Thursday, December 29, 2011

A yummy year end...

If you thought that my culinary experimentation had gone cold after the self lauding post here, you couldn't be more wrong. The dipping mercury, all the time in hand, and that unmistakable love for good food has ensured that I keep busy with cooking all the stuff that I would want to have. Being in the kitchen in the winter is a nice warm feeling and plus the layers of extra clothing ensures that the million calories go unnoticed. [I swear I have never dreaded spring/summer so much before. Come the new year, and whether there is rain or hail, I promise to hit the gym :(]. But aren't resolutions for new year; let's just enjoy the yummy year ends now :)...

So here's presenting to you my new feats...

Everyday Experiments
We had some friends over for dinner a couple of times giving me the opportunity to expand my guinea pig base :D. In addition to my forte (*wink* *wink*), I tried out the malai kofta for the first time ever. The koftas were not very shapely but I was reasonable satisfied by the end result. I followed Manjula's Kitchen for this one. This pic is straight from the wok...

I tried my hand at some maida crispies. The recipe is ridiculously simple, but the product is a hit especially at tea time...

Had to make some goodies to fill a friend's bakeware that she had brought along (with food ofcourse :)) for a dinner at our place. And the self-proclaimed baking expert that I have now become, dished out these simple yet awesome chocolate walnut muffins. These are much dryer than the cup cakes I did earlier, and make great accompaniments to your coffee. Recipe here; and picture below :D.

Thanksgiving Specials
Just the two of us, so moong daal kachoris with aloo sabzi was the main course. The recipes I followed are here and here. The kachoris came out so nice and crisp - good enough to warrant a snap...:D

For dessert, I made a German Apple Cake with Pecans. Here's the recipe; just add a cup full of chopped pecans to it for added flavor. Here's the picture. It looks a little bland and dry in the pic but that's because this was taken when it was just out of the oven. Infact the cake is quite moist and refrigerates well. No topping for this one as I wanted to store it for long. To serve each time, I warmed it a little and poured some maple syrup over it. Vish loved it with Vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. 

Winter Specials
Winter is really the time for some good comfort food. And we did have a binging spree...
After my near disaster with rava laddoos earlier, this time, I placed my trust in Tarla Dalal's recipe for besan laddoos. And boy, I was so not disappointed. I had to put a little more besan than mentioned in the recipe because I felt there was too much ghee, and I didn't really want ghee dripping laddoos, so... The slight deviation did do me good. The laddoos came out extremely well and we finished the lot in no time at all.

Found an awesome chana daal kebab recipe that does not need too much oil - Tarla Dalal, obviously. Kebabs or tikkis, whatever you call them make a filling evening snack; we dined on it :).

If it is not already obvious, let me say it again, Vish and I have an enormous sweet tooth and well made halwas may well be our greatest undoing. Tried my hand at gajar/carrot halwa following the recipe here - it was okay, came out a little too creamier for our tastes - and that is obvious from the pic too.

I then tried making doodhi/lauki/bottlegourd halwa, following the recipe here. The picture doesn't look great but it was one of the best halwaas that I have had (and not made, please note :P), plus I did not use any food coloring.

Christmas Special!!!
Save the best for the last they say; and this one actually takes the cake - quite literally. Attempted the Christmas Special - Fruit Cake with Rum and Wine (recipe here) - and it is the richest and the best cake I have ever baked. Following the instructions, I had soaked the fruits in rum, wine and spices for a week and let the cake rest for a week after being baked. Come Christmas evening, and the cake tasted delicious - all thanks to the wonderful recipe - the spices and liquor gave it a wonderful kick and according to Vish, we must celebrate Christmas more often :).

( I have this one still in my refrigerator, stop by if you can ;))

Adios 2011. And see you guys next year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A blogging award for a merrier Christmas...

IHM is a very popular Indian blogger who primarily writes against injustices, violence, biases and atrocities committed on women. She recently announced THE BLOGSCARS: Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards (after her daughter) wherein bloggers were invited to submit relevant blog posts under various categories that focused on feminism, women's issues and so on. Here's the complete list

I did submit a few of my own blog posts that I felt were relevant to the topics, and am really delighted to have won in the category, "The way a woman dresses...". My winning blog post is titled, "Dressed to kill!" and you can read it here.
Here's the award badge that I get to proudly display on my side panel. If you have the time, I would suggest that you read the other winning posts to at the link above. They make for some really good reading - informative and eye opening.

This, added to the short weekend trip (which I do hope to write about :)), did make my Christmas merrier. How have you been?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Zombie Jamboree

So, I have had an overdose of zombies in the last couple of years, thanks to my husband, really. Watching alive corpses eating others is not my idea of a movie day out or a popcorn night in but alas! And if you have seen the Danny Boyle 28 series (28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later), I am Legend etc. in the recent years or the American sitcom, The Walking Dead, which was on air till last month, you know precisely what I am talking about.

In the last few weeks, I have been wondering that this obsession of primarily the western world with the zombie apocalypse is kind of unnerving. Yes, mysteries of the world are not completely known to us nor ever will be - The environment conditions, health conditions, ecological balance - all are being skewed in proportions that can bring about a viral or any other outbreak - the consequences of which we can only imagine. But this maniac churning of one movie after the other, mostly in US and Europe, looks like symptomatic of some deep rooted fear and masochistic/sadistic leanings. (Am I being overly judgmental here - maybe, maybe not)

A quick wiki search told me that zombie movies have been made since 1919. And let's not forget that the legendary Frankenstein was also a living corpse - in that sense, a zombie. I also did some reading around and realized that zombies or zombie like creatures find significant mention in most western, especially European folklore. Interestingly, in India, though we have a huge tradition of folk tales, there do not seem to be any references to zombie-like creatures. Is this then some cultural difference too? Correct me please, if I am wrong.

However, inspite of the "history", the spurt in post-apocalyptic movies is, undeniably, fairly recent. And what disturbs me the most is the raging success such movies enjoy. What do they show in these movies basically - the primal being - adrenaline rush - all that you are capable of is killing for survival - no emotions - devoid of feelings...
If only a few such movies were around, I'd guess they'd have the novelty factor and draw audiences - but I see the same kind of story line and goriness in all these zombie movies - irrespective of the language or the country they are made in. What kind of rush would such visuals give you? 

I have tried asking Vish this too, but all that I get is "you never know what will happen to this world - this is just one kind of interpretation - you have to be open to possibilities", and then the pop corn is passed over. 
Aaarrggghh - is it just men?

I'd rather watch a cute romantic flick that pleases my senses than keep my eyes shut for three-fourths of a movie and battle with the dirty after taste of all the blood and gore.
(Had I been in one of my other moods, I am sure would have done a post on how all these zombie movies are creations of men to keep the women scared and tied to them in theaters and at home - you know nothing like having a bodyguard to tackle the living dead than doing it on your own, however independent you might be :D)

What's your take?

[Image Source: Google Images]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Migratory (Birds)

Let’s pack our bags and leave -
In warmer places we’ll better thrive.
It’s getting cold and dry and barren;
Time has come to find another haven.

If we make it through winter,
Spring will bring sunny cheer;
And before the sun gets harsh,
It’s a promise, we’ll come back.

What we abandon is not home,
What we come back to, will surely be.
This flight we take is not last out;
There is no point of no-return.

It is the gift of wings that keeps us,
Safe from harm and free of fetters.
We are blessed by the heavens,
Like no other being has been.

Those tiny people you see below -
Envy us in their thoughts and verses.
They leave home and hearth and family,
Chasing the ever elusive perfect happiness.

They build bridges to reduce distances,
And walk miles on them without a care;
But when they grow tired, yearning to return -
Their paths lie burnt, and nobody awaits.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"In My Sky At Twilight"

Leisure days have given me one more boon - the time and space to watch the setting sun. Arizona skies are at their charming and vibrant best around this time of the year, especially during sunsets. And the best part - I do not have to go far to soak in the beauty of the golden ball melting into the horizon - it comes to me, right at my patio.

A cup of hot chocolate, gentle soulful music (Louis Armstorng, Beatles, Golden Oldies of Bollywood) in the background, my camera on the side, and in my hands - an anthology of poems through the eras, especially the Romantics - Wordsworth, Yeats, Keats, Shelley, and perhaps the greatest 20th century poet - Neruda...And our brightest star descending behind the mountains - yes, sometimes, life is truly beautiful and pristine...

There are days, when even through the clouds and the haze, the light fuzzes through, and I echo Pablo Neruda...

"I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops."

And then, there are days, when the sky is less dramatic, picturesque nevertheless, and Wordsworth does perfect justice to the scape...

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: 
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, 
Hath had elsewhere its setting, 
And cometh from afar: 
Not in entire forgetfulness, 
And not in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
From God, who is our home: 
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"

But even on days as above, the clouds introduce their own theatrics...

The inscrutable workmanship of nature that Wordsworth eulogized is so believable when you see the canvas spread out in hues you could only imagine...

"Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange, that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e'er have borne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!"

And when the musings of the painter become denser, you really wonder if it is worthiness, destiny or sheer luck that you could witness these sights...

And the words of Pablo Neruda resound in your being when you see the progression of blues and yellows to turquoises and ambers to a burst of cyans, sapphires, crimsons, mahagonies, carmines, corals, auburns, scarlets, vermilions...colors that you cannot count and name...

"My soul is an empty carousel at sunset."

...All this, "in my sky at twilight".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WTF Series: Episode 05: "Regulating" Social Media

[My sincere gratitude to Kapil Sibal for helping me revive the WTF series - I seriously was running out of steam, given the constant racket happening in the governing of the country.]

So, Mr. Sibal wants to "pre-screen" content posted in any social media - Twitter, Facebook, the almost obliterated Orkut, Blogosphere, and, I am told even from Google Search Results. All because offensive content was found on THE madam in one of these sites - I did not see any protests from the 'citizens of India whose interests Kapil Sibal wants to protect by censoring web content. Did you?

Forget our right to freedom of expression, forget the technological issues in pre-screening millions and millions of status updates, posts, tweets by the second, and forget the legal meanings of sweeping terms like "defamatory", "hateful", and the likes - if the Minister of Communication wants to scrutinize the thoughts of the people even before they are formulated or expressed, he must be given the ways and the means to do it - install every browser with mind reading software - and till such a software can be developed, employ all the wall street protesters, and the so many educated yet unemployed people as scanners!

And what should be scanned - Everything - hate speech against any politician or his/her relative, dog, friend; and any cartoon that portrays any person living or dead. Why only politicians? School principals, teachers, professors, bosses - everybody should be protected. No person has the right to say my boss is an idiot because it may hurt the sentiments of all his near and dear ones. 
Also, what about the emotions of the poor filmmakers and the cast - don't people from the entertainment business deserve respect. If you do not like a movie - please say so politely in 140 characters - absolutely no need for four or five letter superlatives.

If any user wants to post any comment, status or blog update about any person, he/she should contact him/her personally, get a no objection certificate signed on a stamp paper, and then post the scanned image of this certificate along with the post. And should you want to make a general observation or comment, please contact Mr. Sibal for such a certificate. He knows best. By the way, your sovereign right to freedom of expression, will be duly upheld and honored.

And, while at it, please factor in concerns of the RSS and the likes - no woman should be allowed to post her picture with a guy, unless she has him listed as a brother or her relationship status is 'married'. Specifically, the guy in question - brother or husband - should be tagged. Pictures with fiances are allowed only if parents are also tagged in the same picture. An algorithm based on the appropriateness of the dress worn based on the citizenship of the girl should be developed, so that as the picture is being uploaded it can be marked as 'abuse'. Atleast her 500 friends will be saved of harassment they would feel at seeing her dressed like that.
It need not be spelt out that pictures showing people smoking or drinking are not to be allowed because these incite the friends into indulging in these bad habits themselves, hence sending down wrong signals to this impressionable generation. 

Every conversation between a girl and boy who are not related by blood or marriage, as per the information available in their accounts, should be scanned before it is published. Preferably, an alert could go to the parents and the families of the people involved.

After all, the government of India must partner with the service providers to do everything they can to preserve the moral fiber of our society. 

Seriously, WTF!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kiss, Unhate and Wear UCB

Benetton, the Italian retail giant does it again. The group is known for their shock advertising over the years - remember the powerful United Colors of Benetton campaign that was so successful that it was incorporated as a brand name!
The posters showing children from different ethnic origins, three hearts of the same color but from differently colored people, or the white baby suckling on the breasts of a black woman – all of these had a novelty, a recall value and a “shock” factor that was admirable. 

However, this time with the Unhate campaign, I wonder has UCB overreached itself? I am not sure of the answer. The advertisements on huge billboards show world leaders smooching – for example,  we have the Pope kissing the Imam and Obama kissing Hu Jintao…

Apparently, in public interest, the company abstained from showing Manmohan Singh smooching Asif Ali Zardari – Now that would have been something! 

The advertisement campaign is sensational, provocative, and as many have termed it, scandalous and outrageous. Vatican found the campaign so insulting that Benetton had to pull the Pope's ad down. 

What do I think of the ads? Creative, very. You cannot not notice it.
I’d take the company’s plea that this is a genuine effort to spread love and “unhate” in this world, with a pinch of salt and good humor – oh c’mon – this is money, marketing and business sense – and they achieved all the attention that they chose to sought. So kudos, well done.  

Now, about many people having raised objection to the immorality of the campaign,  is also hog-wash as far as I am concerned – you see it, you like it, go shop at Benetton – you hate it, don’t shop at Benetton. 

However, the one small concern that I have with t his campaign is that the pictures used have been digitally morphed without the permission of the person concerned. Forget world leaders, would any ‘commoner’ – you and me - be happy or even okay with their photograph blown up in a seemingly unparliamentary light and posted across countries.  I am not sure if I would be comfortable with that. How do you then justify criminal action against Internet hackers and artists who use morphed images of actors and actresses to create pornographic content? The means are the same!

I’d leave it to the ad gurus and experts to talk about the legal aspects of such actions, but what do you think? UCB has gone overboard this time – or is it a no big deal?

[Image source: Google Images]


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