I had to make a quick run to lab on Saturday in the middle of all the dinner party preparations. My mom came with me and of course, being a mom, she had to whip out her camera to document what she calls "I have no idea what you're doing but it looks cool".
I was finishing up an experiment (XTT assay) and passaging my melanoma cells.
So this is what I do 5-6 days a week (sometimes 7). My life is at this hood.
Here are some pictures from the Saturday iftar at my in-laws :) It was a lot of work getting everything set up. Everyone who helped out worked very hard. My father-in-law, dad, brother and husband set up the outside, while my mom, my mother in-law and I got all the other food related things ready. It was a fun night, minus a few glitches here and there.
Places set for prayer :)
Halva (persian sweet made from sugar, flour, and loads of butter)
I have a very cool tripod that I use for my very cool new camera. I used to have a stiff short tripod that someone gave me that I would use all the time. It was really frustrating however, as you had to make sure to find a flat, sturdy surface to place it on and it's not easy to always find one. I would take it with me everywhere and always had to prop it up with something else to keep it straight and from falling. After the death of my last camera due to landing on its face, lens open, because my tripod malfunctioned, I decided, enough is enough. So, I came across this on amazon and just had to have it. Let me tell you, best mini tripod ever.
I use it to take pictures everywhere and anywhere. I hate asking people to take pictures as they never take it the way you want. Either you aren't centered or something is chopped off (god forbid it's your head), or the camera is at an angle. What the heck? So, new tripod to the rescue.
It's legs wrap and twist around anything :) It is also small enough to fit in my purse and has a slip on slip off tab to take the legs off, without unscrewing the adapter from the bottom of the camera.
They also have different sizes for larger cameras such as SLR's. So, if your camera is bulky with a large heavy lens, fret not, they have a flexible tripod for you too.
My in-laws are having an iftar/dinner party on Saturday, and I decided to bake some sweets for the 60 plus guests invited. I made (one of my husbands favorites), a ginger pumpkin date cake.
This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, the Better Homes and Gardens Dieter's Cookbook.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger (I used regular ginger powder)
2 1/2 tsp baking power (make sure your powder is fresh!!!)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin (canned)
1/2 milk (I used lowfat)
2 eggs (room temp.)
1/3 cup shortening (alternative: little over 1/3 cup of melted butter)
1 cup coarsely chopped and pitted dates
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease two 8x4x2 loaf pans, set aside.
In large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour, sugar, ginger, baking power, bakgin soda, nutmeg and salt.
Add the pumpkin, milk, eggs and shortening.
Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium for 30 seconds.
Switch to beat on high for 2 minutes.
Add the remaining 1 cup flour, beat till mixed well.
Here are a few snippets from my week. My parents are visiting this weekend, so I've been busy getting things ready for their arrival (not like I really have to get anything ready) they stay at a hotel because my place is soooo small, but nonetheless I get really excited every time they come.
My cool blue shoes (from H&M).
Iftar (breaking the fast) at my in-laws in their backyard. Always nice to eat outside.
Patch of beautiful flowers on the sidewalk.
I usually don't walk around campus much to get to my classes. I usually try to park in the most convenient spot that isn't too far away from my class, haha (usually it's because I'm running late from work). But today, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and beautiful "park" in the center of campus and get some fresh air.
A small patch of dew on a spider web outside my apartment.
I have been cogitating on possibly/maybe getting a new phone. I've been toying with the idea for a few years now (avoiding it really) but I just can't seem to bring myself to get one. My brother-in-law reminded me again that I am eligible for a new phone (I think this was like the 5th time he's told me), but I can't decide what I want and I am NOT willing to pay a lot for it either. I have a long list of very good reasons why I don't want a smartphone and then I have a small handfull of reasons I do, one being how much I would benefit from taking and uploading pictures with a new phone. I'm also torn between the idea of an iphone or an android. The problem with an iphone on the verizon phone plan (which is what I have) is that it isn't 4G, whereas the android phones are. I do however like the organization/layout and feel of the iphone, as the androids are much bigger (I don't want a mini tablet for a phone). So my reasons go on and on. Some tell me to wait for the iphone 5 (but I'm not going to pay $300 for a new phone) and some tell me not to. So, either way...I'm still fancy phoneless and so, my blog pictures (if taken with my phone) are not that great. But what can I do :D
Something about fasting makes me crave sweets. I decided to try something new and make a different type of chocolate brownie. Red velvet swirl cheesecake brownies. I found a pinterest for this a while back and just had to try it.
Red Velvet Layer:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 eggs (brought to rom temp.)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Cream Cheese Layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (I would let this stand at room temp a bit to avoid clumps)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan, and set aside.
Add the melted butter to a large bowl.
Add the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, in that order, mixing between additions.
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and stir it into the cocoa mix.
Fold in the flour until lightly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, saving 1/4 cup of the batter for the top.
Cream cheese layer:
Blend together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
Gently spread the cream cheese layer on top of the brownie batter in the pan.
Add the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer.
Using the tip of a knife, drag the tip through the cream cheese mixture to create a swirl pattern.
Bake the brownies for 30 minutes.
Remove to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before cutting.
Note: Swirling the mixture was a bit more complicated than I thought. When you add the 1/4 cup of remaining batter, really try to spread it around and not just clump it in the middle.
They were pretty good. I might make these again with no cream cheese though (less calories) :D but they were extremely moist and fluffy. Mmmm....
Ramadan is finally here. It is the month I look forward to the most. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and is the month where the holy Quran was revealed. It is the month where fasting (one of the five pillars of Islam) was prescribed for all adult, sane, muslims.
"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become” Al-Muttaqun (the pious). "Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness" (Qur'an, 2:183)
During this month, not only does one abstain from eating, drinking and any sexual relations from dawn until dusk, but one also controls their eyes, ears, tongue, thoughts and deeds and does everything possible to be the best person to seek nearness to, and the pleasure of God (Allah).
(Fast) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. (Qur'an, 2:184)
Why is this month so holy to muslims. Well, this is the month where you remove all worldly distractions and really focus on cleansing your soul. We spend most of the year doing what we want, when we want it, and most probably (speaking of myself here), don't spend as much time really focusing on our faith. We get so wrapped up in ourselves and with this materialistic world, that we forget what we are here for (submission to God). We forget to thank God for all the blessings he has bestowed. We forget that all that we are and all that we have is because of him. Therefore, this is the month to get yourself back on track, and refocus for the following year. This is the month where we try to get as close as possible to Allah (swt), seek forgiveness for our sins and remove the distractions of this world and try to really gain a spiritual awakening.
A few nights during Ramadan are called the Nights of Glory (Laylat ul-Qadr). They are the 19th, 21st and 23rd nights, the 23rd night having the most importance over the others. These are the nights where your "future" is written for the following year. These nights are better than a thousand nights and are spent in deep prayer and supplication, seeking forgiveness from our sins and praying for what we want help with.
"Indeed We have revealed it (Qur'an) in the night of Power. And what will explain to you what the night of Power is? The night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein descends the Angels and the Spirit (Jibreel) by Allah's permission, on every errand: (they say) "Peace" (continuously) till the rise of Morning!" (Qur'an, 97:1-5)
Ramadan always brings back fond memories for me. There is no doubt that it is a difficult task to abstain from our normal day to day routine, and to fast, in the entire sense of the word, but there is also something so amazing about it. Ramadan is a time of gathering as well. A time where we go to the mosque (you should be going every year, but it's the time when I really try to go more often), see people and break our fasts together. There is nothing more amazing than the feeling of being with family and friends and breaking your fast together. It's not just that you are finally able to eat after a long day, but more so the camaraderie that it brings about. Everyone is on the same path. Everyone is trying to be a better person. Everyone is in it together.
The most amazing feeling though is after the month is over. You feel as though your soul has been lightened of its sins and burdens from the year. As though you are starting a clean slate. You are more aware of your senses. You are more aware of what you eat, what you say, how you interact with others. You try wholeheartedly to continue on the path that was started during the month of Ramadan, and ideally it should continue throughout the year. But alas, (at least for me), it doesn't. So every year, I start anew in the hopes that this year I will be better than the last. Inshallah (God willing) this month will be different.
My resolutions/hopes for this month:
- Read the whole Quran from front to back (something I wasn't able to complete last year).
- Spend more time at the mosque.
- Stay away from gossiping and curb my tongue.
- Stay away from some of the crap TV shows I watch...this does not include Suits :D
- No shopping for myself of any sort. This means no really cute bag that I just have to have. Nope, zilch, zero, nada. Inshallah this month, I will not step foot into a clothing/accessory store (unless I need to get something for someone else that can't wait). I tried this last year. It lasted a week. Major FAIL. Sigh...
- Keep up with Pure Barre on my own (this is going to be challenging), and I don't have much hope for this one.
I wish all those who will be practicing the month of Ramadan and very great and blessed month!
I went grocery shopping today (not usual that I do so midweek), because the store near our house had a sale on dates and feta cheese, a staple item in our house (especially during the month of Ramadan which is coming up...more on that later). I ended up (as usual) buying lots of other things than were not on my list, peaches being one of them. I have been craving peach cobbler for some time now, and I know the hubby has as well, he's mentioned it a few times in passing, so, I decided today I would make us some PEACH COBBLER. I had this really great recipe that I used a while back, but I can't seem to find it anywhere. So, I had to find another one. I came across this recipe and decided to test it out, also as an homage to our recent Atlanta trip :)
I made a few changes here and there to the recipe per my liking (and past experience) and I think (and the hubby agrees), it turned out fantastic!!
RECIPE (serves 5-6)
8 fresh peaches - pitted and sliced into medium sized slices (I don't remove the skin, but you can if you want).
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice
2-3 tsp cornstarch
Cake Topping Mixture:
2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled but not too hard, and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup boiling water
Sprinkling Topping (optional):
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F
In a large bowl, combine the peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch.
Toss well to coat evenly, and pour into a 9x13 baking pan/dish (I used a pyrex dish).
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Blend in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. You don't want the butter to be all smooth and melted. You want clumps. Squish the butter and mix it well, but you don't need to smooth out the clumps too much.
Pour in the hot water and just combine till completely moistened. Will resemble a sticky ball of batter. (I forgot to take a picture of this...sigh)
Drop or spread out spoonfuls of topping over the peaches. Sprinkle the entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture (optional).