And this quote by Rumi probably says it all…
Happy Wednesday, you all!
Winter, this year, has been strange here in Jersey. We did not get much snow ( I am not complaining about that even a bit!) but we have been getting a lot of rain and gloomy damp days which is making this winter seem especially depressing, weather wise. I say weather wise because indoors it has been spirited, colorful and giggly as we welcomed our baby girl in November. The four year old has been the best big brother and along with my parents, who have been the ‘cannot-be-put-into-words’ blessing one could hope for during such times, it has been a vibrant winter!
My Ma’s home cooked meals have kept our bellies full and our souls fuller. We got to enjoy delectable “Bangali ranna” (Bengali food) every day and it refreshed so many memories from when I was growing up. Hearing them talk fondly of the by gone days has made me appreciate life and all that I had and have a bit more. Nostalgia is a good thing.
Yesterday, I decided to make myself a salad for lunch simply to see if I remembered how to! And I kid you not when I say this because I have not had anything to do with the kitchen (except for baking a couple of cakes and brownies) for these past five months and now that the time has come for my parents to go back to Kolkata, Neel and I will have to fend for ourselves! And salads are going to be my go-to stuff for lunch. So, I made a chicken avocado salad that turned out to be pretty good and I am sharing that with you today. This is a simple salad and I am sure you have had this or a version of this more than once!
Putting it together:
I cooked the chicken tenders on stove top in a little bit of vegetable oil (I had marinated the chicken tenders for about 15 minutes with a little bit of salt, 1/2 tsp of paprika, 1/4 tsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp of lemon pepper powder and 1 tsp of olive oil. I sprinkled a bit of flour on the chicken right before cooking…it gives a nice brown coating). And then after it cooled down a bit, I chopped it up and put it along with all the other stuff in my big brown salad bowl and chomped it up while cradling a semi sleeping 3 month old!
Easy- peasy lemon squeezy!
P.S. I had it today with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing instead of ranch and it tasted even better. You can also add chopped walnuts if you want ( I added this to the list of ingredients).
Of late, the weather here in New Jersey seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher. It has been bitter cold and we have been getting tired of the number of layers we need to put on when going out and then it rains and brings mugginess and then suddenly a warm 66 degrees in the middle of winter throws wants almost makes it feel like spring! The effects of climate change are being felt more and more all around and I wonder what the consequences of this is going to be on the future generations.
With small children and older parents at home, we have been having a hard time trying to keep everyone as safe as possible from the snorts and sniffles that seem to be the most common side effect of such extreme fluctuation in temperature. It being winter, my parents who are here for just one more month, have sadly been cooped up at home for the most part. But they don’t complain and are only too happy to be spending time with their grandkids and weaving memories! They have put their lives on hold so that Neel and I can ease into this new phase in ours and my heart swells with love and gratitude for them. Ma makes sure we get to eat all that our hearts desire and Baba makes sure to keep the four year occupied as much as possible with stories and games and silliness so that I can get some ‘me time’ and what can I say about how big a blessing that has been. The six of us look after each other- we cook and eat, smile and have moments of absolute bliss, find happiness in what we have and add to our pocketbook of memories.
While Ma has been making all her special dishes and we have been gobbling those up, Neel and I (mostly Neel) sometimes take over the kitchen to give her a break and whip up something that she would normally not be able to make in Kolkata. Neel has been surprising them with his kabobs and I have been satisfying Ma’s sweet tooth with the likes of cakes and brownies! Today I made apple tarts in the afternoon and they turned out pretty good. I have made them before but had followed a different recipe, one that I did not remember today. And so, I found another pretty awesome recipe at https://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2016/03/apple-rose-tarts-mothers-day.html (Lavender and Lovage by Karen Burns-Booth) and I am so glad that I tried this! Thanks Karen!
Please see the original recipe here and I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.
|Serves||8 to 10 apple rose tarts|
|Prep time||15 minutes|
|Cook time||25 minutes|
|Total time||40 minutes|
|Step 1||Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6 and spray a 12 x hole muffin or bun tray with the cake release spray.|
|Step 2||Cut the apples in half, from top to bottom, core the two halves then slice each half very thinly; place the cut slices into a large microwaveable bowl filled with water to cover the apples, and with the lemon juice added.|
|Step 3||Microwave the apple slices for 4 minutes on high, then drain and pat dry between 2 clean tea towels or with kitchen paper. (If you don’t have a microwave, place the apples, water to cove them and the lemon juice in a pan and heat until boiling for 4 to 5 minutes until JUST soft but NOT cooked)|
|Step 4||Place the ready rolled pastry onto a lightly floured pastry board, and using a rolling pin, roll it out to add 2″ to 3″ (5cms to 8cms) to the length of the pastry.|
|Step 5||Cut the two pastry sheets lengthways into 4 to 5 strips, or if the pastry is too long, cut widthways – you need strips long enough to place between 8 to 12 apple slices along the length.|
|Step 6||Brush the pastry strips with the apricot jam glaze and then sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Place the apple slices (peel size up) along the top third of the pastry strips, overlapping them slightly as you lay them out.|
|Step 7||Fold the bottom two thirds of the pastry up and over the bottom of the apple slices and then gently roll each strip to make a small “muffin shaped” tart – see photos. Place the apple rose tarts into the prepared muffin or bun tray.|
|Step 8||Bake the apple tarts in the pre-heated oven on the middle shelf for between 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp, golden brown and puffed up and the apples are cooked, but not too dark.|
|Step 9||Allow them to cool in the tin for 2 to 3 minutes, then gently ease them out of tin and place them on a wire cooling rack.|
|Step 10||Dust with icing sugar to serve; they are fabulous when served warm with ice cream, cream or crème fraiche.|
|Step 11||Can be frozen at the pre-baked and baked stage. Allow to defrost before baking or re-heating.|
I have always loved reading books. Growing up, I would look forward to ‘library time’ at school, a designated 40 minutes in a week when we could go to the library and spend time there and at the end could also bring one (or may be two…my memory betrays me) home for about 15 days. I remember exchanging books with a couple of my really close friends after we had finished reading ours. During senior years, when there was no more library ‘class’ or even the time to read much outside what was in the syllabus, I would still sometimes go to the library and pick up books other than ‘study stuff’, that I would later sneak in to the bed at night, even when I could barely keep my eyes open. Books have always been my go-to when it comes to reading material of my choice. Our four year old too loves reading and story reading at bedtime is one of our favorite things to do as family! At times, the little guy takes over and reads his Ma-Baba his favorite story.
It has been a very long time since, and while a lot has changed in terms of reading material and medium, my love for books remains unchanged. As a student of English Literature many moons ago, I came across the works of Camus, Kafka, Beckett, Naipaul, Virginia Woolf to name a few, that cast a spell on me. While the cacophony of every day life does not let me spend a sunday morning lazying in bed, sipping on copious cups of coffee and some chocolate chip muffins and read as much as I would like to, I still try to catch up on some reading at any chance I get. Bookstores are my favorite store to visit and the sight and smell of books enthralls me today just as much as it did when I had first walked into a library at my school decades ago. Nothing probably beats experience of physical browsing at a real store and it saddens me to see local book stores and even big ones close due to the craze of on-line buying.
An absolute necessity is our pursuit of happiness and in helping us dream, the pivotal role of books in undeniable. Today, I am sharing with you books that I read and re-read over the period of last two years (a couple from here I am yet to finish) and can read over and over again!
What are some of your favorite reads?
Neel and I have never been on a date…a real date, since during the ‘dating’ period, we were living in separate countries, pursuing career goals. We had known each other for a long time before that (since we went to the same high school) and though we had gone our separate ways for a brief period in time after that, reconnecting was simple and felt like the most natural thing in the whole world. Also, neither of us is a very ‘date’ kind of a person! So, to sum it up…we have never been on a real date.
We recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and reflecting back, it has surely been an interesting journey so far, albeit with the usual bumps and bruises. Life has been hectic and at the same time a wonderful adventure as we learn and re -learn things in the process of raising our son and now that we have added another bundle to the family, life continues to unfold its glory in its craziness and beauty!
A few days ago, when Neel and I were ‘sleep talking’ (talking while having fallen half asleep!), we wondered how it would be to go on a date. While life has been much easier with our daughter than it was when our son was an infant, it still does get overwhelming at times. And so, we wanted to get some alone time and have an adult conversation without gasping at an overactive four year old making french fries out of play dough and in the process, cutting up the dough into a zillion pieces most of which would end up getting stuck on the carpet or drooling over the babbles of a two month old and getting swept away by all the baby love.
And we acted on our sleep talk idea! A date and time was decided for a ‘coffee date’ as that was the most that our schedules would permit and on the day, I even put on a bit of make up (for those who know me, can figure out how serious and excited I must have been about this date, given my dislike for make up!) but right before leaving, the four year old decided to do something quite uncharacteristic…he went all emotional and pleaded with me to not go. Even the lure of getting his favorite brownie seemed to not work as he made clear that he did not want any of that. And as much as I was looking forward to spending some alone time with Neel, the big watery eyes tugged at my heartstrings with the strongest of pulls and I melted. I scooped up my boy in my arms and smothered his face with the squishiest kisses and dropped the idea of going out in an instant. But as I was about to change back into my sweat pants, he broke into the biggest smile, hugged me and said it was okay to go as long as he could watch a bit of iPad. Now, normally I do not succumb to such things but I guess I really needed to get that coffee and so 10 minutes later Neel and I were at the coffee place for that date! Though I checked my phone at least a dozen times to see if it was on in case I got a call from home about the kids, it was a 30 minutes well spent…refreshing and relaxing! Pumped up from the success of this we decided to watch a movie in bed once the kids had settled in for the night. We chose The Incredibles2 on Netflix, watched it on the iPad with earphones on (one earplug in each of our ears!) and 20 minutes into the movie, I slid down on the bed, tucked myself into the blanket and shut my eyes, happy and content! So much for our movie night!
However, I will gladly take such dates till my kids are older and I am probably no longer allowed to smother their faces with my sloppy kisses and hug them in front of their friends (though it does not mean I won’t do that!)
Happy Dating Folks!
(The red painting, is my birthday gift last year from my then two and a half year old munchkin. He was kind and thoughtful enough to make one for his daddy too-the one in yellow/green)
As a stay-at-home mom, I often find myself wondering if I am using my time wisely enough. If I am being productive (running around being mindful of and tending to a hundred needs of a crawling, climbing toddler and the usual household chores aside!) or not is also another thought that occasionally creeps up and usually leads to a zillion other thoughts that often end up having a cascading effect on self esteem. Not a fun thing at all!
Current circumstances are not that conducive to me taking up (or even getting one, to be honest) a full time job and thinking about how my graduate degrees are going to waste is depressing. Of late, I have been making a conscious effort to not wallow in self pity and focus on what I have around me- a very loving husband who happens to be my best friend and our son, a bubbling ball of energy with all his charms and quirks. Just the thought of this, makes my heart fill with gratitude:)
I am a big fan of the arts and crafts! I am, however, terrible at drawing anything (and my husband will vouch for that, wholeheartedly!) and I also lack originality when it comes to creating something. So, you see…these are not really helpful qualities if one hopes to take up DIY craft projects seriously! One of my fondest memories from childhood is making holiday cards and I remember the feeling quite vividly- a strange sense of satisfaction at having created something with my own hands and I am sure we have all felt this way at some point in our lives. Haven’t we? And so, with considerable amount of time on my hands and availability of resources that are much more than what the ten year old me had, I started going through Pinterest and what a treasure trove of ideas it turned out to be! And I had the ambitious, or should I say daring, thought of involving my three year old and I was relieved to see that he was not as disinterested as I had imagined he would be. Sometimes, I feel, we give far less credit to these munchkins than they deserve!
And so it started! I made one piece and then another and another and that caught my son’s attention (which was my whole plan- to see if he would be interested rather than me trying to push him). And we have made quite a few things together since! It gives me something to do and the best part is I get to do something with my son and together we have had many a laughs over silly sticky glue blobs and have had adventures with our scissors and done a huge mess with supplies 🙂 I am thankful to have these in my pocket book of memories.
As you can see, most of these were during the holiday season as that is when his interest had peaked! We have now ‘graduated’ to some serious stuff where we are melting crayons (all with Mommy’s help and supervision!) and then looking for more stuff to melt! All of this hangs on the wall of his playroom and I am working on some more stuff to add to the display. We learn and have fun and in the process I know more about him. He teaches me in his own way that it’s okay to make mistakes, how not to be a cleanliness freak at all times and how awesome it is do even the silliest stuff together…there is unadulterated joy in all of this and I look forward to our goofy art time with all my heart!
I came to the US in 2009, the year I got married and the year I started school again. At that time, my boyfriend (I am married to this good soul and who I am going to be addressing him as N in my posts) was in graduate school in Minneapolis and so, once we got married, I left India to join him. It was the month of March and I will never forget the feeling as I was coming down the escalator and out of the airport to get into the car- I had the flutter of a newly married, I was also missing my parents, I was nervous to be starting this phase of my life in a new land and I was freezing too since it was around -20 Fahrenheit!
Fresh off the boat at that time, needless to say it took me a bit of a time to adapt to a new way of life- I was living with someone other than my parents for the first time, I was going to start school in a new country, for the most part of the year it was colder than I would ideally have liked and I did not have friends! Gradually, things began to fall in place, the good man and I found our balance and I soon met an amazing bunch of folks, who I credit with shaping my initial years in this country. Had it not been for N and these people, I would have found it very difficult to adjust to the life of a grad student (the severity of which I was clueless about!). They made our stay in Minneapolis worth every penny we had to budget for and for every back breaking shoveling we had to do to dig ourselves out from under the snow! And though we have have been living in New Jersey for six years now, Minneapolis, still, is much closer to my heart.
Living in a land that is culturally very different from the one I grew up in, continues to be an act of adaptation. And raising a child is, for the lack of a better term, complex! Diwali and Christmas exist in harmony but there is fine balance that needs to be maintained. We enjoy our independence but have to be mindful of the bond that ties us to our homeland. We want to pursue our ambitions in this land of dreams and at the same time the fact that parents are getting older and losing strength, is worrisome. Now that I have been here for almost nine years, I find myself in a quandary about choices. The struggle between promises made and promises kept, between the past and the future, between learning and unlearning, between the emotions that tug at the heart strings and the reality of life, is constant and palpable.
And when I find myself at these crossroads, the smiling faces from the good old days of Minneapolis pop up in my mind and remind me to take one step at a time. And as a person who likes to plan every minute detail of everything -be it going to the grocery store or a big trip and everything in between- it is an indispensable reminder.