Friday, July 22, 2016

Wonderland in a Box

Have you ever made toys to play with? Paper boats, dresses for dolls and making a dollhouse from a shoe-box have been my favorite activities during my childhood. I took immense pride in my handiwork. If there was any new dress that I liked on the TV, I made it for my doll. As dollhouses were not easily available those days, I made my own from my father’s Bata shoebox. It not only polished my creative skills, but sparked my imagination too. So much so, all the neighborhood kids gathered in our backyard for these DIY projects. We did crafty things, played with them and sometimes, made a story or two. It was so much fun!

I remember my nephew did the same. He always made projects with boards, bottles, and wires. I bet, he inherited his creative genes from me. One of his projects, which totally blew me away with his imagination was a computer model. It was back in the 90s and he made a computer with a box-like monitor and keyboard, with entire qwerty keys. And the cutest thing was the mouse and the wire that attached the keyboard - it was connected with a piece of yarn. I was quite impressed by his eye for detail. He left no stone unturned to make it exactly like the real computer. Also, he had a story to go with it. I don’t recall the entire story, but it about a boy who moved to a new school, he had no friends, so he played games on his computer. I guess, as his parents refused to buy him one, he created his own… that too with a storyline. His artistic endeavor convinced his parents, and they gifted him a computer on his next birthday.

A few days back, I got four Colgate Toothpaste packs, which have a variety of sea-creatures  cut-outs inside it. It’s called Magical Sea World. It’s like having little puppets in hand, which are yearning to be a part of this story. My young niece loved it. We handed her the box. She opened it and entered into the world of magic. She played with the creatures, murmured few things under her breath as if she was naming the creatures… which would later be a part of her story. We asked her what the story was about? Shyly, she narrated a fantastic story of Sadie who hunts treasure from the sea. It was quite endearing to listen to her story on the phone. I wish I could see her enact it with those cartoons. Maybe, next time when I meet her. As I am old school, who prefers such artistic things over video games, I loved this idea of giving a gentle nudge to children in the direction of creativity. It’s fun and educational at the same time. Don’t you think so? Honestly, if I get hold of Magical Sea World, I would create a story and post it on my blog. What about you?

Buy these toothpaste packs, collect all four and let the storyteller in your child come alive. Let them create their own #ColgateMagicalStories. Maybe, your child turns out to be the next J K Rowling or Amish Tripathi.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

I was on a break from reading. This is the first book I read after a gap of over a year. This book is refreshing, not in terms of plot, but in terms of narration. Sentences are simple, crisp and heartfelt. It presents a beautiful picture of Afghanistan... only to make you miserable by presenting the realistic picture later. There is one big secret or guilt that the main lead carries on his chest. And, later he discovers his father whom he idolises has a bigger and darker secret - one that betrays everything he ever stood for.

It's one book that told me that Afghanistan was a beautiful place - with kite flying competition, kids watching English movies, gorgeous winter, ONCE. I feel sad thinking how they live now. 

It's a moving story of dealing with flaws and one where courage is not a trait, but a necessity. 

Recommendation - YES

Happy reading, 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kick-starting the day on a positive note

While growing up, I was not a morning person. I loved to get up late. After marriage things changed as my husband is completely opposite to me. His day started at 5 and mine began at 8. To work things out, I changed myself. It took me a few weeks to adjust my body clock, but I admit waking up early has brought many positive changes in me. Now, I love mornings. It comes with a new promise and you get to tap it when you wake up early.

What is so special about rising early, you ask? It’s the extra time you get to charge yourself for the day. When you get up early and spend time in the activities that help you energise, you feel your day has turned golden. For me, there are many things that brighten up my morning - a walk, light yoga, meditation and breakfast with any news channel in the background. But my personal favorite is going for a walk in the wee hours. Fresh air, less traffic on the roads and children heading to school. This is one of the sights that turns my good mornings into gold. It refreshes me and gives me new ideas to write.

A shot captured at 5: 30 am in Hackensack

When the weather doesn’t permit, I stay indoors and do light yoga. I stick to basic stretching with breathing exercises. It is when I combine yoga and meditation, my morning turns golden. There is, however, one thing that I do without a miss. At breakfast, I have to watch the news and sip coffee. Yes, not drink, sip. I take 20 minutes to finish a cup of coffee while I leisurely watch News. Watching the news from around the globe with a hot cup of coffee in my hands turns my good morning into gold.

Coming to the morning ritual itself, two days back my family got this beautiful package from Colgate. It’s very fancy with a golden mug, bottle and a brand new - Colgate 360 Charcoal Gold Toothbrush.  The brush has the softest bristles, says my sister. Plus, it looks so elegant that you feel like brushing with it every morning, says my sister again. It cleans all corners of your mouth with less effort. In a mix of gold and black, it's so great that brushing with it can surely turn your good morning into a golden morning. It’s the best toothbrush she has ever used. So, if you want to start your day on a bright note, use this brush and make your morning into #Colgate360GoldMornings

Have a look at the package my family received -

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chandigarh - The City Beautiful

I can never ever forget my first visit to Chandigarh. I was in awe - clean, organised and beautiful sites here and there. It was like a dreamland. It went in 1992 and I stayed there for 10 days. Every time I went out of my cousin’s house, I discovered something or other amazing about - The City Beautiful. Parks and mini markets in every pocket of sector mesmerised me. Even the concept of ‘sectors’ was new. I never heard of ‘sectors’ before. Chandigarh stands out on the map of our country on many grounds.

It is one of the most organised cities in the world. Planned and designed by French architect Le Corbusier, the city is divided into sectors. A lesser known fact is that the earlier layout of the city was created by the Polish architect Maciej Nowicki and the American planner Albert Mayer. As the layout is on the concept of sectors, it has space for everything. There are designated markets, playgrounds, mini markets, green areas in front of houses and proper road network for cars and manual vehicles. Chandigarh has the third largest green area in our country, followed by Lakshadweep and Goa. In terms of design, Chandigarh is a perfect city. Over the years, city administration has upgraded it. Many changes are incorporated to uplift the city in terms of design. Like - Motor Market is moved from Sector 23 to the outer sectors of the city; and separate pathways for rickshaws and cycles are made.

If you ever lived or been to the city, you would know by now the spirit behind it. Chandigarh residents take pride in their city. Drive both literally and philosophically is amazing in Chandigarh. Drive - in matter of ease on road, rules and connection is best in the country. There is a proper system on roads which everyone adheres to. You will have best and stress-free driving experience in the city. Be careful if you are an outsider, traffic police is rather strict. Philosophically speaking, residents of this city have the energy and resolute to maintain it. You won’t find people littering. People abide to the rules. The city is beautiful because each of its residents make a conscious effort to maintain it. It is driven by the spirit of people. Year after year, city has seen many positive changes on its map - better hotels, infrastructure, hospitals and MNCs are added in the last decade.

Chandigarh is in the heart of Haryana and Punjab, and it is adjacent to Himachal. Plus, it’s a few hours drive from our Nation’s capital. City is well connected with roads. Though the rail and air network is not that great, but there are many big changes coming soon. International Airport will be fully functional in a couple of years. Commuting to and fro from the city is easy. And, so is internal travel. There is a good network of AC and Non-AC buses, which is very remarkable and clean. In terms of connection, it’s good, but has a scope of improvement.

In all, Chandigarh is a quaint and clean city. I would love to retire and spend the latter years of my life there. What about you? Which is your favorite city in India?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Eggless Date Cake With 'Less' Calories

On our last anniversary I made this Black Forest cake. 

In case you missed the subtle hint, I made it from scratch. Yes, I baked two cakes, made icing and decorated it. It felt like an accomplishment as I did it from the first time, I had no instruments for decorating it. I used whatever I had in my kitchen. My husband loved it. Tomorrow is my birthday and I thought of baking my very famous Dates Cake. As I am on a weight loss program, I thought of making it in a healthy way. So, here’s what I did -

Ingredients -

Dates - 8-10
Milk - 1 Cup
Sugar free - ½ Cup
All Purpose Flour - 1 Cup
Refined Oil - ¾ Cup
Baking Powder - 1 ½  Tablespoon
Nuts - To Garnish

Method -

Finely chop the dates and soak them in lukewarm milk overnight. If you are in a hurry, boil the milk and soak it for half an hour.

Blend milk and dates, and make a smooth paste.

Add refined oil and sugar free to this paste and give your mixer another swirl or two.

Pour this in a bowl. Now the actual work begins - first sieve all purpose flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Now in this date-milk-sugar-refined oil mix, add one spoon at a time and mix it properly. Working in this manner, add the entire flour and baking powder mix. Reason behind doing it this way is to mix it properly. If you have a big mixer for cakes. Your work is a lot easier. Otherwise, toil like me.

Now, grease your pan with oil and pour the cake mix into it. Gently tap the pan on the floor or your shelf to let the air bubbles escape. This helps in rising when the baking is in process. In the end, garnish it with chopped nuts. I like it nut-free.

Pre-heat your oven or OTG to 180 degrees celsius and bake it for 15-20 minutes. You will see that the cake rises and when the top is dark brown (as compared to what it was before), take a tooth-pick and insert it in the middle to check whether its done or not. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done. Take it out of the oven and let it cool.

When your cake is cooled down, take a plate and flip the cake on it. If the cake is nicely baked, it will look like this -

So, this is what I made for my birthday. Try this at home, it is the best recipe of Eggless Cake that I’ve ever tried. Plus, sugar free!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Close to Nature and Family

Last week my husband went to my parents’ place in Himachal. It was his first visit to my native village after our marriage. My mother was apprehensive and a little worried as my husband has never lived in a village. Our village is remote and is not connected with pukka road, which makes a bad first impression. But for me it will always be a tiny abode in the lap of nature. It is surrounded by hills on all side and the house is nested in a fruit orchard. My husband had planned to stay there for a night. He came around 10 in the morning and the moment he entered the house, he called my mom-in-law and told her that he would be staying for one more day. My parents were overjoyed to hear that. All their worries vanished into thin air and we had a quality vacation in my native village. It won’t be wrong to call it precious moments of real togetherness. 

We strolled in our farm, picked fruits from the trees, strolled and enjoyed the cool evening breeze. We spent entire day sharing our childhood memories, eating, sipping tea on the terrace, cracking jokes at each other and enjoying each others’ company. It was a real family get together - filled with food, laughter and feelings. My husband and father interacted in length on the subject of farming. Both spent a great deal of time in exploring the methods of cultivation, food variety and commercial aspect of it. My husband picked few fruits and vegetables. And, he was so excited as if a little boy found some treasure. The air was thick with love, happiness and nostalgia. By the end of second day, all of us wished to stay there for one more day, but unfortunately we had some prior appointments. 

Being together with your loved ones is a blessing. Days fly by like minutes. There is no stress. Food tastes better as it is cooked with love and shared with everyone. And, each moment is a priceless memory. No wonder, me and my husband loved our stay in my village. However, there is one more thing which added charm to the whole experience. It was the fact of being so close to nature. There was no dust, no pollution or noise. It was quaint and beautiful. It made a short trip to a remote village in Himachal better than a planned vacation abroad. In fact, my husband has already planned a week long vacation to my parents’ home on our next trip to India. Cool breeze, perfect scenery, fresh food and peaceful environment is a perfect concoction for a family vacation. And we were lucky to have such an experience at my parents’ place. My parents were perfect host and I am sure it was one of the most memorable three days for them. And, for us it was a refreshing break for us from the hustle and bustle of city life. It was one of the best short trips in our travel diary.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Airtel 4G - Best Network Ever

When I am in India, my only concern is slow internet speed. Broadband has connectivity issues and internet on phone is terrible. It takes forever to upload a picture on Facebook and it’s impossible to watch any video on YouTube, at least in the smaller towns. Even with the best of plans, you gaze at the screen with pity. The only thing that moves on your screen is the buffering symbol. But, not anymore. Good news is Airtel has launched 4G services, becoming the first telecommunication brand to launch 4G service in India. 

After hearing about it, I heaved a sigh of relief. I am going to India in September and I use my mother-in-law’s SIM in my phone. She has Airtel connection. And this time I will be active on blogging and social media, all thanks to Airtel 4G. So much so that I’ve asked her to upgrade her connection as it’s a cake walk. Yes, it’s not only simple to get a 4G connection, but it’s free as well. You heard me right! All you have to do to get a 4G connection is tweet #GetAirtel4G to @AirtelIndia. After sending the tweet, you will receive a reply with a link from Airtel. This link will direct you to a form, where you will fill your personal and delivery details. And, a brand new 4G SIM will be delivered at your doorsteps free of cost. What an outstanding customer service by Airtel! 

However, there are two things that you need to keep in mind. First, you need to have an existing Airtel 3G connection, which my family has. And two, a 4G enabled smartphone, which I have. I am pretty excited to experience the blazing internet speed.

The best thing for me is that Airtel has introduced the 4G services in 296 cities across India, which includes my hometown and other cities I visit. When I told my mom-in-law about this, she was pleasantly surprised. She couldn’t believe it. Normally whenever any service is launched in India, small towns are left out. To have a fast connection in a small town like Ambala, speaks very high of Airtel and its policy to reach to the maximum number of customers. So, in my case,  wherever I will visit, there will not be any connectivity issues. This just makes me super happy. Don’t you know, internet is the lifeline of bloggers!

Wait, most thrilling part is that 4G service is provided at the cost of 3G. Existing 3G users are getting the improved speed, free SIM, free delivery without shelling any more money. For new customers or those switching from other networks, it will be much cheaper. Totally amazing, isn’t it! It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

So, what are you waiting for? Tweet and update to the fastest internet plan available in India. #GetAirtel4G - The best network ever!