Wednesday, February 10, 2016

10 Years Celebrated in the Sky!

Last month, we were lucky enough to spend our 10 year anniversary in Hawaii, which made it the best trip ever! 

[In case you missed it, click HERE to read how we fell in love!]

We have been thinking about our big "1-0" anniversary for a while, contemplating on what we should do or how we should celebrate it. Usually for our anniversaries we spend the evening going out to dinner or a movie - I know, I know, totally boring. For our 10 year anniversary, because it is so special, we wanted to do something really over the top and fabulous. Go big or go home!!!

We decided to do something daring and luxurious - something that we had never done before, but always something we wanted to do. We decided to book a private helicopter tour of the Big Island!!!

We decided to go with Paradise Helicopters out of Kona airport, and they took us on a 4 hour tour of the entire island. What's magnificent about the Big Island in particular, is that it has 11 different world climate zones (rainforest, desert, etc.) I was totally nervous to be in a helicopter, but our pilot was ex-Air Force so it made me feel a bit more confident! Our pilot was very experienced, and he hovered right over the volcanoes and delved deep into remote valleys. He went around and around so we could get the best shots for our camera.

First, we traveled South of Kona, over the Kona coffee plantations and around the Mauna Loa volcano. Then, we sailed over the Kau Desert and over the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which had an amazing variety of Earth formations, thanks to the volcanoes. 

As we approached the island's most active volcano - Kilauea - there was smoke fuming out of hotspots, miles upon miles of fresh black wet lava, and huge bubbling pots of red-orange lava. That was the point where I felt a little scared that the helicopter would fall!

It was incredible to see from the air just how huge the lava flow was - and the scary thing is that it recently decided to change directions. Now the lava flow is headed towards a small town, but of course it will take forever to get there because the lava is quite slow. It was surreal to see the lava slowly encroaching on the trees and burning them down. We saw several trees on fire there.

After that, we headed over to Hilo and north over tons of thousand-foot waterfalls and high valleys. We also saw several pods of humpback whales and to see the size of them was astonishing - they looked bigger than our helicopter!

My favorite part of the whole tour was going into the Waipio Valley, which is said to be the island's most spiritual and holy place. It is very remote, as it is an uninhabited valley that is protected by thousand foot rugged cliffs on either side of it. It used to be inhabited 300 years ago by Hawaiian monarchy, as they found it to be ideal to grow taro root which is a big dietary staple. It is not inhabited any more, and it's like a ghost valley - especially with it's unique black sand beach, which is said to be the pathway to the afterlife.

We headed back over the Kohala coast, where we saw a birds eye view of many of the resorts we had visited. The resorts look massive from the air! We also saw a lot more pods of humpback whales - I bet the same ones that we saw from our deck every morning!

(This is a bird's eye view of the Hilton Waikoloa Resort which has a staff of 1000 people!)

It was such an incredible thing to do to celebrate our first decade together, and it was unforgettable! Cheers to the next 10 years!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Art With Kids: Easy Homemade Valentine's Day Cards

One of the things I love to do with my daughter are art projects at home. After college, I used to teach art to children, so it has been really fun doing it with my guinea pig a child of my own. [P.S. This is a new section of my blog that I'm launching - "Art With Kids" - although adults can do it too!]

With Valentine's Day coming up, Maya and I have been busy preparing homemade Valentine's Day cards for our friends, family, and her classmates at school. I went to look around town to see if there were any cute Valentine's Day cards but I just came across weird Disney ones that were totally gross and obnoxious. So....I thought it might be more fun if we could just make our own!

I love using acrylic matte medium & a paintbrush - as opposed to a glue stick - because you can paint over the collage and it doesn't cloud the image. The paintbrush is also much easier for a child to use than a glue stick - go figure!

Easy Homemade Valentine's Day Cards
Suitable for ages 2.5 - 100

Mom pre-prep:

Grab an old magazine and look for fun patterns and shapes that you can cut out. Cut out hearts, rectangles, triangles, and squares. You can also cut out pictures of objects like flowers, glasses, etc.

Set the table with the following materials:

- a small dish with acrylic matte medium (you can use old lids)
- an old paintbrush
- 10 - 20 blank art cards
- tray/dish of the shapes you cut out

Let your child experiment freely with pasting the shapes on the cards, and let them decide when each card is "finished". Once they have finished a card, give them the next one, and so on. Dry the cards on a blank surface (we dry our artwork in an empty bathtub). Once it is dry, you can write "Happy Valentine's Day" inside the card and let your child write their name inside and/or doodle.

I love the way Maya's turned out - it's very Matisse!


Monday, February 8, 2016

Recipe: Rice Cooker Vegetable Biriyani with Mint and Cilantro

Biriyani is one of those dishes that I'd hope would be my last dish on Earth - I just love it THAT much! However, making a true Biriyani is very complicated - it must be layered with rice, it takes hours, and I just don't have the patience for it. Husband-ji makes an incredible festival Biriyani for holidays like Christmas that is much adored by my family. Chef extraordinairre husband-ji came up with this easy recipe for me that is sautéed first, and then cooked completely in the rice cooker, which means I can easily make it on a week night when I'm short for time! It takes minimal time, and it has maximum flavour!

Madh Mama's Rice Cooker Vegetable Biriyani with Mint and Cilantro
(serves 4-6)


- 3 tbsp oil
- 2 green chillies (split lengthwise)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 mace (javitri)
- 3 cloves
- 6 peppercorns
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1/2 red onion (sliced lengthwise)
- 3 tsp ginger/garlic paste
- 1/2 cup or 1 cup cashew nuts
- 5 tsp biriyani paste (found at the Indian grocery store)
- 1 potato (cubed)
- 1 cup frozen peas/carrots
- salt (to taste)
- 2 cups rice
- 4 1/4 cups water (or however much water your rice cooker takes for 2 cups of rice - each cooker is different)
- 1/2 cup chopped mint
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- a sprinkle of fried crispy onions (found at the Indian grocery store)

(This is my favorite brand of biriyani paste)


Split the chillies lengthwise, chop the potato into cubes, cut the onion lengthwise. Chop the mint and cilantro. Wash rice and keep everything aside.

Heat up the oil in a large pan under medium heat. Add green chillies, bay leaves, cinnamon, mace, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom, and cumin. Sautée for about a minute until the green chillies are blistered.

Add onions and sautée.

When the onions are halfway done, add ginger/garlic paste and cashews.

When the onions are cooked, add the biriyani paste and stir for about 15 seconds.

Add the potatoes and sautée for 1 minute.

Add the peas and carrots, and salt, and sautée for another minute.

Add the rice and evenly mix everything together. 

Then add this mixture to the rice cooker, with the chopped cilantro and mint. Add the normal amount of water that you would use for 2 cups of rice. Do not use too much water, or else it will get soggy! Turn the rice cooker on.

When the rice is done, give it a toss to mix it up.

Serve topped with a small handful of fried crispy onions.

And voilà

This Biriyani goes great by itself, or with raita or Mirch Ka Salan.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

My February Reading List

This year I set a goal for myself to read 50 books, which means I should try to read one book per week. In the evenings after my daughter goes to sleep, I really love reading for hours on end and getting lost in a good book. It is one of my favorite ways to relax and unwind.

Here's a look at what I'm reading this month:

Karma Gone Bad: How I Learned to Love Mangos, Bollywood and Water Buffalo
I have been reading so many memoirs lately! This is one I found in a local travel bookstore and I was intrigued because it is based in Hyderabad. I'm about halfway through this one and her observations are pretty hilarious. It sounds like she was in Hyderabad when I was there 10 years ago. Of course, now it is completely different there.

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
Since writing has become a part of my daily life, I'm always interested to read books about the craft of writing. Of course Julia Cameron is famous for the brilliant The Artist's Way (a bible for all creatives) so I thought I'd give this book a try.

The Japanese Lover
I gave this book to my mum for a Christmas gift and she raved about it, so I definitely have to read it. I am so intrigued about Japanese culture, after reading The Good Shufu last year, and also after reading Tara & Yohei's love story.

The Lives of Others
I am always on the lookout for books by Indian authors, so this is my latest pick. This book was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, so it must be good. It does seem to be quite thick though! I hope I can finish it this month!


Have you read any of these books?
What's on your current reading list?

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