Friday, August 8, 2014

Realizing Dreams

Message from The Universe


The absolute, most sure-fire way of physically moving in the direction of your dreams, Chandra, on a day-to-day basis, without messing with the "cursed hows," is living them, now, to any degree that you can.

And you so can -
    The Universe

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Val Eggplant Sambar

Lablab beans are called Val or Mocha Kadalai in Southern India. While it is not very popular, it definitely was popular in our home. My mom used to prepare different dishes with Val in it.

My favorite Val preparation is to use it in Eggplant Sambar.

Approximate quantities for Val and Eggplant:
2 cups of cooked val (soak the val overnight and cook either in a pressure cooker or on stovetop)
6 asian (purple) eggplants - quartered

The rest of the recipe can be found here. Simply replace the vegetable used in the recipe with eggplant and the cooked val. It is that simple.
Here is a close-up of the yummy Val Eggplant Sambar.
This sambar can be eaten with cooked rice or chappathi or nan; with Sauteed Onion Pachidi or Fenugreek Pachidi. You can search my site for recipes for the two different pachidis and I will soon update the links in this post.
Bon appétit :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Snazzy New Bus

The public transportation system in Atlanta is called MARTA. My commute is multi-modal, part of which is riding the MARTA. Recently, MARTA has replaced some of the older buses with really nice, new buses.
I know they have replaced the buses for routes 185 and 85. I take bus number 85 to get to work and back.

The new buses have many fancy amenities, including very nice seats and lots of room for luggage and folding bikes (key!).

I have not used the bike rack, ever since, St. Louis. While I like to see the option on the bus, I am so glad I have a folding bicycle, which I can take inside the bus. The bike rack can only accommodate two bicycles. When you get to the bus or when the bus gets to you, if there is no room in the rack and you don't have a folding bike, you are out of luck. You may have to wait about 30 minutes or so, for the next one.

But, irrespective of how many bikes can fit in the bike rack on the bus, the new buses are a fun to ride. I say they better be, given they cost about $300K a pop.

Peace :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sautéed Onion Pachidi

Sautéed Onion Pachidi is a delicious dip from Southern India. It is often served with a complete meal and sometimes also with nan or chapathi.

Preparation:

  1. Splutter 1 Tsp of mustard seeds in 1 Tbsp of Sesame oil; in a pan
  2. Sauté 2 cups of chopped onions with some Garam Masala in the same pan
  3. Add 1 Tsp of chopped ginger to 2 cups of yogurt
  4. Add the contents of pan, the sautéed onions to the yogurt and mix evenly
  5. Add cilantro for garnish and add salt to taste
The Sauteed Onion Pachidi is a great addition to most Indian meals. It will also work as a 'spicy' onion dip for parties. Can be served with cooked rice, pita, nan, etc.
Bon appétit :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Palagai - Floor Level Bench

Recent viewing of the meditation cushions at the Kadampa Meditation Center and online, brought back memories of a Palagai, a Floor Level Bench (or chair), which is primarily used in Southern India. 

The palagai is not only used for pooja and meditation, but it is also used as a general household item; in many applications, such as 1) a seat to sit on, 2) a stepping block to reach something high up in a shelf or cupboard, 3) a seat to sit on and dine, when there is not a dining table, etc.

It dawned on me that I did not necessarily need a meditation cushion, but in fact I could make myself a palagai, with some Red Oak from Home Depot. After a bit of planning, drawing a few sketches of the end product that I had in mind, I visited Home Depot, with my neighbor (who has the big wood workshop; I only have a few tools and I am not fond of table saws and such).

After a careful examination of the wooden boards available at Home Depot, I decided that I would be perfectly happy with a 24X18 (lengthXwidth) palagi. I decided that I would in fact make 3; the second one for my lovely wife and the third one for my nephew, who lives close by.

So, we bought one piece of Red Oak and got it cut the way we wanted and came back to my neighbor's workshop, where he helped me make the legs and also rounded four corners of the top board of the palagai using his router.

After that was done, I glued the legs to the top boards, sanded the wood so there are no sharp edges or tiny splinters anywhere. After that I put two or three coats of polyurethane on the three palagai.

The final touch was to use a pyrograhing tool to write/burn something meaningful on my palagai. I wrote the word STAY on it, as shown below. In fact, staying put, both in the mind and in the body, during meditation are some of the biggest lessons of meditation. 

On my nephew's palagai, I wrote his name in Tamil, made a boo-boo and fixed it using a Dremel tool and some putty. Had to apply poly again, but no big deal. The palagai is our gift to my nephew for his upcoming wedding.

Shown below are the legs of the palagi. One can make them a bit more ornate, but I figured simple does it for me.
Last, but not the least; the palagai are ready for me and my wife to do meditation together, in my studio.

We plan to use the palagai as often as we can, when we meditate.

For me, the biggest advantage is that the palagai helps keep a good posture and my legs don't go to sleep unlike sitting on the bare floor.

Also, I particularly enjoy sitting on the palagai, next to Shaggy, who seems to enjoy my company.

Peace :)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stargazer Lilly

I haven't seen many of these. However, on a recent walk on the lake path, my wife pointed this Stargazer Lilly to me. I said, it is so pretty and I was ready to touch it; which is when my wife warned me just in time; that, if the stamen of the Stargazer Lilly stains your skin, it is rather difficult to get rid of. It smelled so good, I really wanted to touch it. But I behaved, for a change.
The rainwater and the spring are filling up the lake fast. This picture below is not the most recent picture showing water levels at the lake, but it gives you an idea.
Can't wait for it to be full and start seeing kayaks and canoes in the lake. Even I might be brave enough to get in a canoe or something, for fun.

These are iPhone photographs.

Peace :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Madam Galen

By the lake path, there are huge vines of Madam Galen. I am not sure if the flower is called Madam Galen or Madam Galena. I have heard it called both ways.
We tried growing this in Texas, but in vain. We got the vine to grow, but it never flowered.
I did not use a DSLR to capture this beauty. Honestly, I can't remember if I used the Pentax or the iPhone. But, I know I took the photo on my commute from work and I was enjoying my bicycle ride.
In any event, I like the way these photos turned out.

Hope your having a great time!

Peace :)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Even a Glittery, Jazzy Fence is a Good Fence

Jazzy fence at the Chateau de Versailles, Versailles, France. It too is a good fence because it protects the Chateau.

Photo taken in 2012; with my Nikon D7000, with the Sigma Wide-Angle Lens.

This post is linked to Good Fences.
More fences to come in the future...


Peace :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vendhayam (Fenugreek) Pachidi

Venthayam Pachidi is akin to a 'dip' in the Western world.

In Southern India, Venthayam Pachidi is often eaten with hot curry dishes and rice. One can also use it as a dip for Pita/Nan/other breads.

The preparation is very simple.

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp of Fenugreek seeds
1 Tsp of Mustard seeds
2 cups of whole milk or full-fat Green yogurt {a rarity these days, I know :) }
2 dried red chilies
1 Tsp of Sesame oil
1 Tbsp of chopped cilantro
Asafoetida - a pinch

Preparation:

  1. Dry roast the Fenugreek seeds and chilies in a sauce pan
  2. In a coffee-grinder/blender/tool-of-your-choice, grind the Fenugreek and chilies, coarsely
  3. Add the ground Fenugreek and chili mix to the yogurt in a serving dish of your choosing
  4. In the same pan, heat up 1 tsp of sesame oil and splutter the mustard seeds. Add a pinch of Asafoetida to the hot oil and mustard mix
  5. Add the cilantro and salt to taste
  6. My preference is that the yogurt is a bit sour and that the finished Pachidi is a bit spicy with a touch of bitterness and the very refined aroma of Fenugreek. Some people prefer to use buttermilk and combine it with a little yogurt, so the Pachidi is a bit runny than like mine - very thick in consistency


Bon appétit :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Beautiful Heron

On my last photo tour, I spotted this 'guy', whom I think is a Heron. But, I could be wrong. If so, please do let me know. I will update my post and e-bow to you, as a show of my gratitude.

And, I have another question for my dear readers: Will a 400mm VR Nikon lens make that big a difference? I currently have a non-VR Nikon 300mm lens. I wish I could zoom in some more and avoid the shake. Hence the question.

So, here is the sequence of the photographs. I spot the guy in the distance. It is raining and I take a quick shot with the kit lens.
Next, I park my cycle under a rather large tree; mount the telephoto and start taking more photos. All the photos below have been cropped.
The preening begins.
Dang - I thought I cleaned myself very nicely earlier today. All this muck...
What's that?
I need a breather...
Ha-ha! I found you, little buggers.
Now, let me see who else is hiding under there...
Cleaning; head to wing-tip.

By the way, my friend Steve, of DFWPTP, wondered if I will ever give out information on what cameras I use.

Sure, I will be glad to:
1. Nikon D7000 DSLR: This replaces my old D70. For those of you, who are nerdish, the efficiency/gain is calculated as follows: D7000/D70=100 :)
2. I use different lenses on the DSLRs:

  • A Nikon Macro - 105mm, 1:2.8 D 
  • A Nikon telephoto - 70-300mm AF Nikkor1:4-5.6 G
  • Nikon kit lens - 18-70mm AF-S Nikkor 1:3.5-4.5 G 
  • A Sigma wide-angle lens (10-20mm, f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Nikon AF). None of my lenses are VR. My hands ain't either, which may be evident in some of the photos. No big deal!

3. My box cameras (with only an electronic zoom) are; Pentax Optio W-90 (a shock-proof, water-proof and mud-proof and Chandra-proof camera; has been dropped from 5-6 ft height, several times, accidentally and yet works like a charm) and the camera on my iPhone 5s.
4. I do have a GoPro Hero 2 HD, which I don't use often. One of those things that I keep in my arsenal, for who knows when I would need it. The application of this camera; was to find out where there were holes in my neighbor's roof.

I am not sure what I am going to do with my D70, yet. But, it doesn't take up as much room as my old cycling magazines, so I might just keep it, for a rainy day, perhaps.

Lastly, I am not an Optics expert. If you have any difficult questions, please check online/Nikon's website :)

Peace :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Will you please name this flower?

Guilty as charged. I have no clue what flower this is. I need your help :)
But, not knowing the name is no reason to meet this flower and admire its beauty.
Photo taken during my recent photo tour on the Thorn Nomad bicycle.
Location: Lake path near my home; in Roswell, Georgia.

Peace :)

Message from The Universe

Beautiful quote from TUT


Whenever your perspective on something creates emotional pain, Chandra, it's always because your perspective is still so narrow that you've yet to see all the good it will make possible.

Because it will.

Always,

    The Universe

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Removal of 1838

I came across this plaque when riding the Roswell Riverwalk on Sunday. It is about the Removal of 1838. It is particularly pertinent to Georgia.
The uniqueness of this particular plaque caught my eye and was curious and did some research. I won't go through all the details, as many of you are probably already aware of it. But, it suffices to say, it is worth a read, for those who may not know.

Peace :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Spiritual Guide

"Even if someone I have helped
And of whom I had great hopes
Nevertheless harms me intentionally,
May I see him or or her as my holy Spiritual Guide."

From Prayers for World Peace, Tharpa

Friday, July 25, 2014

Loaded Mini-Tour on the Nomad for Photographing things

Last Sunday, I loaded my Thorn Nomad with the panniers and went out for a short ride along the lake and the river.
On the left side of the bike (non drivetrain side), I mounted the Arkel Bug pannier and the Arkel Utility Basket on the right. 

I needed both the panniers for this particular ride, which was a photography tour on my cycle. I stuffed the Arkel Bug with my old military Field Jacket and packaged telephoto and the wide-angle lenses in the pockets of the jacket. The Nikon DSLR, with its kit lens, were protected by the jacket as well and there was enough room in the Arkel Bug pannier for all this and a bit more.

I put my toolkit and the Gitzo tripod in the Utility basket.

And, off we went to photograph.

This is my 'first loaded ride' in Georgia. I do carry a bunch of stuff in my Bromton's T-Bag, but I don't believe I have ever carried this much weight and rode on these hilly roads. The Rohloff made the entire experience quite enjoyable. Did I forget to mention it was drizzling all day Sunday?

No big deal, but I do admit I am quite happy that I got out and cleared my mind.

What's new with you?

Peace :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Velo Fence

The best picture I have for today is the one right below.
Taken during our trip to Paris, France.
I know the little red cycle is competing for some attention, but I think the guard rail / fence still is worthy of notice.
Oh, by the way, I have a real nice fence picked out for next week's Good Fences meme.

This post is linked to Good Fences.
More fences to come in the future...


Peace :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Inspiring Quote

Inspiring quote!

Blessed is the servant who loves his brother as much when he is sick and useless as when he is well and can be of service to him. And blessed is he who loves his brother as well when he is afar off as when he is by his side, and who would say nothing behind his back he might not, in love, say before his face.

― St. Francis of Assisi 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A boatload of kayakers

Scene from Friday last week. I was headed back from work on the Roswell Riverwalk, when I saw a whole bunch of Kayaks in the Chattahoochee river.
There is usually quite a few kayaks and canoes on the Chattahoochee, but never have I seen several in a group, like this, ever before. It is possible that it is a class or they are all in an event; or, training for something.
Here you can see the kayakers, closer, when going under GA 400. As I have mentioned in other posts, there is a parking underneath the 400, for those wanting to launch their kayaks at this point in the river. There are several other places for that along the river. Many road cyclists park their automobiles here and start their bicycle ride from this point also.

For those interested in exploring cycling in Roswell, there are a lot of beautiful roads one can cycle on. Many of them will challenge you adequately, especially if you love hills and winding roads. On the other hand, if you would like to go for a relaxing ride with your family or by yourself or a friend or two, the Roswell river walk is relatively flat and is quite scenic and really enjoyable.
The Chattahoochee is about 430 miles long and is a major river in Georgia. There is more about the Chattahoochee here.
Going...going...
gone!
I always look at this river and think of the several thousands of lives that travelled on it. I am very curious about this river, in particular, as it is always been a mysterious river to me, especially on foggy days. It has an aura about it that is hard for me to explain, but nevertheless, very powerful.

Hope you had a nice weekend!

Peace :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

The King is resting

It is alleged that the one in the center, with the lighter coloration, is the King of all the geese at the lake in our neighborhood.
I found him resting this afternoon, as I headed out to photograph things around the lake.
I sometimes wonder if there are two like the him.
Or, was it just him in a different pose this morning? The photo below was taken using the Pentax and the ones above were taken using the Nikon DSLR.
Irrespective of how many of these guys are around, one thing is for sure - they are very beautiful. I love visiting with them. All of them.

Peace :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Resin/Gum

Our a recent walk along the lake path, I had plans to take my DSLR along. However, there was rain in the forecast and given we wanted to walk spiritedly, I changed my mind and took my Pentax Optio W-90, compact camera. Well, it is waterproof, shockproof, etc.

Towards the tail-end of the first half of our walk, I found 'a tree' on which I found some deposits of gum. No, no - not the yucky chewing gum that gets discarded carelessly, but resin/gum. Well, I told my wife that I will catch up with her and started shooting.

I knew they were beautiful formations, but I didn't know I could capture them as well as I managed to, using the fixed focus Pentax.
This particular Pentax has two macro modes; a 'Flower Mode', and a '1mm mode'. I took may of these pictures using the 1mm mode.
The ambient lighting was very good and I could get closer to the deposits of resin without casting a huge shadow on the object of interest.
There were different colored resins too.
Or, was the lighting and the shadows playing games with my mind? I don't know for sure, but I plan to go back and examine these beauties again, with both the DSLR and the Pentax.
Last, but not the least; here is the final photo for this post.

For some reason, I am reminded of the movie Jurassic Park. And, yes, I mean the very first one, by Spielberg.

Peace :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Spicy Spinach

Another easy-to-prepare, yet delicious dish. I am the lucky person who got to eat it, but didn't have to do the cooking :)

The original recipe is an adaptation of the Spicy Spinach recipe in 101 Cookbooks.

Ingredients:
1 big carton of baby spinach
Leeks
Sunflower Oil or Ghee
Cumin Seeds
Turmeric
Red pepper flakes
Oregano
Lemon juice
Mint leaves
Preparation

  1. Clean and dice the leeks into 1 inch long pieces
  2. Heat up the Sunflower oil in a pan; sauté the leeks, until silky tender
  3. Add the cumin, turmeric, and oregano, to the leeks and sauté with the leeks
  4. Add the red pepper flakes (spice it up as much as you like)
  5. Top with Feta cheese and walnuts
  6. Add the Mint leaves
  7. Stir it all together
  8. Add salt to taste
Bon appétit :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Simple, very easy to prepare; yet, a delicious salad.

Ingredients:
Heirloom Tomatoes
Nectarines
Lime Juice
Diced Mint Leaves
Diced Green Onions
Thanks to my lovely wife, I get to eat some great food.

Peace :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Good Dogs and a fence that did its job :)

Picture from way back when we lived in St. Louis. The redhead is not Chaka, but Shaggy's former mate, Leah, who crossed the rainbow bridge in 2011, in Texas.
I don't have any other nice fence to post today, but I will add this to the Good Fences meme; for, these were good times that were had behind these good fences. Keeping our family safe.

The Blue Heeler is Zippy, who need a farm and hopefully found one.

This post is linked to Good Fences.
More fences to come in the future...

Peace :)