Thursday, December 31, 2015

Adios 2015!

2015 has been a roller-coaster ride and such a mixed bag of emotions!

Here are the things I did not like in 2015:
- T's grand mom passed away and left us yearning for her smile and kisses. Nothing compares to the love of a grand mom!
- We planned something and destiny had other things planned for us... don't we all hate it when things don't go as planned.
- Year has been a crazy ride since August... hopefully things will slow down a bit in the next year.
- I also hardly blogged this year, hardly ran, hardly read, hardly paid attention to my garden - this hasn't been an year for the hobbies or for any relaxation. I feel mentally drained this year. Sigh.
- My favorite garden shop announced that they are closing... all good things come to an end!

Well, here are all the amazing things that happened in 2015:
- Little brother found his better half - there has been a lot of celebration and much more to come!!!
- We travelled to Sedona and Oregon - such awesome vacations! And I did my first solo vacation to Banff - I love the mountains and I actually loved the solo time too - though I have to go back there with T one day.
- Aai finished re-modelling the home and it looks so awesome - looks straight out of a magazine! Can't wait to visit.
- It has been a big year for A&L - they moved to a fancy apartment, took some amazing vacations and did a great job of sending us really cool pics, bought a home, ran a half marathon together, L started blogging... they sent us good vibes constantly!
- We moved to a new place over Christmas break to end the year on a high note.
- Megs decided to move back to the US - I am so excited that soon she will just be a hop, skip and a flight away!
- Two of my favorite bloggers (Justina Blakeney and Emily Henderson) published their books and T bought them for me the week they released them - they are my two favorite coffee table books.

I think 2016 is going to be the most amazing year ever! So much to look forward to - Let the party begin!!!!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Road Trippin' Oregon

Last month T and I did a road trip covering about 500 miles of the beautiful Oregon coast in 8 days. T had it on his bucket list for the past several years and for a change, he took over most of the planning for the trip. So obviously it involved eating at the best and the most rated restaurants on yelp, visiting the 9 lighthouses (which was the top agenda, after food), a lot of stops on the way to just stare at the ocean and lots of mimosa and coffee breaks as well! Here are some glimpses of the trip and some tips for any future trips.

Day 1:
Portland was our hub and we flew in Saturday evening and headed to the Columbia George falls straight from the airport. What a magnificent welcome from Oregon - feeling the splash of the waterfalls on the face immediately melts all the worries away! Follow that with amazing food from the Portland food trucks (Potato Champions and Grilled Cheese Grill) and you know its a great start to the vacation!

Day 2:
The Japanese garden in Portland is worth a visit. We spent the morning at the garden and then drove from Portland to Reedsport (via Newport for a coffee/mimosa break). A total drive of 5 hours but we hit the coast at Newport so the drive south of Newport was really pretty. We visited the Umpqua River lighthouse (LH #1) in the evening.

 The first site of the ocean...

Day 3:
We drove from Reedsport to Brookings (southern tip of Oregon coast) and drove back up till Coos Bay to spend the night there. The to and fro was a little redundant but this part of the coast is the most beautiful so I was glad that we could spend time driving back and forth. A total drive of 6 hours for the day. We touched California border and visited Coquille River lighthouse (LH #2) and Cape Blanco lighthouse (LH #3). Also the crab shack was a good stop for lunch.

 The golden beach... 

 Day 4:
We drove from Coos Bay to Yachats; a total drive of 2 hours. The main stops were Shady Acres state park to see the Cape Arago Lighthouse (LH# 4) and the sand dunes for some fun ATV adventure - the dunes are pretty and so easy to get lost - was so much fun!!!!
After a tiring adventure and an overdose of seafood, thai food was like food from the heaven (try 'Best Thai cuisine' restaurant at Florence)!
We also got amazing views of the Heceta Head lighthouse (LH #5) on our way to the hotel.

Day 5:
Our next stop was Newport - The total drive time from Yachats to Newport was 30 min.
Since we saved on the drive time, we filled it up with activities - visited the Devil's churn (unfortunately the tide was low, but still pretty), spent hours at the Newport aquarium, made a quick stop at the Yaquina Bay lighthouse (LH#6) and spent the remaining hours at Yaquina Head lighthouse (LH #7). It was the most gorgeous of all! 
At Newport, we spent the night at Sylvia Beach hotel - a unique hotel dedicated to the authors of the world. Each room is named after an author and they replaced the TV with the books written by the author! No Tv and no wi-fi - but a room filled with books, a cozy library with an ocean view where they serve hot wine at night and a scrumptious breakfast in the morning - I would go back there!

Day 6:
Our destination for the night was Rockaway beach (2 hours from Newport). We stopped on the way at Depoe bay for whale watching and spent 2 hours playing peek-a-boo with the whales! How amazing is it that you can see whales by the roadside!
We also visited the Cape Mears lighthouse (LH #8), saw the Octopus tree, enjoyed some more coastal views and had dinner at the cutest little town - Manzanita!

Day 7:
We hiked through the lush green forests at Ecola State park, admired the views of Indian Beach and knocked out the last lighthouse on our list - The Tillamook Rock lighthouse (LH#9). We spent the night at Seaside, an hour away from Rockaway Beach - see how slow our pace was? :)
We also touched the border of Washington State and had dinner at Long Island Beach... 'Pickled Fish' was a good pick with ocean views.

Day 8:
Enjoyed a quite morning on Cannon Beach, followed by Brunch at Astoria and we made our way back to Portland. Dinner at the Portland City Grill with a midnight trip to Voodo donuts for dessert was the perfect way to wind down the trip.
Day 9:
We made a quick stop at the Saturday market before heading out to the airport. Would have loved to spend more time but I will save that for another trip.
Till then, goodbye Oregon!

P.S. - I have so many pics of the lighthouses that I think I will have to do another post for them!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wooden photo backdrops

I have always obsessed over colorful wooden backdrops used for food photos. They add a nice texture and and interesting contrast to the food! I bought wooden boards 6 months back to create photo backdrops. Finally, got a chance to paint them this weekend...

The first one is a brown and maroon combination and I loved how this turned out:

The other side is painted in a combination of peach, lavender and yellow - I wasn't sure how this one will turn out but was worth experimenting with the colors.

Happy August everyone!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Banff, CA

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.
                                                                  - Louis Armstrong


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Overgrown fairy garden/jungle!

The miniature fairy garden has grown into a jungle now and needs some revamping to be done...

Wondering if I should still keep the succulents theme or if I should change it to something else. A project for the upcoming weeks! :)

See the developments on the garden here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


They say - "God created the Grand Canyon, but lives in Sedona".

And that is so very true. A small charming town surrounded by the red rocks with a wide range of outdoor sports/adventures, restaurants to help you slide into a food coma, beautiful golf resorts and affordable shopping options - this is definitely a perfect weekend getaway spot! Well, actually you will need more than a weekend to do justice. We were there for 3 days in April and the trip felt really short to explore everything this town has to offer.

Flying into Phoenix, Sedona is a good 3 hour drive from there. But we chose the longer scenic route which basically just takes you through the desert filled with tall cacti at first and then you go onto miles and miles without any sign of life. The desert has its own weird kind of beauty (as long as your car doesn't break down in the middle of it)!

We stopped at Jerome for lunch. It's an old gold mining town which is now filled with haunted buildings, haunted stories and some good eating options. Every street, restaurant and shop has an interesting tale to tell you! English kitchen is a great stop there to have some delicious bbq lunch and enjoy the views of the Wild Wild West.

Most of our day was spent driving through this deserty-scenic drive, but if we had to do it again and if we only had a 3 day trip planned, we would skip the long drive and head straight onto Sedona, though Jerome was fun!

Here are some of the highlights of our trip from Sedona:

1. The pink jeep tour
One of the most talked about adventures in Sedona is the pink jeep tours - it is kind of like a roller coaster drive up the red mountains in a jeep for 2 hours and thank goodness we did not have a heavy lunch at Jerome. We stomachs (and we) were definitely jumping on our seats on the tour. We took the broken arrow sunset tour and was so much fun!!! Definitely a must do for everyone who goes there!

2. Watching the sunset
After a lot of internet research, we found this to be an ideal spot to go in the evening to watch the sunset. Here is a link to the exact location - Crescent Moon Picnic Site. There are some stunning views on the drive to this place as well and we couldn't resist stopping and taking a few pics! The park has some picnic benches and short trails to spend a leisure evening.
We got a perfect view of the setting sun rays falling on the Cathedral rock and waited some more to see a fierce full display of colors in the evening sky.   

3. Chapel of the Holy Cross
At the Chapel of the Holy Cross we enjoyed 360 degree views of the red rocks and admired the architectural marvel of the church. 

4. Tlaquepaque and local fairs
Retail therapy always works wonders! While T caught his TV session and an afternoon nap, I loved shopping at the local fair hosted by many local artists and walking at the beautiful Tlaquepaque!
And here is all the shopping I did (except for the Eucalyptus leaves!):

5. Chasing the sunrise
We were so lucky that it was a full moon night, and we were able to capture the setting moon and chase the rising Sun on Sunday morning! We went back to the Red Rock Crossing road and were just in time (thanks to T's driving) to watch a beautiful sunrise in the valley.

We also enjoyed a delicious dinner at Elote Cafe (worth the 2 hour wait!) and my favorite was the lunch we grabbed at Red Rock cafe's patio overlooking the rocks.  Unfortunately, we did not have the time to fit in a hike up the bell rock, but we will save some for the next visit!

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Recently I found a few local floral shops around home and they are my favorite place to visit on weekends! One can pick up individual stems and make their own bouquet and it is so much more fun than to buy a regular bunch of flowers at the grocery store.

Today, I picked up a few stems to try an Ikebana flower arrangement. The emphasis on the leaves, shapes and stems really bring out the simple elegance in these arrangements.

Ikebana is practiced in silence and is a serious form on art in Japan. To create a basic Ikebana flower arrangement, you need a shallow vase, a floral frog to hold flower stems, and flowers/leaves/stems of at least three different lengths symbolizing sun, moon and earth.

The left-over flowers fill a bonus vase for the bedside :-)

Have a lovely weekend! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Adventures with food + camera

One of my favourite pass-times is to browse through food photography. T likes it too cause he can ogle at pics of the food while I am awed by food styling.   
So for a while, I have been wanting to try food photography - I got the books, I read all the food photography tips, got some basic equipment as bday and xmas gifts, went hunting with mom to antique shops for props (this was the best part!) and so on....

But, this is so challenging! First, I need to cook something elaborate. Then, I need to get the camera and click while cooking (well, I wanted to blog the process of making a few dishes and include the recipes). And then click the final product.

Most of the times, I start okay and by the end of it, I am too tired and out of ideas to click the final product or I am out of ideas for styling the dish. Here are a few of my failed attempts -

1. Ginger Chutney

Was to a good start with the pic of the ingredients:

But alas, the final product did not look tempting! In fact, I blogged the recipe, but decided to omit the final pic. Here is a pic of the disaster:

See the blog post here.

2. Apple sauce cake

Again, I thought I had started out very well with the pic of the ingredients - I added green apples and green leaves for styling the pic - was off to a good start!

But by the time I was done baking it, the sun had long set and the yellow light to click the finish product ruined it.

Check the full post here.

3. Maharashtran style 'Dal chi aamti' & 'Phodi'

Here, I spent too much time clicking the ingredients.

Then, I managed to take at least some pics of the process.

The final product was okay - but feels like something is missing. The burnt 'phodi' piece, the dal (specially the drumstick) looks a little stale and out of steam, garnishing was a little off - I think I lost my patience at the end...

4. Home-made pecan ice cream

There is so much scope for improvement. I background was a cheesecloth - it would have looked better if I had some of the background in focus to see the texture of the fine cloth. The ice cream had melted and you can see the flat base in the cup - The perfect scoops would have looked better. Pecan pieces looked a little big for garnishment.

Oh well, learning is always a process....