Aug 27, 2010

From my bookshelf - 2


I am back from a 5-day trip to our hometown to celebrate Onam with our family members. And I made a trip to my favorite hometown bookstore where I have a VIP Home Library Scheme membership to collect my annual quota of free books. I got to finally complete my James Herriot collection with the title I had been missing! I had all of Herriot's omnibus editions except "All Creatures Great and Small" and here is my collection!

For those of you who have not read the James Herriot series - it is a collection of stories about a vet practising in the Yorkshire Dales right before the World War II started. James Herriot, a Glasgow lad fresh our of veterinary college finds a place as assistant to Siegfried Farnon in the Yorkshire Dales - a place and a situation he finds so agreeable to his tastes that he decides to settle there. The books are filled with stories of his interactions with some remarkable animals and even more remarkable human beings - all told in an easy, humourous manner. I read his books first when I borrowed them from the Kottayam Public Library as a teenager and I have never forgotten the wonderfully eccentric Farnon brothers, Herriot's disastrously hesitant wooing of Helen, the larger-than-life Granville Bennett, and several animals including the wonderful Tricki Woo who descended from Chinese emperors.

So I went looking for his books once again and found that his magic is stronger than otherwise. I now appreciate his love for his job and the place he chose to call home. His descriptions are enough to make one believe that the Yorkshire Dales are the best place to be on earth even in the extremely unhospitable winters. And there is so much human and animal goodness shining through that his books are the first things I turn to when I feel the need for something to break a sombre mood. I read Herriot and the world becomes a brighter place once again.

Have you read Herriot? Which of his characters do you like the best?

Aug 16, 2010

From My Bookshelf - 1

Aah, I got around to decluttering my bookshelf and here is the final result for now - ta da!

As part of the "prevent burnout" precaution, the first stage was just to remove all the "non-books" from the books. So all the umpteen files and folders and what not got shoved elsewhere and the "real" books have taken their rightful place. The top right corner shelf contains my discards - the books that I intend to give away. The rest are barely classified into fiction and non-fiction - not even in alphabetic order. That's for another day!

This book fell out from the shelf yelling "share me, share me" today.

This book certainly followed my dictum for buying books - viz., first borrow, then buy. I was attracted by the fun cover and the fact that it was not fiction when I was browsing in the local Bookmark library in Pune. The next visit to Crossword, I searched high and low for the title in the memoir and spirituality sections, only to ask for help and finally finding it in the romance section. I (somewhat curtly, I must say) informed the staff-member who helped me that it should not be put among the romances. But with a title like that, he was not to blame!

Eat, Pray, Love is the spiritual journey of Elizabeth Gilbert, who tried to salvage her life after a particularly acrimonious divorce that left her depressed and suicidal. She visits three countries - Italy, India and Indonesia - to regain her balance. In Italy, the saviours are the Italian language and food. India gives her the spiritual ballast. Indonesia is where she balances her earth-bound and spiritual yearnings.

"Spiritual journey?!" I can almost see you people wrinkling your foreheads in anticipation of acute boredom. Well, you would be wrong - the book ranks among my "unputdownables". (Okay, not very convincing, I admit, since I AM a bookworm, but there are books that can put even me to sleep!). The language is fast, the turns and twists, just like Elizabeth's moods, are totally unpredictable and the self-deprecatory humour is the best of its kind.

Recently, this book has been in the news because it's being picturised and Julia Roberts is playing Elizabeth. Some more sensational news is that she has become a practising Hindu after being in India for the shoot - whether it is a publicity gimmick or not, I am not sure.

Is the book worth a read? I definitely think so. I would love to hear from you about whether you found Elizabeth a hopeless romantic/a complete nincompoop/a glutton/a soul on the threshold of moksha. Do put in your comments!

Aug 10, 2010

A teeny bit of gardening

This Sunday I ventured into our "garden". As such it is a wasteland of weeds and stones, but in my mind, it 's a luscious tropical grden filled with all the flowers I love - not for me the exotic orchids or vapid anthurium, I intend it to be a "native" garden with hibiscus, ixora, angelic nanthyarvattam, kadukkan, jasmine and so on. And of course - the rose in its various avatars like this one below...

or one like this too...

Now I have a "War of the Roses" in my garden! But these flowers are sort of "ready made" because I got them from the flower nursery already flowering - I just took them out of the pots and planted them. They pale before this one little shoot below...

Can you even see it? I brought four cuttings from a climbing rose from my mother-in-law's place and planted it there almost two months ago. Although the monsoon and I tended them, they didn't do anything till last week when this tiny bud started coming out. I had almost uprooted the cuttings, but they were still green, which I took as a good sign. Now I am glad I didn't throw them away.

So I continue to buy and borrow plants from wherever I can and keep planting them in the area that I have set aside for my garden and keep clearing the weeds each time I plant something too. No point in clearing large areas in this rain, when weeds sprout the moment I turn my back. The only "weed" I spare is the lovely thumba ...

I know very well that it's a weed just like the rest, but for some reason I love this tiny little flower. If I were Captain Von Trapp, I would surely sing about the thumba rather than about the edelweiss.

Hey, here's a pic of our pumpkin seedlings - atleast, one of the healthy ones. Yep, we have spinach and ladyfingers too. But I won't bore you with pics of all that.

If you now have a picture of a happy gardener gladly mucking about in her garden, I am very sorry to disappoint you. Planting and weeding are not my favorite parts of gardening!  For one, I am allergic to soil and have to wear protective gloves and shoes to avoid contact. This would not be a problem in a foreign country where such appurtenances are a matter of routine. But here, in a village in Kerala - they certainly look odd. So I have to make a choice between looking odd and having itchy, oozing pustules on my feet and hands. You can guess which I choose. This combined with all the stooping, digging and sweating, do not make planting a happy experience. But I love watching those tiny little shoots coming out of the soil. And I keep dreaming about the flowers... Aren't these the things that keep all gardeners going?

While I was doing all this hard work, we had a heavy downpour and when I got in, the rest of my family jumped into our yard for an impromptu rain dance - our two-year old was in his birthday suit! For obvious reasons, I will not post the pictures (yes, I did take them)! But it was fun watching them having fun. They (including the biggest kid, my husband) jumped in all the puddles they could find and had mud in their hair when they got in. MY job was to see that they were bathed and dried properly and dosed with Vit C afterwards!

Do tell me your gardening experiences and what you are planting this rainy season...

Aug 9, 2010

Movie Review: Katha Thudarum

The latest Sathyan Anthikad offering does not disappoint - as usual. I love his movies in that they are about normal people and circumstances that we encounter in real life - not about swashbuckling and roaring heroes who knock away bull-necked goondas with a mere flick of their fists. (If you are a Mallu, have you seen the svelte and weak-looking heroes swat the likes of well-muscled Baburaj and Riyaz Khan as though they are flies? Beats my imagination!) Katha Thudarum is no different - it speaks of a couple who are estranged from their families because they dipped into the wrong community pool for their life partners. The story begins when the husband is accidentally killed and the (unemployed) wife and little daughter try to make do without any help from the families.

Circumstances bring them into the shelter of a small, tightly-knit colony of an auto-driver, his landlady and miscellaneous neighbours. Together, they form a protective cordon for the little family that was on the brink of annihilation and the process is heartwarming and heartrending at the same time. My hallmark for a good movie is one that makes me laugh and cry along with the protagonists - and this has done that in ample measure. And I know it's even better when my husband complains of the stuffy nose it has given him - he vehemently denies that a movie can make him cry. This did give him a stuffy nose!!!

And as with the recent trend in Anthikad movies - it's not just the story of the main characters - almost all the cast of characters have their own unique story to tell - some funny and some tragic. There are also a lot of spoofs on recent trends in mainstream society. For example, earlier that day, I had seen posters of a currently "homeless" politician slated to attend some function. My husband wondered where he would get the attendees for the same. The movie gave us the answer and we looked at each other and broke into loud guffaws, startling our fellow spectators with our inopportune mirth!

The only thing I noticed that was not in sync with the movie was near the beginning, when the heroine asks the husband to help her by washing the dishes. Now there is no sight I like better - and I was watching like a hawk! What did I see? There were two clean bowls on the drainboard of the sink. The husband picked up one of them, "washed" it under the open tap and replaced it in the original spot, all the while spouting a complaint that she was making a musical genius wash dishes and coolly sat on the countertop afterwards! Aah, the joys of cooking and cleaning in movies!!!
I would like to hear your take on the movie if you saw it. Do comment...

Aug 5, 2010

Sewing curtains and an accidental paneer burji...

I am proud of what I have accomplished today before 11:30 - all the breakfast and school-going related hoohaa, three loads of laundry, almost all the dishes washed (the sink is not exactly shining in FlyLady lingo) and one more curtain done.

Yep, that's what I have been doing these days - getting simple curtain rods fixed, measuring and calculating till my poor head started aching and buying reams of cloth. The material you see below is the one I am using for my living room....

I'll post the full curtain pics once I have also got some lacy panels in too. I am stitching the current panels in simple tab-top (cafe curtain) style. For several days I put off stitching the curtains just because of the thought of stitching up the tabs. Cutting and hemming the panels are so easy compared to making the tabs. But then I hit upon the idea of assembly-line production. Instead of making them one by one, I made them together like so...

Thereafter it was pretty easy to secure the velcro and finish up. These seven tabs are what one of my curtain panels require. Are my curtains perfect? No. But I am making them and that makes me proud!

And now about the "accidental" paneer burji ...

We get our milk from our next-door neighbour who has a cow of her own. Every morning, we exchange an empty steel vessel for one filled with our daily 1.5 litres of fresh milk. For reasons unknown, for the past two days, our quota of milk got curdled while I was boiling it. Loath to throw it away, I found two white squares of mundu and hung up the curds to drain in them. The result was soft crumbly paneer/ cottage cheese. Yesterday evening I made burji with it and it was so tasty that my normally tomato-"allergic" husband and elder son asked for seconds. My son also put in a special request to include it in his lunch box today. I have used a lot of frozen paneer before - but have never got this wonderful flavor. I kind of felt like the boy who discovered roasted pig by accident in Charles Lamb's essay! Now if only I can find out how to curdle milk deliberately...

Here is a picture of my windchimy kitchen window. I got them from the Good Store near Kalewadi Phata in Pune, they came in absolutely gorgeous colors and were just about Rs. 50 each - so how could I pass them up? Yes, I am absolute fan of windchimes and can't have enough of them. And appropriately, we live in a very windy spot here. They make me smile every time my eyes fall on them and every time a wind blows... . Aren't these the little things that make life worth living?

Aug 2, 2010

Welcome to my bookshelf

I am officially in trouble - when we built Karthi, I had a bookshelf built in one of the bedrooms to house my collection of books - look at it now... and there are still books to come. Hmm... I think have some decluttering to do! I think it will also be better  when I have arranged them well... these are now in the state I thrust them in willynilly as they came out of the boxes. There are definitely some books that have no place in my life any more - e.g.  the "What to Expect When You are Expecting " seen in the picture below :) ... definitely need some decluttering!

I have also come across some books I never tire of reading - earlier I had this thumb rule while buying books - I would never buy a book unless I had enjoyed it so much that I wanted to own it and dip into it again and again. But soon I found that I couldn't borrow all the books I wanted to read - so I had to buy more! And now I have no room - and can't buy another bookshelf till some more urgent expenses are out of the way. So till then, some shelves even have to do some double duty like below!

Tell you what, I am going to organize those shelves in the coming week and probably tell you about some of the books I love among them. Would you like that? Do post your comments!

Spring/Summer Projects

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