Of Henna and Dancing

I have stepped out of my normal life and into a Bollywood movie: choreographed dance, henna, sparkling saris and the good-natured chaos of wedding celebrations.

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Since we arrived in India on Sunday, we’ve had the privilege of joining various wedding preparations and festivities for the upcoming marriage of Vasudha and Vishal. Vasudha, my dearly-beloved and artistic sister-in-law will be married tomorrow to her best friend, Vishal. I am so excited to see them wed and to gain a new brother-in-law!!!



I know, they’re gorgeous and creative.

So here I am, sitting in new Delhi sipping my first cup of chai for the day, listening to negotiations in Hindi about how to arrange furniture before guests come.


People often ask me if Indian weddings really are 5 days. I’m still not sure what the answer is, but I know that since Sunday the house has been full of delicious food, dancing and joy-filled guests. Yesterday was perhaps the first official day of the marriage with the Shogun and the Mehendi party.

Shogun, as I learned yesterday, is the last official meeting of the parents before the marriage. As such, Varun’s parents, his Aunt, and Varun and myself went to Vishal’s house for tea (and sweets!) with his parents, his aunt and sister. It was such a neat time to get to know Vasudha’s future in-laws and to practice Being A Good Indian Daughter-In-Law (hint: smile. drink chai and eat all sweets proffered. try not to say anything stupid).

In the afternoon, the mehendi wallas came, the couches were pushed outside and the real fun began. Henna is one of my favourite parts of Indian weddings. Traditionally, brides and their guests have their hands and feet decorated in flowers and designs with the cool, brown liquid before the wedding.



Joanna and Ellen have proven to be enthusiastic additions to the Rana Wedding.

While the henna was drying (2 hours!), we ate sweets and practiced our dances. Yes, this trip to India includes choreographed song and dance. I am truly living the dream.


Except that Varun and I are not the most talented dancers.

When Vasudha told us 3 months ago we’d have to dance at her Sangeet, Varun swore he’d rather wash her dishes for the rest of her life. If you know how Varun feels about dish washing, you know that is a very generous offer.

And so, without further ado, because it’s already going viral among the wedding guests, I’ll share with you my latest Instagram video hit. Wait for the end:

My Dancing Fail

(you may have to download the video or check your cookies/plug-ins. I have no idea what I’m saying.)

Here’s the instagram link….

v and a fail

Tonight, I’ll perform this dance in a long, heavy skirt covered in sequins, while wearing heels, in front of a room full of 150+ “close friends and family”. Thankfully, this family has already sworn their love and allegiance to me for life.

Categories: bollywood, celebrations, dancing, family, hilarious, Hindi, india, wedding | 1 Comment

The Much-Feared Homestudy

Before we started our home study, I had visions of our adoption practitioner checking our closets and looking under the bed, searching for piles of laundry or giant dustbunnies–clues we would be poor parents. I agonized about a super-awkward, super-envasive series of visits in which we tried our best to maintain the ruse that we are Normal and Clean.

Fortunately, it turned out to be not scary and mostly delightful. It helps that our adoption practitioner is professional, kind and has a sense of humour. However, in talking with other prospective adoptive or foster parents, the home study looms large.

So, as a Home Study Veteran (ha!), I’d like to share my tips and tricks for surviving and enjoying your home study.


1. Research. I asked around to see if anyone could recommend an adoption practitioner. If possible, a referral is the best way to go. Your adoption practitioner is going to be with you throughout your adoption journey, so it’s important you feel comfortable with them. I did initial phone interviews with several before selecting the one with whom I felt most comfortable. Be sure to ask about previous experience with your type of adoption/foster care, rates, availability, etc.

2. Clean. Like a normal person. For Visit #1 I scrubbed the baseboards and reorganized all closets and cabinets. This may be reasonable if you’re a cleaning superstar, but it is wholly unnecessary. My new standard for home study visits is Over Night Guest Ready: a clean bathroom, empty kitchen sink, swept floors and tidy living areas. Bam. Give yourself some time for something more enjoyable…like food!

3. Bake! I loved baking for each visit because it made the house smell yummy and feel homey, and was a welcome treat and ice-breaker. I highly recommend the Strawberry Rhubarb Coconut Crisp  or my Mom’s lemon squares.

4. Prepare. Have on hand any relevant paperwork or documents, as well as a notepad, pens and your cheque book. Nothing says I’m Ready to Parent like having to rummage through desk drawers to find pens with ink actually in them. Ahem.

5. Relax. Take a deep breath and remember that the goal of the home study is to understand the foster/adoption process and to assess if it is a good fit for your family. Being open and honest will help you and your adoption practitioner discern what is best for your family and any potential children.

No matter how the process varies from province to province (or state to state), it’s an important step in your journey. Your adoption practitioner is ultimately your ally–they will recommend you to the appropriate government bodies, and they will be the one to present you with the long-awaited referral.

As we closed the door after our first meeting, I realized that the home study can be the beginning of a long and pleasant relationship. These days, I’ve relaxed quite a bit regarding my pre-home study-cleaning-frenzy. Just don’t open the closet doors…


Categories: adoption, family, food, Housekeeping, kids | Leave a comment

The Ideal Flight

Flying. Nothing is quite so exhilarating, boring, efficient and exhausting. No matter where I fly I’m perpetually amazed by two things: how fast I got so far, and how tired I am after doing nothing but sitting around in cars, waiting lounges and airplane seats.

So here’s a question that was recently posed to me and inspired no small amount of discussion: What’s your ideal flight?


For me, it depends on whether I’m flying alone or with someone. Flying alone is one of the more cruel tricks of the universe. Not only do I have no one to watch my bags while I take my requisite pre-flight washroom trip, but as an extrovert who doesn’t like small talk, I find myself quite without company. I know. If only I could enjoy talking to strangers the world would be a limitless source of entertainment. Le sigh.

Flying Alone:

1. Window seat–hello view! And wind0w-glare cloud pictures. To my potential seat-mates: sorry about the climbing-over-for-washroom-breaks.

2. Seat-mates. I agree with my brother Mark, “A seatmate who is either really interesting (I’m talking like a space zoologist or something) or silent…They lose extra points if they try to share contact information. (Exception made for people who can hire you.)”

3. Books are a big stress. I usually bring my Bible, journal, and two fiction books. I usually also have one non-fiction because I have massive NF guilt.

4. I want all my music. I will likely listen to almost none of it. But I need it.

5. Layers! I like wearing leggings  (+skirt), sandals and layered shirts. My sister sagely noted the importance of a high ponytail so it doesn’t interfere with the headrest. I also have a ‘borrowed’ blanket from British Airways that I bring every time. It’s small, warm and you never know when you won’t get one. Also, I’m a giant loser and have an inflatable travel pillow. It’s a dream.

6. Only funny movies. In the words of my brother Luke, “Meaningless movies. Planes are no place for serious movies.”

7. SNACKS! Gummy bears, M & M’s, pretzels. GUM. Tea, one milk no sugar. Water bottle.

8. Eye drops. I cannot handle dry eyes after 8 hours of flying.

9. *Bonus, if you have a layover: Touring a new city with friends I met on the plane or siblings I brought with.

Schedule: Chew gum until cruising altitude while looking out the window and contemplating death by plane crash. Read fiction for 15 min. Browse movies. Pee. Pick and watch a movie. Pee. Stretch in the aisle. Eat meal. Pee. Repeat 2-4 times based on flight length. 1.5 hours from destination get new gum, pack up everything and check map. Realizing we’re still one country away, I browse TV shows and watch re-runs. Envision crashing into the runway. Practice deep breathing. Open the shades (and promptly get blinded). Head to the bathroom to change shirt, brush teeth and apply makeup. Emerge feeling fabulous and super restless and very ready to chat.

Flying With Someone

1. Talk to me!

2. Play games with me.

3. Can I sleep on your shoulder?

4. Let’s watch the same movie starting at the same time. (Varun and I have spent many hours making sure our movies are exactly synched. Nothing is as lame as laughing 2 seconds ahead of one another.)

5. Can you watch my stuff? Why are you sleeping? I can’t sleep.

Flying with me is a little like flying with a toddler. Except I will share my snacks.

lcr and amr

So then there’s this guy, who decided to make better use of his blogging space and actually give you tips about air travel.

I totally agree with him–I love choosing out and reading novels that are related to my destination. For my trip to India I’ll be reading A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry), A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth) and a biography of William Carey. But I have to say, I disagree about airplane food: food is half the fun. Few things are as satisfying as unwrapping a plastic spork and finding out what fancy dessert is hiding under that little foil lid.

So, here’s the question, what’s your ideal flight? 

Categories: food, friends, travel | 3 Comments

Mexican Tortilla Soup

Perhaps in a futile attempt to deny the onslaught of Winter, I’m on a South of the Border kick these days. And no, Canadian Amis, I don’t mean American. I mean Mexican. Central American. Warm climate, spicy food, sunshine, zesty music and melodic syllables I don’t understand .

Allow me to invite you into my obsession: try to listen to this song without dancing. It’s Dutch guys singing in Spanish. I don’t know why; why not?


In the midst of my spicy-food-warm-places phase, I discovered Mexican Tortilla Soup: it turned out to be a game-changer.

I’ll be honest, I completely stole this recipe from Blogging Over Thyme.

While the original recipe is delicious, I did modify a few ingredients; I think this just made it more delightful. I added corn and red peppers, black beans, and simplified the chile and tomato situation. I went to 4 grocery stores looking for fire-roasted tomatoes and when I made it with plain tomatoes, it was superb. Sometimes simpler is better.

A word of warning, this soup is pretty spicy. Varun and I both found ourselves sniffy a bit and eating chips to cool things down. All told, I can’t wait to make it again!


Photo credit: Blogging Over Thyme


  • 2 large red chiles
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 cups roughly chopped kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 1/2 lb chicken breast, cut into 1/2″ chunks (optional)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 cup of corn
  • 1 cup chopped red peppers
  • juice from half a lime
  • fresh lime wedges
  • corn tortilla chips
  • grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • avocados cut into small chunks
  • fresh cilantro


  1. Roast chills in a frying pan until soft. Set aside, slice open when cool and remove seeds. Mix tomatoes and their juice with the chills in a blender. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and stirring frequently, cook until soft and translucent–roughly 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked onion and garlic to the blender with the tomatoes and chiles. Puree all of the ingredients together until very smooth.
  4. Return the soup pot to high heat. Once pot is very hot, add the pureed tomato chile mixture all at once–it should sizzle immediately. Continue to cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens substantially–for about 5-6 minutes–once it is ready, it should resemble the thickness of a loose tomato paste.
  5. Add the chicken broth to the pot and combine thoroughly using a spoon or whisk. Reduce the heat and allow the broth to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Over low heat, add the kale, chicken and red peppers. Stir occasionally until chicken is just cooked through (this should only take 2-3 minutes). Add the frozen corn kernels. Finish the soup with lime juice.
  7. Serve hot with toppings.


Categories: celebrations, food, sunshine | Leave a comment

Thoughts In The Holding Pattern

Over the years, we’ve dreamed and planned and feared and waited alongside dear families pursuing adoption. Slowly, out of the mist of rumours of referrals and matches that weren’t approved, these families had names of children. And then faces on glossy photos.

Suddenly, spare rooms and empty corners fill with boxes of diapers and neatly folded T-shirts. Sippy cups and brightly coloured plastic cutlery line cupboards. Carseats are buckled into seats, the difficultly of their installation a symbol of their permanence.

And just like that, sticky fingers and dimpled cheeks arrive.


In the span of a few days, or even one afternoon, a child comes home. Schedules that were once wide open fall into the time-worn dance of naps, snacks and playtime.


And I watch.

I cuddle and pray and help. Mostly.

But sometimes, when I’m curled up in the warmth of the sunshine, I sigh. Is it really possible that after all of the emails and fingerprints, after 22 months of waiting, that we’ll have a child? For brief moments, I imagine our entryway peppered with children’s shoes and our dinner conversation punctuated with babbling and laughter.

And I wait.

At some point, we seem to have shifted from being a married couple to being kid-less. As newlyweds of 2 or 3 years, we laughed off comments and queries about children. It seemed normal enough to wait a few years to grow our family. But as the seasons continued to fade into one another and we celebrated 5 years of marriage, I’ve grown increasingly aware of our kid-less-ness: we are the available babysitters, the doting Aunt and Uncle, the extra hands mopping spills and tousling hair at a friends’ tables.

To be honest, we enjoy the ability to stay out late, to make last minute plans and to have uninterrupted adult conversations. We know these are precious times of togetherness, an unparalleled opportunity to grow, to serve and to love others. Moreover, we chose this route: the journey of paperwork and waiting and unknowns. We rest in the knowledge that this is the path God is leading us along; that His plans are good.

But some days.

Some days…I find myself imagining an old fan lazily tracing circles around the ceiling of a still room, our adoption file tucked under a stack of files and receipts, a mug of half-finished chai perched on top. In through a window drifts the chirping of children and the clattering of metal thalis as dishes are washed.

From across two oceans and three continents and numerous timezones, I whisper into the quiet of a clean kitchen. I miss you, dear one. I wonder how old our baby is, imagining tentative steps as he or she begins to explore the world within the orphanage walls. I breathe prayers for safety, provision and swift processing.


And we wait.

When you ask for news, we smile and laugh, grateful that you haven’t given up on our pursuit. When you send us cheques ‘to help with adoption expenses’ or mail books ‘for your little one’, we grin, and weep, and thank God. When you invite us for family dinner or apologize for rowdy kids or ask us to hold a fussy toddler, we are thrilled.

We cannot wait to join the ranks.

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Categories: adoption, family, friends, india, kids | 6 Comments