Is anybody still reading?

I’m well aware it’s been over two weeks since I’ve last blogged. I won’t blame the usual “writer’s block,” because I haven’t been blocked per se. I actually had two drafts written, but couldn’t manage to edit either of the posts in the time I had.

I realized something about myself recently. If I don’t complete a non-school or federally-mandated task or assignment right away, I lose all momentum and energy to complete it after. What does that say about me? Hmmm. I shall be pondering this for the rest of the day.

The truth of the matter is: these past two weeks have been ROUGH.

I was ill for a good chunk of this time and desperately needed some mental time to recuperate. I’m still recuperating, actually. Although I think the mental recuperation might be a life-long thing ;)

But being the perfectionist OCPD person I am, I couldn’t just let this blog go and die a slow death. I’ve put too much time and money into this thing! I must admit: I was having doubts as to whether Cake & Cows was a name I even wanted anymore – I haven’t been having a Cake & Cows-like past few weeks (although I did go to the dairy farm again last week to help lift my spirits – it helped).

I realize now it’s okay to have days where you’re just not feeling it. I’m not someone who likes to put on a face. I’m not going to pretend everything is all cool and dandy when it’s not.

Today however I am feeling much better (and writing this blog entry has a lot to do with it). I think I got about 9 hours of sleep last night, which is unusual for me. It still probably is not enough to make up for the sleep debt I’ve incurred this past week (I don’t like the term “sleep debt;” but Mr. Rafia used it earlier and until I can come up with a better phrase, I’ll use it for the time being).

I’m feeling more Cake & Cows-y this morning… afternoon. And I just wanted to say I am alive and hope to blog more regularly again. Yay!

P.S. I reverted back to my old layout because the CSS was just killing me. I hate that I can’t edit the code of the free WordPress themes – and unfortunately, I have to purchase a theme first before I can see if I can edit it to my liking. I hope you can understand my conundrum. I am not a cheap person, but I also don’t like wasting money, especially if it’s for myself. Until I can figure out a way to incorporate the beautiful image my sister drew into a layout I am satisfied with, you will have to make do with Petunia, the Purple-Polka Dotted Cow. My drawing skills are clearly lacking in comparison, but she’s got a cute name, eh? I’ve always been proud of my nomenclature skills :)

P.P.S. Happy Easter! Yo, Mr. Rafia, while you’re out, get me a chocolate bunny, okay?

New Layout, Cake & Cows Turns 1, and Questions I Must Answer

First of all, Cake & Cows has a brand-spanking new layout! Like the last one, the header of this layout was also illustrated by my amazingly talented older sister, who you should follow on Instagram, if you’re on.

The occasion is not just because I needed some colour on my blog – or to translate from this Bollywood song of yore: “Gimme colour, Gimme colour, Gimme colour, Gimme colour, Gimme colour.”

I wanted a new layout because Cake & Cows will be celebrating a milestone – its one year anniversary (or birthday ?) next week – Friday, March 24th to be exact.

I just Googled “first year birthday” or whatever and this is the first thing I see. If I ever have a baby, he better look like this. Source

I know it’s not a big deal considering some blogs have been around for much longer and a one-year anniversary is nothing. But it’s big for me. I’ve been blogging since 2003 and I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with a blog name longer than a few months (other than Whimsical – but with the exception of perhaps one person, no one would know that). Cake & Cows seems like my first real blog; it’s almost like my baby. I have people come up to me and even before they ask how I’m doing (or perhaps they already know because they’ve read it), they make some reference to my blog. Frankly, nothing makes me happier to know I’m not the only person who reads this stuff. I’d like to say I’d continue to blog even if I knew I was the only one reading, but the truth is, I probably wouldn’t. So, if you’re reading this, I want to thank you for helping me get to this point. Because of you, I’ve learned that I do not have commitment issues!

If I was super cool like some other bloggers, I’d have some kind of giveaway. But if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m the farthest thing from cool. So I won’t be doing that.

Instead, I’ll answer some questions about myself (I needed a segue, okay?). Suma Fiore nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award. This award comes with no gold statues, but much better – a set of questions I get to answer! I’ve always loved pretending to interview myself. Now I don’t have to pretend!

  1. What do you struggle with mostly in life? I wish I had a more sophisticated answer, but it’s body image for me. My other struggles come and go, but this one has been ceaseless – and frankly useless – for the past 8 years. Some struggles are good, or at least good can be learned from them. But no good has come from this obsession of wishing I could look a certain way. 
  2. What are you wearing right now? Khakis, a black shirt, and an old-lady-looking purple-flowered sweater blouse on top. I went to a masjid open house and thought I should be dressed semi-professionally today.
  3. Have you ever colored your hair? What color? Do you want to? What color? I wasn’t allowed to colour my hair when I was younger. I read somewhere though that you could dye your hair naturally using berries, so I attempted to dye my hair red one time with raspberries. I was in middle school then. It did not work. I only wasted a bunch of raspberries that someone could have used to bastardize an otherwise delicious chocolate cake. Oh well. Now that I can dye my hair, I have no desire to. I believe that God gave us the hair colour He did for a reason. There is wisdom behind this and I agree with it. I like my black hair.
  4. What’s your favorite and least favorite ‘ism’? (activism, narcissism, feminism, racism…) My favourite ‘ism’ is either monotheism or socialism – I admit, I struggled with this and had to look for ideas. Narcissism and racism suck, but nationalism needs some hating too. 
  5. What’s your favorite kind of grub? Anything with sugar and chocolate in it, let’s be honest. But chocolate cake is definitely on the top of the list. Does that count as grub? It’s also never a wrong time for pizza, or anything with bread and cheese together, basically.
  6. Give me some pet-peeves Lack of symmetry, not putting things in their designated place (Mr. Rafia!), most Instagram posts – I’ll be kind and not name specifics, impromptu decisions, the list can go on.
  7. Do you like any celebrities? Dislike any? Give me some names and tell me why. RICHARD SIMMONS – read my post, people! I dislike all others.
  8. What makes the world go round? God. I’m not trying to be a pompous zealot with this answer, either. My belief in God is what allows me to take it all in and wake up each morning, even when I don’t want to. I mean, literally. It’s tough getting up for the fajr prayer, but knowing that I must is what gets me to do it.
  9. What did you do last night? I attended an event called “How can Muslim women be allies?” and then I read in bed until I fell asleep. Fun!
  10. What kind of chips are your favorite? Chocolate chips ;)
  11. Best moment of 2017 thus far? Turning 30 was great the day of, but not so great the few weeks after when it finally hit me. I am 30 and I still have no clue what I am doing with my life.

Okay, this post has been long enough for now. Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day, Happy early Nowruz, and I don’t know what else. Oh yeah, happy belated 311 Day. Okay, I really need to end this thing now.

I’ve been nominated! You like me, you really like me!

colbert nobel

(Sorry, I just had to! Credit)

I’ve been seeing these going around for a while and now that Geeky Muslimah of Troublesome Thirties has nominated me, I feel like I’ve been initiated into a secret club… that all of a sudden has no members. Thank you for nominating me, Geeky Muslimah! Who says academics live in ivory towers? Not she, that is for sure!


11 Facts About Me

  1. I am afraid of fish.
  2. I’ve been told by pretty much all my teachers and friends (although my sister is still in denial) that I have perfect handwriting.
  3. I love to sing and have been in various choirs throughout my life. The funny thing is, I still don’t know how to read music.
  4. I wanted to be a lawyer once upon a time ago, then an animator, then a chemical engineer, then a journalist for like a day, then a lawyer again, then a person with a PhD, and now I would like to be a “writer.”
  5. I majored in Economics as an undergrad. I went to a really, really small liberal arts university in the suburbs of Chicago which allowed that to be possible.
  6. A lot of people say they love chocolate, but I dream of chocolate. Literally, all my dreams are dessert-related.
  7. I never learned to ride a two-wheeler.
  8. For the longest time, I was deathly afraid of open staircases (and escalators, for that matter!). I would refuse to climb them, thinking I would fall through the cracks. Which is hilarious thinking about it now, because I was a chubby kid. If anything, I’d get stuck.
  9. Oh yeah, I used to be severely overweight for most of my life. At my highest at the age of 18, I was close to 220 pounds (I’m 5’2″). Between 2006-2009, I lost over 100 pounds. I’ve been battling with those fickle “last” 10 pounds ever since.
  10. I have over 10 years of French language instruction (albeit, intermittent) and to this day, the only thing I can say with confidence is “Je voudrais le gâteau au chocolat!” (Actually, did I say that right?)
  11. I love Richard Simmons, like for real.

Geeky Muslimah asks

  1. What motivated you to blog? I began blogging for the first time in 2003, before it was a thing. It served as a much-needed outlet for all my emo teenage frustrations. But what really kept me going were the fellow bloggers, some of whom became my friends (Shout out to Laura, whom I am trying to get to blog again!). When I decided to blog again earlier this year, it was because I again needed an outlet for my new life changes (marriage, new home, change in employment). And I really missed that sense of community! You, reading this, are the reason why I’m still here.
  2. What do you wish you could experience, but probably never will? Being a Broadway actress or a Bollywood playback singer. At first I thought, being a man. But honestly, I wouldn’t want to be a man. As nostalgic as I can get, I don’t really want to go back in time – but I have to admit, being able to witness Prophet Muhammad (saw) and to be a companion, that would be pretty amazing! Don’t you just love the range of my answers?
  3. What is your favourite book genre? I like contemporary literary fiction, written from the perspective of minority (female!) or other underrepresented voices. Is that a genre?
  4. If you could acquire a superpower, what would it be? A part of me wants to say telepathy, but that could soon become a curse, if Professor X is any indication. The ability to absorb knowledge without much effort?
  5. What is your favourite desert? CHOCOLATE CAAAAAAKE! But I recently had Chocolate Bread Pudding and now I don’t know. Seriously, I am having a crisis here, people! What does this development mean for the future of this blog?
  6. If you could abolish one thing, what would it be? Arrogance, in all facets of the term.
  7. What is your biggest pet peeve? Untidiness. I didn’t think I had inherited this from my dad. Marriage is very educational, folks.
  8. What is the greatest experience you’ve had so far in your life? Graduating from the University of Chicago. I am not even kidding. It still seems like a dream.
  9. What is your biggest regret so far? Not spending more time with my maternal grandmother. She was the only one who lived long enough to see her grandchildren. I wish I could go back in time and tell her that I love her. I don’t think I ever did.
  10. What is your greatest hope for the future? That my children are grateful for having me as their mother – for loving them as they are, being a good model of character, but also never limiting their dreams. This sounds kinda selfish, I know. I’m being realistic though. A mother’s love is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever witnessed. It’s what keeps me going in a world that at times seems not worth it.
  11. What is the wildest thing your imagination ever came up with? Corin. My sister’s alter-ego.

My Questions for You – Yes, YOU!

I’m supposed to nominate 11 other less-known blogs, but since all my regular blogger friends have either already been nominated or have over 200 followers (also, I don’t want to leave anyone out), I’m asking anyone who reads this post to answer my questions. If you comment, you must answer! Even if you’ve never commented before, ANSWER! Please? Thank you!

  1. What is your favourite dessert?
  2. What is your favourite animal? (Sorry, had to!)
  3. If you could choose any career and could switch this second, what would it be?
  4. If you could be any literary figure, who would you be?
  5. What is one thing that is/was extremely popular that you simply cannot stand?
  6. What was your favourite show as a child?
  7. What is the one thing you like most about yourself? Heck, list ’em ALL out!
  8. If you were to go back in time and had to switch places with another person, who would it be?
  9. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
  10. If you were to lose either the ability to speak or write, what would you choose?
  11. If an alien were to come down to earth, what would you say to it to convince them that earth is THE place to be?

Thanks for making it to the end! :)


A journey of discovery into the world of cakes

Yay, it’s Eid! I can eat again ;)

What I love about Islam is that it’s not an otherworldly religion. We are commanded to give charitably, to be hospitable to our neighbors, to always speak with gentleness, etc. And the month of Ramadan gives us the perfect opportunity to improve upon these virtues. But we are never asked to restrain joy or happiness.

And so yesterday, my husband and I refused to let all the ugliness going on in the world take away from celebrating our first Eid together. One moment in particular was just fodder for this blog. And I would not be living up to the name of Cake & Cows if I did not document this event.

After Eid prayer, we decided to do a lunch date – and as you can guess, no date is complete without some dessert for Rafia! So we headed over to my favourite place in the world, The Cake Bake Shop. The fact that Indiana is home to such a treasure is enough to make me proclaim I am (now) a proud Hoosier.

It was a beautiful day and the sign outside was just begging for the signature Rafia pose:


Of course, they had their world-famous Earl’s Court Chocolate Cake as they always do. Normally, I’d never venture beyond chocolate. Oddly enough, I don’t find their chocolate cake to be the bestest chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. The Fleur de Sel they top on the icing really ruins it for me. I’m sorry, but salt does not belong on my chocolate! I only like my chocolate with more chocolate.

But because all their cakes are so incredibly gorgeous and perhaps I was still feeling the Ramadan spirit, I agreed to let my husband finally order the flavour he’s really wanted – Mint Chocolate.

You have to understand just how generous of a gesture this was of me. Not only do we always share when we go to Cake Bake (that instantly makes me the Mother Theresa of Cakes), I was letting him decide on a flavour I have been dead set against my entire life! My brother and sister can vouch for this. I’ve never liked the idea behind mint chocolate, because to me mint is only for gum and toothpaste. Mint is a signal that my precious food time is done. Adding mint to my beloved chocolate is just plain confusing to my taste buds, I’ve always maintained. I want more, but then I get a signal I should stop, I want more, and again another signal I must stop. It’s just too much for me!

After our waitress brought us our order, I took a moment to grimace at the concoction laying in front of me, almost regretting my generous gesture just moments before. The green is very pretty, I thought. With the brown though, it just looked wrong.

But cake is cake – and I’m not one to ever say no to cake. So I took a bite.

“This is really… minty,” I winced. But the sugar already had me reaching for the next bite. I took another bite and then another one and then another one. And with each bite, I came to finally understand what my siblings had been talking about all this time. Mint chocolate is actually really, really good. The darkness of the chocolate juxtaposed with the springiness of the mint frosting was a surprising but very welcome delight. My taste buds did a little dance.

I told my husband to document this momentous event before it was too late:

OMG! What have I been missing my entire life?

Ramadan is supposed to be a humbling month. I indeed was humbled… in more ways than one. Eid Moobarak again to all my Muslim readers! :)

A (Sweet) Change in Routine

I did something very un-Rafia-like today.

To say that I was craving chocolate is an understatement. Even when I’m eating chocolate, I’m still craving it.

But after last night’s binge on non-fat plain yogurt – adding honey and cocoa powder can never mask the fact that it’s still non-fat plain yogurt with honey and cocoa powder mixed in – I decided that I would tell that stupid voice in my head to shut up. I have a car, I make money, it’s a nice day, I’m feeling hormonal. Other women use less of an excuse to indulge. Why was I hesitating?

It’s not that I don’t ever indulge. Remember, this blog is named “Cake & Cows.” But my indulgences are always planned, always shared – I never do my indulgences in the middle of the week, by myself, just because.

I almost felt like I was in high school again. When, on more than a few occasions, after 6th period, I would treat myself to a freshly-baked Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookie. This only lasted freshman year. Not because I decided to become healthier sophomore year. But because they stopped selling the cookies.

That was over 10 years ago. A lot has changed since then.

But these past few days, I’ve not been feeling my usual adult-Rafia self.

Instead of quelling my chocolate craving today, I decided that I would listen to it.

My heart was racing as I got ready. I hoped I wouldn’t get a call from work. I didn’t.

When I finally reached The Quirky Feather Confectionery (a whimsical little bakery with PURPLE decor), I didn’t need any time to decide what I wanted. I knew right away: The Mind Control Brownie. I know, I know – it’s not cake. But these brownies are sooo good. Chocolate chip cookie base, a layer of Oreo cookies, then another layer of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, with a brownie topping (no walnuts either!). It has all the mushy, layery and chocolatey goodness that I love about cake. Hey, maybe this is a sign of growth (aside from my waist, of course)!

I’m usually not one to take photos of food that I ordered from restaurants, but I had to document this monumental event.

To go with the Mind Control Brownie, I ordered an Oreo mocha. “Too much chocolate” ain’t something that’s ever been uttered out of my mouth!

I feel like such a rebel. This shall be our little secret, my lovely blog readers!*

*Well, I told my sister, because I had to. And her words were: “Do it… Keep it up, You are worth it.” My mom and dad told me to always listen to my elders.

P.S. Literally 5 minutes after I posted this, my husband walks in and says he has a surprise for me – CHOCOLATE CAKE! I feel like such a naughty little girl.

P.P.S. It’s an OREO chocolate cake. What does this mean, folks? I’m a little scared now.