2012 Wrap Up (and yes, I’m Still Here)

Oh my! How many months have gone by! Ay, I really did begin a few posts in October… and November… but fine, perhaps not in December. I just suppose my follow-through hinges were a tad rusty (*sigh* my old tennis coaches would be ashamed to hear that). I also had a bit of a balancing act to contend with. Oh but guess who survived her first semester of graduate school?? Sweet bubbly goblets of Martinelli’s! Oh wait, that’s my new year’s treat. Still, I did manage to trespass into the academic world once more and not only emerge unscathed, but with a banner of flying colors undulating behind me. Another time I’ll share details about some of my most interesting projects, but for now let’s just raise our voices in a collective “Huzzah!” that 2012 culminated in good vibes, despite all the heaviness of personal and national calamities that may and have befallen many. A new year emerges, not that I really buy into the “new year” mantra of resolutions and whatnot. I don’t deny that it’s an astronomical miracle of science to behold the world completing another revolution around the Sun, but… well, if it lends a sense of motivation and control over the limitless track of time and circularity for the greater population, then so be it. How about we all endeavor to make 2013 a wee bit more consistent in all our pursuits then? I for one have epic visions of “litereature” posts galore (since I basically read nonstop now, much to my glorious delight). Let’s see if I can maintain an evenly scheduled serving of these posts for you in general, sprinkled with recipes, stories, and reviews.

Now that 2013 is well upon us, I do want to move forward afresh and new, focusing on upcoming recipes and exploits, but I would also like to recap the last few months with a sampling of the goings on down here in San Diego. Admittedly I fell off the virtual map because of academic commitments and personal events that elicited monumental distraction and required a steely grasp on focus–occasionally the hand does slip from sweaty beads of nerves and anxiety, but so it goes. Amidst all that, I did remind myself to cook well, eat well, and try to live well. I wonder why that has to be such a struggle; for something that brings so much harmony, it is painfully difficult to maintain isn’t it?? Don’t digress, Alya! The point is, I did some fun little concoctions, culminating in a swirly cake of fruitastic proportions. So for now, let me hearken back to those simpler times, when the raw pulse of 2013 did not beat upon my weathered head with demands for more work, more stress, more pursuits, more projects, and hopefully more accomplishments! Continue reading


Transition #1, or a Lesson in Checking the Weather Before You Move

Just wanted to give a brief update to the blogosphere on this hot and sultry night of which I am thankfully not a part as my sister-in-law puts her A/C to SUPERIOR use.  Why go the funky route of blue nail polish when you can turn your whole toesies icy instead?  I don’t have my main lappy set up yet (it needs to resurface from amidst the frantic packing that ensued this weekend) and upon that mighty machine resides the bulk of my photos, so instead how about some highlights of what passed this weekend?

As you may have read, we moved out of our apartment and into the husband’s sister’s home.  This is a temporary shift, for the next 6 weeks or so until other plans come to life (ie I figure out where we are living!!) but temporary or no, it still required completely wrapping up my homely comfortable life into too many boxes and not enough suitcases. And a few plastic bins. And trash bags. You get the idea.  The move itself was already a strain, but neither of us have been heeding the weather channel as of late, much to my most chagrinliest of chagrins. I can only say now how incredibly relieved I am that this sucker didn’t try to break through on that random lightning storm that bombarded the East Coast.

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Summertime at Pete’s Snowballs

I’ve been here for more than a year, but I still feel so new. Maryland, the whole DMV rather, is uncharted territory for me, causing shivers of anxiety and impatience for the intrepid adventurer in me. Give me trees, beaten and shrouded paths, natural mystere and … a good book of course, and I’m a happy camper. In fact, I have been itching to go camping too for a long while. No matter the nearly debilitating fear of all things creeping and crawling that nails down my heart when a tiny ant emerges on my doorstep. The outdoors call my name–I will step outside during work simply to stand in sun-kissed grass and wiggle my toes… before having to run back in because Geez how do 30 minutes fly by when all you’re doing is trying to master the talent of lifting your little piggies individually?

What? Is that weird?

Discovery motivates me the most, the big reveal behind a secret, a complete unknown. And the areas I live in or around or relatively close to or just a few hours’ drive away from are chock full of the experiential epiphanies. Just behind my home are trails and trails, leading away from mild suburbia into that utter silence that can only be understood juxtaposed against the cacophonous deluge of swampy cricket chirps. Yeah, I don’t go down that path too often. The trails, they call to me though. Just like the tranquil lakes, that demand a quick paddling through.

Summertime is upon us, having emerged from its slumber (only to jump back in bed at random and cause havoc on my internal system. Is it cold? Hot? Rainy? What’s with these allergies?! Ergh). But the sun has yanked me back to those unending discoveries. From freakishly haunting Victorian Sphynxes and “friendly” imp statues to real life pet cemeteries (eek!) guarded by stone pups, entreating you to tread with respect and offer a treat.

And from there to the wonderment of huge shaggy dogs hidden within monumental caverns, my enjoyment has not ceased these past few weeks. But surely it can be exhausting no? Trekking up to waterfalls and looking over the scope of the Shenandoah countryside makes you thirsty. Your spirit needs to be quenched, or at least let your physical being have a reprieve from the heat of activity.

So it was a wonderful pleasure to come across a tiny little mainstay tucked inside suburban Columbia. An oasis amidst all… the trees. An oasis, no less. Where young and old come together to fine happiness in Snow…. Cones.

Tropical Mango Snowball Courtesy of Mrs. Pete. Can you believe, this was a Small!

As the husband and I drove up to this completely random locality, a tiny hut wrapped in a friendly fenced driveway on an expansive piece of land, I noticed an elderly couple chilling outside the hut.  Yes, that fellow must be Pete (or a relation at the very least).  ‘Twas the woman who got us two teacups fill with shaved ice and drenched in our flavored syrups of choice (yeah, snowballs are not exactly rocket science, but you don’t come here for that, so just shush up!), and while she didn’t exactly smile… or show any kind of emotion whatsoever, I couldnt help but feel endearment towards her. Towards the establishment of this summer escape where kids and parents trot in on foot just to feast on some icy goodness.

As it turns out, a short chat with Mr. Pete himself (to be fair, I didn’t find out his name, so if Pete is actually his son, I… well, that’s not relevant!) uncovered a rich history, full of travel between Greece and America for years, on being away from his children, on finally quitting his factory business in Greece to WORK in America (because as the old chap told me, America is a place you are meant to work. it’s not play! Young people, they just cause trouble! They need to work!).  I felt enlightened and excited, not exactly for the snowballs themselves, but for knowing such a place exists, for nearly 20 years, where honey is produced and sold, where vegetables are in tall order, where the snow cones don’t have time to melt in the cup, they are shoveled in your mouth too quickly.

I will say the cups were a bit too large for me, so mine did melt. Such is life.

But it’s enough. On a hot, humid, draining day, only something like a snowball of Pete’s will suffice.

What? I’ve been nominated?

My jaw officially dropped to the ground today when I saw the most recent comment on my blog today, from CJ of Food Stories.  She very kindly nominated me for the new Food Stories Award for Excellent Storytelling! Those who know me surely aren’t surprised that I sat in shock for a good long while before realizing that yes, I have been noticed and recognized by a fellow blogger, a peer.  What could be better? So thank you, CJ, thanks so much.


Straight from Food Stories, the rules are as follows (Copied directly):

1. The nominee should visit the award site (http://foodstoriesblog.com/food-stories-award/) and leave a comment indicating that they have been nominated and by whom. (This step is so important because it’s the only way our judges will know who is being considered for the monthly presentation).
2. The Nominee should thank the person that nominated them by posting & including a link to their blog.
3. Share one random thing about yourself in your blog post.
4. Select at least five other bloggers that you enjoy reading their stories and nominate them for the award.
5. Notify your  nominees by leaving a comment on their blog, including a link to the award site (http://foodstoriesblog.com/food-stories-award/).

Food Stories will put together a team of judges to review all nominees and to select a Food Stories Award Winner for each month. More information to come on what fabulous opportunities await for those lucky winners!

Would you like to know something random about me?: Cherries and grapes make me uncomfortable. Although I love the flavors of both, the experience of eating them can induce great anxiety.

Would you like to know what Food bloggers I nominate?:

Thanks again for the nomination, CJ!

It’s Time We Had a Little Chaat

decked with sevEveryone keeps asking me what amazed/thrilled/amused/enthralled me most about India. The culture? The colors? Extraordinary sites steeped in ancient history? The traffic? Usually I say traffic—I mean, lawlessness barely scratches the surface of describing the bright yellow rickshaws and motorbikes triumphantly steered by sari-clad women.

And oh, the honking. All that melodious, soothing, blaring into the eardrum of your soul honking. Discovering new depths of sound saturation has been crossed off my bucket list, yay.

But naturally food reigned triumphant over all. Despite the family emergencies and various stresses that cropped up while there, food was my saving grace and ever-nurturing companion through thick and thin. And once I uncovered the presence of chaat, my fluttery soul tethered its wings in satiated bliss. You see, as far as I can recall, chaat (a sweet and spicy mixture of yogurt, chutneys, and/or potatoes, garbanzo beans, crispy fried dough/bread/noodles, onions, and so on) has been a coveted treat in my household. Whenever we made a trip to the “Little India” hotspots in southern California (shout out to Cerritos! Holla!) or even to our local Pakistani/Indian vendors (India Sweets & Snacks, I still ponder over your choice in paintings), chaat always found a way into our sights, mouths and tummies. Occasionally in the car ride home too. Continue reading

Mornings in Madras

We have returned! What began as the trip-that-wasn’t-to-be turned into that-which-would-never-end, but all things, good or not, must come to an end.  Overall, it was an amazing, exhilarating, eye-opening experience, worth every penny spent.

Currently I’m under house arrest due to an infernal cold, the expected result of fatigue and weary traveling, and this time to myself and my thoughts has allowed the opportunity to reminisce over the glorious morning treat I had nearly every day in Madras—the most fulfilling chai in the universe. I know a lot of the husband’s friends, whom I met for the first time and whom he hadn’t seen for seven or more years, are probably wondering if/when they will be the subject of a post, but I must save their rapid fire speaking and relentless desires to eat out for later, my mind cannot stray from that glorious milky drink that brought a sunrise to my soul. Continue reading

Beyond the Blog: October Dining

First Anniversary.  First birthday actually spent solely with my husband.  First time I experienced the magic of Ethiopian injera and Cuban cod fritters.  I marvel at how swiftly time has flown and how miraculous it is indeed that I have survived living in this apartment beneath a demon child who runs rampantly with cinder blocks for feet.  Not the point, Alya, not the point.

I realize I have been away for far too long than any responsible blogger ought to be if she desires to travel the gastronomical seas with her readership.  So, to make up for the loss of intrepid adventure time let me take you on a journey into the past to uncover the foodly treats that played magnificent melodies on my heart strings. I may even be so daring as to let the photos do (most of) the talking. Continue reading