0

Gulmohar gar tumhara naam hota

IMG_4903

Gulmohar Gar Tumhara Naam Hota
Mausam-E-Gul Ko Hasaana Bhi Hamara Kaam Hota

Come summers and the roads come alive with the flowering trees in Delhi-Gurgaon. Right now its the flamboyant Gulmohar making its presence felt in the city. Everywhere one looks, one is greeted with the sight of clusters of crimson orange blooms on the branches. And most often once would also spot a bevy of butterflies flitting in and out of these blossoms, making for one very happy sight!

0

Sin city VS Holy city

Hola People! This post is a departure from my previous ones as its a collaborative one with another blogger – Kendra from Chicago whose idea it was to write about our favourite travel place and the fun things we love doing there. So, she has chosen to write about LAS VEGAS which seems to be the ultimate fun place according to her. I have chosen to write about the current travel favourite place of mine – Benares.

Quite a contrast – don’t you think? I would love to hear about what my readers think about this article and whether they would like to see more of this in future.

Oh the Fun You Can Have in Sin City

When you plan a vacation, one of the best ways to choose the activities you’ll enjoy during your stay is by taking tips from those who have been there before. I love Las Vegas and have visited there many times. If you are planning a trip to take in the sights of Sin City, I’d like to make a few recommendations.

1. Enjoy Some Las Vegas Thrills

Thrill rides are easy to find in Las Vegas. I, personally, am not much of a roller-coaster fan, but it’s interesting to watch the amazing rides. At Adventuredome in Circus Circus, they have the world’s only double-corkscrew, double-loop roller coaster. You won’t find me riding the Canyon Blaster ever, but it’s a fascinating work of art. This December, Adventuredome announced a coming attraction for thrill lovers, the record-breaking El Loco.

2. Try Your Hand at Mini Golf

Unique miniature golf courses amuse my kids, and their father and I have fun playing along with them. We especially enjoyed our trip to KISS by Monster Mini Golf. The course features 18-holes decorated with replicas of rock-and-roll memorabilia. The whole family had fun putting into the giant Gene Simmons head. Giant guitars and animated representations of the band members round out the fun here.

3. Visit a Museum or Three

Las Vegas is chockfull of unique museums. My kids have oodles of fun at Discovery Children’s Museum. I love wandering through the paths and gardens at the Neon Museum, which tells the story of Las Vegas in lights. The National Atomic Testing Museum, also in Las Vegas, features interesting exhibits about the history of the atom bomb and nuclear weapons. Why not enjoy some of these museums and take home the souvenir of knowledge?

4. Explore the Desert

Don’t forget that Las Vegas lies at the heart of the Mojave Desert. If you get tired of adventures on the strip, take a Pink Jeep tour to see the sights outside of town. Several different tours are available. The company will pick you up at your hotel and take you on a comfortable, guided tour of your chosen natural wonder. They even have a day trip to the Grand Canyon.

Las Vegas has something for everyone to enjoy. With so many places to stay on the strip and things to do, each visit will be different. Sites like Gogobot make it easy to read user reviews so you know just what you will be purchasing. I’ve always enjoyed my visits here. I hope you have fun on yours. I bet you’ll be ready to come back again soon.

Headshots Kendra Thornton -   40 and a mother of 3. Before being promoted to the full time position of mom, she was the former Orbitz Director of Communications where she was able to travel a great deal. she now lives in Chicago with her family, where they are her number one priority in everyday life.

Benares or Varanasi or Kashi – the city of Lord Shiva is known by many names. This holy and ancient India city is reputed to have over a million temples of every Hindu deity possible and the stars, moon and constellations are not left far behind too. Each and every visit of mine to this city fuels the urge to come here more often for this city has a calming effect on the soul. Despite the crowds, noise, filth and the chaos; the city runs on its own tempo of ‘laziness’ and guiles you to lose yourself in it too.

Things not be missed while in Benares can be listed as below:

1) Walking jaunts through its myriad bylanes that are teeming with exotic and colorful food and wares. The vendors call out for your attention without seeming in your face. Handpainted wooden hangings, metalwork suns, glistening glass beads, steaming hot savouries, mouth watering sweets, fresh flowers- all beckon you with their allure to taste/sample/buy.

2) Prepare to be entranced by a private performance of Indian classical music, instrumental or a dance form at one of the many music and dance ashrams on the ganga ghat . The students of these schools perform and seek encouragement and patronage. Entry is via a nominal fee.

3) A boat ride on the Ganga in the early morning is not to be missed. The calming chimes of temple bells, monotonous religious chants and image of people immersing themselves in the water to bathe away impurities is a typical scene at the river ghats. Boat markets selling trinkets of every shape and color can be seen floating out to beguile the tourists. Scores of water birds circle and wheel around the boats in hope of a crumb and are not disappointed for there are many vendors selling bird feed for just this purpose.

4) While away an afternoon on one of the many rooftop restaurant which are spread along the ghats. The view of the river, the peace and quiet and some delicious coffee and savouries – what more does one need to laze away.

5) The street food of Benares is compelling in taste, flavour and variety. Taking care not to abuse one’s stomach too much, sample the chaat (sweet, sour and spicy), milk based drinks and traditional indian sweets typical to this region. One will not be disappointed.

6) Benares is famous for its Paan – a leaf based edible savoury which is a mouth freshner. Typically this is stuffed with tobacco for the nicotine addicts but the normal public gets to savour it in it fresh and sweet avatar as well. One can see a Paan shop, every five walking minutes in the city – thats how popular this condiment is.

7) The textiles of Benares are world famous and one cant leave the city without indulging in this bit of shopping. The traditional Indian saree comes in the Benarsi form of silk woven with gold thread and is quite a sought after thing. Scarves, stoles and short kurtas can be indulged in too for the non-saree public.

8) A morning walk through the Benares Hindu University campus is an enriching experience. With over 160 faculties, its quite the educational arena. The buildings stand tall with heritage flavour in the architecture, among scores of beautiful and old trees.

0

Product review : no bake cheesecake

20140307-082359.jpg

On a latest visit to the supermarket, this box of ‘No bake cheesecake’, beckoned me. The pic on the box set me drooling and I thought to myself, ‘why not?’ But the Puritan in me rebelled at the thought of a dessert out of a box. I managed to pacify her by telling her that it’s purely to prove that it won’t be good enough.

When I got home, I shoved the box at the back of the baking cupboard, since ‘she’ was still growling at the thought of making it. It idled there for a month, before I noticed it and decided to ‘try it out. The voice in my head continued throughout the making and all the ‘critique’ comments are courtesy ‘her’!!!!!!!

The box had three pouches :
1) biscuit crumbs (“doesn’t look enough for the pan size mentioned”)
2) cheesecake mix in powder form (“looks like stone dust”)
3) blueberry sauce (“we will see what it’s like when we open it”)

Biscuit Base:
The instructions asked to mix the crumbs with 75gms of melted butter (“Cheapskates! Couldn’t include that in the box now could they!”) I thought the quantity of butter to crumbs was a lot and was proved right when I mixed them. The mix became almost like a paste and took some effort to set it into the pan.

20140307-082421.jpg

Cheesecake mix:
I put the powder in a bowl and added 350 ml of cold milk and beat it as per the two sets of beating instructions. Wow! The texture was amazing! (“It’s alright”)

20140307-082439.jpg

Setting up:
I pulled the tin out of the fridge and was surprised to see how well the base had set (“hmmm!!!”) I upturned the bowl on it and dropped the entire mix and then set about spreading it with a spatula to level it right. It was quite springy and was a delight to set.

I returned the tin to the fridge for a while and then opened the sauce packet which was sadly very very less. This was the only and biggest let down. (“gloat!! gloat!!!) I spread the miserly quantity over the set cake as best as I could and let it set for another 2 hours.

20140307-082455.jpg

The pictures say it all as to how it looked and the many many comments from my friends and family told me how great it was in taste.

All in all a hearty recommendation for it as a rainy-day saver or for an instant dessert when you have unexpected guests.

Notes:
* I feel that the butter can be reduced to 50 gms as the biscuit base turned out to be too hard.
* Although the pack says setting time is 2 hours, I found it easier to cut and it tasted much better the next day. On the same day, it was still a bit loose and cutting it was not easy. The biscuit base was also so hard that though the cake was cut, the base wasn’t and I ended up with a bit of a mess on the plate.
* I could have really used up any additional sauce to drizzle over it while serving the pieces and I would seriously recommend making or buying some extra.

I look forward to hearing from my readers on this. And in case this post inspires you to try it out, pls do share your success and experience with it. I would love to learn more!

4

Tripping in 2013!!!

I realised travel has become a synonymous part of my life when I sat down to review my year that was. I want to share a conversation that I had with someone over my travel ambition in 2013. I had just quit my corporate job and one of the reasons was that I wanted to travel. So when someone asked me how much travel do I want in a year, my reply was at least once in two months!! ♥

And I realised I did achieve that and more in 2013.

Way to go…. onwards to 2014 where the first trip of the year is slated to be to Benares – a city I am fascinated by at the moment.

My travel diary for 2013 was something like this:

♥January was driving down to Shekhawati & Bikaner- golden mustard fields, painted havelis and vista of camels.

Golden DelightIMG_9828IMG_0012

♥ February saw me on a trip to Mumbai where I savoured the KalaGhoda Art fest for the first time.

IMG_20130208_151204IMG_0329-001IMG_20130215_093650

♥ March was all about another trip to my favourite state of Rajasthan – Jaisalmer, Jodhpur & Udaipur.

IMG_1030IMG_0883IMG_0951

♣ April,May & June were quite travel free on account of moving house which in itself is very much an adventure.

♥July saw me off to Agra for a wedding and the clamour that ensues forth.

♥ August, it was back to Mumbai but a very short personal trip in which I did manage to fit in one lunch on the 18th floor which was floating in the monsoon clouds!

IMG_20130817_123250IMG_20130817_154834IMG_20130817_160005

♣ September & October were no go!
♥ November, I was back in the saddle with a photo trip to Pushkar – camels and camels and more camels…..

IMG_20131110_123837IMG_20131109_195515IMG_20131108_173550
♥ November & December ended with work trips to Benares and I was both repulsed and captivated by its many charms. But its a buzzing city with some very warm and helpful people and the food here is to die for, for sure.

IMG_20131217_064628IMG_20131218_082900IMG_20131125_192705

Some of these trips were chronicled and started as we’ll intentioned blogs but stuttered due to paucity of time and …… Er…… Interest !!!

Hoping to resuscitate some of them this year as a flashback travel diary!

0

Red velvet cheer!!

image

First day of the new year started with a lunch outing at the recently opened cyberhub in DLF phase 3, where one is simply spoilt for choice of restaurants to choose from – coffee shops, deli, ice cream parlours, pizza joints, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Californian …………… Endless! The swanky upscale food court was the perfect place to start the first day of new year – the buzz of the place was an affirmation of things to come in 2014.

This year is the perfect launch year for my range of home accessories and interior design business. Amen to that!

A new year resolution is to complete my travel blog from the past years and get them all in.

This is also the year to start my travel groups to explore India in my own unique style. First trip coming up with Benares in Jan 2014.

Maybe a first travel book of sorts should come out from my travels – an idea to explore in 2014.

Also a year to start with photo exhibitions and selling my photos commercially.

So as you can see, this year is choc a bloc with new resolutions and loads to achieve!

Wishing everyone a great 2014!!!!!!

0

Note from Benares – spirituality

Having heard so much about the ganga aarti at the dashvamedh ghat, we ventured out for it one evening and couldn’t have asked for a better spend of our time while in Benares.

The ghat was all prepped up with seven prayer stations set up on raised platforms, each framed by an arch; for the seven Brahmins who would conduct the aarti.

People were seated on the ghat steps and on the boats below. We opted for a boat view and glad that we did. On enquiring, we were told that the crowd consisted of only tourists and that was a surprise for us.

The entire scenario was sane and organised; no pushing and no waiting. And no overt noise or confusion anywhere.

The ceremony started with a traditional shankhnaad (blowing of conch shell) and then mantra chanting. The rising smoke of the incense and camphor seemed to drape each priest in a mystique while they performed the steps fluidly. The crowds, sounds of the aarti, temple bells, conch shell, the chanting and the gentle rocking of the boat – it was surreal.

Feeling calm and quiet, I wondered is this spirituality?

Notes

* The aarti starts at 6 pm every evening and finishes by 6.45 pm.

* One can sit in any of the moored boats for a fee of 20/-

image