Thursday, October 29, 2009

Can You Read This?

Hey! This is just a quick blog post.... Some of you are having trouble reading my blog. If you have trouble reading the white writing (and you don't see the brown background) then you can do one of a few things...
- If you're using Internet Explorer, then you just need to update it :) If you have Windows XP then you can click here to update (or you can click here if you have another Windows version).
- You can also use another internet browser like Firefox or Google Chrome. They are both free :)
I don't really have time to re-do the blog again anytime soon :) so I hope that helps!!
you guys ROCK!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Water?

OK, so this might be really boring to some of you, but I'm going to post it anyway :) I've had a lot of people ask me about how we get our drinking water, so I thought I'd post. Until a few days ago we had a water filter called an Aquaguard but then our water started to taste terrible! It's the city water that was/is bad, but there's nothing that kind of filter can do about it. Our filter was getting out the parasites, but that's about it. We live in the South part of the Capital where the water is extra hard and the filter we had doesn't really work well in our area of the city. I haven't liked our water in a long time either, so we decided we wanted a change.

We'd heard that the RO (Reverse Osmosis) Water Filters were good, but they are very expensive. A few days ago we found a lady in the city that was selling hers (that was only used for a few months) for really cheap, so we got one! Here it is below:
It's pretty big but it works great! Now our water (& food) doesn't taste like moldy dirt! It tastes good! It's the little things that make such a big difference :) yay for good water!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Back to "Normal" :)

Our city is starting to settle back into "normal" mode :) The main part of holiday season is over (although there is still at least a holiday a week :)), so things are starting to "normalize". We definitely see less of these:
This is our neighbor's house the day after Diwali - lots of firecrackers (or Crackers as they call them here).
Our neighbors spent a lot of money on fireworks this year. We didn't spend anything, but got to benefit from their fireworks display :) haha!
The traffic is starting to get back to normal too! whoo hoo!
So, now that everything is getting back to "normal", I'll be able to post more... well, until the baby comes - haha! I guess life is never normal :) - which is good, it would be boring if it was normal all the time :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall Fun Recipes!!

Pumpkin ROCKS!!! This time of year there are so many pumpkin recipes out there. I don't know if it's pregnancy or just the fun pumpkin time of year, but I've been trying them all! haha! It doesn't feel like fall here (in the 90s today), and they don't celebrate the same fall holidays here that we do in the US, so it's a fun way to make it feel more like fall here :)

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes
2 cups milk
1 cup strong coffee (I used 3 T of grounds to make 1 cup)
2 T canned pumpkin or fresh
2 t vanilla
Sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to taste
Mix all ingredients in pot, co
ok over low heat until steaming.
YUM!
I'm more of a decaf girl - this is good with decaf too!
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A lot of pumpkin recipes call for pumpkin pie spice. I haven't seen it here in South Asia Land, so I made up my own batch :)

PUMPKIN PIE SPICE
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (dal chini)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (jaiphal)
1/4 tsp ground cloves (laung/lavang)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (soonth)
If you make this in South Asia, use a little less ginger - it's much stronger here (at least the kind I've used :))
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OK, so I found this recipe below on www.ourbestbites.com - it's AWESOME!!!! REALLY GOOD!!

PUMPKIN PIE MILKSHAKE
1/3 C pumpkin, canned or homemade
1/4 - 1/2 C milk
1/4 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
1/16 t cloves (just use a 1/8 t measure and fill it half way, or do a pinch)
1/16 t nutmeg
(or instead of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, you can do about a 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice)
2 T brown sugar
2 C vanilla ice cream
a few graham crackers (or digestive biscuits - to sprinkle on top)

Pop it all in a blender. Start with 1/4 C milk and then slowly add more if needed to make the blender process it all.
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My friend posted this recipe on her blog it is sooooo good!! I'm not a big fan of pumpkin pie, but I love pumpkin stuff. These bars are so good!

CHOCOLATE CHIP PUMPKIN BARS
2 sticks of butter, softened (or one cup) {yes, I know that's a lot of butter, but its good!}
1¼ cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned or homemade pumpkin puree {not pie filling}
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
6-12oz semisweet chocolate chips {I use half a bag}

Prepare a 9x13 dish with cooking spray and preheat your oven to 350°.
With an electric mixer on medium high speed, cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and cream until combined. Beat in the pumpkin {the mixture may look a little curdled...it's ok}. Reduce your mixer speed to low and add the flour, pie spice, baking soda and salt. Mix thoroughly. Mixture should be light
and fluffy. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake until top is golden and toothpick comes out clean in the center. Approximately 30-40 minutes. Cool completely {or just go ahead and sneak a little while it's warm}
Well, for those of you that needed a fall pumpkin fix, I hope this helped! Happy Fall!! :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Holiday Season!

It's Holiday Season here! This is a fun time of the year. Diwali starts tomorrow (Oct 15). The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras (Aashini was born on Dhanteras 2 years ago!). "Dhan" means wealth. It's the biggest shopping day of the year! (think of the day after Thanksgiving x 10! It's insane!). People are supposed to pray to the goddess Lakshmi for blessings in the form of wealth. Since it's the day associated with wealth, businesses & homes are renovated and/or decorated for the goddess of wealth (Lakshmi). Entrances to houses or offices are usually decorated with a Rangoli - the pic below is a picture of one of the many rangolis at the mall today. They are usually made with colored powders, colored sawdust or flower petals.
Last night we went to a big Diwali fair in our neighborhood. They were selling lots of things and had food and fair-type rides. Here's the fancy rangoli at the entrance to the fair.
They had lots of performers at the fair. It was fun to watch. Aashini thought it was cool :)
These guys were really fun :) They ran around singing and dancing - they had tons of energy!
This guy was awesome!!! He was so fun on his stilts :)
He held Aashini for a minute - at first she liked it, but then she got scared :(
Some of the rides weren't quite ready yet :) haha! This one made me laugh because it looked like a plane crash.
There were lots of performers. This guy was a good singer - but his mullet cracked me up :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

B&W fun :)

Here's just a couple of pics I like in black & white :) Thought they were fun :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shaadi Part 3 - Wedding Part 3c

OK, this will be the last of the wedding posts :)
After the bride & groom are finished eating, then they split off into separate rooms (they aren't married yet!). This wedding hall had some great rooms that had mats all over the floor and even had AC in the rooms! It was great!!! So the groom and his friends & family went into one room and the bride and her friends & family go into another room. The next ceremony is the last ceremony - the Saat Phere. They can't do this part of the ceremony until the time that the Pundit (Hindu Priest) has previously told them. This one couldn't start until 2:30 am. So... we hung out and waited :) Many of the women slept on the mats on the floors during this time.
Here's a pic of Jaya's feet :) She had on 4 toe rings on each foot :) That many toe rings are pretty uncomfortable in the kind of shoes she had on though! She was ready to take these shoes off!
So this next part is really fun but can also feel really long because it's really late ;) There is a REALLY fun tradition that happens during this time ;) The bride's friends go to the groom's room and hang out over there. Their goal is to try to steal Deepansh's shoes (or at least one of them). There are rules though. You can't force it off his foot or take it off yourself. You have to trick him into giving you the shoe :) It's a really fun tradition :) The bride's friends are trying to get the shoe and the groom's friends are trying to keep the bride's friends from getting it. This part is supposed to be for just the single friends, but it's OK if you participate and are married :) haha! Adam was actually the one who tricked Deepansh into giving him his shoe (foreigners can get away with a lot :) haha!). He told him he loved that kind of shoe (in a long story) and wanted to know if he could try it on. He got the shoe and sat it down and the girls took the shoe and ran.

So, during most of this time, I stayed in Jaya's room with her. She would have been all alone (except for the sleeping ladies) and I didn't have tons of energy, so we had fun together (trying to both stay awake).
So the bride's friends hide the shoe and try to keep it hidden until the end of the wedding (the groom doesn't need his shoes until then anyway, so it's OK) :) The groom's friends try to find it. It's a fun game :)

So Jaya and I tried to take a serious South Asian Photograph. I think I look mad when I take a picture like this :) haha! It cracks me up :)
Actually it cracked both of us up! haha!
I tried to get a pic of us making funny faces :) I finally got her to do this (and I look like I'm about to fall asleep) :) haha! It makes me laugh :)
So, after a few hours of waiting, it's time for the last ceremony.
The Saat Phere (or Seven Vows)
It's usually a longer ceremony (about 2.5 hours). There is a Pundit (Hindu Priest) or two that lead it. Here is one of the Pundits.
Here are Jaya & Deepansh together during part of the ceremony.
So the Saat Phere is when the bride and groom walk around the fire together 7 times making vows to each other. Here are the 7 vows:
1. The couple prays for plenty of nourishing and pure food and that their god will let them walk together so that they will get food.
2. The couple prays for a healthy and prosperous life. They ask for the physical, spiritual and mental health from their god.
3. The couple prays for wealth. They ask for the strength for both of them so that they can share the happiness and pain together and that they can walk together to get wealth.
4. They pray for the increase in love and respect for each other and their respective families.
5. They pray for the beautiful, heroic and noble children from god.
6. They ask for a peaceful long life with each other.
7. They pray for companionship, togetherness, loyalty and understanding between themselves. They ask their god to make them friends and give the maturity to carry out the friendship for lifetime. (after this round they are officially married).

After the last round, the husband then says to his new wife that now they have become friends and they will not break their friendship in life.
So... that's it!
Well, sorta.... That's the entire wedding. They are now officially married.
There were still some ceremonies and a lot of traditions that took place the next few days (and are still going on). Jaya is now officially married and is now living with Deepansh and his family. It's very different than what we're used to in the US. I think that it's really neat to learn about different marriage customs. It really gives insight into the culture ;) Want to know any more? Let me know :)

Oh yeah! the Shoe!!! So, for the groom to get the shoe back at the end before they leave the wedding hall that next morning, he has to BUY his shoe back from the bride's friends :) This shoe went for 1100 rps :) Very fun :)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Shaadi Part 2 - Wedding Part 3b


This next part is my personal favorite. After the bride & groom finish their individual ceremonies, then they get to see each other. It wasn't always like that. Years ago, the bride didn't see the groom until the last ceremony (Saat Phere - where they are officially considered married - that's in the next post). Most marriages in our country are arranged marriages (I know, I've promised to write all about that - I will, I promise :)). Some brides get to see their husbands for the first time at this part of the wedding! Jaya's was an arranged marriage, but after her Engagement Ceremony she was allowed to date Deepansh during that time. They went on a date about once a month and got to call each other daily. It's a really neat time. Anyway, I'll write more about that when I write about arranged marriages :)

So, this next part is when the bride goes to meet the groom. The pic below you can see us walking to meet him. The bride's close friends walk with her to meet him. We all held her skirt up so that she could walk and carried her flowers (mala). Here we are walking from the ceremony room through the eating room to get to the main hall where Deepansh is.
Here we are in the main room. They have photographers and videographers that have HUGE crazy lights set up (which is why half of my pics have crazy light) :)
OK, so here's my favorite part :) It's similar to when the bride walks down the aisle at a Western wedding but more exciting. Here she is approaching Deepansh.
They were so cute :) He was so excited to see her. They hadn't seen each other in over an month, so that made it more exciting :) It was so cute :)
Weddings here really are a celebration! When the bride meets the groom on stage all of the friends and family are crowding all around each other and cheering! You can see the friends and how excited they are in the pic below. Its' so cool! Everyone is excited and cheering with them :) This wedding had more excitement than any other wedding I'd been to before. It was really fun!
This next part I don't have great pictures of. If you want to be near the bride or groom you kinda have to push your way there... with this big pregnant belly, I wasn't about to do that, so you'll just have to see the pics like this :) This part is when the bride puts a mala (flower lei-type necklace) around the grooms neck. When she does this everyone cheers!!!
Here they are after Jaya put the mala on his neck :) When this part happens, everyone claps and cheers! It's so fun!
Here's a pic of Adam & Mayank (Jaya's brother).
Before the mala (and even during the groom's ceremonies), guys (groom's friends) are dancing. They stop when Jaya enters but start up again after the Mala time. It's so funny because most of the time (and the entire time this wedding), it's only guys dancing with each other. It's pretty hilarious at times.... for me it's hilarious the whole time! They are quite excited dancers!
Everyone leaves the stage after the mala part. Here are the bride and groom!!! She's not smiling. The bride isn't supposed to smile on the wedding day because she's leaving her family.
Then, for the next hour+ everyone gets their pictures with the bride and groom. They take a TON of pictures! It's kinda nice for them that they don't traditionally smile in pictures because their smiling muscles would be REALLY tired!!!
I did catch a little bit of a smile though :) It was hard for her not to smile at times though :) Very cute :)
So, after all of the pictures, most everyone leaves except for close friends and family. It's about 12:30 or 1:00 am at this time. This is the time when the bride and groom get to eat :) You'd think that would be a nice relaxing time, but I definitely wouldn't call it that :) First they both feed each other a bite of food :)
THEN, the close friends and family feed them the rest of their food. They constantly have someone shoving some kind of food in their face. They can't eat themselves, they just have to have everyone feed them. I wouldn't like that very much.
There are a few traditions associated with this though that are fun. The bride's friends try to give the groom "trick" foods. I even got suckered into doing this. They gave him big chili peppers in his bites and I gave him a bite of ice cream with a chili pepper in it. haha! Poor groom. He gets picked on a lot that night (more to come in the next post).
This part is a lot more relaxing. Most of the bride's friends and family change clothes before this time (out of uncomfortable sarees and into more comfortable suits). It's fun :)
OK, so one more post to go for the actual wedding ceremonies :) Weddings are fun :)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Shaadi part 1 - Wedding part 3

Wow! The titles of these posts are getting long! haha! The actual wedding night is full of stuff, so I'm going to break it up into 3 posts... so this is my 3rd wedding post, but my first of the wedding night (the Shaddi).
Here were are all geared up for the wedding!! Normally I would wear a saree for this type event, but pregnant with a saree is quite difficult and not something I wanted to wrangle, so I wore a fancy suit :) (I'll have some sorta better pics of it in another post).
This is the most exciting and fun part of the wedding week for me :) I love it! There's so much anticipation! (you can interpret that as 'waiting' too... lots of waiting :) haha!)
So, during the day the bride gets ready (as well as many other things like pujas). She spends HOURS at the beauty parlor. It's a lot of work to wear all that make-up, nail polish & jewelry and to get the outfit looking just right!
OK, so while the bride is finishing getting ready, making her way to the wedding hall & having some of her ceremonies (mentioned below) - the groom is making his way to the wedding. This is called the Barat. The groom usually rides to the wedding site on a white horse (sometimes on a horse or sometimes on a special cart pulled by the horse as seen in the pic below). He is accompanied by all his relatives, friends and family. There's usually a band or some drummers, some fancy lights and lots of celebrating. When they arrive at the venue (dancing and rejoicing), the are welcomed by the bride's family. It's pretty fun :) We missed most of this because we were there with the bride's side :) We did drive past the Barat and I quickly took a pic out of the window ;)
Here's Aashini on the stage playing with other kids while waiting for the groom (Deepansh) to arrive :)
Brides typically wear a Lehenga (or Choli). At first glance it looks a lot like a saree, but it is a separate skirt & top. Traditionally brides wore only red for their weddings, but nowadays they usually wear a color that is in that same family (orange, pink, red, maroon, etc). I really liked Jaya's. It was pink &orange and very cool!
This next ceremony is cool to me. This is the ceremony when the bride gets her toe rings. Toe rings are one of the many symbols of being married here. Here is Jay getting her toe rings (below). It's interesting because gold is VERY important and popular here. I've always wondered why toe rings are made of silver. Well, I learnd that they are made of sliver (and not gold) because the metal gold is held in high regard by H'ndus and it is believed that it is the metal of gods, so they don't think it's appropriate to wear it below the waist. Of course, in some parts of the country that is no longer true and they wear gold toe rings, but in our part of the country it's still the trend.
Jaya had 4 toe rings on each foot - it looked awesome! BUT they are hard to get on. The silver isn't easy to bend, so she didn't have the best time getting them put on :)
One of her relatives that was helping to put them on decided that since they couldn't bend them on, she was going to use her teeth - it made me laugh! I have a picture of a friend with another friend's foot her her mouth - haha!!
Jaya gets to wear really cool jewelry! Here's just some of it! The gold bangles are real gold! So cool looking!
This next part is hard to explain, but basically, they use wheat as a blessing.
The friends and family make a circle around her and she hands them a handful of wheat.
They then circle around her and throw the wheat at her.
Here's a pic of me & Jaya - I think this pic is funny! My smile is huge :) haha!
I like this picture :)
So now they get ready for the next part (this is my favorite part but you'll have to wait until the next post to hear about that).
During this time, the groom (Deepansh), Jaya's brother (Mayank) and the pundit (H'ndu priest) perform some ceremonies.
Here's Deepansh!
OK, to keep this post from being too huge, that's all for now - next post is my fave so stay tuned!!