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!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Eleventh Commandment - Jeffrey Archer

Have you ever felt that you have read a book before? May be, watched a movie based on that book. Well, while reading 'The Eleventh Commandment' I felt that. I knew what was going to happen - page by page. In fact, I searched - is there a movie based on this book that I've watched before. But, no! Then it struck me that I've read this book before. Silly me!

Anyway, I re-read it, which I don't often. It's a good book and proves that this blog is a good idea. Now, I can just surf which books I have read on it.

On that note, I think I should make an index or search system for that. :)

Recommendation - Yes, read this book. It's packed with thrill and power.

Happy reading,

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For - Jeffrey Archer

I am back to reading after a gap of 16 months. I started where I left - Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer. Let me begin by saying, he is one of my favorite authors. There is always a story and a learning from his books, but this time I am hugely disappointed. I understand this book is a series, but there was nothing in it, not even thrill. 

To be really honest, it was predictable, long and has no real story. If you want to read it - read the whole series or dump it. He has better books, pick any other except for this.

P. S. - It's good to be back to reading. :)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Right Way to Eat and Lose Weight

I have always been plump. And there were times when I was overweight. In the past 10 years, twice I exceeded the healthy weight levels. It was a difficult time, extra fat is not good for your looks and health. During the phase of losing weight, I combined healthy-balanced diet with moderate exercise to achieve desired results. Few of my acquaintances have suggested crash diets - skipping carbs, eating only protein, all fruit diets, which I feel are not healthy. There are many tempting articles on the internet that suggests instant weight loss, but all that comes at the price of losing energy, glow and stamina. Sometimes, it causes irreparable organ damage.

On the other hand, a balanced diet is something everyone should aim at, whether you are perfect shape, overweight or obese. A balanced diet is the right mix of various nutrients that are required to help your body function. If you are in shape, it helps to maintain weight and boosts metabolism, hence improving your lifestyle. And, if you are overweight or obese, it helps in shedding those extra kilos without damaging your body or reducing your energy level. I, for one, always make sure to have the right combination when I am on a weight loss regime. When it comes to a balanced diet, I have simple rules -

  • Skip sugar or substitute healthier versions, like stevia, sugar free, jaggery or honey.
  • Eat proper meals - right combination of carbohydrates, protein, fiber and fats.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Add more greens and fruits in my diet.
  • Healthy snacking
  • Early and light dinner, preferably salads.
  • No dieting or skipping meals.

I lost 17 pounds in 3 months following these rules. Of course, I combined it with moderate exercise. Trust me, when I say that I never felt weak or hungry. I was always full and I lost a lot of extra kilos. In fact, there were many positive changes I observed in myself, while I was on balanced diet -

  • I was more active.
  • I had less mood swings or cravings. May be, because I was always full with the right quantity and nutrients.
  • It improved my skin and metabolism.

When I told my mother that I am on a weight loss regime, she suggested a few of the tricks that worked for her post her surgery. She suggested to take flax seeds in the morning or drink lukewarm water with lemon and honey. I tried latter when the weather allowed and it worked wonders, specially for my skin. Honey is an amazing substitute for sugar and I developed a liking for it. I even started adding a teaspoon to my green tea. Recently, I landed on Dabur Honey website and found many ways to add honey to our diet. We can add it to our drinks, snacks, salads and desserts. It’s tastes yum and has many health benefits. They call it Honey Diet. After reading extensively about it, I added a big bottle of Dabur Honey to my grocery list. Since the summer is back in action and I need to lose 4-5 pounds, I feel I should substitute sugar with honey to get results faster without compromising on the nutritional value of my diet.

P. S. - Do check ‘3 Clicks Diet Planner’ on their website. It’s gives detailed diet plan according to your age, body type and lifestyle.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Watch and Surf at Blazing Speed

It won’t be an exaggeration that cricket runs in our blood. We love every aspect of the game. Even if I can’t watch the entire game, I need to have all the updates. So, how do you stay connected with the game? Lucky are those who have access to live version on TV. But, seriously, how many of us can afford to stick to our TVs during a match? And, that’s one reason, most of us rely on our mobiles and tablets.

When the World Cup was in action, I downloaded the app which gave me instant updates. So much so, that when I woke up, all the highlights flashed on the home screen of my iPad. Some of my friends get their match updates on Twitter or Facebook; they follow accounts dedicated to cricket. However, there is another thrill in watching it live. Sadly, when it comes to watching a live match of portable device, it takes a hell lot of time to buffer. In between the loading time, many overs are bowled. Worse it when you try to refresh it, it takes an eternity and you end up in frustration. What if, there is something ultra fast and works at blazing speed? You must be thinking of another app. No, there is a new browser that is a blessing for all those who love the thrill each ball of cricket offers. Yes, you heard me right. It’s UC Browser - a browser that works at blazing speed.

I watched the above commercial where Yuvraj Singh talks about how fast UC browser is - instant videos, zero buffer time. You can watch the match in action live, not on your TV, but on all your internet powered devices, with zero blur and all clarity. You can watch all the Yuvraj’s sixes then and there, and live every moment of the game. I was so thrilled after watching the commercial that I tried to download it on my Mac, but sadly there was no version issue with my computer. Actually, it’s not only cricket that plays fast on this browser, this browser has so many other cool features which tempted me to download it -
  • It can show all your updates, like Facebook and Twitter. There is no need for all the apps.
  • It dims downs the light at night, so you don’t disturb others sleeping with you. (watch the commercial where Shivji is astonished by this cool browser)
  • Specially dedicated to cricket lovers in our country, UC Cricket - An awesome feature where one can get all the cricket related news and updates. Once you have UC browser, just download the cricket feature and enjoy non-stop cricket extravaganza on your device. There is no need to Google anything related to cricket after that. You will get all you need to know about cricket in one place. What an amazing feature!

So, from now onwards, rather than using apps and social media to stay connected with cricket. I will use UC Browser and UC Cricket to be in touch with the game, and will enjoy every aspect of it without missing anything. So, what are you all waiting for? Download UC Browser and enjoy!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dabur - Natural, Healthy and Chemical Free

We all want the best of things for us and when it comes to our children, we are extra cautious. We wash their feeders multiple times to get rid of germs, we change them whenever we spot a speck of dust and we use best products to take care of their body. And why not? Our lil’ angels need extra care and pampering, being super delicate they are. So, what’s is best for them, I ask? Organic fruits, cotton clothes, best baby care products - basically all that is chemical free, like Dabur Baby Massage Oil. A product that is a storehouse of natural oils which provides wholesome nourishment to our children.

There are many advantages of using a massage oil with natural ingredients, the first one being - chemical free. And then, each of the natural ingredients has dozens of benefits that ensures baby’s skin is soft and supple, and natural oils helps in strengthening the bones and helps in child’s development.

Almond Oil - Indians are using almond oil from many centuries. Almond oil is very nourishing as it has many vitamins A, E, B1, B2 and B6 which help in keeping baby’s skin soft. It also keeps a baby healthy. Massaging with almond oil heals dryness and itchiness which babies are prone to. Many recommend applying almond oil while changing nappies. Almond oil is a rich source of emollient that makes it perfect to take care of sensitive skin. Also, it doesn’t clog pores and prevents skin problems. Massaging with almond oil helps not only in skin care and bone nourishment, it also puts the baby to sound sleep. No wonder, it's the first choice of many households when it comes to massaging their kids.

Olive Oil - Olive oil has many nutrients that are essential for baby’s health and growth. It is a good source of vitamin E and K which are very good for skin. Massaging with olive oil makes a child active. It also aids in muscle and bone development, which are the main reason parents massage their infants. And olive oil is among the best when it comes to keeping skin soft, healthy and soft. Most of the creams, moisturizers and skin care products contain olive oil because of this quality. If a child has dry skin, there is nothing best for him than to have massage with olive oil, as it locks the moisture and retains the natural oil of the body.

Gone are the days when people used to buy fancy products. Now, we like using products that have good source of natural herbs, oils, nuts and fruits for our children. It keeps the baby healthy, helps in their development and ensures that there are no side effect. I remember, we used home-made packs, kajal and antiseptics in our childhood. Dabur is one of  the first brands that comes to my mind when I think of little table that has my brother’s baby products. If you haven’t tried it, buy a bottle and see the wonders for yourself. It has the perfect concoctions of two of the best oils and is perfect for kids.

I am participating in the #FirstLove activity at BlogAdda in association with Dabur”.

Friday, June 12, 2015

5 Ways to Gorgeous Skin

Who doesn't want soft, supple and growing skin? There are some who are blessed with flawless skin and there are many like me who have to take care of it. But, irrespective of your skin type, a good skin care routine and taking care of your lifestyle goes a long way to maintain it. Being a Himachali, almost everyone in my family has a perfect skin. And there are many things they all do to maintain it. Here are few of those tips which have been tried and tested by many generations, as my mother say -

Using Milk as a Cleaner
Long before the washing-cleansing-moisturizing routine became famous, ladies in my family stick to the readily available milk as a cleanser. My grandmother says it does all three things which all high priced products claim to do in one go. Even I have used it during my commute years and trust me, it takes out all the dirt from your skin. It’s natural, chemical free and is always available in your fridge.

Add Rose Water to Your Routine
Rose water is one thing that adds glow to any skin type. It soothes the skin and help retain the softness of skin. I use plain rose water in summer and when it is humid and mix it with cream during winters. Diluting face cream with rose water helps in massaging it deep in the skin layer and gives a supple effect. Rose water has been in my routine since my college days. It’s the most effective thing I have used so far and I recommend it to everyone.

Paste of Dry Neem Leaves
A family friend suggested it to my mother long back. It’s the best pack to get soft skin. Many say neem is good for acne, pimples and skin rashes, but even if you don’t have one, you should try it. No cream can give this much softness. Take dry neem leaves and crush them into a powder with your hands. Mix it with water and apply. It will be little grainy and won’t stick to the skin, and you might have to work with it on patches, but the result is extra-ordinary. Wash when it the paste and dry and voila, you are done. This is one of the best packs I have tried in my life - free, all natural and great results.

Curd for Sun Tan and Rashes
Of all the ways I have tried to remove sun tan, curd gives the best result. Apply curd paste with any of the flour/face pack that suits your skin type and you can get rid of nastiest of sunburn. It also helps when you apply on rashes from a skin infection. It is a great and natural way to get the harsh red color from your skin and gives you soft skin.

Ayurvedic and Organic Products
There are endless products in the market that claim to give the best of results. Few months back, I read that most scrubbers have plastic beads in them and many states in the USA have banned them. Now, I feel all the cosmetics and creams we use should be natural - either Ayurvedic or organic. They give better results and have no side effects. My mother used VICCO Turmeric Cream for a long time - an all natural and Ayurvedic product. And, she still vouches for it. Using natural products is the best way to maintain skin in the long run.

These are some of my ways to maintain good and healthy skin, what are yours?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

One App, Many Benefits

Mobile connectivity has played a major role in my personal life. You see, my parents live in Himachal and not all mobile providers have service in their area. Even with the ones that are operating, there is always some or other problem, barring Airtel. So, no prize for guessing, Airtel is my favorite when it comes to cellular providers in India. In fact, I have tried all the companies, but eventually came back to them. So much so, that I have used their internet and TV packages. They have great service and their products always have an edge. No wonder, the new #MyAirtelApp has many awesome features, which can change the way one use their cell phone.

Though all the features of this app are good, but there are these three that suits my lifestyle and they will surely enhance my smartphone experience. What tops my list is ‘I Want To’ feature - a shortcut of features that one uses most. A list of features that someone uses more frequently are stored on home screen. This will definitely help me to save time and will also serve as a gentle reminder of things to be done… like - recharging cell phone balance, bill payments and checking the data usage. I have the habit of making ‘things to do’ list, but with this feature one thing will permanently go off it, as I will have a visual reminder on my cellphone.

Next feature is the coolest of all. Shake feature that gives you great offers available for your number simply by shaking your phone. I think everyone must be using this feature for sure. With 'shake', there is no need to store those text messages or ask your local shopkeepers about the recharge offers available for your number, just shake your phone and there, you have it. Adding to it, now you can recharge your account instantly through this app. This app comes with secure payment system and will allow you recharge, check payment history and check data usage wherever and whenever you want. There is no need to open your account and check these details when it is just few clicks away. Out of all these easy recharge, easy payment options, best for me is - recharge your DTH. It’s like managing almost everything with one simple app.

Last is Airtel Surprises - this is a unique promotional way to get the best offers and discounts on your preferred brands. After every recharge, there flashes a coupon that you can redeem against your purchase. There are coupons of various categories - shopping, food, health, wellness and entertainment. Best is these coupons are of well known brands. What else a shopaholic like me can ask for! These are indeed some happy surprises by #MyAirtelApp.

Also there is one feature that I would love to explore in my free time - Wyk. Wyk’ing’ allows users to search, stream and download their favorite songs. We all download songs to our system and then, on our phone. With Wyk’ing’ we can directly save our favorite songs on my phone, which we use 24X7. You see, #MyAirtelApp can be used for many purposes, it is useful and can keep us informed and entertained. If you are an Airtel user, download it on your devices and make the best use of it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Smartphone 2.0

I love technology, it has made our lives super easy and fun. One can connect and work at ease, without the restriction of time and place. But, there are certain downside to it too, like - battery takes too much time to charge, pictures from phone camera are not as good as we would expect, phone hangs in between browsing. It is exactly in such moments we wish for a better smartphone than what we already have to redefine our smartphone experience. Don’t we? So ladies and gentlemen, don’t bother, there is a phone to answer all your problems - ASUS Zenfone 2. It's such an incredible phone that it can give all other phones a run for their money and make your smartphone experience totally rocking. Here are few things I love about this phone -

Fast Charging - This phone has 4 GB RAM and apparently the first smartphone to have this much of it. Now, I don’t understand the technical mumbo-jumbo but in simple words, it makes the smartphone really smart. We can charge this phone up to 60% in less than 40 minutes. For me, that makes it a complete stellar. Imagine you get up late and forget to charge your phone at night and you have only half an hour to get ready. Now, till the time to take a quick shower and breakfast, your phone is charged enough to last the day. Totally amazing!

Brighter Pictures - Last year we went to Rhode Island and I was looking forward to capture the pristine landscapes of this beautiful state, but wait, as luck would have it, our camera stopped working. Then, we had no other option but to take pictures from our phone and the pictures were not of good quality, especially the ones at dusk and dawn. With Zenfone 2, you can make any picture come alive and brighter as it has this low light mode for such moments. This is what I call a real smartphone, the one that redefines the whole experience of a smartphone. It also has many other camera features for selfies and panoramic clicks.

Dual Action - I like to carry two numbers - one for family and one for work. No, Zenfone 2 is not a simple dual sim phone. It has this lucid feature, where you can switch between two calls between two numbers - place one on hold to answer another. You can answer all the calls and keep everyone happy. How cool is that? They call it ‘Dual-SIM capacity with Dual Active technology.’

Bling it on - We girls love to accessorize and this goes for everything, even our phones. We love to flaunt a jazzy phone cover and fashionable stickers. With Zenfone we can add technology to our fashion statement, like having a PowerBank of the size of a credit card, that would store all our information. Or have a smart phone cover that is useable and fashionable at the same time.

Great Looks with Comfort - Unlike some box-like smartphones, Zenfone 2 is designed to keep style and comfort in mind. It has 5.5 full HD display and a smooth metal finish. Even the buttons for sound and control are placed for comfort, just in place for index finger making it easier for us to navigate and feel in control. With my earlier phone, I had the trouble of finding the volume control. I face the same issue with my iPod too.

With such an amazing list of features, I feel Zenfone 2, can redefine the smartphone experience for me. Comfort, style, speed and better performance - four things that makes a smartphone really smart and Zenfone 2 has all these in abundance.