All the pretty gifts

Rommee1
Image via Wikipedia

Diwali is the season for hosting card parties! It’s the one time during the year when almost everyone gambles – the amount of money you’re playing with doesn’t matter, it can be as little as Rs. 5, what matters is the spirit of the game.

We hosted our first card party last night, and it was a smashing success. Though I was hyperventilating at the thought of all that needed to be done and organized, I managed to get the living room clean and clutter-free in an hour, brought out candles and diyas, floated some flowers in an earthenware pot, and the house was set to welcome our friends.

The night passed by so quick as we played, laughed, talked, ate and made merry. Before we realized it, it was 3:00 am, and grudgingly, we decided that it was time to say goodbye.

Yesterday night, as I was squaring things up a bit post all the revelry, I realized that I love hosting parties and entertaining. It’s a warm feeling that you get when you have friends over, laughing and having a good time, and even better when you get Diwali gifts! 😉

I got this lovely Tibetan evil eye that doubles up as a door knocker:

and this rice husk wall hanging for prosperity and a brass diya that can be either displayed as a showpiece or used in the temple at home:

rice-husk-wallhanging-brass-aarti

What do you enjoy most about hosting get togethers at home?

It's the festival of lights!

Diwali, the festival of lights, is a prime fes...

Diwali diyas

Diwali is my absolute favorite festival. I love the lights, diyas, colors…just about everything associated with the festival.

The almost two weeks leading up to Diwali (it’s on 5th November this year) feel like holiday season. I took a day off work just to go to the Blind School mela, an annual ritual for the husband and me. They have a variety of stalls selling the most beautiful and unusal stuff, ranging from furniture to lamps, pottery to jewelery, and clothes to knick-knacks. From there, we headed over to the potters market near Sarojni Nagar to buy diyas (small earthenware oil lamps) and idols of Ganesh and Lakhsmi.  An entire day spent shopping, rounded off with dinner at Fez Dining, one of my favorite hangouts at Malcha Marg.

Dilli-Haat-potter

A potter at Dilli Haat

The atmosphere was festive, with people out doing their Diwali shopping and all the shops and malls and houses beautifully decorated with lights and lamps…I wish we could have at least 3 days off for the festival, but alas. All we get is the one day off for Diwali.

For those of you who don’t know much about the festival, here’s an overview of Diwali:

Ramayana-3D-movie-Lord-Ram

A still from Ramayana (animated 3D movie)

Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance, although the actual legends that go with the festival are different in different parts of India.

The Times of India summed up the modern meaning of Diwali as follows:

Regardless of the mythological explanation one prefers, what the festival of lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple – and some not so simple – joys of life.

Diwali is known as the “festival of lights” because houses, shops and public places are decorated with diyas (these days fairy lights). The lamps are traditioanlly lit to help the goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) find her way into people’s homes. They also celebrate one of the Diwali legends, which tells of the return of Rama and Sita to Rama’s kingdom after 14 years of exile.

Wikipedia has an informative and detailed wiki on Diwali and if you like, you can read more about the different legends of Diwali as well.

What do you love about the festival of lights?

Halloween 2010: Heidi Klum's alien transformer avatar

It’s fun to see how celebrities dress up on Halloween. My absolute favorite celebrity costume this year was, yet again, that worn by Heidi Klum!

heidi-klum-alien-transformer-seal-silver-surfer

Dressed as an alien transformer in an armor made of red and purple plastic, with a flowing fuschia wig and two rows of sharply pointed false teeth, this gorgeous model transformed herself into an Alien Autobot.

heidi-klum-halloween-alien-transformer

Husband Seal, in a hugely muscular metallic silver suit, came dressed as the Silver Surfer.

heidi-klum-halloween-transformer

This couple sure knows how to live it up and celeberate in style!

Be sure to check out Heidi Klum’s Kali avatar from Halloween’08 as well.

A few other notable mentions from this year:

 kim-kardish-Halloween-red-riding-hood Kyle-MacLachlan-Halloween-Maitre-d'(eath) busy-philipps-Halloween-tinkerbell
Kim Kardish as Little Red Riding HoodKyle MacLachlan as Maitre d'(eath)Busy Philipps as Tinkerbell

What did you dress up as this Halloween?

Book review: The Raising by Laura Kasischke

The Raising by Laura Kasischke

Click on the image to pre-order the book

In The Raising, Laura Kasischke exposes the ugly face behind sororities and the duplicity and cunningness of the human heart, and of people caught up in events that lead to often unforeseen tragedies. With her very first sentence:

The scene of the accident was bloodless, and beautiful.

She manages to draw the reader into the world of young Nicole Werner and her boyfriend Craig Clement-Rabbits; of Craig’s roommate Perry’s attraction to Mira Polson, the professor of sociology, who takes a class on Death, Dying, and the Undead; and of Shelly, who finds her life ruined because she happened to be the first and only witness at the scene of the accident.

Moving back and forth between the past (the year of the Nicole-Craig love affair) and the present (post Nicole’s death), Kasischke brings to life Nicole as a young, virginal, all-American girl. But as you continue reading, you realize that not everything is pretty and pink — there’s a dark side to that innocence, that, in fact, that innocence is just a façade for something more sinister.

Kasischke’s plot development is superb. Initially, you find yourself thinking that this might be another vampire/ghost love story, and you do manage to guess the end once you’re about mid-way through. Nevertheless, Kasischke’s writing style keeps you moving relentlessly forward, and she has thrown in some interesting plot twists along the way.

Overall, an interesting and engaging read.

Click here to pre-order the book from HarperCollins.

(Want to read more reviews? Take a look at the other featured Book of the month and more book reviews.)

2 blogs, 1 girl, and limited time – help!

I’ve been wondering about something since a while now – I maintain two blogs – this here, my personal blog, and my photoblog, Shutterbug. The photoblog has a niche – photography and art – which I keep hearing is really important to building a successful blog. My personal blog is, well, personal! I write about a whole lot of stuff, though there are some dominant themes traveling, book reviews, spirituality and even photography. So, there is a definite overlap between the two blogs.

Then there’s the question of time. I work full time, so there’s a limited amount of time that I can spend on my building and promoting my blog. I’ve devoted most of my energies to building this blog up, and my photoblog is suffering as a result. It’s got a few readers and subscribers, but if you look at the stats, they aren’t too impressive.

I started it because I wanted to have a “portfolio” of my photographs. It was a very vague notion in my head, and I started it on a whim. (I had thought of quitting work and applying for a course in photography, but then dropped the idea as being rather impractical.)

Punto interrogativo ? Question mark?

Image by silgeo via Flickr

I can very easily merge the two blogs by changing the Friday Frame feature to a weekly one instead of doing it twice a month – that’s the frequency at which I post on my photoblog anyway.

What I’m wondering is:

  • Should I merge the two blogs
  • Maintain both blogs
  • Post the same picture both here and on my photoblog every Friday?

I don’t see the point in the last option, except to have it as a portfolio if I ever need or want one, as a place to chart my own progress maybe. But it’s so hard to ignore the stats! And I am so confused!

So, what do you think? Which of those three options should I chose? Or do you have another suggestion? I need ideas and help here, please!

Wandering Wednesday #6: Food for thought

Ever since my college days, when I was pursuing a Masters in Mass Communication, I’ve loved feature writing – right from coming up with a topic to researching it and writing a piece. Lately, I’ve read quite a few interesting articles that made me pause…that made me rethink my world view…

think positive

Image by tango 48 via Flickr

For instance, how many times have we heard the phrase: “think happy thoughts!” Self-help books and  self-styled gurus try to tell us that we must change our negatives into positives to bring about a transformation in our circumstances. But did you know that research has shown that positive thinking can be downright harmful in some cases? Don’t just gasp, go on and find out Why positive thinking is bad for you.

Once you’ve figured that one out, come back and find out what is The problem with happiness. I’ll give you a clue – the more importance you place on being happy, the more unhappy and depressed you become.

Have you ever wondered how you think about your life? Is it a well-planned life, where you invest time in finding a clear purpose; or a summoned life, where you examine each concrete situation by sensitive observation and situational awareness? Find out in The summoned self.

Man of many languages - art installation in Vancouver Image by eyesplash Mikul via Flickr

The digital age has given rise to a whole lot of new words – such as Tweetup – that have become so popular that they’ve made it into the dictionary! Want to immortalize a “new” word of your own? How about going In search of a new word for Married?

Could you come up with a new English word, or did you find yourself leaning toward coining a new word in your mother tounge? Does that make you wonder if maybe your mother tongue places some restrictions on your ability to think? Find out! Does your language shape how you think?

Have you come across any interesting features recently? Thoughts on any of these articles? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

(Click to read older Wandering Wednesday posts)

Book review: The Courtesan by Susan Carroll

I recently participated in SITS’ Find Your Tribe event, where we teamed up with fellow bloggers in our niche to support one another and help our blogs grow. So today, allow me to introduce you to Jacki from The Raven’s Spell.  Her blog “chronicles the ever changing adventures of a stubborn, book-obsessed woman as she redefines her life, family, and self. While raising a spirited young man, blending two families, returning to school after a 10 year hiatus, and pushing her own boundaries, this life will just never be the same.”

I hope you enjoy this review of The Courtesan — I know that I want to read this book ever since I read her review! Also, be sure to head over the The Raven’s Spell tomorrow to check out what I wrote!

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Title:  The Courtesan (The Dark Queen Saga #2)
Author:  Susan Carroll
Format: Paperback, 534 pages
Published:   July 26th 2005 by Ballantine Books
ISBN:  0345437977 (ISBN13: 9780345437976)

 Wow, Susan Carroll does it again. I started the Dark Queen Saga with the last book of the series (didn’t realize that it was a series at the time). My next book, The Courtesan, is book 2 in the series. I am hoping at some point I will get this all figured out, but it is not likely.

 Set in Paris in 1575, much sought after courtesan, Gabrielle Cheney, seeks to win the heart of the future king of France, her ambition driving her to become the power behind the French throne. Thought forsaken by her sister, the Lady of Fair Isle, Gabrielle seeks her own path and revolts against the ways of the Daughters of the Earth.  However, she must outwit Catherine de’ Medici, a witch hunter from her past, dark magic, and her own heart in order to succeed.  Is power and ambition what she seeks, or love and a life with Captain Nicolas Rémy, the loyal Scourge set on destroying her plans?

 While there are some back stories that I wish I knew more about, I was able to get through The Courtesan without any trouble (although, knowing how it all ends kind of sucks). Gabrielle is a wonderful character who you love, but at the same time wish you could smack every once in a while. Actually, all the characters are that way, which makes them very much human, and all that more likeable.

 Like any good historical fiction, The Courtesan left me wishing I had paid more attention in history class, although I doubt I ever would have gotten these kinds of stories.  But it did leave me intrigued and searching for more information about this period of France and the history surrounding Catherina de’ Medici.  Always a success in my book when a work of fiction can help the reader fall into a time period and come out wishing to know more.

 The story is intriguing and enjoyable and I found it very difficult to put the book down. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend.

Mindfulness

Carve out some time to hear this session on mindfulness that Jon Kabat-Zinn led at Google. It is very, very relevant given the fast-paced lives we lead. As we run from one task to another, to cross each item off our to-do list, we need to find some rest and relaxation, some stillness, each day – no matter how much or how little time we have in any given day.

“Meditation is an act of love…an act of sanity…just to stop for a fraction of a second and drop…into being…” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Hope you liked this session.

(Click to read older Spiritual Sunday posts)