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Posts from — February 2016

Book Review: 30 Days of Daal by Pragati Bidkar

30 Days of Daal by Pragati Bidkar

 
Pragati Bidkar's 30 Days of Daal
Title: 30 Days of Daal
Author: Pragati Bidkar
Paperback: 153 pages
Publisher: Amazon Digital South Asia Services, Inc. (2 edition, 25 November 2015)
Genre: Cookbooks
Read: eBook
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

30 Days of Daal shatters the myth that cooking Indian food is complicated. The author has taken authentic daal recipes from the corners and heartland of India and made them simpler.

Whether you are a busy urban cook, or someone who is new to cooking Indian food, 30 Days of Daal will make it easy for you. The book contains attractive photos of the daal dishes and has precise step by step instructions with special notes when needed. There is also a section on how to stock an Indian pantry.

Daal is an essential component of an Indian meal, and is cherished as a source of vegetarian protein. Daal is the very soul of India. 30 Days of Daal allows you to cook and enjoy a different daal every day of the month so you never get bored.

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Pragati Bidkar for offering me this book to read, use and review :)

Cover: Colourful

Paper and font: Easy on the eyes

Readability, language: Could be better

Why did I choose this book: Daal is my soul food, I could eat it everyday and not get bored of it. It’s what I make when I’m down in the dumps and even when I’m happiest. So, 30 Days of Daal is perfect for my first cookbook review. :)

30 Days of Daal is what the title says, 30 different types of daal from across India, in all it’s various styles and varieties. It covers daals from the simple Yellow Moong Daal to the Parsi Dhansak and Oriya Dalma.

This is a review of the first edition of 30 Days of Daal, however there is a new edition available now and things might be a bit different in it.

This book starts of with an introduction to what is Daal and explains why this simple lentil curry is so important to the Indian cuisine. This is followed by 30 recipes of a variety of daals and at the end there are details of all the lentils, rice, spices, oil, and cookware used and where you can get them. This section is specially helpful for Non-Indians or Indians who live in the US.

Daal Methya from Pragati Bidkar’s 30 Days of Daal. Daal Methya or Fenugreek Flavoured Daal with Chili Oil and ivy gourd palya as the vegetable dish

I tried out the book on my Kindle and on three ebook apps on my Android Nexus 6. I had hoped that it would be easier to use on the phone, as it would be handy in the kitchen and would be in colour, but I was disappointed by the books rendering on the phone. On all three apps the layout was bad and navigation difficult. Even on the Kindle the layout is a little off, but it worked well and was easy to use. Sadly, that meant I had to live with no colours.

Each recipe has an image of what the daal looks like, the set of ingredients needed and the method of preparation. The instructions are simple to follow and Pragati Bidkar has also added notes to make it easier for the first timer. For e.g. she reminds you that chillies splutter and that you must stand back to avoid getting splattered by oil.

One thing that was glaringly missing for me was the serving size. It meant that in some recipes I landed up making too large a quantity for the two of us and we had to eat the same daal for 4 meals to finish it. I’m not complaining too much about it, only because the daals turned out well. 😉

Smoky Black Masoor Daal with CoconutSmoky Black Masoor Daal with Coconut and banana poriyal as the vegetable dish

For some ingredients that are difficult to source outside India, special notes are added about substitutes. This helped me too (even though I live in India), as some of the ingredients aren’t easily available here too. Like Goda Masala, which is Maharashtrian and isn’t available at most stores.

I tried out the Daal Tadka, Daal Methya, Black Masoor Daal with Coconut and Tomato Daal and they all turned out well. As you can see for trying out, I choose the simplest recipes I could find but I flexed a bit and experimented a bit too with a couple. I’m looking forward to trying out the slightly complicated (to me) ones like – Daal Bukhara, Parsi Dhansak and Panchmel Daal from Rajasthan.

Over all this is a good book to have in the kitchen, as it can add much variety to a simple everyday dish like daal. I recommend it for all who love the Indian cuisine, especially if you like cooking it. 😉

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US

About the Author:

 
Pragati Bidkar Pragati is the founder and creator of the vegetarian food blog KamalKitchen.com. She started experimenting in the kitchen at a young age and since then has traveled to many places and absorbed regional cuisines and influences. She focuses on using local produce and selective herbs and spices. Her next book ‘Rice Bowl: Vegetarian Rice Recipes from India and the World’ will hit the stands on March 1st, 2016.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

February 25, 2016   2 Comments

The #FlipkartOutdoors #Indiblogger Meet: A Recap

#FlipkartOutdoors #Indiblogger Meet

Indiblogger meets are all about product promotions and yesterday was no different with Flipkart showcasing outdoor products from Altec Lansing, Samsung Gear S2, Red Chief Shoes, Polaroid Cube, Coleman and Garmin at this #FlipkartOutdoors meet.

But that isn’t why I attend, my reasons have nothing to do with the promotion or freebies. My attendance is all about friends and fun – meeting the bloggers I’ve grown close-to over previous meets and who I look forward to catching up with. Though the freebies are definitely welcome too. 😀

An hours bus journey took us from Ulsoor to Mango Mist Resort yesterday morning, where breakfast awaited us before the day started with a warm-up Indiblogger style. 😀

Here’s the line-up of products we got introduced to before the fun started.

Red Chief Shoes

This desi company makes casual shoes for men. These shoes are great if you want to give the impression that you are the that cool outdoorsy man, but make note these shoes are not recommended for actual hiking or trekking.
 
Red Chief Shoes

One thing that I thought was really cool was that these shoes are supposed to be biodegradable, yep the sole too!
 
Biodegradable Red Chief Shoes

Sadly they don’t have anything for women, and won’t have anything on offer for the fairer sex for another three years!

Polaroid

I’ve used the GoPro a couple to times before and really like it. It’s great for those crazy things Che and I do, it’s why I was excited to see the Polaroid Cube. It’s size and feel are the pluses for me but its magnetism which is a great feature to use for in car recording etc. was a put as it’s powerful enough wipe clean data and hence makes the device unsafe for handbag carrying. :(
 
Polaroid Cube

I was also excited to see and try the Polaroid Snap. Che’s been using the Instax Wide over the last one month and a comparison was but inevitable. I’m not the best judge of quality but I did like the sticker format of images, the option to choose between b/w, colour and sepia and the size of the camera. I’d love to try out the next version of the Snap as it’s supposed to have instant photos and a data card so you can take multiple prints if you wish.
 
Polaroid Snap

Altec Lansing

Lately I’ve been on the lookout for good earphones for running, wired or unwired. The new Altec Lansing Bluetooth Headphones wowed me. They tuck in well into the ear, are water proof, have great battery backup and are offered at a good price. Only drawback was the battery like thing on the cable that feels like a weight hanging off the ears.
 
Altec Lansing Lifejacket Speakers

There were also the Lifejacket speakers which were a crowd draw with their pulsating water to the beat of music. These little babies are not at all delicate,we hurled them 20 feet away and they continued to play. They beasts are rugged and waterproof. Prefect for our doggie house, me thinks… but wait, are they doggie proof? 😛

Garmin

Ironically it was just last month that I bought the Suunto Ambit 2 R from Flipkart and I’ve been a satisfied user for a couple of weeks now. That said, after seeing and handling the Garmin devices on display yesterday, I think a Garmin device would have been a good buy too.
 
Garmin Gear for Runners

But when we were choosing the device, we’d been disappointed by Garmin’s prices in India. I bought the Suunto at Rs.15,000; the Garmin equivalent (Forerunner 620) is Rs.27,825 on Flipkart!!!
 
Suunto Ambit 2R vs Garmin Forerunner 620

I hope Garmin works on their pricing, this same watch is $239.99 on Amazon.com, thats Rs. 16,494 (at rate 68.73%). It’s cheaper to buy it in dollars!!!
Garmin on Flipkart
Garmin on Amazon India
Garmin on Amazon.com

Coleman

Don’t go by my photo of Shantanu investigating below, I was amazed that these guys have even a porta-potty! Aside from that they also had tents, bottles, compass, foldable chairs, insulated tiffin boxes and bungee cords on display. This was the most outdoorsy counter, if you ask me. 😉
 
Coleman even had a Port-a-potty, Shatanu investigates

Samsung Gear S2

I don’t really know how good these are for the serious outdoorsy folk or fitness addicts but they look really cool with colour display, phone sync, touch screen, etc. These would be cool everyday android wear.
 
Samsung Gear S2

 

Customary niceties over. Now on to the fun part (after a quick review of the resort of course). 😉

Mango Mist Resort
Mango Mist Resort is one those activity based resorts set in a Mango orchard. They offer a host of activities from zorbing to fish spa. They have a variety of packages available but almost all of them only have 4 coupons included (each coupon is worth Rs.50).

So what are coupons. Coupons can we used to do activities like rock climbing, crossing Burma bridges, climbing rope ladders, zip-lining, zorbing and more. There are a lot of activities offered but with just 4 coupons nothing much can be done, especially since it’s not one coupon per activity, some activities need 2 or 3 coupons. :(

I had to request for more coupons and as always the Indiblogger guys obliged. Thank guys for the extra fun. :) Before I go on, a quick note on Mango Mist Resort – the resort is nice and the food good too. I liked the variety of packages offered with cottage and tent accommodations too so you can stay over and have more fun.

I big drawback was the lake behind the resort. It smells obnoxious and looks dirty too. A little work and help of the resort guys might make this eye-sore a beautiful water body and a good addition to the resort, it’d nice to see resorts give back to nature. The other down like I mentioned before was the limited coupons.

Ok, all that formality done. Here’s some pictures and a video of all that happened for me. 😉

 

Burma Bridge
I thought this would be easy compared to the others but man was this scary, with my phobia for ledges I giggled in nervousness all the way across the bridge.

 

Burma Bridge
Here’s the one Parinita choose. When looking at someone doing it, it’s so easy to give advise and think you’d do it better. Doing it though is a completely different thing.

 

Mango Mist Resort Bar
After all that activity, like all good girls, we hit the bar. 😉

 

Inside the Zorb
After watching zorbing on TV many a time, I’ve always wanted to try it out. Bhawna and I had a screaming match in there and so much fun. That’s how we looked at the end of the roll. 😀
Another item checked on the bucket-list.

 

The Paintball Winners

And we finally ended the day with paintball and we won. That’s the team – don’t know what we were thinking but its an excellent capture. 😀 Below is what I won.A girly pink 3 box insulated tiffin system that keeps food both hot and cold.
Coleman Tiffin Box

I’d made instagram videos through the day, but putting up each one, just makes for a lot of video. (Plus Instagram is a pain with embeds). So, here’s a mash-up of the day on my Youtube channel.
 

 
It was a super fun day and tiring too. Catching up with friends and doing crazy stuff is tiring. 😀

A couple of shout outs at the end –
Thanks Flipkart and Indiblogger for a spectacular day.
Rajiv for the morning ride. That was exciting!
Che for taking over at home so I could get away… Thanks isn’t enough 😛
Bhawna and Pari for the wonderful company that made the day even better. 😉

February 21, 2016   14 Comments

Book Review: Love on 3 Wheels by Anurag Anand

Love on 3 Wheels by Anurag Anand

 
Anurag Anand's Love on 3 Wheels
Title: Love on 3 Wheels
Author: Anurag Anand
Paperback: 161 pages
Publisher: Srishti Publishers (December 6th 2015)
Genre: Contemporary, Drama
Read: Paperback
Stars: ★★★★☆
Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart

 

Summary:

(Goodreads)

What Happens When Love and Destiny Come to Loggerheads?
Love on 3 Wheels is a saga of love, lust, aspirations and trickery that unfolds over a period of three days, propelling those in its midst into an unmindful frenzy.
Sargam: A young and ambitious girl misplaces a parcel purportedly containing a large amount of cash. This sets off a turn of events that are certain to leave their imprint on the lives of many.
Sharib Sheikh: An auto rickshaw driver whose fault is that he fell in love with the wrong person at the wrong time.
Dr. Abhigyan Kukreti: A prominent doctor who has more skeletons in his personal closet than a mid-size cemetery.
Ameena: A simple village girl who, like Sharib, finds herself at the wrong end of love.
Junaid: A swindler with his heart in the right place.
A Real Love Story that is bound to make your heart skip more than a beat!

 

My Review:

Note: Thanks Anurag Anand for offering me this book to read and review :)

Cover: Eye-catchy!

Paper and font: Feels good and reads easy.

Readability, language: I didn’t come across a lot of words I didn’t know, but I did find a few.

Why did I choose this book: I’ve read Anurag Anand’s previous books The Legend of Amrapali and Where The Rainbow Ends and liked them, so… well…

This a story of three people (well, actually 5 but three key people) over 3 days. Circumstances change each of their lives drastically and this is the tale of how it all comes about. Anurag Anand explores human emotions and imperfections through the story.

When I first saw the title and read the blurb I kept wondering how much the title – Love on 3 Wheels would tie in to the book, but having completed the book the title makes a lot of sense as it connects up with the auto that plays a big role in the story, it also relates to the unbalanced nature of love, something going along on 3 wheels. The cover is quite different from ones we see these days, it grew on me, plus it reminded me of covers past, of books bought from handcarts on railway stations. The cover and blurb both remind me of the good old Higginbotham days.

The plot is a many time told tale of interconnected lives and how one little thing sets off an avalanche of events in many lives. But the story feels interesting and I turned the pages in haste as I tried to find out what happens to each of the key players. Keeping the story short to events over three days is also a good ploy to keep it tight and fast paced.

Set primarily in Delhi the story moves across the city. I’m not very well versed with Delhi but it did feel like the little I know of the place. Anurag Anand has used the city and it’s people well to add to the story and give it good backing.

There are 3 key characters plus 2 main ones. Each adding to the story and weaving themselves in. The characters are described well and I felt for and against each of them. I really came to like Ameena by the end but found myself loathing Sargam for her selfish attitude and callousness, and feeling something akin to pity for Sharib, the self-absorbed lover with no trace of reality. The characters are flawed, real and I could relate to them.

Spread over three days, Anurag Anand introduces each character in turn as the events unfold. The conflict is clear in the initial part of the book and it resolves itself as the story progresses. The story winds up well too, it’s not a happy ending and yet it felt real and believable. There are no loose ends, all characters are accounted for except Dr. Abhigyan Kukreti, who just disappears.

Written in third person, Love on 3 Wheels is easy to read; there were just a couple of words I didn’t know. The language is simple yet its descriptive and absorbing. The pace of the story is good, it kept me turning the pages as the complications began. It was like watching a magician make a knot and then with a flourish unknot it. I didn’t realise when I reached the end, and after about half-way, I kept on till the end.

I quite enjoyed Love on 3 Wheels, Anurag Anand has done a good job as the book has left me thinking and mixed up in emotion. Each character has endearing characteristics, and frustrating mannerisms, their personal stories and backgrounds make a good backdrop for the choices they make and it’s repercussions.

YA & Above. I recommend this book if your are looking for a good fast read, the kind you want to take on journeys, be its bus or train or plane or even if it’s just a reading evening with coffee or wine in the cosy chair. :)

Buy On: Amazon India | Amazon US | Flipkart

About the Author:

Anurag Anand

 
Anurag is a banker who wrote his first book ‘Pillars of Success’ at the age of 25. After his first two non-fiction books, he has been writing in the fiction genre, and has written over 10 books.

Author Links:
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

 

February 16, 2016   2 Comments

My Top 3 Must Read Romances

3 Must Read Romances

I’m a sucker for romance. Nothing beats ‘love wins all’ and ‘happily ever after’ in my book and yet two of the books I’m going to share today don’t have the conventional ‘happy endings’.

Over the years I’ve read a large number of romantic novels, a mix bag of classics, mills & boons, historical, paranormal and contemporary romances. But of them all, three stand out for me and are my all time favourites.

These are the books I’ve read, re-read and intend to keep re-reading over the years. Each one of them has characters and elements I absolutely love and adore.

So in no particular order here are my top 3 must read romances… I’m not going into storylines here, (you can check out their blurbs on Goodreads or Amazon) but I’m going to tell you what I love about them.

Far Pavillions

(Goodreads, Amazon.in, Amazon.com, Flipkart)
Far Pavilions - Must Read Romance

Before I read this book, Gone with the Wind topped my list but after Far Pavillions, my world of romance was never the same again. This book has all that I love – a handsome dashing hero, a heroine with guts, Indian tamasha and drama, a mountain-desert setting and adventure galore!

What I love about this book is how well M. M. Kaye understands and portrays India and the people of India. As an Indian I can associate with the places, the people, their emotions, motivations and the people politics. This is a book I’ve read over 5 times now and yet in each re-read I’m just as hooked and enthralled as the first time.

Gone With The Wind

(Goodreads, Amazon.in, Amazon.com, Flipkart)
Gone With The Wind - Must Read Romance
Scarlett O’Hara is my all time favourite heroine. Her strength and attitude inspired me in my 20’s, she was the kind of girl I wanted to be, a go-getter who stands up to adversity and fights tooth and nail for what she wants. She did the not-done in her time, sometimes using guile and her feminine charms and at other times her stubbornness to get what she wanted.

She isn’t a character that is all good and yet I loved her for she seemed so human. Then there is Rhett Butler who forever in my mind became the epitome of a male hero. Suave, dashing and one who loves to a fault, he loves and knows Scarlett like no one else.

Pride and Prejudice

(Goodreads, Amazon.in, Amazon.com, Flipkart)
Pride & Prejudice - Must Read Romance
Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice is another woman way ahead of her time, she stands up for herself, speaks her mind and doesn’t backdown in adversity. She fights for what she believes in, is the strength of her sisters and doesn’t finch when she is wrong and has to apologise.

Darcy is the perfect foil for her, starting out as someone who comes across as snobbish with his nose in the air, he wins over Elizabeth as she gradually gets to know him for his quiet strength and loyalty to his friends.
 

All three of the books have strong female characters that I can relate to and heroes that make my knees buckle and my heart turn to mush. Interestingly all three are set in different times and on three separate continents.

if you haven’t read any of these until now, you should. Stop here, and go get the book. 😀 If you’ve read any of these I’d like to here your thoughts on them and I’d love to talk more about them with you. So leave me a note in comments. :)

February 11, 2016   No Comments

Another First – My First 5K at the Pinkathon

#IAmAFinisher at Pinkathon

The first time you do something, anything, it’s special. It’s the first time you experience the doing of it, feel the accomplishment, revel in the sense of achievement, and undergo all the myriad emotions attached. This year’s Pinkathon 5K was a first for me; the first time I ran a 5K, the first time I ran with 11,000 other women, the first time I ran the Pinkathon. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

I’d been training through January for this run but actually finishing was a beast unto itself as not all had gone to plan. Training had suffered a couple of times when I fell sick in the month and the last week was spent more in recovery than practice. All these had been niggling worries throughout but one thing I was sure of, I was going to do the run, no matter what.

The night before I had butterflies, sleep was difficult and I was excited and yet super nervous. Would I really pull this off?

All set for Pinkathon

All set for the Run

I woke up at the first ring of the alarm and started out with the rituals, – a litre of water, a bowl of oats & banana, a wholesome shit, and I was ready to get dressed. I left for Whitefield, all ready and hopping on my toes with excitement.

In the last week before the run, I’d figured out that I had other friends running too. Sindhu was running her 3rd Pinkathon and this year she was helping first timers with her group ‘Who Run The World ? GIRLS!!!’, for running buddies make it so much easier. Supriya was running in Delhi to motivate us friends in Bangalore. Then there was Juvena, my desk-partner and one of the first people I ran with in school. And Kavitha, a old friend and fellow sportswomen who was running 10K.

Running Buddies - Bhawna & Me at Pinkathon

Running Buddies – Bhawna & Me

I was excited that I might bump into these guys, but the person I was looking out for when I reached was my running buddy – Bhawna, who was the one who started it all for me when she signed up for the Pinkathon. And she wasn’t running alone, there was also Little B. :)

It all started with Zumba as a warm up at 5:30 but it was 7:15 by the time we got running. Why the delay, no idea but we’d warmed up three times and taken three loo breaks too before we got going. But once we set out, that was it.

Zumba at Pinkathon

Warm up was with Zumba

Late Start at Pinkathon

The Zumba just went on and on

Little B ran the first 500 meters with all her might and would have run more if the 2 hour wait hadn’t tired her out I think. But after she stepped away Bhawna and I started out in earnest, pushing each other to keep the pace as we weaved in and around the multitude of women walking.

The women I saw as I ran past them amazed me. There were women in all shapes and sizes, mothers carrying babies and even mothers pushing prams, but they ones who stood out for me were the visually impaired women. The turn out was supposed to be 11,000 women!

Little B at Pinkathon

Little B in full run mode

11,000 women ran Pinkathon

Starting out on the run

11,000 Women ran Pinkathon

Almost at the finish line

Pink Man at Pinkathon

The Pink Man at Pinkathon

Finished 5K Pinkathon

Phew! I Just finished my first 5K!

Running Buddies at Pinkathon

Running Buddies!

I finished my 5k in 39 minutes, not a great show but with all the obstacles through January, I was proud to finish. The run was a learning experience, a reminder of how much I enjoyed running and what I’d been missing all these years.

There were some learnings too, for my next Pinkathon –

– Don’t get to the venue too early. Just be on time.
– Carry water and food, just in case it starts late.
– Run the 10k (timed) to start on time and avoid the rush & heat.

I’m looking forward to running a lot more in future and the bar has been upped to try a 10K. It’s amazing how much joy there is in suffering. Can’t wait to get started on my next training program! :)

Do you run? Got tips for me? Books on running you recommend? All info is good info right now so please tell me all in comments. :)

P.S. – My first 5k Pinkathon would not have been possible without help from Che, who supported me throughout and made sure I ate right, and my mother who was the silent force helping me through those tough days of pain. Love you guys! xxx

P.P.S. – You can read Bhawna’s side of the story of Pinkathon on her blog – YellowMellowLife.com

February 2, 2016   3 Comments