Guest Post: From Circles to Trapezoids to Triangles by Jen Yu

Hello lovely IFR readers! Manisha didn't want all of you to feel lonely and neglected while she was in India, so I'm here to prattle on about... cocktail samosas. However, Manisha is still here with us in spirit and certainly in photographs as this is her recipe. I merely followed my dear friend about in her kitchen with my camera while she made these lovely savory pastries from scratch. You see, we had a delightful little old afternoon tea a few weeks ago and Manisha brought these phenomenal morsels to serve.

delicate potato samosas on the second tier

So let's get to work, shall we? Manisha made two types of cocktail samosas: potato and chicken. They are both ridiculously fantastic although I lean ever so slightly in favor of the potato because I am crazy for potatoes.

Eight years is a long time

Yes, eight years is a very long time. That's how long it's been since I last visited India. And that's where I am headed right now, with a few days layover in Zurich.

And we're off on this gorgeous day!
The Flatirons, Boulder

I'm looking forward to hugging family I haven't seen in years, saying hello to new babies, catching up with friends and meeting Anita for the very first time! I have already sent her a long list of what I want her to cook for me. It might not be enough and I might have left some things out. So if you think you have some cool suggestions, feel free to include them in your comments because she reads my blog, you know!

My post about celebrating my friend's pregnancy is still in my Drafts. Preparing for this trip to India took over and there were far too many loose ends to attend to. I decided not to fret over it and will finish it when we get back in 2011.

My awesome friend Jen Yu fought hard against her dislike of Blogger and agreed to do a guest post for me while I'm traveling. That's coming up next week! Until then, wish me safe travels! Stay in touch with me via Flickr or Posterous.



It's a little unusual for my blog to go silent around Diwali, that special time of the year when we fill our homes with the endearing aroma of sugary syrups and hot oil! Like every year in the past, I had plans of making chavde, chakli, chivda, and nankatai. Perhaps even besan ladu, which I last made ten lunisolar years ago. But the universe had other plans for me.

More than a little creeped out

Strange are the ways of the world. It certainly feels that way sometimes. Take for instance this endeavor that is worth almost a billion dollars and yet it looks like that? Yes, Mukesh Ambani's home. There are mixed reactions everywhere: from claiming that this has put India on the map (uh, wasn't it there already?) to calling it an ugly display of wealth. I'll agree with the ugly because I don't know what they were thinking when they designed that. Wealth? It's theirs to do with as they please, hopefully with a dose of social responsibility; but what does interest me more are the sustainable features, if any, that were built into this 27 storey behemoth that will be home to 4 people with 600 employees and a 160 car multi-level parking lot.

Next up was the revelation that good tomatoes cannot be found in India (thanks, Sra for the link!) and must be imported from upscale supermarkets in the UK. Huh? Ever considered growing your own heirloom varieties? Or paying someone in your local area to grow them for you? And, this 'wisdom' comes from a high profile Indian foodie. Again, where is the social responsibility?

Worse still, those hideous Red Delicious apples grown in the US are being imported by India. Anyone with a little bit of taste steers clear of these apples, in particular!

What happened to good sense along the way?

I'm still searching...

Yes, I'm still searching for The Ultimate Question and until I find it, I have decided that 42 is what I will be.

As you might have guessed, it is that day again. It never fails to amaze me how it creeps up on me so quickly after the last one. The past year has been full of successes and that makes me incredibly happy. Big contracts and small contracts at work; each one fulfilling in its own way. On the personal front, new and old friends have provided much laughter and support. My family remains my rock and the center of my world. Sometimes, I am the center of my own world and that is a lot of fun, too.

Today, I will attempt to scale my first peak. Not a fourteener but a strenuous and tough hike nevertheless. Flattop Mountain stands at 12,324 ft; the round trip is 8.8 miles; the elevation gain is 2,849 ft. The last two miles (I think) are brutal and above treeline. It's not necessarily a big deal in these parts but it is for me.

Looking down at Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake Overlook, from D's hike to the summit, 2008

Love Thine Inspiration

I have been submitting pictures to the Life in Louisville Photo Contest ever since it first started three years ago. Ten pictures per individual, some of which may win special mention; all of which may be used in any promotional material that the city may create from time to time. Some may say that the City is crowd-sourcing images for free; we call it community involvement and giving back to the community we live in. We feel a strong sense of pride in seeing our pictures on the city's web site, catalogs and brochures.

Fall Catalog, City of Louisville Recreation Center
Davidson Mesa, 2008 - see original image

Even though we sign away our pictures to the city to do with them as it pleases, it is very endearing to see that they do give credit where it is due. The original image had won 1st Place in the Open Space Category at the very first Life in Louisville Photo Contest, 2008. (Preserved land is called open space in these parts.)

Drop the Tea; it's already there in your Chai

Do I need to say anything? Really? But you know I will.

<pet peeve>
Here goes: there is no such thing as chai tea.

Chai is tea.

Chai tea is a classic example of redundancy. I've said it before, way back in 2003, but who read blogs then? Even less commented on them? The Libran in me does want to quickly clarify that Blogger didn't have a comments feature in 2003. It's true. But let's focus on this problem of redundancy instead, shall we?

Either call it tea or call it chai.

Please stop saying chai tea.

As for chai latte? Latte? Chai is almost always made with milk so that's another redundancy there.

And, if you use chai masala or a blend of spices to make, say, ice cream and there are no tea leaves in it? That's not chai ice cream. That's spiced ice cream or masala ice cream. Why? Because chai is tea, remember? If there's no tea in it, it can't be chai anything. The exception to this rule is chai masala.

Cardamom and cinnamon may mean dessert to some but that is not why chai is had after a sumptous meal. You can write poetry about it if you want but really, our meals don't have courses and dessert is usually served with the main meal. Chai is often served after a meal as a digestive aid or to shake off that lethargy to enable you and your heavy belly to make an attempt to leave. My point? Chai isn't dessert.

Chai does not have to have spices in it. Everyday chai is made with water, tea leaves, milk and sugar, the last of which is optional.

If it is possible to understand what bouillabaisse is, without redundant qualifiers before or after to explain that it is a Provençal fish stew, then it should be easy to deal with the word chai. It's much shorter. Or just say tea. Because that's what it is: tea.

So, please! Drop the tea because it's already there in your chai!
</pet peeve>

Through Thick and Thin

Downtown Louisville has a character of its own. It's quiet and peaceful for the most part although lately, it seems to be more like that slumbering giant, slowly being shaken awake. The city comes to life once the sun takes a more westward turn. Until then, its quirkiness is on display for those who choose to walk through its quiet streets and alleys. One thing that can't be doubted though, is that we are a welcoming lot. So welcoming that sometimes we put our couches outside the house.

welcoming in downtown Louisville
Drive-by shooting

While I don't have any couches in my frontyard for a weary runner, bicyclist or walker to put their feet up for a while, a welcome to my home is usually in the form of idli-sambar-chutney, instead of the ubiquitous pohe. And, I have to wonder why that is the case when pohe (po-hay) is a rice dish that can be served at any time of the day or for that matter, for any occasion! Someone drops in for tea, make pohe. Too exhausted to make dinner? Make pohe. Diwali feast? Yes, pohe have to be on the menu. That well-groomed green-card-equipped engineer from the US dropping by to see if you are pretty enough to marry? Your mother insists you must make pohe. Or, she makes pohe and passes it off as your doing, while the prospective groom watches closely as you walk across the room without tripping, to confirm that you have no limp and that you are not blind.

How to Fry Batata Vadas Without Getting Your Hands Dirty

I am a serious believer in God made hands before man made cutlery. I use my hands a lot when I cook: to mix, to scoop, to feel. As can be evidenced here.

Fork it

Even so, I do stop to listen when friends like Jen show me how to keep my hands clean and make deep fried goodies, like batata vada.

Rest-of-the-world Chhole

Some of us - not me or anyone in my lazy family - hiked 15 miles across the Continental Divide last weekend along the Pawnee Pass Trail to Monarch Lake via the Cascade Creek Trail through some of the most beautiful and most remote parts of Colorado. According to their report, the high country meadows were bursting with colorful wildflowers. Only in my dreams can I think of hiking 15 miles in one day, going up 2000ft, coming down 4200ft and then camping near Grand Lake for two days. We took the easier route and drove to the top of our world in Colorado on US Highway 34, the highest paved continuous highway in the US, also known as the Trail Ridge Road. We've never ventured beyond the Alpine Center and I have to wonder why! As soon as we turned the corner from the Alpine Center, we saw a herd of elk grazing at 11,700ft.

Herd of elk

No Pleasure Too Small

Sometimes, it's a good thing to live in a rugged state like Colorado and not have one of those monstrous SUVs. Our little ten-year-old Honda CRV has AWD and does reasonably well on the mountain roads but when a dirt road suddenly dissolves into a stream with a sandy bed?

Road, stream or both?

Well, there is usually only one thing to do: back up, park on the side of the road in a designated spot and hike the rest of the way to the trailhead on a trail lined with surprises.

Abandoned in Hesse Townsite

Cereusly Awesome

I feel like I am in a time warp. Summer has been excruciatingly slow but it has also slipped by at an amazing pace. There aren't enough hours in the day and yet, at times, it feels like nothing is moving. When I look back, I wonder why I am left with that feeling when so much did, indeed, get done. Perhaps it's that time again, when every step forward requires enormous amounts of energy, willpower and dedication. Perhaps it's the relentless heat and the draft of cooled air that makes my bones ache, even though the cool is set at an ambient temperature of 80F, three degrees higher than what most people consider comfortable. Medha's been home forever and school starts in less than four weeks - not much left of summer!

But, you know, I feel that way about the last decade, too! Where did it go? While clearing up the house yesterday, we unearthed some old CDs that had audio files of Medha as a toddler - some people clean in spring and they're done; whereas I'm still cleaning from last spring and the spring before that and I can go back to the time that we moved to Colorado from Illinois. We don't have much stuff but we have piles and piles of paper, most of which cannot be recycled without scrutiny as they need to be shredded, but only after monumentous decision-making: to keep or not to keep. The same holds for CDs and DVDs. Wasn't it just yesterday that she was singing her ABCs backwards and belting out You are my Sunshine? Come mid-August, she's no longer going to be a pixie but instead she will be a 7th grader. Where did all those years go?

I may sound like I am complaining but a lot of awesome has also been happening at the same time. I think it is this that gets me through the uphill climb that most of my current tasks seem to take. Jen of the Butter fame gathered us together - was it just 10 days ago? - to watch her nightblooming cereus blossom into a huge flower from a shy bud.

Cereusly Awesome
Innards of the cereus

Handy with Best Intentions

Beautiful bracelets of handwoven nickel-free pewter on reindeer leather, finished with an antler button, were not exactly what I expected to find at the Louisville Street Faire.

Lapland Bracelets
Lapland bracelets, a Swedish tradition

Anita Grönstedt who learned this Nordic art in Sweden as a teen, is now based in Superior, right next to Louisville. She says a bracelet can take her anywhere from a few hours to half a day to complete. Her work is so neat and precise that I stood there in awe! I was attracted to these bracelets because no metal touches the skin as the pewter is mounted on reindeer leather, which ages beautifully into mottled dark shades.

Lapland Bracelets
Anita Grönstedt explains her technique

They run from $45 to $125 for a bracelet. If you're local and want to have a look-see and feel-touch, Anita lists the events where she will have her own booth on the homepage of her Grönstedt Designs web site.

Isn't it amazing how much talent there is out there?

Time for the Louisville Street Faire

Yes, it's that time of the year when Friday evenings mean a convergence by the railroad tracks across from the library for some live music, local artists, good food and micro-brews. I've said it before that Louisville Street Faire rocks and I am going to say it again! It's grown bigger and more popular - something we really like!

strEAT Chefs
His first Banh-mi

He bought it from the strEAT Chefs at the window of their Airstream trailer. He couldn't stop raving about the fresh flavors.

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day!
Happy 4th of July!
Happy Day!

Snickerdoodle flag
Snickerdoodle flag at our I-Day potluck yesterday

Due to the economic downturn, Louisville has had to cut back on several of its annual events, including the traditional fireworks display and the picnic at Community Park. I am far too lazy to brave the traffic and drive out to another town or jostle with other Louisville denizens for a spot on the Davidson Mesa, which has views of $$$ fireworks going up in flames all around us: CU-Boulder, Longmont, Superior and perhaps even Lafayette and Broomfield. So instead I will leave you with some of my shots from the last couple of years of Louisville's fireworks:

Have a great long weekend!

Seeing in 3D

I didn't think I was going to enjoy How To Train Your Dragon but I was transfixed. The 3D animation was spectacular. I was completely hooked. So when Six Apart Media contacted me saying that as a publisher with their advertising network, I was now a part of their rapidly growing Entertainment initiative, of course I was interested! And especially so when the movie was another 3D animation movie.

Despicable Me

Even More Unusual

They ran into the house, panting, "Mr. and Mrs. P's house is on fire!" I leaped to my feet, grabbed my camera, and ran out of the house with them, not caring about my general state of dishevel. I go camping with my neighbors several times a year; they have seen me in my morning face as well as my tired-as-heck-give-me-another-drink look by nightfall, so I didn't particularly care. There was a fire in the hood! As I ran, I saw my neighbor John eyeing the first response truck, wondering what the kids had been up to this time. While we don't see these trucks in our 'hood very frequently, we have had them come out every so often - the weirdest one was to help an eight year old who had swallowed a rare Jamaican coin. She figured she wouldn't lose it if she held it in her mouth as she took a last jump on the tramp before they headed off on vacation. Needless to say, her first day of vacation was spent at The Children's Hospital in Denver.

I apprised John of the situation as I ran past him, only to have him give the girls, who were close on my heels, something to giggle about for the next week. Expletives! Pretty much the same words that ran through my mind when the girls first burst into the house with the news.

Fire in the Hood
Too close for comfort

Not your usual Chicken Curry

The rumble and flash, of thunder and lightning, were followed by a distant roar from across the San Luis Valley. The sound persisted and several campers likened it to that of a train, one that was approaching us slowly but surely. A tornado? At 8200ft? Unlikely but unsettling enough for my neighbor Lisa to quietly start gathering her chairs and other belongings as the wind picked up and brought the sound even closer. Soon there was an increased urgency in her movements and I followed suit, neither of us knowing what we were hedging against. It hit us before we knew what it was. We scrambled to our cars and campers, some to the closest tents. Within seconds, the ground was covered with the largest hail I have ever seen, some almost 2 inches big. Many of us had bruises for show-and-tell later. Others, like my husband, had a sore head from sticking it out of the car to try and catch some of that frozen wonder. In my haste to get to our van, I forgot to pick up leftover cherries from our pit spitting competition.

Cherries split by hail
Cherries split by hail

And because you want to know, I am the reigning champion of the pit spitting competition. My neighbors will vouch for me.


Most of you know how lucky I feel about living where I do. The mountains are just an hour away, within sight every day. Sometimes we can't see beyond the Flatirons but when they can be as gorgeous as this, who cares?

2010.02.22 On the Davidson Mesa
Davidson Mesa in January, 2010

What am I doing posting pictures of winter? It may be spring for most of you but winter didn't really get over for us until a few weeks ago. Four inches of snow on May 15 had several people feeling sorry for us. Colorado is something spectacular, even in the flats. We had radiant sunshine the very next day and were back up in the 70s by the weekend. Lazy folks like me are very grateful for any precipitation we get because that translates into "no need to turn on the sprinklers."

Louisville, Colorado: Out of the Ordinary, Sunshine all year around and snow in May!
Harper Lake on May 15, 2010

Celebrating Francie with Memories

She would have been 54 today. My talented, charming and beautiful friend, Francie.

2010.02.13 Celebrating Francie
Celebrating Frances Lee, 
May 25, 1956 - Jan 11, 2010

The memories of the last few days of her life are fading slowly, paving the path for her return in vivid, vibrant memories. Her laugh, which was an echo of pure sunshine, rings in my ears every time I think of her.

Happy Birthday, dear Francie, I will raise a toast to you tonight and to all the fun memories we made together. I cherish those as much as I do you.

* * *

I would like to recap the memories some of you sent in, the act of which is probably a memory itself since this is overdue by almost 7 months! But something tells me you won't mind rewinding a little bit and reading your own posts. I enjoyed them last year and I loved reading them again now. If you are game, tell me your thoughts as you relive the words you penned last fall.

Freshly made butter. Pillowy and white. Cool fat lingering on the tongue. Sweet undertones. Soft like a baby’s cheek. Clean cream. Who can offer such encomiums for that nasty ole margarine?
Who indeed! Maybelle's Mom made butter with her toddler.

There was a rhythm to the production and I didn’t want to acknowledge it but I loved the food prep. I suspect my mom knew it too.
I am sure she did! Jaya Wagle apologizes to her mother for being a brat as she reminisces while prepping stuffed anaheim peppers.

She always kept them polished and even as a kid I loved the two fat little jars, presiding over my aaji’s tiny little kitchen, sniffing the aromas of her simple cooking and my grandfather’s occasional mutton curry.
It's not just a simple cup of tea with biscuits. Jaya Wagle writes about two brass jars bursting with memories.

She waited with quiet patience for me to evince some interest in the kitchen and when that was not forthcoming she felt compelled to force-feed these skills to me.
Indian mothers are like that only! Deepika stirred up some memories with Mangalore cucumbers.

On and off, it hits me that here's a dish I used to have when my grandmother was around, and haven't had or enjoyed properly since she passed away - it's not always something exotic or special or unusual, just that it's unavailable to me for various reasons, one of them being a slowing memory.
That was the point of this exercise! Sra eulogizes her grandmother with a fiery mixture of constants and variables.

As a kid, there was something very exciting about all this activity with a rhythmic muted “whoomph” of the pounding in the background. 
Aparna took the modern route to make muthusaram with fistfuls of advice from her mother.

She sold the best fish, her credentials of being an excellent haggler, a sweet talker with the customer yet a tough women with anyone trying to cross her path.
Anjali digs deep into her Koli heritage to make sweet Mughal samosas.

I sat by her wide eyed while she toasted the seeds in the hot iron skillet on the clay oven. No ovens, no gas stoves, all she owned was a portable clay oven.
Soma toasted pumpkin seeds as she reflected on her grandmother's influence on her life.

Every perfect morsel, with a bit of eggplant and a portion of quince, was mixed into the rice with a little bit of the gravy and devoured in silence.
Anita regales us with tales of rare quinces from Kashmir.

Major props to Srivalli for turning around the fastest post ever on Kadambam Dosa - less than 7 hours since IFR: Memories was announced. Adai and flavorful coconut chutney! How could I say no?

Mooli parathas take PJ back to a meal after a bus accident in rural India.

As for me, reconnecting with friends from my childhood in Kenya led me to irio.

That, my friends, is the round-up for IFR: Memories.

To those of you who have not given up on me completely, I am going to try not to disappear again. I haven't worked out how often I will post but I am a firm believer in one step at a time, and this post is definitely a beginning.

Is it too late to say Happy New Year? Or should I just say I'm happy to be back?