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.

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An old abandoned house
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An old house turned into an office
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Sunlight playing peek-a-boo through the thick trees
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Old boats stacked up
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Look closer there are turtles soaking in sun
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Specious blossoms
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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.

U Be Cute

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…

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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!

 

 

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

photo-1469833120660-1a218b53d28aEmotions

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 materials like that. 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”.

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?

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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

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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 🙂

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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

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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

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Chandelier view of White Woods – Viraj Thakur

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Inspired by Photo Challenge

 

Barbie: More than a body?

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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?

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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.

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Gas lamp district Gateway

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Notice the Gas Lamps
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The infamous Coyote Ugly Salon

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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.

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Dick’s last resort restaurant
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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.

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The Garage Lounge
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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!

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Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for a quick Chocolate fix

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

Antiquated

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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!

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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.

Coffee Date

CoffeeIt seems November is the month for coffee dates with friends! Well not really but it may as well be, since Cheri Lucas Rowlands created a prompt to write about a coffee date with a friend. The rules are simple: basically pretend you are having a coffee date with a friend and “share any details you’d like and include as many as you want, as long as you begin each with If we were having coffee right now... “

I loved the prompt and immediately drafted the post below. If you too like the prompt then feel free to get your creative juices flowing by drafting a post and publishing on your blog. Feel free to pingback if you like.

Dear Friend,

It’s been such a long time since we met for a coffee and talked. I have so much to tell you and catch up with you.

If we were having coffee right now, I could tell you that last month I completed an amazing trek to the bottom of Grand Canyon all the way to Phantom Ranch and back. And what lovely sceneries I caught on camera. Some of these pictures will soon be published on National Geographic! I will be posting links on my blog shortly.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that two weeks ago, I ran a triathlon and helped raise $6000/= for Cancer Relief. I would tell you that that’s not all. I am planning to raise twice as much for the Homeless by the end of this year.

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you that I have decided to take a yearlong break from work to go backpacking around the world. I have decided to leave my humble yet comfortable life to live out of a backpack, eat peanuts and rice, and wear recycled clothes as long as I can get to soak the world like a sponge. I would promise to write a post every day documenting everything I see and discover!

If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you, I have finally decided to climb the Mount Everest. Yes the Mount Everest! I have already started to train intensively for it.

If we were having coffee right now I could tell you all this and more but I will not. I will not, because I would be lying. I have lived my entire life in the safe lane. I am not brave or daring enough to trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Besides it is so forbiddingly hot that it is way out of my comfort zone. Snakes, lizards and mice creep me out. Yes I know I suck, but I am sorry that’s who I am. I am scared of heights, hot temperatures, reptiles and rodents.

I have frequently donated to several charities but never made an effort to raise notable sums for any. And oh how I wish I had the guts to leave my job and go and travel for a whole year! Discovering the world with a child’s eyes and catching it on a camera! But there again I am to disappoint you and above all myself. I like to play it safe, so safe that I may be missing out on life and I know it.

I am scared of heights so I would never be climbing the Mount Everest even though the very thought of scaling the heights of the forbidding peak excites every cell in my body.

Instead, if you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would tell you that just now I am trying to figure out the meaning of life sitting on my couch in the comfort of my home. And it refuses to make sense. I read the news and feel for the millions of homeless refugees as well as the families of the innocent people who lost their lives in the Paris attacks. I am trying so hard to make sense out of the chaos and sorrow but cannot. What could I say to justify the senselessness of it? What dire lessons are we to learn out of such madness that would justify all the human suffering?

If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee. I would tell you I am sorry. I am sorry I am not more exciting and spunky. I can’t just get up and leave and do what I really want to. Instead I do what I should. I pay my bills, go to work, eat healthy and basically walk the line. That’s how I have always been and that’s who I will be. I am a thinker yet I have not solved any major puzzles of life.

If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would instead tell you my life is simple and monotonous where one day easily bleeds into another. But for that I am truly grateful. I cannot thank my stars enough for its comforting predictability. What’s worse is I know there are millions who would give anything to have half of what I or you take for granted every day.

If you were to take time out to meet me for coffee, I would instead tell you that even though climbing the Everest sounds mind bogglingly exciting to me I would never ever do it. I would never do it not because I am scared, but because I am not convinced it matters. Life offers enough challenges every day. I don’t need to climb 30,000 feet above sea level to discover them. You might say it’s an excuse but I am not here to prove you wrong.

If you were to truly take time out to meet me for coffee, I would tell you I am boring and ordinary in every way. If you can distinguish me from any other Jane Doe you met today on the bus stop, subway, coffee shop, grocery line, then I would be truly impressed with you.

If you still care to meet me for a coffee I will be sitting right here without any pretense, waiting with an open heart. And maybe I will just listen!

Love Letter to life

Heart

Dear Life,

How are you doing? I am sorry I haven’t been answering your phone calls lately. The other day you knocked on my door and I pretended to be out. When you turned around to leave, it almost sucked the breath out of my soul. I needed some time to think about us. I just want to clarify that this is not a break-up letter, even if it reads like one. See I am not yet done loving you. You were, are and always will be dearer to me than anything else in the world. I am only writing to you so you can understand how you make me feel. Maybe once you learn what it is you are doing wrong, you will change your ways?

Yea, I know we have been flirting, fighting, making up and most of all disappointing each other for a long time. But now I am done playing these games with you. I am also done fighting with you because you are just too strong for me. I have bruised knuckles and knees to prove. The last time I fought you, I ended up rolled over in a corner; flattened out like dough. And then just when I was ready to give up, you came back around placating me like you do. You embraced, kissed, and sang to me and suddenly the sun shone brighter, and the world tasted sweeter than Nutella. Suddenly my world was an ice cream truck playing “The Mister softee” jingle.

I know I am play-doh in your hands. You reward me with your love just as unexpectedly as you punish and chastise me. But it’s when you ignore me that I hate the most. It’s like I am suddenly invisible to you. Without you, I am a mouse running aimlessly inside a wheel.

But who am I to complain? The truth is I need you more than you need me. Without you I am nothing. Heck without you, I don’t even exist. You on the other hand have countless lovers. You have kissed just as many into existence as you have put to bed (six feet under). For you my darling are life incarnate! You are the mountains, oceans, skies, birds, bees, animals and humans. Everything that lives is you and nothing that does not is not. You are past, present and future. To live is to love you. And dear life, I do!

Yours faithfully,

Me.

The “Write” Nook

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway

WriteNook

When it comes to writing there is no better place to start than in your own mind. Yet, I have read so many articles on accomplished writers sharing their personal stories on what gets their creative juices flowing and almost all of them recommend having a designated area to write; a shrine, a sacred place. They recommend using it strictly for creative writing and not desecrating it for any non creative activities.

As for me, I haven’t even spelled “a” of accomplished. I neither have a sacred “write” place nor a sacred ritual that will get the juices flowing. I wish creativity were as simple as opening a faucet! But it is not. Instead It is hours and hours of practice, writing and rewriting. It is opening your soul to the world fully knowing that it can be ridiculed, shredded apart or worse still overlooked!

So what is my favorite writing nook? I tend to write anywhere; tucked in bed watching Television (yes, that is very distracting), at the dining table (also distracting), or just making mental notes (yes, I have lost a lot of potential ideas by virtue of relying totally on memory). Unfortunately, I don’t own a private study, and have no designated nook of my own where I commence writing.

But if I had the luxury of having my own study I know exactly what it would look like. It would have a sign on the door reading, “Enter at your own risk, ye who dares to enter”. My study would have a large ivory colored table with drawers and filing cabinets. I would use the cabinets to save my unfinished drafts, cut outs, and newspaper clippings. The walls would be covered with photographs of beautiful places and life caught on lens. It would also have a couch that I can lounge on when I am tired of sitting at my desk. There would be a slight disarray to my ideal study as I feel too much organization is the enemy of creativity. Alas for now, my “write” nook consists of the space between myself and my laptop!

Fortunately enough writing is engrossing enough for me that I can easily shut off the world and can write comfortably anywhere! As a child I used to paint a lot. I would get so engrossed in my work that I would paint nonstop for hours without remembering to eat or drink. Although I have severe ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), when it comes to writing my ADD evaporates like a puff of black smoke.

Most writers find that waking up in the morning to write is especially valuable. While that makes sense (since your mind is at its peak performance in the morning) it somehow never worked for me. I usually write at night after preparing dinner and cleaning up. My biggest writing foe is also my biggest weakness: the idiot box. Whenever I have the courage to shut the TV out of my evenings, I can save time to write.

I know I have written a nice piece when I get goosebumps reading it out aloud. My “write nook” or a lack thereof is probably markedly different from yours (I hope for your sake!). So what’s your favorite space and ritual to write? Do you have a preferred time of the day when you like to put pen to paper? Do you have any other writing nuances? Give me the skinny on your “write nook” and “write stuff”.

Room for improvement

“There’s always room for improvement, it’s the biggest room in the house.” – By Louise Heath

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I am a strong believer of continuous self-improvement, because what you are born with is God’s gift to you but what you make of yourself is your gift to God.

At the end of each year, I create a list of goals for next year. Some people prefer writing their goals on their birthdays since it is a different kind of a new year. You can do whatever works for you. But since my birthday falls right in the smacking center of the year (30th June), I find that I use my birthday to reassess my achievements and ponder on my goals. Looking back, I feel the most productive years have been those in which I achieved at least 80% of my goals. To be honest, I never realized all my goals just because life is so fluid and one’s goals need to be adjusted with the changing demands life places. Also, I tend to be overzealous while creating my goals.

If you are one of the over-achievers then you constantly not only achieve your goals but go over and beyond. Some people believe writing their goals down every day helps them stay motivated and keep their goals fresh in their mind. I write my goals once and then visit them a few times through the year. I feel that just keeping goals in the sub-conscious is enough.

Yesterday I found an old diary of mine, that I used to write 15 years ago. Surprisingly enough I happened to flip open a page where I had written what I would like to achieve and who I would like to be when I grow up and I had called the list “My Dream Self”. I was so pleasantly shocked to realize that I have achieved all the things my “dream self” was going to achieve. Sounds ambitious? Not really, I have heard a lot of my colleagues and friends make similar claims. It has probably something to do with the “law of attraction” or the concept of attracting one’s destiny. When we want something badly enough we end up attracting it. Sadly enough the outcome may not always be happy. Just because we wanted it and got it does not mean it is good for us or it would make us happy. But that is subject matter for another day.

In some ways I feel it is better not to be completely satisfied ever. If you are easily satisfied with who you are and what you have, you will not persist to achieve more. In order to create the best version of yourself, the hunger to constantly improve should persist. I am not recommending being unhappy or ungrateful for what you have. On the contrary, I am recommending the awareness that what you have is the best you can have today and be grateful for that, but also realize that it can and will get better if you continue to endeavor harder.

So about my goals for 2016? Sorry, I cannot share my entire list of goals as some are a bit personal but here are a few. If you already have had a chance to write your goals for next year then feel free to share a few. If not, may I recommend taking some time in the coming weeks and writing down everything you want to achieve next year?

My Goals for 2016

1)   Read 10 new Poetry anthologies in 2016

2)   Revise 30 of my own favorite poems

3)   Write at least 2 posts a week

4)   Workout 6 days a week (long walks count)

5)   Eat healthily (more salads, smoothies, soups and other healthy cooked foods)

6)   Learn a new recipe every week (salads and soups count)

7)   Spend more time with family and friends

8)   Do something nice for someone every day (anybody else besides myself)

9)   Allow myself no more than 3 days of TV a week (right now I watch TV every day!!)

10)   Visit a new place every month. It does not have to be any place special a fair, library, coffee shop…will do just fine!

11)   Always stay positive (I know this is easier said than done, but I think just attempting to be positive is half the job done!)

Things I like

Here are a few of my favorite things :). Feel free to share a few of your own or let me know if we have any in common?

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  1. Enjoying my morning cup of tea, while casually skimming The Shape magazine.
  2. Watching Humming birds suck lilies in my garden
  3. Waking up unwillingly only to realize it’s a long weekend
  4. Preparing for a long vacation; the anticipation is always the best!
  5. Sighting a pair of dolphins while walking on the beach
  6. Calling mom and dad and having a great conversation
  7. Sitting at a shack in Goa with mom and dad next to me
  8. Watching a matinee with a large popcorn and coke
  9. Reading a big book in two days (because I am such a slow reader)
  10. Eating yogurt and cucumber sandwiches on a sunny afternoon with homemade lemonade
  11. Getting my hair professionally blow dried (I look like the Pantene girl for a day)
  12. Reading Ted Kooser’s “The beaded purse” and crying my eyes out. I know that’s a weird thing to like. But sometimes I need to be cathartic!
  13. Watching my favorite show back to back. Like Game of Thrones!
  14. Enjoying an excellent book of poetry with a glass of white wine; preferably Pinot Grigio
  15. When my dog listens to my “sit” command even if for the duration of the treat being offered to him

What do you envy?

Day 1: What was the one toy that a friend had that you wished you had when you were little?

When I was about six years old my father was transferred to Germany, Frankfurt for a period of three years. The flight to Germany was my first experience being in a Boeing 747. My mother told me that planes were the fastest way to cover long distances and I absolutely would not believe her. “Look” I pointed out at the plane’s wings, “This plane is just standing still, it’s not going anywhere. We will never get to Germany at this rate.”

Getting acclimatized in Germany could not have been easy even for a young child as it was so different from India. The clothes we brought with us soon felt completely useless in Germany’s subzero degree winters. And the first thing we did was buy winter gear. School was very foreign. Being painfully shy, I never made too many friends. Most of my friends were imaginary; most not all. Andreas was one of my few flesh and blood friends.

Andreas was a dimple faced, rosy cheeked, blonde haired boy. Have you ever read Archie comics? Imagine Archie as a 6 year old boy and that’s how Andreas looked except he was blond. We got along instantly. I loved visiting his home. His room was filled with so many toys and pets, he barely had room to store them.

His room was an overflowing mess of stuffed toys, musical instruments, games, robots, books, legos and so many other random toys. But what I truly envied him for were his pets. Andreas had two dogs: Tiffy (a tiny German Spitz) and Odell (medium sized Pomeranian).  Tiffy was the feistiest and tiniest dog I had ever seen. She belonged to Andreas’s mom and did not appreciate anybody touching her. She was cute as a button and feisty as a monster. Odell on the other hand was the friendliest, kindest dog I ever met. He was an old zen soul in a dog’s body. Odell would follow Andreas and me everywhere. Andreas also had a temperature controlled aquarium with gold fish. And a tiny white hamster that enjoyed abode in a luxurious cage with tubes, tunnels and a wheel for running. Andreas had a small garden outside with a medium sized Turtle. Although the turtle was allowed to roam freely in the garden during the daytime, it was never hard to catch him. He would always find him pretty much in the same area we left him in the morning.

Andreas’ pets were all so much fun to watch and play with. I loved all his animals so much I would have given my right hand for them. As soon as I would come back from school, I would finish my homework so mom would let me go and play with Andreas.

Unfortunately soon after we left Germany I lost touch with him. Several decades later I still wonder how he is and where he is. And most importantly how great it would be to reconnect with him and learn of all his experiences since! So here is to Andreas, my blue eyed, blonde friend, “Thanks for being such a great sport and letting me play with all your toys and animals. Thanks for sharing your world and never asking anything back. But above all thanks for being a bud!”

So tell me your story. Did you have a friend who had a toy that you envied?

add your November NaBloPoMo posts

Gang Rapes in Delhi: A growing curse

The rise of rapes in India is as much of a politicized topic as it is controversial and tabooed. We do not want to accept that the plight of women in general in India is at best: second class. Yes, you see a handful of bright young women climbing the corporate ladder, joining the army and becoming doctors and scientists yet the vast majority of Indian women stay deprived of basic human rights that their male counterparts take for granted.

Even today discussing unjust treatments meted to women including rapes, eve teasing, passing lewd comments, dowry, child infanticide and bride burning are tabooed. It is the elephant in the room that everyone would rather ignore.

To be honest this is also a very unusual topic for Ubecute to undertake as well, as Ubecute is all about enjoying and pursuing the happiness and beauty in life. However to accept and appreciate beauty is to be aware of the ugliness and the darkness that also exists in the same world. It would be a sham if Ubecute failed to acknowledge the gross cruelty and injustice that is meted to so many among us. To close one’s eyes against evil does not make it go away.

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The controversial topic of rapes in India is nothing new and has been dealt by countless news agencies and bloggers. A simple google search will reveal the hard fact that 93 women are being raped in India every single day. Yet some people claim that India has the lowest per capita rate of rape; a claim that is perhaps equally dismissive of the reality as it is misleading. These are only reported cases of rape. Some claim that as few as 1 to 10 percent of rapes are actually reported.

And for some reason, Delhi seems to be the crime city of Rapes in India. According to the Guardian, India has been hit by a wave of sexual violence – particularly gang rapes, citing the case of the 51 year old Danish tourist who was gang raped, robbed and beaten in Delhi. Despite the stringent laws and rallying after Nirbhaya incident in New Delhi, the rape cases continue to rise: from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013!

teenage girls raped

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Picture of pending cases : Courtesy Tribune

It saddens me to see that this is the Delhi I grew up and loved! It is the same city where Gurudwaras and Temples offer Langars or free food to the poor every day. And the city where people assemble every morning in community parks to practice yoga free of cost. This is also the capital city of the country which hosts the government’s legislature, executive and judiciary arms of the government. There is so much history and glory associated to this city that it is deplorable that it has become the hot bed of some of the worst crimes done to women. Why is it that despite all the economic growth in the past decades India fails to provide its women a safe and equally privileged environment as males?

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Truth be told, most women in Delhi have experienced some form of eve teasing. Having grown up in Delhi, I speak from experience. Even as a child I was subject to lewd comments from uncouth men. Nor have I forgotten the unexpected nabbing and jabbing of feminine parts while using public transportation, which left you as stunned and violated. I remember growing up in Delhi, I had invented a style of walking on busy streets, which would save me from such perverse people. I would walk with my hands crossed in front of me and my shoulders as far wide as possible so nobody could jab me from the side or the front. I recently saw a documentary in which other girls were explaining doing similar things to protect themselves. I would come home and never tell my parents about what happened for fear of worrying them. The saddest part of it all was that I assumed it was normal. And I was not unique in thinking that way. Women in Delhi constantly feel the pangs of lewd comments and eve teasing and take it in their stride as no “big deal”.

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Yet eve teasing is one thing and rapes are something else. Not for a moment do I mean to place them in the same category or claim to understand the agony of rape victims. So why do so many cases go unreported?

Nirbhaya protests

Many women who go through abuse are in not in a position to speak against their perpetrators. The abusers may well be their husbands, close relatives, family friends, neighbors and many of these women may be very poor with little standing in society. Plus there is so much social stigma associated with it. There are those brave women who have spoken up only to get further abused and persecuted. Their families have retained the social stigma for the rest of their lives. Why are victims made to feel like offenders?

I believe part of the problem lies with the way children are schooled in India. Thinking back of school days I am saddened to remember that we were given “state of class” education in Math, Sciences and Languages but never really taught sex education. We did not have hot lines where girls from abusive families could call for help. If this is state of some of the best English medium schools then the problem is tenfold in Government funded schools.

While the Government continues to create stringent laws and make verbal promises to be doing everything in its power, crimes against Women continue to grow.

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It’s disheartening to see a country that builds temples to worship its Female goddesses will witness some of the worst cruelties against women.

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Of course rapes happen in Developed countries including USA. But the difference is the outlook towards the victims. To be raped in India in some cases is being stigmatized more than having committed a crime! Also rapes in USA are fortunately on decline which is an excellent trend, while they continue to rise in India!

Some people point that the root of this evil actually lies in the new found liberty of women who go to schools and offices thereby creating an opportunity for culprits to prey on them. Others point to India’s acute gender imbalance, caste system and entrenched patriarchal culture. Perhaps the worst excuse is the one provided by some Conservatives who claim “western influences”, may be contributing to this! Until people stop searching for a reason in the victim to somehow having attracted the rape, things will never change!

One of the saddest cases to storm the country happened in May 2014, when two village girls 14 and 16 were gang raped in a backward village of Katra Sadatgunj in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. They were allegedly raped by the boys of a neighboring village. While the plight of the girls was pathetic, my heart went out to their parents. Especially the father who sat on his haunches crying his heart out. He was showing a workbook of his daughter who was the only girl in his entire family to go to school.  The mother of one of the girls said her daughter wanted to grow up and do “something more than just get married”. They wanted to study and get a job. While there are so many reasons for why this crime happened the truth remains…it happened! And that is enough. The father will never see the joy of her daughter (the only literate child in his family) graduating, or growing up to get a job, or getting married and having kids. Instead he will see her raped, beaten and hanged to a tree.

Later in November 2014 a new story would surface claiming the girls were never really raped and murdered but had decided to go to the fields in the middle of the night to relieve themselves and for suspicious reasons hanged themselves to death. The reason for suicide was inconclusive. Apparently it’s easier to claim an issue does not exist than to fix it!

If I started to name individual cases of brutality and injustice against woman in India, this would become a very long article. I am writing this post for the thousands of nameless women who continue to feel subjugated by their own people. I don’t know how things will change. I have no bitter pill or solution to offer. Despite of all the rallying and advancement the much needed change has not yet happened. It behooves us to first accept the reality that enough has not yet been done. Even one women raped anywhere in the world, is one too many!

OMG! WTF! Don’t LOL …but Social Media speak is like killing me!

FingersTalking

IMHO (In my humble opinion) all this social media speak like “OMG”, “WTF”, “LOL”, “ROFL” is really gone way out of hand. DAE (Does anyone else) feel that way, or is it just me? It feels like people don’t talk to each other F2F (face to face) anymore. People only text. And when they text they abbreviate. WTF! *Shudder*

What’s more if you are not fluent in Social-speak you may be deemed “uncool” by your kids and they may even LOL at you! If you don’t even own a Smart phone …well then forget about it!

I can’t even count the number of dinners I have gone to in the past few years, where everybody was sitting over a dinner table busy texting rather than talking to each other. It felt like the only words that were shared were on their smart phones in abbreviated codes. I wonder if these same people would later go back home and have a proper chat over their smart phones? And how far will this culture of no face to face communication go? Will people go on dates and communicate over texts?

I am not sure what I hate more. The fact that social media threatens to create an anti-social society incapable of communicating with each other in person or that it has created an unoriginal language of hashtags and abbreviations? ADD much?

BTAIM (be that as it may), Social Media is here to stay, like it or not. Personally, I think it does not do us any favor to lose the social aspect in an already supercilious society.

But I want you to tell me what you really think about all this incessant texting? Forget what your kids will say or how you may be shunned at work. Now is the time to speak up in favor or against Social Speak.

Ok, I GTG but Like drop me a line and be my BFF forever!

Home is where the Homies are…

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I have a curious case of Homebody-ness. I love my Home above all things. When everybody is dressing up to go for a night out, I chose to stay at home and “just chill”. Interestingly enough I have moved so many times in the past 15 years, that I have even lost count of how many homes I have had.

When I was a student I lived in a dorm, then shared an apartment with other students, then moved back to dorm and then lived with a wonderful Greek lady as her paying guest. Then as soon as I got a job I rented an apartment but changed my jobs and cities several times each time moving into a new location close to work.

Finally, after 15 years of leading a gypsy life, I now own a small but comfortable home with my husband and dog. Yet, no matter where I may have lived; be it a room small enough to be a closet or my own house; each of the dorm room/home share/apartments have been HOME to me.

Today, when I reach home, my heart flutters for joy not just seeing the welcoming comforts of my home but my husband and my little dog Ziggy. Ziggy bounces around me as soon as I reach home, until he has my full attention for the next few minutes. And it just makes me feel so special.

If you were to ask 5 things that make my home mine, they would be:

  1. My hubbie – self explanatory
  2. My dog Ziggy – see above
  3. My kitchen – I love to cook and love to decorate my kitchen and it’s well lighted box window with small pieces of Art. When I reach home I stand there for a few minutes enjoying a snack or rummaging the refrigerator looking for dinner inspiration.
  4. My couch – My couch and I have a love and hate relationship. I hate that I love it so much. I have wasted countless evenings and weekends just sitting on it doing nothing but flipping channels. It’s quite sad really. But truth be told it feels awesome to be able to do just that!
  5. My jammies – Reaching home really means donning my jammies. Nothing says comfort better than a pair of well worn pyjamas. It tells you, you are home.

Of course I love my home and its rooms, its walls decorated with memories and family photos. But above all home would not be home without my homies! God bless!

Schön macher, Schnell macher

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I was only six years old when my parents moved to Frankfurt, Germany. We spent three wonderful years there and to this day I harbor memories of beautiful Germany and the friends we made. Frankfurt was a beautiful, scenic and most of all a kid friendly place.

There were government funded youth clubs for children that offered after school activities to children of all ages, called “Jungendhausen”. The aim of these youth clubs was to promote creativity, art and workmanship in children while keeping them engaged and out of trouble…I guess!

I and my sister would go there every day after school and spend hours building or “basteln”. I remember making lamps out of a ballon and paper, toys out of wood, stone and clay and much more. The hours spent in the Jungendhausen under the supervision of the teachers were the highlight of my day.

One such day I remember my teacher calling me and my sister out as “Schön macher und Schnell Macher”.

“Schön macher” in German stands for a person who does beautiful work. My sister being a perfectionist and a few years older to me had the art for chiselling wood or stone into the most artistic shapes, which is why my teacher called her “Schön macher”. I on the other hand was all about “quantity”. I did not care much for detail. The fish I carved out of limestone had a vague resemblance to a fish but could have been an eye, the dog looked more like a cat and the clay shoe house was almost falling over its side. Get the drift? The Jungendhaus had a display window to show case all the art work made by children. It is no surprise that my sister’s artwork made it into the window many a times and mine would never reach its epoch glory.

Decades later I am reminded of what my teacher said, “Schön macher und Schnell Macher”. And I wonder which is better? Is it better to be a Schön macher and spend hours laboring on a piece of writing to perfection? Or is it better to be “Schnell Macher” and churn out greater volume?

Ofcourse this brings us to the ever debated topic of Quantity versus Quality? I am a bit equivocal on the matter and believe they both have their pros and cons. For instance when it come to blessings, I would rather have more but when it comes to friends I would rather have quality.

But are the lines between the two always black and white when it comes to writing? The craft of Writing is all about writing more and writing often and more importantly: rewriting.

I guess good writing is almost like a marriage of quantity and quality. If we marry the two we would probably end up with a supermodel child called “Quan-lity”.

Quan-lity would be the art of producing high quality written material in great volume.

But that is easier said than done. How do you strike the perfect balance to achieve a piece of prose or poetry that offers unrivalled quan-lity? If you were training someone to be a better writer would you err on the side of quality or quantity? Or would you insist on finding the perfect balance. If so, how do you strike the perfect balance?

Daily Prompt: But No Cigar

I wanted to repost an old story I wrote. Its a quick and fun read. Enjoy!

U Be Cute

Tell us about a time things came this close to working out… but didn’t. What happened next? Would you like the chance to try again, or are you happy with how things eventually worked out?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us CLOSE.
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/daily-prompts/

________

Angels are recruited just like plumbers, craftsmen, teachers, politicians, priests and so forth.

 Walk-in interviews are held all over the world in pre-disclosed locations such as bars and restaurants over a glass of beer or wine (whatever your preference).

 Intent upon joining the ranks of some well-established Angels such as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, I walked into the “Blue Wings Dive Bar” on San Vicente, Los Angeles, which as I learned was holding interviews for the position of Junior Angel for Los Angeles.

 The bar had a gothic ambience with ominous overtones. It was very dark with tall ceilings, and red roughed out tapestry and wall hangings. A…

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Are Toilet scenes trending up?

I love movies. But I rarely sit and watch an entire movie in one sitting (never enough time). I often switch the Television on while working in the kitchen or having dinner. Yes, I know it is a bad idea to watch TV while having dinner. But I do it anyways!

So here is my problem. It is really annoying to cozy up to your Television while enjoying a bite only to be thrown into somebody’s bathroom ritual with the camera zooming in on the Toilet!!! I simply don’t get the fascination of modern movies with toilets!

Is it my imagination or are there a lot more Toilet scenes in the movies these days? Most of the time the Toilet scene adds nothing to the story line. I get the Director’s are trying to build a real-life image…or go for the big laughs, but is another boring Toilet scene the only way? Have you considered creating a more ingenious story line and dialog?

Surely, Hollywood can come up with a few other creative ways to keep audiences engaged. And what with all the reality TV shows where are we going to end if this Toilet fascination continues?

Believe me, I am all in favor of healthy bathroom habits, but I think it’s a private deal. So here is a humble plea to the Director’s and the Censorship Boards of the World.

Cut out the Toilet scenes, PLEASE!!!

Top 10 feel good flicks

Do you have a ritual that always works to get you out of your blues? Is there a book, movie or a spa treatment that will get you to turn your frown upside down in no time? I wanted to start a list of my favorite feel-good flicks. Here are my top 10 fav’s. Can you pick this up by adding a few of yours?

  • True Lies (1994)
  • Bridget Jones (Part 1 and 2)
  • Big trouble in Little China (1986)
  • Rocky (1976)
  • He’s just not that into you (2009)
  • Far and Away (1992)
  • Miss Congeniality (2000)
  • The Holiday (2006)
  • Wedding Crashers (2005)
  • How to lose a guy in 10 days (2003)