Thursday, October 27, 2016

Diwali Memories

There's nothing like festival time to get you all nostalgic, especially when it comes to Diwali! Diwali is arguably the most important Indian festival that is celebrated from North to South. One of the things I love about this festival is that it unites all the regions of India, which seem so separate and divided at times - each with their own holidays.

Diwali is one of the festivals that I have learned to celebrate since meeting husband-ji because I did not grow up cerebrating it. After having children, it is even more special because you want to pass on these traditions to them.

When we were in college, it was easier because there was always a big Diwali party, so we just had to get dressed up and attend it. Over the years, we have mostly celebrated it at home with close friends and family.

Maya's first Diwali was when she was 5 months old. We got all dressed up and took her to the local Mahalaksmi temple where they had a big religious celebration. Maya wore a new outfit, but we just wore our wedding reception outfits from 6 months earlier!

The year after that, I was at home recovering from bacterial meningitis, so we didn't feel like doing much. I think Maya was the only one who got dressed up, until she ripped off the dress 30 seconds later! That year, my mum ended up cooking Diwali dinner for all of us!

For Diwali 2014, we actually did get dressed up and perform a small pooja. That year I was pretty tired because I had worked in the shop all day, so I just wore a simple new saree with minimal jewelry. Maya got all dressed up in a glittering new outfit - but again, ripped it off after 30 seconds! (Oh, toddlers!!!)

Last year was the first year that we got our shit together consciously made time to prepare for it and celebrate it properly. We got all dressed up, performed a pooja, and cooked a big dinner and had our friends over. We all wore new clothes, and Maya didn't rip it off. Maya was also very into the pooja and was eager to help us with it. Her curiosity definitely peaked.

This year will be fun because Diwali falls on October 30th - which is the day before Halloween! And it is the first year that we will be celebrating it as a complete multi-generational joint-family - since my in-law's moved in with us. Maya is also completely obsessed with her jewelry, so hopefully I won't have an issue dressing her up! We are planning to do a pooja, have friends over for a big dinner, and of course dress up!


What are your plans for Diwali this year?
What are your favorite Diwali memories from years past?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Birthday Celebrations

This month I turned 31 years old and I had a really low key birthday. Being pregnant and lazy, I didn't really feel like doing much. When you're a mom, you plan these elaborate birthday parties for your kids, but somehow your own doesn't seem like such a big deal. I am in my thirties now which means I'm totally boring!

I spent the morning taking Maya to her extracurricular activities, going to the market to buy all the produce for the week, and then came back home and took a nap. I couldn't be bothered to even put on make-up and I was parked on the couch like a beached whale. Husband-ji took off work early and came home with a beautiful bouquet of red roses - 31 of them!!! His birthday tradition for me, which is always so thoughtful and detailed.

This year my parents were in town and my mum wanted to do something special for me, so I asked her to cook a traditional roast turkey dinner that I was craving. The meal was so delicious!

(A traditional Canadian turkey dinner - carrot/turnip mash, peas, red cabbage/brussels sprouts salad, cranberry sauce, roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy!)

I was still sick of eating cake because we ate soooooo much of it that was leftover from Maya's birthday in June - we literally ate cake for months! So instead of a cake, I opted for a lovely Apple Pie and we just stuck the candles on top. The best part of it was that Maya sang the Happy Birthday song to me, which made my heart melt!

The month of October is really my favorite part of the year (other than Christmas)! It started with my birthday, then we had Canadian Thanksgiving, we watched the weather cool down and the beautiful Fall colors...and now we have Diwali and Halloween coming up!


Monday, October 24, 2016

Bibi's Nepali Rahar Dal

Hi, I'm Bibi and I'm honored to do a recipe guest post on Alex's blog today! If you'd like to learn more about me please check out my interview on Alex's blog here or visit my blog Keep Calm & Curry On.

The national dish of Nepal is Dal Bhat and consists of a huge serving of steamed white rice (bhat) and a healthy helping of cooked lentils (dal). A common greeting in Nepal is "Bhat-kyo?" which literally means "Have you eaten rice today?" There are many different dals that can be prepared in several different ways. This is a simple and tasty recipe for dal made with split pigeon peas which are called rahar in Nepali and toor, arhar, or toovar dal in India.

This recipe is so easy to make and is a family favorite in our house. Traditionally, Nepalis would serve this with rice, a serving of tarkaari (vegetables), a chutney or two, and perhaps some acchaar (pickles). This dish also makes for a delicious Autumn meal when served as a soup with a crusty slice of buttered bread in Western fashion also.

3 Tbsp ghee or cooking oil
1/2 cup onion, diced finely
2 tsp ginger/adrak paste
2 tsp garlic/lahsun paste
2 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped finely (omit for less heat)
1 cassia leaf/tej patta
1.5 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
3 cloves/laung
1 inch piece cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
2 tsp salt
6-8 cups water
1 Tbsp lime/nimbu juice (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) Heat ghee or cooking oil over medium heat in a large stock pot or pressure cooker. Fry onions until just beginning to brown. Add ginger, garlic, and green chilis and fry for 3-4 minutes or until raw smell has left garlic. Add cassia leaf, cumin seeds, cloves, and cassia bark and fry for 2 minutes.

2) Add turmeric, salt, and pigeon peas to pot. If using pressure cooker add enough water so that dal is covered by at least 2 inches, seal and allow to steam for 4-5 whistles. Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow to cool. (If cooking on burner with stock pot add enough water so that dal mixture is covered by 4 inches and bring to a boil over medium heat. Allow to simmer until dal is are tender, usually about one and a half hours. Stir frequently and add more water if necessary.) When dal is to preferred consistency stir in lime juice, salt to taste and serve.

Helpful Hints:
I would really recommend cooking this recipe in a pressure cooker or crock pot/slow cooker as it takes such a long time to cook on top of the stove.

Our neighbor picking pigeon peas or rahar dal.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and do come visit me at Keep Calm & Curry On for more culinary fun!

Calmly currying on,

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Best Children's Books About Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite Western festivals and we are very excited about it this year! We just bought our pumpkin, and the next 10 days are going to be full of Halloween family festivities. Since our family is big on reading, I always celebrate by reading seasonal books. There are some wonderful, playful children's books about Halloween that we really enjoy reading together.

Here are some of our favorites:

Popcorn, by Frank Asch
(ages 2-8)
One of our friends gifted us this book and it's one of our favorites. After his parents go out for the evening, bear invites all his friends over for a Halloween party and they make too much popcorn. The illustrations are bright and primary, and the story is easy to understand even for the littlest kids.

Halloween Mice, by Bethany Roberts
(ages 18 months-6)
This is a sweet story about three mice that dress up and go out on Halloween. The language is simple and rhythmic, and it captures the fun and mischief of Halloween night. This one is a great book to start teaching younger children about what Halloween means.

Click, Clack, Boo, by Doreen Cronin
(ages 3-8)
For fans of Click Clack Moo, you will love this great follow-up story about Farmer Brown and his animals. Farmer Brown is very scared of Halloween so he shuts himself inside his house, but the animals have other plans!

Where Is Baby's Pumpkin?, by Karen Katz
(ages 6 months - 3 years)
This is a lovely lift-the-flap board book for babies and toddlers to start them about celebrating Halloween. Follow the baby as he plays peekaboo with all his home's Halloween-themed surprises.

Halloween Surprise, by Corinne Demas
(ages 3-6)
This book is all about the fun for kids to decide what costume they will dress up as for Halloween. With help from her cats, a little girl comes up with the perfect costume. This book also teaches kids that it's sometimes more fun to make your own costume, rather than buy one in the store.

The Best Halloween of All, by Susan Wojciechowski
(ages 4-8)
This book is about a little boy with classic helicopter parents who design their son's elaborate costumes. Finally at age 7, the boy decides that he will design his own costumes. It's a good reminder for parents to let their children decide their own costumes, although it's fun for us too!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams
(ages 4-8)
This book is a good one to read if your children can be easily scared of Halloween. The story follows a fearless little old woman who is being followed by a spooky pumpkin man. Instead of being scared, she collects them and puts them to good use! The folk art illustrations are detailed and bright.


What books about Halloween do you enjoy?
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