Double Rainbows :)

Full Arcs

Searching for the pots of gold

Still searching…

I just love showing you all around my neighborhood don’t I? Well, here are a few pictures of a double rainbow after a generous August shower. As we were admiring the full colored arch of the the rainbow I noticed an outer arch of slightly lighter shade running equidistant from the first one. The outside image is the mirror image of the original. Check out more on Wikipedia’s article on double rainbows.

These are not very good shots but if you take a closer look you might even see a third one! Depending on how good your eye is of course.

The case of the forgotten flowers

Sanity at my bedside
Every morning I wake up and hope to look at the fresh flowers that sit by my bedside. Whether they are the cheerful carnations that I had picked up on my way home or the velvet roses my husband gave me for my birthday, they might be long like the chrysanthemum or short and spread out like the petunia, I love it when my bedside table is adorned with a tasteful bunch.

The flowers maybe vibrant, colorful flowerets or a cluster of plain white lilies. Flowers in my living space make my mornings lovely and the rest of the day bearable. When I go to sleep, while watching them in the soft glow of the table lamp they seem to divinely assure me of a good night sleep.

Same goes for the ones on the dinning table downstairs, they stand in large cut glass vase which was a gift from my sister in law. Oh yes, the vase hardly ever went bare ever since she gave it to me. All is sweet till the efflorescence lasts. After weeks of exuding warmth and joy in my home the petals start showing a darker tint of color on their outer sides and on the white flowers there appears a light rusty brown shade that starts sucking away all the beauty of the soft petals…my flowers start withering. And after all that joy that these over bloomed buds bought into my life I tend to ignore them as they turn a shade darker every passing day. Trying to keep up with everyday work I just manage to catch a glance of the drooping stems in the murky water, till finally they become an eyesore to the spot they had once flattered. And sometimes quite few days go by till I get enough time to pull them out of the vase and shove them into the bin, wash up the vase and set it up on the table all ready to for another bouquet of flowers.

Well, human beings are selfish and that is a point that has been proven by a dozen others before me. I always keep getting new ones and enjoy them while they last. While putting in a fresh assemblage I do think to atleast give them a respectful disposal while they still wither and not when they had completely rot in the molded water. But procrastination spreads out its tarrying wings and once again it becomes the case of the forgotten flowers. Although, there have been many times when I did take them out and punctually got replacements too. But it often happens that the vase is set aside to adjust an extra soup bowl on the dinner table or a few extra bedtime readings on the side table. At times like these the vase merges into the oblivion and the flowers…well, they stay a little more than they usually have to owing to my perfect inattention. 🙂

Crazy about it!!

SU5HI

Remember about how I said that sushi is very popular in the USA…well, here is the proof. Evidently this guy can’t get enough of it! Also check out the salmon image on his number plate in the image above.

Hail Storm In Herndon

There was a hail storm at our place in Herndon, Virginia last week on June 14, Thursday. The storm lasted over thirty minutes with a spectacular shower of hail stones. Thankfully, there were no serious damages but we had a power cut in the entire town for almost 2 hours! Work came to a screeching halt in this little techno hub. We took the opportunity to visit family. What better time than a power cut to do so! 🙂

Thursday afternoon-neighborhood placid

Waiting for the storm to happen

Splash!

Next morning…lake placid

Click on the images for a bigger view

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SUSHI!

‘which one do you like the best?’

For a person like me, who was a virgin to the world of Japanese cuisine, eating sushi for the first time was quite a gripping experience. When taken out for a sushi dinner for the first time I couldn’t help but wonder what all I was to expect. And yes, you’re right, it was loaded with a few unexpected surprises! But, none the less it was an experience to remember. I tried not to gag and I tried not to think of my medical report reading, Cause of death: eating raw fish. I share my experience here and hope that the first time for all the Sushi virgins out there is lot less scarier than mine. And If you have had Sushi before and have gone beyond the initial phase of face contortions and curious sniffing you might find this useful too.

One thing about Sushi is that it isn’t as esoteric as it used to be and is now enjoyed by a lot of people across the globe, especially here in the US. So a large number of places have good sushi restaurants. Which makes you think, “Hey, if it is that popular then there has to be something about it” and it is not uncommon these days that you get invited to a sushi dinner in a posh restaurant. Well, don’t let any apprehensions stop you. For some who have tried and liked it sushi has almost become their staple diet. The entire proceedings of going to a traditional Japanese sushi bar and the way it is served and eaten adds up to a complete sushi meal. The ambience is always interesting. If you go to a good sushi joint don’t forget to take notice(you won’t miss it) of the lights or lanterns shades, fountains and plants that deck up the place. The intereiors are created according to the principles of feng shui intending to infuse harmony.

There are restaurants where the sushi goes around on the conveyer belts and you are supposed to eat it when the dish reaches you. Then there is the sushi bar, where you sit on one side of the long table and across it you’ll see all the ingredients that are available for sushi that day. This way you’ll be better able to observe the quality of the seafood, the technique of the chef, and the preparation of various sushi meals.

First, take a good look at the menu. Avoid getting into the correct pronunciation and check out the ingredients. Most menus will have what is put in what and whether it is grilled, poached, steamed, cooked or uncooked. If confused, keep the guess work for the morning paper crossword puzzle and ask for help right away.

The next challenge is to eat with the chopsticks, don’t let them remind you of your mother’s long knitting needles. Relax and remember that while eating Sushi it is ok to use your hands. Traditionally, sushi was always eaten by hand. It was only when the sushi traveled to the west that people started using chopsticks. But, if you really want to use a chopsticks and are not sure how to use them then pick up the one which has both sticks attached to each other at one end. These worked for me and I found using them more easy than the regular detached pair of chopsticks.

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Besides the main dish you should be familiar with the condiments on the table. Start off by pouring a decent amount of soya sauce in your sauce dish, you can dip your sushi using your fingers or the chop stick. I always dip the fish part and not the rice part to avoid the sushi from falling apart. If you are wondering what the pickled ginger is doing on your dish try eating it between different kinds of sushi. It helps to clean your mouth and enhance the flavors. Don’t be very curious about the small wad of green paste on the platter, like I was. It is called wasabi (Japanese horse radish). Mix a very little quantity with the soya sauce. Although a common practice now, mixing the two in one dish was considered bad table manners in ancient Japan. The wasabi is hot and its hotness is more like that of mustard sauce than that of chili. For drinks you can order green tea. This goes best with sushi. If you are trying sushi for the first time you might want to order a huge glass of plain water, I like I did!

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DO’S

  • use the oshibori(wet towel) before and after the meal. It is brought hot or cold (depending on the weather).
  • try to eat the sushi roll in one go if you can because it breaks off very easily, besides being able to enjoy the enhanced flavor.
  • be careful of the wasabi, it is has an extremely strong flavor just a pinch can send shock waves in your nasal passage.
  • ask the chef for his/her recommendation of the day, you might get a dig into those fresh ones.
  • feel free to order the sushi you want if it is not on the conveyer belt.
  • DON’TS

  • never over fill your sauce tray, the dripping can become quite a mess.
  • while dipping your sushi in the sauce , don’t dip it entirely. Rice coat tends to fall apart very easily so dip the fish side only.
  • If you ever get invited to a Sushi restaurant and don’t enjoy Sushi a lot the trick is to opt for something less experimental on the menu. The good thing is that there are so many other cooked delicacies you can chose from besides sushi, like soups, noodles, rice, drinks and dessert. You can even try out the California roll, which is my personal favorite. It is cross breed which carters more to the non-Japanese taste buds. It usually has ingredients like crabs, avocados and cucumbers.

    The richness of color, the texture and the flavor is what attracted me the most towards eating the sushi. If the word raw fish still scares you and just hearing exotic ingredients like fish egg, crabs and eel gives you a tummy ache, you’ll be happy to know that all sushi not made from raw fish. Take for example the shrimp sushi which is thoroughly cooked before served . Also, try eating only those that you have already eaten when they are cooked. I tried tuna and salmon, these are easy to find in any restaurant.

    If you have an interesting experience about eating sushi then write about it and share it here.!!

    A day in the life of an avid book reader.

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    This is about the impossible task of reading a book. Tell me if something like this has happened to you too or if I’m the only one.

    Nothing gives me more pleasure than cuddling up with a good old book. I could read and read for hours without a halt. But then there are those typical ‘I can’t seem to read this book day’ which usually go somewhat like this.

    These days would start off as rather idle ones. The days when I would have nothing much to do and after a few useless strolls around the house I would finally declare,” today is the perfect to finish the book I had wanted to read for so long.” And soon as I settle down to a comfortable position on my favorite couch with a jolt I realize “hey I need my favorite pillow too. I simply cannot read without my favorite pillow or my neck would pain.”

    Running errands to the other rooms and I finally find the pillow. Cursing whoever had put it away from its place I run to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water. Usually, I need a water bottle beside me all the time. Why, sometimes I feel that I take in as much water as air if not more!

    Ok, finally I open the first page with a lot of enthusiasm and read the first line. “Wow”, I say to myself “this author is really good. What an expressive style, I’m glad I decided to read this book today”. And while still in between all the self-congratulations it dawns upon me that something is not right…what could it be?

    Hmmm…think think think…I know, I need something to munch along with this. Won’t that be a lot more fun than simply reading a book?

    So up I go, again into the kitchen and search drawers, jars and cupboards to dig out some goodies.

    5 mins past…I only find a mundane packets of chips, hmmm…potatoes chips…very mundane…blue cover with the cheesy name very very mundane. “Why don’t I ever find something when I’m really hungry, I always see goodies lying around when I’m on crash (of course) diet routine” Settling for the chips (mundane) I go back and try to concentrate on my book.

    It starts to get cold so I pull out a blanket and snuggle into yet another comfortable position, now with the packet of chips (mundane of course) in my hand, a bottle of water beside me (glass you ask, hey it’s ok to drink from the bottle when nobody is around, right?) And adjusting my head on my pillow, I sink into the book and re-start my attempt to at least start the book.

    Am still on the first line, won’t do any harm if I’ll read it again. Maybe I can use it somewhere. Besides, the opening lines are the most important part of the book, they carry the impact of the forthcoming pages and some of them are very memorable ones. Remember, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch incredulity, it was the it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope…Ok enough of Dickens, back to my book.

    I turn the first page and then open the packet of chips (yes still mundane and I’m not forgiving it so soon). I put the first one in my mouth and I find myself staring at lines that didn’t quite seem to be from the book I was reading. Hold on, were the chips making me hallucinate or what? The lines seemed familiar…something about a tummy tuck …the natural way. Ah now I remember, it was from an article on well being that appeared in the last Sunday magazine. No, it wasn’t hallucination after all. That was just a visit from my loyal conscience. The article had read something like this,” If you want your tummy tucked in the natural way, avoid munching oily food while in a sitting or reclining position.”

    So, I get up start strolling up and down the room with the open book in my hand and a mouthful of chips. Now don’t start thinking that I am a person who would blindly follow everything a mute magazine tells me, but the authoress of the article is the number one dietitian in the country, now who am I to argue with a person like that? I mean one should always work out the best for oneself, right?

    Post one pack of chips and 15 out of 360 pages, I go back to my pillow and blanket. Another 5 pages and yawn…why am I tired “Because you’ve been walking around the room since the last 45 mins, that’s why…and it is time for my evening tea.”

    Come on a few more pages, I say to myself. I finally convinced myself that I will not put down the “interesting” book until I finish at least half of it.

    “Beep” goes the cell phone. Cool one of my friends calling, I haven’t spoken to her for ages. “Well, think of the devil….” My friend called me to tell me all about her latest job and I was all ears of course. What? Excerpts from the conversation you say. Well mostly about how all the females in her office are so jealous of her and how the smartest guy at office had pulled opened the door for her and how she managed to get her ‘not so cool’ co-worker to finish all her tasks for her while she could go out on the weekend….and on and on. You want to know more, I’m sure not!
    Time passes and now it is sunset now and after this follow myriad of excuses for keeping the book down for the day.

    The very important pile of clothes that urgently need some water and soap, the one I had saved for an idle day like this, the dinner with family and friends. And like this have passed many days when I could simply not read a decent book even if I wanted to!

    Living In 302 AD

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    Now, don’t start getting ideas that this is going to be a tedious narrative about some antiquated era. 302 was just my apartment number and AD is an acronym I would like to use for Abu Dhabi. Although AUH was more helpful while boarding a plane from Mumbai to the island capital, I find AD so much more definitive of Abu Dhabi. And thus, the acronym remains through out my writings.

    Few months after our wedding my husband’s project landed us in AD and followed after that were a few memorable months in the wonderful city. Here, I share some impressions as a first time traveler to AD.

    Interestingly, Abu Dhabi literally means Father of Gazelle. No, I didn’t see any of them trotting on the streets of AD. But, we were fortunate enough to spot a jolly pack in the Al-Ain zoo, a three-hour drive from the city.

    A distinctive feature of the city is how modernity and tradition mix here. The traditional Kahva cups (Arabian coffee served in small cups without handles) can be still spotted, Dhow boats still float the Arabian waters and camel races are still very popular in the festival season. The spiffy Marina Mall on AD breakwaters is built like what seems to be an enormous Arabian tent. In the evenings, the brilliant blue waters of the Corniche shine against the imposing skyscrapers of the city.

    Another striking feature of the place is its compact size. Home was never more than 10 min away. In contrast with this is another Major City, Dubai, where new buildings seem to be growing like mushrooms in rain. If the two cities could be described as persons AD would be the systematized and sober elder brother of Dubai. Although Dubai is a great place for recreation, AD is the place where one would love to live. No traffic jams, lesser crowds in malls, more quiet, more calm, more organized, and richer. Ok, maybe the last adjective is not what makes a place exactly homely for many but it is true that the AD State owns most of the oil in the Emirates. These are the same qualities that makes AD predictable, so if you are staying here for a long time it is necessary to make friends around the place and build a good social group. For a weekend getaway and to have your share of the fun you can take a bus or a taxi which will drop you to Dubai in a couple of hours.

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    On weekends AD too offers a myriad of opportunity for enjoyment like walks on the Corniche. I am told that the sea has been artificially pulled towards the shore. That makes the waters look like a gigantic swimming pool. Parks are in abundance here. The family park at Khalidiya Street was one that we visited often (no, they didn’t debar me from entering without a family). The project my husband was working on was in full swing at this time and there were days when we would manage just enough time for an enjoyable dinner at the park, sometimes accompanied by friends. BBQ smoke, football, frothy fountains, large families and clusters of friends made it an zestful experience.

    The Zayed Sports City appealed more to our gamely spirit. It is located off the Airport Rd. and is good place for bowling, billiards, table tennis and ice-skating. For us it even offered a good walk. We took a taxi to the place only to discover later that because of its out of the way location there were none to be found on our way back!

    If you’re looking for a little bit more of adventure you can make a detour off the highway and drive across the dunes for some sand dashing. Of course, the safer way will be to hire a four-wheel drive and a driver who knows around the place by getting in touch with desert safari organizers, like we did:-), always trust the professionls! It was a real roller coaster ride across the dunes until the driver serpented his way to a camp, which was in the middle of…actually nowhere! The bumpy camel rides, sand skiing, “sandy” dinner and watching the serenity of the big, blazing ball set into the sand made us forget all about how the we would find our way back. There were absolutely no visible landmarks in the middle of the desert, more so in the dark and the dunes kept changing shape because of the winds. But our deep trust vested in the professionals was not betrayed. Our driver knew his way around and we finally drove back to AD City.

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    The oil business brings in a lot of wealth into the UAE. The traces of this can be seen splashed everywhere… cars, restaurants, malls, homes and even having bizarre hobbies like keeping falcons as pets and to have special passports for them while travelling. These passports have details like name, age, and breed of the falcon, complete with a dainty picture of the old chap. While strolling in downtown AD I’ve seen shops that sell falcon gear. Now don’t ask me what I mean by gear because I’ve never been inside these shops, the latest in falcon fashion imported right from Italy? Hmmm… maybe next time I should stop by and see if they have something my size. Who knows the UAE version of FTV might be Falcon television!

    Both, my husband and I are in love with the Arabian cuisine, be it Humus, lamb tikka, Fetteh, shawerma, fattoush… the list of mouthwatering chow goes on. The Lebanese and Egyptian restaurants were good in particular authentic eats. Most of the local restaurants have the option to eat out, under the crystal studded sky. Now this might sound very tempting but don’t even think of trying it in the summers. Yeah, you might ask… “How hot can a desert get?” Well, to be modest, it reaches a to a sweltering 45 degrees Celsius. Air conditioning is a basic necessity in this part of the globe.

    There can be many types of luxuries in the world but can there be anything more extravagant than having your groceries delivered to your door? It was possible for me in AD. All you had to do was just to give a buzz to the local grocery store and they would run an errand for you and have anything delivered to your door. Even if it has to be a couple of cucumbers that you need for the salad at lunch but missed out on your shopping list. Plaudits to AD’s local grocery stores. You might have to bicker with the rather obtuse taxi drivers but grocery stores provide great service, not to mention our local Video parlor!

    Spending Ramadhan in AD was a treat for the soul. It is an auspicious month and its reverence in local life shows. Work and school hours are modified and Ramadhan decoration adorns buildings. The evening taravi prayers allowed us to explore the magnificent mosques around the city. The grand mosque, which is under construction at the outskirts of the city, is said to soon stand as the largest one in the world. There is always a neighborhood mosque, which you can walk to. No matter how big or small it is it mostly has a ladies section.

    Seems like this turned out more to be chronicles of living outside apartment no. 302 rather than in. This is what happens you don’t put things on paper soon enough. Next time I write a travelogue, I’ll write it while traveling, just to keep the spontaneity alive. An appreciation expressed for all writers who write their accounts as they happen. Rather contrary to Mr. Wordsworth’s theory that emotions are best when recollected in tranquility!