Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The girl on the train

Author: Paula Hawkins

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Given how popular this book is it was a pleasant surprise when I was notified that the book was waiting for me in the library! I further surprised myself by finishing the book in just a few days! Typically it takes me at least a month to finish reading a book and in most of the cases, much more than a month. However I happened to be lucky that after I got this book some free time in the form of a long weekend came upon me. And of course the novel was so engrossing that I just didn’t feel like putting it down till I’d read the end.

The book is about – well as the name suggests – a girl on the train! She takes the train every day in the morning as well as the evening as if she’s going for work. Just to fool her room-mate into thinking that she has a job. She doesn’t have one. She’s an alcoholic and can’t stop drinking – she can drink any time of the day. Having gone through a divorce some time back, she is not in the best of mental state. While in the train, she often spots a couple in the balcony of their home. Given how wretched her life is, she likes to fantasize about how wonderful their life is. How perfect the wife is and how caring the husband is. One day she sees the wife’s photo in the newspaper and finds out that the wife has disappeared. This is when the adventure begins. Since she used to see the couple every other day, she feels she has valuable information that she can provide to the police and feels very involved in the case. Slowly and gradually she takes it upon herself to find out what happened to the wife – this gives a purpose to her life. The whole journey of how she unearths what happened to the wife is very engrossing! I don’t want to reveal too many details lest I spoil somebody’s fun.

Loved reading this book! Highly recommend it to everyone.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sticky buns

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Hubby and I both are fond of cinnamon rolls/buns or any other sticky sweet buns SmileI gave this recipe from my go-to-baking-site King Arthur Flour, sticky buns, and as always they came out delicious. The only thing that didn’t seem to necessary was the blobs of brown sugar that you see in the picture. Other than that just perfect – yummy!

I did halve the recipe because otherwise it makes just too many for two people!

DOUGH
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cups lukewarm water* (may need additional 1 tbsp of water)
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5/8 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • *Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.
GLAZE
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup diced pecans
CINNAMON FILLING*

Instructions

  1. First, make the dough. If you're using active dry yeast, dissolve it with a pinch of sugar in 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm water. Let the yeast and water sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded. If you're using instant yeast, you can skip this step.
  2. Combine the dissolved yeast (or instant yeast) with the remainder of the dough ingredients. Mix and knead everything together—I used my food processor here—till you've made a smooth dough.
  3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise, at room temperature, for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's nearly doubled in bulk. Rising may take longer, especially if you've kneaded by hand. Give it enough time to become quite puffy. I kept it in the oven (since it was winter here and house is probably a little cold).
  4. While the dough is rising, lightly grease a 9" round cake pans.
  5. To make the glaze, whisk together the syrup, and melted butter.
  6. Spread the glaze in the pan. Sprinkle the sugar and pecans atop the glaze.
  7. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and pat or roll it into a 8" x 12" rectangle. It's a nice, soft dough, and pats out easily.
  8. To make the filling, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.
  9. Sprinkle filling evenly over the dough, leaving an uncovered strip about 1" wide along one short end of the rectangle.
  10. Starting with the sugar-covered edge, roll the dough into a log the long way.
  11. Using a serrated knife, slice the log into 8 slices. In order to cut down on drag, it helps to rinse the blade in hot water, and wipe it off, between slices.
  12. Space the buns in the prepared pan. Cover the pan, and let the buns rise till they spread out and touch one another, about 60 to 90 minutes. Again I put them in my (cold) oven.
  13. Once the buns had risen, I took them out of the oven and then preheated the oven to 350°F.
  14. Bake the sticky buns for 15 minutes. Tent them lightly with aluminum foil, and bake till they're a light golden brown, about 10 more minutes.
  15. Remove the buns from the oven, and loosen their edges with a knife. Carefully—the sugar is hot!—turn them out onto a rack or parchment-covered sheet pan to cool, scraping any glaze that may have stuck to the pan onto the warm buns.
  16. Serve warm, or at room temperature. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A man called Ove

Author: Frederick Backman

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Wish you all a very happy new year! Every time a new year begins, I always wonder how one year had passed. Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday that that year had started. Then I start counting on my fingers what all happened during the year – the good and the bad but mostly it’s only fun to count the good – and I fall short of fingers. That’s when I realize no matter what all happens in a year it always feels like yesterday… And I want it to be like that! So I enticed you with the book cover, laying bait that there was a book review to be read and rambled on with my philosophies…

With a new year, I’m so happy to start with a great book review! After a long, no a really really long time, I read a book that I just didn’t want to put down. And that was not because the author was withholding some suspense – simply because it was such a pleasure reading it. I absolutely loved the author’s style of writing and his humor! There were some sentences that were so funny that I read them aloud to my husband (poor thing they were totally out of context but he listened!).

Like I tell everyone when I give them a summary of this book, that a summary will not do it justice. It’s all about the way the store is written. Anywho, so the story is about an old man who has lost his wife and been laid off by his employer. With both these events happening in succession he suddenly find a lot of time on his hand and doesn’t know what to do with it. He decides that life is not worth living without his wife so he must take his own life too. The story weaves around his failed suicide attempts, how he annoys every one by being a purist and at the same time helps every body around him – even the cat! Every action of his is guarded by what his late wife would’ve wanted him to do. And that is just so sweet! Smile

All in all – I had a ball reading this book! In the last few months this is one of the few books (if not the only one) that I’ve completed and completed at such a fast pace!

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!

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Look at that cucumber!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Tomatoes getting ready to be plucked!

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Some more green ‘maters!

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

Friday, July 29, 2016

Seaquest State Park and Campground

 

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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!

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St Helens from Johnston Observatory

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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

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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

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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.