Monday, May 26, 2008

Pasta class

I have decided that I am a bit obsessed with food. Luckily for me my DH is a bit like that too. When he saw Chef Marrianne M's flyer for the pasta class, he encouraged me to sign up.

So I spent one morning with The Chef and 10 other ladies making pasta.

First Chef Marianne showed us how simple it was to make gnocchi.

Gnocchi will always remind me of my Italian teacher back in London. Its fast and easy to make and reminds her of the comfort of home cooked meal.

The recipe for Gnocchi

1/2 kg potatoes
1 egg
170 g flour
2 spoons of grated parmesan
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes with skin on. Drain, peel the skin and press the potato through a sieve. Mix the potato with flour, eggs, parmesan and nutmeg.

Roll the dough into a slim cylindrical shape. Cut them up into 1 1/2 cm pieces and dust with flour to prevent them from drying out.

To cook them, put them in boiling water. The gnocchi will float to the surface when they are ready.

The gnocchi is served in a meat ragu tuscan style. Its delicious!

Then Chef showed us a fussy-free method to make pasta. And I have to say I am enthralled by her pasta attachment for her Kitchen Aid mixer. I've never seen this attachment before as previously I have only worked with the manual one. And I can tell you that this Kitchen Aid makes pasta making a breeze!

From the pasta sheets, she showed us how to make tortellini and ravioli. Usually its tortellini when the filling is meat and ravioli when the filling is cheese.

In this case she used a combination of ricotta, cream cheese, grate parmesan and the lemon peel.

The meat tortellini in asparagus bouillon was really wonderful. It was light and fresh especially with the crunch of the asparagus.

The ricotta ravioli in red pepper sauce was a little bit sweet because I accidentally tipped the bag of sugar in the saucepan. I found the sauce familiar yet unique as I have never quite tasted the red pepper sauce.

Guess which kitchen gadget I'll be looking out for next! ;)

Its amazing when ...

I smile, not to other people but myself, other people begin to secretly smile with me.

I am relaxed, I take my time, people too are kinder, gentler and more helpful.

I am generous, the returns comes back to me two fold, sometimes when I least expect it, from people I didn't expect from.

The things I was looking for suddenly show up, without me having to look for them too hard.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My child, I promise to listen to you more

We were having lunch, just the two of us, DH was off to Dubai on business trip. I was missing him terribly.

Out of nowhere, she said,"Abah is happy."

Really? I wondered.

"What about you?"

"Not happy." she said a matter of factly.

"And umi?"

"Not happy," she declared.

(We were both missing him that Friday where we would normally have lunch as a family.)

I was curious, so I texted my DH.

"Your child says that you are happy. Hope you are having a great time."

And his replied was, "My daughter is psychic."

Apparently he was happy because the meetings were over.

The beauty of the uncluttered mind. How instincts have priority over knowledge and logic.

Its just amazing how she would just know when I would leave her or when my mind is preoccupied with something else. Just this afternoon, as she was having her afternoon nap, I decided that I would take the afternoon bus out. Just as I grabbed my bag, she woke up and cried for me.

I will remember that you have strong instincts my child.

And I hope your instincts will bring wealth and abundance to your life my love, not just material things but wisdom, love,golden opportunities and friendship too.


Guess what I found when my back was turned?

Her first attempt at wearing lipstick. Perhaps you'll get better as you grow older?

Friday, May 16, 2008

G@rda and her art of positive thinking

I firmly believe that sometimes my path crosses with certain people for the sole purpose of me either to learn a lesson from or with them. And my 30 minutes chance meeting with G@rd@ became a light bulb moment for me.

I had gone to visit my friend Ev@ to touch base. Apparently she and some ladies had sewn a quilt for G@rda as soon as they heard that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had opted for mastectomy. Apparently G@rda had made the decisions to ask for both breasts to me removed within 2 weeks of finding out that she had breast cancer.

I didn't know G@rda before but tagged along for moral support. Only to find out that it was I who was about to receive a life lesson from her.

She greeted us at the door with a smiley and cheerful voice. I didn't believe that this was a lady who had just been discharged from the hospital for 2 days after getting both her breasts removed. She welcomed all of us into the house and asked us to make ourselves comfortable. Ev@ and the ladies gave her the water-colour heart quilt and I could see that she was very touched.

Cheerfully she said, "I'm sure you all are curios and want to know all the gory details and I shall share them all with you."

When we asked her how she was doing, she answered very cheerfully, "Very well."

"You know, I was thinking that of all the parts of my body that I could lose, my breasts are the parts I don't mind losing. I don't need them. I'm glad its not my legs or my hands or my eyes. I didn't need my breasts. And I felt really glad about that."

"When i felt pain and was getting depressed then I told myself to imagine the other people in the hospital like me. I'm lucky that I only lost my breast, the poor man in the next room lost his leg."

"When I felt the pain was unbearable, I thought about the poor babies in the NICU in the hospital with all the tubes and everything. Then I felt much better. My pain is nothing compared to the pain they must be experiencing."

I just sat there in awe, at this woman who has nothing but positive things to say about her situation and her pain. There was no twinge of regret, or the why me, but rather of gratitude. Gratitude that she found the lump early. Gratitude that her operation went OK. Gratitude that she had good Doctors.

She told us that the lump was found on only one breast but she insisted that the Doctors removed both breasts and made decision within 2 weeks. She even insisted on going to the toilet herself after being roused from the operation rather than using the catheter. Within a few days she insisted on walking rather than being pushed in the wheel chair like an invalid.

Never have I met someone so strong both mentally and physically.

G@rda, thank you for the life lesson. I will keep myself positive and will always be grateful with what I have or even don't have. Whatever I think my problems may be, there are others whose problems are much bigger and more serious than mine.

Watching her, a tower of cheerfulness and strength, I am convinced, more than ever now, its always the mind over body. What the mind thinks, the body agrees.

Once again, I am humbled by the beautiful life lessons given to me.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another roadtrip, R/yadh, M@kkah & Jedd@h II

Jedd@h, in one word, is just so relaxed. I was constantly amazed how relaxed the families were sitting in different clumps by the beach. I have expected the religious police coming to round them up, telling them that they mustn't look too happy in public or that no family should sit together, must be separated, the men from the women.

The restaurants had no partitions, no curtains and there were quite a few women without their face covered.

Just shows how different the city I live in is compared to Jeddah.

I had a naughty notion of staying at the Movenpick Hotel on the second night. Very inviting the idea of a chalet facing the sea. We went to the reception asking about prices. We did decide a budget before hand. Alas the room was slightly above our budget but the nice guy at the reception obliged us with a peek at the rooms. A good sized bathroom, a decent shower bathroom cum laundry room, a kitchenette cum spacious living room, and outside, a private pool facing the sea! Imagine sleeping with the sound of the waves! Its obvious that we've been landlocked for too long.

We decided that we would stay there the next time we come to town. It would be a wonderful treat!

To make us feel better, we treated ourselves with a decent dinner buffet at the Al-Wadaa restaurant, a waterfront dining experience. It was refreshing eating mussels and fish with the fresh sea breeze flowing. They even had music there! I was just so amazed!

All through dinner all I could think about was Alhamdullilah! Praise to Allah for the joys he has given us in our lives. It is a wonderful treat when we don't have to worry about paying dinner when not too long ago I was debating if I should buy a sandwich or save that money for groceries! Alhamdullilah indeed! We have it good.

The next day we were ready for our long drive home. For some reason my DH who normally has an impeccable sense of direction had a difficult time getting us to the right track. Due to the heavy traffic on the highway to M@kkah (this being a Friday before Friday prayers) we decided to take the scenic "obligatory for non-muslim" road to Taif. The view was amazingly spectacular. Kept kicking ourselves for not bringing our camera for this trip. The mountain range against the beautiful blue sky was just spectacular.

The sky so blue, the road was mainly empty and there was even a beautiful glimpse of a shepherd with his donkey as we drove past a Wadi.

We were very surprised that the road to Taif was so quiet. We assumed that it was because it was Friday. We were hoping that it wasn't the winding road. but alas, it was the winding road, very quiet though and even the checkpoint was unmanned.

The view however was spectacular. The previous times we took the road was from Taif to Makkah, with impatient traffic, sometimes in the dark. It was difficult to concentrate on the views then. But on this amazing Friday we could enjoy the glorious beauty of Allah's creation.

Until we discovered that the rest of the road was closed that is!

Determined to push on, we drove back towards Makkah. Perhaps our impatience, our desire to avoid the Friday traffic got the better of us. Or perhaps we were just given the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Eventually we made back into the boundaries of Haram and I said a quick prayer. All I asked for is a speedy drive home so that we will arrive home quickly, safely.

That detour into the boundaries of Haram did wonders! We arrived home just short before isya', enjoyed the wonderful dinner the bought on the way home and had a restful night's sleep.

Roadtrips like this one reminded me of the many drives we used to make. A bit different now with the addition of The Little One who has brought nothing short of joy and happiness to our lives.

I came back with a new peace. Peace with myself with the small niggling voices banished. Alhamdullilah life is good and InsyAllah the future will fall in place.

Another roadtrip, R/yadh, M@kkah & Jedd@h I

My in laws came and stayed for three weeks. The trip was a bitter sweet one for them because upon arrival here, MIL found out that her 97 year old mum passed away. To say that her death was not expected, she had postponed the trip a few times, partly because she thought the end was near. Just as she felt that the old lady was better, she went.

She went with the knowledge that her daughter would be playing with her granddaughter, the much awaited great-grand-daughter.

Since they were playing with MH via Jedda@h, we planned it such that they would get to perform umrah first before flying off home. The 10 hour drive was very bearable. My Little One behaved very well. Between 2 naps, singing, Dora and Elmo, we made through the trip. I am very proud of her.

We got a little lost finding the Miqat. Partly because I would normally have preferred the Miqat in Taif, less crowded. This time round the miqat was not busy at all, partly because it was midweek and partly because it was only after Asr.

When we arrived in M@kkah once again the roads confused us a little bit but Alhamdullilah we managed to find our hotel. Hotels in Makkah now are at premium price, especially those closest to Masjidil Haram. Alhamdullilah Le Meredien was just as nice and an easy walk to the Masjidil Haram.

Although it was not my first time, in fact, everytime I went into Masjidil Haram, I went in with a little bit of trepidation. There is something about the place that creates fear before you go in but awe and enlightenment when you are in there in person.

And to see the throngs of worshippers and the majestic structure of the Ka'abah, so near and within reach yet so monumental with people hanging at each and every space.

I did my tawaf with gladness, sadness, humbleness, hope and acceptance all in one. Very difficult to describe the feeling really and each person would have to take this journey his or herself to experience it. I felt at peace and there is a certain feeling of rejuvenation at the end of it.

The energy in that place is just amazing that even the little one obliged. We carried her in the Ergo during the tawaf and not a peep was heard from her. It was as if she understood. In fact, the following evening she expressed her desire to be near the Ka'abah.

Perhaps due to the warmer weather, the tawaf area is very crowded at night compared to the day. There was a mad rush for space during prayer hence we decided to go to the second floor whenever we could. There was even a place where you can borrow free wheel chairs. Yes borrow not rent.

Of course when one has finish the Sa'i and didn't bring scissors, be weary with whom you borrowed the scissors from. Some "well meaning" child may fleece you for the rental of their scissors. Some ask as much as 10 r/yals. If you are patient enough you could buy scissors for the same amount at nearby pharmacies or the Bin Dawood supermarket in the Hilton building.

The new face of M@kkah can be seen with the shiny new Al Bait shopping center just opposite Gate 1 . Wheelchair friendly (no steps to get into the Mall) with 3 elevators to bring you up to the foodcourt. And trendy shops. Not just shops selling Ouds, attar or dates. But Mothercare, Bodyshop, Sephora, Debenhams, Claires, Next and lots more. I didn't pop in the shops myself but was just so amazed with the new state of the art building.

We left M@kkah with high hopes that we will return soon. And was excited to go to Jedd@h.