient sites in Rome were magnificent. We loved the Colosseum. It felt magical and was such a wonder. Nightlife in Monti was nice, with some cute bars, restaurants, and live music. The Trevi fountain was beautiful at night.
Vaticn modern art
Our hotel, converted palace
St Peter’s Square
School of Athens, Raphael, Vatican
Embalmed Corpse in a Church
Vatican gold ceiling
Sculpture at Vatican
Overall, Italy was beautiful! Since we successfully left our mark on Italia, we are on to our next conquests…
I have taken a bit of a break from blogging due a tumultuous few last months. I’ve been going through a lot, the worst of which was the loss of my baby pup bro-in-law. He was the most precious and innocent soul…he is with us forever….RIP Dusty. He has truly left a mark on our hearts.
I’m looking forward and onwards into summer. With time comes growth. I am trying a few different things to change my mindset and hopefully that will bear fruitful energy in the coming months.
Since I don’t have too much to say right now I’ll leave a recipe. Tonight I attempted lasagna for my first time. My mom makes my favorite lasagna, it’s so delish! This is one of the best things she makes, and there are many delish dishes she makes!! This recipe uses no boil pasta, and ground turkey (since we are South Asian we prefer to use this instead of beef, but any ground meat works!)
-nonstick spray (i.e. PAM)
-bowl for mixing
-spoon for mixing
-1/2 cup ricotta
-1/2 cup parmesan cheese
-1 lb ground turkey or other ground meat
-1/2 chopped onion
-salt + pepper to taste
Happy Sunday! I’m trying to post a blog at least once a month, so I’m sneaking this in here real quick. Feb was spent celebrating A’s bday and vday as well. This year I hosted my first home birthday party, in which I did some serious #adulting. I had a few festivities in Boston, some at Mohegan Sun, and some more at our place and Boston again. We had a potluck at our place with our parents, cousin, and uncle, and hit up a fun Bollywood dance party in Boston. A is starting to get into Bollywood/bhangra music and that is really awesome for me!! Bruahh’in for days!!
As we get older, I’ve noticed that birthday parties become less about socializing and more about honoring the person’s birthday. I feel like I’d rather have people who want to show up to show up, instead of people who feel like they have to show up. This is one of my 2016 goals, and it’s going by pretty well!!! Expectations can hurt you, but if you set them loosely, it can help things move smoothly. Spending time alone has been great for me, too. It’s always nice to spend time with yourself and really listen to your mind and needs. How do you feel about alone time?
Here are some bday pics:
Taj Boston Biryani, one of the best in Boston
On Sundays we like to brunch at home. Since I haven’t done groceries in over a week, this was an easy, quick go-to meal. The Taj Boston has a similar burger and I think this comes pretty close to it’s grandeur.
What you need:
Trader Joe’s masala burgers
pav bread (or bulkie/hamburger roll)
The bread and chutneys can be found at any Indian store. Luckily, the burgers are frozen, the bread has a long shelf-life, and the chutneys can stay in your fridge forever, so it really is a quick back up meal for any time of the day! Cook the burger on your stovetop for 3-5 mins on both sides, and toast the pav bread. Spread chutneys on the bread and put it all together. So easy!!! And so delish! Add some lettuce and red onion to oomph it up.