Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adieu to 2011

It has been an eventful year for us and in a big way, for me personally...

We moved into our nicely renovated home.
Celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary
Discovered air -dry clay
I started my Jewelry and Craft line, and though it has a loooong way to go, I finally know that this is the way forward.
Made some great friends .

As a summation, it is just a few lines... but totaling all the ups and downs, I feel that the 'ups' win ..!!

I did not bother to set any goals. Can't say it was dogged determination. Just took each day as it came. Did what I could. The main thing was that, I did not agonize over a lost hour or so, doing nothing (there were a lot of those.... !!!) but just forged on and did what I could in the coming hours.

I can say that I have learned a few new things this year. And that lifts my spirits a lot.

For 2012 ...

I need to pay more attention to my blog.

Make sure I tick off every single item on my DIY list. (which covers nearly everything ..!!)

And for my friends and Family..

I wish you all the very best of Health, Wealth and Happiness....

A very Happy New Year to each and everyone ....

Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday craft - Paper Birdcage

I was inspired from the blog post on The Bride's Cafe. There are step by step instructions, Here is the link.

Spending a day inside is very difficult for my restless daughter and when it is raining, AND the cable is out, there are some surprisingly nice results.

Since my dad had gifted her some bird stamps earlier this year, it was easy to keep her occupied by asking her to stamp and colour them for the cage.

Saved me having to draw ... and I could get on with making the cage.

Notice how she has discarded most of the colours while neatly arranging those of her choice beside her . See how closely they match the colours of her outfit  ... !!!

Even the parrot is coloured purple and pink. She informed me that a real parrot is green with a red beak, but since this one is made by her, it can be her favourite colours ...

So ...the sparrow and the pigeon are also varying shades of pink, purple and yellow. Of course, the finished product here may not have any resemblance to those in the article of  our inspiration. Ichu decided that the cage needs more 'decoration' so she HAD to decorate the pink strip on the cage after everything was fixed. So naturally, the yellow strips got a bit bent .. AND she did not let me take the time to glue the bottom bit and the spokes, so i finally stapled it together !! 

And so there it is, ... slightly bent, yet still.....looking good.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Memories of Christmas...

Some of the greatest times we spent with our parents have been when we went to Doha for Christmas. ... I still remember a Christmas at Dukhan Sports Club... there were stalls for games, food, lots of people smiling and talking , a fancy dress competition, dancing and the best part of all, GIFTS from SANTA...

There is something special about getting a beautifully wrapped gift from Santa that can put a lot of other maybe, more thoughtful gifts in the shade. I still remember the utter joy of seeing 12 tiny thumb-sized dolls, 6 dressed in pink and six in blue.... They did come to a sad end a few years later, when they were planted in the garden by my brother and were not found till months later, and I was back in India.. !!

Still, 2 decades later, it is a very fond memory... Another very special one was years later,with a lot of cousins, dancing, parties, a celebration that started a couple of days before Christmas and went on beyond the New Year. And a lot of great parties at Ninan Uncle's place with friends...

Now our daughter is at that age, where she appreciates special occasions.... So hopefully, some of these will translate into some warm memories for her too.. This year , we went out for a Christmas dinner.

She was very happy to see Santa... Santa kept making rounds and she would run up and meet him or tug on his suit as he passed by, each time...!!

The 'Magic Man' was a hit because she got his personal attention and he even pulled out a ball from her ear ..!!
She loved the colours of this mask, but thought it made her look scary. And princesses are not supposed to look scary ..only beautiful..

Then there was great food, live music, dancing and lots of desserts, though she had only strawberry ice-cream...

Amma...I looooove Santa...!!!  :D

Friday, December 16, 2011

Free Christmas Giveaway and some venting ...

Nearly six weeks since my last post and it does NOT feel good to have neglected my blogging. When life was kind of routine, blogging added sparkle to me..meeting so many talented and warm-hearted folks helped revive my zest and interest in a lot of things.

It has been days of excitement and discoveries, the past weeks... As I had mentioned, I started selling Jewelry and some craft I make online and I call my line SWARDAA.

I have made some lovely new friends who have been very encouraging and also supporting my endeavor, and my family have been  absolutely wonderful.

On one hand, while this has been happening, I have been also aware of a curious phenomenon.... some friends as well as relatives have been shying away from any contact since I announced Swardaa on FB. It is like they are afraid they would be compelled to buy stuff from me... !!!

I guess I should take the time to reassure them that as long as they do not expect offers of free gifts from me , every time I chat with them, I would not try to make them buy my creations... !!

Is it that painful to acknowledge or comment on a person's creative efforts?

Anyway, if I had been doing this as a means of my livelihood, I would have felt more let down by these so called 'close ones' . Since I make each piece with so much care, I rather see them going to people who are excited about owning them.

Now..venting over, I need to get on with the good things in my life. And for reading my vent with patience, I present a few of my creations here...

Please feel free to comment ...

To check out more of my work , please visit this link.

And there is a FREE GIVEAWAY on my Facebook page, as a Christmas special......A pair of festive earrings. Please click on the text and you can see it.

Hurry please . last date is 18th December 2011. Good luck and Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pita bread (Kaboose) ,stove top method.

Having spent a good portion of my life in Doha, I have to say that the thing I miss most about it is the variety of fabulous food available. Of course, here in Chennai there are many places that offer Arabic cuisine and some of them are really good..but in most cases, they miss the mark when it comes to Kaboose or Pita bread.

I have seen a lot of recipes and have been planning to make them..but I was putting it off mainly because I still try to avoid a lot of experimenting in an oven. Recently though, while I was watching Masterchef Australia, I realised that the Pita can be cooked on the stove top too.. !!

And yesterday, everything just fell into place...

There are a few versions out there including some whole wheat pitas..but I just wanted to see how close I could come to recreating the taste we know and love..

The recipe is very easy, but the dough needs kneading time of 15 minutes and about 3 hours to rise. So it has to be prepared in advance.

Plain flour - 3 cups
Luke warm water - 1 and 1/2 cups
Sugar - 1 tsp
Salt - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Dry Yeast - 1 packet or 2 and 1/4 tsps ( I have yeast from Doha, which is quite strong, so I used just 2 tsps level)
Oil - 1 tsp

In 1/2 cup lukewarm water, add the yeast and sugar. It has to bubble up and rise and totally dissolve.

In a big bowl, mix the flour and salt evenly. Make a well in the middle and add the yeast liquid. Just mix it through, and add the 1 cup of lukewarm water slowly to form a sticky and loose dough.

On a flat surface, throw some flour , tip out the wet sticky dough about 10 to 15 minutes till it is not sticky any more.. Now the consistency will be elastic, still loose, but smooth.

In a clean bowl, coat with some oil. I poured about 1 tsp , coated the base, put the dough inside, and turned it all over till the oil was coated evenly.

Leave it to rest with a lid on, or a towel to let it rise. the dough doubled in size in about 2 and 1/2, to 3 hours.

Again flour the work surface, knead the dough, roll into a rope shape. now cut out lemon sized dough, roll, and then flatten it out like chappatis.. I made mine slightly smaller. Thin it out as much as u can.

On a  really hot tawa, with the flame on medium, just put a flattened disk of dough.When u see small bubbles starting to rise, turn over. Slowly press, and increase the flame to high. this should puff up the bread. Once it puffs up, bring the flame back to medium, see that it is cooked evenly on both side, take it off the tawa.

Stack cooked breads in a basket or dish lined with a tea towel . The bread was soft, evenly cooked and delicious..

You can freeze left-over cooked breads and also refrigerate the dough upto a week. Enjoy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This picture has been downloaded from the internet.

A question I am asked fairly frequently, is 'How do you cook your pasta???' - because I do make pasta once a week. Mostly I use the very easy macaroni . But I do not use any precise measures for the pasta or the water. This is what I do..

Boil water with about a 1/2 tsp of salt in it.

Once boiled, add the pasta. The level of the pasta should be an inch at least, below the water level.

As soon as the water with the pasta STARTS to boil, I switch off the stove, add a 5 -6 drops of Olive oil and give it a good stir.

Then I put a lid on, and wait 5 minutes.

By now most of the small macaroni is cooked . Sometimes the shell type macaroni takes a about 2 - 3 more minutes.

The macaroni would slightly increase in size, would look mostly opaque, while a bit in the middle may still be translucent.

As soon as the pasta is cooked to my liking, I drain the water by pouring the entire thing through a big strainer and hold the pasta under running water to stop it cooking more. I pour 1 tsp (or more) of  olive oil over the pasta slowly, while tossing, to coat it evenly in the oil.

Pasta is ready !!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken Lasagna

I made this for dinner yesterday. It was the first time I tried making it, thought it has been on my mind for quite some time... I had stocked the pasta sheets a while back and was reading a few recipes.. And as I mostly do, I did not follow any specific one, just made the mince and added things as I would want ..I would have loved some mushrooms, but we could not find any ...

For the mince-
Minced Chicken - freshly minced, 200 gms
Onion - 2 medium (diced)
Garlic - 4 to 5 cloves (chopped) [u can add ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp - or even both]
Paprika or red chilly powder - 1 tsp
Tomatoes - 5 fairly large ones (finely dice 3 of them and reserve 2 - or blanch 3, peel and then dice.)
Capsicum - 1 medium sized (diced)
Mushrooms - 1 cup chopped into bite sized pieces (optional)
Vinegar - 1 tsp
Tomato ketchup - 1 tbsp
Green peas - 1/2 cup frozen peas, lightly blanched
Dried oregano - 1/4 tsp or more
Freshly ground pepper - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Cheese - 1/4 cup (i used a mix of cheddar and mozzarella)
Olive oil

In a thick bottomed vessel, heat the oilve oil, add the chopped onions, once they sweat, add the garlic and/ or ginger garlic paste and cook till the raw smell goes.

Add the minced chicken and the paprika or chilli powder and fry till the colour changes. Now add the 3 diced tomatoes, cover with a lid and cook till the tomatoes are soft and mushy.

 Add the mushrooms, the vinegar and tomato ketchup and salt to taste. Add the dried oregano and freshly ground pepper. The green peas added at last .

Finally, turn off the stove, add the grated cheese and stir through to mix everything evenly. The consistency should be such that it should be easy to spread , but not runny.

I chopped up the remaining 2 tomatoes and added it to this to add additional freshness. You can opt to slice the tomatoes thinly and wait till layering the pasta.

The white sauce
Flour - 3 tbsp
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Butter - 1 tsp
Milk - 3 tp 4 tbs
salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg to taste.

Heat a pan, add teh oil and butter, cook the flour till blonde, then slowly add the milk , STIRRING all teh while and the sauce coats the spoon, there are no lumps and is smooth, but not runny. add the salt , pepper and nutmeg powder. Do not add more than a tiny pinch of nutmeg.

Keep a 1/2 cup of grated cheese for topping the layers

Layering the pasta
Grease a baking dish, spoon in a layer of mince, add a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes and then the pasta sheet on top. add a layer of white sauce. Then some grated cheese. keep adding  layers till the last layer is white sauce and lots of grated cheese.

Cover the dish with aluminium foil.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes , at 180 degree C .Remove the foil, Insert a skewer and the pasta sheets should be cooked through. Now bake for 5 more minutes to brown the top layer.

Lasagna is ready to serve....!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Triangle clay pendant with mirrors

This is a custom piece I made for my friend. She asked me to make something that resemble the piece I had made and gifted my sister. For a change,I curved the edges slightly , added three sheesha or embroidery mirrors and gave some ethnic looking colours with a final dust of bronze. I also made the hook out of thin copper wire and wrapped it in a fan shape.

the necklace was make with blue-green seed beads and mauve and pink colour crystals. 

Winner of the Earring giveaway...

The lucky winner of the earring Giveaway  for SWARDAA, is Shwetha Shenoy. Our daughter picked the winner.

Shwetha has a blog with lots of lovely recipes.. It is called Dashami's collection. I have linked it here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Handmade pendant and Monalisa beads

This is one of the first pendants I made , as a trial, for my Jewelry collection. This is made from Air-dry clay and hand moulded and coloured.

I first had the beads I intended to make the necklace ready ,and then went on to make the pendant. For a touch of colourm I added the deep-pink flower. The rest of the triangle-shaped pendant complemets the colours of the beads. Shades of green and bronze.

These are the beads ...

And the final set, with the matching earrings, which I gifted to my little sister - Suni..

Friday, September 16, 2011

Introducing ....."SWARDAA", and a Free Giveaway

I have just started a Page on Facebook, called Swardaa... which means 'Gifting Heaven' in Sanskrit. Coincidentally, it also has a similarity to my name, includes my husband's and our daughter's first letters too... So I am totally happy about that choice.

This is a dream come true... and I need all your best wishes to go forward with it...

I have just started with jewelry, and mean to expand into some crafts, collectibles and also art work that I plan to sell. Hopefully I will have an online shop soon..
Right now, I am having a FREE GIVEAWAY on my Facebook page and all of you,who are interested may try your luck. The winner will be declared on 24th September and I will courier the earrings ASAP...!!

This beautiful logo has been designed by my cousin Vimal, and apart from being a great designer, he is a superb photographer as well.. You can have a look at his page HERE...

So a quick peek at the earrings for the giveaway,

There are just three simple rules.. SO please go for it... Good luck ...!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mathanga (pumpkin) and Vanpayar (red cow peas) erissery

Our first Onam in our newly renovated home. This is one of the dishes that I had not made before , though it is definitely a part of any Onasadya in our homes in Kerala. I was never a fan of pumpkin until I started cooking myself. 

I am going to put up the easiest version. Exactly as I made the dish. With the help of a pressure cooker. 

Pumpkin - 400 gms (peeled , deseeded and cut into cubes)
Vanpayar (red cow peas) - 1 cup or more 

Grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Green chillies - 2 nos
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tsp 

Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt to taste
Curry leaves - 1 stem or more
Coconut oil - 1 tsp 
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
dried red chilly - 2 nos

Soak the peas for 30 minutes and then add about 1 and 1/2 cups water, and pressure cook till three whistles. Once the steam escapes, add the pumpkin cubes, chilli and turmeric powder and cook on a medium flame till the pumpkin turns soft enough to mash. (Leave a few lumps of pumpkin for texture.)
 Do not add any water if possible. Avoid pressure cooking again because the pumkin may be overcooked.

Grind the grated coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds to a fine paste. Add this to the cooker. Once the errisery starts to bubble, turn it off. It should not have too much water or too little. 

In a hot kadai, heat the coconut oil, splutter mustar seeds, curry leaves and the dry red chillies. Add it to the cooker  and stir twice. 

Delicately flavored and great with rice. I think it would make a good curry for chappatis too..

And given below - my husband  and our daughter with our Pookkalam (flower arrangement) -  another tradition of Onam.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Soy bean curry

I love dried pulses and beans.. and even if we prepare the same gravy, each  bean imparts it's own flavour to make the dish unique.

While living in Doha, baked beans in tomato sauce and nearly burnt toast was a favourite breakfast . But in India, this is the first time I came across dried soy beans.. and i decided to try it out.

This is a simple recipe and I am sure every budding cook must have tried this recipe with one ingredient or the other..

Soak 1 cup of Soy beans overnight. Pressure cook for 5 whistles.

Soy beans - 1 cup
Onion - 1 (sliced thin or diced)
Tomato - 1 (sliced or diced)
Ginger garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chilly powder - 1 tsp heaped
Cumin powder - 1 pinch (optional)
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Coriander leaves - a bunch - chopped fine
Lemon juice - few drops
Salt to taste
Sugar  a pinch

In a hot wok, add oil, saute the onions, then add the ginger garlic paste.. once the raw smell is gone, add the tomatoes and saute ..cook through till soft.
Add the turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala powder. Add the soy beans with the water they were cooked in.. if it is not enough for a gravy, add more water.. let it come to a boil.
Now add enough salt to taste. Add the lemon juice and the pinch of sugar. Take off heat, add the garnished coriander leaves.

Serve hot with chappatis. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Update on blog design

Well.. I knew this would happen...!!! After tweaking, poking about reading a lot of stuff that did not make sense to me, blurred eye, a headache and a few sleepless nights later, I decided to leave the job of making my blog atleast presentable, to my cousin.

So now i have a new header. I have decided to leave things as is, for a while and get on with my blogging.. so much happening in my life right now, That i have to let you all know about it.. and i do have a few of my cooking experiments to post about too...!!

So hopefully, I will be picking back my pace and posting atleast thrice a week, hopefully..

Lesson learnt... there are things that are meant to be left alone by me..and this is one of them...
So watch this space and I hope to get some feedbacks from all my fellow bloggers ...See you soon..

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blog under tweaking ...

Hi everyone... My blog is undergoing a serious makeover ... and as usual, instead of asking someone who knows about such stuff, I have decided to try and do it myself... I am finding it a bit daunting,.. though I would like to keep at it atleast a few more days before I totally give up and ask for some help ....!!!So please do keep visiting, and I hope you will be pleasantly surprised ...!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My kitchen - the finished picture...

It really has been an age between posts ... and I have actually had a lot to blog about, but somehow, I have not been able to take the time out to sort out the material and post something...Till now, that is..

Before I start posting about my new 'venture', though, I thought it was better to update the final picture of our kitchen. We moved into our renovated home and it is a dream come true for all of us.. of course, it will be a work in progress for yet some time to come, since we will be furnishing the living room and other rooms at our leisure...

And I thought, I would start by posting about the biggest change in our home - the kitchen... !!

I wanted the cabinets a dark walnut colour mainly because I love it..and also with a practical purpose in mind... little sticky fingers would make any light-colour cabinets high maintenance.

We had the tiny dining table and chairs we bought about 8 years back..but somehow , i feel that the backsplash, floor and dining set actually complement each other , even though the shades are absolute contrasts..

The floor tiles..which I love... and the L-shaped kitchen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Applesauce and chocolate chip muffins

It has been eons since I last blogged at all, and even longer about cooking ...!! Seems like yesterday, though, since I was absolutely busy with the home renovations, moving in, visits from my folks and sis... , preparing our daughter for the new academic year and all this done without a maid ...phew...!!

Anyway, all that is behind me now...I was doing a lot of cooking, but nothing experimental ... or even though I experimented, it was nothing good enough to post about... hmm...notice how 'post' rhymes with 'boast'............????????? :)

But this recipe is great and it just so happened that i was chatting with a good friend and she passed on this recipe. I had 3 red apples and all the other ingredients ready with me, so i decided to try it out... the result has been amazing... and i had to share it with you too...

Do read this through before you start...
the original recipe is from so feel free to check her site. It is great.

This recipe calls for applesauce that can either be store-bought or homemade. I used to make applesauce for my daughter when she was a baby. So i just did the same here. I am sure there are many recipes out there for applesauce. but the one I give here is my version - very easy to make and all natural.

Medium size red apples - 3 (peeled ,cored and cut into small cubes )
Lemon juice - 1/4 tsp (reduce if the apples are sour. )
Sugar - 2 tsp
Water - 1/4 cup

put all ingredients in a saucepan, and let the apples cook through. When cool, pulse twice or thrice in a mixer till the lumps are gone . the applesauce is ready. This yielded exactly 1 cup and a half for me.

For the muffins..

Applesauce - 1 and 1/2 cups
Sugar - 3/4 cups (my applesauce was just right - tangy and sweet. Add more sugar - upto 1 cup if u need it more sweet.)
Egg - 1 (lightly beaten)
Melted butter - 1/3 cup (can use margarine or oil . equal to 75 gms approx)
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Flour - 1 and 1/2 cups
Cinnamon powder - 1/2 tsp
Chocolate chips - 1/2 cup

Mix the butter, sugar, applesauce and egg. Keep aside. Sieve the flour with the cinnamon powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix both wet and dry ingredients together. Toss in the chocolate chips.

Preheat oven. Bake at 350 F/ 180 C for 20 minutes in greased muffin trays. I used tiny glass bowls so it took 25 minute at 180 C and another 5 minutes at 120 C in the convection oven.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Our choice of decorative lighting...

Lamp shade we chose for the master bedroom, accent wall.

Our little one chose this for her room... :D. It is actually a ceiling light, but we decided to use it as a wall light.

Here it is , in her 'pink' room. The white part of the wall will have a mural, hopefully....!!! The rest of the wall are fully pink . This particular shade was called 'rose lace' and looks great.

Our hall ceiling was painted a rich wine colour, with the surrounding wall, a pale n sunny yellow. We are pleased with dome shaped ceiling lamp and the simple wall lights.

Absolute novices when it came to lighting, but we decided to go with our gut feelings ...yet another consideration was the ease of maintenance. So we decided not to go for chandeliers and shades that could gather lot of dust.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

W.I.P in my kitchen - again !!!

Another close-up of my granite - sorry, couldn't resist ...!!! Things have been speeding up a bit now... we can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak ....

My double bowl, corner sink in the process of being installed... the workers were very messy at this point, but they did do a good job of cleaning up ...

This was done today.. the kitchen backsplash has been installed and I am well pleased with how it complements the granite .
Yet another close-up of the backsplash tiles and granite ....
And after one coat of the wall-paint called Milk Chocolate... I thought it was a good name for a kitchen-wall paint ...!!! Though, I did have a slightly more chocolatey colour in mind..

So friends, please give your verdicts ....

Monday, March 14, 2011

Modular kitchen - fitted the carcass

The kitchen carcass has been fitted .. the tall unit, recess for the microwave, and corner , where the double-bowl sink will be fixed.

Am just having an L-shaped kitchen and have kept overhead cupboards to a minimum, to have more space. I have been feeling trapped in tiny kitchen so long, that for me, space matters more than anything else. the way I have planned things, all my stuff should fit well in the cabinets provided. Right now , it looks very light and airy... and the cabinets are mostly dark wood.
Still, hopefully it wont give the congested feeling that I have come to dread....!!

This portion comes after the corner . The chimney and hob will come after the overhead cabinets.

This is my sister in law's kitchen . I chose the dado/backsplash tiles for her. Her cabinets are Mahogany and Golden oak. The tiles we chose were an exact match to the red-tinted wood, but when they arrived, they were a shade lighter than the samples...I picked the light coloured tiles so that the red tiles do not overwhelm, and asked them to be put up in a checkerboard pattern... I think they look great..but maybe I am biased , so would like to know what YOU think ...!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A few things other than the tiles ...

The Vitrified tiles that we have chosen for the entire house, except kitchen and bathrooms...

The granite for my kitchen counter top..I liked it so much, that I stopped worrying about matching the cabinets to the counter top ..!! So now, you will have to give the verdict once the finished kitchen snaps are posted ...!!

The grills for the windows were put in this week.. This one is Ichu's bedroom window.

The bay window looks great, in my opinion ...
The exterior of our home, a bit tidier now ... the first coat of paint is done, except for a little portion in the front, where a covered motor used to be.. once the pipelines are re-laid, the motor will also be relocated and the first coat will be done.