the wonderful world of veena.

21 December 2011

feeling a little incomplete.

Sunday will mark the first time since 2001 that I will be in the US for Christmas Day, and the first time since 2007 that I will not have spent it with the Devaraj family. Don't get me wrong, I have loved being in the States for the build-up to Christmas, reveling in the songs and the movies and the Tacky Christmas Sweater parties and the [very] light dusting of snow that we got a few weeks ago. And I'm so glad to get to spend some time with my parents and brother and cousin over the holidays this year. But I would be lying if I didn't admit to feeling a little out-of-sorts about the whole thing.

Christmases in Bangalore are so different and so wonderful. Midnight Mass at St Patrick's with all the 17-year-olds dressed to the nines for the Catholic Club party. Wine and cake and gift exchanges at Bern's house and not getting home until 3am. Christmas Eve dinner at Kamal and Tanya and Kim's. Sheilamma's mutton biryani made to feed an army. Christmas night dinner at Nelson's. Viji's cute miniature tree and her sweet attempts at decorating the office so the interns don't miss home. Homemade wine that lasts for months. Making 5 pounds of Christmas cookies at Bern's and another 7 pounds at Dorothy's house. Bottomless bottles of Old Monk.

I'm so lucky to have so many families around the world with whom I have had the opportunity to celebrate. I guess I'm just having a bit of a difficult time re-adjusting to Christmas-ing in the States. Give me a few days, and I'll be just fine.

At least here I get to watch A Christmas Story all day long on Christmas Eve.
woo pig.

17 December 2011

for the love of projects.

You know how I love my projects. Particularly if I have a whole month off. I plan on spending most of it catching up on sleep and old tv shows on Netflix and Sidereel, but I do have quite a few other things that I want to get accomplished over the coming weeks...

read for fun. I've been saying it for months now, but I just haven't gotten the time I would like to read for fun recently. Between school, work, public programs, trips, and everything in between, I have read a whopping 1 book for fun this semester. 1! That is unacceptable. Meanwhile, the pile on my bookshelf continues to grow, rather than the other way around [come on, we all know I am a compulsive book-buyer. that's just not something that is ever going to change]. So for my 4-week break - which includes a few days at the beach over MLK weekend - I have set myself a target of finishing 3 books for fun. I'm pretty confident I can do it. First up is The History of Love [Nicole Krauss], followed by The Girl Who Played With Fire [Stieg Larsson], and concluding with Moonward [George Appupen, graphic novelist by day and drummer for Lounge Piranha by night].

learn how to work my fancy new camera. As a Christmas present to myself, I splurged and purchased a Nikon D3100 [in black]. It is by far the most awesome - and most expensive - thing that I own, and although I know the basics of it, I am eager to master it. I have been wanting an SLR for a while, and I finally told myself to just suck it up and do it [it helped that Best Buy ran an awesome sale the Monday after Thanksgiving that included an extra long-range lens and a Lowepro camera bag. officially a fan of "Cyber Monday"]. So I did it. And now I want to make sure I know all about how it works before I head out to Nepal for the summer.

clean out all my crap in my parents' house. I know that in the next 5 years, my parents will most likely downsize to a smaller house, and I will most likely not be in the country when that happens. I was at college the last time they moved, so all of my crap from growing up just moved with them and has never been properly sorted. I did a bit over the summer, clearing out my closet and most of the drawers in my room, but there are still boxes in the attic that have yet to be touched. My plan is to spend one whole day [two, if needed] and go through and purge as much stuff as possible.

catch up on the news. Even with getting the ny times headlines sent directly to my email every morning, I am still weeks - and possibly even months - behind on what is happening here in the US as well as abroad. I want to catch up on all the headlines and maybe even <gasp!> read an actual paper or two.

run. I am well on track for being prepared for my 10k in March, but I am hoping to make a little more progress over the break. My goal is to come out of the break being able to run at least 4-4.5 miles [wish me luck] at a decent pace and/or run for at least an hour. Those two are kind of interchangeable, so we'll see how things go. Between the neighborhoods around my parents' house, the track at Rhodes, and Shelby Farms Park, I should be able to get in a variety of routes and scenery. The tiny park near my house in Little Rock just isn't cutting it any longer.

weed through my facebook pictures. I realized the other day that I had a stupid number of albums [that included a stupid number of ridiculous pictures] as well as a stupid number of tagged pictures of myself on facebook and decided to start weeding through them. I've brought myself down from 800-something tagged pictures to just over 500, which is a promising start. More than that, however, I want to purge and merge my albums.

print pictures from the last 4 years in India. I toyed with selecting and printing pictures when I returned in July, but time ran away from me and I never got around to it. Turned out to be a-ok, though, because as part of my camera purchase from Best Buy, I also got a coupon for a free photobook from Shutterfly, which is really actually better than printing them out and sticking them in an album. So I need to go through all the stuff on my harddrive and choose which ones I want to include in my book. Which will mostly be pictures of the Peanut, let's be honest.

Those are the big things. I also have an appointment with an oral surgeon about my wisdom teeth, an appointment with the eye doctor, and various lunch and dinner dates, so I will hopefully keep myself busy.

Now to see how many of these things I actually accomplish.
woo pig.

14 December 2011


First semester of grad school is in the books.

We had our last final this morning, and now that it is over, I am free for a month. That's right, a whole month. Granted, it's going to be a busy month, with work, possible wisdom teeth extractions, the Clinton Center holiday party, the Cotton Bowl, and practicum stuff, but still, it's a month where I don't have to worry about classes and - most importantly - I don't have to wear business casual.

I have a whole list of projects that I want to accomplish over the break, but that can wait for tomorrow.

Today, we celebrate!
Woo pig.

13 December 2011

10k tuesday: almost halfway there.

I've run a few times since my last update, and I'm currently hovering right around 2.8 miles. My goal is that by Christmas I'll be up to 4 miles. Is that impossible? Most likely, but I'm going to give it my best shot. That month off from school should help me out quite a lot - being able to get up at 10 and go for a run is much more motivating than trying to get up at 6. Especially since these runs are only going to get longer from now on.

Probably my most exciting news is that I FINALLY got new running shoes! It was pretty much a miracle. I sucked it up and went to the mall yesterday and walked out with some silver Nike something-or-the-others. I ran with them today to start getting them broken in, and I guess it went alright. I'll really only know as I start getting into longer runs.

Hopefully once finals finish tomorrow, I can get into a rhythm of running every other day. We'll see how long that last for me. Wish me luck, regardless.
woo pig.

09 December 2011

a finals update.

A few weeks ago, I posted about all the projects, papers, and presentations that stood between me and Christmas break. Well, I am happy to say that we are over the hump, and there is finally some light at the end of the finals tunnel. Here is my list from 2 weeks ago, with a few updates:

  • Nov 28 - Leadership Final Development Plan due ... done!
  • Nov 30 - Law & Ethics paper due ... done!
  • Dec 7 - Decision Analysis Final Project due ... done!
  • Dec 9 - Communication Final Memo due ... done!
  • Dec 9 - Law & Ethics Final Exam due ... done!
  • Dec 13 - Practicum Integrative Learning Paper due ... beginning tonight...?
  • Dec 14 - Decision Analysis Final Exam ... begin studying tonight...? ha!
Yes, that's right. There are now only 2 things standing between me and a full month of watching old shows on Netflix and reading for fun!

I am hoping to begin work on my Integrative Learning paper tonight as well as begin to trawl through the study guide that Dr Bavon gave us for our final exam. But you know what? If I don't, that's ok, too. Because sometimes it's ok to take a night off and recharge your batteries.

Almost there!
woo pig.

06 December 2011

10k tuesday: excuses, excuses.

I have a slew of excuses as to why I haven't done any running between last week and today. Where would you like me to start?

It's been cold. I've been up late working on papers and projects and therefore haven't been motivated to get up early to run. It's been raining nearly every day. Now that I know I can run at least 3 miles, I'm not so worried. I know I'll have time over the holiday break to catch myself back up. Running for half an hour in that park is getting really repetitive. I still don't have new running shoes.

And yes, I know they are all only excuses. I know. I do also know that once tomorrow is over and I have completed and turned in this behemoth of a project, I will be in a much better mental frame of mind regarding the running. I wanted to use it as a break from the work, but I've not been getting enough sleep to also be able to include that into my schedule.

I will get back to it. And once I do, I will have much more intriguing updates for you. Until then, keep your fingers crossed I finish this project in time to turn it in tomorrow...
woo pig.

05 December 2011

that brother of mine.

My brother turned 33 yesterday. 33. It's hard for me to imagine, because we both kind of like to pretend that we are still about 8 years old.

My brother is both my biggest fan and my greatest foe. He challenges me on a daily basis, and as annoying as it sometimes is, I know it is only because he expects the best of me and for me.

He is the one who had to follow behind me when I learned how to navigate steps. He is the one who patiently taught me the ins and outs of sports and allowed me to play with him and his friends even when it was obvious I shouldn't have been. He is the reason I have devoted the better part of my life to the Packers, and he taught me the importance of remaining loyal to your childhood teams, regardless of their ups and downs.

He is the one who first broached the subject of my going to boarding school, and, looking back, it was the wisest decision I ever made regarding my education. When I raised the idea of volunteering in India for 6 months, he was the one who encouraged it. And when I broached the prospect of moving back there on a semi-permanent basis, he supported me from the beginning and was the one who convinced my father that it was the best course of action for me.

My brother is my biggest protector and my greatest champion. He is my childhood hero, my idol, my strength, and my support. He's my big brother.

[we're pretty cool, if I do say so myself]
Hope it was a great day, brother. No one deserves it more than you.
woo pig.

01 December 2011

this one time, i made thanksgiving dinner.

Last Thursday, I was somehow trusted with feeding my family for Thanksgiving. My parents were out of town and flew back only on Thursday afternoon, and since it was the first time I'm been in the States for Thanksgiving since 2006, I wanted to make sure I got my traditional Thanksgiving dinner: chicken biryani.

So since my mother wasn't around to wave her magic wand, the task fell to me to feed everyone. I looked through a few recipes online and watched a few videos to get some ideas for how I wanted to make it - eventually I chose one to use as my main guide and tweaked it a little to make it my own.

What follows below are pictures of my endeavor along with the steps I took to get there. Hope you enjoy!

Above you have all the ingredients for the chicken marinade:

  • chicken [I bought one package of drumsticks and one of thighs and cleaned them. with bones is better than without]
  • 2 green chillies, chopped [this was an addition of mine]
  • plain yogurt
  • garlic, chopped
  • ginger, grated [the recipe called for it to be chopped, but I prefer grating it]
  • turmeric powder
  • chili powder
  • garam masala powder
  • salt
  • coriander powder [again, an addition of mine]
Add all of these ingredients to the chicken, mix it up nicely, and let it marinate for an hour.

[winner winner chicken dinner] 
[close up of your green chillies, ginger, and garlic]
[your standard masala dabba to hold all of your spices]
[here's what it looks like all mixed up. I might have gotten a little over-excited about the yogurt]
After this, I washed the rice and soaked it in water for half an hour.
Meanwhile, I chopped some onions and tomatoes. Technically the recipe called for sliced onions, but I don't like slicing onions. Call me crazy.

[chopped onions, tomato, and cilantro]
[onions with some other stuffs]
At this point, I put some oil into a huge pot and heated it up with some cloves, cardamon, bay leaves, and some of those chopped onions. Once those started getting a bit brown, I added the tomatoes and then eventually the chicken.

I brought this to a boil and then reduced the heat to low and let it cook slowly, stirring every 5 minutes or so.

While that was stewing, I filled another large cooker with water, and heated it with some bay leaves, cardamon, and cloves. I then added the rice [after draining it from the water in which it had been soaked], brought that to a boil, and then reduced the heat and let it simmer.

I cooked both of these until they were thisclose to being done - essentially almost all the way, but not quite.

Then I fried the last of the chopped onions in some hot oil to use for the layers.

At that point, I got another large pot and started layering - started with chicken on the bottom, then a layer of rice, added some of those fried onions, some turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, and garam masala powder, and some saffron that had been soaked in warm milk, then added another layer of chicken, another layer of rice, and some more of the spices.

This is what it looked like:

I then put the lid on, put the pot on a griddle plate [to keep it from getting direct heat], and heated it on low for about 15-20 minutes.

This was the finished product, after being mixed:

Next on my list: the ins and outs of tandoori / butter chicken.
woo pig.