My Masala Life: 2014

As the Year draws to an end I look back! Here is my 2014, month by month summery! The good and the bad.

12:01 am January 1st 2014 in the Gurdwara, welcoming the New Year!

January 2014: We were living in Michigan in the middle of the worse winter in more than 2 decades. The temperature rarely got above freezing. We spent most of our time in doors because the low wind chills made even being outside impossible. Nasreen and I spent alot of time playing pretend inside. Poor daddy had to drive the dangerous roads to work!

Oh it was cold in Michigan!

Febuary 2014:The Weather was still freezing cold, and we all wondered when winter would end! We went outside for a dramatic Valentines day photo in the snow.

Valentines Day 🙂

March 2014: Winter finally came to an end. There were a few last minute snow storms, but the ice and the snow finally started to melt. The grass emerged and we finally were able to leave our homes. I felt alive again! I also started my blog at this time. I had planned to write for a very long time but this new spring weather gave me hope and inspiration!

The sun returned!

April 2014: We celebrated my husbands milestone 30th birthday! I made him a special car themed cake and we spent the whole weekend celebrating!

Daddys special cake!

May 2014: In May we made the choice to move back to California and not renew are apartment lease in Michigan which ended in July. It was a beautiful month filled with warm days and hope for moving closer to our loved ones.We realized that nothing could replace family, friends, and desirable weather. We emerged from this winter safe, but we could not imagine another one!

outside our apartment

June, 2014: Summer was in full swing! This meant humid weather, afternoon rain down pours, and a chance for water fun. There was the beautiful sight of the fireflys and the sound of the Circada in the trees

Fair in Detroit

July 2014: July was the last month of our time in Michigan! We celibrated 4th of July and prepared ourselves for the big move ahead!

Setting off fireworks

August 2014: This was the month of huge changes. We left Michigan on August 1st and traveled to see friends in Toronto Canada. We spent my birthday at Niagara falls. We then went back down to Michigan,Indiana, Ilinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Utah, Nevada and then finally on the third day we made it to California! It was a beautiful moment knowing we were home again!

At Niagara falls

September 2014: My husband and I both found job in Sonoma county and we settled back into the mild climate of California, We enjoyed being near famiy and friends once again! Nasreen was most excited to be near her best friend. It had been very lonely in Michigan

Nasreen with her bestie!

October: We enjoyed the changing weather and fall traditions around us. My grandmother passed away and we made the trip to Los Angles to say goodbye. It was a very hard time for me but I was happy that I was able to eulogize her and say goodbye. Nasreen started Preschool, and we celebrated Halloween.

Pumpkins!!

November: We moved 2 hours east to Sacramento for a new job! We signed a lease on a new apartment. We had a beautiful thanksgiving with family. I will never take for granted being near family again for the holidays.

Loving fall colors

December 2014: December is always a busy month for the Rallhans. Nasreen’s 4th birthday was a big frozen themed party. It was really wonderful!  Christmas was beautiful. Santa came and we all had a wonderful time with family. We are enjoying the mild winter. It gets cold but never snows!

Frozen party!

Christmas morning

In all life is beautiful. I am excited for 2015 and the changes that it might bring with it! 2014 was a difficult year for our family, there is no denying that fact! 2014 was also a beautiful year for us where we grew closer to each other and learned the value of family and friends. You can never truly understand spring until you have faced the cold long winter! This was a year of learning!

Happy New Year Everyone!!

Christmas at our House

Its been a busy couple of weeks, so I have not had the time to sit and write properly. Honestly I do have the time now but I am making it work.

Walnut crescent cookies

On Christmas eve we had our best friends and their three year old daughter over for dinner. They are Punjabi and I wanted to show them a traditional American Christmas dinner. Once in conversation a few weeks back they talked about the fact that they celebrate Christmas but it was always in the Punjabi fashion, with Punjabi food and such. I decided to make a full holiday dinner to give them that experience.

yule log

I made a full Turkey, a tofurky for my friend who is vegetarian, homemade croissants, mash potatoes and veg gravy, and stuffing with vegetarian sausage. I also made a traditional Bushe De Noel, also called a yule log . This is a cake that is rolled up in a spiral and filled with cream and decorated to resemble a log. For starters we a special hot coco make in the crock pot with sweetened condensed milk , it was delicious!

It was a wonderful evening! The food went well, a little crazy to cook in my small kitchen. In my humble opinion it all came out pretty good. We finished our meal and we all watched the Polar Express. A cartoon movies about a boy who travels to the north pole on Christmas eve. Its Nasreen’s favorite story. We had tea and the Yule log cake, which came out great! The kids exchanged their presents and we all had a wonderful evening.

“Santa came”!!!

My daughter went to bed Christmas eve so very excited about the prospect of Santa coming and filling her stocking! I love the magic of Santa, it is a tradition I cherish! I still remember the year I learned that Santa was not real and it changed my Christmas forever. It just was not the same. Now that my daughter participates actively in Christmas I love watching her experience that magic!

Nasreen with her new doll, Simran.

On the morning of Christmas Nasreen woke up and was so excited to see the stockings full! She ran to her daddy in bed, I was already awake. She begged him to come open gifts! He was hard to get up but finally after some begging he arose She got a special letter from Santa telling her he loved the cookies, and thought she was a good girl this year but needed to listen a little bit better. She thought this was awesome!

Her stocking was filled with finger paints, playdough, socks, and of course candy. Daddy also got candy from Santa and a little vibrating back massager, which he loves! Nasreen then opened up her gifts. I love the fact that she really appreciates everything that she gets. She stops and looks at it and is so loving to the new thing. This year for Christmas we were trying to avoid too many toys, her room is filled with stuff from years passed. She got a beautiful 18 inch doll. I was thinking of getting her an American doll, which is a famous doll brand in the United States. They are very exspensive so I decided to test this less exspensive doll on her to see if she even liked it. She named her doll Simran, a traditional Punjabi name. She loves the doll! She got a few outfits for the doll as well. She loves changing her clothes especially for bed time, the doll had a pajama set and sleeping bag!

daddy is a big kid!

She got a new pair of earnings, a necklace, and a jewelry box with a ballerina and that spins around to music. Nasreen loved this gift very much! She loves the dainty ballerina. We got her Minney Mouse decals for her bedroom. One of my favorite gifts to her is a star projector, a light that makes stars on the ceiling at night. She loves this toy and falls asleep to the soft glow of stars every night. She got a Minney Mouse adventure kit with a toy camera, flash light, and binoculars! She had been begging for binoculars for weeks! Daddy picked out her final gift a red remote control truck! She loved this toy, but had to battle daddy for a chance to use it! In all her Christmas presents were all perfect for her.

Loving her Uncle Brandon

After presents I set to making another yule log to bring to my moms. Sadly the cake completly failed. The oven is uneven so the cake batter thinned on one side. I felt pretty bad about not being able to bring something to my moms. As a result we were late starting off to my moms house for Christmas dinner. It takes two hours to drive from Sacramento to Cotati.

When we got to my mom’s there was more presents. Nasreen was over joyed at this. There was doc Mcstuffins toys, and a doll bed, and a kids laptop, some beautiful clothes, and anna frozen doll.

We had a wonderful dinner. My mom quite outdid herself this time. Just trying a bit of everything stuffed us beyond comfort. It soon became evident that there was no need for the yule log! There was enough desserts to last a week!

We had a wonderful time seeing my sister and her boyfriend, my bother, mom, grandma and step dad. It was just so great to get together with everyone.

That night we went home very merry indeed!

Now to get back on track with healthy eating again!

using her new Binoculars

Feeling Left out of the Conversation

Have you ever felt left out, cut out of the conversation, awkward, and a bit sad? These are all the feeling I go through when suddenly a lively conversation that I am involved in switches from English to Punjabi.

I am married to a Punjabi. He loves his culture, his language, and his traditions. Its a beautiful thing. I am happy that I get to share these things with him and our daughter.

Sadly I do not speak Punjabi very well. I am learning, but it is an entirely new language to me. If it had been Spanish I would be fine, I learned the language in school and even traveled to South America. Punjabi is hard for me, because until I met my husband I didn’t even know the language existed. I have purchased audio programs, language software, and books. I have learned alot over these years, and I can often get the general meaning of a conversation. It helps when the language is spoken slower, but when everyone gets talking excitedly and speaks faster I can not always follow along.

The reality is that the vast majority of the Punjabis that we interact with speak perfect English and Punjabi. At a party or gathering we all tell stories, jokes, or even debate with each other. I love to talk, and I am down right chatty. I am a social person and I love interacting with people. One minute we are all speaking in English and then suddenly it switches to Punjabi. Sometimes this is just for a short time to convey some idea, but often times the Punjabi will continue the rest of the conversation. I am now completely left out. No more funny stories, or input on a topic from me. I sit there smiling, trying desperately to catch whatever meaning I can from the conversation. I smile and nod, but its not the same. I am not apart  of the group any longer. My foreign alien feeling become quite pronounced. I see myself as the only one not participating, and not being apart of the larger group. I no longer fit in. I am that Gori in the room! 

I now have a small understand what it must be like to be an English learner in the United States. That feeling of isolation, but for them it is even more pronounced.

I want you all to understand that I am not the type of person that believes that my language is superior. I am NOT an English only kind of person. I believe everyone should become multi -lingual. I think its beautiful to speak other languages! I love the Punjabi language, I just wish I could learn it faster. 

I sympathize with my husband that he does not get the opportunity to speak his mother tongue very often with other Punjabis. It must be exhausting constantly speaking in your second language. He is so happy when he gets to express himself in the language he was brought up with. You can see the joy on his face being able to fully express himself !

Sadly I dont speak Punjabi well and when a wonderful conversation switches from English to Punjabi, I am left out and a bit sad.

To my readers:

Have you experienced a situation where friends or relatives switched from a common language to one only some knew? How did you feel?

How do you react?

Praying in Fear

A Gurdwara is a Sikh religious temple . It is a wonderful place, and thousands of people visit one every day around the world. It is open every day of the week for anyone who wishes to come and pray or simply sit in quiet thought. During weekends it is filled with the musical sounds of Kirtan (prayers), the smells of Langar (shared meal), the sight of children playing. It is a place where people find peace and connect with God.

I am an American Christian and in 2010  I married an Indian Sikh. Since our marriage we have attended a Gurdwara nearly every weekend. Our four year old daughter loves going to the Gurdwara and gets so excited every time we place the chunni ( scarf) on her head. Even as a christian I find peace in these Sikh temples. There is just something magical about these holly places. A deep sense of peace and harmony.  A shared commitment to God and to doing good in the world. 

That feeling of peace was forever changed for me one day in 2012. 

sikh_temple-630

Survivors grieving

On August 5, 2012, 40-year-old Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin Wade Page was an Army veteran that was discharged from the military for misconduct that included drinking while on duty. He was a known white supremacist and had a hatred for all people of color. He took his own life on that day, so his motivations behind the shooting are not completely known even now.

I encourage my readers to read more about this event. Sikh temple shootingThe details

Six Sikhs were killed while they prayed for peace! Six devoted Sikhs had their lives brutally taken from them! More lives would have been taken if it were not for the brave acts of Lt. Brian Murphy, the first police officer on the scene. He sustained 15 gun shot wounds, lived, and protected the survivors in the Gurdwara! He shot Wade Page in the abdomen, who than took his own life and ended the violence . Here is  Lt. Brian Murphys story.

I can not in one article explain the terror that Michael Page inflicted on these people and the whole Sikh community! Today in this post I will reflect on the effect these eventshad on me, thousands of miles away.  

esq-brian-murphy-0113-de

Lt. Brian Murphy, deep scar from the shooting

I remember that day vividly. I am not one to watch the news very often in the house, the events are usually too sad to watch with a small child. I was on social media and someone had posted a link about the shooting. I ran to the Television to see the horrible images of crying Sikhs outside of the Wisconsin Gurdwara! The details that came in were horrifying. A gun man killing innocent men and women as they prayed. A police officer in critical care after sustaining fifteen gun shot wounds. No answers just questions! Who was this shooter?  Why did he do it? Why Sikhs???? On top of everything I thought, would it happen again?!

My husband was outraged! More angry then I had ever seen! For years Sikhs have been persecuted in India for their faith. Their most holy place, The Golden Temple, attacked by the Indian military in 1984 killing thousands of innocent people. Why was this happening here?! The United States is supposed to be a place of religious freedom, and still people die because of their faith!

That day we were invited to attend our best friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday langar ( meal and prayers) event at the Gurdwara in Stockton. We drove the two hours in silence, neither of us knew what to even say! We were afraid, angry, and shocked. I was afraid! I had never thought about the possibility of an attack on a peaceful Gurdwara!!  Now it was all I could think about! WHY? What threat were these people! The congregation did community service, prayed, and ate together. These people cared most about God! The men wore beards and turbans and the women covered their heads. Did this shooter hate them because of this ?! He hate them enough to kill them?!  Are there others like him ready to take the lives of people that are different?! I became afraid, and I know this is selfish, but I could only think, ” what if it happened to us?”. 

When we entered the Gurdwara we put on a brave face. It was a joyous event but behind every Sat Sri Akal ( hello) and every welcoming smile, there was a fear and an anger! “Why did he do it??!!”

I bowed before the Guru Granth Sahib ( holly book and alter) and I did not feel that peace as before. I could not close my eyes in prayer. I felt hyper aware. In my mind I was distracted by the thoughts of escape routes and plans! I wanted to loose myself in prayer. To forget it all and feel safe, but I could not shed the fear! What were the last moments of the victim’s lives like? What were their families going through! WHY DID HE DO IT!!  Would it happen again?!

Had my husband always lived with this reality? This fear! Was it just new to me. Was I so naive to think that we were safe and that others respected our right to be different and to pray to God in our own way! Is a cloth on the head that frightening! How could someone hate so deeply someone they do not even know?! How could a person take the life of someone ?! I had all of these questions!

It has been two years since that horrible event! There has not been another shooting in a Sikh Gurdwara in the United States, thank God. My fear have calmed down a bit, but I still feel the tension when I walk into a Gurdwara. I still feel the fear when I watch people observe my husband when he wears his turban. I wonder what people are thinking. Is there hate behind those eyes? Is there another Wade Michael Page planning his attack? Are we safe? I wonder what the fear is like for the people most effected by this attack! Do they ever feel peace in the Gurdwara? Do they feel anger! Do they ask WHY?!

When I pray I do so with one eye open and a plan for escape.

When I pray I pray for peace and understanding.

When I pray I ask God to take the fear away.

When I pray I imagine a better world.

Let us all pray for a better world, because every life is important! 

The FROZEN Party!!!

Nasreen was dressed like Anna in Frozen from the Coronation scene

 

The long awaited day had come, Nasreen’s Frozen themed birthday party!! We prepared for a month for this special day, collecting things slowly over time. We hosted the party where my mom lives, their community has a club house space that was perfect for the party. On Friday work we drove two hours to my moms, and once there we started immediately to unpack and decorate the space. We were up until 1 am getting everything just right. My husband and I had alot of fun creating this special area for the party.

I was so lucky that my boss from my job as a school photographer let me borrow a winter background, that they use for dance photos. It looked so amazing in setting and the pictures were just gorgeous! The whole place looked so beautiful. All of the planning and decorating turned out so well, and my husband and I were quite happy with the results. 

In the morning my mom and I both ran around town picking up last minute food and party items. When we came back it was time for the cooking!!! I had prepared much of the food ahead of time and froze the dishes. We had lasagna, filled pasta with pesto sauce, homemade macaroni and cheese, garlic bread, salad, chanas ( garbanzo beans) and rice. Everything was vegetarian, so that no one was left out of any of of the dishes. We had so many things to heat and only one oven so logistically it was a challenge.We were still cooking when the guests started to arrive. Luckily it only took us another fifteen minutes. The cooking was done at my moms, and was brought over to the party area. Finally we got all the food done and driven over to the party! From then on my mom and I were completely part of the party. It was important to me that no one was left behind, I wanted the food done and the rest of the party free to enjoy.

making tiaras

When the kids started to come, I started them on a craft project to make tiaras and crowns. They were made of foam and decorated with foam stickers. My niece Anya was a great help, she is ten so she assisted all the younger kids. The kids had alot of fun with and enjoyed putting their own style into the crowns.

Can she get any cuter

Once the food arrived everyone ate. The kids of course were too excited to sit and eat, so I took individual photos of the kids in front of the snow background.

My moms gift to Nasreen was she hired an actress from an awesome company to come and be Elsa from Frozen. From the moment she arrived the kids were so excited! She was completely in character and referred to me as the queen of this castle. She never once broke character, she was Elsa! The kids were all star struck. Nasreen became very shy. The truth is my daughter gets quite overwhelmed with too much attention, she needs the time to process and warm up to people. The actress was quite patient thought and was so sweet.

dance lessons

Reading her story!

The snow queen sat down and told the children a story and they all got to sing, ” Let it go” . The kids all loved this, and many of them got very into character! Then there was a dance lesson! It was great to see the kids all dance together. Nasreen warmed up to her pretty fast and told her all about how she loved Elsa and Anna. She told elsa about each of her friends! it was really cute.

face painting

Elsa then did face painting! The kids all got very excited about this and each waited to patiently for their turn. Nasreen had a red flower painted on her face.

One very happy Elsa fan

The Birthday girl with Elsa

Then it was time for pictures with the queen! The kids loved taking photos and came back many times to give Elsa hugs! Elsa siad a sweet good bye and off she went back to her castle.

The kids then played the games I had planned. I had gone to the store and got one prize for each kids. Things like puzzles and paint sets. I decided this instead of candy, God knows they had enough sugar. First the kids played frozen themed bowling! The kids all had alot of fun and they got quite competitive! I love watching all these kids get so excited about throwing the ball. It was harder then it looked. 

Pin the nose on Olaf

Next was pin the nose on the Olaf! My husband drew the Olaf that morning, and did a pretty good job.  The kids had fun trying to get closest to where the nose should be!

Prizes!

Musical chairs

Next was musical chairs to frozen themed music.Now this one might have been to much for 4 year olds! There was one kid that had their seat accidentally pulled out from under them, that ended in tears. Nasreen cried when she was out. Several kids kept going around the chair even after they were out! It was all too funny! Each child got one prize and they had alot of fun picking it out!

The cake!

Next was the cake. I had made the Frozen themed cake a day before the party and it came out nice despite my lack of tools. It even survived the two hour car trip.

cake in the face

blowing out the candles

Everyone sang happy birthday and Nasreen glowed! She blew out the candle and helped cut the cake. Daddy as is his tradition every year, put cake on Nasreen’ face and she was mad! but just for a minute lol.

Reading all the beautiful cards!

She then sat and opened up gifts! She received so many wonderful gifts! Her Cousin Anya helped her open and read all the cards. She received many thoughtful and beautiful gifts. The kids all loved delivering the gift to her at the front.

My favorite part of the party was being able to see everyone together in one place. Friends and family that had heard of each other, finally got to meet and have their kids play together. My brother and sister in law drove all the way from Los Angles ( 8 hours) with their 4 year old twins and 10 year old daughter. Then there was my co-worker/ friend with her two daughters. My mentor from my teenage years with her son. My cousin and her sons. My step sister and her daughter, our good friends and their daughter Deya, and aunts and uncles and grandparents. My mom who made it all possible and step dad. It was so wonderful to see everyone enjoying the food, and watching  the kids having fun! All the planning and all the work was worth it when I saw this much joy!

 

The cake post!  https://mymasalalife.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/sneak-peak-at-the-cake/

Thank God Nasreen did not cancel her party! Watch this post! https://mymasalalife.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/my-three-year-old-wants-to-cancel-her-party/