Slow living – A medley of photos and notes

Processed with VSCO with fs16 presetSlowing down

Over the years I have learnt that I am very old style. Sometimes I feel I would rightly fit in a farmer’s market, time-lapsed backwards to 1950s. That is what I seem to find joy in. Every new place I visit makes me wonder what it must have looked and felt like years before. These paths have been treaded by so many people over the years, each a story, each a hero in their time. A time when life was slower and alive with people interacting more. A place where everyone knew everyone else because they took the time to do so, to care and to greet one another. A place with warmth and spirit without a phone in their palms to bend their necks down to.I miss the days we wrote letters to our best friends and family. I miss having to hold a pen, to think, to carefully choose my words. To spend the effort and time, to “feel” everything we communicated to them. I don’t even know what my handwriting looks like anymore, do you? I miss remembering phone numbers of our loved ones far away. Yes, life is “easier” now than it was before. It’s an irony – we have everything we need to stay connected now, a lot of us even have access to fly anywhere in the world, but how “connected” are we? The voice and emotion hiding behind those text messages, how real are they? It was much more organic back then, don’t you think? I cannot begin to imagine arriving into this world in today’s generation and missing out on the slow and gadget free childhood we had. I do hope the world is getting somewhere with all this fast paced lifestyle, but we’re on a one way road now. We feel we are in a constant race because, well, we are. Everything is a race – education, work, family, even holidays. The streets in the city I live in refuses to slow down, people want to rush everywhere – to the market, to the subway, to walk their dog. Why? And with so much rushing we still complain we have no time. Then why rush at all? If there is one thing we all have in common its that : we-have-no-time. And it makes me wonder sometimes, what would we do if we had that time we complained we didn’t have? Go on a holiday, relax, slow down..?

I keep thinking about this sometimes. Some of it I share here, some of it remains with me. It’s a conscious effort I take to remind myself everyday: To put my phone away and look around every time I step outside, go for walks. To see people’s faces. Observe. Give my heart and mind the time and space to absorb things around me. To make new friends. To be present. Moments like these are so precious to lose, to never know what it feels like again.


Aug 11

We had a very pleasant Sunday. I am grateful for today. For a peaceful morning breakfast in a laid back cozy coffee shop; the morning summer sunlight filling up the space in abundance with a generous doze of warmth and glow. For the light vegan breakfast with a mix of cut fruits, coconut curd and cashew butter and for the delicious and cute pancakes S shared with me. Grateful for the refreshing walk in the neighborhood on the way back home to get our bikes to go cycling and for the most beautiful bike ride I ever had, along the Hudson river in Riverside Park. It was breezy and my heart was full. We cycled along the river beneath a canopy of trees lining the roads. After about 6 miles, we arrived at the foot of a tiny pink lighthouse beneath the George Washington bridge, S explained it as one of the important landmarks that is also the first sight you see when entering the state of New York. We found a spot to sit on the bed of rocks and under the shades of the trees. We listened to the subtle waves crashing, and wondered about the logs of wood that came floating by every once in a while. We did some fresh grocery shopping in Fairway, we planned it well and was easy to take it all home since my bike had a basket. I am grateful for today, for this beautiful summer day.

Processed with VSCO with fs16 preset

Salem and Ipswich Beach

Processed with VSCO with e8 presetAs human beings our behaviors and characteristics spread across an extremely wide spectrum. On one end we destroy everything that stands against our beliefs and comfort and the other end we pray and celebrate memories of their very existence.

This is something I was thinking about when we decided to spend Saturday morning in Salem, a little village in the north shore of Massachusetts. The village and the neighborhood is known for its witch trials during colonial times and rightly so, it is lined with shops that sell “healing” stones, tarot cards and crystal balls. It’s amazing how passionate and serious people are about these things. Every shop is different and has a character of its own – the air is dense with lighted incense sticks, every breath feels dark and heavy. The stores are small but packed to the rafters with aromatic oils, gemstone pendulums, numerous precious gems. Some exquisite stores even sell rabbit skins. Salem is derived from a Hebrew word called Shalom, meaning “peace”. It was a strange kind of peace. It was not a place I could fall in love with but it has filled my mind with so many questions. Events from 1692 seem so so far away, and the tales have evolved since then.

A couple of hours after noon when our stomachs had begun to rumble we decided to stop over at a restaurant in Ipswich before heading to Crane beach. The drive to Ipswich was beautiful. Houses lining the roads up to this little town warmed our hearts with all kinds of pretty. We drove into this town dreaming to fill our tummies with some Thai food but bummed as we were to find out almost all restaurants close on July 4th, after a bit of a walk in the neighborhood hunting for places to eat, we found ourselves at the doorstep of an old pub, sweaty and very hungry. I have never eaten in a pub before, the afternoon was such a delight. It was lightly crowded, predominantly with localities and  ticked all the good vibes you can expect from a laid back town on a weekend afternoon. We ordered some home fries to share and a simple 2 topping jalapeño and pineapple pizza. The fries were an instant hit – fresh and thick slices with a hint of spice from the pepper sprinkled on top and the pizza was the best we have ever had. By the end of our meal we were four happy souls with fulfilled appetites in one of the oldest pubs in town.

Processed with VSCO with e8 preset

Processed with VSCO with e8 preset

Soaking in the Ipswich Sun

There is no feeling that can beat walking in the shores on a summer afternoon, and it’s a bonus if the waves crashing on you are refreshingly cold. Crane Beach was a happy windup to a beautiful day. Being around water bodies is fun. It was all water and sky as far as the eyes could see, a sense of freedom from the noise and buildings in the city. I am glad I live at a time when I have a choice of places like these to escape to.

Processed with VSCO with e8 preset

Tales from a journey – Custard apple diaries


Snippets from a hometown

The roads looked alive with hustling cars, auto rickshaws, bikes and ramshackle lorries. The sidewalk, seemingly dirty with a thick film of grease and smut, glimmered under the irrepressible afternoon sun. She sits on this sidewalk every day enveloped in the busy noises of the street markets, under the shades of a giant aging tree. This is her spot. Her little shop of custard apples is what sits in a tattered woven basket. Mornings start with the unfailing ritual to set it all up (ripe, tender ones upgraded atop the pyramid arrangement) on a flap of cardboard against the blue walls of the samosa shop, before the bazaar is enthusiastic and alive. It’s a pleasing sight to walk by, a reassurance of familiarity.


I woke up craving for a custard apple kind of morning.

Montage – Circus Lane, Dean village and some Edinburgh sunshine

DSC_0012“A queer compromise between a fairytale and a battleground is the very quintessence of Edinburgh”
– Devon Morton

There are certain places in this world we fall in love with the moment we set our eyes on it. Sometimes we are so mesmerized that it takes time to form into words what makes us feel the way we do. And not everything that is beautiful can cast the kind of spell that Edinburgh could.

The first time I learnt about this medieval city was three years ago, while I sipped away a tall glass of cranberry juice stacked with ice cubes at a riverside pub in Kingston. “It’s pronounced edin-bruh, not edin-burg. Try getting there one of these weekends. It’s a beautiful place”, Marc said. Ignoring the embarrassment of having mispronounced it, I fell in love with the Scottish ring in the name, my affair started that autumn evening. I have had many fantasies of visiting Scotland since, none close to the magical first impressions when we we finally made it there in October last year. Sriram and I arrived just after Edinburgh’s festival fringe, the world’s biggest art festival, on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon.

CircusLane 1

Edinburgh greeted us with an enchanting canvas of medieval architecture, castles and hills overlooking an uncountable bunch of hidden lanes and ruins. So when we whisked ourselves away to a breathtaking airbnb in Leith, we were thrilled in anticipation to experience it all. There is never enough time to consume all the rich history and magic in this city.  Nevertheless, we decided that the best way to do it is on foot.

Edinburgh-6DSC_0021It’s hard to not lose your way in certain parts of Edinburgh, there are way too many lanes meandering through the heart of the city that some of them could occasionally muddle up google maps. And whilst we were hilariously lost most of the time, we walked into some gorgeous cobblestone alleys, stone houses and lush rose gardens (the kind of life I love). Our favorites were the Circus Lane and Dean village, both quiet and far away from hustle and bustle of tourist spots. The Dean village adjoins the Damside, also a quaint little residential area dotted by arched bridges over veins of the water of Leigh. Sriram and I try not to be the typical tourists when we travel and are looking for offbeat places that give us as much an authentic experience as possible of being a local. We had fun and a lot of good memories to keep.


Strangers on Valentine’s day


To be or not to be, that is the question – Shakespeare

Winter post December, I feel, is often bittersweet, slow and quiet. The dreamy christmas windows, mulled wine, pop up eateries all fade away. We timidly wake up from the picture-perfect postcard life with a fresh serving of new resolutions and a blob of good old procrastination on the side. Busy weeks pass by like a fast-forwarded dream and then we stop a little; it’s February 14th – a day to celebrate love. 

I stand in a queue with a bottle of roasted peanuts in hand and a dismal five dollar bill. “Next customer please”. I walk up to the cash counter, to a tall brunette. “How are you today? Happy Valentine’s day, if you are celebrating.”

To you as well, I said. She had a thick layer of sparkles on her eyelids, glittering in silver and blue.

“I’m not celebrating.” I could tell. Beneath the dramatic makeup, it was an easy give away. She handed the receipt. “I love what you have done to your eyes.”, I said. She lit up a bit. “It’s NYC, if you would like to try”.

Waiting at the train station earlier that morning, I caught a whiff of romance and passion in the air. After-all, tonight is the night. Crisp red roses, fancy hairdo’s to go with crimson red gowns, last minute scurry for pretty gift wrappers, lots of scented candles – lavender, cinnamon or just anything labelled love with a cupid and a heart and surprise dinner reservations. Oh yes. The evenings are beautiful. The tables are decked with special candles tonight and a complimentary tall vase with roses, carefully placed in the centre.

“Well, it was nice, different from the usual bottle of wine and red roses, you know..” There was a trace of doubt in her voice. She walked past me, phone on one ear, her slender form enhanced in her pencil skirt and suede pumps. Here is a day reminding us about love (or the lack of one). I look at happy faces inside cars at a traffic point. With blow dried hair and red lipstick, she buries her nose into a velvety bundle of red roses. It’s a day of plentiful reflections; reflections of love, happiness, life.

It’s that time of the year again when most of us are in romantic harmony. We dress. We groom. Dine. Drink. Walk under moonlight. Exchange expensive gifts. Get surprised. Act surprised. Kiss each other goodnight and snuggle up in love. It’s a beautiful life. If only we could stop for a while and think – maybe love needn’t be just a one day celebration. It’s sunrise again. Until next year, it’s time to instagram #aboutlastnight and get back to work.

A little note to my readers

Thank youWhen I started writing Happily Muffined last year, I imagined this space on the internet to be a little cozy corner, an imaginary warm and quiet nook to cuddle up into in a room full of tall shelves of old books, a cup of lady grey with a spot of cold milk, a french window overlooking the hills through the seasons and indoor creepers growing wild and happy. I am overjoyed that today people want to connect to this space and read about it. I want to thank you all for helping HM grow and for being a part of it all. While the tea brews, welcome to this little abode. In the days to come, I am working towards bringing together collections of photographic stories from off beaten parts of the world, while continuing to learn and grow in the process.

I am now back from a little vacation with many adventures and stories to write about. New post coming soon :  Edinburgh series.

Postcards from Pocono Mountains

DSC_1342Bushkill Falls : Along a little creek 

In the last weeks of May the remnant days of a very short lived spring vanished into summer. I gathered all the packed boxes and neatly lined them up against the wall behind the front room. Sriram and I have been slowly packing away our life in the little Manhattan apartment. We felt like a gypsy by the end of last week, we really were ready to leave any day if need be. I stared at my bare feet, the faded nail paint barely visible against the dusty wooden floor and took another sip of the ginger tea. This whole act of packing was playing games with my reminiscence, recalling all the memorable times we spent together this year. In the last weekend of Spring we joined our cousins and family, a little group of 12 packed in a van and headed off to the quiet sounds of a waterfall in the distant canopy of woods. The two hour drive to the eastern boundary of Pennsylvania comprised of a collective pretzel craving, our favorite cousin was entrusted to execute a solution for it. Long drives are meant to justify food cravings. Besides, it is the land of pretzels after all. The drive lasted till we reached Blakeslee, to a beautiful Airbnb house tucked away amidst a lush thicket of pine trees. After a good comforting lunch of Athai’s homemade puliyodharai sadam and curd rice our enthusiastic appetites were fed and  we were all set for a remarkable afternoon. For the brief drive post lunch, we were dazed by the peaceful surroundings and the thought of waterfalls.

DSC_1364Everything is magical around a waterfall. Bushkill falls was fascinating in so many levels, it was hard to shake off the wonderment. We followed a little creek along bamboo bridges and rocky trails. The red-trail, a small uphill trek around the falls was as leafy and green as one could possibly imagine. It is a beautiful world to escape into. Bound by the mist softly descending on my face and delicate sounds of the milky waterfall oozing through wet mossy stones.


Camelback mountain adventures

The spring getaway this year was the time when Sriram and I were at the intersection of two exciting future choices. It was going to be a huge leap. A dream of castles, red buses and tea or the land of museums and national parks. So to echo the nervousness and excitement in our hearts, this trip we both (equally petrified) stood on the edge of the hill at camelback mountains ready to jump off the cliff. We were zip-lining for the first time and the leap was worth it. It was a rip-roaring experience to glide over tall trees. A newly found reassurance that no matter how terrifying life might get, it is a wonderful feeling to have crossed it. Two favorites from the mountain adventures this year –

4000 feet zip-line – This is apparently North America’s longest zip-liner. CBK mountain adventures offers two types of zip-lines, 1000 feet and 4000 feet. With much encouragement from the lovely cousins we braved the 4000 ft twin zip-line that gives a beautiful all-embracing view of the mountains. For someone terrified of heights and speed, this is a good first step.

Appalachian express coaster ride – A ride down the slopes of the hills is yet another source of a beautiful view of camelback mountains. It is a slightly rocky yet magnificent ride with twists and turns, they even let us control the speed (a well tamed rollercoaster so to speak). There is often a long queue for this much anticipated ride but the scene at the top is worth the wait.


Hot chocolate and other stories at Flatiron district

DSC_0114.jpg“Manhattan has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow. This, more than any other thing, is responsible for its physical majesty. It is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village – the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying that the way is up.”

If Fuller building were a person, this would be his story. More than a hundred summers ago in America, it was around the time when public smoking was declared illegal for women. A dapper young man (the flatiron building) stood at the intersection of broadway, 23rd street and 5th avenue tracing glances across the city skyline. It was a triangular piece of land where frequent waves of turbulent winds tossed up skirts while passersby fell in love with his tall charming stance and sleek tricorne (a look alike in this case). He stood there day and night welcoming scores of visitors to the heart of the city. The streets that were hardly frequented now attracted the young and old, some pulled out of hansom cabs for a courteous hat tip while kids craned their heads to the mightiest sight of him. Days grew heavy with obvious stares and hushed whispers that he pretended to ignore. Slenderest, most aquiline structure, one said. He was the talk of the neighborhood, the substance of the city’s most reported love affair albeit a curious three sided story. It was the birth of a historic moment for the identity of 5th avenue. He lived to be more than a hundred, through evolution into the 21st century.

Many weeks ago, on a Friday in June, the sun decided to bring more light into our days. It felt wonderful, the city looked magical. The tulips loved it, shooting out of its bulbs in reds and yellows. Two months later, it continues to be generous. New York streets are now like an overly baked piece of cake. The goodness is in there but it is way too over-baked to enjoy. So while the summer played games with my mind to coil up in a cozy little air-conditioned corner what happened instead were numerous ambles in the lower Manhattan neighborhood. On one such afternoon, I took my seat under the cozy shades of a large street umbrella along the edge of Madison square park. The main course on the menu was a beautiful view of the Flatiron building, a right triangle limestone and terra-cotta grande relished with a delicious sip of hot chocolate. The city bakery (from a couple of streets south of Flatiron district) serves undeniably the best hot chocolate in New York. It’s a thick and creamy delight with a velvety chunk of  homemade marshmallow. The ritual – always get a hot chocolate takeaway to savor the landmark. Bon appetit.


The beginning of this post is a quote by E.B White from Here is New York.

Tales from a journey – Fortune in a cup

Beyond the ancient trees and wild deers at Richmond park, a pack of pastel houses lined a thin and twisted uphill road. One of them, the faded venetian pink corner house belonged to Madeleine’s neighbor and dear friend Simi. I have vivid memories of that home, particularly the striking life size portrait painting of a much younger Simi.

One afternoon after work I reached home to find her sitting by the kitchen window while Madeleine put a kettle on the stove. A small tea party, I gathered. They were both over eighty with a charming sense of humor. A relaxed afternoon tea at Madeleine’s was a regular if Simi and Sarah were home. We all took our places around the big old teapot, the tea leaves infusing a bold shade of chestnut brown. I took a sip and a bite of the smooth Belgium chocolate. Having a cup of tea with some fine women who loved living life and spoke more Farsi than english seemed a perfect way to spend that afternoon. My association with Madeleine progressed from more than just a landlord. For some reason, it was an emotional afternoon for me. I sat there realizing this to be a true blessing. For the next three months I was going to be a part of this little family. Simi spoke at length, there were times when I couldn’t make much sense of it. I could sense a thousand emotions hidden behind those sharp brown eyes. In spite of that they still looked young and beautiful. In the thick of all the drinking and talking, the tea party turned into a Turkish coffee reading scene that evening. “Drink it all, my dear”, Madeleine gestured. “Lets read your fortune”. I quietly drained the last bit into my mouth, then placed the saucer over the rim of the cup and quickly turned it upside down. Another Parsi thing, I assumed.

More conversations. Sarah discussed her university projects, Madeleine asked her to stop wearing black all the time.  More chocolates, while we waited for the remains of the beverage seep onto the saucer. A little while later Madeleine read our fortune from the patterns in the cup. I met Sriram a month after, I am indeed married to a ‘very handsome’ young man.

Travelogue – The fragrance of Williamsburg


The Sketchbook Project

I stood before all the journals and sketchbooks lined up against the walls, deeply inhaling the fragrance of old books. An image of a young jewish boy came to my mind. I still remember, the subway stopped at a midtown station, mildly crowded for a workday evening. He slipped inside through the closing doors just in time and occupied an empty seat across mine. A little while later I noticed an olive green envelope perched on his lap. He removed the card and wrote carefully in small cursive motions. For a moment my mind wandered off. I wondered what his story might be when he leaves the train. Someone waiting to be loved, I was certain, for his dreamy eyes gleamed with love under the yellow lights. The train passed through tunnels with dirty walls of withered paint and grease. I looked out the window, permitting the scene of the boy and his envelope lodge in my mind. Two stations after I noticed him carefully retracing the words on the flap, to make it bolder I assumed. Many years later this would probably be someone else’s keepsake, a letter that contained a piece of his story.

I have always been fond of handwritten notes and love letters. They are a wonderful medium to connect with loved ones. On Saturday I decided to visit the sketchbook project at Williamsburg, a library of journals from people around the world. Nested between old-world cafes and art scenes, it is the world’s largest public art project with a collection of real narratives. Every handmade journal is a creative expression of a personal story. I spent the afternoon leisurely flipping through journals from Portland, Milan and Israel. The “coffee stains” sketchbook contained paintings with real tea and hot cocoa mix, the atlas of eating was a book of recipes and thoughts about food I liked as well. Each book I opened smelled different form the other, it contained fabric, beach sand, pressed flowers, ribbons, quilt. They all seemed to carry a fragrance from the place they came from. There are thousands of books, it is a good place to connect and an outlet to share something real.

Happily Muffined was born this day last year and I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate today.

36000183841_2671722054_o copy2




I found a forgotten summer top hidden in the wardrobe. A pale citrus yellow, it was a gift from Madeleine, my lovely landlord back in London. Two years later I wore it this Saturday.


Sriram and I spent a lunch date at Williamsburg that weekend. He insisted we go on a Saturday so as to not miss Smorgasburg, the weekly food festival. Perched on the waterfront at East Riverstate park, the stalls overlooked Manhattan skyline serving everything from lemonade to spaghetti donuts. The afternoon air held a smoky blend of meat, potato fries and vanilla. It was a crowded but perfect setting for all kinds of food adventures. We walked around a mecca of choices with a lot of food ideas brewing in my head. It was a late lunch but first a local special to resist the summer heat – cream soda! Virgil’s orange cream soda was a better version of Fanta, delicious and refreshing with a strong vanilla flavor.

The neighborhood is known for high energy hipster streets, vintage boutiques and graffiti covered warehouses. There is a lot going on, it is beautiful to walk around and drink in the essence of Brooklyn or grab a snack by the riverside. The restaurants and cafe’ are a good mix of contemporary and old-style. From the outside they all look beautiful, like a perfect prescription for the soul.