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Arham Turns Three

Happy THIRD Birthday to my precious Arham. It’s certainly been a fun month-long celebration of your birthday.

From the moment I found out about you, I have identified myself first and foremost as your Mama Arham beta. You are my pride and joy. My happiness. My everything.

SubhanAllah, I can’t believe how fast you are growing up. You amaze me daily with all the new things you do, observe, say and ask.

Each milestone is amazing, and I’ll always be your number one supporter… but to be honest, each one is also a reminder of how fast you are growing.

Watching your logic skills at work or listening to you reason, I can’t help but be in awe… not to mention how much you make me laugh constantly each and every day. You have been able to make me laugh when there was nothing else to laugh about.

Your smile is captivating. Your hugs and kisses are everything. Your “I love you more Mama” melts me instantly.

You are curious, inquisitive, and a quick learner and I pray this never changes. Your amazing memory and ability to story-tell or explain yourself or what happened are beyond your years. I pray Allah SWT keeps you under His infinite protection always and blesses you with the best of this world and the hereafter.

It takes a village. It takes the few but true friends who just get it. It takes understanding co-workers who value the importance of work-life balance. It takes siblings and parents who are always by my side. Ultimately, it takes a Mama’s instincts and love. I don’t know if there is anything as pure, genuine and empowering as a Mama’s love for her child.

Arham beta, inshAllah, I can’t wait to see what year three has in store!

In Memory of our beloved Papa

One of the things I am most proud of is something I had zero control over. It’s being my Papa’s grand-daughter.

I am, and will always be, #teamPapa.

It’s been almost two years since we lost the gem and patriarch of our family, but his legacy is something I hope I will carry forward for the rest of my days.

Our beloved Papa passed away at the age of 86. Otherwise, today he would have been 88. In honor of Papa’s birthday, and in his memory, my brother Faraz has created a fund to raise money for a disease that doesn’t just effect one physically, but more so mentally.

Like Faraz notes, Papa was always there to help others and one of the ways we can carry this trait forward is by funding research for a cure to helping others who are fighting Alzheimer’s.

From the onset of finding out our Papa had Alzheimer’s, it’s been a cause that has been near and dear to my heart. It’s a cause I hope many more people will get on board to support. It’s a cause I hope we can find a cure for in our lifetime so other families don’t have to watch their loved one go through what we had to. Watching your grandfather slowly lose his memory and not recognize his own kids or grand-kids is something no one should have to go through.

Why has the prevalence of dementia/Alzheimer’s increased so significantly? Or are the numbers the same and we just hearing more about it now because more people are “officially” being diagnosed? How much is our diet playing a factor? Let’s face it, our ancestors were eating organic and not any of the artificial food we consume regularly.

The circle of life, surely ensures nothing gold can stay… but the way our Papa was taken away from us slowly is a pain that’s hard to explain. I despise Alzheimer’s/dementia and what it did to my Papa.

I choose to focus on the countless good memories, for it is them that truly exemplify who our Papa was. It is those memories that remind me what count most in life. It’s those moments of inspiration that remind me how I want to raise my precious Arham.

I pray Allah SWT grants Papa the highest level of jannat.

I miss you Papa, today and always.

If you would like to join us in funding research to beat Alzheimers, in Memory of our Papa, click here.

 

What’s for Dessert: Oreo Cheesecake

Going through my list of recipes, it’s no surprise that I love (a good) cheesecake.

One of the desserts I made for Thanksgiving was this Oreo Cheesecake. Or perhaps you want to call it a Cookies and Cream Cheesecake. Either way, it was delicious and a crowd pleaser!

What I used:

  • 5 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • Oreo cookies
  • 2 [8 ounce] packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream
Here’s how I made this cheesecake:
  1. Preheat your oven 350 degrees. Tip: adjust your oven rack to a level lower than the usual middle position it is usually in (to make sure the cheesecake doesn’t brown too much from the top).
  2. Spray the base of your springform pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Finely crush about 20 Oreo cookies (using a food processor).
  4. Mix your melted butter and Oreo cookie crumbs well, before pressing them into the bottom of your springform pan [to form your base/crust].
  5. Bake [in your preheated oven] for about 9 minutes. Let your base cool while you assemble your cheesecake filling.
  6. Blend your cream cheese and condensed milk together until it is smooth.
  7. Next, add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Do not over beat the mixture, just until it is all incorporated.
  8. Crumble 12 Oreos with your hands and gently fold them into your mixture. Again, do not overmix.
  9. Pour your batter over your [cooled] crust.
  10. Bake in your [preheated] oven for about 50-55 minutes.
  11. Let your cheesecake set for an hour, before decorating it.
  12. Decorate as you prefer: here’s how I decorated mine: I spread a layer of whipped cream on top, and piped the whip cream around the edges of the cheesecake and a big dollop in the center. In the middle, of the piping I sprinkled crumbed Oreos. I also put a Oreo cookie [whole] on top of the middle piping.
  13. Refrigerate for several hours at the very least, but overnight is ideal.

P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes.

Arham Turns Two

Happy SECOND birthday to, my pride and joy, my dearest Arham beta,

SubhanAllah I can’t put into words what these past two years have been for me. You are my world. That’s the only way to even attempt to put into words the impossible way to describe you.

You bring me happiness that I can’t put into words and happiness that is simply a blessing from above.

It seems every time I blink, you have gotten a little older and a little wiser, having learned something new yet again (mashAllah). It’s a constant battle between enjoying the moment vs. capturing the moment.

The best thing about being a mama? Even in the darkest of days, Arham beta, you have been the shining light. You light up every room you enter with your smile, but you have lightened up my life from day one.

In a world of crazy and unknowns, you have been my one constant.

Your hugs and kisses are the best things. You calling me Mama melts my heart in a way that I can’t describe. Your cuddles are time-pausing.

I love your smile and your energy (mashAllah). I love your persistence and determination. I love you. And who you make me.

There is never a dull moment, and you are constantly keeping me on my toes. Not to mention, constantly making me laugh. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You not only make my life meaningful, but you give my life purpose. Each thing I do, I do for you Arham beta… and for you, I would do anything (in my power). I am by no means a perfect Mama, but I will always have your best interest in mind.

All the hurdles and obstacles along the way have been worth it, for me to have you. You make me so proud.

You make everything better, you make every thing worth it.

You have defied odds since before you were born and I pray the only “statistic” you will ever become will be one to make us tremendously proud of you inshAllah. I have no doubt that with your strong-will personality and can-do attitude, you will achieve great things inshAllah.

I love how you come running to the door excitedly saying “Mama” and into my arms. I wish I didn’t have to be away so many hours, but the welcome home love makes up for the heartbreaking mornings. The hours away from you are difficult and heart wrenching in ways I can’t put into words, and I wish I didn’t have to work away from home, but I know I have to do it for you. And for you? I would do anything.

You are my reason for everything.

Last week at work, we celebrated a 100 years of Douglass empowering women… but this week is twice the celebration because Arham beta, in just a few short years, you have empowered me in ways I couldn’t imagine.

You have given me strength to fight when I have felt defeated.

You have given me reasons to smile when all I wanted to do was cry.

You have given me reasons to have faith for all the obstacles you have overcome couldn’t be explained in any other way.

You make me so proud, not only for who you are… but who you push me to be by reminding me what truly matters.

I wish there was a way to preserve the innocence of your infancy and toddler-hood, as it truly is going by too fast, but just the same it’s amazing to see you thrive. It seems like it was just yesterday you were too small for even newborn sized clothes and it amazes me how quickly each phase has passed.

Let’s see what this coming year brings inshAllah. … but if we can just agree to “terrific twos” instead of “terrible twos”…

I pray you always stay grounded. I pray Allah SWT keeps you under His infinite protection always. I pray He protects you from the evil and guides you to goodness always. I pray you use your talents and intellect in a positive manner always. I pray you are always a source of joy for others.

Forever your proud Mama,

Arham’s Mickey Mouse Themed Second Birthday Party

This past Saturday, we had an early celebration for Arham who turns two mashAllah! SubhanAllah, I can’t even express how fast these past two years have just flown by…

Arham adores Mickey Mouse, so fittingly the theme of Arham’s party was just that.

From the invitation which I created:

Address blacked out…

The Snapchat filter:

The Chocolate Covered Oreos:

The cake:

The banners:

The singing balloon:

The rest of the decorations:

Imtiaz Chachoo

Too often we forget how limited our time in this world is and what truly matters.

We chase materialistic things, not realizing it's going to be meaningless after our short stay here.

We chase people who are nothing. We devalue those who are everything. We make trivial matters into big things yet diminish the value of what really matters.

You never know what lies ahead and tomorrow is never guaranteed. And tomorrow? People are not going to remember what you had materialistically. People are, however, going to remember you for who you are.

It's said that only when you are going through some sort of hardship do people's true colors come out.

What kind of legacy are you going to leave behind? What will you be remembered for? What is the first thing that will come to people's mind when they think of you?

Sunday night, our family lost a beloved family member in Imtiaz Chachoo.

Cancer has no prejudice and takes prisoners without bias. It takes from us those we love dearly and doesn't care what lasting effect it leaves us to endure.

The first thing that comes to mind whenever I think of Imtiaz Chachoo is his jovial personality and his love for making people laugh with his comedic personality. That is something indeed that most people will fondly remember him for.

Equally important, but on a way more personal level, what I will cherish forever is the kindness and generosity Imtiaz Chachoo, Neelo Chachi, Sara baji and Sarwat baji showed me and my family when we moved to Canada twenty-two years back. Even though my brothers and I were young at the time, it's something we will never forget.

I don't have the right words to express my sorrow or condolences to the immediate family. He was taken from us too soon.

I pray Allah SWT grants Imtiaz Chachoo the highest level of jannat. I pray Allah SWT gives the family patience and sabr to endure such a heavy trial.

#TeamPapa

It’s been a year, today, since our beloved Papa left us for a better place and it hasn’t gotten easier. I don’t know if it ever will.

A year ago, when I saw him at the funeral home after his death, one of the first thoughts that entered my mind and remains to this day was how tall he was. All my life, because of his age, he was always hunched over a little and I didn’t even realize how tall he truly was.

I could go on and on about my Papa and I love anytime anyone brings up Papa in conversation.

He loved reading. The Qu’ran especially. And did so daily without fail. 

Even when dementia overtook him, subhanAllah, even just hearing the words of the Qu’ran calmed him and brought peace to his mind.

He loved Kit Kats.

He loved Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Don’t ever disturb him from 7 PM to 8 PM. Without a doubt, it’s how my family and I started watching and still watch to this day. Arham, too, is already a fan.

He loved spending time with us just as much as we loved spending time with him. His presence brought a joy that I can’t describe. I loved loved loved spending any time I could with him and cherished the moments. My NJ cousins knew that if my Papa was over, all my other plans would be cancelled.

He loved us all unconditionally. I have never met anyone more genuine than my Papa, and I don’t say that in a biased granddaughter way. I created the #TeamPapa hashtag several years ago, and it’s stuck within our family. My cousin made us matching shirts with it as well.

When I was pregnant with Arham, because of his dementia we didn’t tell Papa but, subhanAllah, he would ask on the phone about the baby. When I went to visit him while pregnant, he asked where was the baby, why is the baby crying in the other room. Even with his dementia overtaking him, he still had an intuition somehow.

Although Arham got to meet him, I wish he got to grow up around Papa and see for himself who Papa was. Or why I am so fond of him. Why he brought me such joy and why his memories still bring me joy, why the memories are so strong and always positive toned.

He brought so much joy in my life, I can’t even describe it. It’s just not possible to put into words who he is for me and how much I miss his presence.

I pray Allah SWT grants him the highest place in jannat. I pray I can carry his legacy forward by being the best version of myself and make him proud. I pray I raise Arham to be the kind of person that Papa was.

 

What’s for Dinner: Toffee Cheesecake with Caramel

My brothers and I hosted a Superbowl party, yesterday, for some of our cousins.

For dessert? I made another variation of a cheesecake: this time, I made a Toffee Cheesecake. If there is any doubt I love cheesecakes, check the different variations I have made and posted the recipes of on here

What I used:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons of [unsalted] butter, melted
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 (14 ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 8 ounce bag of Toffee bits
  • 1 tablespoon of All-Purpose flour
  • Caramel

How I made it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine the butter and graham crackers. Press the mixture into the bottom [and across the lower sides if you would like] of your springform pan to form the crust.
  3. Next, in a large bowl, beat your cream cheese until it is smooth. Add in the condensed milk and beat the mixture well [until it is evenly incorporated].
  4. Next, add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Do not over beat the mixture, just enough until your mixture is smooth.
  5. Coat your toffee bits with the tablespoon of flour. Why you ask? Read my tip down below why I do this.
  6. Fold in about one cup of the toffee bits into the cheesecake batter.
  7. Pour your cheesecake batter over your graham cracker based crust.
  8. Sprinkle the top with the remaining toffee bits.
  9. Bake for 60-70 minutes.
  10. Let the cheesecake cool, and then either put the Caramel on top like I did… or drizzle on each individual piece as serving.

Tip: In order to make sure the toffee doesn’t sink to the bottom, coat your toffee with a little bit of All-Purpose flourTrust me, newbie me had chocolate chips sink to the bottom once… but I turned it into a positive thing by having an extra layer of chocolate… who doesn’t like chocolate!

Like my recipes? Click the below link to purchase my cookbook “What’s for Dinner”:

P.S. This post is a part of my “What’s for Dinner” series, where I share what I’ve been cooking and my recipes. Grab and share my button:


The Staff at SPUH

There is absolutely no worse feeling than your baby being unwell and you can’t take away their pain. For the past seven days we have either been at the pediatrician, at the hospital, or both. These past seven days have been exhausting, physically and emotionally. 

When Arham woke up ill Friday, and wouldn’t improve as the day went on, plus a doctor’s visit later… I knew I had to take him to the ER. I thought I was going in just so he would feel better with some IV fluids.

Little did I know what that night would have in store for us. Or even the next few days that followed for that matter.

To be quite honest, I was dreading taking him to the hospital remembering how painful it was (physically) for Arham when he was six weeks old and hospitalized and how painful it was (emotionally) for me. It’s traumatic and something I  can’t get it out of my mind.

Which brings me to what led me to start writing today:

The staff at Saint Peter’s University Hospital? Godsend. Especially the nurses.

The level of care [and comfort] they provided for not just my precious Arham, but my parents and I during the stay? It’s unforgettable. It’s something I’ll never forget and I can’t begin to express how grateful I am.

From explaining what I didn’t understand multiple times, to giving me time to process the information.

From being available for questions to continuously asking if I (or we) needed anything.

From listening to and addressing my concerns to allowing my parents to stay and be in the room with me when not typically allowed.

From using a flashlight instead of turning the lights on in the middle of the night to prevent disturbing my finally sleeping 15 month old to coming in later to try again to not disturb my child.

From understanding my fears and hesitation to providing any sort of help they could.

From calming my fears to reminding me prayers can change everything.

The list is endless, just as my appreciation towards them is.

It is an innate reaction to complain and not forget when things don’t go wrong, but we need to express appreciation when things go right just the same.

On a side note: I, myself, ended up in the ER one night while Arham was hospitalized — and they were so accommodating. A typical ER visit is hours long. They had me out within three hours so I could go back up to the pediatric ward to be with Arham and each of Arham’s nurses were just as concerned about me as they were of Arham.

Being completely honest, even though I always like to be safe rather than sorry, I wasn’t sure why they were putting my baby through excessive tests that wouldn’t help or weren’t even needed on that Friday.

He just had a terrible stomach virus I thought

THIS is why I was hesitating bringing my baby I thought.

It may very well have saved his life.

Let me tell you, it’s not comforting when multiple people are rushed into the room, each trying to confirm the diagnosis… and in mere minutes a plan of action is put into place and surgery team is prepped for backup. Neither is when you are told it’s “life threatening”.

It was a scary situation, and what could have been is too scary to even think about, but not for even a second did I doubt the level of care Arham was being given.

The level of response once the problem was spotted was absolutely amazing and that may very well have made the difference. I will, forever, be grateful towards the staff at SPUH not for just this stay — but for what they do always.

Some Day

Earlier this month, one morning, Arham woke up quite content. He got up, sat up in his crib and started playing. I checked on him a few times, he glanced at me before continuing to play. I should have been ecstatic, right?

So why did I feel sad instead?

It got me thinking…

Some day he won’t need me to feed him. Or even prepare his bottle.

Some day he won’t need me to change his clothes. Or even his diapers.

Some day he won’t need me to give him a bath.

Some day he won’t need me to fall asleep.

Some day he won’t wake up crying in the middle of the night looking for me.

Some day he won’t want to play peek a boo with me.

Some day he won’t want to cuddle so tightly.

Some day he won’t want me to kiss and hug him so many times daily.

Some day he won’t sit with me so patiently while reading through picture books.

Some day it will be him teaching me new things, not the other way around like it is right now.

Some day there won’t be an excited welcoming committee each time I enter the room.

Some day. Not today.

Today? Today is a different story and I will savor every moment of it.

He is mine to spoil. He is mine to love. He is mine to teach right from wrong.

He is the biggest blessing of my life.

He is fifteen months old today mashAllah… and if the first fifteen months are any indication, time flies by.