Friday, February 26, 2010

Kind of a Crazy Week

That's our well in the background. Dry. Hence, the water truck.

Did you notice the name of the water supply company? $100 if you pronounce it right the first time.

And 30 minutes later, we can shower again.

I just finished packing. Ani and I are heading up to Delhi tomorrow morning. I think the correct name is New Delhi, but I have never heard anyone here use the “New” part. I think it was added when India became independent from the mother ship of Britain. They probably got tired of renaming everything and just stuck New on the front of it and called it a day. That’s what I would have done. Not that anyone asked for my opinion. I don’t even think my dad was born when independence happened, so I guess I can forgive India for not asking me. I actually do not think anything I just said was accurate at all. And I can’t check any of my facts because our internet is down. But I will leave it in print and you all can weigh in on all my inaccuracies. I am used to being corrected.

Anyway, getting back to my original intent of talking about Delhi, we are going up for a wedding. One of Freedom Firm’s social workers is getting married and Ani is her flower girl. Cute. I have no idea what to expect from the wedding. It’s not a “traditional” Indian wedding. Alum and her fiance are from Monipour (again, I cannot check the spelling, b’c I do not have internet, I am sure that is a total misspelling), Monipour is in the little part of India that juts out past Bangladesh. People from Monipour have a look all their own. Much more Asian features. They are also very western. Alum told me that a 100+ years ago a missionary from the States brought Christianity to their state and I am pretty sure that it is in the only state in India that would consider itself Christian. Anyway, I know you are all wondering what I will be wearing. I know I was yesterday, when I called Alum and asked her what I am supposed to wear. And she said, “my best.” Little does she know that “my best” is a pair of jeans without stains and shirt that I got from Jayson’s mom for Christmas that I haven’t worn yet, because I never dress up. When people say “your best” there are no absolutes, it’s on a sliding scale. I know I will be underdressed, it’s my life calling to be the most underdressed person at every event. There is a lot of adventure to be found this weekend. I hear Delhi is crazy. Ani and I are ready to paint the city red. The people of Delhi won’t know what hit them.

What’s been happening around here, you ask? Well, I think we are fairly healthy after two weeks of lame stomachs - also called Delhi belly or Ooty booty. I liken the belly ick to the Minnesota common cold in the winter. Except smellier. To bad you can’t have a cold and the belly ick at the same time so you wouldn’t have to smell the issues at hand. I will see what I can do about that.

Ooh, Ooh, big news around here. We only have one dog. Not so much FOUR anymore. On Saturday the dogs went to a tea estate in Coonoor to take on guard dog duties. Hip, hip hurray! And - well actually, this one happened about a month ago - the cook that came with house, Shankar, found other employment. He does come one day a week still. He has been working at our home for so long that it was hard for him to leave completely, so we asked him if he could work just one day a week for us. It’s a win all the way around.

It was kind of a crazy week with the Aftercare girls. It’s hard to know what to say about it all. Let’s just say that crisis and set-backs are inevitable when working with any sort of trauma victims. FF has an incredible staff, ready to lay down their lives for these girls. And I am so grateful and humbled by their efforts with these girls.

Okay, I am going to sign off soon. But I did want to leave you with a long recipe for Mushroom Biryani. There were a few of you out there that have requested a Biryani recipe. Mushroom Biryani is my absolute favorite. So, when Shankar came to cook on Wednesday, I documented his mad chef skills for you all. I dare you all to try it. Your taste buds will thank you.

Step One:
Prepare all vegetables.
Dice: one bunch coriander (cilantro)
3 medium sized red onions
3 medium sized tomatoes

Step Two:
Heat an obscene amount of oil - probably an inch in the bottom of pan
Saute onions until nice and carmel brown
When onions are done, put a palm size amount of cinnamon stick, biryani leaves, cardamom. anise stars and 3 whole green chilis. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Step Three:
Make Garlic/Ginger paste (take 1/2 cup whole garlic, 1/4 cup whole, pealed ginger, with a bit of water and pulse it in the blender until paste like).
Add garlic/ginger paste. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Step Four:
Add 16 oz. of whole button mushrooms and 1 1/2 cup water and 2 t. salt

Step Five:
Add 2 cups of uncooked rice, 1 bunch of coriander and tomatoes.

Step Six:
Add banana leaf leaves to the top of the Biryani. They call it dum. I have no idea if I am saying this right, let alone spelling it... Anyway, I have no clue on what this really does to the Biryani, all I know it that they put these huge leaves on top. Maybe you could put a piece of wax paper instead. The banana trees in the States are a bit sparse.

Step Seven:
Let this sit for about 30 - 45 minutes on low heat.

Final step, Enjoy!

Shankar showed me how to make this fantastic meal. In this photo he's working on "curd", which generally goes on top of the Biryani, but isn't necessary. Sorry I don't have that part of the recipe.

Writing a recipe is much harder than I would ever have imagined. Holy buckets. I hope the pictures help. You can ask questions, but I can pretty much guarantee that I will not know the answer. The only thing I am a bit confused on is the amount of water to add. There are two cups of rice, that would usually need to be cooked in 4 cups of water. But the only time I saw him add water was with the mushrooms. Hmm.... I have no idea. And again, I do not have internet to check out some other recipes.

We were reading bedtime stories the other night and Ani jumped up and said, "Spider! Big spider!" Tarrah immediately hid behind her hoodie (sweatshirt) and I looked over and saw it... a huge spider? See it in this picture?

How about now... see it yet?

There it is. Ani was right, really big.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To Get Some Stopper-Uppers

This kid hasn't seen a remote control or a couch for a year.

I have tried to write this blog entry several times now, being that it has been three weeks since I wrote last - and it is stunting me a bit. I prefer weekly musings. Three weeks seems like too much pressure. Usually I can babble a bit and get away with it, but now I feel a high need to be super efficient (and efficiency and I get along as well as oil and water) with my words, lest I bore you with too many details or miss something that will alter your life forever. Are you already feeling stressed out for me? I am. So, I am going to release myself from any pressure, I may babble, I may miss something... but yo, I am going to reward myself with chocolate after I am done - so the prize is great. Go Team!

So, my mom said to us a few months before she came, “Would you like me to take you guys to Goa (the beach) while I am there?” Umm, we thought about it for about a second. The second was spent tallying up how many vacation days Jayson had left, and why yes he did... “Yes Mom, take us on a warm, sandy, seafood-filled vacation!”

It's a long, hard day at the beach

The kids loved the balloon guy

Jovie's balloon flower

And balloon hat

And that it was. The first day on the beach was great fun, but we were bombarded, with people asking to take the kids’ photos. Like, every 3-5 minutes. And after a few hours, it gets really old. So, the next day we asked if there was a quieter beach close by... Our taxi driver took us about 30 minutes up the coast and when we got there, we gave a sigh a relief. Super quiet and it was in a cove, so the waves were manageable for the kids to play in. We were getting situated and I started noticing that there was a something interesting going on with some of the other beach goers - they were topless. Awesome. I mean not like awesome, it’s my dream to go to a topless beach with my kids and husband... but more like hmm, awesome. The beach in and of itself was so divine that we stayed for the next six hours. And just diverted our eyes here and there. Oh, the memories we have made.

Grandma's special birthday dinner (Sydney sure thinks it's impressive)

A truly souped-up cow

One of the reasons I haven’t written is because I have been busy. I haven’t been busy for a year. And I was (and still am) having a hard time managing anything outside of what is right in front of my face. My days have been the kind of days that you take a deep breath at the beginning of the day and say, “I have been given this day by God, and so I am not going to freak out by what lies ahead of me for the rest of the week, but just think and do my best today.” It didn’t always go as smoothly as that, but for the most part there were only a few freak out moments. I think my life was so crazy leading up to our move, that I really acquired the tool of not getting too far ahead of myself with details, because if I did, I would still be in the fetal position in Mpls...

I counted the other day... of the last 82 days, 62 of them we have had guests. Crazy, right? Especially since we live in India. It’s not like, Oh the Palms live in Paris, let’s take that trip we have always wanted to and visit them while we are there. It’s, The Palms live in India... Enough said. A few days before my mom left, my friend Betsie from college came for 10 days with her sister Ali, who is volunteering with Freedom Firm. Betsie left this morning. I haven’t spent consistent time with her since college. And oh my, a part of me came out that hasn’t been seen since college. It was great. I think the kids especially liked having her here, to witness crazy mommy. I cannot express to you how saturated with love we feel from all of our visitors.

Ani and James had their birthdays on the 12th and 14th of February. I now have a seven and a five-year-old. We partied hard this weekend. Remember me taking one day at a time, it really culminated when yesterday I woke up and said, “I have seven five-year-olds coming over in four hours for a birthday party, and I have no idea what I am going to do (oh, and sydney has a fever and all my kids have had the runs for a week, so we should all go to the doctor today to get some stopper-uppers)...” I think I am taking the living one day at a time a little too far, ya think?

Birthday joy

More birthday joy

James has informed us multiple times that he will one day marry Emma (sitting to his left in this photo)