We are bidding goodbye to 2012 in a few hours, I could go into the usual platitude and hope 2013 will bring changes, better days for the country and humanity, and while I of course do wish these things, I don’t think it’s worth writing about it, 2013 for me will be another year of blogging as usual, with some noodles, daily life reports and more pertinent posts…the usual, and I hope you readers will keep on reading like you have been all these years (we are talking 8 years of blog entries here!)
Instead of wishing for better days, I will just count my blessings and be grateful. I am grateful we are done with our previous landlord and his monetary greed. Grateful to be settled into our new place and reasonably rested from the packing and moving trauma, grateful for a bigger flat at a cheaper rent than our older one. I am of course grateful for having made it an entire year in Mumbai without going crazy this time around. Grateful for being healthy, not all have that chance, grateful for my family, and Internet so I can keep in touch with them. Grateful for my friends, it goes without saying, you guys know who you are…Grateful for all that I have and the life I live, even if at times I want to scream….who doesn’t?
And here is to 2013, and all the happy days it will bring punctuated inevitably by a few crazy days.
Happy New Year to you all!
I might have been in the boxes till my neck, then in post relocation vegetative state, but I have been following the news, and the one no one in India should have missed is the brutal Gang Rape of a 23 years old girl in Delhi, a rape that ended with the victim loosing her whole intestine, spending an agonizing nearly 2 weeks in hospital to finally succumb last night.
If you are reading this blog from abroad, Google it, you will get the details, but I warn you they aren’t for the faint hearted.
The good new is that for once the country is standing up for that girl, they just had one rape too many, the people took the streets in most cities, voicing their anger over how crimes against women have been handled all these years, it’s the tale of a population that is sick and tired of a government that is doing nothing to ensure the safety of all. I for myself hope the protests will continue, and that things will change, if not all at once, fast enough.
I myself have had more than enough to hear some of the educated Elite, both male and female question the motive of a girl out at 9pm, of people wanting to lessen a molester’s crime finding flaws in how the victim was dressed or where she was. I’m sick to hear that a girl with enough courage to report a crime is likely to end up being raped some more by the police. Things need to change, but sadly not where people think it should start. In the past few days there have been constant talks in the media of the urgent need to tighten the law, accelerate the judicial process in the case of a crime against a woman. And I agree it is needed, but will it be implemented when women in India are still seen as lesser than a man in traditions? NO, the change starts HOME, it’s respecting your mother and sisters as equal when you are a man, that means that they should eat at the same time as the men instead of waiting for the leftovers, that means festivals like Karva Chaut and Rakshabandhan should evolve too, why should a woman only fast for her husbands long life? The practice started centuries ago when the start of military campaigns were resuming at the end of the Monsoons and made sense then, but in today’s world? Men go to office the same as some women, and yet the one more likely to loose their life from doing so in a couple seem to be the woman, so enough with the whole concept, the festival should turn into a man and wife both wishing for a long life TOGHETHER, if one fast so should the other. Tying a rakhi? Why should the brother be the one offering protection to the sister in exchange of it? It becomes particularly ludicrous when the sister in question is much older and tying one to her 6 months old baby brother asking for his protection, what does that tell a girl? That she is weak and need a toddler to fight for her, that she’ll never be anybody without a man? ENOUGH! The festival should become yet again a mutuality thing, with siblings both tying a string to each other and vowing to protect one another, a tale of equals. And how is it that in India only a wife has to announce her marital status by wearing sindoor, glass bangles, toe rings and a Mangalsutra, while the husband gets to stay unadorned? Why is it that a widow is stripped of said ornaments and deliberately made to look like she lost everything while a man continue to be a man and have a life as a widower? Or you stop the practice for women or men start wearing marital attributes. Why is it that family honour should only be burdening the shoulder of a woman? has she committed such a sin to be born without the right genitalia that she should be blamed for every ills? If the man behave like an ass he isn’t brought to account, but a woman will even when she isn’t at fault.
More simply it once again boils down to the fact that baby girls are considered a burden and a liability, they are reminded so by antiquated patriarchal traditions all their life, while boys grow with an inflated ego and sense of importance they are not worthy of simply because they have a penis.
Pardon my French here but I say FUCK to that.
I have a daughter, and she will not be taught that she can’t do certain things simply for being a girl. Both my husband and I are however concerned about how things are going now, and we fervently hope things will change across the country, fully knowing that as parents of a girl it’s our job to raise her to be strong and proud to be who she is.
One great lady once said: No one should be made to feel inferior without their consent. her name was Eleanor Roosevelt.
Women of India, do not let any man in your life make you feel inferior…EVER, it starts at home, they have no right over your life and how you live it. You cooked the food, you deserve to enjoy it hot at the same time as the men in the house. You give birth to sons so your long life should be wished too, you go through child birth which means you are by no mean weak so why should you let your father, brother, and husband decide what you can or cannot do? Stand up for your right…NOW
Christmas came and went, and true to the line I wrote last year right after Christmas in my 2012 Diary, I kept it SIMPLE back then I had no idea we would be relocating right before Christmas of course, but the fact we just got out of the boxes was just the extra incentive I needed to avoid going overboard in the food department.
I threw some sambar onion with 8 chicken drumsticks in my Dutch oven, topped it with a small bottle of red wine and slow cooked it in a “Coq au Vin” style, made mashed potatoes on the side and in less than an hour I was done with it, got to sit down not feeling exhausted from preparing the dish, enjoyed some wine with our meal and watched Ishita enjoy the roller skates we got her as a gift.
Being so dead beat still from the move we didn't even try going to the mall to see Santa. Ishita got a gift from him in the morning for the first time but will have to wait until next year to meet her new idol, but she got her dose of Ho Ho Ho from the TV and books we have around anyway.
The simplicity of it all felt good even if I wished they’d remove the plywood boards from my balcony for my festive day.
Today Ishita got to try her roller skates outside and got the hang of them already, we enjoyed the garden in my new apartment building in the afternoon, and the boards did come down letting me enjoy natural light in my living room for the first time in a week this afternoon.
The picture above was taken today in the garden where they did decorate a potted tree for Christmas, but I of course have mine back up and decorated inside, just didn’t take any snaps yet.
We were deep in the boxes and dust all of December 20th and only got the last few things stored away this Sunday, right in the nick of time to celebrate Christmas, so here is an account of this last move.
On December 19th I packed a few boxes of kitchen stuff that DH drove to the new place while I was getting Ishita ready for school, then I took a few more bags and walked to the new place to start setting things up, as in our experience it’s the kitchen that is the worst thing to pack and set in every move we went through, the sooner you can get it out of the way the better. I arrived at the new place only to see that my to be living room was plunged in darkness as they fixed plywood boards to the grill to protect my place from the heavy work they are doing on the whole building’s exterior walls, a nice touch to want to protect me, but as I am writing this now we are still living with a pitch dark living room as the only natural light was coming through that balcony. Anyway back to the 19th, I got all the stuff I brought settled into the cabinets, removed the old granny curtains that came with the flat and washed the kitchen counter and the shelves inside the wardrobes in the 2 hours Ishi was in school, once we reached home I packed a few more boxes of kitchen stuff for DH and I to bring in the evening, by then we were happy to have brought about 90% of the content of my kitchen into the new place, we were then blissfully ignorant that the remaining 10 would drive us batty the next day, and decided to empty the bookshelves so they would be ready to be taken away by the movers the next day, and since we decided to go green we didn’t get much in the way of cardboard boxes, we have a whole lot of sturdy shopping bags and suitcases that we could load in the old flat and unload in the new only to be loaded again. So after filling up our bags with books DH decided to go do one more trip to the new place and dup his cargo in the place before we called it a night knowing the next day would be draining.
Comes the 20th, Agarwal packers and movers announce they would reach our place by 11am and we continue packing stuff, so far all things went well we were on track, seasoned pros at moving that we are, the maid seeing she was not really needed at the time with all the help we had went on with her day, and the movers packed all the stuff in the time Ishi was in school, that’s when we reached around 1pm that things started going crazy, the guy to set Aquaguard showed up in the old place where I was while DH was in the new place with the Tata Sky guy, the movers where still there, my dog ballistic, Dominos Pizza not offering online ordering at the time I needed it the most being low on cash and needing to order through credit card and I was to leave the place by 1.15pm to go pick up Ishita, we managed to pull it through, I ordered a pizza on the phone they assured me it would take 30 minutes but it reached 45 minutes later with the delivery guy lying to my face having been held up at the security desk when he actually bypassed it since I never got any intercom notice, the lady at the store put the manager on the phone who after seeing I would not budge and was decided on claiming my customer right to a free pizza yielded, told his delivery guy it was on the house, only for the guy to refuse to leave without at least 500 rupees stating against his manager order that I was eligible for 300 as a discount. I slammed the door in his face for him to come 15 minutes later with the security officer of my building to get his money and me to slam the door to his face, and them to stay there until DH came back to eat, the delivery guy extorted the whole amount out of my unsuspecting husband, an angry call later to the shop they promised to bring the money back but it never happened…guess who is never going to order from Dominos again?
After the pizza was wolfed down DH went to the new place with the packers and movers to get the furniture set while I had to stay behind with Ishita to pack a few stuff, I was done filling the bags and suitcases before DH was done with the movers and I had to wait idle in the mess and dust at home, and a toddler that refused to nap, seeing that I knew she would crash around 6-7pm and I would be left staying with her while DH did all the heavy lifting and that it would take us forever to move everything.
That’s when my maid saved the day, she came back at 6.30pm and seeing that Ishita had collapsed on the oriental rug in the the living room with her blanket and pillow, offered to help DH with the lifting and transferring, from then onwards they both did the back and forth in our car while I stayed behind filling the bags they brought back empty, by then the reality of it all hit us in the face: we had more stuff we thought we had and it was going to take far more time that we estimated. This is the first short distance move for us, we wanted to save cost on the packers and movers so we hired them only for the big furniture and not for the packing and carrying of our belongings. By 9pm I swore our stuff were procreating behind my back and that no matter how many things I packed no dent was make in the amount left to pack. DH and the maid to speed things up would just dump the stuff all over the new place to bring back the bags empty to me, with no order whatsoever. by 10.30 they were doing the last trip both feeling exhausted, and there was still heaps in the old place, but I admitted that even myself could not even align two words straight, my legs were numbs, and my armpits on fire due to the sweat and chaffing of fabric. I was covered in dust with black streaks all over and all I wanted at this point was a shower and my bed, boxes of crap be damned! So after their last cargo transfer DH drove the maid back to her place not wanting her to walk in the dead of the night, and then came to pick me and Ishi up along with a bag or two we still could carry.
The new place was in total disarray heaps of stuff were all over, and getting to the shower felt like an obstacle course but I was determined to get to it as my humanity depended on it.
We woke up the next day at dawn, DH went picking up a batch of stuff to the new place before getting ready to go to office, and I spent the entire day sorting out the heaps of mess, picked up Ishita in school, called pasta and jar sauce lunch, before tackling more of the mess, by the evening when DH came home I had cleared about 60% of it, I was dead beat once more starting to wonder if my legs would ever feel painless again, starving but with no food left in the house to eat apart from Maggi noodles. We were in bed by 9, facing another early rising to clear the two final batches of stuff from our old place before giving the landlord back his keys. DH then had to go back to office on Saturday as they had an urgent meeting he had to attend. During that time I cleared the rest of the mess, leaving only the 3 suitcases of DH’s clothes and belongings I had no idea where to store. As soon as he came back we headed to the supermarket to buy much needed food.
On Sunday I cleared the last box of stuff, the carpenter showed up to put up all the bathroom fittings and shelves and paintings we needed him to mount on the wall, the electricians came to fix the water geyser in one of the bathroom and they are to come back to install more plug points as the place is very deficient in this department. The plumber came to install a tap for my washing machine, and get instructed by DH on all the plumbing leaks we had in the flat (a lot of them since it’s an old building).
And now here I am on Monday still waiting for the plywood to come off the balcony, with my legs still hurting, totally drained but finally settled. Tomorrow is Christmas, and the plan is to make a Coq au vin style chicken in my Dutch oven with mashed potatoes on the side, and probably buy a cake as I have no energy to go into baking mode at this point. I actually find myself struggling to find my festive spirit back at this point. This move has been the most draining and taxing of all, we simply underestimated the amount of things we had and should have gotten more stuff in on the 19th than we did, and yet again we find ourselves hoping this move is the last one for a couple of years to come. And that it will definitely the last and only one to come a few days short of one of the major festivals we observe.
I’ll probably write a bit more about the new place later, tomorrow is a Holiday for me as you probably guessed.
even with a very short distance move like this one, there are a couple of things we just can’t do by ourselves, such as relocating the sofa, fridge and other massive furniture which means we can’t spare ourselves the expense of asking some movers to do the job.
We initially thought that hiring local guys would be cheaper, and our maid asked around in her area, two guys came on Sunday for the estimate, and their price for relocating a sofa, a fridge 2 shelves unit, 3 mattresses, a queen size bed and a chest of drawer over 800 meters: 17 000 rupees! When DH questioned it they explained thy have to hire a truck then they have to carry the furniture in the new building up the stairs as the lifts over there are too tiny for them, and they informed us we would have to arrange for protection material such as blankets and cardboard to wrap the delicate wooden ones. After negotiations and DH desperately trying to get the price below 10k they agreed for 11k. DH told them he will get back to them in a day, our idea was that it was worth checking some place else. I myself found it really weird that they would ask us to supply the packing material, and snorted at their whining over carrying a sofa up 3 flight of stairs, because I did just that during my 4 year long apprenticeship as a upholsterer / decorator, and 3 floors was nothing, our average for sofa delivery was 5 floors…so if me a WOMAN can do it and not whine, why should they use that as an excuse to rip us off of a couple of thousands rupees. Truth be told if the place was nearer and not up a hill on a busy road I would even carry all the damn furniture up myself and spare ourselves the hiring of a tempo or a truck, my only impossible one would be our giant fridge.
So anyway DH decided that it was costing us nothing to call Agrawal packers and Movers to get an estimate, we know them, we know their professionalism, and even if we in the end choose not to go with them, we have an estimate to work with and negotiate rates with local ones better.
In true Agrawal style they came on time to do the estimate survey, and quoted their final figure at 9.5k needless to say that DH took it, we can trust them, we know nothing will be damaged, that they will bring all the packing material they need and they didn’t even mind the fact they will have to climb 3 floors up with our stuff, we even added a few furniture pieces we didn’t ask the guys the maid found to carry and their price is still cheaper.
Along with their estimate they gave us the usual paper folder to put all move related things in, but this time I noticed they even improved it :
A check list for the client, not related to them but to all the things that one usually find themselves having to plan ahead when planning a move, a nice touch, especially for those relocating on long distances and who fortunately unlike us aren’t familiar with the hassle of relocating.
I particularly like their including things like : Select a Simple and light food for the day of leaving (we ourselves usually do take out to free ourselves from hassle), they also suggest the client keeps themselves free around the time of moving to meet family and friends who will want to have them over for dinner and say farewell. And of course they could not stress enough the importance of making address changes, disconnecting services such as phone, gas, electricity and the reminder to check all taps, and turn the main switch off when leaving the old place. They are small things that are easy to forget in the heat of the moment even if they seem like common sense in the first place, truth being that relocating fries your brain, so common sense things are the only likely to be forgotten if not written down on a list.
So here we are, all set and ready to shift, I packed a few boxes of books that will end up in DH’s brand new “Man’s den” (study room), most of the stuff are stricken off my lists and we are going to lug a few stuff up that hill tonight, hopefully by then the cleaning people will have swept that place and they will have finally taken the king size bed there is in one of the room apart so we can move our stuff in. My maid seeing I packed some boxes suddenly asked when I would empty the other shelves, not quite getting that since the packers and movers come on the 20th to take them away there is no point for me to empty them until the night before as there is nothing worse than crowding the space with boxes too much in advance. I plan to set up as much of the kitchen with her not around because I am quite peculiar about organization in that specific room and in all fairness even use it more than she do, so it’s my way or no way. I know she means well, but there are many things for which her help is really not needed considering we are also seasoned pros at moving from one place to another. there will always be enough cleaning and keeping Ishita entertained to do for her.
I am not sure if this blog post will be the last before the move, but there is a high probability that my next will by written from my new quarters.
Due to the packing and moving stress and the lack of creativity, I decided to tackle one of the many reviews that accumulated in my notebook, I haven’t eaten any new type of noodles in way over a month, and these past few days and the few next will be all about the good old comforting if we even eat Noodles.
Anyway that one I ate about 2 months back, I bought it even though the picture on the pack creeps me out (all the Smith and Jones variants have creepy cartoon faces on), true to my vow to taste all the type of ramen noodles on the market in India I had to try this brand as well, and I chose the good old masala flavour to try out first, this is by far the most popular flavour in India and you cannot not have a masala flavour to make it in this market.
First the smell of the taste maker: it is a bit citrusy, but has a strong hint of the masala smell you find with Maggi. Once you put it in boiling water the smell is however really odd, some sort of “fennel-y” kind.
Taste wise, it is in one word VILE, I kid you not I have never felt so strongly about any of the other noodles I tasted and I can’t even find one redeeming quality about this one. It has a bitter taste with a strong aftertaste of chilli, the noodles’ texture is gummy/spongy and I think I even detected a hit of rancid butter taste in the whole thing. The first time ever I threw the noodles away after 3-4 bites. Ishita was less kind, she spat it right out and ran for the water.
What scares me is that they have other flavours I will have to taste and review one day…oh dear!
The first time I hit the moving wall and felt the pain was in August 2011, you can read about it here. It was brutal, we were fed up, tired, it was the 3rd move in a year, enough was enough, we both swore we would not move for a couple of years, that was without taking the landlord’s choice into account of course.
Well here I am hitting another moving wall, we haven’t even started yet, well at least not started moving boxes. I have of course started planning, making lists, and trashing a few things we should stop hanging dear to, purging somehow brings peace to me, I’m the anti-hoarder, the more I can simplify and de-clutter the better I feel.
The fact I am no rookie in the whole packing and relocating department means I am also getting much better at it and with it the problem of finding myself waiting for the storm much sooner. This past month has been a blur, I vaguely remember we were setting things up for Diwali when the landlord casually informed us he was planning on selling the place and we’d better start thinking about moving out. It was November 12th, hard to believe just a month ago we were doing sparklers and flower pots and eating sweets. Since that date I have seen a parade of potential buyers all coming with the many brokers on the job, some days worse than other, but pretty much not a single day without a visit, I kid you not over 50 people have come and went. And I hate that part, they spend barely 2 minutes in the flat, half of the time they come un-announced, it always mean putting the dog on one of the balconies, having perfect strangers walk around your flat with you having to drop whatever you are doing to give them room to roam around at will. The agreement with our landlord was that the brokers should call him and he would then check with me, perfect in theory, but never ever in my life did I resented IST (Indian Stretchable Time) that much, because it doesn’t even matter that my landlord did specifically told them at which time I am home during the week they always seem to come there when I am not, leaving the landlord to call me to inform me someone is behind the door…and that is if they even bother calling him at all. Then there are those who announce that they will definitely come by a certain time, and show up 5 hours later not understanding why it is that much of a big deal. One of them is actually thinking is he above all and he can bring clients whenever, I have gone through many discussions with him and reported him to the landlord who in turn scolded the guy, it never fail, he will show up late, or not at all until the next day without even an apology. The first time he pulled his crap on me the landlord actually called me in the morning telling me this guy would come at 11am, nobody showed up and I didn’t fret, I just get on with my day period, so come 1.30pm and I leave to pick up my daughter in school, come back from the playground at 2.15 to find him and his client ringing my door bell. And when I pointed that he was supposed to come at 11 and I don;t wait on people he looked like I had landed on Earth from another planet, pissed I went all Swiss on him about the importance of respecting my timings and I can’t and won’t accommodate him. The landlord repeated the same to him, and since then he hasn’t kept his timing once, another day he was supposed to come at 5pm and showed up at 8.40, he woke up my daughter which just went to bed and didn’t even say sorry, and just yesterday he rang the doorbell having been un-announced while I was stepping in the shower. I slipped on my robe and told him crudely that first he need to announce himself and then to come back 10 minutes later because it’s shower time for me and I slammed the door in his face…he never apologised for it, his client did! And as I am writing this, it’s 12pm and he was supposed to show up with someone else an hour ago…I have half a mind not to open the door, that’s how pissed I am.
Anyway, all these visits serve only to remind me that this flat is going to no longer be my home and today it is even hitting me harder, we are getting the key by Sunday, I have a home accessories list to tackle tomorrow, making it a perfect excuse to be out of this house for the day and enjoy some fun time at the mall with Ishita who I frankly feel I have neglected a bit in all this frenzy. And because apparently just packing and moving is no longer a challenge for us, it had to fall around Christmas, and we even threw in a Jr Kg Admission Interview in for good measure (She got admitted, I might go back on that later once we settle in our new place), and because all the above combined is still not enough, let’s throw some PMS in! And perhaps the fact that the noise and dust from the construction site nearby has the nasty effect of giving me headaches and sinus aches (Go watch the video of the noise I posted on my Facebook page).
Right now I find myself completely neurotic, barking at my dog, screaming at my phone for ringing and urges to scream F… to just about anybody asking anything of me. I already effed the notion of a balanced diet, these days nothing but easy stuff like grilled cheese sandwiches (on brown bread which is the only saving grace they have), Christmas cookies, chocolate, and a truck load of fruits (at least that one is healthy) will do. I don’t want to cook anymore, I don’t want anything to come in the way of my sitting down for 5 minutes. I want this whole insanity to be done with…yet again! And the cherry on the top is the landlord that called last night to inform me of the visits schedule for today and asked casually “What are you planning to do for Christmas?”….Really? You send us a 30 day notice on November 20th and you ask that? I let him know that I would probably still be settling in the new place and just about enjoy sitting at home and do as little as possible, and that beside there wasn’t anything worth doing around here for Christmas. The thing to ask of all things!
Back to my chocolate for now!
DH pointed out a few months ago that will all the pictures I clicked from my old Samsung Corby and how I shared them on Facebook I might actually benefit more from a smart phone, not to mention all my post its, notes and organizing tools around the house. So I was slowly giving in to the idea of having one. Now those who know me, know that even if I appreciate technology and have a geeky side, I’m far more of a practical one than the one who will just buy the latest, priciest, hippest thing on the market, and my reasoning with the phone is that since my old one works fine, there is no urgency to upgrade anyway. DH heard through the grapevine at his office that they would heavily discount a HTC model in their store and asked me what I thought of it. It was the HTC radar which was a discontinued model, it seemed like a nice phone so I told him to go for it considering I’m not the type to want a particular brand and OS anyway, though luck had it that they went back on their word discounting it, and DH told me to look online to see what was there in the mid-range, Flipkart had the HTC desire c for 12k and DH was like “Get it now, no point waiting until Christmas”.
And that is how I got my gift early. I love my phone by the way, it’s simple to use, small enough to put in my pocket, didn’t blow the bank, has a nice enough camera, got myself the apps I need such as a shopping list and to-do list one, make full use of my calendar, bot the cute free apps one and the one that came with the phone. Ishita and the Christmas tree already got into Instagram, I can stop blowing up a fortune in sms with my friend thanks to whatsapp…I never thought I would find a smart phone so useful really.
DH got me into buying the monopoly game app as he wanted to play on it via Wi-Fi with me, but we found out that his iPhone support the Wi-Fi mode and the Android app doesn’t for some odd reason.
Not that I play games on it often, I already wasn’t doing it on my old phone, but the upgrade in internet capabilities and photo sharing makes it so worth it.
So here it is, Merry Christmas to me a bit early!
I was in no mood to write about more serious topics today, bear with me.
As I told you previously, we skipped St Nick this year and did have fun decorating the Christmas tree while cinnamon rolls were baking in the oven, perfuming the living room. This year Ishita was eager to help with the decorations and we took the last surviving string of cheap yellow lights we bought for Diwali (we had originally 2 yellow and one pink, the pink fried the instant it was plugged in, the other yellow one died a day after Diwali). I must say it looks far better than with the cold white lights I used the previous year, and the mix of blue and white I used in Navi Mumbai in 2010. This year that tree is going to have the distinction of being taken down on the 20th, moved to our new flat and being put back up right in time for Christmas, so we will have twice the fun, to to be frank I doubt I’ll get into baking mode then, it will probably the time to put some Christmas carols on though, the idea that the music will not be polluted by the loud and irritating drilling from the construction site anymore is appealing.
But enough about the tree, it’s up, it’s pretty and it really does the trick at giving a festive look to our place, what was the best part this year was this:
Cinnamon rolls! The aren’t really a Christmas treat in Switzerland, but more of a Sunday breakfast thing, but cinnamon has a festive enough smell and I was craving some…there!
I assembled them as a star before shoving them in the oven, but you can spread them on your cookie sheet so that they don’t stick together, that’s how bakeries usually sell them. The Swiss ones usually have ground hazelnuts and sultanas soaked in water inside along with the cinnamon, but I did them with just cinnamon and sugar this time, because I was too lazy to grind some almonds, and didn’t feel like waiting for the sultanas (white raisins) to soak and puff. I know that my friends in the US know the rolls with a thicker whiter icing that is often cream cheese based, we don’t do it that way in Switzerland, it’s just a light glaze of icing sugar, water and vanilla essence if you wish to add a little flavour to it.
So here goes my recipe:
500g of white flour (maida)
15g of dried yeast
1.5 table spoon caster sugar
60ml of warm milk plus extra fro kneading
1 small egg
30g butter plus extra for for brushing
1 teaspoon of salt
Cinnamon powder to taste
Icing sugar, water and vanilla essence for the icing
1) dissolve the yeast and sugar in 60ml of warm milk, make a well in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast-y milk in, cover with a little flour and wait for it to foam (takes about 10 minutes max)
2) Add the butter, egg and salt to the flour and pour milk gradually to form a soft elastic dough. Knead the dough vigorously for about 5-7 minutes folding and stretching to incorporate air in it. The put it back in the mixing bowl and cover with a clean dish towel and let it rest until it doubles in size.
3) Knock your dough back, and roll to rectangle of about 8-10mm thickness. Brush the flattened dough with melted butter. Then sprinkle powdered cinnamon all over, then add granulated sugar (then coarse one commonly found in India works very well) and if like me you LOVE cinnamon sprinkle some more over the sugar.
4) Roll your dough over itself to form a log by folding the longest side of your rectangle. Then cut slices in the log you just made, they should be about an inch thick, arrange them on a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment, or in the form of a flower/star like in my picture or spread them if you don’t want them to stick together. Cover them with a damp dish towel and let it rise again for about 15 minutes, meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degree Celsius.
5) Once the oven is hot, bake the rolls for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Mix about a cup of icing sugar with a little water to make a paste, add a few drop of vanilla essence and drizzle over the rolls, let it set as the rolls cool down.
I challenge anyone to wait until the rolls are completely cool to take their first bite, because it’s impossible, there is something so appealing about warm bread.
In my picture the icing was completely done by Ishita who after seeing me drizzling a spoon over the rolls wanted to try, which explains why the center piece has so much more icing than the others, which was a good thing because that is the one we ate last 2 days later, the icing prevented it to become too hard.
I blogged about it last year, St Nicolas is a very popular festival in Switzerland that falls on December 6th and you can read all about it here.
I was all for doing it again this year, but for several reason I gave it a miss, the first is that even if I am not full in packing mode, this move looming on the horizon is stressing me out, then in an effort of not loosing on the Holiday season despite the move and our idiot landlord’s doing I squeezed a lot of cookie baking in the first week of December, and that alone would be enough to wear out just about anybody, but there is more.
Thanks to our landlord selling the flat and my learning that he is hoping to sell at an over inflated rate, I see a parade of potential buyers, on day we had 10 coming between noon and 7pm, even if they just stay barely 2 minutes in, it means stopping what you are doing to put the dog away on a balcony, open the door and stay out of their way, and then get the dog back inside once they left, until the next one. On occasion that even left me suddenly receiving a call from the landlord informing me one of the brokers was waiting behind my door while I was outside (at the playground), mind you no one told me one would come unannounced, and they don’t even see why that would be a problem. Well the problem is that getting a 3 years old away from the swing because one moronic broker brought some people to visit the place without warning anybody result into a screaming, fussy toddler and I am the one left to deal with it. It’s even more fun when the broker apparently pissed off at me not being there can’t wait the 3 minutes it takes for me to come upstairs and leaves.
On top of that, it seems that the construction site next to my place is in a jack hammering phase, it’s been a solid week of near constant jack hammer from 9am until 6pm, shutting all the windows doesn’t even help much, a thing I will be so glad to rid myself of in two weeks let me tell you!
Then PMS struck it’s nasty head this weekend adding to my neurotic response to stress…”Hulk Smash” anyone?
Despite all that I was still all set to bake a ginger bread cake yesterday and have a special dinner, that was until I saw Ishita being super whiny before going to school, which had me suspect or an early bed time or a long long nap in the afternoon.
it turned out that she crashed on the sofa at 3pm only to half wake up at 7, super whiny, by 6pm I decided that nobody would even be enjoying the traditional St Nick meal so I didn’t even get into baking mode. I got Ishi in the shower when she woke up, then made the oh super easy “Potato, Brinjal, Tomato” that doesn’t only turn out to be easy but is also Ishita’s favourite. By 9 she was back in bed, but woke up bored with it all 3 times in the night screaming for her ritual morning bottle of soy milk each time, leaving me sleep deprived.
This morning I was a mess, a PMS-ing zombie with a headache, so much so that by the time Ishi was in school, I first sat down in front of the TV watching one of my “Friends” DVD until an announced potential buyer came to visit the place, then set my alarm clock to 1pm and crashed down for a little over an hour, too exhausted to even chalk one tiny task off my to-do list.
Then Ishita decided to nap, and I went for a power one myself, before taking the Christmas tree out of the box and assemble it. I then prepared some cinnamon rolls and Ishi woke up right when they were ready to go into the oven. We then decorated the tree together and she then decided she wanted to apply the icing to my cinnamon roll, which we called dinner. It was a sort of St Nicolas spirit meal, which just helped me feel the holiday joy again.
I will post some pictures and recipes soon too, most probably starting Monday, as tomorrow is a Saturday DH is at home and we have a PT meeting in the morning, and groceries to buy in the afternoon. It’s nearing 10pm here and I really need some shut eye.
The English names of these two cookie types are “Milano cookies” and “Cinnamon stars” and they are 2 of the 4 most popular Christmas cookies in Switzerland.
When you think Christmas you might immediately think about ginger bread cookies often decorated with coloured icing sugar, more often than not in the form of the ginger bread man, while I have no idea where that one originated (probably Germany) it is definitely NOT how holidays cookies look in Switzerland, I have never baked or seen a gingerbread cookie in my childhood, that goes to say that each countries have their own holiday recipes.
The Swiss like their cookies less sweet, and apart from the Milano all contain more almonds than flour, and are usually also low on butter. The Cinnamon stars are made of ground almond, beaten egg whites and icing sugar and nothing else, you can find the recipe for that one here. And it is probably the most extravagant looking of the holiday cookies we have, mainly due to it’s glossy white icing, now to make this recipe I do two things differently, first I do not cut the shapes and let them rest overnight before baking, I let the whole dough rest in the fridge for a few hours, and then I do not apply the icing before baking as they mention, I tried it once, the icing cooks, powder and get a dull brownish hue, and this is not how this cookie should look, they have to have a bright white icing, so to achieve that I brush them as soon as they come out of the oven and let it dry.
The Milano is a golden cookie that is the only one made with big quantity of white flour and butter along with quite a few eggs, this is what give it its signature taste, you can find the recipe here. The cinnamon stars have to be cut in the shape of stars to be traditional, and I do not deviate from that. Milano can be of any shape you want though. We usually stick to Christmassy shapes like stars, moons, and trees, but also hearts and flowers.
This year I am going to do all 4 varieties of cookies, I did a bunch of Swabia cookies this weekend I will blog about soon, and attempt a batch of “Brunsli” which are rich chocolate and almond powder cookies, they are usually tricky as the dough gets sticky, and I never made it from scratch, but I will attempt it this year.
These 4 cookies are so famous in Switzerland that around the holidays supermarkets start selling the ready made dough in the cold section so that people can cut some time in the preparation (prep time is not funny for kids and I saw that Ishita is no different she looses patience with that phase). The good new is that all these dough freeze very well, so it’s possible to make them in advance, put them in Ziploc bag and freeze ahead of time, the thawing phase usually doesn’t take too much time either. This year I made some Milano in advance but since they are already disappearing fast from the box I will have to make one more batch.
All the ingredients are super easy to find in India, the only one being costly being Almonds, and you need to grind them yourself, so having a good grinder (and it’s a must have in India anyway) is a good idea. The almonds are ground with their skin too, this is what give the cookies they lovely brown hue. And they are perfect if you aren’t an Ace cookie decorator (like me who never gets piped icing right).
Then all you need to make it right is put them in metal cookie box, they will do in plastic too, but holiday themed cookie box just brings the right thing to your festive season decor, with that little retro feel.
Back home it is traditional to bake them in huge amount and gift some in small translucent cellophane bags to people around you be it family, friends or colleagues. I even remember one year when our elementary school teacher made us do some in school to gift our parents, that’s how much part of the holiday season they are for us Swiss.
December 1st, the holiday season has officially started in our home, and with it Ishita’s Advent Calendar is up on the wall for the 3rd year. This time I decided to fold little paper bags out of red and white paper, the original plan was to tape them to the wall in the shape of a Christmas tree, but then the landlord hit us with his 30 day notice which will have us out of this flat by December 20th, so since I didn’t want to just paste back 4 bags in the new place, I did come up with banners, that way when we move out, I’ll just remove them, and place the one with the remaining bags in the new apartment. I am angry enough that he is pretty much stressing me out during my holiday season, I don’t want us to miss on any of it because of that move.
This year I put mostly hair clips and bows in the calendar, first because Ishita is in a girly phase and love these, and then because that’s better than having to pick up trinkets of the floor the rest of the year (the little plastic fishes from the year before was a bad idea). I added a few chocolates in some of the bags and there are one or two necklaces since she is always after mine too.
Along with the Advent Calendar I already baked 3 batches of cookies with more to come, and I’ll post the recipes here very soon, as usual it’s not the time of the year for diet in our home, as for me December means baking time, cookie galore and ginger bread, there is nothing like the smell of cinnamon to celebrate the season and the finally there cool days and almost cold nights. It’s been 3 evenings in a row that I have welcomed back my socks like an old friend, and there is nothing like a fruit infusion sipped before bed time. Christmas is a family festival, one that has replaced the original Solstice festival. Here without the dark night to illuminate in hope of longer brighter days, it’s for me a time to welcome the most pleasant weather period in Mumbai, after a year of constant humidity and heat, and general feeling of discomfort, The end of the year always come as a huge blissful relief that is truly worth celebrating.