Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The year of extremes, the dramatic year

2104 will be that for sure: The dramatic year!
Thankfully nothing extremely bad, but enough to take stock of life and count your blessings. Thankfully everything good was very very good.

On one end we were hiking on Volcanoes, swimming with fishes, dancing at weddings, engagements, road tripping, chilling with family and on the other extreme: we had couple of ER visits, car accident, calendar blocked with just medical work, more medical work. I have had MRI, MRA, CT and all poking and prodding possible. There has been lots of work stress, stress related injuries and in general just one day high, other day low moments.

But its me, its me always trying to look through it all for some silver linings.
The kids stayed strong, they massaged my aching arms, and they kept chirping around, they made the stress disappear. And for those blessed evening and weekend hours we get with them, all was forgotten and smiles ruled.
We danced a lot, we sang a lot, played a lot of games, colored, ate, cooked. Bliss.
Sumit, my partner in crime stood by me. On one hand he was making ice water bath for me and on the other hand he entertained the girls. He took care of both girls un-interrupted, flew alone with them and made me feel completely at ease. I can't imagine anyone making me laugh away the pains the way he did. He encouraged me to take another sip of water with 104 fevers, he cheated me in another round of exercise for the arm.
I guess timing matters, through my worst illness, my mom was over for her 'just like that’ trip. And it was perfect, well the illness not as much. I fell ill 4 days after my mom arrived. So for those three weeks, I was clueless about everything around me. It was my mom and my husband doing everything for me, the kids and the house. Everything functioned well and I am thankful for them for being around.
My parents, brother and sis in law gave all the moral support I needed
I guess through the thick and thin, it made me take stock of some friendships & some relationships. Some I called sobbing to in the middle of the night, some I just could not even pick up the phone to. Some stood through my weak health moments and others made it a conversation point. I renewed some friendships, made some amazing new ones and some I am letting them slip by. It hurts, but it's fine. So all in all, I think facing the not so good helps to see you more clearly.

For all of our trips and vacations this year, I happy to say we had a lot. I am content. Yes, you read that right, I am content, there could be no more, no less vacations. It was amazing reconnecting with cousins, planning, meeting friends after years, some after days. We travelled a lot and it makes me smile.
It's our thing, travel, travel with the kids, make them have memories of a lifetime and above all, chill and enjoy the moment.
But the year of extremes: I am done. I want a simple event free healthy year. An average year would be just fine!
 I am happy for 2015 to come, I am happy for the new beginnings, I am happy to say adieu for a year dotted with drama and happy memories.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's Just Hair? Right? ... May be not

It's hair, its vanity, beauty, identity, depends on whom you ask. For my almost 7  6 year old, Chatter Box, 'It's my decision'
Let me elaborate.
For the last year, Miss V has been patiently growing her hair. For as long as I remember she has sported variations of the 'Dora Hairstyle'. They have been short, manageable. However most of the girls in her class have long hair. When I say long, waist long hair sporting buns, fish braids etc. Playing 'Salon Salon' in break time was the thing for the girls. And Miss V wanted in!
So she grew her hair, went for the customary 1/2 inch trims, but she grew them.  She understood the importance of good hair, so let me oil them, wash them, tend to them.
And oh yes, I was happy. It was like; I have a little doll who tells me each day what she wanted. One pony, two ponies, side pony, open hair, buns. I was happy waking a little bit earlier just to play comb her hair for being school ready.
She enjoyed the pampering as well.
Then one day, in art class, the hair came in way of painting. The hair started bothering her and she was not enjoying the detangling each morning and my nagging of 'lets keep them tied' (Gosh I am turning into my mother)
She said, I need a haircut.
I delayed it; oh let’s wait for Diwali Party. She agreed.
She said, I need a haircut.
I delayed it; oh let’s wait for our DC trip.
She said, I need a haircut.
I delayed it; oh let’s wait for the Dance Recital
She said, 'I need a haircut. It's my decision'.
And I agreed.
We went for her hair cut, removing 6 inches off her lovely long hair and she was happy.
She spent time on my phone looking for the cut she needed, decided the length she wanted and the minutia details of it all. I asked her 20 times at the salon ‘Are you sure?’
She said, I need a haircut.
I think one hair cut taught an important lesson to both of us:
'It may be just hair, but one does not need to conform to fit in' And I completely am enamored by my strong kiddo….. and No I am not looking forward to the teenage  years.
Her friends still sport the long hair, but she is happy. They still play ' Salon Salon' and she comes home with 'funky' clips. But she is happy.

But I am thoroughly enjoying watching her rocking the awesome A line bob!



Saturday, November 8, 2014


It was the perfect timing; my husband Sumit had his birthday on Monday and then we had tickets for Camelot at our favorite theatre: Drury Oak Lane

Now, I have seen a fair number of shows at this gorgeous theatre, but somehow Camelot fell short. The sets, production set up left a lot to be desired for. Considering this was set up in the ‘King Arthur’, to me it felt very plain, very ‘non-grand’.
The music scores however were fabulous. They were perfectly timed and well delivered! The cast and the crew were impeccable. I loved Lancelot, I think he had the grandeur and the ‘make-me-weak-in-the-knees’ quality about him. The lovely song ‘I would leave you..’ was so simple and romantic. And me celebrating Sumit’s birthday there made it all the more special.

I think ‘Merlin’ was astounding. The screen presence, the delivery of dialogues, the worries were so well depicted.
Ken Clark, as King Arthur. Well my first impression was, hmm, wait; he is The king? But I must say, by the end of Act 1, I was mesmerized. It was such a powerful close and an awe-inspiring presence on stage.

I have not seen the original Camelot production, but from what I gather it is fairly long. This production, the first half and the second half were disproportionate time wise. Act 1 was a decent 75 minutes plus, however after the interval, it was very short and it felt that the play suddenly ended. However I do understand it is hard to compress such a grand production; I wish Act 2 could continue to build on the ‘grandeur’ of ‘King Arthur’

Overall, I did enjoy the production. Mixing a celebration with a lovely theatre evening is always good. And with kids peacefully sleeping at home, I did enjoy my evening out.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy New Year

 Come on, you know I am talking about the Bollywood blockbuster, Happy New Year HNY and not the New Year which is alarmingly close now.
 Naah, I am not going to do a movie review. I am going to say, I loooooved it!
We went on a lazy Saturday afternoon with my 6 year old and almost 2 year girl. This is how the movie shaped up for us.
The 6 year old- Miss V aka the Chatterbox, was laughing hysterically at all dialogues and the comedy of errors in the movie and the almost 2 year old, Little Lady was standing on seats and clapping through all songs.
And with this funny drama unfolding, Sumit and I were giggling, sometimes at the kids, sometimes on screen and in general were just super happy enjoying the 'Happy New Year'
The best part about the movie, no double meaning, no jokes that need explanation, no closing eyes for the kids, no nothing. It was meant to be a family entertainment and it definitely left our family entertained.
So until the next Masala Movie is released, both Sumit and I smile and the simple concept and adorable delivery of the movie with my 6 year old' favorite star: Mr. Shah Rukh Khan... SRK! I must add, the Little Lady is getting mesmerized with the man with the ‘almost real’ but fake abs!

PS: Image taken from Google Images

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Other side of: ' A letter from a sleep trained baby'

Recently on one of the social sites, I saw this article "A letter from a sleep training baby" I read it and as predicted, I was misty eyed and then common sense kicked in.
I am like, seriously?
Now, I think I am all about: To each their own. Parenting is definitely not 'One Size fits all', you bend, you learn, you adapt. And move on. I very strongly believe in 'You are the best parent for your child".
I have two girls with independent personalities. What I learned with my first, I am unlearning with my second. What I am doing with my second, I don’t remember doing with my first. So even in the same house, rules have adjusted based on the child.
I must add; confrontation and I really don’t go hand in hand. I am happy left sulking and stomping my feet when no one hears. So this post is not meant to hurt anyone, please. To each their own.
I am just sharing the other side of the story,
So here is my "A letter from a sleep trained baby"

Dear Mommy,
I was happy, happy sleeping in your cuddling arms, being rocked, being sung to. But the minute I hit the crib, I woke up not knowing what to do. I would wake up and since I didn't know anything else, I would cry. You would come in my room, try rocking me, I would drudge back to sleep and then again, in a while I would wake up. We did this for a long time. Every morning, I would wake up cranky, since I didn’t get the rest.
I was confused, why did you have the red eyes, why were you not smiling at me though you picked me up every 2 hours the night before? I know you love me just as much!
I was confused.
Now I am not.
When you started the sleep training, I got thinking: What's with this 'routine'? I love the stories you read to me, but what's this new thing? Laying me in my safe crib, kissing me, starting the music in the room and hushing me to sleep and leaving my room. Oh, the music is no nice, and I can hear you just outside my room. I know you love me just as much!
But what's this new thing?
I know I screamed and cried the first few days, I didn’t know what to do! But I like the routine, the knowing what's happening to me. I liked you coming back to my room. I liked the reassurance of knowing you are there. Slowly I learned, no matter what, you are just outside loving me just as much. Slowly I learned how to sleep on my own. Wow, it is so simple and so relaxing.
Now even when I stir in the night and wake up, I can wiggle around a little and fall back to sleep. I dream of the lovely stories you read to me. I know you are just outside, loving me just as much.
When you pick me up now in the mornings, I see your smile back and your eyes light up.  Now, I am happy, rested and relaxed. And oh yes, I have the energy to go back to playing, learning, crawling, laughing.
And I love you laughing with me. I know you love me just as much!
Your "munchkin"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

We are fishes in disguise!

I really don't remember when I learned swimming; it was just something I did with my dad. Every morning, he would wake my brother and me up early, really really early. We would go for a swim, race with each other, learn new strokes, play, and shower, come home for breakfast and off to school. This was our routine for most of my formative years.
I love water, water based activities and so much so that, when Miss V was 5 months old, she was in the swimming pool. That was the one thing, I knew I wanted to do with my kid(s), swim, enjoy in the water and laze by pool side.
Sumit and I make sure there is at least one beach bumming vacation a year.
 Over the years, V has continued with swimming lessons, playing with us and just 'chillaxing' in the water. Her first 'Big Girl' water slide was in the cruise ship when she was just over 4 years old. She was scared the first time, and then was on -repeat rinse- mode. There is no stopping her.
For Little Lady, S, the water story is similar. We introduced her to the pool early on and she has her moments, but all in all, once in the pool, is hard to get her out. She has the biggest grin when in water and the 'splash' game never ceases to amaze her.
This weekend was perfect for us: A water park.
 Not far from city, five families meeting there was fun in the indoor water park/ resort. 6 kids and the water, oh my gosh.
Little Lady was on the slide. I am not exaggerating when I say that she went up and down the water slide for more than hundred times! And Miss V, she scaled the largest slide, the slides in which even I held my breath for the first few seconds. She was scared, but she kept on going and going.
Miss V and Little Lady ruled the water, we were with them. Sumit making sure Little Lady came down the slides as many times as she wanted and I ensuring Miss V went on the craziest water rides/slides as many time as pleased her. It was fun to be in the lazy river with Little Lady napping on me and Miss V and I holding hands and relaxing. We are fishes in disguise!
 Needless to say, Sumit and I laughed, did the slides to our hearts contents, enjoyed with our friends and really loved to see all the kiddos bond so well. After the water, kids slept, dads hung out together and the moms had a PJ gossip session. Was perfect.
I can't wait to do this in peak of winter when in Chicago it will be just snow outside and heated indoor water park and us. Along with laughter, water slides, amazing company and laughter, lots of it!

Monday, September 22, 2014

I am proud of you

 As parents say, I wonder if we say that enough, we don’t want them getting too full of themselves, but at the same time, we want to appreciate them for the small and the big things.
I struggle with it, since I wonder which 'mom' I am, 'Good job baby, you are awesome!' or' That was nice, how about we do this next time'
I try to balance it and not 'keep appreciating' all the time. I think I am stern, I get angry, I scold but at the same time, I try to appreciate for things that need it.
Like this one: During dance practice I was chatting with another mom. Her kid just joined Miss V's school and she was telling me about her experience etc.
Though she didn't know my daughter’s name, turns out our kids are in the same year just different classes. What a small world!
So here is the conversation, she asks me: 'Is your daughter’s name V?'
Garima: 'Hmm, yes, how did you know?'
Fellow mom: 'Oh when I went for the school tour they showed me V's books as sample student etc'
Garima: 'Woooh, what! That is awesome'
It was really a good feeling that my child is considered as a 'sample student'. The school thinks her performance is 'worth exhibiting' to prospective parents.
I was happy and proud. Proud of her, she is 6, and I told her the story and ‘Baby, I am proud of you
She smiled and asked if there was some snack in the car!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

5 more minutes, please!

That is a statement I tell my 'Alarm' each morning. 5 more minutes, Please! I need to just laze for 5 more minutes.

Those 5 more minutes do nothing to me, I am not sleeping anymore, I am not resting, I am fitful at best. I am already planning the day, chores, schedules, meetings, strategies when the alarm buzzes.

But there is something so nice about that additional 5 minutes. Isn't it?

Like most people, I wake up cranky; 5 minutes additional or not.

I am trying to adapt. Slightly. I am trying to wake up with the alarm. The alarm buzzes 15 minutes before my older baby wakes up. So those 15 minutes are precious. I get the 'me-time' in the morning, I can brush in peace, start the kids breakfast, prepare the kids lunch, make my coffee and be 'awake' by the time the first one doles out of bed.

In all due fairness, I have been doing it only for 2 weeks plus, the waking up with the alarm bit! But I have seen the slight difference. I am not as stressed anymore. I still am rushed, but not as stressed.

It's slowly coming to a well- oiled machine! And I like it.

It's crazy mad still; I am in hyper multi-tasking mode from 6:15 to 8:15, that's the time it takes me to
Get two kids fed with 'healthy' breakfast
Get two kids ready for school
Cook and Pack Miss V's lunch
Wipe kitchen, pre-prep dinner
Get myself fresh and presentable for work and kids drop off's to school
And oh yes, start Roomba.

Thankfully Sumit and I divvy up the drop off’ s when he is not travelling, he has one kid to drop off, I have the other. So Phew.
By the time I finish the drop off and sit in the bus for office, that's the first 'sigh' of relief.
So I am learning, the 5 minutes of laziness in the mornings somehow throws the schedule off. I am cranky, hasty, rushed and translating the effect to the kids as well.
I am at least 'less cranky'

I'll take that!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Munch Bunch: Burmese Food- Vegetarian Khao Suey

This weekend marked our next cooking adventure in Munch Bunch. We wanted to challenge ourselves and decided that let's do something different: Burmese

Appetizer: Tea Leaf salad
Entree:    Sambusa Kadhi
           Khao Suey
Dessert:   Tapioca Pudding
Drink:     Pineapple, Pomegranate lemonade

My story with Burmese food is simple, there is only one restaurant: Myanmar in Virgina that I have ever eater Burmese food in. I Love it. We used to go there once a week when we lived there if not more. We have seen that restaurant transform from a little 20 people family run to the full-fledged establishment it is today.

So, the attempt for re-creating some of that was so worth it.
I tried the Vegetarian Khao Suey.
Now, this time, my friend reminded me, munch bunch is to try, sometimes fail and sometimes succeed with our attempts. This time my attempt was not as successful.

So I write this recipe, I will include things that I plan on doing differently next time. It was delicious, but I do think it can be tweaked a little to improve.

For Khao Suey-
Coconut Milk: 1 1/2 cans
Onion: 1 medium sized, finely chopped
Garlic: 2 cloves, finely chopped
Ginger: 1/2 inch, finely chopped
Lemon Grass: Root-1, shredded
Chili: 2,finely chopped
Besan(Ground gram flour):  4 tsp
Finely Chopped vegetables: 3 cups (Carrots, Broccoli, Green beans, Peppers, Corn)
Water: Per taste
Fine Rice noodles: 1 packed, cooked per instructions
Olive Oil: 2-3 tsp

Chili powder: 2-3 tsp, add if you like it more spicy
Cumin Powder: 2 tsp
Coriander Powder: 2 tsp
Salt: Per taste

For Toppings-
Garlic -4 cloves, finely sliced
Chili: 3, cut length wise
Onion: 1/2 chopped and fried. I used store bought fried onion
Ginger: 1/2 inch, sliced
Fried Noodles: 1 cup
Spring Onions: 1 cup thinly sliced

Making the Khao Suey-
1. Heat olive oil in a deep pan
2. When heated, add ginger, garlic, chili and sauté
3. Add onion and the spices and stir until translucent
4. Now add lemon grass, Ground gram flour (besan), mix well cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes
5. Take a blender, add the cooked onion paste and the coconut milk. Blend well
6. In the deep pan, sauté the chopped vegetables for 3-4 minutes. Add the blended onion-coconut milk mixture
7. Feel free to add water to make it slightly liquid. Consistency should be like a 'tomato basil bisque'
8. Separately cook the rice noodles per instructions.

Making the toppings:
1. Shallow fry the garlic, chili, ginger all separately.

Assembling/ Serving the Khao Suey
1. Dish the noodles, top with the Khao Suey, add toppings per taste


Things I would do differently next time around:
1. My noodles got overcooked, So when I added to the Khao Suey, it was chunky and did not separate. So next time, as mentioned in the recipe above, I would serve the noodles and top the Khao Suey soup/gravy as a topping on noodles
2. Spice: I realized that the Khao Suey was not as spicy. So add additional chili powder/ finely chopped chili as needed.
3. Since coconut milk is heavy, feel free to reduce the quantity to 1 can if you need it more liquid.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

They are back!

Without much fanfare and happily no crazy stories the kids and hubby are back. And I will be clichéd enough to say, I missed them while they were away and then am super-duper happy that they are all back.
The home is now complete with the two monkeys jumping off couches and the two adults trying to ensure things stay sane. Well at least they stay sane.

The changes, oh the changes.

Let me start with the Chatterbox. Miss V

Well, she is fluent in Hindi. Yes you read that correctly. The ' I am too shy to speak in Hindi' is fluent and has enforces rules around the house: Though shall only speak in Hindi. It's awesome. And yes, I get a punishment if I don’t speak in hindi, last night: Say Dinner in Hindi?? Anyone!
Next, she is more 'why?' 'Yes So' 'I don't care' 'So what?' Yes, my 6 and a half year old is getting to the phase of 'I KNOW EVERYTHING' and "I CAN ARGUE AWAY'.
I have been commanded by one and all to keep clam and endure this and be patient and that this is a phase and it shall pass. So o wise ones, I will listen to you all and TRY to keep a rational head and answer and be patient. Man, I can feel my energy slump already!
But on the positive side. She is full of stories, energy and the craziness that goes with her being back. She was excited to be back in her 'revamped room' Sumit and I spend hours re-arranging furniture, building new ones to have a room ready for an avid reader and a crafty girl. She loves every inch of it.
She is appreciative of all the hard work and is excited to be back in school and her friends. She is helpful and neater in her dealings around the house. She is still the little kid who will come and give you a hug just because, still negotiating her way around the candy, feed her little sister since no other one can get a morsel of food in her, smile and express her opinion.
And as usual the Chatterbox V is more independent and more self-reliant than before. Trust me; they are awesome qualities to have in a little kid.

And now the Little Lady. Miss S.
Interactive, Repeat mode: What we call- Rattu Tota = A parrot, and expressive. Oh man, the expressiveness. You ask her a question and she will be very clear in what she wants: It's a Yes or a vehement head shake saying no. Not just polite, vehement head shake. She is chatty, smile and now is developing a smile that you know, something fishy is coming up next.
For a 20 month old that is crazy. I know, I should resign to the fact that I have two highly opinionated and independent girls.
She is still relaxed, will spend hours playing with her toys. Will come in the middle to check in on you, and then go about back with her toys. It's adorable to see her carry a book, she calls 'boo'. She gets it to you, you read to her, She smiles and keeps 'reading'
The 'shoes' enthrall her. She brings her shoes to you and is ready to go 'bye bye' every single minute of the day. Oh yes, she is a traveler and from what I gather, she was ready with her shoes in India before you thought it.
She is however now a co-sleeper. Hmm. Now this one, this Little Lady never needed any training. She took to crib from Day 1 like her second home. No sleep training, no tantrums no nothing. By 6 months, she was in her room sleeping from 7 to 7. And yes, I am not exaggerating. It was perfect. I have friends who asked, how did you train her, I don’t know, she was just a good sleeper.
So now, I am in land of the unknown.

How do I sleep train an independent, expressive, know what I want 20 month old who thinks I am a toy!

I am taking all suggestions at this point.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quick Food Fix: Mixed Lentil Pancakes

It's always about how quickly can you get from start of putting the meal together to serving to the family. On any given day, I have about 20 minutes, 25 minutes if I am really lucky. With four hungry tummies growling, it better be quick, nutritious and delicious.
My mom's teaching is ingrained in me, 'Everything in life can wait, except food. Must be good, healthy and delicious. 'Oh mom, why o why!
I am a big advocate of cooking fresh for the kids et al. The more I expose the kids to different flavors, cuisines and concoctions, hopefully, easier they will have in life as Vegetarian Foodies like me.

Another addition to my Quick Fix Recipe
Name: Mixed Lentil Pancakes.
Note to self: Be more creative with the names
 Time to prepare: 10 minutes
Time to cook: 10 minutes
Yields: 6-8 medium size pancakes
Onion: 1/2 cup finely chopped
Ginger: 1 tsp finely chopped
Garlic: 1 tsp finely chopped
Chili: Per taste, finely chopped
Millet Flour: 1 1/2 Cup
Gram Flour (Besan): 1/2 Cup
Boiled lentils/Quinoa: 2 cups
Water: Approx 1 cup
 In this recipe: I had used the pre-boiled 'Quinoa, Toor Daal, Moong Daal' from the night before. But feel free to choose your own concoction; any left over lentils will be perfect addition.

Fennel Seeds: 1 tsp
Ajwain/ Carram Seeds: 1 tsp
Jeera: 1/2 tsp
Salt: Per taste
Mirchi: 1 Tsp
Lemon Juice: 1 Tsp

1. Mix all of the above ingredients with a little water to make the batter. It should not be runny, nor should it be too thick.
2. On a heated pan, spread out as you would do pancakes. I used non-stick, so no oil was needed.
3. On Medium flame, cover the pan and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Flip the pancakes, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes
5. Serve with Chaat Masala, Green Chutney/ ketchup

The cooking takes slightly longer, since you have lentils and millet flour both of which have longer cook times, so if you take a larger pan, you can make more at the same time like I did, see picture below.

Now, if you have been following my blog (Yay!), you know I love making Chilla's/ Indian Pancakes a lot for our breakfasts/ quick snacks. This one qualifies as a meal in itself. The lentils are heavier and hence you do tend to get filled up quicker.

So Bon A petit! Enjoy yourself.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Quick Food Fix: Queso De Cabra; Munch Bunch edition

Another munch bunch, another great relaxed evening with friends, another complete spread, another successful food feast.

Munch Bunch is a gathering of four couples who are self-proclaimed foodies and love to attempt making new cuisines and then enjoying the delicious meal over laughter, food and awesome company. We have made Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Greek, Boys cooking evening amongst a few!

This month our theme was 'Spanish Tapas' and we were all excited at making tapas. A friend actually commented, there are so many options, I don’t know what not to make.

The picture speaks a thousand words, this was our spread:

I attempted to make two things, a cold Soup: Gazpacho. Somehow soup and cold does not go well for me, but it being summer and Munch Bunch is all about challenging ourselves, I said, let’s try Gazpacho. The other tapas for me was Queso De Cabra (Baked Goat Cheese). It's my favorite item to order at any Tapas place I go to!
Surprisingly, The Queso De Cabra was very quick to cook and easier to assemble. It qualifies for my 'Quick Food Fix' Needless to say, going forward, it will be a regular in our meals at home.  Quick Food Fix for me, is something that can be put together from start to finish in under 25 minutes and should be substantial, a complete meal. Simple
 Queso De Cabra:
Serves 6
Time to Prep: 5 Minutes, or how quickly can you chop?
Time to Cook: 15 Minutes
Time to bake: 5 Minutes

Tomato: 3 chopped finely/ pureed
Onion: 1: White/Pink finely Chopped
Garlic: 1 clove finely chopped
Butter: 1-2 Tsp
Goat Cheese: 5-6 spoons
Basil: 3-4 tsp dried basil or 2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh basil
Jalapeno: 1 finely chopped
Red Chilli Flakes: Per taste
Salt, Pepper: Per taste
Sour Dough bread: 3-4 slices cut in medium size cubes (any other type of bread will do as well)

1. In a heavy bottom pan, heat butter on medium heat
2. Add Onion and Garlic till translucent and fragrant
3. Add the herbs and sauté for 1-2 minutes
4. Now add the tomato puree and jalapeno
5. On low heat, cover the pan and let the sauce cook for 10-12 minutes
6. The sauce gets thicker, so remember to stir and you know it will be ready when butter floats on top.
7. Taste and adjust seasoning.
You are welcome to add 1-2 tsp. of heavy cream for a more creamy texture

1. In a ramekin/ shallow bake ready pan, put 2-4 cubes of bread
2. Pour the sauce till 3/4 to the top
3. Put 2-3 spoons of goat cheese and bake at 250 F for 4-5 minutes

Serve with bread as a dipping suace/ as a main

Here is the picture of My Queso De Cabra

 And yes, it was as delightful and delicious as it looks, if I can say so myself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Same thing, Different Rules: Mommy Confession

She is 6, and I am well a little over my late twenties(Wink Wink!). But, I am realizing I have different rules for her and for me for the same thing. 
And since she does not know what a blog is, or this space, I will confess. Because I can.

1. Ice Cream: We were on Foster Beach this weekend with some amazing friends walking, laughing, giggling and enjoying the breeze. An ice cream truck comes by. 4 ice creams/ popsicles bought with no second thought. The same truck that my older one pleads to for us to get her an ice cream and we tell her no- Not good water/ milk. Then we take her to the gelato place near our house and get her the ice-cream.
It's not about the ice cream but where she is getting it from. But somehow I feel she would have enjoyed the one from the truck way more. Instant gratification. Same thing, different rules.

2. Bread Crust: I love bread in all forms, shapes and sizes. No discrimination here. My morning breakfast comprises of toast mostly all days. But I-Dont-Like-The-Crust. V, my 6 year old has seen me remove the crust every single day. She asks for the same thing, 'Please remove the crust'. And more often than not, I comply. I understand. But then there are times, when I am like, just eat the crust, its so soft, its so crunchy, its so.. More out of my laziness than anything else. You get the idea Same thing, different rules.

3. Laundry: Like most, when I come home, I need to change out of work war-wear to simple PJ's. And its been a long day, I 'sometimes' leave the clothes on the floor/ bed/ bathroom. And mostly by end of day, its in the basket. Mostly is the word I am stressing on. When my 6 year old comes home from school and changes into her favorite shorts and T-shirts, her school gear is on the floor. Every Day. I nag, I plead, I threaten and then with heavy feet she will 'sometimes' throw them in the laundry basket 2 steps away. But still, I ignore her 'long' day and well make her put the clothes in the laundry basket.
 And the one that is a conversation EVERY single day when she asks : "why do I need to sleep so early?'

4. Sleep time: Hers is 7:30 pm and mine should be 10:00 pm. Ideally. Realistically she is in bed at 7:30 and then sleeps by 8ish. For me, I am in bed by 11ish and sleep by 'have no clue' She says: I am trying, closing my eyes and trying really hard. And she does. Me however, Lie down, see something on i-whatever, read something, see something, read something, yawn, water, snooze and then after tossing and turning sleep. She makes and effort and I don’t 'really' make the effort.

And it's natural. I get that; I can justify both our behaviors.  I can lecture on 'good habits start early', 'practice restraint' but then it contradicts with 'be happy', 'go with the flow'.
You need to let them be kids. But maybe not too much 'kid'
 Urgh, bottom line. Same thing, different rules. We both, the 6 year old and me, a little over my late twenties should follow along the same rules. But we don’t.

Why? Since you see, I am a little over my late twenties and well, she is 6.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A memorable vacation.. for us.

While the kids are enjoying themselves with Grandparents, Mama, Maami, I was left sulking and whining. On any given day you are bone tired by 8 pm, but at 9pm, when you peek in their bedrooms and see them snoozing, its rejuvenating. Kids do that! It's refreshing, makes you count your blessings and yes, get ready for next day at Casa De Chaos.
I digress, Sumit sensed me being home was too painful without the kids, so last minute, we headed to Toronto, Niagara On the Lake and Niagara Falls. 3.5 days of complete bliss, relaxation and well moments when you wish the kids were just with you to snuggle with. And you can't say no when a vacation starts with this!

We booked our hotels an hour before we took on the long drive from Chicago to Toronto. The 8 hours drive became 11.5 hours thanks for July 4th rush. But our drive was beautiful, we chatted, listened to 'our' music, caught up, reminisced and just unwound.
Next day after a scrumptious Indian meal in Brampton, Canada (Come on, you can’t go to Canada and not eat delicious spicy Indian food!).

We headed to Toronto to our fabulous hotel- Shangri-La. What a treat! Sumit had called prior, we entered an upgraded room with a box of chocolates and cake. Just perfect and yes sooo romantic.

This was my first time in Toronto, and I wanted to visit the city, but the room and the hotel was so luxurious, I didn’t want to head out.
After much cajoling, we headed to the Distillery District. It was like time stood still, we lazed out in art galleries admiring very interesting pieces. I participated in a small salsa lesson. Was so much fun, under the Toronto sun. (Poetic, eh?)
We held hands, walked and before the sight of any kids laughing would pinch my heart, Sumit would point to the next interesting art work. With the World Cup scores in background we cheered, shouted and well laughed. A Lot. It reminds me of the countless hours we have spent in the Italian Piazza's- Town Squares!
Tired, we then headed to the 'Dunda's Street' time square. We caught the end of an amazing victory of Brazil. Walked around a little more and with exhausted feet headed back to the hotel. The plan was rest, freshen up and head to the lively night life of the city. Come on, no kids, there is no reason to be indoors at 8pm!
But, a detour to the hotel Jacuzzi, pool and Sauna followed. I have no idea where the 3 hours went by. The cabanas were so inviting after the swim, I read that book I have on my night stand since 2 months. Smile. I think time stood still.
We returned and swore we will be out in 10 minutes. And then I said the famous last words, ‘Let me lie down for 5 minutes” The next I remember was waking up, stumbling across the room to see the time as: 11:15 am. Yes, next morning.
Aaaa! So much so for not calling it  a day at 8 pm! It was such a nice feeling to wake up that late, that refreshed and that hungry.
We then enjoyed the sights and scenes of the lively China Town. Eating lychee and drinking sugarcane juice in the heat was perfect. We then walked some more and headed to the harbor front and spend the next few hours looking at the water, the planes, the cyclers at the AmsterDam Brewery! The wood fire pizza was so delicious, the service impeccable and the ambience, pure bliss.

Time to head to the Falls. We made a quick detour to the Niagara-On-The-Lakes. Such a charming town, walking in the lazy town, having ice cream and enjoying Crepes. I think this was the town my kids would have gone crazy in! In a good way, there was an ice cream shop every 10 steps. I kid you not.
The Niagara Falls are breathtaking as always. Our room overlooked the falls, and with the view, you could gaze out for hours. Which I did while Sumit tried his luck at the casino!
We walked and talked on the Falls Ave Strip, enjoyed the liveliness in contrast to the relaxed walks in Distillery.
Next morning, we swore, we will wake up when we wake up. A 11:15 am call woke us up from the slumber. After a heavy meal, we headed to the 'Horn Blower' The Maid of the Mist. It’s my third time at the Falls and I think I will do this Every-Single-Time! It was enjoying the spray of the water, catching the rainbows and just taking it all in!

With heavy hearts and relaxed bones we drove back to Chicago. I think the getaway did us good. The best part, I know the next road trip to do when the kids get back from the Grand Parents.

Note: Picture's are property, please don't use without permission

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Self-Exile of a different kind

With our Costa Rica trip in early April, like all holidays/ vacations, I happily signed myself out of Facebook, unchecked notifications on my emails and basically 'unplugged'
 If you have not noticed yet, I am still in Pura Vida mode, so relaxed and comfortable.
So on my return from Costa Rica, I decided to stay logged out of Facebook. Meaning, no access from phone/ laptop/ I-devices. You get the idea. No facebook for a month.
(I cheated twice: Once to check message's for a friends postal address and once to message a friend my postal address).
Besides that, I have no idea what's happening on Facebook.

On the contrary, I have a very good idea on what's happening with my friends.
Life is still going on, with a little bit more time on my hands. I have read a bit more- one and a half books, three magazines. As you can see, I have blogged more.
And long behold: I have actually called friends and chatted about what's going on in their lives as against understanding from their facebook status.
I am lazy on phones, by the time the day is over (Read: Kids in bed, errands finished), I am done! Any energy left is well spent on catching up on Game of Throne's episodes.
So me calling, has been really good-for me at least.
Of course, I stumped my friend recently, she was like, didn’t you know about abc, I posted on FB. I was like, I actually didn’t. And then we laughed and I got 'updates' in real life.
So this 30 day-self exile actually worked.
I am thinking, may be I do want to continue this self-exile. Trust me, its tempting to log in and post this blog there. But going on FB to blog about not being on FB, hmm, not so much.
My realization: It is not all about 'being in'. As of now, I am not feeling left out. I am sure there are countless pictures/ posts/ status that I would have 'liked/ commented' But you know what, I like this quietness.
So may be, until the urge of an addict comes back, self-exile to continue.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Munch Bunch: Ethiopian: Lentil Sambusa

Another month, another much bunch, another wonderful gathering of foodies to attempt, relish and then cherish
Theme: Ethiopian
I was introduced to Ethiopian food by a colleague then and now a dear friend about 8-9 years ago. She slaved in the kitchen for my roommate and me and made delicious vegetarian food and served coffee the true 'Ethiopian' style. Of course she being Ethiopian made our experience as authentic as possible.
Since that memorable sunny afternoon in LA, I have generally tried Ethiopian food every city I visit in the US. It has become one of those once a quarter cravings, got to go for Ethiopian.
In the last few years, Ethiopia has become a more personal country for me with family connections, stories and fond memories. So Ethiopia means more to me than the Injera and the Coffee. With that as a start, this theme was super special for me. It's one cuisine I love to eat and was so happy to attempt it.
Appetizer: Lentil Sambussa
           Collard Greens
Main Course: Red Misser Wat
             Chicken Doro Wat
Dessert:  Red velvet cake, nothing Ethiopian about it, but a friends birthday celebrations were so worth it!
Drinks: Fresh Ethiopian coffee, freshly roasted and ground and brewed.
Yup, that's how we roll.

I chose to make the appetizer: Lentil Sambusa: Two types, Beluga lentil and Puy lentil
1.5 cups Beluga lentil soaked over night (Available at Mariano's / Whole food)
1.5 cups Puy lentils (Stocked at regular grocery stores)
Jalapeno: 4 finely diced
Onion: 1 finely diced
Garlic: 3 cloves finely diced
Cilantro: 1 cup finely chopped
Cardamom Seeds: Crushed coarsely 1 tsp
Cinnamon: 1/2 tsp
Salt: Per taste
Black Pepper: 1 tsp
For Frying:
Spring Roll Sheets: About 10 (Stocked at regular grocery stores)
Vegetable oil for frying

It is the same process for each type of lentil, so I will explain with the beluga lentil. Repeat for Puy lentil
1. Soak the lentils overnight.
2. Boil the lentils next morning until tender: About 20 minutes
3. Heat Olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic, jalapeno until translucent, about 5 minutes
4. Add spices, sauté: 2 minutes
5. Add the boiled and drained lentil and cook for about 10 minutes gently moving the mix
6. The beluga lentil is very soft, so be gentle
7. Taste and adjust seasoning.
8. Take off stove and let it cool. Add cilantro leaves
9. And now the joys: There is no way I can do justice to explain how to make sambusa: So here is a You tube video of how to 'prepare samosa' and use this as a guideline for wrapping and frying.
Of course using the spring roll sheets is so much easier and quicker

Just FYI- To fry both types of Sambusa's (Total 30), I took about an hour, so start some music and go for it!
Though we didn’t have complete attendance, it was a really fun gathering and a very interesting style of cooking. Just a couple of spices and an abundance of aroma's and flavors. I will definitely try my hand at a few more Ethiopian Dishes.