Thursday, 14 March 2019

2019 Goals




It is March already!!! 2019 seems to be flying by much faster than any other year. I guess we feel the same every year.
This year I have really thought long and hard about what I would like to achieve during the course of this year. I have looked for inspiration everywhere and finally found it in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People course work and this blog which I think explained the 7 habits very well with real life and relatable examples . The latter also has a great podcast, which I really love as well. If you have not read/heard it already, I highly recommend that you give it a shot. After a mediocre 2018, I am determined to have a great 2019.

So, here is my set of goals for this year, I am not going to explain how the 7 habits inspired me or how it is linked to this blog, as that will make this already very long blog, much longer.

All I can say is that you can definitely find traces of it in my goals. Though I am publishing this only in March, I have been working on several of my goals already for sometime:

Health:
  • I am going to continue exercising at least 5 times a week. 
  • Additionally, I am eating sugar on specific days of the year and paying close attention to what I am putting into my body and will continue with this effort.
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • If possible, participate in a team sport but this is not a priority.

Personal Development:

Once upon a time, I used to be very well-informed. However, over a period of time, I stopped keeping up with current affairs. It was quite embarrassing for me during a conversation, with a few colleagues, that I did not even know that Indra Nooyi had stepped down as the CEO of Pepsi Co and I learnt of it so much later. Apart from this, I have not been really acquiring new skills or new areas of knowledge for a long time. Anyway, I think it is not too late and I have decided to make amends this year.
  • Read/Listen/Follow to news every day
  • Take up 2 certifications/courses- one which will help me in my professional career and the other which may or may not help me professionally but it is something to help me further with a hobby or help me develop a new skill.
This year, I will dedicate myself to social cause(s) during my birthday month. I will write a separate blog about this when the time is right.

Hobbies:

These are so important to me and help me stay sane in this mad mad world. I cannot imagine not working on one of the below.
  • Reading: This year I would like to read just 1 book by the end of the year. With work and studying that I will be doing this year and with the other goals, I do not think I will be able to read more.
  • Writing: Last year I started out writing every day and then ran out of content to write everyday. This year, however, I will be writing weekly. It can be about anything but should definitely include 1 thing I did proactively, 1 thing that demonstrates synergy and 1 thing with a win-win attitude, and the progress made with other goals.
  • Blogging: I would like to write 1 blog post per week from now on. I know it was my goal last year as well and I did not completely meet it. As I said, I have thought long and hard and now have a very good idea of how I can achieve it this year. 
  • Art: I would create 1 art work per month. I am happy to inform that I am already underway.
  • Cooking/Baking: I love cooking and baking. This year, I am going to try making at least 5 healthy gourmet recipes. In addition, if time permits, I will like to successfully bake 2 types of bread (inspired by Jenna Fischer's Instagram!!).
This year, I am not keeping any travel goals, if it happens well and good.

It already looks like a busy year and the only way I am going to achieve all of this, is through self-discipline- spending less time on social media and idle entertainment, owning my time more, being well organised and just not being lazy (I have appointed my husband a few minutes back as my lazy monitor. He has to "notify" me whenever I am being lazy).

I have bunch of other goals too but they are too private in nature and will not be a part of this blog but just to give you an idea, these are about family and friendships.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Dancing in Cambodia and Other Essays by Amitav Ghosh



Hello Everyone,

Today I will be talking about Dancing in Cambodia and Other Essays by Amitav Ghosh. This book was a part of the Blossom Book House haul that I had posted last year. I started reading this book last year but mid-way through the book, was struck by an extreme case of readers' block and could not complete reading the book last year itself. I finally managed to finish the book of mere 126 pages after months.

I have never read Amitav Ghosh previously but had heard a lot of positive reviews about his books and wanted to start with a small book. Amitav Ghosh writes both fiction and non-fiction books. This particular book falls in the latter category. The book consists of 5 essays, all of which are personal accounts of the writer. 2 essays- Dancing in Cambodia and Stories in Stones are based in Cambodia, At Large in Burma is set in Myanmar, A Town by the Sea is set in India and September 11 is set in the US. 

The essays on Cambodia sheds light on the culture of the country, importance of certain landmarks of the country and Pol Pot as a person. While I had an extremely basic knowledge of the Khmer Rouge regime, I did not know enough about how the monarchy was overthrown, who was Pol Pot really etc. I think this book helped me quite a bit in acquiring this knowledge- of course, I had to read up a bit outside the book as well.

At Large in Burma was all about the struggles in Myanmar with the insurgency and the democratic process in the the country. The author had the privilege of meeting Aung San Suu Kyi in person and have lively discussions about the country's political direction and issues. My favourite part was the one where he interacts with the leader of one of the minorities.

A Town by the Sea was my favourite essay of them all, probably because it was set in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands governed by India. The essay is about the devastation that was brought about by the terrible tsunami of 2004 that stuck some of the coastal parts of the country. This particular essay reminded me of the terrible time we had experienced all those years back and is focussed on the Malacca island. The writer accompanies a victim and helps him in his pursuit of looking for his family in the rubble that was left behind after the event. My heart really went out to the victims.


September 11, as the name suggests was about the fateful day that razed the WTO. The writer and his family were friends with construction mangers/project managers of the WTC. The essay talks about what these designers went through on that day when they were in the building. It is heart-rending.

I liked the writing style and language used by the writer. It is not too simple, but not difficult either. That being said, it is not an easy book to read. Also, I am not a very political and the first 3 essays on Cambodia and Myanmar were quite political in nature and it was not simple to understand without sufficient background and I can imagine that it might be a laborious read for also those well-versed with the political situations in Cambodia and Myanmar. I also did not enjoy the 3 essays very enjoyable. I would rate this book 3 on a scale of 5.


Best Wishes,
S

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Happy 2019!





Hello,

I wanted to wish you all a very Happy 2019!  I know I am slightly over a week late (wow! how the fast the days have flown!!) in my greeting but better late than never I guess.

I am still working on my goals for this year and putting a bit of a thought while defining them. Overall, I am looking for a more fulfilling 2019. 2018 was a good year- I say this because despite all the ups and down in life, we came out surviving and stronger and made it to 2019. I could not achieve all that I set out to do in the beginning of the year but I did get some direction on setting goals for this year. I love the phrase used by Stephen Covey- Live your life by design and not by default (well, something to that effect!) and there were moments in 2018 where I switched to a default mode, an auto-pilot  mode and would not want that for 2019.

Though 2018 had its share of stresses, it was not all that bad- I enjoyed my travels, I enjoyed my time with my family tremendously. I enjoyed reading the books that I did. I enjoyed preparing meals for my family. I enjoyed my job a lot. I loved the experience of watching the movies that I did. I loved the blogging that I did. I enjoyed going to several events. I enjoyed several experiences in Bangalore in the first year after my stint in Hyderabad. I enjoyed my morning walks and there were so many other great experiences. There were a lot of things to be thankful for in 2018.

I hope 2019 brings my family, my friends and everyone I know great joy and happiness. I hope everyone achieves everything good that they want to.

Wishing you all your best year yet!
- S


Monday, 31 December 2018

Bolton




This year I had the privilege to go to the UK for a vacation and this was the vacation that I have been referring to in my several posts this year. It was a nice 2 week vacation. My first stop during my vacation was Bolton, which is a suburb of Manchester. I visited my uncle and aunt here (actually my mother-in-law's sister and her husband). They were extremely hospitable and made me feel very comfortable. I will never forget their hospitality.


How I got there?
I took a flight from Bangalore to London and another one from London to Manchester.  The flight from London was extremely delayed and I was really glad when it took off finally. Uncle, aunt and my m-i-l who was already there for 2 months came to the airport to receive me. We then drove to Bolton. The most striking part of this drive was the uniformness of all the residential buildings- all same colour and look so similar. I couldn't tell them apart had it not been for the door numbers.


Things to See in Bolton

City Centre and Town Hall:
I really loved this area in Bolton. There is a lot of open space in the place and there are a lot of spots for people to hang out and just spend time. The day we went, there was a food and drink festival going on here along with a flea market. Though I did not purchase anything here, it was nice to look through the display.




Library and Aquarium:
The library had a nice reading room and to be honest, I did not spend too much time at the library. The aquarium was not very big but has an interesting collection of fish from around the world. Some pictures displayed below.




Took loads of pictures of the fish at the aquarium but I just loved the Neon Tetra a lot.

Shopping:
I went during the summer, so there was a lot of summer sale and we went shopping to several departmental stores- Debenhams, TK Max, Marks and Spencers etc. I also went to Primark but was not impressed with the quality of clothing there. I really like Marks and Spencers and all the stores in Debenhams. Bolton Market was another exciting place. I saw so many varieties of fruits and vegetables which are not easily available in India. I loved the fresh apricot fruits that were available. In India, we only find the dried apricots. The other thing which I loved is the inexpensive chocolates in a German supermarket called ALDI. I also liked the chocolates from UK's very own Thornton.






Ikea:
There was an Ikea which could be reached with a short drive. Ikea had not yet come to India when I left India for UK. It was a really nice place. I think we bought a spatula set and some lovely sheer curtains from there.

Knowsley Safari Park:
This is not really in Bolton but a short drive from it. It was kind of a drive-through safari where we can take our own vehicle and tour the safari park. We saw some animals in the safari. Most of them can be seen in India as well, except probably there Wildebeest. The safari was pretty ordinary to be honest. I think the Bannerghatta National Park safari is way better. The highlight for me was the sea-lion show.



Here is the link to a part of the Sea-Lion show- the finale!





Favourite Pictures of 2018





As we wind down with 2018, I thought of sharing some of my favourite pictures from 2018.  These are in no particular order and may be part of some of my other posts, Instagram etc.  Also, these are my favourite, not necessarily the ones shot the best.

So, let's begin.

Walk in the Park: I shot this during one of my morning walks in the park. These are the kind of sights which motivates me to get out of the bed, put on my shoes and march to the park. This is in the park, which is man-made- makes one believe that man is capable of creating beauty too.



Trekking at Puck's Glen: Puck's glen is really pleasant to the eye. I shot this during my picture during my trek there. The area is filled with so much beauty that the camera does not do enough justice to it.



Peering into the Atlantic: Well, it is the part of the Irish Sea which joins into the Atlantic. I love this picture as my family look out from the pier into the ocean. There is a sense of togetherness and calm.



Snapshot of the West Coast: This December, I visited my birth place and home town Mangalore after years. It was nice to be welcomed by beautifully lined coconut and palm trees. There are so many of them and they impart a sense of belonging.



The Prime Meridian: From here, the time and the world begins :-)



Palace of Westminster: Also, known as the British Parliament, this is a huge and magnificent building both inside and outside. I enjoyed the guided tour of the place thoroughly.



At the Temple Door: This beautifully ornate door/gate is from the Mangalore Sri Venkataramana temple. It is a classic door of any Sri Venkataramana temple in the South Canara district.



Chariot at Manjeshwar: I had the opportunity to visit Manjeshwar, in Kerala this year. This is a typical chariot in the South Canara district and adjoining areas but I love this picture in particular as this chariot really stood out as the sunlight fell on it directly during the afternoon and brought out the colours much more than any other.



Ikebana: This is a picture of one of the many Ikebanas, the traditional Japanese flower arrangements at Japan Habba this year. All of them were beautiful but I picked my favourite for this post.



Realistic Art: I love realistic art and this piece in particular. This was shot at Chitra Sante outside Chitrakala Parishat in Bangalore and while we were browsing through several paintings, this one, from a distance, looked so real. I actually thought, who could have got furniture from home at a place like this!



Work from home: I shot this picture on one of the days that I was working from home, towards the late afternoon, when I was taking a break and having a cup of something warm. I love this picture, as it reminds me of the stressful day on which it was shot and having something warm, instantly relaxed me. Also, as the sun streamed through our windows, the whole set-up seemed heart warming :-).



Sunday, 30 December 2018

2018- End of Year Goals Update



Before I go into the specific goals, I would just like to quickly talk about my impressions of my 2018. I think overall, it has been a good year but not without a quarter or two of high stress. I know I could not meet all that I had set out to achieve in the beginning  of the year. After some reflection, I realise this is mainly due to how I chose to manage my time. I was working longer hours in the last 2 quarters of the year and ended up feeling too tired to work on anything else and also there have been some changes in my priorities. Professionally, I think it was a year of a lot of learning which helped me grow not only as a professional but also in my personal life. Though I may not have managed to achieve what I set out to do but I think I could achieve other things which I did not plan in the beginning of the year. So, I think I just replaced the activities in the time set out for working on my goals with other activities which were also quite important for my growth. I set goals to be a better version of myself and challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone. I think I have achieved this for sure.

Health: Keep up my daily exercise routine and ensure that I work-out atleast 5 days a week. Eat healthy meals every day- monthly once cheat day would be allowed. I would also go to bed at a pre-defined time and wake up everyday at the same time
Year end update: I started this year pretty strong, lost track somewhere in between but I did come back again pretty strong. I can still improve the number of hours that I put in but it is definitely much better than last year.


Sharpening My Culinary Skills: I have decided to not just cook regular homely meals but push myself to prepare more gourmet dishes. I have made some in 2017 as well but would like to take things to another level. I have decided to cook 10 gourmet savoury dishes and 10 gourmet sweet dishes in the year. I will be scheduling this in my monthly planner. It will take an effort to get the recipes and ingredients together. It is a little ambitious but I will do my best.
Year end Update: I started the actual work on this only in Q3 of the year and put an abrupt end to it half way through. However, when I now look back, I think I have exceeded my expectations compared to what I set out to do. When I look back, I did prepare over 10 gourmet dishes in each category. Also, the idea was to sharpen my culinary abilities which I have done, not only by preparing the dishes but also by pushing myself with respect to time. If you remember my mid-year update, I had mentioned, "In a span of 1 hour in the morning, I had to prepare an elaborate breakfast and a 3-4 course lunch for 3 whole months. I was amazed to find myself in the thick of planning and also rapid execution." I think, I should not ignore this dimension of my culinary ability.

Blogging: I have decided to blog once a week in 2018. I do not want to blog sporadically but keep to a schedule. I have been inspired by Mr. Vinod Ekbote who has been blogging for the last 10 years and has been posting every Friday on his blog without fail- click here to check out the blog. I just think I need to set time aside for it and do it every week. I have a diary that is full of things that I would like to put up on my blog but due to several reasons have not been able to do so. However, I am determined to do it in 2018.
Year end Update: I was hoping to have 52 blogs by today but that is not to be, unfortunately. I have been writing regularly but have not been able to publish many. I am happy that I am at least making the effort. I hope to be able to publish some today. I took 2 big breaks this year for travelling and I disconnected myself almost completely from the internet and I enjoyed myself thoroughly through these breaks. I do not regret not publishing all my writing. I also have been reading a bit about how people with full time jobs and working long hours manage to stick to a blogging routine. I have found some useful tips and hope to implement some of them in 2019.

Watercolour Art: I am enjoying learning watercolour art from various online resources. I would make at least 10 proper watercolour paintings in 2018. It just must be scheduled in my monthly planner.
Year end Update: I had mentioned in my mid-year that I have not focussed a lot. This is work in progress and I think I should be able to achieve it tonight :-)

Writing: in my journal everyday and at least one page a day. The goal I had in 2017 was to finish writing on all pages of the journal, which in the hindsight, did not make much sense. The goal for 2018 will not only ensure that I keep to my habit of writing, but also as a bonus, would help me finish writing on all the pages. I hope I will not get demotivated like 2017 and give up.
Year end Update: I have written consistently in the first half of the year but in the 3rd quarter, I just lost way. I must have written a couple of times and that is about it. I will be honest, I really did not focus on writing after mid-year. I really did not have anything to write about. I think, in 2019, I will focus on writing weekly probably. Daily, is quite unrealistic to be honest.

Reading: I have lowered the number of books to read in 2018 to 10. As you can see, there is a lot on my plate and I do not want to make the activity that I love so much to be one that induces stress. I would also like to read some good literature, and not just fun-light reading books. I think reading before bed works for me great and I think a good 15-30 minutes before bed would be great.
Year end Update: Though I have been on track and have been reading regularly and almost everyday, I was unable to finish all 10. This year though, for the very first time, I have read more non-fiction books compared to any of the previous years. I see that as a progress for myself as I always chose to read fiction. I have read non-fiction as well but I not anything like this year.

Travelling: It is my goal to travel to 5 different places in 2018. I better get started on my vacation planning soon.
Year end Update: I have definitely exceeded this goal this year. I took a vacation this year in August and went to several places in the UK and in my second vacation in December, I was able to go to my hometown in Mangalore, several places around it and also Goa :-)

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Goals Update




Since we are so close to December, I was reflecting about my Goals this year. I think I have done quite okay but observed 2 of my goals in conflict with each other while working on them. I had a goal  of eating healthy and also one about cooking 10 gourmet savoury and 10 gourmet desserts. It took me a while to actually get started on this latter. I finally kicked off the latter goal in quarter 3 of the year. However, while I worked my way up to the recipe list, I realised that almost all of them are quite unhealthy and I had to prioritise which of those 2 goals are more important to me. I chose the former- leading a healthy life and eating healthy. This means that I will no longer work on my goal gourmet cooking for this year.

I love cooking up a good meal for my family and friends and I want to really cook gourmet food. I need sometime to come up with healthy gourmet recipes either myself or find them online. I will need some time to work on this. I feel pretty terrible about not working on the goal as it was something I was excited about and to be honest, one of the reasons I procrastinated on this particular  goal was the health factor. I really cannot punish my loved ones in order to meet a personal goal.

Having said this, I have been cooking regularly and have tried my hand at various cuisines- some of which have been big hits and some, huge misses. I am determined to work on this goal next year, maybe I will modify the numbers a bit. However, making the food I prepare healthy would be my priority.

Also, I had previously mentioned, I have sharpened my culinary skills this year by working under immense amount of time-pressure and I cherish that experience.

This is it from me- a small post with an update on a goal I will not be working on this year anymore. P.S: The picture put up in the header of this blog is my pumpkin soup and I came up with the recipe for it on my own and shared it with an aunt, who prepared and loved the soup.