Monday, August 31, 2009

photo: mango picking

Do you see her? That's one of the mango trees at my neighbor's home, the one I can see from my living room sofa! I spotted her one morning plucking mangoes with this rod that had a mesh bag and some sort of hook at the end to break the mango stems. I like how she almost merges into the leaves of the tree itself. This shot was taken sometime in late July. There still are some mangoes on this tree, but no one seems to be coming to the roof to pick them anymore.

On a different note, I went through my Blogger settings this afternoon and switched to the updated settings for posting. I like that one can re-size the pics after they are loaded and move them around by just dragging them, but I certainly do not like that while the pics are being uploaded you cannot use the post page. I always write my posts while the photos are being uploaded, so that's a definite waste of time for me to have to do them separately. Will try it out for a while and see if I want to stick with it or switch back.

it's been a laptop year!

In the past year, I've spent a good amount of time researching laptops. First, it was mine that crashed and after 3-4 days of enjoying not being connected, I went out and bought a laptop. I purposely did not buy a top of the line one, since I want to replace my laptops every 2-3 years and so I felt it's really no point in spending too much on it. My new laptop has a much larger screen and keypad, with enough space for a number pad as well, which is rather handy!

Then a few months later, my hubby's laptop developed an error in it's screen and rather than replace just the screen, we decided to replace the laptop, which was due anyway, since it was over 3 years old. One of the laptop brands we considered was the Sony Vaio line, but ultimately we went ahead with another brand and he's rather happy with it. So far so good!

on brand names

There are some really interesting brand names these days, much more than earlier names which were quite straightforward and direct. I wonder how a cigar brand came to be known as Rocky Patel, and I wonder if most people know where the name is actually from. Maybe it's because of the internet that people are using more global names that appeal to a wider audience or maybe it just sounds a bit exotic, what ever the reason, it's a lot harder to figure out where a brand is from just based on it's name anymore.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

quote: on really living life to its fullest

People say that what we're all are seeking is a meaning for life... I think that what we're really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive.

-Joseph Campbell

Photo originally posted here on my photostream.

Monday, August 24, 2009

re-post: our endless doorbell

View from our dining room in Bombay. The sun set right between the tall buildings.

I wanted to re-post one of my earlier blog posts, which I wrote when we lived in Bombay. It's originally posted here on January 12, 2006.


Anyone who visits our house always remarks and the number of times the doorbell rings, so I decided to keep track of them for a couple of days.

Here is when and why it rang yesterday.

* 6:55am------subhadra, cooking maid
* 7:30am------nitin, milkman
* 8:30am------anjali, cleaning maid
* 9:05am------deepak, driver
* 11:10am-----trash ladies
* 11:30am-----vegetable sellers
* 11:45am-----courier, for landlady who lives in Kerala
* 1:50pm------lunch delivery for my hubby who came back from work
* 4:20pm------delivery
* 9:15pm------eggs and bread wallah
* 10:20pm-----dhobi

And here’s the list for today.

* 7:10am--------subhadra, cooking maid
* 8:20am--------anjali, cleaning maid
* 8:30am--------nitin, milkman
* 8:40am--------nitin (a different one), car washer
* 9:30am--------deepak, driver
* 10:30am-------trash ladies
* 3:40pm--------courier
* 5:30pm--------courier
* 9:20pm--------eggs and bread wallah

Well, it really is endless some days, this incessant ringing of the doorbell and to add salt to our wounded ears, the doorbell is not your ordinary variety. As a tribute to Bollywood, it plays a different film tune each time, sometimes getting lost in the music from the radio. There is a bias towards Madhuri Dixit with mostly her songs like ek, do, teen and didi tere dewar deewana et all but thankfully there are no words, only instruments. Now that we’ve been here for almost a year, we’ve realized that this is quite a popular type of doorbell in Bombay and it’s become part of our experience of living in the city and we’ve got quite used to it, although we still turn it off from a hidden switch inside on Sunday’s for some peace and quiet.

More photos here of our apt.

what's your comfort level in online shopping?

We've all done a bit of shopping here and there online, haven't we? Books, clothes, flowers and so on. I've bought art online too. But have you ever bought insurance online? What about and extended service plan such as from To be a regular shopper, one has to have some kind of trust that what one finds online is good and has value. I'm not quite ready for something like this, but till then, I'll keep myself busy with buying artwork!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

photo: among the clouds

Everyone goes to the hills for different reasons. Some go to see something new, some go for the cooler weather and some for the excitement. I go to the hills for tranquility, for refreshing myself, for spending time with my family.

This was the view from the helipad at Charabara where the Presidential Retreat is located, just before Kufri. It might look like it was a nice serene spot, but in fact it was crowded and noisy, full of tourist vehicles, and vendors selling things like balloons and stuffed toys. There was also an area where tourists could dress up in Himachali clothes and jewelery to get their photo taken.

research or cafe time?

Most of the gyms here are located in malls, and I visited one to do some research for an, not to use the machines, but to see what kinds of machines they had and which were popular. The popularity of ellipticals has been really spreading lately. One never really saw many of these machines in the gyms earlier, and even if they were there, people seemed to always be going for other machines. Now these seem to be a very popular type of machine at gyms as well. Is that because they are now better designed or because they are designed to target specific areas and get faster results.

PS: Doing research like this makes it very easy for me to visit the cafe afterward to collect my thoughts and jot down my findings with a cup of coffee and a chocolate twist!

I'm not an expert on this...

As I've written before, I often get asked on things that I have written about on my blog. One of these queries is usually about the best weight loss supplement these days. Well, to be very frank, I've not used any of them nor do I plan to, and my knowledge of them is purely based on the research assignments that I have done on them, so is more technical and factual than consumer oriented. I did meet a few people who use them to get a consumer perspective from the results standpoint, but that's about it. So, in the past week or so, I received a spate of inquiries about these and more. And so it continues.....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Morning walks in Mashobra

Looking out from the fire escape of Gables, where we stayed.

A lot of people think of vacations as the time to sleep in as a way to counteract the daily routine of waking up early. I'm not one of them. The reason is that since I am a freelancer, I can wake up whenever I want to, so I don't have any pressure on me. Waking up early for me is a way to view the world differently, a way to gather my thoughts, a way to spend some quiet time.

I have been waking up early on all of my recent vacations, not entirely for a walk, but more to explore the surroundings, to take in the fresh air, and to get a better feel of the place. Our trip to Mashobra in June 2009 was no different. Even though we were watching the T20 Cricket World Cup matches late into the night, I was waking up early for a relaxed exploration of the area.

The bazaar road is hopelessly broken. Beware on puddles on rainy days!

Like so many other small towns in the hills, Mashobra is decaying. The old buildings in the bazaar are disappearing quickly and are being replaced by apartment blocks for weekend visitors. I'm not saying I'm against it, just that the style of most of these blocks is better suited to the plains and they look like misfits in the hills.

Lions at the gate of one of the private developments.

Even the most dilapidated of buildings looks nicer in the morning light, and that's a nicer way to see them, I feel. A gentler way that might make you imagine how they actually looked in better times. In Mashobra, there a just a handful of these buildings left in the bazaar, as most of the buildings being made now are boring concrete structures on stilts.

Looking down into the garden and orchard around a house in Mashobra.

There is only one road in Mashobra, that goes through the bazaar, so there really isn't much choice in where to walk. The road meanders through the bazaar, climbing towards the village's larger and best maintained homes.

I loved stopping at a different bench everyday on my way back, to stop and listen to the stillness, to try and remember the moment so that I could pull it out when I need it most, and to notice all the little things around me. Often I got to notice more than I wanted, like the guys from the military camp who stopped to pee on the roadside while on their morning jog. They sure were very surprised to see me!

One of my favorite spots on the walk. The wall is of the house that I like most of all in Mashobra and this shady stretch was always nice and cool on my way back.

Well, that's how life in India is, always surprising you, sometimes blindsiding you, but always a memorable experience.

More photos from my trip to Mashobra in June can be seen here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

list: ah august!

So, it's August already, the peak of summer, the time when one starts to wait for the cooler winds of autumn, the anticipation of a change of seasons, the easing up of the heat. I found an advertisement for a water chiller...essentially an AC for your overhead water tank, that cools the boiling water so that you can have a bath without getting second degree burns.

In Dubai, august is when,
~ you burn your hands if you open the taps between 8am and 6pm.
~ it's impossible to do a cold water laundry, unless you wake up before sunrise.
~ clothes come out steaming from the washing machine.
~ it's hot, humid, muggy, still, oppressive, hot and more hot than the month before.
~ sore throats are rampant, from going from back and forth from super hot outside to chilled inside...mine is bad these days...have been having extra glasses of tea and VitC tabs.
~ one starts wilting and hoping that time passes faster till the weather improves.

Posting a cool cool picture to go with my hot hot post. This shot was taken in June in my room at my parents place in Chandigarh.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

recipe: Low-fat Raisin and Honey Bread

This is a great bread to have as a snack or toasted for breakfast. It's super healthy and can be easily fine tuned to the way you like it best by switching one or two ingredients.

This recipe is from a book called "The Complete Book of Baking" edited by Deborah Gray, which has recipes from 15 recipe books and is one of my favorite and most used recipe books. Some of my regular items from this book include, Quiche Lorraine, scotch pancakes, Sachertorte, Lemon Crumble cake and so on. The earlier recipe I posted, Lemon Yogurt Crumble Coffee Cake was also from this book.

Makes 1 loaf
  • 2 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 & 3/4 cups low-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • margarine for greasing pan
1) Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the yogurt and egg whites and fold into the flour mixture with the raisins and honey.

2) Grease a large loaf pan and spoon in the mixture. Bake in the oven at 425F for 20 minutes until golden. Cool slightly and turn out of the pan. Serve warm.

The simplest ever bread recipe, right? To make it even healthier, I substituted all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour and sprinkled brown sugar on the top before baking to give it a nice golden crust.

A note on brown sugar: a lot of Indian stores sell brown colored granulated sugar as brown sugar, but the kind of brown sugar that US and UK recipe books talk about is actually like shakhar.

Photo also here, and a different version of the photo posted here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Banswari, an elegant florist

Every so often I get mails from people wanting me to feature them on my blog. I know it sounds quite flattering but it usually involves a random company who are just looking for another live link and couldn't care less about where the link was. So, I usually ignore them.

Well, once in a while I get mails suggesting some very interesting sites and that is how I heard about Banswari, a floral decoration store in Chennai. Now I've never been to Chennai, so what I write obviously isn't first hand information, but you can go see their site for yourself. I loved the simplicity and pureness of their style, it didn't involve too many theatrics or drama, but was elegant and classy.

There are tons of wedding decorators around, but what intrigued me about Banswari was that it used completely different materials, and more natural materials, which is very different from what one sees at weddings in the north, which are completely excessive in my opinion. Besides just being a floral decorator, they also have created Banswari Platfrom to introduce artists to a new audience in an effort to showcase and promote their art.

All images from Banswari

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Truly the end of an era

I've always admired Maharani Gayatri Devi's effortless style and elegance and was saddened to hear of her death last week. I read her autobiography A Princess Remembers many years ago, which is a great account of her fascinating life. She also features prominently in Lives of the Indian Princes by Charles Allen and Sharda Dwivedi. I have not read Maharanis by Lucy Moore, although I have it with me, which is about 4 different maharani's, including Maharani Gayatri Devi, her mother, the beautiful Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar.

Why am I writing this post? It's because I listed her as one of my style icons in a tagged post I did recently. Here are some links to articles about her life, from The Telegraph, Times of India, an interview with Times of India, and Wikipedia.

Photo from Times of India