Thursday, February 26, 2009

Batter Debugged (Well.. almost)

Thank you all for your awesome tips. I finally got around to making idlis this past weekend. 1 cup urad dal, 4 cups idli rava. Soaked. Ground urad dal until it fell in folds. Ground the soaked idli rava a bit too. Fermented in a warm oven overnight and then some. Also kept the light on in the oven. BigGeek was my secret helper. He warmed the oven a tad bit every few hours. This puzzled me a lot. Because I was impressed that a small light bulb could generate so much warmth. It wasn't the light bulb. It was BigGeek's love. Or his fear of eating rock-hard idlis.

The idlis turned out to be soft and fluffy and BigGeek was mighty impressed. "These are the softest idlis you have ever made" he declraed at brunch. I glowed!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Andiamo, Everglades and Las Culebrinas

If you ever happen to travel to the Miami-Dade county with young children, Andiamo is the place to eat pizza. The minute we landed in Miami, we realized we had forgotten Chip’s carseat at home. Which meant a quick trip to Target to buy one, install the said seat and strap Chip in it. Securely. We checked into the hotel and the exhausted trip promptly fell asleep on the soft perfectly-made beds.

We woke up as the sunlight faded. “What do you want to eat?” asked BigGeek. Pizza, I said. It was safest given Chip’s crankiness with the steroids he had been taking for his asthma. I could not believed we travelled for 5 hours to eat pizza. But BigGeek said he would find the best pizza place ever. And he did. He browsed and hunted down reviews and drove us to a great place called Andiamo. Fabulous outdoor seating. Coming from 20-degree weather, we were thrilled to sit in perfect 75-degrees, gentle breeze, in the glow of warm tiki lights, surrounded by trees with leaves on them and children. Yes! Lotsa kids, lotsa of noise. It was perfect. We devoured the pizza – which is almost as good as a New York slice (no, it really was awesome pizza) .

The next morning was our Everglades day. The BIG swamp. By the time we woke up, gave Chip his nebulizer, showered and ate (a very expensive) breakfast at the hotel, it was almost noon. We drove along the Tamiami highway to the Everglades. A good 1 hour drive. Chip napped a lil, fussed a lil, threw a tantrum or two and declared he did not like his parents at all. (But he later made it up in the evening when he said, I don’t want beaches, I don’t Miami, I don’t want Dolphins, I only want my Aie and Baba)

When we reached Everglades National Park, the sign at the entrance said “Parking lot full.” Are you kidding me? I thought. BigGeek had wanted to go to Orlando but I had insisted on Miami because I wanted to see Everglades. “It’s a fascinating eco-system” I had told BigGeek. We HAVE to see it.” BigGeek had relented, although he did have his reservations about the “swamp”. This is it, I thought. We flew all this way, then drove all this way, only to see a Parking lot full sign? There has to be justice in this world. We decided to go in anyway. We drove a few yards and reached the ranger’s post. There were three cars in front of us. Each of them talked to the ranger for some time and turned about. It did not look good. We pulled up. BigGeek rolled down the window. “You know what?” said the ranger “I have one parking spot that just became available.” Yipee-yay! We paid and sped inside and parked. Chip was napping, BigGeek ran to the ticket window and got us tickets for the guided trip for 3:00 pm. We then took turns with the camera and babysitting.

The ranger on the everglades tour was an annoying New Yorker. She talked too much and in the heat and the unchanging prairie landscape, we dozed. The Everglades IS a swamp. Apart from a few egrets and herons and the alligators, and miles and miles of sawgrass, there really isn’t much. If you are in Miami, it’s worth a trip. Definitely not worth spending airfare just to see it. Or perhaps we have been spoilt by the Alaskan wilderness. After being rather unimpressed with the everglades, we drove back.

“We are in the heart of Spanish-country. We have to eat some authentic Cuban food.” I declared. “What will you eat? It’s hard to find vegetarian stuff.” Said BigGeek. “Oh, I’ll find something. Yucca fries? Salads?” “I want to eat dolphins” said Chip, who refused to listen that dolphins were not food. BigGeek hunted again and found us this place Las Culebrinas. We drove up and a valet opened the car door (What this with Miami? Why are there valets everywhere? Why does the city discourage people to self-park?). A step into the restaurant and we were transported to another world. The d├ęcor, the patrons all seemed to come from another time and place. The hostess led us to our table and handed us over-sized menus. Really. I have never seen 2ft long menus.

There indeed was nothing vegetarian. But there were dolphin steaks and frog legs and alligator bites. A food runner came over and placed the bread basket. “Does this have egg in it?” I asked. He looked at me blankly then said “No hablo Ingles” Holy mother of earth. BigGeek had picked too authentic a restaurant. Looks like nobody spoke English. The menu was mostly in Spanish too. I looked around. The other diners were all Spanish. “Perfect” said BigGeek. “Now you can practice your Spanish.” I gulped. My ears were turning red from the thought of having to speak Spanish in real life situations. With native speakers.

A few minutes later, the waiter came over and started reciting us the specials in rapid fire Spanish. “In English?” I said timidly. “No Espanol?” asked the waiter surprised. Ah. That was it. We looked like a nice latino family. No wonder we did not get curious glances that American patrons got. “Uhhh.. hablo un poco..Estoy apprendiendo espanol” I said. The elderly waiter beamed and said something again rapidly. I was getting super conscious. “Un momento, por favor?” I beseeched. He smiled and said something and left. We discussed the menu. BigGeek and Chip would share a salmon. We would a salad and side of yucca fries. And sangria ofcourse.

Few minutes later, the waiter appeared again and spoke in Spanish. Now, I know enough Spanish to order a meal, to tell the waiter I am a vegetarian and that Chip is allergic to egg. But on that fateful evening, I just could not remember the word for egg. And forgot most of my Spanish too. And ended up ordering chicken fries and rice for Chip, salmon and salad for BigGeek and a salad for me and yucca fries and plaintains. When the food arrived, there wasn’t enough room on the table. BigGeek was surprised to see all that food. Chip was tired and sleepy and just ate some rice, BigGeek finished his salad and most of the salmon. I thought the salad dressing to be too rich and only had a few bites of it. And a few yucca fries with the most yummy cilantro dip ever. The fried plantains were too heavy and remained practically untouched. I had turned into a beetroot. All my hopes of practicing my Spanish had led to utter disaster. We paid the bill, told the waiter the food was delicious and stepped out. It was then I realized I will still in the US. It felt so foreign, the whole experience that for an hour and a half I had forgotten where we were. We had, I think experienced the true Miami.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day Before Miami

So, one day BigGeek decided to take us all to Miami. Ok, the story is slightly more complicated than that, and shall be narrated in due course, when the time is ripe. So, as it happened, we had tickets and hotel and a car to go to Miami on the 14 of this month. It was a last minute thing and we had no clue what we wanted to do, except of course go and see the biggest swamp or rather, the river of grass - The Everglades. May be sun a bit on the famous South Beach (while trying best not to get the spirits dampened by the supermodels and sculpted bodies) and generally get away from the freezing temperatures here by heading towards the sub-tropical paradise, where the palms swayed gently in the breeze and the blue skies and the azul ocean beckoned. And of course try and practice my Spanish.

If something is too good to be true, it prolly is. So, said a wise man once. Ok, it really was BigGeek, but he is wise, you know. On Thursday, when I went to pick up Chip from the daycare, his teacher told me, he had been wheezing a bit. No problem, I thought. He had a bad cold and the fluctuating temperatures had not done him any good. A whiff or two of the broncho-dilators and he would be good as new. But, no. Thursday night, despite the bronco-dilators, his asthma worsened. I gave him a steady dose of the bronco-dilators every 4 hours, all night, but the wheezing would go down for an hour, only to come back with a vengeance. I have him some anti-histamine, and some homep, but the poor buy could not sleep. He wheezed and gasped and by early morning, his heart was beating rapid-fire. He was hyperventilating. His lungs, unable to oxygenate his blood, was making his heart pump it faster so all the cells in his body got proper oxygen.

When it was morning, I called his doctor and headed there immediately. The doctor said his lungs were quite hard and his blood oxygenation had dropped and he had been hyperventilating. The plane ride would be dangerous for him in this state, said his doctor. Lung collapse could occur because of the low pressure in the cabin. I was worried sick. This sounded a lot more serious than a mild asthma he often gets. The doctor put him on a strong dose of inhaled steroids and bronco-dilators through a nebulizer – right in his office. (Chip who does not use a nebulizer, but uses a metered dose inhaler was wide-eyed at seeing one. “This is just like House”, he exclaimed) 40 minutes later, the doctor checked Chip again. He was looking better. Sounding better. Very little wheezing. But since we were travelling, he also gave Chip of an oral steroid. Just to be safe.

But Chip was in a bad shape. The wheezing came back in 4 hours and another round of bronco-dilators was administered through the nebulizer. Add to that, BigGeek’s sciatica which has been troubling him for a couple of months now, had graduated to numbing feet and then to numbing hands which was definitely not sciatica related. Too much sickness in the air. I did not want to go to Miami. It seemed jinxed, you know. BigGeek scoffed at my superstitions and an exhausted mom, a limping dad and a cranky, asthmatic child boarded the plane next day to see if Miami did them any good.