Archive | August, 2014

#100Happydays : Catching you up on the Happy

28 Aug

I can ‘t believe it has been so long since my last post. A week plus is a long time when you plan on blogging regularly.
The last few days have been hectic but have had spots of happy and I want to make sure to document a few.

– We went on a family bike ride in Central Park on Sunday. We rented 2 bikes for us and a child seat for Bandar , who rode behind the husbadoo and did the 6 mile loop with lots of stops to take in the sights, allow Bandar to “run around”(as she says loudly – “I am soooooo done. I need to run around now.Our little girl is developing quite an attitude.), and to picnic.
At a point during our picnic, the husbadoo looked at me and just smiled. When I asked him why, he said “We are living out your dream now!You have been asking for a picnic at the park for ages now and we finally did it!” Yes , we did!
My most happy moments of the day were relaxing on the Great Hill with the husbadoo resting his head on my lap and Bandar lying sprawled on his tummy,spotting turtles with Bandar by the boathouse and stopping to watch a game of Quidditch ! This last one was so entertaining seeing everyone run around on their brooms. Did you know there is an actual muggle quidditch world cup? I didn’t , till the husbadoo told me this week.
Brilliant, right?

 

– We have a house guest staying with us – a cousin of a friend as she is starting grad school in NYC and doesn’t have her apartment ready to move in yet. At first I was hesitant about taking this on as I really did not know how it would be to have a person I had never met into our space. Surprisingly, touchwood this has been a breathe of fresh air. And I somehow manage to put food on the table at the end of each day and have some company in the evenings as the husbadoo works late this week.

– Bandar’s daycare is shut for 10 days for an end of summer break!Ridiculous, right?Considering we paid a hefty fee for the month. Anyway, I am making full use of my 100 hours of subsidized childcare from an agency my company contracts with and have had some decent nannies fill in a few hours each day. Bandar is surprisingly taking to them quite well.

– We planned an impromptu holiday! This might not have been very financially wise considering the amount we spent on last minute tickets, but its Bandar’s last chance to fly free before she turns two in a few weeks and the husbadoo kept pushing for a getaway. This is really odd as it is usually me who brings up vacation discussions, plans et al. But I am excited for this short Friday- Monday trip we are going to do.

– I started and finished the second season of The Mindy Project in record time. OMG – I freaking love this show! For those of you who like chickflicks and have not seen this show yet, please , please do.

I dont know why I took so long to watch season 2.Since we cut cable after moving to NYC, I miss my DVR’d shows. Searching for online links is a task in itself.  To my joy, Hulu which we have a monthly subscription for has the entire season. So I did some marathon viewing sessions and now I am ready to convince the hsubadoo to watch this show and rewatch with him for the second time!

Spoiler alert ahead: Are there any other real life – Mindy and BJ Novak fans out here??I keep thinking that her and Danny’s relationship on the show is modeled to a large degree on her real life bff realtionship with BJ. Sadly, they are currently not dating each other or anybody else(I think from what I have read on the celebrity gossip sites). Hope Season 3 isn’t too rough on Danny and Mindy. I really dont want another Ross and Rachel saga ride out for 10 seasons – meant to be together, tried it, didnt work and off for several seasons, only to have a stupid , cliched together end. I really hope they end this series in 3-4 seasons and keep this couple together with minor tiffs , issues (all fixable) between them. But I guess that is hoping for too much.

– I have significantly made our weekday dinners simpler after I read some of the comments on my recent food related post. Thanks for the comments all! I have made quite a few simple things like mixed dals, thicker dosas with various lentil, quinoa combinations, and a few simple salads recently. I made a more elaborate Thai spread over the weekend and somehow I think that is the balanced approach  I need to continue following through the next few weeks too.

– The husbadoo is working terribly long hours and playing cricket for a day each weekend and Bandar and I are left to our own devices quite a bit. We are growing closer and actually have full conversations now which is really neat. The weather being good allows us to go for stroller walks, library visits, playground time, duck viewing time at the lake and impromptu picnics. Bandar so much as sees a bench in the park and says she is hungry and wants to eat! I have made a conscious effort to do zero screen time when I watch her on my clock and so far I have been able to entertain her successfully without our laptops and tablets. This self imposed restriction was because I realized we tended to switch on nursery rhymes for her a tad too often recently and we had to make a change. The American Association of Pediatrics suggests zero hours I think till 2 years of age and our doctor has told us this is for purely brain development and not eyesight related at all. I personally thought she was learning a ton from the TV shows she saw – she learnt to use words like “peep”, “pounce” , “curious” accurately by 22 months which I thought was really cool. But despite that, I am trying my best to limit /eliminate her hours of viewing and I don’t think she is even missing it.

 

That’s all for now, folks! I will post again soon and formally accept an award from TPL and answer some fun questions! Thanks for the nomination, girl!

 

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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

https://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.