Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#AtoZChallenge Theme Reveal 2017: Happiness @AprilA2Z @BlogChatter

And it is time for the madness to begin again... the April A to Z Challenge!


If you don't know what this challenge is about, read the post A-to-Z.

In 2015, I joined in at the very last minute, with my series on A to Z of Blogging. I intended to turn that series into a kindle ebook, and, after procrastinating on it for a whole year, I finally managed to do that before the April A to Z last year!

Please check it out on Amazon Kindle! You'll surely find it useful if you're into blogging. Alternatively, you can also find the entire series right here on this blog, at the link given in the above paragraph.

A to Z of Blogging: Buy from Amazon

So what's in store this year?

Actually, this year, I'm going to complete the series I started last year, i.e. in 2016.

As many of you might remember, I injured my shoulder last year, and couldn't continue beyond 'E', with all those extensive physiotherapy sessions multiple times a day.

So revealing the theme once again, albeit two days late...

This year's series is going to be on the A to Z of "Happiness".

"2017 A-to-Z: Happiness"

That's the whole point of living, isn't it? To be happy. And happiness is nothing but a state of mind. So how do we achieve that state of mind? What do we do that puts our mind in the state of happiness?

This is what this year's A to Z is going to be about.

I sure hope to complete it this time! I mean I've already got the first five posts written! Only 21 more to go! Seems doable. And hopefully, I'll get another ebook at the end of it.

To my fellow participants...

All the best, bloggers! Let's pace ourselves, so we don't burnout midway into the challenge. And let's all have fun!

As usual, I will be updating this space with links to each day's post as I complete them. So stay tuned.

01. A to Z of Happiness:

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

10 Truths About Bloggers ~ Ten On Tuesday

Originally posted in May 2013, I'm re-sharing these 10 interesting fun facts about bloggers in general. How many of these do you agree with?


I've come to the following realizations (mostly about bloggers in general) based on the May Photo Challenge that a group of us attempted. Here they are...

  1. Bloggers, as a general rule, are book lovers. Most love reading P.G. Wodehouse. Well, at least they have Wodehouse on their book-shelf.

  2. Bloggers love telling stories... even stories about how their little toddlers love telling stories!

  3. Bloggers are more prone to weight problems. Most are trying to lose weight. Some even have a specific tag or category on their blog for this. (Ahem! Checks own 'tag-cloud'!)

  4. Nothing is too insignificant for both bloggers and photographers. We can dish out our "500 words" and "1000 words" respectively, for anything under the sun... be it a flavored yoghurt from the market, or even just a glass of water!

  5. Most of our family members and friends have accepted by now, that we are insane. So they usually cooperate in our "blogging-adventures" without too much fuss or complaining. (READ: They have learnt that "quick" is "painless".)

  6. The more seasoned and prolific the blogger, the better s/he becomes at time management. Work, home, socializing, reading, blogging, playing virtual games... these are nothing more to them than balls in an expert juggler's hands.

  7. Blogging, inevitably, makes us innovative and, as we Indians like to put it, "jugaadu". If a post has to be done, it just has to be done. It doesn't matter how many boxes we have to "think out of" in the process.

  8. Bloggers are a multi-talented species. Writing, photography, using photo-editing tools... these are a part of most bloggers' arsenal. Some even acquire varying degrees of web-designing skills, just to beautify their blogs.

  9. Bloggers (and photographers) can get hit by blog (or picture) ideas anywhere... a discussion on Facebook, while at work, in the shower, while cooking, while painting their nails, even in their dreams!

  10. Bloggers love "blogger jokes" (like we have"sardar-ji jokes"), and are probably laughing along while reading this, nodding their head in agreement.

So there are the 10 truths I've noticed about bloggers. If you are a blogger, then which ones of these do you relate with? And if you're not a blogger, but have a friend or family member who is, then which of these would you say applies to him/her?

Here's more in "Ten-On-Tuesday"!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Strangest Day!

I just came across this old post of mine. I originally published it on 26-Jan-2008, and as I read through it, I realized that even 9 years later, this remains the strangest day of my life!

Sharing it once again here for my new readers.

It was more than a year ago that I first experienced the phenomenon of remote sensing (or maybe that isn't what it's called technically!)... when a person sitting in an online chat with me (and that too a practical stranger, who hadn't even met me till that time!) told me stuff about what I’d been feeling that time, being kilometers away from me! And he did this not once, not twice, but repeatedly! Told me which part of my body had been hurting. Told me about my sister when she was feeling hungry. And so many several other little things!

Needless to say, I had been immensely surprised and curious as to how he did this!

He told me he had learnt this technique when he attended the Silva Mind Power workshop. He told me that after getting your brain state down to the alpha level, it was possible to "feel yourself" in "someone" or even "something" else! Like... "if I were that cow on the road, how would I feel?"

Well, whatever he said made absolute sense from a logical point of view. I mean, basically, what he was doing was that he would simply "jump out of his own body" into that other entity, for a fraction of a moment, take stock of "how things felt in there", and then "come back in his own body"! Simple, right?

So I thought I should give it a try too.

First step required was to get my mind into that miraculous "alpha state". Took me several months to master the technique, but now I can easily relax my mind to achieve that state within a few minutes, even in a room full of chattering ladies (make that "chattering gentlemen" in my case, ‘coz the men in my extended family seem to talk louder than the women, and hence they are the only ones whose voices can be heard at any given point of time!)... or a crowded bus... or with the TV blaring in the adjoining room! But try as I might, I couldn’t master that "remote sensing" thing!

Then I read someone's blog today, and I came across these lines in it, "Like the ventriloquist who throws her voice behind a ball one minute, under a table the next. Consciousness can be thrown into a dot, into a line, into a human form, into a thought form or directly into Heaven. Crossing the veil, moving through dimensions is nothing more than shifting consciousness from one location to another. Be the dot. Be the line. Be your form. Be now. Be here." Well, the idea sort of registered deep down, in my psyche somewhere.

A little while ago, I had taken a break from work and was doing some self healing, lying on my bed. I had turned on one of those Brain Wave music tracks... you know, one of those *in* things these days, that help in altering the brain states. So I was listening to that track and was doing touch healing on my own body. I was in that "blissful state between wakefulness and sound sleep". I knew exactly what was happening around me, but my mind was deeply relaxed and was open to any kind of suggestions that time.

(I suppose this is the state which Hypnotherapists and NLP practitioners utilize for planting healthier and more life supporting suggestions into their clients’ subconscious minds.)

Anyway, while I remained in that blissful alpha state, suddenly a stray random thought would go floating into my mind, wouldn’t be able to create any disturbance there though, and would eventually disappear on its own. I continued moving my hands around on different parts of my body, as taught in The Reiki Level I touch-healing procedure, though not in the specific order taught to us. Finally, one hand landed on my Solar Plexus Chakra and the other on my liver. And I could sense a sudden increase in the flow of Reiki from the hand over my Solar Plexus.

Then suddenly, the thought about "being that dot, that line" wafted into my mind! The one from that blog I read earlier today. And immediately after that, another thought followed suit... "Be a tree?"

No sooner had this thought entered my mind that I felt a sudden change in myself!

I had been lying straight out on my back till then, but suddenly I was upright! I mean I didn't really stand up... I was still lying on my back, with my hands where I had placed them, but I *felt* I was upright!

And then suddenly I started splitting into branches from the top, which started spreading out until I felt they had become too heavy for me to balance!

I felt I was going to topple over, but then, at that very moment, I started "growing roots" from the bottom. I felt like I was being "sucked" inside the solid earth!

Perfect balance achieved! I felt totally unshakeable, although the branches on the top weren’t quite symmetrical, the way I used to draw them as a kid! (Oh yeah, I noticed this little detail too!)

But then I got so shocked with what I had just experienced that I instantly sat up! Phew! Let’s see if I can repeat the same thing again... not today though... ‘coz I have to get back to work.

Oh and we celebrated the Republic Day here in our building today! First time in 3 years, since we moved into this apartment, that there has been any kind of "community building" exercise here!

UPDATE: March 4, 2017.

It's been more than 9 years since I had this strange Remote-Sensing / Out-Of-Body Experience (OBE), and I've never been able to repeat it till now. Although I still remember, with perfect clarity, how I felt that day. And, if I'm completely honest, it was a little bit scary. Just the teeniest-weeniest bit.

Anyway, I can't even get my mind into that mysterious "alpha state" now. With all the things that have happened since 2008, my mind is now full of stuff all the time... and you can't possibly be
'mindful' and 'mind-full' at the same time!

Meditation isn't as easy for me to do now as it was 9 years ago. Even if it is more necessary.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

10 Lessons I Learnt From Starting My Own Business ~ Ten On Tuesday

This is what I posted three years ago, when I'd just started my store. 10 Lessons I learnt from starting my own business. Three years later, as I go through this list again, I realize that most of these points still hold true, while for some, let's just say "I've become wiser with age". So re-blogging this post with the changes highlighted in green.

Over the course of my very new and still-very-brief 3-year-long entrepreneurial journey, I've learnt some important lessons. While most of these apply to entrepreneurship in general, a few are specific to small-scale retail business only. Journaling them here, as I'm sure I will enjoy going through them some day in the future.

  1. Every single morning, especially in winters, there WILL be a few minutes when you will ask yourself - "Why did I have to start this business when I could comfortably work from my home?" But after you spend your first summer at your store, in the sticky heat, with all the mosquitoes and various other kinds of bugs, you'll realize that winters were a piece of cake!

  2. You will soon realize that doing all the domestic chores (viz. cleaning, dishes, laundry etc.) on your own is much faster than waiting indefinitely for the maid to show up! But if you DO get a maid who comes on time and doesn't take unscheduled leaves, then there is nothing like it!

  3. Fast food, take-aways and eat-outs will no longer tempt you. On the contrary, you will crave solid home-cooked food. Especially if your body is still recuperating from serious illness. Even the tea-time biscuits will gradually lose their charm.

  4. Those meal-time movie sessions with your Dad will soon become a thing of the past! (Those good ol' days! Siggghhhhh!) But, if you keep your laptop stocked-up with some movies, you might get to watch them at the shop, when business is slow. (Which is definitely bound to happen whenever holidays fall close to weekends! Do all business-people hate holidays as much as I do?)

  5. You will become "brutal" at prioritizing! Where to spend money first, what expenses to postpone. Even at home, your "to-do-list" will be numbered! (Preparing the day's meals is STILL my current "number one" priority! You really can't do much through the day if you haven't taken care of the meals first and got them out of your way.)

  6. You will realize that the retail business comes with a serious social obligation. Once you open a shop, you simply cannot take an unscheduled off any time you please. It can completely disrupt the entire day's schedule of your customer! However, you CAN change your schedule completely, if you allow for a brief transition period to inform your customers, and put up prominent notices about the change. Oh, and if you don't keep making changes repeatedly!

  7. Your work hours in the evening will stretch further and further, until you start returning home so late that all you have time left to do is to make the chapatis for dinner, eat, and sleep! In fact, very soon you will find yourself watching "excerpts" of your favorite TV show - Dance India Dance - in "news updates", during lunch break! (LOL! I'm exaggerating that bit! There are no D.I.D. updates in the news these days... it's all just politics mostly.) But, after a few months of this late-night schedule, the stress will start showing in your body and in your productivity, and you'll be forced to cut-back to a healthier work routine, even if it comes at a loss of good business.

  8. Socializing will soon be restricted to phone conversations, whatsapp interactions, and Facebook chats, and even those will be interspersed with loads of "customer-breaks"! And personal emails that were once-upon-a-time replied to within 24 hours, will now sit in your inbox for days! And even after three years, you cannot find a way to change this. Bottomline: Small-scale retail business leaves you with no social life.

  9. You will still not be able to differentiate between weekdays and weekends, as previously, each day was like a holiday, and now each day is working! Only till you realize that you are not a machine, and that you NEED at least one weekly off, even if it makes some of your customers unhappy.

  10. Every single day, there will be at least one customer whose smile and heart-felt thanks will make you feel glad that you opened this shop! Despite the less-than-ideal working conditions. Despite the shoplifters (very rare, but very real nonetheless). Despite those handful of uncivilized people who believe it is their right to be rude to shop-owners. (No really! A shop is a great place to observe human psychology at work.)

Dad always said that small-scale retail business is tough job, and I can see why now. There's just not enough mental stimulation. Nothing new to learn. But I think I STILL quite enjoy it... at least most of the time. Perhaps that's because I'm not just selling products, I'm also doing creative stuff here. I have plenty of working space, good lighting, well-organized storage space, all the craft material and other resources I might need. AND... MOST IMPORTANTLY... I get to step out of my house and interact with some humans every day! Especially kids.

Another reason could be That's probably the main reason for me sticking with my shop for so long. The fact that most of my customers are children, and it's usually a delight interacting with kids. (Read this if you haven't already: When Kids go Shopping... Alone!) Their simple innocence gives you an entirely different perspective on life, doesn't it? You realize that life is not as complex as adults make it out to be.

Here's more in "Ten-On-Tuesday"!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Creamiest Scrambled Eggs! Day 5 #100HappyDays

For over two decades, I've had this fuzzy memory of mom making an egg recipe that required milk and stuck a lot to the cooking utensil. As far as I remembered, she used to call it 'scrambled eggs'. But when I grew up and learnt how to make scrambled eggs, I found out that people here (i.e. in India) made it with chopped onions and tomatoes, and called it 'bhurji' in Hindi. That egg bhurji looked nothing like what my mom used to make. It looked like pieces of hard-set curd, tossed with onions and tomatoes, whereas the one that my mom used to make was soft and creamy, like custard. We had them on toast, seasoned with salt and pepper. And while the Indian egg bhurji is also quite tasty, I never stopped wondering about how mom made those creamy scrambled eggs (if at all they really were called that).

In December last year, I finally decided to google it.

I must have gone through at least two dozen recipes for scrambled eggs, both on youtube, as well as on recipe blogs, but they were all the bhurji style recipes. Even non-Indian recipes, on youtube, yielded that curd-like texture, instead of that creamy texture I remembered from my childhood days.

Finally, I landed on the video of Gordon Ramsay's scrambled eggs. And it was perfect! Just what I'd been looking for! The perfectly creamy scrambled eggs from my childhood memories!

Scrambled Eggs On Toast
Scrambled Eggs On Toast

I made this (for the very first time!) in December first week, when my sister was here. And, on a scale of 10, I gave it a 9 for softness. It dries even after you take it off the heat. So by the time I got it on the toast and took this picture, it wasn't as melt-in-your-mouth soft as it looked in the pan. Oh! But it was definitely that same assault on the senses that had been preserved in my cellular memory even after 20 years!

Of course, I've made it many more times since December. I just take it off the heat a little earlier, and it comes out perfect now.

I've embedded Gordon Ramsay's video at the end of this post. He uses cream in the recipe, but I don't have cream in the house normally. So I used milk instead (like my mom did). Here's how I made it.

1. Break the eggs into a heavy-bottom pan. I used a shallow non-stick pan the first time, which made the mixing very difficult. Best to use a saucepan or wok/kadhai.

2. Add a little butter. Then put to heat. Medium heat worked best for me.

3. Keep whisking. As Gordon says in the video, you have to really work at it.

4. If it starts to get too hot, just take it off the heat (as he does in the video) and keep whisking.

5. When it's almost done, add the milk/cream while it's off the heat. Mix well.

6. You'll know that it's done when it starts looking creamy like custard.

7. Spread on toast. Sprinkle salt and whatever seasoning you like.

8. Munch away!

Sorry, I haven't got any intermediate pictures. I was, well... "working at it", as Gordon says! So couldn't click any intermediate pics.

Oh by the way, one time, I also added grated cheese after the milk. It tasted even more sinful and heavenly! Sighhh! I wish I had the metabolism to take in those kind of calories on a regular basis!

Well, here's the video then... for Gordon Ramsay's scrambled eggs. DO watch it before you attempt this recipe for the first time.

Attempting #100HappyDays for the first time. Today was Day 5.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Effects of #Demonetization That Nobody Talks About

Checks on terrorism, corruption and counterfeit money, lower interest rates, lower property rates, increased tax collection and lower taxes... these are the obvious effects of demonetization that everyone has talked about. But there are some indirect/cascading effects that nobody cares to mention. Or maybe they don't even notice it? This post is about those effects.

1. The Strength Of A United India

I said it in my previous post, and I'm saying it again. The way people have patiently stood in queues, and supported the move, despite all the problems they faced, is beyond anything that I could have ever imagined from this country.

Those who have experience working with teams will know what I mean. Even 125 people can turn into an angry, destructive, uncontrollable "mob". But here, we had over 1.25 billion people... with different temperaments, different backgrounds, different literacy levels, different personal challenges... and they all worked together in allowing this operation to complete peacefully.

The whole world was keeping an eye on India during those 50 days of demonetization, and the impression that has been conveyed to them is that of a united nation, a strong nation, a nation that is willing to work together with its elected leader. That is some global statement.

2. Digitalization Of the Unorganized Small Business Sector

This operation has already started creating awareness about digital modes of payment, in the so-called 'uneducated' sector. And I'm not talking about that tea vendor interviewed on TV, or even that chana-jor-garam-waala whose picture was circulating on Whatsapp and Facebook. I'm talking about people I've personally seen.

When I was out shopping with my sister (in the first week of December), I saw a long line of autos at an auto-stand here. One of them had a paytm sticker on it. (By now, probably, there are a lot more of them.) Similarly, there is this street in Vaishali Nagar, lined with food vendors on both sides. (Golgappe, momos, chowmein, pav bhaji, you name it!) I saw the paytm sticker on one of those thelas too.

3. Importance Of Education

There's an 18-year-old maid in my building, who didn't get her Aadhaar card made because she was camera shy! After demonetization, her employer refused to pay her salary in cash. But she needed the Aadhaar card to open her Jan-dhan bank account. So she was forced to overcome her inhibitions finally.

Youngest of 4 sisters, she's the only female in her family who can read and write (thanks to that same employer). Her mother, who is also a maid in my building, used to say very proudly that she hadn't sent any of her daughters to school! But now, when they've all had to open their bank accounts, she realizes the importance of education, even for girls.

4. Desire To Learn

My own maid is comparatively more progressive. She already has her Aadhaar card (although it is currently at her permanent residence in her village). She doesn't have her own bank account, but she's already learnt how to deposit money through Cash Deposit Machines. The day Mr. Modi announced about demonetization, she said she simply took all her cash and deposited it into the "ATM", in her brother's account. Now she is super excited about getting her own bank account.

"Main to kabhi bank ke andar nahi gaya, abhi khaata khul jayega mera?
Wahan to sab saahab log aata hai! Aur main bhi jayega!
Paisa seedha khaate mein chale jaayega? Aap kompooter se bhejega na?
Fir main card se nikalega usko? ATM mein se?"

She kept on blabbering like a little girl! Reminded me of the time when I first went to the bank... alone! That sense of pride, on learning to do something new!

Human psychology is weird. Most people resist change and are scared to adopt the new. Sometimes, we need to be pushed out of our comfort zones. This demonetization exercise has provided that necessary push, and forced people to embrace technology and growth.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

10 Observations In 50 Days of #Demonetization ~ Ten On Tuesday

50 days of PM Modi's big demonetization "experiment" are over. The whole world has been watching India in those 50 days. A lot has been said and written about it in those 50 days. I'm no economist. And I'm not going to pretend to be one for the sake of this article. I'm just going to share my experiences and observations during those 50 days of demonetization.

1. Overall Experience.

In a country with 1.25 billion people, scrapping 86% of the total currency in circulation, is bound to create problems. It cannot possibly be a seamless transition. Considering the magnitude of the operation, I have to say, this entire operation happened more smoothly than I expected.

2. Queues Outside Banks and ATMs.

I didn't go to the ATM even once in 50 days, although I was tipped off that our neighborhood ATM (State Bank group) gets filled at around 6 pm every day. As for banks, my first trip to the bank (SBI) was on 19th November, the day when cash exchange was allowed only for senior citizens. So the queue was considerably shorter. Still, it took us (Dad & me) an hour.

But the queue was extremely well-behaved, the guard had full authority to deal with trouble-makers, senior citizens were being sent in first, and there was a table outside with drinking water and deposit/withdrawal slips. By the time our turn came though, Rs.100 notes were finished. We could choose from Rs.2000 or Rs.10 notes. But they did have sufficient cash.

The second time we went to the bank was on 6th December. There was no queue, normal crowd inside. We were in and out within 3 minutes. Sufficient cash, but again no Rs.100 or new Rs.500 notes.

3. Cash Crunch.

Our local vegetable vendor had a severe cash crisis the very first morning, i.e. 9th November. He went to the mandi to buy fresh vegetables for the day, but nobody would accept the old Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes. Eventually, they just gave him the fresh stock on credit, as he buys from them every morning.

I personally didn't face any major cash crunch problem, because sales at a neighborhood stationery store happen in petty cash mostly.

Salaried people would have been in a real tight spot though. Limit on ATM withdrawals, long queues, not enough small denomination currency. Can't imagine how they managed, especially for the first couple of weeks.

4. Affect on Businesses.

For the first few days (less than a week), yes, sales dipped. People were buying only the necessities. But things got more-or-less normal soon after. My sister was here in the first week of December. We did a lot of shopping then. Most stores accepted cards, and the ones that didn't, had sufficient change for Rs.2000 notes.

On being asked, the shop-owners said that their trade hadn't suffered by more than 10-15%. I actually ended up spending more with my card than I would have with cash! (Mind you, these are the non-necessities I'm talking about right now.)

Overall, I didn't see much difference in retail markets. But yes, wholesale markets seemed slower than normal. There were fewer customers there (even in December) AND less stock too.

5. Brought People Together.

Neighborhood shops may not have POS machines, but they have other support mechanisms, because the residents and shop owners are all usually known to each other. In my colony, some regular customers were given goods on credit. Others could open their "pre-paid accounts" with our local kirana store and vegetable vendor, with the otherwise-useless Rs.2000 note.

I installed paytm on my phone, to accept payments from customers who didn't have cash. But one lady didn't want to use paytm either, 'coz she badly needed change for her Rs.2000 note. So the kirana store and I pooled in our Rs.100 notes, to help her out.

Residents have also been helping their domestic maids with small cash advances, as well as in getting their Aadhaar cards and new bank accounts. Together, we have pulled through.

6. Value Reversal.

These last 50 days have witnessed a strange phenomenon. There were very few takers for the Rs.2000 note. The Rs.100 note suddenly became more valuable than the Rs.2000 note. Even Rs.10 notes, from kids' gullaks, became more valuable than the new pink note. And the new Rs.500 notes are still like those rare Colombian emeralds! Everybody wants them, and the few who do have them, show them off like Sharukh Khan's Nerolac-painted-house in that "ghar bula ke to dekho" TV ad.

7. Loopholes.

Yes, this operation required a high level of secrecy in order to be successful. Despite that, Team-Modi could have been slightly better prepared. I mean, some of the loopholes were pretty obvious. Daily cash exchange, misuse of Jan-dhan accounts, opening of new fake accounts, jewellery purchase. They could have anticipated at least these few loopholes, and taken proactive steps against their exploitation.

8. Greed.

Many people got carried away in their greed and misconception, and exploited the various loopholes. The railway ticket route was effectively blocked right away. Jewellery stores are already under the scanner. Deposits in fake accounts and other people's accounts can easily be flagged with the use of software. Contrary to what most people believe, they don't need to scan all bank accounts manually. A simple query can reveal all suspicious transactions in any bank account. Multiple bank accounts can be linked by PAN numbers. Non-KYC accounts can anyway be flagged for further inspection. It's not as difficult as some people would have you believe. But it will take time and continued vigilance by Team-Modi. All culprits can be caught if Team-Modi wants them to get caught.

9. Government Responsiveness.

In India, all government bodies are known for their bureaucratic procedures and lack of decision-making will. They usually take ages to act on any matter. As such, I found it a pleasant surprise that Team-Modi was constantly on its toes and ready to take immediate action. Some people may ridicule them for making "54 changes in 42 days" (or whatever the final numbers were), but I thought it was a welcome change from their usual inertia.

10. The People of India.

I am truly amazed! The way everyone stood patiently in queues, without creating any law & order problem, despite the magnitude of the operation, AND the constant provocation by news reporters and opposition members... it is just incredible! I would have never, in my wildest imagination, thought it possible. They must have a lot of faith in Mr. Modi.

The demonetization drive was a necessary step, but, by no means was this the final step. Whether it was successful in achieving its intended objectives or not, only time will tell. Time, and continued action on the part of Team Modi. But it has set in motion certain things that would not have happened so soon otherwise. This article has already become too long, so I will write about them in my next post.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016: The Year That Was #FridayReflections #BlogChatter

The year 2016 has been more or less uneventful for me. Long drawn. Lazy even.

I had high expectations from it in the beginning, but then injured my shoulder early on, and got distracted with other stuff.

I've hardly blogged this past year. Only 22 posts in the last 365 days. (And that's when I hadn't even taken an official sabbatical from blogging!)

I just don't feel like writing anymore. I don't feel like recording bits from my life here. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

I say 'anymore', but maybe it's just a temporary phase. I sure hope so.

Otherwise, life has been good this last year.

Except for those few months when I was struggling with the physiotherapy, pain and sleep deprivation. But, as they say, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

I, for one, definitely DO feel stronger than I did at the start of 2016. More optimistic about life. More in control. More appreciative of what I have and where I am.

2016 has been a good year, even if it didn't seem so at times.

And 2017 is still waiting to be written.

I don't have any New Year Resolutions. Never make them. So I'll just go with the flow and think about each day when it comes.

What about you guys? How was 2016 for you? Do you have any plans/goals for 2017? Do share them below.

Wish you all a Very Happy New Year, friends!

Linking up with #BlogChatter and #FridayReflections

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mushroom Capsicum Curry! Day 4 #100HappyDays

Happiness is...

When you try a new ingredient in your kitchen for the very first time, and it turns out like this...

So I've never used fresh mushrooms in my kitchen before. The only time I made mushrooms at home was in 1998, and I used canned button mushrooms then. (Fresh ones weren't as readily available with vegetable vendors back then.) I was feeling a bit adventurous lately, so I decided to give them a try.

I went through a lot of mushroom recipes on the internet while having my morning tea today, and got a vague idea of how I will make a simple curry with onions, tomatoes, capsicum and mushroom. What I forgot to check was "how to clean the mushrooms"! And I emptied the whole pack into a bowl of water. [facepalm]

Apparently, you never do that. 'Coz they absorb all the water and become soggy. Tch. My bad.

Some of those mushrooms looked so disgusting in the water, with all the big black hairy thingies on the underside, that I almost threw the whole lot away. Then I decided to check google on how to clean and cut them. That's when I discovered that you aren't supposed to put them in water. I also realized that only about half of my mushrooms were fresh. Sighhh.

Anyway, I quickly took them out of the water, and dried them on paper towels. The ones with the bigger black hairy thingies (they are apparently called "gills") were the not-so-fresh ones. I removed the gills from those. (They looked very unappetizing!) Then I cut them all in pieces as advised in the recipes. Some of the recipes said to remove the stems, as they tasted different. Some said to keep them. Since it was my first time, I decided to play safe and removed the stems.

I then boiled them in the pressure cooker, with a little bit of salt. (Only two of the recipes said to use pre-boiled mushrooms, but I wasn't going to take a chance with under-cooked mushrooms. This step was completely unnecessary though. Next time, I'll make them without boiling.)

I made a light curry with chopped onions, ginger-garlic paste, chopped tomatoes, and the regular spices. Then added the boiled mushrooms and a cup of chopped and micro-cooked capsicum. I added a little bit of the water in which I'd boiled the mushrooms. Allowed it to simmer for a couple of minutes, and then served hot with chapatis.

Sorry, no coriander leaves for garnishing today! Hehehe! And no intermediate pics either. I was so tense about how it would turn out that I forgot to take pics in between. In fact, I even put some potatoes to boil, in case the mushroom recipe turned out to be a disaster and I needed a 'Plan-B'! :P

Thankfully, the dish was completely edible. It was quite tasty, in fact. So the 'Plan-B' wasn't called upon! Next time, I'll get fresher mushrooms, clean them the proper way, and won't waste time boiling them separately.

Attempting #100HappyDays for the first time. Today was Day 4.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

An Honoured Chef! Day 3 #100HappyDays

Happiness is...

When a dish you cooked for your brother-in-law ends up as the "Profile Picture" of a foodie group on Facebook!

My brother-in-law was in Jaipur last week for some business work. He loves egg curry, so I made that for lunch.

Normally, I serve it into the plates directly from the kadhai (wok). But this time, I wanted a picture for my blog, so I took out my borosil glassware.

Also, I usually don't have fresh coriander in my kitchen. So I do without it. But I had to garnish the egg curry for my picture, right? So I especially made Dad go and get me some of it from the nearby vegetable vendor!

LOL! Just kidding! He was going out anyway for some other work. :D (My Dad puts up with a lot, in the name of my blog, but even he wouldn't step out of the house just to get me some hara-dhaniya for a blog picture!)

Here's the picture then. Go ahead and drool over it!

Attempting #100HappyDays for the first time. Today was Day 3.