I’m an Aunt!

Late Wednesday evening, my niece was born.  She is the daughter of Satya’s brother and his wife.  Satya’s brother’s wife is also white-she is half French and half German.  Luckily, everything went smoothly without too many complications.  The mother started having contractions midnight Wednesday, went to the hospital around noon, had an epidural in the afternoon, and the baby was finally born around 10 pm. 

The baby is over 6 lbs and nearly 21 inches long.  She has lots of very dark, curly hair.  Satya is convinced the baby will look like his brother and like his mom-eyes, nose, shape of face.  I’m not sure yet.   I think the baby will have his brother’s eyes.  My sister in law is convinced the baby has Satya’s brother’s hands.  Satya thinks that the baby has his sister in law’s jaw line.  We will see. 

We were fortunate enough to see the proud parents and baby an hour after the birth.  The mother was pretty much wiped out exhausted sitting up in bed.  The father was walking around holding his new daughter proudly staring at her and showing her off.  The mother’s parents were there too.  The room did have a sacred feel to it somehow.  I feel lucky to have been with them for a few minutes. 

For Satya, he is extremely proud and happy that he is now an uncle.  He very much wants to see the baby again.  

It is interesting because both they and we are intercultural couples and we both have very different ways of dealing with those issues.  Everybody is different and not just culture, but personality plays a lot into it.  The new parents did take a lot of care to choose a name for the baby that works for both cultures.   The baby is named after a Hindu saint and name somewhat common in the U.S. as well.

Ideally, for the labor I’d want my mom with me as she has gone through it 4 times (3 times completely naturally) and maybe Satya to be there (I worry about him being grossed out though).  I know now he definitely does not want to cut the umbilical cord.  He definitely wants his parents to be close by-in the waiting room and with us soon after the birth.  I feel ok about that because his parents are not pushy and I know they would want to be there to share the moment with us.  I want the baby to be baptized and he wants the baby to have a naming ceremony and the ceremony where the baby receives its own Linga.  We do not know what ceremonies his brother’s baby will receive. 


We shall see…………

Kadhalan Movie Review

In honor of A.R. Rahman’s Oscar wins, Satya showed me some of A.R. Rahman’s songs on YouTube.  We loved the songs “Urvasi” and “Mukkala” from the movie Kadhalan and Prabhu Deva’s dance moves so we requested Kadhalan from Netflix.  It was my first Tamil movie. 


Overall, I’d agree with other reviews of the movie that the music was amazing, the dancing was amazing but the actual movie was odd. 


A rough outline of the plot is that a young college guy (Prabhu Deva) falls in love with a politician’s daughter (Nagma).  He at first makes fun of her traditional dance classes, but after talking with his father he learns that he will earn her respect and trust if he takes in interest in her hobby rather than mocking it.  The politician turns out to be corrupt and is involved in bomb plots so that the government can be discredited.  Prabhu Deva gets caught up in all this and is taken into police custody.  The police torture him in all sorts of gruesome ways-making him wear a cloth infested with biting ants, giving him insect infested food, sticking ice in unpleasant places, etc.  One of the saddest scenes was when his father discovers that he has been torturing his own son.  The father asks the son to let go of his fantasy of winning the girl in order to stop the torture, but Prabhu Deva refuses.  Somehow he gets free and charms the girl’s crazy grandparents.  Eventually, good triumphs over evil and boy gets girl. 


Pluses: I liked the scenes between Prabhu and his dad.  I thought his dad gave him great advice.  The love story was kind of sweet.  Prabhu’s college friend was funny.


Minuses: Too many fight scenes and too much torture.  The movie kind of dragged after intermission and felt too long.


I was surprised at how much Tamil sounds like Kannada.  Both languages seem to use the same tones.  Kannada has a kind of “eh” drone when people pause that Tamil also seems to share.  Perhaps I’m not describing that clearly.  Satya was surprised at how many Tamil words he was able to understand.  This really shouldn’t surprise us that much though since both languages are in the Dravidian family. 


I liked seeing things I’d never seen before like the clear, see-through buses.  The dressing style seems to be more colorful than even that in Kannada movies.  It seems usually that Kannada guys do not wear many bright colors, but in this movie there were lots.  The scenery was gorgeous too.  Satya said some of the locations are in Karnataka-like the white building where Prabhu Deva’s character first spots Nagma’s.  Varanasi is another location seen in the movie. 


Overall, I agree that the music and music videos are not to be missed.  They are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, especially Mukkala’s Tamil version of the Old West.

Indian Folktale

As part of my job as a children’s librarian I am trying to improve my storytelling skills.  This has resulted in reading lots of folktales.  Here is a strange one I found in Judy Sierra’s The Flannelboard Storytelling book published in 1987. 


There once was a parrot and a cat who were friends.  One day they decided to go to each other’s homes to share a meal together.  First it was the cat’s turn.  The cat gave the parrot a salty fish to eat.  Next, it was parrot’s turn.  The parrot cooked 500 small, spicy cakes and gave the cat 498 cakes and kept two for himself. 


“I’m still hungry,” said the cat. 


“Here, eat my 2 cakes,” said the parrot.  And the cat ate the two cakes.


“I’m still hungry,” said the cat. 


“Well, I have no more food.  You ate it all.  If you’d like, you can eat me.” Said the parrot. 


And the cat ate the parrot.


A woman was standing in the parrot’s doorway as the cat ate the parrot.  She said to the cat, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” 


“I was hungry.” Said the cat.  “In fact, I’m still hungry so I’ll eat you too.”  And the cat ate the old woman.


The story continues like this, and the cat goes on to eat a man and his donkey, a king and his elephant, and two crabs for dessert. 


Everyone is miserable and complaining in the cat’s stomach until the crabs decide to snip open the cat’s stomach.  Everyone is freed.  The elephant carries the fainted king away with his trunk.


The parrot gets back his two small, spicy cakes. 


The cat spends the rest of the day sewing up her stomach.


(Judy Sierra is a much better writer than me.  If you are looking for some fun folktales to tell or looking for flannelboard patterns, her book is absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend it!)


Can anyone find a moral to the story?  My interpretation is that if you are a bird, it is pointless trying to be friends with a cat.  Also, being greedy will leave you friendless and alone sewing your stomach.


Has anyone heard of this folktale before?  Where did it come from? 


Like the folktale?  Hated it?  I told it to my mom in abbreviated form and she hated the story because she said there isn’t anything kids can learn from the story.

Kitchen Essentials

I’ve been thinking a lot about food and cooking recently.  Below, is a list of our most used kitchen utensils.  Some of the things on the list I’d never used before cooking with Satya and some he’d never used before.  For all of you in intercultural relationships, what are some of your favorites and which ones were new to you?

Pressure Cooker-We use this for nearly everything: sambhars, rice, or mixed bean and veggie dishes like bisi bhele bhath.  It certainly does make cooking easier and faster.  We like it a lot more than our old rice cooker so now the rice cooker sits in the back of a cupboard.


We received our pressure cooker as a wedding present.  Satya asked for it as I guess they are extremely popular in India.  My family didn’t trust me with one since they had visions of the older, more dangerous versions from the ’70s and since I’m not the most mechanically inclined person.  Ours was a gift from his brother’s in-laws. Fortunately, nothing has gone terribly wrong and it is easy to use.  Ours has a timer and a few different settings.  When it is done, it goes on to the warm setting so the food never gets cold. 


Small Chopper/Grinder-It is very useful for grinding roasted and fried spices, for making guacamole, and for quickly chopping things like onions.  Along with the pressure cooker this is one of our most used kitchen supplies.


Lots of Spices-Last January when we first started cooking Indian food together we went to the Indian grocery store and stocked up on dried beans, soji, and spices. Spices are A LOT cheaper at Indian grocery stores and fortunately keep for a long time.  Most of our spices are kept in plastic bags in a wicker basket.  This is definitely not ideal, but is what we have at the moment.  We have a few salt and pepper containers and some of those larger glass containers with clasp closures, but not enough yet. 


Blender: Great for making mango lassis and smoothies. 


Mortar & Pestle: We use this for quickly grinding almonds or cashews.  It is easier to clean than the chopper/grinder.  We found a smallish one at the Indian grocery store.  I thought Satya’s mom would be thrilled to see that we had one, but her response was, “Get an electric one.  It is easier.” 


Wok from Ikea: One of our most practical purchases.  I think we purchased ours for $8 or $9 and so far it has held up well. 


Spatula: This is one of Satya’s favorite things.  He never used one until last year. 


Grater: We use this to grate everything from ginger to cucumber to carrots.  Satya is a big fan of ginger. 


Rubber can/bottle opener: Have a tough jar to open?  These have definitely made our lives easier.  This was another new discovery for Satya, but we consider these another great investment.  So far they’ve worked for us every time. 


What are your kitchen essentials?

Relationship Meme

This meme is from GoriGirl’s site.  I loved reading the stories of various couples, so finally decided to add mine as well. 

What are your middle names?
Marie is mine.  I also have my Catholic confirmation name of Lydia.  Lydia was to commemorate my trip to Greece with my aunt.  Lydia was the first European Christian, according to the New Testament.  In Greece we got to see the stream she supposedly was baptized in so when I had to choose a confirmation name I chose hers. 

Satya does not have one officially.  Here in the U.S. he will sometimes use his father’s name as his middle name. 

How long have you been together?
Our first date was the end of August ’07 and this week is our first wedding anniversary. 

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
Hmm, we started communicating on eHarmony in July.  By the end of September we were dating seriously.

Who asked whom out?
I clicked on him first on eHarmony.  I liked that he liked traveling, knew so many languages, and said that he loved to paint.  I didn’t like it when he said, “Don’t think you have me just because I answer e-mails quickly,” or something like that.  I thought he sounded arrogant with that sentence, and so hesitated a lot before clicking on him.  Luckily, in real life he is not arrogant at all and is a sweetheart.

We went back and forth with our messages (eHarmony’s process is a bit exhausting).  He set up the first date.  I canceled because I wasn’t feeling well and because I was burned out on dating.  Luckily, we both made it to our first date the next week.

How old are each of you?
He is 30 and I’m 28. 

Whose siblings do you see the most?
His.  His brother lives a little over an hour away.  Mine are in Minnesota and Washington state.  His sister lives in California and last March we visited her for a few days. 

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
I think we both feel we are a bit in limbo with him finishing up his PhD.  The uncertainty of when he will finish, where we will move, and him having to deal with a bully of an advisor is very stressful.  Also, living in a studio is tough sometimes-we are looking forward to having walls soon.  On the bright side, living in a studio means that we’ve learned a lot about each other this past year.

Did you go to the same school?

Not even close.

Are you from the same home town?

Who is smarter?
I’d have to say him.  He is a genius at math and computers and somehow even managed to get a very high GRE score in English.  Also, he was one of Karnataka’s best students in German when he was in high school.

Who is the most sensitive?
Him, easily.  If you look up the male Virgo, you will find his picture right there.  On the bright side, he is very caring. 

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
NJ has some delicious, affordable South Indian restaurants and our favorite is called Tanjore.  Another one of our standbys is Subway.  We get the footlong veggie delights with 3 or 4 sauces-Sweet Onion, Chipotle, and Honey Mustard.  Satya cannot live without his sauces.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
California was the furthest we’ve traveled so far together.  We’ve also been to Minnesota and to Washington state together. 

Who has the craziest exes?
Me.  He went out on a lot of dates, but didn’t actually have a relationship with any of them until me.  For him, the thing about Indians not dating was true.

Who has the worst temper?
Mine is much more visible and vocal.  He is a silent, cold lump when he is angry.  Fortunately, neither of us can stay angry for long and most of our arguments involve lots of laughter.

Who does the cooking?
Both of us do the cooking.  We like to cook our elaborate meals together.  Our biggest disagreement about cooking is about following recipes.  I like to know what will happen next and why we are doing things.  He likes to very loosely keep to recipes.  I think that is an American vs. Indian thing.  Usually we cook Indian meals because I don’t know many vegetarian Minnesota meals except for grilled cheese sandwiches.

Who is the neat-freak?
Him definitely.  See reference above about him being a Virgo. He likes to say I needed a Virgo in my life to keep me organized. 

Who is more stubborn?
We discussed some of these questions before and on this one we disagree.  I say he is the most stubborn and he says I am. 

Who hogs the bed?
We disagree again.  I say he does, he says I do. 

Who wakes up earlier?
At the moment it is me most of the time because of work.  He can survive on much less sleep than I can, though.  I wish I had that ability : ) 

Where was your first date?
Art Museum.  I was very impressed that he bought the tickets and had the little pins all ready when I arrived.  The first thing I noticed about him was his eyes-very warm and gorgeous.  We walked around the museum and I was impressed by how he enjoyed noticing the details of the pieces and his fun comments.  After that we sat by the river eating jello cups. 

He proposed at the same place we met.

Who is more jealous?
I will guess him. 

How long did it take to get serious?
I think for me, I knew it was serious after our third or fourth date.  He knew before that.  He also knew by the fifth or sixth date he wanted to marry me, although I didn’t figure that out for another few months. 

Who eats more?
He does, definitely.  You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but he can eat a lot. 

Who does the laundry?
Mostly me. 

Who’s better with the computer?
Definitely him-it is his PhD subject. 

Who drives when you are together?
Definitely him.  I’m still working on getting my driver’s permit.

Minnesota Comfort Food-Chocolate Eclair Dessert

Recently, my aunt in Minnesota sent me my grandma’s recipe for Chocolate Eclair desert.  This is one of my family’s favorite desert recipes and is often made during the winter.  Don’t get scared off by the fancy name-it is very simple.  It goes together very quickly…..the hardest part is waiting a day or two for it to chill in the refrigerator. 

Here is the recipe as my aunt sent it to me:

1 box Honey Graham Crackers Whole
2 pkgs.  French Vanilla Jello Instant Pudding
1 – 9oz container Cool Whip

6 oz. chocolate chips
2 Teaspoons white Karo Syrup
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3 Tablespoons melted Butter
1-1/2 Cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons milk

Butter 9 X 13 pan.  Line with whole graham crackers.  Make pudding using 1/4 Cup less milk than directed.  Blend in Cool Whip.  Pour 1/2 mixture over crackers and then put down another layer of crackers.  Pour the rest of the pudding mixture over the crackers.  Top with another layer of crackers.  Mix frosting.  Melt the chips in a double boiler and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until the lumps from the powdered sugar are gone.  Spread frosting on top of crackers.  Chill for 2 days before serving.  (Refrigerate at least overnight before serving as it needs to set and will be easier to cut and serve.)

My aunt went on to note with sadness that graham crackers today are not what they used to be.  She claims they’ve shrunk so make sure you have another package on hand if needed!

Many recipes in Minnesota require Cool Whip.  Another family favorite recipe is simply called “green salad”.  If you happen to go to a potluck church meal in the Upper Midwest you may find it.  “Green salad” is actually cottage cheese, cool whip, sour cream, madarin oranges, and green jello mix with cherries sprinkled on the top.  No, Green salad was not considered dessert.  It was considered healthy because of the fruit and dairy in it and was served with the main meal. 

Another popular ingredient to family meals is cream of mushroom soup.  I will ask for my aunt’s tunafish hotdish recipe and put it here.  Tunafish hotdish is popular during Lent, especially on Fridays.  Today, my mom can’t stand it because she ate it so much as a kid, but my aunt still loves it.  Tunafish hotdish is usually accompanied by blueberry muffins.