Wordless wednesday – lil people, big trees
A new haunt
I have been pretty vocal about how much I miss having a ready supply of wine. It isn’t that we drink a bottle every day, that we really need to have the top of the line selection in wine at our disposal, or that I won’t pay good money for a good bottle of wine. There are wines available, but they are limited in selection, and are easily twice the price of what I would pay for them at home. I’m frugal, so I choose to make due with what we brought, and what our guests have gifted us with. We limit ourselves to one bottle a week, and we still have a small stash, with more guests on the way!
Several people have told us that there are good Indian wines, some of them produced locally, but we have not found one that we liked (well, except the one that I had three huge glasses of on an empty stomach. I won’t be touching that again), and most have been pretty bad. So we choose beer. Luckily, our “local” brew is Kingfisher, a well-known and mass produced beer that we had found to go well with Indian food. We were amazed to learn that there are in fact seven different varieties of Kingfisher!! Only four of them are readily available, and we have had a couple of skunky batches from two of those, so we are really limited to two slightly different types of Kingfisher. Kingfisher is not a bad beer, we are just getting tired of it. We are looking for more variety in beer now too, and the imports that you can buy are less than inspiring.
We had hoped that there might be more locally produced brew, perhaps even a microbrew or two. Historically there have been a couple of hurdles to the production of craft beers; the cost of the equipment, the treatment needs and variability in the water supply, and most importantly, the fact that the laws of the state didn’t allow it. These laws changed in 2011, and several groups applied to open microbrew pubs. We began to hear about one of these from a friend, who heard from a friend that there was at least one microbrewery open. A few weeks ago he let us know that he had visited, and pronounced it worthy. There were indeed multiple beers on tap, and they were all produced in house. They didn’t even sell Kingfisher!
We went on Sunday night with some other folks from our community. Although only three of us drank beer, it was well worth the trip. We only tried two of the six varieties that they offer, but found them to be both fresh and tasty! I think we have found our local. Even if it is a forty-five minute drive from home, it’s local by Bangalore standards!
Everyone copes with life’s curve balls in different ways. One of the first little unexpected “hardships” that life in India threw at me was that our shipment took longer than we anticipated. In that shipment was my stash of coffee and the drip coffee maker that I love. I thought that the instant iced coffee I’d brought with me, and the local coffee shops would get me through to this rough patch of under three weeks. Three stretched into over four weeks, and I found myself out of all coffee with no good coffee nearby. I had to turn to instant.
I managed to get myself through this difficult patch by melting a small square of chocolate into my coffee. It didn’t magically make it taste better, but it made it bearable. I was very happy to get my stash when the shipment arrived, but I continued to buy the chocolate.
It’s Dairy Milk, a bar that I have fond memories of eating as a child. That could be why I kept picking up one bar at the grocery store, smuggling it into the house and hiding it in the freezer. It was my treat, and I didn’t share. When I faced some difficulty, I got some satisfaction at smashing the frozen bar on the counter, to break it up into bite-sized pieces, and later slipping in to the kitchen to just grab a piece to help me deal with whatever troubles I faced.
Last week was a frustrating week, and I noticed that my consumption increased from one bar to two. Two BIG bars. Then Willy caught me digging into my stash, and gave me a worried look when I told him that this was how I smoothed out the curve balls. it made me pause. The kicker, however, was what the lils did at the birthday party they were attending yesterday. Their loot bags contained miniature versions of the very chocolate bar that I have been sneaking into the house. Woo looked at his and said, “Oh, this is for you, mommy!” Goose just handed it to me, saying, “Here, this is your kind of chocolate!”
Apparently I am not as good at smuggling the bars into the cart, house, and freezer as I thought. Maybe it’s time to find a new way to deal with the monkey wrenches that come my way.
This week has brought more frustration than I have experienced since the early days of living in India, when everything was broken, and we didn’t know who to call or how to fix it. The difference is that we have been here for four months now, and knew exactly what to and who to call. Or so we thought.
The hot water heater, or geyser, in the master bath has been leaking for about six weeks here. The water in our area of Bangalore is very hard and heavily treated as a result, but it is still pretty harsh and just eats through stuff. This is expected, and we already had one geyser replaced due to leaks caused by the tank rusting through. The current leak started off as a minor inconvenience, but became persistent about four weeks ago, so we called for service, and were told that the tank needed replacing. Over the next three weeks, I was given appointment times for the replacement on six occasions, and my maid was called at least one further time. I made certain that I was in the house for at least one hour either side of the agreed upon time, but the repairman never showed. It was a little frustrating, mostly because I wasted a lot of time waiting, this was the tank that serviced the only bath tub in the house, and it stilled dripped a bit even when the water was off.
When I got the call yesterday that the repair guy would be coming, I expressed my doubt to the office manager. She assured me that the repairman had come by my house each of the previous six times, and that I was not home when he came. I assured her that he was lying. Something must have happened, because he arrived at my house later that afternoon. It was 55 minutes before he was supposed to be there, but he was there.
Having had one geyser replaced already, I knew that you could not drain the water from the geyser when the water was off. I also knew that the repairman would not clean up the mess that resulted from the rusty, stagnant water covering the bathroom when he disconnected the supply hose. I tried to avoid this unpleasant mess, and asked him to use the bucket that was catching the drips when he drained the tank. He then pulled out his phone and made a few calls. When he hung up from the last one, he just stood in the bathroom. After a minute or two, I asked what he was doing. “Waiting for help” was the response.
I assumed that he was waiting for a ladder or another person to assist with removing the tank from its mount about seven feet up on the wall. I was wrong. His phone rang again, and he quickly handed it to me. It was his office manager, and the first thing that she said was, “why don’t you let him do his job?” I was flabbergasted, and asked her to repeat what she said, before I tried to calmly explain that I merely asked him to empty the tank in the bucket. She then suggested I could supply my towels, then newspapers(?!) to soak up the mess, and when I said no to both, she asked where my maid was, implying that it should be her problem. I am sure that many would agree that it should be Sheela’s problem, but I really like her, and had already unintentionally left her one mess to clean from the previous replacement. I wanted to avoid that mess. We hung up after I let her know that I expected the repairman to catch the water with a bucket.
The next call I got was from my landlord, where we repeated much of the same conversation. I calmly but sternly told him that this was unacceptable, and that the job could have been done already if he’d just unhooked the hose into the bucket that was on the ledge DIRECTLY UNDER THE TANK. He didn’t see things my way, and suggested that it might be better to have the repair take place this morning, when Sheela was here. I let him know the brief two hour window when Sheela is here and relented. I did this knowing that Sheela would make sure he didn’t make a mess.
I know I could have let it go, but I was pissed. I wasn’t upset that he refused to clean a mess; I was upset that he refused to do any work unless he made a mess. It was ridiculous.
Fast forward to this morning, and I filled Sheela in before I went out, and she agreed with me. Sadly, he didn’t show up when he was supposed to, and arrived long after she had left for the day. I could tell that he was as pleased to see me as I was to see him. The first thing that he did when he got in the bathroom was remove the bucket and go to move it to the hallway. I stopped him, and told him that he was going to need that. He pulled out his phone and made a few calls…
While I could not tell what was said I know that I was a topic of the conversations by the number of times that he said “the Madam”. He finally hung up and did some more navel gazing before I asked him what his plan was. He let me know that a ladder was on the way. I smiled.
In the end, he drained the tank into the bucket with only a few drops of water splashing on the wall. I had a brief moment of satisfaction, til I realized that he worked slower than paint dried. After a little over two hours (for a job that took twenty minutes or so the last time) I had to force him out of the house so that I could go get the lils from school. Thankfully he waited to finish the job. There were a couple of times that he seemed to be putting the tank back together by trial and error, and spent long periods of time staring at the pieces as if he was willing them back together. It’s up and it works, but I think that we will continue to use this bath sparingly…
Wordless wednesday – At the beach
We are very lucky, in that the people that we have working for us, our “helpers” as the lils call them, are great. They are hardworking, trustworthy, and most importantly, they do an awesome job. Prior to moving to Bangalore, I had read that these qualities might be hard to come by. We kept an open mind, and are glad to have easily found people that contradict those claims.
We have had a little bit more difficulty with getting work done with some contractors and third parties. I think part because there is a very strong need to adhere to chain of command, and the workers will not carry out a task unless it is the one that they were sent to do, even if they can and the problem is related. The flipside is that labour is VERY cheap in India, so a lot of these people are not making a great wage. It seems that there is little motivation to do some work, or work above the minimum required.
We try to be pretty easy going about the little things that need some love in the house, but we have had a few issues in the last six weeks or so that have needed attention. Our landlord has a handyman that is supposed to stop by every Wednesday, so I kept thinking “oh, I will mention this to handyman when he is here this week”, only to notice that the week would end and he hadn’t come by. Then the hot water heater in our bathroom started leaking enough to make a mess and waste a decent amount of water, so we called the landlord with a list and another complaint that the handyman was not coming by. Handyman showed up that day, ascertained that the water heater, some taps, and possibly our oven all needed replacing, and claimed to set the ball in motion on those.
Three weeks go by, and he hasn’t come back. The water heater is apparently going to be replaced by the manufacturer, but the oven is still wonky, the taps are still leaking, and we woke up this morning to a puddle on the floor in the kitchen. We make another call, and again note that the handyman is not coming by weekly.
I do a quick inspection and deduce two things, the tap is now leaking a significant amount (about three liters per hour, judging by how quickly it fills a measuring cup) and the fix that he used when the sink was leaking in early January is no longer holding. It could be because this fix was electrical tape. Now, I am not a plumber, or an electrician, but I have done my fair share of minor plumbing repairs, and installed the pump at the cottage more than a few times. I know that electrical tape is for … electrical work.
As luck would have it, when handyman looks, the sink is not leaking. I have been trying not to use the sink, and have not been using the hot water, which makes it worse… so of course it is not working. I explain this to him, and he responds that it is OK. The lils pull me away as I am telling him that it is NOT OK, and I come back to him still in the kitchen, looking ready to leave. I ask what he is going to do to fix it, and he again tells me that it is OK, it is fixed.
This is when I lose it a little, and become the crazy angry lady that yells, I am sure (even though I just hardened my voice and raised it a smidge, really). “It is NOT fixed,” I say, “You did nothing. Ask Willy, ask my maid, they both saw the puddle. Do you think that I imagined that? That I made that up? If it happens again and one of the lils slips and hurts their head* I am going to be REALLY ANGRY.“ Handyman gave me a frightened look and set to work on actually fixing the leaks under the sink. He took it all apart, retaped and glued as necessary. This fix might actually hold!
*because they ALWAYS hurt their heads*
Dry Potato Curry
I have started to become more adventurous with my Indian cooking, partially because I am exposed to such fabulous food at every turn, but mostly because of the availability and freshness of the ingredients. The freshness of everything impacts the taste (duh), but the most significant improvement in flavour I have seen is through the spices. I had no idea how much fresher a lot of the spices taste here, and as a result I am buying them all and using them.
Seeds are a fine example of this. Cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black mustard seeds… In Ottawa, I would frequently omit the seeds recommended in a recipe, or skip recipes all together if they were too seedy. They were hard* to find, not in my cupboard, or if I had purchased them, long forgotten in the back. I moved here with the goal of being able to prepare more authentic Indian food, so I started cooking with seeds, and loved the resulting flavours.
Most of the curries that I make are vegetable curries with gravies (saucy curries), but lately I have been looking to experiment more with dry curries. This week I got brave and decided to try something with potatoes and seeds. Willy and I both LOVE.
Dry Potato Curry
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (1-1.5 cm cubes)
2 tbsp oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 tsp pureed garlic
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
chopped coriander for garnish
Peel and chop potatoes in 1.5 cm cubes, rinse well and parboil.
Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and when they start to splatter, add cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and onions and fry until onion becomes translucent.
Add garlic, turmeric powder, cumin powder and fry for a minute. Add tomatoes and about 1/4 cup water and cook until they become soft. Add potato, toss and cook until nice golden brown.
Garnish with fresh cilantro
*hard to find in my regular grocery store, of course
When it rains…
This isn’t about the weather*…
Poor Goose has been having a rough week. She started of with a mangled finger and it has gone downhill from there. Every time I turn around, she has a new nick, scrape, or bruise. I know that this means that she is just playing hard and trying to keep up with her bigger and faster brother, but COME ON. Her body is covered with scabs and bruises, and I get quizzed almost every day at school. This lil girl needs a rest from the owies.
She is my lil toughie, and will actually handle pain pretty well for a three year old. Or a thirty year old, really. I knew that she had hurt herself this afternoon when I heard the wail. She and Woo were in the back yard and I was preparing supper. I went out as soon as I heard her, she saw me and started running. Sadly she failed to adjust for the height difference between the grass and the patio. She transitioned poorly, tripped and hit her knees, elbows, and finally her forehead. I grabbed her up and she hugged me so tightly, as if to say “Protect me mama, make it stop”. If only I could.
I was talking with her Auntie last night and mentioned that Goose loves the band aids that she sent for Christmas. Auntie mentioned that she would make sure Goose got some more. I think we’ll need a case.
*on the weather, though… For the record? It hasn’t rained (or precipitated at all) this year. Not once!
Wordless wednesday – home cooking
Some lessons are harder than others
As a parent, I hate to see my lils hurt. I expect a certain number of scrapes or bruises, and try to let the lils play hard enough that they earn those marks. I’d say that they do, judging by the number of bandaids that we go through, and the endless stream of owies that get kissed her. I have fears though, fears that they will really hurt themselves one day. I tend to get anxious about certain things, horsing around on stairs (stairs petrify me), running on the wet pool deck, riding their bikes in traffic, and anything to do with doors. Sadly, we seem to have one child that has recently started to slam doors, and one child who likes to loiter exactly in the door frame.
We were just hanging around the house yesterday, after a lunch out. It was quiet time, but the little monkeys were monkeying around, as they are known to do. Willy was in with Woo trying to finish his story, and Goose was bouncing around, alternating between calling downstairs to me and going to “check in” on the boys. I told her to go to her room, that I was coming up to get her settled. She didn’t though, she went to Woo’s room instead. As I started walking up the stairs, I heard them talking, followed by a slam, then this awful scream. I ran, yelling “open the door, open the door”, but they couldn’t hear me through her screaming and the thick door. It was merely seconds, but it seemed to take me an eternity to get to her. I opened the door, scooped her up and let Willy know what had happened.
She was still screaming and I tried to calm her on my way to the freezer. It was starting to work, then she both realized that it REALLY hurt, and actually looked at the damage. Her poor index finger was slightly dented, cut and bleeding, and the nail was already purple. Her upset reached new heights. Woo and Willy followed us down, trying to help to calm her. The only thing that did work was covering the finger with a facecloth, and that would only last til the next throb of pain. We managed to get ice on it, and gave her a dose of advil to help with the pain. It eventually kicked in and and she collapsed into bed for a nap.
Woo was very contrite and Goose pretty skittish for the rest of the day. While it pains me to see that my little girl was hurt, a little piece of me hoped that this would help them both learn to be careful around doors. We talked about it, and they agreed that they needed to be more careful. Today, we had three close calls with fingers almost getting squished. Apparently this is one lesson that has not sunk in.
Her finger today, poor lil Goosie.