What are you grateful for?

It has been a long time since the last post. Giving up on the A-Z challenge hit me hard. But enough said about failures, let’s move on. Today I would like to dwell on things I’m grateful for.

Mom – She is a person with extraordinary strength and resolve. A woman who had to grow up too fast, take on the unforgiving world alone.

Brother – From the day that he was born, I learnt to be responsible, share, put someone else first, deal with the fact that the world may not seem fair always and experience the joy of watching a tiny human being grow and reach the point of being happily Neanderthal-like (I love you A)

Sister – Could never call her my cousin, we hated each other’s guts when we were children, but growing up brought us closer than ever. From her I continue to learn resilience, strength and diligence

My Nephew – From the day I put out a forefinger to touch his soft skin, this little boy holds a special place in my heart. He taught me how to change a diaper with one hand while holding him from rolling away on the other. In loving him I loved myself more.

The husband – Oh where do I start… Perhaps the person I’m most grateful for in my life, my blessing, my rock. In loving him, I discover new depths of love and affection each day.

Father and Mother-in-Law – For the trust and love they have shown me in the face of overwhelming odds, I shall forever be thankful to God for giving me in-laws who continue to break every stereotype thrown my way before our wedding.

Friends – It should be high up on my list. Friends have taught me it is OK to breakdown or act crazy. It is ok to call someone up in the middle of the night because you are hungry; it is not senseless to grab a backpack, a clean pair of socks and head out on a road trip with no destination in mind, things will work out even when every single one of you is broke, life will be just as good after breakups and friends for life truly means friends for life. I pity the soul that hasn’t experienced friendship in its most sincere essence.

Gulab Jamun and Papayas – Two of the most delicious things that God decided to favor the earth with.

Bloggers – The fellow bloggers who keep kicking my butt to get back to blogging and understand my silences… if it wasn’t for them, this blog would’ve probably died.

There are many more I can talk about, but, at the risk of you withering away at your desk, I shall throw the forum open and ask you – What are you grateful for?

B- Broccoli Soup

At the end of a weekday, time is short and so are ingredients. Let’s look at how to make a healthy version of Broccoli Soup on a weekday in fewer than 20 min, provided you have pre-made vegetable stock (You can use those stock cubes from the supermarket if you don’t have homemade stock)

Source: mirror(dot)co(dot)uk

Photo Source: mirror(dot)co(dot)uk

Things to grab from the fridge:

  • Small head of Broccoli cut into florets (1 cup)
  • Yoghurt – 2 tablespoons (Low fat if going for healthy option) OR
  • Fresh Cream – 1 or 2 tablespoons (for a creamy, I don’t have to care about the waistline now option)
  • Stock

Things you need from the pantry:

  • Garlic pods – 2
  • Onion – Small
  • Olive oil- 1 tablespoon (if using)
  • Salt and Pepper

Method using homemade stock:

  1. Heat two cups of stock in a stock pot.
  2. Once you switch the stove on, wash and cut the broccoli, just keeping the head.
  3. Once the stock starts to simmer, throw a handful of florets in (about a cup), season well and simmer further for 7 mins or until the florets turn a bright beautiful green.
  4. Take off the stove, add low fat yogurt (or milk) and blitz in a blender.

Check seasoning and enjoy with brown bread and no guilt.

Method using stock cubes:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a stock pot and sauté onions and garlic
  2. Once heated through and transparent, bring two cups of water to simmer and add half a veg or chicken stock cube for flavor. (The vegetable stock cubes taste good – but remember, there is a lot of sodium in it. So season at the very end after the soup is done)
  3. Once the cube dissolves, add the broccoli, wait until it turns a beautiful green color, 5-7 minutes depending on the size of florets
  4. Turn off stove and add cream. Give it a good stir.
  5. Season, take it off the stove and blitz when cool.

Serve with warm bread

Note: You can season this soup to your liking, sprinkle nutmeg or cumin, increase garlic or crumble cheese on top. This is a soup for all moods :)

Health Benefits of Broccoli:

  • Broccoli is a very low calorie vegetable- 34 calories per 100 g.
  •  It is rich in dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants.
  •  Prevents cancer, maintains a healthier nervous system (Diabetic Friendly), regulates blood pressure, Reduces cholesterol, dieting (rich in fiber which prevents digestive problems and constipation, curbs overeating and maintains a lower and healthier level of blood sugar), helps with arthiritis, helps fight against flu causing viruses,reduces allergic reaction and inflammation

Warning:

If you are currently taking blood thinning medication, it is recommended not to take excessive amounts of broccoli. Normal portions are still good for you. Drink copious amounts of water if you eat more that 2 cups of broccoli every day.

A – Appetizers

What would you do, if you prepared a nice dinner for guests and realised that you were sorely lacking in the appetizers section?

The guests are less than 30 minutes away and you hardly have anything ready… This is what I was faced with recently.

So here is what happened:

Open fridge in near panic – Spotted nothing but carrots, cucumber and Zucchini.

Took a deep breath and got started.

 Things to pull out of the fridge:IMG-20140401-WA0061

Carrots – 2

Zucchini – 5

Cream Cheese

Capers

Parsley or Coriander Leaves for garnish

 Things to source from the pantry:

Garlic – 5 pods

Onion – 2 medium

Balsamic Vinegar – 5 table spoons

Salt and Pepper

 Method:

Turn the oven on.

  1.  Slice the onions, smash the garlic pods with the blade of your knife and place them on a sheet of aluminium foil. Drizzile Olive oil, season with salt and pepper and wrap the foil around to make a parcel. Keep this in the oven, close the door and move on to other things.
  2.  Peel the Zucchini and using a mandolin (I used a peeler and am not happy) cut the zucchini lengthwise to form a wrapper. Brush with 2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar, season lightly and place on baking tray.
  3.  Turn the broiler on in the oven and put the Zucchini under it for 5 – 10 mins to soften it up and give it some flavour (keep checking after five minutes to avoid burning)
  4.  Meanwhile peel the Carrots and continue peeling them into thin wrappers (I used the vegetable peeler to get thing malleable strips)
  5.  Start picking at your herbs to get nice leaves separated from the stalks
  6.  Ting! The Zucchini is done, pull it out and allow it to cool on one side. Turn the oven on and let the garlic and onions caramelise further.
  7.  Tip a few capers onto a bowl and bring out the cheese. I believe ricotta works best, but I had just regular cream cheese in the fridge, so I brought it out along with a melon baller.
  8.  In a few minutes the Zucchini will have cooled down. Place a small amount of cheese on the widest part of the Zucchini slice and roll. To prevent spillages I stuck capers on either side. (My Zucchini slices were too thin. If you have sliced them thick, then just mix the capers with cream cheese. If using ricotta, forget the capers and add choice herbs). Place them on your serving platter as you go.
  9.  Bring out your garlic and onions and place them in a bowl. Stir them around to get the flavours to mix. Place a small portion on the widest side of your carrot slice, place coriander or parsley leaves and roll. Secure with toothpick if needed. Place on the serving plate as you go.
  10.  Serve with the garlic onion mix and reserved balsamic vinegar as dipping sauces.

It was a hit and took under 30 mins to make with a bit of multitasking. But I didn’t break a sweat and licked the melon baller clean, so it’s all good!

This post is to start off the A-Z challenge 2014. Check it out here. There are a massive list of bloggers and I shall visit as many as I can and leave a kind word. Between exams, assignments, projects at work and entertaining visitors, this is going to be one heck of a challenge, I’m trying hard to keep myself motivated  to complete this challenge.

 

So until tomorrow.

Adieos!

Recipe – Mushroom Coracles

After a long day at work, slaving over a hot stove was the last thing on my mind. A quick survey of the fridge revealed a decent load of produce and no leftovers.

Hmm… Secretly thanking my stars for buying those large mushrooms on sale, I started off…grabbed some mushrooms and some vegetable…a quick sauté here,filling there, stick it in the oven and Voila!

A sumptuous dish :)

Here is what you’ll need

Mushrooms Large- 2

Zucchini – 1

Shallots-10

Bell Pepper-1

Celery- ½ stalk

Garlic-2 or 3 (according to your tolerance)

Spinach- 2 handfuls

Olives- For topping up (any kind is ok or maybe omitted also)

Cheese – Freshly Grated Parmesan – Optional

Condiments- Salt, Pepper, Paprika

Extra Virgin Olive Oil-2 tablespoons

Herbs- I tablespoon of chopped parsley or celery leaves

Yogurt – Served on the side, or sour cream or just plain omitted

Method:

Preheat your oven to 400 F

  1. Pluck the stalks out of the mushrooms. Wash the mushrooms and pat dry.
  2. Roughly chop the Zucchini, Shallots, Peppers, Garlic and Celery. Feel free to include other veggies that can cook at a similar pace. Since I was lazy, I threw the vegetables into a mincer. But, the laziness dictated that I don’t check the blade attachment until half the veggies were crushed to a pulp.
  3. Add one tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté the vegetables for a minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread some olive oil on your finger tips and rub the outside of the mushroom, season lightly (use less than ½ tablespoon or omit) Stuff the mushrooms with veggies
  5. In a baking pan/tray, grab a handful of spinach and make a bed for your mushrooms. Sprinkle some olive oil, salt and paprika and place the mushrooms on them. Put it in the oven for 15 -20 mins (depending on your oven and size of mushrooms)

As an afterthought I realised that I had some tomatoes on the vine and freshly sliced olives from the deli. I washed the tomatoes, poked two holes in each, seasoned lightly, drizzled ½ tablespoon of olive oil and put them in the baking tray during the last 10 mins and threw some olives on top of the mushrooms. At this stage you may add cheese if using.

Served hot from the oven on a bed of fresh spinach with yogurt on the side… the yogurt looks green because it met the blender blades along with mint, cilantro and half a green chilly with some salt.

The mushrooms juicy and not rubbery, vegetables tender and steaming, spinach with the wonderful juice from mushrooms… mmmm…

Note: You can use butter instead of oil for sauteing and cream cheese instead of yogurt  for rich flavor and displaying anti-diabetic sentiment. But for obvious reasons, I have used substitutions. 

A letter to my ailing Grandfather

Dear Grandfather,

Mom called to say that you are very sick.

In the five second pause, between mom saying that the doctor offered little hope and her bursting into tears, the memories of you roller-coastered around in my head.

Memories of us may not belong in the Chicken Soup for the Grandparent’s Soul. You were a busy man. Retired from the military where you were a flight engineer, you set up a cafeteria, travel agency, telephone booth… You built a home for your  family and the business generated revenue and did not go under. The house had a big garden. Grandma had coconut trees, guava, custard apple, drumstick, spinach, a whole terrace wall of jasmine, lots of hibiscus, mehandi, curry leaves and this is where my memories begin.

The fact still remains though that I never felt attached to you. A chauvinist and misanthrope, we learnt to steer well clear of you early in our childhood. You were also a contradiction of sorts, you would favour some grandkid (s) over others, son over daughters, you know. However one can’t deny that you provided for your wife and children while they lived with you. You called my brother and I to the room on the first floor of the house and opened up your old trunk to show your medals. You told us how the war was, that you didn’t have to go to the battle field but stay in the yard and work on fighter planes. You loved those medals and went ballistic when grandma lost a few of them.

You loved your scooter (Bajaj Super FE) and would let me clean it. We loved that scooter – you and I. I knew how to repair the brakes, oil the wheels and get it to start on troublesome days and you let me.

I’m lost on details but you and your son decided to tear down the house and have these builders construct an apartment complex. I was there that demolition day; I watched how you caressed a last intact portion of wall with tears in your eyes. It was obvious that you wanted your son to have the best at whatever cost. Though a lot of people criticized you that day, I felt sorry for you.

Through the years that you were sick, we used to visit you and if we stayed more than five minutes, you would get mad and say hurtful things. We kept coming back because mom made us. I felt jealous and angry that you would have a daughter who loved you so unconditionally despite everything. You had someone to shed tears over your condition. Mom loves you inspite of… inspite of… you must have done something to deserve that love. If I have children who loved me half as much as my mom loves you, I would count myself very lucky indeed.

You asked me to forgive you and I asked if you would bless me instead. It was so hard to answer you. It is not hard to fathom why you are terrified to look at yourself. Now you are a mere shadow of your former self. Your eyes are like haunted pools of fear and confusion. It is hard to look into them. You are afraid to pray.

Grandfather, you may be scared, but we are not. We are praying for you – your grandchildren and children. We know that behind that terrifying veil, there is no pain. We believe in God and that when you meet him, life would not have ravaged you. Raising children, building a home, loosing things in life would all be behind you.

I’d like to think that you would be just a little boy to God, who would envelop you with his wide arms. He would guide you to streams of sparkling water like then ones you would bathe in as a child. You would look in and see your eyes glistening with merriment. There are no lines on your face, no scars that the world gave you. Maybe there would be juicy mangoes that you love there. You could eat them whole, the juices running down your hand and dripping down from your elbow.

Maybe God would pick you up and throw you into the air like your dad used to when you were a little boy and punctuate the air with your laugh that the world hasn’t heard in a long time. Don’t be scared grandpa, we are praying for you. We know that there is no darkness behind the veil, just God waiting to say “Michael, welcome home”

Love,

Archie

sex vijay poope

Bloggers of the universe… we all know that regardless of the platforms we use, our blogs give a list of Search Engine Terms that readers used in their process of discovering our blogs. We’ve seen the usual key words on our post titles and then some. This one takes the cake.

sex vijay poope

I’m from India and recently wrote a movie review about a movie starring Vijay (pronounced VJ) a Tamil Actor. He is a master of dance, action, stealing girl’s hearts and practically an all round sensation. Did I mention he always always wins – like Bruce Willis…

Vijay… he’s coming for you weirdo and no he will not poop for you!

Now this individual searching for sex vijay poope, apparently thinks that Vijay has some sex appeal. However I fail to understand how poope figures into the equation.

Is this some kind of fantasy? Somehow I can never imagine saying ‘bowel movements and love making’ in the same sentence, let alone Google it. There was this episode on Oprah where a celeb stated that they had cast their child’s first poop in bronze or some metal. Does anyone remember that episode? The absurdity of it must have burnt the image into my brain. But this is so beyond the line that the line looks like a dot to me.

What hurts me most about it is… I’ve written about sex, vijay and poope in my blog. It took a crazy person to show me that.

How about you? What was the craziest, weirdest search term that landed someone on your blog?

Photo Courtesy: Courtesy: vellapanti dot org

Facebook Movie Poll… Where are you with that?

Three Blogging Pitfalls

1. One Topic Wonder Blog

When we hear Macaulay Culkin, our mind immediately flashes to an adorable Kevin McCallister and his adventures, hardly ever to the marijuana conviction and the fact that he is well 34. Many blogs are advised to stick strictly to one topic. Sticking to one rote topic may give your blog good branding initially, but feel free to explore different tangents to keep your reader interested.

People Change... Blogs do too... Grow up and deal with it!

People Change… Blogs do too… Grow up and deal with it!

I love blogs that keep it real. It gives authenticity and engenders connection between the reader and author. Blogs which are only about one topic and unwilling to budge – much like a Politician elected into power – fail to keep me hooked. Don’t be afraid to put yourselves in your blog, your perspectives, your views, your stands. We welcome them because it gives a warmth to the articles, makes the experience a tad more human, brings a little more rapport. Makes us actually care to read.

2. Quantity over Quality

Like food and sex, people who value quantity over quality, will end up bored and distracted. Well timed posts of good material will attract and retain readership. One blogger advocated that one
should post no less than three times a day to gain regular visitors. Unless you are running a business blog or benefiting monetarily by the ‘number of views’, readers tend to value ‘quality content’.

Atleast like with food and sex, people with good taste value quality. These are the readers you want to interact with. Now, as with Facebook, there are people who would ‘value the worth of the
blog’ through ‘likes’ and ‘ratings’ and ‘comments’. As in WordPress free hosting, you’d have to have an account to ‘like’ and give your details to ‘comment’. Hundreds of readers don’t have WordPress accounts or just do not comment. Never loose heart. You write for YOU.

Visit like minded blogs, participate in discussions, dive headlong into civilised debates, encourage others freely, criticise gently and accept feedback humbly. My suggestion for sustainable successful blogging would be to focus on what you put out there not how much.

3. Never back down

Every blogger faces this dilemma. You blog about something close to your heart. A reader expresses a difference of opinion. This can go down three different routes:

Route A:
  • You point out how wrong and uninformed the dissenter isDont feed trolls
  • Reader stands his ground and calls your intellect to question
  • You point out that he better back off if he is not interested and call his parents’ marital status during his conception/birth into question
  • Reader posts sarcastic comment calling your sexual orientation into question and adding LOL
  • Other readers are torn between supporting you, educating the ‘individual’ and wishing this would continue for some more time because the microwave popcorn is not quite ready yet
  • You join your supporters and have a rare ‘jock’ moment, bullying the lone wolf
  • Lone wolf posts a bitter message, punctuating it with pointy innuendos and deems that you are a rotten egg
  • You call him a misanthrope, remind him that this is ‘YOUR blog’ therefore you shall write what you please and block him
  • Other readers pause with mouth open – pop corn en route -  then proceed to congratualte you for your ‘bravery’. You go to bed feeling like a pile of steaming…
Route B
  • You invite the reader for a civil debate as you value their opinion and thank them for reading your blog
  • Other readers forget the popcorn and chime in with your two – cents
  • People congratulate you for the open yet civil platform you’ve managed to create where ideas and opinions can be shared
  • You go to bed happy, feeling accomplished and your spouse is probably wondering why it is such a ‘lucky’ night ;)
Route C
  • Your comments section reads ‘Comments are closed’
  • You are asleep on the couch the laptop balanced on your stomach
  • No one made popcorn that night
Remember, no one forces us to share something online. It is unfair to expect everyone to perceive something the exact same way that we do . Something that may be super cute to me, may be just dull and dreary to someone else. Be open to suggestions, feedback, difference of opinion. No one will think any less of you :)

Don’t just have a blog… have a voice!

Photo Courtesy: stereotypex dot com , sceptisemia dot com

It’s all relative

This is an extract from a Whatsapp conversation with my brother this morning:

Me:       Good Morning! It’s Thursday, the slowest day of the week in UAE. It takes 5 hours for 3pm to become 4pm

Bro:       Morning! What did one ocean say to another ocean?

Me:         I sea you?

Bro:       Nothing… it just waved.

Me:          Damn! Ha ha ha. Tell me jokes everyday ok?download

Bro:       Shore! I’ll tell you jokes everyday. Sea what I did there?

Me:          Buoy… Sea you then!

Bro:        Sea you. Boat text when you get a chance. I sail wait for you

Me:          Ship! I should’ve sean that coming. Boat I gotto run to [get office transport] lest I let my car-go.

Bro:        I just came to office and no one is here yet! What the deck is wrong with me?

Me:          Maybe you shouldn’t gulf your coffee so early in the morning. Stay in s’bed a little late.

And we are swell in this game!

Test and see how creative you can be. Nothing is lame in the game of ‘It’s all relative’

 Just leave it in the comment or e-mail me: archanajoyce at gmail dot com (Subject: It’s all relative).  

5 things I learnt from my fish

1. We all die

Our first Beta named Vishnu, lived with us for over a year. He was the lord of his little bowl fish heavenkingdom. He swam with a purpose and flashed his royal blue fins at us whenever we dared enter his field of vision without his permission. He ate heartily and pooped earnestly. One day we found his highness floating like a common dead fish stripped of his glory. We gave him a royal flush and said our good byes humbled.
Life is short and we realise the value of important things often only when they are taken away from us. We resolved to take stock of people and things that make us really happy and spend time with them.

2. The world is oddly misshapen

Ill and confined to the couch, I found myself wondering one day, how does little Fawkes experience the world. Now Fawkes is our current betta. Bright red and feisty, he lacks the regal air (or water) around him, but makes up for it by being cheery and active.

watching fishbowl

We had washed his bowl and set it out to dry. So I dragged by feet to the balcony, picked up the bowl and angled it so I could see what Fawkes saw. It felt like I was in the house of mirrors – strange shapes and colours with no semblance of order.
Life is like that in many ways. People and things may not be clear or make sense but that doesn’t mean life is as lopsided as we sometimes think it is. Things might look stretched beyond our field of vision and overwhelming in reality it might just be a trivial thing if you break it down. So yeah I learnt to live with the quirks and that made my days much more productive.

3. You don’t need a lot to be happy

Vishnu seemed infinitely happy in the little bowl. He swam round and round. He surveyed the land and took stock of the jokers outside. He picked a spot to rest his sapphire head for a while and

Courtesy:pininterest pattie's passion

Courtesy:pininterest pattie’s passion

then resumed lording over his land.
Fawkes on the other had is always exploring. He puts his head between the stones and tries to move them around. You could hear him click clicking away. I felt that maybe he wasn’t being fed enough, but well he just was content rearranging stones and making himself a nice bed to curl over and snooze.
Learning to live with what we got has become more of a challenge to our generation than it has ever been in the history of evolution. Social Media is full of people trying to prove how their life is flashier than others, threatening non ‘likers’ with dire consequences and others decide that we need to offer opinion on their bowel movements updated on the status. Credit culture has turned households into little sweat shops. We’re not the epitome of perfection.

But when I hear click click click I tell myself – We have everything we need and more :) Eventually it should help!

4. Don’t poop where you feed

Courtesy: groupthink.jezebel

Courtesy: groupthink.jezebel

Well when you come home tired and see the bowl decorated with party streamers, you know someone’s been in a feeding frenzy.

While Vishnu used to merrily swim around in filth, Fawkes tries to shimmy away in embarrassment perhaps.

Whether it is work or family, leave the bullshit elsewhere. I can’t stress this enough don’t hang your dirty diapers all over social media for everyone to shake their heads at.

5. The glass is cleaner on the other side

Unequivocally true. The glass is cleaner on the inside or so it seems… and the glass looks cleaner on the outside, so it must seem to the betta.
Cell phones, gadgets, cars, spouses, ice cream, in-laws, cocktails, hairstyles, shoes… there are grass is greeneralways things we wish we had, the could’ve beens and should’ve beens. It’s tough but possible to live without coveting and being happy for others and their success. If it gets too tough, I should learn to shut my gob and move on.
Fishes are fishy in their own way. They seem stupid and unassuming; rolling their eyes around in chlorine induced vacant haze, much like I do during Trigonometry finals. However, they are silently teaching you, sending out their message, a silent presence in your living room, swimming around when you are asleep, watching your convex movements with practised ease… you know what I’m a little creeped out.

To sum it up:

Learn from betta
Fishes can be creepy