Where have I been? In Pune, but now home in the US for a brief visit. What have I been doing? Mostly wallowing in ennui. For whatever reason, I have not been motivated to do much, not working on projects, researching, or writing here.
I can report that aside from the transoceanic trip, we did do one major thing. We hosted a “happy hour” party for 25 of The Resident Male’s coworkers, holding it at the apartment. I did all of the prep and cooking. I made samosas, falafel, hummus, guacamole, and Chinese scallion pancakes (adding some minced hot peppers to the scallions). I also improvised a mixed olive salad, and paneer with a Thai-style peanut sauce. Everyone had a good time, and using consumption as a barometer – the snacks were well received. The scallion pancakes in particular were prime, and a do-again, for sure!
There is some minimal progress on my latest shawl. I test-knit a new MMarioKnits product, but others were far speedier than me. Most of the corrections I found were posted by others, and my finished project was not completed in time for photography for the cover of the pattern. The main reason for this was a major lace disaster. While photographing the piece, I managed to drop upwards of 90 stitches, and needed to ravel back to a solid point and re-knit. After coming in so slowly for completion, I decided to punt the official as-written, minimal bind-off treatment, and add a knit-on lace edging. I selected a simple one from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting, picked both for complimenting the lines of the shawl’s main motifs, and for being a multiple of 12 rows, and began. I’m about two-thirds of the way around my circumference, and hope to be done soon.
However, just because I’ve been a slouching, IPad/browser game playing slacker, doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still.
I’ve said before that I get an enormous kick out of seeing what people do with the patterns and designs I post. Occasionally, folk write to me to ask questions, or send me photos. Other times, I track links to my pages back to the point of origin. If I stumble across something I ask the owner if I can repost their work here, with links or attributions as they desire. Here are the products of two people who sent me pix of their stitching this month.
Elaine from Australia delighted me with these two projects that include filling motifs from Ensamplario Atlantio:
Both were presents for friends. I’m not sure which one I like more – the piece for the Kiwi audiophile, or the one for the Lovecraft aficionado.
Meanwhile, Jordana in New York used two of the Ensamplario designs for the cover of a charming two-sided needle case. Here are her photos of the work in progress, and the finished item:
Well done to Elaine and Jordana! Special thanks to both of them for making my day!
Now that I’ve got your attention, this weekend past, during a trip to see the sights around Aurangabad in Maharastra, we climbed up to the top of Daulatabad Fort (aka Devagiri or Deogiri). It’s a vigorous hike up 200 meters (656 feet) of uneven stone steps and steep ramps, winding through dark passages, up to spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
Daulatabad and its fort have a long history as a key military and economic stronghold, dating back to the late 1100s. Devagiri was a fortress of the Hindu Yadava dynasty kings from the late 1100s before being seized by Moslem rulers around 1300, who saw its advantages as a military headquarters, and moved their capital to it in 1328. Water and resource shortages later led them to relocate back to Delhi. However it continued to be a center of power and contention for the next several hundred years, passing back and forth among various earlier Hindu, Mughal, Maratha, and later Maratha Peshwa rulers. These struggles, alliances, and inter-ethnic détentes are the foundation of Maharashtra province’s cultural mix to this day.
Devagiri’s defenses include many fortified gates, watchtowers, and multiple moats, one of which used to be spanned by a retractable leather bridge, traversable only on foot. Today’s bridge is sturdy iron and wood, a good thing because the moat still retains water, green with algae in this drought.
There is a twisty, steep and in places – a very dark passage on the main entry route, with deliberate drop-offs and false paths to lure invaders to their doom (thankfully roped off to protect clueless tourists).
There are sluice gates through which rocks, scalding water or burning oil could be dropped on the unwary; archer holes, hidden sally ports, and cliffs hand cut and polished to make climbing impossible. Later defenses included gigantic brass cannon (as long as a van) mounted on towers. These are cleverly balanced on center pivots so they could batter besieging armies coming from any direction.
The ramparts are massive, cut into or assembled from the hard basalt stone of the region. Building across the entire site clearly shows multiple periods of construction, ranging from the mighty initial citadel, to later Moghul palaces of graceful stonework, decorated with imported Chinese porcelain tiles and painted stucco.
Re-use of older fragments in newer construction is common:
Now why did I invoke Minas Tirith for this post? I’m no Tolkien scholar, but to my novice eyes Devagiri presents some strong parallels to his descriptions. For one, Devagiri is chiseled into a butte-shaped rock outcropping, a freestanding mesa overlooking the surrounding lands. The fort itself is built into, on top of, and around this massive prow-shaped stone:
The fortifications are nested in winding layers, with gates widely offset to delay attackers, and to lead them past ambush points. There are quarters, cisterns, and storehouses all the way to the summit. The lower circles of defense sport wide avenues that circle the hill, passing through defiles that could shelter large numbers of defenders ready to pounce on any incoming troops. Many of the towers, shrines, palaces, and walls (with the exception of a later brick-red minaret) were once covered with white stucco, and must have been an imposing presence, a multi-tiered, gleaming set of ramparts on top of the hill’s sheer, black, hand-chiseled cliffs.
Of course there are many differences, too. Tolkien describes a much larger city, with more circles of defense, and an entire population living inside. There was a town to support Devagiri, inside the outermost circle of fortifications, but it was arrayed at the base of the hill, rather than on the hill itself.
Dautalabad itself is far inland, up on the Deccan Plateau – on an arid high plain punctuated with other hills of similar configuration. There is no navigable river or port for ships, be they from Dol Amroth or Umbar. And while there are far-outer rings of defense enclosing what may have been support lands for agriculture or fodder-lands for war horses and elephants, there is no great wall of Rammas Echor enclosing a Pelennor-sized expanse before the gate.
Devagiri was well-known to the British, and was widely described and depicted as early as the late 1820s, although by the time they arrived it had past its glory, and was no longer a military stronghold. I would not be surprised to learn that the professor had read about it, perhaps as a boy learning the history of Marathi Empire and the three Anglo-Maratha wars that culminated in the British consolidating power over the majority of the Indian subcontinent. Perhaps some student of literature will take this idea as thesis fodder and delve more deeply into it…
No longer the contended redoubt of fierce warrior poets, today Devagiri is the slowly crumbling home of tour guides, elderly temple wardens, souvenir hawkers, gray langur monkeys, stray dogs, and clouds of bats. Romance and idle speculation aside, visiting the fort has taught me much about the area’s history and onion-like culture, with layers of influences laid one on top of the other.
I marvel at the scope of effort and breadth of power a monument of this size still represents.
An eventful week here at String India, punctuated by the refusal of Windows Live Writer to run without crashing, which explains the lack of posts.
First, I present the results of a local yarn crawl. Local Ravelry KnitPal RedHeadedWoman and I went on a yarn and stitching supply locating expedition to the center of Pune. We crawled in and out of tiny shops that offered the most amazing variety of trims, beads, sequins, pre-stitched blouse yokes, and brocades. No where on earth does bling with the variety and joyful elan of India. Yarn was harder to find, and real wool or silk was unicorn-rare. But there were lots of colors of man-made fibers in various weights.
I came away with some crimson laceweight. It’s about a 2/20 weight and in all probability, either all acrylic or an acrylic/nylon blend. I’ve got roughly 400 grams (about 14 ounces), so I’d estimate that I have in the neighborhood of 4,500 yards. I also got two fistfuls of small metallic beads, one silver tone, and one antique gold. The princely haul below set me back about 600 rupees, roughly $11 US.
Special thanks to RedHeadedWoman for the fun of poking around the market stalls!
Second, I present a happy food triumph of the slightly misshapen variety: Samosas.
Samosas are one of the 10,000 snack foods for which India is famed. It’s a highly adaptable fried or baked turnover, turning up with all sorts of fillings, in all sizes, and at all venues, from the most posh cocktail parties to street food stands. About all I can see that unites them is a vaguely triangular shape and the happiness with which they are greeted.
I tried my hand at one of the most common types – a “truck stop size” samosa, filled with potatoes, peas and onions, spiced with lots of garlic and masala (a spice mix that varies from region to region and cook to cook). We had ours with soup for dinner, but this is the type that’s most commonly available as street food, at roadside rest stops, or other places where food on the go is appreciated.
I started with this recipe, but quickly veered off on my own. Note that the filling can be prepared way ahead and fridged, then brought back to room temperature before stuffing the samosas and frying them.
Therefore, not pretending to offer up anything remotely resembling “authentic,” I present:
One American Chick’s Sort-of-Samosas
Makes 16 “truck stop lunch size” filled fried pastries
3/4 cup white all-purpose flour (maida)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
2 Tbsp ghee or butter – MUST BE SOLID, NOT MELTED
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Oil for deep-frying
2 medium size onions, chopped
2 Tbsp oil for sauteeing.
8 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 cups frozen or fresh peas
5 fist-size potatoes, peeled
2 tsp garam masala*, or other spices to your taste
1 Tbsp salt
1. Peel the potatoes, chunk them into two or three pieces and set them to boil until tender. Drain the potatoes and salt them.
2. While the potatoes are cooking you’ll have some time. Mix the two flours, the salt and baking powder together. If lumpy, sift. Work the hard ghee or solid butter into the flour mix with your fingertips or a fork, as if you were making scones or pie crust, until all the butter is incorporated, and the flour looks crumbly and grainy – past the point at which you’d stop if this was pie crust.
3. Add about half of the water to the flour/butter mix and combine. Keep adding water slowly and mixing until the dough can be gathered up and briefly worked into a smooth mass. Do not over-knead or the shells will be hard as rocks. Set the dough aside under a damp cloth or in a plastic box.
4. Take about half of the cooked potatoes and dice them into small chunks, about 1.5 cm (1/2 inch). Precision isn’t important, you just want them to be small but noticeable bits in the stuffing. Rough mash the rest of the potatoes with the back of a fork or large slotted spoon.
5. In a large frying pan, saute the onions in the oil until light golden. Add the minced garlic and saute for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, but not brown. Sprinkle the masala mix onto the onions and saute for another minute or two. Toss in the potato cubes and let them get coated with the oily spicy oniony garlicky mix. Then toss in the mashed potatoes and stir all together. When incorporated, stir in the peas. Taste it and add more salt if needed. Let the stuffing heat on low for another ten minutes for the peas to thaw and cook, and for the flavors to meld. Stir occasionally to scrape up any yummy bits from the bottom back into the filling, and to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom. This fully cooked filling can be made way ahead and fridged until needed, although I suggest taking it out and letting it warm up before stuffing and frying the samosas, to ensure that the center doesn’t remain cold.
6. To assemble – have your filling ready. Have a small rolling-pin ready. Take the rested dough and divide it into 8 equal parts. Put the parts back under the damp cloth towel or back into the plastic box until needed. Take the first lump of dough. Flatten it into a pancake and pat it into some loose flour. Roll it out into a circle, as large and as thin as you can (mine was about 10 inches around, and about an eighth of an inch thick). Take a knife and cut the circle into two halves. Each half will make one samosa.
7. Try to follow this video’s folding logic. Moisten the straight edge of the half circle with water, then pat it into a cone. Hold the cone in one hand and fill it with the other hand, patting the filling in to make sure there are no air holes. Pinch the top of the samosa closed in the center (where the cone’s seam is), then pinch the seam shut left and right of that point. Finally, fold the left and right corners of the newly formed seam together and pinch them, too. The professional samosa chef does this by plopping the thing down on the counter and using the side of his hand to make the second seal, at the same time giving his pastry a nice, flat, triangular bottom. Mine were more free-form, looking sort of like the back end of a fleeing chicken. In spite of the laughably unorthodox shape, mine did stay closed while cooking, which is what counts.
8. As the samosas are done, place them on a plate or rack, making sure that they do not DO NOT touch each other. If you are forming them ahead of time and intend to refrigerate before frying, this is an absolute necessity. You can stack them in a large plastic box, but if you do, make sure each one is separated from the others, and waxed paper or plastic wrap between layers is highly advised.
9. When the samosas are all formed they can be either baked or deep-fried. I have no oven and have NOT tested my variant of the pastry for baking. I fried mine, two at a time in a small, deep saucepan, and drained them on paper towels.
* Masala just means spice mix. Garam masala means hot spice mix. There are as many masala mixes as there are Indian households and cooks. The one I dipped into for the potato filling was a home-made gift from Driver Rupesh’s family. It’s a mix of red chili powder, anise, cloves, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and lord knows what else, pan roasted together and ground into tasty goodness. I have another one that’s a home-made gift from work colleague Bavouk’s family. It’s very different, with a subtle lemony/astringent perfume, and is especially delicious on vegetables and chickpeas.
Yes! Blintzes! Bharat being the name of this land to those who live here. Perhaps missing comfort foods just a tad, I had a Stranger in a Strange Land kitchen interlude today, and share my results.
Long time readers here may remember that I shared my grandmother’s blintz recipe a while back. Making them even in the US can be problematic because workable cheeses can be hard to find. I’ve experimented with lots of different cheese mixes over the years, because the ones my grandmother used were not always available where I was living. But inspired by paneer, which is like a super-dry farmer cheese, I was determined to make them here in India. And make them, I did, with excellent success!
Here’s a modified blintz recipe, adapted to local ingredients and availability, and halved in quantity from my for-freezer storage original. For the record, the paneer, dahi (an unsweetened thick yogurt) can be found in every market in India. Mascarpone (a soft, spreadable cheese in the cream cheese family) was found in Auchan Hypermarket – the supermarket a couple of blocks from my apartment. I’ve also seen it in Dorabjee’s.
Please note that blintzes are dairy, but not totally vegetarian, because both the crepes and the filling contain eggs. For equipment you’ll need a grinder/blender, although a hand-held electric mixer would work even better, also a non-stick slope-sided omelet or crepe pan, a paper towel or basting brush, a couple of clean non-fuzzy/non-terry kitchen towels, and a ladle or scoop of some type.
Makes about 28-30 or so
For the crepes:
10 enormous heaping table tablespoons (as opposed to measuring spoons) of all-purpose flour (pile these so high that more can’t balance on the spoon)
3 pints of water
2 tsp salt
Vegetable oil for frying
For the filling:
200g mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup dahi
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Making the crepes
Using the grinder/blender, and working with only HALF of each quantity above at a time (due to small blender carafe capacity), Combine water and flour until completely smooth with no lumps. Blend in the eggs. Repeat with the other half of the ingredients, and mix the results of the two batches together. This should give you a very runny vaguely yellowish batter. It will be a bit frothy at first – let it sit for about 15 min to disperse some of the foam.
Spread out one clean kitchen towel in a safe spot near the stove. Pour a VERY SMALL quantity of oil into your omelet pan, wiping most of it out with the paper towel. Reserve the towel because you’ll use it again between crepes. Set the pan to heat. When the pan is hot, take it off the heat and ladle just enough batter into it that when the pan is swirled, the bottom is covered. Set the pan back on the flame. The edges of the crepe will release from the side of the pan and curl in, and the top of the crepe will eventually look dry and less shiny. When that has happened, take the pan over to the towel and inverting the pan and rapping it on the towel, turn out the cooked crepe. If it landed folded, spread it out to cool, with the cooked side up. Wipe the pan with the oily paper towel.
Keep making crepes until you run out of batter. It should take only a minute or two for each new crepe to cool. As they cool, stack them in a pile with the cooked side up. The crepes should be thin enough that any pattern or printing on the kitchen towel should show through. If they crack or are totally opaque, they are too thick. You won’t get 28-30 from the recipe. The crepes can be made ahead and left to sit, covered with another kitchen towel, but they should be filled on the same day as they are made. If they are fridged between making and filling, let them come up to room temperature before you attempt to separate them.
Making the filling:
I made the filling in three batches, again because of the limited capacity of my blender/grinder. If you are using an hand-held electric mixer, there’s no reason not to do it all at once.
Using a third of the filling ingredients at a time, blend all together until smooth. Combine the three batches and stir them together, just in case the division was less than perfect.
Filling and cooking the blintzes:
Place a crepe in front of you, cooked side up (you want the cooked side of the crepe to be in contact with the filling, and the uncooked side to be on the outside of the blintz) . Spoon one or two tablespoons of filling onto the bottom third of one side. Fold the bottom edge up over the filling. Fold in the left and right sides. Roll the crepe away from you to make a cylinder roughly the size of a Chinese eggroll. The filling should be entirely encased.
These may be frozen or refrigerated at this point – both of these processes work best if the blintzes are not touching each other. Otherwise they might stick and the outsides might tear.
Saute lightly in vegetable oil starting with the “flap” side down. Blinzes are done when the skin is golden and the filling is firm. Serve with dahi, sour cream, or with applesauce or another sweet condiment. This being India of course, any manner of savory, hot and sweet chutney might be used.
Moral of the story: where there is a will (and cheeses) there is a way!
First, for Davey – the wildly loud sofa pillow covers to coordinate with the wildly loud rug:
I picked the blue, red/orange stripe, and turquoise/gold from memory, and they work, even in spite of my equivocal photographic skills, and the flash-wash that makes the red pillow look paler than in real life. There are six pillows in total, two of each fabric.
Moving on, here’s progress through Row 103 of the Dozen shawl that I’m test-knitting:
It’s growing into a feral, interlaced dahlia of a design, which you can begin to see in this rough pin-out. Additional width will be more of the same.
And then there’s the Sarah Collins sampler kit, upon which I’ve started but have made no real progress:
Maybe I’ve ridden at liberty for too long, working at whim instead of direction. Maybe I’m too much of a tinkerer to do a stitched design laid out by someone else, or I have a touch of compulsive perfectionist in my soul – but for whatever reason, this kit is already driving me nuts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a complete kit, thoughtfully laid out and as a reproduction, extremely well documented. The unruly element is me.
For example, it pains me to mindlessly duplicate the mistakes laid down by the original stitcher. See that twist column to the left of the frame? That’s verbatim to the pattern’s directions. But I tried, and tried, but just couldn’t let it sit that way. See the twist inside the frame, with the completed centers? I **had** to do it. I’ll probably pick out the offending imperfect twist and re-do it to match the edited bit.
There’s also working up the double running for this panel in two colors of sienna. The blue flower doesn’t bother me, I find that adorable. But using two threads for the framing spiral, alternating colors is maddening. It’s clear to me that dear Sarah might not have marled and finger-spun her threads properly, or perhaps ran out of one of the two shades, and that’s why the panel is done in alternating two-tone. It’s all I can do to grit my teeth and work as directed, because if I don’t, I risk running out of a color before the kit is done. Getting more matching thread, especially here, would be difficult in the extreme.
And then there’s the format of the charts. They’re huge, and orchestrate a stitch for stitch path, with every single one numbered. There are sufficient map pages in the thing to chart one’s way from Boston to Mumbai by rail (including the sunken parts via Atlantis). Paging through them is an exercise in where-the-heck-is-page-2b-left-got-to-now?” – then finding it under the sofa.
I’m also not fond of the indicated stitch logic. The paths described are not the ones I would choose. I tend to key off established bits, so that I can proof new sections against clean counts as I work. There’s too much “where no man has gone before” in this piece, with extremely long runs worked in advance of the growing body of work, and no way to confirm fidelity as one progresses.
Is there a moral to this story? Perhaps, not. But I have to admit that today’s post reveals that I’m a ruthless stickler for detail, caught up in color matching from memory, precision adherence to knitting patterns (where forays into originality are better left for after one has grokked the source design); but temperamentally incapable of similar fidelity to oh-so-obvious stitching directions. Mark it up as another character flaw, pass me a glass of wine, and move on, please.
I’m sure that ever since humankind first wiggled toes on a bare floor, and decided that something colorful and soft would be nifty to stand on, no rug dealer has ever lost money on a transaction. That being said, I am quite satisfied with value we bargained for today.
Our apartment here in Pune is very white. White unadorned walls, hard white marble floors, neutral color furniture and curtains, all blend together to make the comfy but totally featureless box in which we live. I did bring bright color sheets and towels, but we certainly could use more visual contrast here. So today we went out looking for area rugs to bring some color and brightness to the place.
After a minor comedy of misunderstanding with our driver (“rug” here means bed covering or bedspread), we ended up at a store specializing in Kashmiri handcrafts, where we looked at lots of small and mid-size carpets (aka “Orientals” in local English). We ended up selecting two items, to use here and then to send home to use there. Both are about 6’ x 9’.
One is an all wool hand-knotted rug in a traditional pattern:
The main colors are oxblood, steel, and tan, with accents of celadon and ecru. It’s plush and thick, and a joy to walk on. I can’t remember the knot count, but from the unofficial hierarchy of all-wool rugs, this is an A-grade. There were a couple that were even finer, but not in all wool. I really like the minor variations in the pattern repeats – something that brings the design to a life not achieved by machine made rugs.
The other is a type less commonly seen in the USA. It’s all cotton, done entirely in tambour (ata needle) embroidery. The stitching is so dense that it totally covers the ground cloth with work that closely resembles chain stitch:
Also handmade, it’s backed with a second layer of heavy cotton. The colors are garnet, sapphire, gold, and orange, with accents of leaf green, baby blue, brown and white. It’s no where near as thick as the wool rug, but it shines like a jewel. It won’t last as long as the knotted rug, and isn’t suitable for heavy traffic areas or for under chairs that move around, but it’s perfect for our living/sitting area with its fixed furniture.
Next I go to a textile vendor to buy some similarly brilliant yardage, to sew new covers for the brown and ecru throw pillows on our sofa (or have them sewn by a local sewing-shop).
I feel brighter already!
I’m in the home stretch now, well past the line of reflection in the center. The figures at this point are straight repeats of those already accomplished. Plus I’ve long since aged off the line by line prose instructions. It’s far easier – for me at least – to keep track of where I am and spot check my progress against a visual chart than a mass of line by line directions.
And here’s a close-up of the center mermaid for Kathryn and Hastings:
The first shot above was taken with the stole patted out on my bed. It’s worth noting that it’s a king-size bed, and the stole as it is right now stretches almost entirely across. I don’t know how I’m going to block it here because I can’t pin it to the marble floors. I might have to wait until we get a rug, provided of course, the rug is large enough.
In other news, India continues to delight and baffle me. A new found friend gave me a flyer for a western-style bakery that does home delivery. Tired of supermarket bread and my own feeble attempts at roti and parathas, we chanced it. “Look! Bagels and Danish!” Here’s what we got:
The Danish were nice – flaky, but very sweet. These are fruit. The cheese ones were also flaky, and being less sweet, even better.
The bagels though were open to wider interpretation. As a toroid breakfast bread, they were fine grained, more like a pierced Pullman loaf than a bagel, clearly made from a raised dough with more butter in it than the bagel standard. Also they were neither boiled nor crusty. However they did go nicely toasted, with butter and cheese. The verdict – o.k., certainly a better start to the morning than the local equivalent of Wonder Bread, but are perhaps an bagel incarnation informed only by pictures, conceptualized and baked by someone who has never eaten one. But labels are only labels. I say pass the “bagel” – tomorrow’s will go great with Nutella.
More words that though not new, are new to me as I read local newspapers and advertisements, and learn more about Pune, and India in general.
Guntha – A measure of area, about 10 x 10 meters, roughly equivalent to 1/40th of an acre. It’s common to see magazine articles noting the reservation of a certain number of gunthas, to be dedicated to parking or some other specialty use.
Dabbas – Lunch boxes. These are the Indian version of bento boxes, traditionally carried by school children or workers. There’s even a whole industry dedicated to speedy transport of dabbas from home to office workers, or to supply catered dabbas for those who need non home-cooked meals, ensuring a hot, fresh-cooked lunch when and were it is needed. Note the multiple compartments for keeping several items warm and separate until they are eaten. I’ve also seen these called tiffin boxes or tingkats.
Gutka – A word from the tabloid papers. An addictive, chewed stimulant based on betel nuts, plus other substances. Apparently there is a thriving trade in this illegally manufactured, untaxed, carcinogenic, (and often dangerously contaminated) stimulant. Every now and again there’s a piece on the arrest of a maker, transporter or gang of distributors.
Gram Panchayat – A village council, or local government body at the village or town level. Panchayat representatives are elected from panches – the village wards or districts. A proportion of each local panchayat’s seats are reserved for women representatives. Panchayats can levy taxes on some local activities, and are responsible for civic activities, including street lights, public education, drinking water, sanitation, and population records. Sadly, not all seem to serve in the public interest though, because occasional newspaper pieces talk of isolated cases of voter coercion, misapplication or misappropriation of funds, or naive choices with unforseen outcomes. Not unlike local governments in other places.
Techie – A member of the “New India” workforce, especially one working in an engineering or technical field. The tabloids especially seem to have a fascination for young professionals and their doings. Many are 20- and 30-somethings with disposable incomes, far away from the watchful eyes of their families. Not surprisingly, occasionally they or come to harm, either self inflicted through careless behavior, or through victimization; or they commit crimes of passion. These especially are reported with breathless detail.
Tatkal Tickets – These appear to be railway tickets booked in advance like airline tickets, as opposed to tickets that are purchased at the train station. There’s a surcharge for advanced purchase. And since it’s probably now clear that my new words are largely furnished by the sensational crimes section of the local papers, there are occasional pieces on folk who have figured out how to hustle the system, and scalp tickets. Photo ID is now required for passengers boarding trains with pre-paid tatkal tickets.
How do I like it here? My friend Osa was right. Every day is an opportunity for limitless learning and the development of infinite patience. Small challenges can be daunting (like finding someplace to buy the very unusual light bulbs used in the apartment) but while accomplishing these quests may take time and present transient frustration, the sense of accomplishment, and joy in new things is palpable. In short, I’m having a great time.
A semi-quiet weekend here at String.
First, progress on my Dragon Stole, which I’ve modded to include the central undine from its pattern’s ultimate ancestor:
Mods include the star above the beastie’s eye, the large flower in front of it, and beginning of the mermaid at the right.
You can see that my spool of Valley Yarns Tencel 8/2 has been barely diminished by all this knitting. The tencel is quite easy to work with, a bit slippery compared to cotton (which for me is a good thing), but less slippery than rayon. It doesn’t roll back on itself to kink, even coming off the cone. Being about half done at this point, I estimate that my cone, claimed by Webs to have 3360 yards on it, will be ample for 8-10 shawls of this size. At around $25 for the cone, I’d rate it as a very good buy. Aside – if you’re budget challenged or packing for an extended stay somewhere, consider taking up lace knitting. Lace offers the most knitting satisfaction per dollar invested on materials, and per square inch of suitcase space.
Then, coincident with the Indian nation’s Republic Day, Younger Daughter’s school had their annual field day – a morning of track and field events pitting the Indus International School’s various houses against each other. Phoenix, Orion, Hercules, and Pegasus have vied all year for points in academics, debating, deportment, and sporting events, just like at Hogwarts. Field day is the culmination of the annual competition.
Assignment to the houses appears to be pretty arbitrary, no sorting hat here. Younger Daughter was shuffled off to Hercules on the whim of the admitting administrator. Hercules took first place in the day’s marching. Here they are, behind their blue flag:
Perhaps the most fun of the day was the kids vs. faculty tug of war, where (no surprise) the myrmidons of the massed houses triumphed over their long-suffering teachers. Younger Daughter’s sense of triumph is palpable:
Phoenix house won the 2012 house trophy. I hear the kids are already plotting new domination strategies for 2013.
France may be the land of 500 cheeses, but India is the land of 10,000 snacks.
They take their snacks very seriously here. There appear to be micro-regional specialties, and a dizzying variety of basic types – far beyond the chips (crisps for my UK readers), pretzels, tortilla chips, and smattering of other items seen in American supermarkets. I suspect if a new vegetable or grain were to spontaneously appear, the US FDA would study it for two years before decreeing wholesomeness, the European Union would ban it because there is no established tradition of farming or cooking it, but India would throw open her arms and overnight it would appear in fifty new packaged fried snack foods, each with a distinctively cheerful bag.
We’ve been trying some as our weekend treat, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available at the Hypermarket down the street:
Yes, those are potato sticks. The particular variety we tried is (like much of India) perfumed with cumin. Potato (aloo) sticks come in dozens of varieties, some spicy/hot/salty, some herbed, and some plain. We really liked this one, they’re easy to nibble and go great with roasted little red-skin peanuts, smaller than those in the US, but tastier.
Oh. I forgot to mention, combining these nibbles into one’s own custom snack mix appears to be a national pastime, so we’re following suit, mixing and matching these as whimsy overtakes us.
This one is a bit messier to eat. In texture, it’s like fuzzy dust studded with little bits of roasted lentils, cashew nuts, and other seeds and spices. It’s so fine it almost needs to be spooned. It’s also intensely spicy. I love the product tag line “A Munching Device.” A good mixer to use with other, less intense varieties.
These are The Resident Male’s favorite. They’re crunchier than Cheetos, and flavored with onion and chili instead of Mystery Orange.
Puffed wheat! Very roasty tasting, and a perfect background foil to these other hot and spicy treats. I knew a little about the variety of Indian foods and was prepared for that exploration, but the wealth of casual nibbles here took me by surprise. I find it a very amusing arena for small discoveries. I’ll post more about these as we try more.
On the needlework front, I’ve made a bit of progress on the Dragon Stole:
I’m just about up to the body, half way through the first dragon.
And I’ve unpacked my stitching. I’ve set up my big green sampler.
Unfortunately, there’s no good place in the apartment to work on it. I need very bright light, and even though we finally found the exotic flavor light bulbs used in the fixtures here, and have more than one 40 watt light source in the living room, there’s still not enough light to work it by. So as a stop gap, I’ve started the Sarah Collins kit I picked up at Winterthur in 2011:
I’ve never done a kit before, preferring to muddle about on my own. I am having mixed feelings about this. It’s cumbersome, with a zillion large scale detailed charts that require constant cross-referencing. The design is pleasing, the colors are o.k., not my faves, but well suited to the design. The linen is nice, and working 3×3 is a refreshing change, quite large compared to what I’ve been stitching of late. I opted for the cotton rather than the silk threads, in part because the silk kit was expensive. That’s why I’m working it on the padded round frame. Were this silk, it would fight for space on my flat frame with Big Green.
Oh, and yes – I’m working on T2CM, too. I’m up to the exquisitely boring part, where I add proofed counts to each pattern.