Wednesday, November 30, 2011
One of my favorite pastimes here in India is shopping, and most of my purchases have been clothing related. So, I figured it wouldn't hurt to show off some of the fantastic clothing items available here in India, so the blog is hosting a fashion show. Unfortunately, all the skinny, anorexic models were unavailable, so I'm filling in. (or filling out, whichever you prefer.) Each day I'll post a pic and a quick description.

The above is one of my four saris. I love the color of this one, but I especially love that the tailor across the street was nice enough to "Americanize" my saris so I can easily wear them. Instead of the horrendously long sheet that requires skilled hands to wrap and tuck properly, my saris have the pleats sewn in, so I basically jump into the bottom like a skirt, attach the ties at my waist, wrap it once around me, and toss the rest (also pre-pleated) across my shoulders. Tada! Dressed. Still getting used to my belly hanging out though.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
So it's been a while since I posted something on the blog.

I could tell you it's because we've been out doing incredibly exciting things, but that's not the truth.
I could tell you it's because Jason needed a turn posting things, but we all know that will never happen. (nudge, nudge)
I could tell you it's because I suddenly forgot how to type, and that the injury to my fingers from the balloon part was fairly serious. This is a little truthful (my left index finger now feels stiff all the time), but not the real reason.

The real reason is...

I've just been incredibly lazy. RWA's Golden Heart contest entries were due this week, so I was hustling to finish up my entry, so when it was time to think up a good blog entry topic, I was tapped out.

But I'm back, and though I still don't have any good blog entry ideas, I will attempt to include some pictures from our last few weeks. Today's picture is from Thanksgiving day, in which I attempted to re-create some traditional American dishes with Indian ingredients. It was...interesting to say the least.

No turkey this year since it was just the four of us, so Sivithri (my cook) graciously agreed to get us a small chicken to cook in my tiny oven (if you remember, there aren't many houses with ovens here, and mine is a countertop, giant toaster version). And just FYI, this chicken was FRESH. No grocery store for us; Sivithri went to a stall and picked out a live one. The chicken walla killed and plucked it for us, so we didn't have to deal with all that thawing.

For those of you who don't know me, I am not a particularly good cook. But it wasn't fair to ask Sivithri to cook traditional American dishes, so I took the plunge. And learned something very important - Americans are spoiled. It really never occurred to me how many ingredients in a "home-cooked" Thanksgiving dinner came out of a can, bag, or refrigerator.

For chicken broth, I made my own (good thing we were cooking chicken). For the stuffing (dressing) I dried and toasted my own bread. For the green bean casserole I cut and boiled them myself. For the mashed potatoes - ok, these are exactly the same, nevermind. For the peach pies (no pumpkin to be found, I'm not brave enough to try with the small versions here) I made my own crust. And Jaria, I attempted your egg noodles and while they were edible, they weren't nearly as good as yours.

Anyway, by the time I was done, the kitchen was a mess. So we carried it out to the dining table for a picture instead. I'd prefer you to imagine my kitchen as clean and cozy instead of the war zone it actually looked like. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! (And Happy Birthday Dad)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
It's less than a month before we travel back to the United States for the holidays, and I'm starting to make the lists for what goes in the suitcases. Our load will be much lighter this time, since we have no need of our summer clothes in snow-packed (or at least really cold) Oklahoma.

This means that I have room for presents. So, if there's anyone out there who's always wanted something special from India, now's the time to tell me in the comments. I'd like to add two caveats: #1 - that I know you (makes it easy to deliver the gifts) and #2 - that it will fit in a suitcase.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I promised pictures, so here they are. Not much commentary, because my fingers hurt from tying knots (literally, my hands are bruised)

The room we stored the balloons until the kids were asleep.

After they'd been "loaded" into the room. Just FYI - the balloons are a little over waist deep at my 5'2". (I was impressed with our flash - the lights were off in this room)

After we played a little. Happy Birthday Tim!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Tomorrow is our oldest son's 6th birthday, and I'm resting up while I have the chance, because I'm going to be super tired tomorrow morning.

You see, since Tim's a little bummed to have a birthday without his US friends (or Incredible Pizza), Jason and I have decided to make it as exciting as possible.

With balloons. Around 700 to be exact. The plan: put the kids to bed on the top bunk in their room, blow up the balloons, toss them in, and wait for the reaction in the morning. Oh, and pray they don't decide to jump off the bed - we're matressing the floor just in case.

We'll follow up the fun with (yet another) trip to the movie theater, since his response when asked "what do you want for your birthday" was to watch Ra One.

After the movie, it's swimming in the complex pool. (I mean, seriously, did you think we'd pass up the chance to have a swimming party for a November birthday? They're unheard of in Oklahoma.)

Pictures to follow tomorrow.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Oh yes, it's official. I've fallen in love with the movie theaters here in India. I haven't made it to a Bollywood feature yet (though I have my eyes opened for any English-subtitled) but I'm certainly enjoying Hollywood's best.

Today, to celebrate Tim's birthday, we watched the 3D version of TINTIN. The movie wasn't showing in the Classic (read: regular) theater, so I went ahead and spend the rupees and got us Gold Level tickets. In my opinion, they were worth every cent (or paisa).

Tyler was too young to need a ticket, so they assigned us two seats. In this case, the "seats" were actually enormous leather recliners, complete with the tiny pillows available on first-class airline flights. The recline adjusted with a remote control, so with Tyler in my lap I was well on my way to sea-sick before the movie started. We love buttons.

Anyway, we had a waitress who took our drink and popcorn order, and the 3D glasses were actually shaped like glasses instead of goggles, so they were a lot more comfy on the bridge of my nose.

All in all, it was a great time, and I've told Jason from now on, we go gold!

And for you price lovers, two tickets to an after-noon showing was 1000 rupees (about $20 USD at the time of this posting)
Friday, November 11, 2011
So, I have a new software package called Artisteer that lets me design my own blogger templates, and I'm having way too much fun. Just a warning, this blog may look crazy for a while as I experiment.


It can be beautiful. It can be long, short, spiked, shaved, and worn on your lip. I'm totally cool with hair. In fact, I have some of my own.

What I am NOT cool with is the practice of hanging somebody's hair from the mirror of your auto-rickshaw.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011
In an earlier post, I believe I compared cricket in India to football in the United States (American football, not soccer). But I was wrong. Cricket in India is like football, baseball, basketball, and hockey all rolled into one. It is huge here.

Well, today I learned that India is among many others, including a London courtroom. A while back, there were a few Pakistani cricket players who were caught on tape accepting bribes to play badly (called spot-fixing) in a match. Well, today these guys were all handed down prison sentences - some over two years of jail time!


I don't remember this ever happening in the United States with a sport, and obviously it would not be condoned, but would something like this actually be illegal in our courts?

And I'm a little confused about why the trial (and sentences) happened in London. Perhaps the taping happened on UK soil?

Anyway, lesson of the day: Take Cricket Seriously

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Yesterday we had a little scare. We'd just dropped Jason back at his office after joining him for lunch, and the three of us were headed back to the apartments in an auto-rickshaw. Our driver was Ramesh, one of the freelance drivers that sit outside our apartment to shuttle the residents to and from various pursuits. He's driven us on several occasions, so I was busy talking to Timothy and wasn't paying attention to the road, since I wasn't needed to provide directions.

Well, Tim was still sitting in my lap from when Jason was in the auto (we each put a kid on our laps because there isn't room on the seat for all four), and Tyler was sitting on the seat next to me, having lost his parental cushion. As I've mentioned previously, there aren't many traffic laws in India that are actually followed, so I shouldn't have been surprised when a car pulled out right in front of us and Ramesh was forced to stop suddenly.

I grabbed Timothy around the waist to keep him on my lap, but I wasn't fast enough to catch poor Tyler, who because of his size, went flying forward out of his seat. (No seatbelts in auto-rickshaws). Unfortunately, his head slammed into the back of Ramesh's seat, right onto a metal screw. The washer behind the screw sliced him, and I almost had a heart attack when I managed to pick him up from the floorboard, and saw his face.

Blood was everywhere. And I mean everywhere. He'd reached up to cover his injury, and manged to smear blood all over his face. Not to mention it was still coming out. I managed to hold him still long enough to grab the hem of his t-shirt and clean up his face so I could see the injury. (This is extremely hard to do, FYI, with a panicked 3 year old, a panicked 5 year old, and a still-moving vehicle.) Once I got a good look, I realized the cut wasn't nearly as bad as it first seemed.

Poor Ramesh was in a panic, asking if I wanted to take him to the nearest hospital. I decided against it, mostly because I was afraid I'd never manage to calm Tyler down if I walked into a hospital. Also, the bleeding had stopped, and the cut didn't look too deep.

Back at the apartment, I got him cleaned up, dunked both our t-shirts into some laundry detergent to keep them from staining, and gave him an ice pack just in case he bumped his head harder than I'd thought. When I was satisfied both pupils were the correct size and Tyler was having no problems focusing, I ran down the street to the pharmacy and stocked up on medical supplies.

For 160 INR I got a bottle of iodine (I couldn't decide whether they didn't have any peroxide or they just didn't understand me, so I took what they had), some gauze, and antibiotic ointment, and went back upstairs to torture my toddler. Several minutes and tears later, we had the wound cleaned out and Tyler down for a nap. Only then did I get a picture, so below is the post-accident injury.

Still considering the pros of taking him for a tetanus shot.

Monday, November 7, 2011
My totally awesome maid Lakshmi (Full name Vijayalakshmi) was nice enough to offer her design services so I could experience firsthand (pun intended) the joy of Mehndi. For those of you who aren't sure what Mehndi is (I was one), it's the semi-permanent henna designs drawn on the body for weddings, holidays, or just for fun.

The henna stain mix can be bought in pre-filled containers that look exactly like mini cake decorating tubes. You simply snip the tip of the writing side, and squeeze out the mix as needed. Lakshmi drew this free handed from a picture in a book, which pretty much guaranteed I will never be able to do this on my own, because my artistic skills suck. I should have asked whether there were stencils available. I took a quick picture of the mixture on my arm as it was drying - you have to leave the stuff on for anywhere from a half hour to full hour (and I've read in other places that it's recommended to let it dry, wrap your arm in a bandage or tissue, and wait a full 24 hours before washing for really dark designs).

My forearm with the henna mix still drying. Bad quality picture because I couldn't use my right hand. As you can see, I smeared the design a bit accidentally, and ruined Lakshmi's art. Sorry!

My palm with the mix washed off after it dried.
Back of my hand.

As you can see, the design was almost orange at first, but it darkened closer to a brick brown color overnight. This was so much fun to watch. Guess what everyone in the US is getting for Christmas! Buy your Nativity stencils now!
Friday, November 4, 2011
Recently, we went to my kids' favorite eating establishment for a congratulatory meal (Timothy scored 100% on his computer lessons for the week) and ordered the usual - Chicken McNuggets.

We finished eating, and instead of taking our trash to the nearest bin, we LEFT IT ON THE TABLE. I know, those of you in the US are thinking I'm totally rude and inconsiderate.

Not the case in Bangalore. It is completely normal (and expected) that you leave your trash on the tables at fast food restaurants. They have workers who bus tables at McDonalds. 

Well, most of the time. Today we must have eaten a little late, because the worker had not yet started the cleanup, so McDonalds looked really messy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011
I had previously posted about the support system on new buildings here, and I recently found this picture on my phone and thought I would share. This is a common sight on the streets here in Bangalore. Trucks bring in loads of sand, soil, or other supplies, and essentially dump them on the side of the road. Workers scoop up a basket full, place the basket on their heads, and manually walk the materials down to where they are needed. Every once in a while we will see a truck being loaded with pieces of concrete to be hauled away, but it's just as common to see the concrete piled into the street in some locations. I'd like to see what types of permits are required for construction here, and who decides whether the waste must be hauled away or not.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I'll preface this with a warning that this post is mostly for the grandparents, and that otherwise it will likely be a little boring, but this is a short video of Timothy doing his computer-based school (we do the computer stuff in the morning, then we read and do writing practice worksheets in the afternoon).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Our apartment complex is in the process of rolling out a new recycling initiative, and for the most part, we enjoy the new system. The committee started by issuing everyone two trash bins, one green and one red, for the price of 200 INR. The green bin is to be used for "wet" waste, and the red for everything else.

Next they scheduled a training course for all the domestic help. I wish that they had also scheduled one for the residents, because I'm constantly asking my maid what's going on, but I'm probably one of the few that picks up my own trash. Most people have a morning and evening shift maid to do all the cleaning. We just employ one, in the mornings, and her main focus is sweeping and mopping the floors, because I hate mopping.

Some of the rules are a little annoying, such as soda bottles should be rinsed and dried before going in the red bin. The rinsing is not a problem, but do you know how long it takes to dry a 20oz soda bottle? It's not like you can stick a towel down it.

Also, I'm hearing from Lakshmi that many of the maids are annoyed with the milk and oil packages, as they are required to cut them open, rinse them out, dry them, and only then can they throw them away.

My only other complaint is the lack of communication, which may be because we don't know many people here, we speak a different language, or all of the above. We received a paper detailing what trash goes where, and it also listed the time frames of the twice daily pickup, with a note that on major holidays, only the morning pickup would occur. Well, I was prepared for that, but I was not prepared for the pickup to occur an hour earlier than usual. So on Diwali I had to scramble while a worker waited patiently outside.

The initiative also will dispose of newspapers, but Lakshmi told me you can recycle these separately and receive cash for them, much like aluminum cans in the US. She was nice enough to call them, and they come right up to our door and do the weighing on-site, so you get your cash right away! We made a whole 120 INR, which was almost enough to pay for half of our new trash bins!

Lakshmi (maid, in yellow), Sivithri (cook, in red), and the newspaper lady.

Lakshmi weighing the newspaper. (Ok, and posing just a little)

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