Hallowe'en with a Bite, a Sequel

Last Hallowe'en, a goth cheerleader showed up on my doorstep. I had no choice but to take her in. She's been with me ever since, learning quietly how to be a tween and she seemed to have assimilated back into the human clan rather well.

But, as the moon burgeoned, I began to notice some changes. Some rather frightening changes. They say unconditional love and acceptance heals all; so that is precisely what I did. To no avail.

Soon, it was Hallowe'en and we screamed in terror when we saw what had become of our quiet child from another world.

As the time for the neighborhood party drew near, she grabbed my husband's hand and...

I tried to put the camera down but I was transfixed by this creature that was willing me to continue taking pictures instead of helping my husband keep his fingers intact.

It was a horrific sight. But at least there was finger food at the neighborhood party.

Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Happy Hallowe'en!


Is that Anne Frank?

It is!

And you guessed right. I have nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. I am exhausted and overworked, cruising on less than 3-4 hours of sleep for the past couple of weeks. But it's all good because it's great to be busy in this economy, right? At least that's what I keep telling myself. Maybe I will have a proper post coming up soon. For now, I am going to crawl into my bed and pass out.


Snow, snow and more snow

Rain turned into snow at about 7:30pm last night.

By 1 a.m, we knew this was not going to be one of those storms that just miss us resulting in barely an inch or two, even a dusting. Nope.

My dogwood was already bending over under the weight of the wet snow. Since neither of us was in the mood to bundle up and step out to shake the trees, we threw several things at the tree: a basketball, a sled, a stick, anything that was within reach in the garage.

We heard several branches come down during the night; one was so close that I thought it had come through the roof. A rough night and an overly snoozed alarm saw us scrambling at 8 a.m. to get Medha to school until I saw the high-schooler next door shoveling his driveway. I wondered if it was a Snow Day but dismissed the thought rather grudgingly, since our school district hardly ever closes for snow. Then I realized that the high school has a late start on Wednesdays. We returned to scrambling: brush your teeth, have hot lunch, money, give her money, wake up, the driveway needs to be shoveled, I need socks. There was about 8-9 inches of snow on the ground then.

Something sent me to my computer and I checked the web site for our school district - it was indeed a Snow Day. But the phone hadn't rung, not once and not on any landline, VoIP or cell phone. None of my Inboxes were overflowing with email message saying Snow Day. I'm not sure where the communications broke down or if this is the new way of doing things - where we have to be proactive, which is fine by me. We whooped in delight, each of us looking longingly at our warm beds but our joy was shortlived when we remembered that we had trees to take of.

One of my dogwood had lost 3 branches and my aspen had lost its tallest branch. 2 more branches snapped and fell later during the day as the snow was relentless. It was a good thing that the snow changed from wet and heavy to light and fluffy.

By 5 p.m. we had a total accumulation of 18 inches but very little wind and no white-out conditions like those of the blizzard of Dec 2006. Just relentless snow.

We now have 20 inches on the ground and more coming through the night. Tomorrow is also a Snow Day, making the kids a little anxious about their Hallowe'en parades in school on Friday. We expect to warm up to the 50s on Saturday and we're hoping that will mean clean sidewalks for trick-or-treating. But there is still tonight to go through and tomorrow.

I am exhausted from the thrill of the snow, beating of trees with large sticks, biting my nails as my husband climbed up to the roof and a lot of pain at all the fallen branches. But, we still have the Internet and power. Fingers crossed that this night does not bring more surprises.

Pinhole It

A little over a year ago, Medha chose to work on an independent research project as part of her Advanced Learning Plan. Her topic of choice was the camera. She made a pinhole camera following these instructions. She loaded it with a 24 exposure 200 ASA roll that had expired. Expired film is 'in' with film camera hobbyists as it leads to all kinds of strange effects and unwitting textures on the photographs.

141/366: Pinhole it
Pinhole Camera
And she got some rather freaky results. Take a look:

Pinhole Sunset
Pinhole Sunset

Pinhole chess set
Pinhole Chess Set

Pinhole kitchen
Pinhole Kitchen

Pretty darned cool, huh? I was so blown away with the results that I vowed to participate in the next World Pinhole Photography Day, celebrated on the last Sunday of April each year. But life took over and I didn't make the matchbox pinhole camera that I had wanted to. But there's always next year and if I miss that, I can do it just because simply at all, right? If you are interested in doing it with me, let me know in the comments and I'll ping you as the time nears. It's a great learning project for kids, many of whom haven't seen a film camera. Imagine that!

In other news:
- the deadline for IFR: Memories is this coming Saturday, on Oct 31st. So rev up that nostalgia and send me a well-written entry with a recipe. No rambling and please try to adhere to the rules mentioned here.
- we have a snow storm brewing. The last time I checked - about an hour ago - we already had an accumulation of about 3 inches on cold surfaces. We're all whooping in delight even though this isn't our first snow of the season. The kids are praying for a snow day so that they can sled to their heart's content but that seems unlikely even though the white stuff been coming down at a pretty good rate!
- I'm on the home stretch for NaBloWriMo, only four more posts and then perhaps NaBloSiMo would be a good idea.

My Fave Building in the World

Four years ago, I asked to be driven 100 miles north of our home in Chicagoland to see my favorite building in this entire world, as a birthday gift. It did not disappoint. It was even more magnificent than its pictures suggest.

Milwaukee Art Museum

Burke Brise Soleil

There is more to this pic than a wider angle of the previous pic.

Yes, it moves.

It's the Quadracci Pavilion, part of the Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It is a building that flaps its wings. Literally so.
Unprecedented in American architecture, the Burke Brise Soleil is a moveable, wing-like sunscreen that rests on top of the Museum’s vaulted, glass-enclosed Windhover Hall. The "wings" open Tuesday–Sunday at 10 a.m. with the Museum, close/reopen at noon, and close again with the Museum at 5 p.m.; except on Thursdays when the Museum closes at 8 p.m.

Opening wing span

It's quite an experience to watch the building move. I saw the Burke Brise Soleil open at 10 a.m., flap at noon and close for the day at 5 p.m. It was a dream come true.

Poised like a bird about to take flight, on the shores of Lake Michigan. And a copycat.

Like a symmetric symphony...

...from the inside as well as the outside

The Windhover Hall

An architectural marvel

A few more pictures from my collection can be seen here.

The Museum itself is like any other small museum. We just missed a traveling Renoir show and the permanents exhibits are fine museum pieces. It's just that the building enthralled much more than anything that was inside at the time.

Say what?

Mango lassi sounded like a great proposition so I bought a can of Kesar Mango Pulp the other day.

What do I know about the mango? You get fat when you eat too many. They are high in sugars and they are a great source of Vitamin C. It only followed that the nutrition label beckoned to me and look what I found: no fat, no sugar, no Vitamin C.

But look at the last line. It says Fat 9. But! But! What happened to no fat? **

A closer look at the ingredients showed that it has been sweetened with Sugar Syrup. I guess there is no sugar in that either, just like there are no sugars in mango.

Who writes these nutrition labels? Who checks them for accuracy? Is it something that is just slapped on a food product so that it makes it past the FDA?


The Twilight Zone Hangover

The Theater Company of Lafayette (TCL) is a local volunteer-run nonprofit theater company that puts up high quality plays. I particularly love their Twilight Zone series. I had no idea what The Twilight Zone was about until we went along for a TCL production with our 'hood a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed the costumes, accents and themes from the late 50s and 60s. Unfortunately, TCL did not have any Twilight Zone shows last year but they did this year! It was an event that could not be passed on so about 30 of us trooped into the Mary Miller Theater in Lafayette earlier this evening, after soup and apperitifs. It was a wonderful evening of drama, mystery with a lot of community in the mix.

After returning home, I had to look up some of the old shows and look what I found: a glimpse of The Matrix except that it was a Twilight Zone show from 1985!


A Diwali feast

We had a small Diwali celebration today. No, it doesn't end for me. And certainly not until I have celebrated with some of my dear friends. That makes it even more special. I made everything I has made last week all over again - chakli, chavde, shankarpali, and orange burfi - and also made pohe and khaman dhokla. I wish I had had the time to make the khaman from scratch but unfortunately, my schedule is so tough this month that I caved in and did the unforgiveable - gasp! - I used a ready mix. I recommend Chitale's mix. (No, they haven't paid me to say so nor given me free products. I just like it.)

Kitt brought chivda:

One of the nicest things about food blogging is when a recipe from my blog makes it way back into my home through someone else's kitchen. The next time I have a craving for chivda, I'm going to be looking in Kitt's direction. She is now Queen of Chivda! A friend of mine, who makes a killer chivda herself, loved Kitt's chivda and couldn't stop eating it!

Teri brought made pomegranate mimosas for all of us. Nichole brought spicy Punjabi aloo and Kitt's Mom brought soan papdi.

I know this post is over an hour late but I am hoping the NaBloWriMo Gods will forgive me. You see, as soon as one set of friends left, another set arrived and some of them are still here! I could also blab on and bore you but why don't you do yourself a favor and head on over to Jen's and take a look at the fabulous pictures she took today? Including the one where I look like I am scolding the pohe into behaving...


Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya

Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya
Glanirva Bhavathi Bharatha
Abhyuthanam Adharmaysya
Tadatmanam Srijami Aham
~ Bhagavad Gita

(Whenever there is decay
of righteousness O! Bharatha
And a rise of unrighteousness
then I manifest Myself!)

Hear it on YouTube


Leftover Matters: Chicken-n-Cheese Sandwich

Long day at work? Day 2 of rotisserie chicken? Don't know what to do for dinner? Make toasted chicken-n-cheese sandwiches.

Chop some onion really fine

Slice some Thai chillies

Pull off and chop cooked chicken meat, mix in chopped onions, green chillies and grated cheese. Add some salt, if you feel the need.

Butter an even number of slices of bread

Pile high with chicken and cheese mixture on the side that is not buttered.

Bring out that neglected sandwich maker

Toast with buttered sides on the outside of the 'wich.

Enjoy with ketchup or chutney.


Food Buying Habits

It wasn't till we moved to Colorado that I started thinking more seriously about the food we eat: where it is grown, how it is grown, and where I buy it. My preferences evolved slowly: local over organic, organic over standard supermarket produce, and imported over local depending on the product. I am all over the place when it comes to choices. And, after following some food bloggers on the Eat on $30 challenge, I am deeply grateful that I am able to make these choices.

It took me a while to start frequenting Farmers Markets. My first visit to the Boulder Farmers Market was very disappointing. It was on one of the hottest days of that year where I watched expensive produce wilt in the heat. It didn't help that I didn't have a cute puppy in tow - dogs are great conversation starters and ice-breakers at Farmers Markets and street fairs. I saw hitherto strangers becoming friends over talk of food, pets, music and art. Me? I felt out of place and couldn't understand the excitement or fawning over the limited produce. After all, I had bought fresh seasonal produce off the streets and in bazaars in Bombay and in Nairobi, before that.

It was only a couple of years later when Louisville Farmers Market opened that I started enjoying the concept. I had also, by then, discovered how hard it is to grow anything in my backyard. Sticking saplings in the soil and expecting them to grow no longer worked. Soil pH, sun radiance and weather in general, coupled with a short growing season, play such a huge role that a veggie bed is a monumental task for a lazy person like me. My respect for farmers in my area grew by leaps and bounds. To me, Farmers Markets soon became more about supporting local farmers and strengthening community. It is not about eating local or organic or reducing the carbon footprint of the food we eat. That in turn raised some questions in my mind: how concerned should I be about the carbon footprint of our food? If the food or product is locally grown or made, does it mean it is more energy-efficient?

How could I explain why I bought New Zealand lamb even though I live in a state known for its lamb?

I was heartened when I chanced upon James E. McWilliams' article Food That Travels Well in the NY Times. He writes:

lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard.
I wondered if a similar comparison were made with Colorado lamb, which would be more energy-efficient. I have no clue. But price and accessibility put New Zealand lamb in my shopping cart as Colorado lamb is more expensive and harder to find. The truth is that I felt a little less guilty about it, too.

The article makes for some excellent reading, drawing attention to the fact that eating local is not always the most environmentally sound solution if more emissions are generated at other stages of the product life cycle than during transport. (quote from the same article). He puts forth solutions that will take long-term planning towards achieving sustainable produce for all parts of the nation.

Williams' Op-Ed article unleashed equally thought-provoking letters.

I am sending this article to The Write Taste, if Sra will let me.

What are your food buying habits and what do you pay more attention to: local, organic, price, assumed carbon footprint?

White Beauties of the Rockies

I wish I could with words paint a canvas
alas but my mind is dry
like the parched bed of a thirsty river
my thoughts slip effortlessly through its sandy cracks
in their stead, I bring you these alpine beauties

Alpine sandwort

Where: Above timberline, on a windy alpine ridge
Altitude: Approximately 11,000ft
Trail: Flattop Mountain Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park
Botanical name: Eremogone fendleri (I think)
When: August 2009

Pearly Everlasting
Where: Montane
Altitude: Approximately 10,000ft

Trail: Haiyaha Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park
Botanical name: Anaphalis margaritacea
When: September 2009

For Flower Fest: White As Snow

Shankarpali, the savory kind

One more time: Happy Diwali!

Just in case you're wondering when this will end, Diwali is a five day festival. Sometimes the days get bunched up together or are spread out over more than 5 days. That's what you get for following a lunar calendar.

Today was the biggest day of Diwali. The real celebration as well as Laxmi Pujan, but we opted out and had a quiet family celebration instead: abhyang snan late in the evening, followed by aarti, followed by chicken biryani and shrikhand. The former made by me, the latter made by Amul.

Since we had no faraal left, I made shankarpali and chavde. I tried making chiroti but I can't bring myself to use ghee for frying and it didn't help that I was quite beat by that time. The more I think about it, the more I feel that Diwali cha faraal is really 1001 ways to deep-fry flour and make it taste good.

I have more cooking in store for me tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we celebrate with our friends at Boulder Balvihar where the kids will be doing skits based on Hindu mythology. Medha is playing Devaki, Lord Krishna's mother, and is rather amused that she will marry and then have eight kids. I finally heard her lines late this evening and I also heard Jai Ho playing in the background with Narada complaining about the loud music! Last year's play was hilarious. It sounds like this year's play will be fun, too!

The skits will be followed by Laxmi Pujan and then the Diwali feast. I am taking Punjabi chhole - Anita's recipe, with a few tweaks. And, I have more chavde to make. The shankarpalis will stay at home because there isn't much left to share.

Shankarpali comes in two flavors: savory and sweet. I am far more partial to the savory version so, naturally, that is what I made!


  • 1 cup maida or AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp hot oil
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients and add the hot oil.
  2. When the oil is cool enough to handle, mix it into the flour.
  3. Using only as much water as required, knead into a firm dough.
  4. Break into 6 equal parts and roll out each part into a circle of about 7-8 inches.
  5. Cut into diamonds or squares.
  6. Fry in hot oil until crisp.
  7. Store in an air-tight container and pray that they last more than a couple of days. 

Share with friends over tea or coffee. They go well with beer and cocktails, too.


Train your Brain

Diwali celebrations continue even though there isn't much going on today. Chaklis and orange burfi are long gone! I guess I had better rectify the situation soon. So while I am cooking, watch this video on Superbrain Yoga®.

If you grew up in India, it might seem more than a little familiar - it is the exercise of situps usually dispensed as punishment. If you didn't know why before, now you do! Here are some step by step instructions for the exercise. Apparently it awakens the kundalini shakti and energizes our brain through ear acupuncture and is considered to improve concentration. Researchers say that its benefits go beyond that and are using it to help those with learning disabilities. It's drug-free - it can't hurt!

Anyone willing to try this for a couple of months on a daily basis? I think I might!

Let's Try That Again!

Happy Diwali!

Pahila diva aaj lage dari
Sukhache kiran yei ghari
Purna howot tumchya sarva ichha
Tumha sarvanna deepavali chya hardik shubhechya!

Today is Dhanatroyadashi, the first day of Diwali. Really! And, unlike yesterday, I got gold: quality time with two of my dearest friends, over lunch. It was also my birthday all over again because they showered me with gifts!

Wow! Still overwhelmed!
I went empty-handed but armed with an IOU that I wrote on the table in invisible ink. An IOU for an idli-dosa-chutney-sambar dinner. I know it will be fun!

My neighbor saved the burfi by giving me some OJ concentrate. I had halved the recipe which required just one orange, which gave me just the right quantity of OJ needed. Except, when it met 1/2 cup of salt instead of sugar, it wasn't the right quantity of anything anymore! We have nice neighbors like that. They've loaned me eggs, butter, nuts, shaken snow off my trees, even climbed into my crawl-on-all-fours attic when the defunct chimney filled up during a blizzard. One more thing to be grateful for? You bet!

I will be turning on all the lights in my house in a short while for a short while. I hope you have a wonderful celebration and those of you who are going to celebrate with fireworks, be safe.

Rice flour never tasted so good before

Pahila diva aaj lage dari
Sukhache kiran yei ghari
Purna howot tumchya sarva ichha
Tumha sarvanna deepavali chya hardik shubhechya!

Today is Dhanatroyadashi, the first day of Diwali. The day on which families are supposed to buy gold. This morning, I dropped my gold off at school and then went with another kind of gold to the bank. At 8:40am, a really smartly dressed woman who walked into the bank with me told me they didn't open for another 20 minutes. Huh? And I thought my bank opened at 8am. I cursed my luck, tugged at my messy hair, rubbed my sleepy eyes and wandered off to Sam's Club to pick up meatballs, spaghetti and Bertolli's organic pasta sauce that I needed for the teachers lunch today. As soon as the bank opened, I was there. Maybe it's because dollars don't shine as bright as gold anymore but my check couldn't be cashed because it wasn't signed. I didn't notice it and obviously my client didn't either, an honest mistake! Is the universe trying to tell me something here, I wondered. I certainly hope it is not saying what I think it is!

I am a day ahead. That is what the universe was trying to tell me! Dhanatroydashi is tomorrow! Duh.

I made a batch of chaklis yesterday. It is high time this recipe made it to my blog from the back of Medha's lunch calendar where it was hastily scribbled during a long distance call almost four years ago. Pushpamaushi, my aunt, makes the best chaklis I have ever eaten. She always got them just right: crispy and crunchy, yet not the muruku kind of crunchy.


  • 2 tbsp urad dal
  • 1/8 tsp methi seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • pimch asafetida
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 1 and 3/8 cups maida or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 3/4 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 3/4 cup water or as needed
  • Oil to deep-fry

  1. Lightly toast the urad dal, methi seeds, cumin and asafetida. Allow to cool and then grind into a powder.

    From top left: Urad, methi, asafetida, cumin

  2. Mix this powder with the two flours and the rest of the dry ingredients. Then rub the ghee into this mix to get a crumb-like texture. Similar to what you do when trying to make pastry.

    Mound of crumbs

  3. Knead the flour using only as much water as required until it stops falling apart. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

    If your dough looks like this, it needs some more kneading.

  4. Line a cutting board with wax paper.
  5. Heat oil in a kadhai.
  6. Remember this kitchen tool from my heirloom post? It's called a chakli maker or a kitchen press. We need to use the disc with the star-shaped cutout.


    Fill the cylinder to about three quarters of its depth with the dough. Fit the lid and turn the handle to press the dough out through the star shaped cutout onto the wax paper.

  7. Shape the pressed dough into a spiral as it comes out. I prefer to make small chaklis as they are easier to handle and fry. Break off the end and press it lightly into the previous coil so that it doesn't come apart later.

    Shaping the chaklis

  8. Pick up the chakli with a turner and quickly slide it into the hot oil.

    Swimming, swimming, let's go swimming

    Chaklis will rise to the top initially and start sinking as they cook. Turn them over as they start to sink. And continue to fry on medium high heat until they are a reddish gold in color. If you don't fry them well, they will have a soft center and that will take away from the overall texture and flavor. But be careful that you don't fry them too much because rice flour does not taste very good when it begins to burn.

  9. Remove from the oil when done, about 2-3 minutes in all for a batch of 4 chaklis, and drain on paper towels.

  10. Allow to cool completely before eating and store in an air-tight container. Serve with tea or coffee or keep the container out on your kitchen counter and watch them disappear.

This recipe makes about 40-45 small chaklis.

  • My aunt's recipe had a ratio of 2:1:1/2 for rice flour:maida:ghee. My dough seemed to be smooth enough but it started falling apart as I tried to make the coils. I kept adding an eighth cup of maida until it reached a consistency where it was possible to press the chaklis out smoothly. Once I had added 3/8 cups of maida, it seemed to be almost perfect. The more maida that is added, the crunchiness changes to a harder crunch than a khoosh-khooshith kind of melt in your mouth crunch. I am not sure if it is the altitude or the quality of the ingredients that makes a difference. Just remember that if the chakli can't be coiled around itself to make a spiral shape because it breaks easily, you need more maida in your dough.
  • Add more red chilli powder to make it more spicy.
  • If you don't have this kitchen tool, you can order it off the net or ask your local Indian grocery store if they carry it.
  • Medha likes to eat the uncooked dough. Does anyone see a pattern here? 

By popular demand - ok, only Anita - I am extending the deadline for IFR: Memories to October 31. So if you haven't written yet, put on your thinking caps and write your best post ever. The goal is to have a well-written post and not a post you churned out because you had to. There are some beautifully written and eloquent posts that have been submitted. I  am looking forward to yours!

Update: I am sending these chaklis to Meeta's Monthly Mingle, hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen. The theme is High Tea. Join us!