Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Dressing for Diwali - Diva style?

Diwali is about celebrating good over evil and about hope and good wishes. And the festival of lights is just around the corner.. People are preparing. Rows of different colored light bulbs are coming up on the buildings, - more and more for every day - creating a fairytale-ish atmosphere... The shops are full of people searching for gifts, looking at clothes and buying beautifully decorated baskets filled with dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, spices, tea - to give to their family, friends, colleagues and neighbors...  Cards are being written, rangolis put on floors, menus are planned and light bulbs and flowers are emerging outside private homes, public buildings and along the streets. It is very beautiful. Lights and colors everywhere.

The markets is a popular place to be, and I went with some friends to check out the Santacruz area - lots of stuff for you if you wanna go all bling bling this Diwali and dress up Diva style, or if you want to dress up someone else (Diva-style or any other style), buy gifts, decorations or simply take in the atmosphere of the Mumbai pre-diwali spirit. Just have a look:

Diwali decorations, stationary, diyas, gift bags, fabrics, jewelry... it went on and on... 

And if your clothes are not colorful or bling-y enough for you, you can always spice them up with some neon, gold or silver lace or some contrasty dupattas:

And not to forget: bangles, earrings and everything else in any color you would like - or you would like someone else to have... :
If you do not do well with decisions, this is not the place for you! Pick and choose - yes, fine.... But which one(s) to choose? Welcome to bangle bling bling heaven:

I am exited about the days to follow. For me the most important: the unique atmosphere of this festival and the opportunity we have been given to share the joy with good friends. I feel grateful. And looking around me, I am thinking that we should maybe put up some colored light bulbs on the balcony too. A lot of blinking lights going on, I tell you... After all: we are in India - and it is soon Diwali!

Enjoy your moments, dear reader, wherever you are! Bling bling from Mumbai!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Happy NO-day! - Go celebrate, Greece !

At 04.00 am 28 October 1940 the Greek prime minister general Ioannis Metaxas received an ultimatum from Adolf Hitler's Italian ally Benito Mussolini. Access to Greece or war. It is said that Metaxas' answer was a simple but clear: Ochi! (=no). The Greeks run to arm themselves while Ochi! Ochi! was echoing in the streets. A few hours later Greece was attacked by Italian forces, and the country was at war.

Maybe Mussolini thought it would be easy to concur Greece? Nooo. Greek forces managed to fight the Italians back to Albania. Mussolini had to ask Hitler for help, and German forces invaded Greece (after intense battles). Metaxas' no followed by the hard resistance by the Greeks, might have been the reason that Hitler had to delay his attack on the Soviet union till the winter. An disastrous attack for Hitler which led to the end of World War II in 1945. A war that caused the death of over 60 million people..

So, today is a national holiday in Greece. Schools and businesses are closed. There are parades and celebrations to honor that day when Greece said no to fascism and yes to democracy. Today is the day to salute the ancestors and remember them with gratitude, and the day to celebrate courage, passion and freedom. Go celebrate Greece! Honor your values, history, pride and joy! A very very happy NO-day to you all!

As for me, I will simply celebrate with some sentimental Greece - glimpses from last summer. I hope you will enjoy them!
Our Kavala in northern Greece:-) 
Pic taken by my gifted photograph-teen:-) Love it! 
A moment from last year...

Nea Iraklitsa, outside Kavala..

Have a wonderful evening, dear reader, and thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned for more Mumbai tales, after this tiny Greek-time-out:-) Ta ta!  

Friday, 25 October 2013

Spices for body & soul

Thali is for me India-on-a-plate. Those small bowls filled up with yummy stuff - each one with it's own flavor, color, taste and identity. And still complementing each other, making a balance, a wholeness. Spicy, bland, bitter, creamy, sweet and sour. It all comes together perfectly, and where would that thali be without spices?

Ah, those Indian spices, dear reader. I tell you, my taste buds have never been challenged this much anywhere else in the world! Tasting and eating. Cooking with spices in a whole new way. Shopping for spices at the markets. Chatting with the sellers, trying out something new, bringing home my favorites. Ginger, chili, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander and uncountable masalas'. The colors are vibrant: red, orange, yellow and green. And check the health benefits: spices may f.ex. help for depression, digestion and different aches&ouches around the body. At Indiaparenting you can find a list of the most common spices, their benefits and as an extra bonus for us never-giving-up-to-learn-Hindi-people - the name of the spice in both English and Hindi.

So, spices for body and soul, dear reader. Here are a few shots from shopping spices at stalls and markets:
Tasting new nuts
My garam masala being measured up
Pick and choose! 
And then conveniently enough - loads of fresh vegetables and herbs next door -
 just waiting eagerly to be added some spices:-)  
Spices for body and soul. Another important ingredient adding color, flavor and spice to my life is music. And like with the spices: I have my favorites, but I am more than open to try new stuff! And India has certainly introduced me to some new catchy rhythms! Once a week I meet with a group of ladies and a dance teacher - and we dance modern Indian music, and very often music from Bollywood - films. We have a lot of fun, and what a great feeling that music brings me! The catch is that very often the song is completely stuck with me for the rest of that day. Here we go again! Now, we are dancing to Balam Pichkari from the film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Spice for body & soul - music and wellness. Have a look - catchy, eh? (PS: Reader outside India: The scenery is from the Holi-festival! And yes, we do throw colored powder and water at each other. And some do dance around like this:-) )Enjoy!

So, more spices in my everyday life? Well, for you with a taste for mystery, I can report that the mysterious wall outside our door, remember - has now vanished. Our new neighbors-to-be wanted to follow vastu -principles and had it built as a part of a new entrance complex. However, since it limited the access to the fire exits, cable-storage and common space - it went down again. So, now it looks like this.

Oh, well, some surprises kind of spice up our daily life, I guess:-) I hope you have a good Friday, dear reader, and I wish you a wonderful spicy weekend:-)
Ta ta!
My favorite-spices-on-a-plate  - love the size & flavor of those cinnamon sticks! 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Decorating for Diwali and a Mysterious Wall

She sat outside the hut, looking up at us, as we came closer. She could be maybe 5-6 years old. She smiled and looked down at the little lamp burning next to her - giving a yellowish light to the dark alleyway. - It is for welcoming Lakshmi, my friend said  - that is why they lit the lamps - to welcome the goddess to their home, and hope she will bring prosperity and wealth. 

is coming up, dear reader. The festival of lights. It is glamorous, almost magical and enthusiastically celebrated by all people (myself included). And I can feel the pre-Diwali spirit over Mumbai now... Expectations, excitement, preparations, joy...Diwali commercials all over - and people are shopping to decorate for the festival. To go with the flow: so did I, and set out for the Bhuleshwar market.

At Diwali, people dress up in their best clothes, and this is the time to appear in a new and impressive creation! It is usual to give clothes and saris as gifts as well, and what a fest of fabric, color and glitter we found at the market:

Rangoli is a beautiful way of decorating for Diwali. Intricate vibrant patterns are being made on the floor, outside your door, using colored powder. If you think it sounds to complicated to make, they also sell large round-rangoli-look-a-like-stickers. 

And with lots of powder, some skills, talent and patience, you might be able to make something like this:

We also found other glittery stickers for decoration - swastika (for good luck) and footsteps to stick on the floor outside your entrance door or outside rooms - to show the gods where to go and welcome them. Remember only to stick them the right way - they should show the way in to your house and not leaving it..

In the most colorful part of the market we found garlands. Big and small garlands to decorate your front door,your car, bicycle - wherever you want basically, for good luck and for welcoming the gods.

And finally the diyas, the small oil lamps. During Diwali found lit outside every house, big or small. Remember, the diya that I had first seen - next to that little girl- in the slumhut. Representing hope and joy.  

So, then I come home, with my decor-Diwali stuff, standing in the elevator thinking how great this will look outside our door. I come out of the elevator. I stop. Is this my floor? When I left that morning, everything was normal, but during the day, a wall has risen in front of our door. Yes, dear reader. A wall. I am speechless. And a bit impressed that they managed to erect a wall during some hours only... But what is going on? Hm - those rangolis might have to wait a bit to go on that floor... 
Stay tuned to follow my mysterious-wall-tale, dear reader... And Diwali is coming up 1-5. November by the way, so still plenty of time..:-) 

Wish you the best, and thanks for following:-)

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Mumbai Monsoon Music Medley

So, I woke up with this song on my mind. It refused to go away. I was humming while I enjoyed my tea on the balcony, while I brushed my teeth (!) and in the car. It followed me around! I was sitting in the office, singing.. accompanied by the rain drumming on the corrugated iron roof (and dripping through the roof - into a plastic bowl right next to the desk) I only took a break to chat a bit - about when-the-monsoon-will-finally-bid-farewell-this-year?! I had to remind myself that some months ago I was almost longing for the monsoon to come and put us out of our sweaty heat-misery. Ok - so go with the flow- can't change the weather, right? And like Poonam said: - The monsoon will go when it will go, only!

So true! So, what to do? Well, I surrendered to my song. I put it on, there in the office, and the voice of Michali Hatzigianni filled the room. How strange! You see, we saw him live last summer - in a fancy bar in Greece, next to the waves, under the stars - and everybody was singing along. And here I was, in the slum in monsooney Mumbai, in a hut with a leakage, with Hatzigianni and lots of smiling Indian people. Great moment - when culture, art and music travel across borders. And just as I have got to learn and love music from India - I saw that my music was being loved too - by people who never even knew you existed, Hatzigianni! So, some wet monsoon moments and a rainy day in the office - but still lit up by global music medley, colorful clothes, and a lot of smiling faces. Wonderful music does that to people...:-)

So, there is a first time for everything, and today, I'll share some videos with you. It feels natural. Because it would be kind of pointless to talk about my music, without letting you hear it, right? This first video, we recorded on the festival "Plai sto kima" (=next to the waves) - which takes place close to our city Kavala in Greece. We sit on the sand, hear the waves, have the stars and moon above - and everybody just sing along.... Great moment -  Michalis Hatzigiannis:

And, finally - here is my Stubborn Song Of The Day - that I was humming and singing on all day long ... I hope you like it (and that it will not get stuck on you too for days now - he he  ...?) : Same singer with an older song: Choris anapnoi (= breathless):

When I am first at it - let me share one last musical moment. You see, like in India, they also have the modern music, and the more traditional one in Greece. We recorded this moment at the ancient theater of Filippi, where we go every summer to nurture our artistic sides - under the stars...:

Well, some musical moments today, dear reader - I am sure you have your favorites too? Nothing like music to bring out joy and emotions:-) I hope you enjoy your moments.

From Mumbai, I hummingly wish you a wonderful evening:-) 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Navrati and Dussehra - the festivals go on!

If you love bright colored saris, music and drumming day and night, dancing people, glitter and glam, happy smiles and loads of tasty Indian food... - and if you have been in Mumbai the last week or so -  then my guess is that you are still walking around with a smile on your face?! Because the Navrati festival (9-nights-festival) has all that - and so much more! And you are also maybe a bit exhausted? 

Yes, dear reader, another big festival! For 9 days and 9 nights the divine mother Shakti in all her 9 forms has been celebrated....thoroughly! The 3 first days is for goddess Durga/Kali, remover of evil, suffering and imperfection, and then goddess of healing, wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi is worshiped, while the last 3 days is for Saraswati, goddess of creativity, wisdom and knowledge.

9 days, 9 nights, 9 forms of the goddess - and 9 colors: one for each day! Just imagine how gorgeous and vibrant this festival is?! People dress up in their best and most colorful clothes and put on jewelry. They bring flowers, fruit and other offerings to Shakti, asking for strength and blessings. Cars and rickshaws are decorated with flower -garlands, and there are parties going on constantly, all with a lot of food - a huge variety of dishes! And - then the Dandiya dance with sticks(which symbolize the swords of goddess Durga). The dance itself symbolize the fight between Durga and the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. We went to see the dance done by professionals:

And we popped in on a neighbor-hood party - lots of dancing going on...

And just when I took a deep breath, and thought it was all over, it was straight on to the next festival! Always starting with Navrati, on the tenth day - Dussehra is celebrated! The great celebration of the victory of good over evil! It symbolize the triumph of goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura, and Lord Ramas victory over demon Ravana (with the 10 heads) is celebrated all over India, including setting huge dolls of Ravana on fire. Pujas are performed and the evenings end with fireworks.
So, we celebrate the victory of good over evil - who is not in favor of that?
And it goes on - the wonderful festival of lights - Diwali - is coming up - just some weeks away...

All best wishes to you, dear reader. Thanks for following:-)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Spanakopita, Spring rolls and discovering Samosa Patti - recipe

How about a 3-in-1-recipe, dear reader? An Indian, a Greek and an Asian - all in one?! If that is not something for a true global kitchen, then I don't know what is!

It all started with me discovering Samosa Patti. For a year now, I have been making my own dough for the Greek pita, remember? Well, sometimes you want to make it the easy way... And the packet of Samosa Patti I came over in our little local supermarket turned out to be perfect for making - not only Samosas, but also Spring rolls - and Greek pita! So, towards where do you want to travel? Wherever you choose, you need 1 packet of Samosa Patti. Follow my global culinary Patti-journey below:

Go Asia - Spring rolls:

You need: Shredded vegetables. We used 3 carrots, 3 dl cabbage, 12 green beans, 1 green capsicum, 4 spring onions, 1 onion and 3 cloves garlic. 1 cm fresh ginger. Frying oil, soy oil, salt and pepper. 4 tsp white flour mixed with water (food-glue)

You do: 1. Heat some oil, and fry the garlic and onion. Add the rest of the vegetables. When they are soft, add soy oil (we used 3 tsp), salt and pepper.

2. Put a tsp filling on one patti, and fold it over the filling tightly, and repeat to the other side- so you pack it in and it gets the shape of a triangle. Glue it together at the end with your flour-glue and press it slightly together.

Your Spring-roll-triangles are now ready for frying: 

3. If you choose to go for Asian (and Asian only!) - you can now deep fry your Spring rolls in hot oil until they are golden/light brown. Let them drain on a plate covered with kitchen roll paper.

If you choose to follow my bad example, and go global (in one evening)- you now travel on to Greece:

Go Greece - Spanakopita and Tiropita:

You need: 2 dl spinach (spanaki), 400 gr feta cheese (tiri) , 2 eggs, pepper. Frying oil. Food-glue.

You do:
 Mash 150 gr feta in a bowl and add the spinach and 1 egg. In another bowl mash 250 gr feta and mix with one egg. The filling is ready to be put in the Samosa Pattis. It should look like this: 

New best friends: Samosa Patti and filling for Greek Spanakopita and Tiropita
Follow step 2 and 3 as explained under the Asian section. Now, if you are a normal person, you will stop here, but if you are as crazy as I am - you will proceed our global journey and move on to the third destination:

Go India - Samosas:

You need: Soy granules. (we used 1/2 packet of nutrela). 1 carrot. 3 green beans. 1 chopped onion, 1 tomato. 1 tsp ginger paste, 1 tsp garlic paste, 1/2 green chili, 1 tsp coriander, cumin seeds, 2 tsp garam masala. 1 tomato. 3 tsp tomato puree. Food-glue.

You do:
Prepare the granules as it says on packet. (be sure all the water is squeezed out after). In a pan fry first the cumin seeds and then add rest of the spices and then the onion and the vegetables. Add the granules and the tomato and let simmer until all liquid is out. Follow step 2 and 3 as explained under the Asian and Greek section.     
 Delicious pita-patti-pastry - served with a colorful salad:-) 
If you were as carried away by this wild -go-global -idea as I was- your kitchen is now filled up with culinary treats from around the world, and you are probably exhausted, and you do not want to hear of Samosa patti ever again. (at least until next month:-))  

I hope you will enjoy!  - and please do let me know which country/version you preferred...:-) Or maybe you have another favorite filling? Or are you a global mind with a global taste, dear reader? Yes to all?:-)

Thanks for following. Have a wonderful evening! 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Taj Mahal - the Agra tale

I could feel my heart ponder as we walked up towards the enormous red sandstone gate. My legs felt a bit shaky, and I stretched my neck to see it before it was even possible. And then the first glimpse, through an opening in the huge gate rising above us - which made us feel like small ants- : the white marble glittering towards the blue sky and towards the shimmering water in the front....  Taj Mahal.

I think all thinkable superlatives have been used to describe the Taj Mahal, one of the world's 7 wonders, and still visiting for the first time made me speechless (doesn't really happen that often..). I know - every visitor will have their own experience - but for me it was a true pinch-my-arm-moment (yep, yet another one!). So it may not come as a surprise for you, dear reader, that the Taj Mahal was the highlight of our visit to Agra.

And you know - I had kind of expected a very chaotic place with howling crowds and pushy tourists. But, it was actually peaceful, green and spacey. We strolled around in the garden and admired the Taj from all possible angles. Our idyll was only disrupted by a very impatient tourist couple who tried to skip the lines and literally push people off the Diana bench to have their picture taken! Peace & love, my!
The tall beautiful red sandstone gate, and the first glimpse of Taj Mahal.
The only-a-bit-crowded moment we had: everybody stopped at this point to take pics! And go with the flow: so did we!
So beautiful:-)  
And a bit closer.....
At Taj (well, actually all over Uttar Pradesh), we were NOT, as in Jaipur, considered to be Indians:-)  - so we payed the Foreign Visitors' Fee - but then- yeeey-: also received a water bottle, shoe covers and a shortcut..! Meaning: Indian tourists had to leave their shoes and walk barefoot all around the Taj go get to the entrance while we covered our shoes with white cotton covers and walked straight up the stairs to the front gate...
Shoes & sandals covered up: ready to enter!
And up the stairs we met the line of Indian tourists- who had to make an extra round..
At the front gate- before we went inside..
... and just after exiting.
Tourists sitting in the shade on the marble floor- digesting the visit, I guess..:-)

On our way to Agra, we also visited the Ghost Town of the Mughal Emperor Akbar: Fatehpur Sikri (from the 1500'), which was the capital of the Mughal empire for a decade. Here we found ourselves in company with hundreds of smiling and curious school kids in very neat uniforms:-) :

Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra fort are all on UNESCO's World heritage list, and an interesting dimension was getting to know better the civilization - which gave us the word mogul (a rich and powerful person, often today used in media/film industry). The media mogul, right?
The emperor's palace, and around the palaces of his 3 wifes: a Christian, a Muslim, and a Hindu. 
Agra Fort was also impressive with a huge and well kept area, but a bit hard to concentrate on what our very knowledgeable guide was trying to explain - almost stepping on people gathering around to take pics of us... Sometimes amusing, here just annoying.. ...
Agra fort from the front side - looking like a real life fairy-tale castle..:-)
Inside - wonderful park/garden areas...
So, emperor Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan, the one who built the Taj Mahal for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, preferred the white marble to the red sandstone when he had buildings erected. They used 22 years to build the Taj Mahal. The story says that after his wife died, Shah Jahan lived in Agra fort. He was deposed by his son Aurangzeb, and died at the fort, in a tower with a marble balcony  - with view of Taj Mahal.

So, to nurture your romantic soul - you can visit Agra fort, go to the spot and just imagine the old Shah Jahan - sitting there looking over to where the love of his life was buried (and where he later was buried with her, by the way) ... *kleenex anyone?*
View from Agra fort to Taj Mahal
So, I finished this Agra tale where I started it - with Taj Mahal.
And as a tiny epilogue.. some poetic words to all fellow travel - lovers out there - have a wonderful day!

Traveling is not just seeing the new, it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors, also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes. 

Jan Myrdal.