Wednesday, May 29, 2013

You know I rock because I'm wearing wool!

I haven't had a give away on the blog in ages and ages-- mainly because I wasn't really using the blog anymore. But India got me back to it, and I'm thinking to try to keep it up for a while. And since we could all use a little more love in our lives, I figured to combine the two and give away some knitting on the blog! Plus, now that summer is here, what better time than to give away something warm, hand knit, super fly, and made of wool?

No better time. Clearly. You'll be preparing for the cold (winter is coming, amiright?), looking cute, and making someone smile. 

Here's what's up for grabs: a pair of fingerless gloves, knit by me from soft, squishy merino wool yarn in a color that's a cross between orange juice and gold-- in other words, these gloves are made of happy. 

They're perfect for cozying up to a mug of coffee or tea!

Or, because they are fingerless, you can write in your brand new, blank journal without fear of cold hands! Also great for reading books, playing video games, posting on Facebook, watching cat videos, or otherwise wasting time on the interwebs. And remember: summer time is overly air-conditioned time! 

Here they are in all their glory, along with my fantastic props.

So now you know what I'm offering. But how, HOW do you get them??

It's simple, really. Leave a comment (by, say, June 2) telling me who you'd like to give these gloves to, and telling me why that person is awesome/needs some love/should be cheered up/is in desperate need of fingerless gloves. Assuming I have more than one comment, I'll probably use a random number generator to choose a winner. And then I will pop them in the mail to that person, and, because you were such an great friend to nominate them for such a nommy prize, I will send you a matching pair. Because I made two pairs :) And because I love you. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rainy farmer's market days always get me down

Mainly because this California girl still has a deeply ingrained dislike of being outside when there's water falling from the sky. It's not right, man. Water from the sky = take shelter.

But sadly, water falls from the sky pretty frequently in these parts, and lately it's been doing so on Thursdays, which are farmer's market days in our village. Of course we're still stuck at about 3 farmers at our market (dwarfed by the 10-15 non-farmers who sell various items at the market) but that's not my point at the moment.

My point is: I need more rhubarb. And the place to get it is the farmer's market. And it's rainy again. But my need for rhubarb will surely prevail and I will brave the weather and walk downtown. Or possibly I'll beg Robert to go and slay the mighty rhubarb and bring me back its carcass, a deed which would earn him many kisses and admiring sidelong glances.

And why is my need for rhubarb so desperate? Well, I'll tell you. Aside from the fact that rhubarb is one of the tastiest plants known to grow on this earth, I also make a delicious syrup from it. And that syrup is the basis of my favorite late spring/early summer cocktail.

Rhubarb Awesome

1 part gin
1 part rhubarb syrup
1/2 part lemon juice
basil leaves

Put all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with some ice. Shake it vigorously. Pour into a glass (be sure to include the basil leaves!). If you're making it for me, include the ice as well. Glory in the joy that is the Rhubarb Awesome. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bru, I haz it!

First off, big thanks to Vims, Bhama, and everyone else who suggested that I try Bru for my south Indian coffee needs! No surprise, but you guys were quite right.

This afternoon I opened my door and found a package on my doorstep. It was from T, and it contained two pounds of Bru! That woman is a hero.

I pretty quickly set about testing this product. The first thing I noticed was that it smelled more or less like plain ol' coffee (it's a coffee-chicory blend). It was also very finely ground, and tended to clump. I put some in my trusty south Indian coffee maker, boiled water, poured it on, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

It took ages to brew! Way longer than the other coffee I'd used. Eventually I semi-despaired and did a little knitting my sweater sleeve. I must've seemed somewhat out of sync with reality I suppose...sitting and knitting a wool sweater while I wait for my hot  coffee to brew when it's 88 degrees out. But eventually the coffee was done, so I mixed it with hot milk and sugar poured it into tumblers and Robert and I tasted it.

The moment of truth.

It was good! Much better than the regular American style coffee I'd tried the first go. Was it true south Indian flavor (or better yet, Prakruthi quality) in every way? No. Hopefully some of that can be chalked up to my newb status, but even if it never gets better this coffee was pretty good. It tasted of India and made both me and Robert happy.

So, hooray for blogs and friends! Without you all I'd still be wandering, lost, in a south Indian coffee-less universe!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Coffee news!

I have several coffee notes this morning.

The first is that my dad loves the south Indian coffee maker I got for him! He has a couple other non-electric coffee makers (a french press and a Costa Rican coffee maker), and wasn't sure that the south Indian one would be all that different, but was very gracious about it all the same. Then he used it, and called to tell me how different the coffee made in it (in the traditional south Indian way) was! So that was very exciting-- for both of us!

And then, yesterday, T called me. T is a devoted lover of coffee, and when we'd met for lunch and shoe shopping last week, I'd bemoaned my lack of properly south Indian tasting coffee. I'd also mentioned that my lovely blog readers had recommended a certain type of coffee, available at many Indian grocers, to me. There aren't any Indian grocers particularly close to me, so I was still living in a south Indian coffee-less universe.

So, as I said, T called yesterday. She was at an Indian grocery store, and had just sent me a picture. Was it the coffee I wanted?

It was! So she bought two bags for me, and I will collect them when I next see her, in a couple of weeks. Can you feel the antici..................................pation?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Today in New York

I saw several surprising things today, and did several surprising things myself.

I went down to lower Manhattan to meet up with some friends for a little shoe shopping and lunch. The first surprising thing I did was: not be late! I've been meeting my friend T at this shoe shop on this day for the past 4 years, and I've been late every year except for this one. We meet there 1-2 other times a year as well, and I'm always late then, too. So really, it was a banner day for me! And in fact, I was early. I got there, didn't see T, and was confused. Checked the time and...21 minutes early?? So I went to a nearby cafe and had a coffee while I waited, as it was too cold to wait outside. Actually I had half a coffee. It was huge, and I hadn't had so much caffeine in months!

While I was waiting I saw my first surprising thing: a man in a button-down shirt and sports coat, skateboarding down the street, drinking an ice coffee and being pulled by his dog.

The other surprising thing I saw was a guy using a pay phone. Using a pay phone. I didn't even know those still worked! I didn't actually see that til much later in the day, but wanted to get it out of the way, because it's not nearly so surprising as the next bit.

I did not buy any shoes.

Not even one pair. And there was a sale! T bought shoes, and M bought shoes, but me? NO SHOES.

I think I might deserve shoes as a reward.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hot beverages, south Indian style

Neither Robert nor I were ever big coffee drinkers. My parents didn't drink it when I was growing up, so I never really thought about it until I was about 16. At that point my schoolwork became sufficiently demanding (at least during the busiest times) that my sleep was lacking, and I'd caffeinate myself up on a mixture of coffee, hot chocolate and raspberry flavored black tea. It was pretty damn delicious, actually, in addition to providing quite a jolt.

But, after high school I only rarely drank coffee. My dad did eventually succumb to coffee's charms (aided and abetted by my brother, who came home from Costa Rica with a traditional Costa Rican coffee maker as a gift for dad), and my brother has been an off and on coffee drinker, but although I liked certain types of coffee I didn't drink it daily, or even weekly. Robert never drank coffee.

At any rate, all that changed when we got to south India. South India has a long history of coffee drinking, and coffee culture there is both unique and deeply ingrained. Most Americans think of India and tea, not realizing that in the south coffee is of at least equal prominence.

And south Indian coffee is delicious. It's drunk in small stainless steel cups, hot and sweet. It wasn't long before we were drinking a cup or two every day. Of course we had no idea how to make it, so we weren't drinking it first thing in the morning. Instead we drank it after lunch, and sometimes after dinner too. I don't know if it was because of the time of day we were drinking it or if we were just lucky (actually, in Robert's case we know: he is a fast metabolizer of caffeine), but neither of us ever needed coffee. We just wanted it.

So before we came back to New York, I wisely hit up a stainless steel store on Sampige Rd in Malleswaram and bought a south Indian filter coffee maker. I bought some of the tumblers and davarahs too, for good measure. But what I didn't buy was coffee.

The day after we got back to the states we went grocery shopping, and I bought coffee at Trader Joe's, and ground it nice and fine.  A couple days later I tried making coffee with it in my new coffee maker.


I mean, it was drinkable. It wasn't bad coffee. But it sure as shit wasn't south Indian coffee. It tasted American, and Robert and I were both sad. So off to the internet I went. What kind of coffee, available in the US, was closest to traditional south Indian coffee? I asked google, friends on Facebook, and sent emails to friends in India.

There was no clear consensus, and I've been waffling about what to do. Tiju offered to mail me coffee powder, but that would clearly be a stopgap solution, as I can't have him mailing me coffee every month! I think what I'll probably do next is try out one of the New Orleans blend coffees, as they use chicory, which is used in south India as well. But I might order the Mysore blend from the Deckan Coffee company. I just don't know!

Just for kicks today I tried making south Indian style coffee with some TJ's instant coffee. It was still pretty far from right, but it was closer than the coffee made with proper ground beans, which was a little depressing.

Then Robert mentioned that he was finding his tea unsatisfying. Because, you see, we didn't just drink coffee at Prakruthi every day...we often drank tea, too! And the tea was just as distinctive and delicious as the coffee. Since my coffee experiments were not going well I figured I had nothing to lose and gave re-creating Prakruthi tea a shot. To my delight, that went much better! It wasn't identical, but it was at least a worthy competitor. I think if I buy some nicer tea (I was just using bags of English Breakfast) I could get even closer. Tea FTW!

But you know what? I was totally right to buy tumblers and davarahs. Drinking out them, even sub-par, American flavored coffee, takes me back to Bangalore, and I feel happy. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Green cardigan! Now with pockets!

Well folks, here it is...the last of my knitting projects completed in India. Of course the pictures, as you'll probably notice, were not taken in Bangalore! I finished this little cardi that I was test knitting just days before we flew back to New York and didn't have the time to get it photographed right then. So finally tonight Robert gave me a hand and now my project is really complete!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

3 days back

Today I teared up a little when I saw a picture taken on the road by our apartment building in Bangalore. And then I told Robert that and started actually crying.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Back again

We made it safely back to New York!

Our cab got to us at our apartment in Bangalore right on 230am. Oy. Brief pause here while I shout out to YourCabs! We used this cab company exclusively whenever we needed a car in India. They took all four of us to sites around Bangalore, to Mysore, and drover Robert literally all over the city. They were never late, and always got us where we needed to (and back again) safely. So if you need a cab service in Bangalore I highly recommend them!

Anyway, our driver showed up on time. The guy manning the desk in our building (actually napping on one of the couches in the reception area, but who could blame him??) came out to say good-bye and make sure that we and our 11 suitcases got packed properly into the SUV. Ten of the suitcases fit fine, but the 11th had to go on the roof rack. The driver made no move to tie it down, and when Robert asked he assured us it was unnecessary. The desk guy agreed. "Sir," he said to Robert, "It is relatively impossible for the suitcase to fall off."

Robert looked unconvinced, but in the end we left it as it was and got in the car and drove away from IISc.

In the daytime, not at rush hour, it takes an hour to get from our apartment in Bangalore to the airport. at 245am it takes 35 minutes! So we got there in plenty of time, unloaded our bags, put them onto carts and headed in.

At the British Airways line a representative came over to ask if we'd checked in online. I explained that Robert and I had, but that due to a mistake by the travel agent our kids were listed as traveling alone and I couldn't check them in (I'd slept for about 90 min that night, and all my dreams were of oversold flights and kids, not checked in, having been bumped). He called a woman over and I explained again. She went to talk to a desk agent, then came back and cut us to the front of the executive class line. Fancy!

The desk agent confirmed my fears by telling me the flight was oversold by 20 passengers and asking if we wanted to fly to Mumbai and take a later flight to London. I declined, as it would have meant missing our connection to New York, and she quite unsurprised. She was able to put me and the kids in a row of 3 seats together for the flight to London, and one child with one parent for the flight to JFK, so that was all alright. She also begged us to check some of our carry on luggage due to the fullness of flight, which we did. Then we headed for customs and immigration. Because you have to do that to leave India, as well as enter it!

The customs and immigration officer we had was thoroughly unimpressed that I did not have a Foreign Registration certificate. My visa didn't require one, and hell if I was going to spend a day doing paperwork and waiting in lines if I didn't have to! He shook his head at me in annoyance and sorrow however, and then told me, rather irritably, to stand somewhere else. Apparently the spot I'd occupied for the first 10 minutes was only for people with an FRO certificate ;)

But, my shortcomings aside, we got through alright and went to the gate. Then we looked around for a place to change our remaining rupees. Fail! Turns out that currency can only be changed *before* you go through customs. India does not allow the exportation of rupees, so this surprised me. It also surprised me that no one had asked us if we had any on us! That was kind of a bummer actually, as we now have a bunch of rupees.

At any rate, the flight to London was great. BA has better seats and more legroom than Lufthansa, and they had tons of movies we all wanted to watch, so the 10.5 hours passed surprisingly quickly. Then we had about 90 minutes at Heathrow (which we used to buy chocolates), and we were on to New York. That flight was totally fine too, though I felt quite badly for the woman sharing the row with me and Liel. We were both coughing, sneezing, and blowing our noses every few minutes and she looked rather dismayed when we started in. Poor lady. I wouldn't have wanted to sit next to us either!

Customs in the US was a breeze, which was great. Our luggage was all there, the customs agent was cheerful and friendly, and we were on our way!

Driving back was interesting. The route between our house and JFK is familiar, but it didn't feel a bit like returning home. I imagine if we'd flown into LAX that might've been different, but as it stood I had no real emotional response to returning.

We've been home for about one and quarter days now and I feel much the same. Parts of being back are fabulous! I've talked to my parents on the phone, eaten salad, chatted with neighbors and arranged to see friends. We met our new mailman who seems nice (and has some big boots to fill...our old mailman was the best!), and sat in the sun enjoying the amazing May sunshine. We've unpacked, done many a load of laundry (and have many more to go), and enjoyed the miracle of the washing machine and dryer. Every time I've brushed my teeth I've looked around for the bottled water, and felt amazed and grateful when I realized I could just stick my brush under the tap.

But...I miss Bangalore. I miss the food, and the people, and the amazing colors and vibrancy. I miss the streets and the autos and the saris. I guess it will always be this way for me now, and I hope that someday I will go back.

And in the meantime, I will appreciate the amazing leafing spring trees, the flowers, the crisp air and being home in the US of A after an amazing, blessed adventure! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Good-bye, India

I will miss you always :)

Hopefully some day we will be back!