Monday, December 28, 2009

Great minds speak!

No it’s not me this time :).

Sometime back I saw one of the best interviews that I’ve seen till now – that of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates at Columbia. I especially liked the answers given by Buffet, they were crisp and so insightful! That is not say any less about Bill Gates but Gates answers were more appealing on a technical side. It’s a very inspiring interview and I’ve recommended it to one and all. So I decided to post it here. Here’s the video:

There are statements by Warren Buffet which impart important teachings of life. Some of them which have stuck to the inner lining of my brain are:

  • “I will guarantee, you will do well at whatever turns you on.”
  • “It’s enormously important who you marry. It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspirations, all kinds of things”.
  • “If possible, go for an institution/organization that you admire.” Buffet took up his first job under Ben Graham as he admired him the most and didn’t even know his salary till he got his first paycheck!
  • “Don’t pass up something that is attractive today because you think you will find something way more attractive tomorrow.” This may not be blindly applicable to all aspects of life but is a statement worthy of some deliberation. Buffet said this in context of picking the right stocks at the right time.
  • “If the reason for doing something is everybody else is doing it, its not good enough. Forget it.”
  • “Well, that’s 50 years of preparation and 5 minutes of decision making” – when asked about how he makes some rapid decisions sometimes in less than 5 minutes.

Hope you too enjoy this interview!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Love the one you’re with

Author: Emily Giffin

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it’s a nice light read and it falls into that category of books which I felt like reading at one go!

It starts with the heroine of the story, Ellen – who’s a successful photographer and happily married to a wonderful husband, bumping into her ex-boyfriend. He is not just an “ex” for her – they were so passionate together; all her memories of their time together come flooding back to her when she sees him and keeps her mind pre-occupied for days to come. She has a cup of coffee with him but never tells her husband about it. One lie leads to another and soon she’s trapped into a web of lies. She starts comparing her husband to her “ex” even though she doesn’t want to. Soon they move from New York to Atlanta and unhappy with her life, she tries to compensate that unhappiness by giving freedom to her feelings. It is interesting to read what happens thereafter; whether lust wins over love.

What is intriguing about the story is that when she runs into her ex, she has everything that she wanted in her life – a great career, a caring, rich and smart husband and the package. Still on meeting him, she’s aflame with all the feelings she had for him. So there’s a point in the novel when you almost want to scream at her and tell her that she’s lost her brains and I think that’s what kept me going to see if she got them back (the brains I mean) or not :).

As my DH calls some movies “chick flicks”, I think this book may fall into a similar class of books but I’m sure it’ll be a fun read for all women at least.

Bottom line: Liked it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why do we get angry?

This is an excerpt from Naradapurana. It is absolutely lovely and so meaningful.

One possesses a body because of his actions

Body binds him to desires

Desires entrap him into greed

Greed enslaves him to anger

Anger destroys his virtues

Loss of virtues destructs the mind

A destructed mind commits sin.

Gita also preaches the same and it is the truth. I especially found the correlation with anger so easy to understand. If and when you get angry, spend 5 minutes trying to analyze why you got angry and you can trace it to a desire of yours that was not fulfilled. If you didn’t have a desire in the first place, you would never get angry. We get angry with our family because we expect from them. We get angry with drivers on the road because we expect them to be good drivers.

The first step towards reducing anger in your life is to absolve yourself from desires. As a normal human being, it’s hard to completely free yourself from desires but the less you have them, the more peaceful your life is. You would think that when you’ve done your duties you’ve the right to have desires/expectations from this world. Your desires/expectations will give you nothing but pain. My answer to you is – trust in God. He’s right there for you, looking at you. You will get what you deserve. If you’ve done what you were required to do, you will get what is good for you. Many a times, we say “Life is not fair”. It can only be said in jest because God is fair.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A thousand splendid suns

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini,  in my opinion, is a brilliant writer! This is the second book of his that I read, the first being Kite Runner, and I enjoyed it thoroughly! It was one of the few books that I just couldn’t resist finishing. However, I do have one negative to say about it and that is the excessive  torture portrayed against wives. I just can’t bear to see women being tortured, there’s something unbearable about it – maybe because I share the gender I can feel the pain. Some people would argue that it’s the reality but my argument is: maybe, not always you would like to hear the reality – stark naked! All I can say is that though it upset me at times, it didn’t deter me from reading it fully.

Coming to the story, it’s set in the background of troubled Afghanistan with political unrest and centers around Mariam. Mariam was born an illegitimate child and lived with her mother. Her mother, who had endured a lot, was bitter in life and that was often manifested in her behavior towards her daughter – that is not to underestimate her love for her. Kids being kids, Mariam was more fond of her father who would visit her once a week, never accept her in public and try to get rid of his guilt by sweet-talking her and getting her gifts. When Mariam left her Mother to stay with her father, she neither gained her father nor got her mother back. Forced by circumstances, she was married at the age of 15 to a 40-year old and sent off to Afghanistan from Iran. Her mother’s statement “a woman endures” stuck with her for life and her journey all alone in a new land is complete with crests and troughs.

The characters in this book are very well-sketched and I think that’s what makes a great writer! I felt bad for Mariam that she was sad with her mother and after leaving her too and that got me wondering: would we say she was destined to misfortune? Or is it that the misfortune that befell her was of her own doing – had she not left her mother none of it would’ve happened? Food for thought…

Bottomline: 4.5 stars

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Letter to my daughter

Author: Maya Angelou

As Maya Angelou says, this is a letter to thousands of her daughters all around the world. The book consists of anecdotes from her life each of which taught her something about life. It almost feels like the moral studies class I had in my school, just a little more interesting!

Its a pleasure to read each of the chapters. Her most important lesson “never whine”. Love it! Absolutely love it! I think that sums up the means to a happy life. I also liked her poems that were in the book – though I’m not much of a person who can appreciate poetry – but hers were simple to understand and beautiful!

Here are some sentences that I loved from the book:

  1. I can be a giver by simply bringing a smile to another person.
  2. Was that event an accident, coincident or answered prayers? I believe my prayers were answered. This simply shows that depending on a person’s belief/gratefulness one event can be viewed so differently by different people.
  3. This one is not something close to my heart but something I found good food for thought: Lets tell the truth to people. Sometimes when people ask you “How are you” and things are not well with you, Maya suggests that you tell them the truth. According to her, it’ll probably drive people away and maybe you can use the time you gained to solve what’s troubling you. A very interesting perspective. I’m unable to make up my mind either way: is it good or bad?
  4. Obesity is not funny and vulgarity is not amusing. By far the best statement I’ve read from a celebrity. She scorns those entertainers who use profanity and vulgarity as a means to entertain. I’m right there with her on that! There are so many entertainer out there today who do not care a cent about what language they’re using or what topics are on their tongue but today’s audience seems to lap it up!
  5. If I insist on being pessimistic, there’s always a tomorrow. Today, I’m blessed.
  6. A friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.
  7. The epitome of utter sophistication is simplicity.

Bottomline: 5 stars – absolutely fabulous!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gold Coast

Author: Nelson De Mille

After reading Wildfire, I’d become a huge fan of Nelson de mille! Almost anywhere and everywhere I could lay my hands on his books, I did. The more I read him, the more the craze wore out. This novel was the nail on the coffin!

A lawyer husband and a wealthy wife lead a happy life on a huge estate that was gifted to the wife by her parents. Their peaceful life is interrupted by the moving in of a mafia-don in their next door estate. Little did they realize what impact this event would have on their future! It starts with a friendly chat and ends with a killing, literally. The couple visit their neighbors as a courtesy and the wife finds herself attracted to the house next door and the don. Her visits become more frequent and her husband, even though not wanting to be a part, gets dragged into family dinners and parties followed by favors showered on him by the don. These he returns with lawyer-ly favors to keep the score even and before he realizes, he steps into the trap and is the lawyer for the don in a case of murder. This is exactly what he wanted to avoid in the beginning! The story has interesting twists and turns.

I liked the base concept but I didn’t like the way the story was weaved. The start was pretty sloppy and the element that pinches me is that – though the protagonist is smart, he’s not smart-enough! Something so unexpected of Nelson’s stories.

Bottomline: It’s a time pass read.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Places to see in Barcelona

Continuing on my previous post on Barcelona, here are things we did and liked as well as what we didn’t like. A tip: you *must* get a guidebook with you if you’re an avid sightseer and read it! We used Fodor’s “See it – Barcelona” and I must say it was very helpful. You can also go to Fodors but its not as comprehensive as the guide book.

Things to do:

  1. Port Vell: This is the port of Barcelona. Nothing specific, its just good to roam around here. If you’re fond of shopping then there’s the Mare Magnum mall which has all the famous stores. You can spend an evening here. We ate at the “Take away” and I don’t know if it was my appetite or the food but the vegetarian pizza we had here was very tasty! So was the gelato. DSC02962
  2. La Sagrada Familia: This was the church that Guadi couldn’t complete in his lifetime. It looks awesome from outside! The intricate sculptures on the church are worth seeing; BUT if it says there’s construction going inside do NOT pay 11 euros for the entry ticket! We did and were not at all pleased with what we got to see – construction infrastructure! Construction frames all around, signs, restricted path and what not! There was absolutely nothing inside and by that I mean really NOTHING!DSC03009
  3. Parc Guell: This is another place which houses some of Gaudi’s work. The art pieces at the entrance are gorgeous! Its a nice place to see.DSC03025
  4. La Pedrera (Casa Mila): By now, like us, you would have realized that Gaudi was an important man in Barcelona :). He was actually a very famous architect. La Pedrera is an apartment building built by him. Its a beauty in itself! We took the audio tour and realized how much more we enjoyed the architecture because of the audio. Entry with audio tour was around 11-12 euros.DSC03066
  5. Manzana Discordia: This is a block of three apartment buildings a little south of Casa Mila, also on Passeig de Gracia. The three buildings are Casa Batllo, Casa Amatller and Casa lleo morera. We didn’t go inside any of these, just relished the outside views especially the Casa Batllo. And it was not until we read the guidebook which explained the inspiration behind various facades of the building. So read the guidebook’s section on the place before looking at it to appreciate its finesse. DSC03139
  6. Palau de la Musica Catalana: This is a famous concert hall and is very beautiful from the inside. The entrance includes a guided tour so that’s a good thing. Its situated in an alley so be careful for signs or rather keep asking people. We had crossed it and didn’t even realize till we asked somebody and were told to retrace our steps. Most of the guidebooks suggested watching a concert here to comprehend the beauty of the hall but unfortunately we couldn’t. Entry was around 12 euros.
  7. Mercat de la bouqueria: This is one of the many open farmer’s market in Barcelona and a famous one. We had some delicious fresh fruit juice and fresh fruits here. The area around it was also lively so it was fun walking on those streets. DSC03162
  8. Museum of history: Barcelona is based on top of the roman city Barcino and it is the ruins of this city that are housed in this museum. If you’re interested in historical things, then this is a must I would say. How often do you get to see ruins from the roman time! The entrance includes the audio tour. Entry was around 6 euros.
  9. Flamenco show: This I think is a must watch. Depending on your interest in music and dance, go for an appropriate show. Though I’m quite interested in watching music and dance, my Dh isn’t so we decided to go for a reasonably-priced show so that we have our cake and eat it too! The place for a good reasonable show is Tarantos in Las ramblas. The ticket is 7 euros and the show is for 30 mins. It begins and ends with the dance performance each of which is around 5 mins and in between the two is song recital which I must say is not as engrossing as the dance. the dances were awesome and such a pleasure to watch! If you’re fairly interested in dances, I would say that you should try one of 37 euros show which lasts for 1-2 hrs. Of course I don’t know how much of it is dance but I hope for that money a lot of it is. Here’s a flavor it:
  10. Magic fountains: These are located close to Plaza d’Espanya and though there are not as great as the Bellagios of Vegas, they’re good to see if its not a detour for you. For us they  were walking distance from our hotel so it was nice otherwise I wouldn’t have made a stop specifically for them.DSC03225

Places we did not appreciate much:

  1. Museu Picasso – I’m certainly not an art connoisseur so I would’ve only appreciated it if there were some famous paintings of his, which there were none.
  2. Santa Maria del Mar: Though I remember reading a lot about it and hence was quite eager to see it but couldn’t understand why it was so famous. Maybe because it was closed and we couldn’t go inside.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Our new temple

My DH gave a new look to the mini-temple we have at home by painting it. Since before-after comparisons are my favorite, I found this old photo of the temple (I wish I’d taken one just before painting):

DSC01717 - Copyand here’s how it looks now:

DSC03672 Those paper garlands and flowers were made by my MIL – aren’t they beautiful?!?! She’s very good at these things.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yummy thin crust pizza!

After my trip to Barcelona, I’m all in for thin crust pizza! So I found this recipe and got to work! The result – a delicious tasting light thin crust pizza – what else, duh?!?!
DSC03648Ok, so it was little overcooked but it was yummmmy! To make a comparison, I liked it more than the previous pizza recipe that I’d posted. A good thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t require fermenting so you can make it whenever you want, no preparation required. Here’s another photo elucidating the thickness of the pizza. Background accessories (read cola) courtesy my DH :)
Here’s the recipe:
  1. .25 oz. packet of active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
  2. 1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
  3. 3/4 cup 110 degree water – I just used lukewarm water
  4. 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  5. 1/2 tsp. salt
  6. Trader Joe’s pizza sauce
  7. Shredded mozzarella cheese
  8. Chopped green pepper, onion, tomatoes and finely chopped jalapenos, cilantro and ginger. Don’t gape at the last two, try them once on your pizza and you’ll be hooked!
  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in water; allow to rest for 8 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
  3. Pour yeast mixture over flour mixture and mix well with a heavy spoon.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.
  5. Working from the edges to the center, press dough into a 12" circle. We've also found that holding the dough up, off the counter and stretching it works well, too (keep rotating the dough circle as you stretch to keep an even circle forming).
  6. Place dough on a lightly greased pizza pan and stretch dough to edges.
  7. Spread sauce over crust and top with cheese and desired toppings.
  8. Bake in a 500 degree oven for 8-12 minutes, or until edges are golden.
  • I used the clock wherever the times were called out.
  • I was extra careful in making sure that the water was lukewarm because I’ve read that too hot can kill the yeast while too mild will not activate it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trip to Barcelona

Recently we made a trip to Barcelona and I wanted to share the lessons learnt. I’ll try to cover everything under the sky that I can think of.

Weather: I start with the hot and cold because that’s one thing I can never forget about my trip there :). If you’re like me, doesn’t like hot and humid weather, then August is the month to avoid.

Accommodation: If you’re from US, then you need to be acquainted with the facilities provided in the hotels of Barcelona. We stayed in a four star (Hotel Catalonia Plaza, Plaza d’Espanya) and hence I would like to believe that the facilities we got must be above average. The double beds are approximately the size of a queen bed. Iron is not included though the receptionist mentioned that it would be delivered to our room if we needed one. The room had a nice layout: a mini corridor led to the room and had the entrance to the bathroom. The bathroom floors was shining like mirror; and was quite spacious. We had an organization-negotiated rate so we got it pretty cheap for 110 euros (including continental breakfast). The breakfast was separately 16 euros and let me tell you, it was good! There were cereals, fresh fruits, desserts, breads, meats, cheese, coffee and fresh orange juice – the oranges were being juiced right in front of you – that fresh!

Going around: Even though most of the guidebooks that I read suggested that buses were the more common means of transport, we used the metro (or subway). There are two main advantages of using the metro: you don’t need to look at the timings, every train runs every 5 minutes and it’s easier to map the trains than find the routes of buses. The disadvantage is that you would need to walk a lot because sometimes the station is a little far from the sight seeing spots. Also, to reach the spot from the station you would need to ask people on the way – at least we needed to because the map was not always clear at the street level. The people are pretty helpful so that’s not a problem. The two day transit pass (includes subways and buses) costs 11 euros so that’s not bad if you want to do two days of jam-packed sight seeing.

Safety: Ok, that’s something you ought to worry about in Barcelona! Its mostly pick-pocketing/mugging. Among our conference people, there were two who got pick-pocketed, another who was close to getting mugged and another who had a break-in into his hotel room! I don’t want to scare you but that’s the reality. You must watch your purse at every moment when you’re outside. The pick-picketers seem to target tourists only.

Food: Vegetarian food is not that popular here. The options we had were: margherita/cheese pizza, falafel and 1-2 kinds of pasta. We finally found some indian restaurants and that provided a much sought relief! The price differed by location. In popular places, on average you would spend 10 euros per person if you’re economical; otherwise 15-20 euros. Water is not free in restaurant; you need to buy. It could be as expensive as 2.5 euros for a 250 ml bottle!

Language: Mostly you can manage if you know english and soon you can figure out meanings of the commonly used spanish words. If you’re a vegetarian, know that “vegetariano” means vegetarian and “solo vegetal” means only vegetables. That is helpful! Pescu, carne and pollo mean fish, meat and chicken respectively.

Shopping: we just shopped for souvenirs and found that some bargaining was prevalent.

Its been a long post, so I’ll try to cover the places to see in another post.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

My mom gave this book to me. I haven't been particularly fond of Jhumpa Lahiri after reading "Interpreter of Maladies". Ihe stories were good but after 2-3, I felt I only needed to read the introduction and I could pen down the rest of the story. However, this being a largely acclaimed novel of his I thought of giving it a try and yes it was pretty engrossing! At every page, I wanted to know how the story would unravel on the next!

The story starts with an indian couple based in US - the husband did his schooling here while the wife came over by virtue of the marriage. First quarter is devoted to the wife, how she feels alienated initially and has a hard time. Slowly and gradually she gets adjusted and gives birth to a baby boy. The rest of the story is centered around this boy who's named Gogol (after the author Nikolai Gogol). When he goes to the school for the first time, his parents want to give him a more formal name Nikhil; but he likes to be called Gogol. So he's stuck with Gogol to his parents' disappointment. However, as he grows up and has to explain to all and sundry the hows and whys of his name, he realizes he doesn't want to be called Gogol and changes his name to Nikhil. All through this he's angry with his parents for giving him such a name. He dislikes it even more when he comes to know that life of the namesake author was full of sadness; little did he know why his father was so attached to that name. In his youth, he dislikes all things Indian including people and culture. He has an american girl friend, lives with her, in her parents' house, eats american food and in an american fashion. Hardly caring about his own family. Not for long. His father's death jolts him out of his reverie and it is interesting to see how his attitude changes towards his family.

Like his namesake, I think his life was also miserable - all due to his own attitude.

The story is not out of the ordinary. I would say that's the typical story of an American-born Indian in those times and that's exactly the reason we've an acronym ABCD (American-born confused desi); but the way he has written is very interesting.

Bottomline: Good.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eat, Pray and Love

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

As the front page of the book says, its a true story of a woman who travelled Italy, India and Indonesia. Its all about her experiences in those countries. In Italy she savored food, in India she immersed herself into devotion and in Indonesia she found love.

You would think so what is so special about it that she wrote a book?!?! I would say not much, you too could write your own if your experience was as novel as hers. She left America in a mentally devastated state and reached Italy. Why did she chose Italy? Because it was her long time desire to learn the italian language, the italian way. How many people would do that? Doesn't mean all she did was study italian, she enjoyed the good food.

After her stay in Italy, her next stop was India where she went to an Ashram. She'd been introduced to the Guru of the ashram in America and had decided that she wanted to go to the Ashram in India. She spent a few months there, getting up before sunrise, chanting sanskrit shlokas in the wee hours of the day, sweeping temple floor for hours, eating vegetarian food and getting aclimatized to a place so constrasting to her own. It was most interesting to read this part of the novel and I think that was for multiple reasons. Being an Indian, I felt proud reading about India. Then this was the spiritual portion of the book and spirituality always interests me. It was here that she attained mental peace.

Last was her stay in Indonesia where she went because a few years back she'd met a medicine man in Indonesia who'd said that she'd be back in Indonesia and then she should teach him English. Her stay here was in stark contrast to that in India. It was here that she indulged.

It was not an overwhelming novel as I expected it to be based on its ranking amongst the best sellers. What I enoyed reading was her courage and adventorous spirit.

Some take-away quotes from the book:
"Devotion is diligence without assurance."
"You can control a lot of things and one of those is the thoughts that you harbor in your mind".

Bottomline: Ok.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The three qualities of life

Man possesses one or more of three primary qualities (guna): saatvika, raajsika and taamsika. All three qualities lead to different behavioral patterns in a man and bind him to this life.

Saatvika guna, is the purest and healthiest of them all. It doesn’t have any vices and enlightens one’s senses and conscience. A man in whom saatvika guna dominates, has his pain and vices destroyed and attains peace of mind. Laziness doesn’t exist in his world. He no longer has any interest in this world and he devotes himself to the worship of God. However, such a man can become proud of being happy or the knowledgeable one. It is this pride which hinders his unison with God.

Raajsika guna, is manifested in the form of affection for any thing living or non-living. It leads to desires and longing. It has the same relationship with these two as a seed has to a tree. The tree is born from a seed and it is the tree that creates the seed. Similarly, rajoguna leads to desires and it is desires which gives birth to rajoguna. Such a person believes he is the does of all his actions and that he deserves the fruits for them. It is this belief that binds him to this cycle of life and death.

Taamsika guna, as I understand it, is the most inferior of all the above qualities. It’s born from ignorance, where the senses and the conscience are weak and overpowered by emotional attachments. Tamoguna is predominant in a man who has pride and attachment to his body. It leads to ignorance and ignorance causes it. It exhibits in the form of sloth, indulgence and drowsiness in a man and through them binds him to this life.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Veggie patties/puffs

Long time ago, I’d posted a recipe for veggie patties/puffs and I was very proud of it because it was mine. I used to get readymade phyllo pastry to make them but recently I read on King Arthur’s blog how to make the pastry for turnovers; and I was jumping with joy!! It looked simple to make and the results seemed astounding. I was dying to give it a try and I did, I mean gave it a try :). They turned out simple scrumptious!! My MIL and FIL found them delicious!

DSC02612 Can you believe that I made the pastry at home?!?!? Look at the flaky layers…yummy! Here’s the recipe for the pastry. Its copied from the recipe on King Arthur’s blog. If you’re looking for step-by-step illustrated instructions then jump over to that link.


  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. First step: LOTS of butter. We’re going to “cut” the butter into the flour, just as if we were making pie crust. It’s easy to do this in a food processor; but use your own favorite method, if preferred. There’s also salt and baking powder in the work bowl. Why baking powder? PUFF pastry; a little chemical leavening doesn’t hurt! Be sure to leave some good-sized chunks of butter in the mixture. This is very important.
  2. Add sour cream, and pulse briefly. The dough will look very crumbly, but will hold together just fine when you grab it.
  3. Deposit it onto a floured work surface. Shape the dough into a rough square. Roll it into an 8” x 10” rectangle; for reference, this is slightly shorter than an 8 1/2” x 11” piece of paper. Don’t make yourself crazy here; approximations are fine.
  4. Grab one of the 8” sides, and fold it into the center, like a letter.
  5. Now fold the other short (8”) side on top of the first.
  6. Roll 8” x 10” again and fold again.
  7. Wrap in plastic, and chill for some time.
  8. Take out the chilled dough. Place it on a well-floured surface, and start to roll. You want to make a square at least 16” on a side. Work quickly; the colder the dough, the easier it is to roll and cut and fill.
  9. Trim the edges to make a square. You can sprinkle these trimmed-off pieces with coarse sugar and bake up some REALLY tasty nibbles.
  10. Cut into 4” squares. You can use a pizza cutter to do that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From the little ones to the big ones

Its been so long since I posted that what I initially wanted to post was my little baby tomatoes and peppers and by the time I’m posting, we’ve already eaten the fruits (or peppers!) of our labor!

We planted tomatoes, banana peppers and green peppers in our pots when the summer started. Since then we rarely miss a day when we don’t check how they’re progressing. When my mom was here, she used to take good care of them. In fact, they (the plants) missed her when she was gone. I would say it was under her care that they started bearing fruits.

Here are some pictures that I took of our little ones…

DSC02559 Banana peppers



Green pepper/Capsicum

Aren’t they the cutest?!?!? Oh and we’ve had a couple of grown-up banana peppers too…

DSC02606 Waiting for the tomatoes and the green peppers to grow up!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Woodwork project

DH and I refinished an old coffee table recently. This was the first woodwork project that we undertook and were mighty pleased with it :-D. We’d this old coffee table lying around for a long time which we wanted to refinish but never got the time/energy/<put other excuses> :). Anyway, finally we did get on to it and here’s a before after comparison!

How it looked…


How it looks NOW …


Isn’t it lovely?!?!? It took us some sanding, some varnishing, some more sanding and then again varnishing to get this look. Now we’re on the lookout for more furniture that we can refinish :-D

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another beautiful verse…

…from Narada Purana.

There is no teacher as your mother,

There is no wealth as reputation,

There is no friend as wisdom,

There is no pilgrim place as the Ganges,

There is no mother as forgiveness,

There is no God as Vishnu,

There is no penance as fasting,

There is no gain as knowledge,

And there is no fast as Ekadashi.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A year of living biblically

Author: A J Jacobs

My expectation from this book was very different from what it actually is – so I was somewhat disappointed. On reading the title, I was under the impression that it would feed my hunger for learning about different religions – in this case Christianity; that wasn’t entirely true.

The book is about how the author spent a year by following the rules of the bible, yes that’s exactly what the title says! His goal is to follow the rules literally. He consults a number of Rabbis and different versions of Bible to decide upon the set of rules. One does get an interesting perspective on the literal meaning of these rules and also how they get out-dated. What is impressive is that the author is an atheist when he begins this experiment but by the end of it, is not completely so.

I was expecting a deeper analysis of these rules and was irked to see the shallow interpretation – but of course, that was author’s intent. Reading this also made me realize that there is a huge common base underlying all religions; what totally amazed me was that like Hinduism, Christianity also has special rules for women during their monthlies!! All along I always thought that it was only Hinduism which prescribed it. Well this was one small example and it illuminates the granularity of commonalities.

Bottomline: An ok read.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Eggless Banana bread

I got this recipe from Cook With Love and must say this was my best experience with a recipe tried for the first time! The banana bread came out perfect, in fact DH and I kept comparing it to the Banana Walnut loaf that Starbucks sells :). Believe me, it WAS that good!


The crust has a slight crisp texture and the inside was soft and moist! Since I had 2 bananas, I scaled the recipe to 2/3rd and that seemed to suffice for 2+ persons.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 bananas
  • 4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional), I’d 1/4 cup and that seemed fine.


  1. Pre Heat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit
  2. Mash the bananas.
  3. Add sugar and yogurt to it.
  4. Add butter, salt, and flour. Mix well.
  5. Add Baking Soda, milk, vanilla essence and walnuts. Stir till everything is well blended.
  6. Pour this batter in a greased bread tin and bake for about 50-60 minutes or till a tooth pick inserted comes out dry.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pyaaz ki kachori


This is a favorite in our home and my DH’s specialty! All I can say is – it tastes delicious! The recipe is from Tarla Dalal.

For the dough (crust)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup ghee
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the onion filling

Other ingredients

oil for deep frying

For the dough (crust)

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and knead into semi-soft dough using enough water. Knead well for 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and keep covered under a wet muslin cloth.

For the onion filling

  1. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the nigella seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves, green chillies and onions and sauté till the onions turn light brown in colour.
  2. Add the gram flour, coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala and salt and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped coriander and mix well. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
  4. Divide into 12 equal portions and keep aside.

How to proceed

  1. Roll out each portion of the dough into a 50 mm. (2") diameter circle.
  2. Place one portion of the onion filling in the centre of the rolled dough circle.
  3. Surround the filling with the dough by slowly stretching it over the filling.
  4. Seal the ends tightly and remove any excess dough.
  5. Roll each filled portion into a 62 mm. (2 1/2") diameter circle taking care to ensure that the filling does not spill out.
  6. Gently press the centre of the kachori with your thumb.
  7. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling to make 11 more kachoris.
  8. Deep fry the kachoris in hot oil over a slow flame till golden brown.The kachoris should puff up like puris. These take a long time to fry as the crust is thick and needs to be cooked in the insides also.
  9. Serve hot with chutney.

Monday, March 23, 2009

God’s reach is everywhere

God’s hands are everywhere so that anywhere on this earth when devotees make an offering to him, he can accept it.

His legs are omnipresent so that when devotees lay prostate on his feet, he can bless them.

His ears are all around so that he can listen to his devotees’ prayers wherever they are.

His mouth is everywhere, so that when devotees give him something to eat he can have it.

His eyes are all around us, there’s nothing hidden from him; he sees everything.

His forehead is everywhere so that when devotees seek his blessings by touching his forehead, he can bless them all.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I love the feeling of de-cluttering! Of course, if you have NO clutter in your house you would be bereft of the lovely feeling of de-cluttering :). Ah how unlucky you must be!

I think the number of things in your house as a correlation with the complexity of your mind. The less the number of things in your house, the simpler your mind is.

There are countless advantages of de-cluttering and especially if you do it the right way: by sending things to the right place you’re making sure that things are where they need to be – that reduces waste, saves somebody money, frees up your space and time!

I came across this wonderful article by Martha Stewart – “100 Reasons to Get Rid Of It” - which tells you where all you can donate your things when you de-clutter.

Now once you de-clutter, how do you make sure that it doesn’t re-enter your house? You need to follow a simple rule - “For every item that enters your house, you should give away an item”. Never make an impulse purchase! There’s no deal that’s not going to come again. That item is not the last of its kind on this earth.

Try however much you may, clutter does find its way into your house over some period of time. Then, its time to de-clutter again!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Red Dahlia

Author: Lynda La Plante

“Red Dahlia” is a murder mystery in the Anna Travis series by Lynda La Plante. It follows a true story “Black Dahlia”, where a woman was murdered – her body cut in two and drained off blood. Yes it sounds very gory and it is but that’s just the description of the murder. Once you get past that, there’s no goriness – if you’re like me and can’t stand gory murders!

The story is very interesting especially because to start with the body didn’t have any evidence on or around it. So it’s interesting to see how the small things here and there give a lead to the detectives. It is very gripping and hard-to-keep-down novel. Though I must say that the biggest clue was given to them on a silver spoon. At that juncture, it’s a bit disappointing but if you can ignore that it has pretty good twists and turns.

Bottom line: A good read

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pedas in a jiffy


This is one of the quickest indian sweets to make. As we all know, indian sweets require a lot of labor to get the perfection. So such recipes are always welcome! I got this recipe from my friend R who in turn got it from here. The pedas are delectable!


  • Instant Dry Milk (Milk Powder) - 2 cups (150gm). I used the Nestle Nilo Whole Milk powder
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk - 1, 14oz can (396gm)
  • Unsalted Butter - 1, 4oz stick (113gm)
  • cardamom powder - to taste (I didn’t have any so I skipped this but I’m sure it would add a wonderful flavor)


  1. In a microwave safe dish, melt the butter.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Cook in the microwave for 3 minutes, stirring very well after every minute.
  4. After the 3 minutes, mix well again and leave aside for the mixture to cool down enough to handle. I put the mixture in the fridge, as suggested by R, and it took it out after 15 or so minutes.
  5. Once the mixture has cooled down, make small balls and gently press the balls and flatten them to shape. When I made the balls the mixture hadn’t completely cooled down.
  6. I pressed the fork horizontally and then vertically to give a criss-cross pattern on the pedas.
  7. Decorate them with colored sugar, almonds, cashews, pistachios or raisins.
  8. Let the pedas set and cool down. Again I kept them in the fridge overnight.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quick and easy rich Chocolate cake

One day I had a craving to bake a rich chocolate cake – by rich I mean it should ooze chocolate! So I started scavenging for it a recipe on and came across this one which looked pretty easy.



  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan. I used a round approx 6-7” pan and a loaf pan as I didn’t want to make a big huge cake.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until smooth. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients, alternately with the milk. Once all of the ingredients have been incorporated, mix on high speed of an electric mixer for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. The time may vary from oven to oven, it took me around 45 mins.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The act of giving

The act of giving with wrong intentions is the most inferior.

The act of giving with selfish interests is mediocre.

The act of giving to please God is the best.

Even a tree spreads its branches far and wide to provide shade to strangers; it bears fruits to satiate the hunger of one and all. Then if a man does not give, he’s as good as dead and should be considered a sinner.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yummy waffles!

Waffles are our latest faves! They are easy, quick to make and delicious!



  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2/3 cups reduced fat milk
  • 1/2 a banana, mashed
  • 6 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • handful of almonds (or any other nuts that you like), finely chopped


  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a hand mixer (or by hand if you want).
  2. Let batter sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Use little less than 1/2 cup of batter to make one waffle if you don’t want it to overflow on the sides and are fine with a few holes in the waffle. If you want a perfect round and are fine with cleaning the mess of overflowing then take a 1/2 cup. Pour over pre-heated waffle iron. Bake till ready! Tastes delicious with maple syrup. When we don’t add banana in the mix, we top it with banana slices.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An accomplished man

How do we know an accomplished man when we see one?  He has very defined qualities.

  1. He does not harbor the feeling of hatred towards any being or thing. The word hate does not exist in his dictionary.
  2. The feelings of compassion and friendliness are natural to him.
  3. He neither has the sense of ownership towards anything nor does he have a conceited opinion about himself. He is a down to earth person. The moment you "own" something or somebody, you've enveloped yourself with the feelings of love and hate; pride and arrogance; hurt and dismay. If somebody criticizes what you own, you feel hurt. If they praise, you feel elated and proud.
  4. Though he feels pain and comfort, he does not feel joy and sorrow that emanate from them. He would feel the pain if he gets sick, but he would not be sad because of it. Similarly he would be comfortable when he is healthy but would not be joyous from it. When any good or bad thing happens they do not feel joy or sorrow because they have same emotions irrespective of whatever happens.
  5. He is very forgiving. If somebody does any misdeed towards them they have no intention of punishing the person. They do not believe in blaming anybody for any incident because they believe from their heart that only God can make things happen.
  6. He is always satisfied; at no moment and place does he feel dissatisfied. Nor can the lack of anything give rise to that feeling in him. A worldly man feels satisfied because of a thing and as soon as he gets that, he again starts feeling dissatisfied.
  7. He has his mind, body and senses under his control.
  8. His mind is determined to be devoted to God; neither pain nor any action can deter him from his determination.
  9. He immerses his mind and intellectual faculties in the service of God.

These are all great qualities and when I try to imagine a person who has all these qualities, the first thought that comes to my mind is - how lucky is he! To imbibe all these qualities in our self, is a formidable task; but I think if we were to truly follow even one of these qualities, it would bring a sea of change in what we are.  

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Choco-Vanilla cookies


When I was baking these cookies I realized that my mom used to make these when we were kids! So next time I’m going to get the recipe from her rather than Martha Stewart :-D.

So here’s a direct link to the recipe from MS. For my records, I’ll also jot down the recipe in this post. The cookies turned out simply delicious!! The key tip in baking these is that you should take them out when they look half done as they’ll harden when they cool down. If you wait for them to look cooked before taking out then they’ll be a little on the harder side after cooling down.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (yes it’s 14!)
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar (I used ordinary sugar – didn’t see any problem with that)
  • 1 large egg yolk (I used a full egg – don’t like wasting it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder


  1. Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I used the regular hand mixer), and mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Mix in egg yolk and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
  2. Remove half of the dough; set aside. Add cocoa powder to remaining dough; mix on low speed until well combined. Turn out chocolate dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a two 10-inch log, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Repeat with reserved vanilla dough.
  3. Press a vanilla roll on a chocolate roll and roll then together to have single roll with half chocolate and half vanilla. You should now have 2 such rolls.
  4. Wrap each log in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut log into 1/4-inch-thick rounds; space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If dough becomes too soft to slice cleanly, return to freezer until firm.
  6. Bake until firm to the touch (this didn’t work for me – the batch which was little soft when taken out turned out to be nicer than the one that was fully cooked when taken out), 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Heavenly job

The man who offers all his actions to God is different from the man who performs all actions for God and they're different from the man who sacrifices the fruits of his labor in the name of God,

The one who offers all his actions to God believes that he's simply a puppet in the hands of God; that he alone does not have the ability to perform any action but it is the power of God due to which he can do anything and everything. His senses, mind and body - all in the hands of God and they work according to what God wants them to do. Such a person can never have any attachment or sense of ownership over his actions or the results of his actions. Whatever he gets in life, be it joy or sorrow, he takes it as a gift from God.

The man who performs all his actions for God does not believe that he's a puppet in His hands; but believes that God is the supreme one who loves him and is his friend. He feels that it is his duty to serve God and to follow his orders. Thus he performs every action according to God's commandments and with the sole purpose of serving Him. Again such a person can never bear attachment towards either his actions or the results of his action.

The man who sacrifices the fruits of his labor believes neither that God is the power behind all his actions nor that he does everything for God. He believes that is the duty of mankind to work and that a man's right is limited to the performance of the work and not the outcome; that one must keep doing work in accordance with the scriptures and for the sustenance of the body but never get bound to its outcomes. Thus he sheds any attachment towards the worldly objects.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Different ways for different men - Part 2

On reading Part 1, one gets the impression that the methods advised are in some order of difficulty; but that it not true. Every man has a different belief, nature and belong to different sections of the society, hence a method may appear easier to one and difficult to another. Nor do they lead to different ends; they all have the same end - achieving God.

The first method is apt for a man who has feels the love for God straight from his heart; one who has an ardent desire to know the essence of God and would love to spend his whole life looking for the ultimate truth. This is what is natural to them.

Then there are men who have faith in God and want to engage their mind in the thoughts of the Supreme one. Such men should practice the said exercises.

Another type of men is who like to pray regularly, make donations and perform rituals. The third method is for these people. This is what is inherent in their nature.

The last method is for men who believe that God does not take any particular form and they believe in doing something for the welfare of one and all.

As we can see one must do what is natural to them; but do it from the heart, with all their faith and completely believe in what they're doing. Now that I've written it, I can see that this applies to our everyday life also. If we do some work, with complete faith and whole-heartedly we will always succeed in it. Once again I can see how Gita gives you principles for everyday life.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Different ways for different men

To unite with Him in the end, one must devote one's mind and feelings to Him. To submit your mind to God, one must understand the essence and secrets of His virtues, influence and power; and keep them in his resolve always and everywhere. To immerse your feelings Him and Him alone and nothing else one must detach oneself from all objects of senses; and at all times of only Him.

However, due to attachments resulting from ignorance men are involved in attachments to worldly objects and hence are unable to perform the exercise above.

Since not everybody has the same nature, they can't unite with Him using the same method. For different kinds of men there are different ways to achieve God.

If you can't devote your mind and feelings to Him do not despair. One who tries can also obtain Him. In whatever form of God you have the most faith and love for, you must try to devote your mind to that form. There are various means to do this and some of the most appropriate ones for common man are the following:

  1. You must resolve to make an effort to devote your mind and feelings to God.
  2. You must try to see God wherever your mind goes and whatever your eyes see and hence think about him.
  3. You must try to steer your mind away from all other objects and concentrate on the idol/picture of the form of God that you love the most.
  4. Chant "Omkar" and meditate.
  5. You must try to chant his name as often as possible.
  6. You must try to read scriptures again and again to understand the essence of his virtues, influence and power
  7. Perform pranayama.

Any of the above performed with true faith and love will clear you of your sins, destroy all the hurdles and lead you to God. If one doesn't obtain results soon then one must not loose heart. Instead, try with increased effort.

If all the above exercises are beyond you, then all you have to do is perform every action for God and for nothing else. Behind every action of yours, there should be no self-interest, no attachment and no sense of ownership. Perform every action from your heart and to please the God; serve God through your mind, speech and actions; perform yagya, make donations and do prayers - all in the name of God and as your duty towards him.

If you think that it is difficult for you to selflessly perform every action, then all you need to do is take control over your mind and feelings and sacrifice the fruits of your actions. If you don't have control over your mind and feelings, then you'll be entrapped in indulgences and when this happens one can't escape from the desire to indulge in the fruits of one's actions. These actions include the rituals that you perform, the donations that you make, the prayers and service that you and all other actions performed as part of your duty or for your body to survive. Relinquish any attachment, any sense of ownership and any interest in the results of these actions. The actions do not include such actions as stealing, lying, infidelity, violence or any action not sanctioned by the scriptures because these are the actions that result from a man's attachment and sense of ownership.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I got an award!!

My mom gave me an award!!! :)


This award is about "acknowledging the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day." If your mom gives it to you, then I believe it’s truly an honor!

Thank you mom!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Teacher Man

Author: Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt is the author of the bestseller "Angela's Ashes" and "Teacher Man" is a book in the same vein as the former. It is an autobiography and talks about his life as a teacher. I didn't find anything spectacular about the book but there are times when I find him [as a teacher] very creative. He comes up with unique ways, depending on his students' background, to make them understand the concepts. At times he's a very untraditional teacher and it would've been good to know whether his maverick ways of teaching led to successful students or not. Alas, one doesn't come to know of that. In general one also gets to know the life and plight of a teacher. While reading the book, I could relate his annoyances towards his profession with what I've heard from my aunt who's also a teacher (in India).

Bottomline: It's ok.