My secret garden

Today’s Friday Frame is a spread from my Life 101 altered book.

An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning. An altered book artist takes a book (old, new, recycled) and cuts, tears, glues, burns, folds, paints, adds to and collages it. The artist may add pockets and niches to hold tags, rocks, ephemera, or other three-dimensional objects. –

The spread features a window through which a girl looks out into her garden. The curtains were created by sandwiching some sari fabric between the pages. One part of the left page was ripped to create a “pocket” for the collage elements — bird, flowers and a butterfly. The rest of the page has been layered with paint and rubber stamping, with a dragon fly stitched on with gold thread and sequins.

Click on the picture to see more spreads from this book.

Liked this spread? Let me know through the comments!

If you have any artwork or photography to share, please leave a comment, a link back to your blog and your e-mail address, and I’ll feature it on an upcoming Friday Frame!

100 posts!

Image by Rachel Smith via Flickr

Spiritual Sunday #2: Relax With Nature Sounds was the 100th post on my blog, woo-hoo!

As I look back over the posts and my reasons to start blogging, I see how much I, and this blog, have evolved. I’ve tried my hand at blogging a number of times – I had an online diary with a friend and a personal journal on, then I moved on to Blogger for a couple of months, and finally ended up here, on WordPress, where I have maintained this blog since December 2006.

There were long periods inbetween when I didn’t post at all; but almost 4 years and 100 blog posts later, Modern Gypsy (formerly known as Mindchatter) has evolved from being a purely personal blog, where I didn’t bother about any reader interaction, to becoming what it is now – a mix of personal and fun stuff, and hopefully, an expanding base of readers!

There’s still a long way for me to go, and a lot that I still need to learn, but I’ve enjoyed the ride so far!

So, here’s a big thank you to all my readers, to all of you who have left comments and encouraged me to continue to write, and to all the lovely bloggers out there who have inspired me and helped me grow!

Meditation Music: Relax With Nature Sounds

Our daily lives can be really stressful sometimes…rushing to work, dealing with deadlines, getting stuck in traffic…it gets hard to just relax and be. We tune out what isn’t necessary to our next urgent meeting, things like nature, bird sounds, watching children play in the park. Doesn’t the stress sometimes make you want to scream?

If so, you’re at the right place right now! Just take out 10 minutes from your hectic schedule and let these nature sounds wash over you and soothe your soul.

Hope you enjoyed this! See you with more spiritual thoughts next Sunday!

(Click to read older Spiritual Sunday posts)

A case for simple living


Where has the happiness gone?
Image via Wikipedia

About a year ago I had written a post titled Jaded Consumerism, where I mentioned that I’ve increasingly noticed that buying material goods doesn’t seem to bring much happiness to me or my friends. Oh yes, there are exceptions — like when I bought my iPhone recently; it still makes me happy! But, overall, we purchase without the joy.

This week I finally gave in to the husband’s constant cribbing and we traded our 10-year old TV for an LCD. That should have brought us (or at least him) a lot of joy…but it didn’t. We bought it, got it installed, he played around with the remote and read the manual, but there was no thrill to the purchase. A TV is a TV is a TV is what I was saying all along, but the husband just wouldn’t listen, would he?

Jokes apart, though, I’ve been wondering about this lack of joy since a while, and then I read an article on NY Times titled But will it make you happy?

SHE had so much. A two-bedroom apartment. Two cars. Enough wedding china to serve two dozen people. Yet Tammy Strobel wasn’t happy. Working as a project manager with an investment management firm in Davis, Calif., and making about $40,000 a year, she was, as she put it, caught in the “work-spend treadmill.”

That was the opening of the article, and I was hooked, because that’s exactly what I had been thinking about!

Strobel eventually hit the stop button on the treadmill, inspired by books and blogs that promoted simple living. She and her husband gave away a lot of their possessions to charity. In fact, “emboldened” by a website that challenged readers to live with just 100 personal items, she went ahead and did just that!

Description unavailable

A case for simple living
Image by eflon via Flickr

I’m quite sure that mustn’t have been easy, and I’m pretty sure that it isn’t something that I could do! But, living simply does have its benefits.

If you can downsize your desires a bit, not bother so much about keeping up with the Joneses, you could end up saving quite a decent amount of money. Instead of spending that on purchasing more material goods, you could use that to travel, to do some volunteer work, or even to help family, all of which will give you infinitely more happiness than simply amassing material goods ever will. And a lot of new research shows just that!

Studies over the last few decades have shown that money, up to a certain point, makes people happier because it lets them meet basic needs. The latest round of research [examines] how to reap the most happiness for your dollar. So just where does happiness reside for consumers? Scholars and researchers haven’t determined whether Armani will put a bigger smile on your face than Dolce & Gabbana. But they have found that our types of purchases, their size and frequency, and even the timing of the spending all affect long-term happiness. One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.

If I could control my spending impulses, there are a lot of things that I’d be able to experience — a trip to Egypt , learning Italian, painting a canvas, going on an African safari — just a few of the things that are on my bucket list.

If you chose to live simple and spend on experiences instead, what experiences would you choose?

You can read the entire NY times article here.

Wandering Wednesday # 1: Journaling

One of my early visual journal entries

Most of us have kept a journal or diary at some time or the other (I know I have!) — and our blogs are, in a way, an online extension of our offline diaries. But just as blogs need to be jazzed up with images, so do physical journals. Instead of just pasting stuff in, though, why not get a little creative? Why not keep a visual journal?

Do I hear you asking “What’s that?” At its simplest, it’s a journal that combines words and images to draw out your deepest emotions on paper. Need more information? Check out these resources:

Don’t think a visual journal’s for you? Then why not try a Creative Journal? The Creative Journal Method was developed by Dr. Lucia Capacchione, a registered art therapist and lecturer/workshop leader.

Creative Journaling is a tool for personal growth, health and healing, creativity development, life planning, and career and talent development. Using drawing and doodling; color and images; creative writing and poetry; and written dialogues, you’ll get to know yourself better.

Hope you enjoy these sites. See you on 1st September 2010 with more tidbits from the world wide web!

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All aTwitter

Once upon a time, I used to read posts about how technology and social media have made face-to-face interactions passé. Once upon a time, I used to shake my head and say “not me.”

Recently, though, I find that I have a very strong relationship with my phone – so strong, in fact, that when I think the husband is ignoring me, I ignore him back…and forget that he’s there as I get engrossed with one application or another on my iPhone.

And today, I finally bit the bullet and signed up on Twitter! Do I hear you ask why now? Maybe because as I was browsing around the Internet today, I finally woke up to the fact that everyone and their cousin was on Twitter. Maybe I thought it would be nice to finally see why even the most reluctant of people are signing up for the service. Or maybe I thought it would be a cool way to keep in touch with breaking news. I’m not sure what the exact impulse was, but there I am, in all my glory, on Twitter!

Wanna follow me? Just click on the Twitter button on the navigation bar on the side and hear me tweet away!

Dagny Taggart, or Scarlett O'Hara, or maybe…

Over at, the prompt was to choose which book character you’d want to be. As I thought about it while idly browsing through some of the answers, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to come up with just one character. I mean, how can I ever let anything be that simple?! So, here are just a few of the characters that I would absolutely love to be!

Dagny Taggart, the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged. She’s smart, intelligent and objective; takes independent decisions without bowing down to the baseness and commonality of society; she’s the epitome of woman as an equal to man without having to shout about it from the rooftops. By extension, I’d also like to be Hank Rearden – who though he knows the value of his metal isn’t able to see the shallowness of character in his mother and wife because he doesn’t think like that – and so wrongly believes that no one else does – or even John Galt, who shows all people who love their work above all else the “light.”

Scarlet O’Hara, the flighty, tempestuous heroine of one of my all-time favorite books – Gone With the Wind. I love her flirtatiousness, her verve and vigor for life. She’s selfish to the core and knows how to use her charms to get exactly what she wants. In love with the idea of love, she fails to see that Rhett Butler, not Ashley Wilkes is the love of her life. (I was lucky enough to not have made that mistake!) But when push comes to shove, she rises to the occasion and through determination, sheer will, and good old fashioned shrewdness, keeps her family together and drags them out of poverty.

Harry Potter, the wizard who was able to survive the dark wizard Voldermort’s killing spell. With the love of his mother as protection, a lil help from his friends, and an inquisitive mind, he’s able to triumph over evil time and again.

Lady Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti’s younger sister, protagonist of Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti. A herbalist, level-headed character who gives up most of her life to ensure that her family’s name isn’t forgotten in the sands of time.

And of course, this list can’t be complete without my favorite childhood characters – Nancy Drew and Mr. Pink Whistle! The first, my teenage hero – the fearless mystery detective – the second, my absolute favorite childhood fantasy – the magical Mr. Pink Whistle, who quietly does good and sets things right. I can read his books even today and still be fascinated by him! (Shhh! Don’t tell!)

So, which are your favorite book character(s)?

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The perfect comfort food – 5 min chocolate mug cake

I recently came across a recipe for a Five-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake, and I just knew that I had to try it. So today, when I was craving some comfort food but wasn’t in a position to cook ’cause I’m not feeling well, I thought this cake would be perfect.

Chocolate mug cakeI have to admit, it took me a bit more than 5 minutes – 15 maybe? I didn’t time it, but then, I’m a pretty slow cook.

Anyway, I did tweak the recipe a bit and I wasn’t sure of some of the measurements, but the cake did turn out pretty darn good!

Here’s the recipe (from ovenhaven )

50g dark chocolate – I threw in 2 9.5gm bars of Dairy Milk, some bitter German chocolate and 4 squares of Giraldini dark chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon – I used 1 heaped tsp of Fabindia’s cinnamon sugar; next time I’ll keep it level
3 tablespoons sugar – I used 2.5, but next time I’ll probably use just 1 ’cause I like my cake to be a bit on the bitter side
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Set aside to cool.

Add flour, ground cinnamon and sugar to a small mixing bowl, and mix well.

Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and mix well. Add the melted chocolate and mix again.

Pour the mixture into a large microwavable coffee mug.

(Since I wasn’t sure if I had got the quantity of chocolate correct, I threw in a few blocks of dark chocolate into the mug and gave it a quick stir before popping the mug into the microwave.)

Microwave for 2 minutes on medium, 1 minute on high. It should be cooked (skewer test comes out with moist crumbs), but still a lil moist. Remember, it will continue to cook while standing.

Allow to cool a little and dig in!!

The cake came out quite moist, with pools of melted chocolate in between. Next time, though, I’ll probably reduce the amount of cinnamon sugar I used.

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Reflections in the rain

I enjoy monsoons. There’s something about the rain that brings hope — it’s a time of regeneration and joy; growth and introspection.

An impressionist painting

While driving to work today, the sunny skies suddenly turned dark and the rain started pouring down. Caught up in traffic, I turned the car wipers off. As the rain sluiced over my windscreen, the world outside turned into an Impressionist painting — blurred and beautiful. It took the chaotic traffic and huge puddles out of focus, prompting me to reflect on the parallels that we can draw between this moment and life.

When standing in a jam, turn the wipers off and enjoy a moving Impressionist painting. In life, stop and smell the flowers! How many self-help books say this…and yet, how many of us actually take the time to do it? Try it. Just 5 minutes of being present in the moment will give you a high unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

When you’re stuck in traffic with nowhere to go, turn up the music and groove to the beats. In life, when you feel like things are going on on auto pilot, it may be just the time to stop “doing” and to think about what you can change or how you can shake up your routine.

When you’re driving through a downpour, it’s best to go slow. In life, when there’s a lot that’s coming your way and you feel overwhlemed, it’s best to take out some time for yourself. Even if it’s just 15 minutes to meditate or destress. You’ll feel relaxed and will be able to tackle things more effectively.

When storm clouds gather, turn on the headlights! In life, when you’re confused, bogged down by your thoughts, shine the light of reflection on yourself. Try using mind mapping or brainstorming techniques to work through your problems and come up with creative solutions.

When day turned into night

It’s amazing how you can draw parallels from situations around you! Are there any other parallels you can think of? Do leave a comment, I’d love to hear them!

(Images © Modern Gypsy)

North Korean team humiliated

North Korea team

The North Korea team made history when it entered into the 2010 FIFA World Cup after a gap of around 66 years. At the time, the government felicitated the coach, saying he was a miracle worker.

North Korea couldn’t make it past the group stage, but the fact that they were competing was commendable.

Now that the team is back home, they have been subject to public humiliation. The team was lectured in public on their failure and “betrayal” of Kim Kong- un, son and heir of the great leader Kim Jong-il.

Coach Kim Jong-hun

The coach, Kim Jong-hun has been sacked as team coach and forced to work as a construction worker without pay. Now, he fears for his life – he believes that he might be executed.

The team fought hard against Brazil. Though the score line was 2-1 for Brazil, North Korea struck the first goal. They went on to lose 3-0 to Ivory Coast and 7-0 to Portugal. Remember, this young, untested team, was placed in the dreaded Group of Death.

The problem was that football hasn’t ever been broadcast live in North Korea, as the broadcast of live games had been banned to avoid national embarrassment. When the team played Brazil they were not under too much pressure, as they knew the game would not be telecast live and were able to play freely. After the spirited 2-1 defeat to Brazil, however, state television made the Portugal game its first live sports broadcast ever.

Dejected team members walk off the field

This historical match put the team under pressure, as they faced a formidable team in Portugal, they knew their every move would be watched back home, they felt pressured and their game disintegrated. They had no answers for the Portugese defense. They were young and inexperienced. And for this, they are being crucified.

According to media in South Korea, though, players got off lightly by North Korean standards. Historically, it was straight to the prison camps for athletes and coaches who performed badly.


FIFA should ban the country from participating in football matches if defeat means that the coach could be executed and the team subject to public humiliation.