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Excerpt from an email Mayank wrote to his friend who was kind enough to look after our cats Noodle & Dopey while he was out of town for 3 days last month.

 

“…..Here’s a guide for handling Noodle and Dopey:

 

0)         I’ve filled the cat food dispenser to the brim, it should last for almost 3 days. If you find the food running low on the third day, please refill it to the brim. Cat food is located inside the lower cupboard in the passageway, the one that has a chair propped against it. The chair is there to keep Noodle out, else she opens the door and helps herself to the cat food. Both these cats are kept on a strict diet, lest they get overweight. A small cup for measuring food is kept on the left of the microwave. To refill the food, just take the black rectangular cover off the top of the dispenser (might be slightly tight), add food in, and fasten it back.The water should be enough for a week.

 

 

 

0.5)      The two boxes of litter in the closet should be good for 3 days, you wont have to do anything. It might smell a bit after a day or two, sorry. Noodle has the unpleasant habit of not covering her droppings after she’s done her business, since she’s the boss cat of the house. Poor Dopey has to do it for her.

 
1)         Please be careful while opening and closing the front door, the cats might try to escape. If they go outside, they don’t know their way back.

 
2)         If you can’t find the cats anywhere in the house (particularly Noodle), good places to look are under the bed in the bedroom, and under the recliner, inside the cloth on the underside (heaven knows how they get in there). I’ve kept a small flashlight on the dining table, it’s useful for locating black cats hiding in dark corners. If all else fails, rattle the food in the cat food dispenser, and they’ll come running.

 
3)         If you find Dopey running around, it’s because he’s excited to see you. If you run after him, he’ll go hide under the bed.

 
4)         The cat toys are all kept in the second drawer in the chest of drawers in the bedroom. They’re in the second drawer because Noodle is smart enough to open the top and the bottom drawer on her own. She’s smart enough to go to college. They like the big read cat tease most of all, and Dopey likes to run after the small silver ball of aluminum foil. Noodle might act a bit pricey at first, but she likes to play as much as anyone.

 
5)         Please *do not* leave any sort of yarn/thread around Dopey, he always swallows it, and it can be fatal for him.

 

I hope you have a great time with these two!
Oh and there’s a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates in the freezer, please help yourself to it! Or anything else in the fridge, for that matter.

 

Thanks again,

 

Mayank”

 

 


If you have 5-30 million dollars in spare cash I know of several incredibly beautiful beach properties that you can buy. Even better if you fancy playing golf by the ocean. What more you can also charge people for driving past your home oohing and aahing at the views that you would see daily from every window.

 

It was a cool, crisp and sunny day yesterday and Mayank & I decided to bike the 17 Mile Drive along the Pacific Coast from the town of Monterey to the village of Carmel by the Sea. The road hugged the Monterey Peninsula, a place of astonishing beauty, screeching sea gulls, rich marine life and spectacular houses. Thanks to the efforts of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary & Aquarium, people are careful not to pollute the water. As a result, the ocean is a beautiful clear azure meeting an impossibly blue sky.

Our trip started at the centre of Monterey only a few hundred metres from the ocean’s edge. A shared pedestrian path/bike lane runs all along the water’s edge past the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf where otters and sea lions lounge around, Cannery Row and finally joins the Ocean View Boulevard which as the name suggests was right beside the Pacific. Much of the foreshore is covered by a kind of vine with triangular leaves that looks like grass but isn’t. The tip of the leaves were red, giving the impression of a carpet of red flowers.

I started to get my camera out. Mayank was alarmed. We had not covered even half mile of the 17 miles and I was changing the settings in my camera. At that rate it would take an entire day to cover the distance. As we left the bay and rode onto Sunset Drive, the waves got bigger and the ocean more restless.

The road then passed the white sands Asilomar State Beach where surfers waited for the perfect wave, people walked or simply lazed on the beach. It was the absolute holiday picture- peaceful and uncrowded.

 

We then entered the 17 mile drive proper through the Pacific Grove Gate. It’s free for cyclists and we overtook the cars with a smirk as they waited to pay an entrance fee of $10. The road twisted and turned through the tall woodlands, and swept by the white sand beach of Spanish Bay. It was fun to race down to the ocean with the wind on face and the sun on our backs. The only grouse I had was that we could not ride side by side. Since it was a shared road, we had to ride in a one file and thus did not do much talking while .

Point Joe & Bird Rock came next. Due to my numerous photo ops and the fact that I huffed and puffed while going uphill on my bicycle we were doing rather poor on time and hence did not stop at these overlooks. I am quite certain there was something wrong with the silly gear settings on my cycle. There were two sets of those and I had no idea what they were for. I just randomly kept changing them till it felt right, for the moment that is. I am sure I would have a much better job with my Atlas bicycle.

We stopped for lunch at Seal Rock, a point with picnic tables on the shore and glistening water a feet away. I had packed us a picnic. That saved us time and $$. I was warned of the atrociously expensive restaurant that charged something like $20 for a pile of lettuce.

We passed several golf courses including the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. Right on the shore, I suppose the joys of indulging in golf is at a different level all together. The road then turned away from the coast and climbed  into a thick grove of Cypresses, windswept by the ocean winds. Hidden among those trees are mansions with manicured lawns and windows with the views we had come to see. Through the twists and turns we could see the ocean below. The trail still buried in the trees,  led us to the Lone Cypress. Standing on a cliff, the tree has withstood the Pacific storms and winds for over 250 years.

We crossed the Pescadaro Point, the resort of Pebble Beach. Our 17 mile bike ride was coming to an end. We headed down to the Carmel gate to the small but definitely upscale village of Carmel by the sea.

The place was full of pretty boutique shops made prettier by the natural beauty that surrounded it. This is where we returned our bikes and took the bus back to Monterey.

Morning Glory

There is something magical in seeing the sun rise every morning, albiet from the kitchen window as I wait for my tea to heat up in the microwave. The world seems to be at peace. Even the cats for once are somnolent. This hour and a half before breakfast is the time that I really like, it’s totally mine. That and a hungry cat (Dopey) is what makes me get up each morning at dawn despite the incredible desire to shut off the alarm and sleep in. Some one rightly said, there is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.

What do I do in that time? I grab my huge mug of green tea, my mac and slip under the bed covers. I like to be warm and cozy while I do my reading.  A daily visit to the New York Times for some serious news, and the Times of India for some tabloid stories and the latest gossip in B’Town. I religiously follow the editorial & opinion pages of NYT, Paul Krugman & Thomas Friedman’s articles and the fashion section. I almost never read the sports section unless it made it to the front page.

I have noticed a marked change in the websites I visit. From being one of the first websites I opened in the morning irrespective of the time, Facebook has now gone way to the bottom. It’s place has been taken up by blogs. I feel incomplete if I do not have my daily quota of blogs on organization, productivity, travel, cooking, personal finance, photography, technology (gadgets mainly, nothing too technical) so on and so forth. Lately, cooking has become my passion close to crocheting/knitting and taking pictures. So I have begun to stock up my pantry with all exotic spices & cheese and you can find pans of all shapes & sizes.

I admire those blogs for their content, clarity in expression, beauty, the amazing pictures and the inspiration they bring to me. I feel privileged to be able to have a peek into their lives or a part of it. There is so much to learn.

But as all good things come to an end, so does my morning hour. Hunger pang kicks in. The hubby is happy to eat cereal 365 days a year so I don’t have to worry about fixing him a breakfast. But the cats demand their second breakfast. It’s time to begin my to do list.

Easy Paneer Recipe

I am big fan of home cooked food. It does not matter what the food is just the thought of home made food makes my mouth water. Mayank on the other hand prefers restaurant food. Oh that poor ignorant man!

A few years ago, I was more like him, loved eating out, in particular fried and junk food. I still have a soft corner for all things buttery and fried to a crisp. But two years of sales work in Hyderabad eliminated all the love I had for “outside” food.

So when one of Mayank’s school friend who is a great cook invited us over for dinner last Saturday, I was pleased as a punch. The recipe below is what she had made. I made a few tweaks to make it a little simpler for daily consumption. With a vegetarian husband, we do end up eating a lot of paneer/cottage cheese and it always helps to try out new recipes.

Ingredients:- Paneer-cubed, tomatoes – blanched & pureed, onion, ginger, garlic, green chillies(the more the merrier), cumin-coriander powder, garam masala, whole cumin, kasuri methi, potatoes-cubed (yes, I am bong. We add them generously), vegetable/canola oil.

Method: -

1. In a non-stick skillet, heat oil in medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the paneer & potato cubes. Once they are golden brown remove the panner cubes and put them in a bowl containing warm water. This will ensure that the paneer pieces remain soft. Remover the potatoes and keep aside.

2. In the same oil add whole cumin. When the seeds splutter, add onion, ginger-garlic paste, green chillies and saute till the onions turn pink(when using red onions).

3. Soak the all the masala powder in a little whey/water. Add it to the pan. Fry till the oil separates stirring continuously to prevent sticking. Sprinkle a little sugar.

4. Add tomatoes and fry till the raw smell and taste goes away.

5. Next add the potatoes and fry it for a few minutes. Add warm water depending on how much you want. Sprinkle salt. Cover and cook in medium heat until the potatoes are almost done.

6. Add in the paneer pieces after squeezing out excess water. Taste for salt and add if more is required. Cook for 5 minutes.

7. Sprinkle kasuri methi and remove from stove. Serve hot.

Traveling with Dopey

It was the longest 3 hours and 25 mins flight of our lives. Both Mayank & I have had our share of terrible flying experience but were never as stressed out as we were last Saturday. Our cats, Noodle & Dopey were flying with us from Austin to Santa Clara. Southwest Airlines was kind enough to have a pet policy that allowed certain pets inside the cabin.

Knowing what a spoilt brat Dopey is, we had begun training the cats to stay inside their carrier and get used to the sense of motion. We took them out every evening for a drive in preparation for last Saturday’s journey. As the days went by they acclimatized or so we thought.Our biggest worry was them playing the escape artist during security check when we would have to take them out of the carrier and through the security check. Mayank would handle Noodle while I would wrestle with feisty Dopey.

Dopey does not suffer in silence. Period! He will ensure everyone around him knows he’s unhappy. From the time we put him in the carrier early morning to the time we got into our new home, he complained. He pleaded, cajoled, cried, threatened, fought, pushed, wailed and bit. He sunk his claws and teeth into the carrier mesh every now and then, trying his level best to tear it off. He rubbed his nose against the mesh which made it turn red as a beet. If this was his “calm” self after the stress relief medicine we had given the cats, I shudder to think what he would have done otherwise.

Noodle on the other hand was a Buddha. Not a word from her. Perhaps she was contemplating digging a tunnel and escaping. Or plotting our murder while we slept.

Winter boy

After much anticipation I have become the mami (not mummy :P) of a handsome boy. My nephew was supposed to be a January baby but I guess he could not wait any longer and out he came into this world in the last week of December. The fragility of a new born fascinates me. It’s incredible to think a small helpless thing as a baby would grow up into something as large as a human. I feel the same when I see new born kittens with no hair or eyes no bigger than a rat. Desperate for warmth they cling to each other. Even then they are unbelievably adorable. Off I go again with cats, kitten, puppies, dogs, etc etc……

Ok, welcome back. So now that I have all the privileges of being a mami and non of his mom’s duties, I think I shall spoil the boy horribly. Mayank often proclaims I am a pathetic parent to the cats – spoiling them no end with zero discipling and complete pampering. As a result Dopey has become a whiner.

Anyways, I made this new born gift for my nephew. I found all the patterns online. The kimono is a simple straightforward knit, front open, perfect for a quick wrap around the baby. The cap and the baby booties are crocheted.  The wool is 100% Andean wool, perfect for freezing Delhi winter.

And here’s the matching beanie cap and booties to go with it.

Every other day, Noodle and Dopey have a sparring contest. The reason could be anything- Dopey in a playful mood, Noodle in a foul mood, Dopey getting bored, Noodle snatching Dopey’s toy. In short they get into a fight very often. At times several times a day. It’s not a playful kitty scrap. Even though it lasts briefly, the vehemence with which they attack each other is not lost.

A typical Round I match begins by Dopey attacking Noodle from behind, thus having an unfair advantage. But in no time, Noodle’s shaken him off and he’s lying on his back. From then on he’s lost the round. Noodle rains blows on him left, right and centre. Dopey can barely manage to save his face. And after a knock-out punch Noodle haughtily walks away while Dopey is left to wonder where he needs to improve upon next time.

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