Quick Recipes

3 Salads I Really Enjoy Making (and hope you will too)

Salads are a quick and healthy meal that you can have on its own, before your food or along with it. In Asian culture, salads are really popular as an appetiser to enhance the flavour of the meal, especially if it is rice with lentils. 

Here i am sharing three quick salads that i love making and some tips to have them ready in a jiffy:

Chickpeas Salad

If you don’t already know, let me start with telling you that chickpeas are very beneficial for health. They contain vitamins, minerals and protein, in which case you can substitute them also for meat in your dishes. Also, it has been found out that chickpeas help manage weight, by curbing appetite and aid in digestion among other benefits. So, including them in your diet is only going to be beneficial for your health. Here’s how you can out a chickpea salad together:

Quick chickpea salad recipe
The chickpea salad is not just healthy to eat but also colourful to look at

Toss a cup of boiled chickpeas in a bowl along with onion, cucumber, cabbage and some tomatoes cut in small pieces. Add a dash of olive oil, salt, black pepper and squeeze half a lemon and you’re done!

Red Beans Salad

Red beans salad recipe
Here I have mixed red beans with white beans and a few chicken pieces along with other veggies to create flavour

Red beans also known as kidney beans offer a variety of health benefits, being a rich source of fibre, protein and other vitamins and minerals. They are also very fulfilling and you can have them on their own as well. To make a salad use a bowl of pressure cooked red beans along with cucumber, onion, tomatoes and cabbage (or any other vegetable of your liking that you would like to add to the bowl) and finish with a dash of olive oil, salt, black pepper and a bit of mustard sauce to add flavour to your salad. 

Chicken and Potato Salad

chicken and potato salad
Boiled potatoes and shredded chicken mixed with other vegetables

This is one of my most favourite salads and I usually sneak in some chicken with the beans or chickpeas as well. It just gives a nice flavor to it which everyone at my home really likes. For this, you will need some boneless chicken around ½ a cup, cut into small pieces or you can also use shredded chicken like I have done here. For boneless, cook it with a bit of ginger garlic paste, salt and black pepper until the chicken is tender. 

Next, add the cooked chicken pieces in the bowl along with finely cut cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, boiled potatoes (cut in cubes) and cabbage. Next, add a dash of olive oil, salt, mustard and black pepper. You can also add a few pieces of feta cheese if you like and you are done !

*For one bowl of salad as shown in the picture I usually take 1-2 cucumbers (depending on the size), 2 tomatoes, 1 potato and 1 onion. 

Tips to make a handy salad:

  • You can even intermix the ingredients according to your preference and liking
  • You can also use white beans together with the red ones or use one at a time
  • Don’t fret about buying anything extra, just add whatever you have at hand.
  • Pressure cook beans and chickpeas in large quantities and store in the freezer divided into small packets. This way, you only need to take out a packet to make your salad and defrost it before adding it in the bowl with other ingredients
  • Similarly, you can also make your chicken in a large batch and keep handy to be tossed into the salad. 
  • If you don’t have lemon at hand, you can add a bit of soy sauce
Travel

Weekend Trip to Kund Malir and visiting Princess of Hope

One fine day, as we sat, dreaming about some far off exotic location and feeling burdened with all the work on our hands, we decided to take a trip. We couldn’t go anywhere far off and exotic, but we could take a short trip to a nearby location. Living in Karachi, means having limited options but there are options nevertheless. 

Princess of Hope road
Isn’t it a must to take pictures everywhere 😉 on our way to the Princess of Hope, we couldn’t resist stopping for pictures

New year was coming up and so finding a trip wasn’t difficult. There are many tours happening around this time and most are family friendly as well. Our search led us to finding a weekend trip to Kund Malir beach. Thus, again we embarked on an adventure, this time all girls. Sounds cool right. It does to me because it was such a huge thing for me. Travelling with my girls, not a care in the world. Yaaasssssss!!

Day 1

In case you don’t know, Kund Malir is located in Hingol National Park in Balochistan at a distance of 150 kilometres from Zero Point on the Makran Coastal Highway. We travelled with Karachi Travellers Group and it was quite a pleasant, safe and peaceful experience. They plan everything to the last detail leaving no surprises. We left Karachi early morning on Saturday and within 2 hours, we reached our destination. After we freshened up, we had daal roti at a nearby dhaba and went off to explore the surroundings.

lunch at a local hotel near Kund Malir Beach
Our scrumptious lunch nearby at a local hotel

The whole place gives off a very rugged yet calm vibe. As it is not usually crowded you can find your peace on the beach and just relax with the waves. Nearby, you can go explore the trails and mountains like we did. 

Have you met the Princess?

Princess of Hope at Hingol National Park
Princess of Hope that stands tall in Hingol National Park, overlooking the area

When you travel the road on the Makran Coastal Highway you come across the Princess of Hope, from Karachi it would be after about 190 km. It is named thus by Angelina Jolie when she visited the area as the rock formation looks like a princess overlooking her surroundings. When you ponder closely at her, she does seem to be majestically standing atop the mountain, carved so beautifully, although legend has it that it’s a natural sculpture shaped by the winds of the Arabian Sea.

Kund Malir Beach sunset
Beautiful sunset at Kund Malir Beach

After we were done exploring the mountains around the princess (and taking tons of pictures) where we attempted but failed miserably to climb to the top, we came back to just chill at the beach.

Sitting by the beach, listening to the waves, watching the sun go down at you, it is all such a surreal and beautiful experience. It is unforgettable. Sometimes i think that’s what our life is, a string of unforgettable experiences, or this is what it should be about, creating those unforgettable experiences. I know I’m fascinated by it. If you have these beautiful moments to look back on, it makes you feel so humble and grateful that you have had the chance to experience something like this. What is a life lived without creating such beautiful memories? I wonder.

At night, we had a BBQ scene which as you know is always such a hit on the beach, songs, laughter and games with my best pals. I will forever remember and cherish the memory of it. We slept in a tent (first for me) with smiles on our faces, talking goofy, with the hope that we’ll wake up to watch the sunrise. Do you think that happened? Well if you did, sorry to tell you that our lazy, tired selves couldn’t catch it.

Day 2

So, after we were done with the morning breakfast, the fun did not end there. The beach day lasted one day, and as it was Sunday now, we had to return back and return to work the following day. So our return journey started with a stopover at the mud volcanoes in Hingol National Park.

mud volcano at Hingol National Park
a closer view of the mud pool at one of the steeper volcanoes

There are three big mud volcanoes known as Chandragupt mud volcano 1, 2 and 3. One of the 300 foot high volcanoes is a Hindu pilgrimage site with a Mandir close by also. some people did try reaching the top of that but i don’t remember anyone making it. we climbed to the mouth of one of the smaller mountains and witnessed it oozing mud. We did also witness Hindus who came to the site for worship.

mud volcanoes at Hingol National Park
Hindu community that came for worship at the mud volcanoes

At lunchtime, we stopped over at a road side hotel for food and I kid you not, they had the best daal (lentil). By the time we reached home, we were half dead and exhausted but also, happy people who managed to break the monotony.

Oh and I must tell you, the place didn’t have any signals to i guess it counts as the perfect escape also (he he he).

Have you visited Kund Malir Beach? What are your thoughts about it? Come, tell me in the comments below:

Relationships

The Biggest Mistake We all Make in our Communication

Last week I talked about how communication makes or breaks any relationship. Effective communication can be the key to resolving issues, overcome obstacles together, and understand each other . On the other hand, I have seen when couples feel like they can’t get their point across, then a lot of problems can arise. It isn’t a straight line to walk and it takes time to learn how to walk this tight rope but when you do, life can be blissful.

I asked the same question on my instagram that ‘What do you think is the most important thing in a relationship’ and I got a lot of interesting answers. Understanding, trust,loyalty and respect were some of the common responses along with communication. The importance of one cannot be denied over the other. I think everything just goes hand in hand. Like if you’re talking but not with respect, very soon, things can get ugly.

But what I feel is if you’re not even talking, then where do other things fit in. Messy right? Relationships are. You need to be able to be vocal about your likes, dislikes and concerns with the other person and respect their boundaries too. It’s a two way thing. Not every time it can be expected that one spouse will be on the listening end, sometimes you need to lend an ear as well. Otherwise relationships start feeling like a burden and can very soon go towards the dreaded path of abuse and breakup. One person cannot carry the burden of two, for very long.

So what are we doing wrong when we are trying to communicate with someone or our significant other? We are listening to respond. We are only hearing them out while our mind is wandering elsewhere or we’re just forming our response. We are not really listening to understand them. We are more concerned about them understanding us and not the other way around. If you just pause, breathe and try to change your narrative to understanding them, it might make a difference.

So, if you are willing, here are some tips to follow for effective communication:

-Be attentive and listen to understand

-Clear your mind of your responses

-Try and focus on their perspective

-Stay calm and talk with respect

-Frame your response in a clear and concise way

-Take breaks if the conversation is going in circles and/but come back to it later

It is very important to come back to your argument and conclude it at a later stage if it isn’t over yet. Leaving it hanging can only further the divide and widen misunderstandings.

I hope this was helpful and we all can practice to make our communication better and effective. I’d love to know how you make your communications effective!

Reflections

What Keeps you Grounded (and How to Cope in Difficult Times)-Part 2

In the previous post I talked about how by changing your perspective and having faith can help you navigate the tough times in your life. I thought I should take it further and talk about some coping strategies as well. Sometimes what happens when we are going through a difficult time is that we tend to close off. That may be due to fear, for example, we may fear being judged or we may feel embarrassed talking about it.

What one needs to understand here is that there is no shame in talking about your story. You are not the only one and that it can happen to anyone. You don’t have to go open up to the world about your problem(s) but you need a genuine outlet to let the steam off, and hear some words of inspiration or wisdom which can really help you in tough times. Sometimes, sharing about your problem also helps to gain perspective, find support or a possible solution for it. So you if you find yourself beaten down by life, first of all, know that you’re not alone. Secondly, remind yourself that it is a test and you will pass it. Life happens to everyone and everybody’s tested albeit in different ways. So let’s move on to some coping strategies:

Confide in your Close Ones

It’s very important to have people close to you, who understand you, know you and genuinely care for you. When you have identified such people in your life, then you should find your strength in them. Having support means a lot. You understand that you are not alone. You have friends and/or family who care and that they will go the extra mile for you. If  nothing, they will lend an ear to you, which can really help.

Find a Support Group

You can also find a support group, locally or online, where you can interact with people who are going through the same situation as you. Sometimes, it can really help in listening to others and how they are coping with their situation. You can gain insight by their experience and feel less lonely in your situation.

Generally, when something bad happens to us, our first reaction to it is that it’s the worst thing that has happened to us and nothing more bad can ever happen to anyone. By talking to people or in a a support group, your perspective can shift and help you cope.

Surround Yourself with Non Judgmental People

When you’re going through a tough phase in life, it’s important to surround yourself with positive interactions and influences. You don’t want more negativity around you at such times or people unnecessarily prying in your matters. Keep at a distance with such people and only interact with those you know genuinely care about you. Their care and support can go a long way in helping you cope in such times.

Engage Yourself in Hobbies That Make you Happy

It may feel like life is at a standstill and nothing is moving forward, but you don’t have to be glued where you are. You don’t have to sit and wait for things to get better. Get back to things that you love doing for yourself. Find a hobby and do a little of it every day. It could be something as simple as growing plants, or learning a skill that you always wanted to learn. Engaging your mind somewhere will also help keep the negative thoughts away. Engaging your hands in making something, like crafts or crocheting can help with stress and anxiety because you divert your minds focus towards something else.

Connect with God

All through this time, make sure you don’t give up on your faith. Don’t allow yourself to develop any negative feelings or resentment bur rather, hold on stronger to hope. Keep praying for a better time and ask God to guide you, show you the way and keep you calm. Even if things don’t get better instantly, praying and staying connected to God does bring a certain calm that come whatever may, you are in safe hands of a higher power. If he has put you in it he will give you the strength to pull through it also.

I hope this helps anyone who is going through a tough phase.

Book reviews

Book Review: Am I Normal Yet?

Sometimes I think it is better to understand a situation through another person’s story or voice and that is precisely why I love reading fiction. The glimpse that it gives into another life, city, moments or situations help us gain perspective.

Am I normal yet by Holly Bourne
“Am I normal yet” by Holly Bourne

Sometimes I really go through the reviews of a book before making my purchase because you really do not want to end up with a badly written novel. Yeah those exist! Even though the story might be interesting, but it just spoils the whole mood. Anyhow, more often than not, as soon as I enter a bookshop I lose all sense and forget about all the good novels still on my TBR list and end up just picking something randomly. One such fine day, led me to purchase this wonderful novel by Hollyy Bourne: Am I Normal Yet?

It is the story of a typically 16, teenage girl named Evie who has made a fresh start at a new college. Her preoccupations lie with her friends, boys and college which lead to adding another layer in the story which is quite interesting and very amazingly put. We often confuse our thoughts with our reality and it is all the more difficult for someone with a mental disorder such as anxiety or OCD.

I haven’t read any other novels by Bourne but her voice seems to be very honest and raw. She has put the narrative in a very understandable, and authentic way without either diminishing its importance or sensationalizing it. It will help people to see a mental disorder in the right light and refrain from punishing or ignoring them. If you’re up for a bumpy novel, and want some insight into OCD, I suggest you pick this one up!

Have you read it? Come lets talk about it.

Have you read something similar? Give me a suggestion I am all ears.

Reflections

What Keeps you Grounded (When Nothing Seems to Work?)-Part 1

Every once in a while, we are struck with lightning, not literally but that is how it feels like. When everything is going smoothly and suddenly, it feels like it is all crumbling down? Nothing seems to work, the way you want it to or expected. The once I-have-it-under-control feeling that you felt, feels like slipping away. Nothing is in your control anymore.

Was it ever?

It’s okay. It’s normal. It happens to everyone. What really matters is how you tackle it. How do you slow down and tell yourself you aren’t failing but it’s just part of the process. Or things are just bumpy until the road ahead becomes smooth again.

When we feel we are in control of things, that’s when everything is going smoothly for us and we have no two thoughts about anything. We hardly stop to think or wonder, about the good things happening to us and we just enjoy it. We think it is our doing, our effort, our mind. It is only when things go astray, do we start complaining, wondering and thinking why it’s happening. Suddenly our efforts and hard work become meaningless because we are still putting all that in without any visible results.

That’s when we usually turn to God. It starts with asking for help, we feel angry, we question, and then we start begging. We talk to him and we try to find answers to our questions. I believe we do find our answers because He doesn’t leave us alone. When we remember that we come from Him and we will return to Him. When we remember that this world is a passing gateway to the next and everything happens for a reason, we tend to find calm in the storm and we tend to start finding solutions. I believe there is always a choice and no matter how hard something seems in this life, it won’t matter in the next, that is what our faith should be. Remembering God at each step, believing in His plan, doing our best and keeping our thoughts positive, can help anyone through a tough phase.

Any phase seems tough when we start to think this life IS IT. THIS IS IT. We think everything that happens here, is all that matters. However, if you can only remember that you are a traveler and nothing happening here, is THAT BIG or PROFOUND as compared to YOUR ULTIMATE DESTINATION and that you’re powerless in front of HIS DECISION, it makes living here, in this world, a tad bit easier.

Our lives are made up of a series of experiences and they all teach us something. We can learn from others experience but unless we go through something ourselves, we can’t understand the intensity and wisdom of something. Humans are beautiful and unique; we all process things differently, depending on our understanding and insight, and all our experiences-good or bad- help us grow in every way. So hang on, have faith, stay firm and stay strong in the face of adversity because God has promised help and guidance to all His believers.

Relationships

This One Thing Can Make or Break Your Relationship

Relationships are hard and messy.

We may think and want them to be smooth sailing, bringing us joy forever but the thing with human behavior and emotions is, that it’s often unpredictable. Enjoying easy going relationships is something that we have to create, seldom does it come naturally.

what makes or breaks a relationship

When we treat our relationships as third grade citizens, they are going to give us the same kind of attitude. If you think that putting down your spouse or shadowing them is going to create any kind of harmony between you two, because that’s how most relationships in our society roll like, then you’re completely wrong. To create that joy and understanding in relationships you need to push your spouse at the front of the line and cheer for them the loudest. Your spouse should be the person who has solid trust in you that you are there for them through thick and thin.

In most relationships that I have observed, I feel like communication is the one and only thing that either makes it great to have a spouse or makes your marriage the worst nightmare you are in. Talking mindlessly or forcefully just for the sake of it, does not count as communicating, and sometimes can often lead to disaster rather than an effective tool to come closer. Also, most often, talking frequently creates more misunderstanding rather than understanding. Assumptions like you both will get along well if you share the same interests or if you are both introverts or extroverts, all take a back seat when it comes to the attitude that you have towards your relationship.

If you can’t find it in your heart to try and be more open and understand your spouses perspective and convey to them how you feel about certain things, then it can become really hard. It is also important to give your significant other the space and trust to open up to you about their feelings. Communication in itself is a tricky subject which demands a whole other or maybe tons of blog posts but what I personally feel and believe in, is that if you can communicate and understand each other, you can have a ball every day and if you can’t, well then, welcome to the nightmare of your dreams.

I don’t mean to scare you by saying this, but understand the importance of communication and work on it. Every relationship is different and takes its own time to develop into a beautiful bond.

I would like to know our thoughts on this, and how important do you think communication is in a relationship?

This post focuses on the importance of communication in intimate relationships but I would like to add that it’s equally important in all other kind of relationships to be able to communicate effectively. It is the premise on which the quality of your relationships lie so try and develop it, if its lacking and if you have mastered it, share your thoughts, I would love to know!

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Gorakh Hills

Trip of a lifetime?

In Gorakh Hills?

For those of you who don’t know, Gorakh Hills is in Sindh and yes, it was a trip of a lifetime because it was the first (or second?) time ever (first (or second) trip ever) that I took with my friends and IT IS A BIG DEAL in the part of the world where I come from. Lulz.

So if you, like me, belong from a fairly decent household in Pakistan, you can understand exactly why travelling alone with friends is such a big deal. However, after much convincing I got the permission and although it was back in 2015, that I took this trip with some of the best people I made friends with at work, I still reflect back on it with much fondness. It really was a great trip filled with fun, laughter, tons of pictures and COLD- yes it was freezing cold in Sindh, up on the mountains.

A little about Gorakh Hills

So Gorakh Hills is a hill station located northwest of Dadu city, at an elevation of 5,689 feet. You can say it is almost at a distance of 500 kms from Karachi in the Kirthar Moutains. You can travel by car or bus till the last town of Wahi Pandi at the foot of the mountains but from thereon you have to ascend by jeeps as the roads are quite rough.

Ascend towards Gorakh Hill
View on the way to our ascend
Mountain views on the way to Gorakh Hill
The glorious mountain views on the way

Gorakh in Sanskrit means shepherding, spefically in difficult pastures, which could be the reason of the name Gorakh Hills and practically true because tribesmen do bring their herds for summer grazing here. Locals believe that the word Gorakh comes from the Balochi word “gurkh” which means wolf, and those were quite in abundance in the Keerthar range before and a threat to cows and sheep. If you want to read more on the history and origin of Gorakh Hills,I Found a very interesting post that you can read here.

My Experience

It is hard to believe that at this point of writing the blog post, it has been almost 4 years since we visited, but honestly I remember it like it happened just last year. So we booked our tour with RnB Tours and I have to say it was a very pleasant and comfortable experience. We left early in the morning (like around 6) I remember it was still dark when we assembled at the meeting point and started our journey. By afternoon we were there, sitting across the table waiting fon our lunch. On our way there, we made a stop for breakfast, so don’t think they starved us. Lolz. We made ample stops (for food/washrooms/views/pictures) on our way to stretch our legs so I will have to say that the journey was well planned and not haphazard in any way that it put us behind schedule or anything.

Early morning tea
Early morning tea

You will find that there is just one guesthouse there and a couple of rooms where you can relax, but the guest house provides some great food. We chose to rest in the rooms and since we were a group we took one room, 4-5 people could easily share a room. There were tents too, and people did spend their night out in the wild. If you can stand the cold, I am sure it would be an experience.

Guesthouse at Gorakh Hill
View of the guesthouse
Guest rooms at Gorakh Hill
View of guest rooms

I do recall us going into a partial food coma and dozing off quite peacefully at night. But wait, don’t think that all we had was food and rest. no no no. We retired for the night only after we were done chilling around a bonfire, singing songs, playing antakhshari and enjoying the cold night breeze.

Bonfire at Gorakh Hill
Bonfire night

Basically when you are with fiends, every moment feels blissful. In the morning after breakfast, we took the short trek upwards to the summit, which has a beautiful, no, beyond beautiful view of the mountains and the surrounding areas. (wait for it:p)

The trek to Gorakh Hills
The way leading to the top
GorakhHill views
Views of Gorakh Hill
Gorakh Hills at sunset
Sunset at Gorakh Hill

We caught the sunset at Gorakh Hills and it was mesmerizing to say the least. To be honest, I was just too tired to catch the sunrise but i am sure it would have been sight to behold from these hills.

Mesmerizing sunset at Gorakh Hills
Mesmerizing sunset at Gorakh Hills

It was a weekend trip which means spending two nights there and returning on Sunday. We did not have to worry about food at any point, not even during the travel as RnB made sure the stops were well managed. We even stopped for lunch on our way back on Sunday.

So if you are in Sindh and haven’t experiences this site as yet, I suggest you do. Gorakh Hills has a calm, peaceful vibe where you can unwind and bask in the mountainous silence.

Have you been there? How was your experience? I would love to know!

Quick Recipes

Walnut Cake

Friendship is an interesting thing. when you connect with someone, distance doesn’t matter and sometimes you don’t need words to express yourself. Other times, its all about words- all you want them to do is listen. So yesterday, a friend came over just to listen and to be heard and I thought why not bake a cake with chai.

simple walnut cake recipe
Walnut Cake

It’s a simple recipe, and a simple gesture to make someone feel invited. Anyways, guess what, I think for the first time in many, my cake turned out perfectly round and well risen but in my hurry to get talking, I didn’t bother with a nice picture. I hope you don’t judge because I simply can’t wait any longer to share this simple walnut cake recipe with you. I hope you will try it out for yourself – (pinky promise the taste is good) so here goes with the recipe:

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Baking Time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients you need:

Sugar: 1 cup

Oil: 3/4 cup

Eggs: 3

Flour: 1 cup

Baking Powder: 2 tsp

Walnuts: 1 cup (approximately)

Method:

  1. Beat sugar and oil
  2. Add eggs one by one
  3. Sift and add flour and baking powder
  4. Add walnuts
  5. Pop it in a pre heated oven at 180 degree celcius. I turn the heat to 150 degrees after 10 minutes and its done in another 10 minutes approx. (dont forget to keep a check)

Bonus Tip:

So you can use the same recipe and make a carrot cake. Just replace (or add) 2-3 shredded carrots in step 4 and bake the same way.

So i hope you will try this super simple cake recipe and enjoy it with friends and family. If you do, let me know in the comments below:

Book reviews

Real Life Lessons from Fictional Books

From as long as I can remember I have been a reader. An avid reader of anything I could get my hands on. From newspaper articles to children’s fiction and since then it has been an uphill journey of devouring most kinds of fictional books.

Inspiration from fiction books

I remember my first book outside the Children’s category that i read was in grade 6 and it was Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” and then later I read all of HP books like a fanatic (which avid reader didn’t? please step aside if you didn’t). Stepping into the world of fiction is like being hooked to drugs, just can’t get enough of it. There has to be a book at all times by my bedside, and in my purse, (you never know when tragedy (read:boredom) strikes and you need them).

Over the years I’ve learnt and realized that fictional books can also teach us so much and address real life problems in a way that we can relate to them. Lately some great fiction has been in print and I’d love to share with you all my discoveries. So here goes:

-If you want to understand OCD , read “Am I normal Yet?

-If you want to gain perspective on domestic abuse, read “It Ends With Us

-If you want to understand the complexities in emotions and relationships due to being unable to conceive, read “All your Perfects

-If you want to understand abuse and loneliness, read “Eleanor Oliphant is Fine

-If you want to take a glimpse at loss, loneliness and love, read “A man called Ove

Tell me, have you read any of these? Are these on your TBR list? If not drop everything and get to reading them. You’ll love them and gain perspective too!