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I Need a Fresh Start- Update

13 May

It has been 4 weeks in a row and not a single update on my blog!!

I felt clueless and in parts powerless to write about the rhetoric that seemed to be playing back and forth.  Two months at my mum’s place has been all about relaxation at one end of the life spectrum while the other end made a nervous wreck out of me

Four weeks of utter bliss where I did not have to care about what Mimi’s eating, when she’s sleeping and who’s doing the laundry. But these four weeks were ridden with inglorious dark circle inducing tension of getting back to work. I didn’t get around doing any weekly updates because, I knew it would spell only the tantamount of ranting about the difficulty I am facing, getting back to the work front. I even tweeted about it – “Advice: To would be mums/new mums. Be very sure about leaving your job and staying at home. Searching for one after a break is very difficult” which was retweeted several times and proved that so many stay at home mums felt and seconded my opinion.

So this is the primary thought on my mind and rest all seems sundry.

Apart from that to keep my sanity and to release the negative energy I joined the local gym. My instructor made sure that I had nothing on my mind when I left the gym. I joined the gym for 20 odd days. My schedule was a gruelling one resembling a boot camp. The session spanned over 2.5 to 3 hours everyday barring Sundays and public holidays. To start with,

Some simple warm up exercises and light stretching.

Running on treadmill for 30mins ( 5 mins running – 2 mins walking). I have always run on the treadmill for 30 , 45 mins to 1 hour but this walking -running strategy tired me out more than the running at a stretch. The heart rate plummeted up and down making it very difficult to complete the 30 minute session followed by some stretching.

Weight training ( different parts – different days) with 3-4 sets of 25 repetitions.

Ab crunches + leg raises ( 250 in sets of 10 +200 in sets of 8 )

20 minutes of elliptical trainer

20 minutes of cycling

Finally, some extreme stretching which was a nightmare. But after that I was able to walk back home in one piece.

But towards the end of it all my trainer was devastated when the weighing machine did not move in the favourable direction. My weight remained effectively the same, but I feel fitter, more energized and pepped up. But my enthusiasm did little to assuage my trainer’s disappointment who thought he did everything towards making me look like Deepika Padukone in Dum Maro Dum :-). I had to console his depressed soul that all the fat had converted to muscles and the weight hadn’t budged despite this was because muscle was heavier than fat. He only nodded while posing for the photograph above.

In other news, driving had to be abandoned because of the lack of time from both the student (me) and my teacher. A lot of public holidays ensured that I didn’t get enough practice and my reversing skill is a thing my teacher wouldn’t be too proud of. But I am confident that I can drive safely through shorter distances where I wouldn’t need to reverse, which unfortunately means, I wouldn’t be able to park my car in a parking spot!

So with all my thoughts centered around kick starting my career I have decided to let go of the negativity that came with all the rejections. I have decided to take one thing at a time with a little planning thrown in. I have decided to make a fresh start and to see how it goes from there. If it means taking a few risks, so be it. It has been in my nature to take risks and I am not afraid. I need blessings though to keep a straight face when things aren’t going my way.

So cheers to a second chance at life!!

The Smashin’ Week

18 Apr

Disclaimer: Long post ahead.

After a lack-lustre last week, this week was brimming with stuff to do. A lot of it was happening for the first time. I have to admit, this recounting of the week gone by is a great mental exercise along with the promise to myself that the coming week would be better than the last one. Since long-term planning isn’t something I am good at or maybe it doesn’t work for me, I look forward to each week and in turn each day with equal measure of planning and anticipation of the unexpected.

1. Here, in the State of Kerala, the atmosphere was electric as the election season was on. Loud speakers blared the entire day and hoardings of young something candidates graced both the sides of the road. It was impossible to miss the fervent sense of purpose that hung in the air. I got the taste of the extent of how politics affected the common man in this state, when I was stopped en route to my driving class and was asked by some stranger whether I was going to vote. I was flummoxed to begin with but then managed to convey to him that I didn’t have the voter’s card for the State of Kerala. He seemed unconvinced and left me with a disdained look on his face. Whilst in the driving class, as I patiently waited for my theory class to start the fellow students asked me the very same thing. I went on an explanatory mode telling them about how I have an Uttar Pradesh voter’s card rendering me incapable to vote here. I could sense the utter disappointment in their eyes and the informal meeting was adjourned only after a lot of head shakes and comments of how one precious vote was lost. I felt like a total failure and shivered at the thought of ever confessing that I have never voted in my life. So finally all the voting culminated on the 13th of April and with it my guilt of never having voted. (Don’t anyone of you judge me. I have my own reasons of why I haven’t voted so far.)

2. The week also saw me writing an online exam to enable me a learner’s license. It was an experience to go to a government office, in this case a Collectorate’s office. I had to battle an insanely long queue for every single activity to reach the final goal. To add to everyone’s woes the weather was hot and sultry with no circulation inside the area where the test was to be given. Since this was the first time I had to interact with the government employees I observed the whole process where people had to appear convincing and a little servantile in the actions to get their work done. So yay! I got my learner’s after all and what it means was that I could start my driving sessions on the road. So the first and second class have already happened and my on road experience has been mixed. I am not terrified being on the road and I mind my own business by looking ahead and not bothering what vehicles are climbing from the side like aliens out there to attack ( Okay, I admit I am bit terrified but I pretend that it is still a simulator lesson going on. Seriously, it is easy to trick my brain. But don’t try it okay!!). I have theorized 3 driving rules and have decided to follow them no matter how the external factors influence the cruise.

1. Look straight ahead as far as I can see so that I have an 180 degree view on both side, even if hazy.

2. Keep my hands straight on the wheel

3. Relax my shoulders and keep my grip on the steering and gear a little loose to enable smooth maneuver and avoid strain.

These have worked for me but since only 2 classes have transpired, I would have to keep up at it. Driving in India/Kerala needs a different mind-set and an iron heart but I guess it all works out in the end.

3. Mimi’s NI( Naughtiness Index) has jumped to new levels all of sudden. She seems to be endowed with extraordinary stamina and a speed to match. She runs and runs and runs till the cows come home. Even after that, she shows no sign of slowing down. I feel that in certain characteristics it wouldn’t be wrong to say,” Like mother, like daughter” and it also proves that life comes full circle. Every now and then I see my mum smiling ( a little contemptuously) which says, ” Now you know, what it was like with you running around and not paying heed to anything”. I constantly worry about Mimi’s safety when she makes dare-devil jumps off the bed and the couches. In one such event, she dashed her forehead against the wood shelf  and now sports an ugly looking gash. It was terrifying for all of us but some ice packs and little ointment later she was back to her usual stuff.

She has also started to imitate our actions and apes us all the time. It is funny, really. She has also learnt a lot of new words in Malayam and understands most of the instructions. It is a joy to see her respond and how she celebrates each of her accomplishment by clapping hands and running round in circles. There is so much I learn from her. Being hard and self critical about myself all the time, hasn’t really done any good. I can be a little short sighted and neglect the fact that I have done a few things  in life that I could be proud of and should celebrate. But  years of such conditioning amounting to baseless self doubts and unnecessary complexes make it ever so difficult to appreciate what I am and I have achieved in life. But I have to thank Mimi for atleast making me aware of these disabilities. So to celebrate this new self awareness, Mimi and I shopped!!!

Well any reason is good enough to shop, isn’t it? We roamed about some local stores and struck some good bargain. I bought Mimi her third set of Pattu Pavada- which is an ethnic wear in this part of the country.

Mimi’s vaccination too happened in the week and she scared her doctor by not even flinching a bit while being vaccinated. She just strode off my lap once the vaccination was done and got around exploring the doc’s room. The doctor was shocked beyond words and was rendered speechless for sometime. I had a doubt whether the vaccination was actually administered or not. But the doc showed me the empty syringe. We all had a good nervous laugh about it.

4. I miss Amit a lot but I constantly get a feeling that he misses Mimi more than he misses me. I appear to be understanding but somewhere it does hurt me a little when he only wants to listen to what she has done and wanting to only see her on skype. Grumpy:-(. I think I have to understand what he must be going through and be a good sport about it.

5. 15th of April was our New Year and my ( and Mimi’s ofcourse) first in Kerala with my parents. So it was rather a special one. One of the rituals for Vishu includes looking at the “Kani” at 4:30 am in the morning. Kani is a paraphernalia ( all  items such as gold, yellow mangoes, yellow cloth, yellow flowers-  Golden shower tree called Konna in malayalam- and all things yellow are arranged in a plate). It is considered auspicious to see it the first thing in the morning. We were all dressed up in Kerala trademark white and golden get up. Mum had gone through the trouble of making “sadya”- traditional feast which included ripe mango curry, mixed vegetable called avial, sambar, chakka ( raw jackfruit) uperi, payasam ( rice pudding) etc. We had a sumptuous lunch after which it was difficult to keep our eyes open. It was a fantastic Vishu- New year for us.

kani

Sadya- feast

6. 16th of April was the day my uncle ( my mum’s brother) was turning 70. It was a huge occasion and his sons wanted to celebrate it in style. All the relatives were invited for a grand lunch followed by a musical orchestra and dinner buffet in the evening. The only problem was the heat and the humidity. It managed to get on everybody’s nervous as we were drenched in sweat at all times and fans were absolutely ineffective. But the musical programme was enjoyable since some eminent music directors, playback singers and reality tv singers were invited to sing and perform. Mimi had a fabulous time interacting with her cousins.

7. Amidst all this drama  I managed to make apple jelly pudding. A detailed post about it would follow in the next one. It is one of the best puddings I have had till date. After having spent zillions of hours on food blogs, I have probably acquired the knack of selecting and distinguishing a good recipe from a bad one. For this reason,whatever I have tried making in the last few weeks has invariably turned out well. Touchwood. I hated it when many times in the past, I had so many failed attempts trying to bake and cook out of a bad recipe. But, now I know better.

8. Finally, the week was marked with some good news with BlogAdda featuring one of my fiction pieces as  Tuesday’s Tangy Picks. Some recognition definitely motivates me and pushes me to do better.

So that is how my week culminated and am already looking forward to the current one. Here are some photos of the fields around my parent’s home. My camera and my photograpy skills do little justice to the panoramic view.

*Shrugs* Week

4 Apr

How sometimes, when you are travelling and you fall asleep, you wake up with a start to realize you have crossed so much distance and time had evaporated. It feels surreal and imagined. That is how my week went by me. It happens, when you are in too much of comfort that you stop thinking. I realize now while I write this post, that because I stopped thinking, life doesn’t seem like a struggle anymore. But for that matter, life doesn’t seem anything.  A Frame (of time and mind) devoid of any feeling and emotion and just passing by  like a rivulet flowing when it had rained torrents  the other night. I also realized since I didn’t feel neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction, I had nothing to crib about. Nothing to crib about meant, you are automatically happy, no?

Now from my rant, you can pretty much make out how thoroughly useless I have been this entire week.

With the exception of this, I have done nothing else but watch the Cricket World Cup, eat tonnes of maggi and be on twitter, like my life depended on it.  I spend the insane amount of time on my laptop that my father almost believes that I can play the harmonium.  He refuses to believe that it is all for job hunt. Darn! he is always right.

Also, this World Cup matches have ensured that my husband and I have very little communication. Only when India wins we softly congratulate each other over the phone. That must change. We are breaking all the rules of a long distance relationship.   If our past experiences of staying apart have to be taken into account, we are very very very very bad at being good to each other. This is mostly because, both of us are totally uncomfortable phone users. Chatting does help at times but mostly the Internet – God ensures that by the time we have only finished exchanging pleasantries, the connection conks off. I might have conducted a video chat with innumerable friends, a zillion times but in the last two weeks, my husband has managed to see me and my daughter for a few measly seconds. So that is how things are. No, I am not complaining. We are used to this, and we have accepted it too. It helps keeping tempers from flaring, you know.

My daughter is probably the most unpredictable toddler ever. I was expecting her to show some signs of separation anxiety or the likes towards me. But it seems she is showing such anxieties only towards my father. But it is the sweetest sight ever to see her huddled up and going to sleep when my father’s taking his afternoon nap. When I insist she do the same with me, she never obliges. Mothers are not supposed to be treated like that!! But because she spends more time with him and lesser and lesser time with me, she has learnt to mouth a few words in malayalam.

My mum would be taking voluntary retirement towards the end of this month and is looking forward to spending more time with Mimi. She is more enthusiastic about my food blogging than anybody else I know. She helps me select props for the photographs and constantly pushes me to do better. Since the time I sent my Chatti Pathiri entry to the Kerala Kitchen community, she has been following up with me about when the round up on the same was going to happen. She has always been like this. Very competitive and always wanting to do the best she can. I think I get that  quality from her 🙂



Finally, some action did happen towards the end of the week. One of them was, we  ( India) won the cricket world cup and I showed some emotion akin to what looked like tears in my eyes. Unfortunately I had zero avenues to  get drunk and enjoy, so I had to be content with tweeting with drunk people. Also, on Sunday, we ( my parents, my daughter and I) took a trip to my grandmas’ home. She lives in a village and it takes about 5 hours travel by car to get there. The serpentine roads make sure that by the time I reach there, I have no energy or excitement left to enjoy the few hours that I get to spend with her and my cousins, aunts, nieces and nephews. By the time, I am feeling upbeat, it is time to head back and to feel wretched again. In between my usually jolly daughter vomitted and by the time she reached home, she was exhausted and cranky. In fact when she stepped inside the house, she actually heaved a sigh of relief which sounded a lot like “phew”. Then she shrugged and got on with what she does at home, that is, making  a mess.

So each time something emotion-worthy happened, I caught myself shrugging like I didn’t care. This isn’t like me at all. I don’t shrug, I don’t usually let go. I hope I get my mojo back on this week since there are a lot of exciting things waiting to happen. It even hurts my fingers to type exciting which is mostly because Mimi has plucked some important vowel keys from my laptop keypad.

Well *shrugs* again.

The Holiday Week

26 Mar

Life couldn’t get better than this. As I wake up ( at whatever time I please), I get a whiff of freshly ground coconut chutney tempering and filtered coffee. Yes, I am in heaven or somewhere close, that I call my mum’s home. Breakfast is always ready, bed always made, clothes already washed & folded and dishes do the themselves ( well a maid does them).  However hard I try, I don’t seem to be waking up to help my mum or she seems to be done with it before the cock-a-doodle crows. Life is bliss right now, as I look out of the bedroom window and see a red cow grazing in bucolic grace. Our flat is surrounded by lush paddy fields. The cool breeze, the dancing rice saplings and the herons flying off in the horizon are the sights that welcome me each day. I could sit here forever and find inspiration to type away on my keyboard. All that restlessness is fading away and I feel every inch of me relaxing in a way, I haven’t for a long long time.

Until… my daughter sneaks up from one side and switches off the power button on the laptop. Grrrr…

Well that’s the real life. My life.

For weekly update, there hasn’t much happened to quote and note. Each day seamlessly blending into the other before I look up notice. I haven’t even decided on how long I am going to stay put ( my idea is forever but I am sure my parents may think it unreasonable :-)) here in Cochin. Before my hubby left for Bahrain ( he left because his office reopened and he was summoned immediately), we had a chance to cruise around the by lanes of Fort Kochi. An unappetising place, to say the least. We also happened to sample a lot baked delights from the local bakers. K. R. Bakes, Cochin Bakeries, Bread World to name a few. Though am not sure about the star quality of ingredients used, the cup cakes and the meat puffs were delectable. Through Bread World, I also stumbled upon their gourmet super market that sells cooking chocolate and fleur de sel. A pleasant surprise indeed. I stocked up on butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, cooking chocolate, food colour, ricotta cheese and all that.  My only glitch in this excitement is that my mum doesn’t have an oven. But as she is pretty upbeat about this whole food blogging thing, we have geared up to take up some challenges. Watch this space for some delectable  Kerala delicacies! We did indulge in one such staple snack that you can catch up with here.

Apart from the gourmet hoarding, I chanced upon a Betty Crocker Mix of the Devil’s Food Cake that I made for Namit’s Birthday. I wanted to see if I was close to the original or not. Also, it would be an experiment – first of its kind for me – to make the cake in the microwave. Well it turned out quite okay but was extremely rich after I slathered the decadent dessert with plenty of chocolate glaze.

Rest of time I spent being on twitter, watching the Cricket World Cup  (especially the India Vs Australia match) and reading some books I ordered through Flipkart. I flipped ( literally) with joy when the courier guy rapped at my door to do the delivery. Books ( affordable ones) are so hard to come by in Bahrain and for me a service like FlipKart is a blessing. I ordered for, not surprisingly, “Julie & Julia” -by Julie Powell,  “How to be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson, “Women & the Weight Loss Tamasha” – by Rujuta Diwekar, “Cake decoration for Beginners” – by some publisher. Once  I am done with them or any of them, I shall post a two liner review about it. I still  have some more books to order but my purse strings have been tightened by my conscientious hubby. 😦 I know eventually he will come around. 🙂

Being here in Cochin has its own perks because my daughter has found her own toddler community in the building and spends absolutely no time indoors. I hardly get to see her as she is running out to play with her mates or even by herself. She ignores my existence until she feels hungry or sleepy. I am not complaining!

In other efforts to keep myself busy, I tried to enroll into a driving school but due to some paperwork and the  likes, it did not work out. I have to figure another way out. Also, I am trying to enroll myself with a pastry making course  in Kochi and that too hasn’t met with any success. If anybody can give me any leads, I shall be most grateful.

Finally, I want Amit to know that I miss him very much ( he would blushing to his temples by now) and such a public declaration of my affection would send him to his shell instantly. I also miss my dear friend Namit and all the wonderful weekends we spent doing restaurant reviews, dinners, and sight seeing ( by now Namit would be a deep shade of crimson, slowly turning purple and shades alike). I am sure Mimi misses you both, but right now she is a tad busy doing her stuff. Also, Gayathri, I miss our chats. Somehow, since the time I have come here, we haven’t had the time to connect properly. Hoping that it would be better over the coming days.

Because I miss seeing both of you together



The Revelation of a Week

18 Mar

* I have combined the happenings of the last week and the current week in a single post. So much has happened and somehow in my mind, I cannot make a distinction about when the previous week ended and the current set pace.

The past week (6th -12th March)

The weather here is Bahrain is changing rapidly. The nip in the air has disappeared and it is getting warmer by the day. You can tell from the way, the flies buzz around and the people have a  skip in their step. Spring is upon this part of the world but it is unlike any spring season I have ever seen. There are no flowers blooming, no humming birds singing, and no larks chirping. In this part of the world, Spring is ushered in by a Spring Cultural Festival which stands cancelled due to the current political and sectarian problems that plague this tiny pearl of a country. Spring is here, and I know because, people have shaken their ennui of the desert-winter and decided to attach more furore to their askings from the their Government.

The week was not as clueless like the last. My mind was occupied with plenty. It was Namit’s birthday on the 9th of March and I took a lot of time to decided which cake I was supposed to bake. Finally I had to choose from the Caramel Cake and the Devil’s Food Cake. I flipped a coin to decide and Devil’s Food Cake won. So most of the week I was consumed by the preparation of this cake. The recipe is as follows:

Devil’s Food Cake

as adapted from David Lebovitz This dark glistening cake is a mean feat considering I did not follow the instruction to the tee.  I did not have 2 spring form cake tins as instructed in the recipe.  I made it in a single one and then cut the cake into half to make it a layered cake. The chocolate ganache is the literally the icing on the cake. It is the ganache that pushes the cake to the next level. But it was a joy to bake this one and I had my fingers crossed all the while. When I finished it, I knew I had a winner in my hands. My effort paid off when Namit enjoyed a huge piece of the cake and demanded to take all of it home.

THE RECIPE FOR THE DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE

For the cake:
9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups cake flour*( don’t worry if you do not have cake flour on you. I did not too. I made it like this)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup strong coffee (or water)
½ cup whole or low-fat milk
For the ganache frosting:
10 ounces or 285 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup water (or cream)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
Preparation:
1. Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment paper.
3. To make the cake layers, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.
4. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. (If using a standing electric mixer, stop the mixer as necessary to scrape down the sides to be sure everything is getting mixed in.)
5. Mix together the coffee and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the coffee and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.
6. Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.( Alternately, what I did was to make a single cake and then cut it in the middle to make it into two layers)
7. To make the frosting/ganache, melt the chopped chocolate with the water (or cream) in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.
8. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk them into the chocolate until completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Cool until spreadable, which may take about 1 hour at room temperature.
To frost the cake: Tilt cake out of the pan, remove the parchment paper from the bottom and invert it back onto a cake plate. Cut the cake into two with a large knife carefully.  Spread a good-sized layer of icing over the top. Top with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides with the remaining icing as decoratively as you want.
I also used chocolate sprinkles and dark chocolate shavings to give it the final touch. The cake looked divine when all the candles were lit. Stunning without a doubt.
I would highly recommend this cake if you are thinking of baking a birthday cake. It is chocolate heaven for serious chocoholics.
We were such a happy lot on Namit’s birthday and spent so much time trying to figure out what all we can do together over the weekend. We came up suggestions like going to the traditional Souq market and doing an indepth research on what produce is sold there so that we get to know the culture even better. I was to come back and write about it on my blog. We also decided on watching some movies like we did the previous week. So far we completed a movie marathon of Anjana Anjaani, Band Baja Baraat and Aisha. Band Baja Baraat was a fun movie and I realized I missed Delhi more than ever. We also watched Phass Gaye Obama which is a rib tickling comedy and I laughed the whole time over home popped pop corn and onion rings. It is one of the better movies that has been cleverly made but put down my poor production value. I cannot say anymore about production value as it is something I stole from the discussion that my hubby was having with our friend, Namit. 🙂
The current week (13th – 19th March)
* I had typed a whole lot of emotional stuff under this note but for some reason it all got erased. I tried to retrieve it desperately but couldn’t. Maybe it was not meant to be out there. I felt drained after the emotional out pour and decided to scrap the post itself. But my hubby asked me keep it and said he will write the current week section for me. I was too upset and shrugged to his proposal. But he kept his word and the extract below has been written by my hubby.
The week started on a surprising note. On Sunday morning after late night viewing of Avataar (the series) Amit  received call from Namit informing him about the unrest. Protesters who had been protesting across the road from Amit’s office have decided to come “on-road” and stop all the traffic. With Ofiice literally out of bound there was no choice but to stay put at home and enjoy the remaining episodes of Avataar.
Feeling – Holiday Yipee!!!
Monday – No improvement in the situation. The protester were staying put in their position and even when police force tried but they did not budge. TV stations were playing in loop the confrontation between protesters and police. Twitter world was buzzing with tweets of claims and counter-claim. Amit was busy checking with colleagues and friends about the situation and also some cricket gossip thrown in good measure. With No Avataar to watch ( we completed viewing all episodes) a sense of being trapped in the house overcame us. However with maid and cook arriving and super market open gave the feeling of life in normal mode.The only surreal part was lack of cars on the roads.
Feeling – Holiday Yawn!!!
Tuesday- The day of great political moves.
With govt declaring an 3 month martial law/national emergency along with arrival of forces from neighboring countries made it clear to us that situation has gone from bad to worse. We kept oscillating between staying-put and flee options. The roads were deserted and the whole place was giving an eerie feeling. The supermarket was closed for  a brief period but still no matter of concern. Then we heard  a small arm fire and teargas shell being lobbed just 100 meter from our house. That was too close for comfort . With teargas slowly wafting through our window our decision was made. It was time to pack bags. Hastily tickets were scrounged and concerned people were informed. The major concern that day – “how will we reach  the airport”?
Feeling – Mild concern!!!
Wednesday- Overslept and got up to find the mobile network was down. Alarmingly checked internet , but thank God it was working, albeit slowly. We received an email from Amit’s colleague stating that he had reached the airport, first in the morning. He was supposed to travel to the  airport with us and that kind of left us in a lurch. Nobody knew if the route to airport was open and how long it will remain open. The luxury of get-up-and-leave is not available to people with kids. Kids arent much concerned with the polictical situation but they can create their own situation far worse than political one , if not peoperly planned for. All moms will agree travelling with kids need meticulous planning , you need to plan for their feeding, sleeping, changing and entertainment needs. All these needs meant that we could not leave in a huff but the phone kept ringing. Concerned Parents from either side, Colleagues who had already reached airport , Friends planning to join for the trip to airport & Arrangement for transport further complicated the issue. All this, in addition to the minor  anxiety of the possibility that we might be offloaded at the last moment, if the airlines decided there were too many people.  Finally at 2pm the packing was completed and transport arrived and we left for airport ( still 6 hours before our flight). The streets were deserted although traffic lights were working.
Then came the roadblock.
With exposure to so many Hollywood movies we thought we have seen  all kind of weapons and guns. However the actual sight of an M113 Armoured personal Carrier(APC) with the lead gun man pointing a gun towards you gives you a chill. This as the first time I’d seen a gun pointed towards me ( though I knew it was a general direction) and I can say I just stopped short of giving a peace sign to him with atleast one of my finger refusing to give the support and I ended up with a finger salute. Men with fingers on gun trigger are not supposed to have good humour and I was in no mood to test that hypothesis.
Fact of the matter,  we were waived off and after some unnecessary diversion  reached the airport. After that point the sense of relief was over-powering and the only thing capable of ruining the feeling was the customer service of our airline.
Due to travel warnings there was mad rush at airport with smart alecs checking in for flight 24 hours ahead. Due to such smart people airport was teeming with people and airport resembled ISBT Delhi on a lean day.
Now we are safe and typing this post from comfort of my mum’s home. I am glad we took the decision to fly back as soon as possible. Still sitting here, my mind keeps going back to the protestors and the families of the deceased. All I can pray for is that better sense prevails and peace is restored.
Further plans have been suspended for a while till the situation abates.

Clueless Week

11 Mar

I have spent several afternoons trying to pen this weekly update.  The words did not come out. I am at a loss here and have had to resort to distraction. But to tell you the truth, distraction does little to help recall the events of  last week.  I tried to think of ways to remember such as using Mind Maps by Tony Buzan (Thank you , Namit) but nothing.

Such acute amnesia can only mean that there was nothing to report about over here. Also, the situation is, with the current week going south and my previous week’s update remaining unfinished, I had to offload it somehow.

So I am going to write about how each of us ( Mims, Amit and  me) spent the week.

Mims – She’s been hooked on to the nursery rhyme dvd and keeps watching it in loops. She dances to it and  claps her hands in glee. That reminds me, she also likes the Glee Series on FOX and tries to follow their routine. A cute a sight, really. As far as vocab is concerned, she hasn’t been all that  inventive. One addition to her vocab is Anu. Yea, my name. She calls me by my name now. My heart melts at the sound of it and my guess is she has picked it up from all the times Amit calls out my name. But Mims goes, “A-nooooo, A-nooooooo”. Every word out of  her mouth is a celebration. I feel like baking a cake or atleast a cup cake for that joy. An over indulgent mum, you may say. But far from it, I see myself getting angry with her at the slightest of misdemeanour. I keep promising that I would bite my tongue as soon as angry words threaten to spill out.

She has also found sanctuary in action and puts no effort to learn any new words. If she wants something, she points out her tiny finger at it and says “Mimi , Mimi” which is a sure indication that she wants it right this instant. She points a finger at her mouth or runs to kitchen, each time her stomach growls for food, she even operates the dvd player to play her favourite nursery rhyme dvd.  Sometimes for sheer impish pleasure she calls out to Amit and says “Fa -Fa”. Amit is floored with that mispronunciation too. We shopped for some really pretty summer dresses for her and new shoes too. Her old shoes ( really cute ones) are tad too small. A sign that my daughter is growing or atleast her feet are!

Amit – There is very little that I have attempted to write about him First because he feels too self conscious and asks me specifically not to put his photographs or mention him. But I still do, because he is a biggest slice of my life  and my life has revolved around him. He thinks otherwise, but what’s important is, I think it does. He is a homebody and is most comfortable in the company of his family. He hates venturing out until it is absolutely necessary. He does so more than often because, I like going out. As a person, he is extremely reserved but for appearance sake he may come across as being extremely gregarious. He is the happiest with a book in his hand or surfing the internet for historical fact-finding. He is attached to his past and forgets nothing. I can go on and on but he would be very upset with this transgression. The past week has been all cricket and the World Cup for him. Work has kept him busy and the rest of the time he spends on cricinfo. He comes home and demands a family hug from us like the Teletubbies lot. He also critiques all my baking efforts and minces no words if they aren’t unto his high standards. Before sleeping, due to the dearth of books, he prefers to watch super hero animation movies. Currently he is hooked on to the Avataar Series which is about the The Last Airbender. I have to admit, this one is really addictive.

Me/ A-Nooo – I haven’t had the easiest week. Mentally it was the most confusing and frustrating. Job hunt has been like a wild goose chase and has been giving me some sleepless nights.  While I search for a job, I constantly debate about going back to the corporate world. I know in my heart, it is not the kind of work I enjoyed. I would like to be involved in something more creative. That being said, I have  had all my work experience with a single company. Would it be wise to base my decision on such a small sample size? All these questions would be answered with time, I know. But I feel my time is running out and a clock is constantly ticking inside. Do any of you feel like this??

When I feel like I am stuck in a quagmire, I channel my energy towards writing, baking and running. That brings me to some level of peace  but then the basic questions remain unanswered, so the vicious cycle continues.

But my baking efforts have been spectacular. I surprise myself because I was a non -baker once and to come out with such tantalizing treats shocks the day lights out of me also. No no, I am not being immodest. Really.

Over the weekend, we invited Namit, for a pao bhaji treat. This is my favourite Indian street food and if it was possible and if the calories didn’t count, I would have eaten it every single day. Considering it is fairly easy to make and makes for a tantalizing a snack, it wouldn’t be wrong to guess that it would be made in almost every North & West Indian home.  It is still to catch up in many parts of south India, while I am no position to comment upon how Pao Bhaji is percieved in the east.

The recipe  for Pao Bhaji ( Bread and spicy vegetable mash) goes like this:

Ingredients:

2 large Potatoes ( boiled and mashed; skin peeled)

2 large onions

2-3 Tomatoes

1-2 Capsicum

half cup of green peas

1 cup of cauliflower florets

1 large brinjal

1-2 medium sized carrots

Pao Bhaji Masala – I use the Everest Brand*

200 gms of Amul Butter or any butter will do. Salt variety tastes better.

Salt to taste

Lemon Juice

Coriander leaves for garnish

Chopped onions ( separate from the above mentioned onions) for garnish

Garlic & Ginger paste (optional)

Note * – If you do not have pao bhaji masala, you could use, a combination of coriander powder, Amchur powder ( mango powder), red chilli powder, garam masala, cumin powder

Preparation

Boil/pressure cook all the vegetables except onions and tomatoes and keep aside. Boil, skin and mash the potatoes separate from other vegetables.

Chop onions and tomatoes and keep aside.

In a large pan, heat some oil and fry the onions first. When they turn pink and translucent, add tomatoes. Let them fry for a while and keep stirring with a  spatula. Then add the mashed potatoes and mix thoroughly. Let it fry for a while. At this stage, you can add the garlic ginger paste.

Meanwhile, try mashing the boiled vegetables as much as possible and then add it to the potato mash mix in the cooking pan. Mix thoroughly while mashing all the same. Make it as homogenous as possible. Add 100 gm of butter first.

Now add the Pao Bhaji masala or alternately the mix of masalas mentioned in the note. Mix well.

Let the vegetable mash cook well in the masala. Add salt to taste. When the oil starts leaving towards the sides of the pan, take the pan off the fire.

The remaining 100 gm of butter could be used for grilling the bread and for topping the bhaji ( vegetable mash). More the butter, the better it tastes. Obviously.

While you plate up the bhaji and the pao, you could give the bhaji a squeeze of lemon juice and top it with chopped onions and coriander leaves.

Thats about it. Now have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, because, that’s how I enjoyed it.

My baking venture of the  week was Lemon and Blueberry Banana Bread and with vanilla custard.  The banana bread encrusted with juicy blue berries was well recieved and with vanilla custard it was a surely a trip to heaven and back.

Lemon & BlueBerry Banana Bread

Banana bread is by far one of the easiest baking expeditions, I have undertaken. But gratifying none the less. A far cry from the usual chocolate and strawberry, it calls for the comfort and the warmth of bread with almost cake like consistency but none of the fan-fare attached. The Blueberries give the burst of juice in parts over the mellow  taste of the bananas.

The Recipe for Lemon Blueberry Banana Bread

Yield: One loaf

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

3 medium ripe to overripe bananas

zest and juice of one large lemon

1/2 cup butter

3/4 brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries*

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup pastry flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lay bananas (skin still intact) on a baking sheet and throw them in there for about 15 minutes. When done, remove the bananas from oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven down to 350°F.

2. While the bananas are roasting, grease an 8 x 4 loaf pan very well.

3. Now we are going to brown the butter for maximum flavour enhancement. In a small pot, melt the butter over medium heat and continue to heat until it begins to foam up. Don’t stir it, instead swirling it as it foams. Once the foam dies down and begins to take on a rich brown colour, remove it from the heat. Set aside.

4. Peel the bananas by cutting a slit in them and gently squeezing them into a bowl, they should come right out without a fight. Mash them up with the lemon juice and zest.

5. Stir in the browned butter, sugar, vanilla and buttermilk. Gently fold in the blueberries.

6. In a separate bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add to wet and combine, but do not overmix!

7. Immediately pour the batter into the greased pan and pop it into the oven for about 60 minutes. When done (toothpick comes out clean), remove from oven and set on a cooling rack for about 20 minutes before turning it out to cool completely.

Consuming all these goodies is negating my work out effect. But I am keeping at it like an indefatigable warrior. Now I am looking to cut back a little on baking for a few days and try some new dinner and lunch recipes especially Kerala style food.

I am participating in the Kerala Kitchen challenge hosted by http://magpiesrecipes.blogspot.com/p/keralakitchen.html and am proud to have already submitted an entry of Pathiri and tomato curry to the same. What this will ensure is, that I get to learn and try new Kerala recipes. So kudos to that!!

A Week in Pictures

1 Mar

Sunday’s Sanctuary

Monday’s Memories

Tuesday’s  Tales

Wednesday’s Window

Thursday’s Thumbprints

Friday’s Friendship

Saturday’s Socialite



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