"Z" is for Zucchini Bread

Some people celebrate with champagne, some people over wine. I decided to celebrate successfully completing the A to Z challenge over a loaf of zucchini bread!

Step 1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans.

Step 2. In a bowl sift together
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Step 3. In a large bowl beat together (creamed mixture)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Step 4. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. 

Step 5. Stir in 2 cups of grated zucchini and 1 cup of chopped nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Step 6. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

My sister found this recipe on the internet and I decided to steal it off her recipe book. It turned out to be pretty amazing, even if I say so myself.

Sorry, we ate it up before I thought about taking pictures!

"Y" if for Yeats, William Butler

It's been one tiring day and my thoughts aren't making much sense today. So, I will leave you with my favorite quote by WB Yeats.
"Come fairies, take me of this dull world for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance up the mountains"
Sweet dreams.

"X" is for Xacuti.

"Xacuti or Xacutti is a curry prepared in Goa, India, with complex spicing including white poppy seeds, grated coconut and dried red chillies. It is usually prepared with chicken or lamb." This is what wikipedia has to say about Goa's famous curry.

Couple of years back, a bunch of us visited Goa. It was probably the third day of the trip and nothing seemed to be going right. The hotel had double booked us, the cab was late by a couple of hours, the guide was AWOL, the traffic was bad even the weather turned against us. Tempers were already running high when we finally stopped for lunch late in the afternoon. It was closing time for the kitchen and the only thing we could get was xacuti. I decided to go for it and my friends probably too indifferent by then did not argue. 


We sat in uncomfortable silence as we waited for the food for fifteen minutes, when the wait staff placed before us plates full of steaming hot rice and delicious smelling dishes of xacuti... fish, chicken, lamb, egg I had ordered it all!... The uneasy silence was replaced by the gentle clinking of the cutlery, everyone seemed to be lost in the plateful of flavor in front of them, completely oblivious of the world around. It was only after the first plate was wiped clean that a trickle of conversation started and before we knew it we were once again enjoying ourselves, the mishaps of the day long forgotten, over delicious plates of spicy xacuti!

"W" is for Writer's Block.

For someone trapped in an endless cycle of eat, sleep, repeat punctuated by an occasional visit from an aunt or two, this alphabet challenge has been challenging indeed. It does not help that I had used up all my drafts ten posts ago. Or that I have writer’s block.

I wonder what inane jumble of words I will come up with for tomorrow. X seems daunting.

“V” is for Vanilla ice cream.

When I was little, ice creams were exotic. Ice cream parlors were an alien concept and not one confectionery carried them frozen goodness. So come summers my sister & I would pester mom for some good old fashioned vanilla ice creams.  On days that she made those treats, we would be on our best behaviors, homework dealt with without complaints and vegetables cleaned off the plates, and when it was time for desserts we savored every mouthful!

I am older now, much older, but life rarely gets better than a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream in the summer. 

“U” is for Uniforms.

I enjoyed getting ready for office in the morning. Neatly pressed trousers/skirts, shirts/tops that fitted just right, matching accessories and a pair of stilettos if I was feeling adventurous! Somewhere down the line my delightful morning routine started feeling like a chore. The first to go were the accessories...they were just extras anyway, then I ditched the stilettos and soon dressing for office was just putting together a set of clean pressed outfit and nothing more. The increasing responsibilities of work had consumed my life.

Now, when I stand in front of my ever expanding closet wondering what to wear, I miss my school uniforms with its unflattering hemline and clip on ties. I even miss the red ribbons and the mandatory ponytails. But what I really miss is the simpler times that came with it.

“T” is for Too Small.

Last week when I revisited my old classroom, I realized the chairs had grown smaller, all the while knowing that chairs do not shrink, I have just grown bigger. Is it just me or nostalgia of revisiting an old place is always tinged with the feeling that the world is shrinking around you?

Like my grandparent’s backyard that I spent hours exploring when I was little, is but a handful of trees and a few tired shrubs. Even the trees aren’t as tall as I remembered.

Everything from my childhood seems to have shrunk, along with my favorite princess dress. Everything is a size too small.

"S" is for Snippets from my day.

#1. It rained today. After a week of sultry hot days, the long awaited monsoons are finally here. I watched as two little boys sailed paper boats in a great big puddle.

#2. Turns out, they not only bring you the wrong order after you have been waiting for an hour for a couple of sandwiches, but they change your bill to include the charges for the wrong orders even after you have sent the items back to the kitchen untouched. Not cool.

#3. And I still haven’t found my next book. I guess I will read some of my sister’s comic books for now till I come across something that I can’t help but read.

"Q" is for Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer's day.
The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.
The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore.
The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he'd steal no more.

Been staring at the screen for sometime now, thinking of what to write. But my mind refuses to think beyond this nursery rhyme I loved as a kid. Well, at least I remember all the lines.

"P" is for a Promise.

Promise me, you will never forget our laughs, our jokes, our smiles, our conversations, our plans, our tears, our memories, our experience, our love. Promise me, you will never forget the magic that was us.

“O” is for Origami Cranes.

That summer I folded origami cranes. Work was slow and I had a ton of photocopied pages, from my Academy days, I no longer required. So I folded a thousand origami cranes.

But I never did end up making that wish. For the one thing I really wanted, was the one thing I could never have. Not without hurting you.

"N" is for the Night sky.

"The night wind whirls in the sky and sings..."
-Neruda.


I miss not being able to see the night time sky from my window. Should I move to a penthouse apartment? 
Perhaps I should add stars to my ceiling instead.

"M" is for Missing someone

Sometimes you miss someone so much, it hurts. 
So you dream up stories and you repeat them in your head over and over again until the lines between the real and the imagined are so blurred that you slip in and out of your present unnoticed. Living with the ghosts of lives never lived.

"L" is for Love.

Exquisite. Impatient. Optimistic. Disruptive. Unnerving. Arcadian. Guileless. Effervescent. Insidious. Relentless.

Love.

That’s all I ever wanted.

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"K" is for Kissing in the rain

"Most girls want a guy who would hold an umbrella over their head and carry them over puddles. I want a guy who would steal my umbrella, jump in the puddles and kiss me in the rain"

Sometimes I come across random stuff in the internet that feels as if they were written just for me.


“J” is for Joke.

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?

Last night I couldn't sleep and I ended up looking up jokes on the internet. Apparently as per a research conducted by Mr. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire in 2002, this is the world's funniest joke. It's a good joke, yes. But is it my favorite? No... In fact I found it funnier that a Mr. Wiseman researched jokes.But then I have a childish sense of humor. 

“I” is for Insomnia.

Vacant stares of the dream starved eyes. 
Wet pillowcases. 
Crestfallen soul.And ‘what ifs’, the night full of ‘what ifs’.
The unrelenting ache of a broken heart.

“H” is for Happiness.

Happiness is raindrops on my face.
Happiness is long walks on the beach.
Happiness is hearing you sing and not understanding a single word.
Happiness is a birthday surprise.
Happiness is a plate full of hot momos.
Happiness is the sound of your heartbeats.
Happiness is watching you disappear in the crowd, knowing you will be back soon.
Happiness is an unexpected display of fireworks lighting up your night.
Happiness is laughing over things no one else seems to even understand.
Happiness is waking up at night to find your arms around me.
Happiness is watching the snow fall late into the night.
Happiness is shopping for the perfect outfit.
Happiness is kisses on tiptoes.
Happiness is crossing oceans so we can be together for just a little longer.
Happiness is your hand in mine.
Happiness is you.
Happiness was us.

"G" is for the Guest Blog

Just when I was drawing a blank, my favorite person came to the rescue. He sparingly blogs here.
___________________________________________________________________________________________

“One tall cappuccino with two raw sugars, stirred and heated to a 70 degrees”

                Seems too much for a normal Starbucks order but this is how I order every day for the last 2 years since I picked this up from a friend. Be it this coffee, or from the latest shout of “Service” during a volleyball match – which I picked from the opponent player, signing from right to left – which I picked up from my school exam invigilator– there are a lot of things which I catch in my everyday life. Not the big ones with which I make a life changing decision, but something which probably stays for a lifetime. I call these small catches, micro-inceptions or micro-inspirations.
To start with, the dictionary says ‘Inspiration’ is an action of influence. So as it suggests, there are small words, actions, sights and –obviously- the things we read which will influence the mind and somehow create a permanent residence which, in the course of time, becomes a habit or a style. We see a lot of people around us who imitate our style and ways and actions. Though it sometimes is called a mimicking act which is supposed to make us feel ‘comfortable’ around others, mostly that is just an annoying gesture.

But they are not the everyday habits like getting up and brushing in the morning. These are specific coordinated actions which the mind likes and wants to keep for itself. Could be something which you always wished or always wanted or always couldn’t. There are all sorts of activities around, the good the bad and the ugly and the mind is always receptive to catch the bad or ugly ones, because those are the ones which we could not have, and should not.

So what are we doing with so many micro-inspirations around us? It is not that you have to pay for a guy to talk about inspiration for hours, or listen to Steve jobs or see a YouTube video (with the hair raising music), we have it all around us. It is like Continuous Improvement in CMMI terms, where there is no upper level, there is no saturation, and there is no ceiling. There is always scope for being a better person than how you are now.

So start noticing around. Start picking up things from people who are good at what they do. Could be a very small step or a very small action or even an idea which might lead to being a better person. Could be music, could be cooking, and could be at work. There are a million possibilities.

We always wait for the bigger things, thinking they are the ones that turn us around. Until we wait and see that the smallest of the things stays forever. Like a memory. So let us start micro-inspiring. Let us get better. 

“F” is for Favorite French Phrase

I took three French classes back when I was a trainee at my job.  It was one of those mandatory dumb things they make trainees do. Needless to say, the only things I can say in French are - "s'il vous plaĆ®t" and "Je ne sais pas".

Well, I also know "Mon aĆ©roglisseur est plein d'anguilles", but that’s another story!

But my favorite French phrase is L’appel du vide. Such a beautiful word to describe my crazy impulse to jump every time I am standing some place high – be it the top of my apartment building, the hills in Ooty or atop the Empire State building… And here I thought I was just feeling plain crazy!

"D" is for Dancing shoes.

Perhaps there is nothing lonelier than a pair of dancing shoes gathering dust, in the furthest corner of your closet. A solitary reminder of long-forgotten extravagant nights in foreign lands.

The shoes no longer sparkle. 
You no longer dance.

"C" is for Cats

“I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?
"Death thought about it. “Cats”, he said eventually. “Cats are nice.”

I was never a cat person. In fact, I think I was even a teensy bit scared of them.

Then one hot summer day we met Mooshi, this ginger fur ball full of mischief over a packet of milk cakes and everything changed. He decided to adopt us or the milk cakes, we would almost always had for him, I am not entirely sure. But nevertheless Mooshi would walk me to my building from the office gate most mornings and join us during tea breaks. Much to the amusement of anyone watching he & I even had delightful conversations too… though I am almost sure his reply to everything I said was “Where is my cake?”

And on those lonely evenings, after you left, Mooshi was there… waiting patiently, to walk me home in uncharacteristic silence.

“B” is for a Busy day.

Transatlantic business calls before the cleaners have finished dusting your desk. Review meetings and last minutes requests adeptly handled. A brunch date you wish didn't end. Two flights and a long cab ride to a houseful of relatives with hyperactive kids. Last minute jewelry shopping and a mad dash to reach the event venue on time.
And then you dance the night away because that's what you do when your favorite cousin is getting married.

A day in my life from a time long ago.

“A” is for Alice in Wonderland.

Does it seem kind of morose to see a grown up reading a whimsical children’s classic? But believe it or not, despite being a voracious reader since my childhood, this is my first time reading Alice in Wonderland.

I was actually in the middle of reading A Game of Thrones, but I really needed a break from my favorite characters dying. And what better than unsurpassed absurdity to take your mind of the depressing reality of death, fictitious or otherwise.  

Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice: I am afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.