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.