The 5 things this expat family needs on their kitchen counter

We’ve been in India for a little over 7 years, and though it has long been our home-away-from-home, there are some things we have on our kitchen counter that really help with the adjustment. This is totally a shameless attempt to get a kickback from any purchases made through the below affiliate links but we’re not paid to endorse any of these.

1 – Electric oven. We have a Siemens built-in electric oven that sits on our countertop. We bought this used from friends that were leaving. We also have a gas range and oven that the employer provides, and having two comes in handy on occasion, but when we want to bake the electric oven is a wonderful upgrade. I really should build a shell for it, but it’s been sitting like this for over 3 years now and I’m pretty used to it.

2 – High quality blender. Every day Pepper makes a smoothie for us for breakfast. We had a blender in Mongolia that lasted for two years and then I think we had two here before finally splurging on the Blendtec commercial EZ600. This purchase was difficult. It wasn’t available through most online retail outlets ( might not have even existed yet) and we knew we wanted one that ran on 220 volts. We paid double the price of this already expensive blender and have had to replace the jar once for an additional $150. But the cycle counter on it currently reads more than 2,200 and as that number ticks up, the cost per smoothie, hummus, or other dish keeps going down.

3 – Coffee from pods. I used to make French press coffee for Pepper in the morning, but she’s come to love her Nespresso coffee. In fact, she’s got one machine in her classroom as well as the one at home. This is not without problems. Primarily:

Yes, there are 0 results for Nespresso pods in our area.

That’s not been a huge problem most of the time, because we usually travel a few times a year to a place where Pepper can buy a few cases of her favorite coffee to bring back. But we’ve been in India since early January so she’s had to resort to purchasing compatible pods and the occasional tube that’s found online or in one of the import stores in town.

4 – Baby bottle sterilizer. We bought a Chicco baby bottle sterilizer from another parent that was leaving India. We’ve found it’s useful for more than just running her bottles through though. I’ve used it for sterilizing other kitchen items and even the bottles I’ve used for homebrew.

5 – Water dispenser. We don’t drink the tap water here. Our water comes from a well and then is pumped to our roof tank. We use it to brush our teeth, sure, but don’t drink it. We have a countertop water dispenser that also chills and heats water, but also just has a room temperature nozzle. I find that the hot water is enough for my tea, though Pepper doesn’t use it when she’s had to resort to French press coffee.

UN SDG files – large images

We’re often using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for things at our school. We have service days in the middle school where the projects are aligned to the UN SDGs. We are publishing our school’s efforts to improve our impact on the community and environment as they relate to the SDGs. And out HS Clubs that are service related will likely be categorized as they connect to the SDGs. And we have a very active MUN Impact club — see what they are up to on their club website.

The UN provides high resolution images of the SDG icons, but they seem to be buried in zip files. So here are just the images. Click on any thumbnail to go to the high resolution image file.

Comments against Net Neutrality posted by dead people

Amazing.  I read an article that the NY Attorney General is filing suit against the FCC because millions of comments in favor of the FCC discontinuation of Net Neutrality are fake.  The article pointed to a link where you can search the comments to see if your name was used falsely.  I searched mine, my wife’s, my brothers…  Here is a comment I found by someone named Kevin McFarland — though not my brother because the address is in Missouri.

Google search for the text showed that it was one of the strings of text reused by many of the proponents and suspected bots.  Copy and paste is used by both sides of these types of public comment periods.  Nothing wrong with it.

Except then I found out that this Kevin McFarland died in 2014.  First I did a search for Kevin McFarland in O’Fallon, Missouri.  I found that, per the comment in favor of ending Net Neutrality, he and Susan own a home at 32 Hollywood Drive.  Then a search for Kevin and Susan McFarland led me to this obituary.  His obituary ends with…

Mr. McFarland was a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

Despicable.  Someone has programmed a bot to scrape death records and then upload them as comments in favor of deregulation.  This is just one that I happened to find.  Search for your name and then contact the Attorney General in your state to file a complaint.

Results of our DNA testing

For a long time we have wanted to do one of the 23andme DNA tests for ancestry.  Over the summer we ordered three of the kits (we couldn’t have Jordan do one because he wasn’t with us).  The kits cost us about $100 each.  [But there is a sale right now — buy one, get one free!  Just follow this link.]  The box came in a few days and we spit some saliva into the tubes and mailed them off.

Around a month later we all had our results and there were some surprises.

First, mine showed an even more European heritage than I was expecting.  I knew that as far back as I could go that everyone seemed to be from England, Germany, the Netherlands… but here are my results.

94% of my heritage is from NW Europe — currently Britain, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia and 61% is from Britain and Ireland.  I’m about as white as you get.  This may account for some of my genetic superpowers contributing to my hangover resistance, but counter to my ability to tan easily.

We had Jacob’s test done because it seems like whenever we travel he ends up looking like a local.  In Nepal last week and older woman kept telling me he was Nepali.  In Thailand we had a driver swear that Jacob had Thai ancestry.  We suspected he could have Mongolian or another Chinese ethnic minority like Tibetan ancestry.  But his results just give us more uncertainty.

His DNA is 85% Chinese  …and 8% Korean.  The results also show that he has 2% southern European DNA.  I think that is probably a Silk Road influence.  His results are shared via the DNA relatives tool through 23andme and there are already 18 people connected that are 3rd or 4th cousins.  It is just a matter of time before some closer relatives take a test and we can find out more about where he is from originally.

Ganesh immersion in Chennai

Today was the culmination of Ganesh Chaturthi (I believe yesterday was the end of the Muslim celebration of Bakra Eid and tomorrow is the height of Kerala’s Thiru Onam — India has no shortage of festivals) and that meant immersion of the Ganesh figures in the ocean.  Jacob and I didn’t spend much time there but I captured this…

Chennai floods 2015

The cyclone that hit Chennai, India in November saturated the ground and filled area reservoirs.  It continued to rain through the month, nearly beating a record set over 100 years ago.  Then on December 2nd, Chennai got more rain in 24 hours than it normally gets in the entire month of December.

Our home was alright.  We actually had power more often during the four days that our school was closed than we had during a break in early November.   We had no internet service but hadn’t had any for a month anyway.  (In fact, we’re now going on three full months without wired internet access at home.)  A matter of poor timing, the pump that supplies water to our rooftop cistern that is used for showers, toilets and sinks was being repaired.  We had a full cistern but no way to refill it and didn’t know how long we’d be without it.

Our generator had plenty of fuel (though the gas stations were rationing sales) and the local grocery store let us buy food on an IOU since credit card machines wouldn’t work and ATMs were out of cash.  But we had plenty of movies, crafts, games, LEGO and puzzles to hole up for as long as needed.

We took in a friend and her newborn for a few days.  We also had a family move their boxed up things into our home while they transitioned from the hotel into their new home.  Their apartment ended up with about two feet of water inside so they had to relocate.

We got out bike riding and running a little too…

Print your own Monopoly money

Here are links to .pdf files so that you can print your own

These used to be hosted by Hasbro but for some reason they changed the link and I can no longer find them on their site. These could be great to use as original graphic files to make your own money for games.  Easier to print of a few hundred dollars in custom money than to get your own custom poker chips!  Of course, if you want to get your hands on (yes, this is an affiliate link) real replacement Monopoly money you can get it here for under $15.

Sidewalk Messes

A few weeks ago i was walking down this sidewalk in the early morning. I saw the strangest pile of dog crap i had ever seen. I was in a rush so didn’t stop and study it but it looked like the pile was of almost identical pieces. They were all about the exact same size and were a very light brown with occasional white parts. I was pretty disgusted because this sidewalk almost always has dog poop on it. A half hour later i was rushing back by. The sun was finally up so it was light enough for me to see that it was not a pile of dog feces. They were cheese-sticks. Ravens or dogs ate them within the hour.

Save the planet

“You recycle?” Devren asked in a condescending tone.

I sure do. I have to save the planet.

“What – do you think you’re Captain Planet or something?” He shot back.

Nope. Captain Planet has nothing on me, man. Nothing.

“Yeah he does. Captain Planet can fly. Captain Planet can fly, Zieak.”