Life

Hello world. I’m not sure if anyone will read these words since it has been months since I have posted anything. It has actually been months since I have sat down at my computer and typed more than a handful of words collectively. My fingers are cramping as I type this; they are rusty and have forgotten how this works.

I never intended to take such a long break from this blog, this space of mine on the internet where I have been posted random ramblings since 2011. I have been attempting to write some version of this blog post for months but the words never made their way to my fingers. Or rather, finding time to sit down and actually pause to think about how I was feeling has been impossible.

My last blog post was in January, and shortly after, we had planned on moving. I was busy with packing and of course just day to day stuff with my daughter. We were supposed to move in April but at the end of March something happened that changed my world.

At the end of March, after an emergency visit to the hospital, my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Writing these words is something I never imagined I would do. It has been several months since the fact but the wound is still so raw. Putting this truth, a truth that I have been living with for the past few months, out into the world feels both right and wrong. It is something I have kept to myself since it happened, letting only a handful of friends know. It felt too huge to share with strangers.

I will never forget that moment in the hospital when the doctor, a polite but caring young Middle Eastern doctor, came in to deliver the news. We had been joking only moments before, my brothers and I, making light of the situation, dealing with the fact that he was in the hospital for a headache, with the only way we knew how: humour. I still remember my brother saying that he had Voldemort growing out of the back of his head, as joke about his headaches, the symptom that brought him to the hospital in the first place.

But there weren’t many jokes or laughter after that moment. Instead, there were tears. Tears that were sometimes shed in front of him, but more often than not, in private so as not to scare him. But it was hard. We were so scared. He must have been petrified.

The days after his emergency surgery were the most difficult ones I have lived through. I tried so hard to be a pillar of support for my parents and brother, but inside I was crumbling, bit by bit. I left childhood behind many years ago, but at this time, all I wanted was to be a kid again, to return to the comfort of my mother’s lap, when she would make everything okay. But she couldn’t make this okay. None of us could.

I never envisioned what his road to recovery would look like. In my mind, the surgery would fix things and he would be home to recover, but then be back to normal. But normal never happened.

I never imagined that we would get another shock. A few weeks after we got home and he was starting to slowly get up and about, another doctor uttered the C word with such casual elegance, a word that strikes fear in the hearts with many. Four years ago, in this same month, it took my uncle and then a month later my grandfather. The former spent several years fighting in, while the latter received his diagnosis on a Monday and was gone by Friday.

Four years later, it was back in my family, but in someone who was so young, proving that this disease does not discriminate: old or young, all are fair game.

This began a furious round of treatments in which my brother became all too familiar with the hospital. But despite how careful we tried to be with him, he caught an infection and was back in the hospital on course for another brain surgery.

In total, my brother ended up having three brain surgeries since his initial diagnosis, two of which were basically a few weeks apart. The time we spent out of the hospital between these two surgeries was like a dream. It felt like we spent the entire summer in the hospital; if he wasn’t having surgery, he was suffering from complications from the surgeries or an infection. We all became familiar with the many nurses and doctors who took care of him.

But by the end of August, he was released from hospital and hasn’t been back since then, alhamdulilah. He is still undergoing treatment for the tumour, but is much more mobile than he was before.

There has been little light in this dark period that my family and I have been going through. As a wife and mother myself, I had to try and retain some sort of normalcy for my own family, especially since my daughter is still so young. In these few months, we ended up moving to a new apartment and a new city. This has been the most challenging thing for me, since it meant being away from my brother.

Before, we were living in the basement of my parents’ house. Being close to him during this turbulent time was so comforting, but when we moved, things became so difficult. Most days all I ever wanted was to be near him; it felt like an invisible string was pulling me to him but I couldn’t go. I had to take care of my daughter.

I still went when I could but it wasn’t the same as living in the same house and having that peace of mind of seeing him. Instead, I became the annoying sister who called and texted constantly, always worrying.

In some sense, life went on. The days became weeks and the weeks became months. The seasons changed and the days became longer before they became shorter again. Things continued to happen around me but I couldn’t see them. I was stuck in a bubble.

The bubble sucked all the life out of me. Inside, there was a barren desert where nothing grew.

In these past few months, I have thought so often about putting my feelings into words, but it seemed impossible. The feelings were still too raw and ugly and painful and huge to even begin to understand and to translate into mere letters on a small page. I couldn’t do it.

Instead, I continued to give and give to my family, even though most days it felt like I had nothing to give. I became a zombie who just ate, slept, and took care of my daughter. Taking care of her is so all-encompassing that by the end of the day, I didn’t have the time or energy to do anything else. I drowned myself in thriller novels, plots that were so far-fetched and terrifying that they lulled me to sleep instantly. I ate my weight in pasta, cookies, and cake, using the extra fat as a shield to protect me from the scary world. I stalked the Internet like a madwoman, scrolling and liking and staring, but not putting up much of myself out there. I didn’t know what to share.

It’s now, that the year is almost over, that I am slowly trying to force myself out of the cocoon of my own making. Some days, it’s easier. While other days, I still want to hide, exhausted from fighting my own demons.

Before, I used to pray that we could go back to that moment in the hospital when our lives changed forever. But I now know that that’s a silly prayer. Since it was that moment in the hospital, where we first discovered my brother’s tumour, that began the journey of his treatment. Any moment later and we would have lost precious time, and time is something we so desperately need.

So today, I don’t pray to go back. Instead, I pray that he goes forward, that he regains his health and gets stronger, strong enough that he slays this cursed dragon, this beast which is attacking his body, specifically his brain. I pray for strength for my family, for us to keep our faith in God as He leads us through this turbulent time. The smoke is thick and blinding, but there is a path. Only He can see it.

Thank you for all of those who have reached out during this difficult time. And thank you, as always, for reading.

Ikhlas

Share Button

Motherhood: A Checklist

Recently I read an article on BuzzFeed about how millennials are the burnout generation. It was a long article that talked at length about the changes to modern life that makes living life as a millennial so difficult and overwhelming.

Modernity has made life easier but also more complicated as it’s filled with mundane, small tasks that take up our time; tasks that we become so consumed with doing, thinking that they are part of the bigger picture, but in the end don’t get us much closer to our ultimate goal. We continue to add things to our checklist, and things do get done. But the checklist never ends because more tasks are constantly added.

Motherhood is a such a checklist. There is another part of the article that talked about a mother going through the motions with her kids at Christmas time. She described her day as an endless checklist of Christmas related activities for the sake of the kids but said she felt no joy doing them. This part resonated with me so much, except instead of a Christmas checklist, it’s life itself.

As a mother in 2019, I am part of a generation of mothers who talk about how hard it is but are immediately shut down by our elders with phrases of “You have it easy!” “Things are so much easier for you kids these days” etc. There is no sympathy in our plight and we are often told we are entitled. We live in a modern world where everything is available to us and everything has become so easy. So why is it still so difficult?

One reason is that darn checklist. The mental one that is running through my head daily as I go through the motions of taking care of my daughter. What’s more, it isn’t just one checklist. It’s MULTIPLE.

There’s the household checklist of chores and errands. There’s the running grocery checklist of things needed. There’s the physical checklist for my daughter, which revolves all around her eating and everything I do with her during the day (changing her diaper and clothes, bathing her, brushing her teeth, etc). But then there are these other checklists, for example the educational checklist (I need to teach her the ABCs, but she still doesn’t know her colours or numbers or ANYTHING else!), the spiritual checklist (am I raising a good Muslim? How do I make sure she knows and loves God?), the motor development checklist (does she know how to throw a ball? Or how about running or hopping?). And on and on and on. (Oh and did I mention the self-care checklist? Make sure I brushed my teeth/showered/changed/look like a human being, eat healthy, exercise, lose the baby weight, and be a functioning member of society).

Some of these items get checked off on a daily, or rather hourly, basis (diaper changed, check; teeth brushed, check, etc) but there are other checklists and questions that linger in my mind from one day to another. They are deeper issues, more about my daughter’s spiritual, emotional, and mental development and they aren’t as easily checked off. They are things we work on over days and weeks and months.

With this many things to think about on a daily basis, it’s no wonder more and more mothers feel burnt out. While modern life has made things easier for us, it’s also made things more difficult. Part of this had to do with the mental load that mothers bear. (Check out this definition of the mental load here.)

The sheer amount of new information and research that is being presented on a daily basis is crazy. There is information on how much your kid should weigh, how much milk they should consume, how often they should nurse, how many diapers they should soil, the milestones they should achieve by which age, the food that is unsafe and unsafe for them to eat, how many veggies they should consume, how much screen time they should get vs how much time they should spend outside, how much time they should spend in directed play vs independent play, and on and on and on. There is so much information and research out there on how to parent, and it can overwhelming to keep up with it all.

Each day we are presented with new and different facts, facts that make our head spin when we try to fathom how to change our parenting philosophy around them. For example, in the almost 2 years since I became a mom, I have heard nothing about screen time except that it is bad for kids’ developing brains and should be avoided completely until age 2. The other day I came across a new article that suddenly said that there is no evidence that screen time has a negative effect. Um, sorry what?

We are living in a time of such rapid change that it’s impossible to keep up. So at the end of the day, as a mom, you just have to decide where you lie on the fence and stick to your decisions.

But modern inventions have made things more difficult for mothers. Namely the phone. The phone is a great tool when you consider how you can tell your husband what an awful day you’re having or check in on all your friends who seem like AMAZING mothers who never yell at their kids. But then it’s the thing you use to pay bills, take pictures, respond to messages from your husband, mom, brother, friend, etc, do your banking and online shopping, and browse on. If you’re not careful, you can get caught up in the world of the phone and actually forget about the child that’s tugging on your pants.

And that’s because there is no time to unplug. Workers complain about this when they go from work to home, but mothers are in a similar boat. Their house is their work and they never get to leave. And when they do leave, their phone is their tether to the house.

Because your whole life is on your phone (grocery list, calendar of appointments and important dates, pictures of your kid(s), etc) there is never a time when you can actually unplug from it all. You are constantly attached to that device because it’s so hard to function without it as you try to organize and manage the kingdom that is your home.

And that’s why, when people ask me if I’m enjoying motherhood, I don’t know what to say. Am I enjoying running around like a chicken with my head cut off? Not particularly. Am I enjoying not sleeping every night? No, I’d love to sleep some more. Am I enjoying the feeling of always being behind and never catching up? No. Not at all.

My daughter was born 2 years ago and I have felt this constant need to go go go. Yes, I only have the 1 kid. And yes, she’s still so little. But there is still this need to stick to a schedule and a routine for her. So that as I’m doing flash cards in the morning with her, I’m thinking and trying to plan her activity for that day. And when I’m doing the activities with her, I’m thinking about what her lunch is and when to stop so she has enough time to eat.ย  I’m constantly thinking of the next thing and it’s exhausting. There is no enjoyment in it. I am simply going through the motions of being a mother, but am I even a good one?

There are some that love to tell me that I have inflicted these schedules and deadlines on myself, which is partly true. But how else are you to cope when your mom friends send you lists of things that your kid needs to know before Kindergarten?

Yes my daughter is not even 2 yet, but Kindergarten isn’t that far away, especially when I realise she knows NONE OF THIS STUFF and I am made to feel like I am behind. So very, very behind since I started ‘late’. I didn’t even know I was supposed to start teaching my kid the alphabet when she was barely able to keep her milk from spitting up. If I knew, I would have started in the womb!

So right now I’m like the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, looking at my clock, and going “I’m late! I’m late! So very, very late!”

I think back to my own childhood and remember a time of peace and contentment. My mom had a full-time job but I don’t think I ever felt rushed. But I wonder if my daughter feels the same kind of contentment when I’m constantly rushing her and telling her to hurry up so we can move onto the next thing in the schedule. It makes me sad to think that even though I’m at home with her, I’m not 100% with her.

Being a mom, whether you’re a millennial or not, is tough. Mom guilt is real and it’s so hard to try to reconcile the image of perfect mom in your head with the mom you actually are. All of these checklists and schedules and routines are our way of trying to give our kids the very best, and be the best, even though we are overwhelmed and exhausted. But do they need all of it? Or are we, imperfect and flawed, just as we are, enough?

I’m a millennial mom and I’m still trying to figure it all out.

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

Share Button

New Year, New Me

Happy New Year everyone! I can’t believe we’re in the year 2019 already; one more till 2020! Who else remembers when the year 2000 was a big deal?! (Do I sound old yet?)

Last year was a crazy year; in April, I completed my first year as a mom and nothing else compares to that. It took me awhile to find my groove as a mom and it’s safe to say that I’m still learning!

I’ve been thinking absentmindedly about my goals for this year and I figured I’d write them down here. I can share them with you guys, which will hopefully make me more accountable!

  1. Finish writing my manuscript

This is definitely my biggest goal for this year. I’ve been on a bit of an unofficial break from writing for the past month or so but I think I’m ready to get back into it! Before my break, I pumped out 60,000 words in 2 months so I know I can achieve my goal. I just need to buckle down and get to it!

It’s definitely easier said than done (especially with a toddler), and some things will need to take a backseat but if it’s what I want, then I need to work for it.

2. Lose weight

I think I mentioned this in my last blog post, but I’ve been on a mission to lose my baby weight (and then some). I’ve been working really hard on it and managed to lose 10 pounds so far. I slipped up these past few days since it was my anniversary and the holidays in general, but I’m so ready to get back into it!

As much as I love sugar, I had forgotten how lethargic and bloated it makes me feel. On Saturday it was my first cheat day and I made homemade cinnamon buns as a celebration for my anniversary. They were delicious but SO sweet. I feel like I was going into a sugar coma afterwards. It was probably because I hadn’t had sugar for almost 2 months but I felt so lazy and tired that day. I can definitely see the negative effects of sugar on my body and the way it functions so I need to be mindful of that.

3. Read more

This is something I have been struggling with, as I mentioned in my last blog post. I’ve recently become someone who will watch Netflix or scroll through Instagram rather than reading a book before bed, which is so strange to me. I was always someone who couldn’t sleep until I read, even if it’s just one page, but now days will go by without me touching the book on my bedside table.

I miss reading and I miss getting lost in a good book, and so I vow to change this. In the past, I used to read 50 or more books a year as part of my Goodreads book challenge. I’m definitely not there yet but I do want to get back to reading regularly. I have so many unread books on my shelf and so I definitely need to make a dent in some of them!

4. Be kinder to myself

Sad but true. I’m not the kindest to myself and am constantly talking down to myself. It’s the way I push myself to do better and to try harder but I really need to be kinder and just let go sometimes.

I often feel guilty for taking naps when I’m tired or for lying in bed when I can’t get up after a particularly awful night after being up with my daughter but I need to work on taking it easy. I have super high expectations of myself and am my worst critic, but I want to be a little nicer to myself. My life isn’t the same it used to be before Emaan and it’s natural that I won’t get as much done as I used to. It’s been almost 2 years but I’m still getting used to this fact.

5. Try new things

For those of you who know me in real life, or even those who have been following this blog for awhile, will know that I’m a creature of consistency. I like my routine and I don’t like deviating from it.

But I’m turning 30 this year and I feel like it’s time to change things up (a bit). I started doing this with my baking last year, and the plan is to continue this. I want to keep trying to make new things, instead of the standard cookies and brownies. I would love to try some new bread projects, try to master lava cakes and eclairs, fix my macaron recipe, and maybe try to better my cake making skills.

I’ve also signed up for a boxing class that starts in 2 weeks and I’m so excited! I’m not a physically active person but I wanted to try it out and see how it is. I hate working out but I have always liked the idea of classes. So I’m hoping this will be a good, easy way for me to start being more active.

6. Blog more

I included this at the very end since it’s a goal that I’ve had for awhile but one I keep failing on. I know I say it a lot: I want to blog more. But then weeks will pass by and the blog will remain untouched as life carries me off in its tumultuous tides.

But I think I need to be more firm with goal and plan to blog two times a month. It isn’t much but it’s better than this wayward schedule I have going on. At least this way I will know my goal and will be able to work toward it (hopefully!). It’s a start.

Anyway, those are my goals for this year! What are yours?

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

Share Button

The Beginning of the End (of the Year)

The end of the year is near, and my last post was exactly 3 months ago! I’ve thought about blogging lots of time, I even penned one or two drafts of posts but then never got around to posting them.

To be honest, I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to this blog. I started this blog in the summer of 2011, more than 7 years ago (!!!!) as an assignment for one of my classes in my book publishing program. It followed me on my journey to my internship, working at Chapters, year at teacher’s college, and then the first few years when I got married. The focus has been pretty much the same, with a few slight deviations: writing, books, recipes, and general musings.

But after becoming a mom, is this blog supposed to morph into a mom blog? ‘Mom blogs’ have a bad reputation on the internet and are often mocked, and so I’ve struggled with writing too many ‘mom’ related posts. Who wants to hear about how my toddler still doesn’t sleep through the night for the millionth time? No one, probably.

This is one of the reasons why I’ve stayed away. My life consists of temper tantrums, a daily routine of meals and a nap, bath time, visits to the library, and poopy diapers. Gone are the days where I had time to make and photograph new recipes to share with you guys, or even read a book in a timely manner and post a review. I’m so tired most days that my brain feels fried by the end. I barely read anymore and have to admit that I have become someone who zones out in front of the Netflix screen before finally passing out ten minutes later. Who have I become?

With that being said, mom life is definitely not very glamorous or even Instagramable. But this blog has followed me along so many different stages of my life, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t now. I’m not going to call it a mom blog, but it’s a blog about me, and I’m a mom. So that’s that.

The main reason I haven’t been able to blog is because I’ve been doing writing of a different kind for the past 3 months. I’ve started writing a new story! I’ve been working on it roughly for the past year and a half, since Emaan was born (more off than on), but back in September I made some goals to start working on it seriously. I’m proud to say that I’ve been keeping up with my goal of writing 1000 words a day.

My original goal for this story was 60,000 words, just to see how long it would take me to get there and I made it to 60k in 3 months, alhamdulilah. Of course I’m actually nowhere near done, and will probably need to go to 100,000 or even 110,000 before the story is complete. It sounds like a lot, but it’s just my process. I write and write and write, and get all my ideas out, and then I edit and cut it down. I did the same with Aisha; it was also around 110k, and then I cut it down to 80k, so my hope is that I’m able to do the same for this one.

It’s been 3 crazy months of pumping out words, and I’ve been able to go on for so long because I haven’t let myself think about things too much. Every afternoon, when my daughter goes down for her nap, I literally just pump out as many words as I can, forcing myself not to stop and think too much. The more I think, the more I get bogged down by my thoughts and that’s when writer’s block takes over in full force. It’s been hard though because my daughter isn’t a good sleeper (never has been). She’s down to one nap in the day, and it’s the time when I sit down to write. But since she wakes up multiple times, there have been days where I haven’t gotten much done and the day feels like a waste. But then there are days I have been feeling so inspired that I’ve pumped out 2000 words in 45 minutes. Each day is different.

I’ve been writing like crazy for the past 3 months that now my brain feels fried out. In the beginning, I was super motivated and would write in both the afternoon and then at night too. But then, my sleepless nights started catching up with me and my tiredness took over. Now, I feel like I don’t have any creativity or energy left to give at the end of the day. But that tiredness at night has transferred to the day time and it feels like my words have dried up. So I’m in a bit of a writing slump right now, which is why I decided to do some writing of a different kind, in hopes that I’ll feel inspired soon.

So in other news, I’ve been on a crazy diet for the past month and a bit. I’ve been dieting on and off ever since Emaan was born but recently my weight spiralled out of control as I started stress eating again. Sleepless nights started taking a toll on me and I ate my feelings in the form of cookies, brownies, cake, ice cream, French toast for breakfast and everything in between. So I decided to go on a strict diet and cut out sugar and carbs completely.

To be honest, I was hoping for a more dramatic weight loss but so far I’ve only lost 5 pounds. It’s definitely been a struggle because when I get stressed out and tired, I still want to reach for that cookie or chocolate but I have to try so hard not to. My goal of losing 20 lbs is greater than my desire for any dessert these days and that’s what’s keeping me going so far.

I’m not going to lie, I have slipped up a few times but not as crazily as I used to in the past. I tighten my resolve and keep going, even if I slipped up. My new goal is not to eat any sugar or carbs until my next cheat day which will be at the end of December, I’ve decided.

But with such a crazy diet, it was obvious that I was going to miss baking since it’s a therapeutic activity for me. The first few weeks, I abandoned it completely but then couldn’t resist any longer. So basically I decided to torture myself as I tried out some new recipes but told myself I couldn’t have them.

So these days I only bake for occasions. Like I made these Spritz butter cookies for my husband’s work as an end of year treat. I’ve been seeing Spritz cookies all over the internet for years but never knew how they got their shape! I invested in a cookie press a few months ago and finally got around to learning how to use it and I have to say it is so easy! The first time around I made them plain and dipped some in chocolate and sprinkles. But this time I tried out a bunch of holiday shapes and will be doing some chocolate and sprinkles again. If only all cookies were this easy to make!

When my uncle came over one day, I made these cream puffs aka choux pastry. I can’t wait to share the recipe with you! I also made eclairs, which are cream puffs’ sister (in my mind since they’re made from the same choux pastry), but they didn’t puff as much as they were suppose to. Definitely going to try those again soon!

Lastly, I made these Oreo bottom cheesecake cupcakes. I followed the same recipe as my regular mini cheesecakes, except I was feeling lazy and stuck an Oreo cookie at the bottom for the crust. ๐Ÿ˜› I was feeling creative so I whipped up a small batch of chocolate ganache and poured it on top of the cooled cheesecakes and let them set for the required time. The result was amazing. The chocolate definitely added another level of richness onto the plain cheesecakes. The cheesecakes had sunk a little bit in the centre so when I poured the ganache, it pooled in the centre and created a thick layer of chocolate in the centre that looked so delicious.

I’ve been having a lot of fun trying new recipes. I haven’t had a chance to photograph most of them, but I’m still having fun making them. Hopefully I’ll become better at making them and can photograph them at some point in the future when my toddler isn’t so wild. ๐Ÿ˜€

Speaking of my toddler, Emaan will be 20 months at the end of this month. As soon as the new year hits, it’ll be 4 more months till she’s 2! I can’t believe she’ll be 2 next year, it seems so wild, like something I’m daydreaming about. I know it sounds cliche but it honestly feels like she was just born yesterday, and now she’s almost 2. Where is time going?

These days, Miss Emaan is picking up words at the speed of light! We say something once and she repeats it right away. She doesn’t always repeat them after that, but she definitely tries the word out and says it right away, especially if it’s a new word. I’ve been trying to teach her the alphabet but it’s been tricky.

She has always been a rambunctious baby, but she’s an even more rambunctious toddler! Emaan doesn’t like to sit still (and rarely does). She’s a bit of a daredevil the way she climbs up on furniture fearlessly, with no care for the consequences. She loves playing with water, wants to see what’s happening at adult level and demands to be picked up. She loves books and being read to, and asks for her favourites to be reread by saying ‘Mo?’ aka more. She wasn’t affectionate before, but now has become super affectionate as she loves coming up to me and hugging my legs and kissing me. The past 2 mornings I’ve woken up to kisses on my face. it’s the sweetest thing ever! I hope this affectionate phase never ends. <3

Anyway, that’s a little update on what I’ve been up to. This post has become longer than necessary so I better end it here!

Hope you’re all well!

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

Share Button

New York Travel Diary- Part 2

New York Travel Diary- part 2

Welcome back to my New York Travel Diary series! Part 2 covers days 3 and 4. Day 4 was actually only a few hours since our flight was in the early afternoon, but a lot happened anyways. To read Part 1, click here.

DAY 3

Day 3 was a Monday which meant our time with Fatima had come to an end as she went back to work.

We started our morning with a real New York bagel! Again, this was something that was on my list but all the ones that were one the ‘best bagels of New York’ lists were all far from our hotel. There was this random shop called Pick a Bagel which was absolutely delicious! I got a sesame seed bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, which I had just recently discovered and fallen in love with. The bagel was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Nothing beats a fresh bagel!

I had heard about an exhibition being in New York for one of my favourite shows and was so happy to find out it was still there when I was planning my trip. So early Monday morning, my mom and I walked 5 mins from our hotel to the Downton Abbey exhibition so we could be transported to 1920’s England.

This should have been a fun morning but Emaan was super cranky and we had to rush through the exhibition rather than take our time because she was crying a lot.

They had set up the exhibition just like the Crawley house: downstairs were the servants quarters and upstairs were the family’s quarters. The upstairs sets were recreated with the original furniture, because the rooms in Highclere castle were used to film. On the other hand, the kitchen and all the downstairs rooms were build on a soundstage so they were the originals used in filming!

We spent the morning walking through the sets, learning what position we would to be if we were working for the house, and learned some more about what life was like. And of course we gazed at beautiful period dresses! Definitely my favourite part of the morning!

We had relegated the day to shopping so as we made our way back to our hotel, we passed by a TJ Maxx and had to go in. After buying some presents for my husband and brothers, we headed back to our hotel for a quick rest and lunch.

We reheated the garlic shrimp pizza from the night before and it was even better, if that’s possible!

Newly reenergized, we made our way to Central Park to get to the Met. Since it was a hot day, I figured it would be nice to spend some time indoors in air conditioning. The walk through the park was lovely, and I wish we has spent more time there. My mom and I just talked as we walked and it was so nice to hear birds chirping and not cars honking. The city seemed to melt behind us as we ventured further into the oasis.

We took a brief snack break near this bear statue which Emaan could not get enough of!

Finally we made it to the Met. Now, last time we had been to the Met, we had done suggested pricing which means you give a donation and not the whole amount. I was under the impression that the same rule applied but when I tried to do it I was informed that you had to be a New York resident to so do. Talk about super embarrassing! I wouldn’t have minded paying the full price if we we’re planning on spending the whole day there but since we were just passing through, we decided to skip it.

So we called an Uber and made our way to Times Square. Originally we weren’t planning on going to Times Square, since we had seen it before, but the Sephora there was one of the few in the city that had Huda Beauty’s liquid lipsticks. And so I made the sacrifice for beauty!

We spent a bit of time walking through some of the shops; I had needed to get some keychains and hadn’t really seen any tourist shops anywhere else. Emaan was getting a bit restless so we took her to the Disney Store and she lit right up! I’m not going to pretend I didn’t have fun either; I’ve always loved Disney and this one had a treasure trove of stuff!

Once we finished our shopping, we decided to head to Eataly for dinner. It was a 30 min walk from where we were in Times Square but we honestly just should have taken another Uber. We were beat by the time we reached the restaurant!

If you’ve never heard of it before, Eataly is an authentic Italian grocery store with restaurants inside. There’s a seafood restaurant, a meat lovers restaurant, and a pasta and pizza restaurant.

There were long waits everywhere and we debated between staying and going, since we were famished but in the end we decided to stay. The 25 min wait wasn’t as long as they had told us and before long we were whisked upstairs to a small table overlooking the restaurant down below.

I honestly can’t remember what I ended up getting. I was so tired at this point and the food was honestly not anything worth remembering. My mom got a ravioli dish that was good. Emaan had had enough at this point and wouldn’t sit still, so we literally just scarfed our food and ran.

We called another Uber to take us to our hotel, and I tried to get gelato while we waited for our car but again, the wait was way too long.

It was back to the hotel to an early night because our flight was the next day!

DAY 4

I had booked an afternoon flight for us back to Toronto, so we had a few hours to kill before we had to head to the airport.

And what did I chose to fill those precious few hours with? Bakery hopping!

So both of my brothers had asked for food related items from New York, and I wanted to get my husband his favourite banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery.

My youngest brother had asked for a real New York bagel so I got up early in the morning and got a few sesame seed bagels for him from Pick A Bagel. I had loved them and they definitely tasted way better than the grocery store variety from home!

After that, we headed to Magnolia Bakery, a short walk from our hotel. When we lived in Chicago, my husband would love to go to Magnolia and grab a few tubs of their famous banana pudding for himself. I’m not a fan of bananas myself but I knew I had to get him some!

We then made our way to Bouchon Bakery. My middle brother had asked me to get him an almond croissant, a croissant he said he still thought about years after he had had it.

I wish I was exaggerating when I said this, but, that croissant was the best thing I ever ate. I wanted to kick myself for not coming to Bouchon Bakery earlier in my trip, especially since it was so close to our hotel! Croissants are usually light and flaky but this one had substance. I wasn’t too sure how I would like the almonds with the chocolate, but the sweetness of the chocolate was subdued by the nuttiness of the almond paste that was creamed together inside with the chocolate. Sprinkled with just the right amount of icing sugar on top, these croissants had a filling that was full of flavour. It was way more than your average croissant!

I also got a salted caramel macaron, which was also divine. They were much larger than your average macaron, which made them so worth it.

I was almost in tears for not having discovered Bouchon earlier in my trip. If I had, I would have come every day! There were so many other things I wanted to try, and now I will also tell anyone and everyone who’s going to New York City to go to Bouchon and to being me back a croissant. It was definitely the best part of my trip.

After that life-changing experience, we went back to the hotel, gathered our things, and headed to the airport! It ending of my trip would have been perfect except the security agent made me throw out the banana pudding, and so it never made it home! I was devastated.

All in all, it was a great trip. But here are some of my tips/things I wish I could do differently:

  • If you are traveling with a baby, don’t plan more than 2, MAYBE 3, activities a day. I planned way too many, and even though they were close together in distance, Emaan and I both got burnt out. And because there were so many things I wanted to do everyday, I didn’t get to enjoy them as much.
  • If your baby is still napping, try to do one nap in the hotel or at least schedule some downtime or rest time each day. Again, I made our itinerary so packed that by the end of the day, we were exhausted. Of course, this wasn’t feasible every day (for example we couldn’t go back to our hotel midday on our first day) but try to plan some rest time.
  • Don’t have such high expectations, especially of places that are hyped up so much. This happened to me SO many times it wasn’t even funny. The thing is I read and did so much research for my trip, and honed my list of restaurants like crazy. So I was very excited for some of the places I had picked out. But many of them were nowhere as amazing as I had assumed, named Smorgasburg, Laduree, and Eataly. Instead be open to try new things or ask the locals!
  • Plan your trip by location. So last time I didn’t do this and we literally were going across the island the whole day. This time, I was smarter about it and downloaded My maps from Google. It let’s you ‘pin’ locations, whether they’re shops restaurants, museums, or anything else you choose. Then when you open your regular Google Maps, you don’t need to type up the locations. They show up on your app and you just click on them and their address shows up. Doing this made it easier to plan my day to day itinerary, as I planned to visit things that were closer together.
  • By the same token, plan your activities with the distance between them in mind. Originally, I had planned our activities with subway travelling in mind, but we didn’t end up taking the subway even once. Fatima’s husband so generously drove us several times, and then we just took Uber. It was definitely more convenient than taking the subway with a baby, since very few stations had an elevator for the stroller. If you decide to go this route, be mindful of New York traffic.
  • Last but not least: have fun! The city has a very fast pace and can make you feel frenetic with it’s energy but if you’re on vacation take it slowly and savour the moments, rather than tick them off some imaginary checklist.

Until next time, New York!

Thanks for reading.

Xoxo,

Ikhlas

Share Button