Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sick as a dog...and comfort for me is...

I wonder why it has to be "sick as a dog"...not a cat, rat, parrot or a chimpanzee...actually wait a minute, given "J's" close encounters of the parasital kinds in Feb and all the TLC we have given to get that sick ol' guy back on his 4 feet...maybe it kinda sorta makes sense. In this case the "sick as a dog" describes me (and A - my visiting brother). Here's what happened..."B" was down from India...partied much (or that's my version and I stand by it) passed the virus something to A that he oh! so lovingly just had to share with his beloved sister "M" (yes me...the resulting BAM! is still resounding in the back aches, the coughs and the voice lost and the ever-friendly viral fever...not really willing to leave for good)...
Work load hasn't eased up and I really don't expect it to ease up oh! for at least the next 12 months...joys of working on a 1.0 release and all that ( reality is I love it and wouldn't have it anyother way...) but this darn viral flu thingie is pulling me down...I am shuffling like an old hag, haven't cooked till today (don't ask me how we survived Subway, some unappetizing one-pot rice thing I called Khichidi, Panda Express, Trader Joes, Whole Foods and one good meal cooked by A when he was feeling a little better....joys of having a spouse who REALLY can't cook). Anyway, I was ready for a comfort meal today (and it ain't happening in my kitchen without me moving....), so I made something simple in 20 minutes...it may be frowned on by ANDI for the lack of so-called immunity building stuff....BUT I savored every bite of it...so go figure !!!

Here's what I did :
  1. Boiled a pound of white potatoes+ 2 cups of rice in a pressure cooker (if you have a super big PC, great you can do both together at one go) - 5 minutes
  2. Squeeze 2 big Meyer Lemons
  3. Peel the white potatoes and cube
  4. Keep the following things on hand : Raw Peanuts, Curry Leaves (fresh)
  5. For Tadka : Hing, Mustard, Urad Dal
  6. Salt to taste
In the wok (and I used just one) :-

For the potatoes :
  1. Add Oil, about 1 tablespoon (try using a neutal one)
  2. Add hing when the oil is hot and then add the mustard and urad dal. When the tadka is dancing in the wok, then hit it with the curry leaves followed by 1/2 teaspoon of Turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon of Red Chili Powder (reduce it if you have a wimpy spice tolerance level )
  3. Add the potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes  or till potatoes go crispy on the edge like in the picture
  4. Salt to taste
For the Lemon Rice :
  1. Add Oil, about 1 tablespoon (try using a neutal one)
  2. Add hing when the oil is hot and then add the mustard and urad dal. When the tadka is dancing in the wok, then hit it with the curry leaves followed by 1/2 teaspoon of Turmeric and the raw peanuts
  3. When the peanuts are cooked through, add in the lemon juice
  4. Add in the rice
  5. Salt to taste
Dinner was done in 20 minutes....truth be told it exhausted me but my stomach thanks me now. Comfort for me right now is the warmth of my bed on this cold day...a simple yet fulfilling meal...a hug shared with my son....a conversation with loved ones...

Comfort for me...something I keep running back to time and again is this book A had got almost 30 years back in school...which I have kept...it is a "shloka" book. Every time I need to quiet the mind or bring it some comfort, I pick it up and read it and I find comfort...it has along with prayers, this treasury of sayings and I share one with you -
What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better...

This blog post goes to Kirthi's Kitchen for her event Serve it - Stir Fried -- an event ideated by Denny who aptly says "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection" and to Sravani for her event : Vegan Diet

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Week in retrospect...

"Rain Rain Go to Spain, do not show your face again,
Little K2 wants to play...Rain Rain go away..."

That has been my mantra as I get up in the morning and walk J in the drizzling rain and bitter cold at 6.45 AM in the morning...a person who had left chai for about 3 years is gravitating back to the addictive pull of hot instant cardamom tea (yes it is instant, don't judge me I don't have the time or inclination to make a desi cuppa in the morning)...not for the caffeine but for the warmth...some days it is a hot cup of horlicks...but this rain is making me do the most unusual things. Here is a picture of J peering inquisitively into the phone lens (at 7.00 AM in the morning)
The commute now is non-existent...K2's school - 3 minutes from home and work - 3 minutes from K2's school...some kind of bliss this is...here is a picture of  a cloudy, foggy morning taken impulsively on my phone...reminds me of an old hindi movie "woh kaun thi"


Amidst the rush to drop K2 in school, lunches, dinners, laundry and homework...K2 and A (my brother) created a masterpiece...a "leprechaun trap" for his school project...observe the artists at work with the shamrock coin,glitter glue and the green candy taped on the entrance of the trap to entice him...

Spontaneous tulips from A for no reason at all (the last flowers he gave me were 6 years back) brighten my table on a rainy day

Yesterday, I had a vivid dream of one of my summers in Balasore, then a little town in Orissa...I saw my great grandfather and for some reason this picture popped up while I was doing a search on something totally unrelated...a picture from almost 2 decades ago...my great grandpa is the one whose face I am holding and asking to smile for the camera ( yes..yes...ignore the long hair...that is also a thing of the past...see that nerd pointing, that is my bro A and of course Jhumri). But for me the memory was sweet and sharp...he was 98 in the picture and lived over 100 and was a sweet man...I remember him sitting on the verandah preparing his paan.


Saturday morning was not so relaxed...I was glued to the computer working but A made me some amazing breakfast and K1 is back from travels, so I am happy and content. Meeting R& M for dinner...just had R ring up and shout at me for not leaving...we were supposed to be there @ 7.30 pm....darn it !!!
How is your weekend turning out?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting to Zero (Debt)

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 I am writing this blog post despite our disagreement that this is private because of all the commotion on debt - the mortgage debt, the car payment debts, the credit card debts and god knows what else...frankly every which way you look you get charged for something or the other...do you really let the debt take charge of your life or do you want to live life a free person. How true is the saying - Debt is the slavery of the free!!!
I choose to live my life free and if it means disciplining myself to wield my common sense, will power and power of judgement to the choices I make in life so be it...here are some of the things that worked for us :
  1. Keep on top of your expenses : If you follow your spending, you have a good idea of what your budget needs to be...I have key categories and usually stick to the budget I set for myself every month
  2.  Accountability : One person needs to take accountability for the home finances - monthly payments, insurance payments, miscellaneous payments, taxes (income and property), DMV. Yes, it is a daunting list but very manageable with a little bit of organization
  3.  Be Aware and downsize where appropriate : Be aware of the prices you pay for things -- it is pain free, convenient and economical to order things online (think Amazon). In 2010, I gave up the Comcast Triple Play and moved to individual services for phone, Internet and cable and saved roughly $100 a month ( $1200/year). We had an SUV which was barely giving us 10 miles/gallon and we downsized to a sedan which was diesel, giving us almost 30 miles/gallon and it is K1's dream drive.
  4. Cut out the frills, don't be afraid to use coupons and shop sales: For health, we shop in the farmer's market ( surprisingly cheaper than buying produce at Safeway, TJ's or Whole Foods), we pack lunch for all the three of us at least 4 days a week...we don't really invest a whole lot of time cooking but try and make easy, quick and healthy meals that work for us. I proudly proclaim that I shop Sale, I use coupons and am not brand loyal - just ingredient loyal...in my mind Oats is Oats whether it's Quaker,  Oats from Bob Mills or the bulk section @ my local grocer.Coldwater Creek, Jones New York and Ann Taylor have amazing deals about 2-3 times a year and I make sure I order my clothes online then (it saves me time and serious moolah ). I go to Costco about twice a month for all my cleaning stuff, vitamins and all my nuts. I am a focused buyer -- usually have a list and stick to it.
  5.  Save Wisely: I was a little stupid when it came to starting a retirement account, what motivated me to start one was a 1:1 match by my company. Now I save fiercely ...I maximize on my 401K, put money aside for my child's college fund and investigate other opportunities to save. I use my credit card like a charge card, paying off the entire balance diligently every month.
  6. Ask yourself the question do I really need this : It is so easy to get into the vicious cycle - to earn, spend, want more and spend more -- clutter your house with art, little thingies and clutter your mind. Our house is minimalistic - we have reduced our buys to essentials . With things that we don't need or have out grown ( and you have some of those when you have children) - we actively solicit friends to take them, we sell things on craigs list or we donate to salvation army. We have an empty and sort of organized garage. My pantry is the one area which is work in progress -- I do tend to buy more food than we need but have been able to keep waste down to minimal.
  7. Be Happy and let your hair down : We don't count the pennies. We splurge where it makes sense - zoo subscriptions, theater, movies, activities, dinners, vacations. Yet more often than not happiness for me is a walk down the bay with family checking out the pelicans flying away gracefully, or the seal bobbing up and down in the water sunning or a heart pounding "bollyburn" class in the gym. I have realized that material/money is a mean to an end...not the end and it certainly does not make me  happy.
I think living with or without debt is a personal choice -- what makes sense to me might be total nonsense to you....in the end it is about doing what makes you happy. What makes me happy today is remembering the wonderful Chenna Poda, I had made almost a year back...it is a typical east meets west kind of a recipe...if you want to make this wonderful creamy Indian Cheese Cake, the recipe is here

This recipe goes to Anjali's event - Cakes, Cookies and Desserts @ Sugar and Spice Tales.

 How has the weekend been treating you?

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Amrikan from Pune...three dozen eggs

The weekend was a lazy quiet one...I ate in, practiced yoga, hung out with friends (thanks GG, AG),watched mindless TV, spent time with K1 and K2 and  caught up on reading. A, my phirang brother is down from Pune (his ameriki accent is as pronounced as my desi one :) ) and in typical foodie style we celebrated his arrival in the US with a quasi elaborate meal. My fridge is choked with sweets from Chitale Bandhu - thanks to my MIL my son will get lunch boxes with his beloved "sweet paratha" (puran poli)
I have to confess I am one of those secret food voyeur's who just loves seeing the recipe pictures and imagining how the food would taste. In reality I cook quick...recipes literally popping into my head while I cook with no sense of proportion just random instinct. Today was no different, I was at Mollie Stone's - the local store and there was some really fresh, organic chicken kheema (mince) that I picked up, fresh mint, sheep's feta, 2 dozen eggs from Emma's Comfort Coop and various other instinctive buys. When I got home -- I was tired wanting to take it easy for the next two days...yet when I walked J around the bay there was a new burst of energy, something  made me get out the huge saute pan and start cooking the chicken and the pudina pulao (thanks to A, my assistant chef)...no recipes today...just a spontaneous  picture K2 made me take with my phone ( did I tell you he has a loose tooth now...)



One thing that was striking is that adaptability is a "state of the mind" and this applies both in the work place and in the kitchen. No one told me that pulao was the way to go with the over-priced pudina (mint) that I had picked up -- in fact, I have never made pulao. I made a couple assumptions and went with my gut; I have tried to do the same at work - based decisions on instinct and experience. The Amrikan from Pune and the Punekar in Amrika, both enjoyed the meal...now I need to figure out what I can do with 3 dozen eggs ( the 1 dozen I picked up yesterday from the farmer's market and the 2 dozen today...) -- scrambled, sunny side up, boiled or unda curry anyone?