Weekend

April has been good so far. Spending this weekend with a li’l bird that I’ve been best friends with since high school. Maybe stay back in her nest for the night. Hope you have a good one!

This week’s feature is from Arundathi Roy’s Ministry of utmost happiness.

“…

Skyscrapers and steel factories sprang up where the forests used to be, rivers were bottled and stored in supermarkets, fish were tinned, mountains mined and turned into shining missiles.Massive dams lit up the cities like Christmas trees.

Everyone was happy.

…”

– the ministry of utmost happiness, Arundathi Roy

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Have a Happy Weekend !

 

HappyWeekend

Weekend! Kickstarting mine with an old favorite by Charles Dickens and a delicious gulp of homemade banana smoothie.

Featuring excerpts from a favorite book every Friday morning, starting today. Have a great weekend!

“….

“He has a very nice face and style, really,” said Mrs. Kenwigs.
“He certainly has,” added Miss Petowker. “There’s something in his appearance quite–dear, dear, what’s the word again?”
“What word?” inquired Mr. Lillyvick.
“Why–dear me, how stupid I am!” replied Miss Petowker, hesitating. “What do you call it when lords break off doorknockers, and beat policemen, and play at coaches with other people’s money, and all that sort of thing?”
“Aristocratic?” suggested the collector.
“Ah! Aristocratic,” replied Miss Petowker; “something very aristocratic about him, isn’t there?”
The gentlemen held their peace, and smiled at each other, as who should say, “Well! there’s no accounting for tastes;” but the ladies resolved unanimously that Nicholas had an aristocratic air, and nobody caring to dispute the position, it was established triumphantly. 

….”

– Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens

Tales from a journey – Custard apple diaries

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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 fluffy 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.

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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.

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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.

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Strangers on Valentine’s day

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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.

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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.

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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.”

1908
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.

2017
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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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