Indian Laburnum

Indian Laburnum

For most part of the year the Indian Laburnum tree (known as Amaltas in hindi) would go unnoticed, almost nondescript with its scanty foliage and an unimpressive stature for a tree. Come summers, May and June to be specific, the tree bursts into cascading pendulums of incandescent yellow (I find it to be the most glorious/fascinating shade of yellow) with effortless beauty, perhaps it’s from here it derives its other names …of the ‘Golden Shower’ or the ‘Golden Rain’ tree.



Every time I see this tree, laden with golden cascading bunches of delicate flowers, it brings a smile on my face, no matter what state of mood/mind I am in…it happens every time without fail. The sight of this tree is akin to seeing a fantasy becoming real if not viewing a magical show live. And I am so sure in my mind that this must be the clearest way to see a piece of heaven…trying to imagine what it must be like. A Laburnum tree in full bloom… it makes my heart skip a beat, quite literally and I could surrender a treasure to hold on to this glorious sight.

The exotic spectacle, of the yellow blossoms decorating this tree along the roads, in the bright summer sunlight, in Delhi would be hard to miss. The resplendent yellow bursts of colour would surely make you forget the harsh 40+ degree temperatures.

Hubby took me on a whimsical drive last Sunday, on a Laburnum trail, knowing it would make my day 🙂 despite the heat. It was at Amrita Shergill Marg that I decided I had to pay my tribute to it…I had to write about it!

I wish I could compose a song or a poem… for the one sight which effortlessly invigorates my senses and brings immense joy and peace…as I mentioned earlier I find a densely laden Laburnum in its full glory therapeutic…meditative.

The beauty of this tree in full bloom against the clear blue summer skies, gives an instant rush of visual high which is beyond words.

It is one of the most vivid ways in which the nature reminds us that there is a life beyond our hectic schedules, the daily grind, the routine drills… and all you have to do is see the fantasy world around you… or perhaps borrow my eyes ( ! ) to see it that way…I am in love… with Laburnum!

Since its roots do not grow very deep, the tree is not harmful to foundations of buildings, if planted in rows along a driveway or in your garden, it would add an ornamental riot of colour to your home or neighbourhood. This deciduous, low maintenance native tree combines the beauty of ornamental flowers with the size of a small tree, to create a splendid addition to your garden/patio/curb or walkways. This is summer I added one to my garden… 🙂

Read about its medicinal uses here and here, whatever its benefits may be, its visual impact provides enough pleasant feelings to invigorate your senses…

Checkout some beautiful trees around the world here and here

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Happy 2016!

Happy 2016!

Call it a tradition, a ritual, a practice or just an idea romanticizing the act of making New Year’s Resolutions… an idea that wants you to believe in yet another chance to dream with open eyes… mind and heart…an idea that drives you to make these Resolutions; I can bet my life, no one reading this can deny having made some in their lifetime 😉

One changes with time, so does the aspirations. For me, a resolution is an opportunity to gauge my goals and my priorities any time of the year. And yet around the New Year I get adventurous and make some new resolutions…I guess I am a die-hard optimist who is wowed by life in general. Does that sound crazy? Silly perhaps… but I don’t think I want to grow out of it. I like penning down my thoughts, musings, my resolutions in my hand written journal…the old fashion-way. I like to romanticize that my grand children would someday discover my journal and will be excited to read it…I am sure they would be amused to see my hand writing… in an ink pen on an old yellowy faded paper. For the sake of posterity (so, I’d like to believe) and to keep up with the times I have maintained an online journal as well.

I take this time of the year (whether we are travelling or are at home) especially the last couple of days, before I bid adieu to the year, as my time to reflect on the changes that the year brought in, the changes that I want to make in the coming year and my resolutions to follow through. So, am I running with the crowd and going with the usual practice of making and breaking my New Year’s Resolutions? I think not. For the year 2016 I am taking a cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson, my 2016’s #1 Resolution would be:

Happy 2016!

Happy 2016!

Easier said than done but it would be worth the try…practicing this everyday.

If there is anything to take away from 2015, it would be be- The focus should not be on the bigger picture, the idea is to embrace the smaller ones, to begin with, taking one day at a time or better yet one moment at a time…to appreciate all things around me. When I say all the things that makes me happy, I mean- it’s when the people I am surrounded with are happy…And happiness is born from gratitude one feels for loving what you have and for being loved in return. An inspiring feeling… in slowing down, in looking at where am I going… and above all- being grateful.
Anything worthwhile is difficult even if it is as simple as it may seem to keep up with the New Year’s Resolutions…here are my top three Resolutions for the year 2016 (rest in my journal 😉 :

1) Write thrice a week
2) Finish 12 non-fiction by the year-end (no capping on fiction 🙂
3) Stay organised, no matter what.

Cheers to a Happy and a Healthy New Year! Happy 2016!

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pottery

Pottery- A date with the Wheel!

Pottery, more often than not is an expression of the subconscious mind and of one’s life experiences, it is something to be perceived by the senses and later to be relayed in the physical form…that’s what I have come to understand of this art-form since the time I have been an ‘assistant’ to my daughter for her Pottery Classes. And I am enjoying every bit about these classes.


Yashaana’a first date with the ‘Wheel’ was not only a momentous occasion for her but also for her Instructor and me. Needless to say she was mighty excited, a few days before her pottery class she made sure that she read everything that she could get her hands on, to do her homework before sitting at the ‘Wheel’. But it wasn’t to happen so mechanically of course, knowing Meena, I knew there would be an experience waiting for us. And sure enough she had more than just a Pottery class (to give) for Yashaana. Before the formal ‘clay throwing’ her instructor, Meena Vohra, made sure that she understood why it is important to ‘centre’ the shapeless lump of clay…for it to be turned into a worthy piece of usage or an art form. As a passive onlooker I could gather how important it was for Yashaana to gain a deeper understanding of this art form.
‘Clay when not centered doesn’t yield the desired result (or no result at all)’…and I just loved the analogy that Meena draws with Clay and Life… She says, ‘When our thoughts aren’t centered on our priorities then do not expect your life to be in balance/harmony… it will be imbalanced…in other words- it will not yield the desired result.’ Bringing about a balance in your life by ‘centering’ your thoughts based on your priorities is what one ought to practice, to achieve the desired result.
Attending the Pottery Classes with my daughter is like attending Life Skills classes…the insights, the sharing of experiences that Meena shares with her students doesn’t end at learning just about the clay or the Pottery.
Here’s Yashaana (ecstatic writ large on her face that her smile goes lopsided!)and her instructor after her first ‘Wheel’ experience.

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Pottery @Hooked on Homes! (11)

Pottery

After years of working as an educator when she threw it all away only to follow her heart, little did Meena Vohra know that her connection with the clay would be so profound and deep that it would inspire others, irrespective of their age and profession, to follow suit.

Potter at 50? YES! Learning has no boundaries, no age; that’s when she found the perfect medium to fuse her deep creativity with spirituality and appreciation for the natural world with her vibrant imagination and strong dramatic clay creations. Her home is a testimony to her multi-hued glazed pottery with a touch of whimsy. I will share her lovely home and garden (and cooking) with you all soon.
Meena Vohra’s expressive style has inspired a new generation of young potters who believe in living a meaningful and joyous life. Through her classes, she teaches them life’s lesson and not just customized studio pottery. Her pottery is a celebration of her other joys and inspiration—gardening and cooking. The shapes and patterns she finds among the leaves, flowers, fruits and vegetables, find their way into her clay creations. She has made a special niche in ceramics and glazed pottery. Sipping green tea, as we waited for Yashaana’s first ‘hand-pinched/hollow ball’ clay pot to dry a little…
Pottery

Pottery @ Hooked on Homes!

she shared her thoughts on life, I especially latched onto one such thought of hers- “Everything is made up of five elements of nature- bhūmi (earth), jal (water), agni (fire), vayu (air), akash (void), so is our body…to feel this connection, one needs to be a potter; it connects you to all the five elements of life not just in physical domain but in spiritual domain as well.”
I could connect so very well to what she meant…pottery indeed is a medium of dual realities. For one, is the clay’s obvious physical use in terms of the creations that are churned out. And the second, the abstract use, the spiritual realms of connection with the five elements of life itself. All this may seem intricate and complicated but is actually so clear and simple…just as the soil (or the clay). It is there all around us…all you have to do is see it, feel it and express via it.
As I sat there watching my daughter, Yashaana, take her first pottery lesson, it was heartwarming to see her with such a passionate instructor at work, they bonded as if they have known each other forever… It was indeed a pleasant feeling and a knowing that it is not just pottery class…it is a beginning of a journey…of a lasting relationship…creative, spiritual and soulful.
Yashaana has always been a keen learner…always in pursuit of learning new art forms to push her creative boundaries; pottery seemed a natural step in that direction.
Looking forward to our next class with Meena Vohra, an artist who defies not only the conventional learning norms but age as well!

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How to Dry Roses

How to Dry Roses

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time now but for some reason or the other I couldn’t do so. Today, when I was replacing my year-old homemade potpourri with freshly made one, I decided to dig out old photos of the roses and sat down with my notebook to write about it.

So, here I am sharing one of the simplest DIYs (you can never go wrong with it) on ‘How to Dry Roses’. Every time I bought roses (or was presented with a bunch/bouquet) I make sure that after a couple of days’ of display in the vase, I dry and add a few drops of fragrant oil (essential oils) and use them to adorn various corners of our home…they smell heavenly.

These air dried roses stay very well for many months, sometimes upto a year. The colors stay strong and vivid. Mine start withering only because I end up dusting them too often (because of excessive dust here).

How to dry roses…

Very simple… just hang the stems upside down (roses facing downwards) in a cool and airy corner of your home. The corner next to my dresser is where I dry my roses and other flowers. Best dried are the rose buds which are not fully opened.

Once dried, you may trim the stems and use the dried roses either as a potpourri (display them in a bowl, plate or a dainty basket) or you may use them in crafting a dry flower arrangement, a wreath, a crown, or stick them along a photo frame/mirror or do any other crafting with them…just use hot glue to stick them wherever you want them.

A few days ago, while sorting out an old box, I found a diary (of the year 2002) where I found handwritten notes on ‘How to dry roses and other flowers’. It was quite interesting going through my notes (I seriously do not remember making such exhaustive notes!). Apart from air drying, there are a few more effortless ways to dry flowers. The dreary task, although, is to convert all my ‘Diary Entries’ into a soft copy… I am being lazy I know…maybe I will seek my daughter’s help. As soon as that happens, I shall be sharing it with you…until then try drying the roses, and let me know how it goes for you!

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Old Glass Jars- recycle and Update

Old Glass Jars- Recycle and Update

The days are hot and sultry and the temperatures are touching a whopping 42 degree Celsius! And yet there is something about Summers that I absolutely love! I have learnt to deal with this heat, with or without the air-conditioning! And my way of doing it is to keep myself busy in some DIY/art/craft…I guess the brain becomes too occupied to notice how bad the weather is! Also Summer (Break) happens to be the only time when I get to indulge in all my creative urges, without any interference from any front. Oh yes, I do love Summers! Yesterday was another hot summer day, when I decided to bring a bit of nature inside our home. Since I wanted to perk up all corners of our home, I needed more flower vases. I turned a few kitchen vessels into flower vases and yet I needed more… that’s when I remembered my collection of glass jars (It had honey in them earlier) which I had stashed away in my pantry (to be used for storing things as and when needed).

The idea to recycle old glass jars in not anything new, we all have been doing it in some way or the other. But to upcycle a glass jar in a simple diy using all things old appealed to me. I was in too much of a hurry, to perk-up my home, to paint the old glass jars (if you have the time, that’s another great way of updating them).

It didn’t take much time, just a few things from my craft stash – raffia, a rainbow coloured cord, buttons and old batteries; and the old glass jars were ready in an all new avatar!

As I said earlier, the idea was to recycle old glass jars with no expenditure and minimal effort.The tiny batteries of the remote control were way too cute to be thrown away…so I decided to give them a new life!

The buttons that I used are from an old t-shirt, took them off before turning that t-shirt into my ‘car cleaning cloth’.

By the time I was done with my recycling spree, I had these cute little vignettes all over my home and the highlight were the ones with the recycled glass jars!

You can add any thing that fancies you to make your own recycled vase. Go on and make your charming vases and if you do need them back for storage they’d look pretty just the way they have been updated.

Don’t you think even the pantry would look pretty with these recycled old glass jars, especially in their new look!

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Detox Smoothie

Best Detox Smoothie

How do you overcome the guilt of indulgences, parties, eat outs and way too many sweets? Do you go on a fasting spree? Hydro therapy?  Stop stepping out of your home? What if I told you there is an easy way out! You don’t need difficult cleansing ideas or fads to cleanse your body from the inside out. There are simpler and delicious ideas (customizable) to reboot your system naturally with cleansing ingredients readily available in your fridge (or with the sabziwala). Get going to wash away your indulgences and your guilt with this simple but the best detox smoothie recipe that is not only palatable but delicious!

Honestly speaking, the idea of a thick smoothie doesn’t go down very well with me, I make it because hubby insists; I just can’t bring myself to sip on it. So I devised my way of having the smoothie goodness- I divide my glass of smoothie into four equal parts and dilute it with water and sip it through the day (that makes it four glasses, spaced out through the day).

Fruits, they say, are the best antioxidants and detoxing agents and when suitably combined with vegetables, it works wonders. And if you are like me, you would want your smoothie a little tangy, a little sweet, a little savoury.

So, what is the recipe for the all-time-detox smoothie, here is a broad list of the ingredients that I use; mostly it depends on the availability of the seasonal fruits and vegetables. I use the following ratio for my detox smoothie –  4:2:1 – Where 4 represents biggest measure of citrus fruits, 2 represents raw vegetables which are half the measure of citrus fruits and 1 represents a mix of herbs or flavouring foods and edible flowers.

  • The biggest portion- citrus fruits of my choice – any one type or a combination of fruits
  • Second biggest portion- assorted raw vegetables like- spinach, capsicum, cucumber, carrots, beet, gourd, tomatoes
  • The third portion is just a hint of flavouring herbs/agents- ginger, lemon grass, coriander, mint, lemon, jalapeno, edible flowers
  • sugar/jaggery/salt to taste (yes, I do add that to my smoothies, I have to make it palatable).

Ingredients for my detox smoothie:

2 cupful of mix fruits – (one cupful of chopped strawberries, one cupful of an orange and some cape gooseberries) + 1 cup of chopped mixed vegetables- (a bit of all capsicums-yellow, green and red- since I had all that in my fridge), two tomatoes) + a handful of coriander sprigs + juice of one lemon + one red jalapeño.

This time I added some edible flowers to my smoothie since my garden was in full bloom (just a few flowers- nasturtiums and pansies).

Directions:

Chop everything and put them in your blender along with salt and sugar/jaggery. Puree until nice and smooth. And what you get is a fruity flavored smoothie combined with all the goodness of the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like to sip the thick consistency of a smoothie hence I store my glass of smoothie in the fridge (as I like to have it diluted with water) and keep having it through the day. Although Hubby gulps it down in one go!

So, what’s your detoxing regime?

Here are a few more great ideas for detox smoothies.

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Rustic Naked Cake with Yoghurt Cream and Fruits

Rustic Naked Cake with Yogurt Cream and Fruits

There was a time when I wouldn’t try much of baking, all those measurements and the terminology scared me… that was years ago.  Come to think of it …must have been scary for my family, who were hapless ‘consumers’ of my trysts with the oven! That was then… things are different now, I have evolved, I practised and I learned. I can bake some real goodies ‘non-threatening’ ones to keep friends and family coming back for more 🙂 I started out with simple varieties such as pound cakes or tea cakes they give you as gorgeous results (and delicious) as their showy luxe frosted counterparts. I have always considered myself an ‘accidental baker’, I baked and accidents happened! Sometimes gorgeous ones, like the one I am sharing today and sometimes disastrous one, which for obvious reasons I won’t be sharing on my blog!

Over the years I have mastered the basic cake batter recipe and now I just throw in these ingredients (literally) and churn out a nice fluffy cake (every time). There are few all-time family favourite goodies, like the Sweet Buns and the Caramel Custard , this one is another in the list- Rustic Naked Cake with Yogurt Cream and Fruits- a cake topped with yogurt cream and lots of fresh fruits. It doesn’t take long to assemble or serve and it doesn’t last on the table either!

Keeping this cake’s recipe as my basic cake mix (oil free version), I play around with various flavours and variations. The idea is to strike the right balance between simple flavours, gorgeous colours and that extra special flavour. This cake recipe is very simple, wholesome (& healthy), nutritious; it is delightfully juicy and delicious! And trust me you wouldn’t mind taking an extra helping of this colourful goodness knowing it isn’t that sinful! The assorted colours of the fruits thrown in, and on top of the cake lends it a very rustic charm…

…and hence the name- Rustic Naked Cake with Yogurt Cream and Fruits. The jaggery bit is the key ingredient that adds the twist and rustic taste to it! All the colours and fruity flavours come together beautifully to give you a mouthful of fruits, yoghurt cream, juicy cake and jaggery, all rolled in together!

Ingredients for the Naked Cake

For the cake:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (you may a little more to make the cake batter)
  • vanilla extract/ vanilla essence (few drops)

For the Topping:

  • Yogurt– 1 cup. I used hung curd… nicely whipped- 1 cup, without sugar (you may add sugar, as you please).
  • Jaggery powder- 3 tablespoons (you can replace jaggery with powdered sugar)
  • Assorted fruits of your choice- diced – 1 and a half cup

How to:

1. Pre-heat oven to 175°C. Grease a round baking tin.

2. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add sugar.

3. Whisk buttermilk, eggs and vanilla  in a large bowl until well combined. Using a large spoon, stir mixture into dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over-mix.

4. Pour the mixture into prepared baking tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until done (do the skewer test). Once done, let the cake cool for about 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Slice the cake into two equal halves (full circles).

6. Spread a generous layer of the beaten hung curd, add diced fruits and sprinkle two tablespoon of jaggery powder.

7. Cover with the second half of the cake and repeat step 6.

8. Wait for about 10 minutes before cutting the cake, let the jaggery do its magic- the sprinkling of jaggery draws moisture out of diced fruits (almost similar to Macerating fruits), the mixed fruit juice ends up seeping into the cake lending it an even more softer texture and a delightful punch of flavours.

And the end result is juicy, fruity, yogurty cake with amped-up taste! Best served slightly chilled.


Rustic Naked Cake with Yogurt Cream and Fruits
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This 'Rustic Naked Cake' recipe is juicy, fruity and yogurty with an amped-up taste. An oil-free, healthy snacking option with a delightful punch of flavours!
:
Recipe type: Baking
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • vanilla extract/ vanilla essence (few drops)
  • For the Topping:
  • Yogurt - 1 cup. I used hung curd... nicely whipped- 1 cup, without sugar (you may add sugar, as you please), instead of cream.
  • Jaggery powder- 3 tablespoons (you can replace jaggery with powdered sugar)
  • Assorted fruits of your choice- diced - 1 and a half cup
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease a round baking tin.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add sugar.
  3. Whisk buttermilk, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined. Using a large metal spoon, stir mixture into dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over-mix.
  4. Pour the mixture into prepared baking tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until done (do the skewer test). Once done, let the cake cool for about 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Slice the cake into two equal halves (full circles).
  6. Spread a generous layer of the beaten hung curd, on to the base half of the cake, add diced fruits and sprinkle two tablespoon of jaggery powder.
  7. Cover the base layer with the top half of the cake and repeat step 6.
  8. Wait for about 10 minutes before cutting the cake, let the jaggery do its magic- the sprinkling of jaggery draws moisture out of diced fruits (almost similar to Macerating fruits), the mixed fruit juice ends up seeping into the cake lending it a even more softer texture and a delightful punch of flavours. And the end result is juicy, fruity, yogurty cake with amped-up taste! Best served slightly chilled.

If you can add any other variation to it, do share!

 

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