Archive for the ‘Chicago’ Category

Going Seedy

One of the many things I’m busy with these days (apart from the regular cooking, cleaning, etc) is attending the art class at the kid’s school every Thursday. The classes are free (Yay!! 🙂 ) and even the supplies are free (Yippee yay!! 😀 ). Needless to say, I haven’t missed a single class since I found out about it. Alas, I have completed only one art-work till now –


Fabric paint on silk



Another angle

Its a shame, really, because though I finished the painting in one sitting, it took me two weeks of dilly-dallying to finally put the lace frill around it. In fact, I was quite okay without it anyway, but Senora Miriam wouldn’t listen.

Aaah! Senora Miriam!!

This gutsy old dame is our art teacher, who, incidentally, doesn’t speak a single word of English. Neither does she understand it. So when I said, I didn’t want the lace, she just pulled out a length of it and handed it over. When I insisted, she took the lace from my hand and as if explaining to a child, told me how to stick it around the metal frame. I struggled to find the right words to let her know my true feelings, but Spanish evades me. Other than a casual, “Adios Amigos”, how much do we use it anyway?? Anyhow, another Mexican woman in the class took pity on me and explained to Senora Miriam that I didn’t want the lace. At this, Senora Miriam shot me such a look of of horror, rage , pity and grief, roughly in that order, that by the end of those few nanoseconds I agreed to put two rounds of lace around that damned frame if she wanted! She told me to stick to one.

Finally, after three weeks (or three classes), I was done with the frame. The BF gladly hammered a portable rack in the drawing room to display the fruit of my labor . It sits there pretty 🙂

(The smudges on the painting above and not by me! They are by Senora Miriam 😀 )

After the frame, we started on seed-art, something that is quite a cultural thing in Mexico. I believe people design entire walls by sticking little seeds in patterns. Seed art looks something like this :-


Mexican seed art

(No, I didn’t make that. Obviously. Duh!)

(And No, I don’t intend to. EVER.)

I was pretty piqued at doing something different. I mean, how difficult is it to stick grains on a design base, huh?? We (me and the other Indian moms) hunted for designs on the net and finalized our patterns. On the day of the class, we arrived, all merry and chatty, till we caught sight of the wooden boards awaiting us. What we didn’t expect was that we had to finish boards that were nearly 2 feet by 1 and half feet!! Just looking at the size of the board made us realize what a tough task lay ahead. Immediate rethink was the need of the hour. Google came to the rescue and  threw up a few easy patterns. One of the simplest pattern we found was this :-


My board after I did the outlines with black rice


This was the simplest pattern available and I quickly drew the outlines on two other boards as well 🙂 . Sticking the black rice was easy enough (have you ever seen black rice before?? I thought that the grains were dyed black, but it seems they were actually black in color 😐 ) . I just had to follow the pencil pattern on the board. The tough part was filling in the other colors. I started with the clouds above. Split Urad dal was used to fill in the swirls. Moong dal filled up the petals/rays and though I had initially planned on filling in the centre with Moong dal too, the effort required was too much! I used Chana dal because they are larger and easier to stick. I also added a few to the rays to give some ‘effect’.


Clouds and Sun

One look at the sun and the BF declared it the most rotten thing he’d ever seen (no, he didn’t actually say that. But if you can’t read your husband’s expressions after years of living with him, what have you learned in life??!) . So I took a knife and dug out the rays/petals. The rework, I tell you!! Never will I take a short-cut again 😐 . Much glueing later, the board looked something like this  (that is Masoor Dal in the pathway, whole green Moong dal for the watermelon’s peel and white Til seeds for the white parts) :-


The edited sun

I had to colour Urad Dal with red food-coloring to prepare seeds for the watermelon. After weeks of of sticking grains and two vertebrae knocked out of position, I’m at this stage :-


The foreground’s covered. Whew!!

This is what the BF calls my Goodness-I-Can’t-Believe-She-Reached-Here stage. It is also what I lovingly call my Till-Here-No-Further stage. Thats because Senora Miriam (remember? The art matron?) wants my design background to be shaded !! Red, yellow and orange coloured seeds have to be stuck in such a manner that the colours move from red to yellow towards the outside 🙄 . I’m sure it will look beautiful that way. I’m also very sure that this lifetime is too short for me to achieve that.

And hence, the board has been lying around, gathering lint (there’s no ‘dust’ here….just mounds of lint) for the last three weeks.

I need motivation to go on folks. I just can’t seem to gather the passion to finish the last mile (also, the longest!). I also need suggestions. Should I go with the ombre effect that Senora Miriam demands or should I cover the background with something more neutral? I have tried sticking Sabudana, rice and til seeds for the background. They just don’t look good. Is there any other dal or grain that in your opinion would make the foreground stand out?

(Please omit Rajma, Chhole and White Peas. They are just too large and look horrbile :()

Kindly help.

Mucho Gracias.



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Thats how life has been in Chicago till now. With practically no major work other than cooking and shopping, my life’s on a smooth ride for now. Possibly the only reason I’ve been missing from this space. Apologies 🙂

But my parents and in-laws worry! They know I haven’t been a housewife or a full-time hands on mother before and they worry if I’m able to handle the kids and the household. Obviously, they don’t openly state it, but I get the drift from their constant queries of “are you okay?”, or “is BF helping you out?” 😀 😀 . The BF, for his part, hasn’t stopped surprising me at every turn in these few months. I didn’t know it was possible but I think I’m falling in love with him again (Shhh…don’t tell him that. Yet.  :P). Now you know why I was away?? Yeah, I was busy floating up in the clouds above 🙂

Other than that, things are pretty good here. I completed three months and in these three months I’ve found Chicago not much different than Pune. Okay, maybe less crowded and silent (I think the cars here just don’t have horns!), but still very much like Pune. This place is pretty clean by Indian standards, but do people litter here? Well yes, they do. Once the mounds of snow melted, you could see a zillion cigarette stubs lining the pavements. Do people spit here? Hell, yeah! It shocked me to the core, it seems more common than I had assumed. Do people jay-walk? Yes, they do. Maybe not in hoards as it happens in India, but in spite of zebra crossings, some people do dash across the road.

Luckily, I stay in an area which has everything close by. All the department stores, Starbucks, Dunkin’Donuts,  ATMs, hospitals, schools, etc are within walking distance. Even though I do not have the convenience of a car or a bike, the walking is doing me good. I’ve done more walking here than I have ever done in Pune 😐

The twins have settled well in school (Alhamdulillah). I’m writing a separate post on the education system here. I’m really impressed with the kind of emphasis that is given to education here, not only that, but all the provisions that are made to entice students to stay in school. More on that later though.

This post is just a reminder to myself that I have a blog and I need to keep it alive. I have no clue why I didn’t have the urge and take down every little thing that I used to before. The twins are growing up rapidly, I’m losing more hair, the BF looks better by the day and the weather’s finally improving. SO much to write about……but I was just too lazy!

Also, I’m finally getting into the mood to work again. Enough of the vacation, I say. The more I stay at home, the more I’m reluctant to pursue the things that I loved doing before (though, I have taken up many new things in the meanwhile 🙂 ). I have applied for my work permit and am refreshing my knowledge in my work domain. Maybe by next month, I’ll start appearing for interviews. Wish me luck 🙂

Here are a few pics of the twins taken in the last two months…they’ve grown-up, I say 🙂


Walking towards the sports ground on “Day Of The Child”


Drawing a millipede at the Nature Museum


Dressed up as the ’60s for Spirit Week at school






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This morning, I got up to a new world.

When I opened the blinds, everything was white. Glossy, clear white. Everything was coated with a thick layer of snow. We had around 5 inches of snow the previous night! The trees, cars, buildings, electric poles, church-tops…..everything was white.

I’m sure that snow gave man the idea of the colour white. Surely, nothing could be more cleaner or purer than fresh snow??

The early morning view

The early morning view

Since the last couple of days had been more than pleasant, this snowfall came as a rude call! I mean, its officially spring time, I had even discarded the bulky winter coats for spring jackets. But winter doesn’t want to let go yet 🙂 . So I had to pull out the heavy jackets, gloves, scarves and boots once again. For and Lui and Shobby (Its takes a whole 15 minutes just to get the kids ready to step out. And by ready, I mean just putting on their winter-wear 😐 )

As I  walked the kids to the school, I realized that today’s snowfall was different. It was thicker, fluffier (if you know what I mean), more like puffs of clouds sitting everywhere. Even though there was no sun, the snow was pretty blinding in its white intensity. By the way, this is the twin’s school…..the building is kind of heritage you can say, dating back to 1895.

The School

The School

The school is named after Ruben Salazar, a pioneer for encouraging the use of Spanish language in America. So yes, the kids are learning Spanish at school (I knew my ‘gracias’ and ‘amigos’ and ‘senors’ and ‘nachos’ would come in use some day 😀 ).

As I walked around the block (along the sharp 90 degree turn), I saw the path ahead .

The side-walk

The side-walk

Alas, my camera phone does not do justice to the picture.

The air was crip with a chilly draft, but everything around looked so beautiful that I couldn’t resist taking a walk (I shouldn’t have, as I realized later!). So I walked on and on and on and saw these beauties on the way.


A tree beautifully loaded with white


Quaint houses with snow clogged stairs 🙂


People gave up on their cars

I was a bit hesitant while clicking the snap of that white tree. There were passers by giving me the look and it made me feel a little uncomfortable. And then I saw a Japanese fellow taking a pic of the same tree from further ahead! He seemed totally unconcerned about the looks and from him, I learned my lesson for the day. After that I clicked away happily and unselfconciously 🙂

After walking about a kilometer from my house, I came across The Lake. It is lake Michigan, one of the largest lakes in the world. In fact, so large is it appears like a sea. Here’s a picture taken from a friend’s residence (I envy their location 😐 ) when I had newly come to Chicago.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Beautiful , isn’t it?? And I had no idea that the lakes’ shores were so close to my place (that would explain the killer winds!). In fact, I really couldn’t see the water because much of the shoreline was frozen over. This is what it looked like .


The lake…..errr…or what you can see of it.

The picture isn’t very clear, but if you zoom it a bit, you can see the frozen lake bed beyond the cars. Its all white now….the blue waters are much further ahead. If I were taller, I guess you could see the blue. Alas, I drew the short stick.

Also, this is the lake shore drive road (Something like that Queen’s necklace road in Mumbai), so you have some uppity complexes here. I’m sure the rents here are as high as those skyscrapers.

The lake shore skyline

The lake shore skyline

I turned back from here. The primary reason being that the winds blowing from the lake were definitely far under zero and even though I had my thermal, jeans, jacket and boots, the persuasive winds were successful in sneaking in ! *Shudder*

I walked back as fast as I could . If I were to lose my toes to frostbite, I’d rather be at home when it happened. It took hardly 10-15mins to get back home. I’m sure once summer is here, I’m going to visit the lake every single day 🙂 .

Oh, by the way, I practically lost sensations in both feet after reaching home. Had to soak them in the tub for a good half hour before I could walk again 😀

To end this post, here’s a little thing that happened this morning.

See the top pic?? It is the parking lot for our apartment. While I was sipping tea this morning (around 6:45 ), I saw a young man with a large shovel clearing the snow around one of the cars. Then he cleared away the snow from all over the car. As I watched him, I pitied people who had to go through that routine each morning. He must be going out far to get up so early!

Once I was done packing the twin’s lunchboxes, I went to the bedroom to wake them up. As I stood there, I noticed that the cleaned up car was still there in the parking lot. The guy was nowhere in sight. But, he had left a message behind. On the snow in front of the car, he had traced, ” H ❤ C ” in large captions. It brought a smile to my face. A simple gesture that spoke volumes….doing something for a loved one! There’s only one word for it.

Cute 🙂

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My worst fear has taken form. And so early in my trip too 😦

The one thing I didn’t want the kids to end up with here was the American accent. Till they were home with me, all was fine. But then they started school.  Initially, they had some trouble getting the hang of what the teachers taught. Instructions weren’t clear as the two just couldn’t get the accent. Obviously, making friends was turning out to be equally difficult 😐

Its been three weeks now since they started school. Things got a little better . They could follow their teachers and even strike up a conversation with their classmates. All good, we felt. The kids seemed to be on the right track. We patted ourselves on the back, almost disbelieving our good luck!

That is because we didn’t see it coming.

One fine day, I shouted out  homework instructions from the kitchen to Lui when she replied back,” I khaint unnerstaynd chu”.

Hain“?? I shouted back.

“I said, I khaint unnerstayndchuuuu”.


Here, the BF intervened and explained that Lui, God bless her, has just crossed over to the “amreekan bhasha“.


I looked at him, he looked back but he didn’t look as stricken as I did! Men never seem to mind the fact that changing accents leads to conversation breakdowns , specially when a mother cannot understand her own kids 😐

“Uff! Lui, can you please talk properly. It is me who can’t understand you”.

Here, with a classic roll of the eyes that made my heart fall right at my feet, she says, ” Hmphh! You nevva unnerstaynd! I’m not gonna chalk chu yu”.

(At least, this is what I gathered from what she said)

I looked up at the roof. No help came from above. Albeit, support came from a little boy standing at my side.

“Mumma, yeh Lui bahut funny baat karti hai. Mujhe pasand nahin hai“.

I grabbed my son for a tight hug. Thank God at least one kid is still desi at heart 😀 😛


Chicago is a fiercely planned city. When I say fierce, I mean it. Its almost as if the city leaders took a ruler and a protractor to make sure every turn was at a sharp 90 degree angle. All the roads are ruler straight and every crossing is marked with the N/E/W/S directions. I doubt you will have difficulty finding any address here. Everything is either a left, right or straight. No diagonals, God forbid 😐

The sections between the crossings are divided into blocks. The blocks can consist of residential apartments or office space. Doesn’t matter. They all look the same! You see a huge building with glass walls and wonder if it is an office. Naah, says the BF, thats a posh residence complex.  Or you see a drab building with people taking out pets from a side door and then find out that the building is in fact, an office complex and the dog that came out was freshly groomed in one of the salons in the building!

Now all this is pretty peachy. Problem arises when you are new and unused to checking for directions based on…well…. locations!! You have just spent a lifetime hunting for places based on landmarks and all this “take a turn at Maple/Clark West” or a “Go North till you hit Wells and go East two blocks” is enough to drive you crazy!

What about the landmarks, you scream inside. Where are the landmarks?

Well, there are none. Thats because all the damn blocks look exactly the same!

So I look very very closely at all the buildings I pass by, noting down even the tiniest difference between them. “Oh look”, I say to myself, “That apartment block has a large pot of pine-cones at its entrance” or say,” Ohh! That building has a stone owl on its roof. What exactly is the owl doing up there?” But these observations are helpful. They are my landmarks. They drive the BF batty though. A year of living here has made a Chicagoan out of him, so when I say I went for a walk by that building that has green door or that I  found a new shop near the block where there are always dogs peeing, he goes blank or rather, his facial features take the North-South route!

Ah well!!


Did I say this place was expensive?? Hah! I was kidding! This place isn’t ‘expensive’! It just has a  ‘drop-dead-you-cheap-middle-class-Indian’ vibe. Which usually means that if you are an Indian,  you do drop dead when you see the price tags. The locals though are pretty comfy. You see them pull out a wallet stuffed with cards and swipe away their worries.

You just cant show the same chutzpah when handling your spouse’s card though. I tried. And failed miserably! The first time I used his card, I drew a bill of 100+ dollars, just on the twin’s school uniform! It was much later that a kind neighbor, also Indian, introduced me to the concept of deals. Which essentially means that I have to scavenge the aisles of the department stores, noting the rates of stuff that I need. At home, I have to keep track via newspapers and pamphlets about the current offers available. Then I surf for online rates of the same things. Then I compare the rates with the other two stores in the vicinity. After a cost-analysis, I decide which store to visit. At the store, I need to check if there are any additional discounts on the stuff that I needed.

(And then everyone envies me because apparently, I have a lot of FREE time on hands !)

What happens mostly is that my things are never on discount. But at least now I will never run out of kitchen towels, toilet paper and liquid detergent 🙂


But. There are some things that come dirt cheap too. Like Coke, which is under a dollar for a 1.2ltr bottle or some “Made in China” toys that come for 24cents (around Rs15). Even back home, the same toys are nothing less than Rs25 ! I bought a handful of those toys for the twins and they LOVE me more than ever 😀

I’m still not ready to pay $1 for ONE, lonely green cucumber. Yet!


It was raining here today….the kind of rain that I thought happened only in Pune, the light , shimmery drizzle that went on throughout the day and then night and then continued for the rest of the week till you eventually screamed with frustration!

Right now, its snowing. We are expecting 5-6 inches of snow! Which is crazy, mostly because the last two days were so wonderfully pleasant! I walked and walked and walked!


Looks like I’ll be locked in again for the next few days.

But I must confess…there’s something mesmerizing about the snowfall. You can stare at it for ages and still not get bored. It has woven its magic even on the twins. My usually restless kids can sit glued to the window, watching the snow fall for hours on end. They discuss it with each other, build up stories around it and even demarcate which snowbank belongs to whom 🙄 .


How have you all been?? Hope your days are better and nights brighter 🙂


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