Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Harvest time

Here’s a peek at what’s growing our garden. A few posts back you can see that these were all little seedlings and now these plants are producing harvest for us! Beginning of the season had it’s hiccups as we were not able to give enough time to the garden. As a result we lost some of the plants. Good thing we planted multiples of each. However now we’re back in business and I’m happy to report that our plants are doing quite well!


Look at that cucumber!


Lavender and mint thriving! While we use the mint, we don’t know how to use lavender much. So if you’ve any simple ways do let us know!


Strawberries! I think we planted only one of these. This is probably the best that a strawberry plant has grown in our garden. Look at the baby strawberries! Given that there’s only one plant, the yield is not too bad.


Summer squash and zucchini always make us happy! They do have an either/or relationship. Either we get summer squash in plenty or zucchini Smile This year it seems to be the summer squash.


Tomatoes getting ready to be plucked!


Some more green ‘maters!


Finally the beans! Again a good crop for the northwest. It has never disappointed us.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Seaquest State Park and Campground



A few months back we went camping to Seaquest State Park. This was our first time there. Our site number was 12 and above is a picture of it. We liked the site, as is typical of the northwest we were surrounded by tall evergreen trees. The site was quite big. Overall we really liked the campground – the restrooms were close by and so was the water tap. The site had enough shade that we were not exposed to the sun and gave good privacy.

Around 60 miles from the campground is the Johnston Observatory from where you can view St Helens. There are a lot of trails too. This was the first time I’d seen a volcano – active or passive; and the view just mesmerized me. Maybe being a local I didn’t expect much. We saw the movie at the observatory and also read the stories of survivors and otherwise. It was a totally different experience. The views of St Helens and from nearby trails were gorgeous!


St Helens from Johnston Observatory


One of the volcanic lakes


Contact Information:

Seaquest State Park
3030 Spirit Lake Highway
Castle Rock, WA 98611
Ph: (360) 274-8633

More information at their website.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Who do you love

Author: Jennifer Weiner


As you must have figured out from the name as well as the cover that it’s a love story. A love story it is. A very sappy one. Ahhh I couldn’t believe it that it was written by a New York times best selling author and was in some recommendation list (wherever I picked that recommendation from!). Maybe it’s a young adult fiction. I hope it is. Because otherwise I have no good words for it.

The girl and boy bump into each other when they’re 6 year olds, in a hospital. They talk to each other for a few hours. Then years later when they’re teenagers they meet again and it’s love at first sight and they remember that they’d met when they were 6 year old! Totally beats me! All through out the novel they keep falling in and out of love. I’m not sure what’s new about this story. There’s not much to say about this book. I’m sure by now my verdict is also clear. I. did. not. like. it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Switch: How to change things when change is hard

Author: Chip Heath and Dan Heath


As the title suggests the book is about techniques to bring about change. While the book mostly cites examples in a professional world, I feel that they are equally relevant in the personal space too. For that matter, most of the people skills applicable to professional world are also applicable to personal world and vice versa. In fact if people would spend even half the amount of energy on people skills in their personal world than they do on the professional world then they would be so much happier. Anyway I digress.

In this book, the authors suggest that to bring about a change – to bring people onboard a change you want to bring about – you need to appeal to their rational mind, the emotional mind and shape their path. Every situation is different and sometimes you may need to work on only one of these. While others you may need to work on all of these. Rational mind looks for reason and logic; emotional mind needs feeling and lastly you need to make it easy for people to adopt the change.

When I read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto I was amazed to see how an author can go on and on trying to prove the same point. Page after page, chapter after chapter. Same with most of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. He has tons of data to prove a singular point. While sometimes it might feel repetitive, it has the benefit that you will never forget it. And it proves their point because it’s not just one example, they have tens of examples. I felt that this book was trying to convey too many things and it’s hard to give as many examples when you’re trying to prove so many points. So while logically what they suggest completely makes sense to me, I didn’t feel that I’d sufficient proof that these techniques work in majority of the cases. Nevertheless, it’s definitely a good book to learn about how you can bring about change. I think trying to change something is not a definitive process, it’s an evolution. You will have to analyze at each point and make sure that you’re steering in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It’s time to transplant!


(Clockwise from left: Stupice tomato, Marigold, Basil and Cherry Tomato)

The seedlings are ready to be transplanted! We’d put in the seeds quite some time back. The earliest to germinate, as always, was marigold. Our seeds are quite old now, probably 3-4 years and we weren’t sure whether they would still be good. But looks like they are. Most of them. We made a hole in the bottom of these containers and filled them with vermiculite. Then placed them in trays filled with water. Vermiculite absorbs the water and only as much as needed. So you needn’t worry about watering the individual plants nor about how much to water. Just refill the tray with water when the water level is down to the bottom. Put the seeds on vermiculite and cover them with another layer of vermiculite. I also covered the containers with a tray so that no light would get through to the seeds. When germinating the seeds to no need light, most of them.


(Clockwise from left: zucchini with the sturdy sapling, jalapenos with thin saplings and yellow squash which didn’t germinate)

The first germination happened around 6-7 days after sowing them. The last germination to happen was around 3 weeks after sowing them and it was the jalapenos.

A closer look:






Soon they’ll be transplanted into 3” pots and then a month or so later to the vegetable bed outside. This year the weather has been quite warm and I regret that we didn’t plant these sooner. Next year, maybe we’ll start the seedlings in January.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easy (and yummy) carrot cake!

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I promise you that not only will you find this cake easy to make but also absolutely delicious! Yummy, yummy and yummy! My husband is not too fond of sweet stuff but even he loved this one! I’ve made this twice now and it turned out equally delicious both the times. What does it say about the recipe – foolproof! Look at the texture – so soft and just the right balance of walnuts. Oh and the frosting – is the icing on the cake (pun intended Smile).

There are two persons that come to my mind when I make carrot cake. One is my aunt. When I came to the US, she came to visit us and she brought loads of (home made) carrot cake because she knew I loved her carrot cake. The cake was perfectly wrapped and packaged into smaller segments so that we could eat in installments and freeze the rest. Other is my brother. Because he too loved (don’t know if he still does) my aunt’s carrot cake. So I’m glad I can make a decent carrot cake now Smile

The recipe is from King Arthur flour. As most of my baking recipes are.



  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I did not have this at home)
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups finely grated carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts


  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • one 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla OR 1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups glazing sugar or confectioners' sugar


  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9" x 13" pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.
  2. Beat together the oil, sugar, salt, eggs, and spices. Mix the flour with the baking soda, and stir in. Add the carrots and nuts, and mix until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the cake(s) for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. It took the cake around 55 minutes in my oven to be done.
  4. Allow the cake(s) to cool completely before frosting.
  5. To make the frosting: Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla. Beat in the sugar. Add a teaspoon of milk or cream if the frosting is too stiff to spread; add additional sugar if it's too thin.
  6. Frost the sheet cake right in the pan.
  7. If you’ve frosting leftover then jus freeze it. Next time you make this cake, take out the frosting from the freezer and keep it in the fridge a minimum of 24 hours in advance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Checklist Manifesto

Author: Atul Gawande



After reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande, I was quite impressed with this author. So of course when I heard that the checklist manifesto is also written by him I was keen on reading this too. Add to that the fact that I’ve heard/read so many recommendations for this book.

As you would probably guess from the title of the book, it’s about checklists. The author argues how using checklists in various fields has significantly improved their success rates. He cites examples from the airplane industry to medicine. The reason checklists are so successful is because humans can forget things due to distractions, poor memory, complex systems, etc. By having a checklist you’re making sure that all the mandatory steps for a procedure (trivial or not) are covered. And it turns out that majority of the mistakes or mishaps happen because of some known step(s) of a protocol were missed. Knowingly or unknowingly. These can be averted by having a checklist. Complex, unique or one-of situations will not be covered by these – they will still need to be solved in a ad-hoc fashion. Going through a checklist also facilitates communication between the members of a team. This way everybody knows what is the problem they’re working on, the risks involved, the mitigations they should be ready for and so on. The author also suggests how to create such checklists. In fact at the end he has a checklist for creating a checklist.

Being a believer of checklists, I couldn’t agree more with him. Although I will admit I didn’t realize what a significant impact they could have. I’d only used them in the context of my household. Who knew that doctors and nurses in hospitals had saved lives by using checklists! At some point I did feel that the author was belaboring the issue. I mean how long can you read an argument on checklists or examples to prove the same. The good thing is that the book is no that thick. Overall liked the book though I do think it could be thinner.