Friday, October 30, 2009

Speech pains....

It has been a comment from many, who met my little girl that she was very very quiet... she did not speak much till she was about 2 years old and that is very rare in the girls of our family....

Most of the time I wasn't bothered, because she would talk at home and with people she was comfortable with. And unlike children of her age brought up in Kerala, she had to deal with three languages at once - malayalam at home, english at playschool and hindi everywhere else. But sometimes, it would get difficult to fend off questions like ..."she is too quiet...have you taken a doctor's opinion...she is not like so and so..blah blah..."

Well if the same people heard her now, they would know she is perfectly fine... she started speaking out one fine day, just like she does at home... her teachers now tell me it is difficult to make her sit quietly. She speaks in malayalam to both of us and to all out Malayalee friends, to the maid and dhobi she speaks in hindi and she speaks to some of her friends and a few of ours' in English.. all perfect well-formed sentences, and purely the specific language. No mixing or inserting other words to make things easier...

So if there are moms out there who worry about their 'otherwise' normal kids speaking a little late, please do not worry.(I was never worried because my daughter was very expressive at home.But I was exasperated with a few well-meaning advices)

Kids are each unique and very special and everyone has their own way of dealing with things... they will speak when they are ready, and not a minute sooner..!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ramayan play ...and our very own Kaikeyi

This happened a few weeks back... our daughter's teacher told us that they had been rehearsing the Ramayan at the playschool and that Ichu had Kaikeyi's role.

She had initially been given some role where she did not have to say any lines.. but since she had suddenly started talking, she was given two whole lines...!!!

"I am Queen Kaikeyi...." and ...

"Maharaj, Ram ko jangal bhej deejiye, aur Bharath ko raja bana deejiye..."

Some how, bagging the pivotal role of Kaikeyi (who is instrumental in sending Ram to the forest and gets the ball rolling - enter Ravana to abduct Sita, meeting Hanuman, the war, Rama killing Ravana...) did not seem to entice my daughter enough..... She was more interested in being Ravan because he had a big sword and got to say, "I am Ravan, King of Lanka.... "

When I later shared this fact with a few of the other mothers, I found out that there were a few more tots who wanted to be Ravan..even 'Ram', whose mom told me that he had been practicing his lines thus...

"I am Ravan and these are my brothers... Bharath, Lakshman and Shatrughna..."

Somehow the moral of the Epic seems to fly right above the tiny ones... they were impressed by the weapons Ravan got to use and the loud yells he got to make while fighting...

All the kids were asked to dress from home as befitting their roles... there wasn't much time to prepare or buy had to make-do with what was at home.

The silver colour 'saree', I had already made, so the next was her crown and a veil to cover her hair.

I sacrificed my white dupatta. 1/3rd of it's length, with a little silver glitter complemented the saree. I had white chart silver paint and some glitter and bindis was all that was needed for the crown.

A pearl necklace, a black metal chain and a double string of colourful beads and bindis completed the picture. She was quite happy with her outfit .

The second picture is of my daughter and her friend, who was given the role of Shatrughna (Kaikey's step-son),and yet another aspiring Ravan..!! I made his crown and wrist band. The crown suffered a bit at his hands, if you look closely, you maybe able to see the tape job on it ..(actually, quite a bit of it!!)

It was a fun day for us mothers too... I hope there are many more such events to come .....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stuffed Karelas (bittergourd)

The first time I ever tasted stuffed karelas was when we visited my mom's second brother and family in Hyderabad. Our aunt made this dish for dinner one day and we all enjoyed it a lot.. at that time however, I wasn't too fond of this bitter vegetable. So though I really liked what my aunt made, I would never had bothered to make it...

All that changed when I was pregnant... guess what I craved most at that time...??? yep... bitter gourd... I had severe 'morning sickness' that lasted the whole day, for the first 4 months... at the least provocation I had to run for the loo.. anything from the smell of rice to the sound of daily TV serials ..!!! but I would drool at the smell of bitter gourd cooking and I sometimes would just saute it with a little onions and tomato and have it semi-cooked... my husband never could understand that.. he told me normal people would puke at smelling half-cooked bitter gourd and there I was, in my delicate condition, shoveling it down like it was the tastiest thing in the world..!!!

Four years later, I still love bitter gourd, and if it is fried to cinders, even my husband likes it with curd and rice. When I bought the tiny karelas, I had decided to try stuffing them..but when i checked for recipes, many of them were very complicated, so I just read them and then decided to go ahead and give it my own twist as I normally do to most of my cooking.

Bitter gourd/ karelas /paavakka - 6 small ones

Wash them well, scrape all the spines slowly with a knife and keep it aside to include in the stuffing.

Slit one side of the karelas. Scrape off the seeds inside.

For the stuffing

Oil - 2 tsp
Onion - 1 diced fine
Tomato - 1 diced fine
Aloo mash flakes - 1 and 1/2 tbsp (or mash a very small boiled potato)
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Jeera/ cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander/ dhania leaves - finely chopped about 1 tbsp

Heat oil in a pan, saute onions, then add the tomatoes and saute till the oil comes out. Add the scraped bitter gourd spines, chilli, turmeric and jeera powders, saute and cook for 5 minutes.Add the mashed potatoes, the dhania leaves and the salt to taste.

Now stuff the bitter gourds and shallow fry in a non-stick pan till brown on all sides.

We had it with rice, curd and omelettes. They will be great with chappatis too.I will definitely make them as soon as possible, since I got a thumbs up from my husband too... !!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My First Cooked Food - Gothambu (cracked wheat) Payasam

I have made Gothambu payasam many many times and it is my favourite item to complete a Vishu or Onam sadya.

Other than that this payasam also has the distinction of being the first ever thing that I tried my hand at cooking ..!!! It was when I was in my 6th standard. I was at my mom's place for my Onam vacation and I had a friend in the neighboring house called Razia.

After being shooed away from the kitchen for the umpteenth time,( I had a great fascination for the wood stove) I decided enough was enough... we had to try cooking just like the grown ups...!!

The first thing was deciding what to make.. we finally settled on payasam since it needed no cutting or preparing and the ingredients were easy to procure...

Next was where? ... there was a sort of shed, which provided cover from prying eyes... and we decided the cooking had to be done during the grandparents ' siesta time.

So we made a stove with three bricks, got a pot which had a hole near the neck area and the rest of the ingredients were

Gothambu nurukku (cracked wheat) - 1 glass (approx..)
Water - lots of it
Milk - about 2 glasses
Jaggery - 2 big lumps

We successfully lit the stove.. it was very easy to do so since I had watched my Mattemma or Ammamma do the same many times, kept the water on the stove and waited for it to boil... but since the stove was very tiny and could not hold much fuel, it took forever to even heat.. so we added the wheat and the jaggery and restlessly waited... after waiting for what seemed like hours, the jaggery was all liquid and bubbling away.. we tasted it and found it very sweet I added the milk and then we both decided a little more water was called for....

The end result was a very watery, lumpy (sticky cracked wheat, since we did not know to roast it) and smoky..since we did add a lot of dried leaves for the fire to burn quickly...

And we stirred the payasam with a stick since we did not think of taking a spoon from either of the kitchens..!!! Finally, we took our offering to our grandparents ...we were so thrilled about our first cooking effort, that we decided to chance the scoldings.

I remember my grandfather exclaiming in wonder that it was the best payasam he had ever tasted,(he was a sweetheart) and my grandma grumbling about fire and naughty kids... after that afternoon, my grandma did not sleep unless I was also lying down beside her ........!!!

I had posted the recipe of Gothambu payasam earlier... but when Shama invited me to the 'My First Cooked Food Event', I could not resist reliving that eventful day... :)

It was many years before I tried making the payasam again... but by then I knew a bit about cooking ..atleast enough to realise that you didn't just dump everything into the pot and occasionally stir it ....!!

So this is the better and grown-up version of the Gothambu Payasam.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The art of engraving copper

Copper was extensively used in India for utensils, jewelery and many other things. But the bowls, jugs, trays, goblets and other items that are on sale in Agra are a class apart.

The copper objects are actually meant for daily use, but what make them markedly different from their counterparts are the engravings done on them. They are then embellished with enamel colours to give added beauty. This is yet again an art that is supposed to have originated in Persia.

If I remember right, there are a few pieces of it collected by my dad.. a miniature set of hookah, jug, matching goblets and tray and also a dancing peacock.

Just check the pictures to see how you like them...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zardosi embroidery

Another item that especially stands out when one visits Agra is the exquisite Zardosi work on the garments.

They give a real feel of the richness and artistry of the costumes donned in the by-gone eras. Zardosi is said to have originated in Persia and were favoured by the Mughal royalty.These days wedding garments are invariably beautified with Zardosi work.

Of course if you do not feel like wearing such richness, you may buy pieces that may be framed and hung, or there are cushion covers, purses, satin slippers, hand bags and even pieces that are to be used as rugs... though, how one can put them on the floor is beyond me....!

The Zardosi work is done by using specially made gold, silver and other metallic threads. Embellishments are done with metallic wires, semi precious stones like opals, garnets and such and look stunning.

I took a couple of snaps of the work that were framed and displayed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The art of Marble Inlay - Parchin Kari / Pietra Dura

The inlay work on Taj Mahal

An artist carving on a plate.

A lovely fruit bowl... I loved this one.

Display in a shop window...sadly photography was prohibited inside... it was a treasure trove there....
Inlay work on black kadappa stone.... this is slightly (very slightly) less expensive
A superb dining table that can seat at-least 8 persons.

A coffee table....

As I had mentioned in the earlier post on Taj Mahal, the inlay work found on the Marble of Taj Mahal is called Pietra Dura.

There are many artisans in and around Agra, who practice this art, and there are many shops where you can purchase marble souvenirs decorated in this manner.Show pieces (like miniature Taj Mahals, statues of Gods etc) as well as objects that can serve a practical purpose are available... We bought a picture frame with the inlay work, but I I took snaps of a few of the objects that caught my eye...

I also got to speak to a young artisan, who was working on a plate ... it is a long and tedious process and takes a lot of years to master. I asked them if they were unhappy being put to work at a tender age, and he told that if others (the general public) go to school before they have to earn a livelihood, that is what he and others like him are doing....!!! Only, they know what they will do to earn their livelihood early on and they become specialists in their craft....

And the beauty of their creations are breath-taking... it is very difficult to be content with owning just one piece... atleast, I felt like picking up everything in sight...

You may judge for yourselves...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Entrecard dilemma....

Thank you for all of you who took the time to visit my site and answer my questions.. I did go check out the blog.. as I could infer, the only way to opt out of the 'sponsored ads' and still remain on entrecard, is to pay $ 50 a year.

Well like many others, I am not in a position to shell out that kind of money... but I am also kind of used to entrecard... i love visiting all the great blogs out there and somehow, it is better on entrecard.

So for now, I think I will reserve judgement till the sponsored ads start running... if they are totally unacceptable, I will stop using entrecard...

So friends...what think you of that idea?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Paid ADs on Entrecard?

Hi I read that a few Entrecard users are discontinuing membership because the paid Ads are going to be back... I am afraid I missed that news... the last notification I found was about the referrals and that they would get extra EC credits...

I have not heard about the paid Ads coming it true??????

Please let me know...