Binging on Books

This past weekend I made a trip to Chapters aka my happy place! Chapters has always been one of my favourite places, and after working there and making great friends for life, it’s even more dear to me.

It had been awhile since I had been, and of course the displays were a feast for the eyes! I have way more notebooks than I will ever use, but I was drooling over the current collection. And that’s nothing to say of the agendas, pens, cute desk accessories, and cookware.

But I tore myself away from the other things and made my way to the back of the store, where my favourite section was, the teen section. Being among the books brought back so many happy memories, memories from when I was working at Chapters and memories even from before.

Before I got into social media (or rather Goodreads), the way I discovered a new book was finding it on the shelf. I would spend an afternoon in the store with my mom, my wallet stuffed with that year’s Eid money, and I would scan the shelves, reading the back of books as I made my picks. After I discovered Goodreads, I would spend hours clicking through books and adding them to my to-be-read list. There are so many books on there, most of which I’ve forgotten about.

But this last weekend, I let myself wander the store, the way I used to, without my phone in my hand (except to take the above picture of course! LOL). I saw books on the shelves whose covers called out to me and I stood there and read the backs of the covers, before deciding whether I wanted to buy them or not. I let myself get lost in the descriptions, enjoying the feeling of the heaviness of the pages in my hand, as the scent of coffee and sugar wafted by from the nearby Starbucks and the din of other customers around me melted away. It was pure happiness.

My original pile was a lot larger than the one I ended up getting. Two of the books were ones that I had purposely gone in to get, while two were ones that I discovered in my walk around the store. And the other two items were baubles I couldn’t resist.

I’ve currently been in the mood to reread old books and finish series that I abandoned. One of these is the Red Rising series. I absolutely loved the first in the series, and raved about it both here on the blog and in the store to anyone who would listen while I worked there. It was my staff pick at the time, an I fell head over heels in love with it. My brother bought the second one for me ages ago and I started to read it but didn’t really get into it at the time. The fourth just came out recently and the series popped back up on my radar.

I just finished devouring Red Rising and have started the second in the series, Golden Son. Morning Star is the third one in the series, which is the one I wanted to have at the ready for when I finish Golden Son. So far, I’m not loving it as much as I did the first, but Red Rising was also a bit slow in the beginning before it picked up, so I’m hoping this is the same!

The other book is Immortal Reign, the last in the Falling Kingdom series. I read the whole series again back in December, and was salivating over the release of the last book in the series, especially with the cliffhanger in the fifth book. But given my current binge of the Red Rising series, I might not get to this for awhile! And since it’s the absolute last in the series, I might save it just a little longer.

The other two books are ones I found during my meander around the store. Both are fantasy, and are the beginning of new series. I was also torn between Sophie Kinsella’s latest Surprise Me and another teen fantasy novel. But they’ll have to wait for another day!

I wish I could say this will be my last book haul for awhile, but there are lots more books that I left behind and that I have my eye on!

After the Red Rising and the Falling Kingdom series, other books I want to continue the series for are Seraphina, Me Before You, Cinder, and Scarlet. I loved the first books in each series and want to finish them up.

What are you reading right now?

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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Days and years

They say the days are long but the years are short.

I haven’t yet reached the years but each day is a mountain to be climbed, a challenge to be conquered. Looking back, these past nine months are one long, endless day that blends seamlessly into the next. There is no beginning and there is no end. Each day is a race, the minutes and hours drag me along with them at supersonic speed, while I hang on for dear life, barely getting by.

They say the days are long but the years are short.

The days are long, but the nights are even longer. The minute the sun sets, there’s a flurry of activity to finish the day, to have some semblance of end, some semblance of rest. But the day does not end, the night brings no news of rest. It is a battle of sleep, just a little more sleep, a war that I wage with my tiny dragon, before the sun begins it’s ascent into the sky. Meanwhile, the clock ticks perilously as the end nears and another day begins.

They say the days are long but the years are short.

Time is both fast and slow. My past is so distant it could have belonged to someone else. Life is simply divided into two: before and after. Before was simple, uncomplicated, and easy. After is a bubble in which I am only a mother, nothing more. Breaking free is not impossible but so difficult that I have given up. Balance is unachievable. Life outside the bubble continues on and I watch it with a mixture of longing and curiosity. It is so far from my reality.

The days are long but the years are short.

Each day ends with a prayer that tomorrow is a better one, that these difficult days become easier years.

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Recipe: Homemade Strawberry Sauce

Homemade Strawberry Sauce

Confession time: I have a terrible memory.

This is why when I was in school, I wasn’t so good at subjects where you had to memorize formulas and theories (aka math and science). My brain felt like it had too many holes in it to keep the information. This is why I sucked at learning my times tables as a kid, and still struggle with remembering them to this day!

As a baker, I’m no better. I don’t remember the exact measurements of recipes. And because baking is so precise, you can’t exactly wing it, like you do with cooking (or I do). A quarter teaspoon of extra salt isn’t exactly going to kill you in a chicken dish, but it could mess up your whole cake when you’re baking.

Homemade Strawberry Sauce

And this is why I don’t even bother trying to remember recipes. Pinterest is my best friend and I’m able to pull up my favourite recipes in a minute on my phone. I’m so scatter-brained sometimes that I read over one line of instructions several times sometimes before proceeding to follow it, even recipes I’ve made countless times, because I want to make sure I get it right.

I’ve had people watching me ask, “You’ve made this so many times! Shouldn’t you know it by now?” Yes. Yes, I should. But I don’t, and so instead of screwing up a batch of my favourite cookies by adding too much baking soda, I’d prefer to just look at the recipe several times.

Homemade Strawberry Sauce

With all that being said, this is not one of those recipes.

Shocking, isn’t it?

I actually don’t know where I got the recipe for this. It was during one of those down the rabbit hole on Pinterest afternoons that I stumbled upon it and made it. When I went back to find the original recipe, I couldn’t, but somehow managed to cobble together the ingredients and instructions and made it again.

This is a recipe that I could probably make with my eyes closed. That’s how many times I’ve made it! This strawberry sauce is my husband’s favourite sauce ever, since it’s the only thing he’ll put on his pancakes.

Homemade Strawberry Sauce

This homemade strawberry sauce tastes amazing on everything. It’s the sauce that accompanies my New York Style Cheesecake, is served on pancakes and French toast, and is drizzled on top of plain pound cake. It also tastes amazing on plain vanilla ice cream, and pretty much everything else! It’s so versatile.

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Recipe: Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whoa, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe! So long that I’ve forgotten how to do it. Do I tell a little story first and then share the recipe or just dive right into the recipe?

I’m just kidding, but it has been awhile! Taking these photos was obviously a mission, especially with a baby! I probably should have tried earlier, when she wasn’t mobile. But now that she can crawl and walk while holding furniture, nothing is safe. Eating my food is a mission. Even if I’ve fed her not only five minutes before, she’ll come scrambling across the carpet to me, her mouth wide open as she stares at me devouring my lunch. So of course I have to share.

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I currently don’t have a dining table, only a coffee table, which is of course within easy reach for her. Setting the table for dinner is a hazardous endeavour. Her little hands reach everything so I have to be very careful with hot items so she doesn’t burn herself. My husband and I are constantly shifting things and trying to move dishes out of her reach so much so that the couch ends up becoming the table with all the food we have to store on it during dinner.

Recently I’ve rediscovered my love for her activity bouncer. Before, it was a means of fun and play, now it’s a way to imprison her (if only for a few minutes)! She is so fast now with her crawling that she doesn’t stay put. Before she would stay in the family room, but the little madam has become so adventurous now that if I don’t shut the bedroom doors before I head into the kitchen, I might find her in one of them! So the activity bouncer is my secret weapon for when I absolutely need her to stay in one place and not move, like during mealtimes or when I need to vacuum or during this photoshoot.

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day I had a hankering for a crispy and thin cookie. If you’ve been following me on the blog for awhile, you’ll know of my love for the chocolate chip cookie. I’ve gone on and on about it pretty frequently! As I bake up my beloved CCC’s, my go-to recipe used to be these cookies, but then it changed to this recipe (minus the sea salt if I wasn’t in the mood). Basically I got tired of waiting for butter soften and liked how you could just melt the butter. Lately I got so lazy that I don’t even refrigerate the dough LOL. This recipe is still my go-to recipe for thick and soft cookies, so if you’re in the mood for a different cookie, I definitely recommend my Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt.

But like I said, I wanted a thin and crispy cookie. I’ve seen this recipe from Buzzfeed on my Facebook feed a million times and wanted to try something new.

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New Year, New You

What is it about the new year that makes everyone feel like setting goals and starting things anew? There’s definitely something about the beginning, whether it’s the beginning of the year, or month, or even week that gives you a fresh start.

It’s a blank slate, with no blemishes. The follies of the previous year are left behind and you have a chance to start new. The whole year is one big possibility and there’s no telling where you could go.

I love reflecting on the past, but I also can’t resist the newness of the new year. I love thinking about all the amazing things that could happen.

I also love reading everyone else’s resolutions and goals, whether it’s through blog posts or Instagram posts. Many of us have similar goals, and many of us fail at accomplishing them.

My goals are similar to previous years, but I still like to write them down. It makes them more official and makes me feel more accountable on following through on them.

1. WRITE MORE

Ok so this is my biggest goal of the year. I want to write more. Ever since giving birth last year, writing is one thing that has fallen off the radar for me. I’ve often sat down to write and feel so much pressure that I just end up not writing anything at all. I have this idea in my head about how I want to sound, and I rarely end up finding the words to express myself. It ends stressing me out instead of giving me joy, which it used to.

So my goal for this year is to just write anything and everything. Whether it’s random and silly blog posts here, or a few lines of broken poetry that come wafting into my sleep-deprived brain at three in the morning, or an idea for a plot point in my current work in progress. Anything and everything!

My soul is aching to me to return to a world where the words flowed like water from my fingers. But I can’t return unless I practice! I need to get over my fear of sounding stupid and just go for it.

2. BE MORE PRESENT

So many people talk about being more present, and everyone has their own idea of what that means. For me, I want to be a more present mother.

I haven’t been quiet about the challenges of motherhood on here, and those challenges make me selfish it feels. I feel like I’m often puttering around the house, trying to get all my chores done, rather than spend time with my daughter. Lately it feels like my baby is clamoring for my attention, but all I can think about is setting her down so I can get through a load of laundry, or dishes, or cooking etc.

I’m not saying that I’m going to completely abandon the things I have to do, but I want to make time to play with her more, read with her more, and just be with her. I don’t want her growing up feeling like I neglected her, which is what I feel guilty of doing lately. Laundry will always be there, but her childhood won’t be.

3. TRY NEW RECIPES

I’m kind of boring when it comes to cooking (and baking too). There’s so many recipes that I’ve wanted to try for ages, but I get scared and just stick to the same recipes that I’ve perfected.

But I want to actually tackle the millions of recipes I’ve pinned over the years on my Pinterest. I want to learn how to make fresh bread, practice my macarons more, and branch off from cookies and bars to other challenging baked goods like croissants and cakes.

Other than baking, I want to try to make the tricky Pakistani dishes that I’m deathly afraid of making, like nihari and haleem. I also want to learn to make some traditional Pakistani desserts as well, because my husband loves them! Over the past three years, I’ve made him loads of cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and bars. But I really want to learn the other stuff too.

And that’s it! Three pretty basic goals, but less is more in this situation. I wanted to make goals for things I can actually do or try to do, instead of things that I might not be able to.

What are your goals for this year?

Thanks for reading,

Ikhlas

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