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Holiday tradition

Year end is the time we make an attempt to reconnect with our old neighbors. Usually, we make a trip to old neighborhood and visit them in person but this year meeting in person was not an option.

I added Adi’s old piano teacher (Mr.F) and my previous home neighbor to our list. I have to write about my previous home neighbor, Ms.L and how she taught me that empathy is beyond ethnicity, language and color.

In 2019, on the day I returned to US with kids after FIL passed away, my then neighbor Ms.L (American) sensed that we are back and rang the door bell in the afternoon. We chatted for a while, she got to know that I travelled alone with kids and that we are very tired from the long travel. After few hours, she again rang the bell and handed over two big boxes of hot Soup bought from a local diner. I can never forget this thoughtfulness and every time this incident flashed my mind, I feel more humble and thankful for her kindness.

So, this year I mailed handwritten card to all five of them. To all 3 grandma’s from my 2007-2013 home neighbor, Adi’s old piano teacher and Ms.L, my 2014-2019 home neighbor. I hope they will like it. I have told Adi that she has to stay in touch with all of them even beyond our days.

One of the grandma, Ms.H writes long email to me once every few months. The subject is always “Thinking of You” 🙂 That email puts up a wide smile in my face irrespective of my current mood.

Santa arrival and Detox day

I am picking up one of the post from draft for today.

22nd Dec 2019 will be remembered as a technology detox day. I mentioned before that this winter break we chose to just stay home. So on the first day of the break we decided to keep it a technology detox day. All day spent by playing board games, lazing around, baking and having family meals. I bought few board games and they were put to good use during the holidays.

That’s LHB writing letter to Santa while we were playing Sequence.

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Christmas – This year, Santa left his boot prints when he came through chimney to deliver the presents. He ate the cookies, drank the milk and we also left some food for reindeer on the backyard deck. They were polished off by the reindeer. Guess they were very hungry.

LHB was very excited to see all this in the morning and he got the presents he asked for (bey blades and pokemon cards). I want to play along as long as the belief lasts..

Some pictures:

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letter to santa

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Santa’s foot prints

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Santa’s foot prints

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Food for reindeer

 

Thanksgiving – 2019

Better late than never has become the motto of this blog. Recording Thanksgiving 2019 in my very own little space for posterity sake.

A friend family spent thanksgiving with us. They stayed with us for a night and we cooked a storm for thanksgiving spread. The friend wanted to try turkey roast but we settled on chicken. It didn’t come out perfect, not everyone liked it but I would say it turned out decent enough for first attempt.

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From left to right:

Lasagna (I burned it little in broil mode) – Adi’s and friend’s daughters made this
Corn muffin
Baked cauliflower in white sauce
Challah bread – Adi brushed the bread with garlic/butter and baked it
Mutton fry
Biriyani (leftover)
Chicken roast pan dripping gravy
White rice
Whole chicken roast
Rasam
Moong dal Kosambari (garnished with pomegranate)
Ghee rice
Stuffing mix with onions and celery

We started cooking the feast at about 1pm after a heavy breakfast and had dinner at 6:30pm. Each of us shared what we are thankful for before the meal and had a great chat at the table.

I am thankful for too many things to count. Family’s good health, kids, safety, friends, job, extended family and many more. It is a wonderful life and let’s be thankful for all that is offered to us every single day.

Happy thanksgiving to all my readers!

 

Singapore vacation – Part 2 – Day 94

It was a 10 day trip covering top tourist attractions in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Here is the travel itinerary. Hope its useful to someone planning a trip!

Day 1 – We reached midnight and decided to take it light on first day. So, spent morning with cousin family, went to BFF home for lunch and then visited M’s school friend in the evening.

Day 2 – Jurong bird park. Surprisingly this topped Adi’s list when we spoke about favorites from the trip. Dinner with friend at Little India.

Day 3 – Flew to Langkawi. Spent the evening at beach and just roamed around the streets exploring options for next day.

Day 4 – Mangrove day trip, sky bridge and eagle square. The day trip is a popular package for any first time visitors. Spent most of the day in motor boat, visited bat cave, floating fish farm, eagle watch and spent some time at a private island beach. Evening went to sky bridge. The cable car ride was breathtaking. Then took a cab to Eagle square to just take a picture in front of that humongous eagle.

Day 5 – Skipped other plans and decided to spend the day at beach. We stayed just opposite to the beach and what I enjoyed the most was the hot breakfast provided by the hotel at roof top. Flew to Kula lumpur in the evening and retired early after deciding on the plans for next day.

Day 6 – The location of hotel at KL was unexpectedly far from city so we hired a taxi for all day that would take us to all places and then drop us at the airport in the evening. Initial plan was to explore local trains but we settled with taxi as suggested by hotel front desk to make the best use of 1 day at KL.

Started the day at 6am – visited Batu caves murugan temple, oldest Mariamman temple, Twin tower, Suria KLCC mall, Chinese temple and then reached airport. The driver cum tour guide was an awesome guy. He took family pictures from best spots and bought us a water bottle at Chinese temple. We chatted about Chinese culture and how things are changing with generations. I have couple of interesting happenings from today to share and it deserves a separate post. Boarded flight back to Singapore in the night.

Day 7 – Cloud forest, Gardens by the bay, Merilion, Flyer and dinner at extended family’s home.

Day 8 – River safari, Chinese temple at Little India, China town, Mustafa shopping, dinner with cousin family at Anjappar chettinad restaurant.

Day 9 – Sentosa (It has water park. we didn’t go prepared with change of clothes but still couldn’t let go of the water slides 🙂 )

Day 10 – Legoland at Johor Bahru Malaysia. We took a tour package where the provider will ride us to/fro to the park and help with immigration clearance to enter/exit Malaysia. The uber ride in the morning to reach boarding point was an interesting experience. The guy we booked came on time but turned us down saying he doesn’t have permit to ride 5 year old, then we had to book another cab that took forever to come and we got caught in the peak hour traffic. It was a mad rush but we made it to the bus.

Day 11 – Fly to India. My cousin and her 2 year old came with us too.

Rest of the vacation time was spent in India with attending an engagement, marriage, LHB’s 3rd tonsure and ear piercing at family deity temple, first ever late night movie show with M, visiting local temples, friends, friend’s parents, relatives, solo weekend trip to Chennai, meet with college friends, meet with school girls gang, Ganesha making for Vinayakar chathurthi and unlimited gorging of all delicacies prepared by Amma.

Snow day – Impromptu Sleepover – Day 54/5

School is closed today too. So, a short visit by the neighbor kid yesterday evening turned to be an impromptu sleepover. I am glad to have this family as my neighbor as her mom keeps me updated with any local/community news and the girl is a good companion to Adi. They are in same grade and have similar kind of interest like no makeup, no face wash, no hair brushing, live out of just two pairs of shirt and jeans et all

Banana walnut cake – check (Made by the girls duo)

Family board game – check (We played Trouble and LHB was a trouble all through the game misplacing our coins and distracting us)

Movie watching – check (Watched Coco. I recommend this movie to all. Must watch. My plan was to setup the bed, blankets, kids, start the movie and then catch up on my office work but my eyes were glued to the screen all through the movie). Again LHB was a trouble maker initially asking to sit between the girls, not sharing pillows but then slowly he settled down when we threatened that if he is not cooperating he has to go upstairs to sleep. Towards the last 30 minutes, he came to my lap and we wrapped up the movie with cuddles and warm hugs.

LHB didn’t quite like the idea of Adi having a sleepover with her friend. He kept asking where will they sleep? they will not allow me to sleep with them. I will have a sleepover when I am a big boy.

I could see the jealous in his eyes. So, all four of us decided to sleep upstairs while M was chucked out of the room. He was convinced by that and filled his Akka with sorry’s, hugs and kisses for all his naughty act so far.

More giggles happened during bedtime and Adi did a little bit of show off brushing her teeth during bedtime (which otherwise never happens without me reminding her 10 times) and asking her friend if she doesn’t brush during bedtime 🙂

Yesterday was a snow day well spent! Let’s see how today unfolds!!

That’s LHB doing starfall in the evening

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Christmas tradition – Day 40

This year the tradition was followed last Sunday. Those who have been reading my blog for few years would know about our tradition by now. We visit our ex-neighbors in old neighborhood to wish them for Christmas and New year. And stroll through the neighborhood to re-live Adi’s childhood memories.

I prepared fish kuzhambu on Saturday evening and it was packed for Sunday lunch. Surprisingly the kuzhambu (curry) was liked licked by everyone including LHB. Every time he got into the car, he was like Amma get me my fish rice and was relishing it while on the go. Adi who always complains that I never get the flavors right its always either more or less and never the perfect also liked it.

Patti’s are doing good. The elder of the 3 is using walker and she was complaining about how the snow is keeping her inside. She wants to go out for a walk and is climbing stairs every day to access her bedroom. The youngest (our favorite of the 3) patti is busy helping her cousin who is fighting cancer and visiting extended family who needs assistance. Her energy at this age is commendable.

Then, we also visited another elderly couple in neighborhood. The aunty who has a full time job during weekdays was out to a local temple to help with food preparation. Here I am just a little above half of her age, cribbing about not getting time to rest on weekends and this Aunty is out to help on weekends too. These woman are my true inspirations to keep up my energy level.

Of course, we visited our favorite bakery and gorged on mango cake, cashew brownies, double chocolate cake, plain brownies and chicken empanadas. I loved how LHB, the strict officer allowed us to take one bite from his piece, just one bite though. When Adi reached out for the second bite, he said “no Akka no” you already had your bite. Its Amma’s turn now. Amma take it, take it and he was blocking Adi with his cute little hands while I proudly digged in and claimed my one bite. I didn’t get my masala chai from the Indian street though 😦

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Old neighborhood

 

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Gifts all packed…

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Adi’s doodle in patti’s cards. I also added a family photo of ours in the card. 

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Library – that saw us every week few years ago

Holiday Gifts – Day 36

Winter holidays are almost here… I spent last three hours in amazon and ordered all sorts of gifts. For Adi’s different sets of teachers, for an extended family we are visiting next weekend, for friends visiting this weekend, for Adi’s girls gang, for my colleague, for M’s colleague, for LHB and for Adi. I am glad to be done with this humongous task. I love that ceramic intricate designed flower vase I chose for Adi’s piano teacher.

I any given day prefer a handpicked okay mouse-picked gift over a gift card. Though gift card is convenient and saves time, I never remembered how I used that cards I received unless it is from a very special store. Having said that, I did buy a bunch of cards from the gift card shop setup at my office this year. They sell 0% transaction fee card during holiday season. Planning to use it for LHB’s teachers, ex-neighbors and another extended family for the lack of choice.

Now to the receiving part, I received my first gift from a colleague. She made different type of chocolates last weekend and brought it for the team on Monday. It was neatly wrapped and below is her description about those chocolates.

It’s candy bark based on 3 winter feelings:
1 — Strolling through the cool air, freshly fallen powdered snow, looking at holiday decorations outside
White chocolate + crushed candy canes + cinnamon
2 — Sitting by the glowing fireplace, wrapped in blankets, sipping a warm drink
Milk chocolate + butterscotch + cardamom + clove + chili + dried orange peels
3 — Under the night stars, the cool snow crunching with each step, walking among a winter forest
Dark chocolate + cranberries + pumpkin seeds + candied ginger + evergreen pine syrup

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P.S: I am slowly making progress with blog hopping. Pardon me if you are bombarded with my comments for all your posts at one go.

 

2016 India trip

Wowww is all I can say about last year’s India trip. It is one of the memorable trip that I will cherish forever. M and I took turns, had an overlap of one week and kept kids at India for 7 weeks last summer.

There were are lot of firsts in this trip. We landed at Trichy airport and went straight to my hometown Thanjavur. Sneaked out to chennai for 3 days in the first week with parents in tow and spent the rest of the 3.5 weeks at Thanjavur. It was the first time I got to spend extended time with my brother at parent’s home after about 15 years!!! We roamed around the city with 4 kids every other evening, watched Kabali night show with my father (he dozed off even before the title was over and promptly woke up for the climax!!). Driving in the small town at 1am after the movie was a different experience.

Visited my native village (it was a painful trip with most of my previous generation not there anymore) , toggled between the parents and in-laws constantly, went to a book fair in local, read Jayakanthan’s tamil novel “Sila nerangalil sila manidhargal”, spent most evening chatting with neighbors/relatives sitting in easy chair at front porch, visited local temples numerous times to attend all that pooja arranged by Amma. At some point Adi wakes up to ask “Are we eating non vegetarian for lunch today?” and gets very excited if we reply with “yes”. Her theory is then it means we are not going to any temple today!!! I warned Amma clearly to take it easy during future visits.

I travelled back alone and the next 3 weeks of living alone in US seemed like a year. WhatsApp and Skype kept me closer to kids though.

Some pictures:

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Birthday card for paternal thatha by Adi

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At Saravana bhavan

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Jetlag

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Sangeetha’s poori

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Sangeetha’s cone dosa

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All aboard upper sleeper berth to Chennai

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At Maya bro’s wedding reception

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Indoor playing

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Imaginary school bus with all amenities

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Brihadeeswarar temple – 10 mins away from home

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Hiding spot

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Getting ready for lunch

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Home grown veggies special lunch – banana flower poriyal, banana stem kootu, mango kuzhambu, keerai masiyal

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Cousins galatta

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Matching game with Nephew

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Yours truly in the middle

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I can do homework with eyes closed. I am talented yaa

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Look at that style! This pic has my other favorites too – tape recorder, cassette holder, sewing machine, beeg wooden box

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Mani mandapam

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Cousin bro’s second home. That’s the terrace

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Family deity temple pond

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Family deity temple. Glad to have found it after 12 years!

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Ready for Jallikattu?

Urgent help please

Urgent help please.. Can someone please recommend some good christmas gift for Adi? I am tensed as she found the secret spot of already bought gifts 😦 I bought her the first book of HP series and a pack of nail colors and hid it at the kitchen shelf over gas range. Why o why should she open that particular shelf? I managed to say that I bought them to keep her occupied during our upcoming road trip. She is driving me nuts. I am not sure if she still believes in Santa but she tells me what she wishes for. May be she expects that I will buy it for her. I don’t know and I don’t want to be the person to break the surprise. So, still playing Santa. She wants kids baking oven but I don’t want to buy that as its just waste of money and I am pretty sure that it will not be used more than few days!! Please help me with some ideas for gift.. For the little one, I will get some musical learning toy..

Life is at its craziest best at the moment and I broke the hiatus to reach out to you for help.. I am glad and happy to share that my blog friends (you, you and you) were the first to come to mind when I was confused and worried..

Happy Diwali

Happy and safe diwali to one and all..

After bursting the flower pots and chakras, Adi claims to be a firecracker expert. The girl has not seen the other side I say..

LHB was crying very badly till evening but not anymore. He now got used to the cracker bursting sounds all around..

And I made color kolam (Rangoli) at our doorstep after many many years. It took me back to my college days when I used to put those big big kolam in the month of Margazhi every night. Atleast one person crossing the street would enquire about my kolam to amma the next day. Adi picked the colors and helped with the kolam. I feel like re-living my childhood through Adi at India. She comes home and tells me excitingly about the new things she learns that were my favorite on my school days.

Thanks to IMC post by Preethi for the inspiration. It was a last minute plan after reading that post.

kolam

I made Gulab Jamun and Ribbon pakoda. Planning to make another batch tomorrow for distribution. I love festivals at India. The happiness all around is so contagious.

Happy and safe diwali to everyone again!