High Five!

Dear Woo:

Happy birthday! Today you are five! So happy and proud to be growing older and more independent, you move through life at a lightening speed, but have a keen interest to learn everything and anything about whatever strikes your fancy. You challenge us to learn more, so that your world can broaden. Books are your windows to things that have happened in the past, new information, and places that you want to go visit. Your favourite thing to do is take a quiet moment (or hour) with a new book, and get lost in the story.

This year was a year for many new things for you… first formal schooling, first roller blades, biking with only two wheels, moving across the globe, learning to make new friends and coping when it is not easy, drawing real pictures, reading chapter books, writing, learning that it is OK to be happy in India and still miss home, sleeping through your first cyclone, and many, many adventures in India. I could list a thousand ways that you have grown this year, and still not list them all. You also grew a few inches taller too!

It is very clear that you have collected traits from both your dad and me. Like me, you love to take photos, and dabble and experiment in the kitchen (even if you occasionally end up with apple milkshakes). Like your dad, you love to take things apart (and sometimes leave them like), love playing all sports, and can focus on tasks with an unshakable determination. It is so nice to see little pieces of each of us, in you.

My caring little boy who is not so little anymore, it warms my heart to see how much you love life and demonstrate your love to the people in your life.


walking with Goose in your favourite haunt, the Museum of Nature

Summer fun
dandelion fluff

hanging out in the back yard

Summer Fun
summer fun with your pal Goose


Looking for snails
looking for snails at Mud Lake

Big Boy!

I touched an elephant
meeting an elephant

Second trip up the street
two wheelin’

Smiley guy
smiley guy

Family at the Taj Mahal
at the Taj Mahal



Palak paneer

One of the best things about my relationship with Willy, especially from the early days, is that he really got me to broaden my culinary horizons. My foodie life was a bland and drab existence back then. He pushed me to try many a thing that I previously held my up nose up to. Some of those things are still not to my taste (hello guacamole, bleh!), but I am grateful for the many things that I LOVE and never would have eaten had it not been for his nudges.

All of Indian cuisine falls into this category, but spinach dishes in particular. I didn’t really think that I was a fan of spinach, but in reality, I am not sure I ever gave them a chance. I certainly was not interested in even trying spinach curries for a number of years, but then a saag paneer roti from Ghandi Roti in Toronto won me over. Now we eat it all the time!

This dish is called palak paneer, but it is more commonly known as saag paneer in Ottawa. As far as I can tell, the distinction is that saag can refer to any green leafy sauce, which includes spinach, mustard leaf, broccoli or other greens. Palak specifically refers to spinach, palak is Hindi for spinach. This is my take on palak paneer, it took me a few tries to really get the taste to be both authentic and please all of us, but when I made this version this week, we got thumbs up all around!

Palak Paneer
3/4 – 1 lb paneer, cubed
2 tbsp oil for frying paneer
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp cumin seed
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tsp minced ginger/ginger paste
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
~6 cups of fresh coarsly chopped spinach
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp red chili powder
2 – 3 tbsp high fat yogurt

Cut paneer into cubes. Heat a frying pan with 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and lightly fry cubes. Pat down and set aside.

Heat oil and add cumin seeds, heat until they pop/crack.

Meanwhile, puree tomatoes, ginger, coriander and turmeric. Add to cumin seeds and cook until liquid has reduced by about half.

Add spinach and, if necessary, about 1/4 cup water. Cook until spinach wilts.

Drain excess liquid into frying pan and saute onions. Add to spinach mixture and puree until desired consistency (we like it mostly smooth, with a few big pieces of spinach left).

Return to heat and add chili powder and yogurt. Stir well and add paneer. heat for a couple of minutes.

Serve with rice or naan bread. Or both!



Wordless Wednesday – Taj Mahal

Family at the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal


Taj Mahal

Goose in the jawab



Drivin’ in my car…

When we moved here, we decided that we would buy a minivan, use it for the year, and sell it when we left.  We figured that this was the best option for us, and went so far as to put a deposit on a Toyota Innova (basically a Sienna) before we left on our look-see trip.

Unfortunately, delivery on the van was expected to be about three weeks after we arrived with the family, so we needed to make other arrangements for our first month.  Willy got a referral from a colleague for a driver that came with his own car and was willing to take us on for one month.  He proved to be very friendly, competent, and great with the lils, and we were feeling sad to be losing him as delivery day drew near.  Turns out he was also happy with our family, so the week that we were to take delivery on the car, we cancelled it and hired Subbu for the year.  We have never looked back, and we don’t think he has either.  If nothing else, I know that the antics of the lils at least amuse him….

Every now and again I am reminded of how good we have it. Like when Willy’s Mum and I took a taxi to the airport, and the driver’s GPS had to warn him to slow down, as he was driving too fast (which is hard to do on Bangalore roads). Or the man the drove us from Kochi to Alleppey like he was driving the Indy 500 dekeing in and out of traffic, squealing off the highway to get gas, and stopping on a dime with no warning.  For the most part, these were minor faults for driver’s that just could not meet the standard that Subbu has set.

This past weekend’s driver, however, was really bad.  He picked us up at the airport in Delhi, as arranged, and we headed off on the long ride to Agra.  We quickly noticed that he was the type of driver that liked to surge ahead and break, surge ahead and break in traffic.  While this is just a minor annoyance for Willy and I, it is the very driving style that makes Goose carsick.  Sure enough, not one hour into the ride, she was sick.  We spoke to the driver, and asked him to take it easy, but even though he understood, he did not change his driving style.  It was a long and uncomfortable ride for poor Goose.

We arrived in Agra, and let him know that we would text our plans to him, but that it would likely mean an early pickup, so one of us could visit the Taj Mahal at dawn.  Later that day, he called to confirm, but we didn’t have plans set. Willy talked to me and called back within five minutes, but received no response, despite numerous calls and texts.  After a couple of hours with no response, it was  to look like he was going to get stranded, so we made back-up plans with the hotel for a 6:00 am pick-up.  It was a good thing we did, as the driver never contacted us or showed.  He finally called at 9:30 when we were at the Taj Mahal, and gave us excuses about his phone not working, and how calls to our hotel room were unanswered from 5:00am on.  We knew this to be a lie, as I was up, and missed no call on any phone in the room.

We asked him to wait for us at the hotel, and headed back at our leisure. The driver did successfully take Willy and the lils to Agra Fort, and took the family to dinner that night.  The last straw for me, as when he flicked on the tv, and started watching a movie as he was driving us back to the hotel! He could not wait to watch it, even though the drive was a mere five minutes, and I could not wait to be rid of this driver.

We headed back to Delhi on Sunday morning, and the ride was much like the ride down to Agra. Many rough starts and stops, a green Goose, and a horn worn out from too much honking.  I think the lils had had enough at this point, as they made several pointed comments, along the lines of: Subbu is a good driver, why didn’t Subbu come with us, and I miss Subbu…  We were all so happy to see him waiting at the airport for us when we got home!!

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One of the things that we knew we would do when we decided to move to India was go to visit the Taj Mahal. We were lucky, in that six weeks ago, one of my best friends, Lala, forced our planning hand by needing to be in Delhi for work this past week. She was going to see the Taj Mahal on the weekend, and wanted to know if Willy and I would consider coming with the lils. We jumped and the chance and the planning began.

The focus of the trip was the Taj Mahal, but being able to just hang out with Lala was a big bonus. She and I met when we were barely past our teen years (she was actually technically still a teen), worked together for a few years, then lived together for a few years. We lost touch for a little while in the middle, then found our way back to each other. I am never letting her go again, despite the fact that she moved to Singapore a few years ago.

One of the reasons that I love Lala, and hanging out with her, is that we laugh together. Laugh at each other and laugh at everything that happens around us. I was looking forward to a little bit of that this trip, and happy that Willy offered to watch the lils so she and I could have some cocktails on Friday night. As luck would have it, I beat her to the bar, so I sat down, ordered a pint, and was content to people watch. I made the fatal mistake of smiling at one of those people as they crossed my line of sight.

He was a middle-aged man, and he smiled back, sat down, and ordered a beer. He then proceeded to tell me all about his business trip, being from Minnesota*, what he liked and didn’t like about India, and various other trivial details about his life. I was trapped. I tried to be polite as I willed Lala to hurry up and join me. When I saw her across the room, I gave her the “save me” look. She sat down and tried, as did her colleague who joined us shortly after. We talked about things like manicures and our shared past that didn’t include him.

Eventually he moved on and we laughed a relieved laugh. There was nothing wrong with talking with a random stranger from Minnesota, other than the fact that it was digging in to our precious time together. We chatted for a little while, until Lala looked toward the seat that Mr. Minnesota had vacated. She saw this:

“Did he pay for that?” she asked. We tried to figure out when he could have, and concluded that he couldn’t have. The delivery of the bill confirmed it. No, he hadn’t. He sat, he chatted, he ordered a beer and he stiffed me with the tab. I’d been Minnesota’d. Oh, she laughed at me over this. I am pretty sure she still is laughing.

*the fact that this guy was from Minnesota is not in any way intended to reflect poorly upon all the great people from Minnesota, or indicate that I hold this beer swindling incident against them. The fact that he was from Minnesota was merely how he self defined, and thus the term “Minnesota’d” was born.*

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