Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Memories for future

I am not sure if I mentioned this earlier on my blog; mostly not! In the early weeks of my son’s birth, my husband came up with a cool idea – creating an email account for him; and mailing him from now on, anything. It could be updates about him.

I liked the idea and I created a gmail account for him. And since then I have mailed him...quite a few times! In the early weeks of course it was difficult to find time really, and later there were so many developments, I moved back to my home in Bangalore, then to the US…etc. So while adjusting to these changes, I lost track of mailing him.

After 5 months I today mailed him. Subject – Some updates J. I mentioned all the transitions and milestones he has been accomplishing since my last mail. One of his recent behaviors is that he is kinda scared of the mixer and vacuum noises! He wasn’t like this when we moved here. I use the mixer everyday to puree his food to feed him. So it’s unavoidable! And the times when I have to blend for dosa/idli batter; it’s crazy!

He is not a crying baby, he very rarely cries..but for the mixer and vacuum he cries terribly. Yesterday, my husband was with him and I warned him that I need to blend the tomato chutney so he is going cry now when I turn on the mixer! And as expected he burst into tears and loud cry..even with my husband being right next to him.

He was seeing me across the kitchen counter and still cried. So my husband and I both got a thought-that he might not be scared of the sound really; somewhere in his tiny mind he might be thinking that mommy is getting hurt L. May be that is why he breaks into a loud burst of cry! Like any 9 month baby he is very attached to me.

I have tried holding him and turning on the mixer to show him what it is and where does the noise come from. It’s my way to get him familiar with things; like I used to hold him and stand in front of the Indian pressure cooker to show him where does the whistle noise and white mist comes from. Somehow the fear of mixer noise is not going away.

Very often we think what he could be thinking! Since he was little my husband has been fascinated by this – what do babies think? If there was some device to find it out! 

So hopefully these mails will be fun for him and us in future to read!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sunday “Shudh Desi” Brunch

Yes, as planned yesterday today’s Sunday brunch was ever comforting pure Indian delicacy – Pav Bhaji. The bunch of Pav (dinner rolls) were waiting all night. I woke up at 8am and started off prepping all vegetables. Also got to use the complimentary food processor I got in my Oster kitchen mixer/blender package for the vegetables. Made my vegetable chopping so quick, with my husband’s help we quickly finished cleaning and chopping all the vegetables and set up the cooker! Aarav was busy crawling all over the kitchen floor around our legs. He also got his share of vegetable mix for lunch!

11 am and Sunday brunch was ready. Buttery pan-roasted Pav with spicy yummy steaming hot bhaji with a garnish of crispy onion and green cilantro and a dash of lemon juice! What a hearty warm meal for cold Sunday! That’s a good end to the long weekend of Thanksgiving!

My Father’s perfect recipe for the Bhaji, for those interested!
Pav-Bhaji: for 10 persons.
Ingredients: Vegetables– Capsicum, Carrot, Green Peas, Green Beans, Cauliflower, Tomatoes, potatoes 250 gram each and one onion.
Spices – Ginger- 10gm, Garlic – 10 gm (10 –15 pieces), four green Chilies, Tamarind - 2–3 gm, pav-Bhaji masala, Sambar masala.
Wash nicely all these vegetables before cutting and cooking.
Preparation: Fine chop capsicum, carrot, green beans, cauliflower and potatoes. Except capsicum cook all other vegetables in cooker till it whistles 6-8 times. Make paste of ginger, garlic, Green chilies and tamarind in mixer. Chop tomatoes in small pieces. Cut the onion in thin slices.
Making Bhaji: Heat a big pan/vessel. Put in100 gm edible oil. Once oil is warm add one small spoon mustard seeds in the oil. Add thin chopped onion and fry it till it turns little brown. Add chopped capsicum and fry it till half cooked (10-12 minutes). Then add above paste and fry for 2 minutes.  Add chopped tomatoes and fry it well for 5-6 minutes. Press this capsicum & Tomatoes well by some pressing tool like a masher. Then add vegetables cooked in cooker and mash it well with above tool. Add 25 gm pav bhaji masala and 25 gm sambar masala. Add salt as per your taste. Cook the whole stew for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with chopped coriander leaves and fine chopped onion, as you like.  
You can use other vegetables as per your choice and availability. If green chillies are big then use 2 or 3 only. Nicely mash all the vegetables till it turns in paste form or homogeneous mixture.

Bon Appétit!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

French Croissants and Indian Pav!

Step by step - from left anticlockwise
I am late by a fortnight in posting about my croissants! I had been mentioning it for so long …and finally I took up what seemed like a herculean baking task. I kind of kept it as a mark of achievement; if I can make croissants then I am here to stay in the world of baking.

Final product - Croissants
Started off on the 2 day process from Friday morning, planning to have croissants for Saturday breakfast. Coming straight to the point, the final result of croissants were good.. I wouldn’t say excellent. As they were not flaky like I wanted them to be; the store bought croissants are flaky like puffs. My croissants were soft and buttery and yummy but not the exact texture I was aiming at. I have learnt a bunch of things that can be done differently next time, which can get me closer to the flaky croissants. For now, these are good to move on! I am proud to have reached this milestone on my baking journey!

Home made Pav bread - dinner rolls
The long weekend of Thanksgiving is on here and we are at home for 4 days. The weather here in Nashville is very very cold; as cold as -6 degC. And having an 8 month old makes it even more difficult to step out of the house! The second day was bright and sunny so we stepped out for some lunch and Indian grocery shopping. It’s been a while since I made Pav Bhaji and have been craving to eat it. But every time I want to make it, one of the vegetable is missing in my refrigerator! But this weekend I have all the ingredients to make my Father’s special Pav Bhaji! To make it more exciting, I decided to make homemade Pav, another first time baking experience. They are so so simple to make!
Shiny butter glaze top
So Sunday special menu is fixed – Can’t wait to get up tomorrow morning and cook up some yummy Bhaji to go with the Pav ready on the kitchen counter!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hand of God

My cousin brother, who lives with my parents, sent me this picture the other day; with the email subject – Guess who? Who in the world cannot identify the hands of their parents; those hands that held you first time you were born, ones that taught you how to walk, ones that held you all through your growing years and will forever!
"Hand of God"

I replied right away that it was my mother’s hand.  As obvious as is her saree in the back…I still instantly recognized her hands, the particular shape of her nails, the wrinkles she lately has developed..all through her physical hard work. She is a working woman, working both at home and at the bank! In the recent months when I lived with her during the birth and early days of my son, I noticed how she is busy at home all the time. Always cleaning something, furniture, grains/lentils, kitchen, vegetables or cooking. Of course she does watch TV, her favorite Marathi serials. But in these times when life is so easy and quick she still does a lot of things the old way. My husband those days once said, “How much your mom keeps working. Every room she leaves is neat and clean”.

As we had a couple of chain mails on this picture, I remembered a phrase ‘Hand of God’. Sometime ago it was someone’s email password, I don’t remember who. That’s how I know this phrase. I thought it was a perfect caption for the picture.

I googled the phrase just to see where does it come from; came across Soccer’s Deigo video – Hand of god where he made a goal with his hand and won the world cup for Argentina!  I further googled to see if it had any mythological reference. Well it has in Jewish and Christian culture.

To me, the caption brought deeper levels of interpretation of this simple picture. J

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Double standard

Facebook is full of Sachin’s retirement.
“Sachin retired...people cried, disappointed blah blah. I know it’s such a loss to watching cricket now...I am a great fan too. I have enjoyed tons of matches watching him play. But somewhere it crosses my mind, as to how much we Indians are attached to public personalities! Everybody retires, OUR PARENTS retire, but don't ever see posts of the same! Nobody mentions how their parents felt when they retired. I spoke to my Father 3 months ago when he retired and how empty he felt that day. That he choked thrice at work while saying goodbye to the 'other' family he had for 30+ years! Cricketers, actors, politicians - they play such important roles in our life! We forget they are doing a job! Jai Hind!”
I posted this today on my Facebook. Very few had the same views and liked it; as most of them as still in the agony of the GREAT RETRIREMENT! Why do we have such double standards? Why don’t we see jobs as jobs! Actors are doing a job, politicians, sportsmen…all the same!
A couple years ago when YSR…Andra Pradesh politician died in a helicopter accident, I read about how one or more people committed ‘suicide’ because of the loss of a great politician! REALLY??? So for these people, their parents come later..beyond these money raking public personalities? We never read a news that a son committed suicide after his parent’s death! Why are we so obsessed with public figures? At the end of the day, Sachin did his job of playing cricket for the country, yes we are proud of his achievements as an individual and as a country, and yes he had to retire some day, so another Sachin has a chance…that Sachin could be one of our sons!
The hypocrisy behind loving him and hating…until last year people were fed up of him…openly saying why doesn’t he retire already? And when he finally does, people want to cry and miss him and tweet and compose a song! Truly, I wonder what Sachin thinks of all this!
My father-in-law retired in 2011 and we (my husband, me and my brother-in-law) has flown in to town to surprise him on his last day of work! I feel sorry that my father did not have this moment of joy, as I and my brother both are here in the US. But I did make it a point to talk to my father and enquire on his last day. He did seem very down, like a lost battle. But it ain’t that bad as he got an extension and started his work the next following day. Point is my father and mother are idols to me, and yes their retirement bothers me much than Sachin’s!
Some of the over dramatic posts on Facebook were –

Life se ek question khatam ho gaya ................."Tendulkar ne kitne banaye?"

There is nothing left in Cricket now, time to start following other sports.

Can FB/ twitter release stats? How much posts were there for Sachin's retirement? I bet more than Obama winning the polls

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Baking..I've got the tools!

It’s been a busy cooking time for me….for a while now! Diwali was simple this year for us…thanks to a 7 month baby at home who crawls all over the place following me, which makes cooking quite a task! Last year during my pregnancy I managed to make 4-5 items for Diwali in Bangalore; this year my husband asked me to avoid getting into any elaborate cooking. Still I decided to make Obbat …puran poli in Marathi.

My Oster hand  mixer
Since I got the baking craze in my mind, I had been looking for an electric mixer. The cool branded ones cost about $350-400 which is way too much to cater my new found hobby. I looked online for used mixer which still cost about $250. I was ready to shell out some $50 max. After a lot of research and review reading online, I shortlisted Oster’s clean start hand mixer. Typically baking mixers have 3 attachments – dough hooks, whisk, beater. I was looking for a hand mixer that came with all these attachments. My idea was that if I can’t afford the expensive mixers at least the hand-held mixer should have the attachments. And then identifying the features and speeds eventually brought me to Oster’s clean start mixer. Another reason I trusted the brand is because I have a regular cooking kitchen mixer/blender of the same brand which works well for my needs of dosa/idli batter, sambar, Aarav’s food purees etc.

I take part in online surveys that give some money; I had mentioned this in my recent post. I was waiting for my first paycheck of about $40, which would cover my hand mixer costing $29.92. I was eager to earn this mixer! Well by the time my paycheck came, it was Diwali time. We were in Walmart for some shopping and I just wanted to see if the mixer is available in store, coz it is available online. Searching through the appliances aisle, we found it! So my husband forced me to buy it off then itself than delaying it for my paycheck. And then came Diwali Padwa..for which I thankfully accepted this hand mixer as a gift.
Cake rusk for tea time

So the first item I made using the hand mixer was cake rusk; I realized that the Biscotti I made before was more dense than the store bought rusk, which lead me to realize they are slightly different. So I followed the cake rusk recipe, and in 10mins I had the cake ready and then getting the pieces roasted took some 30mins…but it was all so easy and they got over in 2 days…straight! So now I will make a bigger batch!
Off late I keep watching only cooking videos, especially breads! I have been watching Croissant making for a long time now; I am just too lazy to kick start as it’s a 2 day process. In the mean time I saw simpler recipes of banana bread, zucchini bread, sponge cake etc.

First ever Banana Bread
So after a long wait I finally was all ready to make my first banana bread yesterday. Ready in the sense you need really ripe bananas, which generally isn’t the case! Luckily the recipe I followed didnt need an electric mixer. So once I put Aarav to his nap, I started off with a spatula and whisk. Two hours later the bread was ready. I had never eaten one, so I was too eager to taste it; didn’t bother to wait until my husband returned from work. I was busy taking pictures of it when my husband called, right when I was thinking of him. He was excited to know it’s done and ready! So quick!

Slice of the nutty choco chip banana bread

Next week my husband has a potluck at work (meaning everyone bring a food item to share with all). So my plan was that if he likes this bread, I’ll make the same for his colleagues. When we lived in Spokane 5 years ago, one of his American colleague’s wife would sent baked goodies to work and he’d mention it then. I would wonder back then that I can’t make any baking dishes; the least I could do is Indian sweets like Gulab Jamuns…serving that to American colleagues would be a task with the sticky syrup and cups and spoons..I never sent any back then!
Now I am excited I can share some food that I can make and they can eat easily..and most importantly, they’ll like it!
One of these days I have to actually take up making croissants; I love them! Same goes with puff pastry, I never knew I could make our Indian khari using puff pastry – thanks to no baking knowledge!

This week I got to know about Tarla Dalal’s death. I never knew she had a cooking show of her own. I searched for her on youtube; watched how to make jalebi and rasgulla…never knew rasgullas where SOOO EASY to make! At least that’s how it looked in the video. I have never followed her cook books or recipes; but from her video she reminds you of your grandma, the way she talks so sweetly and convincing you that nothing is difficult to do! I might watch more of her videos to learn some of the very basic Indian food delicacies! RIP Tarla Aunty.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Spine of the home..Yes we are!

I came across this article on facebook. It literally points down every single minute of my life..and of course of all other women! It's pleasing to see a man pen it down voluntarily!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Best Buy …indeed the best buy!

My laptop adapter was living its last moments since a while now. You know how the adapters are ….the point close to the laptop where they crack and eventually the power supply cuts off one day..leaving you aghast (in my case the battery is dead long ago…which is mostly everyone’s case too I believe). Yeah, so aghast that now there is NO-WAY to switch on your laptop!!!
Moreover not all laptops have the same adapters, so there is a rare chance you can use or borrow other’s adapter! I am not an online shopper; somehow I feel there is a high chance of cheating online as I will never see the product I buy until I pay for it and it reaches to my door. Being Indian, we are used to the ‘No exchange policy’ all through our lifetime shopping in India. That’s why I am not an online shopper. I might as well go to a shop and buy what I see and like!
So here I was at a point where I had to buy an adapter ONLINE! I googled all website that were selling, chatted with a DELL rep for the actual adapter; they apparently are quite costly…around $70ish. That’s a lot of money for an adapter…which die every now and then. I checked with my brother who lives here in the US for a long time now. He suggested me ebay, best buy; ebay had some really cheap ones like for $8-10..but they were unbranded. So we were not sure to buy and then have it blast the moment we plug it in! Eventually I decided to go with Ebay. I placed an order for Denaq DQ-PA-12-7450 adapter ($25 including $2.99 shipping charges) which is compatible with my Dell Inspiron 1545! I ordered it on Nov 5th Tuesday and the website said it would be shipped by Nov 15th. So I was mentally prepared to wait for it to reach in 10 days. But to my surprise it reached in 2 days, Nov 7th! How fast is that, totally unexpected!
I totally loved this online purchase for the speedy delivery; moreover its working fine unlike some website reviews that said the adapter didn’t work or burnt etc! Here I am posting from my laptop using the new adapter! The joy of using your own laptop is so amazing; I had my husband’s official laptop for last 2 days..but it’s not the same. After all it’s for official purpose and I feel guilty using it to watch cooking videos or a couple of Marathi serials!
I take part in online surveys of yet to release products or already released products. These days quite often I see a question – which of the following activities have you done; they have options like ‘complained about a product to the company’, ‘posted a review about a company on a blog, social network’. Now I can choose the review option for my online purchase on Best buy! 
I am surprised as to why dell adapters are expensive here in the US. We bought one this January, in Pune from a DELL outlet on MG road and it cost us 1600/- which is approx. $25-30. Pretty much what I paid for this Denaq adapter!
While we are on adapters, I wish there was only one kind of adapter that goes into all the laptops. Life would have been so much easier eh! Well I think it’s just another marketing idea; the more different adapter models, more are the sale and hence greater business!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fall is here

View from my Patio
It’s the colorful time of the year…fall color changing leaves each day. I have a great view from my patio. There is a tree right in front of my patio that is almost red now…from green to yellow-orange to red now…Each morning is so pleasant to see a more red tree! But of curse all those pretty looking leaves are going wither!

It’s time for American festival of Halloween! Kids dress up as some characters/object and go door to door asking for treat..sweets! Also they have pumpkins decorated around the house..most often the pumpkins are carved with a face and a lamp is lit inside. So you see a face glowing in the dark.

Paper lantern - 2012 in Banglore
Last year during my pregnancy, I started to make a paper lantern. Something very common during Diwali in India, especially Maharashtra! I had never made one and my idea was once I have a kid it would be a yearly craft task we do. Back then when I hoped of having a daughter, I said to my husband that I and my daughter will do this craft item every year for Diwali. I did the entire lantern from scratch; sticks, thread, color paper, paper cut outs! I never got to posting about it on the blog…my husband and my brother in-law did the final lighting of it.

The tools and the mess

This year now that we are here in the US, I wanted to do the pumpkin carving. So I bought a small pumpkin just for a trial. Lack of knowledge and experience brought my plans to dead end – the pumpkin was too hard to work with my regular kitchen knife! Its 30th Oct and I don’t have a carved pumpkin outside. Actually I had a 2-in-1 plan, the pumpkin to be a Halloween and Diwali thingie! 

Happy Halloween and Happy Diwali! ---- 2013
I was feeling down about the waste of pumpkin, so I kept it out at the door. But while I was feeding my son, I got the basic idea of a lantern…holes! So I got to hammering the pumpkin and the stem was cut out. Way for the candle/lamp to go in. Now I had to hammer in holes on the side! After quite a loud hammering session, I had a pumpkin lantern! All I used was round screw, a cooker (hammer), spoon and paper!  Lesson learnt – soft pumpkin next time to carve out easily!

Home made Stacy's Pita chips bread!
A fruitful day; ended it with first time flavored pita bread. They turned out so good! I used onion powder, garlic powder, red chilli spice mix, Italian dry spices, sun dried tomatoes and our very Indian curry leaves! With some butter on it tasted awesome, next we just toasted it on a pan..delicious! I know I am going to be making a lot of Pita breads! Thanks Stacy;s Pita chips, for making me learn Pita Bread!

Happy Halloween to all!

Anna Prashana, Loveless Cafe and Pita bread

Chose the book first
Over the few weeks I have been trying to find time to post latest updates. About a month ago, I started semi-solid food for my son. Earlier it seemed a huge task and I did a lot of reading online, checking homemade recipes. But now it seems very easy, thanks to my mom’s easy suggestions for homemade food. 

I performed a simple Anna Prashana ceremony (first time semi-solid feeding) at home. I have never seen a ceremony, so again I sought the internet to find how to do the ceremony. Internet makes everything so easy. I found a site detailing the steps in the ceremony. Found another website that lists the auspicious days (muhurtams). Only important missing parts are relatives by which I mean his grandparents; our parents! But again internet to rescue, as we have two laptops; each was engaged to have a video conference with each of our parents. So we did have our parents through the quick ceremony.
Next the money!
So now-a-days, I am quite busy setting up Aarav’s meal and feeding him. Luckily he is a good eater; he loves the homemade food I give him and he is always eager to eat. Meal time is approximately 10-15mins max! But now that he is growing up he is almost crawling all over the place. My laptop is always the target! He pretty much spreads himself over the laptop, so much so that I fear my laptop is going to be in 2 pieces soon, with the screen and the keypad apart!

We haven’t gone out much these days, reason being the weather; it’s getting cold here now, cold enough to put on the heater at night! When we were new here my husband was looking for must-see places of Nashville and since then he had this place called Loveless Café; apparently it is a hot tourist place. We learnt that the biscuits here are famous. Now biscuits I don’t mean the ones we eat in India. Somehow the systems in US are always different than ours; we use kilometers and they use miles; we use liters and they use gallons! What we eat as biscuits in India are called cookies here in the US. And the biscuits I mentioned above are soft bread like food; almost similar to our Pav bread, but a bit more dense and moist…you can say close to the texture of a cake.

Anyways, we finally made it to this place. By the time we reached it was 11am and it was so crowded with wait time as much as 2 hours if you want to sit inside and eat; to pack and eat it out would still take 30 mins. So as its obvious we got our breakfast packed and sat down on the wooden benches outside the café! Yes their biscuits are yummy; but its more of a southern style place which obviously means all kinds of meaty breakfast. I am eggetarian meaning I don’t eat meat but eggs I do. So luckily I most often find a menu with garden omelet; or eating out in the US becomes really difficult for veg options! It was the beginning of October and pumpkins were places around the café..and quite large ones.

Aarav @Loveless Cafe, Nashville,TN
My son was asleep by the time we finished our late breakfast…pretty much lunch I’d say! And I really wanted to take a pic of him on the pumpkins while he was awake. And we were about to leave when one of the café person saw him and was admiring him; she said do you want to take a pic of him with the pumpkins? I said yeah but he is sleeping already; to which she suggested I could lay him on the pumpkin and we could still take a pic of him. I was too scared to let him go; but he layed on the pumpkin so well that we got a few pics and she said she’d post his pic on their instagram website. So when I got home in the evening, I searched for their photo site and there it was -  Aarav sleeping on a pumpkin! We had a fun day! 

My first attempt at Pita bread 
In recent times, I have been busy looking at videos to make croissant, puff pastry, khari etc. I have picked up interest since I successfully managed to make Pita bread (using Bhavna's recipe on youtube) – its Arabic bread similar to our roti/phulka except that it has yeast in it. They puff up in the oven like pooris which can then be used to stuff and make sandwich. My interest to make this bread was because of this snack I ate “Stacy’s Pita chips”. They are so tasty, that I thought if I could make the bread at home, then making chips out of it is a 10min job! 

Making the flavored one today..waiting for the dough to rise and I should have the Stacy chips by tea-time!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Biscotti Baby!

Soft dough ready to go into the oven
Yay! I did it JJust one post ago I said I was eager to make Biscotti; one of my first full-fledged baked dish. I finally got the chance to make it today. Originally I was going to make it on Saturday; it’s easy to make on a weekend as my husband is available to baby sit my son who is hyper active these days, rolling all around the house. I literally pick him up every 5 seconds to put him to square one and he reaches the end of the room by the time I step in the kitchen.

Out from the oven after round 1 of baking
Since couple of weeks I had been gathering all the baking ingredients and I waited for the right time. Being a novice baker, I didn’t realize that the butter in the freezer was to be kept out all night to use it for baking the next day. So my Saturday was wasted waiting for the butter to come to room temperature L. By evening when I came home, it was perfect. So I laid it outside all night and today morning, first thing after my cup of tea I started off confidently. 

Sliced up for round 2 baking

The recipe is really so easy and quick to make. Of course, I don’t have the electric mixer stand to mix all the ingredients. So I had to go the old fashioned way, using a whisk and a big bowl to mix all the ingredients. My arm was already hurting in the first step of mixing the butter and sugar. Well, I went on and on…

Biscotti ready to dunk and eat with coffee

After laying it in the oven and watching it rise from pale dough to golden large cookie, it felt so good! Baking being new to me, it’s like magic. How a small slab of soft dough turns into this a big golden cookie! We couldn’t wait to taste them. I followed the exact recipe but for half the quantity. I wanted to try a small batch and see if I can really follow recipes and bake well. And I made simple Biscotti’s with only vanilla and anise extract flavors, nothing fancy for starters! What a day! Here begins my baking journey! Hope you guys don’t get bored with food and more food.

I have become a complete fan of Laura Vitale. Tried her simple stuffed mushrooms couple of days ago! Again just for trial used my left over mushrooms; her recipes really work! Oh FYI - Biscotti in Italian means twice baked cookie ...2 rounds of baking!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Veggie Pasta Bake – Thanks Laura

As I mentioned in my recent post that I have been looking forward to using the oven, today I cooked a pasta dish. Of course it’s not entirely baked dish; just the finishing is baked. I love making pasta. This time around I learnt and successfully made my first ever white sauce actually called Béchamel.
Veggie Pasta Bake - hot from the oven

I have been checking out recipes of Laura Vitale on Youtube; she's Italian and cooks such simple recipes. Every recipe I see, I wish to cook it right away. It all started when I started to look for how to make toasts/rusk…the hard bread that we dip in chai and eat. I knew they are also called Biscotti here in the US; I had eaten chocolate flavored biscotti in Starbucks once. So I started to look for the recipe and that’s how I learnt about Laura Vitale. I have almost seen all her Veg recipes and decided to cook the Veggie Pasta bake this weekend.

It turned out to be a successful adventure. I also cooked zucchini for the first time and loved it. Hopefully I will make some biscotti soon and have a post for it. If I get the recipe and final product right, it will be one of my best achievements in recent times, coz my husband loves chai and rusk! So wish me luck! J

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Oh my GOD!

How often do you get this question, “So, what are your thoughts about GOD?”? My counter question to this one would be, how do you feel when you are asked this question! To me it almost is as bad as a racist question! Why do we ask this question at all, to judge the other person?

Shouldn't your relation with GOD be one on one? Because now if we ask the same question to another relationship of a couple say wife, what are your thoughts about your husband – that would be crossing the limits. You are entering one’s privacy! Why should it matter at all what one thinks of GOD. God’s realization should be to each his own. It should not be influenced or forced.

I come from a family where my father is an atheist; he is an engineer and scientist by profession. His knowledge and intellect tells him to believe in what he sees, life is a form of energy. He has always shared his theories but then he has never forced them on us. We were always free to choose to believe in God. My mother, a working woman is averagely religious; such that she celebrates her couple of festivals round the year, lights the lamps before going to work and every evening; some days she gets late to work and hence can’t light the lamps. She doesn't think too much of it. Her thoughts “I try my best to do as much as I can”. Both have never forced us in to GOD or taken away.

Through my childhood, for every exam I have always touched my parents feet for blessings and good luck than running to the Gods. When I listen to my father’s theories I tend to lean towards nonexistence of God. My mother has taught me to pray to Lord Ganesha, so I do that. I am 31 and I haven’t put too much of my head to this HEAVY topic. My thoughts are, as long as we are doing our duties, responsibilities and being a good human being, that’s all we need. Isn't every god saying the same things? We always hear that God is within us. Then why do I have to sit 2 hours praying and show that I am such a sincere devotee? Or explain my thoughts on GOD?

Only recently I had to answer this question, and I answered just as above. Before this another time when I was asked this question, was a guy – possible alliance for me. Needless to say I never married him; the question totally pushed me away. His expectation was to be religious.

Religion/ God should never be forced. If we are good and we do good acts, what we’ll achieve will always be good.

Note: These are purely my views and opinion. This topic is no invitation for any religious debate!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pathenon – a glimpse of Greece

The Parthenon - Nashville TN
Over the weekend, we visited the Parthenon in downtown Nashville; which is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The monument is located within the Centennial Park, a large public park. The building from outside looks regular size until you actually come close to it; when it does look huge. Especially, the huge rigged pillars are enormous. The monument is surrounded by lush green park lawn. I waited patiently to get a front view of the monument without any visitors. 

Comparison of me to the size of the Pillars
We walked over the green lawn to find an entrance on the other side of the monument. The monument has an entrance fee of $6 – adults and $4 – children/seniors. The benefit of entrance is the chance to see the statue of Athena inside the monument.

I had read reviews about this tourist spot that the statue is worth seeing hence we decided to go inside the monument. On entering, there are two walkways full of pictures from the time it was built. The building was first built for 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition. It was constructed of brick, wood, lath and plaster and represented city’s reputation as the “Athens of the South”. The building was so popular that the city left the temporary structure standing after the Exposition. In 1920 due to crumbling pediments and decaying plaster, the city authorized the reconstruction with permanent material like concrete which finished by 1931.
The row of Pillars
Close up of Athena
The ground floor has paintings from 19th- and 20th-century American artists. One of the most striking pictures I saw was Edwin Howland Blashfield’s, The new Dress (1874). It has got this 3D look that for a moment I thought the pink paint is actually a silk cloth pasted on the canvas! Among recent artists, there are very intricate paintings by Paul Lancaster.
On the first floor is the ultimate attraction – The statue of Athena – Goddess of wisdom, prudent warfare and the useful arts. The original Athena Parthenos (lost in ancient Roman wars) was created by sculptor Pheidias in 5th Century B.C. made of ivory and gold plates. 


This modern statue was sculpted by Nashvillian Alan LeQuire. It is a magnificent piece of art standing 42’ 10” tall. The details are exact to that I read in the Wikipedia; left hand resting on the shield, left knee slightly bent, her weight shifted slightly on the right leg, the snake head by the shield, the Nike-Goddess of victory perched on the right hand. This statue is surrounded on its sides by original sculptural fragments from the Acropolis that where purchased from the British museum to be placed here. These are called Elgin casts. Also found is a statue of Gryphon - is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle's talons as its front feet.

Elgin casts
The Gryphon
Pillars inside have an architectural beauty - scroll finish
The New Dress painting
Painting by Paul Lancaster
Funny thing, I play short quizzes on this website dailybreak.com; and just a day ago I had played a quiz on Greek mythology where I learnt so many names of their gods and goddesses. The park is huge and I will surely visit few more times to write what's more to this park.

Note: Painting images taken over internet, as photography of them is not allowed.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to the land of abundance!

So we moved to the US...my husband is here for work and I quit from my work, mainly for my infant son...and the US job came along coincidentally! The last time we were here, it was 2009-2010. We lived on the west coast, the ever green state of Washington. Now we are in the middle of the country in Nashville, Tennessee. Its HOT here...hotter than Bangalore! Now I am wondering why I bothered to get my long coat that I bought the last time I lived in the US. 
It’s warm and sweaty at as early as 7am! So the AC goes on all day long. My journey was good considering we had a 5 month infant and a 22hr journey with one transit! He barely cried except when he was hungry or sleepy. I had passengers praising my son; that he was such a good baby! He sure was a good traveler.
Moving from India to USA is like building your whole life all over again, especially when you are married. You have to buy all the things all over again; the utensils, the bed, the furniture, the electronics etc. This being our second time, we have our lessons from before. I am myself shocked to find the smallest things that I brought along with me this time. Settling down here this time was not that difficult since we knew what exactly we need and where to get it from! But settling has been on priority thanks to an infant at hand! 
Pasta with eggplant puree, oven roasted potatoes and salad
Surprisingly, both I and my husband got sick after we reached here; but my son was fine until he got an ear infection after a week. The doctor thinks he got it from my husband; the cable and the maintenance guys here said that cold, cough and ear infections are very common in Nashville! Not a nice thing to hear! I surely don't want him to fall sick again! 
French bread with garlic, parsley, olive oil and mozzarella cheese
Now after 2 weeks, we are kind of settled with all essentials ready at home. And almost after 4 years, today I have cooked one of our favorite oven dish - Pasta with Eggplant puree; first time trial of baked potatoes and a salad! Had a hearty Italian/American dinner tonight! The best part of being the US, is the OVEN. Can't wait to start baking some dishes. I wish to master a few bread and cake recipes this time. For starters, I made some quick garlic bread with garlic, parsley, olive oil and mozzarella cheese - comfort food! 

Will start to share Nashville experiences soon...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Tribute to my grandpa

Last few weeks have been emotionally challenging for me..my entire family. My grandpa, mom’s father passed away 3 weeks ago. His health suddenly deteriorated. He was 84 and I knew he was growing weak. But while I was away at my mom’s place for my maternity, I hoped that I would return in time to show him my son; he eagerly longed to see my son. My grandma says, “More than seeing your son, he wanted to see how you play and entertain your child”. I have always been this crazy kinda grandchild, acting silly around my grandparents (that’s how you are); so to see me as parent is what he wanted to see! I am glad I have mentioned him at least once on my blog – funny incident. A few things to remember and mention about my grandfather!
A super duper movie buff, crazy for food, an endless gambler and a person with a huge heart to treat everyone each day- motto was ‘to enjoy life’. He always said that to my husband too, “Raj! We should enjoy life; what is the point of saving money if you don’t spend it to be happy”. Through my childhood he has been the first person who has introduced us to movies, theaters! I still remember watching my first movie with him Tezaab! In his younger days he was friends with the one and only Kannada superstar Rajkumar. We have photos of him on the set with the filmstars! So much so that I learnt that my mom and an aunt have actually worked in one of the films those times…a small birthday party scene! He’d watch every single hindi movie running in the theaters; Bond movies! I remember in recent years he had watched hindi movie Murder and he once said to me “Shilpa, I watched Murder. Excellent music”. Now we all what exactly that movie got famous for, so I went on teasing him, “Tata, we know what the movie is like” and I continued teasing telling my grandma “you need to check what movies he is watching out there”. In recent times he hasn’t been watching movies, I think the genre now a days are different from his times. He belonged to the Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar age of melodious songs and clean movies. His all time favorite movie has been Padosan and I think he might have watched it a zillion times!
Till his last days he never gave up on smacky, street food, non-veg; everything that the doctor said to avoid, he’d go and eat the same stuff. Another trait of his was, to eat something compulsorily when you are out. No matter how many people he has with him, he will make sure he treats everyone to some snack! Bill was always paid by him! About a year ago, my grandma was hospitalized and we all were visiting her. My husband and my two cousins were also there with me. After the visit, my grandpa gave me 500/- and said you guys go eat some snack. My husband was in awe to see him handing so much money just for some evening snack! To this date my husband says “You are so lucky to have such a grandfather.”
His routine since he retired had been visiting his friends at club every day, play some card games and return back home. I don’t know since when he has been into gambling, but we all know that whenever he’d visit Mysore, he would go to the race course and bet some money on the horses at the race. In fact, on his 3rd day ceremony we placed a pack of cards next to his photo. My uncle said we should also place a horse; that would make his soul happy!
A final confession I have to make; in 2011 when I lived with him I had some small argument and I had stopped talking to him. Almost for a month or two! I heard from other relatives including my mom that he’d weep and tell, ‘Shilpa, my grand daughter doesn’t talk to me anymore’. In subsequent weeks, I got back to talking to him, just as I always was with him. Now after he passed away and the fact that I didn’t get to see him before his funeral; I have this deep regret that may be I have been punished for my behavior in 2011, that I didn’t get the chance to even see him one last time!
If I have to celebrate his life, all I have to do is “watch a movie, preferably Padosan, eat some yummy junk food and may be go place a bet at some horse race or play a card game”.
A quote I read in TOI the other day, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” For me, I just feel like I haven’t met my grandpa in a long time, I don’t know when I will see him, but he is around here somewhere.
Sorry Tata, I wish I could have reached a week before and met you one last time. I will always miss your absence when I visit Grandma! Rest in peace Tata!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Madhuri and the grace of dancing

I am not a crazy fan of Madhuri Dixit..in general enjoy watching her. I have been really away from all movies that have released in the past 6 months. I just made some time to check out some videos of Ranbir kapoor’s new movie Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. I really want to watch it in the theater.
Browsing through the songs on youtube, a pleasant surprise was the song Ghagra from the same movie. I had no idea she is featuring in this movie too….probably just the song. Item song I guess!
You have to watch the song to believe, how an item song from bollywood can be done with full grace, zero vulgarity and no obscene dressing or dirty steps. Only Madhuri can pull off an item song like this. It’s a simple song with typical Madhuri dance steps, loads of expressions. And for an Indian mother of two, she has regained her look as good as in the movie Devdas..may be even better!
All the other items girls (Kareena, Katrina, Malaika, Aishwarya and oh god Rakhi Sawant!!) could take a lesson from this song; you don’t always have to dress vulgar and have dirty words in an item song! Now there is an item song that we can watch with the entire family and enjoy!
Bravo Madhuri! You rock!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tricks and habits..

Through my pregnancy I read books, websites about pregnancy; of course I never had the time to read about what happens once the baby arrives; moreover I always thought I will have the help of all existing mothers in the family J.  One of the greatest tasks is to put your baby to sleep.
Since the day Aarav was born, I started to set him a habit of rubbing his forehead which should put him to sleep. This is still working unlike Gayatri Mantra which we used to sing in his first week. Although I have noticed recently, if he doesn’t want to sleep and if I try to rub his forehead, he will shake his head indicating “don’t do it” or “I am not going to sleep”!!! But if he wants to sleep, he will close his eyes at the first touch on his forehead.
Recently when my brother’s friend visited us; who is also a new parent, asked me if I am singing songs to Aarav, I said why should I sing songs to such a small baby, he won’t understand any of it. He said songs work great for babies!
But just out of the blue two week ago, I ‘by mistake’ started to sing “Lakadi ki kaathi, kaathi pe ghoda” song and he slept!!! INSTANTLY! I thought it might have been a coincidence, so I tried it for 3 days in a row…and guess what, it really works! Now I have a nap song for Aarav which works every single time. Easy and quick way to put him to nap; a few rocks on the lap with the song and Aarav goes into deep sleep. Each time it works and it feels like such an achievement! But experienced parents are warning me to prepare more songs as babies will need a new song every month..
So now I have to go hunting for baby songs from our childhood times…because these days we have only sheila ki jawani, chikni chameli etc..and I don’t think he should be exposed so soon to today’s bollywood item songs…
Now I am working on tricks to make him smile! They are pretty much weird garbled sounds, more like noise for adults that make him smile…random pitches of ‘ooooooo’ sound work great on him..and it’s so true that, that one giggle, smile your baby gives is so priceless! It’s actually getting interesting as he responds back with his own sounds….precious moments!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mesothelioma and a Survivor’s story

Today I have a special article to post. I received a comment on a post to be contacted back from a person named Heather, saying she has a question regarding my blog. Assuming she has a question about India or tourist places in India or Indian culture… I sent a mail to her asking how could I help? To my surprise the response was from a cancer survivor, Mesothelioma cancer – requesting to share her story. Do I have to think twice to help? At this moment I feel happy that probably for the first time, I can use my blog to share a fighter’s real story and spread awareness to as many as possible.
I read about the cancer first and then went on to check out the video she shared. From what I read, Mesothelioma cancer is caused due to exposure to asbestos. I am going to directly share the email I received from Heather and also her video here. And I’d request to all my readers to share the same with as many friends as possible.
Hi there! Thanks for getting back to me! I am well and hope you are too. I am 44 and a mother to a quirky little 7 year old, Lily. She is my only child, and my whole world. When Lily was just 3 1/2 months old, I was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a type of cancer that kills most people within 2 years. As I’m sure you can imagine, the first thing that came to mind when I was diagnosed was my baby girl and how I wasn’t going to be able to watch her grow up.After intense treatment and recovery, I’m still here 7 years later and cancer free! My journey with cancer was a terrifying one and I'd like to turn my pain into purpose and become someone that other people can look to for guidance, inspiration, and hope in situations like my own. My husband and I recently participated in a short video about my experience with cancer and I contacted you because I feel that your blog would be an excellent place to share. I’m hoping to use this video as a tool to raise awareness of this horrible little known cancer that is such a deadly killer (and sadly, 100% preventable). I would love it if you would be willing to share my video on your blog with your readers. Here is the link to my video: http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather
Thanks Heather for choosing me to share your story. Your story is very touching and you are an inspiration for your positive attitude and the fight you led. I can’t express in words how pleased I am to know your fight had a happy ending. God bless you and your family. Wish you the best of times with your daughter Lily and your loving husband Cameron!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day...annoucement

It’s been a LONGGGG pending update from my side; Here is the formal announcement, I have become a mother to a handsome baby boy, Aarav. For those who are curious, the name Aarav means peaceful, calm. Frankly, we were always sure and hopeful, we’d have a daughter! So I had spent most of the time in finding a girl’s name; with 2 boy names, just in case J. After the initial surprise, it later sunk in, that we have a boy indeed! However, we had our baby girl moment after coming home- the classic event in India of dressing up a baby boy in a frock; yeah we dressed Aarav in a cute pink frock that we had bought in the past!
Aarav ...
The moment when my boy was brought to me in the room and placed next to me, and how instantly he curled up to me; that moment was magical and will be unforgettable for the rest of my life!
Parenthood is coming to me each day; learning and observing my boy’s behavior; trying to set some routines with him so we understand each other well. He’s almost 1.5 months old and now it’s getting fun with him as he is catching his sight of moving objects, watching my face and smiling and watching him kick his feet in full swing when he is in play mode. Unlike most newborns that are awake all night, my boy sleeps well through the night and doesn’t trouble me J.
Each day I am getting stronger; initially I was very emotional each time he cried…now I can watch him get his vaccine shots and pacify him J.
Time sure flies very fast; I was waiting for these 10months to go fast; anxiously waiting and wondering how I would deliver a BABY! And now he is already 1.5months and growing up so fast!
Today is my first mother’s day, being a mother and I thought it’s a perfect day to make my announcement to all my readers. Here’s wishing all mothers and soon-to-be mothers a wonderful mother’s day! And I will try to make time to update stories of my son….