Archive | July, 2013

Together

24 Jul

At the beginning of this month, I announced an unusual ‘giveaway’, where we were jointly involved in contributing and none of you knew who the recipient(s) would be. To my base pledge of $50, I would add $1 for every comment received on this post.

67 unique visitors to that post left their comment (one squeaking past the midnight deadline by 5 minutes 😉 ) and together, we raised $117. Sadly, 80% (yes, you read that right) of the unique visitors to that page chose not to share our enthusiasm, and I can only hope it was a logistical issue vs. one of attitude.

Why did I open this up to everyone when I could have quietly slipped my check in the mail, you ask? Why did I invite people from the blogosphere to share, knowing there would be some cynics, naysayers and indifferent folk? Put it down to a case of chronic optimism. Of knowing that it may be my money, but I need it to be OUR attitude. As much as I dislike being preachy and usually save my rather strong views on citizenship for other spaces, I know that alone, I am merely one person contributing to another’s life. Together, that effect multiplies manifold. You may not dash out with your checkbook or sign up to build stacks of sandwiches for the homeless just because of this small effort. You may already be doing things far greater than I will ever dream of. The money you may have raised for worthwhile causes will very likely have exceeded this humble amount we have gathered. But if I got you to think–for even a minute–about sharing yourself with the world, planted a seed about doing something similar or paying it forward in other ways, I’m going to bring out my giant feathered boa and do the chicken dance in circles. (No, I’m not ridiculous in the least, why do you ask?)

Our $117 will be pledged to Ummeed Child Development Center in Bombay, India. The stellar multidisciplinary team at Ummeed (consisting of physicians, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, mental health counselors, special educators, caseworkers, etc.) works to serve the needs of children with disabilities across all economic strata. Not only do they work with existing disabilities, they work toward early identification and remedial measures, since disability is a gradient. Nobody is turned away for their inability to pay, and a sliding scale based on income helps families give what they’re comfortable paying. Autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, mental retardation, emotional/behavioral concerns, attention deficit disorder, and occupational and speech disorders are among a wide range of disabilities they assess and assist. Inclusion is a goal, as they aim to integrate children of all abilities into the social mainstream. Ummeed serves the needs of thousands of families in my home city that have nowhere else to turn. Try this statistic for size: One therapist can comfortably manage a caseload of 35 clients. In the city of Bombay, a megapolis where levels of healthcare far exceed the rest of the country, there are 500 children with disabilities per available therapist. The need exists acutely, yet funding is hard to come by.

I have worked for Ummeed in the past. Some of my closest friends continue to serve there. Which is why I have an insider’s view of a truly wonderful organization that has, for the past 12 years, been the ‘ummeed’ (hope) of so many families.

Thank you for visiting my blog, for joining in, for inspiring me with your comments, and for being the vocal 20% that acted to make a difference.

Together is better. Together, we’re better. Give yourselves a round of applause. And now jump in for a group hug! 😀

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Happy Hausfrau Series: Key Lime Tart

11 Jul

Greetings from the home of the happy hausfrau! Don those aprons and follow me into the kitchen, chop chop.

Remember my aunt who hung out with Freddy Mercury in her late childhood/early teens/whocareswhen,shegottohangoutwithFreddieEffingMercury? Yup, that one. Not only did she shoot the breeze with an international rockstar, she is one herself–in an arena lit up with the warm, flattering lights of two microwaves, one stove and an oven. And on our visit to her gorgeous home last year (where the chocolate-and-steel-blue bedclothes matched the bathroom linen and I was in color-coordinated heaven), she fed us a zesty tart for dessert one night, made from the key limes in her garden. Not only were we fed multiple helpings of dhansak, kebabs, assorted side dishes, dessert, chocolate, and 75 things for breakfast the next morning, she bade us goodbye with a bag of those precious key limes and a quick and easy recipe to churn out the good stuff. So this recipe comes to you all the way from San Diego. Oh the places I trudge to for you guys!

First, let’s get our Border Patrol ready. And pardon the poor picture quality. The resident photographer decided to go for a walk at the precise moment I was baking. (Which goddess had a gazillion hands, by the way? Indian mythology is not my strong suit.)

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Back row, left to right: Tony tart-shell (readymade, from good old Safeway’s freezer section, and pulled out to room temperature 20 minutes before bake time), Daniela sour cream (whose yankified name is Daisy), and Miguelita the namkeen item commonly known as salt.

Front row, left to right: 3 limes called Lupita (key limes are ideal, but any other type will do, including lemons), our good old eedas three, and a can of Sweet Caroline, I mean condensed milk. Sorry, I have a Neil Diamond hangover.

Invisible (and also optional): A sprig of mint leaves for garnishing.

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Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees before you begin to assemble the ingredients. Oooooooh, there’s a GHOST IN MY KITCHEN!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust kidding! It’s called a camera flash. :mrgreen:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext up, break a leg. I mean an egg. Then, repeat twice until all 3 Humpties are floating on a serene ocean of whites.

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Ready for the bidaai? Hold your tissues, now! Separate the yolks and the whites to background cries of “Nahiiiiiiiiiiiiin!” from the dulhan-ki-maa. Does that really happen, by the way, all the sobbing? Parsi brides are only too happy to run off into the night and get down to business.

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Next up, let me tell you a wee story: a few months ago, the Boy baked me a brownie cake. It was delicious, and as we ate the whole thing with fork and hammer, he may or may not have mentioned that our whisk’s motor burned out during his enthusiastic endeavor, and I had the pleasure of discovering it mid-bake. So to make up for that little episode of intentional forgetfulness, he surprise-ordered me a replacement. With a heavier motor this time. IN PINK! How much do I love this man.

Stop standin’ around, y’all! I haven’t all day, ya know. Git to work!

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Beat them eggs. I can’t even go all Paula Deen on you guys now. ‘Tis not appropriate.

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Sigh. Stand back and watch magic happen as the cascading condensed milk folds creamily into the frothy eggs and Carlos Santana’s ‘Maria Maria’ plays in my head:

Tartina, Tartinaaaaaaa……….!

She reminds me of a key lime story

Growing up in San Diego

She’s livin’ the life just like a Parsi star!

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Now comes the hard part. Zesting the limes.  It ain’t over ’til the fat lady grates. This step can be done at any point in the process. Sometimes I do it right at the beginning, and at other times halfway through. Us hausfraus need variety, you know.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat is the zest of two limes. Guess who got lazy and ‘improvised’. Wait, are you guys looking at ME?? 😯

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Juice the limes. If you squeeze all 3 like the recipe suggests, you should have half a cup.

“Juice, Rahul, juice?” Name that retarded movie. Or stand in the rain in a wet saree and pretend you love a stuttering ham, whichever’s easier.

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Add the zest of 3 limes, the half cup of lime juice (thanks for the catch, Alice!), two tablespoons of sour cream, and a pinch of salt to the egg-condensed milk mixture.

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Blend for about 1 minute. Not blend in, which is entirely different. I’m so glad we had this English lesson.

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Pour the mixture into the tart shell. It will look like this. And yes, the blended mixture looks lighter in color, so don’t worry you’ve done something wrong. (What’s that? You don’t worry? It’s just me then? 😦 Sigh.)

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And the dish should look like this. If you’ve used the finger-to-mouth technique I shared with you in this post. This step is optional.

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Pop the tart into the oven in its baking tray. You may want to put another baking sheet under it for ease of operation and in case of spills. I usually do. Set the temperature to 350 and the timer to 24:30. Why 24:30? Because I said so. Man, I love the dictatorial control I have over your pie destiny right now. :mrgreen:

A word on the oven settings: each oven is different, so you may want to bake for approximately 17 minutes and then check for doneness and add minutes accordingly. The crust should look like its sallow Brit limbs spent a couple hours at the beach.

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Pull the tart out of the oven when done. The lime mousse consistency should be somewhat firm, but not immovable. Which is an excellent parenting strategy as well, but ignore me.

Let your child tart cool for approximately 30 minutes and then stick it into the refrigerator. 2 to 3 hours is recommended, overnight is ideal.

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Pull it out of the refrigerator right before serving and stick a sprig of mint in the middle as a garnish.

In an act of poetic justice, I served this tart 2 weekends ago to my aunt’s son and daughter-in-law, right after a meal of….you guessed it, dhansak. 😀

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Enjoy, my friends. And don’t forget to tell me if you liked it!

Love All: A Tennis Tale

5 Jul

This is a little story. Not a giant news headline that will shatter any records. In a world buzzing with soundbites, it will be a mere unnoticed blip, but it is a story of adoration. Of respect and national pride. A story of people I have never met, but who succeeded in warming my heart with their affection and hope. And a story is nothing if it doesn’t give us that one elusive reason to believe. For that reason alone, this is a tale that needs to be shared. Spread its small sweetness to your friends.

*And if you haven’t left a comment on the 5th birthday post yet, it’s not too late!!! Go do it now. 1 comment = $1.*

~~~

Remember my uncle who lives in England? He is a doctor. Such an excellent physician is he, that he serves as the official doctor on call at Lord’s (yes, the cricket mecca) and Wimbledon. He was on a cruise near Norway last month, when word got out on the ship about his tennis affiliation and he received a rather interesting request. A few stewards and bartenders approached him hesitantly, clutching an envelope.

“What is it,” Uncle M asked, when one of the group mustered the nerve to offer him the missive.

“It’s a letter for our hero,” they said simply, “If you see him at Wimbledon, will you give it to him from us?”

That’s when Uncle M realized that all the men standing hopefully before him were Serbian. Their hero: countryman Novak Djokovic.

“Sure, I’ll give it to him,” smiled Uncle M, “But I can’t guarantee he’ll read it!”

Relief and smiles broke out among the band of men, who respectfully pressed my uncle to at least pass it on if he got a chance. They chattered excitedly among themselves, thrilled that their words of affection and praise had found a messenger.

Then, they waited.

“Anything else?” Uncle M smiled, tickled and moved.

Nobody bothered with a reply. Within seconds, mayhem had broken loose and every Serbian worker on board the ship had materialized on the deck to be part of a group picture. Men in crisp white uniforms and beaming smiles arranged themselves in rows amidst a hubbub, a camera was produced, and pride, hope and adoration clicked themselves into the photograph when that shutter did its job. Hurriedly, it was handed to my uncle and it was safely tucked away in his luggage along with the letter when he disembarked in England.

My uncle now has the task of delivering the wishes and hopes of Djokovic’s countrymen. It is anybody’s guess whether the Serb will rise to victory in Sunday’s final, but I get the distinct feeling that regardless of the outcome, something beautiful has already been won. And love, ironically derived from the French l’eouf (meaning egg), has a lot to do with it.

Turning Five + A Birthday Giveaway

1 Jul

Five eventful years ago, Little Blogette (a moniker so creative and original, it blew rings of neon smoke from the ears of all who heard it) made her debut with this post. As is wont to with a newborn, plenty of well-wishers came to oooh and awww and tinkle silver-and-pink rattles by her cribside. As is also wont to, by the time you’re done attending the 5th birthday party of a child whose cutest years are past her, you stagger out, topped up with delicious but predictable cake and a lame return present that looks suspiciously recycled.

So you’re off the hook with all the cutesy things fond parents expect to hear about their snot-faced little wide-eyed monster. But wait! I’m not quite done. If I have reaped the joys of connecting with so many of you over the years, if only through the limited interaction of a comment, a friendly email, or “Hi, I’m a lurker, okay bye!” kind of message, it’s time for me to pay it forward.

As a small gesture of gratitude for the sustenance of this blog and to show my appreciation to those of you who come back, year after year, I will be donating $50 to a non-profit organization of my choice, one whose work and cause I believe in and support. But HERE’S WHERE YOU COME IN:

For every comment received on this post, from the time it is published until midnight on July 15th, I will add $1 to the base amount on your behalf. So feel free to say hello, tell me you’re a lurker in your tiniest font and then vanish forever, share your favorite birthday memory, or….only if you want now, no pressure….wish this blog a happy, meaningful birthday. Multiple comments from the same IP address will not be approved, and yes, I’m so magical, I can tell. 😛 Comments are moderated, so don’t be concerned if you don’t see yours right away.

What do you get out of it other than warm fuzzies? I’m hoping it’s a chance to band together to offer the world a little humble something. And something is more than nothing, even if only in the number of letters it carries.

So tell your friends and family, sign in as Rumpelstiltskin-does-the-Hula for all I care, but don’t be shy, send some dollars this way! There are some fab organizations out there who could do with a leg up. And I’ll be sure to share details of the donation with you.

Oh, and before you leave, have a slice of lime tart, specially baked to celebrate the occasion.  You know what this means, don’t you? The Happy Hausfrau will be along to share the recipe soon. 🙂 Bon appetit, my friends, thank you for reading Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas and get clicking on that comment button!

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