Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Few Good Moons ...

There was a time when seeing the moon high up in the sky meant sweet dreams and a wholesome night of ZZZZs. This was when I had the luxury of eight whole hours of sleep (an hour or two thrown in like that surprise second raisin in rava ladoos), a late night movie, and that book I just had to read cover to cover all night long.

But, all that and more is a distant dream, now. Literally.

So, what's changed, you ask. Well, for one, I am significantly older (funny how a decade or so can turn you from a nocturnal creature into one of habit. By that I mean my parents, who need to turn in by 10 pm. That right there, is life playing its sadistic little joke. All my life I (privately) snickered at people who followed the early-to-bed axiom. But, what do you know? Now, that I am one of them believers, willing and ready to dim those lights by 10 pm, it's apparently too late.

As the cynically-wise would say: if you want something bad enough, chances are you won't get it. And if my six-month-old can help it, I certainly won't. Actually, if she can abet, neither will AM. This to a man, who all his life has been one of them early-to-bed people. Someone, who could well sleep at 9 pm, if he could help it, and wake up with our resident woodpecker at 4 am.

Of course, that's in the distant past too.

These days both of us clutch every second of sleep as babies do their binkies. Very tightly, indeed. In fact, I suspect, if someone were to try and pry those extra minutes from us, they would also have to contend with our digits, two pairs of flailing hands, complete with broken wrists.

Sometimes though, when we chance upon a good night, neither of us quite knows what to do with it. Take for instance last night. After almost an-hour-and-a-half of rocking and singing, the wee one was finally snoring softly. We waited with baited breath for 10 minutes. She didn't stir. So, we waited another, just in case. I was certain she was going to be up soon, and wanted to convey to the other-half to be on the alert. Under the given circumstances, as you can imagine, speaking audibly is out of question. As is speaking in hushed tones -- just coz she is snoring, in no way implies, she is asleep.

So, these days we mime.

But, apparently we need a lot more practice. At miming and at doing it without a giggle and a squeak. Between our furious miming and the muffled belly-laughs, we woke little Hitler (that's what I was trying to mime). I think we even woke up little Gracie next door.

And, we were back. With fewer ZZZs than we started, our dreams of counting sheep on a back-burner, and a childhood lullaby for company ...

"Nimbonichya zadamage chandra zopla ga bai,
Aaj mazya padsala, zop ka ga yet nahi
Gaay zopli gothyaat, ghartyaat chiu taai,
Parsaatlya velivar zoplya ga Jai-Jui
Mit papnyaa dolyanchya, gaate tula mi angaai
Aaj mazya padsala zhop ka ga yet nahi ... "

(The moon has fallen asleep behind the Neem tree,
But, why won't my little deer calf fall asleep tonight?
The cow has fallen asleep in her stable, the little sparrow in her nest,
On the trellis sleep the twin flowers, Jai-Jui,
Close your eyelids little one as I sing you this lullaby,
But, why won't my little deer calf fall asleep tonight?)

♣ A Sip of the Moon

AM and I have taken quite a shine to a White Hot Chocolate recipe that we discovered in our Better Homes and Gardens (BH&G) edition.
Every so often, as the little tyrant slumbers, we couple the hot chocolate with a couple of almond Biscotti. What can I say? After a long, long night, it's our very own heaven in a cup.

You need:

3 C half-and-half (BH&G suggests low-fat milk or evaporated skim milk to cut fat)
2/3 C white chocolate baking squares, chopped
3-inch cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1//4 tsp almond extract
Ground cinnamon (optional)


Combine 1/4 cup of the half-and-half or low-fat milk, chopped white chocolate, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg in a saucepan. Over low heat, stir until the chocolate melts. Pour in the remaining half-and-half, and stir to a slow boil. Discard the cinnamon stick, spoon in the vanilla and almond extracts, and sprinkle some ground cinnamon over each serving.

This post is not complete without mentioning that I, in no way, want to minimize or condone Adolf Hitler's despicable actions and only mean to use his name as a hyperbole to exemplify baby tyranny.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saying it with Pizzaz!

She was four-years-old when I first met her, the very first family member from my husband's side of the family since our big decision. Until then I was Sheetal, my parents' daughter, a grand-daughter to my grandparents. Or "Tai," an elder sister to my sister and assorted cousins. But, all of a sudden I was someone more. I was going to be a wife. A daughter-in-law. And "Kaki," her uncle's wife.

Frankly, it was scary to be "Kaki." Except, as the evening wore on I found myself less and less nervous. And more and more in love with my niece-to-be, so much so that I found myself wishing for a daughter just like her.

That's Shambhavi, she could make even an ice-cube feel warm all over. After all she is usually the one who breaks the ice first. Being quite the little Magpie helps a great deal too. Whether it is making conversation with an older grandmother, Kaki or someone her own age, Shamski does it with utmost alacrity and ease. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that she started talking when she was barely eight months old. I think though, largely, it's simply because of the way she is. Really, she is such an easy-going kid, anyone would be hardpressed to be anything but charmed.

Over the last few weeks, Shamski, as AM likes to call her, has been excitedly asking us our plans for her birthday on the 12th. She'd told us a couple of weeks ago that she would like it if we made her a cake and something Italian. Pizza to be exact. Both AM and I were ecstatic that Shyamu actually asked for something. She is one of those kids who would be happy even if someone were to gift her a cordless drill.

Given her affinity to pizza, it was somewhat a no-brainer -- bake a pizza-cake! We just used a simple cake recipe (you could use the boxed variety too) and focused much of our attention on decorating it with fondant toppings.

So, Shyamu, "Buon Compleanno!"

♣ The Magpie's Cake -- It's Different!

You need:

1 recipe for an eight-inch yellow cake
1/4 of a recipe of this cream cheese frosting
Colored red sugar
Ready-to-use white fondant
Icing colors: violet, brown, green, yellow and red


Preferably bake the cake the day before you intend to decorate, keep covered in the refrigerator.

For the olives: Mix in violet, brown and a tiny bit of red into a portion of the white fondant. What you are looking for is a dark gun-metal color. Then mold the fondant into a thick bolster shape, cut 1/4 inch pieces, and mold it very slightly to give a gentle circular shape. Try and keep the flat edges intact. We used the end of an oil funnel to give the olives their final doughnut shape.

For the green peppers: Mix in green, some yellow and a very tiny bit of red and violet. We found that the peppers needed a lot of green color to come close to the natural emerald hue of peppers. Sprinkle some confectioner's sugar on your work surface as well as the rolling pin and roll the fondant into a thick circle. Cut thin strips with a butter-knife or a fruit-knife, gently mold the tips and give them an inward curl so that they resemble the alphabet "c." Then, with your fingertips give it just a little bit of a kink in the center -- the end result looks sort of like pillowy lips.

For the melted cheese: Roll a small ball of fondant into a circle, and cut out abstract shapes to resemble pieces of Mozzarella cheese.

Whip the cream cheese to make frosting. Then, remove cake from refrigerator, leaving the edge of the cake all around to make it seem like the pizza crust, dig out a little bit of the cake to make place for the frosting. Drop in a few dollops of the frosting in the middle and spread it out evenly inside the "crust." Now, sprinkle in the colored red sugar all over the frosting. Place two or three olives, a few peppers. Then, drape the cheese pieces to seem like it has melted and melded with the vegetables. Finish off with the final olives and green peppers. Heave a sigh of contentment.