The bad one

If there is one thing that I LOVE about living in India, it is the food. It is no surprise, as we knew when we moved here that it would be better. Now, Willy and I have become increasingly worried about what we are going to do when we return home, because it is THAT good… and Indian food at home is not. It’s not that we have bad Indian food in Ottawa, it just doesn’t measure up now that we know how great it can be. So I have been devoting much time to making the foods that we like taste more authentic when I cook them. I see a difference already, and hope to have some dishes nailed by the time that we move home. In the meantime, we still order out often enough.

One of our favourite places to eat is the restaurant within our community. It is close, fast, and makes the best dal tadka that I have ever tasted. It is where we turned when we were cheating on our cook, who we call when we have the munchies at night, and is often the first meal that we offer to our guests. An introduction to all the greatness that they will experience in India.

In late December we noticed that the menu had changed at the restaurant. It had been large and unwieldy, so we viewed this is a good thing for the restaurant. A good thing until we noticed that all of our favourites had been wiped off. Willy voiced our concern and was reassured that it was a work in progress, and that they would still make our orders for us. Reassured, he and Uncle D placed the order and included one of the new dishes, a curry they had never heard of.

Our food arrived and we dug in. We were all a little confused by the appearance of the new curry, but Willy, Uncle D and their Mum gave it a try. Then there was silence. A brief silence. They all started talking at once…

“It’s gross.”
“It’s like they added fruit to cream of mushroom soup.”
“What is the spice in this? There IS no spice in this”
“Is this a mistake?”
“How can they have this on the menu?”

From what we could determine (and I never tried the dish after that), the creamy white sauce hid cauliflower, maraschino cherries, green beans, apple, corn, pineapple, and peas. We believe that it must be the Indian version of jellied salad.

I am sure that someone will be horribly offended by this, but this dish horribly offended all of us, especially those that tried it!



Wordless Wednesday – Monday wanderings

Shoelaces for sale


Bird of paradise

Temple at the top

The Honeyman



Day Trippin’

When Uncle Carpet was here to visit us last week a few weeks ago in early December, we didn’t really have much planned. He was our first guest, and we weren’t sure of what he wanted, so we didn’t make assumptions. All we really planned was to eat a lot of great food, and let him decide the rest. Turned out that he wanted a mix of down time and some exploring. He and I hung around Bangalore when Willy and the lils were away at work/school, but after a few days of that, we decided we needed to see more. A day trip seemed to fit the bill, so we started planning.

We’d heard that Mysore was doable in a day, and lined things up to go. Our driver let us know that it should take 3-3.5 hours from our place, and with that in mind, we set off early. Unfortunately the traffic also started off early that Friday, and we were slow leaving the city because of it. Then Goose got carsick for the first time ever, about 90 minutes into the trip, and that slowed us down some too. When we finally got main on the road to Mysore, we’d been in the car for two and a half hours, and had travelled just under fifty kilometres!! The last ninety-five kilometres flew by after that, and we arrived after four and a half hours.

We had a bite to eat, and hit the zoo. It was the perfect zoo for the lils. Lots of shade, and all of their favourite animals to see! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! There were also many snakes, giraffes, elephants, monkeys, and other creatures to amuse. Most amusing for the adults were the signs, which showed many bad fence hoppers being gored on maimed, and then arrested for breaking the rules! The biggest attraction at the zoo seemed to be the lils, who were literally mobbed every time they stopped moving. We were lucky to have Uncle Carpet, who was equally unique, given that he is a giant, so he deflected some of the spotlight. By allowing the lils to hide behind him.

Zoo highlights
Hello there


Wise one

Following the zoo, we headed to Mysore palace, the only other sight that we had on our list of “must see” places while we were there. It too, did not disappoint. We were too late in the day to actually get into the palace, but the majestic grounds themselves were worth the trip. Wonderfully ornate gates, sculptures, beautiful temples, and the massive and beautiful palace itself.

Time to go




We wandered around for as long as they would let us, and then headed on the long road home. I know we missed much of what Mysore has to offer, and that we will be going back. This time we’ll go for a few days, tour around some more and actually go in the palace.

Hanging at the palace
Hanging at the palace



Then I laughed

We were lucky enough to have an extended weekend visit from some friends who live in Singapore this weekend. I’ve known Lala for a long time, we’ve worked together, lived together, travelled together, but mostly laughed together. She is one of my closest friends, and I have missed her since she moved from Ottawa about five years ago. I have planned on visiting her since she moved, but the lil people have made that tricky, so I have had to make due with her annual-ish visits home. Now that we are only a four hour flight apart, I knew that it was a matter of time before we saw each other.

She and Bug beat us to the punch, and arrived late on friday night. They were too late to do any catching up, but we made up for that the rest of the weekend. We played cards, goofed around with the lils, ate way to much yummy food, drank gallons of wine, talked about anything and everything, and we laughed. We laughed so much that my belly hurt, and that I snorted some chilies into my lungs. Then I cried and laughed some more. The weekend made me realize how serious we have been since we moved here, and how that is not how we want to be. We need to laugh more, and I think that this weekend has helped to make me see that. It’s not hard when you have props like this:

I took Lala and Bug on a limited tour of Bangalore today, which included a wander down one of the very busy commercial streets. we weren’t really shopping, just soaking in all the chaos and clamor. As I wandered along the street, completely overwhelmed by the people, the noise, and the colours, an older gentleman walked in front of me and put his hand out. Without thinking, I did what I do about a thousand times a day when the lils stick their hands out, because it is jsut reactionary now. I gave him five and kept walking. Then I heard the hysterical laughter from Bug and Lala behind me, and realized what I had done. He wasn’t looking for a high five, he was looking for money. Without realizing that I had done it, I’d high fived a beggar. The look of disgust on his face was pretty fast apparently, and he withdrew his hand before he reached my friends. I was a little shocked at first that I had just done that, but then all I could do was join in their laughter.



Wordless Wednesday – Fort Cochin

Spices for sale

Chinese fishing net

The fish auction

Pretty little street


Checking the nets

Wooden boat.

Chinese Fishing nets



You win some…

One of the tricky parts about moving to India had to be overcoming Goose’s hesitance to try new or exciting foods. She is very much our “wonder bread and kraft singles” gal, even though she has never actually eaten them*. After a very rocky start, we are slowly and steadily making progress. She is even starting to eat some spice, which excites us greatly. There are some foods that just need some spice, and I look forward to one day being able to use chilies again!

Of all the things that she has had aversion to here, thee most absurd is paneer. We all LOVE paneer, including Goose. She was more than happy to eat it in Ottawa, but would not go near it once we moved here. We’ve been baffled, but have managed to work on her bit by bit. She is now eating it, but not without coaxing and assurances that it is EXCATLY THE SAME as what I make in Ottawa. If she tastes it without this assurance she won’t eat it, so I have to remember. As much as I really want to tell her that she just needs to eat the food I make, I know that this is as much her testing her boundaries as it is trying to adjust to life in India. So I meet her in the middle.

I have taken to adding paneer to lasagne, as I can’t find what Canadians call cottage cheese and am not a huge fan of ricotta. The fact that paneer is roughly one 1/6 the cost of the imported ricotta also factors in. The paneer doesn’t replace cottage cheese, but adds a neat texture and taste dimension to the lasagne, so it works for us. It did work for us until Goose told us this week that she doesn’t eat lasagne because it has paneer in it. I thought about it for a minute and did the only thing I could do. I told her I would use cottage cheese. Cottage cheese, you see, is what paneer is also called here. She was happy, and ate her lasagne. There was no cajoling, and no lying involved, so I am calling it a win.

Woo knows it was paneer in his lasagne. He misses cottage cheese and now wants to know where his is. I can’t deliver on that, but he keeps asking.

…you lose some.

*OK, had never eaten them before we moved here. A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do when she doesn’t know where to buy real cheese and safe bread!

1 comment


Do I meddle?

Prior to life in India, Woo was pretty much the top guy in his home based daycare. He was essentially the oldest, he got along really well with the other boy his age, and seemed to be able to “direct” the three younger children when he saw fit. I know that being bossy wasn’t tolerated, but I am sure that he got away with enough of it (as he does at home) that he relied on being able to do and take what he wanted.

One of my worries about school here was how he would fit in. These worries were mostly assuaged when he made fast friends with one little guy in his class. They were excited to see each other each day, had a few playdates, and seemed to get along really well. Their sisters are also friends, which makes it extra nice. While I’d noted them butting heads a few times at play, but they seemed to make peace in time. I figured they would work it out, and they did, until this week.

Woo came home last Friday and reported that his friend was mad, and told him that he didn’t want to be friends any more. I tried to talk to Woo and see what was up, and eventually I got his story, which didn’t seem to warrant the friend’s reaction, and seemed to make Woo look a little too good. He explained that he was putting away all the toys at cleanup time, and that his friend was just playing. He got mad when Woo put his toys away. I let it slide, even though I know that Woo has never willingly put his own toys away, let alone those he wasn’t playing with. They’ll work it out, I thought.

Woo was sick today, and was in the car as I waited for Goose to meet me at the school gate. She was slower than usual, and I had a chance to say hi to Woo’s friend. Not thinking of their falling out, I asked if he missed Woo today. His answer broke my heart a little. “I didn’t notice that Woo was missing, didn’t miss him, and he isn’t my friend anymore, because he takes my toys,” he said. Clearly, there is more to this then what Woo reports.

At home, as he snatched a toy from Goose today, I tried to explain that Goose and other children did not like it when little boys were always taking their toys. He was unconcerned, so I pressed on and let him know (a much softer version) of what his friend said. He didn’t admit to taking things, but did get that sheepish look that means the truth of the story is close to what I said. I didn’t push him, or tell him that he had to “fix” their friendship I asked him to think about whether he still wanted to be friends, and how that might happen.

These two don’t need to be friends, and it is up to them to decide if they want the friendship. A small part of me feels that I have already meddled too much, but I do want Woo to be happy here, and know that he really likes this boy. It’s also really important that he realize that his behavior to others has consequences, and that seeing what he has done and making amends can mend fences. I wonder if it is enough and I should do more to get them to come around to making up.

A very small part of me wonders if I would say or note anything at all if the little boy’s mom was not my friend, the only real friend that I have made here. Does that factor into it? Could it? Should it? Life is a lot easier for us when our lils are friends. We can see each other with the lils, it gives us something to do on the school breaks, and we can rely on each other to help with child minding in a pinch. Yes, all of these can be done if the lils aren’t best buds or even friends, but it is easier if they are. So do I only want them to patch things up because it is easier for me?? I know I don’t, I want my lil boy to be happy, and his friend makes him happy, even if he doesn’t quite have the social skills to show it properly.

So I wait. I’ve planted some seeds, and will watch what happens. He’ll figure it out eventually, right?

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The nice one

Before we moved to India, I did a fair amount of research about life in India, particularly Bangalore. I found a few great resources applicable to our situation online.  My favourite of these was the the expat section on the India Mike site (http://www.indiamike.com). It provided a wealth of hints and tips about what to expect, where to shop, what to bring and not to bring, and life in Bangalore.

I was a little surprised to see, as a recurring theme across several sites, references to the public toilets and how terrible they were.  I didn’t expect five star washrooms at every turn, but surely they couldn’t be so bad?? I tried not to let this build up in my head, but I will admit to being  nervous the first few times I used public toilets.  It quickly became clear that they weren’t that bad at all. Most were old and a little run down, many lack toilet paper, and some could use a little more effort by the cleaners, but almost all were acceptable. They are toilets after all.  Some of them are the Indian style (squat) toilet, but if you can pee in the bush, you are just fine with them.  Goose actually prefers to use these! 

The one exception to this has proven to be some of the washrooms found in a couple of our favourite places to visit; the Nandi hills, the zoo, some of the parks/botanical gardens in Bangalore.  Oddly enough, these are among the few toilets that you have to pay to use.  I gather they get over used, and as a result are pretty nasty.  We only use them if we really have too, but with two little people, that is pretty frequent.

The flip side of these mostly plain and serviceable toilets, is that you really appreciate it when you find a nice one.  I am happy to report that I have found the nicest washroom in Bangalore!  It is shiny and new, all the tiles are fresh and not cracked, the hardware is shiny, it’s spacious…They have lovely towels, the lighting is just right and there is always toilet paper AND soap.  The first time that Goose used it, she stood in awe, saying only “it’s so pretty”.  It happens to be in one of the only non-Indian restaurants we frequent, so we don’t go often.  I appreciate it all the more when we go.  And go. 

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Figured out

We were driving along yesterday and Woo and Goose were talking about their futures.  We’ve known for a while that they had decided who they were going to  marry, as they have told us on numerous occasions.  When we lived in Ottawa they were in a wonderful daycare with four other friends.  Woo and Goose paired every one off, so that Woo’s best friend C would marry L, Goose would marry L’s brother R, and Woo would marry his other best friend A.

I am not sure if any of the other lils were made aware of these plans, but I know that A is on board.  She and Woo played the marriage game often, and apparently made some preliminary plans.  Both independently told their parents that the wedding would take place at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa. It’s not surprising, given that it is Woo’s favourite place.  

It appears that the distance has not put a damper Woo’s affections.  I am not sure if A has been kept in the loop, but Woo has apparently had some time to make more plans.  He made me aware of those plans on this drive.  It seems that he and A will live in the country, and raise sheep.  The sheep will be protected from the wolves with a bow and arrow.  Woo is going to work as a carpenter, and while he is working, A will get lamb meat for them to eat.  He is pretty sure that she is non-veg, but will ask her the next time they Skype.  They’ll have four children.  While I can’t wait to see where this goes next, I think we need to talk a little bit more about what A might want…

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Wordless Wednesday – my 2011 favourites



Nighty night

Easter12, noon (5/12)

Look away

Grass in the wind

Ready to burst



The long way out