Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some trends should not be followed

If you're thinking of following the trend of the "slashed leggings", let me take a moment to highly discourage you.  Please do not follow this trend!  Whoever came up with this and labeled it a trend probably needs to get shot.  Chances are, Lindsay Lohan's or Mary Kate Olsen's (insert teeny bopper trend setter here) leggings ripped one day and rather than making a trip to the nearest store for some readily available and reasonable replacement pair, she decided to slash it with a knife for consistency and actually wore this out on the streets which caused it to catch on like wildfire among the teeny bopper population.

To make matters worse, now grown ups have taken to this trend!  This does not look good on ANYONE!  It takes trashy to a whole new level.  Remember when you stopped wearing belly button baring butterfly shirts after freshman year of college (I do sincerely hope that you stopped) because it was not acceptable to wear it anywhere after freshman year of college?  Well, it is also not acceptable to wear leggings that looked like they made an appearance in Saw I, II, III, IV, and V.  Yes we are still in recession and the job market is not looking too glittery this season.  Yet, things are not SO bad...yet!

If your leggings have runs in them, please please please run to your nearest Target or even Forver 21.  Target sells leggings for $6 and at Forever, you can probably buy them for half the price.  If you're thinking of actually going to Target to buy for $6, the "slashed leggings" which look like they've been through an industrial grade shredder - please DON'T DO IT!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Thanksgiving: Numerous Reasons to Stay at Home

Thanksgiving this year turned out better than I expected. My mom and my father-in-law to be were both out of the country in India, and the usual Thanksgiving planners were either out of town or didn't feel like hosting. Still wanting to do a small intimate family event, we naturally volunteered to do it at our house this year even though I've never so much as cleaned a turkey before. So, for the first time in my life, I actually cooked for Thanksgiving. Although I must make it clear that I had nothing to do with the show stopper of the whole event - the turkey! My wonderful and talented soon to be brother-in-law who is like my brother cooked the entire thing and three types of stuffing while his fiance and I watched like eager hungry students.

We did make really good mashed potatoes, bought some excellent gravy after much research on the best gravies in the market, bought some equally delicious cranberry sauce, got dressed up in nice dresses and pearls, set the table with some of our best silverware, and made sure we picked the best wines for the meal. All in all, it was a huge success and the firepit outside was an added bonus as it was hot enough inside to want to go outside for a bit of fresh air and nothing screams holiday season like a warm and toasty bonfire to sit around sipping wine and telling stories late into the night. Even the light drizzle didn't dampen our spirits since we simply moved our bonfire to the covered portion of the porch and enjoyed the sound of rain mixed in with floating conversations.

We ended up having a really fun, no-stress Thanksgiving where we could actually enjoy the meal, conversation, wine, and the entire night without slaving over the meal. Our strategy was to not put too much emphasis on the food and create a few delicious dishes rather than twenty items. We also split it up so one person wasn't doing everything and it was more fun that way collaborating and cooking all together in the kitchen. We also bought some of the dishes because it made sense. I might decide to make the gravy next year but this year, after asking around, I decided to get the gravy from Boston Market and it was really good and we had plenty to go around. I also bought two kinds of cranberry sauce (with berries and the jelly kind) because it seemed like too much work and the store-bought one was just as good and satisfied everyone especially since some people are picky about having the kind with berries versus the jelly kind. It's almost like oj and pulp versus no pulp - people have strong preferences about these things! The only other dish I bought was the fabulous pumpkin pie from this cute little pastry shop that's famous (like you have to order in advance) for its deep dish pumpkin pie. Why would you ever want to compete with that?

Here's the fifteen pound turkey which was worked by the expert hands of Sid.  He basted it with lots of butter and herbs which helped the turkey soak in all the juices (I hate dry turkey and have had lots of dry turkey Thanksgivings before) while it cooked to perfection!

The roasting pan you pick is very important as this will basically determine how fast and well the turkey cooks.  We had a pan perfect for the small turkey and it had a rack underneath so the drippings could fall out easily into the stuffing we placed a the bottom of the pan.  We also had this high-tech thermometer which you could insert into the turkey and it would actually beep and tell you when the turkey was ready so you could enjoy your wine in peace without having to check on it every few minutes.  I highly recommend this especially if you're not quite sure how to tell if it's perfectly done just by looking at it.

We had three kinds of stuffing.  One that was made in a pan, one that was stuffed inside the turkey (seen here) , and one that was placed at the bottom of the pan so it could play with the butter and drippings also at the bottom.  The stuffing at the bottom of the pan won hands down partially because it was bathed in a butter and turkey dripping bath and although it's not at all healthy, it's absolutely finger-linking delicious!


These gorgeous orange roses were a gift from my soon to be mother-in-law because she's thoughtful like that and believes in small kind gestures which I absolutely love about her.  They were also extremely fragrant which is hard to find these days unless you buy them fresh from a florist.     

I'm  a huge believer in dressing up for meals and creating the right ambiance.  We created the mood by setting the tables with warm autumnal colors, dimming the lights, and lighting candles everywhere. 

Our turkey on its way out of the oven.  It only took about three and a half hours to cook and came out looking perfect thanks to Sid's skills and our high-tech convenient thermometer which as you can see, has a pin on one side that goes in the turkey, and the temperature monitor on the other side can actually stay out of the oven so you can tell how far it's cooked without ever opening the oven door. 

A perfectly golden turkey basted with butter and herbs and the deliciously crunchy and mouth-watering stuffing at the bottom of the pan which was clearly one of the main highlights of the dinner. 

Sitting pretty in the serving dish.  Isn't it just perfect? 

As we were getting ready to carve the turkey, I learned that this is an art in itself because if it's not carved right then, it could turn out to look really ugly not to mention unequal proportions for everyone.  I don't think I'll be doing the carving anytime soon.  However, I did enjoy watching the Mister carve it precisely paying attention to details as is usually his style. 

In addition to the three types of stuffing and mashed potatoes, the spread of sides also included broccoli and chees, green beans and cheese (can you ever go wrong with cheese?), brussel sprouts, and the Boston Market gravy.

Adding a lot of warmth and a bit of holiday cheer to the festivities were the fire pits which lasted nearly six hours.  We had two of these going pretty much before, during, and after the meal so people could sit around the bonfire for a bit, go back in for more food and then, come back out and enjoy the fire again.  This process lasted pretty much the entire night and I absolutely loved it!

The fire pits actually get very warm and we sat around here for hours.  This in my mind, is the picture of a perfect thanksgiving where you can enjoy each others company, food, wine, cheese, and sit around sharing stories with the older and younger generations for hours.  It's also during one of these story-telling sessions that you learn random facts and events about your family.

If you're going to do Thanksgiving then, you must absolutely do it the right way.  For me,this deep dish pumpkin pie from Hollin Hall pastry shop was one of the stars of the evening.  If you live in the DC/MD/VA area, I highly recommend placing this order in advance because it's worth it.  I found out about this place because I was eavesdropping on a conversation between some well-dressed old ladies.  They were all discussing seasonal pies which led one of them to mention, "Susan have you placed your order for the pumpkin pie at Hollin Hall? Don't forget because you know how fast those go".  That was pretty much all I needed to hear to rush home, google the pastry shop, and call in my order.  I've learned that when it comes to well-dressed old ladies, they don't mess around with their pies.  They've been making them from scratch for years and if they're actually placing orders at a shop that too in advance, that means it's pretty darn good.  So I stayed on top of that deep dish pie and all I can say is, it was so worth it!

Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving as much as I did!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Only alpha brides need apply

Trust me when I say this but wedding planning is the most stressful event you will ever come across in life and I'm not even planning it! In fact it's so stressful that I try not to think about it most of the time. Deciding about which sari you're going to wear on the most anticipated day of your life where you'll be stared at by lots of people (400 in my case) is not my idea of fun. Neither is figuring out which jewelery matches which outfit, the kind of decor, photographer, videographer, music, and the list goes on. This is all after you've already picked the venue and hopefully a man you want to spend the rest of your life with.

I haven't even mentioned the food because the food is one of those categories you don't even want to get caught whispering especially if you're having a huge wedding. With the food for every single event (three in my case) comes really complicated questions like how many vegetarians? who's allergic to fish? who's turned vegan since we last met them and which cousin currently believes in only inhaling food rather than actually eating it? who drinks wine and how many prefer vodka? if you haven't considered eloping at this point then, you may want to consider whatever bridge in your city of choice has the highest suicide rate.

I understand that for girls who've had detailed dreams of their wedding days since they were little girls, this seems like the perfect opportunity to make all those dreams come true and to finally take charge by micro-managing every aspect of the wedding. however, that is so not me. i did what any sensible girl would do. i passed on the planning torch to my mom (i couldn't thank her enough) and decided to go hunting for options that were a little less challenging than wedding planning. Exactly one month before my wedding, I found my perfect target - the Microsoft Certification tests!

Just in the midst of wedding planning chaos, when most girls would be busy pulling their hair out, I decided that this is the perfect opportunity for me to get certified. So, without taking any training classes or studying (actually went out the night before) or freaking out about it, I calmly went and took the Microsoft Sharepoint Certification test and even got a perfect score! I knew it had to be easier than wedding planning. In fact, it was so much easier than the stress of wedding planning that I'm trying to genuinely see if I can fit in more tests between now and the date of my wedding. I am so serious when I say this - give me all the tests, whatever you got! I'd rather do computational math and physics at the same time with a blindfold on while hopping on one leg than plan another wedding.

For all you wedding planners out there, consider this a huge compliment. For my mom, she's a blessing as I do not think this wedding could possibly even take place without her - thank you! For all you super brides out there (who picked out their place settings at the tender age of twelve) responsible for the state of things, I have some words for you!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'd like a side of cashews with vampires and visitors please

new moon comes out tonight and I'm super excited. I had a little debate with myself in my head about whether or not I should knock off the hundred or so people in line including a few middle-schoolers (isn't it past their bed-time anyway?) to try and get good seats for the premier opening of new moon at midnight tonight. it's been cold and rainy all day and even though that makes it the perfect day for a vampire movie, i've been so spoiled by technology that i had no problems winning the debate (still in my head) against going to watch new moon on opening night. on a side note, the good part about having a debate in your head is that you usually end up winning no matter which side you pick except for those rare times when you're fighting yourself so hard that you seem to forget what the debate was for in the first place. anyway, i'd rather wait until the masses have stood in line, fought for seats (no you can't put your jacket there to hold seats for 15 people), and ended up watching it sitting next to total strangers who are practically holding their hands. no thank you! i don't want to share my joy at seeing bella and edward again with hundreds of people especially when i don't have.

you see, i've been totally spoiled by technology. at our home, we don't watch tv much if at all. the only reason we have cable at home is because i watch it...sometimes. the only three shows i actually watch are the amazing race (because it's awesome), project runway (because i'm obsessed with fashion), and top chef (because i'm obsessed with food). the reason i'm spoiled is because we believe in harnessing the power of technology in every corner of our house to make it as efficient and as technologically advanced as possible. even though i can't take credit for setting up any of it, i do thoroughly enjoy and reap in the benefits. we have tivo for the three shows i watch so that i never have to wait to see what happens next. i can just click on the next episode and then the next one and before you know it, in one weekend, i can literally be caught up with an entire season of my favorite show. then, there's hulu for trying out new shows. not every show is tivo worthy. so in order for me to decide whether or not i want to tivo a show, i will first watch a couple of episodes on hulu to see if it makes the cut. for example, previous seasons of mad men made the cut but the news season didn't and seems to just be more of the same. next up on my hulu list is a new abc show called "V" which has aliens and aliens are fourth on my "obsessed with the supernatural list" after ghosts, spirits, and vampires, in that order. therefore, i plan to test V out this weekend to see if it makes the tivo schedule cut. between cable, hulu and tivo, i'm so spoiled at home when it comes to watching shows that i now get to pick and choose which shows and how many episodes of that show i will watch (in the precious free time i have) plopped on the couch with my extra plush blankets and a bowl of edamames and cashews. i will not even delve into the extensive movie library we have at home or how our tvs and media players are all hooked up to powerful computers with their own servers because that's for another post. when you have technology giving you what you want when you want it, it really is hard to stand in line for seats that stay upright and you can't pause to go to the bathroom or to have a two hour long chat on the phone with your mom who is in india.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can't go wrong with chicken soup!

I was looking forward to my day off today but it turned out to be quite a gloomy day. On rainy days, I like to try to do everything I possibly can to stay warm and indoor where I can marvel at the beauty outside on a fall rainy day from a safe distance. As usual, I went about my mission to find a way to warm the soul on a cold rainy holiday. Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to cooking, I'm the queen of shortcuts. I completely admire women who came before me who set the bars high by spending hours working on one dish but that is never going to be me. I've accepted it and come to terms with it. Times have changed! If I wasn't working a full-time job and putting in a crazy number of hours, adjusting to a new home, planning my upcoming wedding, not to mention all the other things I seem to sign up for on a daily basis, I still don't think I'd like to spend my entire day cooking. I love cooking and thoroughly enjoy finding new recipes to try. However, I truly believe that if you can make delicious meals in thirty minutes (hail Rachel Ray) or less than why in the world would you want to spend four hours?

When I was introduced to Rachel Ray's thirty minute meals, I never had the chance to try it because I've always preferred Nigella's cooking style and at the time, I was busy trying to make Indian dishes. Earlier today when I started looking for a heart-warming recipe, I came across Rachel Ray's "Hungarian-ish chicken dumplings and egg noodle soup" and it was music to my hungry ears. That's exactly the kind of dish I wanted to make but I was a little skeptical about how it would taste especially since I didn't have much if any experience in making soups. At the end of the day, I have to tell you that the meal turned out every bit as delicious as I'd hoped and a complete hit not to mention it took thirty minutes to make.

If you're looking for some great comfort food on a cold rainy day, I highly recommend this recipe because 1.) I made it 2.) I ate it and 3.) it tasted way better than I ever expected. I would never recommend something if I didn't love it myself! I did make some modifications which I've made a note of below. Here's the recipe and if you end up using it, I would love to hear how it turned out for you and whether you made any modifications.


* Two 1-quart boxes chicken broth (8 cups), such as Kitchen Basics brand (I used parts chicken broth and 1 part beef broth simply because I like the taste of beef broth)
* 1 pound ground chicken
* 1 large egg
* 1 cup plain bread crumbs
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground nutmeg instead)
* 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
* Fresh parsley, finely chopped (a handful)
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* 1-1/2 cups egg noodles
* 1/2 cup jarred Spanish piquillo peppers or roasted red peppers, cut into thin 2-inch-long strips (I didn't have any roasted red peppers so I added some jalapeno peppers for some kick)
* 6 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces, then shredded into thin sticks
* 3 tablespoons torn fresh dill (a handful)


1. In a medium saucepan, heat the broth to a boil; reduce to a simmer.
2. While the broth simmers, in a medium bowl, combine the chicken, egg, bread crumbs, nutmeg, paprika, parsley and salt and pepper. Roll the meat into 1-inch dumplings and add about 8 of them at a time to the simmering broth. Let the dumplings cook for 3 to 4 minutes, without stirring. Add the noodles, peppers and scallions and stir. Cook until the noodles are just tender. Stir in the dill. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, November 09, 2009

finding fashion inspiration during the darker gloomy days of fall and winter may be tough and yet, i seem to find inspiration in exactly those dark gloomy hidden corners. i see beauty and light in dark and complicated gray matter. therefore, it's no surprise that when i began creating my latest fashion inspiration, i turned to "film noir" - a genre very near and dear to my heart. this look speaks of the dichotomy between romance and rock, the duality of love - innocent and sweet versus complicated adult love. it also celebrates powerful women who are not afraid to sport lace with biker style jackets or trench coats dispelling an aura of mystery wherever they go.  i hope you enjoy my piece called "dark love".  items in the look are listed below.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

just like other bengalis, i've long been a chai snob.  you know the chai tea latte from starbucks?  well, i wouldn't dare take a sip of that!  if you're a total chai connoisseur like me then, you'd probably agree.  chai tea (let's look past the redundancy for now) latte is kid stuff compared to the regal teas of assam and darjeeling.  ever since i was little, we only drank the "good stuff" at home.  the special blends that passed the bengali taste tests at my home included "lopchu" tea,  orange pekoe, green pekoe, makaibari, other darjeeling blends from dolly's tea house in kolkata, and other such "refined" teas.  we usually had hordes of tea saved from each of our visits to kolkata and at first even when our visits to kolkata were not as often, special guests always meant bringing out the special tea at our house.  of course, the special events and causes for celebration became more frequent as we grew up and my sister and i devised new ways to get our hands on the savored little packets filled with aromatic teas - it's raining out, let's bring out the special tea today or i got an a on my exam, surely that's cause for celebration!  in this way, our tea snobbery was further encouraged as the special events at my house became more and more frequent and we put aside the earl greys and liptons to opt only for darjeeling and assam teas.

however, i was pleasantly surprised by a tea which my sister presented me with recently.  i tried to look past the elegant and beautiful packaging (which i'm a complete sucker for) and judge only the contents in the bin.  the tea comes in many different flavors and the one she got me was called "kashmir tchai".  i liked that the tea had an authentic taste and reminded me of home. 

the kusmi tea's history started in 1867 in st. petersburg and then, located to paris in 1917. it's a wonderful gift to order for friends and family especially around the holidays and i am really looking forward to trying out some of these flavors:  darjeeling makaibari, darjeeling n37, and ceylon op

Friday, November 06, 2009

:: i've changed the layout and style of my blog partly because i needed some inspiration and partly because i was really bored with the old one. so, i decided to pick a new layout and style in the hopes that it will give me the much-needed jolt i needed to re-enter the blogging world. i wanted to keep it modern, clean, and simple. i also felt like my blog was light years behind the social networking hoopla so i've added some cute little icons. feel free to click around, explore, and link to your preferred medium of social networking! any other ideas you have on how to make this blog more aligned with web 2.0 features will be greatly appreciated. i'm still deciding between adding flash, new images, new fonts, and new capabilities. i mean at the end of the day, it's content that matters the most. where do you draw the line between trying to drive visitors to your blog and meaningful content? do you really have to choose one? i want to eat my cake too so any ideas on how to accomplish this seemingly impossible balance will be appreciated!

i have to admit that i've missed blogging. there's nothing as liberating as writing down your thoughts and knowing that you'll be able to share them with people by simply clicking publish. it's pretty exhilarating! i think i have taken it for granted all these years until i finally lacked the time to blog and then, i actually started to miss it. you mean nobody to read about the absolutely unbelievable day i just had? nobody to share with the cute notepads i just found which were such a bargain? noone to comment on the utter and sheer stupidity i encountered today? that's when i really started missing you guys! i even tried convincing myself that it's okay because noone (other than five other blogging friends) actually read this blog so the "nobody" count wouldn't really go up if i actually posted. then, a miracle happened! i logged in to see how many visitors i had one day and was quite taken back by the number. i still brushed it off as a one-time event, a fluke - they meant to visit the other "tania mukherji" and accidentally entered a dash in the middle ending up at my blog. however, it was the same the next day and even a month later, i was still getting visitors despite not having written a word. other than boosting my self-esteem it also served as the jolt i needed to get back on!

so here i am world and thank you for being so patient with me! you may notice a change in type of posts, subjects, and even voice because that's what happens when you grow up, you learn, you change and believe me when i say this - i've definitely grown a lot as a person in the last year! so here's to a whole new blog to show off a whole new me!