Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch passes away

I just learned that Randy Pausch passed away this morning of complications due to pancreatic cancer. Like anyone who has watched and been amazed by his undeterred spirits, clear thoughts and a great sense of humor in his "last lecture" video would agree , it takes a lot more than courage, strength and focus to celebrate life the way he did, after learning his days on earth were numbered. I don't know whether mourning for his death is the right thing to do to a man who chose to inspire millions of people after learning about his death sentence. I do feel sad, no doubt-but as someone who lost my mom at a very young age, it's not death itself that threatens me (People who go through the pain of losing a parent at a very young age and has dealt with many tragedies in life will agree with me). It's the reminder of the inevitable pain and the gaping void that's caused in loved ones left behind brings me immense sorrow.

For those who haven't already done so, please do watch this video. If after watching you feel that your views on life and death has changed, even a tiny bit, you have honored his great spirits!

Friday, May 16, 2008

A story-teller and a cartoonist in the making!

This is what TJ drew yesterday and I saw it this morning lying on the floor! Just by glancing at it I knew what it is, but double checked with her to confirm! At first she refused to share with me what it is because - of course, it's about a fight! (look at the mad look in the big girl's face) But, after a lot of coaxing she reluctantly told me that she messed up her akka's (meaning big sis) cat toy and akka got so mad at her and snatched it from her! Oh, how much I wish she retains this story-telling/caricature artist skills of hers well into her teenage years so that I can find out what she and my older kids are doing behind my back (ya dream on)!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tomato-tortilla Soup and Chille Rellenos for A.W.E.D event!

The only Mexican food I've ever tried is here though I know home cooked meals taste even better. Chipotle is actually not a type of chile, it is a smoking/drying process. It is in fact the green jalapeno chile which has been smoked and dried. This process adds a smoky flavor and nutty taste to the chile- this is one of many things I learned from my friend Alicia who helped me with a lot of things-she brought me Mexican cookbooks, cleared any doubts I had, even helped me with the cooking. In fact, she did more work than I did while I learned a great deal about Mexican cuisine.(I know, I had a lot of choices and I could've come up with something different, but I was caught in a time crunch due to the vacation I took and I came back just yesterday!) Thanks a ton Alicia, now I can cook a variety of Mexican food!

Tomato-Tortilla Soup


Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

8 overly ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped

Water 1/4 teaspoon

Chipotle pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chopped cilantro

Diced avocado

Grated White Cheddar Cheese

Fried Tortillas



Method

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over high heat.

Add onions and cook until soft, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes and enough water to cover the tomatoes by 1-inch.

Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until tomatoes are very soft and start to break down, approximately 30 minutes.

Blend the mixture in a food processor and process until smooth.

Return to the saucepan, season with chipotle pepper and salt and cook for 5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with diced avocados, cheese, cilantro and a few fried tortillas.







Chille Rellenos

Ingredients

4-5 Poblano Chile peppers

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cups thinly sliced onions

2 -15 to16 ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup grated reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese or reduced-fat cheddar cheese

1 cup mild salsa

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

Method

Preheat broiler.

Arrange chilies on baking sheet.

Broil until charred on all sides, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Enclose in paper bag; let stand 10 minutes. Here's a how-to video on this.
Peel chilies. Cut 1 lengthwise slit in each chili; carefully remove seeds.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.

Add onions; sauté until golden, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread onions evenly in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash half of beans with cayenne in medium bowl.


Mix in remaining beans. Spoon mixture into chilies. Arrange chilies seam side down on top of the onions. Sprinkle cheese over chilies. Cover with foil. (Can be made and refrigerated 4 hours ahead of time)
Bake chilies 15 minutes. Uncover; bake until cheese melts, about 5 minutes longer. Serve with 2 tablespoons salsa and sour cream, alongside steamed rice.




There's a recipe for a dessert Alicia gave me, but somehow I lost the picture of that and so I am not posting the recipe here. I'll do it sometime later. These are my entries for DK's A.W.E.D (Mexican) event.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Some more of TJ's sketches

I had mentioned earlier that TJ is sharpening her skills to draw sketches of her favorite little toys. Take a look at this, the first picture shows her toys Cinderella and the American idol girl toy, and the next image shows her sketches of those! The american idol toy has a microphone and when we move that to her mouth it plays a tune and that explains the musical notes in her picture!






Well, meet TJ, my favorite artist!


Beans and lentils


I use 3 to 4 or even more kinds of beans and lentils in everyday cooking (nope, no problems of any kind so far, maybe because our systems are so used to this!). In fact, there's this special kind of Pongal curry Mom used to make which she said she learned from her MIL. This curry uses all kinds of beans, lentils, all edible roots and vegetables, spices and herbs available in a South Indian pantry, the result is absolutely palette pleasing. I have made this curry only twice in the 10 years I have lived in the US, since using just a handful of beans and lentils of each kind and one each of the vegetable will yield so much of the curry that it will last for more than a week! I'll try to cook and blog the recipe when I find time.
The moment I saw this month's click event theme, I wanted to make a Rangoli using beans and lentils. My grandma is an expert in kolams and rangolis and with her I've made so many for festivals and special occasions using products like colorful rangoli powders, used filter coffee powders, salt, food grains and flowers- too bad I did not own a camera those times otherwise I would have had so much of pictures and information to blog just about this great art my grandma practiced and perfected and created almost every single day for more than 70 years!

I'm not an expert in rangolis, I occasionally come up with acceptable ones but compared to my grandma's masterpieces they just won't make the cut.

For this month's Jugalbandi's click event entry, I came up with this. This took me less than 15 mins and I used just the beans and lentils available in my pantry as of now. TJ helped me with this and she also said it looked like a beehive (I wanted to call it a rangoli)! And so, I decided to call it my Beanhive Rangoli!

Click on the image to enlarge

Bean-hive Rangoli!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The best language of all

This one is the translation of one of my amma's collection of Tamil poems. She was a beautiful, talented and wonderful human being. Her life, tragically cut short in her mid thirties. I don't know whether my translation has done justice to her poem! This poem I found in her diary pertaining to the year 1983, in which she has jotted down a lot more of her poems and many other writings on various other topics. I remember some of them won prizes and got published in magazines and she has even mentioned about them in her diary. She passed away in January 1984 when I was 11.



She is the best of all languages
Her beauty lies not in lacy words or rhymes; not in metaphor or simile-
it lies in her strength!
One can never wage a 'war' of words with her
for her vantage ground is unshakable
She could be affirmative and negative - both at the same time
she most certainly is one-of-a kind!
She always renders people speechless

and yet there's no one to shush her.
She is 'silence', the best language of all!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Say cheese!

One day me and my son were playing 'what's the word' game. My daughter TL who was then 3, has been observing us play for a while and wanting to join us,she came up with her own riddle. She gave us clues with a slight pause in between each clue, and me and my son were like "oh boy, this is good, we give up, what's the answer?"When she in her childish innocence replied, we started laughing so much it hurt!




click on the image to enlarge







Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back to basics, anyone?

The other day, while I was on the phone with a friend of mine who is in her late 30s and had 2 babies in succession totally unplanned, she was lamenting how much she missed the help of families and friends back home. I have been through so much myself in raising my kids with no help that I can write a thesis on this topic. I absolutely want to help my friend, knowing pretty well that offering to cook, clean and take care of the babies just for a couple of hours a day would mean so much to her right now, and the fact that I can't do it since she lives so far away made me really upset.

Also, I have been viewing these features about animal life in the wild in NatGeo and Animal Planet recently and I should say I am hooked to those series. In one of the episodes featuring the life of beavers, I learned that the moms take off (they do come back later!) after weaning, within weeks of giving birth and dads and older siblings share the responsibility of raising the newborns and teaching them the survival skills. In another episode featuring the lion's pride, I was surprised to learn that older cousins are in charge of protecting the lion cubs.

I've been led to ponder much upon our lifestyle these days and I wish mankind never attained so called 'cultural development' only to become lesser social beings, as this website rightly quotes -

Then came modern man, an anticlimax, about 120,000 years ago. From this point on his inventive mind would devise method after method to ease his lot. He would remove his enemies without compassion. He would learn to enslave other animals and even other men. He would greedily take from the world around him and from those who were weaker. He would make his life easier, and evolution would degrade him to match.

I have thought about these things so much that I have been imagining myself as Nala's mom in the Lion King movie where she casually asks,"hmm..what do you think Sarabhi?" when Simba and Nala want to go out and play and like Kala and her ape friends relaxing and grooming in the movie Tarzan. I find that kind of life irresistible - living in groups, always having someone to watch your babies, sharing food and shelter, (my son wants to add 'no school to attend' here!) defending ourselves from the enemies in groups, no job-related worries, lay-offs or recession, no tiring commutes, dowry deaths and domestic violence! There won't be jealousy and hatred, no problems such as unpaid bills, loans, mortgage payments, sub-prime mess, no need for accumulating wealth and that too at par with every wealthy acquaintance and yet never feeling contented; guns and bombs would be non-existent and so would be wars and global warming. Well, you get the idea. Seriously, I wish 'modern man' never became too modern.

I can't finish without writing about one more incident. Many years back I had a chance to live in a small town where live cattle roamed everywhere. One evening as the skies were turning black and brewing a storm, I opened my back door to see a mountain of weeds right in front of the doorstep. I started putting them away cursing 'whoever' had done that, out came a female hog, heavily pregnant and ready to give birth. Her partner was dragging even more weeds clinched in his teeth to secure her in the instant shelter, my jaw dropped in amazement! I have been telling my husband since then, that if there's another life and if I have a choice I'm choosing to be 'Mrs. Hog'!

I have been thinking for a while why do some people compare humans with animals in degrading manner, shouldn't it be the other way around? I am sure we did way better as apes than how we are as humans.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

She never fails to amaze me!

Today morning, in between preparing breakfast, finding lost homework, prodding my 6 year old to get ready for school faster, forgetting to drink that cuppa, this caught my attention. My little girl TJ (3 years) was seen drawing something as always and no, this is not why I was amazed since it's nothing new to us. I have stopped exhibiting her art work to my friends nowadays 'coz of all the suspicious looks they give me and I don't blame them, they're too good to be believed to have been created by a tiny hand. And this, I'm blown away. I'm glad I paid attention and thankful that it did not end up in the trash as it happens a lot of time sadly. She had made her first comic strip, well, kinda.

click on the image to enlarge




I asked her what it was and she said it's a story. When asked whether she made it up she said it's real and the characters are herself (in the middle), her 6 year old sis TL and her new friend Nick. Nick wants TL to go to his home and TL said, "well, ok!". TJ doesn't like that idea one bit. She is clearly caught in a stressful situation, how can her best buddy leave her for someone new, who will she play with now! Flabbergasted, she screams "no....!". The question mark within the thought balloon,as explained by her, indicates a problem and look at her sad face, the tear drops and the splash!

Monday, April 7, 2008

You sure can count on me!

This is my submission to Jugalbandi's click April event, themed 'Au Naturel'!

Sunshine or rain life goes on!

This sapling has some serious growing up to do, but once it does, it's amazing in its quality to give, no wonder this tree is hailed the
tree of life!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Oh, well! What can I say!

These comic strips (more to come) are my attempts to record some lighter moments me and my husband have had with our kids!

click on the image to enlarge


My son lawjarp (I know it sounds weird, but this is the name he's given to himself, not without reason though!) when he was 2! His favorite foods then were, 'acha' (rasam) and fried okra!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Rice Crepe with Coconut-Jaggery filling

All my traditional cooking follows my grandma's recipe, to the point. This is one of her recipes, requires very few ingredients and so easy to prepare. No fermentation needed, you can make these dosas as soon as you prepare the batter.

Ingredients

raw rice - 1 cup (soak in water for atleast 3 hours)
powdered jaggery - 1 - 1 1/2 cup
powdered cardomom - a pinch
coconut milk (extracted from fresh coconut or in the can) - 1 cup
grated coconut (fresh or packed) - 1 cup
ghee - 1/4 cup


Method

1. Make a smooth paste of soaked rice in a blender adding the extracted coconut milk, little by little until you get the consistency of the appam batter or that of the regular crepe batter,add a pinch of salt,mix well and set aside.
2. In a pan, combine coconut gratings, jaggery and cardamom powder and cook it in 1 tsp of ghee in medium heat until you get a sticky lump, allow this to cool.
3. In a tava, spread the batter into a thin crepe and add a few drops of ghee around it. When done(takes about 20-30 seconds and looks slightly brown), flip it and cook the other side in the same manner.
4. Take 1 tbsp of the coconut-jaggery mixture and spread it thinly covering the entire crepe.
5. Fold in half, garnish with chopped nuts (optional) and enjoy!




Note: I used fresh coconut to extract coconut milk and I saved the gratings to prepare the filling. If you are using the canned coconut milk dilute it well.

This is my first food related post and it goes to Srivalli's
Dosa Mela!

Monday, March 17, 2008

I've got mail!

A couple of weeks back, I received mail, real mail, in a paper, written with love and the best part is, the sender of the mail delivered it too! It felt nice, to receive a physical mail that is. As I took it in my hand, I wondered - the last few times I received real mails were about a couple of decades ago and the senders of those mails will never write to me again. How can I be so sure? One of the senders - my beloved cousin, sadly is no more and the other one is from the person I chose to marry!

The sender of the letter, rolled it nicely put a beautiful seal on it, delivered it to me and said, "look mommy, I've got you an email!". This is my 3 year old girl TJ! I thanked her and opened it to find this!




My happiness multiplied instantly because, this is the first sentence my little girl ever wrote and she did it all by herself! And do I need to tell you that these are the nicest few words a mom can get from her child whether the child is just 3 or 33?! And she had drawn some pictures too! Her inspiration to draw and write comes from her big sister TL who's 6 years old, also a great artist (at least for me) and this one has now graduated to creating comic strips and incredible-looking crafts, she's capable of converting even junk into masterpieces! I always find her creating artwork for someone - one doesn't have to do anything big to receive one of her masterpieces, a few nice words or a kind gesture would do the trick!


Here's another picture drawn by TJ, she says it's her daddy and he's an explorer - needless to mention, she got that from her favorite TV show!





My little girl TJ these days, is in her attempts to hone her skills in drawing pictures of 3D objects of her favorite little toys. I adore their creativity and the little things they do to keep their loved ones smiling!