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Welcome to my blog. I created this blog with the intention of sharing my views on travel, food, books & movies which are among my top interests. From time to time it may include some ramblings as well!

Please contact me if you are interested in submitting guest posts. Thank you for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

10 things I love about my hometown

This post has been in the pipeline for a while now. I can't believe it has taken me such a long time to express my thoughts on my beloved hometown Mysore. My hometown is where my heart is. Even after being away for more than a decade, I still have an incredibly powerful connection to Mysore. I never had to leave the city in order to appreciate it. It is where I grew up, met my best friends, spent countless summer holidays with my cousins, where I chose my career path, where I graduated, where memories of my pet dog Polo linger, the place I left behind when I got married and the place I keep itching to get back to whenever the opportunity arises. It is at the crux of all my childhood memories. It is an integral part of me. 

I was born in the United Kingdom where I spent my early childhood followed by a few years in the Middle East before my parents decided to settle down in India for good. At the time, almost all my relatives were flocking to Bangalore which was (at the time) considered a great place to live in. But my parents made the unconventional decision to move to neighbouring Mysore, a much smaller and quieter city located a short distance away from Bangalore. 

Although it is the third largest city in Karnataka, Mysore to me has always seemed quite compact. It is a city that is laid-back, placid, quaint and the least bit congested. The cultural and historical ambience of the city embellished with music, art, paintings and dance exhibit the influence of the Vijayanagara Empire and Wodeyar dynasty thus earning the sobriquet 'Cultural Capital of Karnataka'. Mysore is renowned for its grand palaces, majestic temples, beautiful gardens and colorful festivals which imparts an old world charm to the city. It isn't what you would describe as hip or funky in any way. The urban youth might find it a dull place to live in but I personally wouldn't have it any other way. For a long time, it didn't boast of pubs, clubs, discos or any happening nightlife places. Even good cafes were quite a rarity. The first shopping mall opened only a few years ago and the first-ever McDonalds made an appearance not too long ago! But having said that, Mysore has been changing at a rapid pace. It is becoming an active location for IT companies, BPO firms and is the first choice for a weekend getaway for people living in Bangalore. In recent times, it has been getting horribly crowded on weekends (and especially on long weekends). New apartment complexes, shopping malls, fast food chains, hotels and supermarkets seem to be springing up all over the place. The traffic has increased substantially from how it was when I left. My worst nightmare will be Mysore transforming into present-day Bangalore *shudder* I sincerely hope that unfortunate day never comes! 

Here are 10 reasons why I love my hometown:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Recipe of the Month: Spinach Masala Pongal

Pongal is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods. It is the South-Indian version of the well-known Khichri/Khichdi which is popular throughout North India and Pakistan. This amazingly simple dish of pressure cooked lentils and rice with subtle spices and fried cashewnuts is not only flavourful but hearty and balanced too. Not counting the days when I'm sick, I can devour bowlfuls of this golden-yellow hued rice dish topped with homemade ghee on any given day. My mum knows all too well my hankering for this dish so she makes it a point to make it for me whenever I'm in Mysore. My husband on the other hand, isn't such a fan so the occasions where I made pongal at home in Singapore had started to become few and far between.

My mum passed me a neatly handwritten recipe for this Spinach Masala Pongal a long time ago. It was so long ago that I didn't even remember that it existed! I was rummaging through my cookbooks one day, and came across the recipe. I thought why not give it a go and tested it out that very night. Out of habit, I changed the recipe to suit my own preferences. The original recipe called for sliced eggplants and garam masala but I skipped both ingredients and decided to incorporate some coconut milk for added flavour. I wasn't expecting to get any kind of reaction from my husband for this dish so I was shocked when he came back for seconds and even asked me to make it again! Since then, this Spinach Masala Pongal has featured as a staple on our weekday dinner menu. I even pack it in our lunchboxes to take to work. He likes it with garlic pickle but I prefer it as it is. During the first trimester of my pregnancy when I had a lot of food aversions and was retching on a regular basis, this was the one rice dish that I could wolf down without any problems and so I made it a ridiculous number of times then. I made it for my in-laws last month in Singapore and then made it again for my parents and cousin at home in Mysore a few days ago and it got a big thumbs up 

I didn't bring my Canon DSLR camera to India since I had the girls with me and their luggage far outweighed mine! I had to reluctantly settle for my Sony cybershot camera so that it the reason for the not so appealing photographs in this post. Unfortunately, I'll have to make do with the same for any recipe post that I do in the coming few weeks. But please don't go by the photos okay? This is a really yummy one-pot meal so I hope you make it for your family and friends. Who knows, it might make a regular appearance on your lunch/dinner menu too!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Baker's Corner: Mini Jammy Cakes

After what seems like eternity, I am in India! Hooray! I'm introducing my little ones to my hometown, to the house I grew up in, to my friends and family, to our culture and traditions and to everything that makes me look forward to going back home ☺ The girls were a dream on the flight from Singapore to Bangalore and were equally good on the drive to Mysore which took place immediately after. Not a peep out of either of them throughout the long journey! I must thank my lucky stars! In the coming weeks, they have quite a number of things lined up - their cradle ceremony, getting their ears pierced, their naming ceremony and their uncle's wedding. It is going to be an eventful first holiday for them as it is going to involve considerable travel and meeting a lot of new faces. I hope it doesn't upset their routine too much. Fingers crossed!

It was hubby's birthday last month and as preoccupied as I was with the girls, I still wanted to bake him a cake. I didn't have much time to browse through my numerous cookbooks so I grabbed the first book I laid my eyes on and settled on a recipe that looked easy to make. It was a recipe for these Mini Jammy Cakes. I'd never made mini cakes before so I thought I'd give it a go. From start to finish, the whole process took less than an hour and the cakes themselves were quite good. I reduced the quantity of sugar in the recipe since my in-laws were around and preferred their desserts not overly sweet so they were able to enjoy it too. The recipe calls for ground mixed spice and since I didn't have any ready made spice mix with me, I made my own using cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder, ground cardamom and cloves. From what information I found online, cardamom is not typically found in ground mixed spice but I heavily recommend that you use it because it gives that lovely perfume to the cakes. But then again, not many people are crazy about the flavour of cardamom in their desserts so its your call. This is a great dessert to whip up for tea time or when you have guests coming over.

I'll probably feature one of my mum's and MIL's signature dishes in the coming weeks while I am still here so keep a look out for that! 


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A tale of two babies!

The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.

- Jessica Lange

I wanted to do a post on motherhood and my fraternal twin girls but as you can see, it has taken me a while to do that! My munchkins were born on November 10th 2014 and since then, life has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride! Each day has been a constant cycle of feeding, burping, changing diapers, play time and naps. Looking after two babies at the same time is a round-the-clock job and I never imagined that I would get any time to myself in the near future. But turns out that my girls (who are nearly 5 months old) are not terribly difficult to manage and as long as we stick to their well-established routine, they fill up their tummies, look forward to playtime, interact with us, enjoy their baths, sleep well and are seldom cranky. So far so good....I fervently hope things stay the same!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Remembering a legend - RIP Lee Kuan Yew

Image Source: Painting by Mai Huy Dung

“You begin your journey not knowing where it will take you 
you have plans
you have dreams 
but every now and again you have to take uncharted roads 
face impassable mountains 
cross treacherous rivers 
be blocked by landslides and earthquakes. 
That’s the way my life has been.”

- Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew (1923 - 2015), the founding Prime Minister of Singapore spearheaded the transformation of the island nation from a small trading port to the thriving metropolis it is today. He made an impossible dream a reality. Along with his colleagues, he built a nation for over five decades which will remain as his lasting legacy.

Lee Kuan Yew was highly instrumental in shaping Singapore from the time he and his socialist party, the People's Action Party (PAP) rallied for self-government in the 1950's to their pursuit for a merger with the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the new nation Malaysia in the early 1960s and their formidable struggle to ensure Singapore's survival after independence was reluctantly thrust upon it on August 9th 1965. He believed in a unified Malaysia and a multiracial society and famously wept on national television when Singapore was separated from Malaysia. Daunting as it was to rebuild the city-state, he clung on to the motto "Never fear" and led a generation of Singaporeans to overcome the herculean challenges that came their way. He fought relentlessly against corruption and prompted policies such as public housing, home-ownership, racial integration and adopted English as a common language. Under his able leadership, from the ashes of separation emerged a prosperous nation. He holds the distinction of being the only leader in history to bring an entire country from third-world to first-world status in a single generation. By doing so, he planted the little red dot firmly on the world map. For a tiny island like Singapore with its sparse population, limited space and lack of natural resources, this has been an extraordinary achievement. His years in office were not without controversy, mostly regarding his iron-clad grip over the country, repressive measures to instil order, curtailing freedom of speech and unapologetic stance in demolishing his political adversaries. Yet, he will be regarded as a one-of-a-kind, respected and admired individual for generations to come. He will go down in history books as a dynamic leader, an inspirational figure and a hugely accomplished politician.

Having lived in Singapore for almost 10 years, I am no stranger to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's contribution towards nation-building. I was able to get a more comprehensive understanding after reading his remarkable autobiography, The Singapore Story (a book I would highly recommend). He has played a pivotal role in making Singapore a clean, green harmonious, prosperous and safe country to live in. It has been the quality of life here that converted us from expats to residents back in 2007. No where else in the world would I dare to venture out alone past midnight (which I have done on several occasions in the past). Singapore to me is my second home and when the day comes to pack my bags for good, I will leave with a heavy heart. This country has given me more than I could ever ask for and in a way, I am indebted to Mr Lee Kuan Yew for that. I was deeply saddened by the news of Mr Lee's demise yesterday and I would like to offer my profound condolences to PM Lee Hsien Loong and his family. 

RIP Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you for making Singapore such a global success story. Your place in history as an exemplary leader, radical thinker and visionary is assured. As Singapore gears up to celebrate its 50th birthday this August, your presence will be sorely missed.

"A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion and not position"

-John Maxwell


Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Photo Gallery: Travel Memoirs

I kick-started my photo gallery series way back in Feb 2014 but after that one post, I didn't do squat to keep the series alive (my bad!). Lack of time was a major factor that led to the stagnation of the series combined with a lack of interesting subjects to photograph. But then, as I was sorting out my old photo albums to back them up the other day, I realized that I had a lot of 'decent' (in my opinion) travel photos that I had taken over the years. Travel has been an integral part of my life since childhood and I'm thankful for having been able to visit some truly incredible destinations so far. So for this post, I thought I'd compile my favourite travel photos hoping to take you on an interesting and colorful journey.

My next post in this series will most probably be baby-related because I take far too many pictures of my little ones! I'm at home with them all day so it is far too tempting to not go crazy with my camera. I'm currently experimenting with different styles, angles and photo editing tools so keep a look out for that 

So let us begin the photo tour shall we?