Wednesday, February 13, 2013

SOTU 2013

President Obama gave a terrific SOTU address yesterday. He covered all the burning issues and closed the address with a moving tribute to the victims of gun violence.

The inimitable Gail Collins and David Brooks from NYT break it down here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 : Beaches, Beans, Baguettes, Bulk Bins and trail-mix!

Happy 2013, you guys! Hope you had a great break over the holidays.

We hosted Gini's family over the Christmas break, parents in law, sister and brother in law, and yes, dog in law :) I was super anxious before the little pup's arrival, it would be the first time a dog would be staying at our house. It turned out to be a riot. It put to rest some of my anxieties about finding activities worth doing with the dog, turns out you never really have time for an organized activity when there are lots of people around, things just happen. We ate, cooked, laughed, watched movies, met extended family.
I hope you got to spend the holidays with your loved ones, also.

Ah yes, why that intriguing post title, you ask? Those terms are metaphors for some of the outstanding memories of 2012. 2012 started out with a little anxiety inducing news on the job front for me. We had to postpone our highly anticipated trip to India because of that news. I ended up finding a great position with a different division within the same company I worked for, so, things have been better. But yes, I cannot forget the upheaval it caused in the first few weeks of the announcement.

Back to the title. Let's tackle it one at a time, I promise to keep it short.

1. Beaches - In Feb 2012, we visited beautiful Big Island in Hawaii with Gini's family. We weren't able to see any lava, but we snorkeled the hell out of that island. We ate weird looking fruits, hiked to see waterfalls, lazed on beaches, and marveled at exotic flowers and plants. It was magical!

2. Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto Tour - April 2012, our 2nd live Coldplay concert. Gini and I are mega-fans and we were awed by this concert. They put up such a rocking show, I can't wait to see them live again. Chris Martin and the band performed non-stop for 3 hours.

3. Baguettes - In June 2012, I went to Paris for work. Yes, Paris! It was the most fun trip I've been on by myself. Paris is everything you imagine it to be: exquisite, charming, rustic, romantic and also stinky, filthy, rude. I survived on wine and cheese the whole time I was there. There were also a lot of croissants, crepes and baguettes, but mostly wine and cheese. The restaurants are very charming, the food is incredible, whatever little I could eat of it was delectable. The desserts were par excellence! I can't wait to visit again with Gini.

4. Trail-mix - July 2012 is the highlight of 2012. After weeks of anticipation over whether our names will be a part of the lottery and months of preparation, Gini and I, along with 4 dear relatives, hiked the tallest mountain in contiguous US, Mt. Whitney. If you are a hiker, you will instantly recognize the name and will know that this is no small feat. Mt. Whitney stands formidable at ~14,500 ft. We got the permit for a backpacking trip, and the ordeal we went through to get to the top is etched in our memories. The monster backpacks, thin air, biting cold, shaking legs on endless switchbacks, nausea inducing heights, we experienced it all. Together, all 6 of us made it to the top, humbled by the summit and the views it had to offer. You always start the hike wanting to conquer the mountain, but inevitably, when you reach the peak, you realize how small you are in the big scheme of things. In the end, it is the mountain that stands tall and you just want to soak in as much as you can, for you know not the next time you can see this much grandeur.

5. Beans - We had a momentous garden year. Bounty of beans, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and okra. These are the things I am working on: trimming plants, growing potatoes, growing plants from seed, learning to water deep and smart, grow more flowers, learn how to save the produce. I get a C minus for saving the produce I grew. I gave away so many zucchinis, tomatoes, beans, peppers, nothing wrong with that, but I miss the vibrant tomatoes already. I have only some left in the freezer, and it is only January. I didn't save the hot peppers or beans or zucchinis :( This year, I will arm myself with tricks and tips of saving the produce for winter.

6. Yellowstone, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks - In August 2012, we visited these gorgeous places with my parents. Everything is special when you visit with family :) I fell in love with Canyonlands NP, can't wait to go camp there and hike the long trails. Utah is beautiful, I wonder what it would be like to live there.

7. Bulk Bins - This the final point in my recap for 2012. I have mentioned in several posts about our efforts of living a plastic free life. Bea (ZeroWasteHome) and Beth (PlasticFree) continue to inspire me and the goal of living plastic free seems more and more attainable. We have automated most of the processes in our kitchen to the extent that we are about 90% plastic free - not without challenges of course. But Gini and I are extremely conscious about everything we do and buy these days. I must admit it gets easier when you are fully committed to this lifestyle :)

For 2013, we gear up to more adventure in our job fronts, more travel, and lots of time spent with family. I wish and hope for a joyous 2013 for all of you =)

Friday, November 16, 2012

No more beans, please!

I've been looking forward to writing a post rounding up the harvest from our garden. It's almost mid-November, Northern California has seen a couple of nights below freezing already. And yet, my garden continues to produce tomatoes, eggplants and peppers (hot and sweet). Gini is just glad there are no more beans :D This year has been a phenomenal year for vegetables.

I'll write another post of hits and misses for my own record. For now, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

We were harvesting these many vegetables almost every weekend. You can see why the post is titled "No more beans". We were eating beans with everything we were cooking. We grew Scarlet Runner beans this year, and although they took their time to grow, the flowers were spectacular. The pods are scarlet colored and the green of the shell contrasts dramatically with the pod. The texture of the bean is rough, but it is way more delicious than your regular green bean. From the pic above: Spanish Padron Peppers, Okra, Tomatoes, Peppers (hot and sweet) and Potatoes.

Beautiful, scarlet flowers on the vines

Bounty of classic eggplant

Weekend harvest

Colorful peppers

Our tomato forest

Mom holding the cukes and zucchini

Bounty of peaches

Colorful Habanero peppers. As beautiful as they look, they were way too hot for our taste. Lesson learned, not growing ultra hot peppers next year.

These were the success stories. There are several failures and lessons learned as well from this year. That post will be next. Until next time, adios!

The "other" woman

It is obvious what this post is about. While the media is abuzz talking about the great fall of Gen. Petreaus, and the ordeal on whether or not he will testify, Paula Broadwell has gone into hiding.

Personally, I feel that fidelity is a core value and by resigning from his post Petreaus did the right thing. Gini and I had a short argument on this yesterday. He feels that what one does in their personal life is not a testament of their professional life. How else was Bill Clinton allowed to continue for his 2nd term? I cannot disagree that I find Bill Clinton very persuasive and charming in his arguments whenever I hear him speak. And that time has been kind on him and several other celebrities and politicians who have cheated on their wives. The argument can hardly be won by saying that certain political posts are more vulnerable than others. As we witness the political circus that unfolds in front of our eyes, Paula Broadwell's character and career will continue to be questioned.

Here are 2 fine pieces of journalism from the NYT discussing what I have outlined above:

The Conversation by Gail Collins and David Brooks

The Siren and the Spook by Frank Bruni

Monday, October 29, 2012

America's Test Kitchen

Are you a fan of Food Network shows? Yes? Good, read on. No? Even better, read on.

One of the few instructional cooking shows that sticks to the basics without the frills of fancy ingredients and even fancier studio sets is the PBS classic, America's Test Kitchen. As you may (or may not) know, we don't subscribe to cable TV. We have an HD antenna that catches all the free channels, and we have been very happy with the selection. Thanks to KQED-Life, I even get a daily fix of cooking shows. And one of them is America's Test Kitchen.

I recently came across this stark interview on NYT with Christopher Kimball, editor of Cooks Illustrated and host of America's Test Kitchen. The interview showcases Kimball's no-nonsense views on cooking. Here's a snippet:
The interview was one of those times when it became clear that Kimball’s obsession isn’t cooking, or even food per se, but their social context and potency as metaphors. He may be the sole person associated with food journalism to remark, “There’s something about pleasure I find annoying."
Link to the full interview is here. It is long, but totally worth a read.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Michelle Obama

Linking the incredibly powerful speech by Michelle Obama from yesterday's Democratic National Convention.
Here's a Yahoo article with an honest critique.
And here is the video.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011: A year of fab "firsts" and a super "second"

Happy 2012! Hope the new year is going great for all of you. This is one of those mega posts that has been sitting in the "unpublished" queue of posts for a while (maybe since Jan 1st, eeks). Better late than never I say (wait, did I just type this exact sentence in my recap of 2010?!)

Anyhoo, here's a recap of 2011. It was a momentous year and here are some of the exciting excerpts of the journey that Gini and I were a part of:

Mid 2011 - We geared up for some serious "zero waste" changes to our lifestyle. Bea from Zero Waste Home is my constant source of inspiration. A post on what we are doing should be coming up (it's in the unpublished posts' queue, I promise!). But this change is permanent for us and we are loving the challenges that accompany it.

July 2011 - We took classes for rock climbing. What an adrenalin rush this was! This is one activity I see myself doing over and over again. Gini was a natural at this, with his mad climbing skills. The very first day he was climbing at the level of an intermediate climber - 9s and 10s. Don't ask about me, even on my last day I was still happy with the beginner levels of 7s and 8s.

July 2011 - We went kayaking for the first time in the amazing Elkhorn Slough along the Monterey Bay. I hadn't imagined that we would be so beat at the end of it. It takes a lot of stamina to paddle in a kayak. I was lucky I was kayaking with Gini. He did most of the paddling =) We saw a lot of birds and seals lounging along the slough, it was a wonderful experience. Here's a picture of a mega-seal jumping out the water, in the backdrop you can see a million seals lounging:

From early September - We registered ourselves to become volunteers at 2 organizations we deeply care about:
Food Sorting at Second Harvest Food Bank.
Maintaining open space preserves with the Mid Peninsula Region Open Space Division.

September 2011 - My first Josh Groban concert. I wish he had sung more of my favorite songs. It was a great concert though, but I doubt if I'll ever go to his concert again. Does that mean I'm not a true Grobanite? :(

December 2011 - Gini's first flight with his flying instructor. Yes, you read it right, his "first flight". He had always wanted to fly, and he is now enrolled in classes for becoming a private pilot (for small planes, of course). I was his co-passenger on his first flight, and it was one of the most surreal experience of 2011.

Some of the "firsts" in the gardening front were harvesting garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, and carrots. I've been reading a lot about growing vegetables and I'm gaining more confidence every year. Some pics from our harvest:

And of course, the most memorable event of 2011 was hiking the Half Dome. You've already read about it, here =).

What are some of your memorable moments from 2011?