Tuesday, December 8, 2009

When squeezing wont help...

A few days ago, I watched a Youtube video on skin-care, where the woman advised cutting open a tube of moisturizer after you think it's over, to "scrape" a bit more of what's left. I must admit that I did think of such advice condescendingly, until one day I ran out of my face-wash. No amount of squeezing could get anything out of the tube, and not cleansing before my nightly skin-care routine is a complete no-no. So out of sheer desperation (and laziness to make a drugstore run) I decided to give cutting open the tube a try. And lo! Guess what I found?! More than 10-15% of the product. Right there in the tube. Thats at least 10% of my money that I did not see was there! And to think that year after year I've thrown this stuff away! What a criminal waste!

I cannot imagine why product companies wouldn't package their stuff in such a way that all of what was purchased could actually be used. Wouldn't that be a win-win situation for both the producer as well as the consumers? Or is there some evil marketing strategy behind this? It also occurred to me that perhaps beauty product companies are the worst culprits! I walk into the kitchen and I don't see wasteful packaging for my cooking oil, salt, yogurt, dishwashing liquid, detergent, etc. But my face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, hair gel, face mask, body lotion containers are all designed to waste.

What's worse is that not only is the consumer losing all this money, but it's just a terrible waste of resources. And if you interpolate, it's not just the resources sitting in that container either. I live in New York, where everything can be found within 10 metres and can be reached by walking, but imagine living in almost any other town in the US. Every time a woman runs out of her favorite face wash or shampoor or such, she gets into a car and drives at least a mile to the nearest drugstore/mall to get another one. So in say every 10-11 such visits, she could easily be making one unnecessary one where she's wasting fuel, and perhaps a plastic bag or two, in addition to her money. Of course in reality she could also be doing her weekly groceries at the same time, but hey! how many of you haven't driven to a store just 'cuz u ran out of the only shampoo that won't frizz up your hair?.

Anyway, my point is, that it isn't cheap to get the most out of your purchase, so squeeze away, cut away, slice away - 'cuz not only are you getting your money's worth, but you're also helping the environment a little every time you do that.

P.S: Republished with a photo for added effect ;)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I'm thankful for...

For those who are still following my blog, my apologies for not having written a post in a long, long time. It's not because my enthusiasm for blogging has waned, but it's just that I'm one of those people who cannot write unless they feel passionately about penning down certain thoughts. So, I shall come out clean and let you know that I'm a somewhat "moody" blogger, who wont do posts just to keep 'em coming regularly, but will most likely post erratically.

Looking back, it's not like in the past several months I haven't had any interesting experiences or ideas. It's just that I have become so busy that I don't take the time to "muse" about them.

And this is where that-time-of-the-year comes in handy. Joy is in the air (and for avid shoppers, in every store), and I just had a great Thanksgiving (thanks to T and P), and all the good food and the R&R did give me an opportunity to look back at my life and think of all the good things that have happened this year. Here are a few:

1.. A great summer. My parents paid us a visit and we finally did our dream, family trip to Disneyland. I'm eternally thankful for a family that spoils me rotten :D.
2. Our vacation to Europe. It was the first time in my life that I'd actually travelled to the countries that I dreamed about visiting as a child.
3. Moving to Manhattan. After 3 years of working in New York, we finally moved to Manhattan. And yes, everything they say about Manhattan is true.
4. Friends. Having great friends like T, Butterfly and M. Here's to yet another year that we've continued to be best friends. After graduating, my big fear was that we'd slowly drift apart, but 9 years later, we're still going strong!
5. And last but not the least, the loving husband. There are of course all the big and important things that I love about him, but it's the little things that are so endearing - like the way he holds me real close under the umbrella when it's raining to keep me warm and dry, or the way he'll never let me skip my turn or give up when I suck at pool..or bowling..or video games...or just about anything else. You're my rock, sweetheart!

And then, of course, it wouldn't be true to my nature to not complain...well just a little bit.

OK, so it's my hair. This has been the year of bad hair. Actually make that terrible. One disastrous haircut after another - I'm a victim, guys! I'm yet to meet a stylist, who won't, for the love of God, insist on cuting a "frame" around my face, just to have my hair curl up all the way to my ears and make me look like a frazzled mother of 3. Hopefully next year will bring me my dream hair stylist...ah.

Thats pretty much it. I must admit, that though I sound a lot more positive in this post, I'm not one to always focus on things I have over the things I don't. But as I grow older, I want to emulate my mother. She has set us the perfect example of someone who's always focused on, and been content with what she has, and that's what has kept her, and those around her, very happy. She's my role model and this post is an attempt to becoming someone like her.

P.S: It does make one happy to focus on the good things, even if only for a few fleeting moments; so I invite my readers to post comments about what they are feeling thankful for (and if they can recommend a good hair stylist in New York)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Amy Winehouse

Barring her appearance and eccentricities, I think she's a mighty talented artist. I can't seem to stop listening to her song, Back to Black (my favorite from album of same name) for some reason. I first started listening to Amy Winehouse after Rehab won the Grammy last year to see what the big deal was. Gotta admit that the first few times I listened to her music, I didn't exactly fall in love with it, but it does grow on one. Her songs are so very soulful. Oh, and I don't see why Rehab won the Grammy for Best Song, and not Back to Black.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The best thing about moving...

What I like most about moving (well, I just spent the better part of the last long weekend of the year with good weather packing, so, I'm allowed to highlight the best parts), is the fact that I get to throw away stuff that I seem to have hung on to forever. The size 2 jeans from three years ago (yes, I've finally accepted I'm never fitting into those again), the excruciatingly painful, but beautiful, boots from last winter, skiwear from the one time I went skiing and decided never to do it again... yes, its time to purge the closets!

My enthusiasm to "purge" is almost...uncanny. I simply revel in it. Unfortunately I dont do it more often. But when I do it once an year, I'm on a roll. I've seen others struggle inwardly when throwing away something in good condition. Not me. I go trigger-happy. I can easily accept that the things I haven't used in a while, wont be used anytime soon, and throw them out in cold-blood. I make split-second decisions , and I never regret them.

Well, except for this one time. When the above mentioned boots had eaten away at my feet for an entire Friday evening and after getting off at our train stop, I had to take off my shoes and walk home, in a black cocktail dress and colorful striped, knee-high socks, no less. After getting home, I told my husband that in the time that I took a quick shower (had to soak my poor feet in hot water before I felt anything in them), he was to throw them down the garbage chute, as I didn't have the strength to "finish them off". By the time I was done, he told me he had done it, and I thought good riddance. 

Until a week later, when I had a dinner with my colleagues and I had no shoes that'd go with my dress. I suddenly wasn't so sure he should've have listened to me. I was, after all, somewhat disoriented from the pain and the humiliation of being seen walking around in socks. Plus, he should've understood known that I didn't really mean to throw them away. One needs time to think these things over, especially when it comes to shoes. But hubby dearest, being smarter than the average man, and knowing the important place that shoes have in a woman's life, had actually hidden them under the kitchen sink and everything was alright with the world again!

Of course, since then, I've only worn them once, before deciding that my feet were in danger of becoming permanently impaired if I wore them again. An year later, I've finally thrown them away (this time for real). But hey, what woman doesn't felt the most difficult internal struggle when throwing out a perfectly beautiful pair of shoes? Totally understandable.

So anyway, I'm a happy person. I can almost confidently say that I've thrown out about as much as I've packed and I feel so much the better for lugging only the things I really need to our new place. Ah, what a great feeling at the end of a long weekend!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


We're moving. For the fourth time in three years. When I mentioned it to my good friend T, not surprisingly, she asked me if I don't get tired of moving, with all its hassles, year after year? T always does this. This is a question that many others have asked me, but when T asks me these things, she really makes me think. I mean, after all, we live in a great apartment, overlooking the river with beautiful New York views, and a decent rent. Why do we want to move again? We're not even saving any money by doing so! After some 'soul-searching', I realized why. I told her I need change. I need constant change. 

I'm one of those people who're almost pathologically scared of "sameness". It would almost frighten me if we stayed exactly where we were without making some changes in our life, at least the ones we can. Not because they're necessary, but because I necessarily need them. With a full-time job and a packed schedule, I cant make sure that every single day is different from another. But hopefully, I can at least make sure that every year is different from another? :).  

So, while who knows what I'll be like in 10 years, for now, I'm free and willing enough to keep making changes, often at a whim, and hopefully enjoy them! So with all the packing and cleaning and pushing and heaving, I'm really looking forward to moving to our new place!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You know there's a recession when..

.. the sales people at Bloomingdales are actually nice to their customers! Stopped by today to treat myself to a lipstick. Got a Slimshine lipstick in Think Tan from their MAC counter - a pretty decent shade for brown women who don't like loud makeup.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

my grandmother

Of late, I've been missing my family a lot. While, every once in a while I go through the 'what-am-i-doing-here-miles-away-from-my-family' blues, it tends to get exacerbated by the strangest of things. The other day I dreamt about my parents. I cant remember the dream as such but the feeling has lingered on. This obviously resulted in calls being made at random hours and some crankiness on my part. While I was feeling annoyed, yet surprised, about reacting in such a strange manner about a dream, I remembered an even more inexplicable reaction when I read the story A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote (Yes, welcome to Random Musings!).

My paternal grandmother had lived with us for most of my life. We were the best of friends, esp. when I was a young kid. I would spend most of my time just talking and playing with her. I would fall asleep at night listening to her stories, at her side. The most touching memory that I have of her is this one time when I decided to sleep in my parents room instead of in hers (I was only 6 then). I couldn't sleep and was restless. I'd like to think that it was because I was worried about her, but it could've been because I missed her gently patting me to sleep. So really late into the night, I tiptoed out of my parents' room and when i got back to her room, I found her quietly sitting on the edge of her bed, facing the door with the light on, waiting for me to come back. This was more than 21 years ago, and yet I can clearly see it.

As time went by, obviously, her affection for me didn't change, but I had other distractions. Studies, exams, friends, adolescence, television and later college. Over time, I sort of lost touch with her. Khushwant Singh describes this change in relationship between him and his grandmother in a most touching, yet matter-of-factly manner in his story, The portrait of a lady. I remember reading it in 8th grade and thinking that it would never be like that between us.

My moving to the US diminished our contact even further. Then around 4 years ago, she passed away. When I heard the news, I cried for a couple of days but I never really had the closure I needed. Being hundreds of miles away dulled the pain and I think I conned myself into thinking that she was still there at home, so I moved on and I blocked the thought from my mind. Then about 1.5 years or so ago I read the short story A christmas memory by Truman Capote. It is a beautiful story about a little boy and an "old friend" (the author never tells us how they're related but one can infer that the woman is either his grandmother or a grandaunt). Reading that story brought back a rush of memories. I remember crying uncontrollably, inexplicably after reading that story. I think I was finally able to let my emotions flow and mourn the death of my grandmother. What old pictures and a visit back home did not do, a beautiful little story did. Strange how the most unexpected things can evoke such strong memories and feelings?

I thought of her again today and decided to dedicate a post to the woman who was always, truly and unconditionally my best friend.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Blues

If having a great weekend, getting up late and still taking the time to put on your favorite facemask , and sporting a brand new outfit to work doesnt help, what does?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Skincare tips

Of late my life has become like a pressure cooker. There's a big deadline looming and a lot depends on it ... well maybe a lot less than I imagine, but then I have a hard time differentiating between the concept of a deadline and a national emergency.  Anyway, consequently I've been reading articles about how to cope with stress at work, and one thing led to another and I ended up reading about how stress was my skin's biggest enemy!

So I wasted no time in doing something about it. I set out googling furiously about what I could do about it and tried to glean a few more skincare tips from Youtube as well. Here are some of my latest finds. Keeping in tune with all the fuss about the global economic meltdown and consumer confidence/retrenchment, I have some inexpensive tips as well:

1. Bliss triple oxygen instant energizing mask (Sephora, around $60) - Ladies and gentlemen, this is the ultimate 5 minute fix for your skin with the most visible results ever! In just 5 minutes, your skin will be smooth, fresh and glowing. I read tons of reviews online about this product to the same effect, but having used several facemasks in the past that never give me the same glow as a salon facial, I had my doubts. However, the effects of this mask are highly visible and last at least two days. Whether the mask really does anything for your skin in the long run, I don't know and it's too early to tell as I only just started using it around 2 weeks ago, but it does wipe off the tiredness off your skin in an instant. Great for use before a party or after a long night of partying, or just on regular weekdays. Also, the mask is based on the concept of supplying a high volume of oxygen to your skin or some such, so its like any other face-mask and is not a chemical peel or anything I'd stay away from. Only downside is that it's a bit expensive, costing around $60, however you do get a fairly big bottle for the money. It is available at Sephora and I'd guess other stores that have the Bliss line of products, such as Macy's and Bloomingdales.

2. Sugar and lemon scrub - This was something I found on Youtube. Just take a few spoons of (granulated, not superfine) sugar and mix it with lime juice, until it is moist but not liquid. It makes the ultimate face scrub. Your skin will be super smooth and ready for some smooth makeup application. You'll wonder why you've been spending so much money on face scrubs all these years when the perfect scrub was sitting in your pantry all along. Seriously, try this. Only downside is that if you have super sensitive skin, the lime juice may sting a bit.

3. Warm honey - This is the ultimate moisturising, rejuvenating face mask for the lazies. Just pop some honey into your microwave, for not more than 5 seconds (honey heats up real fast). And then apply on your face, keep it on for 10 minutes and rinse. Great for winters.

4. Vitamin E oil - is great for applying around your eyes. I usually leave some on at night, around once or twice a week. It is supposed to have strong anti-oxidant abilities (all the rage these days) and does reduce lines/dark circles around your eyes, making them look less tired. This should be available at any pharmacy store for about $7 a bottle.

Hope you find this useful. Leave a comment if you have any suggestions yourselves!

Friday, July 31, 2009

My Bollywood Fix

Every now and then I need my Bollywood fix. I like 3 things about Bollywood movies: a) The escapism. What is the point of a movie if it doesn't make you believe that somewhere, there is a perfect world?, b) The music. Nothing can beat a good Bollywood number, and c) The clothes. I am amazed to see how Indian designers are putting such creative spins on salwars, sarees and kurti tops! 

So anyway, today we went to this movie called Love Aaj Kal, after having read some decent reviews and because I haven't seen a Bollywood movie in ages. As the name suggests, the movie is based on a contemporary love story. While the movie isn't necessarily a great entertainer, nor did it have much escapism as it focused on a very real problem, and what is increasingly becoming a very common problem among young couples - balancing ambition with relationships. 

The movie shows how couples these days place higher importance on dreams and ambitions than their relationships. People often work pretty hard to get what they want, and it is very hard to give it all up in the name of Love. The movie also hints at the new generation's "independent spirit" that makes them feel tied down in a marriage. Add "long-distance" to this and you've just multiplied the problem. The movie also does a fairly decent job of contrasting the new-age, complicated relationships with the simple ones of the past, where matters of the heart came before ambitions or jobs, and where people felt less "threatened" by marriage.

The crux of the movie (unfortunately beaten to death) was to show how sometimes your ambitions may seem so important that you may not consider sacrificing them for your relationship. However, you may begin to question how much they truly mean to you later in life, once you've actually achieved them. What I really liked about the movie though is that it doesn't necessarily show shades of black and white, in the sense that it doesn't preach you to treat love as the ultimate goal in your life or otherwise. It underlines the fact that if you were to just drop all your dreams for your relationship, you are almost sure to question that decision later in life. It's necessary to find what is truly important to you, even if it means that you have to make some difficult choices and wait for that self-realization.

While the movie wasn't a great entertainer, it did strike a chord with me, having been in a similar situation not very long ago. I was in a rather long distance relationship for two years and many times I had questioned the choice I made in terms of pursuing my career at the expense of potentially damaging my relationship. It wasn't easy. However, I do know that if I hadn't made that choice, I would've had some serious regrets, perhaps even a sense of loss. At the same time, it made me realize how much I valued C, and I was able to sort out things that seemed important to me, but really weren't. I think sooner or later in life, we all question the choices we make, however, what is important is that once you realize what you truly value, make that a real priority. 

Now there's a sentimental post, fit for a  Bollywood movie ;)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Belgium - Ah Brugge!

Sorry to have taken so long to Blog about the next stop on our Europe trip. Well, everyone knows what happens after a vacation right? You're buried under an endless pile of work and the R&R you just got during your vacation pretty much takes no time to wear off ... harsh but true. Anywho, I'm finally doing my promised post on the next stop of my Europe trip - Belgium.


We arrived in Brussels on the afternoon of the 29th (June). We started our trip with a visit to the Grand Place which I've heard so much about. The place was really spectacular, one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, or so they say. Seeing this place also made me realize that we really, really need an SLR. Our Sony Cybershot couldn't do much justice to the grandness of this place, but here are some of our best shots.

Grand Place

Grand Place

After that we went to see the Manneken Pis. Now, I already knew from online reviews that not much is to be expected, but nothing could've prepared me for what I saw. It was a tiny, most ordinary statue of a pissing boy, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out what the big deal is!

Manneken Pis

After this, our evening in Brussels was pretty much spent walking around and trying out some chocolate here and there. We visited the Atomium and some other historical places in the city. I'll have to say that the Grand Place, and the St. Hubert Arcade with chocolate & lace shops right next to it is perhaps the only reason to visit this city. I wouldn't advise planning on spending too much time in Brussels if you're planning on visiting Belgium.

Belgian Lace (another Belgian specialty) and dolls on display

The Grand Place was beautiful by night. We ate our dinner of some excellent falafel sitting in the square that was full of people just sitting around and having beer. The square was alive even at 12 in the night.

Grand Place by Night

Chocolates, Waffles and Fries!

Belgian chocolate is just wicked, wicked, wicked! You cant walk 10 ft without seeing a chocolate shop. And I'm not talking about cheap candy or snickers bars. Ladies and Gentlemen! - this is the most exquisite, hand-crafted chocolate you would've ever seen or tasted in your life! Just going by the number of chocolate stores/chocolatiers we saw in Brussels and Brugges, I'm given to think that this is their national occupation. We had so much chocolate there, it's almost a sin!

Chocolate cant get any better than this!

Their waffles and fries are equally sinful! No better way to start a day than with an authentic Belgian waffle. Just melts in your mouth guys, this ain't not ihop waffle, let me tell you!



I would've loved to dedicate a separate post to this most beautiful city (my favorite of all in my trip) but decided to stick with one post per country. We took the train from Brussels to Brugge which was most convenient. Brugge is a most tourist friendly place. You'll get a map and a list of must-sees as soon as you exit the station and the place is small enough to walk around and big enough to spend at least an entire day in it.
*Note: I've noticed that this place was spelt/pronouced in at least 4-5 different ways. I'm going with the spelling on the tourist map :)

The Belfry Tower

We started off our trip with the Belfry tower. After huffing and puffing our way up the 300 odd, steep steps, we got the most breath-taking views of this charming city!

The Belfy Tower

The charming city of Brugge

Oh the beautiful canals!

Following the Belfry, we went on a canal cruise of the city. Brugge is also known as the 'Venice of the North'. If I thought that the Amsterdam canals were beautiful, Brugge' canals just took my breath away. You wouldn't even feel like blinking your eyes, lest you miss something during this beautiful cruise.

Canal cruise views

More canal cruise views..

More canal cruise views..

A befitting end to the cruise, the swan lake! Oh so romantic!

Other attractions

After the cruise, we pretty much followed the directions on our tourist guide to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where they claim to have the blood of Jesus Christ in a vial. It was built in the 12th century. This is some serious history we're talking about!

Basilica of the Holy Blood. That light seems almost .. divine doesnt it? ;)

Inside the Basilica. Very awe-inspiring..

We actually never saw the vial (shown to small groups at a time). How and why it missed our minds, I don't know, but needles to say, I regret it very much :(.

Following this, we went to the Church of our Lady which has a stutue of Madonna and the Baby Jesus carved by Michaelangelo himself. One of this very few statues outside of Italy. The Gothic church walls and ceiling were spectacular.

Madonna and baby Jesus by Michaelangelo

Brugge has numerous museums and churches, and beautiful squares such as the Market Square and Burg Square to offer. I would recommend spending 12-14 hours in Brugge at least to cover everything at an enjoyable place. A lot of places close before 5pm, so get there a little early if you can.

Brugge and your 401K

A visit to Brugge can have interesting consequences for your 401K (retirement) savings. You'll suddenly want to live there, if not now then at least when you hit 60, and it wont take long to do the math to understand exactly how much you'll need in order to do so. I for one am going to start saving more in my 401K to live in a place like this one:

My dream home in Brugge

I highly recommend that everyone put Brugge on their must-see list. A day in Brugge will feel like a dream, and you'll want to hold on to it tightly, lest you get woken up too soon!

Friday, July 10, 2009

On 3D movies and the Environment

Just got back from a movie. We watched our second 3D movie in a month - Ice Age 3, following Up (both really good movies). 
Over the years, I've made my peace with having to pay 3$ extra for a pair of 3D glasses when I'm not allowed to bring along the pair I got for my last 3D movie. However, I lose it when they put a big box right outside the theatre with a message saying 'Help recycle your 3D glasses' under the pretext of saving the Earth. So I'm just supposed to drop off my 3D glasses which I paid 3$ for (and which I have no use for either, I must admit) so that these people can repackage them and make more money off of them? And all this while, they wont allow me to just pay the regular ticket price and bring the glasses I saved from my last movie? If they're so concerned about the environment,  why not allow people this option? Imagine how much plastic could be saved if people were just encouraged to save their glasses and re-use them by saving them money!
This almost makes me as angry as I get when I see a sandwich at the place I frequent for lunch, being wrapped in an aluminium foil first, then placed in a plastic box and finally put in a paper bag. And to this people add several paper towels, and sachets of ketchup, salt and pepper picked up indiscriminately at the help-yourself corner, because, well, it's all free isn't it?. Grrr! I wont pretend to be the most environmentally conscious person, but this is just pure evil!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Holland - Windmills, tulips, cheese & wooden shoes

We began our trip with the Netherlands. I like to call it Holland as that is how I used to call it as a child. We spent about three days there, which was perfect for exploring not only Amsterdam, but the beautiful country side as well. For the sake of brevity, I'll leave out some of the mundane details, and list some of the things that I enjoyed the most.

Canal Tour around Amsterdam

Amsterdam is criss-crossed with beautiful canals. It's as easy to get around the city by boat as it is by road. Seeing how much water flows into the city (almost the entire country is below sea-level, hence the name Netherlands), one must appreciate the Dutch for fighting all odds. Truly great engineering minds. Anyways, we began our trip with a canal tour around Amsterdam. It gave us a sense of what was where and also beautiful views of the city. The historic warehouses with beautiful exteriors and unqiue gables, flanked the canals on either side. These have been preserved and converted into apartments. The Dutch don't believe in drawing their curtains, so you get beautiful views of the insides of these apartments as well. I noticed that they use a lot of paintings/art pieces for decoration.

Beautiful historic warehouses that flank Amsterdam's canals

Floating Flower Market

A visit to holland would be incomplete without seeing the beautiful flowers that grow there. Unfortuantely, their tulip season was over, however, we got to see a lot of beautiful flowers in their floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt). We visited it right after breakfast and it was a real treat to see the endless, beautiful flower shops. A great way in which to start the day. The "onion" like things you see in the pic below are tulip bulbs. I bought two, lets see if they bloom next summer :). Also, it's called the floating market, because all the flower stores start at the end of the road and float on the canal water.

Flowers in Bloemenmarkt

Tulip Bulbs (can be easily mistaken for onions)

South Holland Tour

We went on a tour of Hague, Delft and Madurodam. The noteworthy of these places was Madurodam, that has a mini-holland park, very, very popular with kids (and Telugu movie directors :)). It was a real treat, it had a mini-version of every landmark in Holland in a 1:25 ratio.

Mini Holland

North Holland

This was my favorite part of the Holland. It was exactly like I had imagined the Holland countryside...and more. We went to the "Windmill town" of Zaanse Schans. There were beautiful fields, windmills and cheese farms - just what you would expect from Holland.

One of the 1000 remaining (traditional/old) windmills in Holland

Zaanse Schans

We also visited a cheese farm, where we indulged in some cheese tasting. The cheese was phenomenal! It was not only picture-perfect to look at, it also tasted nothing like the cheese I've tasted in India or the US. Rich, creamy, delicious!


We also saw how traditional Dutch wooden shoes, also known as Clogs, are made. You'll see tiny wooden and china clog-souvenirs in every store in Holland.

Tiny Clogs

Following this we visited two fishing villages called Volderdam and Marken. Both were really beautiful places with traditional wooden houses. Luckily the day we visited Volderdam was also 'Volderdam day'. So we got to see a lot of people in traditional dutch attire walking around and drinking beer in groups.

Pretty little girl in traditional Dutch Attire

Fishing Village of Marken

Amsterdam's Red Light District

We took an organized walking-tour (taking special pains here to specify exactly what kind of tour :))) of the famous Red Light District in Amsterdam. I must say, it was one of the most interesting aspects of the city. It really opens up one's mind to see how if something is legalized and not abused, how "unshady" it can be (for the lack of a better word). In my mind's eye, I expected this area of the city to be super-shady. However, it wasn't that way at all! It was as well integrated into the rest of the city as their flower market for example. No demarcation really. Also the tour guide told us that there is no human trafficking and there are several security measures to protect these women.

Culinary experiences

Although very few reviews online mention the numerous culinary pleasures that Amsterdam has to offer ( I suppose the focus is on the other kinds of pleasures ;)), Amsterdam has a whole array of cuisines/restaurants to pick from. There are streets after streets lined with restaurants boasting of cuisines from all around the world (Anyone been to an Uruguayian restaurant lately?).
Also, Amsterdam is a vegetarian's delight. Whoever said that vegetarian food is hard to find in Europe, is seriously mistaken. We went to a vegetarian restaurant called Cafe De Waghaals. The food there was phenomenal! It was almost like...a beautiful lullaby...sung softly and beautifully..ahh. Another noteworthy meal was at Two Greeks; their Veg Mousaka is rather delicious.
Cafe In De Waag is another note-worthy cafe. It is actually located in an old castle. Tremendously nice to be sit in their outdoor seating view a view of the castle and the local fair right beside it. Of course, Amsterdam also has it's very famous "coffee shops" for those seeking a different kind of ... coffee ;).


I wouldnt call Amsterdam a romantic city, but it sure is a very charming place. One of the things I enjoyed most about Amsterdam was just walking around the city. It is very bike and pedestrian friendly. Also, it doesnt really grow dark until past 11 pm in summer. The city is alive at all hours, and so rich and full of live that it was a real treat to walk around the city (hand in hand, may I add ;)).

Amsterdam by Night. Beautifully lit canals.

Well, so that sums up our visit to Holland. The only thing we missed was a visit to the Anne Frank house (which was right opposite our hotel btw; typical oh-its-right-next-to-us-can-be-visited-anytime syndrome). Not sure if my post did justice, but Holland is every bit as beautiful as they say it is, and Amsterdam every bit as fun!


Just got back from what was a most wonderful and relaxing vacation. I didn't realize that spending 10 days in places you know nothing about - just exploring and discovering new things - could be such an exciting experience!
Since I'm hardly a woman of few words (as those who've read my previous posts may have already noticed), I'm going to do a separate post for each country I visited. I also want to sort out and add a few pictures to my posts as well. Will do this soon, I promise! For now, I'm jet-lagged and need some sleep. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Off on vacation...

So finally my vacation plans have materialized and we're off on our 10 day trip to Europe tomorrow. After a lot of contemplation, we finally decided on Netherlands, Belgium and Czech Republic as our randomly chosen destinations. I picked them pretty much on a whim. I hope they turn out to be as beautiful as I imagine them to be.

Given the amount of time I've been planning this vacation, one would've imagined (like my good friend T) that I'd have bought a whole bunch of new dresses for romantic dinners and cruises, packed two large suitcases and checked and double-checked a complete list of things to take along, not to mention, day-to-day itineraries of things to see/do. Wrong. I'm one of these people who will experience almost physical pain on even trying to be organized. Everything must wait till the last day. As a result, no new dresses were bought, and as for the itinerary, I never really got past day 2 for some reason...

As if I wasn't already aware of the packing situation, I decided, on a whim today, to get a haircut. A haircut and some harried shopping for sunglasses later, it was 8 pm already (As for the cut itself, I'm happy I'm so busy I dont have time to think about it). At this point, I realize that it may be too late to start shopping for clothes, so I settled for the next best thing - freshly laundered clothes. So I scramble about to find change for the laundry, put a whole bundle of clothes into the washer and we just about finished shoving these into our suitcases. All this while cooking ourselves dinner, settling rent and other bills, and doing the dishes.

I guess, after all a passport and a credit card is really all you need for a vacation, isnt it?. Off we go..

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shrek and Hanuman

I just got back from a visit to the Hindu temple in Bridgewater, NJ. While I often wonder about how I would explain Indian/Hindu cultural and religious aspects to my children, whenever they are born and should we choose to raise them in the US, the past two visits to the temple have certainly given me a glimpse of what it would be like. 

During our last visit to the temple, I couldnt help but overhear an Indian mom desperately trying to explain the concept of Lord Hanuman to her children by drawing a parallel to Shrek. And today, we saw another trying to coax her kid into ordering a dosa as chicken nuggets (clearly his favorite) wouldn't be available in a Hindu temple canteen, that keeping in line with Hindu beliefs (and obvious to some of us) serves only vegetarian food. While I did feel somewhat amused at these incidents, I couldnt help sympathizing with these parents trying hard to explain these concepts to their america-born-and-raised kids.

While most Indian parents of our generation aren't exactly experts in Hindu mythology, and it may not be a stretch to assume that they do not sit their children down everyday to recite the Ramayana either, those who live in India can get away with relying entirely on their surroundings to offer this information to their children. For example, there was a huge Hanuman statue that we passed on our way to school everyday. Even if I had chosen to ignore the stories my grandparents told me about Hanuman, or Ramayana on television, just plain curiousity would've prompted me to ask questions and find out who exactly Hanuman is and why he looks the way he does. Not to mention, the numerous festivals, books, television shows and just the idols that you see in very house and every little store in India would've helped in this regard. While this is no revelation, I'm beginning to see the difficulty in inculcating certain social and religious ideals in one's children in a social set-up that offers no help in this regard...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stress Puppy

These last few months have been stressful at work, today in particular, and that reminded me of the term Stress Puppy. I first saw this term in an email forward called Essential new words for the work-place vocabulary. It means A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny. I remember thinking back in 2006 that .. wow..that sounds an awful lot like me! This was the year I had just joined work, fresh out of college and ready to conquer the world..you know the type. The problem was I over-worked and over-whined. Somewhere between this realization and a third viewing of the The Devil Wears Prada (you  know, the part where Nigel says - "You know it's time for a promotion when your entire life falls apart"), I decided to take charge of my life and not let work consume me (I continue to whine, nevertheless).

Anyways, I revisited that email today and here are a few of my favorite expressions. By no means am I claiming credit for this wonderful work (thanks SCRG for the forward!), and kudos to the creative minds that came up with these.

A manager, who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves.

The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to die.

Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.

The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.

Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one's workplace.

Boy, I definitely had a Salmon Day today...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Salt to taste...

Online recipes are a true blessing for people like me, who peek into the fridge on waking up late on a Saturday morning, only to find that they're out of frozen waffles and their only alternative is to put together a lunch using peppers, lemons, rice and a fabulous internet connection.

Last week, I got my reality check when I decided to shun the internet (very, very temporarily) and concoct something on my own. Having found avocado and mango in the fridge, I tried to make a mango-avocado dip. I pureed the two and added some Cayenne to it and ... decided never to try it again. (Although, I did save some of the pureed avocado and it made for a fantastic face-mask later that day. Also, for those who enjoy the challenge of putting together a dish from the most unlikely ingredients, may I suggest 'Chopped' on Food Network, Tuesdays 10 pm EST. One could learn a thing or two from that show..)

Now, I really admire all the food-bloggers out there who take the pains to share elaborate recipes with the rest of the world, complete with pictures, and down to the last detail in terms of how the pan must be greased and what temperate the oven must be set to. However, I can only wish that, at the end of a long list of ingredients and instructions, they didn't say 'Add salt to taste'. After painstakingly following all the instructions for a perfect dish, this is the part that leaves me utterly confused and clueless. How much is too little and how much is too much?

Now, we Indians don't take our salt lightly (pun intended). You could serve a perfectly cooked/baked/roasted dish, but if it's "missing salt", you'll see people wrinkle up their noses and tell u as much. Not having "enough salt" is just not excusable and until you've mastered the art of somehow figuring out the right amount to put in a dish, no matter who's coming home for dinner, you're not an accomplished cook. So, all you fabulous food-bloggers out there, I just wish that you would go the extra mile (or line) to tell us how much salt is to be added (just a ballpark will do), because, believe it or not, there are people who really need help in that area...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Last week my brother graduated with an MBA. Our family was present and it was a very proud moment for us. It made me reminisce about my own  graduation from Grad School about three years ago. Oddly, it wasn't a very memorable occasion. I had felt somewhat happy (we did celebrate with some ice cream), but more than anything else, I had felt relief. Relief to be finally done and to be able to move on with my life.

Having moved from India to a small town in the US for my Masters two years prior, it had taken more than just some adjusting to get used to a new life. Sure it was a beautiful, pristine little town and the University was just perfect and I did have friends of my own, but I missed the crowd and the noise of India. It was required that I have more structure to my life and I really missed the crazy, chaotic college-life that I had enjoyed so much. As a result, while I did enjoy those two years, I had to experience some "growing pains".

So on the day of my Graduation, I was looking forward to moving on, more than anything else. I realized that I had hoped for a lot more from Grad School than what I got. I didn't blame the school for it, I largely blamed myself for not having done more with those two years of my life. Academically, while I had done very well, I felt that I hadnt learnt anything in those two years that I didnt already know. And I had made exactly one new friendship during this period that I cared to hold close to me all my life.  So all in all, I graduated without a sense of great achievement or pride. I focused only on the negatives, and the fact that none of the people who meant anything to me were present at the ceremony didn't help either.

It wasn't until much later that I realized what those two years had meant.  For one thing, I realized that I really "grew up" in those two years. I had moved thousands of miles away from all the people I loved and learnt to survive . I learnt the true value of having a support system and to appreciate all the relationships in my life a lot more. But more than anything else, I learnt one important thing about myself - that I could do it on my own. My Masters was something that I had truly earned on my own. I got into the Programme after four years of hard work and focus, paid for it with money that I earned, supporting myself entirely on my own, and facing all the challenges that came with moving to a new country and starting afresh, pretty much alone. I didn't take any shortcuts or any easy way out and made it happen exactly like I wanted to - on my own. So while I didn't feel particularly proud on the day of my graduation, looking back after all these years, I think that perhaps, I should've...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...

Skin care has been one of my hobbies for a very long time. How can skin-care possibly be a hobby? Well, if you spend hours on the net looking for information on skin care, watching youtube videos about how to make face-masks at home, and browsing through stores such as The Body Shop, Sephora or even the beauty aisles in drug-stores every week, then it does qualify as a hobby, I should think. 

Luckily for me, my office is situated in a location where Sephora, Body Shop and Bloomingdales are just steps away. After a long day or week at work, there's nothing I enjoy more than to pamper myself with a new product to try at these places. I don't spend too much on clothes, shoes or jewelry, but skin care products and cosmetics are my only indulgence. Those and tabloid magazines. But I'll do a dedicated post on how tabloids enrich our lives with news about Jen and Brad some other day ;)

As an Indian, I've often had trouble finding the right skin-care and cosmetics products for myself in America. Most products here are obviously geared towards white women and it takes some experimenting before you can find what is right for brown skin. Here are a few of my favorite products after 5 years of , should I say, intensive research? Most of these are not too expensive and can be easily found anywhere in the US. Skin-care for me also means finding good makeup. So I'll mention some of my fav makeup products as well.

1. Neutrogena Visibly Even Foaming Cleanser - It is about 8$ and is available in most drug stores. Having tried a number of other face-washes ranging from Olay, Loreal to more expensive ones from Body Shop, I find that this face wash is the least drying. Also, it has a very gentle exfoliator and it does seem to brighten complexion.

2. Aloe Soothing Day Cream from Body Shop - This is the BEST and most effective moisturizer that I've ever used in my life. My facial skin is hyper sensitive and tends to itch for most products. However this product never irritates my skin. A little goes a long way and just the texture of this product is soo good and smooth that your skin just drinks it up. I've been using this product for almost two years now, and I'm happy to have ended my quest for the perfect moisturizer.

3. Smashbox Foundation Primer (Macy's, Sephora) - Anybody who wears a foundation MUST use this product. It's simply brilliant. The texture is amazing and once applied to your face, even in the driest of winters, your foundation wont turn flaky and will just glide on smoothly all over your face. Apply moisturizer first, followed by the primer. Provides a perfect canvas for applying foundation.

4. Mac Fluidline in Black (Macy's, Bloomingdales) - Anybody who covets beautiful black Kim Kardashian-like eyes must buy this product. This is a "gel-liner" that comes in a tiny jar and lasts a really long time. Must be applied with a brush. It creates a rich, black contour and stays on all day without smudging one little bit. Most other eyeliners I've used fade by mid-day. One can get adventurous and try other colors in this line too. 

5. OLAY in-shower body lotion (drug-store) - If you live in a really cold place like I do, and are almost always late for work, this is perfect for you. This product must be applied after rinsing off your body wash while you're still in the shower. While one may argue that it should take about as much time to apply body lotion AFTER the shower, I beg to differ. For one thing, there's a little less inertia to reach out for a bottle of this product while you're still in the shower and are finding ways to stay in the warm water for just one more minute. Also, goes on a lot more easily than body lotion.

6. Good ol' Lakme Foundation (Indian stores) - Yes, who knew Lakme is really that good? I see brands like Maybelline and Loreal in most big departmental stores in India these days. But believe me, nobody knows India skin like the Lakme guys do. I have tried countless foundations in the USA and I'm disappointed to see that almost none are suited for brown skin. I now stock up on my Lakme foundation every time I visit India.

ALTERNATIVES - For those who don't have access to Lakme products, you can try giving Smashbox foundations a shot. Everyday Minerals may work for you too. Try the everyday minerals sample kit for free ($4 for shipping). They give you upto 6 samples that'll last you for months. Try their product in Olive intensive/medium/sandy if you have brown skin and see if you get lucky! (Everyday minerals are only available for purchase online)

7. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (Sephora) - Have you ever wondered how some women manage to keep their eyeshadow on all day? I always thought they reapplied until I discovered this product. Apply a teeny bit of this on your eyelid before applying the eyeshadow and it'll stay on all day without fading. A must-have really.

There are a few other products I can think of, but then again, I'm sure I'll be doing at least a few other posts on beauty, so will save those for then. Youtube is a great resource for learning more about make up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stressing over vacation

For the past month or so, I've been stressing over vacation plans. Ironic isn't it? I guess until the vacation starts, it's all about getting the visas done, tickets and hotels booked, wrapping up stuff at work and actually getting on to that flight. After which I hope to be surrounded by a sense of adventure and tranquillity.

The truth is, my husband and I got married last August, and it being an Indian wedding and all we didn't have any time after the wedding for a honeymoon. So we've been making plans since... yes ... last August. And after like 9 months of work and no vacation whatsoever, we're quite desperate for one. Getting away for even a short break can be quite refreshing. This Easter, I took a short break and went to California to visit my brother and some friends. It was so relaxing to get away from the same sights and sounds and experience something different. Just waking up in a warmer and sunnier place for example. Or ... having wine in broad daylight in Napa Valley for example.

So, earlier this year, we started off with plans to go to New Zealand for  week in March. Anyone who's watched Lord of the Rings as many times as us would obviously want to see New Zealand. But somehow we kept putting it off and we missed the "good weather window". After which we settled on Spain, but after reading a ton of online blogs and reviews about travel to Spain, I learnt that Spain is way too hot in June. Now we're considering England/Scotland/Amsterdam.

I have always been really bad about planning things. I've never been that person who, in a group of friends, books the rental and the hotel and plans a long weekend trip from start to finish. I've always been happy to let someone else do the hard work :). I wish there were people you could pay to do this for you. Wait, isn't that what travel agents are for? Hmm..

I recently learnt that I could cut out the effort of getting a visa if I were to visit Costa Rica. Funnily when I clicked on the 'Next Blog' link, it took me to www.costarica.blogspot.com. Is that a sign?