Back to School Blurb

I love Facebook for many many reasons. Birthday love. Vacation pics galore. Inappropriate overshares. I love it all. I especially love the beginning of school. I love all the happy, shiny faces with their new backpacks and lunch boxes heading into the new school year. I only have one picture of me that resembles anything close to a back-to-school shot growing up. I’m not sure where it is. In a grocery bag in a closet somewhere, I think.

That’s not said with any judgement or vilification, my mother or father literally drove me to school from 1st through 12th grade (I don’t think I went to Kindergarten. Is that legal?). Of all the things I never did growing up (like eat mustard, cream cheese or sour cream), I never rode a school bus. I mean I did on school trips and things – but never in the morning or back home. I’m not sure why my parents decided to do this and I’ve never asked why. Although they were over protective about weird things and then completely carefree about other things. Example, I wasn’t allowed to watch most American horror movies because there were bad words and boobs and yet Bollywood with it’s love to violence and rape was a green light in our house. Confusing no?

So I never rode a big yellow bus. But don’t you worry. I learned all the bad words and met all the bad friends anyway. I just did it at the lunch table. Eating my peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich on my Brick Oven bread. If you were nice to me I’d let you share my snack, oh wait, there was no snack. Just a sandwich and a thermos full of OJ. In high school I started buying my lunch. Actually I bought crackers and milk and pocketed the money for other things. Food wasn’t as important as the new U2 cd coming out. I know better now.

Happy back to school to all you kiddos. Enjoy the gluten-free, organically grown/fed/butchered lunch that probably cost more than my outfit. Hope there’s square pizza and fried tater tots in your future!

The Tiger’s Mother

Tomorrow my first born starts her junior year of high school. She’s in her room right now excitedly packing for the morning and humming a happy tune. Ok, not really. But she is getting ready. I cannot believe that at the end of this year she’ll be 1) driving a motor vehicle 2) thinking about which college she wants to go to and 3) be on the edge of 17. Just like the white wing dove.
If you believe in astronomy, and I do, she’s a Scorpio. To a capital T.
I also happen to believe the Chinese calendar, she’s a Tiger in that one. A born leader. Brave and warm-hearted. Sensitive and easily hurt but also fiercely protective of those around them. Yeah, that’s about right. She’s all that. And more. 
But tomorrow she’ll just be my little baby, going off to 11th grade.
I’d like to show you a picture of her leaving the house in the morning, in her uniform, ready to face to world – but I won’t be allowed to take a pic. Tigers and Scorpions aren’t exactly easy to photography. But she can’t stop me from posting these! 
Here’s my world from 1998 to present. In a blink.

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Second best decision ever

11 years ago my husband and I met one of his cousins to go on a skiing trip. They brought their two-year old twin boys and 4-year-old girl – who was best buds with our 4-year-old girl.

Before that weekend we had decided that one kid was perfect for us.  We loved our baby girl. She fulfilled every paternal and maternal need we had.  We were a tight little unit of 3 and we were happy.

Then we went away and everything changed. I don’t know if it was the way the three siblings in the other family clung together, or if it was my husband telling funny stories about his sisters, or maybe it was the memory of how happy I was when my mother told me I was finally going to be a big sister at age 11. Whatever the trigger was, then and there we decided our little girl needed one other person in the world that would share part of her history.

One other person that could understand how frustrating her mother could be, or how nutty her father was, or why we have cake for breakfast on our birthdays. A partner. An ally. Someone who knew what the house that she grew up in smelled like on Saturday mornings. Someone she could be angry at and say mean things to and still be able to sit down to dinner with and laugh. Yep. We needed to have another baby.

I got pregnant a few weeks later.

10 years ago today, I woke up at 4am on a Saturday morning and went into labor. I was supposed to go pumpkin picking that day with my girl and one of my best friends who had come to visit. Instead, my husband and I left them to go to the hospital.

The weather was exactly like it is today, cold and crisp. We lived in Upstate New York and the leaves had changed late that year – so everything was shades of orange and red.

He came like a bullet – in about an hour once I started pushing. And like a bullet, there was some major damage afterwards (I’ll save that for another post).

Since then he’s been a whirl of energy, emotion, comedy and activity. He’s always moving. Even in his sleep he’s moving. He’s smart and quick and always late for something. He says things like,” I love my life.” and “I want to be a kid forever”. Then I go cry in a corner.

And he loves, no adores, his sister. Both are Scorpios, if you believe that sort of thing (I do), but on different ends of the spectrum. She’s easy to trust, warm, welcoming and ready for anything. He’s guarded, careful and likes his routines. Bookends of our family.  Our perfect unit of 4.

So Happy Birthday to our little man. We had no idea how much we really needed you.

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How an Indian does Italian

Growing up, in my very Indian family, the only “American” food that was cooked in our house was spaghetti (which was strangely made on Saturday mornings) and a dish that we called – eggplant. No, not eggplant parm. I didn’t know what parmesan cheese was until my first year in college (also never had cream cheese, sour cream or mustard until then).  This is an entirely different thing. A bastardized version of caponata. I’m pretty sure my mother has never heard/seen/eaten anything called caponata.

I don’t know who came up with the recipe. I’m not sure how it all got started – but I do know that in my family and in my cousin’s families – this is what you get when they say,”we’re having eggplant for dinner”.

I make it now for my little tribe too. I’ve changed a few details. All the veggies in this dish were fried when my mom made it (and still makes it). I don’t fry anything – not because I’m so super healthy – but because I’m really bad at frying. Things burn. Stoves are covered in oil. I stink like burnt oil for hours – it’s not good. So I do a little saute/steam method. It works. I still use a bit of oil – but I use olive oil instead of the corn oil my mom uses to this day. I tried to talk her into canola once but it was a lost cause. Who am I to judge?

Here’s all you need. Please note: do not buy expensive sauce or make your own marinara or something. You need Ragu. Or some other cheap jarred sauce. Trust me. And don’t go trying to add fresh basil – hold yourself back. Pretend like this is the 80s and we haven’t all been watching The Food Network obsessively.

Olive oil, eggplant, peppers (red, green, yellow – whateva), sauce, cheese (again use what you have, cheddar, mozzarella, etc).

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First chop up your very pretty peppers and onion in a hearty julienne and throw them into a non-stick pan with about a tablespoon of oil. Cover and saute/steam for about 10 minutes until both are cooked through and soft.

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While the onions and peppers do their thing, cut the eggplant(s) in half and then in thick slices. Then think about the fact that literally nothing on earth smells better than onions and peppers cooking. I hear you all screaming at the computer now,”bacon does!”, “cookies baking do!”, “a baby’s head smells better!”. Calm down.

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Once the onions and peppers are done, pour them into a medium-sized pan. Add another tablespoon of oil, cover and cook the eggplant. I like to do this in batches. In the end you’ll use 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil to cook all the eggplant.

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I’ve tried doing the above steps in different ways through the years. In a crockpot. Roasted in the oven. Grilled. I like this way the best. Once the eggplant is done – add to your assembly pan. Don’t worry if there are still firm pieces – it’ll spend a ton of time in the oven and cook through.

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Add the bottle of sauce, stir, cover with foil and put into a 350 degree oven for atleast an hour and a half.

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Use this time to work, mother, wife, clean the house, clean the car, or…if you’re me, have a cup of coffee and a piece of last night’s dessert (raspberry cobbler).

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After about an hour and 1/2 – check your dish. Does it look like this? If yes, it’s done!

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Add the cheese. I ended up using half cheddar/half colby jack. It’ll go back in the oven for about 5 minutes and then, done!

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Like a caponata – eat this with some good, crusty bread. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.

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Now, if you come of my mother’s house and she says we’re having eggplant for dinner, you’ll be ready.

 

 

Peace Out

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Look who’s sitting in the front seat (EVERYONE sits in the front seat now).
Look who’s finished with 3rd grade.
Look who the teacher said she’d miss the most.
Look who’s looking forward to no more piano lessons until August.
Look who told me he no longer needs blue blankie (aka yangster) to sleep at night.
Look who gets bummed when his sister isn’t around.
Look who makes me happy, cranky, giddy, angry, sad, and joyful all at the same time.
Look who is 10 feet tall all of a sudden.
Excuse me while I go cry in a corner.

Girl, Uninterrupted

Yesterday was “International Day of the Girl”. Did you know that? I didn’t. I thought it was “International Day of the Conference Call”.

CNN.com asked some of the most impressive women in the world what they’d tell their 15-year-old self. I won’t tell you how many times I tried to link that article to this post and failed. Just know that I tried.  WordPress is getting under my nerves. I digress.

Here’s what I would tell my 15-year-old self if I could:

  • Even though they are driving you crazy right now – your family will be the most important thing in your life.
  • Although you’ve been plotting to get the hell out of Pennsylvania – in about 20 years you’ll be back – and love it.
  • Be kind to everyone. You have no idea what they are going through.
  • In 4 years you’ll meet the man you’ll spend the rest of your life with. Sorry. It won’t be David Canfield. You’ll do much better.
  • Go get your eyebrows waxed. Today. Now.
  • All the reasons you think you’re goofy, dorky and weird will be all the reasons why people love you. Lighten up.

Not as eloquent as Melinda Gates or Oprah – but there you have it.

I couldn’t find a picture of myself at 15 – but here’s one that’s close enough. Yes, that’s a maroon velvet vest I’m wearing. There may or may not have been a matching skort on the bottom.

Smells like teen spirit…and it really is Nirvana

 

Girls.  Teen girls. Preteen girls. Here they are in their natural state.

No one giving a mandatory peace sign while they stick their tongue out a la Miley Cyrus.

My girl is the one in the back – her two best buds are the cuties in the front (their mother is one of MY best buds, didn’t that work out well?)

This was taken at a local St. Patrick’s Day parade this year – I had taken 100 pictures of the three of them.  Each one identical (see note above re: peace sign).  This was 101.  Snuck in. A surprise. It’s my favorite.

As mothers we know what’s coming.  Relationships, break-ups, college, jobs, and if they choose…love-marriage-kids.

But for now, for today.  I like to see them like this. Giggling, silly, happy, wearing appropriate holiday attire and not trying to grow up too fast.

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