random holiday rumblings

Ever since I learned about it, I've known that Thanksgiving is an American holiday. But it never really clicked with me until I moved overseas. Our first Thanksgiving here, Priya asked me what exactly Thanksgiving was about. I began telling her how some people sailed to America on a big boat. She cut me off and asked, "Noah's boat?" Last week, Jaya asked me to explain in detail, which was a great opportunity to share with her. The day of Thanksgiving, I saw Doctor, our neighbor, and he asked me about the holiday, too. I thought I did a good job explaining it, but I guess with his worldview, a few minutes' explanation just wasn't enough:

Doctor: So you will go to an office to give thanks?
Me: Not today, no. We will give thanks in our home, because we believe we can speak to the boss anywhere.
Doctor: Oh yes, we too believe the boss is in everything.

Hm, not exactly what I said. I've come a ways from confusing Noah and the Pilgrims, but it seems I still have kinks to work out.

Okay, so we know it's officially Christmas season now! Husband and I decorated last night. We have some pretty pathetic Christmas decorations, that not only border on, but go right on through to Tackyland. But I put them up anyway, because to me, it's better than nothing. And next year, when I have access to good Christmas decorations again, I have full intentions of rectifying the situation.

But for now, we'll make do with our super skinny and leaning tree. And we have no real tree topper. I saw we had some leftover ribbon, so I made a lame attempt at topping the tree with some bows. Then husband saw a certain ornament that my mom gave us, and we just knew this would be topping our tree. Please, please tell me, those of you from other states, that you too have state-pride ornaments on your trees? Otherwise, I'm just as obnoxious as I try not to be.

In my pregnant clumsiness, I dropped our nativity scene a few weeks ago, and several of the ceramic pieces broke. Fortunately, the three main characters stayed in tact, as well as a sheep. But a shepherd and a cow broke. Considering where I live, I found that kind of humorous. Anyway I didn't have a place to put our nativity scene, so I finally settled on our 'Africa table.' Didn't you know that giraffes and Masai warriors were also at that stable long ago?


byob - bring your own bird!

This year, our Capital team decided it would be much easier if all the families just brought their own chickens to the Thanksgiving lunch. So since husband has been having fun all week using his new tandoor, of course we brought tandoori chicken!

The night before Thanksgiving, we had some friends over to grill in our backyard...all of which takes on a new meaning here, when a grill looks like a bucket and a backyard is about 8x8 with concrete flooring.

Here they are gathered around the grill.

Husband taught them how to make naan. If I had to guess, I think naan translates to "little pieces of heavenly bread." :)

The chicken we took to the Thanksgiving feast. Since the grill gets about 700 degrees inside, this entire chicken took only 15 minutes to cook all the way through.

After lunch, a lot of us went down to the park to play/watch a good game of American football. Husband somehow managed to keep his new white shirt from getting dirty.

And since we looked odd because a.) we were playing a game that wasn't cricket, and b.) there were a lot of Westerners in one place, we drew some spectators. I wonder what they thought of the game?

I can't say enough how much of a blessing it is to have a 'family' over here. We miss our families in the states so much, especially at holidays. I still miss the fun Thanksgiving traditions we have with our families back home, like kick the can, going to the lake, and trying to accurately make Mema's dressing (this year I didn't put enough poultry seasoning in it, and also made it too dry - there's always hope for next year!), and our family here can't replace that. So having a family over here keeps us from going crazy from loneliness. We thank the boss for these wonderful, fun, and creative people!


i'm a mall rat!

This post probably won't be too exciting for the American readers, but for any of you who currently live in South Asia, or who have lived or traveled through here, I think you'll be shocked! Well if you're anything like husband and me, that is.

Down the road from the hospital we'll be delivering baby at is a new mall. They've been working on it for well over a year now, probably two. I'm not sure. Malls here are nice enough - several levels, plenty of shops and places to eat, temperature controlled. So it's not like we ever complained before. But this new mall - oh my! I feel like such a teenager getting excited over a mall. It's sprawling - it seems to go on forever. It's modern - both the shops and the shoppers. And it's got variety, both in cuisine and shopping choices.

There's a big book store, a big baby store, a Clinique, a L'Occitane, a Body Shop, an Etam, a Nine West, and many, many name brand apparel shops that no one can afford. There are home shops, too, one that can only be described as a department store. They have several coffee shops and they're even opening a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf!! You know how we see those incredibly expensive stores around town and wonder who has the money to pay for those things? Well, those people are walking through this mall. It's like a fashion parade. I even saw several pregnant ladies showing off their swollen bellies, and believe me, that says a lot about how modern the clientele is.

The food court is really nice, tasty, and cheap! There are plenty of South Asian choices (Northern, Southern, and street food!), but there's also a grilled sandwich place, Mexican, pasta, soup and salad, pizza, and Chinese. And there's a gelato guy who will soon also serve those gelato stone ice creams. There's also a fancy restaurant there, and some other places opening shortly. And the patio seating is really nice. (Or it will be once all the mosquitoes are dead.) They even have a couple of those tent-rooms set up with couches and tables.

Like I said, only those of you who know what the rest of the Capital's shopping choices are like will be impressed by this. It doesn't help that the pictures don't do it justice - either the mall is very unphotogenic, or I'm a bad photographer. I'm betting on the latter.


dessert discussions

I have had two interesting conversations with Jaya recently that highlight the differences of our cultures. Jaya loves my cakes. She is not a sweets person, but anytime I take them cake, she admits sheepishly that she ate it all. She'll always ask me how I make them, and after I explain how easy it is to make cakes, she'll look at me doubtfully and remark, "I think it just comes naturally to Americans." She said it to me, not for the first time, just this week. I thought about it, and realized one of the first things we are taught to cook are cookies and brownies and sweets. She doesn't understand when I tell her it takes me a long time to make even simple chapatis (their flat bread), and I guess it's the equivalent with our baking. I don't understand how anyone could be confused about baking.

But as much as she loves cake, she doesn't like everything I bake. I love the fall and apple season, so last week, I made an apple crisp. Jaya came over, and I offered her some, thinking she would love it. But she just moved it around with her spoon until I finally coaxed it out of her why she wasn't eating it. Apparently, she doesn't like cinnamon. I don't just mean the taste, I mean the smell too! Honestly, is there anything more American than eating some kind of dessert laced with cinnamon while burning an apple cinnamon candle? I thought back and realized Priya would eat anything I made except my apple pie. So although I hate to generalize, Jaya is probably not the only South Asian who does not conjur up homey, cozy memories at the smell of cinnamon.

Anyone else have this experience overseas? It's pretty ethnocentric of me, but I honestly am blown away that the entire world does not love cinnamon.


put on your saree...

...it's time to celebrate Diwali!

(I love that episode of
The Office!)

Here are some pics from Diwali - the Festival of Lights. We went to Jaya's house to watch how they celebrate.

Our street all lit up

A sobering reminder

Jaya's mother's home, complete with hanging marigolds and the flower decorations on the ground. The designs are always so beautiful.

Jaya told me the colorful decorations on the ground are so the goddess of wealth will visit the home that year. She had about 5 of these on her driveway and patio. Some were made of flowers (like this one), some of colored powder, and all had candles around them.

The crackers are the main attraction. Husband estimates that their family spent around $500 on crackers! It was quite the show. They wouldn't let me get close, and I had to sit almost the whole time, because of my 'delicate situation.' Every year, so many crackers go off all over the city that it sounds like a war-zone.


hats off to the chef!

Through our two years here, we have had some minor accomplishments in the kitchen. I distinctly remember when I learned how to make tortillas, refried beans, enchiladas, and other Tex-Mex foods. It was a moment of relief that we wouldn't have to go 3 years without our beloved Mexican food. But nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for my husband's cooking skills. He discovered about two weeks ago that he can make all kinds of dough in our food processor. First it was pizza dough, then garlic bread sticks, then pretzels, then French baguettes. Yes, all of that in the matter of about 10 days! Last night, though, he topped it all with a surprise dinner for me. He said he was going to surprise me, and I underestimated his abilities; I thought he was making me bruschetta or something like that. But then he brought this out - a cheesy, pepperoni, zucchini, tomato, and onion stromboli! However impressed you are, double it, because he did not buy the bread and stuff it with pizza sauce out of a jar. He made the bread and the sauce before stuffing it, and let me just say, it was even better than it sounds!


wedding time!

Remember the bridal shower from a few weeks ago? Last night was the wedding! It was a lot of fun for several reasons: 1, we know the bride and groom well. 2, we knew a lot of the guests. 3, the ceremony wasn't at 2am!

The mother-of-the-bride (Auntie) told me ahead of time that the wedding would be very small - only about 400 guests! Now, my own wedding was considered huge by American standards with 300 guests, so even though I'd been to two South Asian weddings at that point, it still shocked me. I asked Auntie how many guests were at her wedding, and she said about 750! I posed the same question to another lady who was listening to our conversation, and she agreed that about 800 guests were at her own wedding! I guess I had conveniently forgotten how many people were at the other weddings I had been to.

The bride and groom about to cut the cake. This wasn't the cake we ate, nor could this small cake have fed the 350+ guests. Instead, they passed around South Asia's favorite cake - fruit cake! :) I'm not sure where this cake ended up:

Sorry for the dust spots in the pictures. Our pixel-thingy catches the dust particles, and it drives husband nuts:

Here is a picture of two of our good friends that also h
appen to be gorgeous! The one of the left is the sister of the bride:

The happy couple!:



Thanks for all the great suggestions for romantic comedies! Since a few of your asked, here are any results that brought up more than one suggestion:

2005 and newer:
*The Holiday - most suggested movie! I've seen it once and agree it's one to own.
*Because I Said So - I was told this is a great mother/daughter movie.
*The Devil Wears Prada
*Fever Pitch
*The Family Stone - it was mentioned to me that this movie might be iffy in sections
*In Her Shoes - I saw it and liked it, although it has a few scenes that are iffy

Older Movies:
*Serendipity - I already own this movie and watch it all the time!
*The Cutting Edge
*Only You
*Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I'm excited to see what I end up with!