Thursday, June 16, 2016

Now Featured On: Masalamommas (15 Common Stereotypes about Intercultural Relationships)

As many of you know, I am doing a once monthly cross-cultural feature on Masalamommas online magazine. It is wonderful to have a platform to voice issues and stories faced by our multicultural community. This month, my article is about the misconceptions that intercultural couples face regarding our relationships. Here is a small excerpt from my article:

"4. That you only married your spouse for a green card or to immigrate to a different country.

This is one of the misconceptions that I despise the most because it implies that intercultural unions are not as valid as others, or that it is based on an ulterior motive. In reality, intercultural relationships are based on love, just like any other relationship. Any married couple would want to live with their spouse and not be long-distance, which is why one partner eventually has to immigrate to the other partner’s country. Because of this, people doubt our love for each other, no matter that many of us have to uproot our lives just to be with our partner. Married couples should not have to live separately due to strict immigration laws, and families should not be divided by borders.

The “marrying for a green card” belief is also only assumed if one of the spouses is from a Western country like USA, Canada, Australia, England, for example. People always assume my Indian-born spouse married me to gain Canadian residency, but nobody ever assumes that I married my spouse to get an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India card)!"


Read the whole article on Masalamommas HERE!
And don't forget to share it if you like it!

What about you guys? What misconceptions have YOU faced? Comment below...


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Best Children's Books about Daddies

Father's Day is right around the corner and I have been on the hunt for books that celebrate the beauty of fatherhood. Compared to all the great books about mommies, there are actually a lot less books about dads - which is unfortunate. In particular, I was looking for books that captured dads doing all the daily tasks of parenthood that you'd traditionally only see moms doing. This month, Maya's school is doing a nice Father's Day party and she has already designed an invitation for daddy and thatha!

Here are some of our favorite books about daddies:

Hop on Pop
This Dr.Seuss book is a classic for your child's library, and one of our personal favorites. The book features quick, rhyming language that is great to keep young children engaged in the fun story. This book is also good for children who are just beginning to read as it uses short words. This book was first published in the 60's and it hasn't gone out of style!

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
This is a hilarious book about a toddler that goes to the laundromat with his dad and his favorite stuffed toy, "knuffle bunny" mistakenly gets thrown in the washing machine. He has a huge tantrum and the dad gets frustrated because the toddler can't communicate with words. It is a very relatable story that all dads can connect with.

Saturday with Daddy
This book is about a baby elephant and his dad spending the day together on the weekend. They do all kinds of fun things, like have breakfast, go shopping, and nap together. I loved this book because it told "a day in the life" type of story and it portrayed the special bond that kids have with their dads when they spend uninterrupted quality time with them.

Papa, Do You Love Me?
In the white-washed world of books, this one adds a welcome diversity to the mix. This books takes place in the African countryside and it gives a taste of Masai culture, while reminding kids that children all over the world have a universal love their daddies. It is a good reminder - for kids and parents - to think globally.

Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too
This book comes from the same author that did the wildly popular Llama Llama Red Pajama (one of my top picks for books about mommies). This book focuses on Llama Llama's friend Nelly Gnu, who has a special day with her daddy. It is an inventive and creative story that shows Nelly and her dad building something special out of leftover cardboard. Anyone who loves Llama Llama will also love this book too. 

This book is a seasonal story that it specifically about Father's Day. Four year old Susie has big plans for her dad on Father's Day, including taking him to a carousel ride and a fast food restaurant. It is a humorous story about children's excitement, and also about parents' exhaustion to keep up with young children's non-stop energy. This book is great for preschoolers who are just beginning to comprehend what Father's Day is.
This is an award-winning book that is perfect for a starter library, young babies/toddlers, and especially any child who is obsessed with trucks and construction. The book has engaging, bright illustrations in primary colors. The story is about dads who support and encourage their children and who are proud of them.

This book is a sweet & tender story about all the reasons why kids love their dads - ie. "I love my daddy because he is big and strong". It is depicted by beautiful illustrations of a good variety of baby animals and their daddies. This one would be perfect for a first Father's Day present.

When I was little, I used to look at my dad's big hands and think that he was a giant. This book portrays the amazement that kids have about their dad's powerful size, paired with a wild imagination - ie. the dad is so tall that clouds rest on his shoulders. I liked this book because it had an accurate perspective that a child would have.


Check out my other children's book lists HERE.
What are your favorite children's books about daddies?


Monday, June 6, 2016

Recipe: Bibi's Kashmiri Mushrooms (Haddar Yakhni)

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 here or visit my blog Keep Calm & Curry On.

In Kashmir, "haddar" means mushrooms and "yakhni" is a yogurt infused stock. In this traditional dish, mushrooms are first simmered with the warmly aromatic spices of Kashmiri cuisine to make a rich broth. Tangy yogurt is then added and the mushrooms are braised until tender in this sumptuously spiced sauce. Savory mint and a sprinkle of shahi jeera top off this famous dish from the vale of Kashmir.

Mushrooms are actually quite common in Himalayan cuisines. The vast forests of the Himalayas are home to many different varieties of edible wild mushrooms like morels, oyster mushrooms, and various types of straw mushrooms. Traditionally, Himalayan peoples have dried the various types of mushrooms for later use as well as eaten them fresh in several delicious ways. Commercial mushroom farming has only recently become popular on the Indian Subcontinent making fresh mushrooms widely available and affordable in markets. For this recipe, I've used button mushrooms farmed locally here in Nepal by a women's cooperative. I've seen this recipe prepared in Kashmir with different mushrooms gathered in the forest. Morels prepared in this manner are considered a delicacy and usually only prepared at Kashmiri Wazwan wedding feasts. Porcini, morels, shitake, and oyster mushrooms will work in this recipe too.

1/2kg/1lb mushrooms, caps sliced into quarters
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp ghee or butter
5 black peppercorns/kali mirch
1 inch piece of cassia bark or cinnamon stick
2 black cardamoms/kali elaichi, bruised in mortar and pestle
5 green cardamoms/elaichi, bruised in mortar and pestle
3 cloves/laung
2 tsp dried mint/pudina
Grind to smooth paste for sauce:
1/2 cup yogurt/dahi
1/2 tsp flour/maida or cornstarch/corn flour (this will keep your yogurt from splitting)
1/2 tsp dry ginger/soonth
1/2 tsp ground fennel/saunf
1/4 cup diced onion
1 tsp garlic/lahsun

Here's what to do:
1) Cut cleaned mushroom caps into quarters. Try to get the mushroom pieces about the same size. Set aside. Grind all ingredients listed for sauce until smooth, set aside. 

2) In large heavy bottomed skillet, kadhai, or pressure cooker - heat oil, butter or ghee and one teaspoon salt. Fry peppercorns, coriander, cassia bark, cloves, black cardamoms, and green cardamoms for 2 minutes.

3) Add mushrooms to the oils and spices. Fry for 5 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. A lot of liquid will come out of the mushrooms.

4) Add yogurt/sauce mixture from step 2 to the cooled mushrooms and spices. Stir well and return to heat.

5) If using pressure cooker seal lid and steam for two whistles. If using skillet or kadhai simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and oil has separated from the sauce.

6) Remove from heat and salt to taste. Sprinkle shahi jeera/black cumin and crumble dried mint over dish and serve.

Helpful hints:
Kashmiri curd or yogurt is quite sour and made from cow's milk because Kashmir is too cold for water buffaloes. Be sure to use a full fat and sour yogurt like the Greek style yogurt available in the West to get a similar flavor.

If you don't have shahi jeera/black cumin just leave it out. It is a traditional spice grown only in Kashmir that adds a delicate crunch and herbal note to the final dish that can't be replicated by anything else.

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

Calmly currying on,


Click HERE to see more recipes!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Tom & Rachel

My name is Rachel. My family is Polish/Hungarian and I'm from Toledo, Ohio in the USA. My husband's name is Naresh (but he likes to go by Tom) and he is from Hyderabad AP in India. We currently live in the USA in a small town in Michigan, called Woodhaven. My husband and I have 3 fur-babies named Alex, Ivy and George Bush. In January we lost a baby, but hope that God will give another one soon. 

Three words that describe you...
Adaptable, caring and friendly.

Favorite childhood memory...
My favorite childhood memory has to be weekends at my grandparents cottage in Round Lake, Michigan. We would spend just about every weekend from April to September when I was a kid. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired when I'm sitting alone in our bedroom. As a kid I loved to sit in my room alone, so as an adult that's pretty much where I go when I need to think or get upset I go and write in my journal or do my daily devotionals.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
In Early 2010, I decided I wanted to go to India on a missions trip and work in an orphanage. Tom and I have a mutual friend who went to college in the UK together and when he found out that I was going to India, he contacted Tom. Tom's uncle owns an orphanage in Southern India and our friend thought he might be able to help me plan my trip. So Tom sent me a message on Facebook, and to be honest I almost deleted it because I was so sick of getting inappropriate messages from random men! About 3 days after he sent me the message, I actually read it and it was very simple: "Hi, I'm Tom, If you need any help planning your trip I can help you"...

I emailed him and we decided that we would Skype because I had a lot of questions about India and orphanages in India. We Skyped for the 1st time for 4 hours and NEVER talked about the orphanage, not even one time! So we made another time to Skype and again we didn't get a chance to talk about the orphanage again - by this time I remember thinking that I really liked this goofy guy, he was nice, and polite and made me laugh. 

I went to India in March of 2011 and Tom - who I still never met in person yet - flew from the UK into India when I was done with my missions trip and asked me to marry him! He had already asked my dad via Skype if he could marry me and that knocked the socks off my dad!!!! I said yes on March 16th, 2011 and exactly 2 years to the date  - on March 16th 2013 - we got married. 

How long have you been together?
We have been together for a total of 6 years. We dated for 3 years and just celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary this past March. 

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
The qualities I admire most about my husband is his caring heart! He would give anyone the shirt of his back if they needed it. I love that when I'm upset, he will stop everything and sit with me, hug me, and hold me. 

Favorite memory together as a couple...
My favorite memory as a couple has to be the day we lost our baby, obviously not the losing our baby part, but how my husband handled the whole situation. The day after we lost of our baby, my husband came home from work with flowers, a card, and candy for me, and he said "when your heart is hurting so is mine". He sat on the couch with me and let me cry for hours and just held me. 

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I really didn't know much! 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
This relationship has enlightened my life by teaching me that just because I do things one way doesn't mean that it's the only way to do things. My husband has very good at opening my eyes and showing me that my way is not the only "right" way. 

Who proposed and how?
Our official proposal was at the airport in Chandigarh, in Punjab, India. It was the very first time we were able to actually touch each other. He gave me a hug and said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and I told him the same. In our eyes we were engaged and because Indians are not like Americans, he didn't know about the whole "proposal with a ring" thing. I do have to say he did ask my father via Skype if he could marry me though and I thought that was awesome! My Dad just said "Well...I don't understand this whole relationship but if you love each other then you have my blessing!!" My husband took that as a yes and prepared to ask me. 

Describe your wedding...
We had 3 weddings total. Our first one was what we call our "paper" wedding on Feb 2, 2013, where we had our pastor legally marry us 2 days after Tom arrived in the US. We are both Christians and we didn't want to live together before we were married. Our official wedding was on March 16th, 2013 - it was a small wedding with our close friends and family at our church in Toledo. This wedding started at 12:30 pm in the afternoon and lasted till about 3 pm in the afternoon. We had a nice little lunch after our ceremony, ate our cupcake cake, took pictures, then my family and Toms family went and played pool. After, we went back to our home and had a bonfire in our backyard and just had a nice relaxing evening. It was a very simple wedding but one of the best days of our life and I wouldn't change anything about that day. 

Our 3rd wedding was an Indian wedding in my sister-in-law's living room with my mother and father in-law and my best-friend there. To be honest, I have no idea what was going on with that wedding. My mother in law dressed me in a saree, put makeup on me, and covered me with gold. My husband and I went into the living room and the priest talked for about an hour we played a few games after that and then it was over. I do hope that one day we can go back to India and have an actual reception with all of his family and friends. 

What does being married mean to you?
Being married means having someone love me and be by my side for the rest of my life. I have to say, I have had to get used to having someone with me all the time. I'm more of a "do it by myself" kind of person so it took me a little while to get used to having someone with me all the time. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Our ultimate marriage goal would be to be able to retire and travel around the US in an RV with our cats. I know that sounds like a faraway goal, but we both love traveling and we love RV's and some days, I think my husband loves our cats more than me!

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
The best marital advice we have received from an elder is to not take out what our family members say or feel on each other! To remember that neither myself or my husband can control our families' way of thinking or acting. That has helped me tremendously!!! 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship (from your own culture)?
I think one positive cultural value I bring to our relationship is that my parents taught me to try anything and that I was good enough for anyone! 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We have been married for 3 years, so on each of our anniversaries we try to travel out of town. Whether it is 3 hours away or 13 hours away - its our time together. We also have random "Rachel Days" or "Tom Days" where we do what the other person wants to do. I feel like we have more Rachel Days though, than Tom days for some reason! 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I guess Tom and I are lucky because we are both Christians and he lived in England for 6 years so we really didn't have to adapt to each others cultures very much. When we are with my in-laws we do go to the Temple and participate in some Hindu celebrations, but we don't do anything Hindu at home. 

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
I can be honest and say that in the beginning I didn't like going to the Temple at all, it actually made me sick to my stomach to go into it. That was just my ignorance - not anything my in-laws said or did. As a Christian, I was raised to not bow down to statues and not to eat fruit offered to God, so I struggled with that every time we would have to go to my in-laws home. My husband said to me one time that it was hard for him too, but he knows that our God knows where our hearts are and he knows that we are not bowing down and worshiping these Gods. 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
The most challenging time in our relationship for me was probably the first 6 months we were married. My husband wasn't allowed to work in the US and we were living off my tiny salary and we could barely make it financially. We had gone from being in a 3 year long-distance relationship to living together and being together all the time! That was very hard for me, because I like my alone time and once you are married you have another person to think about. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is listening to my husband talk about India and being lucky enough to have traveled to India myself! I am also very proud of myself that I can cook pretty good Indian food for my husband and all his friends. 

The worst part of being in an intercultural relationship is the different language that my husband and his family speak. The worst thing for me is the not feeling part 90% of the time. That's hard for someone who speaks Telugu and English to understand because my husband can understand both languages rather we are with his family or my family and its not like that for me. 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the Indian culture is that my husband only married me for a Green Card. I'm sure that's what a lot of people get, but oh my goodness so many people said that to me! All I have to say to that is there is no way my husband would of put up with me in a 3 year long distance relationship if he didn't really love me and only wanted to come to the US. To add to that, my husband didn't even live in India when I met him - he lived in the UK and didn't need a green card. He would have been just fine with us living in the UK. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
The biggest misconception about American women is that we are only with Indian men for their money and that we are whores! You wouldn't believe how may people said to me - that I only want an Indian man for his money! Like they can't see my heart or something. I get random Facebook messages from Indian men and women who say things to me like I'm a whore or I stole their husband from them! Just ridiculous things. 

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Tom and I have both come across people who disapprove of our relationship for sure! Before Tom arrived in the US, I had a good friend come over to our home and sit me down and tell me that she had been praying for us. I told her "Thank You for praying for us we really appreciate it". She then went on to say that she didn't think I should marry Tom, and that she had a really bad feeling about him and she felt I should call off our wedding. She felt like God was telling her to come over and tell us that. Now I believe in God and I do believe that he tells us things, and I know that she believed she needed to come over and tell me this. I listened to her and when she was done, I simply said "Thank you for coming over and telling me. I really do appreciate your kind words, but I am still going to marry Tom." That was that...she left and she never said anything else to me after that! 

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
If I could tell anyone in an intercultural relationship some advice it would be to listen to your spouse - always remember that he/she knows their family better than you!! If your spouse says they need more time to talk to their family, believe them because that's probably the truth! There were many times that I wanted to scream, "TELL YOUR FAMILY ABOUT ME!!!" but I couldn't, because I knew that my husband knew his family better and I had to wait for his timing and not mine.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Best Parenting Advice I Have Ever Received

When you have a baby for the first time, you naturally turn to different resources (books, blogs, other parents) to determine what is the best way to raise them - do you co-sleep or sleep in separate rooms? When do you start feeding solids and how? Do you let your child self-soothe? Do you breast feed or bottle feed, and for how long? 

Although I love that we have a choice of so many different methods, for a first-time parent it can be confusing and overwhelming. It doesn't help that every single method boasts that doing it their way will make your child smarter or happier. Oftentimes I felt sick with worry if I was doing the "right" thing or if I was damaging my child - for something as simple as feeding my infant pureed food or switching to formula. Other mothers can also judge you - some are horrified if you don't co-sleep, exclusively breast feed, do or don't work outside the home, etc. Parenting is not one size fits all.

In reality, there is no "right" or wrong way to parent. Now that my daughter is older and in the school system, I see how little any of those methods mattered. Every child is pretty much a naughty little A-hole, whether you breastfed them exclusively for 3 years or fed them formula from birth. There is really no difference. All the children are basically the same - which makes me wonder why did I waste so much time worrying? If I knew how little any of those choices even mattered, I would have saved myself a lot of stress.

As a new parent, you get so much advice thrown at you - often conflicting - that you really have to weed through. Looking back, I think the best advice I ever got was from my aunt. At the time, I was wrestling with the notion of giving up co-sleeping and moving Maya into her own crib in her own room. Maya was 4 months old and started flipping around like a dolphin and we realized that we couldn't sleep with her anymore. I just felt like the worst parent because all our friends were co-sleeping and it just wasn't working for us. My aunt looked at me and said, "Whatever works!!!" Years later, this is the one parenting advice that has really stuck with me.

What works for one family may not work for another. What works for one child may not work for another. You have to do what is best for you, your child, and your family. 

And can us mothers please stop judging each other? When another parent tells you about something that works for their family, give them a thumbs up and be on your way.

Whatever works!!!
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