Sep 27, 2012

Produce!!!

We've been breaking our backs wielding the pickaxe and shovel in Karthi's backyard the past few months. At least, I've been doing it most of the time with occasional voluntary help (by my MIL who likes vegetable gardening and DH whom I accuse of wanting to hog the bragging rights) and rarer bonded labor (our elder kiddo who will surely brand me a slave-driver one of these days) as well as well-intended, but mostly disastrous work by the youngest of the family who now gets shooed away before he can wreak any havoc. Incidentally, this makes him even more eager to enter the fray and two weeks ago, he cried for one whole hour sitting on the back steps while we all toiled in the hot, hot sun. 

Last week we got these:


Two lovely tomatoes that were gifted to us by a plant that grew up all by itself and was helped only with some physical and moral support from us. They were soon transformed thus:


and consumed eagerly by a grateful family. Even my salad-hating elder kiddo said it was tasty. Yes, although it grew up from a store-bought tomato that escaped a noble fate in our tummies, it tasted much better - probably because it was fresh and untouched by pesticides or chemical fertilizers!

I also went up to our terrace and picked these - our first ever Ivy gourd/Tindora/Kovakka


We got the mature cutting from the nearest Krishi office and I've coaxed the vine to climb on to our terrace from the ground. These tasted absolutely wonderful fresh off the vine (crisp and sweet,  quite unlike the store variety that have a sticky texture) and the rest went into a stir-fry yesterday.

Besides these we have been enjoying Cheera (amaranth) and Payar (long beans) for some weeks now (too lazy to photograph those too). So far our gardening experiments and accidents have been somewhat successful, so we plan to do a little more. Meanwhile we have papaya, elephant yam and plantains on the way!!!

BTW, if any of you are troubled by aphid (aka munja)s on long bean vines, spray garlic juice on them. To do this, crush a handful of garlic cloves with a pestle, wash the mortar out with quarter a liter of water, strain the juice into a sprayer and use. Pretend you are nailing your opponents in the Wild West with a silver-plated six-shooter and it will be fun too. No, don't ask me how I know!!!

Sep 20, 2012

Movie Review: Molly Aunty Rocks

Does Molly Aunty rock or not? That might depend on the person watching. If you ask me, as a total cinematic experience, she rocked only slightly. Ranjith Sankar's latest offering is quite different from Passenger and Arjunan Sakshi in that it is not a thriller. 

Molly aunty (Revathy) has left her job in the US of A to rejoin a bank in Cherppulasseri from where she had taken long leave to go abroad. Two years later, she takes a VRS and is covered with accolades for her personal and professional aplomb. She is all set to rejoin her husband when lightning strikes her in the form of the Income Tax Deputy Commissioner Pranav Roy (Prithviraj).
In the resulting tussle between them, we see the not-so-pretty and the sublime parts of Molly Aunty come out. 

Molly aunty really rocks in terms of characterization and not-so-dark humor. It also has several happy-tear-jerking moments. KPAC Lalitha as Molly Aunty's mother-in-law is simply superb. Prithviraj for once has a role that he has really given his heart to. Just a little flexing of those God-gifted eyebrows and he is the embodiment of professional arrogance and superciliousness. He really deserves a pat on the back for taking up this role and executing it perfectly. Revathy is a little shortchanged in terms of having nothing more strenuous to do than climb over a gate. Lalu Alex both entertains and endears himself to us as the understanding husband of the firebrand Molly. The star of the movie is surprisingly Salim Mecheril, our own irrepressible Mamu Koya! He's got the role of a lifetime (even though it's a bit short)  as the brilliant but unconventional lawyer who tries to extricate Molly Aunty from the corner into which she has painted herself.

Now for why Molly Aunty doesn't rock as much as it should - the plot fails where it tries to bring in the conflict that is required to bring out Molly's secret life. For one, why does Pranav Roy blindly try to frame Molly in revenge? There is nothing in the plot to show that Roy is corrupt. Next, it is odd that Molly says that she didn't know that incomes from fixed deposits are taxable when she has been working in a bank and it is inconsistent with the character not to have paid the same. Also, the greedy and corrupt official never gets his comeuppance, so that leaves something to be desired by way of the plot.

Summing up, Molly Aunty is a lighthearted satire which has a lot of heart. In my DH's opinion, it felt more like a Sathyan Anthikad movie than a Ranjith Sankar product. It's a movie I would watch again on DVD or one I would not skip when it appears on TV. After all, when the heart's in the right place, a few plot points do not matter.

Sep 4, 2012

Movie Review: Run Baby Run

This is the best of the Onam release pictures out there. Sachi and Joshiyyy (that man has mangled up his spelling so much I don't know what it exactly is now) have come up with a winner this time. Let me just give you a small glimpse of the plot.

Renuka (Amala Paul) is a hotshot at a prime news channel. Venu (Mohanlal) is a cameraman of high stature with names like Reuters and BBC behind him. Rishi (Biju Menon), Venu's friend is struggling at the helm of his own news channel that has lost its backers. The three had been thick as thieves until something happened that led to a huge showdown and resulted in Venu going away to Delhi. Five years later, Venu lands in Kerala again and things start happening. Personal issues notwithstanding, Renuka wants a cut of the action too and she will go to any lengths to get a sign-off shot in Venu's work. But this time their snare is too fragile for the big game they are hunting...

Pluses:
Pace: Not a moment to relax and kick back except for the Anthiveyilppaayayil song. Keeps you guessing and second-guessing. I really pity my DH who had to listen to all my hissed conjectures during the movie. Even though some of my guesses were right, I didn't feel let down at any time. 

Biju Menon: Superb in both the comic and serious parts.

Mohanlal: Why do we keep comparing this man's current roles with his past ones? Does very well in this role too. Still I felt sad when I saw snippet from "Desadanakkili Karayarilla" recently. 

Amala Paul: Sizzles up the screen. Does very well in both versions of Renuka. She reminds me of Eva Mendez in some angles and I was surprised when our elder kiddo asked me "How did the aunty from Ghost Rider come in this movie?" So I am not the only one!

Minus:

Picturization of Anthiveyilppaayayil : It is Mohanlal's best song to date and I have been humming along with the song on radio for weeks now. The movie has spoiled it for me. No connection between the semi-sad theme of the song and the scenes.

I have a huge issue with the writer and the director: The heroine claims to have had six years of kalari training and yet she has to be rescued by the hero all the time?????? Don't these people realize that action by actresses is not confined to Vijayasanthi and Vani Viswanath any more? I seriously advise them to watch other Indian language films!!! 

Productivity Helper: Astrid Tasks

Here's a confession: contrary to people who are usually sidetracked, I have this tendency to concentrate so much on one thing to the detriment of my usual work. For example, if I start reading a new book, I cannot put it down till I've finished reading it. As a consequence, only the bare minimum of my household chores get done that day (Usually the ones I can do holding the book in one hand). The only alternative to it is to not read at all and THAT is like denying oxygen to myself - not very feasible! :-)

I've tried several things to break this habit including writing down routines, timing myself etc., but nothing has been very effective. When my Android phone came to keep me company this year, I had no idea that it could be used to increase my productivity. But a month ago, I found an app that looked promising. (Forgive me, all techno geeks out there, it may be old as the hills to you, but to a neophyte like me, it's pretty exciting!)  It's called Astrid apps, and I must tell you that their icon - a tiny red smiling octopus-like thingy is what first called my attention to it. He looked as though he could be Oswald the Octopus's cousin. So I decided to check him out. 

Although I was very excited at first, I didn't want to share the excitement till I had tried it out for sometime. It's much easier and more exciting than a calendar app and since I have a finite number of tasks to do each day, it's very effective. If I immerse myself in something, the reminder keeps pestering me till I complete the task. A typical day of mine starts off with exercise and breakfast-cooking and packing lunch for my family. If I do my laundry at the same time, it'll be ready to hang up by the time the others leave. This was pretty hard for me to remember, so that is the first daily item on my task list. Some days I remember to start the load of laundry early enough, but if not, Astrid reminds me at exactly 7 a.m. After our younger one gets on his school bus, I do some gardening work and then move on to a leisurely breakfast along with some reading. Aah, here is another opportunity for Astrid to help me. I've been known to sit at that breakfast table with the empty plate before me till past lunchtime. Now Astrid tells me to "shine my sink" (FlyLady jargon!) at 9:30 and reminds me to do my most important task of the day (Write!) at 10 a.m. And since that activity too can be pretty absorbing, it again reminds me to take a lunch break at 1:00 p.m. See what I mean?

Now why do I like Astrid so much? It's the messages it gives along with the reminders. For example, one day it told me, "Don't be lazy. Write". Sometimes it cajoles me, "Isn't it wonderful weather to do this? Do a load of laundry." (It was raining cats and dogs outside at the moment) Or sometimes it motivates me by saying, "You'll feel much better when you finish this: Wipe down all the sinks" In my book, a task program that makes me laugh is numero uno.

I will not go into the details of the features, because you can try them out if you want. It helps me keep track of  very infrequent chores like topping up the battery water of our inverter (every three months) and checking out and cleaning our water tank (every 6 months). In short, it makes my life pretty smooth. 

So right now, my little red octopus and I are a pretty happy couple. I mind him pretty much all the time and he makes me laugh. What more could you want?

Post laptopitis and a makeover project...

January 29th was an ordinary Monday in all other respects at Karthi. After the weekend merrymaking, I was as usual torn between selecting ...