Tag Archives: love

My Gastronomic Adventure – Part 2

Now the U.S. is a culinary jungle all by itself and living here for more than a decade has greatly influenced my cooking. As a young bride I focused on making everyday Indian food which was easy, given that I used to help my mom a lot in the kitchen and knew most of the basic recipes. I love Chinese food and we used to eat out at Chinese restaurants quite frequently. The Chinese food you get in India is usually spiced up and modified to suit the Indian palate. When I came to the U.S. I quickly discovered that most Chinese restaurants were Americanized. I was disappointed and craved Ind0-Chinese food so much that I started making it myself – just the fried rice, noodles and cauliflower Manchurian.

Another type of food that I missed was chaat (Indian snack food or street food). To try and explain what chaat is to someone who has never tasted it is next to impossible. Maybe the closest I can get to describing it is by borrowing a word from Japanese – Umami, which is a 5th taste, a savory taste. Chaat is an explosion of salty, sweet, tangy, spicy and crunchy that takes you to food heaven. So again I had to perfect my paav bhaji, pani puri and bhel puri for whenever the chaat cravings hit me hard.

I love to bake and out here baking is big. So I spent many years trying out different cake and pie recipes and now I have a few perfect ones under my belt. Like banana nut bread, apple pie (thanks to Aunty D’souza – who bakes the most amazing desserts), key lime pie (thanks to Florida) blueberry muffin, almond cake, brownies and chocolate chip cookies.

When you are vegetarian, eating out is such a tedious task. Our go-to places are Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants. My kids simply love Italian food and given a chance they would eat pasta every day. So chef DC did it again and perfected her pasta sauces, ravioli, lasagna, frittata and even home made pizza. The fun part of making pizza is getting the kids involved. They love getting in there and getting messy and I love cooking with them. It reminds me of the time I spent cooking with my mom and also G.

I used to spend many hours watching food network and my favorite show was 30 minute meals with Rachel Ray. She was my idol and I used to race against the clock and try and make Indian food (that typically takes hours to make) in just 30 minutes. The rice cooker and pressure cooker were my best friends and I quickly mastered the art of speedy chopping. So in under an hour I would make one veggie dish, one gravy and rice. I can make a one pot sambar (many traditional cooks frown upon this method) which to me tastes just as good.

Other friends I have made out here have also shared wonderful recipes with me. Most of my neighbors in Boston were from Andhra Pradesh, India and their dishes are very tasty and very different from ours. I learnt how to make mango dal and eggplant curry from them. My good friend and neighbor shared her mushroom biriyani recipe which has been passed on to many friends and is still a favorite at my house. She is a very good cook and we used to make and share vada and payasam during festivals and also try out different recipes and share them. She inspired me to make sweets for Diwali (although the seeds were sown by G’s family and Ganga). So I’ve made Ladoos, Jalebis, Halwas and Kheer. My neighbor S started making murrukkus with me when she was between jobs and I soon found myself in the possession of a murukku press (thanks to my husband), making murukkus from scratch.

My husband likes to cook on occasion and he has whipped up some very good recipes. One of the earliest ones was a veggie sub with grilled green pepper, mushroom, onions and tomatoes and melted cheese. He makes the best rava dosas and dry coconut chutney. These days he is into making plantain chips from scratch – we just finished frying up a batch after slicing them up in our spiffy new mandoline.

So that brings me to last month’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Firstly we don’t eat turkey – me because I’m vegetarian and the rest of my family simply doesn’t like it. So we replaced the turkey with chicken wings – buffalo style. My daughter wanted mashed potatoes and my son wanted lasagna! I replaced the lasagna with mushroom ravioli because it’s a lot easier to make and for dessert we had eggless cake. I’m glad I chose a simple menu because on the day before Thanksgiving I fell sick and I secretly thanked myself for not choosing to make Indian food! I consider myself a die-hard curry eater but no other cuisine involves so much soaking, grinding, marinating, frying, sautéing, mincing and spicing like Indian cuisine. Later that evening the guilt set in and I ended up making eggplant curry.

There is something about food that not only titillates your palate but also warms your heart and soul. When you break bread with someone, share your table or your cooking with someone, an invisible bond is formed – one that lasts for a long time and one that evokes a lot of fond memories of fun, food, family and friends. Here’s to your own culinary adventure…cheers!

 

A Heart Full of Gratitude

It is with utmost joy that I write (and now type) this post. A long awaited dream of mine has come true. Roll back to the second post I wrote (The Work Saga –http://punctuatelife.com/2012/02/13/the-work-saga/) and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I got a job! A real job! One that pays!

It’s been less than a month but I can’t keep it from the world any longer. No it’s not a writing job. It’s not even a full time job. But it’s just what I need. Part of me was always apprehensive about going to work and leaving the kids in daycare. I’m so used to being there for them when they get back from school that it was inconceivable to me to hand that responsibility to someone else.

Yet part of me craved for a job, for independence and even the companionship of colleagues. This I partially fulfilled by doing volunteer work at the school. The volunteer work (200 something hours spent cutting and gluing, helping with centers, buying supplies) finally paid off and landed me this job.

So at this job, I get to keep the kids with me, the hours work for me and my volunteer work helped me snag this job. I’ll keep you guessing while I go over my long list of things I’m immensely grateful for in my life. It goes without saying that I’m infinitely grateful for this job. I’m blessed to have two little angels for kids. They make each waking day a joy for me. From whiny, cranky, needy babies they have grown to be solid, sound and responsible little kids. I’m in awe of these little wonders that I helped bring into the world.

I’m thankful for an awesome husband who has made my life comfortable and easy. I live an almost stress-free lifestyle thanks to him – he bears the burden of providing for the family, paying the bills, planning for the future. I know he will take care of even the tiniest detail and that we are safe and secure under his wing.

I’m thankful for my family – my parents, brother, in-laws and my adopted Grandma (Ganga). We had the good fortune of celebrating my father-in-law’s 80th birthday with him. Thank you for all your prayers, support and good wishes over the years. A special thank you to my awesome brother who keeps giving me feedback about my blog and doing a lot of PR for me.

I’m thankful for my friends who swoop down to my rescue when family cannot. Without you guys I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Your support and encouragement over the years has built my confidence, has reminded me when I have forgotten who I am and what I am capable of. A special thank you to my bosom friend N for always finding time to comfort me, praying incessantly for me and my family (like her own) and above all for believing in me when I did not believe in myself.

My dear friend S tied the knot this year and I’m so happy for her. When you have a friend you have known from the cradle, you can’t help but want her to be happy and settled (not just money-wise or career-wise but also partner-wise). So I’m thankful that she finally found her soul mate and is starting to live her happily ever after.

I’m thankful that we finally got our green card (this summer) after years of waiting. I’m also very thankful that I got to see fall colors this year after a long time. I’m thankful for good weather out here in Florida (snow is really not my thing). Thankful for food on our table. Thankful for good people in my life. Thankful for every reader (secret ones too) and subscribers. Thankful for my blog. Thankful for my pet fish. Thankful for miles and miles of beaches. Thankful for my little garden and the flowers blooming outside. Thankful for electricity and running water. Thankful for a warm and cozy home. Thankful for Mother Earth. Thankful for sunshine and rain. Thankful for laughter, good health and joy and I wish you all the same. Have a happy Thanksgiving y’all.

Guest Blog : How to Meet, Date and Marry your Soulmate in One Year! (by Shomita Sarah)

If you’re anything like me, reading this title would make you wonder if I was a little high or losing my mind. I promise I’m neither – this is the plain, honest truth as I’ve experienced it. If the title piqued your curiosity, then good. This is not really a how-to article…but it is a true-to-life experience article and honestly, I never expected to be the one to write something like this from my own experience.

Let me begin at the very beginning. The blogger I’m writing this guest article for is quite honestly my oldest (and very cherished) friend in the world. She and I were born two days apart in the same hospital in South India and our lives have been intertwined ever since. I like to say that God brought us together and has kept us together ever since. She has been a constant source of encouragement on pretty much every step where I’ve found myself faltering and particularly in the one niggling matter of finding “the guy”. A few years ago, when I was at one of those low points in my life – when every possible doubt you have weighs you down and you wonder – ‘is love ever going to find me’ and maudlin thoughts outweigh the rational – she counseled me to focus on what I wanted in a guy and make a detailed list and put it out there in the universe and wait. Easier said than done! Anyway, being at the end of the proverbial rope I decided to make that list and surprisingly, it does make you feel a little better. There’s something tangible about the written word. As a sneak preview, I’ll mention a few things on that hallowed list – tall, Irish, blue eyes, similar faith in God.  I eventually, let that list rest and went about my life, not really stressing as much about finding the guy but not really finding the guy either!

2013 started off feeling like a different year altogether. I knew something was coming this year, but didn’t know what exactly. I’d also finally gotten to the point where I decided to let the pining for “the guy” go and let him just come to me. I realized that I had a lot of good things on my plate already and if it wasn’t time for him to be on the same plate – then I could at least enjoy the rest. A cousin contacted me out of the blue and encouraged me to give a popular dating website another try – saying there were good men out there and I had to give it one more shot. So, I said to myself – why not?! Among the men that contacted me was this one guy whom I initially responded to because I found that he had a similar interest in traveling to Ireland. After a few exchanges, I started to have some doubts (as sometimes happens with online communications) and almost ended the exchange.

It would’ve surely ended there, if he hadn’t had the ‘audacity’ to call me out on my own fears and in a very down-to-earth manner give me the choice to find out if there was a possibility of a continued exchange between us. He let me set my own pace and ladies  tell me you don’t like a man who lets the girl set the pace! We started as friends – no pressure – just emailing, talking and texting and getting to know each other. We progressed to our first date on a snowy evening – that pretty much decided it for me. He was the IT guy. If I can refer back to my list again – he was tall, of Irish origin, blue eyed and shared my faith in God! We stayed all night talking and holding hands and it was simply the best date I’ve had. I started to fall in love with a good man and a gentleman – he even dusted the snow off my car! Might be a silly thing to remember but it mattered a lot to me.

We decided to become FB official – because who can say they’re really dating without letting the social network know about it right?! Less than four months later, on my 35th birthday, he surprised me – by popping the question and without a doubt, I accepted. The four months involved a whirlwind getting to know both families, lots of driving and texting and phone calls. Did I mention we were in a long-distance relationship? And did I mention that we will be tying the knot in less than 60 days?

Yup…it’s less than a year and I’ve managed to meet, date, get engaged and will soon be getting married to the guy I’ve waited a long while to meet. Ladies, pull that jaw up from off the floor. As unbelievable as this may sound…believe it…it happens! It took a lot of prayer, a lot of patient (and sometimes not-so-patient) waiting and the tiniest bit of hope that he existed. If you’re looking – don’t give up hope. Pray hard and trust that the right guy is out there and looking for you too. And when it comes to you, don’t fight too hard, give in and let yourself experience the wonder that is the love of a good man. Here’s hoping that the experiences married life brings will help us grow together as a couple!

Signs Galore

I wrote a post last year about signs that have appeared in my life. Signs that thunderously declare the presence of a God, Universe, Consciousness or whatever you like to call it. But the signs this time were not speaking to me. Not pointing me in any specific direction and no earth-shaking discoveries or breakthroughs followed. I was praying hard for specific things this year. Things that I had wanted for years but was too scared to admit to myself. Things that I thought I never deserved. Things I was not destined for maybe. But in their very absence my life became unbearable to me. The burning and churning in the pit of my stomach I could ignore no more.

But life unfolded one dull and boring day after another. With mind-boggling signs scattered along the way! It all started with clover leaves and shamrocks appearing all over the place. On bumper stickers. On T-shirts. Leaves mysteriously mingled with the laundry and leaves on the carpet. It didn’t make any sense at all. And then my son’s teacher hands me a paper shamrock and asks me to trace and cut 18 giant ones for the March book report. I quickly looked up the meaning of shamrocks and clover leaves on the internet. Each leaf signified something. The first one for faith, second for hope, third for love and the last for luck. What did it all mean? First I thought it meant we should move back to Boston (the Boston Celtics symbol is a shamrock right?) It didn’t happen. Then I started hallucinating. Thought I’d suddenly become psychic or something and was now able to foretell the future. Not mine but others! I envisioned two of my single friends with their partners. I told one of my friends over IM (one of those safe ways of communicating totally psychotic material!) about my ‘vision’.

Then one fine day I get an e-mail from the other friend saying she has found the ‘one’. Was one of the most exciting days of a mostly uneventful month. I chatted with her later that week and she told me how it all happened over the St.Patricks day weekend and that her beau is Irish. And wait for it…had a tattoo of a shamrock! I know this girl from the cradle and once when she was visiting me after I had read “Eat, Pray, Love” I asked her which was the one place in the world she would love to explore. “Ireland” came the reply. I’ve also seen her poring over books written by Irish authors and set in Ireland. Coincidence? I think not!

She told me how she started picking up pennies that lay in her path after I wrote about it and after a friend told her their significance. I have been finding pennies for years now and I stash them in a little bag that hangs from the floor lamp in my room. The last time I counted there were 25. The last 10 I found over this summer. Anyways earlier this year I was talking to my friend and she told me she was still waiting for the right man to walk into her life but was not sure what to expect. Somehow the conversation drifted to lucky pennies and I told her I was pooling all my luck (in the little drawstring bag) and that I’d send her some! Luck that is!

The Irish know a good thing when they look it in the eye. So he wasted no time and proposed to her on her birthday which happens to be 2 days before mine. So I heard all about it. Then they fixed the wedding date for October and she asked me to be her Maid Of Honor! I see the hand of God all over this and I’m so humbled to be a part of this.

Anyways, the signs kept coming my way. Again I had no clue what to expect. I saw a huge rainbow in May and then butterflies and pennies. One time I found 4 pennies when I was walking with my husband at the mall. Found $2 outside Kohls one day. In July it was all about rainbows. Here in Florida it rains in the afternoons or evenings for maybe a 1/2 hour or more and then the sun comes out. My balcony faces east making it convenient for the western sun to throw rainbows onto the eastern sky. Call me nuts but every time it rains and the sun comes out I go hunting for the rainbow. I’ve seen double rainbows. I’ve seen rainbows when it wasn’t even raining! But the best one by far was the one that appeared on my birthday.

It’s a good thing I record all the signs I receive in my journal because here is one I almost forgot about. Here is what I wrote:

Yesterday as I lay in bed with the window open and the moonlight shining in I could feel my heart expanding. It felt good. The moon looked pretty with four rays beaming outward. On the 21st of June the moon was next to a cloud shaped like a lady with her wavy long hair around her. The cloud slowly moved towards the moon. At one point the moon was the (glowing) heart center of the lady (cloud). It was so beautiful.  

I know I’m such an ingrate. I’ve been inundated with signs all year and yet I’ve been wading through gloom and self-pity. In fact I had the audacity to say to God/ Universe – stop with the signs – I want results! I want to see progress. I want the New Age (Utopia in my mind) to arrive. Now! The universe sent me another sign – a battered penny. Battered because it was lying in the middle of the road and had been run over by several cars before I found it and reluctantly rescued it. The next day I found a teeny-tiny feather stuck to the cover of our car. Still doubted. Thought it was just a coincidence. We drove off to Publix to get some milk. They had a scavenger hunt for kids and we went roaming around the whole store looking for gluten-free Rice Krispies and organic strawberries. Somewhere along the way we ended up on a aisle that had magazines and books. My eye fell on this book which was part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series titled – Messages from Heaven.

I picked up the book, my whole body tingling with excitement. It opened to the content section and my eyes fell on this – Messengers and Angels. I couldn’t deny it anymore. And that is when I got it. God loved me. And will keep loving me despite my faults (battered penny) because I was his/her child (tiny feather).

The next day as if to re-emphasize that all these were indeed signs from above, my son asked me this question, “Ma, do you really believe in signs?” I smiled and told him about how I had to believe after I saw the writing in the sky, “God Loves You”. It was simple and direct and there was no denying it or pretending it was just a coincidence.

In the past signs were answers to prayers or little messages from the Universe for me to decipher. But this time it was just a sign to hold on, to keep believing, to keep the faith and hope alive. To know that I am loved and cared for now and forever more. And that the luck and the pot of gold will follow!

Have you seen signs like these. Please share below…

You are Not Alone

   The world has become unbearable to me. The more I try to center myself and tap into inner peace, the more junk it throws at me. I love the trash-to-treasure idea but what do you do with random acts of violence with absolutely no motive or reasoning. It’s hard to erase those images from your psyche.

  My husband lovingly calls me the ‘enlightened one’ – what with my 24/7 obsession with making everything right with the world and my irresistible need to give advice to everyone about everything. But I was beginning to think he is mistaken. I’m barely keeping my head above the water. But it’s not like I’m going through the worst time of my life. Those years are way behind me. So then it got me thinking about those years when I felt all alone and a slave to my never-ending problems. Where was God, where were the signs, where were His/Her people?

   This is what I sensed from deep within. Even in your moments of deep despair, I was there whispering words of reassurance. You heard the words but didn’t know it was me. And then this song just popped into my head – ‘In the Arms of the Angel’ from the soundtrack of the movie “City of Angels”. I used to hear that song over and over when I was in Pondicherry, hating the course I was doing and wanting to quit. It was a very tough phase, with lots of tears and regret and doubts about whether I was doing the right thing. Back then it was just a song to me and it did not occur to me that I was being guided.

  Through several hits and misses I see how I was protected and saved from situations that would have taken me down  the road to damnation. When I had to deal with heartache I stumbled upon a kind saint and his compassionate words  to help me through it.

 Which brings me to the poem I want to share with you. I want you to know that whatever it is that you are going through you are not alone. Not even physically alone because me and several others are with you down that path. Struggling with the ugliness of the world before it disappears for good. All that we need to do is have faith that we will be swept away on the wings of angels and can live without a care.

 

Footprints in the Sand

One night I had a dream. I dreamed I was walking along the beach with God and across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonged to me and the other belonged to God.

When the last scene of my life flashed before us I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at certain times along the path of life there was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of my life. This really bothered me and I questioned God about it.

“God, you said that once I decided to follow You, You would walk with me all the way but I noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints in the sand. I don’t understand why in times I needed You most You would leave me.”

God replied,”My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you during your times of trials and suffering. When you see only one set of footprints in the sand it was then that I was carrying you.”

Mary Stevenson.