Archive | April, 2015

Road tripping

29 Apr

When we moved to the Northeast about a year and a half ago, we had a lot of friends tell us that we could really enjoy exploring this region by car. As we didn’t bring our car with us when we moved here to live in the city , every time an opportunity arose to go somewhere a few hours away we either debated between a car rental or taking the train, always picked the train option or dropped the idea altogether and did not travel. Funnily enough, barring a few times last year when apple picking at a farm upstate seemed like a blissful activity in my head, I really haven’t missed that car or driving in our lives.

Both the husbadoo and I are reluctant drivers to say the least, me more than the husbadoo. I remember the reverse scenario in Texas, when people cribbed about driving several hours to leave the state, it did not really bother us as we pretty much flew out whenever we wanted a real vacation. When we do fly to a new city on vacation, the driving reluctance follow us , though nowadays we typically do rent one as atleast in the US it is quite foolish not to rent one as you miss out seeing quite a bit without a car.

We really have done just two long road trips(over 10 hours) in our 9 years together in this country.  One resulted in a bad accident in which thankfully no one was injured and the other with friends during a long weekend years ago. Apart from those we have done a few short two – three hour trips on a pure as needed basis – meeting family, taking visitors from India around etc. In none of these have I been the driver (barring the first one in which we had an accident thanks to me) and I know that sooner rather than later I will need to brave it and drive, though every part of me dreads this. I also know we will have to soon start planning vacations that we drive to as flying a family of three or four , add in family members  visiting,  gets pretty expensive.

Talking about the Northeast again, a few places I wanted to see when we moved here were  upstate New York,Philly, DC, Boston and the Niagara Falls in Buffalo,NY. We finally managed Boston and Providence about two weekends ago, with lo and behold a rented car!

– Bandar was in a car seat after a good six months but did okay for the most part except for frequent complaints of a tummy pain. Not sure how much of it was really physical pain/nausea and how much was psychological. I myself get a little car sick sometimes but with trial and error have figured out a pre road trip diet that works for that most part for me. One key ingredient I skip before road trips is caffeine.

– I cannot sleep on road trips, as I am paranoid the driver will nod off too if I do and I usually engage the driver, husbadoo in this case in conversation. This time this was a little harder to do, as I was in the back seat and we didnt want to talk too loudly and wake my FIL and Bandar. We still managed to gossip a little and played some games of naming the US states which were fun.

– I further engaged in silent games with myself (oops, doesn’t sound right!) like remembering a significant memory from each year of my life. I then killed some more time in first drafting and then solving some fun mental math problems around our speed, distance and time. After that I was mentally gamed out and just spent some time texting a friend.

– Given how short the distance was and the fact that half the passengers slept almost the whole way through, we didn’t stop for food or make any interesting detours. Doubt we will do this till Bandar is much older though. At this point, our main purpose is to get from point A to B without puke and/or crying.

– Apart from the flow of steady conversation, I missed the occasional squeeze of my hand the husbadoo gives me when he is driving. But I was torn as I know Bandar needs me at the back more, especially as she is hardly ever in a car seat these days and its almost a new experience for her each time.

– As usual, the way there seemed shorter, maybe the excitement , but the way home seemed long and boring.

How do you pass time on a road trip?What are your favorite road trip snacks?

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Criticism

22 Apr

I debated whether to post this one or not as I am not one for washing my dirty linen in public at all. But this is my blog and a reflection of my life at the moment. This is important to me right now, so I am posting it.Might make it private later.

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So much for my last post and all the effort spent in planning and cooking meals for the first week of my FIL’s visit. Remember I mentioned he was a quiet person in general and that his silence didn’t necessarily mean dislike. Well this is what the hsubadoo told me anyway. This last weekend, my FIL bluntly told me he disliked my cooking. “Everything is tasteless , bland and tasted funny and the same” , he said! Some brutal honesty or what! The only solace was the husbadoo standing up for me and saying he loved the way I cooked and that it was perfect in every way.(God bless this guy I married)

Anyway,when this conversation happened,  I was in the back seat of a car during a road trip and the FIL was in the front passenger seat besides the husbadoo who was driving. I was extremely quiet after he made this comment and just listened to the rest of his food thoughts in silence. Anyway my FIL thought I had slept off with all the silence and I just replied I was awake. The husbadoo after standing up for me,  gave me some sweet comforting smiles through the rear view mirror and was nothing but an amazing husband the rest of the weekend.

The thing is this was all was very unexpected as in the six years I have known the FIL, he has been the most  almost “zen person” I know.We have got along fantastically and I know he genuinely likes me and I do the same and respect him too in turn.Oh and that respect and mutual like has not changed in anyway because of this incident at all. Anyway maybe just this commentary in the light of the intense cooking I had dished out day after day for a week was hard for me to digest (see what I did there!).

I sulked a little bit this weekend , internalized and  re-internalized this message so much as is my nature to do so. And then I tried to closely oberve what kind of food my FIL enjoyed this weekend as we were travelling and visited some friends and family. Definitely spicier food with more masala and more oil. The thing is my food is healthier than these but from a  taste perspective it is not bad at all. The husbadoo and I find it pretty delicious and over the years we have started to prefer less spicier , greasier food.Another surprising tit bit is that the  the husbadoo, grew up in house with very little garlic , onion and masala was used and their food is even slightly sweetish with the addition of jaggery. This has rubbed off in my cooking recently and maybe in all this my cooking lost its flavor and spice and the FIL’s palate didn’t like it. Who knows!

My parents who I tell everything to ( maybe I should stop doing this) comforted me and urged me to not go overboard on the oil and grease but just to add some spice to the food , They also are urging me to work harder to impress him! WTF! That of course, pissed me off some more as I feel I am already tasked to the max in the kitchen and though there maybe some scope for changes in the cooking methods and spicing, there is definitely no scope for “doing more”. My parents are also very worried that i can’t take criticism in any form. This is so minor they say. Its just feedback, be happy he told you. Just learn from it and move on. Don’t take criticism to heart. How will you survive in the real world ? Don’t you take criticism at work?Deal with this same way.

The thing is you guys, I don’t take criticism well at all. period! Most of the fights the husbadoo and I have in our marital life are because of criticism. Or things that I take to be criticism that maybe aren’t at all. For  a few months after delivery, call it post partum depression or any other name, I was extremely sensitive about the husbadoo saying a single thing about anything related to Bandar’s care and picked fights with him saying he was accusing me of being a bad mother, In short I wanted him to have no opinion in the raising of his child.It was what I had read, what I knew, what I thought. Now thinking back, this was all terribly silly and we could have avoided a ton of fights, as the husbadoo too wasn’t one to particularly back down in those days. Another incident is a few months ago, I got hugely depressed because one of the husbadoo’s distant  family members said something else about me, this time it was genuine criticism. Though the husbdaoo stood up for me till he was blue in the face, just thinking about this person who criticized me and the topic depresses me. Regarding my professional life, any minor criticism I have received in the 8 odd years of working, I internalize and dwell on and am upset about for days. I have even blogged about bad work days sometimes and they were mainly because of criticism in any form. My tiffs with my parents too are generally about criticism too. So in short, I basically cannot take it any form,  I am overly sensitive. Sometimes I wonder if living in  a joint family system in India somewhere with criticism strewn at me all day long would have toughened me up. Or maybe it would have made me a bundle of nerves . Thankfully I am not in the situation, hope to never be and I am also hugely lucky to have a supportive husband who will back me up anyway he can. So I need to just toughen up in life in general.

Anyway, I came back home after our weekend road trip in a very fragile state of mind. I was upset that the last week’s food was a flop. I was confused about what to cook this week. I had to abandon lengthy made plans, Oh and all of us at home were sick too. I almost dreaded entering the kitchen. i feared it, I had lost a ton of self confidence about my cooking abilities with that one statement .The fact remains that the husbadoo and I love the taste of the food I cook and we really can’t see anything wrong with it. So now I am cooking for a palate that I am not familiar with and one that I have no idea how to please.

Since the weekend , I have dished out two days of extremely spicy(atleast to me) food  with amounts of oil and ghee that almost killed me to put in.  The FIL seems to enjoy this food though and now I need to maintain this spice standard for another three weeks. Oh well, such is life and we cook and grow.

Kitchen Matters (Or doesn’t)

15 Apr

My kitchen has seen a lot of activity over the last few days. I have been pulling out all my domestic skills and dishing out 2-3 desi meals a day. I know, I know that is mostly the standard in Indian homes and shouldn’t be a big deal at all. But the thing is around here, my cooking is usually sporadic during the week. I cook in bulk a few times of the week for the husbadoo and myself, and am often only cooking small bits for Bandar on a daily basis. And I usually have Thai, Italian or Mexican in the rotation to keep us excited.  But my father in law is visiting us for a few weeks and as usual I am on mission to impress. Not sure why this is particularly important for me considering we have been married for over five years now, but maybe I just generally strive for appreciation in life.

Related little anecdote to help you understand what makes me tick! Our friend has two beautiful dogs – B and L. Both are mixed breeds and apart from being medium sized black doggies, they are as different as can be. When we spent an evening with them a few years ago, L was eager to show of all her tricks, begged for little treats, allowed herself to be petted endlessly. B on the other hand, could care less that visitors were around. After a courtesy look in our direction he went about his ambling around the house and snoozing. Sometimes he watched L play with us, from the corner of his eye but did not budge from his lazy spot under the table to play along. Their owner told us this was typical and that L was the “pleaser”. So that is how some of us in this world function. We aim to please, appreciation drives us and we spend a lot of our time making plans to please others.

So the food aspect of my FIL’s trip more than any other element, and more specifically – “What the hell do I cook everyday for a month?” drove me to extreme planning measures the weeks leading up to his trip. I drew up a schedule with basic vegetable and lentil dishes that worked together. This menu if executed will absolutely be a highlight in my domestic career as it pushes the limits of my 6 year Indian food cooking experience. I am only about 4-5 days into the plan and can already see it takes the daily thought out of cooking and saves me time as I just have to prep and cook according to it. A few of my friends have already asked me for this schedule and I might just patent it at the end of this month! Of course , its early yet and I shouldn’t jinx myself here. The only huge problem in the current scenario as my FIL is extremely nice and non demanding but taciturn, and his non-committal looks on food dished out might not necessarily mean disapproval or disappointment .But of course , I take it to be. And spend more time revisiting the menu and tweaking dishes, replacing some evening with surprise snacks and things that he might like and giving him options.

Getting back to the cooking, I am learning more everyday. A huge lesson here is learning to cook just enough for a meal or two and not copious amounts. The only improvement is it’s now a few spoons of leftovers, instead of a container full and I am disposing of most of it by consuming it at the end of the day. So that usually means that you will find me in the kitchen as I clean up for the night, hurriedly scoping some palak dal or bhindi subji up with a rye cracker or slice of bread and stuffing my mouth. It’s easier than finding a tiny container with lid to refrigerate it. I also learnt to become extremely efficient in the kitchen. I use my time wisely and multitask even better than before. My vegetable chopping happens for the next day as my milk is boiling for curd setting , my dish washer is unloaded in the morning as the tea boils. My electric cooker and its settings have been mastered for Indian cooking. So overall it will be a huge month for self-improvement and learning if nothing else.

The husbadoo hates to see me stressed out about any of this and is constantly reminding me that we are married now and that impressions don’t matter a hoot. He offers to help in any way possible to lessen the load but given my obsession to impress, I refuse help and I am even paranoid about him being spotted with so much as a knife or a cutting board in the kitchen. On the other hand though, he is blown away by the quality of the food in the last few days, or maybe the poor guy is finally getting some fresh homely food daily, and he is dishing out the praise in tons. He relishes every single thing made so far and let me know, largely making up for my FIL’s lack of food commentary. This in turn is making me feel all soft and mushy towards the husbadoo in general and we have shared many a quick but passionate kiss in the few nooks and crannies of our little apartment and I am less critical of his non shaven look , hours of cricket playing and longer-than-my-liking hair style in these last few days. So my little domestic world is fine with atleast two happy campers.

How a two year old does spring break

9 Apr

So Bandar was out of school for Spring Break for a few days recently. This was the first spring break that she kind of understood as a holiday from school and spoke about about in anticipation the weeks prior.I wish we could travel and go somewhere for these mini breaks but of course it doesn’t materialize sometimes. And let’s face it – Bandar honestly can be happy anywhere- be it at a beach on the Caribbean or at home here, as long as she has us. So the travel lust is purely for me! Anyway, that said, I did want to give her a few treats and make a “staycation” out of a few of the days if I could.

– We kick started spring break with buying Bandar an ice cream cone from this ice cream van that is always parked near her school. I knew she had a bad throat , but despite that gave in and bought this for her.My theory was that if she worsened or got a fever, we would  hopefully recover in five days anyway. She was thrilled that I actually stopped and bought her the cone.She ate it on her way home in the stroller. One of the  other reasons I don’t normally buy her an ice cream on her way home, apart from the throat and cough issues she perpetually has is that, I hate the sticky mess on her face, neck , clothes , storller as she eats it.  But then on that day I figured, she’s a kid once and what is spring break without a messy ice cream cone treat. She was almost gleeful as she proudly ate it and every passer by stopped to smile at this messy little monkey! Oh and poor Bandar had some coughing spells later that night and since, which may or may not have been aggravated because of the ice cream.But being a mean mommy, I did tell her that the ice cream was probably the cause. She has now decided herself that she won’t have any more ice cream till her third birthday as she doesn’t want to cough. I am sure we will break this resolve come summer though!

– Friday , Bandar played at home while I worked. In the evening, at 6:30 pm, we went to the husbadoo’s office. His campus is seriously one of my favorite spots in the city.Bandar’s too as she loves to run and walk on the lawns.After playing around in his office for a while, we headed out to our favorite ramen place. There was a 45 minute wait during which Bandar was seriously on her best behavior, we ate some delicious vegetarian ramen.The evening couldn’t have been more fun. We had our favorite table at the corner that seats the three of us perfectly and is worth the extra long wait. Bandar alternated between salad and some ramen which I doled out for her into a small bowl. Can I just say again that I love this age for eating out. So much fun to share things you enjoy with your child. We walked back home too and I got about 5 miles total walking that day , which I was thrilled about. Must have worked some of the ramen carbs off!I hope:) We wanted to stop for cupcakes on our way home, but the bakery was shut as it was past 10 pm. The only dampener to the evening came afterwards for me when I learnt that Ramen usually has MSG , and it is probably no better than Maggi and is probably not something we should be feeding Bandar. Oh well, what’s done is done and we will have either not go here this often or not worry it.

– Saturday , the husbadoo went off for cricket. Bandar and I had a fabulous morning. We went to the library and read a ton of books for an hour. We then went to storytime . Bandar is clearly fascinated by babies. She loudly exclaimed , “Amma, I just love babies so much!” Is that cute or what? I had to stop her from running to any little baby she saw. She calls anyone smaller than her a newborn, even if they are well past the age of one.

-After the library, we went to Starbucks. Bandar’s first visit. I bought her a kiddie hot chocolate, got my chai  tea latte and we shared a yogurt blueberry muffin. Bandar also ate a little of her khichidi and veggie lunch that I had with me. We then went to an arts and crafts store and picked up some treats – Beads to string, a basket ball hoop and ball and sand toys.Afternoon nap at home for Bandar and we had fun that evening playing with all these goodies.

-Sunday morning started with skype sessions and we then decided to set off to explore Chelsea Market. I am so glad we saw this little nook of Manhattan. Indoor food stalls and restaurants, lots of trinket shops. Such good fun. My only regret is the husbaodo and I did not eat enough for some reason. We started with sharing a crepe and had some tiny doughnuts in interesting but tasteless flavors( green tea and chocolate mesquite). The doughnuts had so much powdered sugar on them that it masked any other taste completely. Waste of calories and appetite. I ate a doughnut after a good five years and I will not be picking them up again anytime soon. Anyway, after that doughnut fiasco, we didn’t try any of the other amazing veggie options there and instead we picked up cupcakes to eat at home.

At home , we relaxed with sharing some cupcakes and catching up on the previous season of Masterchef Junior. Bandar loves this show now and requests to watch “the children cook” . Her interest usually lasts a few minutes only though and she wanders off, letting us relax and unwind. Sunday evening saw just Bandar and I goofing around the house as the husbadoo went off to work for a few hours.

– We had a nanny arranged for Monday and Tuesday as we both had work, while Bandar was off. She played wonderfully well with the nanny. She’s got into this cute habit of enquiring if any guest “is having a good time?”. Her next question usually is “are they happy”. Anyway, Monday and Tuesday were crazy hectic for the husbadoo and I at work, and late work sessions till the wee hours happened and pizza was ordered. Hopefully we have a calmer rest of the week. The husbadoo still made time to take Bandar to the park on Monday. So that was another little spring break treat.

Also, I want to remind myself if I read this years from now, that this was the time we made significant potty training inroads. Pats on backs all around.

So that my friends, was Spring Break 2015.And now please let’s have some spring weather around here.

Those were the days

6 Apr

I was tasked last week with writing a letter to my 17 year old niece who is graduating high school and leaving for college this Fall. I thought long and hard about what to say and finally wrote a few heartfelt lines for her. She has a good head on her shoulders and will undoubtedly be fine and do really well academically and socially, and my advice was mainly about taking care of herself and enjoying the journey.

Anyway, that said, this task took me back to thinking about some of my own college experiences. Here’s a glimpse!

  • I can now admit unabashedly that I followed a boy to college! And a terrible one at that. Yes, I actually based my entire life’s choice on where I would go to college and what I would study based on the fact that this silly high school boyfriend (HB) was going here. Thankfully, we broke up within a month of starting college and were in different branches of engineering. It still made for irritating canteen bump-ins and uncomfortable “hellos” through the four years. I cannot advise other people not to do this, as I again did this for my masters (this time though choosing to follow the husbadoo , then boyfriend to the US),and I don’t regret it. In retrospect, if I hadn’t followed HB to this college, I would never have met the husbadoo and so maybe all is well.
  • I was in a branch of engineering that had very few girls. The boys and girls in our class did not talk for the first few months . After that, interactions started in pockets – mainly for copying assignments! I was a part of a group of four girls, all pretty similarly raised and similar in outlook, (very important to note as we basically did not relate to about 70% of our class in anyway) and we spent the better part of the first two years looking at other more “hep” branches where the boys and girls ate lunch together wondering if we would ever be friends with a small sub set of boys in the class.  Oh and no love interests in the class at all, this was purely from a platonic stand point. At the end of maybe 3 years, this eventually did happen and we have had maybe one or two group lunches. I know such a “non – big deal” in other colleges and courses maybe but biggish here.
  • Assignments! We were in a field that had a lot of engineering drawing – almost three years of it. So these massive sheets required a lot of time and effort. Usually one person in the class came up with the design, mostly picked up from seniors work from years past and the entire class would make copies of the sheet at the copy shop conveniently located across campus. As this massive sheet ended up as maybe 16 A4 sized sheets, you then took the copies home and drew out your own sheet. I have personally not done a glass trace as the apparatus of a glass top table and light below the table were not easy to set up at my place, but I must have been in the minority.
  • The food! The canteen was after all a government college canteen, so prices were quite low on almost all things there. The Rs. 15 grilled sandwich was maybe the most expensive thing or the Rs. 17 Schezwan fried rice in a scary bright orange which usually two people or four shared. So your pocket money usually went a long way. A Rs 2.50 vada pav and cutting chai for I think Rs. 1.50 were a staple. There were more expensive places we went to around campus though to break this monotony. Oh and all of us brought our dabbas to college, we would usually end up eating those at 11 am and then hit the canteen later in the day. Basically a lot of food through the day.
  • The yearly college fest ! Where do I start? Firstly there was a rope separating the boys and girls, so that no funny business happened. Of course, it did outside the college and other parts of the college that were not roped off. Each department had a fashion show and ours was usually the most awful. We girls showed up to see hot guys and slutty girls from other departments and in four years never once participated in our own department’s show. During the first two years our aim was to escape being roped into this and making fools of  ourselves on stage.This involved stressful situations and frustrating our seniors who worked hard to recruit people for this show. The latter two years, we blissfully were not even prodded to participate and didn’t bother to organize anything at all.
  • Sports days and mandatory girl sporting events – box cricket , basket ball were all terribly humiliating again. None of the girls in our department played a single sport decently. But we had to play these to uphold the department’s honor so to speak and I have vivid memories of awful basketball games were maybe one girl on our side knew how to even dribble the ball. (And no, that wasn’t me. I really suck at most sports.) So we used to have a huge audience , mostly irritating boys roaring in laughter during our games. Maybe I give ourselves too much credit, that they were there to see our miserable on field performance. They were probably there to see the hot little IT girls we sometimes had to play againstJ
  • Exams and results results! College seemed so hard when I was in it. I kept thinking I was a misfit for the course and I think I am still the worst engineer in existence but the one thing I did know to do was work hard. Looking back, I read the prescribed books, notes, learnt how to design stuff that I had no interest in  (You can look up  mould design or jig design , to get an idea) and did quite well in all the courses.

In our engineering courses, if you attempted a paper for 100 marks, you would definitely pass with maybe scoring somewhere in the 60s. God help you if you ended up not preparing and had to attempt any lesser.  If you only attempted 80% of the paper, you probably might be border line pass or fail at 40%. In short, there was a huge disparity between what you wrote and what you scored. And results would come a good month after the next semester started. So someone would find out the results were coming out that afternoon. The rest of the day would be spent in fervent prayer. And finally the administrative laddie would come out with a huge roll of results and put them on the notice board for all to see . And you would scramble to find your name and heave a sigh of relief at passing. In the first two years, invariably, someone you knew wouldn’t pass and would get a “KT”. You would then spend the next few hours trying to commiserate with that friend. By the third year, everyone seemed to have got their act together on how to study and these situations were very few.

  • The gossip, the professors, the fear! Ours was a smallish department where everyone knew about everyone’s business. When the husbadoo and I started dating each other in our final year, I had major freak outs about the profs finding out about us. The repercussions could range from them calling your parents to being failed in your vivas. So I lived in fear for the most part. But I guess they probably did know  but nothing was really done about it, thankfully. We invited these profs to our wedding too a few years down the line!

Writing this and reminiscing makes me miss college. I am barely in touch with a handful of people from the so called “group” I was in. Most of my classmates are on my Facebook and it’s amusing to see pictures of weddings first and now children starting to pop up.

I remember when I was in college; I was always more stressed than I should have been. I made a huge deal of every single assignment, social event, exam, result declaration, boy trouble – all of it.  But somewhere in between all this, I guess I was having a good time!

Isn’t it funny

1 Apr

-That just the second day after I take up the challenge of getting  Bandar to bed and asleep at a decent hour, I fail miserably in my mission and Bandar puts up a fine one hour display of chit chat and randomness at bedtime?

– That these random antics were amazingly cute and adorable, but I was too stressed about getting her to fall asleep and getting out of the room to enjoy them a wee more?

– That I desperately crave carbs  (a delish bowl of peanutty noodles from the fridge) , not chocolate, after this bedtime ordeal but instead have to settle for a healthy but boring kale smoothie that I have to trash if not drunk tonight?

– That kiddie snacks (Goldfish and Chocolate Teddy Grahams) are crazily addictive and have to be eaten to cleanse my mouth of the smoothie taste?

– That Bandar has chosen the busiest night of the week for me , when I have several hours of office work ahead of me , to put up her fine sleep fight?

– That I seriously have not given tomorrow’s lunch boxes a single thought and might have to tackle them way into the morning hours after above office work?

– That the husbadoo also is working but from his office and it is already 10:30 PM , but will hopefully be home soon and that we both can finally get some couple – time on the couch tonight, even though we will be on our respective laptops working?

– That I need to absolutely have some random reality TV on in the background as I work, but the current episode that I am watching actually needs my attention as I am missing some choice cat fights?

– That I am actually taking a break to blog this as I munch my Goldfish crackers and procrastinate starting work?