This picture is kind of amazing. I took it aboard the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. My mom, Hubby and I were taking the boat tour at the bottom of the falls on my 28th birthday.
As if the incredible view of the water wasn't enough, a rainbow and an eagle - that's right, an eagle - appeared as though from thin air when I pulled out my camera. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.
It was a day full of kismet and it began as we stood in line for tickets for the boat tour. A family of 5 or 6 Indians was in front of us. I overheard one of the men in the group tell the ticketmaster that they were celebrating a birthday. Excitedly, I chimed in that it was my birthday too, and jokingly told the ticket lady that I was part of their group and to put my ticket on their tab.
They laughed. We laughed. We struck up a conversation while we waited.
They lived in Canada and had family visiting from India for the summer. We had just moved here from the States and my mom came from Florida to spend the week with us.
An older gentleman whom I assume was the patriarch of the family stood there proudly in his khaki pants, tucked in shirt and turban. He was full of joy and laughter when he turned to the ticket lady with money in his hand and told her he'd be paying for the three of us as well.
"No, no no!" we exclaimed. "We were kidding!"
It was another $60 added onto his already expensive bill. Why on earth would he offer to pay for a bunch of random people he didn't know?
He turned to us with a serious expression and said that he was happy to give us this gift if we would tell others about the Indians who showed a random act of kindness to an American family. Everyone in his family nodded in agreement.
I was stunned. I could also read between the lines. But then he said it: "We are not all bad, you know."
My heart broke for this man who seemed so jovial but was quietly dragging with him this terrible baggage. Even at Niagara Falls while celebrating a birthday he couldn't escape the feeling that he had to somehow prove that he wasn't a terrorist. What a thing to carry.
We protested some more but he wouldn't take no for an answer. He paid the clerk and we thanked them all from the bottom of our hearts, exchanged hugs and well-wishes and then parted ways.
Of course we bumped into them a few more times that afternoon - in the elevator as we rode up to the boat landing, on the Maid of the Mist and then again in the gift shop. We would wave and laugh and thank them again but no more words were exchanged between us.
What could we say that would make it all right?
What could we do?
Sadly, nothing. Except share this story as he wished.
I take no pleasure in publicly admitting this, but perhaps if I put it out into the universe it will stop keeping me up at night: I'll be 30 years old next month.
Actually, no, that didn't make me feel better at all.
I'm not sure how 30 is supposed to feel, but I don't feel it. In my mind, I'm still the same person I was at 22 - someone who loves Green Day, Friends marathons, eating Kraft Dinner out of the pot and spending the entire day in pajamas. I love the strawberry lollipops at my allergist's office and the excitement of Christmas morning. Don't let the glasses and my penchant for the New York Times crossword fool you - I'm still a kid at heart.
Superficially, some things have changed. These days just one cocktail makes me sleepy, I now dab on eye cream before bed and, to my dismay, find the occasional grey hair. But deep down I'm basically the same person who enjoys the same pastimes who values the same things. And the one constant, the thing that's never changed, is who I am at my very core, and that is an American.
Neither age nor living in another country for two years have managed to change that fact.
I left the States for Canada when I was 27, and although the two countries are both English-speaking and, on the outside, people appear the same, the cultures are actually quite different. I had a difficult time adjusting to the increased cost of living, the reservedness of the locals and just how much they love to hate their capitalistic cowboy neighbor to the south.
When Hubby and I realized that we'd never be able to afford the lifestyle we want in Canada (and I couldn't shake my perpetual feeling of homesickness), we tossed around the idea of moving back to the States. 'Would that make us quitters?' we wondered. 'And do we really want to put ourselves through another international move?'
Despite the worries, the concerns, the gut-wrenching fears of starting over yet again, the answer was inevitable.
At one of my lowest points last year, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't spend my 30th birthday in another country. It's arbitrary and illogical, but it was something my heart needed to hear. I needed to be home for my birthday. After so many challenges immigrating to Canada and so many months (27 to be exact, but who's counting?) living outside of my comfort zone, I felt I owed it to myself to celebrate such a milestone age at home, with my family.
And so, at 7:33 a.m. on May 3rd I'll be 30 years old. I'll also be a resident of the state of New York.
Happy birthday to me.
Homestyle White Bread
Shortly after Hubby and I signed the lease to our new
townhouse in New York, I baked a couple loaves of
this homestyle white bread. It was simple, comforting
and tasted like home. Fitting for the occasion.
Yield: 2 loaves
* This bread is great for sandwiches and French toast. It will stay fresh, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for 3-4 days. It can also be wrapped in plastic and then foil, and kept in the freezer for up to 2 months.
1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet (2 & 1/4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup warm milk (any kind will do but I use 2%)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon oil (any kind - vegetable, canola, olive, etc)
In the bowl of a standing mixer, pour the water and sprinkle the yeast over top. No need to stir. Let this stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is broken up.
Melt the butter in the microwave, then stir in the warm milk, sugar, and salt. Pour 1 cup of flour and the liquid mixture over the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until this comes together into a loose batter.
Add another 4 & 1/2 cups of flour and stir until a shaggy dough forms.
Using the dough hook attachment on the standing mixer, knead the dough at medium speed for 10 minutes. If you don't have a mixer, knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. If the dough feels gummy or sticky, add extra flour (one tablespoon at a time) until it feels right. It should be smooth and spring back when poked.
Clean out the mixing bowl and add the oil, coating the bowl with your hand. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning it so it's lightly coated with oil. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in size (about one hour).
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and turn the dough out onto it. Cut in two and shape each half into a loose ball. Let the balls rest for 10 minutes.
Grease two loaf pans. Shape each ball of dough into a loaf and gently place them in the loaf pans. Let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. While they are rising, preheat your oven to 425° F.
Slash the tops of the loaves down the middle with a serrated knife. Place both pans in the oven and then turn down the heat to 375°F. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Do not slice until almost cool.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.