Navarathri 2009

One more Navarathri all done with and my first one with proper steps too! Yes, this time I bulldozed my husband into making the steps so that we didn’t have to rely on our assortment of tables, books and boxes.

So I started off searching for instructions online on how to make the steps. I know a lot of people have managed to buy the required stuff and somehow make steps that can be assembled and disassembled, but nobody unfortunately has put up proper instructions on how to do it.

So ladeej and gentleman who struggle every year with dabbas and such to make your golu steps..  idho choodungo.. the idiot’s guide to golu padikkatu..

Side view 1
Side view 1
Front View
Front View
Golu steps completed
Golu steps completed

Decide on the number of steps – Remember you cannot randomly change that once you buy this stuff.

  1. Go to the nearest Menards, Home Depot or Lowe’s and take yourself there in a mini-van or SUV.
  2. Ask for stair risers – you have different ones available depending on the number of steps you need. Those would make the 2 sides. Ours was wide enough to need a third one in the middle.
  3. For the steps themselves, you could buy stair stingers (which are expensive) or you could just buy similar planks in any other kind of cheaper wood. We ended up buying 2x4x8 planks for the steps.
  4. Your top step needs support – so buy it some legs – I am not sure about the dimensions but we picked some up from the clearance section and then after assembling the steps, measured and cut it to the right length.
  5. Also get some deck screws – they have many options for this, but the cheapest deck screw would do.
  6. Assemble as shown below – we screwed only every alternative step, the other just rested fine without any screws required.
  7. Unscrew to disassemble.

During my trip to India last December, I bought a whole bunch of new dolls for the golu. I added a Lakshmi Hayagreevar statue, a couple doing the Dandia, a set of musicians playing different instruments, a wedding set, and a set of fairies (Tinker bell and friends).

Golu 2009
Golu 2009

The placement of dolls was quite challenging. I am the kind of person, that likes things to be simple and clean. Once the five steps were built and the cloth wrapped on it, we unwrapped all the dolls – and I realized over the past few years when I had not done my golu shopping in India, I had accumulated quite a few boring and non-essential dolls. I decided I would only put up the ones that I could compartmentalize and organize with my nice ones. I am not at all a random person – and I would never be able to get myself to put a bunch of unrelated dolls together. So, my logic was let’s put all the Gods together (like they are going to give each other company or something) on the two steps, and then let’s put all the nice ones in the middle step and the miscellaneous ones in the 4th step. The last step was reserved for small items that need precision in placement and my daughter’s toys. We recently bought her a Tinker bell set of fairies and I decided to use those rather than the stuffed toys I had put up last year. For the Tinker Bell set, I had grandoise plans to repliacte Pixie Hollow, but somehow couldn’t find the time to get all of it done. We tried to grow some vegetation, but as usual we were too late to see any green before the golu started, so I had to make do with some artificial vegetation. Next year, I am definitely going to make something more creative, like a forest or a zoo or park or a carnival – we’ll see if I can keep my promise.

We also did celebarate Saraswati Pooja and Ayudha Pooja with full enthusiasm. Pictures below…

Saraswathi Pooja
Saraswathi Pooja
Ayudha Pooja
Ayudha Pooja
Belated Navarathri wishes everybody and looking forward to Deepavali now!

Pandigai 2009 – Round 1

Ok.. so the serious attempt I made at blogging a few months ago in April certainly became what can be at best termed a mega-flop. I seriously do intend to be here more often, but so many things have been happening, and kept me so busy that this blog had to go down closer to the bottom of my list of priorities. But today, since I am up early and my daughter isn’t, I figured I would put this off no further and get it done.

So how have things been in blogosphere? I have to admit, that I have barely even been reading comments these past few months, barely reading my favorites on your blogs, and almost never commented on anybody’s blog either. A lot of things happened.. we cleaned up, re-painted our old house, and then started showing it to prospective renters (which I admit is more stressful than being seen at ponnu-paarthal). We eventually found one and then moved to a home closer to where I work, and got about getting it furnished. So you can imagine, control freak that I am, how crazy things must have been.

Before we moved to our new home, we did have a very traditional grihapravesam this time round and I was very satisfied with how well it went. Right after, the season began – week after week of festivals – pullayar chathurthi co-inciding with avani avittam, followed by krishna jayanthi, followed by navarathri – to the point that I am now almost relieved that there is a weekend where I can laze around a bit and not feel on Monday like the weekend hasn’t yet begun. Also, this year since there are no planned India trips, and we rarely do long holidays, I decided I would use up all my vacation on and around festivals and prepare for them at leisure.

So, starting with Pillayar chathurthi – this was literally a week after we moved in but I wanted to do something and we did a basic pooja and offered sundal and modhakam (or sweet kozhakattai). It did turn out really well. We then went over to b-i-l’s house where m-i-l and f-i-l were also staying and did an elaborate celebration of both pillayar chathurthi as well as avani avittam. My co-sis V made a really beautiful pillayar with rice flour (since clay ganesha’s are not available for sale). 

Avani avittam and Pillayar Chathurthi were quickly followed by Krishna Jayanthi. M-i-l and F-i-l were with us for this – so it was all the more fun. M-i-l prepared Seedai, Vella Seedai, Appam and Sooyam. Once again ate a lot of food. We also dressed up my daughter as Krishnar this time. After all the build-up I gave her about wearing “Umaachi” dress, I had put on a bunch of jewellery and taken off her shirt. She was disappointed to say the least. The Krishnar kaals (footprints) were a delight to do this time round – because we had hardwood and stone all the way to the pooja room. I didn’t have to make Krishnar magically fly past carpet etc.. like I’ve had to in the past.

That ended Round 1 and to spare you the effort of keeping your attention on this post any longer.. Navarathri will have to be a separate post.. coming up soon.. hopefully.

Happy Pigs!

With all this fear of Swine Flu going around, one is forced to hear and see a lot of information about pigs. I first saw a pig, when I was a few years old. I used to travel to school via the Kodambakkam high road and at the large dump yard which is now right across from the new Onyx dump yard, I used to see dirty pigs comfortably rolling in filth. I abhored pigs. Having seen those pigs, I wondered how people ate pork. But then, I saw this movie – “Charlotte’s web“. It’s kind of hard to not love a cute pink pig, that talks so sweetly and seems so innocent. So while I still abhor pork, I am now in a better position with respect to tolerating the pigs themselves.

Now that I have established my position on the interest in this animal, you can imagine my reaction at listening to this piece on the radio.

At the end, I was saying aloud.. “Do you guys even listen to yourselves?” This last section just drove me crazy..

“They had a spring in their step. They played in the sunlight and nuzzled each other in the mud. They made a lot of healthy noise. And Ermine was, well…delicious.”

I’ve been mulling over this for the past few days. I argued it, and counter-argued it inside my head.

Nri Maami (me):  Firstly, how can they kill an animal and eat it.

The other Nri Maami (my head): Get over it, everyone does not think like you. They have been brought up eating meat and liking it, so they tune out the history of their food, just like you tune out the fact that ice-cream puts on more weight even though it tastes good.

Nri Maami (me):  Hmm.. true, see Americans oooh and aaaw over silly things. There was a guy on Amazing race that saw cows eat out of garbage and almost started crying. How come, they don’t react that way when it comes to slaughtering the same cows and eating a cheeseburger?

The other Nri Maami (my head):  In India, I’ve seen the butcher’s shop – it would have a big chopping block with an axe stuck on it, not to mention the buzzing flies, goats or whatever it is they sold hanging from hooks dead and upside-down. If you got close enough, you could even see blood. In America, I believe most people see meat only after it has been cleaned and packed and weighed and frozen. Americans may be a sympathetic lot, but it’s because they have been so carefully shielded from all that bloodshed, do they continue to eat so much meat.

Nri Maami (me): Whatever.. How could any person describe how happy those creatures were, how they skipped  and played, and in the very next  sentence talk about how tasty they were.

The other Nri Maami (my head): If you were growing Spinach, wouldn’t you take great care planting it, watering it, protecting it etc etc.. and in the end pluck it all out and wonder if you should make Palak Paneer or Keerai Sambar?

Nri Maami:  Somehow, I cannot equate plants and animals. Yes they are both living things as we were well taught in school, yet there is a difference. Animals are higher up the list – they move and they think, so they aren’t quite the same as plants.

And so.. I continue to find an explanation that will shut at least one of the two NriMaamis up, but haven’t so far.

So, before I go on further about this and end up either converting a few of you meat-eating folks to vegetarians or I end up antagonizing the few readers I have, all I can say is

Poor happy pigs, apparently they taste better !

Missing in Action?

Hello everyone. I would have loved to make a grand announcement saying that I am back but then I don’t quite want to jinx myself by doing that. So, let’s just say I am making a serious attempt to get back into the habit of blogging.

A lot of things have happened since my last post almost two months ago.

  • No – my hair did not all turn black, it’s continues down the expected dreaded path of fading and falling.
  • The seasons have changed (for the better I must add). The grass is green, the sun is brighter than a tube-light and birds are constantly chirping (and building nests in my grill).
  • I am a year older (boo hoo) and so is my daughter (boo hoo again for she has moved on from terrible twos to more terrible threes)
  • I was almost relieved to not get a surprise birthday party this year, but guess what? I now own a Wii, Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Guitar Hero World Tour and the Wii Dance Party 2.
  • However, it’s very unfortunate that Wii Fit describes me as being obese and wonders how I don’t trip over myself when I walk!
  • And I am not loving my Wii male gym instructor – he has no name but has a perfect body and balance and can do push-ups as easily as one could swallow ghee dripping badam halwa .
  • I am no longer a desi-consultant and relax folks, I am not out of a job (yet?) (P.S: Prem, please no potentially negative comments on this line and the one below with your “thiruvaay”)
  • I have a job that I am really liking (at this point in time)
  • I most certainly do not enjoy the annoying production support pager which knows no night or day.
  • I managed to celebrate the Saradu pandigai (a.k.a Karadayan Nombu) minus the Adai and falling at my husband’s feet (which I offered just in case he was so inclined but thankfully he was not)
  • We also celebrated Sree Ramanavami. I made everything + Neer mor + Paanakam + Vada Paruppu. As always, I pitied poor Lord Rama for having such modest demands in comparison to Lord Krishna who makes everyone slog all day for a more delicious meal.
  • We then welcomed the Tamil New Year (even though some atheists seem to think that it is not the new year) as well as we possibly could considering it was a Tuesday morning and I had to leave home at 8:00 for a 9:00 meeting.
  • We have decided to do as many 1 day road trips during the weekends as possible. We’ve already done the local zoo, Starved rock state park and Brookfield zoo. Next plan is St.Louis.
  • We managed to get some family portraits in which we look like ourselves.
  • And finally thanks to the wonderful search engines and your blog rolls, my daily hits have stayed respectable.

So, that’s the roundup of events in the past two months. I  hope to be back as often as possible, until then “Iniya Puthaandu Nal Vaazhthukkal”!

To dye or not to dye..

I have always been a true believer of aging gracefully. Of course I am not talking about being mature and pardoning and all that. I am talking about letting your hair fall or gray at it’s own will with no interference from you. My parents did that for most part – my father quite helplessly got to his present semi-bald state, and my mother interfered minimally with her graying thinning hair with irregular mehendi treatments.

Being so miserable at any means of self-maintenance myself, I’ve always wondered in awe at women who always dress impeccably and have manicured nails and perfect makeup. I also wonder at people who keep their hair colored perfectly, but I am mostly shocked by those who make very shoddy attempts at trying to keep their hair black. I have an uncle, who tried very hard with regular die, kali mehendi, herbal treatments, ayurvedic treatments and homeopathic treatments. His hair colored varied so wildly that every time I saw him, he looked very different from the last time I had seen him.

Some of my friends, have been coloring their hair for the past few years in shades of brown and burgundy. They’ve always envied me for having perfectly black hair, and attributed it to me being younger, which brings me to the story of my hair.

My hair had low self-esteem for a very long time. As long as my mother was responsible for my hair, I think I did fine. She did regular oil baths with shikha podi and oiled my hair all through the week. Once I became an obnoxious teenager, most of that stopped. I stopped oiling my hair, because I thought bouncing hair that didn’t stick to my head looked much cooler, I started using shampoo because that smelled better and was easier to wash off. Over a period of time, I realized my hair was growing where I didn’t want it to, and falling where I didn’t want it to fall from. My mother of course, told me in as many words as possible that it was because I did not listen to her. Once I landed in the US, and went for my first hair-cut, the hair dresser “wow”ed and “aaaw”ed so much at my hair, that I realized it was probably a lot better than I had imagined all these years. Hence my only regret since then has remained that my husband was not so awed by my beautiful locks and in general didn’t care if I had any or not.  

All was fine in hair territory until last week, within a period of two days I spotted three strands of white hair, and I am not even 30 yet! I am torn between not interfering in my natural aging process and having my hair colored. Clearly I am not old enough to age! Now I might end up having to be one of those women, who make hair coloring appointments, show up on time and have someone spread gooey stuff all over the head. I would have to sit there and pretend to be relaxing, while my mind would take off contemplating all the impossible things that could happen to my life, have a competition between my brain and the clock to see how accurately I can count time, read boring gossip magazines and learn useless pieces of information about people I don’t know or care about.

To dye or not to dye – that is the question, and the answer is as tangled as my hair can ever get!

Vratham Varuthams!

Vratham Varuthams (Worries) plague me from time to time. My mother does this Tuesday Vratham – no particular God she says, just good for the system and pray to all Gods. Few years ago, my husband had applied for a US H1B visa, and control freak that I am, and chronic worrier that I am, my imagination conjured up a bunch of likely depressing scenarios if his visa was rejected. So, I decided since I could not personally interfere in matter of USCIS, the only option I had to feel in control was to start my own Tuesday vratham.

So, my mother’s version is that she eats oats or fruits for breakfast and eats tiffin at night. I decided to mimic the same version – well almost. My mother-in-law who was quite perturbed by the fact that a 23 year old newly married girl should put her health through such religious tests, suggested that it was ok to have “paitham kanji” (which is a porridge made of moong dal and jaggery) for breakfast, and fruits and other liquids for lunch and any kind of tiffin (including pongal) for dinner. So, I kept going and my husband got his US visa (much to my amazement). I instantly attributed that to my vratham. My next issue was that I had to join him soon – what if my H4 got rejected. So, I continued on until I reached the US and having happily settled with my husband in a new country of promise, it took me a few weeks of Taco Bell temptation to give up my Tuesday vratham.

Every time I gave up and happily ate guilt-free on Tuesdays, a few months down that path, something I didn’t want happening or something I wasn’t in control of happend. Immediately I would attribute it to my giving up the Tuesday vratham and would promptly restart it.

After many such iterations, my version of Tuesday vratham as it last existed came down to oats for breakfast, any number of bananas during the day, soup for lunch (provided it was onion-garlic free) on tiresome days and any amount of tiffin at night. Yes yes.. don’t laugh.. I know it’s hardly a vratham. But, coming to think of it for someone who is so in love with food as me, having to be on such a schedule even once a week can be very trying. Besides that, it is the thought that counts isn’t it?

Until yesterday, there were a bunch of uncertainties lurking around that were driving me crazy. This morning as I showered, I thought to myself, I should start my Tuesday vratham again, that’s probably why my life is so confused right now. Guess what, things miraculously got sorted out today.

I really have to start my Tuesday vratham again, before too many good things come my way and I lose focus again. What a  maami I am!

Happy Pongal!

Happy Pongal everybody! I had a fairly satisfying Pongal this year. For one, I steered clear of making any kind of Pongal for almost 2 weeks before the festival, just so I would not get lazy and bored of eating Pongal. My husband is still in India, so this year it was just my daughter and me.
Bhogi was a working day, yet in the evening, I decided to treat my daughter (and myself) to some Poli. I made about 6 or 7 polis in all, and we ate most of it without too much trouble.
On Pongal day, it was snowing outside so much that I decided to work from home. I put on her new cotton embroidered pavadai and boy! was she excited! Managed to find at least one “Ponga paanai” shaped vessel in which I boiled milk while my daughter made the ceremonial Pongal “a” Pongal (she somehow couldn’t get pongal o pongal) noises. Soon after, we had some delicious Ven Pongal and Chakkarai pongal ready to be offered to God and then eaten.
Yesterday morning, was the coldest day I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Yet, I decided we would do a quick Kanu tradition in the garage (like last year). So, it was Kanu on aluminium foil. We were both fully dressed in boots, sweater, jacket, hat and gloves. Quickly tossed all the colored rice balls I had made yesterday night, and we were good to go. My daughter asked me, if these were for the crows, where the rice for the pigeons were, to which I replied, the crows would take the food to the pigeons.

So Happy Pongal to all of you. Hope all of you got your share of Chakkarai pongal!