Wordless Wednesday – First snow
One of the things that I developed a great appreciation over the last year was a good biriyani. It’s not just rice; there is so much goodness there… Living in Bangalore. we were lucky enough to have access to a really good selection of various types of biriyani, and to learn how that truly appreciating a good biriyani involves raita mixed in and no bread at all. It really makes it all that much better. Trust me, mix it in.
Lakshmi, our awesome cook, taught me how to make this veg biriyani in the weeks before we left.
I hadn’t made it until this week, as I was afraid that it would not taste just right. While the rice was not quite perfect (I think I need to fry it at a slightly higher heat..), the flavour was great. My house still smells of India…
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp sunflower oil
* ½ cup cashews (optional)
1 cardamom pod
2 pieces of cinnamon, about 1½ “ x ½
1 star anise (optional)
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
5-7 black peppercorns
1 – 1½ tsp garlic-ginger paste
1 onion, chopped
¼ green chili, seeds removed, chopped (optional)
2-3 mint leaves, chopped finely (optional)
1 tomato, chopped
2 carrots, chopped **
6 green beans, chopped **
¼-½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp turmeric
⅛ – ¼ tsp salt (to taste)
1 cup basmati rice, washed
½ cup frozen peas
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped very fine
2 cups water
** Note that you can vary the vegetables, but don’t use mushrooms, they alter the flavour too much **
In a medium saucepan, heat ghee and oil on high. *If you are using cashews, add to hot oil and fry for a minute or two, then remove and set aside to be added at the end.*
Add cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, star anise (opt’l), fennel seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes to roast (don’t burn, you should be able to really smell the spices when ready)
Stir in ginger-garlic paste, onions, and chilies and mint (if adding) and cook until golden brown (about 3 minutes)
Add beans and carrots and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
Mix in garam masala and turmeric. Stir well to coat everything.
Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes – until soft.
Reduce heat to low, add salt and cook for 5 minutes.
Add rice to pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add peas to rice and cook for 3-4 more minutes.
Add powdered coriander and cook 2 minutes
Add water and simmer covered until water is gone, about 15 mins (rice is slightly under cooked at this point). Stir in in cilantro and turn off heat. Leave covered on hot stove for at least 15 minutes.
Serve with raita.
Most nights for me end the same way. I read on my iPad until I get the nods, wake almost dropping said iPad at least twice, set it down, roll onto my left side and nod off. Somehow, when I did this last night, Willy was still awake (this is not normal), and he called me out for not kissing him good night. I was feeling cheeky and let him know that this was because he had chosen the wrong side of the bed to sleep on(I sleep on my left side, and this faces away from him). He was perplexed, and said, “but, you don’t even like this side of the bed…”
Willy and I have been together for almost fifteen years. When we first started having “sleepovers”, I noticed right away that we both preferred the same side of the bed. Not counting on this being a decision that I would be living with for the rest of my life, I ceded my side of the bed without even discussing it. In time I got used to it, but I have always slept on “my” side of the bed when Willy is travelling. Last night, I let him know that this was the case.
At first he didn’t believe me that I had done this nice thing for him, and refrained from telling him for such a long time. He tried to come up with proof that really, I just didn’t want his side of the bed. “I slept on the outside at your house so that I wouldn’t disturb you when I went into work so early”, said the man who NEVER got up early before children. I, on the other hand, often crept out of bed being cautious not to disturb him as I walked to work at 6:00am. He persevered, and pointed to my reluctance to learn how to work his old alarm clock. The clock that all the writing had been rubbed off the buttons, and could have easily been moved to his side of the bed, whichever side that might have been… He kept trying, but these were the two strongest arguments that he had.
We lay in silence as he tried to digest this information that had clearly altered his world view. He confessed that his mind was indeed blown. He couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that I had done something that I derived no benefit from, but that he clearly had. I never told him as he happily and blissfully slept on the good side of the bed, not realizing that I secretly wanted to as well. I let him assume that I slept on his side when he was away because I missed him, but the truth is I just wanted a few nights on the good side. I could tell that he wanted to ask me something by the way that he almost started to speak a couple of times, so I asked what was up. He hesitated, but confessed that he was worried that there might be other good deeds that I had kept from him. I quickly set his mind at ease by telling him that this was the only nice thing I’d secretly done for him, ever. “I kinda believe that,” he replied, as he drifted off to sleep, snug on
my his side of the bed.
The garbage pickers
It started when the lils were infants. As I walked them around our neighbourhood, I would stop and throw any garbage that I found on the street into the bottom of the stroller. As they got bigger, they started to point it out to me, then started to collect it themselves. I wanted to teach them to have a little bit of pride in their community, and it worked. A little bit too much. I had to start setting limits on how much they spent picking up the trash when all we would do is pick up litter at the park, instead of playing on the play structure.
Living in Bangalore was incredibly hard on us all because of the trash. There is litter everywhere that you look. We all wanted to do nothing more than clean up the city, but we couldn’t. We actually didn’t even feel comfortable cleaning the trash, as it was really dirty. There are many stray animals, far from healthy and clean, that lay in and on it, men and children were often seen going to the washroom anywhere and everywhere, and the volume of trash was mind blowing. The lils always asked “why do so many people litter, don’t they care?”
The answer is that it’s complicated. The areas of India that I lived in and visited lack the infrastructure and facilities to collect and process the garbage. If there was collection, it was generally in the gated communities, and almost as much fell off the trucks as was collected. Once collected, I am not sure where it was taken to be “processed”, but I can guess that it was likely just incinerated in the open somewhere. In addition, modernization and rapid growth in the cities has meant that there are a wealth of products that are now made available at prices that many Indians can afford, they all come over packaged, and these cheaply made goods break easily. There are very few public spaces that have rubbish bins, and if they are present, they are old and damaged (or so was my experience). There are the people who don’t have space in their tiny dwellings to store trash for a collection that is never going to happen. Finally, there are the people who just don’t care, or come to feel that way after living with all the trash. The end result is that it gets dumped on the streets, in the parks, the open fields and in the waterways. It’s one of the factors that contributed (albeit in a minor way) to our decision not to stay in India.
We were happy to come home to the land of public receptacles, regular collection (well in Ottawa its semi-regular now), and a renewed interest in cutting down on the trash that we produce. We’ve done pretty well, but the lils have noticed that there are still people in our community who, either intentionally or unintentionally, litter. We notice it most on our walks to school, are really aware of the garbage that stays on the sidewalk and peoples lawns for days and days. The lils started asking me to carry a trash bag a couple of weeks ago, and after about a week of false starts, we finally remembered to bring it with us. Sure, our walks to school are a little bit longer now, but the lils are pretty proud to be cleaning up the ‘hood.
Wordless Wednesday – It bothered him that it was wrong, so he fixed it!
My not so little girl is four!
Happy birthday! A part of me finds it hard to believe that my little girl can already be four, even though you have been counting down to this birthday for months. You have grown so much in the last year, however, that a part of me regularly thinks that you were already four. At least. Every day with you is filled with your sunny disposition, the fearless way you tackle every adventure, and the love that you give so freely to those around you. You can bring a smile to my face without trying, or knowing that you are doing it.
This past year was a whirlwind for you. You experienced more in the last 365 days than I did in the first 20 years of my life, on some levels. Most of the year was spent in India, so there were transatlantic flights, trips in an around India, the Taj Mahal, the Maldives (twice!), new people, and many, many, hours logged in the car. You handled it all like a pro, especially the sleepless night in Puducherry when you gave your dad and I a play-by-play of the cyclone making landfall and destroying the resort that we were staying in. After that, not much from our adventures fazed you.
School and learning quickly became one of your favourite things. You were very keen to learn your numbers and letters, and then to start to read. You can now write all of the letters and numbers, count to ten in four different languages, and read many words. You’ve mastered biking and swimming, and look forward to doing the same with skating this winter. Although you experienced your first lost finger nail and first stitches, among other bumps and bruises, you still want to dive right into new things.
This year you also learned how hard it is to leave people behind that you love. You made excellent friends while we were in India, and I know that you miss them still. I am happy to see that you are settling in to your new school here, and starting to connect with old friends and make new ones too.
I can’t wait to see what this year brings!
learning the harmonium
new scooter: mastered!
hanging with one of my besties!
admiring the Taj Mahal
waiting to go home to Ottawa for a visit
I can stand!!
waiting for the sharks to swim by in the Maldives
celebrating India’s Independence day
I like to take pictures too
My father lost hearing in his left ear when I was in grade five. The decline had been gradual, and caused by complications from Ménière’s disease, but the hearing was completely gone by then. He wore a hearing aid in his “good” ear, and that helped somewhat, but we were still a loud house as a result. Well, louder than the average house with three teenagers was. After a while the noise just blurred, and you didn’t notice it anymore. It was always loud.
It’s somewhat ironic that I am once again living in a loud house. Willy has been experiencing degeneration in his hearing for the last ten years or so. It was worse in his left ear, and about five years ago he was diagnosed with a disease called otosclerosis. Essentially, there is a build-up of protein in and on the stapes bone inside his ear (the stapes is one of the three teeny, tiny bones in your ears). Over time, the legions prevent the bone from vibrating and transmitting sound. Hearing loss generally occurs at the middle and lower frequencies first, eventually progressing to the higher frequencies.
Luckily, hearing loss due to otosclerosis is one of few hearing losses that can be effectively treated by surgery (alternate choice is hearing aids). When Willy was first diagnosed, treatment options were discussed and it was determined that surgery was the best course of action for him. The surgery, a stapedectomy, involves the removal of the stapes bone, and replacing it with synthetic stapes, made of teflon. Apparently, nothing sticks to teflon. The doctors wanted to perform the surgery on one ear at a time, and his audiogram showed that only his left ear met the threshold for performing the surgery.
The surgery was performed about eight weeks after Goose was born in January of 2009. The days that followed we a little uncomfortable for Willy; he was dizzy and groggy and wasn’t able to do much other than sleep for eighteen hours a day for the first week (did I mention we had a newborn?!), but was gradually able to return to normal activities, like lifting anything over ten pounds (which included said newborn!) after about three weeks. The recovery was fairly quick and the end results were worth it. Willy regained his hearing in his left ear, and was much happier.
Four years later, we are where we were before. The TV is always way too loud for my comfort; loud rooms make it impossible for Willy to hear anything; I speak too quietly for him to hear me; or he is out of earshot when I call, even though out of earshot is in the next room. It’s frustrating for both of us. He often just doesn’t hear what I say, but I feel it is too insignificant to repeat, like my under-my-breath mutterings that were of little consequence the first time I said it, or the causal comment about a car that was long gone before I’d repeated the comment once, let alone the two or three times that it might have taken to have it heard.
We have both been waiting anxiously for today. His hearing test was booked months ago, before even we left India. We knew that it would show that his hearing was bad enough that he would qualify for the surgery, and hoped that it wold “count” as his pre-surgery consultation, and get him one step closer to the surgery. The doctor who had performed his surgery has retired, and the results of the appointment with the new doctor were mixed. Yes, his hearing loss is well within what is needed for surgery, but he needs to be referred to a surgeon. The wait could be up to a year, but we hope it will be much shorter. Until then, we wait, in anticipation.
Wordless Wednesday – three new pairs
No more secrets
From the time that the lils first began to really understand us, Willy and I would switch to French when we wanted to discuss something that we didn’t want them to hear. This most often surrounded what vegetable was hidden in their pasta sauce, whether or not it was bath night, or who would be putting which child to bed. None of these were really conversations that the lils would have been harmed by if they had heard them, but they were occasionally tantrum inducing, so we played it safe. These weren’t secrets, per se, it was just convenient.
As they got older, we began to use French more and more. They were starting to get more independent, and our conversations no longer revolved around what they had eaten , who had pooped last, or how many times either had gotten up I the night, so we started to talk about life and the world around us more. Some things, like things from my work and some current events were too much for them, so we spoke French. I needed the practice, so we ended up talking French more than we needed to. It was nice, actually.
In the last year, Woo started to get upset with our use of the secret language. He knew that we were talking about things that he was not allowed to hear for a variety of reasons and it frustrated him. We got a bit of a reprieve when he started learning Spanish at school, as it gave Woo and Goose a secret language of their own, a language that we did not speak or understand. They reprieve ended when we returned to Canada and he was no longer learning Spanish.
The demands to know what we were talking about increased. We were no longer able to have even the most innocent conversation in French without Woo and Goose being curious. Then one day, after they had been in school for about three weeks, Woo interrupted our conversation to ask what was “red”. He’d been paying attention, and picked up on the word “rouge”. Several days later, they asked me to count in French for them, and when I got to trente-huit, Goose interrupted and told me that I had reached my age (she was right). Now it seems that every day they identify more in our conversations and learn more words.
Now we have no secrets. We have to be really careful when we chose to use French, and more often than not we chose to defer conversations that are sensitive to when the lils are not within earshot, and hope that we remember to resume them. A lot of the time, I don’t remember. I think it is time that we learn a new language.
The money game
It seems that there comes a time in every lils life when they are curious enough about money to want some of their own. For us, this came in the last six months of our time in India. I guess that the lils had heard enough of us converting prices and exclaiming over the relative price of things, and wanted to have a little bit of pocket money of their own. I was surprised that it came this early, but saw an allowance as a good way to teach about managing money, so we agreed to start contributing.
I had put a good deal of thought into how they could earn the allowance already, and talked to Willy about paying them for special chores. I didn’t want to be giving them money just so that they could have money, and felt that they shouldn’t be compensated for chores that were part of their regular contribution to the household (ie clearing their dishes after a meal), so we started to pay them for special chores, things that weren’t part of their regular routine. Chores like pulling the laundry out of the washer and bringing the basket to me, or bringing me one of the endless things that I had forgotten elsewhere in the house but was too lazy to go and get myself.
For the most part, they loved it. We were living in India, so they were paid in rupees. The rate for a chore was in the neighbourhood of 2-5rs (or 4-10₵), which might seem really low, but actually allowed them to but tonnes of stuff. At first all they wanted to do was play with the money, which was fine until it all gravitated to Woo’s secret hiding place. We redistributed and eventually convinced them to go shopping and see what they wanted to buy. They knew that they could buy ANYTHING they wanted, but both wanted books. I felt bad that they were using all of their allowance on something that I would have bought them anyway, so we struck an agreement. We would subsidize the cost of anything that we would have normally bought for them, like a new book they were keen to read or art supplies, but that they had to pay the full price for toys or treats. We were all happy.
The allowance practice has continued since we have returned to Canada, although we have converted to Canadian dollars and upped the rate a bit. Their willingness to do chores is pretty sporadic at best, but so is my ability to remember to come up with chores for them. They actually haven’t had a chance to spend any of their allowance since we moved home, and, given that they seemed to care more about getting a coin that was from their year of birth than they were the value of the coin, I was beginning to worry that I needed to rethink allowance as a way to educate them about managing money and it’s purchasing power.
That changed this evening when the lils were sent to tidy the play room. It had been well played over the course of the weekend, and needed quite a bit of work. I was curious when Woo returned to the kitchen after just a few minutes in the basement. He was looking a little too pleased with himself, so I asked him what was up. He replied that he had made a promise to his sister. He convinced her that she should clean the mess in exchange for some coins from his piggy bank! I did not expect that he would be paying her to do his work at such a young age, but I was impressed that he had negotiated it with little fuss. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I headed down to check with Goose, and make sure that she was aware of what she had agreed to. I found her in the basement, happily tidying and singing to herself. She recounted the same story that Woo had told me, and seemed to be happy. When the tidying was done, Woo did pay her 51₵, an amount that pleased them both. Maybe they are getting the hang of this money thing.