Festivals

19 Aug

One of the harder things about our South meets West Indian marriage is that festivals and celebrations are more complicated.
There are the festivals that only my family celebrates, the ones that only the husbadoo’s family celebrates and the ones that both our families celebrate but in different ways.
The ones celebrated by just our individual communities / families are ones we choose to ignore at this point , unless we have a set of parents staying with us at that time.
The first year of our marriage, my mom voiced some disappointment that I would not really have a Tamilian ‘noombu”( probably spelling it wrong, but this is the festival where women pray for their husband’s longevity and tie a thread on their wrists. Actually think there are 2 a year – one with a thread on your neck and one on your wrist. Anyway, you get the idea) celebration. She could have explained how to celebrate it to me, sent me the thread etc , but she just seemed so disappointed and then let it be. I was also 23 years old and really didn’t care much for cooking something elaborate and going through the motions of a celebration that I did not press her for details.
So the Tamilian festivals fell to the wayside for the most part with some minor exceptions. I have made pongal a few times for Pongal and have cooked some traditional stuff for Tamil New Year but that’s about it. Even this festival related cooking ,I hesitate to do if my in laws are visiting us. Somehow I feel it might hurt their sentiments if I celebrate my own festivals with them in the house.
Oh side note, every member of my husband’s family wished me a Happy  New Year for Pongal the first few years till I explained it was a harvest festival and not the new year!
Regarding the Gujarati festivals, my in laws never went into explaining them to me or ever even mentioned that we should consider celebrating them – be it cooking specific dishes or performing specific pujas or anything . In my attempt to continue to maintain my identity and not lose it all in the marriage , along with firmly not changing my name , I have never bothered to ask or find out what these festivals are and how they are celebrated in their family. The husbadoo has only a faint recollection of most festivals and is not a knowledge bank on his traditions at all.  I am not proud of this practiced ignorance on my part but at the same time I did not want to adopt my husband’s while giving up mine and have to deal with my folks commenting that I was fully ‘converted.’
Maybe some of these fears were irrational and unfounded but I felt and still feel sometimes, that we are walking a delicate path of balance between our families and that I should not tip the scale anyway.  There are moments when I feel this phase of balance is past us but then every now and again hurt sentiments raise their ugly head. 
Guess the only way I would have been satisfied with this situation would be if we celebrated both family’s festivals and traditions every year. This to us was not practical when we both work full time and are often told about these festivals only on the day of through a casual phone conversation .
Now we come to the common ones – Diwali, Ganesh Chaturti, Navaratri, Janmashtami to name a few.
These we have come up with some sort of blended approach to celebrating. We have done this purely without any inputs from our families (we have never really sent pics or anything and they might not even know we celebrate these) and they are truly are own traditions so to speak.
Our childhoods obviously influence the traditional parts we have added . This year for Janmashtami , I made a rough undhiyo flavored subji , custard as a sweetdish and we also had some beaten rice, milk and curd as our offering . We were out of butter but I don’t think God would mind particularly. I did not do the traditional footprints  from the door to our alter as I had no rice flour. And it was going to be extra work to vacuum . Plus I do think God can find his way to our house.
We did not don any traditional wear as I honestly don’t even know which packed suitcase even has our traditional wear , we haven’t worn any since moving to NYC and have no space in our tiny closets to even have it out. Bandar clamored for custard , which we told her would be served after prayers. We sat down in front of a lit lamp and said the one or two relevant chants we knew and played a 6 minute shlok on YouTube. We bowed down and thanked God for each other and our families and that was it.
It was really just simple and no fuss and really just ours. Yes, maybe in the future we might go to some greater lengths to get this right but for now this feels fine.

Tell me what you eat!

11 Aug

I mentioned I am in some sort of a cooking rut and here is what I am dealing with.
I enjoy cooking and I am a fairly decent cook but my main issue is that I cook extremely laborious meals.
For instance, in the last week – all weekdays ,I have cooked pizza from scratch – dough, 2 types of sauces etc, Pad Thai which requires work to make the sauce and other prep work and Ragda Pattice with 2 chutnies from scratch. So there you have it. This is in addition to Bandar’s separate meals as she really doesn’t eat what we eat all the time and other kitchen work like baking strawberry quinoa muffins for snacks for us all and freshly ground ginger, garlic pastes,chili paste , flax seeds milling, Greek yogurt and regular yogurt setting every 2 days and of course daily kitchen cleaning.
You see, I spend a fair amount of time each week scanning food blogs and reading,planning recipes. The husbadoo loves most of the stuff I make and I love trying to replicate restaurant meals we love and enjoy. 
All these cooking sprees apart from being fairly time consuming , make me quite tired on weekday nights. I keep going off on spells of laziness between elaborate meals and we order in/go out.
Also , though I cook with minimal oil ( I usually spray to barely coat the pan) , and use natural sweeteners where I can, I feel our meals are heavy. Example : I make kofta biryani with oat and spinach koftas( pan roasted) and loads of veggies and brown rice. But even a small helping is really filling. Same goes for pad thai – we eat a double restaurant serving each and yoagine the sheer amount of peanuts in there .We stuff ourselves with seconds and thirds. This I think is unhealthy.
I also have lots of leftovers that become a tad boring on day 3-4. I cook in large amounts as hello , all this effort shouldn’t be wasted on one meal.
But it is in so much excess sometimes that we often throw food away( ashamed to admit this) or forget about rotting leftovers in the fridge . I jump onto the next exciting thing to cook ignoring what we have already.
I also feel we spend quite a lot on groceries. I love having a well stocked larder and chances are you can find a lot of unexpected stuff on my small pantry shelves.
I think back to what I grew up eating and weekday dinners though we have had a cook to help mom out for the longest time, have been rptis with a subji or south Indian kottu ( deal and veggies). If there was a dry subji , there was always an extra dal dish wet. We did rice only on weekends. The husbadoo’s meals too were rotis, dal, subji and rice. My mother in law has an interesting list of specific dals for specific days of the week – example black eyed peas for Mondays and moong for Wednesdays etc.  And she had house help as well to execute these meals for the family.I don’t follow these at all. For one, I really can’t make rotis . I can maybe start . We eat wheat tortillas which I buy and I know have preservatives. Also rice everyday is not something I am very comfy with for health reasons. We will maybe have to alternate with quinoa, brown and white rice.
Any way, the reason I am blogging about this is I need some help. I want to change to cooking 1 elaborate meal a week ( Fridays or weekends) . We have a tendency to eat out on Fridays and this excitement of a fun meal will keep us in.
I need some ideas for easy weekday vegetarian meals. Healthy would be best or I am a pro at healthifying stuff anyway so I  can do it even if the recipe you give me isn’t . I am really curious to see what other people eat on a daily basis at home and I am eager to read comments.

Weekend in bullets

5 Aug

- My Friday last week was really light so I joined Bandar’s preschool picnic at Central Park. Bandar was just so excited that I was coming and had told her teachers and all her friends. I wish I had captured her expressions when she saw me at the park entrance ,but then there are some images you never forget and this was one for me.
– I got to see toddlers playing baseball. Its the funniest sight ever. One teacher helps one team throw and the other teacher helps them hit and then everyone runs around like crazy in circles and then randomly try to pick up the ball, irrespective of teams. Its just pure entertainment. Bandar stuck to me a little as expected but seemed to be having a blast.I noticed every single kid had a different personality and it was really interesting to see who participated and who didn’t. —– Then it was time for lunch. I had made  whole wheat pizza dough the night before and also a tomato sauce . I had woken up early in the morning with much grumbling to chop veggies and grate the cheese and bake her a pizza for lunch. I was grumbling as Bandar has been an irritatingly predictable hater of everything I have made her in the last week. I thought the pizza wouldn’t fare any better but her I was pleasantly shocked to see she loved it. Yeah!
-I took her home after lunch and she had a lovely 3.5 hour nap. I then took her to the Children’s museum. She has been there twice before at 15 and 18 months ,but now at almost 23 months its amazing how differently she interacts with the exhibits. I was exhausted but this day was such a fun one .
-The only bad thing about Friday was that Bandar in a tussle over a toy or something had hit her best friend at school and her teachers and I had a discussion on how to handle this hitting business.
We decided to take away her Little People family ( featured

here

http://popgoesthebiscuit.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/vacation-recap-part-1/

) for a day till the message was clear.

- Saturday ,the husbadoo with a little help from me cleaned the house as his friend from Austin was visiting for the day.
We went out for a really late brunch ( guess normal lunch) to one of our newly discovered highly affordable in the city places for brunch. Bandar choose to take a nap in her stroller which meant we had a leisurely time ordering and eating. She woke up just in time to eat my fries with plenty of ketchup!
-We then walked to campus which meant lots of relaxing on grass for us all and then made our way to central park after a short detour for bubble tea! The husbadoo went off for a stroll with his friend to show him some parts of the park and I stayed with Bandar at one of our favorite playgrounds and negotiated sandbox politics. This is harder than it sounds as it involves stopping crying and  fighting over sand toys and involves getting sand in  your flats as you step in to intervene .You then have to pull out your ugly toes and feet with much chipped nail paint in front of snobby NYC moms who take one quick glance and then shudder and look away,to try and get the sand out. Even then you are left with the dirty feet feeling and just yearn for a warm soak in the bath tub.
-We made yummy pizzas for dinner and I got Bandar to bed.
We then as usual bribed our guest with lusciously soft marble cake from Whole Foods to stay for board games and played for a good 2 hours.  So good Saturday overall.

-Sunday morning was slowish at home with Skype et al .We took Bandar to a fun new playground by the pier ,overlooking the river for a change. We ended up having dinner at Taim, a veggie falafal bar. This comes a close second to Austin’s kabablicious for me but definitely the best I have had in NYC so far. We ordered fries again ,a huge serving again!
-As Bandar had another hitting spree with me on the subway,she promptly had her dolls confiscated again . Her adorable,  “Sorry ,Amma.I never hit you again” and pleas of ” But I said sorry ” did not bring them back.
She finally came up with – “I be good girl, I get them back “,said in a meltingly earnest voice full of resolve. Sadly she got them back on Monday evening only to lose them another 1 hour later when she hit out at her dad. My feisty little monkey is rather too free with her hands and has a few important lessons to learn here.

-We ended the weekend by breaking a beautiful glass bottle with cumin seeds in the kitchen and I had wonderful one hour cleaning it up.Not!! Despite all precautions,Bandar had a shard of glass enter her  palm and had a doctors visit today to get it out. And we of course,  have no cumin for our meals till I either A) make an NJ Indian store visit or B) give in to the thieving NYC grocery stores and buy it for 4 times its price.

So that was our weekend !Pretty routine with playgrounds, fries and hitting toddlers.

#100HappyDays – Some recent happies

30 Jul

- We took Bandar to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens this last weekend and part from the long train ride , she had a blast. I really did not think  she would care for plants or flowers at this age and she didn’t.But she loved running on the green lawns, spotting fish in the huge koi pond and just being out of doors with her parents.
The husbadoo and I had a nice relaxing time sitting and lying on the grass as Bandar played around . Seriously need to do this more often as a family.

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She spent far too much time looking at this wall and asking why the baby was “nangu” ( naked) . My observant little monkey!

- Breakfast on weekdays with fruit, greek yogurt , whole wheat flakes and chia. Seriously delish!It keeps me full for ages too.

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- Making my own Greek yogurt at home!The cheapest Greek yogurt in NYC is seriously at Whole Foods! I know I was shocked too. And even here is is 7 bucks for 16 ounces! Robbery! Anyway my birthday gift to myself was a Greek yogurt maker. Considering I have been having issues with yogurt not setting in the winter months here, this machine is going to solve the regular yogurt which we need with Indian food issue and the Greek yogurt for breakfast issue. Two birds one stone and all that. So I have been putting this little guy to good use and have seriously decadent Greek yogurt each morning. Oh and the strainer in the equipment is perfect for washing quinoa and amaranth . So a lot of uses for this gadget.

- The husbadoo was traveling for work for a few days and Bandar displayed some golden behavior . I was dreading early morning rising as that is usually the husbadoo’s area but on Monday morning when I  handed her a bottle of milk at 5 am and told her to snuggle next to me, she did exactly that. We finally woke up at 8:30 am and had a late start but those 3 odd hours snoozing with my baby girl were amazingly refreshing.

- The after burn you get when you work out after ages! I am trying to start some sort of a fitness routine using my Jillian Michaels videos and I am sore in places I never knew I had muscles in. Anyway, they say this after burn burns some calories too so I will take that !

- Our fifth floor walk up! I never thought I will be putting this into a happy post but these 76 steps ( yes, I counted) that I climb twice every day and at least one of those times with 25 odd pounds of baby strapped to me are helping me not gain any more weight. I obviously need to do some toning but otherwise this and the 1 mile walk to drop and pick up Bandar is taking care of my daily cardio.

- Finishing a good book. Our book club is doing the – The amazing adventures of kavalier and clay and I loved every bit of this 685 page book. A longish read but a nice one after a while.

- I am catching up on Desi episodes of Masterchef India 2013. Omg! I love the challenges – a Desi pizza challenge, restaurant wars but in a dhaba..really fun to watch . I fast forward the silly songs and irritating TV celebrities who pop in though. 

- Some pretty perfect Pav Bhaji made by yours truly. I need to do a post on only food as I am in some sort of cooking rut . I came out of my hole to make one good dish after ages and am now going to go back into strike mode. Cooking has become boring and I need some fresh ideas so food post will definitely be done this week.

A glass of milk

24 Jul

My mom like other moms the world  around , worries about her kids. This worry is sometimes unfounded and over the top and manifests itself in many ways. I was always the girl whose mom called to check where we were even if i was a few minutes past curfew. I have written about some of this here before.
Off late, especially as I live a few continents away,  the worry is a series of instructions related to my health and well being . In my early 20s , I always classified this is nagging. But now that I have Bandar , I actually think I understand her concern more. I came to the conclusion in my postpartum recovery period that my mom probably cares for me more than anyone else in the world does. This to me was apparent when I had a long line of family visitors stay with us after my mom , from both sides and the care I received though not non existent was really minimal. Granted I was past my 6-8 week recovery phase too, but still.  I have had candid conversations with the husbadoo about this and  finally after a lot of persuading he phrased it as she cares for me ‘differently’ than anyone else does. In our relationship and marriage we have always considered each other strong and able and always think the other can shoulder the responsibilities we are dealt. In my mother’s eyes I am always her baby, her firstborn ( maybe the firstborn part makes no difference) and all she wants to do is mother me and ensure my well being. Its exactly what I feel for Bandar and I doubt I will think differently when she is almost 30. So it was during this postpartum phase that I stopped getting irritated with her instructions and stopped thinking of it as nagging.Of course , it did not mean I followed her advice.

When she was visiting us here in May, she was shocked to see I did not take heed any of her phone instructions. 
She made this list for us before she left and put it up on our fridge with our magnets.She addressed it to both the husbadoo and I.

Take a look.

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Does any of this seem excessive? I don’t know – maybe 3 glasses of milk for 2 adults ??When she was writing it a few hours before she had to leave for the airport, I shrugged and thought as usual it was going to be advice we won’t follow but  let her continue writing it anyway.  I read it only after we got back from the airport and felt a few tears prick my eyelids as somehow I felt her love radiate from this piece of paper towards me. You see, my dad is the hugger in the family. We girls are very expressive with him but not with our mom. That is just how she was raised. My nine yards clad granny would have a fit if any of her girls tried to hug her ever and my mom though is of course a step better but only just. Our hugs and kisses are quick brushes of hands and lips and our “love yous” are scant at the end of phone calls. But this piece of paper somehow meant something to me. My cousin visited recently and saw this and burst out laughing at her aunt ( my mom). Somehow that really upset me and I got very defensive about the whole thing.
Anyway,for this first time on my almost 29 years I have tried to follow some of this. I see this list on the fridge and it makes me smile as I go about my chores. I might be putting away Bandar’s packed lunch box the night before and I see this note and pour myself a glass of milk and smile and think about my mom for a few minutes . And today I am writing this post sipping on my glass of milk .

Bandar’s Zoo

22 Jul

Bandar comes home from school around 5 pm each day and we have the whole evening of play ahead of us. How exactly do you entertain a 22 month old , finish the last bit of office work, manage dinner prep for her and rest of the family members,wash bottles for her bed time, and feed her a meal  – all between the hours of 5 – 8 pm?
I am forced to come up with new , creative games to play each day. We throw birthday parties for her toys, do some finger painting and of course play with her blocks. This kid loves building things – towers, castles, cities. Maybe the architecture gene from my in laws side of the house.
Anyway , after a zoo visit s few weeks ago it was but natural to build our own. With a mix of 2 different types of blocks and a medley of wild and domestic animals from Crawford Market, Mumbai , we are proud to present to you Bandar’s zoo.

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Of course you need a ticket to enter. The tissue strip being held by the dolls in the car is their huge ticket!
I am personally scared about the safety of the zebra and mule,in such close proximity to the lions and cheetah.
Also I doubt our bear cage meets bare minimum specifications- looks more than a little cramped for our lone bear.

I just had enough time to take a few pics before Bandar insisted on walking through the zoo and destroying it!

29

18 Jul

So the birthday dawned and is almost done too. I have 30 minutes left of the day as I write this.

The husbadoo kept bugging me for gift ideas and I told him I really didn’t want anything except Tiramisu from Whole Foods and dinner at some restaurant nearby.
And he agreed and did exactly that. So we had dinner at a nice, fusion place near here called Hampton Chutney that makes dosas with some American flair and I loved it. The best part was Bandar loved this little set up they had with loads of books by the window and she let us eat our simple meal in peace.

This year my facebook wishes have reduced from 70s to merely 30 and I am strangely glad.
My true friends texted or called which meant more than the fb wishes.

I went to the dentist and am glad to report that I have no cavities ( always good news, especially on your birthday) but do need a night guard as I have reduced me enamel by night grinding. I was also given the option to straighten my teeth and perfect my smile which my dentist advised will increase self esteem and confidence. Thank you doc but think I rather hire a trainer to shed the last few pounds and get some rock hard abs to boost my self esteem! My smile is well,  my smile and it is what it is at this point.

My in laws have sent me a fruit basket as a surprise which touched me and will be delivered tomorrow . I wish they hadn’t spent the $$ on this but nevertheless I am truly happy.

My parents wished me a grand total of 4 times through the course of the last 36 hours #transatlanticbdays

Overall,  I am a year older and none the wiser but a tad happier today and that is always a good thing!

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