Quote of the moment

Sometimes it seems things go by too quickly. We are so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take the time to enjoy where we

Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Feeling hot, hot, hot!

It is hot as hell. Well I don't have a first hand experience of hell, but I'm sure it would be as uncomfortable as this! It is times like these when I wish I had a full time job in a centrally air conditioned office, and I surely envy my better half who sets his cabin temperature at a brilliant 15 Celsius. Yeah, he is like that! I do wonder if I can be exothermic and endothermic at the same time, because my body is literally radiating the heat and I still feel hot, no relief there....this month's electric bills will surely be a reflection of all my ranting above - as I was never one to switch on the air conditioning in bedroom and seek refuge in there all day...needless to day that one machine is my saviour as the October heat rages on.

I finally subscribed to BBC Good Homes magazine (Indian edition) - on the stands it sells at Rs.100 a copy but the subscriber's cost is just half at 600 for a year...somehow it's just sad that they haven't got their timing together. Last month it came later than the 15th and this month it is yet to come in...they claim that this issue is the ultimate guide for Diwali decor - so yeah - please send it before Diwali!! Or did you guys mean Diwali 2009?? Apart from this, I would highly recommend you subscribe to this one if you love interiors and home decor - a truly classy magazine in this genre and I have checked out most of the others.

I have also nearly kept up to my resolve of learning to chant Lalitha Sahasranamam - it is getting easier as my familiarity with the words is getting better.

The last one month, thanks to my friend Rhea, I have indulged in some heavy chick-lit reading - Jill Mansell, some Little Black Dress books, Katie Fford, Lavyrle Spencer - of all I liked Mansell and Spencer best. While I do like serious reading, this is the kind you can just breeze through without stopping to think or understand what is happening, and you can be sure the endings are always happy.

Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother has been keeping me hooked, no matter what people say, I like the gossip and vouyerism associated with the show. My excuse is always the same, i don't do out to work, so this TV gossip keeps me entertained! The other BB, my favourite Byomkesh Bakshi, the detective show from the 80s on Doordarshan is being aired in the mornings as a daily, and all 52 juicy episodes...a classic example of low budged simple entertainment but with fantastic content...adapted from Saradindu Bandopadhyay's stories...if you are at home then do catch it on DD at 11 am weekdays.

I have made a list for the Diwali cleaning - hopefully my househelp and me will start off on it, despite the bad weather where even breathing can make you sweat. I bought some lovely new bedsheets from the Hypercity Argos online shopping. The quality of stuff was good and delivery very prompt despite being free. If you are in Bombay, I strongly recommend that you ask for their Diwali catelogue or browse their stuff online. Best way to shop as you save on fuel and your own energy.

Finally, here are 13 interesting, environment friendly ways of using coffee grounds. From body scrub to fertilizer the uses are amazing.

Eagerly awaiting Diwali and then finally November when we'll have some respite from this weather!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Goodbye August and Hello September!

August started with dad coming back home from his surgery and hospitalisation. Using the principles of The Secret helped me in a big way to cope with it all, and having people around in the house was also a big moral support.

Mid-August birthday celebrations that coincided with Varalakshmi Vratham Pooja took a different turn this year with us deciding against a bash at home, which we usually do as a way to flush the previous 12 months' stock of fine single malts and other sundry spirits. We decided to do an eating out spree instead starting with Cafe Indigo and continued with Dakshin at the Sheraton, ordering out from a variety of places in the next couple of days and ending with lunch at Little Italy.

August was also the month of immense laptop problems where it required some intensive care support to get it up and running. I'm grateful now that my dear friend is back to supporting me in my work and entertainment :) Also, this month I finally managed to find a decent tailor where I could get all the lovely cotton materials stitched into tops and kurtas, and still when I have to go out, I don't know what to wear. Talking about clothes, while cleaning out the wardrobe, I discovered several pieces that I no longer wear, but just stay attached to for various reasons. My friend P graciously decided to take them and gladly they fit her beautifully and she enjoys wearing them. I read recently that clothes swap parties are hep in London nowadays, with gal pals getting together over wine and finger food - each gets a good piece of clothing / accesory from her wardrobe which she no longer uses and all such clothes are beautifully displayed - and the girls choose out of the displayed pieces - each one taking back something lovely in exchange for something that was not being used. I love the idea, but I'm glad we're already doing it here without all the hype of a party, but isn't this a great idea for a hen night girls?

This Saturday we had a 'for-no-reason' bash for 10 of our friends, so that made us 12 in all. I always find it easier to cook myself that deciding what, how much and from where to order in food. So I made some stuff, bought some and with the malts and beer flowing to the tune of some rock and jazz, we had a great time. I tried amma's Badam Kheer out for the first time and honest to God, it was too yummy to share! But I might just share the recipe on the food-blog. It went on till late and by the time the final goodbyes were said I was ready to drop dead without changing or removing make-up.

The month ended with a one-of-a-kind Bollywood movie, Mumbai Meri Jaan, which was clearly one of the thoughtful, intelligent and touching movies made in recent times. It helped us recover from the assault on our senses earlier this month by the disaster of a movie called Singh is Kinng! Akshay Kumar with his great body and good looks can surely do some better roles - other than the stereotype Punjabi munda romancing Ms.Kaif!

September, a beginning of a new month and a kickstart to a string of festivals starting with Ganesh Chathurthi in a couple of days. S's dad has sent us a simple Ganesha Pooja book which we plan to do this year. I am not the one for buying the statues and immersing procedure - so we will use the lovely green marble Ganesha who sits on our altar. Some traditional kolam, flower arrangements, lamps and simple prasadam and we're all set to please Lord Ganesha.

I have been reading the Lalitha Sahasranamam in the Namavali form for a few days now as it was beyond me to combine the words and recite in the long form. The Namavali takes well over an hour if you go at decent speed, the first 200 or so being the longest and toughest names. Today I heard the CD recorded by Sita Aunty and it was melodious and soulful. I am feeling quite hopeful that if I listen to the CD every alternate day and sing along as per the break marks I have put in the book, I should be recite this fluently by end of the year. This is one of my projects to complete before 2008 draws to a close.

There are several other things that I'd like to line up for this month, which will be the matter for another post.

Hope all of you have a lovely September and hope it rains just some more before the October heat sets in. There haven't been enough showers in Mumbai yet to call it the monsoon season!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Attending a wedding in Chennai sitting in Mumbai

This must be the in thing nowadays, but a first for me and I am pretty excited about this. There's a wedding in my extended family today in Chennai and for some reason I haven't been able to attend it. Well not physically at least, but virtually I am party to every little ritual that is a part of the wedding thanks to the Live Webcast from 6.30 AM this morning. Perfectly good streaming video and crystal clear sound make me feel I am right inside the marriage hall, thankfully I am in my own living room - as I would hardly qualify to attend the wedding the way I am now - in my faded pyjamas and tee shirt.

This must be the example of a perfectly organised wedding from the little things I have observed. The wedding card was despatched over a month before the date to enable bookings in the peak vacation time. A phone call was made personally to ensure that the cards have been received. The sarees were sent to close relatives along with the card so that they could get the blouse stitched and wear it for the occasion. The web cast set up was done 4 days in ahead of the D Day with an sms sent to all the invitees containing the website url.

It's amazing how something like technology can enhance life in such a beautiful way. The vedic chants and the auspicious 'melam & naadaswaram' sounds in my living room is filling up my space with positive vibrations.

Praying to the Almighty to bless Shwetha and Karthik with a blissfully happy married life.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why do birds sing in spring?

birds flying in the spring skyAasma ke paar shaayad aur koi aasmaan hoga....listen to the song below
(There is probably another sky beyond this sky....)

Since a few days, it is the birds' lovely songs that have been sweetly waking me up from slumber land. It is indeed a welcome change from the boring cellphone alarm. Well it's like this, even before we are announced the herald of spring, the birds know it. A story in the Scientific American, explains this phenomenon.

Birds start singing in the spring because of a biological response to longer days, researchers said.

When birds are exposed to light for longer periods, certain brain cells trigger a series of hormonal reactions telling them to find a mating partner, which they do by singing, researchers reported in the journal Nature.

Researchers found genes in brain cells switched on when the birds received more light

Read the entire story here.

If spring can make the birds sing, then why should we be any different?

I wanted to leave you with a beautiful song I heard on radio during my morning jog - Aasma ke paar shaayad aur koi aasama hoga from the movie Rockford.

You can listen to it here.

A happiness scrapbook and the first day of spring

A leaf from my 'Happiness Book'

You are flipping through a magazine and you come across a picture. You stop flipping and stare away at the page that caught your eye in the first place and filled your heart with joy. It could be a scenery, a beautiful room, a baby. Or, it could be something that you want to possess at a later date. It could be something that tickled you into laughing out loud, even though you were alone in your room. In short, it was something that made you happy or will make you happy.

We do live our lives at a very fast pace and remember what W.H.Davies said in his poem 'Leisure' -

'What is this life if, full of care,
we have no time to stand and stare...'

If this is what he said in his time and age (1871-1940), imagine what he'd be writing about today's pace.
The simple idea behind this book is to collect all such beautiful pictures, words and thoughts and stick it in a book, where by merely flipping the pages, we can stop and stare at pictures that give us joy.

If you ask me, I love to collect pictures of lovely scenes, especially sunrise and sunset, the clouds forming unusual shapes in the sky with sunrays going through them.

I also love pictures of beautiful homes, mostly simple and rustic, with a lot of indoor plants. It is nice to collect pictures of interiors that instantly appeal to your senses, because when it is time to redo your place, you'll get brilliant ideas, just flipping through these photos.

You could also collect your personal photos of good times spent to add to the above. Looking
back on fond memories never fails to bring a smile to my face.

In the Times of India, the editorial page has the Speaking Tree column, which invariably has words of wisdom written by a variety of authors, in a very simple manner. When we read the papers in the morning haste, I often fail to grasp the entire meaning as I skim through it superficially. Cutting it out and sticking it in my happiness journal enables me to read it at leisure and with a better understanding.

Another great use of this book is your personal travel destination guide. We subscribe to two travel magazines and each ones tries to outdo the other talking of places at the other end of the world in addition to the popular places in and out of India. While some may be doable for us, others might just be a pipe dream. I like to stick pictures and notes from the stories where I plan to go sometime in my life, instead of hoarding the entire loads of magazines in precious real estate in this city. This way you have the relevant pieces stuck in front of your eyes, and when there's a nice tourism deal to the place you want to go, you can clinch it immediately!

Gift register

Sometime ago I came upon an interesting idea of maintaining such a scrapbook as a family gift registry. Invariably when someone dear asks you what gift would you like, if you are like me, you will be clueless.

When you do come across items of joy from magazines, news items or so, you could keep a cut out of the same. It could be new design of a dress from your favourite brand or an exquisitely designed piece of jewelery. If you have cut out their pictures from promotions or ads, you atleast know what you want. It could also be that you save up for the thing that gives you joy and gift it to yourself on some achievement.

You could also use this to stick pictures of gifts you'd like to give your spouse, your mom or your kids. Did your kid point out to an advertisement for a game in a magazine? Cut it out and save it, you can surprise your kid by getting him/her that very game as a gift as soon as the occasion presents itself.

I know scrapbooking is an intensive hobby in some parts of the world, and I make no claims of being a 'scrapbooker'. For me it's just a collection of visuals, stuck randomly in a good quality bound book, with handwritten comments that come to my mind. I emphasise on the quality of the journal because constant flipping of pages will cause wear and tear, and you don't want this beautiful book falling apart on you!

The larger picture - Visualisation

To quote from 'The Secret' -

The reason visualisation is so powerful is because you create pictures in your
mind of seeing yourself with what is it you want, you are generating thoughts
and feelings of having it now. Visualisation is simply powerfully focused
thought in pictures, and it causes equally powerful feelings. When you are
visualising, you are emitting that powerful frequency out into the Universe. The
law of attraction will take hold of that powerful signal and return those
pictures back to you, just as you saw them in your mind.

This is what keeping a happiness journal can do to your life. Apart from giving you that momentary happiness, putting you in that happy, grateful mood can actually end in you possessing that lovely view, or that cuddly dog, or anything that you visualise. Putting those pictures in front of your eyes, makes visualising them in your mind's eye much easier.

I can tell you from personal experience how gratifying it is to have all things that make me happy at hand's reach. It is dreamy yet practical in its own way!


Google can make you happy too!

This afternoon, our dear friend google brought a smile to my face with the two lovely bouquets indicating that today is first day of spring! Here's to more blooms, more sunshine and more happiness in our lives!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Got 10 minutes? Give yourself a facial

The expert blogs on Yahoo health have caught my interest in a major way. Most topics, especially on nutrition, longevity and more are very practical and very doable. One of my favourites is Intent Blog which is written by professionals from the Chopra Centre. It deals with Ayurvedic home remedies, massages and several such wonderful topics. Last week as I was browsing through their archives (which are huge), I came across this simple home facial process, and when I share it with you, you will agree that it is so simple plus you can do it in the comfort of your home in under ten minutes.

There a spa-boom in Mumbai. There are new spas opening each month, and most five star hotels in the city are trying to build their own brands, each trying to outdo the other in pampering the senses (not to mention outdo the price of pampering). While I do enjoy facials given by the experts, that leave me glowing - due to my laziness, I can never plan and take appointments in advance. And they are always overbooked, so I cannot expect to drop in and get an appointment. At such times, a home facial helps tide over the tired-face-syndrome. Plus, there is always the satisfaction of doing something like this yourself, where you are not dependent on someone else to give you an appointment. All you need is 10 minutes of your own time, a couple of ingredients, some towels and your own hands.

If you are feeling low and your face feels dull and lustreless, this facial will lift up your senses as well as your face. Though I more or less followed the instructions given by the expert, here's the procedure listed down, as I did it and I loved it!

Step One
Mix 2 tsp fine chick pea flour (besan) and 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder in a small bowl. If your skin is dry, then make a paste with milk. If oily, use water.

I use kasturi manjal (Curcuma aromatica) which is known to be a natural anti-blemish agent. This powder is the naturally fragrant, beauty version of the edible turmeric powder. While regular turmeric can be used for beauty, kasturi manjal is not edible as far as I know. This would be available in Ayurvedic stores, or certain stores selling Pooja related stuff.

Step Two
Massage this paste with your finger tips using gentle pressure all over your face and neck in smooth strokes for 2 minutes, taking care not to stretch the skin around the eyes. This gentle Ayurvedic cleanser exfoliates any dead skin, leaving your face soft.
Wash off the cleanser with lukewarm water and pat dry with a muslin cloth or soft towel.

Step Three
In a pan, keep 2 cups of water to boil with some fresh lemongrass or orange zest. You could use a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil instead. Place the pan with the steaming water on a table, so that you can comfortably bend over it, covering your head with a large, thick towel to capture the steam. Adding fresh herbs or essential oils lifts up your mood as the steam opens up pores, releasing the toxins. Take deep breaths, trying to take in the fragrant steam for 2-3 minutes.

Step Four
Spray your face with ice cold water with a few drops of rose water.
I did not have the rose water, but the cold water is good to close up the opened pores.

Step Five
Gently mop excess water with cloth / tissues and use your favourite moisturiser to massage your face and neck for an additional 2 minutes.
The expert recommends a massage with a type-specific oil (Vaata / Pitta / Kapha) and leave it on in the end. For a Bombay like humid weather, this one did not seem a good idea to me, hence the moisturiser. However, I have tried massaging with the oil too. (sunflower for my type, along with a drop of orange / lavender essential oil for continuing the aroma experience). However after the massage, I wash it off using a gentle facewash (Loccitane Gentle cleansing gel with Lavender) so that there are no traces of oil.

After you are done with the facial, relax in your favourite chair with the herbal tea.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Herbs, Tea and Happiness

How do you feel when when the smell of cardamom and ginger infused tea brewing on a roadside tea stall hits you? I stop there for an extra moment to let my senses savour the intense aromas and feel that for the moment all is good with the world around me.

There's no gloom that a huge mug of strong ginger tea cannot sweep away, for me. I love to let the hot steamy mug sit in front of me for a while as I absorb all the lovely vapours. This also makes sure I don't scald my tongue with my favourite beverage. Some herbs just have that happy, cheer-you-up smell about them. Be it the freshness of mint, a knob of zingy ginger, the sweet potency of cardamom or a peel of orange / lime - one whiff and you just have to feel top-of-the-world!

Encouraging my penchant for tea, DH is always always getting me exotic new flavours to try out, from his travels. Recently it was the Mighty Leaf tea bags in flavours of Chamomille Citrus, Verbena Mint Organic and Ginger Twist. One look at those handcrafted silk tea pouches and I was floored. The dried herbs in their original colours and textures loosely packed into silken transluscent pouches, so that you can actually SEE what's inside, is a lovely experience. Take a peek on their website and you'll know what I'm talking about. The brewing time for each kind of tea is mentioned on the pack and after brewing the herbs take in the moisture and swell up giving out all their essences into the hot water. One sip and I almost feel like I'm being pampered in some exotic spa. It is a sensous experience. Well, atleast 3 senses are involved here - seeing, smelling and tasting.

We are currently trying to stay away from milky tea - or rather keeping it reserved for special days like weekends. On other days we try to stick to herbal tea like the ones above or green tea. I came across this excellent article on Tea: The Elixir of Life by Dr.Maoshing Ni - a Chinese medicine expert. In short, it is rich in antioxidants (polyphenols that fight against atherosclerosis, cancer and diabetes) , helps lose weight and has a tremendous feel good factor especially when herbs are infused into it - so there's every reason to fill up the cup of joy.

Douglas Adams, the author of the famous book, The Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy has something to say about making the perfect cup of tea and then he says -
Drink it. After a few moments you will begin to think that the place you've come to isn't may be quite so strange and crazy after all.

While you're there, do check out the animated explanation on why it's better add tea to milk rather than add milk to tea.

New teas in Indian markets
In India, Tetley has thankfully introduced green tea in tea bags and more recently as loose leaf too. Jumping on the Indian liking for strong herbs added to their tea, Brooke Bond Red Label introduced the Nature Cure tea with Ashwagandha, Mulethi, Tulsi, Ginger and Cardamom. I tried this once and felt the flavours to be too strong, there was also a menthol like effect that just doesn't work for me. Later, I realised that these were herbal flavours and not the natural herbs (as their lable reads). Also, Brooke Bond Taj Mahal came up with this idea of selling dessert teas, which are premixed powders to which one adds water. Their idea was to position this as an after dinner beverage. While I haven't brought myself to taste this yet, Vikram Doctor, one of my favourite food writers has something to say about this.

I leave you with a beautiful picture that we took in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia where we had a superb pot of tea facing the breathtaking tea plantations in the valley.