Monday, October 19, 2009

The Big Move

Hey guys!

I'm making The Big Move... from a little personal blog to a big... um... personal blog. From now on, I'll be posting my videos and my silly little thoughts here. Check it out, and have a little patience with me as I work out some of the kinks. Oh, and if you like the logo, give my youngest sister, Crish, props. Perhaps she can design yours!



Thursday, October 15, 2009

Aarti Paarti Ep. 27: "I Ain't Chicken" Chicken!

What an odd day it's been. I started writing this post about how this recipe celebrated my choice to live bold, about how the phrase had entered my consciousness a couple of years ago, and how it had led, through baby steps like taking improv classes, designing my first original recipe, going to Burning Man for the first time... to finally shooting this little engine-that-could of a show, and finding my purpose in life.

It was, I realise, going to be a bit of a celebration of myself.

But I'm realising that for all the trumpets I have been playing for myself, for all the parades I've thrown myself in my head for being so bold, for all the ways I am grateful for the changes He's worked in me, I have stumbled big time. I have let people down. I have ignored the plight of others because I've been so obsessed with my own. I may have been bold, but only in the pursuit of what made ME happy. When it came to other people, I was chicken.


Sorry guys! Usually, these little show intros are upbeat and funny, but I'm feeling a bit introspective today.

Oooof! Well, let's disband this pity party and focus on the recipe, shall we? WOW!

This is a simplified version of the "I Ain't Chicken" Chicken recipe that I wrote two years ago. It's a milestone of a recipe, because it was the first original recipe I'd ever written.

This version uses just chicken breasts, on the bone, and it's flavoured with cardamom, orange and fresh ginger. It's a fresh, innovative combination I think -- reminiscent of Middle Eastern tea time flavours I think. I love this technique because everyone gets a juicy, flavourful chicken breast and it's done in just 40 minutes! So much quicker than roasting an entire chicken.

Take a look:

"I Ain't Chicken" Chicken
Roasted Crispy-Skin Chicken Breasts with Cardamom-Orange-Ginger Butter

2 big russet potatoes (optional)
2 chicken breasts, on the bone, skin intact, preferably kosher
1 tbsp butter, softened but not melted
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Zest of one large orange
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Handful minced fresh parsley
Salt & pepper

1) Turn oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit/260 degrees celsius, gas mark 10. Grab a broiler tray, and line the bottom with aluminium foil. If you like, slice some potatoes about 1/2" thick, and throw them in there, tossed with a little olive oil and salt. Place slotted tray over the top.

2) Pat chicken dry with some paper towels. Poke a small opening in that clear membrane between the skin and the flesh of the chicken breast. Glide your index finger through the opening, loosening the skin from the flesh, without removing it completely. You're creating a big pocket in which the butter will sit! Repeat with the other chicken breast. Set aside.

3) Wash your hands thoroughly.

4) In a small bowl, combine butter, ground cardamom, orange zest, ginger, parsley, salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp of kosher salt if you're using a kosher chicken. Use more if it's a regular chicken). Stir together with a spoon until well mixed.

5) Place a spoonful of the butter mixture through the opening you made in the skin of the chicken breast. Once it's in there, smooth out the butter by gliding your finger over the skin, until it's evenly distributed. Repeat with the other breast.

6) Place chicken breasts on broiler tray. If you wish, drizzle skin with a little oil, for extra crispy skin. Throw the whole shebang into the oven, and roast for about 40 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Relax, sip a glass of wine, bask in the crackling sounds of butter and comforting smell of roasted chicken on a rainy day!

7) Check the breasts about 30 minutes in, just in case. A meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast, but not touching the bone, should register about 160 degrees F when it's cooked. Pull them out at this point, tent with foil and allow to rest about 5 minutes.

7) Using a fork and sharp paring knife, slice breast off the bone, and serve alongside some sauteed spinach and a dollop of Indian shredded mango pickle. Yum!



Monday, October 12, 2009

Veggie Chili for a Blanket-y Day

Sometimes, I wonder whether LA's bright, sunny weather is wasted on me. I mean, I love waking up to sunshine every day, but nothing makes my heart sing like a grey day.

The past few days have seemed too good to be true: a thick, grey, woolly blanket has landed over LA, accompanied by a gentle breeze that tickles the leaves of the giant sycamore tree outside my window. The blanket deadens the sounds of freeway traffic, intensifies the lushness of any greenery my eye falls upon, forces me to slow down and enjoy the simplicity of blankets and tea. I'm so scared these days will go away; LA weather is so fickle!

The blanket's arrival coincided with that small span you may or may not relate to: those days/weeks between a dwindling bank account, and the next check. Rather than freak out, I've chosen to take this on as a challenge: what can I make for the least amount of money, that will last a few meals, and keep us sated?


Veggie chili is wonderful because it's packed full of nutrition, but between all those veggies and all that liquid, you fill up FAST. Plus, the longer it sits in your fridge (within reason), the better it tastes. And, since you're cooking vegetables, it doesn't have to cook for hours, as its carnivorous cousin does. If you're scared of cooking, this is a great place to start, because it's hard to mess up!

So, before I give you the recipe, here are a few thoughts/tips -- then you can make your own version. The process of making chili usually goes something like this:

1) Sautee your aromatics in a nice big pot.
In this category, you'll find: onions, ginger, garlic, carrots, celery, fennel, bell peppers (green, red etc), jalapeno or serrano peppers. Always start with an onion though. You should also throw your harder root veggies in at this point: parsnips, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, turnips, butternut squash etc. Sautee for about 10 minutes in olive oil over medium heat, until the onions soften and turn translucent.
Fill it chock-a-block with vegetables: the more you throw in different textures and flavours, the less you're going to notice that it's meatless! Plus, the better it'll be for you! Save more delicate veggies like cauliflower, spinach and peas until closer to the end, so that they don't turn mushy.

2) Cheat with chorizo!
Listen people. I'm married to a proud carnivore. We needed something that mimicked that meaty texture, and soy chorizo is awesome for that. I used soy chorizo because the thought of eating salivary glands (which you'll find in the regular kind) doesn't always sit that well with me. Ok, I admit my hypocrisy: I'll eat processed hot dogs with nary a thought about what's in those.
What was I saying?
Oh yeah, the cool thing about (Mexican) chorizo is that it's already been spiced with paprika and garlic, so it does a lot of the work for you! Plus, it gives you that meaty mouth-feel, fooling your canines and incisors into thinking you're eating meat. And, it's packed with protein! Boom! I found it next to the regular chorizo in the refrigerated section at the supermarket, next to the Mexican cheeses, and the cream cheese.

3) Spice it up!
I added chili powder (duh), cumin, ground allspice, and ground ginger, but play around with paprika, smoked paprika, ground coriander, turmeric, worcestershire sauce, nutmeg... You could also add a chopped up chipotle pepper at this point too. Yum, yum. Oh and don't forget the salt (although if you're using chorizo, you may not need that much, since it's usually pretty salty on its own). Also if you like a little sweetness, you can add some honey, brown sugar, molasses, agave or heck, even plain ol' white sugar will do.

4) Keep it saucy!
I use whole canned tomatoes, and crush them (rawr!) right over the pot; that way you get nice big chunks of tomato. I also dump in all that lovely tomato juice. Some people like to add tomato sauce too, I'm guessing to thicken it up, but I haven't found I needed it.
In addition to the tomatoes, you'll need to add more liquid: water, stock or...
A CAN OF BEER! This is my favourite, because its bitterness cuts through all the tomato sweetness. Plus my friend left a six-pack of Simpler Times in the fridge ($2.99 for a sixer at Trader Joes!), and I need to finish it before I get a beer belly.
If you don't like that idea, just use more water or stock. Just eyeball it -- add enough to semi-cover all the veggies. You can always add more if it gets too dry, or boil it off if it's too watery.
I might try making a green chili next time with smoked tomatillos. Doesn't that sound good?!

5) Simmer for 30 minutes.
Bring the entire concoction to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer (gentle but steady bubbles on the surface of the chili). Since you're only cooking veggies, you'll need just 30 minutes to cook all the veggies through and develop the flavours.
If you're thinking about adding a grain like white rice to the chili, then about 15 minutes into this simmer time, add a cup of water, bring it back up to a boil, then add 1/2 cup of white rice. Take it back down to a simmer and let it cook for 15 minutes.

6) Bean there, done that
I love beans, but I don't add a ton because I'm a big fan of the, ahem, consequences. But they're a great source of protein and fiber, so the more you add, the more filling your chili. Plus they're so cheap!
And you don't just have to use kidney beans: black beans, white kidneys, black eye peas, frozen limas, frozen peas, corn, chickpeas and cooked lentils are all great options!
Add them after your 30 minutes have elapsed, rinsing the canned ones under water to get rid of that goopy stuff, and let them warm through about 5-10 minutes. And you're done!

Phew! I know that was a lot, but I suppose what I'm trying to tell you is, you don't need a recipe to make chili! As long as you have a onion, some veggies, chili powder, ground cumin and a can of tomatoes, your chili is just 45 minutes away.

Here's the one I made last night, while we watched not 1, not 2, but 3 movies in a row (I love you, streaming Netflix) but experiment with your own versions!

Veggie Chili for a Blanket-y Day

1 yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
1 green bell pepper/capsicum, membranes removed and diced
1 red bell pepper, cleaned and diced
1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 package soy chorizo, casing removed
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground allspice
28 oz can whole tomatoes
1 can beer
1 15oz can red kidney beans
Lime, cheese and scallions to garnish

1) Sautee onions, carrots, parsnips, bell peppers, jalapeno and garlic about 10 minutes until softened.

2) Add chorizo and sautee a couple of minutes until it smells really good in your kitchen.

3) Add chili, cumin and allspice powders. Sautee about 30 seconds to get the flavour out of 'em.

4) Add juice from tomato can, then crush each whole tomato with your hands over the pot, leaving them as chunky as you like.

5) Add beer, and much water as you need to almost cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 30 minutes.

6) Drain kidney beans, rinse. Add to chili, and cook another 5-10 minutes until beans are warmed through.

7) Serve, squeezing a wedge of lime over the top, garnishing with scallions and cheese if you wish.



Friday, October 9, 2009

Take the Cake!

(Isn't this photo gorgeous? Joo took it.)

My friends Elizabeth, Joo (Emmy and Peabody Award-winner! Woohoo!) and Mandi were here this past weekend, for our annual girls trip. We had tons of fun chin-wagging, making fun of Mandi, scaring me half to death on roller-coasters meant for toddlers, making fun of Mandi...

If you've read this blog long enough, you'll know that we meet up every year, that these three ladies are women I knew in college, but with whom I grew much closer after I graduated and Bren left, because I realised that I had turned into one of those awful girls who had abandoned her friends in favour of her boyfriend. Ugh!

Needless to say, these girls are precious to me.

This trip, we marked Mandi's milestone 30th birthday. She's the baby of our little gang; the rest of us celebrated en masse last year. On their last night here, they came over to my house and, we all made dinner: Sheesh! kebabs and cucumber salad (oops, did I not post that recipe?! eeks!), mac 'n' cheese and to top it off, possibly the tallest chocolate cake I've ever seen, save a traumatic experience at Claim Jumpers.

You can kinda see it here. I think it's something to be quite proud of, no? It's only TWO LAYERS!

I have kept this recipe top secret for a while, mostly because I was trying to build a small baking business to supplement our income, but since that hasn't really taken off, I may as well share the "wealth". I adapted a recipe I found on Epicurious, by subbing in 1/2 cup of brown sugar which I think gives it a bit of rich, dark sweetness. Finding a good chocolate cake recipe is sort of like finding the holy grail these days; every tom, dick and harry has a recipe available online, but beware! Not every recipe is equal! This recipe contains a few ingredients that make it very, very special:
  • Coffee: it heightens the chocolate flavour, but no worries if you don't like the flavour of coffee (you weirdo). You won't taste it at all. And yes, you can use decaf. I do.
  • Cocoa AND real semisweet chocolate: recipes that only call for cocoa hardly ever come out chocolate-y enough for me. Use good quality chocolate if you can, and don't use chips; they are apparently coated in this weird waxy stuff that's yucky.
  • Buttermilk: I've found that the key to a gorgeously moist cake is either yogurt or buttermilk. I don't know why, but trust me brotha-man, it works!
  • Vegetable oil: The most bothersome part of baking, to me, is the creaming process. OH MAN! It makes me shudder thinking of the long minutes that pass by as my arm turns asleep whilst beating butter and sugar into submission. And, even when I was blessed with that kitchen superhero, the KitchenAid mixer, I could never get the sugar completely incorporated into the butter, even if I use fine baker's sugar. BORING! Vegetable oil eliminates this entire process.
So without further ado, here's the recipe. Remember to subtract 1/2 cup of white sugar and add 1/2 cup of the brown stuff. Also, don't overbeat your cake at the end -- mix until it's just combined and no more, or else you end up with a tough cake. And yeah, you'll need a pound of chocolate for the ganache. Yeah, it's worth it. This is, hands-down, the BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE RECIPE EVER!

There! I said it! (And quite appropriately, was first published in the recently-defunct Gourmet Magazine. RIP Gourmet. I loved you well.)



Thursday, October 8, 2009

Facial Massage

It's been a bit nuts around here recently. Thankfully, the laptop is back, and so is the internet, and I was so lucky to have my besties from college come visit me this past weekend (pics coming!). Whee! This morning, I found myself watching almost every one of these makeup videos from a woman called Oxford Jasmine. She has one up on facial massage, which she won't allow me to embed for some reason, but here's the link. I think I'll be giving myself one of these every week, using some coconut oil!



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aarti Paarti Ep. 26: Beatnik Spinach!

It’s getting to the end of the month, which means I’m looking for cheap recipes! Thank goodness for my stash of Indian vegetarian recipes; I already have the spices, and the lentils in my cupboard, so all I had to do was buy a bag of spinach, and hey presto: dinner’s ready!

Spinach with moong dal (a small yellow lentil, which you can find at Indian groceries, and online) offers you all the nutrition of leafy green vegetables, alongside a light dose of lentil protein, and the healing properties of both turmeric and garlic.

Cool, huh? Real cool. Beatnik cool, even. Yup, stay with me... there's a connection. Check it:

Spinach with Yellow Moong Dal (lentils)

1 handful (about ¼ cup) yellow moong dal, washed and soaked for 30 minutes
2 tbsp vegetable, canola or peanut oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 medium clove garlic, crushed and peeled
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise (about 1½ cups)
1 green Serrano chile, sliced and seeded if you don’t want it spicy (optional)
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp paprika
¼ hing (asfoetida poweder, available at the Indian store)
1 medium roma tomato
1 bag baby spinach

Serve with: brown basmati rice and plain yogurt

1) Heat oil in big skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

2) Add cumin seeds and garlic. Wait until the seeds have finished spluttering, and then add onion, Serrano chile and ginger. Saute until onion has softened.

3) Add spice powders, and sauté for 30 seconds.

4) Add tomatoes; cook until they go mushy.

5) Add lentils, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook about 5 minutes until the lentils are almost cooked.

6) Add spinach, covering to allow the leaves to wilt. Toss, and cook another 5 minutes so that the flavours go through the spinach. Add a little water if the dish gets too dry. It should have a sauce-y consistency. Serve!



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tech Support

Oh man. It just keeps coming. First my laptop died. I mean, DIED. And I lost everything on the hard drive. And no, before you ask, I didn't back it all up. Don't even think about saying "I told you so". I've been saying it to myself (and Bren, poor thing) for weeks!

Thankfully, it's back up now, and I didn't have to pay for anything (thankyou AppleCare!). But now I have to restore everything, installing all the programs I normally use, and devising a bullet-proof backup system. And, just when I was about to get that going...

My modem died.

No internet.

Until Friday. Thankfully, I don't have to buy a new modem... funny how one customer "service" rep will tell you one thing, and another one will tell you the opposite. Don't take no for an answer folks! It gets here Friday, so for the moment, I'm at an office somewhere, typing as fast as I can before we have to leave.

Keep your fingers crossed that we won't need any more "tech support" in the next few days! Goodness!



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Aarti Paarti Ep. 25: Sheesh! Kebabs

Growing up in Dubai, Dad would sometimes surprise us with a feast of Lebanese food on Fridays (our day off).

I'd wait impatiently whilst he drove to the little place 10 minutes down the road from us, prepping the ONE soda that my parents allowed me per week (chilling the glass in the fridge, slicing a piece of lemon to top the whole thing off. Yup. I went through that kind of trouble over a diet Coke. At that age, I thought everyone did it. Telling, huh?)

Once the food had arrived, we'd pile our plates high with generous dollops of smooth hummus, pleasantly bumpy babaghanoush, fresh peppery greens, crunchy radishes, warm bread and of course, the piece de resistance, KEBABS!

Chicken, beef, lamb -- why are kebabs so much fun to eat?! Perhaps it's that inviting char, the pre-portioned pieces of meat, the promise of a crispy exterior and a tender interior. Perhaps though, it's something deeper: a pull only explained by our ancestry as cavemen? Man, woman, fire, meat? Heehee!

As if they weren't delicious enough, I fondly remember that one piece of pita bread that had been lying under the kebabs, soaking up all those exquisite juices; we'd fight over that piece of bread! Ooof!

My favourite kebab is the Lula kebab, or the Koobideh kebab, as the Persians put it. The Indians have their own version of this one too, called seekh kebab. Great minds must think alike: All of them consist of ground beef or lamb (or mutton), mixed together with some onions and spices, shaped into long logs, skewered and then cooked over a grill or in a tandoor oven. I find them so much more satisfying than other kebabs: tender, flavourful, and easy to digest.

But they are harder to make than you think. I literally made this recipe 3 or 4 times, hoping to get it to the right consistency. Finally, one late Wednesday night, when Bren was away at a rehearsal, I cracked it! And I had no one to shout to about it! Thank goodness I get to share it with you!

The secret lies in two parts: first, use a little baking soda to help the meat hold together (I can't tell you how disappointing it is when your skewer falls apart before you very eyes) and secondly, knead the heck out of it!

I know that second secret may strike some of you as blasphemy. I don't know how often I've been told not to overwork ground meat, whether it's for burgers or meatloaf, or else you run the risk of eating a tough, dry hockey puck. In this case though, if you don't knead it well, the meat doesn't turn sticky, and your kebabs turn out tough and oddly-textured.

So this is probably the only time you'll hear me say this: BLASPHEME AWAY! You'll thank me, I promise you!

I made them using lamb, because I love the way lamb stands up to the combination of shallot, ginger, garlic and mint. But you can use beef if you don't like lamb.

Oh, and I hope you'll allow me to gild the lily a little, by adding some pomegranate molasses to this recipe -- I made a glaze using lemon juice and pomegranate molasses that turns the ordinary lamb kebab into something extraordinary: sweet, tangy, sour, umami. Pardon me while I faint.

If you have trouble finding pomegranate molasses (Middle Eastern shops have it), you can make your own by boiling down some pomegranate juice (the pure stuff, not the kind mixed with blueberries or mangoes or whatever) with some sugar. Presto!

I hope you'll give these a go. They're a cheap way to work some meat into your menu (the whole thing, including a bottle of molasses probably cost me about $15 and it'll feed 4 quite comfortably), and your friends and family will think you're extraordinarily fancy, even though they are super easy and quick to pull together. Plus you can make the kebabs up to a day in advance, and grill them right before serving! Sheesh! Splendid!

Sheesh! Kebabs
Ground Lamb kebabs with Pomegranate glaze

2 medium shallots
2 cloves garlic
3 quarter-sized slices ginger
Handful of cilantro
4 sprigs mint
Zest of one lemon, and separately, its juice
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Lots of freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1lb ground lamb
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses + 2 tbsp extra for glaze

Special equipment: Food processor if you have it, 8 bamboo skewers, stovetop griddle or big nonstick pan or outside grill

1) Bring lamb to room temperature. If you're going to cook your kebabs on the grill, soak 'em in water for at least 30 minutes, so they don't burn.
2) Grab your food processor. You can chop all this by hand too; just make sure to chop it all up very finely.
3) Throw shallots, garlic, ginger, lemon zest, cilantro, mint and salt into processor. Grind until very finely chopped.
4) Throw lamb into big bowl. Add the shallot mixture, pomegranate molasses, baking soda, garam masala and pepper to the meat. Using your hands, knead 2 to 5 minutes until meat lightens in colour, taking on the appearance of knitted fabric. It will also be very sticky. Perfect!
5) Divide the meat in half, then half again, and then half again, until you have 8 mounds.
6) Have a platter ready for your completed kebabs. Drizzle a little oil on the platter so the kebabs don't stick.
7) Have your bamboo skewers standing by. Take one ball of meat, and roll it into a short stump. Thread the skewer through it, then begin shaping the kebab with quick strokes, pulling the meat down. It should be a little over 1/4" thick. Roll the kebab between your hands to seal the meat. Repeat.
8) Heat griddle over medium heat, drizzling oil over it, so that when it starts to smoke, you'll know it's ready. Meanwhile, mix the juice of half the lemon with extra 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses in a small bowl.
9) When it's hot, place the skewers on the grill. Cook about 2 minutes, then turn a quarter of the way. Brush with lemon-molasses glaze, and cook another 2 minutes. Continue in this way until you've cooked the meat 8-10 minutes.
10) Serve, alongside cucumber-pomegranate raita (recipe tomorrow!).


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A "healthy" appetite

I heard Frank Bruni on my favourite public radio station, KPCC, yesterday. He's promoting his new book, "Born Round" which details his lifelong battle with his weight, and how that was impacted by his long years as the famed New York Times restaurant critic.

My favourite part was when he described how, as a baby, he would howl when he hadn't been given what he had determined was enough food. In fact, he cried so hard and long, that he would end up throwing up, thereby needing even more food! None of his brothers had that issue. For some reason, only he was blessed/cursed with that kind of appetite.

Today, after years of trying every diet out there, and making up a few himself, he's come to realise that he needs to eat a 3500 calories a day. That sounded like a helluva lot to me; I don't count my calories at all, but I think I'm supposed to be eating somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1500 a day. (You can figure out how much the USDA thinks you should consume, here).

BUT, and this is the amazing part, rather than limit his calorie intake to the conventional levels, he just makes sure to exercise enough every day to maintain his weight below 200 lbs.

What a generous way to look at yourself. So much of weight loss theory is about punishing yourself, no pain, no gain... I restrict indulging my sweet tooth to once a month. Growing up, I often compared my plate to my sister's, whose more delicate appetite made me feel like a whopping great big oaf. My close friend and work mate in New York had a small appetite too; I would match my lunches to hers, and while I lost so much weight that I was the thinnest I've ever been, let me tell ya... I was hungry! I still do it now. And come to think of it, I wonder if I subconsciously pick skinny friends with small appetites to keep myself in check? Hmmmmm. That's not entirely true, but there is something there. Thank goodness I picked a husband who can and will eat an entire rack of baby back ribs, twice over, and want dessert. Soul mates indeed!

Bruni talked about exercising self-control of course, about how he still has to grit his teeth every now and then to keep himself from eating more than he needs to, but I was struck by the compassion in his voice when he talked about how he had come to accept that he was born with a big appetite. That's just the way it is. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two from him.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Seeing Red

I'm inspired!

I've never felt like I had a beautiful figure. Not one person on TV or in the movies has ever made me feel like my particular configuration of boobs, hips and thighs was beautiful. Not Marilyn Monroe (my boobs are bigger), not Salma Hayek (her waist is smaller), not even the heroines of Bollywood who have, sadly, now embraced the tiny waist 'n' hip silhouette so common amongst their Hollywood counterparts.

Apparently, when it comes to women, bigger is NOT better. God forbid you do like bigger women; you apparently have a fetish.

Ah, but finally, someone whose buxom beauty has helped me embrace my funny ol' figure!

She's Christina Hendricks, the actress who plays the sexy, confident (if a titch bitchy, really) Joanie on AMC's Mad Men. The critically-acclaimed show follows the life of New York ad men during the late 50s, and Christina plays the head secretary at the ad agency. Every time she's on screen, my eyes sparkle.

She saunters into each scene, her ample hips patiently swaying from side to side, slowing down the anxious, obedient patter of other secretaries. She's always dressed in bright, mono-toned shifts, that fit her voluptuous ins and outs so exactly that she must have been sewn into her clothes; the bright colours offset her curves against the drab, pillared background of the ad agency walls. That naturally-narrow waist, the generous bosom, the exaggerated derriere... there's no mistaking this creature for anything other than a WOMAN -- capitals intended! Here's a woman who's curvy 'cos she likes to eat, not because she's squeezing herself into a ridiculous corset.

I find myself reading every article about her, about how she has struggled to love her figure, how designers still don't send her clothes because she isn't a size 4, about how she tucks into a plate of rabbit ragu and sips a second glass of wine during her interview. Oh, and she's marrying a half-Pakistani actor. Ah, this girl and I could be friends!

I found myself examining my own figure in the mirror. Our silhouettes aren't too different, although I'm working on the cinched-in waist part. Our boobs are too big for Victoria's Secret (I guess the secret is she doesn't make bras for ladies over a D cup), our bums too full for the Gap (insert joke here).

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is something beautiful about my figure too... for the first time, I'm able to see what works about it.

Apparently, the curvy figure is back, because even Kate Moss has put on a few pounds. From the looks of it though, she's going to have to tuck in a few more plates of rabbit ragut before she qualifies as curvy, though. At least in my book.

In an effort to further embrace my inner old-school WOMAN, I bought my first tube of red lipstick. My first. Isn't that crazy? I love it. I find myself wearing it for the smallest errands, even to just pick things up around the house. It just feels... fancy.

If you're my skin tone, my fellow Indians, you know how hard it is to find a red that suits you. I found this one at the Body Shop; it's called "Brilliant Red". It looks a little harsh in photos but in real life, it's awesome.

Here's to your inner WOMAN!

all text and photographs on aartilla the fun © 2005-2009 Aarti Sequeira unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.