Mrs. Funnybones- a book review

Do you feel stressed? Bummed-out? Bored?

All the above? Or are you just looking for the next good read?

I have a suggestion for you- Just pick up Mrs. Funnybones, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and read it. I bet in no time (it took me about a couple of days, but, probably a couple of hours if you are a fast reader), you’ll perk up and find your lost cheery, giggly self back (and not just because of all that caffeine!) .

Funnybones is written by Twinkle Khanna in the form of a journal, a format I thoroughly enjoy, and shows glimpses of the life of a modern Indian woman navigating her way through marriage (to a popular Bollywood star), motherhood, other relationships (being a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a friend), career (she runs her own Design Business and sells candles) and traditions. She may be leading a life much much better than most of us, but the issues she faces everyday isn’t unlike what many of us face.

She is funny (self-deprecatingly so, when she says things like “In precisely three hours, I have to magically transform from a middle-aged, vaguely stylish woman, to an ageless goddess”, before a photo-shoot for a magazine.), smart and wise. She is so hilarious most of the time that it stumps the reader when she gets philosophical and emotional, like when writing about her children or the meaning of love. A sucker for wise words that I am, I loved the non-funny parts too…

This book not only depicts the twists and tumbles of a harried mom’s life, but also lets us peek into the household of a celebrity. I’m not a big fan of Akshay Kumar, but I like him, and I LOVE Bollywood. So, anything authentic that gives me an entry ticket into the life of an Indian star is a sure winner with me, especially if the said “ticket” is presented tastefully, in a down-to-earth manner along with a ton of humor. Be warned that it isn’t completely authentic. The author herself mentions in the foreword that she has “thrown in a few facts, a little fiction, a few decaying brain cells and a couple of old bones into my brewing cauldron of words”. That’s fine with me. Her writing more than compensates for the minor “follies”, if there are any. This is the kind of writing that makes me want to be a writer too- Capturing life at its simplest and silliest in words is what I’d love to do for the rest of my life!

I rate this book a 5 on 5 and so will my husband I’m sure, for he seemed to enjoy listening to the passages I read aloud and I practically read the entire book to him; it was too funny you see, I HAD to share… So let me share a bit with you all-

So if you find your son in love with a little Hitler in pigtails, there is not much you can do except step out of the way, go to holy places, fast on alternate Fridays and desperately pray that by some cosmic force, her father is immediately transferred to a destination so remote that even Google Maps is bewildered as to its whereabouts”.

“My body needs caffeine to lubricate all my joints into some semblance of normal function, but as I walk to the kitchen, the two children that at some mistaken point I deemed necessary for my happiness dash into me”

Liked’em? Then enough reading this review already! Dive into Mrs. Funnybones, ahem, the book, not the author herself (who goes by that name on Twitter, for all you ignorants like me).

Then don’t forget to thank me for having made you feel better by recommending this book!

Oh! Before I forget, thanks Madhurya, for your recommendation!

Love

Manasa

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Crocheting- Project Valance

After crocheting a few simple items like caps and table-tops, I decided to make a Valance for our balcony window. A valance is similar to a curtain, but it only covers the uppermost part of the window and is hung alone or paired with blinds or curtains. I got the idea to make one after seeing them in many Swiss homes; My mother-in-law too has crocheted such valances and they are so beautiful!

The first step was to find a simple pattern. After a lot of browsing, I found one on this website and instantly fell in love with the pretty colors used by the blogger. I knew I wanted something similar for my window.

The measurement of my valance would be 2m L x 35cm H (around 1/5th of the total height of the window).

I had a lot of yarn in my stock- Cotton, wool, acrylic (of Sizes ranging from 20 to 3). But they didn’t look or feel right for our window. I needed bright colors like yellow, pink and orange. One day, while Mike and I were walking along the streets of Konstanz, a Fabric store caught Mike`s eye, and he pointed out big bundles of crochet yarn displayed at its front. I could not stop myself. I ran inside and bought balls of yarn in white, yellow, red, pink and orange.

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In order to make the Valance, I used a 3mm crochet needle. I followed the instructions in the blog to make individual flowers using contrasting colors like pink and green, white and red, red and blue.
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But I chose to arrange the flowers my own way. My design is inspired by the pattern of door-hangings used in India.

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It took me about a month to finish the project. (I was on vacation for a week and some days I felt too lazy to do much of anything!).

But I’m happy with the end result.
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This can also be used as a sofa cover.

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image So, why don’t YOU try ‘making’ something today?

Cheers,
Madhurya

P.S- Crocheting over longer stretches of time might lead to severe hand-muscle pain. So take it easy and enjoy the process!

The Girl on the Train- a Book Review

“All I know is, one minute I’m ticking along fine and life is sweet and I want for nothing. And the next, I can’t wait to get away. I’m all over the place, slipping and sliding again.”

– Megan, a central character’s thoughts in the book.

Isn’t that deep and beautiful? In a sad way? I found myself copying some such lines into my diary throughout the reading of the book, “The Girl on the Train”. Much has been said and written about this bestseller, but here’s my little take on this tale-

It’s a thriller about a girl on a train (as the title no doubt implies), which she travels on, from her residence in Ashbury to London, and back again, every single day. She looks out of the windows and imagines the lives of the people that reside in the houses she passes by (something I enjoy doing too). She is especially fond of a couple, “Jess” and “Jason”, she calls them and envies their “perfect” life, a life which she could have had, if it wasn’t for her bad habit- her drinking.

One day she witnesses something shocking in J&J’s backyard; now the girl sets about wanting to right the wrong and is tossed smack dab in the middle of a mystery. Uncovering the mystery becomes her mission. It fuels her pathetic life and creates a goal to work towards. But there’s one big problem here… She was too drunk to remember the details of that murky day. And no one trusts an alcoholic who’s had a troubled past!

In order to solve the puzzle, she first has to recollect the missing chunk in her memory.

One thing that gnaws at her (and the readers) as she goes snooping around is whether she herself was involved in the crime. Who knows! She has bruises on her body that she can’t account for!

Or was it the husband? Or someone else? I doubted everyone in the book at some point! I’m not big on thrillers and I’m not familiar with the workings of this genre. I bought this book because almost everyone in the blogosphere recommended it… But I did read it. And loved it too!

There’s more to this book than the particular scene that the “girl” witnessed. There’s her twisted past and her miserable present. There are other female characters too. It is the same story narrated from 3 different viewpoints- by 3 disturbed, paranoid women- and our doubts keep flitting from one to the other. My brain was such a hot mess as I read this book that I thought all those women must be one single person!

Gloomy though I felt as I read this, I couldn’t stop myself from continuing. The prose, the mind-boggling story and the grey shades of the human mind presented in the book just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go of me. We are always told (as reinforced by the soaps on TV) that people are either good or bad, but it is never just so… There’s more to a person, layers I think they are called. The author, Paula Hawkins, has unquestionably delved deep into the mechanics of a human mind and poured them into this book. I highly recommend it to everyone, even someone like me, who isn’t particularly fond of mysteries.

Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: that holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.” 

-Megan again.

I rate this book a 5 on 5. But would I read it again? Not in a while… Simply because it scares me to…

Love,

Manasa.

Around here

Around here-

    1. The kids have Dasara holidays for more than 15 days, which is good in a way, because it is so hot outside; But it also means that we’re spending most of our time at home, which equals to- more work for me! Keeping the 2 hyper-active Monkeys entertained and busy, so that they don’t tear each other’s (& my) hair out is a job no less demanding!

    2. We’ve been doing a ton of kiddo projects in the mornings. It helps time pass quickly and the things we make, keep the  kids happy for the rest of the day. Plus, it cuts down on all that TV-watching! So here’s how it goes-

        “Mama I want a guitar to play”

        “Chalo, let’s make one”

         “Make one? But I want a store-bought one- shiny and new!

         “OK… Let’s go shopping later”

          Waits, waits and waits for the said shopping and the shiny new thing to materialize. And when that doesn’t happen, simply because mama’s not all that into shopping and also because she wants her kiddos to become expert creators rather than consumers! Then something amazing happens- The kid says-

         “OK. Let us check the tablet then. We might get some new ideas”

Together we browse Pinterest for a while (an activity I super-enjoy doing with Medha!) and figure out how to make a Guitar (or a binocular or a crown or something else that she fancies on a particular day) and get working. I do the measuring and cutting, while she does all the gluing and decorating. Messy though it gets, especially when Madhav is around, we somehow end up enjoying the process and the reward later.

Rock star with handmade guitar
Rock star with handmade guitar
Little Explorer using a homemade binocular
Little Explorer using a homemade binocular

    3. I’m getting Medha to learn a few new words every single day. I thought it would be complicated- getting her to build and remember complex words- but somehow she’s learning and remembering them too. The World of words has finally opened its doors to Medha and has taken her along for a long, bumpy ride. And it looks like she’s enjoying it too, scared and dazed though she sometimes is.

    4. Like checking the Weather forecast every morning, We’ve taken to asking Madhav, “What are you today?”, everyday. And his answers vary from “Doggie”, “Monkey” to “Hexagon”, “Roller-skates” etc. He doesn’t mind being called a scrawny Mouse too! This little fella sure knows how to crack everyone up!

    5. I’ve been thinking about and preparing one-bowl meals like “Brown Rice and Thai Red Curry with lots of veggies and Tofu”, “Pasta with homemade Tomato Sauce along with lightly-sauteed veggies and a side of toasted Brown Bread” for dinner. Light and healthy!So what’s next? Mmmmm???

    6. I tried this easy facial at home and enjoyed the effect on my skin! I’m planning to do it more often. For hair-conditioning I simply grab a handful of Hibiscus leaves, pull a few Brahmi (Thyme-leaved Gratiola) plants and pluck a couple of tender stalks of Curry-leaves from our Garden and grind them along with a cube or two of Aloe and a drizzle of Olive Oil and apply it to my scalp, leaving it for an hour or so before washing it off. .

It’s hard to make time to do all these when there’s so much going on, but the end result is SO worth all the trouble, I tell ya.

    7. I’m reading the book, “Palace of Illusions” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and taking copious amounts of notes. I’m loving every bit of the reading, pondering, writing, reminiscing (the time spent watching Mahabharatha on TV or listening to the stories narrated by my Grandma) and discussing the book, its characters and the humanity presented in it, with Prasad on our walks. .

    8. The kids (Prasad included) are totally excited about our next trip-  this Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Me? I’m excited too. But I’m also equally nervous about the long drive to the National Park (how do I keep the kids busy?!) and the packing needed to carry our essentials for a week-long vacation!

     9. We watched quite a few good movies in Theaters. I loved “The Martian” the most. Go Matt Damon!!!!

    10. I’m trying so hard to banish negative thoughts and actions from my life in order to conserve my energy and make room for things that truly matter to me, like this blogging journey with my sis, reading and learning as much as I can (“I want to learn everything about everything”, Medha’s motto, which has become my motto too!) and teaching the kids and watching their progress.

Love,

Manasa

My Birthday Surprise Part 2

On the third day of our visit to Santorini (You can read about our first and second days here), we decided to explore the antique city of Ancient Thera, which is situated on the ridge of a steep, 360 m high Mesa Vouno mountain.

Ruins at Ancient Thera

Ancient Thera was named after the mythical ruler of the island, Theras, and was inhabited from the 9th century BC until 726 AD. Most of the ruins found here date from the Hellenistic era (time between the death of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman Empire), but there are remains that belong to the Roman and Byzantine (mostly Greek-speaking continuation of the Eastern part of Roman Empire) eras too. (Sources- Wikipedia and this website)

Inscriptions on rocks

Many relics dug from this place have been preserved in the Archaeological museums of Fira and Athens. Still, what remains, like the pillars, inscriptions on stones, etc. paint a vague picture of the life during that period. Designated areas like “Roman Baths”, “Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods” etc. show that there were links between Egypt, Rome and Greece, probably through the Mediterranean Civilization? Well, I have no idea! But I’ve decided to dig more into the history of the region and so I bought an audio book on ancient Greece from Audible. Let’s see what I learn…

In addition to its ancient ruins, the site offers spectacular views of the sea.

View from ancient Thera

Later we drove to the Red Beach, so named because of the red and black volcanic rock and sand. In spite of its smaller size, it is one of the most famous and populated beaches in Santorini.

red beach

Then we drove to the lighthouse in Akrotiri, in the southernmost part of Santorini. This lighthouse was built in 1892 and was fueled by petrol until Electricity was introduced to the island. Now it is electrically- operated. The best time to visit the Lighthouse is during sunset to get some great pictures.

From there we drove to towns like Megalochori and Perissa (stopping at the Perissa beach to have lunch. I tried fried tomatoes, a Greek specialty, which tasted awesome!). Later, Mike and I enjoyed a bit of Greek shopping. I couldn’t believe when he purchased pure white cotton shirts, and that too 3 of them! He simply loathes buying or wearing white shirts!

I treated myself to a Greek designer dress! Ha!

The next day, Mike booked a special cruise for us on a Semi-private yacht. It was going to be a 5 hour ride in a Catamaran (Mike was too excited and so was I). We opted for the sunset cruise which starts from the old port of Ammoudi and ends at Vylchada beach. A bus picked us up from our hotel in Kamari and dropped us at the old port. While we waited for our Catamaran and the 8 others who were to join us on the cruise, guess which celebrity was playing with his skateboard on the rocks?? None other than Justin Bieber himself! Apparently, he and his bodyguards had booked a similar cruise along the coast of Santorini!

our catamaran

I was in awe as I entered the Catamaran. Normally a ship has a single hull, but a Catamaran is made up of two parallel hulls of equal size. At its back, there was a seating area big enough to accommodate up to 15 people. Before we began our journey, the captain and his 2 assistants gave us safety instructions and a tour of the facilities available.  As the boat sailed on, the assistants shared their knowledge  about the islands we were passing, how the whole of Santorini was disintegrated into smaller islands due to volcanic eruptions and so much more.

Cruise ships on the Mediterranean sea

We stopped near Thirassia Island, a tiny mountainous island whose population is around 600, for a swim. The azure blue sea blanketing the brown mountain looked so inviting, that even I, who only just began learning swimming, felt tempted to take a dip. With the help of an inflatable tube, I swam around for a while, feeling happy and blessed. Now I can proudly say that I’ve swum across the Mediterranean Sea!

After Thirassia, we sailed towards Palea Kameni to soak in its famous Hot Springs. But the water looked brown and dirty, perhaps due to the mountainous sand, so we moved on as no one was willing to get out of the boat. We had a great time with the others on board, who were mostly British. They were a jolly bunch and as the day passed, we got to know each other quite well.

At the white beach, our captain informed us that we could go snorkeling if we wished to and that the gear would be provided. Mike got super-excited! Like a kid he dove in and began looking for different kinds of stones and fish in the water. He even fed the Fish some bread!

snorkeling

 After a hearty dinner (cooked by the three crew members), we sailed towards the Red beach, where we enjoyed watching the Sun at his brightest before dipping reluctantly into the Mediterranean sea.

sunset during the cruise

Along the coastline we sailed some more, until we reached the Vylchada Beach. Then It was time to disembark….

This is one Birthday Gift that’ll remain with me forever! Thanks Mike!

Love,

Madhurya.

My Birthday Surprise!

As a gift for my birthday, Mike planned a trip for us to somewhere special. But he didn’t tell me where we were going. I tried to get him to talk about it; I was too curious, you see, but he wouldn’t let out a word. Now I kept wondering what kind of clothes to buy- coats and jackets for somewhere cold? or maxis and skirts for someplace sunny? Ugh! I was driving myself crazy!

I only knew that  it was going to be a 5 day trip.  Mike gave out the surprise (Or should I say I forced him to? Guilty!) just a couple of days before the trip. We were going to… drum-rolls please… SANTORINI…  in Greece!!! You might have seen its exotic locales in a lot of movies! I had. And I’d always wanted to go there! Now my dream was about to come true! Thanks Mike!!

Santorini

We took an early morning flight to Santorini and landed in Thera Airport at about 10 am. Though the airport is tiny, the number of incoming flights is large, because a lot of tourists come here from all over the World everyday. So, yes, it took us quite sometime to get our luggage.

We finally got into a taxi at the airport to our hotel. The taxi had no billing meter and its interior looked old and dusty. As it drove us to our resort, to be frank, my first impression of the place was quite disappointing. I was hoping to see a beautiful landscape covered with whitewashed buildings, as I had seen in the movies and posters, but it looked nothing close to that. This impression gradually changed as we got closer to our resort.

Mike had booked our stay at a 5- star resort called Hotel Kastelli.  As soon as we arrived, we were taken from the entrance to the reception in a golf cart by an attendant. After the formalities at the reception, where we were served complimentary Orange juice, we were led to our room by the receptionist, who gave us a tour of all the facilities available at the hotel. The resort has 4 pools, a restaurant and a spa. The folks at Kastelli have cultivated many plants and trees including Hibiscus and Pomegranate in the hotel premises.

After settling into our room, we decided to take a walk around the Kamari beach, which is located close to the resort. Santorini is famous for its beaches. There are more than 10 beaches on this island and the Kamari is one of them.

Kamari is a famous black-sand beach resort of Santorini. It offers a wide range of facilities like sunbeds, umbrellas and various types of water sports. The presence of a variety of hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs makes it quite popular with tourists during the peak season.

Evening in Kamari Beach
Evening in Kamari Beach

We ate lunch at Taverna Saliveros (Taverna means Restaurant in Greek), a family-owned restaurant like most around here. Food was OK and costed us around €40 (approx. 45 USD).

After resting by the pool at Kastelli, we took a walk around the beach again. Kamari is extremely attractive, especially at night when the rock beside the beach, called the Mesa Vouno, glows in the dark.

On the second day of our trip, we decided to explore the main cities of Santorini- Fira and Oia. After checking with our Hotel Receptionist about the modes of transport available, we rented a 125 CC scooter for 4 days to get around. (€40 for 2 days and €25 per day). Apparently, a scooter is the best way to travel on the narrow streets of Santorini.

our scooter

Santorini is the largest of a small, circular group of islands in the Aegean Sea, formed after an enormous volcanic eruption destroyed a formerly single island (Source- Wikipedia). Fira is the modern capital of Santorini (ancient name of Fira is Thera). It is perched on the edge of a cliff, at a height of about 260 meters.

fira 2

Fira is a busy place with its central streets buzzing with tourists and all kinds of souvenir shops, jewelry stores, restaurants and cafes. People who visit Santorini choose to stay here and enjoy the views of the Mediterranean Sea below.

After a long walk around the cliff, we went down to the old port. One can choose to go up and down the cliff via a cable car (€4 one-way) or a donkey-ride (€5 per person, plus a €5 “tip” for the guide). At the port there are boats to ferry people around the island.

Next, we went to Oia, about 12 km away from Fira. Oia (Ee-ah) is another popular destination with the tourists. It is a very picturesque city. dotted with whitewashed buildings decorated with sea-blue domes, doors and windows. We spent most of our time there, meandering up and down its busy streets. Interesting architecture, breathtaking views of the caldera (cauldron-like volcanic feature) and the sea are the highlights of a visit to Oia.

Perched at the edges of cliffs are old wind-mills which have been preserved as tourist attractions. Another thing Oia is renowned for is its spectacular sunsets. Apparently, one needs to reserve a table at least a day before, to spend an evening at a sea-side restaurant in Oia. Since we hadn’t, we headed back to our hotel.

old wind mills in Oia

After a long day visiting the beautiful cities of Fira and Oia, we had our dinner at a great restaurant called Taverna Zorbas on the Kamari beachwhere we tried a special Greek food called Moussaka, an eggplant (aubergine)- based dish famous around the Mediterranean region (which costed us about €40).

Delicious food coupled with breathtaking views of the beach created an evening so romantic, Mike and I will be cherishing it for a long long time…

Cheers,

Madhurya

P.S- more about our trip in my next post.

Madhav and Play school

“I’m NOT going to school”, Madhav kept saying. Not kicking and screaming though. It was as if he didn’t want to go to school, but was curious to know how it would be like. On the first day, he somehow got dressed, wore a bag and got ready to leave. At school he just clung to me. The folks at Pratyusha made me stay with my little Monkey until he got used to the place and the teachers (who are simply addressed as “aunties” by the kids).

During Rhyme-time, he just sat on my lap and I let him.

We saw a few familiar faces around- our neighborhood kids- which made Madhav slightly braver. As he got more and more comfortable, he stood up, danced, sang a few rhymes and responded to the teacher’s questions about animals and their sounds. I was beaming.

Getting braver

When the kids were taken outside to play in the sand-pit, he didn’t even look back to see whether I was following him or not. He enjoyed spooning sand into a tiny bucket for a little while.

Fun at Sand pit

Then he spotted the big slide; Now there was no turning back for the little guy; He kept going up and down, up and down the slide, without a break.

Up and down the slide

The teachers let him play as long as he wanted to. After washing hands, the other kids made their way to the classroom for snack-time. But Madhav wasn’t ready to give up sliding yet; He kept at it for some more time. At one point he even peed somewhere. And the teacher told me it was alright- “We might have a few accidents before he remembers to tell us if and when he has to go”- she assured me. I was relieved and glad that she didn’t make a big deal out of it.  I was so happy that he’d found a safe place to play. The heavy, rusty equipment at our local park is pretty unsafe for the kids. 

When he thought they might close the door to the play area, he scrambled inside. We were asked to leave. We’d been there a whole hour; They were going to increase his time there slowly, so that he wouldn’t run out of enthusiasm or energy. But Madhav didn’t want to leave! He asked the teacher to put his stuff back in the cubby!

Sensory week at school

He didn’t complain about having to go to school the next day. I stayed with him; He wanted to sit glued to my lap, but I nudged him to explore. The kids spent some time in an Audiovisual room. Later, a physical instructor swung by with a bag full of soft balls and tiny bean bags for the kids to kick around and do some exercise. Madhav had a “ball” that day.

The day after that, I was made to wait outside while he was taken in. Without me beside, he began bawling his eyes out. For one whole hour he did nothing but cry, even when he was taken outside to his favorite part of playschool, the play area. He was so glad and relieved to see me waiting outside. I had to convince him that I wasn’t going anywhere, that school is a fun place to hang out and that I would be right outside, waiting for him. It looked like he understood just a bit, because, the next day too he cried as he went inside, but apparently he calmed down once they began playing.

Now he sort of knows that I won’t be abandoning him and so he goes inside with a big smile and comes out even happier. The teachers tell me he’s having a ton of fun. And Madhav points at the school and tells me there’s an aunty inside whom he really likes!

Phew! I expected him to take a longer time to adjust.

 Now I can’t wait to hear his stories and all the things he learns at school!

Big Boy

Love,

Manasa.

P.S- By the way, I carry a book of puzzles to distract myself with as I wait for him outside! And I’m loving all the exercise my dull brain is getting every single morning! 🙂