The one from her last birthday : Turning 8 msA

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With Anya turning 9 tomorrow, I think it’s time to share this one from her big day last year. haha. Just one year late, no big deal right;)?. So here it is, just a photo-story of the day my not-so-little Anya turned 8 mashAllah.

Just like every year, I tip toed into her room the night before to set up a birthday morning surprise. Ordered the Happy Birthday foil balloons from Amazon (link – love that they were super easy to blow using the straw they came with) and picked up white helium balloons from Safeway.
Next morning she woke up & changed into the new Zara dress I had ordered from their winter sale and kept for the day. I made her her favorite crepes & berries breakfast that I let her blow off candles from before she ate them.
This year, she was such a lucky kid to have a pile of deliveries waiting for her to open on the big day, one from her Nadu khala, one from her cousin apas & one from her nani.
There are always videocalls & I DID SOMETHING NEW THIS YEAR : Made sure to take photos with everyone who video-called to wish Anya & I love those photo memories so much. Expat life means most special occasions are spent far from our loved ones but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a part of our birthday memories. Can’t share more than this but love them so much!

I honestly didn’t remember what we did that evening but was reminded from phone photos that we went out for dinner to Cheesecake Factory. Will share the simple play-date birthday party in another post.

Thank you so so much for following along all of these years, sending in so much love. Do remember in your duas.

Much love,


ALSO: STORY OF HER 7th / 6th 5th / 4th / 3rd / 2nd BIRTHDAYS.

Why I am switching to bullet journalling this year

If you follow my stories on Instagram, you must know I depend on my planner alot to stay organized. I saw my parents doing this too & have needed to “write things down” to process them & to feel on top of things. For the past few years, ordering my planner has been a favorite highlight for me. I have just loved the ritual of finding the perfect one that works for my needs and enjoyed my Happy Planner and recently my Dayna Lee planner that I found on TJMaxx.

Somewhere in the last year I stumbled upon a bullet journaling video on YouTube and became really curious; enough that I decided to try this system instead of my usual planner for 2020. I thought I’d share a few tips/links about this and also share why I’m excited to to try this method of journalling for this year.

Just FYI, this isn’t a “how-to” as I’m a newbie myself, BUT I will link a few very helpful videos to get the hang of it if you’re interested down below.

The biggest thing I wanted was to keep it simple and not get bogged down by anything that made it complicated to follow through. I need a simple doable system that works for my needs.

First, why I was struggling with my planners

It’s been very hard to find a planner that fits my needs. Since I like to plan for the whole week, I like to have more space for that (to-do lists, weekly menus, groceries etc) and not too much space for each day in particular.

It also bothers me when you have all this wasted space if you fall behind on planners, which of course happens however regular you are at using them. It makes me feel guilty for falling behind and also just wasting so much paper (you know I have been moving more and more towards sustainability in all areas of our lives)

I also love to plan things like trips or parties etc in writing and usually have to do that elsewhere since there isn’t space in typical planners for anything extra.

And WHY I’m excited about this method of journalling

My favorite thing is that you make it YOUR own (literally, since you use a journal to make this). You can fit in everything and anything that you want and omit the things you don’t need or want to focus on.

I also love the freedom of changing things up as needed for every week or month. And that if anything comes up like a party or a trip, you can use space for that within the same journal.

If you have never heard of Bullet Journals, here’s an introduction

( Here’s an introduction to the system but here’s the video that caught my interest. I also love this simple way of approaching it. )

(If you prefer reading instead of watching a video, here’s one very basic intro and here’s another)

Basically, the bullet journal is a planner system devised by Ryder Carrol designed to make it simple to plan your days & weeks. While any blank journal can become a bullet journal, not every planner in a blank journal is a bullet journal. The bullet journal has a few specific pages that set it apart.

How to start right NOW

It might sound complicated initially but it’s very simple. Once you’ve done a little research by watching a couple videos and seen what clicks to you, just start. Use a dotted journal (or use any that you have lying around especially when you want to try it out) – Set out a little time in the beginning to start your journal, this is where you lay out your calendar, and start on your first month. Good to have: ruler/highlighters/washi tape. You start with a key page where you basically note down what symbols will mean what in your journal. And then move on to a year at glance and your first month in review followed by week in review. You do the next month when it’s time and make it as you go all the while.

Here’s how I’m doing it //

I just used a blank lined journal instead of a dotted once since I had that on hand / a foot ruler / Pen, Pencil, Washi Tape, Highlighter, Colored Pencils that I had on hand already. I mostly mixed sections I liked in the videos I linked above. A few sections I am personally excited to add: brain dump / habit tracker (also did a Namaz tracker) / monthly intentions / meal planning / gratitude list etc.

And that’s all, I’ll share more if there are any updates. If you’d like me to do a walk-through over on IG stories do let me know. And meanwhile if you have any questions, feel free to send in.

Love, Nataliya

PS: Anya got excited to start her own too so I helped her make a very basic one for herself using a journal she already had. Especially fun for her was adding a “wish list” to add things she want’s to get / a brain dump, since she always has too many ideas especially at bedtime / a gratitude list 🙂


Two lessons from my nana jaan

A few days ago, I dreamed of nana jaan. It was a very normal dream, like he was still with us. Nana & nani jan have been such an important part of our lives, I think it will take time to sink in that he isn’t with us anymore. Anyways, waking up the next day with that dream on my mind reminded me about this post that I had started. These two things about nana jan, have been on my mind alot since he passed & I’ve been wanting to write about them. Mashallah nana lived his whole life in a very principled, very organized way & these are two of my favorite things he used to do that I wish I could bring in to my life ❤

1: Nana jaan’s body language in conversations with people // It was so beautiful. I think we didn’t appreciate it till recently after they moved to Mama’s home. When he was talking to you, he was fully attentive – body posture turned towards you, full eye contact, bright smile lighting up his face whether he was listening or talking. He made you feel so important and gave the same feeling to us or his extended family or his army family – everyone! It didn’t even matter how old the person in front him was, he would even do it with the youngest ones. In our distracted ways today, it is such a huge reminder.

2: His pride in doing his own jobs // Coming from a family of 8 kids, being the eldest child, that too a son, with 3 sisters right after him, one can imagine how he must have been treated growing up. AND he was an army officer, retired as a Brigadier – which means he always had someone to do his things, as well as that “army officer aura about him”. And still he loved doing his own jobs. We always saw nana jan polishing his own shoes, folding his socks a very specific way, taking care of his clothes himself. And it always felt like he was enjoying it because he took pride in doing these tasks. Even in the last decade, well into his 80’s, he would do these. He would always try to get up to get water himself and not joking at all when I say it felt like Nana jan was more active than us sisters! It was so amazing in so many ways!

These two things have stood out to me recently of the many many things that nana jan has taught us just by living the way he did. My mom wrote about him beautifully in this post / and this one if you’d like to read more.

Do you have anything you would love to learn from your grandparents’? Please do share. Thanks for reading!

Lots of love, Nataliya

PS: You might remember this moment. I want to watch this video a million times from our last visit and the day we reached there.

An Insta-question + a tip to help your kid through difficult emotions

I’m thinking of coming on here to share random thoughts a little more maybe.. things that you might see glimpses of on my instagram stories (if you follow me there) but a more detailed version maybe. I get questions often about some thing that I’ve shared – about parenting, faith or one of the other things I have randomly mentioned. Often times I would love to share about it in more depth &I think this might be a better place to do that. So here I am..

So Anya is a very empathetic kid, deeply concerned about many things incl. animals & our planet; she’s also very sensitive and feels things deeply. Last month when I’d shared about something that was saddening her, I got asked this by someone, “how do you respond to her questions when you don’t know the answers? or if the answer is something really negative?”

And I thought that was a wonderful question that I would love to talk about. I know sometimes as parents we feel like we need to “toughen up our kids” for the world. But you know what? The world could definitely do with more sensitive kids, who’ll grow into caring adults. So instead of trying to change her, I try to help her with her feelings now.

From everything that I’ve learned in recent years, I’ve realized that the first step in dealing with feelings is acknowledgement and acceptance. Our kids need to feel like it’s okay to be upset. Just like happy is a valid emotion, so is being sad or mad, there’s nothing wrong with that. This can be done in many different, age appropriate ways. For example just saying “Oh sounds like you’re so upset”, “I get that you feel sad” or something similar that makes sense. When A was really small and would be getting upset over something, for me to just say “oh baby it sounds like you’re so upset”, “Oh I’m sorry that you’re so sad about..” would itself get her to calm down a little bit compared to just saying “it’s okay, don’t cry. You’re fine.” which many times is our usual parenting response, or maybe mine was.

So I try to do this as much as I can, remind her that whatever feeling she’s feeling is totally normal, totally okay. The emotions/feelings are okay, but the reactions to those feelings are what we can work on, as grown-ups and as kids. I feel like we didn’t grow up with this (I personally have had a hard time dealing with sad feelings) & really want her to learn early on that it’s okay to not be feeling our happiest all the time, and slowly teach her ways to deal with those feelings. For example: using a journal, doing something that makes us happy, having mindful rituals, practicing positive thinking, etc.

  • Give her examples from my own life, my own childhood when she feels upset about something (eg: things like friendship stories, moving struggles, etc.). There’s so much that she really relates to. I try to do this in a non-preachy way, more like a story of how I can relate to what she’s feeling and more.
  • Give her hope. I think however terrible our circumstances, being able to hold on to hope is everything, so I try to guide her towards that. (Eg: She gets really upset about the climate, animal rights and more so I find her hopeful stories of the amazing things people are doing to make it better.)
  • Coming up with a plan: I try to encourage her to focus on what she can do about a problem, instead of being so IN TO the problem itself. I’ve recently started asking her when she complains about something “oh, what do you think you’ll do about that?” (eg: I tried to brainstorm with her the things we could do about the deforestation for new housing.)
  • Add humor. For many things where nothing can be done, I try to find a funny angle to it, make her look at the lighter side, or something to laugh about in the situation. My mom & sisters have a way of doing this and I want to pass that on in slight ways since she can also get upset with this sometime.
  • Help look at the positive side. While I have a tendency to do this the first, I try to use this later on so it doesn’t feel like I’m undermining how she is feeling (eg: I help her do this when she talks about not having a sibling, about missing our old house etc.)

Even when it’s even more difficult things like her missing her dadi, or telling me she wishes our family lived close, or that she wishes she had met Papa, I handle it a similar way. I acknowledge her feelings, tell her I/we miss them too, tell her they must be so happy in heaven. I tell her what I do when I miss my dad, eg: wear something he bought for me, write in my journal, look at a note he wrote to me, talk about him etc. I remind her we can pray for them extra so they can feel happy in heaven knowing we are making dua for them.

I think as parents at some point we realize that our job isn’t to fix everything for our kids, to make them feel happy all the time – but instead to be there for them, to be their safe space. And to also give them tools for dealing with feelings (even if sometimes we have to learn that for ourselves too). I am learning this slowly one step at a time.

Hope this didn’t feel like too much of a ramble and makes some sense. Do you have any comment or something to add to this?

xo, Nataliya

All of these beautiful photos by my friend Chelsea Macor. If you’re in the Seattle area, you have to check out her work. I’m in love with the photos she took for us

(Feel the need to mention that I’m as impatient as any mom and struggle with keeping cool and using the strategies I want to practice all the time. Just trying to do the best I can every single day and wanted to share what I’m finding useful. I’m so far from perfect and it’s okay if you feel the same.)

A friendsgiving + how I’ve learned to host big gatherings

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It took me a while but I think I have finally figured out what works for me in entertaining and hosting big gatherings. It was a bit of a journey to find my own style because while I don’t particularly enjoy cooking (unlike a lot of our south asian hostesses who are such amazing cooks), I do love to host and have friends & family over. I also don’t own any fancy crockery or serving ware BUT I do want my table to look beautiful. It’s so easy for us to get stuck on our limitations BUT now finally I think I’ve gotten past that to host the way I want to even despite it all:)

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So today I’m just walking you through what looks like hosting a gathering of friends for us. Will go over everything from sending out the invites to my after-party cleaning up philosophy. Ha, are you ready? Yay! Let’s do this!

(All of these photos from our Thanksgiving potluck from last year)


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INVITATIONS : I personally feel the tone of the party is set from the invite so for me that is an important part of hosting. I personally don’t like Whatsapp invites because the time / date / address invariably will get lost in the conversation (unless it’s a casual, small thing of-course that is different). Emailed invitations have the chance to be forgotten or missed as well so right now making a Facebook event is most practical for us. But a few of the recent apps that I’ve tried out are actually awesome and I definitely want to move to them more (I have a few friends resisting because you know it’s a bit of a new thing lol). This is also easier if you have guests who aren’t on Facebook. The two that I’ve loved using are Paperless Post (has an app version as well) & Hobnob to make pretty invitations. I love that you have the option to send your invite via text message as well. Guests can reply through that too and they’re much more convenient to keep all of the info / potluck menu etc in one place. I also love personalizing invites with one’s own photos:).

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PLANNING THE MENU: I mostly host potlucks for larger gatherings which takes the stress of cooking off of me. But either way, whether cooking myself or hosting a potluck, I like to finalize the menu for our gathering at least a week before so everyone (including myself) can do groceries accordingly in time. For potlucks, you can give people food item choices to pick from which makes it nonrestrictive and still gives a little order to your potluck menu. In our friends’ circle, the host comes up with a basic menu, let’s everyone know what she is making and adds menu options that everyone picks from on the event page (eg: rice dish, meat curry, kabab , veggie dish, dessert …).

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For this Thanksgiving celebration, here’s the menu I shared on the invite page: Rice Dish / Turkey / Cutlets / Soup / Chicken entree / Second meat entree/ Potatoes / Fish or Salmon / Dessert / Dessert / Pasta.

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GROCERIES + MAKING LISTS : You know I can’t plan anything until I write things down so everything from my guest list (including a headcount), menu plans, grocery lists & also things to do before the party happens in writing. I mostly just use any notepad or my regular journal to do this. It helps to do this in the week before + before you do your groceries so you don’t forget anything that you have to buy (there is invariably a last day grocery trip, I will admit).

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DECOR VISION: A week or so before the event, I go through my Pinterest board and finalize the “feel” of the party, order any supplies etc. Having a vision in mind also helps me with selecting colors for the flowers which I pick up when I do groceries.

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For this season of life where it can easily get too overwhelming, focus is on keeping it simple yet have a pretty ambiance for the event. I used to enjoy dreaming up more elaborate details but have let go of that and any need for “perfect”. Most of my decor plans are around candles, flowers & greenery these days lol.

(Tip: I save all jars/bottles etc from jam bottles, sauces and just take off all the stickers etc to reuse for this. I love that the different sizes, shapes etc add a fun whimsy to it).


CLEANING THE HOUSE : In my earlier years as a host, I used to clean the house from top to bottom before my parties until my mom made me realize it wasn’t worth it. It took me a little time but I have changed the way I clean FOR my parties now. I have a list of non-negotiables which I definitely do so my place feels fresh and clean enough. For me this includes, cleaning my floors, dusting surfaces, cleaning up the powder room including fresh towels, kitchen counters + surfaces wiped down etc and then just freshening up with fresh flowers & candles to get my place party-ready. I might vacuum the main rooms too if they look messy to me but in this season of life with everyone having younger kids, I’ve learned with experience to save the detailed cleaning for after the party. (Last time I even had my cleaning lady scheduled day AFTER the party which felt SO good I cannot tell you).

I also try to divide the cleaning tasks over a few days (1-3 days before the big day) but leave some things eg: powder room till a few hours before the party, fresh towels and all.

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COOKING AND MORE: I have a new tradition where the cooking, setting the table & decor etc happens the night before (or two if I have to divide it). After everyone’s gone to bed, I put a drama on and get all of my work done in complete peace. I love it, even enjoy cooking almost hah.

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Once my cooking is taken care of, I start working on the food table etc. If I’m planning to serve food on the dining table like for this gathering, I like to just mix in the food with candles / little succulents / flowers. I love using wooden boards too (secret: I use my cutting boards) .


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( The velvet top I’m wearing was an Amazon find which sadly I don’t see anymore. )

Once I’m done with last minute cooking related things and cleanups, I start my stovetop simmer on to freshen up the space + open a few windows as well / I also like to dish out everything in oven proof serving ware and keep in the oven turned on low to keep things warm / Bilal also helps make sure we have enough room for everyone to sit, set up extra chairs and more. Next, I do a final check for the powder room, turn on some favorite music (Coke Studio on the tv / ask Google Home or Alexa to play coffeehouse music), and turn on candles last.

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I think it’s really important to think from the kids perspective as well when planning our parties. I always ask Anya about any special toys that she wants to put away if it’s hard for her to share them. We do this before the party.

It can be helpful to come up with activities for them to do with their friends, games to play etc. I also have playroom rules displayed and it is a good idea to make a quick check-in and remind kids of the expectations. We also also like to ask the kids to help clean up before leaving. It is also good to keep a movie in mind if things get too crazy.

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For this gathering we also set up a kids table to do activities and to eat together. Here’s why & how we did this.

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Over the years it has started bothering me how much waste our parties create. So many of us use paper-ware & plastics to make it easier for us but honestly there is just too much waste being created at our desi, immigrant gatherings! It has started making me feel very guilty so I’ve tried to make some changes over the years. I blogged these tips & ideas earlier here.


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I used to be this crazy mom except AFTER the party! It was terrible! Not only for myself but everyone around me. Thankfully I’ve changed over the years, hah.

Once guests leave, I do a basic clean-up, collect & throw out the trash, start the dishwasher, put leftovers away, clean up any spills and then just sit down with a plate of food to eat, chai to drink and bask in the glory of a party done well. The detailed cleaning happens over the next whole week. The decor sometimes stays up for weeks or even months after. And you know what, no one dies or the sky doesn’t fall down and we all survive fine. haha. As I said, if I’m able to I will even have my cleaning scheduled for within the next few days and honestly it’s the best feeling ever.

I send out any thank you messages to guests and exchange any photos. And that’s it for after the party. (My mom does this wonderful thing after a party where she writes down any takeaways or lessons learned for next time.)

The point is to enjoy our friends and our guests and having company over, not just for yourself but our whole family. So if throwing parties is stressing us out too much, if we’re fighting with our families every time we are having guests over, maybe talk with each other and adjust things around a little bit to make them better!

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Do you have any favorite tips to share? Thanks so much for reading.

Lots of love.

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(Alot of these photos especially of the food table taken by my friend, Sumera, who graciously asked and picked up my camera to document our gathering. Ever thankful for photographer friends.)