Jul 9, 2018

On the Road to Shambala


Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala


Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame 
With the rain in Shambala
 

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind,
Out on the road to Shambala


Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind,
On the road to Shambala


I can tell my sister by the flowers in her eyes,
On the road to Shambala


I can tell my brother by the flowers in his eyes,
On the road to Shambala


Ah, ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
On the road to Shambala


How does your light shine, in the halls of Shambala?
Please tell me, how does your light shine in the halls of Shambala?


That was Three Dog Night's 1973 hit version of "On the Road to Shambhala" if you were wondering. Yes, Bibi is certainly a member of the MTV generation as she even puts posts to music. If you ever wondered what Shambhala is- it's a mythical Buddhist kingdom surrounded by snow capped mountains where the final incarnation of Vishnu will occur. Indeed, it was the inspiration for the Shangri-La of James Hilton's Lost Horizon. This legendary kingdom may or may not be extra-dimensional or on the etheric plane. Anywho, we're off on a family vacation for about a month during which I shall not be posting due to lack of internet service. We might end up in Shambala, who knows? Until then,

Gonna keep on tryin'
Till I reach my highest ground! 

(Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1989 version)
No one's gonna bring me down, Oh no......

Bibi ;)

Jul 2, 2018

Please Stand By...


This last week has been a doozy. The other night after dinner our house started smelling like melted plastic. Then the air conditioning units wouldn't work. Then smoke began filling the rooms. So we shut everything off, called the electrician, and sat in the dark. It seems the Nepal Electric Authority was cranking out an alarming 370V current instead of their usual 220V.


This went on for four hours so we had to completely shut off all electrical items in the house. We've spent the weekend praising Allah that our house didn't catch fire, airing out the house, and replacing all the melted light fixtures, ceiling fans, and air conditioning units. Our neighbors all suffered the same problem and have had televisions and computers ruined too. (Luckily, our computers and televisions are routed through the invertor so they don't seem to have incurred any damage.) Still, I'm surprised there weren't any fires in our district.


All that and two sick kitties too.  We haven't heard anything from the Nepal Electric Authority, there were no lightning storms in our area either. I shall try to get a "real" post up next week. Sigh.

What next?
Hope things are going better where you're at!
Inshallah,
Bibi

Jun 25, 2018

Ingredients: Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

Chickpeas are the little legume with a lot of names! Variously called garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, or Bengal gram - these versatile beans are a great source of protein and are a staple of diets worldwide.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

Chickpeas have an important place in world history as one of the very first legumes domesticated as a Neolithic founder crop. They are thought to have originated in ancient Anatolia, Syria, and Iran. The earliest archaeological chickpea remains date back to around 7000 BC. Chickpeas were introduced to the Mediterranean Basin, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent sometime before 2000 BC. The edible legumes were first popular amongst the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and were eventually were brought to the New World by Spanish explorers. Any staple food that has been around for 9,000 years and traveled worldwide is bound to have a lot of names. Indeed, the humble chickpea is known asl chana dal, chole, cholay, or chhola boot in India alone. In Italy chickpeas are called cece, in English they can also be called Bengal gram, in German Kichererbse, in French pois chiche, in Dutch kikkererwt, in Turkish nohut, and in Arabic hummus. The Spanish word for chickpeas is garbanzo and is commonly used in regions of the United States with a Mexican or Spanish influence.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
L to R: Larger Kabuli-type chickpeas and darker, smaller Desi-type chickpeas
Chickpeas belong to the family Fabaceae and Cicer arietinum is the only cultivar among the 43 species of the Cicer genus. The two main varieties of chickpeas are the larger round light-colored Kabuli-type commonly found in western countries, and the smaller dark irregularly shaped Desi-type more often used in India and the Middle East. ("Desi" means local in Hindi.) The Kabuli-type chickpeas contain less fiber and cook faster than the Desi-type. Desi-types can be smooth or wrinkled, and retain a firmer texture after cooking. Desi-type chickpeas differ quite widely in coloration and occur in black, green, brown, or even speckled varieties. I'd never seen nor tasted the smaller, darker Desi-type chickpeas before I lived in Nepal. I can definitely understand the South Asian preference for the chewier Desi-type chickpeas as vegetarian diets can be a bit boring as far as texture goes.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Desi-type chickpea flower (Cicer arietinum)
Desi-type chickpeas are bushy plants with relatively small leaflets and flowers. They have  purplish anthocyanin pigments in their stems and blue-violet flowers, and are primarily grown in South Asia, Iran, and Ethiopia.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Kabuli-type chickpea flower (Cicer arietinum)
Kabuli-type chickpeas have erect growth and white flowers. They are primarily grown in the Mediterranean region, Southern Europe, and Northern Africa. Kabuli means "from Kabul" in Hindi and Urdu, this variety is thought to have come from Kabul, Afghanistan when introduced to India in the 18th century.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

The plant quickly grows to 8–20 inches (20–50 cm) high and has small, feathery leaves on either side of the stem. It has a deep taproot, going down to 6 feet or 2 meters, and many lateral secondary roots extending into the upper layers of the soil. Chickpeas are a cool-season legume that can withstand hot temperatures during fruiting and ripening. The plant prefers well-aerated sandy to sandy loam soils and black cotton soils with a pH ranging from 5 to 7, or even higher. Soils containing high salt or clay are detrimental to the plant. Chickpeas are well adapted to tropical climates with moderate temperatures. They can be successfully cultivated under irrigation in the cool, dry seasons of many tropical countries. The legume is tolerant of drought but does not withstand high heat and humidity. Rainstorms during flowering, such as in the Monsoon season, may harm the resulting crop.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

Chickpeas are a type of pulse, with one seedpod containing two or three peas. Pods are harvested 90-120 days or 130-180 days from sowing, generally when they turn yellow. The harvested plants are dried on the ground and the seeds are separated from the chaff by threshing and winnowing. Chickpeas are green in color when freshly picked and then dry to cream, brown, speckled, or black.


chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
A chickpea field in Israel
As with most ancient cultivars, chickpeas are a multi-use plant. The by-products of chickpea cultivation and processing are used for animal feed such as the bran (known as chuni in India), and other crop residuals such as straw and hay. The straw and dried roots of chickpea can be also used as fuel for cooking. Chickpea starch is suitable for textile sizing and in the manufacture of plywood. The leaves are also edible, yield an indigo-like dye, and have uses in traditional medicine. The chickpea is a nitrogen-fixing legume often used to restore soil fertility before cereal or oilseed crops. It can be used as disease cycle breaker and helps to reduce pesticide and herbicide usage.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Fresh green chickpeas for sale
The main chickpea producers of the world are India, Australia, Pakistan, Turkey, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Iran, the United States, and Canada. In 2016, world production of chickpeas was 12.1 million tonnes, led by India with 64% of the global total. Chickpeas are a major crop in the Terai lowlands of Nepal, either by themselves or as an intercrop with maize or rice. Chickpeas are the primary protein source for nearly 2 million Nepalis residing in this southernmost region.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

A one cup serving of boiled chickpeas has 270 calories, 45 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. That same one cup serving also meets 70 percent of the daily recommended intake for folate for an adult and 26 percent of the daily intake of iron. Chickpeas are also a good source of a number of other minerals including manganese, magnesium, zinc, and copper, as well other B-vitamins, including thiamine and vitamin B-6. Nutrition-wise, cooked and canned chickpeas are about the same. Unfortunately, the sodium content of canned chickpeas can be 100 times that of cooked. Draining and rinsing tinned chickpeas can get rid of about half the sodium, but you’re also draining and rinsing away some of the nutrition. When buying canned chickpeas get the no-salt-added or low sodium varieties. Keep and use the tinned chickpea juice as a vegan egg substitute called aquafaba in your baking and confection making!

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Clockwise from the bottom left: Egyptian hummus with olive oil, Gujarati Dhokla, Guatemalan Garbanzos en Dulce (chickpeas in sweet syrup),  & Farinata di Ceci, a traditional Italian crepe-like chickpea snack food.
There are so many goodies you can make with chickpeas! Amazing dishes both sweet and savory are made from chickpeas worldwide. The Middle-Eastern dip called hummus is probably the most familiar chickpea dish for most Westerners. The Gujuratis make a delicious savory snack out of steamed chickpea flour called dhokla. In Latin American countries a dessert is made of chickpeas simmered in a heavy sweet syrup spiced with cinnamon called Garbanzoes de Dulce.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

My favorite way to eat chickpeas is the famed Punjabi dish called Chole Bhatura. It's a combination of chickpeas simmered in a spicy sauce served with bhatura, a fluffy fried bread made of wheat flour. This is a typical breakfast or street food served in Punjab and around Delhi accompanied by a lassi. Some of my favorite cholr recipes are Sindhi-Style Chole, Chikar Chole, and Chole Masala.


chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

Flour made from ground chickpeas is called besan or gram flour in South Asia. Besan can be made from either raw or roasted chickpeas. The roasted variety is more flavorful, while the raw variety has a slightly bitter taste. Besan is gluten-free and has more protein than wheat flour. It can be used like wheat flour to thicken gravies or stews but beware that it expands when cooked and has a bit of a nutty flavor. I'd advise storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator as it has a tendency to go off in warm weather.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
From the bottom left going clockwise: Rajasthani Mathri, Besan Laddoos, Sev, Besan Barfi.
Besan is used in a wide variety of Indian sweets and dishes of various textures and tastes. Some examples are: Sev (tiny crispy noodles), boondi (tiny sweet fritters), pakora (vegatable fritters), barfi (a fudge-like sweet), mathri (a fried pastry), laddoos (ball shaped sweets), papadums (thin crispy crackers), and the classic Indian sweet soan papdi (a flaky crispy sweet).

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Fried and fresh to hpu 
The Burmese make a sort of polenta out of chickpea flour which is called to hpu. Although to hpu translates to tofu it is made much like Italian polenta. Chickpea flour is mixed with water, turmeric, and a little salt and then heated, while stirring constantly, until it reaches a creamy consistency. The mixture is then transferred into a tray and allowed to set. The to hpu is not fermented like soy tofu. It is then cut into cubes or thin slices and may be eaten fresh in a salad or deep fried. It may also be sliced thinly and dried to make crackers that are crispy when deep fried. I've tasted to hpu and it is delicious! I wish we could get it here in Nepal.


Be forwarned: often you will see yellow split peas mislabeled as "chana dal." Desi-type chickpeas or kala chana are also sold hulled and split and are correctly labelled "chana dal." It is really hard to tell the difference between split yellow peas and split, hulled black or brown chickpeas without a magnifying glass. They are about the same size, yellow, and dimpled on one side. Desi-type chickpeas are slightly oblong and flattened compared to globular yellow peas though. Yellow split peas should be correctly labelled "mattar dal" as mattar means peas. Luckily, the cooking times for split yellow peas and split, hulled Desi-type chickpeas is about the same so they can be used interchangeably. The flavor is slightly different with chickpeas having more of a nutty flavor than yellow peas.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Chole Masala (curried chickpeas recipe)
So what's not to love about chickpeas? Second to the soybean, the chickpea is the next most widely grown and eaten bean in the world. It’s no wonder considering their versatility, palatable flavor, eco-friendly cultivation, and numerous nutritional benefits!

What's your favorite way to enjoy chickpeas?
(Tell me in the comments)
Calmly currying on,
Bibi

Jun 18, 2018

The Body Shop: Bibi's Faves

Founded in 1976 by the late British environmental and human rights campaigner Dame Anita Roddick, The Body Shop started as one small shop in the UK selling just 25 products. Now the range consists of over 1,000 items and there are 3,049 stores located in 66 countries employing 22,000 people. Today I'll share with you my favorite skin care and fragrance products from The Body Shop!

Dame Anita Roddick looking very much as when I met her
I actually met the founder of The Body Shop in 1990 at the Union Square store in San Francisco. Simply dressed in a dark turtleneck, blue jeans, perhaps just a little mascara, and a riot of natural curls - she looked very much the native San Franciscan. Or so I thought until I heard her British accent as she approached me with a very charming and personable, "Hello and welcome to The Body Shop! Anything I can help you find?" I had no clue as to whom she was and thought perhaps she was the manager of his new store. We chit-chatted as I marveled at the shelves full of fragrant goods. The Body Shop was much more hippy and hessian-weave when it first came to California in 1990. Scented items included hand-stitched tulle sachets full of dried patchouli leaves from India, bits of dried orris root, rosemary leaves, or lavender buds to scent one's linens or lingerie was on offer. A "scent bar" with flacons of perfume oils that customers could sniff and dabble in was on offer much like the sort made popular by the 70's chain Perfumer's Workshop and Berkeley's own original Body Shop. One could even have your very own bath and body products custom scented with oils chosen from the scent bar. I asked the cashier if the lady who helped me was her manager, "No! That's the founder of the company, Anita Roddick!"


The Body Shop boasts of being one the first cosmetics brands to prohibit testing on animals, and the first company to introduce the concept of Fair Trade and ethically sourced products to the beauty industry. The social activism dimension of the company first evidenced in 1986 when The Body Shop proposed an alliance with Greenpeace in the UK to save the whales. Who could forget their shocking late 90's ad campaign featuring Ruby, a red-haired doll of average proportions with the slogan, “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do.” Ruby's Rubenesque figure captured the imaginations of western consumers weary of the rail-thin heroin-chic of the beauty industry’s advertising messages. Pretty darned edgy, even for the 90's!
The scent of the 90's!
The Body Shop expanded rapidly with it's affordable, fun, and exciting products appealing to teenagers. Products changed from "hippy chic" to "hyper trendy" with banana shampoo, strawberry shower gel, mango lip balm, and chocolate body scrub. The Body Shop's White Musk or the now discontinued Dewberry anointed every teenaged mallrat from Belgium to Boston! The Body Shop model spawned numerous similar rivals in personal care both high end and low end- Bath & Body Works, Kiehl's, L'Occitane, Lush, Garnier, and even Boots now has a natural-based line! In 2006 The Body Shop was taken over by L'Oréal for £652.3 million. As with most companies bought by L'Oréal, product lines were streamlined and ingredients cheapened. The Body Shop's once unique products became no better than mediocre drugstore brands. The Body Shop's claims of being cruelty-free and ethically sourced became dubious given L'Oréal's dismal reputation.
Sign the Petition!
When questioned about the seemingly hypocritical decision to sell to L'Oréal, Dame Roddick reckoned that The Body Shop would act like a "Trojan horse" that could influence the huge corporation from the inside. Unfortunately, Dame Roddick died in 2007, so what influence she may have had we will never know. L'Oréal's mismanagement caused the once strong brand to lose its trendy edge and become a confused mish-mash of products with little emphasis on cruelty-free, fair trade toiletries and make-up. The cosmetics giant eventually offloaded the High Street chain due to suffering slowing sales last year. The new owner is Natura Cosméticos of Brazil and seems to be a better match for The Body Shop. Both companies share similar ethical values and awareness of their environmental impact. In March of this year The Body Shop, Natura Cosméticos, and the advocacy group Cruelty-Free International join forces in the Forever Against Animal Testing campaign. The objective is to call for an international convention at the United Nations that will ban animal testing worldwide. One million signatures on the petition is all it takes to initiate the proceedings that will lead to this convention. Sign the petition today, and get all your friends to do it, too! And that's why Bibi started shopping at The Body Shop this year again!

This is my very favorite skincare product from The Body Shop, the classic Vitamin E Moisture Cream. Loved since 1977, The Body Shop's Vitamin E iconic skincare range has stood the test of time. This particular moisturizer is one of their best-sellers with a jar being sold worldwide every 18 seconds! Formulated with lightweight emollients, plumping hyaluronic acid, wheatgerm oil, and (you guessed it!) vitamin E - this cream is non-greasy, absorbs fast, and locks in moisture for 48 hours. It is as hydrating as pricier and heavier formulas but feels more like a lotion as it easily sinks into the skin. If you suffer dry skin like I do, but haven't found "The One" - give this popular item a try.

The Body Shop's Vitamin E Sink-In Moisture Sleeping Mask is a newer addition to this iconic line. Sleeping masks are a Korean beauty trend that's really catching on in western countries. I love its light, gel-cream consistency that leaves my skin plumped and hydrated in as little as ten minutes. For a more intense hit of hydration, I leave it on overnight. I find this product especially useful for dehydrated skin during or after air travel. It plumps and hydrates as well or better than Sisley's super $$$s Black Rose mask. I could do without the almond-baby powder scent though.
For those of you with sensitive skin, I'd recommend The Body Shop's Aloe Soothing Night Cream. Dermatologically approved and clinically proven suitable for sensitive skin this stuff really works! The Body Shop's Aloe range uses the world’s first fair trade aloe and is preservative-free, dye-free, silicone-free, fragrance-free, and 100% vegan. Aloe really does soothe, comfort, and calm irritated skin. Unfortunately, we don't quite understand how aloe works but I use it for everything from burns to bug bites and have a large plot of it growing in my garden. When my skin gets irritated in the dry Winter months, dehydrated after a long flight,  chapped due to high winds, or if an eczema flare starts - this is the product I use. This cream is light, non-greasy, and feels immediately calming. My only complaint with this product (and The Body Shop's other creams) is that I wish they would put it in an airless pump. The tub is unsanitary reasons and does not preserve the antioxidants once opened.


The Moringa Body Care Collection:  Moringa oil is one of The Body Shop's star ingredients harvested from trees in the East African country of Rwanda. The Body Shop has partnered with local social enterprise Asili Natural Oils to develop a supply chain to meet its demand for moringa oil. This project falls under The Body Shop's Community Trade program, a 30-year-old supply chain model that aims to use the levers of international trade to support and benefit marginalized producers and their communities around the world. The Moringa tree's leaves, seeds, flowers, and fruits are all edible and are packed with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, and iron. The brand's Moringa seed oil is cold-pressed twice in order to preserve its precious nutrients and properties.

To showcase this marvelous oil The Body Shop developed this gorgeously scented Moringa Body Care collection.  The fragrance is an amazingly feminine, beautiful, and delicate white floral. It is a very simple fragrance that's reminiscent of jasmine and honeysuckle but not quite as heavy. It is perhaps closer to linden blossom and balanced with a slight green green note. Not overtly indolic nor sweet and stays clean, fresh, and close to the skin. Does not morph into a cloying monstrosity in hot and humid weather. A tropical scent without the coconut or suntan lotion cliché. This fragrance really stands out in its elegance amongst the candy-sweet fruit and vanilla laden scents you usually find at this price level. The line includes a shower gel, body scrub, hand cream, dry oil, body milk, body sorbet, body mist, soap, eau de toilette, and body butter. All products are fabulous for layering with other white florals but can still hold their own. I bought the entire line!

The Moringa Body Butter is my favorite item of the line. The Body Shop's body butters are legendary in quality - rich without being heavy or oily and absorbing quickly into the skin. The Moringa Body Butter has a slight powdery note and projects more than any of the other products in the line. I wish they made a Moringa perfume oil!

That concludes Bibi's faves at The Body Shop! 

Doing a bit of lazy but long-winded blogging on this weekend as we've had sooo many guests for Eid al-Fitr. 

What are your favorites at The Body Shop?

Any cruelty-free and ethically-sourced brands you'd recommend?

Jun 11, 2018

Where the Streets Have No Name.


I want to feel sunlight on my face, I see that dust cloud disappear without a trace, I wanna take shelter from the poison rain, where the streets have no name, oh-oh, ........oooo! Not sure what Bono was blathering on about in 1987 but I really do live on a street with no name!


And slowly but surely it has become a paved street with no name.


Bucket by bucket, and possibly violating every safety, health, and labor law in existence in western countries- we slowly but surely are no longer living on a country dirt road anymore.



A baby steamroller and a few teenagers were employed for the finishing touches. His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan took a stroll over the sticky tar and soon regretted it. I regretted it too after spending an hour cleaning the tar off his royal paws with baby oil for two hours.




Taaa Daaaa! Our street with no name is paved. Unfortunately, the paving stops about 100 feet beyond that bend you see in the distance. The people who live at the end of the road decided they didn't need full paving just an upgraded dirt road about halfway through the project. This was declared amidst a screaming, yelling, heated argument during a homeowners' association meeting. Which is why I don't ever go to homeowners' association meetings nor walk in that direction on our street. Take a look at that rudimentary bamboo fence on the left- big doins' in the formerly vacant lot!


The ongoing saga of the vacant lot: it's being cultivated! Yes, the neighborhood garbage dump, cow pasture, parking lot, vagrant hangout, and nightly den of vice is being farmed. The wall of the drain has been built up with a rickety bamboo fence to keep marauding livestock out. Corn, beans, and pumpkins are growing there now.


Which means we'll probably be seeing less of these guys coming down our street. These are not exactly 'holy cows' but rather swingin' single maverick males. Here they are looking for shade from the blistering noonday summer sun. Although beef is illegal here in Nepal male cows can be utilized to pull a plow. Mostly they are just left to wander the streets aimlessly. Sometimes these feckless males get a little too maverick and charge or gore people. They are sacred, you can't kill them so what usually happens to troublesome bulls is that they get gimped. Often this is done by cutting a tendon on one of their back legs or worse smashing/chopping off one of their back feet with a hammer or ax. I used to wonder why there were so many lame bulls about.  Mind you, I have been charged by some of these bovine miscreants for simply carrying a bag of apples. Having two tonnes of determined steer come running at you is a scary thing indeed. I'm still sorry to see the days of livestock roaming the streets slowly coming to an end in our town as cars take over.


Here's a lady selling a popular seasonal summertime snack. Ears of corn roasted on a fire served with a fiery hot chutney. She's got her super SPF going with that umbrella, long-sleeved shirt, and scarf pulled over her face. The corn being roasted is not the sweet, soft, tender type we Americans like to eat off the cob. Rather it is the starchy, bland, somewhat hard sort that we feed cattle and chickens. I grew American sweet corn here in my yard one year and it was a huge hit. Unfortunately, the worms loved it too.


Looks like the snack lady has some modern competition! This truck showed up on our street a few days ago. I had never seen a rig quite like this anywhere in South Asia. Curious, I asked the owner within where he got the idea and how long he had been in business. Sure enough, he'd worked at a restaurant in my native California and got the idea from the ubiquitous taco trucks we have there. Despite the photos of hamburgers and fried chicken his menu was a bit more traditional featuring momos, samosas, and such. He wasn't doing much business so I suggested he try a busier place with a parking lot like between the airport and hotel across the way.


Too-riss! Too-riss! A group of nurses from the Netherlands came to visit our neighborhood and the specialty clinic on our street. Any westerner coming to Nepal is an instant celebrity! Nepalis often ask me why westerners dress so weird when they visit here. I try to explain that they are on vacation and this is like their "play" clothes. "What is a vacation?" I am often further asked. "It's like a non-religious holiday when westerners take a break from work," I reply. "What for?" seems to always be the next question. Eventually, I've realized that in a country where there is no "weekend" nor regular workday and the only reason to travel is to make religious pilgrimages or visit family- it is really impossible to make the idea of a western style vacation relevant or understandable.

Here's a trend across Asia I don't understand. Buying a huge purebred dog is considered a status symbol for the ever-burgeoning middle class. Since pet ownership is new here in Nepal many of the animals wind up deserted on the street when they are no longer puppies and their care and feeding become too time-consuming and costly. I think it is mean (or at least stupid) to have a dog like this St Bernard in such a hot and humid climate. Although he looks well cared for I'm certain he's suffering miserably in the Subcontinental heat.


A magic bus belonging to a curiously named institution called the Dream School was parked in our neighborhood for a few days. Love, excellence, and wisdom are certainly worthy educational aspirations. I'm curious as to whether this is a Christian school because of the cross on the left. There aren't many Christian schools in Nepal. Their motto "Love + Excellence + Wisdom" is certainly better than my Christian school motto which was the rather anticipative, terse, and tenuous "God With Us."


And in the cool, cool, cool of the summer evenings, the ChaCha Convention convenes. ( a "chacha' is an old uncle.) They've relocated from the Tibetan refugee school's bus stop to the new sitting area at the crossroads of our neighborhood. In a few years that tiny peepal tree will shade those iron benches completely.


A studied game of chess is ongoing in the shade of the taxi stand next to the local cold store. A cold store basically has a refrigerator and or freezer so you can buy milk, yogurt, cold soda, and beer there. They also sell many other things ranging from eggs, matches, cigarettes, potato chips, candy, onions, potatoes, fresh bread, fresh Chinese noodles, ramen, hard liquor, soft liquor, drinking water, cooking oil, and chickens butchered upon demand.


The first gardening casualty of the season. I planted three simi (green beans) plants along this wall in April. They were growing beautifully and had entirely overed the triangular trellis and the spiky wrought iron decoration above the cinder block wall. I was picking a basketful of beans weekly. One evening at about midnight a swarm of 40-50 huge winged beetles came and devoured all the leaves of the upper part of the vines as you see in the photo on the left. I hurried out and sprayed my DIY peri peri hot sauce and garlic pest prevention gunk on the remaining leaves the next morning. The beetles must have thought my spray was seasoning as they came back the next night and ate ALL the leaves as you see in the photo on the left. What is weird is that the beetles did not touch any other plants in the garden!


I don't know about y'all but when the weather turns steamy and sultry I go to Rio! From classics like the Getz/Gilberto album and Piano de Bossa to Ultralounge's Cha-Cha de Amor and Bossa Novaville. Although I might not have a lovely view of Corcovado I do have quiet nights of quiet stars and an iMac with upgraded audio quality. The lyrical fusion of samba and jazz is what Bibi swings so cool and sways so gently to in the summertime. O que é felicidade meu amor!


This is the newest member of our family, Spotty. He is now nine months old and really full of himself. This is how he sleeps, on his back with his tongue sticking out. He is our first "indoor only" cat. But Spotty sees his older housemate Baacha Khan go outside and thinks he should go outside too. So one day last week he pushed the screen door open and took off. My husband and I chased him for two hours over walls and through the neighbors' yards. Baacha Khan tried to talk him into returning home. A stray cat smacked Spotty in the face (that is what the dot on the right side of his face is) and chased him even further away. Eventually, my husband and I gave up and hoped Spotty was smart enough to find his way home - we had our doubts. About 30  minutes later I received a call from the hospital down the street wanting to know if we had a black and white kitty. As I was putting my shoes on to walk over to the hospital I looked out into the yard and there was Spotty. He lazed in the shade for a bit then wandered in the front door behind Baacha Khan. I guess we underestimated our bratty baby.


And Ramadan is going on and on and on. It has been absolutely sweltering here ranging from 90F/32C to 95F/35C daily. The humidity is from 80-85% making it particularly muggy. Normal temperature for this time of year is around 85F/29C. Monsoon rains do not start until August. We only have air conditioning in the bedrooms and there have been brownouts daily due to the heat. Ugh! I have to cook for iftar starting at 4 pm. Other than that I avoid the kitchen because it is the hottest room in the house. One more week.....

Anything exciting going on your way?
What are your favorite albums to listen too when it gets miserably hot?
Calmly currying on,
Bibi

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