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Friday, March 27, 2015

Surviving Summer

We've been hit by a massive heat wave this week. On Wednesday, we even had the 2nd hottest March day in a decade with a whooping 40 degrees Celsius (that felt much hotter thanks to Mumbai's humidity).
There is no denying it anymore, Summer has truly arrived in the city. And with it, the ickiness, the sweat, and exhaustion oh so common this season. In a few weeks, schools will end their academic year and us parents will be left trying to keep our little monsters entertained. It is no easy task, we can't go out, and indoor becomes boring. There is no break, no breather and no relief...on any front.
All the previous years I called this time Summer Hibernation on the blog. This year, I want to start a seasonal series called "Surviving Summer". It is going to be one big label that will englobes everything that makes Summer a bit more bearable.
Craft projects, recipe, tips and tricks...if they are doable during this insane period, they'll be featured there.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to start a Great Day

Today, I am going to let you in on my little secret on how to have a great day. Or at least pave the way to one that will not send you on a mad search for a brick wall and a bottle of wine. It works most of the time, and it is tried, tested and Cyn approved (I bet you smiled already).
You see, a great day depends widely on how you choose to feel to begin with. But to really set yourself to feel happy and positive inside, you need to start the day the right way.
We all have crazy hectic lives, deadlines, filled planners, duties, meetings, plans, and obligations. This is part of life and there is no escaping it.
BUT...there is a way of delaying their impact on us, or rather a way to ease ourselves into it. Trust me, there is.
This is how it goes for me, feel free to follow :
1) Start the night before. And, it is not what you think. I don't make sure to go to bed happy, perky and without holding a grudge against something. Because that would be unrealistic. Beside sleeping it off usually does the trick.
Nope, what I start the night before is cleaning the kitchen.
You read it right. I'm not joking, I really do. Nothing deep and tiring of course, but I make sure the kitchen counter is free of clutter and dirt and the dirty dishes left to wash are piled in the sink. It is that simple.
Clutter makes me unhappy, therefore clutter must go before I wake up to it
2) I make myself a cup of tea. It doesn't have to be tea if you hate it, but it has to be your favourite morning brew. AND, it has to be in your favourite cup. This part is very important. It has been unscientifically proven that tea taste better if it is served in your favourite cup. Do not skip this crucial detail.
3) Have a favourite spot to drink your tea. I myself have two, because there is no such thing as too many favourite spots. I either drink it in my favourite chair on the balcony, or at the desk in the study. In the study, because the morning light looks great there.
4) I never start the day reading the paper. NEVER
The paper is full of drama, bad news, and stories that could sour my day before it has started. I refuse to start my day that way.
I read, of course I do, because this is the best complement to a cup of tea. But I catch the more personal type of news. I check my Facebook feed if you must know. I am guaranteed to see a funny video, a cute picture or read a good new from a friend there.

Given the choice, would you rather read about a bomb blast first thing in the morning, or read that your best friend landed her dream job, or has been prounounced cancer free?...My point exactly.
I read the paper much later in my day, if at all on particuarly busy days. Death, terror and corruption will still be there at 1pm, I don't see why I should bother about them at but no thanks.
5) I give myself the time to wake up. And, by waking up I mean mentally. Being physically up doesn't count. It takes me a little while longer to be functional and I do not rush myself into starting things earlier than they should just because I happen to be up early. My sanity matters.
6) I delegate. No medals or trophies were ever given to the mother and wife who sacrificed it all. I'll never have more than one pair of arms and incidentally both my husband and daughter have been blessed with the same attributes. Therefore, my husband walks the dog, makes his own tea while my daughter knows where to find her glass of juice and bottle of yakult. I'll help her with her milk, that is about it until I am ready to make breakfast. Her mess is not my problem either. She has to clean it while I do my own bit.
7) I take time to talk to my husband. Thanks to our hectic lives, there might be days I see him only at about the time I am ready for bed. A time at which neither I nor him really feel like chit chatting, so I do it before he leaves for office in the morning. And because I chose not to burden myself with ALL the work, I actually can do just that.
Once I completed all these, and only after this am I ready to tackle the rest of the day, happy, and energised. And because I filled myself with positivity, the rest of the day rarely sucks.
Don't get me wrong, I am still dead beat and happy to see the end of the day, but I rarely have a horrendously atrocious day following this simple checklist.
And, just to clarify before I conclude, I have done it, even when I was working out of the home. I've applied the same philosophy all my adult life. At time there was no Facebook, people to delegate to or a husband. But I still made sure to drink tea, take my time to wake up and leave the newspaper alone u til my syndicate coffee break at work.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Notebook Frame

When you buy a pretty spiral notebook, fill it and no longer need the content, it seems just about criminal to just throw that pretty cover away.
I have the habit of ripping the pages I no longer need in my spiral bound books, and eventually, end up with no pages left.
That green book used to contain my blog post drafts and ideas. I used to lug it to the coffee shop to write while Ishita had her gymnastics class. It looked pretty, smart and very inviting to write in. I loved that notebook...a lot.
"Hello, my name is Cyn and I am a notebook addict"
The solution to pretty notebooks covers are to turn them into something else. Here, I turned mine into a frame.
I had an old pretty greeting card I meant to turn into wall art for a while that turned out to be perfect for that project. I used some 3D glitter glue (yes, I am a glitter glue addict too...don't judge), and a gold pen. I ended up using pink gem stickers as well. It was an after thought mid way through the project...I do that a lot.
The whole thing was fairly simple. I pasted the card on one side andfound a great quote to write on the other. Then I embellished the whole thing with glitter glue and stick on gems.
I then pasted the frame to the wall with double sided tape and voila! It is part of my gallery wall in the study, which I will once feature, I promise.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tarte Flambée

Tarte Flambée is a dish that comes from the Alsatian repertoire and often goes by the German term "Flammkuchen". Both terms loosely translate as a flamed, or flame licked pie in English.
This is a dish that is made with very simple ingredients, and packs in rustic, comforting flavour. I have been waiting to try it for years since moving to India, and it only became possible recently. The recipe has two key ingredients : smoked diced bacon, and thick sour cream.
The bacon part can be easily substituted with chicken rasher bacon in India. Not that pork bacon is too hard to find in cities (provided you plan to pay a king's ransom for it).
Thick sour cream was a bit of a problem until very recently. You can make your own, but it is or time consuming or not very thick. But, Thanks to Amul, there is now a ready made version that is available in most big supermarkets.
I make my Tarte Flambée using home made pizza dough, simply because I always keep a stash of it in the freezer.
The dough recipe goes like this :
3 cups plain white flour (maida in India)
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp salt
7g of dry yeast mixed in half a glass of lukewarm water and a tsp of sugar

1) Make a well in the middle of your flour, pour in the yeast water, and cover with a little flour. Wait until the yeast oozes through.
2) once the yeast has started oozing, add the salt and oil to the flour and knead the dough adding water until you get a smooth elastic dough.
3) knead and fold that dough on a flat surface for about 5-7 minutes and then let it rest in a bowl covered with a towel until the dough has doubled in size.
This recipe makes for 4-5 pizza, so once the dough did its first risk, knock back and divide in individual portions. Wrap the portions you won't use in cling wrap and toss in the freezer.
For the Tarte Flambée, you'll need :
1 portion of pizza dough
1 1/2 cup or 2 of diced chicken rasher bacon (I use the one from the Prabhat brand)
2 onions, diced
1 cup thick sour cream (Amul in India)
2 egg yolk
1 tbsp oil
A pinch of nutmeg powder

1) Roll down the pizza dough to a thin pie to fill a baking sheet, cover with a towel and set aside.
2) Heat oil in a flat bottomed frying pan or skillet. Toss in the bacon dices and stir fry for 2-3 minutes, until the bacon starts browning a little. Add the onions and continue stir frying for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3) Preheat your oven to 210 degree Celsius. Then, mix the sour cream with the 2 egg yolks, oil and nutmeg until you have a batter-like consistency.
4) Spread the bacon and onion on the pie base then pour the sour cream mix all over it. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the top shows brown spots
Serve hot with a nice side salad or your choice of steamed veggies.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Summer is back

Sorry for the lack of India in pictures these past two Sundays. You see Summer has made a come back right on time for Holi, and we've been sweating away for a week now. True to Mumbai's weather, things change overnight, so the sudden heat wave floored us all. With the Mercury rising came the acute bouts of laziness and desire to just drown in a pool of ice water.
The only one still remotely happy is my cat. She still enjoy her morning sunbathing sessions. My dog has already made a move for the cool marble floor while Mittens still hasn't pronounced the sofa intolerable.

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