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Friday, July 29, 2011

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon is a beautiful, heart rendering and compelling story of love, survival and the brutal face of humanity. Through 340 pages of the novel, the author takes you through an extraordinary story spanning over 43 years. It all started on a stormy night and changed the course of four lives forever.

Synopsis:

On a stormy night in small-town America, a couple, desperate and soaked to the skin, knock on a stranger's door. When Martha, a retired school teacher living a safe and conventional life, answers their knock, her world changes for ever.

For they are fugitives. Lynnie, a young woman with an intellectual disability, and Homan, a deaf man with only sign language to guide him, have escaped together from The School of the Incurable and Feebleminded, brutal institution where people with disability are left to languish, shuttered away from the world.

In a moment of despair, they reveal that Lynnie has a new born baby. But, moments later, the police bang on the door. Homan escapes into the darkness, Lynnie is captured. But, just before she is returned to the School, bound and tied, she utters two words to Martha: 'Hide her'. And so begins the unforgettable story of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia- lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.

My take on it:

I was hooked to the book, right from the beginning. As I had never come across any such institutions or have known any such person, I shuddered at the thought how parents of such children could leave them and move on in life. Told in first person in alternating narrations, the book tells about the life of such abondened children in institutions. The writing style is clear and fluid. At times I found it diificult to grasp Homan's narration. Imagine giving words to a deaf person's feelings!

 There were expressions like, 'the woman -Polka dot', 'the man - Pudding cheek', 'Then Pudding stormed back and got going with the Yell face, and Dot started in on the baby Talk Face---...'

Kudos to the author for being able to narrate the story through two main characters who are actually intellectually disabled and are lacking in the basic commmunication skills. There is another character important to the story, Kate. She is a carer at The School and tries her best to make Lynnie's life less miserable and protects her, encourages her in all ways possible. There is so much more to the story, how Martha gets on with the baby, how Lynnie lives without the baby, how Homan finds his way in the world outside the institute and what future awaits them all. The novel is named such after Lynnie, Beautiful Girl is what Homan addresses her in his thoughts.

It is a soul stirring story, the kind that will stay in your thoughts long after you have read it. The author herself had a sibling with intellectual disability and in many ways it helped her knowing their life better. I would really look forward to read some more of Rachel Simon's work. To know more about the author and her work visit http://www.rachelsimon.com/

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rice Krispies Chiwda ~ A Very Healthy Snack

Sometimes I buy food products only to realize they are not really to my taste. This happened to me again when I bought a big pack of Rice Krispies. I know many people love it and that is what prompted me to buy it. But, soon I realized they are quite bland to my taste. When it comes to cereals, I love the sweet ones. So, this pack of Rice Krispies sat in my pantry unused for a rather long time.

Recently, we had a tea party at one of my friends place and one of my friends brought this Rice Krispies Chiwda. I loved the crunchy snack and immediately asked her for the recipe. Soon, I tried it at home with a few tweaks and loved the results. I am sure my long unused pack of rice krispies will be over soon and I won't hesitate to buy it again! With little oil, brown rice puffs and no frying - it is a very healthy snack.

Instead of Rice Krispies, we can add puffed rice. Here comes the recipe:

 Ingredients:

2 cups Rice Krispies
3 tbsp cashew nut halves
3 tbsp golden raisans
2 dried red chillies torned.
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
7-8 curry leaves
2-3 tbsp oil.
1/4 tsp turmeric powder.
1/4-1/2 tsp red chilli powder.
Salt to taste.
1 tsp sugar.

Process:

1. Heat a deep pan. When heated add oil. Add red chillies, curry leaves, mustard seeds and fennel seeds.
2. Once they splutter add cashew nuts and toast them till they are light golden. Then add the raisans and all the spices.
3. Give a stir and add the rice krispies. Give another good stir and turn off the gas. Give it a good shake. Make sure the spices and salt is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
4. Let it cool completely before storing.
5. Enjoy with a cup of tea and newspaper!

Linking it to Fast Food Not Fat Food. This event is the brain child of Priya.

Warning: Once you start munching it, it is hard to stop :-)! But, don't worry, its healthy stuff.
Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#16 Teaser Tuesday- A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

"Bridget took a seat in the front of the ambulance. No sirens wailed as they drove to the hospital, a silence that alternately alarmed and soothed her."

Page: 59

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page


BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard

Synopsis:


Rose Leonard is on the run from her life.

Taking refuge in a remote island community, she cocoons herself in work, silence and solitude in a house by the sea. But she is haunted by her past, by memories and desires she'd hoped were long dead. Rose must decide whether she has in fact chosen a new life or just a different kind of death. Life and love are offered by new friends, her lonely daughter, and most of all Calum, a fragile younger man who has his own demons to exorcise.
But does Rose, with her tenuous hold on life and sanity, have the courage to say yes to life and put her past behind her?

My take:

Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard is a sensitive and emotional read. It is about a forty seven years old lady, Rose and her tumultuous emotional journey and how she tries to recover from her past failed relationship with Gavin, an avid mountaineer and move on in life. Rose is a complex character and the author has very intricately described her, right from her love for her boyfriend-Gavin, the textile work she loves to do that works like a therapy to her, to her bipolar disorder sufferings, about her strained relationship with her daughter and lastly his attraction to Calum.

The novel is not a very easy read. As Rose struggles with her life, the reader's heart aches to reach out to her, to help her heal. It is depressing and haunting at times as it explores issues such as mental illness, grief, regret,  betrayal and heart break but it is redeeming at the end. The description of the landscape of Uist, Skye, and the tiny remote islands of western Scotland is given so vividly, that one will long to be in the place and soak oneself in its beauty.

In a nutshell, Emotional Geology is a thought provoking, intense novel about love, nature, art and how they can heal the most painful scars of heart break and usher one with the confidence and faith to move on with life. I am surely going to read more of her work! To know more about the author and her work visit http://www.lindagillard.co.uk/

P.S: Thanks Lindy for recommending me Linda Gillard's work!

Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Creamy Mango & Saffron Yoghurt ~ Aamarakhand~ Mango Shrikhand

Shrikhand is a yoghurt based Indian dessert. It is creamy and flavourful and popular throughout India. Served chilled, it is definately a means to beat the heat. While traditionally, it requires some patience to make it as it is made from creamy strained yoghurt. Using Greek style yoghurt considerably reduces the time. Mango being in season, I decided to go for the mango flavoured one, Amarakhand ( Aam being Mango in Hindi). I have infused saffron in it for a enlivened flavour.

Saffron is the world most expensive spice by weight. It imparts a distinct taste and colour to dishes. To derive the full flavour and colour of this spice, take a generous pinch of it in a small pestle and mortat and add a few drops of milk or water and rub it and use the resultant. See the picture below for an illustration.
Be careful while handling it as it can give stains to cloths.

Coming back to today's recipe, that is, Creamy Mango & Saffron Yoghurt ~ Aamarakhand~ Mango Shrikhand, you will need:

Ingredients:

250ml Greek style yoghurt.
1 large mango.
1 tbsp sugar (adjust according to the sweetness of the mango)
A generous pinch of saffron rubbed with a few drops of milk.
Sliced pistachios to garnish.

Serves 4
Process:

1. Peel the mango and scrape all the flesh of it. Puree it in a blender. Seive to separate any fibre from the puree.

2. In a large bowl, add the greek yoghurt and add the mango puree. Mix till well blended. Add sugar as required. I needed only a tbsp. Add in the rubbed saffron. Mix well.

3. Scoop them in 4 serving bowl and garnish with sliced pistachios. Keep it in the fridge to chill.

4. Serve chilled.

Notes:

1. Rubbing the saffron with a few drops of milk really brings out the colour and flavour.

2. If you want it creamier, add 60 ml of whipped double cream while mixing the yoghurt and puree.

3. Instead of Greek yoghurt, you can use hung yoghurt. Hang twice the amount, i.e. 2 cups of yoghurt in a muslin cloth over a bowl for 4-5 hours in fridge to get 1 cup of thick yoghurt.

4. If you do not like fruit flavoured yoghurt, try adding only cardamom, saffron, nutmeg and a combination of these. You can even try other fruits like peach, berries, apple etc.

Linking it to Sameena's Mango Recipes Event and Kalyani's Indian Mithai Mela.
Thanks for stopping by!! Cheers!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A List And Some Contrary Proverbs!

Do you ever dig down your old emails?

There was a time when I used to get a lot of forwarded emails from my friends, some about interesting pictures, some with stories, some with less known facts etc. Today is a all different story. The other day, I was trying to get hold of an email and was trying a random search in my inbox when I chanced upon a few of those forwarded emails and as I read them it seemed like I was reading them for the first time! So, I am sharing one of those interesting email which had some contrary proverbs. Thanks to the original compiler.

Proverbs as we all know are about age old wisdom. But what do you do when you have 2 contrary proverbs. Before hopping on to see what they are, I want to talk about a list I am trying to make.

 A Book List by Indian Authors!

Actually, I will be going to India by the end of August (I can't tell you how elated I am) and I have already started to make to list of things- to-bring-from-India. And books forms a part of it. I am planning to bring 5-8 books by Indian authors this time. I can get books by Non-Indian authors easily here (so, no bother about them). I had bookmarked a lot of books from the blogs I follow and from crossword award list (seems like all the books have made it to this list) and to tell you the truth, I am all confused now. So, please suggest me some titles by Indian authors you have read and loved. Please!

Now, you can read on! Let me know what you think of these proverbs:-)!

__________________________________________________________________________________

All good things come to those who wait |BUT| Time and tide wait for no man.

Doubt is the beginning of wisdom. |BUT| Faith will move mountains. 

Silence is golden. |BUT| The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Too many cooks spoil the broth. |BUT| Many hands make light work.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder |BUT| Out of sight, out of mind.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander |BUT| One man's meat is another man's poison.

You're never too old to learn. |BUT| You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Practice makes perfect. |BUT| All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Great starts make great finishes. |BUT| It ain't over 'till it's over.

Don't cross your bridges before  you come to them |BUT| Forewarned is forearmed.

Birds of a feather flock together.|BUT| Opposites attract. 

Do it well, or not at all. |BUT| Half a loaf is better than none.

Look before you leap . |BUT| Strike while the iron is hot.

Slow and steady wins the race . |BUT| Time waits for no man.

The best things in life are free lunch .|BUT| There's no such thing as a free.

Wise men think alike |BUT| Fools seldom differ.

The pen is mightier than the sword |BUT| Actions speak louder than words.

Hold fast to the words of your ancestors |BUT| Wise men make proverbs and fools repeat them. ( Am I ??)


________________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Hindi Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan

The Hindi Bindi Club comprises of Indian women, who migrated from India in early post Independence days to settle down in the United States of America. They are the women who despite being so far away from their motherland have tried to maintain their identity in the foreign country (now their home) by their language(Hindi) and attire(Bindi). They have tried their best to imbibe the traditional values, customs in their children who are born in the US and are brought up as 2nd generation Indian-American. But, have they succeded?

The Hindi Bindi Club tells the story of two generation of Indians, parents and their children, more specifically mothers and their daughters living in America ~ their differences as the children grow taking in bits from both the cultures, growing up as beings of dual identity! The novel addresses how difficult it is for the children to live up to the expectations of their parents and still remained grounded and and be true to themselves. Another big part of this novel is food. Food is a major part of any culture. To learn about a culture, you have to learn about the food. So, Monica Pradhan takes us to a tour of Indian Cuisine with her mom's mouthwatering recipes.

The novel starts with Kiran once married to her Italian boy friend much against her parent's wishes and now divorced. She is afraid of the time ticking by and seeks refuge in the old traditional custom of arranged marriage, a custom she once vehemently dismissed as backward and orthodox. In the process she tries to mend her strained relationship with her parents. There is Preity whose first love was dismissed by her mother on religious grounds. Despite being happily married now, her memory often slips into those old times and she tries to fight back her anger and despair. And last of all is Rani, an artist, who has her own demons to exorcise. As all of these and their mothers struggles to hold on their dreams and aspirations, the readers are taken through their life, values and subtle layers of Indian cultures.

I liked the book, but I also had some issues with it. I loved the recipes given in the book and will surely try them eventually. The plot and premise is fine with its own twists and turns that makes the novel a good read in the long run. However, there were some portions I felt were a big too detailed and pointless as if the author included them just for the sake it. There were details of the kitty parties, new year party which did not really add up to the big picture. In the end the detailed description of an Indian marriage custom was really boring and unwanted for. The best thing I liked about the novel was how subtley the author described the healing of relationship between Kiran and her mother in particular, how they were there for each other in the times of their need.Overall the author has tried to give an account of the first and second generation Indian in the USA with all their struggles and difficulties in combining traditional Indian culture with modern American values. I also felt that this novel caters to only a limited audience. However, it would be a good read for all those people who are keen on knowing about Indian culture and cuisine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

#15 Teaser Tuesdays- The Story Of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

I have just started  with this book, so here is a teaser from the very first few pages.

"Dread squeezed the widow's chest. Five years into retirement, she was long past the time when she knew all the faces in Well's bottom, and she did not know these. She should slam the door, call the police."

Page: 5

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page


BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Paneer Tikka With Minty Yoghurt Dip and Green Chutney!

Chunks of paneer marinated in spicy masala marinade and then grilled with veggies! Does that sound appetizing!

I can't tell you how my taste buds are watering even when I write this. Paneer Tikka is a perfect barbecue option for vegetarians and it is one of the most popular paneer dishes around. It's non-vegetarian option, Chicken Tikka is more famous in the western world.

I had been searching a perfect tikka recipe and was trying out different ones at a time. After several trials and errors, this one has worked best for me. I have adapted this recipe for SharmisPassions and have actually made it a couple of times. It has been a hit every time. Thanks Sharmi for the recipe. It is definately a keeper for all paneer lovers.


Ingredients:

Makes 5 Skewers

15  1'' cubes of Paneer
15 1'' peices onion cut in squares
15 1'' peices of green pepper cut in squares( You could also use different colour of peppers if you like)

For marinade:

1/4 cup thick yoghurt /greek style yoghurt.
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chat masala
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp pepper powder
1/2 tsp grated ginger.
2 cloves of garlic pounded.
Generous pinch of salt.

Process:
1. Mix all the ingredients of the marinade in a bowl and add in the paneer cubes and square cut onion and pepper.
2. Cover the bowl with a cling film and keep it inthe fridge for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 12 hours for marination.
3. Pre heat the oven on grill mode at 200-210 C.
4. In skewers (I use wooden, so I keep them immersed in water for 2 hours or more before using) thread pepper, onion and paneer alternately) I use 3 of each in each swekers.
5. Line a baking tray with foil and place them on it. drizzle any extra marinade from the bowl over the skewers.
6. Grill in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins turning them upside down once in midway.
The baking tray will not be the cleanliest thing, but I can assure you on the taste of the tikkas.

7. To check done ness, see if they are charred round the corners. I love the resulting smokey flavor. Take them out and let them cool a bit before serving.

Serve them hot with minty yoghurt dip and (follow link for recipe of green chutney) Green chutney.

 We had Soda Lemonade as a drink with it. Recipe to follow soon!

Minty Yoghurt Dip:

1/2 tsp dried mint powder.
1/2 cup yoghurt.
1 tsp sugar.
Salt to taste.

Process:

1. Mix all the ingredients and dip is ready. Pairs well with hot and spicy dishes as yoghurt and mint together has a double cooling effect.


Linking it to Serve it Grilled . Enjoy!



Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

#14 Teaser Tuesdays- Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh


"A man on horse never meant anything but trouble for a lone woman and where there were four, riding together, the signs of danger were all too clear: Deeti lost no time in hiding herself among the poppies."

Page : 52

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page


BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lemonade With a Twist ~ Blueberry Lemonade ~ Making It From Scratch!

Summer for me is the time to indulge in cool delights and cool drinks tops my list. One of the most frequently made drink in my house is Indian Lemonade or Sikanji. Infact, it is one of the few simple things I had learned to make as a child. But, sometimes making the same drink every time you have an urge for a cool drink is monotonous. So, I look forward to trying out new things. Blueberry Lemonade is one such creation. It is simple lemonade with homemade blueberry syrup stirred into it, giving a merrier, berrier, lemony cool drink.

Sometimes, when I run out of the homemade bluberry syrup, I mix little blueberry jam with water and strain and use it in instead. I know that sounds weird, but it also tastes good! I am not sure how good it is nutritionally, so I won't encourage you to do the same. But, at times this trick has served my purpose ;-)!

The blueberry syrup can be made in advance and can be refrigerated for 1-2 months. We can also substitute blueberries with other berries to get a variety of flavoured lemonade. But, personally blueberry is my favorite.

Blueberries are very good for health.
~ They are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are understood to help neutralise the harmful free radicals that can cause cancer and other serious dieseases. They also help reduce cholesterol.
~ Blueberries are rich in potassium, which is known to regulate blood pressure.
~ Having a bowl of blueberries will keep your stomach happy and bowels clear.

These berries can be easily frozen and can be kept frozen for 5-6 months in zip lock bags.

How to freeze bluberries or any other berries?

Wash the berries and pat dry. Pick any over ripe or rotten berries from the lot. Make sure the berries are completely dry. Spread them in a single layer on a plate and cover it with a cling film and freeze over night. Take them out next day and fill them in a zip lock bag. Squeeze out any air and lock the bag and freeze again. Use as needed.

Coming back to the recipe, lets first prepare the blueberry syrup:
Ingredients:

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries.
5-6 tbsp sugar.
75ml water.
2 tbsp lemon juice.

Process:

1. In a saucepan all the berries, sugar and water and bring it to boil. The berries will start to burst. Turn the heat to medium and add lemon juice.

2. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the gas.

3. Let it cool completely. When cooled churn it in a blender and seive the mixture to get rid of any residue.

4. Store in a sterilized jar and keep it in the fridge. Use as needed.


For the blueberry lemonade:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

450ml of water
Juice of 1 lemon (3-4 tbsp, adjust to taste).
5-6 tbsp sugar (Adjust to taste).
A good pinch of black salt.
7-8 ice cubes (optional).

4 tbsp blueberry syrup.

Process:

Mix everything together and stir till the sugar dissolves. Keep aside.

For blueberry lemonade stir in 4 tbsp of bluberry syrup into it and serve!

Enjoy this delicious cool treat this summer! One last peek!

Thank you for stopping by! Cheers!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mistress by Anita Nair

When I borrowed this book from my friend, I wasn't really sure what to expect from it. I just wanted to read a different kind book and was really attracted towards the cover page of this book. The cover page here is the picture of the face of a Kathakali dancer. Kathakali is an integral part of the book with each chapters beginning with an explanation of the one of the navarassas (nine emotions/expressions) and then the author goes on to draw an analogy from life for all of them. The story is set in Kerala and which is the mother land of this form of dance.

Kathakali  is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion. It originated in the country's present day state of Kerala, India during the 17th century and has developed over the years with improved looks, refined gestures and added themes besides more ornate singing and precise drumming.(Source:Wikipedia).

The story is about 4 people, a famous Kathakali dancer-Koman, her neice, Radha and her husband Shyam and about Christopher, who is a travel writer and has come to Kerala to interview Koman.

For the plot of the book, I am quoting the snyopsis from the back of the book:

When travel writer Christopher Stewart arrives at a riverside resort in Kerala to meet Koman, Radha's uncle and a famous kathakali dancer, he enters a world of masks and repressed emotions. From their first meeting, both Radha and her uncle are drawn to the enigmatic young man with his cello and his incessant questions about the past. The triangle quickly excludes Shyam, Radha's husband, who can only watch helplessly as she embraces Chris with a passion that he has never been able to draw from her. Also playing the role of observer-participant is Koman; his life story, as it unfolds, captures all the nuances and contradictions of the relationships being made--and unmade--in front of his eyes.

When I first started reading the book, I felt it was going to be a difficult read but soon I let go all my apprehensions and then I started enjoying the book. I won't say it was a light read but it was definately enlightening. It is an intense novel full of deep, mysterious, complex emotions that are so true to life. The story of each character unravels slowly and in the end culminates into a passionate story of life. Each of the character in this novel has a passion in life and in some way or other it decides the course of their life, and hence it becomes a demanding mistress. That is what the title of the book signifies.

It is a kind of book that can be re-read and there will still be new things to discover. I will definately recommend it to anyone looking for a serious read by an Indian author. To know more about the author and her work visit http://www.anitanair.net/home.php.

Thank you for stopping by. Cheers!
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