No season for thanksgiving..

Or to be specific, there is no specific season for Thanksgiving – it happens all year around, doesn’t it? Especially when you have help pouring in, just when you need it.

Daughter and I had been ill since the beginning of this week. I recovered, but she got even more ill. One evening, her temperature spiked and I, to be honest, was a wreck. I was still ill, did not know any doctors I could rush to, had no option but to call around asking for information. My plan of action was to get her temperature down, for the time being, and get her to the doctor the next morning. It was a rainy day, roads jammed, cold winds blowing, there was no way I could take her anywhere that night.

Before I knew it, my cousins came over to us to their doctor, a really nice doctor, who, btw,was really nice. My friends called in with offers of food, transport, and any other thing that we might need. It was a mad, mad day when everything that could go wrong, did, but also a day when I got all the help I could have asked for and much, much more.

I can’t even begin to express how grateful I feel. It’s tough when you are alone, but all the people I have here, never lets me feel alone. Knowing that help is just a phone call away, and sometimes, even that phone call isn’t needed, is such a huge support. It’s times like these that feel truly grateful, for family and friends that I can turn to. And I just hope I can be there for them in their hours of need.

Busy, busy, busy!

That’s my life at the moment.

We’ve booked our tickets to return to India, and suddenly there is just too much to do.

Last weekend, for instance. It started off with Friday. There was a Fashion and Beauty Night at school for the mums, and I had planned to go. I never end up going to these events because husband is never around. This time the event would go on from 7 to 11 pm. Daughter had dance class until 7:30, and husband would be back by then. I had it all planned out. Drop daughter off after dance class, handover-takeover with husband, and off for my fashion and beauty night. It is another story that daughter wanted to know, ‘ Amma, you are not Fashion or beauty, so why do you want to go?’. If she ever finds me looking good in anything I wear, her biggest compliment is, ‘You look Fashion, Amma!’. Which by the way, does not happen much, as much as I would like it to 😉

As I was saying, I had it all planned, sorted to the last minute. Until I received a text from husband -‘Flight delayed by an hour’! That was it, all my planning down the drain. Fashion and beauty was not going to be a possibility. That was Friday sorted. Saturday was the usual saturday rush, to get to swimming, get back home, and this time, instead of rushing out again, I got daughter to sleep. We had a dinner at a friend’s place, and I wanted to get her to sleep. We are bound to stay later than her usual bedtime, and I will have a cranky, unhappy child if she doesn’t take a nap. I lay down with her, and before I knew it, both of us were in dream land. Thankfully my contribution to the evening was already made – Tres Leche – I put on weight just thinking about it!

Dinner, of course, was loads of fun. And for me, tinged with a bit of sadness as well. I am going to miss my friends here.. Its been such a great time, full of fun, laughter, and loads of food! My friend had made some yummy, yummy food! I drool thinking about it! It was just yum! A perfect evening it was- stuffed to the gills with food, cheeks aching after laughing way too much, just the perfect weekend treat!

Sunday started early – for me. Somethings happened to me, no matter what time I sleep, I wake up at 6:00 in the morning! Six in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays! I must be mad! Since I can’t go back to sleep, I use the time to drink a leisurely cup of coffee sitting in my conservatory, listening to birds chirping, and basking in the warm sunlight. Of course the peace only lasts until daughter wakes up.

Daughter had a ballet exam on Sunday. They had been planning it since ages, and finally it was here. It’s funny how exams are such fun things for these children. She and her friends were super excited about it. The excitement dimmed a bit only when they(and we) realized that we wouldn’t get to know the results until another 4 weeks. That was a little disappointing but never mind, nothing keeps us down for too long.

We had planned to go shopping after the exam, but the weather was just gorgeous! Too gorgeous to waste on shopping! So off we went to Yorkshire Dales, and landed up in a gorgeous scenic place. We parked the car, walked to a river bank, with cows and sheep gazing at us, soaking in the gorgeous sunshine, relaxing and having fun doing nothing. Daughter found herself a new hobby, collecting stones! We now have a bunch of stones in our car boot. We could stay there forever and ever.

We then managed to go further and find a cute pub which would accept credit cards( I ran out of money and husband did not bring along his wallet. Sigh!). Before I forget enroute, we passed a car boot sale. Normally car boot sales are in the mornings, and I always have a million and one things to do in the morning. I saw signs advertising a car boot which would end at 4. It was 3:30 then, so we decided to stop and check it out. They waived off the entry fee for us, we realized why when we entered. It was almost empty. Needless to say, we did not buy anything. Infact, I felt I could donate some of the stuff I have in my place:) We left with an ice Lilly for daughter.

So going back to the cute pub. We landed in a tiny village where most restaurants accepted only cash. It was daughter’s dinner time, and we gratefully entered the only pub which was ready to accept cards. Daughter had her dinner while we snacked on onion rings and we started our journey back home.

That was it for the weekend. Monday and Tuesday seems to have whizzed past. Why does time fly so? I’ve got all the sorting and clearing left to do, while squeezing in meeting up with friends, planning playdates and hoping that I don’t miss something important. Also the realization that you have just a month to sort everything out, and you have two holidays scheduled in that month! I suspect though, that the month after I land in India will put this one to shame.

PS: I’ve been reading you guys, I’ve just not been able to get down to commenting.

Priceless.. Post 31

After the rant yesterday, it is only right that I talk about the wonderful people I know here.

I have mentioned before about how slowly, this city that we live in, has become home for us. We have lived a nomadic lifestyle ever since we got married. Moving cities, continents, enjoying making new friends, exploring different ways of life.. Each city had it’s highs and lows, and each phase had a different flavour.

This place that we are in now, has been idyllic, if I am honest. Living in a lovely, quiet, peaceful suburb, knowing that you have friends that you can rely on. Knowing that there are friends that watch your back, knowing that there are people you can count on. Knowing that there are people I can call – any time in the night, if I need to, in case of an emergency.

The love and concern that come in some boxes of food that concerned friends send when they know that I am not well, or offers of picking up daughter from school, or taking her for a play-date, when I am not well, just so that I get some rest.. Priceless, as they say. Simply priceless. That feeling of being cared for, a home away from home… How different would life be if not for such wonderful friends, who make such a huge difference.

And that completes the NaBloPoMo! Thank you, my wonderful blog friends, who have been so supportive of the non-stop rubbish that I churned out every day 🙂

Whatever will be, will be..Post1

When the right time comes, you just know it.

You know you have been away from blogging for way too long, when the ‘add new post’ page looks so different that I had to double-check that I had clicked on the right link.

That and the fact that I had forgotten my WP password. Not good, not good at all.

So when Monika, and Swaram floated the idea of a NaBloPoMo, I could not help being tempted. It was such great fun the last time we did it, that I can’t help but join. And hope that this would mean a proper resumption of blogging, because I do miss the blogworld so very much.

So where had I been? Well, I just got busy, doing the same regular stuff, spending time with daughter. The weather has been unexpectedly good, so we have just been basking in all the sunlight that came our way. A lady I met on a bus one day, did warn me though, ‘We will pay for it. It is not natural, such warm weather in April’.  I only  hope she is wrong.

That’s daughter frolicking in the sun 🙂

We just got back from a wonderful holiday, spent time with wonderful friends, and laughed more than we had in the recent memory. As I said, the weather has been wonderful to us.

I am terribly, terribly backlogged with my reader. I am so tempted to mark everything as read and start afresh 🙂 So how has everybody been? What have you been doing?

A Place Called Home

It is funny to think how a once alien place becomes home. All it takes is time and friends.

A few years back when we had first come to the UK, we had felt quite lonely and desolate. After having a wonderful circle of friends and family in Bangalore, London had seemed quite cold( both literally and figuratively). Our lives revolved around work, deadlines, and weekends devoted to housework and sightseeing.

Slowly we made new friends and acquaintances, some at work, some at obscure places like Pizza hut, where we ended up chatting to our next table neighbours, some in our apartment lift. London soon became home for us. The fact that local shopkeepers and even cashiers at the neighbourhood supermarket starts recognizing you. And just as you get comfortable, life has a way of  handing you something new to tackle, and we had to move to Leeds.

The same cycle started all over again.Moving to another new place, making new friends, finding new avenues of having fun, starting afresh. Why am I talking of all this today? From that point where we knew hardly anybody, today, I hardly have a day to myself. Ever since we got back from holiday, my days have been super packed with activities, and Poohi’s school is yet to begin. From an Eid get-together to Ganapati Puja parties, it has been such a busy fulfilling time. Today I invariably run into people I know in the super market, or in the library. It gives one such a feeling of belonging, a feeling of familiarity. Then again, getting to know the cashier at the supermarket might also indicate that I shop way too much there 😉

And when I look back, I am just thankful for everything, for good friends, for the life that we have here, for the knowledge that every place can feel like home. All it takes is a little time, a little effort and some like-minded people – that I have invariably found everywhere I go.

If only I could capture smells..

.. because that is about all that I did not manage to get hold of, in our holiday to India.

When daughter was little, husband used to inhale her baby fragrance and wish that we could capture it for eternity. That is the one thing I wish too, now, back after my 8 week-long holiday.

The aroma of mom’s cooking,

the fragrance of flowers lingering on after collecting flowers for the pookalam,

the fragrance of properly fermented dosas,

of ripe, juicy jackfruits,

the smell of wood fired ovens – I can’t get enough of it..

I guess, I don’t need to say that I am terribly, terribly homesick. If there is anything bad about a holiday at home, it is the returning. How I wish I could just bypass it entirely. This holiday was a mixture of everything, a roller coaster of emotions, combined with the excitement of my and Poohi’s very first Onam in Kerala, being around to celebrate my great-aunt’s 90th birthday, meeting relatives, rejoicing in the way Poohi enjoyed with all her cousins and basking in the love one receives from everyone… Even if I did not manage to capture smells, I did manage to capture the sights, and we were so very lucky to get to meet Deeps and Namnam 🙂

I do owe apologies to everyone who I did not manage to call while in India. I will call you all over the next few days.

You know you are hard up for time when…

..  You have no time to think

– when you waste no time, and yet, have most of the things that was planned for the day undone at the end of the day,

– when you end up chatting with dear friends over the FB scrabble game or on the blog, instead of writing a nice long mail or calling them up,

– when the car knocks up over 10 miles in under 2 hours while finishing off errands,

– when the clothes go into the dryer, despite the wonderful weather outside,

– when you have no time to comment on blogs, or reply to comments on yours. I can’t tell you how bad I feel about this.

– have loads of unanswered emails,

– when you go to bed at 11:30pm  and still feel guilty,

– when two suitcases have been lying open, and empty for the last three days.

– and worst of all, when you have no time to read all the books sitting around. Can you believe it, I have ‘The Space Between Us, Shantaram, A house for Mr Biswas and the The Sari Shop waiting to be devoured, and I have no time to read. Thankfully, I found out today that the library has a concept called ‘Holiday Renewal’, that might be my only hope. That and if I manage to convince husband that it is absolutely essential that I carry these books with me on the trip..

I am in the midst of getting ready to go on our India trip, and nothing, absolutely nothing seems to get done. To add to it, it is Poohi’s last few days at her old school. Come September, she is moving to ‘big school’, a wonderful school near us. It is all wonderful, but she is so going to miss all her friends from her old school. So in the middle of all this, I still plan playdates with her friends as all of them are going to be very busy once school starts in Sept. I feel bad that she will miss all her friends and wonderful teachers.

I have been getting, ‘knock, knocks’ over my ‘disappearance’, so I felt I had better explain my absence, before you guys accuse me of ‘selective commenting/reading’ 🙂

What do you do

when you can think of nothing to write?

I do think that I have a massive attack of food induced bloggers block. If there is one thing that defined this weekend, it is food. I think all I have really done is eat.

We had a potluck last night with the yummiest food ever. We ate, talked, laughed , good times with good friends.. How I value these times. I remember when we were in London. Most of our friends were scattered around, and meeting up people and have get-togethers took a lot of planning and scheduling. There would be weekends when all I wanted to was to meet up with someone. Poohi was little too, so everything took a lot more planning. One thing, I am thankful for here, is that we can plan and meet very quickly. Even if one is suffering from a massive migraine attack( as I was), a wonderful evening with friends is all it takes to feel better. The icing on the cake is of course, when Poohi has an equally wonderful time.

The fun( and food) did not end with that either. We had a girls lunch out today, and to say that I am stuffed would be an understatement. Things can’t get better can it? Good food, girlfriends, plenty of talking on a beautiful afternoon.. What would  I do for the fun to never end …

Now, with the weekend ending, I am so stuffed with food, that even my neighbour grilling in his garden is not tempting me eat 🙂

So how was your weekend? As wonderful this weekend was, I am waiting for the next one – Poohi has a sleepover planned, and I plan to watch a movie while she has fun at the sleepover.

Trans-Continental Baking Experiment – A Chocolate Mud Cake

A mere two or so years ago, I was the sort of person, who would have looked down her nose at even the concept of ‘meeting people online’. I could not understand how people could make friends with people they met online.

Even when I started blogging, I had no idea that there is a blogging community and that you would interact with others – to say that I was completely clueless would be the biggest understatement. Which is why this is even more amazing for me. One, to meet so many wonderful people on the internet, who you can so identify with, with similar ideas and two, to collaborate with 5 women across the world in a baking experiment, of all the possible things.

It all started with Goofy Mumma(GM) sent a bunch of us (‘A’ , Monika, Trish and me) an email asking for a chocolate mud cake recipe. I don’t bake too many chocolate cakes, so I was of little help. ‘A’ sent across the most delicious sounding recipe from here.  GM tried it and had a few questions and doubts. A flurry of emails went back and forth.  ‘A’ went through the effort of making 2 cakes, following slightly different methods and came out with the most gorgeous(and I am sure,  delicious) cakes. Not just that, she recorded everything she did. And that prompted Monika, myself and Trish to give it a try and GM to give it a second try.

The first time I tried it, I totally forgot to check whether I had enough dark chocolate and realised just as I was making it, that I had run out of dark chocolate. Thankfully, I found a huge slab of white chocolate in my pantry. I also added 50 gms  of cocoa, by replacing it instead of 50 gms of the self-raising flour. I had a really runny mixture and it took me ages to get the cake done. I had also made the mistake of buying a pan of the wrong size.  I had wanted to pick up a 9 inch pan, but ended up with an 8 inch one instead, stupid me! So I had enough batter for an 8 inch cake as well as 16 cupcakes. I was literally praying that it does not become a disaster. I am normally very, very particular about following cake recipes exactly. While I play around with other recipes, baking, I feel, is quite an exact science and I am loath to use approximations or substitutions. So having made so many changes, I was quite apprehensive about the result.

My worry only added, when at the end of 45 minutes(the time mentioned in the recipe, the batter was still liquid in the oven. Finally after 2 hours, and a lot of poking and prodding, the cake was done, albeit with a bunch of cracks.

Not a pretty cake at all. The cupcakes turned out beautifully, not a single crack and they were ready in 45 minutes time – they were just gorgeous, and I forgot to take pictures. In my defense, I had a busy day, I was having friends over for dinner, and had a lot on my mind. Well, as they say, looks are deceptive. The cake was the most divine tasting cake ever! It was moist and absolutely delicious! My friends took home the leftovers. I kept aside some for Poohi which disappeared the very next day. The cupcakes went to work with husband and were never seen again.

Inspired by the gorgeous results that the others had with the recipe, I was tempted to give it one more shot. This time, I was determined to follow the recipe properly and follow all the tips and suggestions that everybody else had added after their own experience with the cake.  So I went and bought myself a stash of dark chocolate and set about it all over again. You know, when I plan to do something right, I almost definitely make some really dumb mistake. This time, I ended up pouring the chocolate mixture into the flour, instead of the eggs. In my defense, both the bowls were next to each other. I know, it is a lame defense. Then on, I followed everything, and hoped that this time, my cake turns out pretty.

This is how it turned out. Not as bad as the previous time, but still with some cracks.

So to take the attention away from the sad cracks, I just inverted it and dusted it with icing sugar. The dusting was not done very well, though.

A slice of chocolate mud cake anyone?

The most amazing part of this experiment was that feeling of being part of a group, knowing that someone, even if on the other corner of the world, was there to talk to, to ask for suggestions.. The sort of tips and information that just flowed in those emails was absolutely wonderful! We discovered things which we took for granted was new information for somebody else, and learnt some really cool tips from the others.. It was such a collaborative effort. The joy at seeing my friends’ gorgeous cakes was more than seeing my own.  I would refresh my inbox every time I could, just in case, you know 🙂 Girls, thank you so much for all that! GM, A BIG thanks for starting it all off.

To see the other gorgeous, yummilicious cakes, hop over to ‘A’s, GM’s, Monika’s and Trish’s. And if any of you are in the vicinity here, please drop over, I have my last attempt stowed away in the freezer 🙂

Yummy-Tummy Weekend

Last weekend was a treat for my taste buds!

Last Thursday, a friend brought over a bowl of freshly prepared dosa batter. I had given up on home-made dosas after all my experimentation.  So it was with a lot of trepidation that I kept her batter for fermentation. For the uninformed, my dosa batter just refuses to ferment. I have tried everything, including the tips that you guys gave me in this post. So I had given up on dosas altogether. This time, turns out, the dosa gods were rather benevolent. The batter fermented beautifully!

We had a lovely feast on Saturday morning. It was delicious! Before we could digest it, we had a birthday party of husband’s colleague to attend to.  It was a lunch buffet at a lovely restaurant, which has this wonderful spread of starters! I could fill myself up on just the starters, when I spotted the huge selection of deserts! Cakes, puddings and even fruit pieces that could be dunked in chocolate at the chocolate fountain! In short , my food heaven!  I could stay there and hog forever, if we were not kicked out at 2:30 – the restaurant closes at 2:30.. I am just waiting to get back there. I am also trying to convince my husband on the need for a chocolate fountain at home. What fun that would be! Chocolate at the ready – anytime I want it ! Guess, I will also need a whole new wardrobe to go with my chocolate fountain too.

Saturday ended, with me vowing, not to eat anything heavy again, when another dear friend, dropped in with her delicious Chicken Biryani! Now, for some reason, I never get to eat good chicken biryani here. Every time I try  it at restaurants here, I just end up disappointed.  So last time we went to London, I actually did a takeaway to enjoy at home. My friend, the dear thing that she is,  knew about this and she brought over some, because she knew how much I liked it. Needless to say, I forgot all about my vow and ate it all up.

The best part of the weekend was, that I ended up eating all this delicious food and none of it, made by me, I guess that must have made it even more tasty! We ended the weekend with a pizza, made by daughter. Leaving you with  pictures of the little chef preparing her pizza.

Sprinkling the sweetcorn.

And the all important cheese!

 

PS: I think I have finally figured out how to get my dosa batter ferment. I tried using Sona Masuri rice (instead of Basmati)  and it worked last night! Keeping my fingers crossed and praying hard to the Dosa god 🙂