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Archive for May, 2010

30 Seconds

30 Seconds

Its Quick. Its Rapid. Its Fun.

If you thought this was about a movie….(Beep)… Wrong answer!

Today we had an hour-long team meeting. So when my boss Kath sent an agenda stating there will be a discussion on stats, tricks to improve performance and lastly fun. I thought that -“Oh well, I am sure its gonna be one of those usual team building games”. Boy was I in for a surprise.

She introduced a classic Kiwi Game called “30 Seconds”.  Sure, you have to play it in 30 seconds. OK! So what’s so different about it – you ask? Find out for yourselves!!! I can honestly tell ya, there hasn’t been a game I have played that was this exciting and enjoyable in ages.

Its tagline – “the quick thinking fast talking game”, was true to its word. It was amazing, upbeat and every single team member enjoyed playing it. It goes something like this. Divide yourselves into teams, one person from the team gets a card with 5 words on each side. They need to describe it without a direct reference to it and there are some rules attached to that. The rest of the team figures it out. This was of course a customised version of the game to suit the number of people in the team.

To give you an example. 2 words. Question – “Where do you find an Oasis?” And the team needs to zero it down and Answer – “Desert”. That’s the first word. Second word – Question -“What is the other word for path?”. Answers could be “Way”, “Street”, “Road”. Bingo! “Road” is the second word. So the challenge was for the words – “Desert Road”. So more words you can glean in 30 seconds wins you the prize. Am sure you get the picture.

I would highly recommend buying it, if you are looking for team building and communication strengthening exercises. Everyone gets active and start thinking on their feet. It was a fist pumping, high fiving, and spirited game that made  people wild. And the short time and challenge to communicate, and  the need to win is so compulsive, that even the most laid back person becomes a ‘Adrenaline junkie”. And this game is not only great for work places, it will guarantee a fun time for the family too.

Well my 30 seconds are up!!! When’s yours?

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So after having fully recovered from the sated effect of the Berry crumble that my colleague Aarti had made, I rolled up my sleeves and got down to work. No not my job, I meant the competition at hand – The Bake off!

And my oh my. What a surprising episode this was! We won Bronze in the Bake Off. Not too shabby at all. I think that was fair as far as our food was concerned, especially given the fact that our team was taking on 2 colleagues who also baked professionally for a living, who by the way won the top 2 spots. But presentation wise, not fair at all. I whole heartedly disagree with the judges. I would like to think we were hands down the best of the whole lot, presentation wise.

Picture collage made by me

Picture collage made by me

My team name is ‘Renaissance’. So we selected our theme to be Italy, which was the birth place of Renaissance, or as the Italians would call ‘Rinascimento’. We decided on our Novelty item to be a ‘Pizza Cake’ and for the muffin variety, Feijoa muffin with Lime Glaze.  We did realise Feijoa might not be Italian, but it was in season and we thought we need to be refreshingly different to those of the other teams who were clichéd enough to present Blueberry and Chocolate Chip muffins.

In addition to this, we enhanced our presentation by each of us baking more items, to give a fuller looking table, like a typical Italian table. With a whole array of food, we wanted to extend the idea that Italians never did things by half and created masterpieces in whatever they did, which was in extension of our team motto “Every call is a Masterpiece”.

The preparation process was so energizing and a fantastic outlet for creativity. We decided that our table was going to look like something right out of Italy, rustic, beautiful and be adorned with food, art, flowers, serve ware included. But to make ourselves stand out, we decided to build the top half of an archway over our presentation board. One of my colleagues even went on to suggest, that we need to challenge ourselves and even make hand-made flowers. And anxiety bells started ringing! Origami and me! Bad idea! It’s like me trying to pop a wheelie!

But we had to get our act together and pitch in especially with the clock ticking closer to our deadline. A couple of my colleagues worked on the archway, Aarti, the berry crumble expert decided to take on the Pizza Cake head on and Kim who by the way was also working on the Archway, said she will bake the Feijoa muffins. And me, I had volunteered to bake Almond Biscotti for an authentic Italian item on the menu, to make things harder than it already is for me, I even chose a traditional Italian Biscotti recipe. I also worked on a picture collage of all things Italian and I got my boss to print it off in an A3 paper in colour to be put up on the board like a poster /painting. On top of this I volunteered to help with the hand-made flowers as well. I got so carried away with the ongoing excitement and planning, I committed myself to it without realising what I was getting into. Yes! Oh the irony of it. Dont even ask! During the closing hours at work, I tried giving the instruction sheet a glance on how to make those pretty paper carnations. I gave up trying to make sense out of it. How on earth was I going to make paper carnations from delicate pink tissues with pipe cleaners.  We had less than a sleep away to present.

Paper carnations

I printed off the instruction sheet for the carnations, rushed back home, had dinner. Fortunately, forever my knight in shining armour Ram, helped me with the baking. The dough for the Almond Biscotti turned out to be perfect. I stuck the biscotti in the oven and started on the paper carnations. I read line by line from the instruction sheet and followed each process step by step and Voila..! Wonder of Wonders. There lay in my hand a delicate pink carnation with dark pink edges. What a proud moment it was for me! I realised that this bake-off was such a wonderful learning experience for me art-wise. Hurrah…….I felt great that I had learnt something ‘new’.

Next day, the sun was hiding behind the clouds. Gloomy weather. Not good at all! Went to the office with a huge bag filled with all the presentation paraphernalia. And helped the team with the table and board set up. I came to learn about another piece of depressing update. My colleague who had left the archway outside the site to dry, as it was spray painted and the fumes would have been a health hazard, arrived in the morning to find that someone had removed it. She had to rush back home and bring fresh cardboard, re-cut the archway and the bricks. Since we all had to go back on the phones, my boss, being the ever gracious lady, got down on her knees and painted our archway in a rich terracotta red-brown colour. And she managed to arrange some time off work for some of us later closer to the presentation hour.

The tension around me was so thick that it could be cut with a knife. It was emanating from all team members, I even ended up riling up a couple of them for the worse, when I shot down a couple of unaesthetic additions and removed it.

Overall presentation

Overall presentation

The judges came, we all greeted them in Italian and one of colleagues presented the idea behind the theme. They tried the main items and applauded our effort. And half an hour later, the winner was announced. We had come 3rd. I sent congratulatory emails to my team and we celebrated with the left over food.

Exhausted and rooting for my bed and a good night’s rest, I was winding up for the day, clearing things away. One of the judges, stopped by my desk and said, “I liked your team’s presentation the best”. And I thought to myself -“Darn right you are. We were the best”. He went onto explain that the food had more points unfortunately.

Close up

Close up of the table

And that it was a great achievement that we had pitted against 2 professionals. And overall had done a good job. It felt great to receive this exclusive feedback. I was happy that he had taken time to come personally acknowledge the humongous effort. I thanked him, wished him a good evening and walked away smiling to myself, reflecting on the journey that this spectacular bake-off has been.

And now, where was I? Oh yes. I need to catch up on that rest.

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Its not the same around here without you

This was supposed to have been published back in February. But never got around to it. But hey better late than never.

Ram had to go away on a month-long trip to Brisbane to train one of the new employees in his organisation. The plan was such, Ram was going to work out of the Brisbane branch for a month and I was to join him in the last week of February 2010 for a 5 day break. Fortunately he had accommodation close by and transport to work.

Left to my own devices, I obviously resorted to long phone calls with dearest hubby and skyping with my sister and emailing my family with updates often to escape the loneliness swamping me.

The separation was good and bad in its own way. For 2.5 years you have seen your hubby every single day and to have to wake up with a cold empty space next to you is awful. After returning from work, I was waiting to listen to the sound of his car reversing into the car park. Even while I knew he was not going to come home, my mind was a being stupid romantic, hopelessly anticipating his return from work. His loud clattering and clanging was sorely missed. His loud singing and ear-splitting shouts and crowing which I used to find irritating at times, made me smile. I thought even that would have been welcomed with open arms at that point in time.

But the flip side was I learned a bit more having to rely on myself solely, asked a lot more questions around to make smart decisions, became a lot more independent and felt great about it too. I was now the “Boss” of the house. (Not that I didn’t have my say! But still………..hmmmm…how silly of me :), who do I boss but myself!!!! But it was a good ego massage I tell ya 😉 ).  I could eat dinner any time I wanted without the worry of hubby dearest coming back home hungry from work. I could eat just about anything I wanted (And I pretty much lived on comfort food for a good month….Shhh!!!). Did everything at my pace or NOT!!! I had a lot more time to indulge in my hobbies having nothing else to do but stare at walls.

But nothing was the same without him around. Every single thing in our home reminded me of the warm memories  of our times together which I took comfort in but it’s still not the same.

Missing my husband won out eventually. Nothing compares to the constant teasing, arguing, bickering , nagging and loving of that of your companion. I missed him so much that I asked him everything and anything about his experiences in Brizzy just to make me feel as though I was living with him over there. And the calendar pages did tear rather slowly.

Finally all said, the distance did make us a lot closer. And like the saying goes “Absence did make our hearts grow fonder”. It was love a second time round, only this time it was across the Tasman sea.

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My workplace has this 4 week competition running currently where each week we are given a task, that each team has to participate in and will be judged on.

So far we have had 3 tasks.

1) Paper bridge building which should hold 2 x 2 litres of milk bottles for 30 seconds

2) Second task was to build a straw and paper based contraption which will be dropped from 7 feet height and that which carry an uncooked egg. Bottom line, the egg shouldn’t crack. Boy did we get splattered on that one!

3) The third task was Runway’s version of catwalk called the Runaway(LOL…this cracks me up), which required us to fashion an Oscar worthy evening gown that was made out of newspapers and magazines.

Fashion show

We are approaching the fourth task this week. And this week we have a classic kiwi style “Bake-Off”.  We have to present 2 items – a muffin variety & a novelty dessert. Some of the daring bakers in our team, who I might add were not so worried about earning bad reviews decided they will bake something and test it amongst the team for feedback.

And today, one of my colleagues, Aarti brought a very unique dessert. The type I haven’t tried so far. I should admit, there are very few categories and sub categories in the desserts section of the menu that I have not tried. However I must tell you this was something from a totally different league. It was a “moist berry crumble”. I swear I could carry on eating this shamelessly and without the aftertaste of an overdose.

Berry crumble

It was purple and moist and felt good. The first taste into my mouth, the taste was puzzling to my taste buds. The taste took me by surprise at first. And then the tang hit me. Then sweetness melted me. It was just right. Not too rich or heavy. And finally made me close my eyes and sigh, because the coolness and goodness of the berries made me feel really really good on the inside.

Don’t think I am repeating the word “good” time and again. I am pretty sure I will have many of you joining me in this category for using the same word if you tried it.

It was baked to a humbling perfection. And this particular dessert “berrily crumbled” my preconceptions of the different types of desserts. It was in my opinion definitely one of a kind and was “berrylicious”.

I have asked my dear colleague to share this recipe. And she has told me that she will forward it soon. Really looking forward to trying this one for sure!!!! Okay I better get going and add this to my “To-Do” List now. Keep your peepers open for this recipe!!! Cheerio!

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My friday was punctuated with “Bless You”s at work. I returned home on friday evening with a heavy cold which made my head feel like a ton of bricks. Afer watching American Idol, Ram and I had dinner,  and Ram hit the sack early as he had work the very next day. I tried sleeping, but I felt restless, I decided may as well use the time for some blogging. So I stayed on till 2am blogging and then went to sleep.

Ram goes to work for half a day on Saturdays. I slept so soundly that I barely even registered that he had left for work the next morning. I woke up about 9 ish to get some coffee and pop some Panadol. I stayed up for about 2 hours or so, checked my emails, downed some soup. I thought I must make some lunch before Ram came back around 1pm. I checked my clock -“Ok, it is 11am now. Just enough time for catching a quick snooze and if I start at 12, I can keep lunch ready for him”.

12′ o clock came and went by. I was still counting my Zz’s.

Ram returned home from work, checked on me. Saw that I was still sleeping and immediately went to the kitchen and started on lunch. He made some boiled eggs and Rasam (A South Indian specialty mixed with rice, as a part of the main course. Recipe link from my sister’s blog at the end of the post). Comfort food. Food that reminds me of home and that which really helps when you have cold and flu.

I heard the sound of the pressure cooker go off. And I am thinking in my sleep. Oh good, just one curry and some rice to cook.

Then the whistle went off again. I woke with a start with the realisation that my hubby had returned home. And I thought to myself -“Oh darn, Ram’s here. And I should have kept lunch ready half an hour ago”, squinting at the clock. I immediately sought him, gave him a quick hug and said “Sorry. I was supposed to have started on lunch an hour ago.”

Ram said -“Don’t worry about it. You are not well. I knew you would be resting”.

We sat down for lunch, put on a movie from our home collection. My first mouthful was hot Rasam mixed with rice and a bit of the boiled egg. By the time the mouthful went down my throat, my mind raced back to the moment when I sat on my grandma’s hip and was fed rasam rice and okra curry, with my paati (grandma in Tamil) telling me stories of Lord Rama and distracting me by pointing out to the crows nesting on top of coconut trees.

Crows on coconut trees

That exact same taste. That same flavour. That same aroma. I couldn’t believe it. My mind couldn’t begin to fathom the similarity of the rasam made by paati and the one made by hubby dearest. It was so alike, I immediately commented on the same. And I kept pestering Ram to tell me how he made it. I kept repeating myself – ‘How did you make it, so like Paati’s’. Come to think of it, Ram has not even met Paati. Yet he created the same flavour with his  magic wand. ‘Kai manam’ is what we say in Tamil which literally translates to ‘hand aroma/fragrance’, meaning the ability to create flavourful cooking.

It was such a simple thing yet a very emotional moment for me as paati is no more. And I couldn’t even ask her to cook that Rasam for me towards the end of her life due to her poor eyesight. Oh the love and affection she used to pour on me. It was showered on me every moment I spent with her.  And Ram brought back those cherished memories to the surface with a simple rasam on a mundane autumn afternoon.

I would like to think myself as blessed to be able to reflect on those special moments and re-live those flavours at home and who knew my husband was going to recreate this for me. Aren’t I just lucky?

http://dibribac.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/simple-rasam/

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Ram and I are so hooked onto American Idol these days that we wager and compete to predict who’s getting eliminated. And celebrate when the one we did not like goes out.

But I have reached a stage where both my favourites are in their top form, have reached their peak and both are so unique and awesome in their own way.

I am rooting for Mama Sox and Lee DeWyze to go to the final.

Crystal Bowersox

And I want both of them to win. On one hand Crystal has got solid vocals and takes most songs by the horns and sings it with panache. She has personality, her own identity, gives heartfelt performances and great with the guitar. She has a very rustic appeal. But her biggest challenge and that which might not work in her favour of a career in music would be juggling her career and family life.

Lee DeWyze

On the other hand we have everything that a young artist should have and what I would call a package deal for record companies. Great voice, great looks, growing confidence, ability to charm audience with his shy guy looks. Lee has got it all. I fell for Lee’s voice after his rendition of ‘The Boxer’. Have never heard that song before in my life but there was something about his voice that made this song even more beautiful that made instant connection. Its been one of my most favourite performances on Idol till date. Here is the link for it incase you missed it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exbIO39VlZ8

Sad that Tim Urban was eliminated. He had talent too. I loved his “Can’t Help Falling in Love with you” performance which was in a totally different league. It is difficult to imagine how else the already perfect song orginially sung by Elvis Presley be changed . Another one of those stellar performances that stood out and that which won’t be forgotten in a hurry. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eLAimcHm4U. But I guess his smile and talent will take him places. Am sure there are lots of avenues opening up for him soon.

I wonder which one of my favourites is going to survive the tide for there can be only one winner in this competition…..

Keeping my fingers crossed….May the best performer win!

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