From Washington DC to Washington State

Posted November 23rd, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food, Travel
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PHOTOS: Seattle, Washington

SeattleRarely do Seejo and I have impromptu trips. So it was a unique experience when we decided to fly across the country to Seattle, Washington for the Memorial Day weekend.  The idea popped into our heads on Tuesday morning & before we knew it we were landing in Seattle on Friday evening. After completing the formalities required in renting a car, we headed off to straight to Kerry Park in downtown Seattle city to see what everyone was calling the “best view of the city”.

The park itself is a fairly small square of grass— hardly worthy of being called a “park”. However, it was clearly where some of the rich families of Seattle live: the houses were beautiful & built on a hill slope so that they all had a view of the Seattle skyline & the Elliott bay.  It was late evening when we reached there: many people were walking their dogs, children were scrambling up and down the stairs that led from the square of grass in the actual park area below to the view point above on the top.  At the view point, several photographers had mounted their tripods & were tinkering with their cameras and lenses while waiting for dusk to set in so that they could photograph the city lights.  As Seejo joined the group of photographers, I tried to forget my growling stomach by feasting my eyes on the city. The skyline is dominated by the Seattle space-needle which towers over the rest of the buildings in Seattle’s business district.  Far beyond the city and the blue bay, I could also see the outline of Mt. Rainier. Continue Reading »

Halloween in New York City

Posted November 7th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food, Travel
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Photos: New York City Trip

Although Seejo & I have differing opinions on almost all things related to New York City ( I love the crowds, the noise, the buzz & Seejo dislikes them), we both agree on two things about the city: it has some of the best restaurants in US & it has some of the quirkiest people on the street.  This Saturday we got a chance to confirm our opinion of both these issues.

I had already made brunch reservations at Mesa Grill—a restaurant owned by Chef Bobby Flay.  Ever since we saw Bobby Flay in Iron Chef America, we have wanted to try his “bold flavoured South-west style” cuisine.  We were there with our friend Atha (meeting up with him was the real reason for this trip), who was on an official visit from India. We were seated immediately, served with a breadbasket with jalapeno spiced blue & yellow corn-muffins, some flaky cheese biscuits & fruit coffee cake served with a red pepper relish. Between the three of us , we polished off the whole basket & licked the relish dish clean in less than five minutes. (There are no photographs of the bread-basket, we were too hungry to wait!). Continue Reading »

READING INDIA

Posted October 26th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Books, Reviews
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IMG_7149I completed my self-assigned mini reading project last week. I had decided to read 4 books that describe India in a particular order one after the other.  Now that I have a proper commute to work, I have re-discovered the joy of reading while travelling. On a rare day with no traffic, my commute to work is about 50 minutes each way, of which 30 minutes is by  public  transport (bus or train or a combination of both).  On most days, I spend about an hour and a half on the bus and/or train.  And I spend that time catching up on all the books that I have wanted to read. I generally tend to read non-fiction books while travelling because of three reasons:

  1. It looks  far more impressive than reading the latest Harlequin romance.
  2. Given my need to read something I become a captive audience if I am caught in a bus or train with nothing else to read than the book I have in hand.  So when I have starting trouble with a particular book ( and they are mostly the non-fiction books), it is good idea to have them with me during my commute. Once I have started the book,  I mostly tend to finish the book.
  3. I have time to think through & examine my reactions if I read something particularly thought provoking.

My reading project consisted of the following 4 books: Continue Reading »

DIWALI 2009

Posted October 20th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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IMG_7146 + IMG_9479-1 + IMG_9467 = 130_5678
SWEETS SPARKLERS FRIENDS HAPPY DIWALI

Weekend Cooking Spree

Posted October 4th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food
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For Deepa's Blog 117On Saturdays, I try to cook food for the entire week. Sometimes enough food to last us through two weeks..  Last weekend, while Seejo was in his class, I decided to spend the time productively by finishing the cooking. I thought I’ll show you the final output of my cooking spree.

Now here are the challenges I face when I cook for two weeks:

  1. Variety.  We cannot eat similar food for a week , let alone for two. There should be variety in taste, texture, color, cuisine style, food type—in short this is the biggest challenge to overcome. What this means, is I cannot make rice & daal to satisfy us for a week :)
  2. Whatever produce is present in the refrigerator MUST be used up. This is critical as I’d not be cooking for the next two weeks and so the vegetables tend to go bad if I do not use them all up.
  3. Given challenge # 1 and challenge #2 , this means, I have to use the same vegetables in two or three different curries IN an innovative fashion so that a) I finish the vegetable and b) I satisfy the variety requirement by making a different type of dish
  4. Each dish should be cooked with minimum of actual stove top time. My cooking style is completely the fill it, shut it and forget it type. Continue Reading »

An Afternoon With Maya Angelou

Posted September 24th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Books
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IMG00018-20090923-1504Some one at NIH decided that all the scientific minds at NIH could use a jolt of culture now and then. The result was the annual or semi-annual (not sure about the estimate of how frequently we need a culture dose) Cultural Lecture at NIH. This Wednesday’s lecture featured Maya Angelou – poet, author, teacher and in her own words a global renaissance woman.

I first read Maya Angelou in 2002. I was into reading African American literature those days, with a special emphasis on female authors. I had just completed “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest eye” and then Maya Angelou’s “I know why the caged bird sings”.  Incidentally all three books dealt with the travails of growing up as a black woman & described horrifying childhood atrocities with child molestation and the brutality against women.  All three books were thought-provoking powerful pieces of literature but I was uncomfortable with the depressing theme prevalent in all the books. Having grown up in a well to do Indian family, I was fast coming to the conclusion that it was impossible for me to empathize with the race struggles that African Americans underwent for so long. Although I was impressed with the spirit displayed by the protagonists in an abstract manner, I felt that I couldn’t completely appreciate the character graph since I couldn’t really get a grip on the horror that they had experienced. Frankly the stories made me uneasy, I stopped reading books in that genre and moved on to something else. Continue Reading »

Introducing the Food Blog

Posted August 31st, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food
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(not really)

fblog7There are two kinds of cooks in the world. One that can serve any food with élan and the other kind who serve even gourmet food with an air of apology. Unfortunately, I belong in this second category.  You must have met people like me. Whenever they serve food, they mumble about how the dish is not really that good, they constantly point out deficiencies that the guest has probably never noticed (this would have tasted better if I used real coconut instead of frozen coconut, this dish should be a tad bit creamier than it is, the koftas should have been golden yellow rather than yellowish gold…).  The ability to confidently state “this dish is yum” is probably the biggest challenge that I face in writing a food blog. Well that and the fact that I am too lazy to cook up original recipes regularly. But I wanted to see how complicated this process is. How do people manage to assemble ingredients, cook, take photographs of the food and then write about the same —what is it that they do?  I resolved to write at least one recipe. That was about six months ago. Continue Reading »

Its all coming back…

Posted August 20th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Notice what is common in the photos for these actresses from the sixties and seventies?

All of them have similar earrings.  I know that fashions come and go and then come right back again.  I was still surprised when I saw similar earrings that were for sale at the local Target.  I dismissed them initially— but then was surprised to see several people at work wearing these styles.  And then I saw similar earrings at several of the top departmental stores here. A quick search on google revealed that the chadelier earrings are extremely popular and in fashion right now.

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Fashion is strange. It is stranger to see an American lady wearing a Sadhana style jhumka sitting in the bus next to you!

Chill and Grill Time

Posted August 10th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Food
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Isha is their daughter. Unlike her parents, she is the quiet contemplative sort. She enjoyed the party very much – so much that she adopted our house as her house. She especially liked this chair and sat there for a long time rocking away and watching the other kids play from a safe distance.
I am sorry I don’t have a better picture for Ajit. It doesn’t convey Ajit’s booming laughter and his cheerful personality. Ajit & Seejo have been working together for about 7 years. He is from Trivandrum originally. Laxmi & Ajit are our token Mallu friends and we like them inspite of that.
This is Aditya— he is a little hellion and doesn’t stay still enough for me to take a picture. He has the highest pain tolerance of any person that I know. He once fractured his hand and nobody knew about it till the next day because he did not even whimper. He is also extremely smart. I saw him one day with a lollipop clutched in both hands. He would alternate between licking one and then the other. So I asked him why he had two lollipops. Aditya looked at me as though I was a moron and replied “Because I have only two hands!”
For Aditya, the highlight of the party was playing with his friend Ismail. They climbed over the furniture. They climbed over each other. They climbed on Ashu and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Aditya and Ismail were born on the same day in the same hospital. Their dads became friends when they met in the hospital where their wives were having the babies. It is a unique friendship. When Bimal, Ajit and Seejo needed a fourth while playing tennis, Ajit thought of Anez. Now Anez joins them for tennis when he can and they have all become very good friends.
Anez comes from Muvattupuzha — the same town as Seejo’s father. He works in the US patent office here in DC and told us about Michael Jackson’s patent for the forward lean motion using specially designed anti-gravity shoes which he employed in his music videos. I don’t think Anez is demonstrating that here, though. No idea what he is doing but it looks like it is important. Anez’s wife Farzana was bought up in US but speaks Mallu very well. It is somewhat disconcerting to notice her accent when she switches to English. That is her with their second son —Amir. Amir distributed his time very generously with everybody— and went eagerly into any arms that were held out for him. He was cheerful through the whole party, even though all the other kids were tumbling all over the place
Dennis & Sherron came from Virginia. They decided to postpone sodding their lawn to attend the party— an act of intelligence for which they are to be commended. Dennis ,Seejo & Ajit work together at Hughes. Sherron pointed out very quickly that the word “work” is to be interpreted very loosely. So now I introduce the topic by saying that Seejo, Ajit and Dennis go to the same place to work. Sherron is a lawyer and works in Washington DC. Last year, she let us on the terrace of her office building so we could see July 4th fireworks from one of the best view points. She is originally from New Orleans. We attended their wedding in New Orleans at it was beautiful. She also makes wonderful red velvet cake. After eating that for the first time, Seejo liked it so much that he made it for two weeks consecutively.
Shweta and Ashu are newly weds. They got married less than a year ago. Shweta works in Siemens /voight Hydro. She is a true “classic “ engineer and helps in building dams across rivers. Ashu & Seejo have been friends since undergrad in Pune. But I like Ashu & Shweta so I have adopted them as my friends rather than Seejo’s friends.
Ashu’s parents came all the way from India to attend this party. Well that and to spend time with Ashu and Shweta. But the party was definitely on their list of top 2 reasons to visit USA.
This was Robin’s last free weekend before he starts graduate school at Johns Hopkins. He is excited about Hopkins but is apprehensive about the unsafe campus, especially after he got mugged last month near Metro station. He didn’t lose any money but lost his front tooth and had to replace it. Here he is showing off his new pearly whites. He is also worried about getting a girlfriend, completing PHD in less than 5 years, finding the right advisor, selecting one research area and global warming. Well may be not global warming but I am right on everything else!!!
There was plenty of food. Laxmi got some fish-sticks. We had semi-homemade chicken wings and we had satay chicken with peanut sauce and spicy jerk chicken on skewers.
For the vegetarians we had some tangy corn chaat, fresh caprese salad with baby tomatoes, mozzarella and my homemade pesto dressing. I also picked up some spankopitas with spinach and cream cheese filling.
For the main course we had delicious turkey burgers that were Seejo’s created recipe and some vegetarian cutlets. We had an array of sauces and burger toppings including sautéed onions, mushrooms, cucumber relish, homemade pineapple relish, avocado slices and other fresh vegetables. For dessert, I made some rum-cake, Farzana brought a cheese cake (no picture) and Roshni baked some awesome cherry-pineapple cobbler that was accompanied by vanilla icecream. That was so tasty that I almost forgave her for not making undhio for me.
I had made sangria for the alcohol philics and some orange strawberry fruit punch for the non-alcholics. Both proved to be extremely popular and I could only photograph the last dregs. I have however kept another pitcher of sangria in the fridge for me to enjoy in the next few weeks!
All in all it was a great party….and it was past midnight when the last guest left. Here is little Isha saying Bye Bye to all of us.

We hosted a small get-together at our place this Saturday. Here are some pictures of the party. I will start by adding the disclaimer that I have taken these photos with a friend’s point & shoot camera without adjusting the settings for the indoor photography. The photos are not professional & Seejo has not touched them. That also explains why you are seeing the photos within 2 days of the party!!

Continue Reading »

Thrissur Pooram

Posted June 30th, 2009 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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After many many years, I witnessed the Thrissur Pooram again this summer.  Pooram is the Malayalam local lingo for almost any temple festival— and the one held in the town of Thrissur is supposed to be the grandest of them all. It is usually held between mid April & mid-May at the Vadukkunnathan temple in the town center.  Thrissur Pooram is especially famous for its gathering of richly decorated elephants sponsoredDSC_7022mainly by the two neighbouring temples of Parmekkavu and Thiruvambady who indulge in a friendly rivalry displaying colorful parasols or umbrellas. This is both preceded and followed by a stupendous musical display and some really amazing fireworks.  Thousands of people descend in Thrissur for the 2-3 days of the pooram to witness this spectacle creating a humongous crowd—possibly the largest public gathering of people that I have ever been a part of.

When I was in India, I spent every summer in Thrissur with my cousins. Pooram was a big part of my vacation.  Although the actual pooram lasts only for a couple of days, the excitement starts atleast a month back when the Pooram Exhibition opens. The pooram exhibition is a like a “mela” + expo where there are stalls from the smallest shopowner to relative big shots like the Railways and the big publication houses. I recall that a couple of times there was also a stall where the nearby medical college exhibited their jar of organ specimens from their labs.  In the pre-mall era, the exhibition and the shops was a big draw for all of us kids and we usually spent a couple of our vacation days and almost all our pocket money buying small knickknacks such as earrings, necklaces , bangles for the year. We would then eat some cotton candy, ride the giant wheel and religiously roam the entire grounds before strolling back home—happy & satisfied. Continue Reading »