The Big 4-0

5 Jan

My birthday is coming up soon. I’m turning forty. I never thought it would happen to me, really. It was something that other people went through, but it always seemed far, far away from me, like something that would never catch up with me.

I don’t agonize over a number, and I have no problem disclosing my age, nevertheless, it is shocking to realize that I’m no longer a young girl starting out in life. I have lived.

I’ve experienced sorrow and loss, and those have clearly left their mark, but I’ve also been happy and fulfilled, and although I have much to regret, as we all do when we add it all up, the two sides are not in equal measure: the balance is definitely in my favor.

My middle age is staring me in the face, but I’m not yet so worn out and insipid that I don’t feel excitement over little things that give me pleasure, like finding a long-lost seashell I brought home from Cape Cod the year I turned 30. I still giggle and swoon like a teenager whenever I see a yummy new picture of Colin Firth…my family thinks I’m crazy, the way I carry on.

I don’t want to be silly, but I want to be earnest, I want to feel every emotion and value it for what it is, I want to live in the moment, to be aware of myself and those around me.

I am no longer young in age, but I hope to still be young ‘in warmth and kindness’* in spite of it.

* North & South, Elizabeth Gaskell

The Reason For My Silence

4 Mar

If you follow international news at all, you will know that things here are spiralling out of control and that an ugly side of this society has been revealed for everyone to see.

I have much to say about what I see, but I think it’s best if I keep my opinions to myself.

In the meantime, I am well and happy, taking pleasure in the little things, the health and happiness of my children, the steady, generous nature of my husband and the precious joy of my books, my memories.

 

Postcards from Pakistan

30 Sep

Smokey Barbecue

Chicken boti, chicken kebab on a charcoal grill at Dera Restaurant.

Dera Restaurant in Lahore

View of the open-air kitchen from my table.

Cooking Non-stop

The cooks. Dinner was yummy.

To see more postcards, go here .

My Heart on My Sleeve

2 Aug

I made this button yesterday, because I feel like wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Last year I decided to stop obsessing about politics, to stop monitoring every website and reading every critical article that came my way, and living half a world away the commitment has not been difficult to keep, but since I arrived in the United States it has become very obvious to me that the tide has turned for the Obama White House, much to my regret.

I am disappointed because I find the constant criticism terribly unfair. I happen to think that President Obama has done as well as he could given the circumstances. He has walked the mire and come out of it with major victories, I just don’t see what there is to criticize, and it’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that on the whole he is not being slammed for gaffes or miscalculations, but simply for being who he is.

I’ll speak frankly now and say that, in general, I consider Republican people to be rather mean and unfeeling folk, who care for no-one except their own kind, but if there is one thing about them that I think is worth emulating, it’s their willingness to stand up for their cause, as well as their unwavering support for their leaders. We Democrats should learn a thing or two about it, and while they can twist and manipulate the discourse in ways that are, in my view, nothing short of dishonorable, I envy them their mastery of the message, and the efficiency and confidence with which they control the discourse.

So if you are Democrat, if you are Liberal, I have a message for you: Make a statement, support your president and stand up for what you believe in, and for goodness’ sake don’t walk away from helping the politicians who share your values, and whether you think Barack Obama has delivered on every promise he made on the campaign trail or not, the only ones who will benefit if you withdraw your support are the same people who nearly ruined the country in the first place.

Do you really want to see Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich as the President of the United States? Because I’m afraid that’s what’s going to happen if we continue to apologize for what we believe in and  fail to learn to be proud of our principles, which history and common sense have shown us are morally upright.

I hope we find our spine and fight the good fight, the country will be the loser if we don’t.

Button made using Da Button Factory.

Ten Things I Love About America

25 Jun

Once again I have made the long journey home to America for the summer with my two little kids, a couple of suitcases, and a handful of dreams.

I dreamed of a leafy street, of my mother’s kitchen and my father’s smile, my children’s laughter and their wide-eyed wonder. I dreamed of home.

H-O-M-E. It feels good to spell it out. I’ve been thinking about all the things I love about this country, and I’m amazed at how, regardless of the time I’ve been away, I seem to fit in the moment I get back.

I made a list, because things become real to me when I write them down.

  1. Diversity. It’s good. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I’ve seen what happens in a closed society, where fear and mistrust of outsiders are the norm.
  2. Respect. For people, for animals, for dreams and hopes.
  3. Opportunity. The chance to work for what you want, the chance to get it, the right to keep it.
  4. Freedom. The right to be what you want, do what you want, dress how you want, love whom you want.
  5. Work. There is so much a woman can do here, there are no limits.
  6. Accountability. Actions have consequences, and carelessness and negligence do not go unpunished.
  7. Education. You can be the best here, study anything, learn anything, regardless of your age.
  8. Rules. Life is better for everyone when people follow the rules, from how to drive a car to waiting your turn and standing in line.
  9. Order. I love properly planned houses and properly planned roads.
  10. Efficiency. Things work as they are supposed to. The lights come on when you flip the switch, the water flows when you turn the tap, the shop opens when it says it will…

Pakora

25 May

Pakora

Pakora, the delicious tea-time-any-time snack of Pakistan, has become a staple at my house. It’s a crispy, flavorful addition to my recipe collection that I will take with me wherever I go.

There are many variations: I’ve had cabbage and onion with a hint of soy pakora for a Chinese twist; I’ve had onion and spinach bundles, eggplant slices, chicken pieces and even boiled eggs coated with batter and fried for a heavy, fulfilling treat.

Some people I know add an egg or two to the batter mixture, but unless I’m making a big batch, I find it doesn’t need it. I suggest you try it first without it, you can always add it later. It’s a very forgiving recipe, and everyone I know here has her own version.

The main ingredient in pakora is besan, which is a flour made out of chickpeas, and if you have never cooked with it, you should make an effort to find it because it’s delicious. It’s definitely worth a trip to the Asian store. You might also try looking for it in your local health food store, as it is a good vegan ingredient. The flavor of besan is so unique that I believe there is no substitute for it, but regular all-purpose flour can be used to make a potato fritter that is similar to pakora in shape and texture, although not in taste.

Ingredients

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks

1 medium onion, chopped

2 small green chilies, sliced (optional)

1 handful of cilantro, minced

½ teaspoon cilantro seeds (optional)

½ cup besan (also called gram flour)

salt & pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon chili powder (optional)

¼ cup water

oil for frying

Method

Place the potatoes, onions, chilies, cilantro and the seeds (if using) in a medium bowl and toss to combine.

Add the besan, a little at a time, mixing it in well (your hands are best for this).

Add the salt, pepper and the chili powder, if you are using it. Mix again to distribute evenly.

Pour the water using a spoon, little by little, until the flour is no longer powdery, but not too wet.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When the oil ripples, using your hands, take a handful of pakora mixture and gently and carefully place it in the hot oil, making sure your pakora stays together. Your can use a spoon if you prefer, but I find you have less control that way. If your fritter breaks up in the pan, quickly pat it into place before it sets, using a metal spatula or a slotted spoon.

Cook the pakora for a few minutes on one side until golden, then turn it and fry the other side. If the pakora has an irregular shape, move it around to make sure it cooks evenly on all sides.

Taste your pakora once it is cool, and make adjustments to your seasoning if you think you need it. Continue frying the rest of the batter until you’re done.

Pakora are served with ketchup, or sometimes with yogurt and mint chutney, but I like mine with chilmol, a tomato and onion relish from Honduras, where I grew up.

Chilmol

3 medium plum tomatoes

1 medium onion

salt & pepper to taste

squirt of lemon juice

Chop the tomatoes and the onion into small pieces. Place in a bowl and toss to combine.

Add the salt and pepper and toss. Pour a bit of lemon juice.

Check the seasoning and adjust.

You can add finely sliced cabbage, chopped cilantro, or cucumber pieces if you like. They all go well together for a cool, refreshing taste.

Still Here

8 May

Today I am dusting off the cover of this blog. I am pulling off the cobwebs and chasing away the dust bunnies, and I promise never again to let so much time pass between posts.

I never intended to take a break from writing, but I have been lazy. I have gone with the flow and let myself sit back a little bit too comfortably on the couch.

Well, I’m correcting that now with a quick update of where I am since I last wrote.

Gained ten pounds, lost 2

Ruffled feathers on the domestic front. Thoroughly enjoyed said ruffling.

Looking forward to moving to a smaller, better house.

Really looking forward to going home to America for the summer.

Baby son is not such a baby anymore.

Happy to have found a good school for my daughter.

Planning my daughter’s Sixth Birthday Party.

Planning, in my mind’s eye, our return to America in the next three years.

Getting better with the sewing machine.

Hoping to replace my cranky Pfaff sewing machine one day.

Learned to choose fabrics for dressmaking in Pakistan.

Enjoying a revival of sorts on the fashion front.

Happy to be writing on my blog again.

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