Summer in Melbourne

Melbourne is extraordinarily beautiful with its lush natural greenery and pristine beaches and coastlines. Yet, going to the beach in Melbourne has always left me with longing to go back to the Maldives, my home country. Maybe it’s nostalgia, or the fact that I am  used to the comfort of small islands rather than the vastness of coastlines and beaches here. So far our idea of a great outdoor time here has been exploring the mountains, hiking through the sky high forests and misty waterfalls.

But, this summer we have been total beach bums. We have had lovely stretches of sun in the past few weeks and we vowed to take full advantage of it, even with two toddlers slowing us down. We really can’t complain, the main reason we get out is to see their joyous faces taking in the splendor of nature.

Our idea of a great beach is opportunity is explore and adventure. We look for rocky lagoons, shore and sea dwellers, shallow expanses of shoreline and uninterrupted views of the sunset/sunrise. We also check the presence of beach patrol (which we check online before we go)and life saving clubs.Here are some of our favorite beaches that’s under an hour from Melbourne city that we have enjoyed this summer.

Williamstown Beach

This gorgeous beach is an explorers dream. It has a wide expanses of rocky lagoons and visible sea life. Our favorite part of the beach is the reserve park overlooking the beach. It is a great spot to picnic with a perfect view of the sunset. The area is frequented by seagulls which gave the kids great joy running after them. Just half an hour from Melbourne city, this is one great choice.

Altona Beach

We enjoyed Altona beach so much that we decided that this is going to be our default beach for the rest of the summer. The rock pool area of the beach was just brimming with life. Seagulls, snails, clams and an array of crustaceans that is beyond my knowledge resided there. The tide was low when we went, so there was a wide part of the shore with ankle deep water. This was just perfect for the kids to lie on, sit in, and jump up and down. Basically for them this was a never ending puddle at their expense, and only half hour from Melbourne city .

Port Melbourne

I fell in love with Port Melbourne beach as soon as I saw all the beautiful shells. The shore is covered by shells. Most of the shells were still intact and beautifully preserved by the sand. When the sun sets, the gorgeous rays of the sun made the shells glisten much like a stars on a dark night. Port Melbourne runs a long way and we have experienced the beach at different points.

Carrums Beach

Oh Carrums! My only issue with Carrums Beach is that it takes us almost an hour to  get there and through the city (in case of northerners). The water is crystal clear and the sand must be the whitest that we have seen in Melbourne so far. Not that white is a prerequisite for us anymore, because we have fallen in love with the textured golden Melbourne beach sand.


Black Rock Beach (Half Moon Bay)

This beautiful and iconic beach proves that great things come in small packages. This beach is contained in a half moon shape and gives an alternative idea of what we know as beaches. The cliffs of Red bluff (the rocks) are so beautiful and perfect if you have kids who love climbing. It also gave an amazing view of the half moon bay once you climb to the top. It was perfect to make a picnic on top of the rocks to watch the sun as it set. This was a great place for my son to climb up and and push his limits. As the sun set, we could also see the moon rising from the other side.

St Kilda Beach

Truth be told, we have only gone to St Kilda beach for walks along the pier and to see the penguins. It’s one of the best places to check out the sunrise and makes for a vibrant fun outing at night. You can see the sun rising over the city line from the pier. There are many cafe’s and is just has a lovely city vibe to it.

Brighton Beach

This iconic beach is perfect for it’s photo opportunities and Victorian history behind the array of the Brighton bathing houses. The houses are still intact in its historical Victorian architecture and the story of morality and sea bathing. It boasts these colourful houses along the shores. My son had a great time doing pretend play at the beach, running up and down the houses and pretending to be the big bad wolf trying to blow down the doors.

Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary

This is one of the best places to introduce kids to Australian marine life. The shores are full of life and there is a lot of rock pools close to the shore that kids can wade onto. We came across a school of hulafish, lots of snails and different shells. The beach is covered with algae that is home to many crustaceans. My babies are still too young to appreciate sea life but it was a great introduction, and we had lot of fun pointing out the animals and plants.


a brother’s love

The little eyes saw her.

For the first time, and unsure what to feel,

He kissed her.

She didn’t mind, she cooed and she swooned,

and he lit up; it was like the bright sun.

So it was just a thousand more kisses.


Uwaaaah uwaaah uwaaah,

For a while it seemed as if that’s what he called her.

She didn’t mind, she beamed and she gleamed,

and he lit up; it was like a flower blooming.

So it was just a few more cuddles.


One day he found his words,

and he whispered in her ears,

I lubbb you.

She giggled and she wiggled,

and he lit up; it was like a little bird singing.

So he said it a thousand times over.


Soon, she got moving.

she touched his toys, she pushed, she pulled.

sometimes he even got caught in it,

She smiled, a naughty smug even,

and he lit up; it was like the sound of a waterfall.

and he says, it’s alright I love you.


Soon, she looked at him.

she smiled, she shared, she even snuggled in his arms,

and he lit up; it was like all things bright and beautiful.

So he looks up and says, with those beautiful eyes,

“she loves me,

I am so happy”.








Bahamas Mama ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬

The Bahamas is a beautiful island country comprising of more than 700 islands, of which only 30 are inhabited. Boasting sandy white beaches and crystal clear waters, Bahamas also exhibits the highest concentration of blue holes aka sinkholes.


The local cuisine mainly includes seafood such as fish, shellfish, lobster, crab, and conch. They are also big on tropical fruits, rice and peas.I chose to grill a fish using traditional Bahamian spices, which includes loads of chili and lemon. The recipe for Bahamian style whole grill fish I used was fantastic. The fish was scrumptious and brought back a lot of memories of home. I also made a roasted capsicum and chili dip to go along which was just so good. 5 stars for this one, just for the chili and lemon kick.


The power of small

When the biggest responsibility that you could imagine is thrust upon us, such as the care of children, we really have to be frugal with the time and even money we spend on self care. While the cost of growing a child takes a toll on our everyday budget, it’s the time that seems to just fly past before we can catch a breath and have the luxury of drinking a cup of hot coffee. These are the times that we forget to take care of ourselves. I have to remind myself every now and then how important it is that I take care of myself if I am to be the kind of mom that I aspire to be. A well-rounded mother is someone who in order to prioritize the children, needs to put herself first.

What is Self-care?

Self care is care provided “for you, by you.” It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you. Self care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others. Like all mom’s, I also have a high capacity for discomfort when it comes to taking care of my children and home. Despite the everyday hustle I function quiet well in making sure their needs are met. But is “function” really the keyword to being a good mother, or is the word more like flourish? Prosper? Thrive? This is not just important to our role as a mom, but to our self as a human being.

Self-care is not once off. It is the conscious and repeated doing of small things in order to reach and maintain optimum mental and physical comfort. I admit that I forget at times, and go on a spree of self-uncare that leaves me exhausted and burn out.
The following are some small things that I incorporate in my days if I consciously schedule in self time.

  • cooking up something new and exciting
  • picnic in the park on a sunny day
  • reading a book
  • taking a nap
  • going for a run
  • putting on a mud mask
  • dressing up
  • spending time with friends
  • listen to music
  • minimalize meals, clothing options and just about everything (something I hope to achieve someday)
  • candles
  • write a blog

While these are small things, I also make sure that I know what to splurge on and what not to. I would spend some extra bucks on a good candle, and probably take homemade sandwiches to a picnic. I may spend money on the occasional pretty dress and buying makeup, but cut down substantially on everyday clothes. I would definitely spend the extra buck on a beautiful latte but probably opt for a home-cooked meal rather than eating out often.

Self- care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. What do you do for self-care?



Dhonkanbulo nidhaalaashey

my translation of dhonkabulo nidhaalaashey

with love, my dear daughter, lie down to sleep
with love, lie down on my lap, my dear daughter, and sleep
asking for Protection, in the name of Allah
as He is the one and only, the most beneficent and merciful
with gratitude and praise, my dear daughter, fall asleep

You are the symbol that has enlightened life and inspired dreams
you are the spirit of life, epitome of life
filling the heart with these incredible emotions, my dear daughter, sleep well

There is no moment, that your thoughts leave the mind
There is no moment, that doesn’t fill with happiness, when you smile
filling the hearts with love, my dear daughter, sleep well
the house is filled with stories of you

nights are spent looking at you in fascination
just slow down for a moment, and go to sleep, my dear daughter
the way you smile, play and speak to us
has breathe new life in to the house

take this moment, and sleep, my dear daughter
the dream is to hear you read beautifully
And you to shine like a star, I long to see
listen to these wishes, while you fall asleep, my dear daughter

May the blessings of Allah surround you
and receive His favour, in light and darkness
this I pray for you, as you fall asleep, my dear daughter
sleep well my dear daughter
sleep well my love



Azeri food

Where is Azerbaijan? What do you know about this country? Except for hearing the name couple of times in my life, I actually do not know a single thing about the country. From the brief read of the country, I found out that it is an oil rich country lying on the Caspian sea. Few interesting facts about this country:

  • Tea in Azerbaijan is taken with Jam as a sweetener
  • Bread is considered sacred, hence stale bread is hung up as respect and if bread is dropped on the floor its custom to kiss it.
  • They love pancakes! Savory pancakes is a popular native dish which is made with pumpkin, meat or just herbs, and made as toast on the grill.

Neighboring to Armenia, Turkey, Iran and Russia the Azerbaijani cuisine is hugely influenced by a blend of Eastern European and Middle Eastern flavours.

The national dish of Azerbaijan is Plov, a meat and rice dish seasoned with dried fruit, nuts and spices. As usual, I really enjoyed cooking with ingredients of the spice and herb family. The meat, lamb which I chose to cook with was tender and juicy through slow cooking. The spices cumin and saffron gave the dish distinct middle eastern look and taste. In addition to dried apricots I threw in few dates and raisins as well. Just to mix things up, although I kept it to a minimum to keep up the authenticity of the dish.

For the next dish I made Levengi, which is a stuffed roasted chicken dish. This was a bit tricky, as I tend to be intimidated by whole chickens. For some reason, handling a whole raw chicken makes me cringe. But, up for the challenge I think I did live up to my expectations. The chicken cooked so beautifully, vibrant with the color from leftover saffron and stuffed with lightly fried and spiced dry fruit and walnuts. The best part was the marinade juice that oozed out once it cooked, sticky and concentrated with so much flavour!

As for dessert, I attempted to make Bakhlava again. I ran out of filo pastry so for half the dish I used puff pastry. It really turned out tasting just as good. The filling was honey, cardamom, walnuts, nutmeg and cinnamon. For the sugar syrup, I added a splash of rose water. OMG, the taste was absolutely beautiful. I had a lot of thumbs up. My son devoured the bakhlava, of course without the sugar syrup. In fact, we had an episode of midnight kitchen raid where the last standing piece of bakhlava disappeared from the table. Crumbs lead to his bed.

There is so much more that I want to attempt cooking from these countries. The dishes are so beautiful and the way that they use combinations of flavours is just mouth watering. Can’t wait to do the next country on the list- Bahamas.






The Elephant in the room

For a while now, I have been tip-toeing around this particular topic.

Why tip-toe, even I wonder.

Maybe because it is about that thing that is construed as a weakness. Which can label us as hopeless pessimists. That thing that makes everyone uncomfortable. We talk about it in hush tones, afraid to be judged. That thing that you pick on to put someone down and point as an inferiority. Why? Also why not? It’s considered as something that is “not supposed” to happen to a healthy, strong and capable person.

But the big irony is that, it is also the thing that almost everyone feels at some point in their life, but some people feel it more given the circumstances.

The thing. The elephant in the room.

Can you even guess?

Yes. I’m talking about Anxiety.

and Depression.

Now that I have opened this can of worms, let me stop tip-toeing.

Not very long ago, I had a number of huge life changes happen in a short period of time. I was unable to cope with it and despite efforts to stay positive, I was just incredibly overwhelmed with a lot of negative emotions. Over time I was dwarfed by it which caused me to develop depression. In hindsight, it is not surprising that I felt like that. Continuous and large amounts of stress is not compatible with our genetic evolution. Stress, when unmanaged is disruptive to our hormones and specially neurotransmitters that deal with our mood, concentration and health. There are physical and debilitating manifestations of long term stress.

While stress by itself in short and small amounts can be a motivating factor, depression is a serious condition and can go on for a long time if not addressed. So it is important to distinguish between stress and depression. The good news is that depression is highly treatable with the right help. In my case, I was able to overcome my depression. It was not a pleasant time, nor was it easy. But it was also a time of immense growth. I had to come face to face with my own vulnerabilities and really, as I have always believed, through vulnerabilities come strength.

I had a lot of help and I asked for a lot of help. At times I was a pain in the ass I admit, but then I think I am always anyway. I had the unending patience and support from my husband, and learnt really good techniques for coping through a specialized online treatment program called mummoodbooster, targeted at women experiencing post natal depression.

During this time I learnt how to track my mood. I learnt that there are certain triggers that brought on negative emotions. I learnt that all I needed was to be aware of it, not even necessarily avoid it. I learnt to practice anti-ruminative activities such a:

  • consistent counting of blessings (instead of sheep)
  • journaling my thoughts
  • picking my battles
  • letting somethings go
  • replacing a negative thought with a positive one
  • and more importantly I learnt that I could catch a negative thought when it comes and do anything I want to it, before it spirals out of control.

The next most important thing I learnt is to redirect my rumination aka worry aka anxiety into something positive and physical. This may sound like a cliché, but for me this approach was incredibly helpful. I started with identifying five pleasant activities that I would genuinely attempt each day. “The main thing is to get your mind off your ruminations for a time so they die out and don’t have a grip on your mind,” explains it well. While I didn’t really have the mind to do it everyday, I still gave it an honest effort.

At this time I also realized the importance of a support system, someone trusted to be there in times that you need. Someone who would listen without judgement and with empathy. At times even our most loved ones do not understand and are not patient with us. And at times, it is not really their fault too. Because unless you have gone through something similar, it is really hard to understand what the other person is feeling. This is why professional help is almost always the best solution.

End of story.

Not really. I still feel sad, overwhelmed and stressed at times. I’m still human, and a mother of two now, which means a hundred times more stress and worry. But I’m better equipped to cope with it now. I am inspired by what I experienced, although it’s a mere inch of what so many people with anxiety and depression experience on a daily basis and for years on.

It is important that if you are experiencing overwhelming emotions to, Talk to someone, and ask for help. If you feel that someone you know is having a difficult time then Ask if they R OK? The link in text gives some great tips for ways to ask in a way that gets answers and how to go about helping them. It also helps you figure out if you are in a good head space to provide support for someone.

I asked and someone helped. Consistently and without judgement. And I am really OK.


Me, myself and I

I sit down to write, with a coffee (black, one sugar) and my favorite music in the background (Beyonce mix, what a cliche, I know).

My mind wanders, did I clear the pillows from my daughter’s cot before putting her in. Is my son alright, he’s been having a dry cough. What will I cook for them? I have to vacuum before they are up. I drag my mind back to the page on the laptop. I type, and I see my fingers. My nails are grown slightly. Reminds me, I have to cut the kids nails. But where is that nail cutter. It has the ability to disappear just like half of all our socks and tupperware lids, to be never seen again. I should go find it, else I may forget again. Beyonce starts singing Single Ladies. Makes me laugh at the irony. Take a deep breath, smile and focus.

I then realize, what I want to write about – How does one enjoy life as a busy mom. I know most mom’s do, but I also know that motherhood or rather parenthood is extremely exhausting and repetitive. Studies show that parenthood is also associated with a higher risk of depression. How on earth can the thing that brings us the greatest joy put us at the risk of depression?! But I know, every mom and dad will acknowledge this to be true. As for me, I didn’t plan on being a stay home mom, but here I am. I didn’t think I was equipped to be one, first of all. I am not patient, I have a quick temper and dislike the invasion of my private space and time. But yes, here I am. Practicing patience, smiling at the spilt milk on the carpet and have two kids attached to me like extra limbs.

Yet, I absolutely love being their mom. 

But enjoy? Not as often as I would like to. 

Enjoying parenthood means placing great importance on fulfilling our own personal needs and wants. I know it’s hard, and we tend to tell ourselves that we will get time for ourselves maybe in the next few years when the kids are bit older. Let me burst that bubble for you, which was burst for me by other parents. It NEVER gets any easier! It just moves from one set of challenges to another.

LOL. At myself.

So there is really no later for this, it has to be now. It is now that I need to exercise, now I need to go on a date with my husband and now that I have to read that book. 

I love this article How to Enjoy the Often Exhausting, Depressing Role of Parenthood. She talks about the importance of leisure time, both personal and with the spouse. Personal time has been linked to positive mental health by numerous studies. So make time for exercise. Laugh outrageously while watching the comedy you have long wanted to. And more importantly, pursue a hobby or project that brings happiness to you and lets you feel rejuvenated. Because, not only will it increase our mental health, it will also allow our kids to see us in a different light. An empowered parent who enjoys life.

She also highlights the importance of free play for children, where the child has freedom to explore and learn on their own. A decline in free play has been associated with increased level of negative feelings in children. So, it is justified that we take a step back from our tendency to helicopter parent or fill their day with structured and supervised activities. I remember what my grandmother used to tell us about growing 10 children. She says all they needed was empty cardboard boxes and tins to occupy their day. I think she would find me and my two baby complaints hilarious. What surprises me is that my aunts and uncles recall stories of their childhood with so much fondness and happiness. Isn’t that good enough reason to stop our guilt for not entertaining them all their waking hours, give them an old box and put our feet up?

Maybe write a blog and enjoy a cup of coffee. 

Have some quality time for ourselves.

Beyonce sings, Run the World (girls).





Austrian Pancakes


There is a day dedicated to pancakes, World Pancake Day. And surely, pancakes deserve a day for itself. It is cake, in a pan, made in under 5 minutes. You can be creative with toppings, with flavor, shape and size. It can be sweet or savory. But most of all, it is an ultimate comfort food. In our house pancakes are a favorite. Even when my son was unable to say words, he still would nod his head with a huge grin when I say its pancakes today. When he is unwell and loses his appetite, its pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s the only thing he will eat.

I have a full proof recipe for pancakes that I always follow as the base. To me, the secret is mixing the eggs really well to make it fluffy before folding in other ingredients. Also, the first thing I do before making pancakes is to add couple of table spoons of vinegar to a cup of milk. Viola – Buttermilk in few minutes. Buttermilk adds to the flavor so well. Okay, so pancakes – one of our favorite food in the world. But this post is not really about pancakes, it is about my food challenge of Austria.

Looking through recipes of Austria, I came across Kaiserschmarrn, a dish that’s a dramatic twist to traditional pancakes. This is a popular and local dessert in Austria, and for me this was the perfect opportunity  to try a new variety of pancakes.

We decided to make a day out with pancakes, at the park. We took hot coffee flasks and fresh berries. This pancake is more custardy and resembles torn up french toast. I made a plum sauce to go on it, and also sprinkled with a mixture of icing sugar with cinnamon. It was the ultimate comfort food.






Australia – food down under

Dear Australia,

I have been anxiously waiting to cook your distinctive food since I have started my global food challenge. You cannot imagine my excitement when I reached you on my list. I have always loved cooking but it is only after coming here to Australia that my interest has peaked. You have such a wide variety of food to offer to all palates, which makes you so welcoming to people from all over the world. For me your food has been a savior, amidst our adaptation to moving continents. Your ingredients and food has been a solace that I have derived warmth and comfort from. I may be over dramatic and a little bit cheesy but that’s what you have done to me.

You, being so multicultural and diverse have adopted a cuisine that is so rich and mostly based on inexpensive everyday ingredients. Although, you have still managed to maintain certain iconic Australia dishes intact and yet so modern.

I chose to cook with beef as a main dish, as meat is the core component of your cuisine. I made beef and mushroom pies, a very wholesome and filling meal that creates a homely feeling and just begs to be shared. As for the ingredients –>mushroom, beef, onions, seasoning, beef stock, tomato paste, cornflour and pastry. 8 ingredients! As simple as that, but taste is incredible.

For dessert, I made a Tim Tam cheese cake. Tim Tam biscuit is iconic to you Australia and has been around since the 1960’s. I chose the Adriano Zumbo Red velvet flavor just to kick in the Australian-ness. Was it not only beautiful, it was such a hit among friends and of course my husband and son. All thanks to having a chef as a friend who gave some really good tips for the menu as well as the cooking.

I had some friends join in, who made classic Aussie dishes as well. We had a beautiful black forest pavlova, sausage rolls, more beef pastries, cheese and spinach scrolls, fairy bread and a potato salad.

So I would like to thank you Australia. You made a wanna be cook out of me and you have given me a sense of belonging through your cuisine.













The 8th biggest country in the world, founder of the dance Tango and where Lionel Messi is from: Argentina! I am not hardcore football fan, but I have been surrounded by Messi fans and it’s always exciting to cook something from a country that I sort of am familiar with. It’s also home to the famous Diego Maradona and Che Guevara.

As for the food, Argentinians absolutely love their food and celebrate it greatly. The food is a blend of Mediterranean, greatly influenced by the Italian and Spanish cuisines. Argentina is apparently a beef country, and beef is made in a number of delicious ways. I chose to make the popular Argentinian Empanadas. And for dessert I made Alfajores with a Dulce de leche filling. All three dishes are immensely enjoyed by the Argentinians.

The Empanadas is similar to a dish we make locally called pettis, which is a pastry with a tuna filling. Instead of the tuna, Empanadas has a spicy beef filling. I had a slight disaster with this dish as I cooked the beef thoroughly on the stove before baking it, duh. Hence, a slightly dry beef filling!

Alfajores, oooooh the Alfajores! This is a version of the biscuit melting moments, which true to it’s name just melts into the mouth. It’s a very soft, delicate and crumbly biscuit that is also very rich. Words describing it makes me want to jump up, run to the kitchen and bake it. It has became my all time favorite cookie. And the best part is that I used dulce de leche as a filling. I had no idea what this is before this day. Apparently it is condensed milk slow cooked over few hours. It develops into a thick pasty condense milk with an enhanced condensed milk taste. Talk about richness! The buttery taste of the Alfajores with the condensed milky filling was just absolute heaven.

All in all, not a bad cookout as the cookies made up for everything. Cant’ wait to do Armenia!


Antigua and Barbuda

Number of countries in the world – 195

I have only made food of 6 countries so far but it seems like a huge accomplishment. I have learned a few things along the way while enjoying this so much. For this week, I did Antigua and Barbuda. They are two beautiful low lying coral islands known for its beautiful beaches and resorts. They also boast a large variety of flora and fauna and is popular for its rainforests.  Fun fact about the country – Crab racing is held once a week. Must be really laid back people! They are positioned where the Atlantic and Caribbean meet and enjoy a Caribbean cuisine.

While Carribean cuisine is at the heart of their traditional dishes, it is also quite diversified. The local diet includes shawarma’s, kebabs and dumplings, obvious influence of Arab and Chinese. I chose to make a butter bread, ducana (traditional sweet potato dish) and stewed beef Antiguan way. For a while now I have considered trying my hand at bread baking. So it was the perfect opportunity when I learned that butter bread is popular as a Sunday treat.

I absolutely loved baking the bread! I loved it when the dough rose to double its size. The bread came out so soft in the inside. My son loved eating it so hands down, no more questions. This was a success.

The sweet potato dumpling, called Ducana was also tasty. It was a combination of grated coconut and sweet potato with sugar and spices. After the mixture was complete I was supposed to wrap it up in banana leaf and boil in water. But I settled with aluminum foil, and I would say it still worked.

Stewed beef or chicken is a favorite in our house now. I slow cooked the beef with a number of vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, celery and potato).

Next country on the list is Argentina! See you soon.

Antiguan Sunday Butter Bread
Ducana – popular Antiguan sweet potato dumpling
Caldo de Res  –  Beef stew



Andorra: Meal Review


The principality of Andorra is a tiny country located high in the mountains between France and Spain. It was interesting to learn a totally new country, one that I had not even heard of before. It first reminded me of Pandora, an exotic extraterrestrial country promising of some great secrets. Then I came across the fact that Andorran’s  average life expectancy is officially one of the highest in the world. Maybe, afterall they may have some great secrets.

It is also the world’s 16th smallest country, of which a large part is mountains. Andorra is a co-principality which means it is ruled by two princes, the leader of France and the Spanish Bishop of Urgell. With just over 70,000 people, Andorra is considered the world’s 14th oldest country.

As for Andorran food, it is derived from Catalonia which is an autonomous community of Spain. The food is also largely influenced by its close neighbor  France. Food is mostly imported to Andorra, despite which popular ingredients include a lot of fresh vegetables, legumes, cheese, wheat, fish, and meat. The national dish of Andorra is Escudella which is a stew cooked with pork, chicken, and vegetables.

I chose to cook a grilled fishBread with garlic & tomato: Pa amb Tomaquet, Spinach Salad with Raisins and Pine Nuts and a dessert called Creme Catalana which is the Catalan version of Creme Brulee.

I could not find trout so I got a sea bass fillet, which was a good substitute as it is also a light fish with a moderate flavor. I also did not have pine nuts for the spinach salad so instead of it, I used toasted walnuts.

The meal turned out to be very simple to make, the type of meal you could cook up in 30 minutes. The method was pretty straightforward which made for a very delightfully simple but fresh meal. It was really just tossing around a few really fresh ingredients that complemented each other really well. I enjoyed cooking this as well as eating it, so did my toddler who was very anxious to start dinner.  This is one meal I would probably cook many times in the future.

As for the Creme Catalana, I made a mistake in overheating the oven when I was caramalizing the sugar on top which somehow curdled the dish. It was very tasty, with a hint of lemon and taste of cinnamon but the texture was completely ruined. Well, it’s definitely a lesson learnt.

Can’t wait till next week, as it’s Angola. It’s where one of my closest friends is from, so very excited to cook a meal from there. Keep tuned!




Algerian on the Menu

Algeria, a country covered 90% by the Sahara Desert boasts a rich Mediterranean cuisine. The root traces back to as far as 30,000 B.C., to the arrival of Berbers to Algeria. Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa. They introduced semolina and dates which are both main ingredients to the Algerian dishes. Berbers also created Algeria’s national dish which is couscous. Muslim conquest of North Africa brought in exotic spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and saffron. Olives came in from Spain, while sweet pastries and tea came from European traders. The history of the cuisine is really interesting, and how it has sustained popular throughout history till now. A huge variety of vegetables is used such as potatoes, carrots, onions, zucchini, cabbages, squash, and garlic.

I chose to cook the national dish of Algeria, couscous with vegetables, a chicken and olive dish called Djedj Tadjine b’ zeitoun and Makrout which is a semolina and date sweet. It was only while I was reading up to write the blog I realized that I used a lot of ingredients that are local to Algeria and is very popular in their cuisine.
As for the food I cooked, the vegetable couscous was a huge hit, especially with my toddler who asked for a second helping for his lunch. The recipe called to slow cook the vegetables in spices for around 2 hours. I cooked it for an hour and a half which really brought out the flavors. It was practically bursting with the flavors of the exotic spices and different vegetables. The chicken dish was also tasty, although the spotlight was on the olives. The spices and herbs cooked the bitter out of the olives and replaced it with a great taste very distinct to the Mediterranean cuisine. I especially loved cooking with saffron which just distributed its bright color to the chicken, and I was a pretty fascinated with the process. Finally, the dessert which I enjoyed making so much turned out just as fun to eat. I have never cooked semolina, and making a dough out of it is something I have not even heard of. Once again the spices cinnamon and nutmeg mixed with rosewater created a really sharp and flowery taste.
I would call this week’s dish a complete success, just upon the fact that my toddler loved it.
Chicken and Olive stew
Semolina and date sweet

Albanian Food Adventure


The meal of the week- Albanian! I found myself anxiously looking forward to cooking my weekly “cooking the world” challenge. It is exciting trying out new recipes and finding out about different cuisines while also learning a thing or two about the country. I was surprised to find out that Mother Teresa, well known for her humanitarian work in India is actually an Albanian. I did not know this! Also, when an Albanian is saying yes he or she will shake their head and when disagreeing they nod. A bit of a funny confusion huh!

As for their food, it is a Mediterranean cuisine using a lot of aromatic herbs such as oregano, mint, rosemary and basil. The food is diverse and influenced by the great cuisines such as Turkish, Italian, Spanish and Greek. While the menu is rich with such influences from the neighboring countries, Albanian food has its own twists and tastes to it. A lot of great vegetables are used in almost all dishes as a result of their fertile climate and being a coastal country. Slow cooking of meat seems to be one of their favourites as well as smoked and pickled meat.


For the challenge, I chose to cook Tave Kosi as the main meal, which is a slow cooked lamb with rice and yogurt. It is a very popular dish in Albania and something very close to their heart. The main herb used is Oregano which gives it a very Mediterranean taste. The recipe called for the 1/4th cup of oregano which I thought was a lot but once cooked gave it an aromatic taste in just the right amount. It was a tasty dish, especially the baked yogurt topping with the garlicky meat. I also made a Burek which turned out to be really tasty. It is a meat and potato pastry. For dessert, I made Shëndetlie which is a honey and nut bread soaked in sugar syrup. This was tasty as well although I chose not to soak the dish with sugar syrup. Hence a bit dry and dense, but made for a lovely dessert along with a cup of tea. I really enjoyed the cooking process although slow cooking and the baking did take a while. While I am yet to cook an exceptionally tasty meal, I would still call this a success.


Cooking the world


Qabili Palau

Cooking the world, which is to cook a meal from every country in the world seems like a challenging yet perfect opportunity to mix three things I enjoy doing. Travel, cooking and writing. First in the list is Afghanistan. I have always been curious to know more about the country. One of my favorite authors, Khalid Hosseini is an Afghan-born. He authored The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns and And the Mountains Echoed. I’m currently reading And the Mountains Echoed which like his other two books has a large part set in Afghanistan. The books compellingly describe the tragic Afghan history and culture before, during and after the revolutions, Soviet invasion, and the Taliban rule.

The country’s cuisine is greatly influenced by her neighboring countries Iran, India and the former Soviet Union. Chicken and Lamb seems to be liked immensely along with specialty rice dishes infused with a variety of spices. Yogurt is used as an accompaniment to almost all dishes usually flavored with herbs and greens. Nuts and dried fruit is also a huge part of their cuisine with it being the base for a lot of desserts. Yet, the cuisine is far more sophisticated than the Kebab’s and rice. The Mongolian influence brought in dumplings and noodles. A very popular dish is the Mantu pasta which is filled with herbed meat and onion, served with spiced yogurt.

I chose to cook a main dish called Qabili Palau, a simple Afghan salad and a dessert called Sheer Pira. Little did I know that Qabili means well accomplished, which indicates that it takes a skilled cook to bring a perfect balance of flavors in this dish. It is also one of the national dishes of Afghanistan. It took me almost 2 hours to cook this because the cooking requires different stages which needed to be done simultaneously. I followed the recipe to the letter and ended up with something quite tasty. I cannot say it was exceptional because I found the taste to be mild and had some friends reaching for chili to add. Maybe it’s the difference in our palate, but this may not be something I would like to attempt for the second time. As for the Sheer Pira, we just could not stop eating it. It’s a rose water and cardamom scented sweet made with milk and sugar syrup. I made a mistake in over-cooking the sugar syrup so the final dish ended up in clumps rather than the smooth and chewy texture it is supposed to have. But, it did not affect the taste. It was one of those mouthwatering dishes that you just can’t stop eating as if not taking another bite is like depriving yourself of a great pleasure that you may not have a chance of experiencing again. I would definitely make this again and again.

Sheer Pira


Surprisingly, most of the ingredients for these dishes are ingredients that we use on an everyday basis. I was reminded of Remy in ratatouille where he eats a strawberry with cheese and experiences fireworks. The magic is not always in the ingredient itself but in how well you use them together. I used alternative ingredients for the ingredients that I didn’t have in hand or was hard to find. Although my main dish was not up to expectation, I still had an enjoyable time cooking while listening to my favorite Hindi remixes in the company of a friend who equally loves food. I am looking forward to the next dish, which is Albania so stay tuned!







Day trip to Pisa

Our time in Pisa was just one day, which was just enough to stroll around the city and visit the famous Leaning tower of Pisa. We decided that we will only spend our time there so that we won’t be rushed to fit in too many attractions into the one day.

The tower-  It’s one of those places, like the great wall of China which you grow up hearing and wondering how it will be to see it. The tower actually is leaning a full 5.5 degrees which is clearly very visible. It is a bit daunting to see a 55-meter tower look as if it may topple over any second. The tower is the campanile or bell tower of the Pisa Cathedral. The tilt, which was unintended happened during its construction due to faulty foundation. The tower is just one building out of four in the cathedral complex which is known as Campo dei Miracoli or Piazza dei Miracoli, which means Field of Miracles. The construction took an amazing 199 years to complete, while of course trying to fix the tilting. Apparently, at one point the tower was leaning in the opposite direction. The reversal in the tilt occurred when additional stories were put up which affected the center of gravity of the building moving the tilt on the opposite direction. The history is just amazing and the architecture was majestic. To our pleasure the day turned out to be so beautiful hence adding to its magnificence.

We did few poses of the obligatory Pisa pusher and walked around the Field of Miracles just enchanted to be there. We had pizza for lunch (obviously), which was mouthwateringly soft and thin. I still cannot eat a pizza without comparing it to the pizza we had there, sitting outside a pizzeria enjoying the bustle of tourists visiting the Tower of Pisa.


Italia photodiary

Europes most romantic city- Venice!

Consisting of 117 islands, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities that we visited. Few fun facts about this “Floating City” connected by canals and bridges:

-According to tradition, a couple stays in love forever if they kiss under the bridges while riding a gondola
– Water from fountains which is actually all over Italy is safe for drinking.
– Also, Venice is sinking at the rate of 1-2 millimeters a year.

We rode a gondola on our very first night but sadly we only found out about the kiss tradition after we got off. The time we spent in Venice was just not enough and I’m not sure how long it will take to enjoy this city. Most of all we absolutely loved our strolls along the Grand canal watching the busy life around, the canal filled with gondola’s and water taxi’s while the surrounding buildings were classical and unique. There were Venetian masks at every corner, colorful and so beautiful. Some were quite daunting but mostly they were all so unique.



Hindsight is a Bitch..or is it?


Hindsight :noun

1. recognition of the realities, possibilities, or requirements of a situation, event, decision etc., after its occurrence.

How many times in life have you said to yourself, “I wish I had thought of that”, or regretted an action because in hindsight you feel that you could have done things differently?  It happens to me from time to time, and probably more now since I became a mother. While I blame it on my pregnancy brain that apparently continues for years post pregnancy, I am curious as to why things often seem clearer after it has occurred and passed.

Sometimes when something occurs unfavourably I scrutinise the situation only to have hindsight tell me that I could have acted differently. But, while there could have been other options, given the same situation I probably would do the same again. When something occurs it’s a combination of numerous things. It’s circumstantial, emotional and depends on the physical and environmental state at that time. I may criticise myself with the information I currently have in hand, in my current state of mind and current environment. But hindsight is 20/20, we look back at an outcome with a perfect eyesight. By the we have a better understanding of things and more information than we had when it occurred. The tragedy is that once we know all the information that would derive the most favourable outcome, the event is already in the past.

So how can this hindsight with her “Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.“ be less of a nag and more of a friend to us?  Bill Butler explains the hidden powers of hindsight, where reflection can be used to inform our foresight. Foresight is the ability to perceive future outcomes and plan actions based on this information. This is possible if we are able to understand what we could have done differently when something goes unfavourably, without criticism or judgement. By allowing ourselves to question what options that were at our disposal at that point, and take a minute to forgive ourselves and see the benefit of this opportunity for future endeavours.

While this can help in a thing or two, no two experiences are same. We will still be faced with completely new circumstances and state of mind. The best we could do is take a minute to speculate the outcome and just hope for the best. Find our comfortable space between yesterday and tomorrow, and live in the moment. Like Judy Belmont said, “Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what now seems so obvious in hindsight”.




I have not yet fully fathomed the significance of birthing a daughter. It makes me anxious thinking of the immense responsibility but also gives me a sense of pride. I myself, am a daughter. Now I have my own. The circle of life is such. There is a sense of familiarity in seeing you, a part of both your dad and I, but a daughter. Like me. I want to smile and laugh and tell you so many things, share so many secrets about the wonders of being a girl. But for now, I will let you be little and pen my feelings.

You are so beautiful. I catch your father staring at you with awe and wonder. I know what he is thinking because I think the same when I look at you. You are a unique creation of Allah, and it is your uniqueness that makes you most beautiful. Your beauty is in your delightful little yawn, in the way you cringe and in your strange little whimpers. It’s in the way you look at me, match my gaze and follow it. It’s in your smile, although I know right now it’s only a reflex. It’s in your sweet baby smell, your wisps of fine black hair. It’s in the beautiful color of your skin, the radiant shine of your face. It’s in the way you kick your legs and in the tininess of your fingers. There has never before existed a child like you. You are one of a kind, a marvel, a unique work of art created for great things.

One day soon, too soon for my liking, a young girl will replace my little baby. I can promise you, even then, we cannot stop watching you. With the same awe as the day you were first put in my arms. Everything about you, from the peeling-off of your newborn skin to the way you fit perfectly right next to my heart, mesmerizes me. Dear daughter, you are so beautiful just the way you are.

You are important. You only have to look into our eyes, hear our voice, and feel our love to know just how important you are. You only have to see the joy and pride you have given us by being our daughter to know how much you matter.

For now you are in our arms, cocooned safely in our embrace. But there will come a day when you interact with the world and become curious of the worlds expectations. But even then remember that you matter. You have a strong voice. You are to be heard. Do not ever lose your voice or lower your expectations. You won’t need to when you are in the company of loved ones. When in doubt and when you look for affirmation remember that the only affirmation that you need is yours.

Be kind hearted and compassionate. While you are important, realise that others are too. There will be times when you will be needed, and when these times come be there for others. For now, cuddle up in our arms and rejoice in the warmth of our embrace. And know this, daughter, you are so important.

You are brave. How brave you are already at just few weeks old. To be adapting to a brand new world after spending a lifetime in the comfort of my womb. How scary everything will seem to you. But you seem so resilient. I hold you tight in my arms, rock you to sleep, kiss your forehead. A lot of times it is me drawing comfort from you my little one.

I want to tell you so many things. To be bold and curious. To not hesitate to ask questions. Sometimes there are no right answers but only the right question. There is a world inside of you as well as outside, waiting to be explored and discovered. While at it, also, stumble and fall. For many a great lessons of life comes from failure. Make big glorious mistakes, for it will make you strong. Do not be afraid my little one, the world is beautiful and waiting for you to conquer it. Daughter, I wish for you to be so brave that you will find the infinite light inside of you.

Have faith in Allah, you are our biggest proof that He answers prayers. Ask him sincerely with a heart of gratitude and he gives. “And your Lord says: “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” (Quran 40:60). For now, let me pray for you, and ask Him to keep you safe and shower you with His blessings and protection.

I wish you would see yourself through my eyes and you will see just how beautiful, important and brave you are. For now I will let you be little.


To the one who made me a mother,


Dear firstborn,

When you were born I was born too, as a mother. Before you, I didn’t know that my heart could burst spontaneously, overwhelmed with love and never have I whispered, I love you to someone possibly a hundred times a day. Looking after you and cherishing you has been the biggest pleasure of our life and it will continue to be as long as we live.

As you turn almost 20 months, I can’t help wondering how much your life will change forever in just a few days. As you are going to become a big brother. I have no doubt that you will be wonderful at it. You are loving, nurturing, and so sweet. You may not understand it but you being you is enough for us to know just how much you will love the baby and how she will fall head over heels in love with you.

Yet, you are so small and your existence revolves around me and your dad. You are most secure when you are in our arms or have us in your sight. I know we are your world and you feel that we belong only to you. But the reality is that it will not be just us anymore. We will have another little addition to our family who will demand my time and need me more than you may at this time. It makes me scared and sad wondering if at times I will make you question our love.

I will be distracted, tired and irritable at times but it does not mean that you have become any less special or you come after the baby. I may not be able to spend the extra hour cuddling you after you wake up every day or read you your favorite book 5 times before you fall asleep every night. You will see me loving and taking care of someone else. You will see someone else occupy so much time in my arms, arms that belong to you. As you still try to make sense of the world, this will come as an added confusion. But I promise you that we will adjust in a way that my arms will always be open for you whenever you need me. My love for you only expands, that’s what a mother’s love is.

I will continue to be the overbearing mother who gets over excited and celebrate every little thing you do. I will cook your favorite meals and laugh with you while watching Wiggles. I will dance with you and play with you whenever I have a chance. We will even squeeze in our morning and nighttime rituals. It may be shorter but nonetheless sweeter. I promise you that you will still have the loving childhood you deserve and is used to. And better, you have someone to share it with.

You are my first born and no one can hold that space. You didn’t just come into our life dependent on us for your every need. You with all your worldly wise from the womb have taught us so much. You have forced me to grow in ways that I did not expect. You with your tiny hands and feet have managed to direct us to make better choices. You with your big bright eyes have enlightened our life and we cannot imagine a single second without you. Your energy and enthusiasm is contagious and I sometimes feel like a teenager wanting to dance in the rain and jump in puddles. Just to put a smile on your face. You are a miracle and everything with you is a joy. I can only hope to give you as much joy as you keep giving us.

We are going to say goodbye to the days of just us, and I will miss it terribly. But seeing you as a big brother will probably put a permanent mist in my eyes. I look forward to all the wonderful things you will continue to do with the same anticipation as the day we welcomed you to the world.

I know we have enough love in our hearts to go around, just like there is always room on mother’s lap as in our favorite book. You who made me a mother, you will continue to be my baby always.

Yours forever,