Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Two funerals and a canceled engagement

    One of the reasons we intended to go to India this year was for my vadina's marriage (husband-ji's younger cousin-sister). They were begging us to come, so we caved in and booked the expensive flight tickets. Then, a week later...the wedding was canceled indefinitely! 

AIYOOOO RAMA.

The story goes like this - it was an arranged match. Both the families had agreed on a date from the astrologer. Both families are very traditional Telugu types. Then, one of the groom's relatives died. As per [South Indian] Hindu custom, it is inauspicious for a groom to get married within a year of the relative's death. So, they had to extend the engagement/wedding date to after the 1 year period was over - December 2014.

The engagement was set for December 1st and the wedding for December 7th, those being lucky dates for the couple. During this time, the couple had been getting to know each other better as they intended to get married. 

Then, as Summer rolls around, another relative on the groom's side falls ill. This relative wants the young couple to go ahead with the marriage, no matter what happens. She does not want them to follow the custom of waiting another whole year. In [South Indian] Hindu custom, if an engagement is already performed, then the young couple has to get married no matter what, within a certain time frame. The families eagerly scramble to find an auspicious date within a week and set a last minute engagement ceremony so that the couple can go forth with the marriage, even if there is a death. The bride's side spends a lot of money getting the venue, priests, food, flowers, invitations printed, gold, clothing, and gifts.

Then, the relative unfortunately dies less than 24 hours before the engagement ceremony, and all hell breaks loose. All of a sudden the groom's family is blaming the bride and saying she is bad luck to their family. The groom's mother is saying not to get married. The bride's father is superstitious and doesn't want them to get married, but rather he wants her married to someone ELSE within 3 months. The groom only listens to his mother. The bride's aunt is now saying the groom's brother was disrespectful to her and she never approved of the match. The bride still wants to get married because she has started to love the groom. The groom does not. The family astrologer is saying there will be no "good dates" for the next few years. Neither one wants to wait two years.

Husband-ji was on the phone with his cousin-sister for about 4 hours as she was wailing. He asked her, "What do YOU want to do?" Apparently nobody had even asked her this question. He said, "Forget everybody. This is YOUR life, this is YOUR marriage and the person you will have to live with for the next 60 years. What do YOU want, for YOU?" He instructed her to go to a quiet place and think about what she wanted - not for her parents or anybody else.

In the end, another family member who practices astrology said that there were no good dates for 5 years. So that means that she would probably not get married until she was 28 - a normal ripe age in the Western world. I feel quite relieved for her because that way she will have some time to work on her career and life goals before she settles into slavery married life!!!

The last we heard of this cousin-sister was that she wanted to come abroad to study in Canada. We were helping her research schools. Then her parents said it was too expensive, and basically pushed her to get married instead. Because, you know, if you're a girl in India, you apparently have to CHOOSE between getting an education, and being married off. (What the hell!) Of course now that everything has been cancelled, I'm betting her parents are regretting not investing that money into her Master's degree!

Quite an interesting scenario to witness. The first thing that struck me was that there were too many opinions being considered instead of the TWO people who were going to be in the union. Another is that I know from personal experience - when two people want to get married, nothing can stop them. Nothing. If the union was so easily broken by these things, then how would it survive 60+ years? So, maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

Anyway, we will be going to India for a vacation as we have already booked our tickets. But no wedding this time! Maybe we can crash another...?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkin patchin'


As we prepare for Halloween, we had to go for a fun visit to the pumpkin patch. The pumpkin patch we go to is located about 30 minutes outside of the city and it is on an actual farm where you can pick the pumpkins from the field that they have grown in.


It was a really fun experience to take Maya to a farm outside the city because it was really child-friendly. There were farm animals (Maya loved the baby goat and the big fat pig), there were songs and music, and a tractor hay ride took you to the pumpkin field. On the field, you get a chance to walk around and pick out your pumpkin, big or small. We picked out a small one and we will teach her how to take out the filling this week. Even though she was wearing rain boots, Maya didn't like the muddy field too much. She freaked out when she stepped on some rotted pumpkin! She was more into the songs and the animals.


The last time we went was when she was only 5 months old. Last year, we didn't have a chance to go because I was recovering from meningitis. Although husband-ji didn't want to go, he finally agreed and we all had a great time. Maya came back singing the "Old MacDonald had a farm" song for days after! It was a really delightful event and she's at the perfect age for it now!


Next up...Halloween!
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Monday, October 27, 2014

Recipe: Brinjal Podi Curry



I used to hate eggplant..until I tried this dish! My MIL recently made this on our big Venice trip when we got tired of eating pasta and it really hit the spot! This dish combines the sweet flavor of eggplant with the spicy nutty flavor of the homemade sesame paste that you can do right in your blender. I like to keep the skin of the eggplant on to maximize the nutrients in this dish. Eggplants are high in iron, calcium, and fiber which gives many health benefits. In addition, eggplants can also help fight colon cancer and diabetes, being very low in calories and high in nutrients. The addition of sesame seeds gives this dish an even greater health benefit. In Tamil, this dish is called Kathirikkai Podi Idicha Karamadhu.

Madh Mama's Brinjal Podi Curry

Serves 3-4 people



Ingredients:

- 1/2 onion
- 15-20 baby eggplant
- 3 tbsp oil (peanut or sunflower)
- salt
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 dried red chillies
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tbsp chana dal



Tools:
- large pan
- blender

Directions:


Before starting, you have to dry roast the spices for the paste. Turn the pan on to medium heat and add the sesame seeds, red chillies, coriander seeds, and chana dal. Keep a close eye on it as the sesame seeds will golden first. As soon as the sesame seeds start to tan, pour the spices into a blender and keep aside.


Chop the onion and keep aside. 


Chop the eggplant into quarters and then in halves. Keep aside.


Heat the oil up in the pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onions.


When the onions are halfway done, add the eggplant and stir.


The eggplant may take 10-15 mins to cook and the skin of the eggplant will become clear. Keep stirring it every 5 minutes.


While the eggplant is cooking, you can blend the spices and keep them ready. Blend the spices with 6 tbsp of water until it is a smooth consistency. Keep aside.


When the eggplant is done, add salt, and 3 tbsp of the blended paste.

Stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes so that the spices can develop into the eggplant.

And voila!

This dish can be served with rice, roti, or poori.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

My 2 year blog-iversary & tips for other bloggers


Today marks my 2 year anniversary from the time that I started this little madhhouse. I didn't know exactly what I was doing, how I was going to do it, or where it would take me, but I knew one thing for sure...I wanted to write. Just write. That is all.

In my first post, I assumed that this blog would document my journey of motherhood, but it has become so much more. Two years later, my blog has taken me on a tidal wave in a destination that I never dreamed of. I have met so many interesting people, I had the opportunity to write for a published magazine (twice!), and was recently interviewed by a producer on my favorite TV network, TLC. If I keep this going, I really wonder where it will take me, as I'm only on year 2! 

I think I knew I was doing something worthwhile when I felt a freedom from writing, as well as several readers telling me that I inspired them to write a blog of their own. So, for those of you who are thinking about starting a blog, or are bloggers already, here are some tips:


Write often
The sooner you make writing a priority is the sooner you will make it a part of your daily routine. I often carry around a small notebook (or you can use a notebook feature in your smartphone) to record down different ideas. Ideas will literally come to me in the middle of the night, when I'm in the shower, or when I'm out and about. It strikes me like a lightning bolt!

Read often
One of the things that has improved my writing capabilities is reading very frequently. I like to read novels, articles on current events, and I read a ton of blogs. I read things from all over the place, that are not necessarily in my "genre".

Schedule posts in advance
I like to use the Google calendar feature to schedule my posts so I can see what my month looks like with a variety of topics. That way, things are more spaced out and consistent. I leave some room in between for things that I write on a whim.

Talk deep
It's fine if you want your blog to reflect sunshine and rainbows, but it's not entirely honest. If you write a dishonest blog, then you yourself as a writer will not be inclined to write when things get tough. Plus, blog readers offer amazing advice when you need it. Talking about deep issues prompts deep responses.

Variety
Offer a variety of things to your blog to attract a complex reader. Fuck genre. I talk about relationships, parenting, current events, religion, travel and more. It's your space and make it complex. You never know what people will be able to relate to!

Don't forget about the blog
Many opportunities may arise from blogging, but never forget your blog's main goal is to provide content for readers. 

Surround yourself with serious people
Whether it is other artists, writers, or just people who are good at what they do, it's important to surround yourself with serious, passionate people. People who have hopes, dreams and goals (and who put in the effort to achieve them) can greatly inspire you to do your thing, whatever that may be...

Stick to it
In the blogging world, you'll notice pretty seriously about who is really serious and who is wishy-washy. Someone who writes 1 post a year is wishy-washy. Of course, things come up like life stresses and internet trolls who threaten your life (yes, that happened), but there is something to be said about people who stick to their goals, no matter what...


Cheers to year 2, writing fearlessly, and riding this tidal wave!

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Seeing the Dalai Lama (on Diwali)


Yesterday, I spent the morning of Diwali going to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama in person!!!! The event was on at the University and it was about "Educating the Heart in the Early Years". It was a dialogue between himself and 5 panelists from the University who do research on Early Childhood. The researchers presented the Dalai Lama with their findings about preschool children.

I saw the Dalai Lama before when he came to Vancouver ten years ago. I was especially interested to see him this time, after a decade of life experiences, as well as having a young child now. I was thrilled that the topic was about raising preschool children, as that is what I am doing every day.

The Dalai Lama is fascinated by science, and he called himself "a young student". He combines practical thinking with Western scientific thought and Eastern tradition. He spoke of the interdependence of the East and the West, and that one cannot exist without the other. He is very interested in the science behind sustaining happiness and well-being, in mind, body and spirit.


"Educating the Heart in the Early Years" spoke about children's behaviors in their early ages before entering formal education (around age 5). Each speaker noted how important those early years are on the child's character, which in turn impacts their community. The goal of early childhood researchers is to create the best lives for children by educating their heart and mind - encouraging them to be compassionate, kind, alert, engaged, and calm.

One researcher displayed her findings of a survey of children who are entering the school system (at age 5) from various economic backgrounds. Her findings showed that students from poor families showed greater compassion, peaceful problem solving skills and emotional intelligence than those from wealthy families.

The Dalai Lama spoke of how he was from a poor family and that his mother was illiterate and uneducated. He said, "when a family is poor, there is not much else to provide for them but affection". He spoke of the closeness to his mother and that she always carried him around and that her bountiful affection effected him positively. He received more affection from his mother than he saw any rich family give their sons, and it made him feel loved and "spoiled", as he laughed saying. He noted the "the source of happiness is human love". He said biologically, children are born in this world with the tools to survive. But to emotionally thrive, they need affection from people who care for them - whether it is a parent, guardian, teacher, etc. He noted that an unloved child is a fearful child, and that fear is constricting in the sense that it closes you up emotionally. "The survival of the child entirely depends on someone else's affection," he said.

Another researcher displayed his findings from a study of sick and disabled children that showed the importance of early intervention and how it positively effected language skills and social development. He also displayed his findings from another study of 3-year-olds and their parents who were suffering from mental health issues and how it negatively effects the child. In the latter study, he noted the quality programs can help them emotionally thrive. "When somebody works with a young child, that work is a spiritual experience. You have to be mindful, have compassion for the child, and listen - listen loudly," he said.

The fourth researcher from the developmental psychology department was very interesting. She displayed her findings that infants and toddlers can display generosity - and that willing to share with others make them happy. This goes against popular thought and instead it shows that through scientific research like this, toddlers are NOT inherently selfish. Rather, they are happiest when they share with others, and that generosity is beneficial to them as well as others. The research states that no matter what kind of economic background the child is from, they are happy to share with others.

The study showed a video of toddlers and infants in an experiment of sharing with others. Infants as young as 3 months old were involved in this study and it had everyone in the audience gasping. The research showed that even children as young as 3 months old appreciate helpfulness and generosity - that children come into our world already knowing these things. The lesson to take from this is that it is very important to give children opportunities to demonstrate their generosity and helpfulness and that it is a regular part of development. As parents and educators, it is our job to engage these positive qualities in our children and preserve it - because it is already within them.

The last panelist was an economist who shared that science nowadays is changing from focusing on repairing damage, and instead thinking about opening new doors to become better humans. He noted that people involved in care-giving professions, such as nurses, teachers, and social workers (those who give), are more happier than people who receive. He said generosity is built into the human spirit and that people are born wanting to give to others. He said that early childhood is about saving and preserving those pure qualities that children are naturally born with. As an economist, he said that material life is not the source of happiness. He stated that the source of happiness is in the chance to give, connect, and be with others, as humans are naturally social beings.

What struck me the most about the Dalai Lama was how simple a man he is. He is a monk that wears robes, he is aged, he has an aura of being peaceful in his heart. You can tell he is an enlightened being. During the lecture, he said, "a calm mind brings inner peace". He is quite funny, and humble - he jokes a lot. For him, life's greatest answers are simple - to have compassion, be mindful, and be generous.

As he walked away from the stage, I got the sensation that I may never see him again. He is quite old, and frail. At times, his voice was muffled and he was hard to understand. At the end of the lecture, he told the crowd of students that the 20th century brought so much innovation, yet it brought a lot of violence. And he pointed to us - as students and disciples - and he said he wishes for us as 21st century beings to make a better world by showing compassion. "Make an attempt within your lifetime and you WILL see a happier world," he said.

It was a truly enlightening experience and such a great way to spend Diwali...


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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Our Diwali 2014


For our Diwali this year, we celebrated it quietly at home as we cannot have a big celebration in the year after thatha's death.

I dressed Maya all up in a mini lehenga choli, which she smiled for one picture and then wanted to take it off! Ha! I dressed all up in my lime green silk saree from my Hyderabad hotspot, Nalli Silks.


Husband-ji cooked a nice dinner of Aloo Mutter and Tomato Dal. Then, we lit a few simple candles which burned through the night. Diwali is often called "the festival of lights" and diya's must be lit as a celebration of the victory of good over evil.


During the day, I went to see the Dalai Lama (more on that tomorrow...) and in the evening, we spent it together as a family. Husband-ji didn't want to get in the picture because he was sweating from cooking...ha ha!


Happy Diwali, dear readers! What did you do for Diwali?


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Recipe: Spinach Dal


Spinach Dal is one of the healthiest recipes to come out of the Indian subcontinent. This dish is packed with superfoods like spinach, lentils, onions, tomatoes, and has minimal oil. I like to use Moong Dal because it has a more hearty flavour that parallels the spinach. We make this dish at least twice per week! It goes with absolutely everything.


Madh Mama's Spinach Dal

Serves 4-6 people




Ingredients:

- 1 cup Moong Dal
- 1 onion
- 2 tomatoes
- 1.5 cups spinach
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder 
- 1 tsp salt

For tempering:
- 2 tbsp oil (sunflower or peanut oil)
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder
- pinch of asefoetida




Tools:
- pressure cooker
- small omelette pan

Directions:

Wash the dal and drain it.

Chop the onions and tomatoes.


Add the dal, onions, tomatoes, spinach, ginger paste, chilli powder (1/4 tsp), turmeric, and 3.5 cups of water into the pressure cooker.

Put the pressure cooker on the stove and switch it up to medium-high heat. Wait until the pressure cooker gives 5 LONG whistles and then take it off the heat and let it cool down for 20 minutes.

Then, take the lid off the pressure cooker, stir, and place on medium heat and bring it to a boil. Add salt.

You can add up to 2 cups of water at this point, if you would like the dal more watery.


Mash the boiling dal every few minutes, for a total of 10 minutes.

For the tempering, put oil in the omelette pan on medium heat.


Put the cumin in the oil and when it starts to brown, add the garlic paste and stir. Be very careful not to burn the garlic. 


Take the omelette pan OFF the heat and add the chilli powder (1/4 tsp), asefoetida, and garam masala and stir it in.


Then, pour this mixture into the boiling dal and give it a big stir.  


And voila!

 Spinach Dal can be eaten as a soup, or with rice/roti and it goes with any vegetable side dish (such as Aloo Jeera or Carrots Poriyal).


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Finished Vishnu Tattoo sleeve


Husband-ji recently had his second sitting with his tattoo artist to finish his left arm sleeve of Vishnu. 

Usually with large tattoo sleeves, you have to get it done in two sittings. The first sitting was 6 hours long, and husband-ji was in so much pain. The second sitting took another 6 hours, but it wasn't so painful for him because his pain tolerance was increased. Now it is finished (for the time being...) and it really looks fantastic. It is so detailed and intricate.


I took Maya to see him getting it done and she was absolutely fascinated. She was peering through this little window like a Peeping Tom!


Husband-ji can't wait to show it off on our next upcoming trip to India!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014


Last weekend we had Canadian Thanksgiving, and we were so happy to have the long weekend off work. In Canada, Thanksgiving falls on the second weekend of October, which is different than the Americans who celebrate it at the end of November. (See, we ARE different!)

It was really nice to have two whole days off work to spend as a family. But, as usual - we had a dilemma. Since we had the time off, I wanted us to do some seasonal family things like: a) take Maya to the Halloween ghost train ride, and b) take Maya to the pumpkin patch. Of course, husband-ji, the grumpy grandfather, wanted only "to relax" (aka watch TV for the whole weekend...snore!). We ended up compromising (yet again) by going to the Ghost Train on one day, and relaxing the next day. A win-win!


This year, the theme of the Stanley Park Ghost Train was "Mother Goose's Ghastly Garden", which was a haunted version of classic nursery rhymes. Maya loved it because she understood the songs she sings all the time. I thought it was actually quite scary, having Little Bo Peep randomly come up to the train screaming bloody murder. I think if it was dark out, I would have been totally creeped out! Maya didn't think it was scary at all, thank god! 


The next day, it ended up pouring torrential rain, so we didn't have a chance to go to the Pumpkin Patch. But I am totally going to drag husband-ji at the next available weekend! Husband-ji got a chance to catch up on his rest and also watch the Indiana Jones marathon on TV. For Thanksgiving dinner, we visited my aunt's house and had a delicious turkey dinner. As usual, poor husband-ji had boiled cauliflower and mashed potatoes!


It was a lovely long weekend and I'm glad we got the chance to spend it together. Now I am back on the daily grind of tiffin lunches...

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The tiffin lunch project

Husband-ji has been very stressed in the past few months with work and has totally fallen off the wagon health-wise. Now that he is back home, I have had to help him with his health and eating habits, like a good Indian wifey...

Although husband-ji is skinny and slim, he never exercises and he doesn't eat very well. He doesn't eat breakfast, and he only eats a bag of chips at work for lunch (if he makes the time!!!) His day is non-stop, until he comes home like a big grumpy bear. Or "grump ass old man", as I affectionately like to call him! Not only that, but he is a picky eater. And he has MOODS. There are only certain fruit and vegetables that he will eat at certain times. And he cannot plan ahead. Basically, his eating habits are a total nightmare.

He came back from his business trips like a total mess, having had "too much outside food" all month. So, I made my personal mission to encourage him to eat better and more regularly. With some coaxing, he agreed to work on his health and that he will take a nice lunch to work and eat it.


To make it even more Indian home-style, I got him a 2 tiered tiffin lunchbox to take to work. Then, I asked husband-ji to go online and pin some recipes to my Pinterest. He then pinned 5 million different things that I have no idea how to cook, like Radish Sambhar and Dal Makhani (which takes 9 hours to make). 

What the heck. Total DIVA pampered prince!!!

Since he has been back, I have been back in the kitchen whipping up some magical stuff - I have been trying out a lot of different basic dal recipes that husband-ji has been going crazy over. The pressure cooker - previously the insane hissing snake with rabies - has become my tamed pet snake who hisses on command!

I have been filling the tiffin box with rice and leftover dal so he can have a hearty lunch. I must say, my inlaws are seriously impressed! I have promoted my Indian wife status by one point! And husband-ji looks so cute going out the door with his little shiny lunchbox. It makes me feel good to know that he is eating his lunch and then he won't come home so grumpy.

Of course, in India, the tiffin boxes are usually 4 tiered. They will fill each box with rice, a dal/liquid, 2-3 roti, and a curry. So, I am really just a novice with our tiffin box being 2 tiered. But I am getting there!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Watching parents age


As I get older, one of the scariest things is watching my parents age. There is something frightening about watching your parents aging, have accidents, and become frail.

My mum is quite healthy. Since having breast cancer 15 years ago, she changed her life by combining an active and relaxed lifestyle. She eats healthy and does yoga; as well as finds moments to unwind and relax from work. She had cancer relatively young, and she was able to bounce back quickly.

My dad just had cancer this year, at the age of 67. He can't relax at all, and has fallen back into old patterns of working too much and not adopting any healthy lifestyle choices, other than eating soup standing up because he is so anxious. Recently, my mother phoned us one morning at 7am to let us know that my dad fell into the swimming pool and hurt his elbow so badly that he needed stitches. He was in the University hospital Emergency all day. He swore he tripped, but we all know he lost his balance. And then he spent the entire day the next day in the office. At the age of 67, he won't slow down and he won't listen to us. If a cancer scare didn't stop him, then what will?

That morning, I was so stressed out thinking of all the what if's - my dad could have hit his head and drowned in the pool. It is really getting scary for me to see my parents age. My dad kind of reminds me of my grandfather now, with the spots on his hand and his shiny bald spot. And especially the way he walks so slowly. And he reminds me of my grandmother in the ways he repeats things 15 times.

He is aging, and I really don't know how to deal with it. When he was sick, he let me take care of him every day which was so great because we got to spend time together. It's times like these where I really wish I had a brother or sister to help me care for him. But now, he just wants to carry on like the Energizer Bunny when he's not exactly at the right age to do so. I can't force him to stay home and rest, or imprison him in the house when he wants to keep himself busy. At his age, you can't really tell them what to do!

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Recipe: Punjabi Beetroot


I never used to like Beets until I tried this recipe - it is so deliciously spicy, savory and sweet all at once! This is a recipe that I learned from a Punjabi friend, and I make it at least once a week. Beets are one of nature's super foods, as they detox the liver, good for your bones, and helps prevent heart disease and is an anti-inflammatory. Beets are especially important if you are pregnant or have anemia, as it provides a whopping 35% of your daily folate. Along with the combination of spices, this recipe is a match made in heaven!


Madh Mama's Punjabi Beetroot
Serves 3 people (and a baby!)



Ingredients:

- 4 large beets
- 2 roma tomatoes
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 2 cloves
- 2 pinches asefoetida
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp fenugreek powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp salt



Tools:
- medium/large saute pan
- potato peeler


Directions:


Peel the beets and chop into small pieces, keep aside.


Chop the tomatoes and keep aside.


Heat the oil in the pan on medium heat. Add cloves, cumin, fenugreek, and asefoetida and sautee for under a minute.


Add the beetroot, toss, and leave for 2 minutes.


Pour in 1 cup of water, bring it to a boil, and put the lid on the pan.


Cook for 10 minutes.


Take the lid off, and add the tomatoes, ginger paste, coriander powder, chilli powder, and salt. Toss it and cover again for 10 minutes.

Take the lid off and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. You can test the beets by piercing it with a fork.


And voila!

This dish is best served with rice and/or roti.



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