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Archive for the ‘Hobby’ Category

Thank you Kellogg’s! You have restored my faith.

Am sure most people will agree that we have become so jaded, that we do not expect to win or receive gifts from major companies doing a promo. I also admit, albeit sheepishly, that I have also accused them of arranging for “someone on the inside” to win the promo or hogging the promo gifts.

In this day and age, good old Kellogg’s has proved me wrong. They ran a fun promotion where one can claim a free book from a list of 30 titles (***while stocks last), if we can show proof of purchase of two Kellogg’s products. 

I even faced technical difficulties on my IPad whenever I tried to go into the claims page. Pays to try a different device – my hardy android phone.

I sent away my claim with all the hope of recovering a stone in the well. I was told that the “book is on it’s way “!!! Yeah right and Big Ben will strike 13!

The eternal optimist that I was, not believing for a second it was getting sent, I was surprised by an email from them last week that it was despatched. 

Yet again, the cynicism coloured my reaction to the email. I thought to myself – ” Nah they are lying….it’s either they kept it themselves or NZ Post was going to lose it conveniently”.

But voila!!!! Guess who got their book! So thanks again Kellogg’s. Here’s to more small surprises in life.

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If you are into book reading you most likely would have come across this name – Scholastic. For the less wise they are a publisher especially of children’s books world over not just here in New Zealand. They are all about keeping the charm of the written word alive and run events and promotions from time to time. These drives are to promote reading amongst kids and nurture the habit of reading daily.

On one such occasion Scholastic NZ ran a 2 day event. When I read about this event on my Facebook I knew I just had to go. Having had my newborn son Svojas recently, I wanted to build his book collection for our bedtime story sessions. “What better way to stock up”, I told myself!!!

Again this idea of the book fair in itself was a stroke of brilliance or should I say a “box” of brilliance. The event was “All you can fill in the box” for $20 (NZD).

Set date, time, venue. People queue up, pick up box, go into the Scholastic book warehouse. Pick up available books of interest. As many as you can. Only catch – as many as you can fit in the box without the overflow or bulge. Then you pay and leave.

I tell you the place is a haven for bookworms. And for someone like me, I was like a kid in the candy store only this was a book godown. I so underestimated people’s interest in these kind of events. The queues were milling right through the Scholastic property and on to the road till you saw the queue blur into the horizon. I didn’t manage to take pictures but I clicked a few pics of our salvaged treasure after coming home.

I just had to share about this awesome event and appreciate Scholastic’s efforts within the community encouraging kids to read and also giving me the opportunity to enrich my son’s personal library.

Scholastic you are fantastic!!!!

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The Weeper

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The Weeper is a woman who cries. She cries because her heart brims with unspoken hurt, feelings and emotions she wants to express but can’t.

Why one might ask? Because she is an  epitome of a woman harboring strength and courage. Out of respect, out of compassion, out of gratitude. A woman who lives for the greater good by sacrificing her rights, her ego and herself to accommodate the greater egos she faces in life.

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The Santorini Dream

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Another one of my Samsung Sketchbook creations. I definitely want to sketch this into this reality. Basking under the balmy heat, gazing at the endless blue sky, eyes feasting on the the burst of magenta haze of the bougainvillea and the muted greens of the  luscious olive groves…..stuff Santorini is made of.

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I feel absolutely cheated! Short changed! Furious!

I absolutely loathe book publishers at this point who kill a brilliant series all for the sake of numbers. Bah!

So here I was following this bloody brilliant and highly imaginative book series by author Victoria Laurie called “Oracles of Delphi Keep”. I was too into the series, a good 3 books deep. And frantically scouring book websites and the Internet to check when the next instalment in the series was out. And guess what I found, a teensy note from the author that there won’t be a fourth and final book because her publisher said so. And now you know why I am absolutely livid with the aforementioned parties.

What happened to good old “wanting to know how it all ends”… what of the value of the written word…what about putting readers and avid fans out of misery….oh the fallen justice…publishers have mercy.

This writers’ ability to make the readers live the story and be a part of the journey and adventure is mesmeric and powerful. And when something like this happens, you know what it feels like? imagine us going on full throttle on the highway and kaboom there’s no more road all of a sudden. And you are clueless on what just hit you!

Here we are witnesses to the talent being crushed underfoot without value for intellect, creativity or imagination. In this day and age of boundless talent shows and reality TV, where it’s all about nurturing talent and providing a platform, here is one of the instances of things going otherwise.

At this rate, that beautiful unique feeling of holding a book in one’s hands is going to be a thing of the past. I think when it’s all the more important to preserve the written word, we have snobbish publishers such as these telling their authors, ‘well this one won’t see daylight’.

Imagine how many manuscripts of worth, punctuated with hours of toil, thinking, imagining, missing plot lines, twining them together, linking the unconnected dots etcetera haven’t smelt the newness of unused paper. And I can’t even begin to fathom writers putting up with these outrageous decisions of their publishers when you have delivered a successful series so far, that too.

How many more such mass murders do I have to witness I wonder. More than outrage I think this blog piece is more a plea to all those brilliant writers out there to follow through and make your vibrant characters see daylight, act out what they were meant to, and put us readers out of misery because there is nothing more annoying than not knowing how it’s all gonna end. Even if your publishers do not publish, find another who understands your worth or better yet in such cases publish your own even if it’s only a small number of copies.

It’s all about how the story ends!

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When I first bought the bergamot herb, I bought it solely for its medicinal uses. A herb that belongs to the mint family which helps digestion and has a very calming effect on ones nerves. Great for feeling centred and balanced.

Biggest surprise for me was not knowing they had flowers. Was such a treat to find that they did and is such a gorgeous vibrant colour. And great for landscaping as well. I also found that both leaves and flowers are edible. Apparently the bergamot flowers can be used in salads and great to add that aesthetic appeal.

Thank you Mother Nature for your beauty and wonders.

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It’s forever been my dream to make pasta from scratch. The colours and flavours of Italian cooking has always been fascinating for me. Seeing a pasta maker on display on a window shopping trip was all the impetus I needed to delve into pasta making. After coming across an interesting recipe for a lemony gnocchi on Pinterest which by the way is my latest vice, I thought it would go very well and would be an apt choice as it was a far cry from your usual Italian staples of tomato and basil.

And with previous knowledge of gnocchi being one of the tough pastas I set about gathering the ingredients to make this much adored pasta.

Gnocchi is a kind of pasta that resembles the shape of pudgy soft dumplings each probably the size of a walnut. Now I normally go through a gazillion recipes before settling on one which I think I can trust. But today I pulled the first recipe that came up on google. Fortunately for me it was a family handed down recipe, tried, tested and perfected. What more could a novice ask for! The only thing missing was an Italian nonna talking non stop in my ear correcting me.

And thanks to Marie’s tutorial I found making gnocchi was less daunting and a real pleasure. The gnocchi turned out light and fluffy and melt in mouth yummy. It’s one of those pastas that can easily go wrong but if you followed the tutorial to the last word I don’t see how you could go wrong!

For the gnocchi recipe I highly recommend the below link.
http://foodnouveau.com/2010/10/destinations/europe/italy/how-to-make-gnocchi-an-illustrated-step-by-step-recipe/#

Sky is the limit in terms of creativity for flavour combinations for the sauce. The other recipe I was talking about earlier called for lemon juice, garlic and Parmesan. I tweaked it a bit to improvise.

Sauce ingredients:
Juice of half a lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
3 – 4 cloves of garlic pushed through a garlic press
10 – 12 sage leaves
1/2 cup white wine of your choice
Butter/Olive oil 1 tbsp

Heat butter or oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and cook till fragrant and light golden brown. Throw in your sage leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice and white wine. Cook for a couple of minutes until the alcohol evaporates.

To serve:
Once your gnocchi is cooked as per the tutorial above toss it in your sauce and serve in individual pasta bowls, garnish with grated Parmesan and a sage leaf to finish. Buon appetito!

Verdict??? Hey man that’s easy. It was “molto deliziosa”.

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Okay here is the most mouth-watering, king of all fries that was tried and tested. The fries just melted in a close your eyes and sigh kind of way. Yes it was that yummy. And that roasted garlic dip took it to unimaginable heights.

Simple and easy to prep, it’s for those long for something different yet comforting side order made in the comfort of your own home.

For the avocado fries –

Ingredients:
1 avocado
1 egg
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan
Salt & Pepper for seasoning
Sunflower/ vegetable oil

Method:

Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan, Salt and Pepper. Wet a finger in water and dip it into the bread mixture and taste check for seasoning.

2 plates set aside, one with flour and the other for the above bread crumbs. Plus a shallow bowl with the whisked egg which will be used for binding.

Cut avocados into long chunks. It’s better if isn’t ripe.

Take avocado, coat it with flour, dip it in egg and into the bread crumb mixture. Get your oil going in the stove. And fry ’em up. Drain on paper towels.

For the spicy roast garlic dip –

Ingredients:
1 tbsp butter
2-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
Sour cream
Chilli paste (I just ground up some red chillies with water in a mortar and pestle)
A few drops of lemon juice

Roast garlic in butter until light golden brown and crispy. Then simply mix up all ingredients adjusting heat and acid to your taste. And voila your dip is ready.

So what are you waiting for just dip that fried green heaven and dip away and enjoy!

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Masala @ Mission Bay, Auckland

Mazedar is the Hindi word for ‘delicious’. And I am using this word to describe the delicious food we had at the restaurant ‘Masala’ in Mission Bay, Auckland.

We went for dinner last night to Masala, courtesy my in-laws. Always meant to test drive this place, but never got around to it. We decided to book a reservation in advance for a table with a view of the beach and of course in anticipation of the new year rush.

We were ushered to our table. Because we had read some past reviews about the delays in getting food served, we decided to order our entrée and main together and request them to bring it in stages. Ram and his father decided to sample the “Jaipur beer” which I am told was really good while his mom and I decided not to have any drinks.

For entrée we decided to go for onion bhaji and paneer tikka. I must say we were quite impressed with the onion bhaji. The paneer tikka’s masala could have been better. But they came out in the most gorgeous glass platter served with a mint chutney and yogurt mint chutney and the bhajia were served in a cute metal spiral stand accompanied by a tamarind sauce. Sometimes I think some restaurants let you down in terms of ambience and their choice of cutlery. But Masala appear to have made some wise choices and geared with a well stocked bar to their credit.

For the mains, we decided to try malai kofta, veg korma and veg jalfrazie. They were served with a complimentary accompaniment of rice. For the naans, we chose cheese, butter and a peshawari naan.

The malai kofta gravy was beautiful, but I wasn’t so happy with the texture of the koftas. They were rolled way too firmly for my liking. The veg korma was definitely passable, no wow factor there. And the jalfrazie was yummy. The colour and the flavours were quite different and rated the second best in mains. Another thing that impressed me was that most Indian restaurants especially abroad rip people off by using the same gravy base for all mains and just switch up the vegetables or meats. But you could actually taste the difference in each of these gravies. So good on you Masala for that.

Breads, now here’s something tricky. Cheese naan, well Ram was expecting a gooey cheesy naan, but to his surprise what they meant to serve was a paneer/cottage cheese naan. They should probably make that clearer on their menu. Butter naan was nice, light and fluffy. The peshawari naan again not so wow. Mixed nuts ground with raisins and coconut was definitely not what I was expecting. Maybe it’s probably that I have had better food back home and I am judging their food against those authentic greats!

Finally for dessert, one of the servers suggested that we try their newest addition on their menu the Malai kulfi. So to add variety to the fare we chose Malai kulfi, Mango kulfi and bread & butter pudding with kahlua liqueur. Verdict was Malai kulfi was the best and was as good as the servers promise. Mango kulfi was pretty average, the bread and butter pudding well not too shabby either.

Serving times were fairly quick for entrée and mains. There was a fair bit of delay for desserts but that can easily be justified after seeing the amount of effort that went on the presentation.

Service was very good. But for the fact that we had to call the hostess to come take our orders at the beginning, the rest of the service went down well, with the servers clearing up tables after each course and engaging in pleasantries, checking on our comfort, wiping down the table which we found a bit sticky, all done with a smile.

Before I forget pricing was very reasonable especially considering the suburb. And ambiance was surprisingly good as well. There is good scope to take things up a notch, but it’s up to them to build their brand to enter that league.

So overall I rate Masala with a ‘mazedar’ 3.75 stars on 5.

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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