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Archive for September, 2008

Look who’s learning kannada

I had not really imagined I would teach my kids to read and write my mother tongue, kannada, but now AK has started to learn. I have nothing against it, in fact, after I taught him a few alphabets and he learnt so quickly, I was thrilled beyond words. I never imagined it would make me so happy, so my own feelings have been a surprise. In my opinion, it is probably a dying language (or may be I’m not in touch with people who still actively read and write it in their daily life). I myself, have probably not written or read it for more than 20 yrs. It is still the spoken language in my family and extended family back home, so I’m very much in touch with the spoken language. And that was all I was hoping to pass on to the kids.

But during our recent visit, one of my friends gifted AK with some kannada story books and ever since he had been asking me to learn to read. I first didn’t take him seriously, but he persisted. This weekend, i spent less than an hour with him and he learnt 8 alphabets. I’m looking forward to teaching him the rest of it.

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Birthday time again

Our little doll, SK, turned three yesterday. To celebrate, we had a “paint your own pottery” party for her. There were eight kids in all and each one got to choose either a sandwich plate or a cereal bowl. Most chose the plate and I think it was a wise decision, since the bowls are bigger and more time consuming. They started off very enthusiastically. They were particular about the colors they would use and the patterns they would make. The little boys soon got restless and after 15 minutes or so, started walking around. The girls did better. But the parents all loved it and completed their kids’ projects. Many parents did their own pieces too. After the kids painted the back of the plates and bowls, they did their hand prints on the front. It will now be glazed in an oven and ready to pick up in a week or so. It was everyone’s first time and they all had a blast. One of the mom’s suggested we do a girls’ night out sometime. They allow “adult beverages” in the evening time and that can add to the fun. Even PK liked it. None of us are the artsy type, so I was pleasantly surprised when he suggested that on a rainy afternoon or evening, we can all go again. I think I have enough painted pottery now, so I want to try the mosaic or glass fusion projects. I think older kids, especially girls, will probably enjoy it more.

Then, we had yummy Dora cake from an awesome local bakery, pizza, chips, soda etc. The kids were all too hyper – screaming, jumping and running and didn’t eat much. It is amazing how much food gets wasted at these parties. I have noticed at every one I have been too. But at least the adults did a great job with the cake and pizza. All in all, it was a fun party. All the guests will have a nice memento too – on each of their pottery pieces, the hostess wrote in a beautiful hand the guests’ names, and at the back she wrote the date and “S’s party”. It was so pretty but doing it on twelve pieces looked like quite a lot of work. But she said it helps them keep all the pieces from a party together. Everyone is eagerly looking forward to getting their art work back.

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Fine day for apple picking

Today was a glorious day here in the Northeast – sunny and 73. PK is out of town, so I was in charge of entertaining the kids. Although I’m quite used to being a single mom, it is usually only on the week days, since PK is invariably home for the weekends. Apple picking had been on my list of to-do with the kids since PK is not keen on this activity.

We left home after breakfast. The farm I had in mind is about a half hour drive from home. I had been here once for a team even from work. When we arrived there, it wasn’t very crowded yet. We first spent a few minutes looking at the animals and then we stood in line to pay and pick up the bags. There were two choices – a smaller bag which holds about 10 lbs and a bigger one for 20 lbs. I made the mistake of asking AK to pick up whichever bag he wants and he went for the bigger one. We spent the next 90 minutes strolling in the orchard, picking apples, climbing ladders, taking photos. We had a great time. We ate one each while picking. The kids enjoyed it a great deal. Filling the 20 lb bag wasn’t too hard, although initially I thought it would be, since we were only finding damaged and bruised fruit. But the further inside that we walked, we came across much better ones, so we quickly filled the bag.

By around noon, it was getting a bit too hot and crowded. I wanted to try some cider doughnuts in their shop, but the lines were just too long. I now have a ton of apples and just me and the two little ones to try and finish! No, I’m not into any cooking with apples (Indian cooking is not big on using apples, or any other fruit, for that matter). The last time I went apple picking I had the same problem. I had looked up recipes for pies and jelly, but didn’t attempt either. I will be giving away some to friends and neighbors but we will still be eating a lot of apples in the coming weeks 🙂

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We spent the last weekend in July in Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium and also the European Union. We have been there once as part of an organized European tour. So we were looking forward to explore at our own pace.
Grand Place

Grand Place

We arrived there on a Saturday morning. It was overcast and raining. We hadn’t kept the phone number or address of our hotel and we wanted to avoid taking a taxi, if possible! So we took the only train from the airport to downtown and on the train, PK was frantically searching for the phone number and subway maps on his blackberry. We finally talked to the hotel and got directions to reach there. After a few hours nap, we headed out in the evening to the Grand Place. It is the Central Maket Square and is pedestrian-only. All the surrounding area is full of cobbled stone streets with lot of cafes and souvenir shops. We hung around here for a while and then we walked to the statue of Manneken Pis. After the customary picture, we walked back and sat in the square, this time with the famous Belgian Waffles and Belgian beer for PK. The weather was pleasant and we could have sat there forever, but we had to head back since it was approaching the kids’ bed time.

 

Mini_Europe

Mini-Europe

The next day, we headed to Mini-Europe. I went with big hopes but was a bit disappointed. I can’t pin-point why, exactly, but it didn’t make such a  memorable impression on me (I was so awed by Madurodam). The park was smaller than I expected and the models were all too close by. It was a hot day too. We slogged through most of the models and had lunch at the cafeteria. Little more sight-seeing after that and it was time for an ice-cream stop.

 

Atomium

Atomium

After that, we walked over to the Atomium. It is a monument with 9 steel spheres connected to look like an iron crystal. Since SK was napping, PK volunteered to stay with her while AK and I decided to take the elevator to the topmost sphere for panoramic views. The long lines discouraged me but the man at the ticket counter assured me that it would move very fast. He LIED! We were in line for well over an hour before we got to go up. Once we were there, the space was so congested – not like the spacious observation decks I have seen on the Space Needle, CN tower etc. And it was extremely hot. So pretty much, as soon as we reached up, we were back in line to go down. Overall, it was a waste of time and money.

Grand Place is a great place to spend evenings, so we headed back there. We payed an atrocius amount for a veggie pizza. For much of the dinner, we wondered how the Europeans afford to live there. Even discounting the weak dollar, things are so much more expensive. The restaurants don’t serve regular water either. So you always have to buy bottled water and on hot days, a family of four can drink a lot!

A weekend was just the right amount of time to spend. We were able to see everything without feeling rushed.

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As I wrote earlier, we really didn’t have any plans for the weekend. Having returned from a long vacation with family, we were feeling a bit down. And then all the craziness of the beginning of school, soccer season, stuff at work got to me. So on Saturday evening, we made impromptu plans to go camping for a night on Sunday. Since I had heard a lot that Nickerson State Park was one of the most popular camping spots, Ichecked online and got availability for Sunday. Then we got to work, PK had to remove the front wheels, load the bikes and other camping gear in the car. I went grocery shopping for easy to cook stuff, snacks, drinks etc.

We left around 10 am on Sunday and were there by noon time. We had lunch first and then pitched the tent. Then we hit the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Nickerson is almost exactly at the half way point. We didn’t really research too much or look at the trail map and arbitrarily chose to go towards Wellfleet instead of Dennis. I think the main reason was the markers indicated that the sea shore was that way and PK assumed some parts of the trail would be along the coast. Nope, it was just inland all the way, all 12 miles of it. Apparently if we had just gotten of any of the roads and gone for a mile, we would be on the coast. But since PK is on rollerblades, unless it is a paved trail, we can’t do it. Since we have been out of any activity for a month, we did find it tough but we pushed on. Made an ice-cream stop on the way and had some yummy kahlua brownie ice-cream. The return was much harder because we were pretty wiped. Actually, just AK and me, PK was doing quite ok. Overall, we did ~25 miles in 5 hrs (4 hrs cycling time and an hours worth of breaks). The weather was pleasant. Even the evening was awesome – not too cold, no pesky bugs. So, we enjoyed our dinner (veggie burgers, chips, watermelon) in peace.

Next morning, we took the kids to Cliff pond. Initially, they found the water cold, but still played in it.  The water was amazingly clean. No floating weeds or kelp. As usual, SK enjoyed the sand more than the water. We started driving back around noon. Getting out of the cape is always a nightmare apparently. I thought September can’t be as bad as summer, but it still took us almost an hour to do the last 17 miles before we hit Sagamore bridge and came back to mainland. I can’t imagine what summer weekends must be like. I don’t intend to find out.

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