One of the little pleasures of life…

17 Oct

… is you telling your husband about your craving for honey cake from the neighbourhood bakery, the husband happily deciding to oblige, running down to the bakery after a late lunch and picking up a couple of the cakes, getting home in perfect time for dessert. :)

Bite into the cake, let the mixture of coconut and gooey, sugary cream burst into your mouth, and there – your day is made!

Unexpected bonus – the husband also brings home a couple of the bakery’s very delicious-looking, very heavenly-smelling, straight-out-from-the-oven aloo buns for evening snacks. :)

The Bookish Musings Tag

16 Oct

I have been tagged by Maya and Freaky Veggie to write about books.

Here are the rules of the meme:

1. List your 12 favorite books.
2. List seven wonders about yourself and your reading.
3. Tag eight other bloggers.

** ** **

So, here go my 12 favourite books, in no particular order:

1. The Bridges Of Madison County – Robert James Waller

I love, love, love this book. I have said enough about it on my blog, so I am not going to say anything more now.

2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

It is a beautifully written book, about the human side of a war-ravaged country. What is not to love?

3. 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

Great story, very much real-life, told all through letters. And it is all about books and writing.

4. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

A lovely read about a very sensitive subject. A book with a soul that stayed with me a long, long time after I finished reading it.

5. The End Of Your Life Book Club – Will Schwalbe

Though the editing of the book was a bit clumsy, it made for a wonderful read all right. I was fascinated by the author’s mother, by her zest for life, and by her little book club with her son.

6. A Year In The World – Frances Mayes

An inspiring saga of the author’s journey to different places in the world, for a whole year. Beautiful writing.

7. A Homemade Life – Molly Wizenberg

The author’s memoir about the kind of food that she grew up with and the foods that she remembers eating during the important phases of her life, with the important people in her life. Lovely writing that made me reflect on my own life and the foods associated with me as well.

8. A Thousand Days In Venice – Marlena de Blasi

A beautifully written memoir of the thousand beautiful days that the author spent with her new husband in Venice. The language is sheer poetry, and the book is a pleasure to read.

9. The Girl Next Door – Elizabeth Noble

I loved the story. I loved the characters, especially that of Violet. I could relate to a lot of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

10. Manual Of The Warrior Of Light – Paulo Coelho

I read this a long, long time ago, and it left a deep impression on me then. I remember it had some precious nuggets of advice which were of use to me in sorting out the complexities in my life then.

11. Notes From A Small Room – Ruskin Bond

A book with a soul. A sensitive rendering of the little things in the author’s life, that make a big difference to him. Beautiful read that will make you stop and take notice of the world around you.

12. Q’s Legacy – Helene Hanff

An inspiring account of how the author learnt to write, in spite of the odds against her. Lovely read.

** ** **

Seven ‘wonders about my reading and me’. Here goes:

1. I am an avid book reader, who needs something to read all the time. Well, most of the time. Judging by the number of books I read, it is not easy to make out that I have huge gaps in my reading. I started reading quite late in life, after a childhood stint with books. As a result, I haven’t read any classics. I haven’t read many of the bestsellers, the books that almost everyone has read – Vikram Seth, Ludlum, Grisham, Anita Nair and so on. I read what I can get my hands on and what my mood dictates at the moment.

2. I am as comfortable reading paper books as I am reading books on my Kindle.

3. I think I have, slowly and gradually, evolved as a reader. I think I will continue to do so in the times to come. There are many, many genres out there, many authors out there, that I want to explore over time.

4. I want my child/children to read. I really, really wish they would.

5. I am not big on re-reading. In fact, I don’t think I have ever re-read any book in my life so far. There’s so much to read, I am constantly devouring something new.

6. I have realised that I cannot read everything there is to read in the world, however hard I try. I have also realised that I cannot retain all the books that I read in my lifetime. These realisations have helped me buy books more sensibly and curb book-hoarding tendencies.

7. I am not very comfortable with the reading of borrowed books, unless it is for an unlimited period of time. I need to be in the right frame of mind to read a particular book, which is why library memberships don’t work out for me. The same is the case with books borrowed from friends.

** ** **

As for Rule #3, most of the bloggers I read have already been tagged.  So, I don’t want to tag anyone in particular. If you want to take up the  tag and haven’t been nominated so far, please consider yourself tagged!

** ** **

This was fun to write! Thank you for passing on the meme, ladies! :)

Navratri 2014

9 Oct

As I was saying here, Navratri this year was pretty low-key for us, with not much happening on the social front. We did visit my aunt’s house, to view her golu. She keeps one every year, and it is great fun to watch what tricks she pulls out of her hat each time. This time, her golu was simple, but a wonderful sampling of the many, many dolls she has collected from here and there over the years.

I leave you with close-ups of some of the pieces of the golu, for your visual delight.

You like?

Just Read

6 Oct

Busy Woman Seeks Wife – Annie Sanders

This was such a fun read! I read The X-Mas Factor by Annie Sanders some time back, and enjoyed it a whole lot. This book was the same – I loved reading it.

Alex is a super-duper ambitious, independent career girl, who is always extremely busy in her job as a sportswear marketing executive. She doesn’t have the time – nor the inclination – to be at home and to get going with her household chores. When her maid Manuela leaves her in a fix, Alex is left with no option but to start looking for a responsible person to take care of her house, all over again. Her mother, an eccentric 60s film star, meets with an accident and needs to be cared for at home, making the task of finding a housekeeper top priority for Alex. Her friend Saffron suggests that what Alex really needs is a ‘housewife’, and Alex agrees. So, an ad is placed in the local newspaper for a ‘wife for a busy woman’.

Chirpy, naughty Ella doesn’t know the A, B, C of housework, but Alex’s ad seems too good to pass on. She persuades her brother Frankie, a resting actor, to apply for the job. After all, he is sure to get chosen, with his wonderful cooking and baking skills and his penchant for cleanliness in the home. But will Alex like Frankie? Will she be alright with a man cleaning up her bedroom and washing her undergarments? Does Frankie have it in him to play the ‘wife’? You get the answers to all of these questions, and more, as the book progresses.

Busy Woman Seeks Wife is chick-lit, yes, with many unrealistic situations in the plot. That said, the characters are extremely realistic and believable. The book moves fast, and you get hooked to it, not wanting to put it down. It is funny and entertaining, and will keep you interested throughout. There is romance in the book, but very sweetly portrayed. There are no sleazy scenes or obscene language, as commonly found in chick-lit books, and which are huge put-offs for me. I found that the same was the case with The X-Mas Factor as well.

I liked how the author has conveyed the fact that it is not necessary for a woman to like housework, and for a man to be comfortable with it. I loved the fact that Alex was snug in her skin in spite of having no interest in or time for household chores. She isn’t expected to take time off from work and care for her house and bed-ridden mother, just because she is a woman. In that sense, the storyline or the characters are not dumbed down, which I loved.

Would I recommend it? Yes, if you are looking for a fun story, but do not mind a bit of unreal-ness in it.

One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human – Simon Whaley

I ordered this book on Kindle as soon as I found out about it on Goodreads. I had a feeling I would love it, and I wasn’t wrong.

One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human is a tongue-in-cheek rendering of 100 ways in which dogs trouble and confound humans, through their interactions with them. It is super cute and funny, and will definitely put a smile on anyone’s face. The line drawings in the book are great, too. It is a book that you should pick up whenever you are feeling down and need a bit of cheering up. This is especially so if you own a dog or, like me, love them.

I have always wanted a dog at home, but have never gotten one due to several personal reasons. This book made me realise what having a dog at home actually entails – the not-so-fun part of it. That too has been depicted by the author in a hilarious way.

I had one grouse with the book, though – it ended before I could even realise that I was getting into it. I started reading the book as soon as I had downloaded it and, within half an hour, I was 80% done with it.  In the next 10 minutes, the book was finished and shelved in the ‘Read’ section. I felt cheated in that sense. I would have loved for the book to have been a bit more fuller, maybe with some doggie anecdotes?

All said and done, the book is indeed lovely. It is not a must-read or anything, but a fun read for sure. Recommended? Yes.

Have you read either/both of these books? What are your thoughts about them?

Life, as of now, in random points

3 Oct

~ Navratri came and whizzed by this time around, way too fast, and we didn’t even realise it. I haven’t been doing much, but somehow, the Navratri week was quite busy and I ended up doing nothing special for the festival. I managed to catch a bit of Garba on DD National at Amma’s place one evening, and that was about all I saw of the Garba this year. That was enough to create a fresh bout of longing for Gujarat in me, all over again.

~ One of my aunts invited us to view the golu she has kept at her place. She has a huge collection of dolls, made over the years, and she displays them with great passion and creativity every year. This time too was no exception. The OH and I had a wonderful time ooh-ing and aah-ing over the precious dolls.

~ I finished reading Annnie Sanders’ Busy Woman Seeks Wife and Simon Whaley’s One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human.  I loved both books, though I felt the latter ended too fast, even before I had begun to get into the book, really. I am still hunting for my next read – need something fun and light but lovely.

~ My freelance work has come to a standstill. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, happening on that front now. Suddenly, there is a lot of free time in my life with nothing much to do, except for a bit of action on the social front during the Navratri week. I know I ought to enjoy the free time, but it has been driving me up the wall. I have been trying to manage.

~ The father’s birthday happened this week. I invited him home to lunch on a whim, and made his favourite poori-saagu for him. He loved it, and I loved feeding him and Amma.

~ I managed to find beautiful, ripe, juicy country tomatoes at our neighbourhood market twice in the last two weeks, and made two dabbas of the OH’s favourite thakkali thokku for him. It is amazing how his eyes light up at the sight of a box of the thokku, and a sampling of the same has him reeling in ecstasy, like a little kid. He has already polished off one dabba, and is busy finding excuses to eat the remainder with just about anything. I will *try* to remember the joy on his face whenever I find myself going up the wall with frustration and sheer boredom at having nothing much to do these days except cooking and reading.

That’s about it for now. How has life been for you guys?

Just Read

26 Sep

French Lessons: Adventures With Knife, Fork And Corkscrew – Peter Mayle

Another Peter Mayle book, after A Year In Provence and Confessions Of A French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips And Recipes. And, I loved this one too! French Lessons: Adventures With Knife, Fork And Corkscrew is not just limited to Provence – it is about the whole of France. The book encompasses the author’s travels, adventures and gastronomic exploits throughout the country.

It made for a highly delicious read. Each essay in the book is extremely interesting – there’s one on how to eat cooked snails and one about a restaurant for almost-nudes. I was hooked from Page 1 till the very end, and didn’t want the book to end. The author’s language is simple but witty and evocative, and you feel like the scenes that he is talking about are unfolding right in front of your eyes. I am so glad I picked up this one!

Highly recommended. Grab a copy soon.

The Hat Shop On The Corner – Marita Conlon-Mc Kenna

I was so, so, so looking forward to reading this book – it sounded so cute and charming and all that. I was super excited when I found a Kindle copy that didn’t cost me the earth that I bought it immediately. Sadly, the book disappointed me.

The Hat Shop On The Corner is the story of Ellie, a pretty young woman whose mother has recently passed away, leaving a quaint little hat shop in a busy Ireland street to her. Ellie has a day job, but she doesn’t want to let go of the hat shop either; after all, it was her mother’s life and love. Hat-making is not new to her either; she has grown up helping her mother make hats in the shop and serving customers. The predictable thing happens – she takes over the shop, and begins to make hats. The variety of people Ellie comes into contact with in the course of making hats, and the different types of hats that she makes, constitutes the story.

The storyline is extremely predictable, and I could see how it was going to end, right from the beginning. There is a lot of fluff involved, utter chick-lit in parts, very movie-like and very unlike real life. The language is extremely simplistic.

That said, the book isn’t all bad. I loved the way the author has built up the various characters in the book, using parts of their daily lives. Ellie sounds like a sweet, humane entrepreneur, someone you would like to know personally. She sounds utterly dumb in some parts, and an intelligent, independent woman in others. The Ireland town and street that the book is set in sounds wonderfully charming, as does the hat shop itself. The book made me think a lot about hats, and even made me feel like wearing one, though I am not at all a hat person. The blue and pink and green confections that Ellie makes from different materials got to me, and had me drooling.

Overall, I didn’t find this a must-read, but it is not completely hopeless either. Pick it up if you need some light comfort reading.

What are you reading now?

Just In…

25 Sep

… from the US of A, courtesy of a sweet cousin and his wife, along with loads of other goodies, many of them of the chocolate-ey type, is this: So, my long-standing desire to taste chilli-flavoured chocolate gets fulfilled, finally. Pepper, remember I told you, some time ago, that my package of bliss would be arriving soon? :)

It seems like I am somewhat of a purist as far as chocolate is concerned, though. I seem to like only proper milk chocolate and, to an extent, dark chocolate, but my taste buds find it really difficult to accept chocolate with something as jolting as chilli added to it. However, I will let some time pass before I decide on that. Who knows, I might get addicted to differently-flavoured chocolates in time?! :) I am waiting to try out the sea salt-flavoured Lindt, too.

This does go down as one of the most different (‘exotic’ in my dictionary) foods that I have tried out, so it definitely finds pride of place on my blog. :D

And, oh, the Lindt white chocolate truffles are something else altogether! Out of this world, totally. The entire packet has been devoured, and there are no pictures to show here.

Please to excuse me while I go stuffing my mouth with more chocolate. :)

Top 10 Books On My TBR List

23 Sep

The topic this week on Top 10 Tuesday is ‘Top 10 books on your fall TBR list’. I will grab this opportunity to write about the 10 books that I have with me and am eager to read, at the moment.

Here we go:

1. Further Under The Duvet – Marian Keyes

I quite enjoyed reading Marian Keyes’ non-fiction book Under The Duvet, a collection of essays by her, published in various newspapers and magazines. I have been able to get a copy of the sequel, Further Under The Duvet, which seems to be another enjoyable read. Can’t wait to read it!

2. The Hat Shop On The Corner – Marita Conlon-Mc Kenna

I have been wanting to read The Hat Shop On The Corner for quite some time now. I couldn’t find a copy anywhere, but last week I managed to get hold of a Kindle copy.

3. The Not-So-Secret E-mails Of Coco Pinchard – Robert Bryndza

This one was available for free on Kindle a few days ago, and it sounded like super fun. I have downloaded it, and am looking forward to read it now.

4. The Language Of Baklava – Diana Abu-Jaber

I have waited to read this foodie memoir for oh-so-long! It sounded delicious, but I couldn’t find a copy that didn’t cost the earth. Finally, I did, some time ago.

5. Eating India: An Odyssey Into The Food And Culture Of The Land Of Spices – Chitrita Banerji

I have been intrigued by this book ever since I read about it on Smitha’s blog. Another foodie book, yes! I got my hands on a Kindle copy recently, and am eager to go with it.

6. Baking Cakes In Kigali – Gaile Parkin

This book sounds so quaint and interesting, and I have heard loads of good things about it, too. I have had it on my Kindle for quite some time now, and I guess it is time to read it.

7. The Supreme Macaroni Company – Adriana Trigiani

I enjoyed reading the first two books in Adriana Trigiani’s Valentine series – Very Valentine and Brava Valentine. The sweet GB sent me the third book in the series, The Supreme Macaroni Company, some time ago, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I have heard that the third book is a let-down, but I so want to find out what happens in the end. So, read it I will, even if it might prove to be a disappointment.

8. When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home – Erma Bombeck

I loved the sound of this book, the minute I heard about it, and added it to my TBR list. On a lucky day, I found a Kindle version of the book as well. I can’t wait to start reading this one!

9. The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry: Love, Laughter And Tears At The World’s Most Famous Cooking School - Kathleen Flinn

I have had this book with me for ages now, but never read it. I chanced upon it recently, while cleaning up my bookshelf, and was intrigued by it all over it. I think I should read it now, when I am still in the ‘intrigued-by-it’ mode.

10. Busy Woman Seeks Wife - Annie Sanders

I picked up this book for a bargain at a second-hand bookstore recently, because I felt it would make for a fun, light read. Now is the time to read this one, too!

Which books are on your immediate TBR list? Tell me, I’d love to know!

Life, Many Years Later

20 Sep

Sometimes, you come across words or pictures that resonate with something deep inside you, that touch a chord in you. You recognise an instant bonding with the picture or words in question. You feel like something vague that had been within you has been given a physical form by someone else. That is exactly what happened when I found a certain photograph on one of the number of photography pages I ‘like’ on Facebook.

This picture captures exactly what I think about old age and marriage. It encapsulates exactly what I want my marriage and old age to be like. It is such a beautiful moment, etched on film in such a candid manner, a moment that I want to live, at a later stage in my life.

 Photograph reproduced with permission of the owner

I want to be the old lady in the picture, sitting at her front door, with her old man, talking away to glory. I want us to be lost in a world of our own, oblivious to the goings-on around us. I want us to have loads of stories to share, lots of things to talk about – after all, we would have grown old together. I want us to still be the best of friends, who can talk to each other about anything and everything. I want us to not care about our humble abode or clothes, for us to find comfort in each other. I want us to be still eager to spend time with each other. Physical ailments or worries, I want us to be able to set them all aside while we are together, and just live in those moments. I want us to be able to put our feet up at least for a short while each day, and just lose ourselves. I want us to recognise the preciousness of such moments, still. I want us not to be defeated by the challenges that life will, inevitably, throw us, but to be strengthened by them.

Amen.

Title courtesy: This post, which I was instantly reminded of on seeing this picture.

The Flower Of Patience And Hope

17 Sep

I love sunflowers. I have always loved them.They are special to me.

I love their bright, cheery yellow and their soft black centres. I love the way they signify hope. I love the way they turn towards the sun always, turning their back to darkness. They never fail to make me smile.

I have always wanted at least one sunflower plant in my wee garden at home. I searched high and low for sunflower seeds, but never found any that were suitable for home use, till the Krishi Mela happened in Bangalore last year.

The seeds lay forgotten in a drawer in our house for long, and were accidentally discovered by the OH a couple of months ago. I planted some in some flower pots and kept watering them diligently. I was not really sure if I would really see the flowers growing in my home some day, but they did.

About a fortnight ago, we saw a sapling grow from one pot and go on to become taller and taller. I continued to care. A few days ago, we noticed two little buds on the sapling. One of them remains tightly closed, like a baby’s fist, while the other one continued to open bit by bit every day. Yesterday, it revealed a seedy centre and hints of yellow around the edges. Today, after years of patient waiting, we have a lovely little sunflower looking admiringly at the sun, in our balcony. It looks like a little sun in itself.

Like a spot of bright yellow after several days of cloudy, gray skies, the bloom brings us courage, hope and love. It is magic for us. The magic of nature.

I am reminded of Pia’s words -

When things don’t make much sense, when the news is a constant flow of abject misery, I look at sunflowers. Sunflowers make sense. Their orbs are filled with positive, yellow purpose; you can see why the world would need them. And you can see why a man who cut off his own ear, and later shot himself dead, needed to paint them. Sunflowers are made of hope.

I couldn’t agree more.

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