Monday, November 28, 2011

Dinner Success

Today was the first day of my new job and I cannot express what a relief it is to be working in an Indian-Grandmother-Free zone. I get to act like an adult, no one is yelling at me for who-knows-what-reason, and I'm paid to snuggle a precious six month old boy all day.

This evening, in celebration of "I'm Never Going to be Force-fed Rice Again" Day and "Look What Happens When I Only Have to Work Until 4:00" Day, I made...

...wait for it...

...Indian food. Dal, rice, and parathas, to be precise. The flatbreads were surprisingly easy and I can already tell that they are going to be a staple around here. The best part was the surprised (and pleased) look on my husband's face when he walked in to the smell of spicy lentils simmering away on the stove. He thought I was reheating leftover soup. A wifely coup!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pneumonia and Apple Cake

How's that for an appetizing title?

There are some positives to being sick with something as scary-sounding as pneumonia. Positive #1: I'm not contagious, so it didn't interfere with my scrapbooking weekend with my mother and DoRena. Positive #2: My employeress didn't want me to come back for work this week. I texted her after a trip to the Redimed on Saturday: "Sorry to bother you on vacation. Just found out I have walking pneumonia. Let me know what you want to do about next week." Her return text went something like this: "Take liquids and rest. Nice working with u. Enjoy ur new job." Thus concludes our association.

So, I've had a few days to loll about the house and recuperate. As of this morning, I feel almost 100%. Except for the hacking cough every time I even think about laughing, but I'm sure that will clear up. Azithromycin and codeine have done their work.

Feeling better and lots of time alone in the apartment can only mean two things: cleaning and baking. In the interests of ensuring that my lungs are fully healed before I expose them to anything unusual, I skipped the cleaning and went straight to the kitchen. There were apples to be used! After much searching and a chat with my grandma (always helpful), I settled on this recipe:

Good Housekeeping* Apple-Walnut Bundt Cake

3 c. flour
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c lightly packed dark brown sugar**
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 + t cinnamon
3/4 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground ginger
1 c vegetable oil
1/4 lemon juice +1/4 c water and 1/2 t honey***
2 t vanilla
3 large eggs
1 lb apples (I used Macs, but something a little tarter would probably be nice), peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1 c walnuts, coarsely chopped****

1) Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour 10" bundt pan
2) In large bowl, combine first 11 ingredients (everything but the apples and nuts). Beat at low speed until well-blended, scraping bowl frequently. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, scraping bowl. Stir in apples and walnuts.
3) Spoon batter into prepared bundt pan and spread evenly. Bake approx 1:15, until cake pulls away from sides and toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.***** Cool pan on rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool cake completely on rack.

* I give those fine folks some credit, despite my many alterations.
** The recipe called for 1 3/4 c  white sugar, but 1) that sounded like a lot to me, so I cut it back 1/4 c. and 2) I just like brown sugar more. This did not seem to have any negative effect on the texture.
***Sometimes I don't alter things just because I feel like it. This calls for 1/2 c of apple juice and I had to come up with something else since we don't keep juice on hand.
****They also added 1 c raisins, but that sounds like a horrible thing to do to a nice cake.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Bits and Pieces

1) Spelling:The grandmother takes some time every day to read through one or the other of Prita's books, spelling and sounding out all the English words. Often, this starts with a barked, "You: come!", followed by her making space on the couch for me to come coach her through the longer words and those that make no phonetic sense. Prita generally just hangs out next to us while this is going on, taking a moment to snatch the book out of her grandmothers' hands every so often, and crying--nay, screaming--when she realizes that she doesn't have all the books in the house in her pile. Two-year olds. Sheesh.

As a result of all of this reading-practice, Prita has started spelling things on her own. It goes something like this:

Me: What's this a picture of?
Prita: D-O-E dog!
Me: D-O-G, but yeah! Good job! Now, what's this?
Prita: G-O-E girl!
Me: Girl is right...
Prita: E-O-E ellyphant!!!!!!!!!
Me: . . . .

She gets the first letter right most of the time, although sometimes she only recognizes letters that come later in the words. Like, she always spells fox "X-O-E." She also makes up letters, as in, "SNA-O-E" snake!"

2) The Three-Egg Diet: My very own soon-to-be-patented miracle plan. See, you just go work for a family that eats lots of hard-boiled egg whites, but never the yolks. These folks should also feel a little bad about wasting any food and be very anxious to see that everything gets eaten and that nothing goes to waste. Let it be known that you don't hate the yolks, in general. Before you know it, you will have an eighty-year-old Indian woman practically force-feeding you three plain hard boiled egg yolks every day. And don't you dare try to sneak one into the trash or the garbage disposal; you're being watched too carefully for such high-jinks. While you will often feel like vomiting halfway through the second yolk (don't do it), this diet will do wonders for your skin and hair. If you can manage to have the same eighty-year-old spoon-feeding you the skins off of the top of a pot of boiled milk, all the better.

3) "Healthy. Healthy Food." Speaking of food and controlling Indian grandmothers, the last week, I had my lunch prepared for me. Generally, the grandmother will pull a box of rice and a few leftover curries out of the fridge and leave me to it. Well, leave me to it as she hovers somewhere over my right shoulder, telling me to take more and looking really confused when I don't. This week, however, she plated my food for me. Monday, it wasn't too bad. They were running short on leftovers, so we both got reasonable portions. (Of course, she did "encourage" me to eat two very soft apples as a snack later in the day. Gross.) Tuesday, she made my lunch the same was she normally makes hers: two curries mixed in a bowl, topped with a couple handfuls of chickpeas, fresh diced onions, and a sprinkling of lemon juice. Nothing earth-shattering, but edible. After that was finished, she made up a bowl of yogurt and rice for me. As I was standing in the kitchen finishing that, she walked up to me, put her hand on my shoulder, and said with very careful diction: "This. Healthy. Healthy food. Yogurt. Dal curry. Healthy." Thursday was the worst. We had, apparently, left all concern about healthy food behind, as she completely filled my full-sized dinner plate, half with white rice, half with some spiced rice pilaf-y dish. Mounded. Spilling over the sides. Rice.  And then, she gave me more rice so that I would have enough for with my after-lunch yogurt.

4) More Indian TV: Despite my employeress' strictures regarding any TV viewing while her daughter is around, the grandmother continues her soap opera habit. At least naps have been reinstated, so Prita and I can retreat to the bedroom while Granny vegges out. However, her favorite show starts approximately 20 minutes before nap time begins, so I still get to see some of it. And--oh my goodness--it is indescribable. That won't stop me from trying. Imagine a show that seems to be entirely built around 4 characters: (1) the screaming damsel in distress, either standing slump-shouldered and sobbing or laying on the bed or floor, sobbing; (2) the fleshy-cheeked villain whose entire M.O. seems to be to taunt said damsel in the most annoying voice imaginable while bobbing his head smugly; (3) some random crazy-eyed man dressed all in white who is constantly carrying around a bloody knife or machete; and (4) a thicker, tougher, older woman who always seems to be coming to the damsel's rescue, sometimes with the assistance of the crazy man, sometimes without. Now imagine all of this presented in a highly repetitious manner, with exceedingly overwrought background music and quick, zooming camera moves. I really feel like I'm not missing much, not understanding the dialogue. The visuals are story enough.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

"What are you? Like, a walking window?"

A busy last week turned into a busy weekend, which turned into a busy Monday--and here we are!

The weekend was mostly dedicated to Halloween-related activities. Namely, parties.

The MBA student organization had its Halloween bash on Friday night. It was held in a hotel on the Capitol Square, in a bar area overlooking the Capitol building. It was a good party--music, free pizza and beer--and there were some great costumes on display. Really, I was tremendously impressed by the creativity and dedication that went into some of those get-ups. Evan and I had planned to dress as The Walrus and the Carpenter, from Through the Looking Glass, but we ran out of time to get the necessary bits together. On top of that, Evan got home from an MBA-related competition in Michigan at 8:30 on the night of the party, and we had to throw something together at the last moment. Inspired by the fact that Evan won a nice chunk of money at this competition, we decided to dress up as "The 1%." Evan with his hair slicked back, wearing a suit, suspenders, and a tie clip; me in my black cocktail dress wearing all my pearls and my mink cape. We were definitely the classiest couple at the party. That makes the photos of us holding red plastic tumblers even more awesome.

We spent all of Saturday preparing our next set of costumes: Sydney Carton and Madame Dufarge from A Tale of Two Cities.  I won't even attempt to describe those. Just look:

Those costumes took us to a house party thrown by one of the guys in Evan's center. It was also a good party. We ended up leaving around 11:30 with a group of people who were headed down to State Street for the big Freakfest party. We went along for the walk, intending to find something to eat. We left them at the gates (paying $12 to access a street one can walk on any other day for free) and began to make our way home. Somehow that resulted in the two of us walking down Langdon St., aka Madison's Frat Row. At midnight. The night of Freakfest. =:oO For the first ten minutes or so, the drunken antics were amusing. Really, a couple hundred drunken revelers in costume should provide some entertainment value. After we'd been walking for a while, though, the obnoxious caterwauling and profane screaming started to get to me. It was one of those situations where I wanted to go up to every cop (the stand-ins for grown-ups) stationed at the corners and say, "Just so you know, I'm NOT one of them!" It was amusing, too, to see how many passers-by were genuinely delighted to be able to demonstrate that they recognized a guillotine. And then there were the people who had no idea, but felt compelled to yell at us anyway. My costume got some comments too, most notably the jerks walking a ways behind us who were yelling for the "pirate chick" to turn around, and then called me a choice name when I ignored them. Like I indicated before, it's all amusing until it becomes embarrassing for the entire human race.