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Posts from — August 2013

How to Make Your Dog a Chew Ring Toy From Old Pajamas

Cuckoo: Can I keep both?

Today is not such a good day for me both physically and mentally. Mentally I’m just tired and physically I’m in a lot of pain. Got a heat boil on my butt thanks to the heat this week and almost every movement causes pain, especially sitting 😀

But that’s not what my post is about. A couple of days back I came across Donna Hill’s video on making toys with cloth and wanting to distract myself today, I figured I’d make some doggie toys. I love getting the dogs toys, it’s such fun to see them play and get excited. But good strong toys for the dogs are fairly expensive and so here’s where DIY comes in.

Here’s Donna’s video on Making FREE tug and chew toys for puppies and dogs of all sizes.

Now Donna talks about using old sheets and that I didn’t have but I did have a couple of my old pajamas that I loved so much, I wore them until they got holes in them. So here’s how to make a chew ring toy with old pajamas.

The pajamas I had were of banyan material.

Cut the elastic bit off first. Then cut along the joint to separate the two legs. You could also do this by opening the stitching but I took the easy route. :)

Cut each leg along the sides or seams to get four strips of cloth.

Cut off the fork area to roughly even out the strips.

Knot two strips together, pulling the knot as tight as you can. This will make sure it doesn’t unravel easily when the dog is playing with it.

Keep tying knots with the strips to make a rope. Alternate the sides when tying to get a cleaner finish and even cloth consumption. (I did this with the second and I think it looks better.)

When you have about four inches of cloth left, add another strip to one of the 4 inch pieces and knot it as before to secure it. Kind of how you do it when braiding and adding hair or lace.

Add the last strip on the other side and tie a knot again as before. Make sure that the old and new strips are knotted together at least twice. i.e. they should both be there in two knots. This will create a little bulge in the center with cloth sticking out that will add texture to the toy.

Continue knotting until you have four inches of cloth left.

Pass one strip through between the first and second knot to make a ring. Tie the strips off with a double knot to close the ring.

And voilà! there’s your chew ring toy.

Cuckoo immediately approved of it by running away with it 😀

You could dip the ring in chicken broth, squeeze out and freeze before giving it to your dog to create hours of chewing. Remember though that you should always supervise play as some dogs can chew through anything (like my Senti) and sometimes they swallow the pieces too. Stuff getting blocked in their intestines isn’t something you ever want to experience.

What I really like about the toy is that it is machine washable. :)

I made two of the toys since I had two pajamas. Here’s the SpongeBob SquarePants Chew Ring Toy. Sorry you can’t see much of Bob, but this pajama was one of my favs. 😀

If you have material for two rings you could also loop one into the other before closing the ring to get an interlocked ring toy that you can play tug with too. I needed two rings for two dogs, but I’ll be trying to make that an interlocked one soon.

Have you made any toys for your dogs? What do you recommend I try next?

August 31, 2013   2 Comments

Book Review: Romi and Gang by Tushar Raheja

Title: Romi and Gang
Author: Tushar Raheja
Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Pirates Publishers(May 1st 2013)
Genre: Childrens Books
Read: Paperback
Stars: **/5
Buy On: FlipKart | Amazon
Summary: (Goodreads)

Unruly and reckless, thirteen-year-old Romi is the hero of his universe. His great affinity for adventure and the unknown is shared by his gang – the rascal Sukhi, the deadpan Sunny, the naïve Golu and his blood brother, Kim.

When legendary Kim disappears from Mauji, it is left to the four to conquer the maidan with cricket and the world with their wits. Of course, they must prepare for responsibility in between and, one day, go after Kim.

My Review:

Thanks to the Pirates for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Eye-catchy!

Paper and font: So-so.

Readability, language: Easy language but it could have been more readable.

Why did I choose this book: It’s been ages since I read a children’s book.

Romi and Gang is a story of four school friends and the game of cricket. Each child dreams of being a Sachin Tendulkar, Viv Richards, or some other famous cricketer but life doesn’t play out that simply. Like a game of cricket, life throws a lot of googlies at the boys in the town of Mauji. Playing cricket on the maiden the boys dream of bringing back the lost pride of their school by winning the Eagle – a inter-school cricket trophy. How it all pans out and what happens in the crucial match is the story.

The cover illustration is an eye-catchy picture of children running that reminded me of some children’s books I’d read ages ago and the title reaffirms that. The blurb, well, I wouldn’t say it’s well done but neither is it bad, lets just say it’s so-so.

The plot of ‘Romi and Gang’ was new to me since I’ve not read a lot of cricket based books however the story does have more to it that cricket. There are a lot of sub-plots as Romi and his friends Sukhi, Sunny and Golu face challenges through the school year both at home and school. Then there is Kim, a character much talked about but never seen. Raheja has a lot of sub-plots in the story but I’m not sure if all of them were necessary.

Set in the small town of Mauji, Raheja has done a good job of describing the town. In my minds eye I could see the boys race down the market street knocking in to people and things as they raced against each other. It was also easy to imagine the maidan and the forest that eats up balls as they played cricket.

‘Romi and Gang’ has a fair number of characters if you include the families and teachers of the boys too. The story however largely revolves round Romi and his friends. The boys are easy to associate with as I sure knew a few boys like them as a kid. Romi is a typical 13 year old with his confused emotions and thoughts. Sukhi, Sunny and Golu are so like the friends we all have, quirky and wonderful. Then there is Kim, the boy all the boys look up to and who Romi considers a blood brother. A lot is spoken about him and his prowess, and I was looking forward to him making an entry but, he doesn’t. :(

‘Romi and Gang’ has a good story however I wasn’t happy with the way it is written. Raheja went all over the place without warning and jumped places and situations at random, leaving me all confused with most of the story. It was only towards the end, when the cricket match was looming that I could make sense of the story and that part of it was good. There are also a few loose ends in the story, Kim for one. I know I’ve been repeating myself but if you have a character that is talked about through the book, you should either give him entry or close the loop. I don’t have Romi stuck so much in my head as I have Kim.

The book also has illustrations which I liked, a good artist (Biswajit Das) but I found at least one illustration wrong. In one scene Romi tackles a tantric and pins his neck down with his legs. In my head I could so see this that the illustration of Romi holding the tantric with his hands at the throat made me go back and reread the text. The illustration felt so wrong. A little more attention to detail would have been nice.

Over all the story is a good one but I’m not sure if it’s clear and simple enough for children. Or maybe I didn’t see it’s simplicity and clarity because I’m not a kid. Either ways the language used and the topic chosen will definitely work for boys. What’s with the cricket craze in boys/men? There are other sports you know which are just as much fun.

If you have a son or are buying a book for a boy, ‘Romi and Gang’ might be worth a shot.

About the Author:
Tushar’s website is under-construction and his Facebook page says “When you read something like – TR is a bestselling author, mathematician, guitarist, musician, photographer, blah and more blah – be reminded that the tareef may just be written by him.” So if you want to know more about him, you better ask him. All I do know is that Romi and Gang was earlier published by Roli Books in 2011 under the title ‘Run Romi Run’ and that Tushar Raheja has also written another work of fiction, titled ‘Anything for You Ma’am’. 😀

Buy On: FlipKart | Amazon

August 29, 2013   No Comments

Review: Romeo & Juliet – No Strings Attached: The Play by Tahatto

Last evening I went to watch the play ‘Romeo & Juliet -No Strings Attached’ at Rangashankara and thought I’d share my thoughts on it. Now I’m no expert on plays and haven’t seen a lot of them in my life either so please, take this review with a pinch of salt or if you so like, a bucket of it.

On Monday morning I was reading Bangalore Mirror and killing time when I saw a familiar face in a play announcement. Since the paper didn’t list names of characters or give much detail on the play, I went like most of us do these days to google.

As it turned out not only was a good friend was one of the characters but the play also sounded interesting. Here’s what the Rangashankara site had to say about the play –

“Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is beyond just a love story. It’s a story of choices and their consequences. This play ‘Romeo and Juliet – no strings attached’, takes off from there. Set in a puppet theatre, 4 actors playing puppets, break off their strings, in an empty theatre after their daily show and perform their own version of the Bard’s play. The version they play out is irreverent, toungue-in-cheek, replete with pop-culture references, Bollywood and inherent Indian sensibilities.
Every scene from the original play gets peppered with layers of modern-day issues, idiosyncrasies and relevant parallels although most of Shakespearean dialogue is largely kept intact. Most importantly, unbeknownst to the puppets, the theme of choices, strings, restrictions and decisions seems to weave its own story in their lives.

‘Romeo and Juliet – no strings attached’ is also the Winner of the Hindu Metroplus Playwright of the Year Award – 2012, and featured in the Hindu Metro Plus theatre Fest 2013 in Chennai and Coimbatore.”

Puppets doing an interpretation of Romeo & Juliet sounded interesting and I figured why not, so off I went to book tickets.

Now for some details on the play. ‘Romeo & Juliet – No Strings Attached’ is a 90 minute play directed by Prashanth Nair and performed by the Tahatto troupe from Bangalore. It’s listed as a English-Hindi play but I think I did hear some Kannada too. :)

The play started off with four puppets – Champak, Panauti, Nautanki and Stringeri coming to life and doing a play of their choice – Romeo & Juliet, after some arguing of course. They divide the characters among three of them while the fourth sets it all to music and song. Champak plays Romeo while Panauti and Nautanki play a host of other supporting characters and Stringeri like I said early makes music and reminds characters to get back to the story.

Though the play largely sticks to the age-old story of love, the puppets step out of it a lot and make their own story. And that was the fun part for me. The puppets questioned the story, made references to events and news, impersonated famous people and generally had fun outside of Romeo & Juliet. It was a laugh riot. I hadn’t laughed so much in a while.

That said, I did come across a few people who found it lacking. Now the play is a slap-stick in-your-face comedy so if you’re looking for something slow, dramatic and witty, this isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for fast-paced, witty, hilarious and fun, ‘Romeo & Juliet – No Strings Attached’ is a play to watch.

The puppets had great comic timing and I was in splits most off the time, but a little bit of the latter half when Juliet dies is a bit draggy and preachy, though with Juliet gone the puppets pick up pace again.

Of the four my favourite puppets were Panauti and Nautanki. Panauti speaks his mind, has a clear heart and says what he means. His simpleness, naivete and sheer cheek make you fall in love with him. Then there’s Nautanki with his gruff exterior that harbours a soft heart. He’s like that pushy bully who buckles and gets all sheepish when the right buttons are pressed. Panauti and Nautanki made for some fun moments.

Champak plays Romeo well but somehow he didn’t make such an impact on me and neither did Juliet, except for when she launched into a ‘women being ignored’ speech. That leaves us with Stringeri who hasn’t a part to play in Romeo and Juliet but his music and cues work like glue to keep it all together.

Just in case you wanted to know the cast –
Stringeri: Christopher Avinash
Nautanki: Shashank Purushotham
Panauti: Anshul Pathak
Champak: Tijul Ray
Juliet: Kalyani Nair

Summing it up, I enjoyed the play. If ‘Romeo & Juliet – No Strings Attached‘ by Tahatto is being performed in your city, don’t miss it. The play promises a fun-filled evening and delivers.

August 28, 2013   No Comments

Baking For my Dogs – How to Make Carrot, Oats and Coconut Dog Biscuits

Over the last year I’ve been experimenting with baking and trying my hand out at the oven. Some recipes that turned out well I’ve shared like pizzas, sponge cake, … but some I’m still figuring out. Need to get that Rum Rich Plum Cake recipe down to pat.

Anyway, a downside to all that wonderfully smelling baking was the dogs giving me doleful looks and I feeling all guilty for withholding that piece of cake. So I figured I’d make them something that they can eat. Yep, I thought it was that simple.

Online research found me some quick and easy recipes but it also brought up questions like – is flour(maida) good for dogs?, what could I substitute for flour?, how could I make healthy treats?,… This took me more time to figure out. After a fair bit of reading and talking to various people, here’s what I found out.

Plain Flour(maida) is bad for dogs and best not given. It can be substituted with whole wheat flour, however some dogs are allergic to gluten (and it seems the number are rising) so you need to try it out and see how your dogs fair.

Another option is coconut flour. Until recently I had heard only good things about coconut products for dogs (google coconut flour for dogs), however recently I heard of one Vet who said it’s not good for dogs. My vet though says it’s good. So well, you figure.

From what I read though coconut products seem to be working wonders in most dogs. My Cuckoo loves coconut, (you should see her excitement when she hears us breaking them) and she’s not had an issue with it yet. Of course I give it moderate amounts. That said, getting coconut flour wasn’t easy and I’d been hunting for it until Vidya tipped me off about Heather’s Coconut Flour recipe. That one was easy to make at home but I didn’t get much flour out of it.

The last option as of now that I’ve found is oats. Oats come in various forms like rolled oats, quick oats and instant oats. According to the book ‘On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen‘ by Harold McGee the main difference between the types of oats is their texture, thickness and cooking times. They can usually be substituted for each other as all oats have the same nutritional value.

Each type of flour also has it’s own unique properties, oat flour contains an essential fatty acid GLA (gamma linolenic acid) that’s important in the body’s production of favourable eicosanoids (PGE1 – prostaglandins). Oats is also proven to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease. Coconut flour on the other hand is a good source of protein, iron, fiber and it is ‘low-carb’. Coconut also contains the fatty acid Lauric acid, which boosts the response of the immune system in the body.

Something to keep in mind for all substitutions is that each flour has different properties and so the quantities you need will vary and cooking times will change. You’ll have to try and test your way to the right proportions. Also some flours don’t work all by themselves, like oats used alone will not hold together and rise well so it’s best to use it in combination with other flours.

If you’d like to read more about flours and dogs, Susan Leisure’s article ‘What Type of Flour Is Good for Dogs?‘ is a good start point.

After all that research and figuring out, I went hunting for recipes that had coconut flour and oats. I decided to start out with The Fonte’s Paleo Dog Biscuits Recipe with Carrots & Coconut,  but I found a few others too that I liked and pinned for later.

I made some changes to the original and added oats, here’s my take on it.

How to Make Carrot, Oats and Coconut Dog Biscuits

Ingredients –
(makes around 200 gms)

225 grams crudely chopped carrots
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup coarsely ground oats
1/4 cup fresh coconut
2 eggs
Coconut oil

Method –

1. Preheat oven to 175 C.

2. Grind the coconut and carrot to a smooth paste.

3. In a bowl mix the paste, oats and coconut flour well.

4. Add eggs to the flour mixture and mix thoroughly.

5. Pour the mix into a piping bag. (I improvised with a washed milk packet)

6. Prepare a tray with greased butter paper. (Best to use coconut oil for this if you have it, else use sesame or olive oil)

7. Pipe little blobs onto the tray keeping enough distance between the biscuits. The size of the biscuit is up to you. I wanted them small as that way I can use more of them while training without giving the dogs too much of it.

8. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the tops get golden brown.

9. Remove and allow it to cool on a wire rack.

10. Remove the lil cookies from the paper and store in an air tight jar.

Note: I did try to make them crunchy by drying them out as much as possible but they just got soft again. I think it might have to do with the egg but I’m not sure. Do you know?

My dogs loved the cookies and they are working like a charm while training. They’re depleting fast too, which might not be a bad thing considering that I don’t know how long biscuits with eggs last outside of a fridge.

Update: The biscuits/cookies lasted about a week in an air-tight jar before I started to see fungal growth. Storing them in the fridge is one thing I can do to make them last longer. Anything else you’d suggest?

Have you baked for your dogs? What’s your take on coconut flour and oats? Any favourite recipes I should try?

August 19, 2013   No Comments

How to Make Benne Biscuit or Butter Biscuit

A couple of weeks back I got the recipe to make Benne Biscuit or Butter Biscuit from a friend but something kept coming up and I just couldn’t get any baking done. Couple of days back though I got my fix with a full day of baking. I baked over 100 biscuits (Mom was having a family lunch and wanted some for tea) and even managed to bake some cookies for the dogs. 😀

The biscuits turned out beautifully and everyone loved them. (Thanks @Kavitz for the recipe.) The recipe’s easy to follow and the biscuit dough is quick to make, of course baking takes ages but when something good is baking, it always feels like that, doesn’t it 😛 The biscuits also have besan and sooji in them and that makes for less maida which I really like, as it makes the biscuits more healthy.

Alright, a quick note before I get to the recipe. Below is Kavitha’s recipe but I’ve played and tweaked with the method a bit so, if you get good results it’s Kavitz’s doing and if not, it’s mine :) Well, not really, maybe bad biscuits just means you need to try again 😛

Benne or Butter Biscuit

Ingredients –
(Makes around 20-24 biscuits)

1/2 cup or 115 gms butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar (based on your sweet tooth)
1/3 cup maida (all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup fine rava (sooji, semolina)
1/2 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1/4 tsp baking powder
Optional: Add 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
Dry fruits like almonds, cashew, pista, walnut, raisins, etc.

Method:

1. Lightly roast the rava on a small/medium flame until it changes colour to off-white.

2. Crush or grind the sugar to get a mix of powder and crushed crystals. A baker once told me the secret to sugar in baking was adding it as crystals to butter and letting them melt while baking to add air to the biscuit or cake. However the regular sugar I get from the shop has big crystals that do not breakdown in the butter creaming process or fully melt in the baking so I crush them. If you’re using ‘Parry’s’ sugar crushing may not be required as the crystals are already small.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

4. Cream the butter a bit in a bowl before adding the crushed sugar. Continue creaming until the butter lightens to lemon yellow and gives off this lovely buttery smell. :) For biscuits I usually cream by hand and that means a good 20 minutes of creaming so I take breaks and do it in four parts or more. 😛

5. In another bowl add the maida, besan, rava and baking powder (and cardamom if you wish). Mix them well to get a uniform mixture.

6. Add the flour mix to the creamed butter and knead to make a soft dough.

7. Prepare a baking tray lined with greased baking paper.

8. Make little patties out of the dough. I used a 1/2 tsp measure to get similar sized biscuits. Roll and slightly flatten the balls before placing them on the tray.

9. I didn’t land up using dry fruits but at this point you can add shredded dry fruits to the top of the patties. Push them half into the biscuit to make sure they don’t burn at the top.

10. Bake the biscuits for about 13-15 minutes. If you like your biscuits being a bit moist in the center, remove them from the oven when golden. If you like them dry and crisp leave them in a minute extra so they get a touch of brown before you remove them.

11. Allow them to cool on a wire rack and then eat to your hearts content :)

I’m always on the look out for healthy biscuits; that way I don’t have to worry too much about Che’s middle of the night binges. Have you made any healthy biscuits lately? Any biscuits that I must try baking? Any suggestions at all? :)

August 18, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: The Homing Pigeons by Sid Bahri

Title: The Homing Pigeons
Author: Sid Bahri
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Srishti Publishers (April 10th 2013)
Genre: Romance
Read: Paperback
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)

In the middle of the catastrophic 2008 recession, Aditya, a jobless, penniless man meets an attractive stranger in a bar, little does he know that his life will change forever…..
When Radhika, a young, rich widow, marries off her stepdaughter, little does she know that the freedom that she has yearned for is not exactly how she had envisioned it…..
They say Homing Pigeons always come back to their mate, no matter where you leave them on the face of this earth. Homing Pigeons is the story of love between these two unsuspecting characters as it is of lust, greed, separations, prejudices and crumbling spines.

My Review:

This book review is a part of “The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program”. To get free books log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.com.

Cover: Easy on the eyes.

Paper and font: Smell-worthy Ivory and Ebony :)

Readability, language: Easy on the mind.

Why did I choose this book: The premise sounded interesting.

This is the love story of Radhika and Aditya who meet as children and part, to meet again and part again, and then meet again and live happily ever after. Simply put that’s it. But the story also delves into the lives, situations and emotions of Aditya and Radhika as they cross paths through their lives. Aditya’s who has a successful career in banking, loses his job and is down in the dumps until his life takes a sharp turn, when forced into a sticky spot, he becomes a gigolo. Radhika marries twice for love but not the man she loves and has it all but still feels empty. A rich single woman again, she has nothing to do with her time and life until she discovers herself.

The cover is pleasing to the eye with soothing colours that hint at coming darkness and the blurb is vague yet catches interest and made me want to read the book. The title at first glance seemed appropriate for a book about two people drawn to each other constantly though life however after reading ‘The Homing Pigeons’ I felt Radhika and Aditya were different, unlike pigeons they weren’t trying to get together, life brought them together.

The plot is the old simple one about lovers who are separated by circumstances in life and how they finally come together in the end to live happily ever after. However Bahri adds a lot more to the story as he delves into the lives of Aditya and Radhika exploring the stigmas and tribulations of being a gigolo in India, the life of rich women in high society and the emptyness of being a young rich widow.

Set in present-day Delhi all Bahri said was believable for me from the little I’ve seen of Delhi and all the stories that I’ve heard over time. The picture he drew of Delhi’s various shades and colours wasn’t very different from what I had seen and imagined and I found myself identifying with a lot of characters.

Radhika and Aditya are the main characters and they are strong however I felt Aditya was made more of an impact. Radhika I felt for and associated with but she lacked punch, there was that something missing. Bahri also has a few other supporting characters who play their roles well but none of them are really memorable.

The story is told by present-day Aditya and Radhika as they reminisce their history in little bits until it all falls together at the end. Bahri doesn’t leave any loose ends in his story and plugs all the niggling gaps by the end. This is a story where within the first few pages you know just how the two protagonists will meet in the end and yet you read on to see how the cards will play out. The story is interesting but I do wish Bahri had written a shorter book and got to the point quicker.

All said and done ‘The Homing Pigeons’ is a book worth reading at least once. Though I’d recommend it for adults only considering the subjects it explores.

About the Author:
Born in Gauhati, Assam in 1978, Siddartha Bahri spent most of his childhood and youth in Chandigarh and Delhi. Starting out as a tele-calling executive he grew to become a General Manager before quitting the corporate world and settling down in the hills of Kumaon. He currently lives in Majkhali with his wife. ‘The Homing Pigeons’ is Sid Bahri’s first book. You can connect with Sid on his website www.sidbahri.com.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

August 15, 2013   No Comments

UTI, Anaikatty, Homoeopathy and Tomatoes

Interesting car I saw on the road. Yet to try Mini Melts though. Any good?

I’ve been procrastinating for a week now, sorry for that, I just got real lazy. :)

I’ve been away from my weekly updates for a couple of weeks now. So, I guess I need to catch up. A lot happened over the last few weeks and I think a couple of them will become full blog posts, but here’s the short of it.

I got a UTI. Oh yeah, it’s as terrible as it sounds. I guess if I hadn’t had a family of doctors, I’d have suffered more :( But the Mom’s together put me to rights; nothing beats being taken care of by Mom when you’re ill. So, UTI stands for Urinary Tract Infection, which isn’t so bad except for the discomfort but it requires immediately attention, a culture test and medication. If it’s ignored or medication is delayed the infection can move into the kidneys and then it’s real trouble.

Anyway the UTI got better but I guess since my immune system was compromised I came down with the flu. I don’t mind falling ill once in a way (I love the pampering) but two illness one after the other are a piss-off. I enjoyed my week at Mom’s but didn’t much done at all. Now maybe that’s a good thing. :)

Che and I stole another quick vacation (before the dogs got back home) to Anaikatty, a little town that sits bang center on the Tamil Naidu and Kerala border. The trip was fun, especially since Dad, Shiva and Saravana also joined in. I met an interesting couple who work at the Bethany Medical Center there who dream of moving to a big town like Bangalore. How I wish I could make them see just how good a life they have, but that’s a conversation for another time.

The hills look beautiful from here

Satyamangalam ghats were a joy as always

Anyway I was talking about Anaikatty and the border which I thought was cool. Now, the town main market has a bridge in the middle that marks the border. On one side of the bridge there were a line of lottery shops and not one when you cross to the other side. When I remarked about it I got to know that in Tamil Naidu sale of lottery tickets is banned so in Anaikatty all you have to do is cross the bridge and buy it in Kerala, same for stuff banned in Kerala. Pretty cool nah? :)

Our return and my flu bout being over marked the return of the dogs. Oh it’s not that simple as anyone who has dogs will tell you. Before they return the house has to be doggy-proofed and checked again. All doggie stuff aired and cleaned. And then after, they step in, starts the week of bathing, cleaning and tick picking that feels like forever. But with all of that, it’s good to have them back. The house is full again. :)

In the doggy arena the other updates are that we started Buddha on homoeopathy medication for his heart condition and arthritis. It’s been two weeks and I’m definitely seeing a difference in him. I’ll keep you posted on how the homoeopathy worked out. I also finally got my hands on some clickers and I’m all excited to use them to work with the dogs. Sindhoor had introduced me to them a couple of weeks back, but they weren’t easily available. If you’ve used clickers before, I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips.

Well, what else… This is what happens when there so much to talk about 😛 Ok, on the gardening front. I lost all my tomatoes to the monkeys on my friends roof but I did get a resonable harvest of chilles and learned some good lessons on gardening. The silver lining to my loss of tomataoes are two tomato plants I planted in pepsi bottles in my balcony, which have grown well and now have fruits. With the dogs to guard them, I think they’ll get a chance to ripen and I can’t wait to try them out. It’s time to plant the next batch and I’m looking forward to trying out new veggies along with the ones I’ve already grown. This time I’m trying purple turnip, white bringal and cherry tomatoes along with the earlier tomatoes, chillies, basil, celery and spinach.

Tomatoes in a bottle

Aside from all of this, I’ve been playing with the idea of shifting my blog to a more recognisable domain for me. I’m thinking freya3377.com /.in would be more appropriate for me since that’s my ID across the internet and more people know me as Freya rather than Fatema. What do you think?

Ofcourse, shifting blog means I need to learn a lot of new stuff. And if I’m making changes I might as well put in some improvements I’ve had on my list for a while now. With all this in mind I joined Blogelina‘s course a while back but haven’t worked enough on it. It’s a course that’ll definiely help, from the little I’ve seen until now. The best part is the help groups you get access too. I’ve been learning a lot from other bloggers. But I’ve also been considering hiring help. Do you think I should or should I just stick with DIY? Do you know anyone cost-effective? (you can also read cheap 😀 )

I also travelled on the Bangalore Metro for the first time. I enjoyed it and thought it was quite cost effective. That said it’s very basic, I guess the finishing touches will take ages. But I don’t mean basic in just looks; I needed to use the toilet and there weren’t any easily accessible. The one I used was a long walk away, clean, small and cost Rs.3.

The Metro token and the Toilet Ticket with time stamp

I wasn't the only first timer. There was a group posing :)

I think there is more but I maybe this is already a lot for now. If you got till here, thanks for reading 😀

It seems I wasn’t the only one absconding the last couple of weeks. I hadn’t been on the computer and Feedly on the iPad has not been working, so I was way behind on my reading. I was dreading Feedly but there wasn’t so much after all, everyone else seems to have been on break too. 😀 Here’s some stuff from friends that you may want to check out…

Life as We Know It –

Farida’s story of how she didn’t quit on Farheena’s walking, warmed my heart.  She’s one of those people I look up too, she is so much and has done so much. It’s a gift to know people like her.

The world is a small place and and we make friends in some of the weirdest ways and places. Mariellen a friend of mine took a Mumbai Local Tour along with Andrew Adams a friend of Che’s. Her post and photos make me long for the maximum city, Bombay.  :)

Doggie Doo –

Jennifer’s post about 5 sounds that make her dogs come running got me listing out the sounds my dogs love. And I could think of only two off my head. :( Gotta think some more and make a post of it, don’t you think? :)

Angel shared a great list of healthy veggies for dogs on her blog K9 Instinct. The only one that I’m concerned about is cauliflower. It causes gas in me, wondering if it would do the same in dogs?

I’ve been thinking of reviewing my dogs toys but Sindhoor beat me to it. Here’s her review of the kong, wobbler and dead skunks.  I can vouch for these – Buddha loves his skunk, it’s the only toy he enjoys; Cuckoo loves the wobbler and makes a racket with it at home and Senti the chewer, loves to chew on his kong.

Someday I hope to have a garden and with the dogs planning it is important. Martha’s put together a list of edible flowers that I’m looking forward to plant. A good article to bookmark if you have pets.

Crafty Craft –

There are clothes I have that I don’t want to give away but I’d love to reuse. Leah converted one of her soft tees into a simple cute summer dress for her daughter. Here’s her method to convert tees into dresses.

We’ve been talking about putting up pin-boards at home for a while now. So I’m super excited to see Whitney’s tutorial on making fabric pin boards. Can’t wait to try it out.

I’ve been thinking about making and selling some quilled earrings but packaging them had me stumped. Ann’s post on All Things Paper about Art Paper Packaging was perfectly timed. I’m looking forward to trying my hand at these. Don’t you just love the pyramid boxes. :)

Pyramid Boxes created by Hana Vyoralová

Stephanie’s shared this lovely bib necklace design that I think would make for a nice baby bib too.  Adding it to my never ending list of things to make. 😀

Book Nook –

Ebook Friendly had this rather cute cartoon by Angela Liao about the future for book stores. See it for yourself… :)

Created by Angela Liao

Interesting that I haven’t read even one of the 12 bestsellers on ebook friendly’s list. Hmm… Have you read any?

Laura E. Kelly’s put together this awesome infographic that classifies some 50 reader species. I’m an omnireader and hoarder. What are you?

Foodie Goodies –

My all time favourite food is dal rice, nothing in the world can beat my Mom’s way of making dal. It’s my comfort food. But the simple dal is a dish that comes is uncountable varieties. Here’s Priya’s method of making Dal Tadka. This one I’ve never tried before; should soon.

Glory shared this awesome looking Strawberry Lemonade Cupcake recipe that has me all drooling.  Can someone make this for me please 😀

Glory's Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Rather long post, nah? 😀

August 11, 2013   2 Comments

Book Review: Rising of a Dead Moon by Paul Haston

Title: Rising of a Dead Moon
Author: Paul Haston
Paperback: 238 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace independent Publishing Platform (October 9th 2012)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Read: e-book
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon
Summary: (Goodreads)

An Indian girl is forced into an arranged marriage then widowed. She escapes a widow’s burning and flees to Africa to find the father who has abandoned her.

Set against a backdrop of 19th century Indian Indenture, the shipment of Indians to work on white-owned sugar plantations in Natal, Paul Haston’s critically acclaimed novel is a story of hope and tragic drama.

My Review:

Thanks Paul for offering me your book to read and review :)

Cover: A cover that makes you think of the classics!

Paper and font: Font and layout was good.

Readability, language: : Reads easy!

Why did I choose this book: I’d never read the story of an Indian slave in Africa before.

Usha, a young Indian girl becomes a widow at a very young age. Unwanted by everyone, even her mother she get packed off to Vrindavan, the city of widows. Dejected and rejected she decides to go in search of her father who went to Africa when she was a little girl. However life doesn’t get better for her, she escapes the Indian sigma of widows only to become an Indian slave in Africa.

As I read the book the aptness of the title become clear as Haston explores the darkness in Usha’s life. The new moon or day of the dead moon brings darkness and is an evil omen in Zulu lore. The cover is simple with the silhouette of a woman looking out into the fields. I would have preferred to see more of the image as half the image is hidden behind parchment that carries the title and authors name.

I’ve read a few books about African slaves in America but this was the first book I’ve read about Indian slaves in Africa. The plot is well laid out with the initial set-up of Usha’s life in India as a child, a young bride and a widow. Haston then moves on to Africa along with Usha, as she becomes an indentured slave on a cane plantation. In her dark world James Rothwell brings a glimmer of hope, however he has his own demons to fight both in Africa and England.

Set in three countries during the Victorian era, Haston draws a detailed picture of India, Africa and England during those times. The people and culture of those times are described well and I found myself amazed at how a non-Indian got India, its people and its customs so right.

The main protagonist is Usha but James also plays a strong role to counter the feminine. Usha is the average Indian widow who decides to defy the sati tradition and live her life. She has a lot of sorrow in her life and the dark cloud never seems to go away. But through out the cloud has a silver lining, keeping her moving forward in hope. James is a victim of circumstances but also the man who takes the easy path. However he has strong principles and values that hold him in good stead but don’t always lead him to happiness.
‘Rising of a Dead Moon’ also has a host of supporting characters who add to the story and make it richer.

The story is structured well starting out in India before travelling to Africa, then England and back to Africa to complete the circle. Haston ties up all the loose ends in the story and gives it an unconventional end that leaves you with just the right questions to take away to mull over your hot cocoa.

Like I said before the insight into India by someone non-Indian amazed me. Haston’s research on Africa and India and their cultures shows in the book. A well written book with a good pace, the ‘Rising of a Dead Moon’ makes for good reading. I’m definitely looking forward to Haston’s next book.

Since there are a lot of dark undercurrents in the book, I wouldn’t recommend this book for kids. If you’re not a kid and like historical cultural unconventional romance, ‘Rising of a Dead Moon’ is a book to read. Don’t miss it! :)

About the Author:
Paul Haston now lives with his family on the west coast of Canada but he is originally from England. Other than ‘Rising of a Dead Moon’, he has also written another novel ‘Blood and Doves’ along with several short stories and screenplays. He is currently working on his next novel ‘Shadow of the Tiger’. He can be found on his Facebook page for his novel Rising of a Dead Moon.

Buy On: Amazon

August 6, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Title: Once Upon a Prince
Author: Rachel Hauck
Paperback: 305 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 7th 2013)
Genre: Christian Romance
Read: e-book
Stars: **/5
Buy On: FlipKart | Amazon
Summary: (Goodreads)

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess—just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn’t going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simon’s Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family’s tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna’s aid under the fabled Lover’s Oak, he is blindsided by love.

Their lives are worlds apart. He’s a royal prince. She’s a ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel’s coronation.

My Review:

Thanks to Book Sneeze for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Could have been much better.

Paper and font: Layout and font was good.

Readability, language: : Simple LONG read.

Why did I choose this book: A prince charming story had sounded appealing.

After being in a relationship for 12 years, Suzanna finds herself heart-broken and single. In the spirit of freedom she quits her firm and becomes an independent landscape architect, giving herself up to God’s will. And then she meets her prince charming, Nathaniel, who turns out to be a real prince. The prince soon becomes King of Brighton Kingdom but there are laws and entrails that they must overcome to be together.

The cover is very Mills and Boonsy and could have been much better. Every time I see covers with women in gowns on them, especially with theirs heads chopped off I wonder what the cover designer was thinking. How does a gown justify the story or is it just that gowns stamp the book as romance? The cover has no connection with the title ‘Once Upon a Prince’. An image of a prince, with or without the bride would have been way better.

Inspired by Kate and William’s story, ‘Once Upon a Prince’ is the story of a commoner marrying royalty. To this mix Hauck adds the twist of a law prohibiting royalty from marrying foreigners, an entail that will decide the future of another Kingdom and a scheming wannabe Duchess. as plots go, this is a good one.

Set on St. Simmons Island in America and Brighton Kingdom somewhere in Europe, Hauck has done a good job of describing the places and people. I could see most scenes in my minds eye as I read the book and could associate with the characters and their situations.

Susanna and Nathaniel are supported by a full set of quirky characters. Avery, Susanna’s sister is a burst of energy and sunshine. Stephen, Nathaniel’s brother wants to convert the throne room into a bowling alley. Then there’s Aurora, who lives in a tent and appears out of nowhere to make prophecies. Expect for Susanna and Nathaniel who made me want to whack my head a few times, all the other characters were fun.

The story follows a clear three act structure and is split into three parts. Technically Hauck’s book is sound except of the loose end of Lady Genevieve, who is build up as a wonderfully cunning and evil person but is forgotten in the happily ever after end.

Though technical soundness may make for a good text book, it does not necessarily make for a good novel. ‘Once Upon a Prince’ at 305 pages is just too long and a lot of times I wished Hauck would just get on with it. Susanna and Nathaniel had one too many preachy sermony conversations and for a romance they prayed more than they kissed. Actually come to think of it, every time they were together in the book they prayed, the kiss came only after the proposal at the end.

The plot and storyline are good but the book could have been crisper with more unchaste romance :) If you are someone who likes royal romances that are long, slow and chaste, ‘Once Upon a Prince’ is for you. Considering the chastity of the book, it’s a book for almost all ages. 😀

About the Author:
Rachel Hauck is a RITA Finalist and Carol Award winner recently chosen by Family Fiction readers as one of the top five romance authors in CBA. She has written more than 15 novels. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and writes from her ivory tower (her 14th-floor office painted ivory!). Read more about Rachel Hauck at www.rachelhauck.com.

Buy On: FlipKart | Amazon

August 1, 2013   No Comments