Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Diwali

DotThoughts, BigGeek and Chip wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Diwali and a Prosperous New Year!! I am missing being in India so much right now.. The phulbaaji and lavangi phatake and saap. Like I was telling a friend a minute ago, we used to have so much fun with saap that we forgot to choke on its fumes. Sigh. It's just so quiet here right now. No anaar and bhuichakras to see and no atom-bombs to wince to. And BigGeek and Chip are already in the land of nod :-(

Hope you are having a great time and eating yourselves into a sugar coma. And, as you can see from the picture above, the chaklis , thanks to the recipe left by Vinita in the comments of my last post finally are done! Thanks a lot Vinita!!! You saved the day :-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chakli Fail

It’s feeling like Diwali. The air has a bit of chill, but not too much. The maples in our backyard are looking absolutely divine in the mornings, as if the early sun has risen only to spray their tops in shimmering gold. There is a little crunch of leaves underfoot, the scent of Autumn in the air. This time of the year is a perfect time to celebrate Diwali. A few weeks later and it gets too cold, a few weeks earlier and it still feels like summer.

I look out the window. The cul-de-sac is quiet. School work and the chilly weather have driven the kickball players and bike riders into the routine hum of their homes. Across the street, where we live, it’s a different story. The Kingdom of DotThoughts has spun into high gear. Father and son have made a trip to our cavernous crawl space. Much to Chip’s delight. To him, the occasional trip to the dark musty underbelly of our home is like going to Ali Baba’s cave. And who am I kidding? I feel a small thrill too. Oh, look, the rattan basket that I bought to store raddi but used it maybe twice.. and over there, what’s that gleam? Ah! 25 foil pans I didn’t know I had and table cloths with “Happy Birthday” in rainbow colors. It’s like shopping without spending any money.

Chip and BigGeek haul a big black storage bin that says “Outdoor Holiday Lights”. Chip lets out a squeal. He has spotted a Santa House and a Singing Santa that we bought for $5 at a neighbor’s garage sale this summer. With the fervor of an event manager, he lugs that too. “No, Chip, that’s for Christmas. We’ll bring it up when we put up the tree.” I say. Now is the time to let you know that Chip is holiday-challenged. I can’t blame him. He is really not that into Indian festivals. Last year, he insisted on wishing everyone Happy Halloween instead of Happy Diwali. This year he wants to get all the Christmas things out and leave cookies and milk for Santa, for Diwali. Not yet, I tell him a hundredth time. First Diwali, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then, then Christmas. He crosses his brow and looks at me in disbelief. “Do you want the Halloween stuff too?” asks BigGeek from nowhere. Why not? I’ll put them up after Diwali. Chip is happy. We get out cardboard skeletons and a scarecrow and pumpkins and fall banners.

As Chip and BigGeek head outside to string the icicle lights, I turn to the faraal. I make faraal every year. No store bought stuff for me. For one, I love cooking, even though I admit with what our schedules are, all that cooking and frying drives me a bit batty. But, it just doesn’t feel like Diwali until the kitchen is filled with the scent of cardamom and tup and besan and frying and chaos. It just doesn’t. They say, our strongest and deepest memories are those of the nose. Diwali proves them right every single year.

I tell BigGeek, I cannot make unlimited faraal for everyone. I usually give a small goody bag of faraal every year to all my friends, so, it’s a limited quantity, and BigGeek usually is quite oblivious to the fact. But this year, I said the “limited quantity” out loud. BigGeek shook his head. “No, that’s not right; you can’t offer limited quantities of faraal. It has to be unlimited. All that they can eat.” My husband is obviously not afraid of me. To say such things at 8:30 pm on a weekday while I am going silently crazy. (If you have any ideas on how to make him quake in fear at my mere presence, shoot me an email)

He is banished from my immediate vicinity and I turn to survey the faraal. Ladoo, check. And they are yumm too. Chip has scarfed down one and is begging for more. Walnut burfi, check. This is a super simple recipe. My mother’s idea. Saucepan, chopped walnuts, fat free condensed milk and viola! Chivda, check. Chakli has been an utter failure. And I don’t know why, exactly. I have this steamed flour method that usually gives good results, but this time the chaklis have simply decided to dissolve in oil and laugh in my face. My attempt #1 was very frustrating and when no amount of repair made the chaklis as strong as my resolve, I, in a fit on temporary insanity, took the dough, added some methi and baking soda to it and baked them into cookies that were looked on with two pairs of very, very suspicious eyes. Attempt #2 is scheduled for tonight or tomorrow night. Wish me luck. Or better still, give me fool proof recipes that don’t involve exotic ingredients like moong flour.

I made karanjis yesterday and the golden crescents made me nostalgic and took me to my grandmother’s home for Diwali – the one year when she had decided to surprise everyone by making savory karanjis with peas. The Shankarpali caught whatever bug the chaklis had. They too dissolved and in oil and turned into a oily, crumbled pile of snarkiness. Attempt #2 will be made today or tomorrow. Or not at all. With chaklis, the magic number 5 will be reached. When the 5 items of faraal are done, I shall rest my old bones and dig in!

How is your Diwali prep shaping up? All set?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A picture post

Hot Spring - looks like a witch's caldron. Steam and bubbles.

Elk at the watering hole

Firehole Canyon Waterfall

Forest Fire!!!!

A wolf - See that look on it's face!

The Grand Teton Range.. Can you spot the err..

Don't remeber its name Waterfall

The American Bald Eagle

Mule Deer in the grass

Firehole River and Geyser

Bison - they are 2200lbs!

Colter Bay

Colors at the edges of Geysers. Thanks to Thermophilic Bacteria.

More colors