The Witch

Hello,

I am sharing one of my own favorite poems. The world can be a difficult place for even the mighty, but sometimes women get the worst of it, as they are the least understood. This poem is about a little girl who loses her father in her early childhood and grows up to love nature and mother earth. Because she is so different from people and she has magical healing powers, people grow to fear her. Even the kindly magistrate is unable to help her for fear of being ostracized and orders her to be burned alive. But when humans commit an act so unfair then mother nature herself rises for revenge.

UBeCute

History is testimony to the atrocities that have been meted out unjustly to the poor and weak in society. Women have unfortunately gotten the worst of the deal. While it is important to look forward and be proud of the accomplishment women have achieved thus far, it is equally important to look back and pay heed to history. For history repeats itself. Unfortunately, women have been burnt under the guise of religion, ritual and faith around the world in distant and recent past.

This poem is written in 3 parts and is loosely based on the Witch trials that took place in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and 1693, famously known as the Salem Witch trials. I decided to add Prequel and a Sequel to my exisiting poem called “The Witch”, since I thought it was imperative to end my poem on a positive note and show, that no matter how monstrous an…

View original post 643 more words

Go Go Goa

One of my favorite posts. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it…

UBeCute

Goa’s 63 mile long coastline offers a long expanse of exotic beaches. The water is always lukewarm and the sand is soft to touch. The beach is studded with tiny sea shells and starfish. I found it best to enjoy the beaches early in the morning at dawn or around sunset because during the day time the heat is almost unbearable.

The beach is studded with shacks offering visitors both North Indian and South Indian cuisine as well as plenty of seafood.DSC02684DSC02725DSC02734DSC02735DSC02688

Unless you are staying at one of five star hotels don’t expect to find the shacks to be glamorous. Personally I loved their rustic beauty. I was never disappointed with the food and the amazing scenery for pennies on the dollar.DSC02903

A local shack

A local shack

DSC02696_2015 A vendor at the local supermarket

DSC02697 Bananas sweet as sugar

DSC02698_2015

I enjoyed going to the local market with my dad and we bought a variety…

View original post 717 more words

Six by Six

I love portrait photography and find Black & White photography (when done well) to be especially hauntingly intriguing. These portraits are excellent work by Phil Kneen. I especially love the portrait of the woman curled up in her bed looking outside. Enjoy!

PHIL KNEEN

All the images here were made using a Bronica SQa and 50mm 3.5 lens. Film stock is Ilford HP5 400 pushed to 800. I made the mistake of putting 4 rolls of film through an untested camera, I got the negatives and realised that the rollers on the film back were jammed and dirty, which has scratched the emulsion quite badly. I’ve given the camera a good clean, so hopefully this has sorted the issue.

View original post

You Asked For it! Real Time Watercolor Portrait Lesson!

Here is a beautiful article from the Frugal crafter blog. I have taken her classes which are super easy to follow and fun.

The Frugal Crafter Blog

Hi friends!  I always get a bit nervous when I post a tutorial that is over an hour-long on YouTube. People say they want in-depth lessons but people also see the length and don’t want to commit that amount of time to watch. I get it. I don’t get the dislikes on the video but that’s YouTube trolls for you, or maybe it is people saying that it’s too long. However I also got many requests on my Sketchbook Sunday time-lapse portrait for a real-time lesson so I decided to make a portrait painting that you can follow along with in real-time. It was longer than I wanted it to be but I think it is easy to follow. I truly hope you like it.

50592039_10213379766674061_7607961753665667072_o.jpg

So if you were among the folks asking for a real-time portrait I hope you will try it.

Supplies (affiliate links may be used)

  • Watercolors…

View original post 130 more words

How to become successful: One simple exercise that can change your life

There are a countless books and articles on the topic of success and what it takes to become successful. You have scoured a few or perhaps you are one of those over-achievers who has zealously studied them all? That is quite impressive! But here you are looking for yet another secret to success? Could there be a little gem hiding here that which has dodged you everywhere else?

I don’t know where you are in your life. Perhaps you are waiting for divine inspiration that will get you off your couch and into the gym so you can stick it to your ex, or get you off your mediocre job to living the life of your dreams so you can stick it to your pompous boss? Perhaps you are just waiting for summertime, so you can grow your perfect garden, so you can stick it to your neighbor? Whatever the case may be and whomever you may be wanting to stick it to, if you are one of those people who are “waiting” to do something then chances are you will be waiting a long time.

Yea, you heard me! This article is not meant to be another pep talk that may get you motivated enough to get you off your couch for a day only to be back in it for a year. I am not here to tell you that you deserve to be successful because you are such a changeling and because you deserve better. I don’t know you and I have no idea what you deserve. But if you are one of those people who thinks you deserve something because you are special or because “mum said so”, well then you need to grow up. Nothing about life is fair or given just because you or someone thinks so. Life demands hard work and sacrifice, it demands fortitude to ceaselessly plan your life only to see your plans fail repeatedly and yet have the stubbornness to do it all over again.

What’s more life comes with no user manuals, guarantees or return policies, there are no consolation trophies and absolutely no pauses or escape buttons.

I am not here to give you any secret to success. I am here to tell you that success is not a secret. Or at least it should not be to you. See every body’s concept of success should be unique and personal. Before you set out on your life’s journey to become successful, I want you to take a moment and take stock of what success means to you?

ian-schneider-66374-unsplashSo, what does success mean to you? Yes you, not your aunt Thelma, or your neighbor, or your boss or your wife …but YOU! Elementary as it may sound, this is an important concept you need to understand before you waste any more precious time in this world pursuing somebody else concept of success. Too many people have wasted too much time living somebody else’s dream which is why we are such an unhappy nation. If your concept of success is to get that gorgeous body, or a car that the world can envy, or a vacation with family then that’s fine. I am perfectly fine with shallow dreams. Just know that it should be your shallow dream not somebody else’s. But If you find yourself doubting what success means to you then take a road trip me with me into the future.

Imagine yourself 20, 30 or even 50 years from now, at the fag end of your life. You are on life support, breathing your last few breaths thinking back on your life. How would you like to view your life? Are you proud of the empire you have built, or happy to have contributed to society, are you satiated with the beautiful family around you there to bid you farewell? Or are you perhaps a bit regretful? Are you staring into a wrinkled face you have shared your life with and truly loved and cherished or are you looking at a stranger wishing you had called quits when you had the chance? Are you wishing you had not wasted your time on that mediocre job, or waited on that lucky break or perhaps just wishing you had spent more time with the people you loved? Now bring yourself back to today.

If there is the slightest regret in your life today, remember it will be a hundred times magnified and unforgivable at your death bed. Nobody regrets have done something and failed at it, people regret never having tried!!!

Well sorry if that was a grave exercise (pun intended). But at least you have a better idea of what success means to you now?

Do this exercise often if you need to figure out what you want to achieve and what it is you want to change in your life. So that brings us back to the million-dollar question? What is the one secret you need to know to succeed?

I wasn’t just trying to reel you in with that title you know. The answer is simple. You need to know what you truly value and cherish. What is the one motivation that every action of your life is geared towards?

Don’t have a nebulous idea of success, one that is brainwashed into your head by society, peer pressure or the numerous stream of advertisements on TV and social media. Don’t spend your entire life living somebody’s else dream no matter how precious that person may be to you.

I have an overachiever cousin who has spent years in school studying to become a surgeon while he secretly dreamed of being a banker, only to please his parents. I know of a woman in her forties who married the wrong man only to please her parents, and now is fighting a bad divorce and several health issues due to serious emotional stress at home. I also know of a man who left an ivy league school to start a small business and now is a very successful entrepreneur. Life is not easy as is, the last thing you want to do is live somebody’s else’s life.

So be clear about your dreams. Have a vision board or spend five minutes a day imagining what your perfect future will be. Perhaps you don’t mind being a bit somber and writing your own eulogy. What would your eulogy be? OK, sorry I promised no more grave exercises already!

What does any of this have with making me successful, you ask? That’s the thing. If you don’t know how to define your success, how are you ever going to get it? You may have everything in the world that anybody can ever dream of but in your heart, you will never be successful if what you achieved was somebody else’s success not yours.

Once you know what your idea of success means, everything else falls into place. Ignited by the fire of your true passion, following your dreams becomes easier. I said easier not easy. You still need to pursue your dreams like a warrior. It does not matter how brawny or brainy you are, as long as you truly know what it is that motivates you, you will find way to success and everlasting happiness.

nghia-le-57365-unsplashPhoto by Nghia Le on Unsplash

Love Poetry: Monday Challenge

When you think of love poetry you think of young men and women spinning yarns of exaggerated verse such as “your face is more beautiful than the rising sun” and “your presence lightens the day and incites birds to mate” …well…you get the drift, right?

But such is the stuff of poetry that makes poets more feared than their fanged brethren: Vampires! Reading corny poetry like that out in public is perhaps the surest way to lose friends fast and die sad and lonely. And yes you are right…I should know!!!

giphy1

Truth be told, writing love poems is the hardest kind of poetry. Its is so easy to exaggerate your emotions or drop an unnecessary rhyme or a cliche like “she smells like a rose”…shudder! If at all you use cliches then make them deliberate to make a point like Carol in her poem Valentine.

Juliet and Romeo syndrome

My best advise would be to stay clear from the “Juliet and Romeo” syndrome. While Juliet and Romeo was an exemplary play in its time, centuries later it is a bit of a “been there and done that” and might I add, a bit out of date. So try and get out of the “Juliet and Romeo” mold. Instead chose a more realistic 21st century setting and if you can introduce a 21st century problem then you got our ears.

Also try not to take yourself or your love interest too seriously. Avoid trite settings where your love interest is leaving you to die in gumption mourning her loss. Its so *yawningly* played out.

 giphy2

Can you describe your love without using commonplace words such as, “love”, “beautiful”, “lovely”, “heart”, names of flowers and birds, and celestial objects such as the Moon and The Sun?

If so, then go ahead write a love poem and make us truly connect with your emotions. If you do, feel free to link to my post or send me your poem in the comments section with your name and blog so I may give you the deserved credit. Here are a few to inspire you:

Valentine

by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

 

A Glimpse

By Walt Whitman

A glimpse through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the stove late of a winter night, and I unremark’d seated in a corner,
Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand,
A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking and oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word.

Spider

Spider

Eight symmetrical legs spin up a silken web,

With the dexterity of a pianist striking his keys,

back and forth and back and forth,

On the black and white keys

Weaving a breathless crescendo of perfect notes

While the audience watch in enthralled silence

until he stops.

And sits back as if to catch a breath,

And a thousand sighs escape their human chests.

Then the pianist leans back in and strikes his final note,

Just as the spider dances back and forth and back and forth,

on its Silver web lassoing its hapless prey with its sticky hooks.

A short struggle rises and then wanes as its hapless prey ceases to flutter

A thousand people rise in standing ovation.

Monday Challenge: Beguiling Poetry

shivendu-shukla-339451-unsplash

Monday Challenge: Eating Poetry

When it comes to poetry its just not enough to read poetry. Poetry is far more visceral than that. To really enjoy poetry you need to eat, drink and breathe poetry and then maybe…just maybe you can capture its true essence. Nobody explains this better than Mark Strand in his Poem, “Eating Poetry”.

I love this poem by Mark Strand for so many reasons, most profound of which is the dark imagery it renders. The first line hooks you right away with its “Ink runs from the corners of my mouth” opening sentence. You cannot help but want to know of this person who is consuming enough poetry that its starting to bleed from his mouth…ink and all. Right from the opening line surreal images just leap out from his words into your mind. Within a few short sentences you are transported into the dimly lit library where the “poems are gone”. You can now see what has scared the librarian enough to cause her to “stamp her feet and weep”. The man has consumed so much poetry that he turns into a dog, a joyful one at that, “I romp with joy in the bookish dark.”. His joy is in sharp contrast to the sad and petrified librarian who does not understand what is going on perhaps because she has not yet enjoyed the taste of poetry.

For your challenge today, I ask you to take your own deepest emotions about poetry and turn them into something surreal. Don’t just rhyme or verse, paint me a picture throbbing with vivid imagery. Hook me in with your best hypnotic metaphors. Still unsure how to start, write a snippet of a story that is so surreal, it leaves one panting for more. Feel free to publish the poem on your blog and pingback to ubecute or just copy and paste your poem with your name and blog details in the comments section. Let the creative juices flow…

Eating Poetry
By Mark Strand
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.
The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.
Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.
She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.
I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.
In case you are curious about what Ubecute has to say about poetry check out this poem written a few years ago.
giphy

Monday Challenge: Beguiling Poetry

Poems are beguiling works of art. Good poets will never write that they were sad and cried buckets or were happy and skipped their way to work. For instance take a look at this second stanza (by Algernon Charles Swinburne describing “sorrow”).

“One thought lies close in her heart gnawn thorough
With pain, a weed in a dried-up river,
A rust-red share in an empty furrow.”

He never uses the word sorrow or tears and yet makes you connect with the character in his poem immediately. You can feel her pain and partake in the sleeplessness of the night. Poets rarely talk about things as they are because they use the power of a metaphor to ignite the human imagination and paint a crafty picture of intrigue.

For today’s challenge use a metaphor to describe your true emotions. For this challenge look at your room and take note of any thing that stands out: book shelf, painting, book, cell phone and use a metaphor to describe it. Keep describing it with a metaphor until you think you have painted a perfect picture of the object you are talking about. For e.g. the pen is like an arrow that bleeds its blue blood, or your dirty socks are like dark caves that lead to nowhere. Let nothing stop you, no matter how unbelievable it sounds. You can always take a second or third pass at your poem to make some final much needed edits, but for now let your imagination flow. If you do participate send me your poem with your full name in the comments below or pingback to me using the “Edit/Link icon” in your own post.

To get your creative juices flowing I am sharing a poem by Ted Kooser one of my favorite poets.

A box of Pastels
Continue reading “Monday Challenge: Beguiling Poetry”

Monday Poetry Challenge

Writing poetry is more than a combination of art and science. It takes a lot of insight and a fair amount of practice. Poetry requires the ability to reflect on mundane objects, things, animals or incidents and turn it into an introspective observation that is unique. Good poetry will make you want to think and draw your own conclusion. Good poetry is timeless, people can reflect on it for ages and derive insight or inspiration. I am therefore starting a weekly challenge to coax you into writing or reading poetry that you love.

Each week I will share a theme and some examples to inspire and titillate your creative instincts. Send me your poem in the comments section or write it in your blog and pingback to me.

This week I visited the Aquarium in Long Beach with my daughter. My two year old daughter was absolutely mesmerized with the musical movement of fish underwater. That is the beauty of fish, it can neither talk nor hear you, yet it leaves you mesmerized with its movement. So for this week’s challenge I encourage you to write a poem about a fish, it need not be titled “Fish” but try to include some reference to one. If you would rather not author a poem, then feel free to share your own analysis on any poem about a fish.

Take for instance this poem by William Butler Yeats. Even though the poem is titled “The Fish” and it starts off by talking about the sinuous movement of a fish within “the ebb and flow” of the tide, the poem is not about the fish at all. The fish is an analogy to a person who was perhaps “hard and unkind” or was perceived as such by people. Or perhaps it isn’t about a person at all instead the Fish is referencing the judgmental nature of people or society, who will criticize even the most instinctive behavior of a person.

The Fish

Although you hide in the ebb and flow
Of the pale tide when the moon has set,
The people of coming days will know
About the casting out of my net,
And how you have leaped times out of mind
Over the little silver cords,
And think that you were hard and unkind,
And blame you with many bitter words.
IMG_1718upIMG_1709upIMG_1714upIMG_1721up

 

 

 

All-time favorites

It has been a while since I was active on wordpress, just as it has been a while since I wrote a poem, or spared a moment doing the soulful things that make me happy. It is amazing to think I have now been on wordpress for over four years! And look how time has flown by…much as it always does. It makes you realize the importance of preserving special moments with photographs and reliving those moments again…even if slightly altered in your memory.

Here is a collection of some of my favorite pictures over the past four years. Don’t tell me you cannot find a couple nice treasures here, even if I am no photographer! Enjoy!

I love pictures of everyday simple things. Beauty lies in things we tend to overlook so easily…and we are the losers for it. I love the spindly canopy of this coconut tree and the sky peering from its foliage.

IMG_2751

I love the icy perfection of winter captured in this photo taken by a friend Viraj Thakur.

IMG_2832

Isn’t this picture of Walden ponds in Massachusetts, simply beautiful? I mean just look at the vibrant colors. I can’t help but feel a kinship to Henry David Thoreau by being able to enjoy what he grew to love and enjoy so much. I am not comparing myself to Thoreau that would be tall order…just saying that I feel blessed enjoying the same sights he probably once did!

WaldenPond_7

My husband and I had stopped by a random coffee shop one morning on our long walks. We were young, happy and carefree and the picture reminds me of those days.

Coffee

And how can you live in Los Angeles and not have a few favorite pictures of the beach?

20141220_12262220141220_122616

I know people find graffiti ugly and disfiguring, but I actually dig it. I see it as just another form of art. Take these beautiful photos for instance. What’s not to like?

Abbott_9Abbott_StreetArt6AbottKinney3Abbott_StreetArt

Aah beautiful Sedona. Nothing screams peace, perfection and grandeur like Sedona! I wish I could live here.

Arizona 2014 117Arizona 2014 160

So that’s it folks. Feel free to pingback with your favorite photos or articles. I am dying to see what you got!

Evanescent

Life is full of beautiful people and things that come and fade out of life. Some of them are barely perceptible because we are not used to admiring that which is in plain sight and easily available. I love going for long walks with my dog and taking pictures of evanescent objects. Some are harder to capture in a camera like the chirping of birds, the crispness of a sunny day, smell of barbecue, the laughter of children. But other things are easier to capture and preserve with camera.

Here is an attempt to capture that which is evanescent yet not lost.

IMG_0249
An old abandoned house

IMG_0238 (1)
An old house turned into an office

IMG_0226 (1)
Sunlight playing peek-a-boo through the thick trees

IMG_0225 (1)
Old boats stacked up

IMG_0209
Look closer there are turtles soaking in sun

IMG_0234
Specious blossoms

What happens when you do a 10 day TV Detox?

You have heard of people doing a detox when they are feeling sluggish? But have you heard of anyone doing a TV detox? That is just the kind of detox I undertook recently. Read on if you want to learn more about my 10 day TV detox and what it did for me.

catherine-mcmahon-10118I recently decided to cut out TV, youtube and unnecessary online surfing. I allowed myself everything else including reading books, blogging, listening to the radio etc. The reason I wanted to do a TV detox was because I was becoming a bit of a TV junkie. On my weekends I would plop myself on the couch and go on a TV binge starting at noon. On weekdays I would start TV right after dinner and continue until after midnight. The lack of sleep was contributing to dark circles the size of Antarctica. My wake up call was when a well meaning friend inquired if I was well since I was beginning to look “a bit haggard”. That was the last straw, I decided I needed an intervention.

I have previously resolved doing a TV detox but have never been successful beyond day one. This time however I was determined not to get distracted. I created a list of things to occupy my mind with during my free time. The list including fun activities such as baking cake, cooking, painting, writing a poem or rewiring an old one, getting a facial and even enjoying a bubble bath. Who needs TV to have fun? If my mind ever craved TV I would confidently pull out my list of fun activities and flash it around like a victory flag.

Day one, was the hardest. I frequently found my feet mindlessly carrying me over to the couch: my TV pit. I thought it was best to go out for a long walk and avoid the temptation completely. On the way back I stopped by at Ralph’s and picked up some fresh fruit and decided to have a sweet potato and fruit salad for dinner with a cup of mint tea.

Day two and three fell on the weekend which were super hard. Normally when I am done with home chores, I love to plunge on the couch and binge. I love catching up on HBO shows or pay per view movies. But now I almost did not know what to do. So I did an hour of yoga and then cooked up a storm. Lunch included sauteed fresh vegetables with home cooked basil sauce over a bed of black rice. Later I went out for a refreshing walk and came back to clean up the pantry, kitchen cabinets and my wardrobe. The next day I decided to do a load of laundry and ironing. It was only day three, and I was already feeling quite accomplished.vee-o-226 (1)

Day four, I decided to do a bit of meditation and deep breathing. Even though I could not focus my mind too long, I must say, it felt good. Note to self: “Must continue deep breathing and meditation at least once a week”.

Day five, I was already feeling so much better. My eyes felt more relaxed and my dark circles were doing a vanishing act. Since I was feeling so good about myself, I decided to OD on TLC. I decided to give myself a long relaxing facial. I started with deep cleaning, then facial massage and pore extraction and ended with a cooling face mask with an eye compress. The result may not have been life changing but I looked squeaky clean like a freshly plucked tomato.

Day six, I went back to writing. I dug out some semi finished poems and rewrote them. I even published a shiny new post.

By Day seven TV detox had already become a habit. I no longer craved the idiot box. There was so much to occupy my mind with. I went for a leisurely walk, took plenty of pictures came back to cook and enjoy a peaceful dinner and went to bed early. Day eight I read a book and called it a night.

Day nine and ten again fell on the weekend. This time things were so much easier. I re-potted some old house plants that were growing out of their space and painted earthen pots. I did Hatha yoga, deep breathing exercises and worked on my blog.

I cannot believe how easily I have grown out of my TV binging and how great I feel. Before I went on my detox I had created a list of things to occupy my mind with. But I never had to use the list. After day three I was on autopilot mode, I automatically knew what had to be done. I felt all along TV was never something I loved infact it was actually distracting me from the things I love to do.

I am feeling so good I am going to continue abstaining TV for a month and do a follow up post. Meanwhile if you too feel like joining me on my TV detox and would like to catapult your productivity then please join me. I welcome you to write a post about your TV detox experience, all I ask is you ping back to mine so we can spread the good word around. Happy TV detoxing!

Notorious

If someone asked you to define the word “Notorious“. How would you define it? Wait…don’t look up the dictionary.

You would most likely say, “Someone infamous, scandalous, ill-famed for notoriety”. Perhaps you will jump into explaining with examples such as Genghis Khan the conqueror, Vlad the Impaler, Jack the Ripper? How about Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung? History is rampant with evil personalities and folk lore abounds with stories of their misdeeds.

But sometimes dark evil places, infamous for evil committed years ago can be notorious too. How about dangerous places that are either difficult to reach or so unfriendly to habitation that they invoke our awe despite their looming danger. Places like the “suicide forest” in Japan, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Valley of Death in Russia, Erte volcano in Ethiopia (gates to hell) and many more.

Now would you consider something as nebulous as “thoughts” to be notorious? But thoughts can be pretty notorious, right? Random thoughts can be rather disturbing when you need peace of mind…isn’t it? Imagine a train of negative thoughts that won’t let you be happy. How about the time you are trying to meditate and you just cannot because random thoughts won’t stop bothering you. Students will agree nothing can be more destructive than random thoughts when they are trying to focus on a lecture or taking an exam.

Yet dark places and people carry the greatest intrigue for us. Even though what can hurt us the most is not other people or dark distant places but ourselves. We alone can ruin our peace of mind and chances for success more than anything else in the world.

That puts a different perspective on things completely, doesn’t it? Now over to you, what is the first thing that comes to mind with the word notorious?

erta ale volcano

 

 

Traditions

IMG_2266IMG_2272IMG_2261The word tradition is peppered with the notion of religion, culture, race and diversity. Different set of people around the world have built there own set of customs and traditions. Through the ages traditions become revered, unshakable, ingrained and distinctive. But there are other simpler traditions that we all follow that were passed on to us by our parents or our grandparents. But what about habits that have become an unshakable part of our grown up lives? Could we call those habits traditions?

For instance,most of us have a morning ritual of drinking tea or coffee and devouring the morning newspaper, or exercising and so forth. I for instance have a habit of making a cup of masala tea every morning. I take the time to crush fresh ginger and mint for my tea. The aroma is absolutely delicious and the moments spent sitting and sipping it is divine. It is not merely a habit because this time is almost sacred to me. And no matter what comes my way, I always plan to leave aside a few moments to make myself the perfect tea and sip it.  I know it is in no way constructive but this simple act charges me for the rest of the day.

I know of people who will wake up and perform 7 sets of Suryanamaskar (sun salutations yoga sequence). And then there are those who will snooze their alarm clocks seven times and continue to languish in bed only to get late to work. Whatever your habit may be, over the years it becomes ingrained into the very fabric of your being. Should these habits constructive or not be given the title of Traditions as well?

Aah whatever your thoughts on traditions may be, I love sipping this piping hot, delicious, crisp cup of tea. Join me in my tradition if you like with this simple recipe below.

Ginger and mint tea

1/2 thumb size piece of ginger (or use to your taste)

6 leaves of fresh mint (or use to your taste)

1 cup of water

1/4 cup of milk (2% for a creamier tea)

1 spoon black tea (I use Red label Brooke bond but you can use English breakfast or Early Grey)

Honey to taste (I use raw organic and unfiltered honey)

spiced-milk-tea-masala-chai

 

Street Life: Sunset Boulevard

I was saddened to learn that Mario Maglieri died today at the golden age of 94. He co-owned Rock n Roll hot spots such as The Whisky a go go, Roxy and Rainbow bar and Grill. Famous Rock bands such as The Doors, Guns N Roses, Led Zeppelin and several others started their career at The Whisky. He will be fondly remembered by thousands of Rock fans and super stars. See picture of famous Roxy Theater below.

UBeCute

Here are some pictures of West Hollywood including pictures of Chateau Marmont a hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Built in 1927, this hotel is famous for A-listing sightings and a curious history including the untimely death of comedian John Belushi due to drug overdose. A celebrity hideout for famous Hollywood stars such as Robert De Niro, Errol Flynn, Bob Dylan, Clark Gable, Paul Newman, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe, Boris Karloff, Carole Lombard, Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Jean Harlow, Sidney Poitier, Dustin Hoffman, William Holden, Jessica Lange, Led Zepplin and many, many more. The place has a forbidding air to it that makes it ever more mysterious and interesting.

Bora Bora and more 046Bora Bora and more 045Bora Bora and more 048

The Viper Room also located in West Hollywood California, in close proximity to the Chateau Marmont, is infamous as the place where actor River Phoenix died due to drug overdose in 1993. Like the…

View original post 109 more words

I am a nobody, I am somebody

beyonceI was recently reading a post on LinkedIn about how Beyoncé uses social media to promote her brand. She recently posted a very pregnant picture of herself on Instagram which got 9 million likes within days. The author had a congratulatory note toward Beyoncé who according to the author has used social media to create intrigue and advance her brand. All of this may well be true in Beyoncé’s case, I don’t know one way or the other, as I have not been following Beyoncé.

What I cannot help but note, is that Beyoncé is a superstar married to Jay-Z with a joint worth of over 1 billion dollars. Her own father devoted his whole life to the “Beyoncé brand”. Don’t superstars like Beyoncé and others, have enough cash floating around to hire a village worth of people to promote their brand? Then why is it so admirable when they are able to get a million likes within a few seconds of sharing a semi-nude photo on Twitter or Instagram?

Needless to say, the same goes for any other superstar be it Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Kardashian sisters and the likes. Why should we be impressed when one of these extraordinarily endowed people making extraordinarily more money than the rest of the world, gets a million likes on Twitter????

 Recently I was watching a 60 year old lady who looks like 30, sharing her story on You Tube. She started the video by apologizing how she is a “nobody” and yet vlogging. She just wanted to share her story so others could learn from her. Don’t get me wrong I have no personal vendetta against superstars like Beyoncé. I just think it’s tremendously more appreciable when a “nobody” in Iowa, Chicago or California takes the time and trouble to blog/vlog/tweet/instagram and gets a 1000 likes in 10 days!I think it is more important, because she probably does not have a band of people at her disposal to take that perfect shot of her, or help her draft a message that will spark intrigue. Nor is she famous enough to use her name alone to promote her post. Instead she put in some serious thought, planning and effort to make that video or post. She is a “nobody” and therefore has the power to reach other “nobodies” like her and make a difference.

Social media is truly about nobodies like us, reaching out to other nobodies sharing our stories because we know it is worth something. We may not have a million followers and perfect airbrushed bodies but we have a voice that is our own. And in that it is unique. And in that, my brand is no less unique than your brand, which is no less than Beyoncé’s brand.

In the end, I cannot help but quoting the maestro nobody herself.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Emily Dickinson 1830 – 1886

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

 

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

 

 

Path

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

Buddha

bora-bora-085bora-bora-087

All is procession; the universe is a procession with measured and beautiful motion.

-Walt Whitman

img_2265img_2266img_2271

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

img_2556

Inspired by Cheri’s Photo Challenge: Path

Holiday Post Card

7o3swrbqhws-ron-sThis is not a Holiday post card

Printed on a glossy 3.5×5 inch paper

But an ice rink resplendent

with pair ice skaters drawing circles around one another

spinning in and out of each other’s embrace

with Swiss watch precision on the cutting

edge of Lickety-split ice skates.

 

Or perhaps it is an indulgent recipe

For those too unversed to brew.

Look at the cursive words that spell “magic”

That may well have read

“Steep two part faith into

A piping hot mixture of joy and innocence.

Cool for 5. Enjoy while still magical”

 

Or perhaps it is a promise sublime

A chance for new beginnings,

An omen for good times,

Or something more reassuring

Like the friendly jingle of an ice-cream truck

Pulling into the neighborhood with a vibrant swarm of

Brightly clad children running behind.

 

A Holiday postcard is a lot things but rarely ever

a green and red greeting

printed on a 0.75mm thick paper

Slipped inside a pearly white womb of an envelope.

With words that spell “Wishing you a Magical Christmas”

That jingle and jangle all the way to your front door.

2016: The year hell freezes over

When I was a child my father would ask me to do this bedtime exercise. He would ask me to reflect on the events of the day and be grateful for all the good things that happened during the day. He would also ask me to reflect objectively on the events that were not so good and see if I learned a valuable lesson from them. One day I had an especially bad day at school. I had failed to complete most of my assignments and my teachers being furious with me sent me for detention. It so happened that I ended up spending my entire day in detention for something or another. That night when my father asked me what I learned from my day, I told him bitterly, that I learned that all my teachers were really bad people who were driven by no greater motive than to punish me. And that it was a good idea for me to avoid school for the rest of my life.

Decades later I am reminded once again of my father’s little exercise which holds a slightly deeper meaning now. As the year comes to an end I cannot but help apply his logic and reflect on all the good and the bad that 2016 had to offer.

On a global level, this year has been a whirlwind of events. The year started with the sobering news of the outbreak of Zika virus that resulted in 3500 cases of microcephaly between October 2015 and January 2016 alone.

March, ended with the coordinated bombings in Brussels and Belgium killing at least 32 innocent lives while injuring over 240 others. Several other planned attacks in the World (especially in Europe) followed.

In May, EgyptAir Flight 804 crashes, killing 66 people on board.

In June, the United Kingdom decides to leave the European Union shocking the world.

In August, Summer Olympics commence in Rio brightening the global mood. Due to the European migrant crisis, the IOC allows refugees to compete as Independent Olympians under the Olympic Flag making a historical decision. United States brings back an astounding 121 medals making it the 3rd most successful Olympics for the USA.

In September, Global CO2 emissions exceed the staggering 400ppm level, higher than even recorded in human history sending environmentalists into a frenzy.

Jake Arrieta, Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs, Wrigley FieldBack at home, hell freezes over as the Cubs make history in November 2016, by winning World Series Championship after 108 years.

November, closes the long and perhaps the most divisive American Presidential campaign with Donald Trump becoming the 58th President of the United States of America. This is truly a remarkable contest. Donald Trump makes history by being the first candidate ever with no prior experience in Public service to fight for the office and Hillary Clinton makes history as the first female candidate nominated by a major party in the US. Needless to say, the victory is sobered by the very divisive sentiments proliferating currently in the country.

With that said what a year this has been! I am sure as 2016 closes we can all put aside our political differences and work together towards brighter future and more peaceful 2017.

On a personal level, this year has been most memorable for me if also a bit arduous. As some of you who have been following this blog may know I was recently blessed with the birth of my beautiful baby girl. 2016 started with many misgivings: from first-trimester mood swings, indulgences, aversions to even feelings of self-doubt and fear. In August this year I was blessed with the birth of my baby girl which has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. This was however followed by a taxing recovery and sleepless nights that come with the territory (as any new parent can testify). This year has been full of its trials and subsequent rewards for which I am truly grateful. For the past 3 months I have been on Maternity leave and feel so blessed to get this time to bond with my child.

As I prepare to close the year and start 2017, I know I will think back to this year as a roller coaster of a year at a both global and personal level in which so many things least expected came to pass. 2016 has been an eventful year and like it or not, hopefully we have all picked up some important lessons.

 

Bend it like Bikram: My post-pregnancy journey back to health

“Both pleasure and pain are great teachers”. By Swami Vivekananda

I wanted to do a 3-month follow-up to my last post “Cherishing the birth of my baby girl” and follow up on my attempt to get my life and body back after baby and C-Section. During my pregnancy, I had gained about 30 pounds. Within two weeks after my C-Section, I had automatically lost all but about 10 pounds. So when I embarked on my journey back to health, weight loss was not my main goal. Instead, I was focused on gaining my physical and mental strength back.
I was looking for a workout plan that was holistic in nature and one that would help both my mind and body heal. So I decided to give Bikram Yoga a try and do it for 30 consecutive days. The studio near my home had a deal for newcomers, so I decided to sign up.

Bikram yoga to the rescue: 

More about Bikram: Bikram yoga is a series of fixed postures performed in a heated room designed to strengthen the entire body. Bikram is a system created by Bikram Choudhury and made popular in the US in the 70’s. It is also a controversial form of yoga. While practitioners swear by the efficacy of Bikram others believe the benefits of intense heat to be a bit questionable.

bikram-poses
I used to practice Bikram over ten years ago and had worked my way up to advanced level. In my own personal experience, I had found Bikram to be extremely rejuvenating and cleansing when combined with ujjayi breath. It is important to follow (as much as possible) the instructions provided by the yoga instructors. The amazing part of the class is that even though you practice the same sequence over and over again, no two days are the same. You can never master a pose as there is always deeper you can go into each pose. Bikram teaches that achieving the perfect posture is not important, stumbling out of a pose helps you overcome your ego.

“Falling out of a posture
Means you are human;
Getting back into the posture
Means you are a yogi”
-Bikram Choudhury

It wasn’t long after I resumed my Bikram yoga practice, that I realized a decade worth of non-practice followed by pregnancy, had added more than a few cobwebs to my once flexible body. My way back to yoga was a very humbling experience. Pregnancy changes your body in a major way. My hips, shoulders, and abdomen felt tight and lacked the strength to hold positions. I was determined to succeed though and open to the challenge. I even started to see some initial results within two weeks. I felt bendier, my skin was glowing and I was even beginning to enjoy the heated room. Unfortunately, by the third week, the initial euphoria gave way to extreme exhaustion. I found the heat way too intense. Rather than helping me move deeper into the poses (which it is supposed to) I found it unbearable. I would come back home from my class completely drained and unable to carry on through the day. I tried to hydrate myself with liquids and Gatorade but nothing was working. So I started skipping classes. Hard as I tried Bikram yoga left me with far lesser energy than when I even started. I finally decided to discontinue my practice thinking maybe I had embarked on it a bit too soon after delivery.

Tracy Anderson’s – Post Pregnancy workout
Since Bikram yoga did not work out for me, I decided to look elsewhere. I was stuck at home too long and considered doing a workout DVD while my baby slept. I, therefore, decided to give Tracy Anderson’s “Post Pregnancy workout” a whirl. Tracy herself is a young mom and something about her words really resonated with me. Being a new mom she understands how hard it is to find any time for oneself and how hard it is to get one’s strength back after pregnancy, which you need a lot of if you are to take care of an infant. In the past, I have tried some of Tracy’s workouts such as her Mat workout, Cardio Dance and Boot camp. So I am not new to Tracy’s style. Her workouts hit the abs, thighs, and hips in just the right fashion and she aims at tiring the large muscle groups first and then bringing the smaller muscle groups into action throughout her workouts.

traceyandersonpostpregnancy
Pros
Fun workout: The DVD is really fun to follow and Tracy has an amazing body which I must say is an absolute inspiration for me. The DVD is 45 minutes long and composed of ab work, legwork, side ab work and arm exercises. The exercises are really challenging for me which I like as I tend to get bored if I don’t have sufficient challenge.

Melts your post pregnancy tummy: By the 4-5th day this DVD did a little wonder for my ab muscles. My ab muscles started kicking in with her moves where previously they felt almost dead. A little bit of tone has also returned in my hips and glutes. This has given me all the motivation I needed to persist.

Low intensity, high impact: This workout has no cardio just some intense Pilates-type moves that are really effective. Some of the exercises require light weights (no more than 2 pounds) so you know you are not going to hurt yourself. The workout has a slow steady pace and raises your heart rate without tiring you completely.

Cons
Knee exercises: I don’t like the fact that Tracy always does the leg section on knees. I find that a bit taxing on my poor knees. But if you fold a towel under your knees it should cushion the stress.

Poor verbal instructions: Tracy offers insufficient verbal directions which I must say is pretty characteristic of her in all her workout dvds. At times while working on one leg she will move to the other leg without ever giving verbal queues so if you are not watching her constantly you can get out of synch. But I found that a small nuisance in comparison to everything she has to offer.

Repetition: A lot of the exercises such as the arm series are repeated in all of her DVD’s. With that said they are effective and will tighten your arms like nothing else.

After just two weeks of doing this DVD 4-5 times a week, I feel so much stronger and more positive about getting my old body back. I know I still have a long way to go but I am in no hurry. I know I have nothing to prove and just want to work my way back into health. Like Tracey, herself states in her video, “It took you 9 months to have the baby, so it will take some time to get back your old body.” I will do a follow up at my 6-month post-delivery mark and let you know my experience and results then.

Meanwhile, I would love to hear from you. Tell me about your post-pregnancy experience. What did you do to get back into your old jeans or maybe it was no problem for you (in which case I am so jealous of you). Give me the skinny on what worked and what did not?

A Poem: Emotions

broken car vehicle vintage
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Emotions

You can pick the last few pieces,

on sale at the neighborhood goodwill store,

Next to the tie-die shirts and clogs;

that nobody has any use for anymore.

I ran my fingers over the frayed material

as if to bid one last good-bye,

You could see they were worn out.

Life has a way of wearing out

delicate material like this. That is…

if you are hackneyed enough to carry

such old styles in your wardrobe in the first place.

My mother passed them on to me,

suitcases and suitcases of emotions.

They run thick in our family.

And I foolishly carried them on with me hoping

to pass them on to my kids.

But kids these days have such little patience for gibberish.

So I emptied the suitcases of emotions

and folded them into a neat pile

to be donated to goodwill

with the rest of the “old and no longer used”.

Tiny: Newborn feet

I was recently blessed with a gorgeous baby girl. The photo challenge provided by Cheri Lucas Rowland rang a chord in my heart as my baby’s tiny feet have brought about so many changes to my life and such joy to my heart.

Sometimes the biggest changes in life are brought about by tiny beginnings…

p5p6

On choosing a lover

photo-1447688812233-3dbfff862778If I could chose a lover it would be

Poetry; a lonely heart’s companion.

Words would descend upon me like

vultures on a juicy carcass.

Tearing my soul like an old King’s

ravenous concubine.

 

Who needs the rehearsed symphony of meter?

We would be giddy on music & rhythm,

playing on words.

Flirting, laughing, holding hands

we would share a cab ride back home.

 

There, one by one, we will play

all the tunes of life.

Glowing in the florescent light of a

cheap white wine, we will strip

down worldly frivolities.

 

Bare down to our bones, to our souls.

We would dance the night away

Naked, wordless, soulful.

 

 

Everything you need to know about Amazon Fresh before you subscribe

I am a new mother, and am looking for constructive ways to save time so I may focus more on my baby.  I am also a food lover and never like to be without a cornucopia of fresh produce and healthy foods in my fridge and pantry. So I signed up for Amazon Fresh and have been ordering on a weekly basis for almost 2 months. Here is my honest and unbiased opinion.

What is Amazon Fresh?

amazon-fresh

In a nutshell Amazon Fresh is a new service offered by Amazon that provides a variety of fresh vegetables, beverages, organic and non organic produce and some prepared foods. They even offer some local market produce. The best part about Amazon Fresh is its ease of shopping online and next day delivery. It can be an ideal option for busy Executives or for people who are invalid or have recently gone through a surgery and find running to the grocery either too time-tasking or physically inconvenient.

With that said Amazon Fresh looks to me at best like “work in progress”. Amazon has not done such a great job of designing their Amazon Fresh menu as the rest of its website (read on for further clarification). Also the variety of produce available is not nearly as satisfactory as you would expect if you are a food lover.

Also at an additional $299/= cost per year with only one month trial membership Amazon Fresh is definitely no steal. So it may behoove you to know exactly the pros and cons of this service before you sign up.

Prices:

Prices of produce is on par with most local grocers and because it is easier to compare fruits and vegetables by cost you may even end up saving some $$$.

Coupons: Since Amazon is constantly improving their Amazon Fresh service, I recently noticed a few items had coupons available. Whenever an item has a coupon available they make it simple enough to apply it by simply clicking a button. However these items are few and far in between. If they can increase the line of products with coupons that will be a huge selling point for them.

Selection:

Overall selection of produce is what I will ding them most for. Even though they have enough products to fill your fridge and immediate needs, it is not nearly as abundant as what you will find at your local Ralph’s or rich as Farmers Market.

Delivery:

Like I said the convenience of next day door to door delivery was my main driving force towards choosing Fresh. Here are some pros and cons about Fresh delivery.

Pros: You basically make an order and they deliver it to you at the time slot you picked. I chose the non attended service so they just leave the totes outside my house. So far they have always delivered within the time slot I have chosen. The packaging is pretty solid. Fresh vegetables do not wilt because they add plenty of coolers and they come in sturdy green totes. Each tote has a disposable bag so there is no danger for contamination caused by reusable totes.

Cons: The annoying thing was that you have to store these big green totes until the next order which I make no sooner than 7-10 days. That means I have 5-7 large totes sitting outside my house at all times. Also I am worried of them getting stolen. This is a huge annoyance to me as I don’t think green totes outside adds to the general ambiance 😦

I called up Customer service to see if they can pick the totes right after delivery and they told me I would have to call up to schedule a tote pick up. I think having to call for a tote pick up every time is inconvenient, while having the totes lying around for a week is equally undesirable.

Also the way they package food items sucks sometimes. For instance you will have one tote with practically 1 item and another with 10 or more rendering a few items at the bottom of the tote to get damaged. For instance I ordered yogurt and cookies but they put them under the bottom of the tote and added cantaloupes and pineapples on top. Yogurt packages got squished and cookies were crumbled when I opened the packet. No biggie but worth a mention.

User Interface:

Pros: What I really like is that produce is nicely categorized under headings such as Produce, Perishables, Grocery, Household goods with many sub categories underneath to make searches easy. Searching for items under sub categories has a simple carousal style user interface.

Cons: Overall, Fresh menu is not as user friendly as the rest of Amazon website. I get the feeling that they did not take their time designing this feature. For instance there is no easy way to go back to old orders and reuse all or part of the old order(s). 

The menu item “Past purchases” allows you too see your recent purchases but you have to individually add each item to the cart!!! I find it annoying to have to place a fresh order every time. They have also added the option to create grocery list but that is additional work. Why can’t I turn an old order into my grocery list and then use the entire list over and over again while making needed edits each time? I called Customer service and gave them my suggestion, but beyond a polite apology they did not seem to care.

Secondly, the problem with the carousal is for produce like onions, they show one onion on the carousel. So if you want to buy a dozen onions you will have to click the “Add to Fresh Cart” button a dozen times. That’s dumb. They do have another variety of onions available in a bag if you scroll through the carousal but you have to know to scroll for it. Why not have an easy option to add multiple onions within the carousal itself?

captureonioncarousal

Thirdly, Category items are not intuitively named. For instance if I need Goat’s milk, I would expect to find it under Beverages. But clicking Beverages brings me to Coffee, Tea, Water, Soft Drinks, Sports drinks, Juices, Coconut water (should this be a separate category?) and powdered mixes but no milk. You can still find it by searching in the Search bar but why not have a separate category for something as basic as Milk especially since they have a category for coconut water! Needless to say this is just an example. Overall they may need to create more intuitive categories and sub categories to make searching on Fresh products easier.

So in the end at an additional cost of $299/= an year it is up to you to decide whether Amazon floats your boat or not. For me it was the convenience. It may be worthwhile to know that Amazon Prime Fresh members get the benefits of both Amazon Prime and Amazon Fresh for an annual membership fee of $299.

With that said I will not extend my membership next year, since nothing beats the joy of being able to hold and smell your produce before buying it. On the other hand the convenience of ordering online and having your groceries sent to your door may be worth the extra $$$ for you. If you have used Amazon Fresh let me have your thoughts and let me know if you found my review helpful?

So it is 10/19/2016 about 18 days after I published this post. I wanted to do an update on Amazon Fresh. It seems Amazon is growing so fast it is unable to sustain its growth. The last two orders I made via Fresh were never sent to me at all. I called up Customer Service and they rescheduled it for me. Alas the orders were never sent even at the rescheduled time. After waiting 3 days for my order, I called up customer service to request for a refund as I am very unhappy with their service. I must say, Amazon has great Customer Service. Their agents are not just helpful but very personable and appear very happy. The Customer service person agreed to refund my money in full even though I would have been happy with a partial refund.

So long story short, Amazon Fresh did not work for me at all. I will continue being an Amazon Prime member but Fresh has a long way to go. The quality and variety of produce available is weak,  and service is undependable. Bye, Bye Amazon Fresh.

5 things pregnancy taught me

babycrib

5 Things Pregnancy taught me

  • Whosoever said “Women are the weaker sex” had no clue.

Giving life is serious Business. Between the countless inconveniences of midnight bathroom runs, nausea, heart burn, Braxton Hick contractions and feeling like a whale for 9 months; bringing a person to the world is no petty job. By the end of Pregnancy most women would have experienced a sleuth of pregnancy related issues and gained at least 25-35 pounds. Nature did not goof up by entrusting this mighty job to the “weaker sex”. Pregnancy takes a physical beating on a women’s body. And I am convinced it makes us women physically, mentally and emotionally stronger not weaker.

  • No walk in the park

When I first learned I was pregnant, I went through a roller coaster ride of emotions; periods of giddy happiness followed by fear and anxiety. I was fraught with fear that I would not make a good mother. I was uncertain of what to expect in pregnancy and feared the 9 months that loomed ahead of me. I had heard so many good and bad things about pregnancy and motherhood and now all those stories came back to perform a cirque de soleil in my head. Slowly but surely this phase of uncertainty passed and I grew more and more convinced that I was truly blessed to be experiencing this exciting period of my life. I learned later that majority of women experience similar fears at the beginning of their pregnancy but that few talk about it due to social stigma. While pregnancy is completely instinctive and natural there is nothing ordinary about it. We have lived our lives in a certain fashion for … years (fill in the blank with your age) and are used to it. Pregnancy changes all that experience on its head. Reconditioning our bodies and minds will surely take some time. Whether it is your first time or third time, pregnancy is no walk in the park.

  • This too shall pass

I like how 9 months of pregnancy are divided into 3 trimesters. Each trimester has a set of unique characteristics and marks a period in the growth of the fetus. Each trimester brought to me a different set of issues and blessings. But as I waded through it all, I learned no matter how good or bad things may be today, they shall pass. So just live in the present with the absolute awareness that this too shall pass. Live in the moment and enjoy it.

  • Appreciate what your mama gave you

I say this not in jest. All my life I have had a warped image of beauty. My image of beauty was in some ways mirror opposite of what I look like. I have tried countless exercise routines in hopes of improving my body but never once got close to my own definition of “ideal” or the “ideal” I was seeking. Pregnancy taught me that human body is perfect just the way it is.

Pregnancy has taught me to appreciate my body more than any exercise regimen could. Pregnancy has both humbled and embellished me.

After I deliver I will definitely go back to working out again, but not with dreams of achieving an ideal body but simply enjoying a healthy one.

  • It is not just about you

One of the best lessons about Pregnancy came to me from my sister. She said pregnancy is the most beautiful time in your life as you will never be truly alone, and everything you will do will be for someone else.

A friend of mine added, “Pregnancy makes you a better person because never before or after will you have two hearts beating in your body”.

Up until now everything I did was for myself. Pregnancy changed my perspective. Simple things you do are not just for yourself but for your baby. For instance before I put something in my mouth, I research if it is healthy and nutritious for the fetus. Wearing clothes is not about looks but about comfort and so on.

These are few pearls of wisdom I picked on route to motherhood. I am curious to hear from you. What are your thoughts on pregnancy if you experienced it first hand? Or maybe you learned not by experience but through your sister, mother, girlfriend or wife?

Do share your pregnant thoughts with me.

 

Morning

I am now full term and just waiting for my baby to come. But as yet there is no sign of baby. Sleeping at night is getting harder and harder (due to the constant discomfort), which makes waking up in the wee hours of morning almost impossible. So for now the beauty of the morning hour is as bereft as a good night sleep. Cheri Lucas’s morning post reinstated what I am missing out on right now: the early morning inspiration.

Here are some pictures from Bali that to me are as fresh as the Morning 🙂

IMG_2173IMG_2175

The burden of being a generalist

This post is not meant to be a confession and yet that’s exactly how it may come across to some. Let me start by unashamedly stating I am a hopeless generalist! I have too many passions to be able to devote all my life to one passion only.

Yet that does come with a fair amount of regret, since I am in great danger of completing half my life and having gained a specialty at nothing! To specialize at any field one needs years and years of devoted practice, but the end result is so admirable. A joy I may never experience.

Sometimes I wish I had spent all my years specializing one thing no matter what. My problem was never a lack of talent or focus, instead it was persistence. There are some fortunate souls who will find their calling early in life and persist with it for the rest of their lives. The blogging world is full of such talented folks.

A friend of mine, has a full time day job as an accountant but spends her weekends and evenings painting. She has been painting since she was five. Walking into her home is like stepping into Michelangelo’s studio. Her paintings are so professional she has had several successful exhibitions. One wonders if she is so good at her hobby how good she must be at her day time job which is still the source of her bread and butter.

A colleague of mine excels at interior home design. She has such a knack for buying cheap deals at garage sales and flea markets and then putting them together in the most amazing fashion. Her creativity is off the hook. She can create a chandelier out of old tea cups! My own mother has a green thumb like nobody else. Even in her early seventies she has converted an otherwise dry and pest infiltrated handkerchief garden into a Garden of Eden. Green plants abound not only her garden but her house and are growing out of fused bulbs, broken tea cups, and practically anything that will hold a handful of soil and her green magic.

So coming back to myself. I am troubled by absolute angst of having spent half my life and yet mastering nothing. This is not how I intended things to be a couple decades ago. My problem was not being devoid of talent. If I had no talent to boast of, that would be perfectly fine and acceptable. My problem is having a “little bit” of talent at almost a little of everything. I have tried my hand at painting, poetry, handiwork, fabric painting, gardening, cooking, pickling, kombucha making, doodling, blogging, photography and so much more. (One thing I admit never to have a talent for was singing. I can at best screech completely out of tune and never remember the lyrics.)

Being a Jack of all trades, master of none is not entirely a bad thing. It’s perfectly fine being a generalist if one aspires to be “regular” or “moderately talented” or in other words “average”. Does the word “average” send shudders down your back?

I know some people will even disagree with my assessment of equating a generalist to being “average”. Infact even though specialists have historically been sought after in Corporate America and have enjoyed some of the highest paying jobs, the market today is changing. Heck, it may even be the time of the underdogs as the CIO’s and CEO’s today are placing greater value at generalists than ever before. Generalists may in fact have become the missing ingredient to making a project successful as they have the vision to not only see the leaves and the branches of the tree but also the entire tree and even get a bird’s eye view at the forest.

Be that as it may, my fear of being a generalist is the mortal fear of dying in ubiquity and anonymity without ever having enjoyed a single ray of excellence. The joy of being labelled as “the best” at something no matter how small escapes me.

The blogosphere today is full of specialists and generalists. Are you a specialist or a generalist? Do you prefer one over the other? I invite you to share which group you belong to and what is your view on the matter?

Holy Chutney

Would you like to liven up a simple vegetarian meal with something tangy, spicy and super healthy? The best part is nothing could be quicker, simpler and more nutritious to whip up when you are on a time crunch. Not only is this Chutney recipe a great condiment to your meal but it is also really good for your colon health.

What you will need?

1 bunch Dill

1 bunch Cilantro

1 bunch Mint

Fresh ginger (add to taste)

2 lime

1 green chili

½ spoon sea salt

Optional: 1 garlic clove

Optional: 1 spoon honey

Chutney Time

15 minutes (including clean up and cutting herbs)

Method

Be sure to separate and clean the herbs by triple washing them in cold water. I usually don’t bother cutting off the stalks unless they are thick and stalky. But if they are tender and fresh they are chock full of antioxidants, so leave them on.

Throw all the herbs into your mixer and add ½ spoon of sea salt and the juice of two limes. You may need to add a couple spoons of water depending upon how thin or thick you like the consistency of your chutney. Limes and salt are going to make your chutney super tangy and delicious.

Grind the mixture well and empty into a glass container and voila your chutney is ready! One bite and you will know why I call it Holy Chutney.

Optional Steps: I usually don’t like to add garlic to this chutney but if it suits your fancy don’t hold back. You can also add a spoon of honey if you would like to have a sweet and tangy chutney.

Why it’s good for you?

All the ingredients in this chutney are so good for you they are medicinal. Except medicines don’t taste so good.

  • Limes are full of Vitamin C. Their health benefits include improving digestion, skin luster and weight loss besides other things.
  • Dill is good for digestion, insomnia, diarrhea and even cancer.
  • Mint is good for headache, indigestion, respiratory problems.
  • Cilantro is good for ulcers, digestion, constipation, anemia and menstrual disorders.

How to enjoy your chutney?

You can have a spoon or two of Holy chutney with any meal. Or simply spread some chutney and cheese on a whole wheat toast and enjoy!20160410_184518

20160410_191140

Everyone you meet is fighting a war

BeKindLast Friday, I was driving back home after an unusually bad day at work. My sole consolation was, “TGIF”, when I saw a beat up truck carrying a printed note on the side and back that read, “Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle of which you know nothing. Be kind to everyone you meet.”

I was touched by its profoundness. As it happens I had one of those days where you feel invisible, overlooked and unappreciated. Normally speaking I don’t let my environment get to me. But a series of bad days at work coupled with bad health got me in. Usually, I am the nice gal who lets other cars in front of me with a polite wave but today I was not having any of that. I was burned out, and all I wanted to do was go home and end the day which is when I saw the note. And then it occurred to me, “I am not alone in feeling the way I do”. We are all fighting our own demons and troubles in life.

When we meet people all too often we see a mask. The mask could be a well rehearsed image they are portraying or a judgment we slap on them based on their looks, mannerisms, behaviors and attire. But it is not truly who they are or everything they are. Too often when I am troubled or stressed I get into my “me against the world” modes. I am sure many other people behave like that which is probably why unhappy, stressed people are never fun to be around with (myself included). But if all of us are truly waging a war within why can’t we be more compassionate to each others troubles?

I feel part of the blame lies with the way we are taught to behave. We are taught always to sound positive and happy no matter what. Countless self help books talk about how in order to make a positive impression we should sound like we just tripped over a hundred dollar bill. It is little wonder then, that when we are feeling miserable we should want to hide our true feelings and shy away from human company. To seek the company of another compassionate soul in time of need, is therefore unthinkable because who would want to be with us when we are miserable? But it is no more plausible to be happy all the time just as it is to expect summer to last all year round. Even mother nature has her ups and downs.

Why does society always expect us to bear a positive face all the time? Why can’t we simply portray what we feel today? Why are we busy wearing masks and hiding our true feelings afraid of getting judged, when we are all feeling the same way? If the King is naked and we all know it, why can’t we just say it out aloud?

Seasons: A White Wedding

When Winter covers every nook and cranny in white it looks like Mother Nature herself has dressed to become a bride; what a sight to behold! These pictures were taken by a friend and bring to mind a grandiose White wedding thrown for a Snow queen or maybe Snow White? Who says fairy tales are for little girls?

Pictures courtesy Viraj Thakur

IMG_2832
Chandelier view of White Woods – Viraj Thakur

IMG_2829IMG_2840IMG_2856IMG_2860IMG_2828IMG_2827

IMG_2849

Inspired by Photo Challenge

 

Barbie: More than a body?

Barbie new look

It seems Barbie has always made the headlines with her controversial body. She is a tall blonde with a body chiseled to perfection. As a child I found Barbie to be unparalleled in her beauty. It is little wonder that according to me being beautiful meant to have “fair” skin and beautiful kink free blonde hair. My best friend’s idea of beauty in contrast was simply being “skinny”.

Although Barbie alone can not solely  be blamed for our misplaced adulation, she along with her look-likes and the lack of diversity in the beauty industry had a fair share to play.

Over the years Barbie changed her dresses, professions and even skin tones but it is not until recently that she went through a complete eye opening transformation.

At the tender age of 56 Barbie has finally reincarnated into a more “realistic” body. Or 3 new bodies to be precise: curvy, tall & petite. They are still all gorgeous and very trendy. Finally a look little girls can see themselves reflected!

In a world where plus size women are finally taking center stage as supermodels (consider Robyn Lawley, Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine) this was a much appreciated and needed change. So then why the big hue and cry about Mattel updating the look of their cash cow product: Barbie?

The critics are playing down Mattel’s effort to make Barbie more realistic as a “ploy” to increase sales. So what’s the problem with that? Even if Mattel is diversifying to save a dying brand, albeit late in the game the intent is not unkind, the time is ripe and the new look is outstanding. So thumbs up to the new Fashionista Barbie’s.

Now what about Ken? Will he be sporting a 6 pack beer belly and a receding hairline soon? Or maybe just a slightly more rounded personality?

Ken

It was a grey day

GreyDayIt was yet another cold and cloudy day. Sometimes in the thick of winters one gets so resigned to dull weather, it feels it will never be sunny and beautiful again. Unfortunately that’s how it felt today. I am dying for the warm summer to melt the day and warm up my mood. Meanwhile I can’t help but remind myself how every season has an important role to play and how it too must be enjoyed for its sake. Here is a list of 10 wonderful things you can do on a cold, grey day to brighten your mood:

  1. Watch an old flick while wrapped up in bed – I feel the best part of winters is the license to watch your favorite movie while wrapped in a warm blanket and sipping a hot cup of cocoa.
  2. Eat Mac & Cheese – Comfort food is another blessing that winters offer in plenty. My favorite Mac and Cheese recipe includes Brussels sprouts and Panko bread crumbs and is listed below. But I also love to make hearty soups and have them for dinner with a loaf of garlic bread.
  3. Wrap up in a warm jacket and go for a walk – Don’t forget to catch up on Vitamin D by going for walk in the afternoon. It can do your mood loads of good.
  4. Go skiing – When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
  5. Throw a potluck party – I love potlucks. It is so much fun to sample and savor all the variety of foods you get at a potluck party. The weather may be too cold to venture outside but inside your house or at a friend’s house it is always warm, and the conversation is always engaging.
  6. Read a good book – This one is similar to #1. The idea is to cozy up with your favorite book or movie.
  7. Rake a warm fire and enjoy a cup of warm toddy – Winter is an excellent time to spike up romance by raking a fire and enjoying your favorite drink. Although I myself never like whiskey and am trying to stay away from alcohol, a friend gave me this recipe some time back. A toddy is easy to brew. Pour hot water into mug and steep tea for 2-3 minutes. Remove tea bag and add honey.  Stir. Pour in whiskey, add squeeze of lemon and enjoy.
  8. Pamper yourself with hot oil massage – This is a really simple way to pamper yourself and your tresses. They will look beautiful the next day and when they bounce with shine you will be so glad you did it. Mix almond, olive and castor oil in equal parts in a bottle. Heat lightly in microwave till it is lukewarm to touch and apply in hair. Keep massaging the oil in with your finger tips. For best results leave it overnight but be sure to cover your pillow case. You will look like the Pantene girls the next day, I promise!
  9. Engage in your hobby – Do you like to paint, write, cook? Whatever your hobby is, engage in it. It is a sure shot way to spike up the feel-good hormones.
  10. Catch up on your zzz’s – When the weather is dull and it gets dark early, it is easy to want to settle for bed early. An excellent idea! Just remember to stay away from TV, internet, iphone and all technology unless you want to be counting sheep.

Mac and Cheese with Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces mild white cheddar cheese, grated and divided
  • 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, cored, and very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • Cook macaroni according to package directions Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saute pan or high-sided skillet set over medium heat. When butter is melted and frothy, add flour and whisk until smooth and begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly pour in warm milk, a little at a time, whisking vigorously, until all the milk is incorporated and mixture is smooth. Don’t worry if the mixture gets oddly chunky for a bit, just keep adding milk a little bit at a time and whisking constantly to break up the chunks.
  • Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking regularly, until sauce bubbles and has thickened slightly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cayenne, paprika, and salt and pepper. Slowly add cheeses, a handful at a time, whisking until melted before adding more. Add all but 1/2 cup of cheese (set this aside for sprinkling on top). Stir in macaroni and sliced Brussels sprouts until evenly coated.
  • Pour into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and breadcrumbs over top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until filling is bubbling, then broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

 

San Diego – New Year at Gas Lamp District

The Gaslamp District provides a vibrant, youthful and rich experience to visitors. Only a short two hours drive from Los Angeles, this place offers a round-the-clock party atmosphere with plenty of bars, restaurants and dive bars to chose from. It extends from Broadway to Harbor Drive, and from 4th to 6th Avenue, covering 16½ blocks. It includes 94 historic buildings, some that were constructed as far back as the Victorian era and are in excellent condition and still in use even today. We visited the Gas Lamp district for New Year’s eve and I was able to catch some of the decorations and festivities on my camera. I have added some personal observations on the places we visited as well as historical references where applicable. Enjoy the e-visit!

The district was so named after the Gas lamps that were used in the late 19th century.

DSC_0361
Gas lamp district Gateway

DSC_0368

DSC_0352
Notice the Gas Lamps

DSC_0339
The infamous Coyote Ugly Salon

DSC_0340

The Coyote Ugly Saloon was first started in New York and gained National attention after Hollywood decided to bring this bar to the world map with “Coyote Ugly” movie starring  Piper Perabo and Maria Bello. Apparently the bar is not famous for its excellent service and whatever you do don’t ask for a glass of water here!

 

Dick’s last resort eatery is infamous for its rude servers who dish out fattening fries, sandwiches, Burgers with Beer and serve it with plenty of saucy remarks. I am not kidding! This place is actually famous for its “Service with Sarcasm” slogan. The place is actually fun and there is plenty of memorabilia to check out while you enjoy your food. Just go in with good humor. The servers were not rude at all but fun and helpful.

DSC_0356
Dick’s last resort restaurant

DSC_0373
Garage Kitchen + Bar

The name of this place is inspired by its history. Garage Kitchen and Bar used to be an actual Garage called “Carriage works” built in 1890 and housed buggies and wagons. Today it houses a vibrant atmosphere, good food and excellent service. Definitely recommend their Kale salad and Roasted Garlic Hummus with cured olives. They also have tons of beer on tap.

DSC_0370
The Garage Lounge

DSC_0362
I took a picture of this toy as it reminded me of my childhood. Monchhichi was a toy I always wanted as a kid. Sure enough I bought it as an adult!

DSC_0376DSC_0374DSC_0375DSC_0360DSC_0349DSC_0351

DSC_0348
Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for a quick Chocolate fix

DSC_0355DSC_0350

Wish you all a very Happy New Year. Have an excellent 2016!

Antiquated

IMG_16051IMG_16021IMG_16041

I love visiting Antique stores for their sheer nostalgic value. Some of the items are even before my time and I cannot but help look at random objects and wonder the history of the object. Who was the original owner? Did she enjoy using that article? What was her story? What was happening in the world at that time? Every object for sale is more of a story and less of an object. Here are 3 pictures of the Stars Antique Market in Hermosa Beach. Look at the abandoned dolls, cookie jars, handwoven crochet blanket. Among these artifacts and more you will find tons of stories to ponder and savor.

Photo Challenge: Now

Here is wishing you all a very Merry X-Mas and a Happy New Year. Since this week’s challenge is all about the “Now and here” I thought it only be appropriate to catch a little of the Christmas cheer on lens. The Sleepy Hollow Christmas Lights in Torrance California are famous for streets and streets of decorated lights. Hundreds of cars pass by the neighborhood every hour to check these lights out and one has to be really talented to be able to drive and aim for pictures.

Since it is really cold and breezy outside, some houses even sell hot chocolates, popcorn, water and even churros! I am sure many of your neighborhoods do something similar? I tried to catch some of the holiday cheer driving past the neighborhood, though it was hard to do justice. Enjoy!

DSC_0343_upDSC_0335DSC_0323DSC_0340DSC_0362DSC_0364DSC_0365DSC_0368DSC_0369DSC_0371DSC_0372DSC_0375DSC_0379

2015 Retrospective

RetrospectiveAs 2015 draws to a close one cannot help but look back at everything exciting and not so exciting that the year had to offer. At a global level 2015 brought in its wake major news highlights such as Discovery of Water on Mars, Queen Elizabeth reaching a milestone year, rebirth of Stars Wars as well as some rather heartbreaking incidents such as the Paris attacks, Migrant crisis, Financial collapse of Greece and of course Nepal earthquake to name just a few.

At a personal level 2015 has brought me some triumphs and few eye-opening failures. I feel adversities and failures bring with them an opportunity to learn and grow. In my career front despite my best effort I felt very overlooked and unappreciated. But this has given me the awareness to improve my skills to an extent that would make them impossible to be overlooked in future.

So coming back to my blog ubecute. Ubecute too has had to learn from its 2015 setbacks. Ubecute was started in 2014 which was an excellent first year. In its first year (2014) Ubecute had received over 14, 299 views and had a total of 137 published posts.

2015 however envisaged a damper 6,881 views only with only a total of 60 posts. The fault clearly lies on the frequency, number and possibly the quality of posts published. It is evident that to have a well-oiled blog one needs to publish quality posts periodically at fixed intervals. Lesson Learned boss!

In the end, allow me to wrap it up with some of Ubecute’s highlights in the last two years. I was visiting the Stats page on WordPress and picked out 3 of my most viewed posts. I then picked out 3 of my least visited posts that I actually love but received few views. Feel free to take a quick walk with me in the memory lane by reading some of these most/least visited posts in the last two years. Enjoy!

Top 3 most viewed posts that I really enjoyed writing:

Naked as the Maple Tree – 2,350 views (A poem in which I compared myself to …yes you guessed it…a Maple tree)

Review on Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis – 250 views (A personal take on Tracy’s exercise video called Metamorphosis)

Serene Goa – 200 views (I loved this article as it was full of pictures from my last visit of Goa. In my view Goa is an underrated and inexpensive vacation destination. So if you are looking for one check this article out and feel free to reach me if you need any suggestions on visiting Goa)

Top 3 Least viewed that I hoped would not be collecting cobwebs:

The power of small: I honestly enjoyed writing this article on how small efforts make big changes and have life changing effects. In my personal experience I found that some of my biggest successes have been envisioned out of tiny efforts made over a period of time.

I sold my Sister – A poem about a child selling her younger sister. Although the poem is not autobiographical in nature it evoked some deep emotions from readers and I loved all the comments and feedback I received.

But no Cigar – This was a short story about a well-known diabolical character. I generally never write humorous short stories, so this was something new for me.  It is a quick and witty read so I hope you will enjoy it.