Archive for Travel

Ringing in the Season with Curry Leaves Galore

tiny christmas tree
our tiny tabletop tree ~ complete with clementines and christmas candy

When I moved to northern Michigan, I knew I would miss the proximity to the Indian and other Asian grocery stores that I loved so much. Now, nearly two years later, I have learned to handle this minor inconvenience. I shopped around town and discovered ghee and a few other staples at Meijer’s supermarket — who knew? Meijer’s even boasts an expanded produce section — think bottle gourd and small brinjals and greens of every description — once I even found fresh methi there and I nearly cried!! I found a Latin American store which sells rice and tapioca flours, dried chiles and cumin, and many great veggies such as chiles, cilantro and limes which are cheaper and fresher than the supermarket variety. I grew my own Korean radishes in the garden for making kimchi. The one thing that eluded me was curry leaves.

Then I happily stumbled upon NJ’s Grocery in the tiny village of Lake Leelanau, on the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula. NJ’s is a sweet little hometown grocery store, offering the usual everyday groceries, produce, its own small meat counter and deli, and… homemade Indian cuisine!? How lucky could I be? Just a half hour’s scenic drive up West Bay from work there was a tiny Little India awaiting me, complete with a few dals and spices on the shelves. One look at the dishes on offer and I knew someone must have access to … ahem … the elusive curry leaves. Of course I am not shy, so I asked :)

Rosie, the kind lady in the kitchen, was good enough to sell me some of her stock of lovely curry leaves — albeit frozen — which I otherwise would have no hope of obtaining. This is what I have been using in sambhar and other dishes since I arrived in the north woods. Then I traveled back to Boston for Thanksgiving last month. I ventured out with little m on a shopping extravaganza. From Patel’s in Waltham I scooped up bags of Haldiram’s cornflakes mixture (dear G’s fav!), some of my fav Gujarati fafda, a few harder-to-find spices, and about 10 packages of dreamy looking fresher-than-fresh greener-than-green curry leaves to carry home with me.

fresh curry leaves podi
precious cargo ~ fresh curry leaves and the tasty podi they made!

Back in the north woods, I immediately cooked up several sambhars and curries absolutely loaded with my fragrant find.

chicken curry with curry leaves galore!
chicken curry with curry leaves galore!

I froze a couple of packages, but I can *get* them frozen now. I searched and searched for the perfect way to preserve my bounty. Finally I decided on this tasty-looking recipe from Sangeetha of Spicy Treats. I made it tonight and it is absolutely divine! I followed Sangeetha’s recipe with few changes — I increased the garlic, reduced the red chilies, and forgot the jeera! :( Nevertheless, I was so happy with the way the toasted curry leaves ground to a fine powder with the fragrant dals and hing… the first time I have made a podi that came out so soft and … well … powdery! Thanks for the great recipe, Sangeetha :)

curry leaves podi with rice and ghee
the fresh curry leaves podi with rice and ghee… mmmm

Of course, I saved a couple (ok, a few) packets of curry leaves from the deep-freeze because… I now am sufficiently encouraged to try my hand at ISG’s famous sambhar powder!

rice with curry leaves podi and ginger-lime rasam
the yummy curry leaves rice with ginger-lime rasam from Anushruti’s Divine Taste ~ another delicious recipe!

pinks and gibby
pinks and gibby are sleeping by the fire ~ all is cozy in the north woods

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If You Don’t Like The Weather, Wait a Minute ~ Moving Home Part Five, AKA The End

welcome to michigan!
welcome to (beautiful!) michigan

Back in Moving Home Part Four, we were blown across Ohio by a hot wind.

After a much needed rest, we packed up the trusty Subaru with two kitties in the back and some leftover Tony Packo’s in the cooler, and set out on the last leg of the trip home. The day was blustery and a bit rainy — though some cooler than the 100F temps of the day before, it promised to be a weather-ridden ride.

It mattered not.

Nothing could erase the excitement that accompanied one fact: at the end of the day’s drive lay the end of the journey. Today, come what may, we would be home. This was momentous for me — the long and longingly awaited over-the-rainbow day. I shed a few tears of joy when we crossed the state line into my beloved Michigan.
I even called my folks on the cell phone — I was that excited.
My mom said, “oh, wonderful”! Then my dad told me to hang up because it’s not safe to drive while on the phone!

I love my parents :)

Of course we stopped at the first rest area so I could get the last requisite welcome sign pic.

me in many layers... welcome to michigan!
home at last ~ in many layers of outerwear ;)

We headed northwest to the VIP destination of Ann Arbor,
where I could stock up on some fresh curry leaves, yogurt, and other goodies at Patel Bros. Proximity to my old-haunt Indian groceries is one sacrifice I made in order to live amongst the wild things in the north woods, and I don’t regret it (as a matter of fact, I got my sister to mail me some fresh curry leaves in the heat of summer and they came through just fine!). Still, it was fun to see what will be available to me here, within a few hours’ drive. Patel Bros. is an orderly, modern store with great variety.

Somehow I prefer the smaller mom-and-pop places, so I think our ethnic shopping trips will be made to (closer) Grand Rapids.

Armed with the necessities, we departed populous “downstate” for the relative wilderness of the northern lower.

I took no photos en route. I had been here so many times before. What I had not encountered in my previous travels was a snow-squall near Clare. We drove straight into that snow squall, then straight back out again, in the space of ten minutes or less. It was like driving through a curtain, literally. I will never forget that.

The weather here is so dramatic. No wonder I feel at home ;)

At the end of that relatively short drive, I left DG at the airport to pick up his car. He had parked there when he flew to NH, to drive back with me. He was anxious to hurry along and check on his own three kitties: Lemur, Squeaker and Gib. They had been home alone for nearly a week. Pinks, Daisy and I landed at the little cottage I had rented for a month, hoping I would find a place of my own before summer. It was a cute place.

temp rental
the cottage south of traverse city ~ kitties’ and my first home in michigan

The very next day, it snowed!

if you don't like the weather, wait a minute...
if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute…

It’s six months to the day that we landed back home.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

kitties at the hometel jan of 13
kitties at the hometel ~ january 2013

kitties in nh feb 2013
kitties at dear S’s place in nh ~ february 2013

kitties in first michigan home
kitties in their first michigan home ~ april 2013

kitties with new brother and sister :)
pinks and daisy with their new brother and sister, gib and squeaker ~ in the kitchen looking to eat ~ october 2013

Welcome home, kitties! :)

P.S. How ’bout those sox!

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Up North Rocks

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan rocks — literally and figuratively!

Just back from a glorious mini-break, I am happily faced with two hundred-plus pics to go through (not bad for three days!) and a garden full of produce to preserve.

I promised pickles for dear sra and pickles I shall post soon.

For tonight, just a quick few photos from the lovely autumn days in the UP. The river shots are just for my dear friend ISG — we all know she is a river girl at heart! :)

muskallonge lake
muskallonge lake ~ view from the eastern shore

lake superior
lake superior shoreline

a tiny agate
a tiny agate… (lake superior rock!)

tahquamenon river
the tahquamenon river

cut river
the cut river where it flows into Lake Michigan

lake michigan ~ view from US2
looking west from US 2 ~ Lake Michigan in the UP

More UP fun to come — but next up — pickles, chutney and perhaps tomato jam :)

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Going “Up North”

beanstalks grow on this huge sunflower...
beans are climbing up this huge sunflower…

Now that I live in the “northern lower”, a trip “up north” to the Upper Peninsula isn’t such an undertaking — all I need is a few days off and a car as opposed to a few weeks off and a plane ticket!

Here is where I am headed…

When I get back I hope to have some great new photos — perhaps even some foodie stuff too! (such as pickles, sra?) :)

lake superior ~ yum!
lake superior

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It’s A Long Way To Tipperary, OOPS I Mean Toledo! Moving Home Part Four

Warning warning! Long post, not much food either. I’d best hurry along with this ‘moving home’ story before I’ve been home a whole year!

Do you ever make up your own lyrics? I did :)

I was playing with words when I put this title down — I was thinking (and singing in my mind) “it’s a long way to tipperary, it’s a long way to go… it’s a long way to tipperary, with the sweetest guy I know…”

Then I came to google the song and found it is an old WWI song, which has been translated into Kannada as something of a parody — how cool is that :)

If you care to hear the song, in English or Kannada or instrumental — here are a few links — I don’t pretend to have done thorough or proper research ;)

version one ~ mitch miller big band

version two ~ TP Kailasam Eternal Song ~ kannada

version three ~ dixieland

the lobby at erie

gallery of fossils
gallery of fossils embedded in a rock wall ~ outside the motel lobby at Erie

what was this...?
I wonder what creature this was in its long-ago life…

From Erie, with its fascinating fossils in the rock outside the motel, we drove down past the harbor where we saw one lone tug-barge combo, similar to this.

No time to stop for photos of the harbor, nor of the gracious homes lining the waterfront road — we were Toledo-bound and the temperature was rising fast. I was excited however, for today! Because we like the beautiful freighters that ply the Great Lakes (some might call us boatnerds), I planned this leg of the journey to take us along the shores of Lake Erie. Erie was the only one of the five Great Lakes I had yet to see, and it’s home to several port cities I had read about for years.

We set off early, in order to take the scenic route and avoid highway driving as long as possible. Traveling west on US20, we crossed the state line into Ohio.

ohio welcomes us!
requisite state welcome sign for the scrapbook

My first glimpse of the real Lake Erie was just a few miles ahead, at Conneaut (I didn’t count the harbor at Erie PA!). There, the dormant grasses waved in the morning sunshine and I was able to walk down onto the sand and bask in the beauty of the wide open water. Something about the Great Lakes speaks to me; Lake Erie on this hot blustery day did not disappoint.

wild grass at conneaut
grasses at conneaut

lake erie at conneaut
lake erie at Conneaut ~ hot and hazy day

lighthouse on lake erie
west breakwater light at Conneaut ~ loads of gulls on the jetty, and loads of ducks in the water ~ probably mergansers

From Conneaut, we meandered along Lake Road to the next stop, Ashtabula — home to an active Coast Guard Station, interesting bridges, and a rich maritime heritage. Ashtabula County itself is evidently home to many covered bridges as well. I wish there had been time to visit the Hulett unloader at Point Park. A vacation to Ohio may be in order!

ashtabula lift bridge
lift bridge at Ashtabula ~ every flag along the way was at half-mast for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing…

coal conveyor at ashtabula
interesting coal conveyor at Ashtabula

closeup of the conveyor
close up of the operation ~ complete with old coast guard house and fish tug tied up to the dock

vinca
vinca in bloom at the Ashtabula CGS

Leaving Ashtabula, we continued along the back roads through Geneva-on-the-Lake, a little tourist town which was still boarded up for the winter. You could envision it humming with summertime activity; like so many places on Cape Cod, the shuttered shops seemed to call out “come back on Memorial Day!” as we passed by.

By now it was nearly 100F in the car; concerned for the cats, we headed onto the highway to skirt around the crowded metropolis of Cleveland. Exiting west of the big city, we made one final sightseeing stop at the port of Lorain. The wind had really picked up and the water was a little choppy. A complex of purple martin houses stood at the shore — a surprise perk!

lakeview park
lakeview park at Lorain

lighthouse at lorain
lighthouse at Lorain

purple martin in flight
purple martin takes flight on the edge of Lake Erie

here's lookin' at you, kid!
purple martin on his front doorstep ~ here’s lookin’ at you kid!

Taking leave of Lorain, it was back onto the freeway to be blown — and I do mean *blown* — directly into Toledo. Never have I known such a strong crosswind while driving. Across the farmland of western Ohio, it was all I could do to hang onto the steering wheel! What a relief it was to unload our weary selves, along with two weary, hot little kitties, at the motel in Toledo. It was raining hard — severe thunderstorms had passed shortly before our arrival. In the aftermath of the downpour, I ventured out for our only takeout meal of the entire trip — the famous Tony Packo’s (apologies to any non-meat eaters)!

Notes on our travel through Ohio:

By this time, we were wise to Miss Daisy’s ways and let her ride in her cat carrier. There, she was somewhat shaded from the sun and content to be in her own little house. The carrier has mesh sides, so she always had a view of big brother Pinks riding along beside her in his bed. It was an unseasonably warm day for mid-April. In the car, the thermometer quickly reached 90F, then 100F.

Worried about the cats in such heat, we made frequent stops to be sure they were hydrated. For me, it was like having babies again.
We soaked paper toweling with cold water and squeezed it into their little mouths to be sure they were getting a drink — like it or not. Both cats got sponge baths at every stop, too. I can never thank dear G enough for being so diligent and helpful in caring for the kitties on that trip — and ever since.

They are truly now *our* kitties :)

ohio kitties
kitties in the hot ohio sunshine

dgtoledo
a weary dear G, leaning on the steadfast Subby ~ Toledo after the storm

~~~~~~~~~~~

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, we are swimming in cucumbers and more. Coming soon: pickles!

a million pickles!
pickles!

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The Road Goes Ever On ~ Moving Home Part Three (With Summertime Pasta Salad)

*** long post warning ***

“I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.

I’ve hauled some barges in my day
Filled with lumber, coal and hay
And I know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo…

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, for we’re coming to a town…”

The above is from “Low Bridge” or “The Erie Canal Song”, an old song my dad taught us when we were kids. I sang it, in turn, with my kids. You can hear Pete Seeger singing it here. Not quite the same as our car chorus but… ;)

We typically sang only the first verse — I guess the song, like the canal, went on for miles ;) When our version ended, my dad would jump into this:

“Oh the Ee-rye-ee was a risin’
And the gin was a’gettin’ low
And I scarcely think we’re gonna get a drink
‘Til we get to Buffalo-oh-oh
‘Til we get to Buffalo…”

And so on and so on, went the car-trip songs of my youth. I will spare you the one about the fox (he went out on a chilly night…) ;) You can read more about the Erie Canal song here.

ny thruway stops are all alike...
a travel plaza on the ny state thruway — here called the amvets memorial highway

To cheer myself during the long winter of uncertainty, I carefully charted a springtime course to take in as many sights — old and new — as possible. This leg of the trip home took us from Albany to Buffalo and beyond. I wanted to travel back to my future! With that in mind, as we set out from the outskirts of Albany, I had two detours planned. First was Scotia — where I lived from age three to age five or thereabouts. Most memories I have of that time are rooted in old photo albums and tales from my folks. It would be fun to visit now!

the little town of scotia
a bank in downtown scotia, ny

There was much confusion and frustration en route — partly due to Mom’s old directions. She insisted there would be a Woolworth’s across the main road from the old street, because, as the story goes, one day she was backing out of the driveway there and I piped up “look out mom, you’re gonna hit the W!”.

“The W” was Woolworth’s, a five-and-dime store which has long since disappeared into the history books. That landmark was no help. Nevertheless, we managed to arrive at the old homeplace.

I recognized the house from photos. Driving around the road that encircled our short, straight street gave me a glimpse into a few memories of my own — such as riding my bicycle on training wheels to the little house with the triangle entry, where Mrs. Sheehy would give me a glass of orange Tang. Perhaps you remember Tang — the beverage of astronauts!

I remember this place!
I think I remember this place!

the old house from the circle street
view of the old home from the ‘circle drive’

Taking leave of Scotia, we set out on the long haul across the Empire State. I wish now that I had stopped to take a few photos on the side of the road; much of the drive was quite scenic with rolling hills and farmland. Mostly we stopped to check on the kitties. The first day was harrowing, with driving rain and miss daisy trying to get through the ‘pet barrier’. I’d look in the rear-view mirror and see two little ears and a nose pressed through the gate. Day two, she chose to scooch in *between* the base of the barrier and the back seat. It took an hour to coax her out, but at least I knew she felt comfortable back there, and she was safe. As for Mr. Pinks, he rode half of the first day with his tail in the litter box. That very night we scrapped the litter box in the back — cats weren’t using it in the car, and I couldn’t stand the thought of his tail in there.

kitties at a rest stop along ny state thruway
we’re getting used to this car thing mom… but we don’t LOVE it! ;)

And so we drove on, paralleling the old Erie Canal, until we reached the heart of the Finger Lakes region in the sunny mid-afternoon.

finger lakes region ~ stop on ny state thruway
most stops (called travel plazas in ny) along the thruway have a sign like this one at the finger lakes, with historical details of the area

Approaching Rochester, we took the second detour of the day — this time to see another old homeplace which I do remember — I lived there as a young teenager. Heading north and slightly east from the thruway, we came quite easily to Fairport — site of an engineering marvel along the Erie Canal.

Off route 31F, we stopped to see the grocery store my mother once referred to as ‘an airport store’ due to its size. Its outward appearance has not changed one bit from my days in junior high.

the old wegmans... looks the same as ever!
wegmans grocery ~ the airport store!

Just a hop skip and a jump from the ‘airport store’ found me gazing upon another old home — where I spent many an eve full of teenage angst, cozied up in the window seat of my bedroom. This time, I remembered it well!

the old home in upstate ny
I remember this place! my bedroom was the dormer on the right…

It was just a short drive from the little brick house to the little town, where we finally got to see the Erie Canal!

erie canal
erie canal at fairport… looking muddy!

de land sign at erie canal
when I lived here, I attended Minvera De Land middle school — evidently the De Land family was important in these parts — never made the connection till now

the famous bridge
famous (in days of yore) bridge over the erie canal ~ fairport

Leaving the canal behind, we continued along I-90 through the suburbs of Buffalo, finally making the Pennsylvania state line in late afternoon. I couldn’t get a ‘welcome to NY’ photo due to the rain, so I was determined to document PA ;) Of course, dear G indulged me — he did not complain when I stopped on the side of the highway; he even took the pic.

pa welcomes us!
pennsylvania welcomes us!

At the state line, there was a fun rest area with tunnels over each side of the road, leading to the facility in between. Inside, there were neat signs over opposite doorways — heading east or west. We traveled west towards Erie, the last stop for the day.

at the pa/ny state line
the door to the eastbound side

west to erie!
go west, young kitties!

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

– J.R.R. Tolkein

view from the overhead bridge ~ ny into penn.
view from the overhead walkway ~ looking westward into pennsylvania

~~~~~~~~~

If you’re still awake, I have a summertime garden pasta salad for you!

pasta salad ~ lightened up
pasta salad ~ or veggie salad with pasta!

This goes especially to dear Vani for her eating better challenge. The lightened up part is the proportion of veggies to pasta — it’s really a veggie salad with a little pasta thrown in ;) You can substitute any of the ingredients for your favorites. The idea is to have a colorful, flavorful mix. Here is how I made it:

Lightened Up Pasta Salad
makes about 10 cups

2 cups cooked pasta of your choice (I used bow ties)

Wash and dice the following:

1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
2 red peppers
2 banana peppers
1 cucumber (remove seeds, if large)
1 summer squash (I used the lebanon zucchini from the garden)
10-12 fresh green beans

In a large bowl, mix the above with:

2 c baby spinach
1 c grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes, I would cut in half if using those)
1 can black olives, drained
1/2 c diced provolone cheese
1/2 c diced salami (optional)

Add 1/3 cup vinagrette dressing of your choice (I used Garlic Expressions) and mix well. Allow to sit for a few hours, or preferably overnight, for flavors to blend.

cucumbers on teepees
cucumbers reaching to the sky…

banana peppers, yum!
prolific banana peppers ~ one of several varieties growing in spite of a cool summer

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Along The Mohawk Trail ~ Moving Home Part Two (plus Upvas Fasting Mix Dosa)

Continuing this little story, we set off from New Hampshire on a rainy morning, and drove south into Massachusetts. Turning west, we picked up the historic Mohawk Trail. Avoiding the highway was best for kitties and driver alike; we made several stops along the way. The first was Erving, a small town in western Mass. Like many such towns, it lives alongside the railroad.

small town america
small town in western massachusetts

cute little stop on day one
cute little antique and lunch spot in erving

cargo piles
various piles of cargo along the railway at erving

We ventured off the Trail to visit the hamlet of Shelburne Falls, home of glacial potholes. Here, the Deerfield River tumbles over a dam at Salmon Falls. As it was early spring, there was plenty of runoff. My photos did not capture a pothole. Still, it was a sight to see, all that water — and a pretty little town in the foothills of the Berkshires to boot.

salmon falls viewing platform
salmon falls and glacial potholes at shelburne falls

salmon falls plaque
history of the spot

salmon falls tumbling over dam
the deerfield river tumbling down to the potholes creates plenty of white water

deerfield river runs on
deerfield river racing out of the potholes to join the connecticut river, then onward to the atlantic

Continuing from that small detour, we arrived at the famous hairpin turn coming down into North Adams. Of course there are myriad hairpin turns in the world — the thing about this one is that you don’t expect it unless you have heard of it, and if you haven’t traveled in the western part of Massachusetts, you probably wouldn’t have. This turn seems to spring up out of nowhere and affords some lovely views!

hairpin turn at north adams ~ rainy day
hairpin turn at north adams ~ rainy road

view from siding at hairpin turn
view from the side of the hairpin turn

view into the valley at the hairpin turn
view into the valley at the hairpin turn

in the clouds at the hairpin turn
*in* the clouds at the hairpin turn

The rest of the drive was too rainy to stop for photos. We continued off the beaten path, until NY Route 7 carried us across the Hudson River via the Collar City Bridge. Faced with the outskirts of Albany, we stopped for the night. Kitties were mighty perplexed, as you can see.

miss daisy pretending to hide
miss daisy trying to hide under a bed, only there was no ‘under’ — just a platform base

mr pinks ventures forth for supper
pinkie ventures forth from the closet — supper is of utmost importance to pinks ;)

~~~~~~~~~~~

Upvas Fasting Mix Dosa ~ An Experiment

One thing I knew I would miss in moving away from a major metropolitan area was the *shopping* — food shopping to be more precise — my favorite haunts for Indian and other Asian groceries, to be exact! To comfort myself, I stocked up on numerous items. For example, I am probably good on methi seeds and Korean chili powder for the next oh, 20 years or so ;)

upvas fasting mix
fasting mix ~ has anyone used this??

I purchased this Upvas Fasting Mix by Deep Foods. I had NO idea what to do with it, but it was inexpensive, came in a small package, and looked too good to pass up (yep, I am a sucker for marketing — and I know it). Just look at that green, serene figure meditating on the lovely light-colored flour, bathed in yellow sunlight. You just *know* something good will happen to you if you cook with this, right? Right! Maybe you’ll find inner peace — maybe you will create WORLD peace! Yep, that’s me… a dreamer to the end.

Shortly prior to moving, I visited King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT with my good friend A. There, I purchased a sourdough starter and carried it to Michigan in the cooler. When I landed, I fed the starter and made two batches — one for me and one for dear G. Now that I am here in the new little home, there is no need for two starters — today we combined them into one and freshened it up.

The fascinating fasting mix moved with me amongst the other goodies, all the way to the north woods. I searched and searched for a way to use it. This morning I found a recipe on Deep’s website. Rather than fried bread (that would negate all that good stuff that fasting is supposed to do, right?), I decided to try dosai with the freshened sourdough.

potato masala for dosai

To make dosai, a cupful of starter went into a bowl, along with a cup of that Upvas Fasting Mix and about 1 1/2 cups of water. Happily, after an hour or so, the neglected starter came to life and the dosa batter bubbled. I added only a pinch of salt before cooking. The dosai came out as mine usually do — looking like a mess!

fasting mix dosa
looks iffy ~ tastes great!

I added a bit more water to the very last of the batter for a ‘paper dosa’…

paper dosa with fasting mix
crispy super-thin paper dosa from fasting mix

They all tasted properly dosai-ish nonetheless, and I am happy to know the sourdough is working yet. A simple potato palya (modeled after this lovely recipe of Prema’s) with plenty of onion was the filling, and that was my supper for work tonight.

And whew, the work day is over and so is this post :)

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