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.

DSC_1319IMG_0611bf.jpg

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.

IMG_0405

Advertisements

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.

citybakeryflatiron.jpgDSC_0103DSC_1330

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.

The quaint Italian coffee shops in Manhattan

MadP1

As slick as a whistle here we are, at the heart of summer. The sun is beaming in full force dissolving every memory of snow and rain we carried over from last year. Despite that, New York city is rich and lively. Gelato and rainbow milkshakes are hastily relished on the go before the scorching heat bleeds them out. New York is a bit of every part of the world, it has something to give for everyone. This summer commenced with a predominant Italian vibe. The one thing consistent in Italian food is the amount of passion instituted in cooking.  I would never have learnt the story of gianduja had I not explored the Italian pockets of the city.

35422096881_7d082876cb_o

Max Caffe’ 

It’s a laid back Sunday morning. We rise up after much contemplation, pour some spiced Indian chai to the brim of our stout coffee mugs. We carelessly dip a social tea biscuit in the steaming hot tea and force our half open eyes to wake up to the nostalgic aroma of mornings in Madras. We then decide to do brunch outside today, instead of the wonted upma or oatmeal. It is a perfectly toasty afternoon. We slip into our summer clothes and head out to the cafe across the street, a couple of blocks uptown. We pick a favorite corner spot by the window, overlooking the streets on Amsterdam avenue. It is a lush Italian cafe with an airy homestyle flair. The comfy coaches with bold floral prints are a visual treat. We order a plate of nutella crepes for him and french toast for me. We savor the food and the intricate decor alike, take a moment to commend the first class maple syrup, then get back to admiring the wall mounted lanterns and other antiques. Hours pass by a cuppa and we are still smitten by the ambience, the sweet little corners calling out to us for tête-à-têtes with our loved ones. It feels good because for a very short while, as long as we are here sipping a latte, life is slow.. the way it should be.

It was a chapter that transported us back in time. A lazy brunch on Sundays is mandatory for the soul. Sometimes it’s all the therapy you will need to tackle monday blues. It is amusing to explore coffee shops unassumingly tucked away in street corners like these. I have an unparalleled weakness for everything vintage and this was a perfect setting to feed my liking. I will remember this day for the best french toast I have ever eaten in a very artsy and vibrant cafe. I will also remember this to be the day when, in New York city, I was finally served just the sufficient quantity of food a person can eat. On a side note, fresh sourdough breads are perfetto for french toasts.

35422080011_933f5de6e8_o (1)

36007214445_9928653310_oMax Cafe 1

A day like an Italian

To eat every existing delicacy in this city, one lifetime isn’t enough. One of the most heartwarming attractions in lower Manhattan is a bustling Italian marketplace called Eataly. It stands alongside the Flatiron building across Madison Park. I have been sinfully stealing myself to Eataly at least twice a week the past month. There is a genuine piece of Italy life here, fondling an irresistible invitation to breathe in the fragrance of freshly baked pastries and sourdough breads. It has been an enlightening discovery, the choices of food and wine are endless. The doors at 5th avenue open to a crisp aroma of freshly ground coffee. The magic unfolds the instant we walk in, one wouldn’t expect so much of a truly authentic Italian world on this side of the block. The quiet mumblings over coffee tables and counters are thick and french accented, the air is distinctly scented with regional twists of flavored espresso. It accommodates rooftop beer gardens, restaurants and wine bar. It is a mecca of Italian jams and compote, hand pulled mozzarella, wine and breads. It is a high-end supermarket, the downside is that it is very expensive. Nevertheless it was an incredible experience touring the marketplace and eyeballing the jumbo cheese counters and absynth chocolates. There are occasional shout outs from the fishmonger, the spirits are high at the wine bar and all through the day, the bakery at the north west pocket oozes out delicious aroma of well risen, warm and crusty breads.My south Indian curiosity was promptly tingled, drawing me to create a little bucket-list (a summer fling list) of some offbeat favorites. The Italians here take food very seriously. They strongly believe people bond well when there is good food.

Eataly635967363076_63640becbc_o

The summer-fling list:

Violet jamViola/violet jam is made out of wild violet flowers and is popular in France. Some of these have a more perfumed taste.
Gobino’s gianduja spread – Predating Napoleon times, the continental system lead to declining supply of cocoa. To stretch the quantity the chocolate was mixed with hazelnut paste occasioning the invention of gianduja.
Italian coriander honey – Any monofloral honey will have it’s own unique taste of season. Manufactured when coriander flowers are in full bloom, this has an aroma of citrus and coriander spice.
Sambuco –  Sambuco is Italian for elderberry jam.
Sabadi’s Quality of life series : health – Cold processed organic chocolate with bee pollen, pomegranate extract and acerola.
Sabadi’s Quality of life series : beauty – Cold pressed organic chocolate with chia seeds, linseeds, hemp seeds, extracts of carrots and bilberries
Chestnut cream – A common ingredient in many Italian cuisines.
Redcurrant compote – Red currants are uncommon berries, when had as a whole they are believed to have a seeded caviar like texture. 
Alba
– All the bite sized pastries look beautiful, but I found Alba to be particularly interesting. It is a passion fruit mousse & dark chocolate over buckwheat and almond flour sponge cake

Eataly1

Old fashioned delights

hoboken

Tales from the city 

On a cloudy afternoon in late April I had just finished a job interview in the quiet neighborhoods of Blossom street in Hoboken. Strangely the weather seemed confused and quite cold for a spring day. I was beginning to think we might get by stretching out spring for longer this time. The cherry blossoms were all springing to life. Perched on the Hudson waterfront, the city is a good blend of everything beautiful – cobbled streets, brick walls, vintage lamp posts and pretty corner shops with pastel windows. It brought back fantasies of stepping into a countryside village. Snuggled up in an old fashioned corner cafe, the afternoon began by devouring a freshly baked croissant and a piping hot earl grey tea. Funnily enough earl grey tea is not my kind, rather a favorite for Sriram. I guess I drink it to substitute his absence and enjoy it only in such times; it’s just how it is. What I really love about coffee shops is its ambient sounds – the involuntary clinks and murmurs comfort me. It was a perfect stage to lose myself in a good book. Later that afternoon I was out exploring the neighborhood.

One of my favorite memories from that afternoon are walks amidst the vibrant Kanzan cherry trees and magnolias, gracefully swaying at the corners of every street. For someone who has lived in south Asia for the greater part of her life, cherry trees are a rarity, so memories like these are a feast to take home. I stopped by at Coldstone later that evening for our favorite banana caramel crunch before heading back home. A small guilty pleasure for dessert that night. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city across the Hudson, the afternoon was a welcoming change.

HB 3

Hb 2

Hb 1

HB 4

A Map of the world

The closer I am placed to a book, the more content I am. Every other fortnight I visit the library in the city and bring home books that will last for a month. This has been happening for almost a year now. I came to realize recently that there is a lot I have to catch up on, it was as if I didn’t live the beginning of my adult life the way I should have. So many classics to cover, so little time. There is a world of books to read out there and next to travel, that would be my preferred way to celebrate life. I am reminded of  a new favorite I recently read called Map of the world by Jane Hamilton. The story is narrated from the perspective of a husband and a wife when life takes a turn with the death of a neighbor’s child, charges of child molestation, marital differences and isolation from society. This isn’t a light read but what makes it laudable is how expressive and real the sentiments are. In addition, this time I also brought home a couple of classics by RK Narayan and W M Thackeray. Books like these are a motivation to read more. It felt wonderful to get back to the habit of reading, something my dear mother inspired me into at an early age. I remember my younger days when I was first introduced to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, it was an old book that belonged to Amma when she was 9 or 10. My affair with reading and musty vintage books started then. It feels good because it is one of the attributes I most associate with my childhood and family.

oats

No cook oats with blueberries and banana

I just finished eating my favorite breakfast this morning after seeing Sriram off to work. When I started this blog I wanted it to be a bit of everything. I realized recently that an easy way to make your day work is to kick-start it with something you love. Be it reading or making art, it feels great to create a day you want to wake up to. Food makes me happy. So sometimes for me the easiest answer to that is a healthy and tasty breakfast. Something I could relish and yet not worry about gaining pounds from it. We have been eating oatmeal almost every morning and were looking for ways to make it more interesting than just the garnish of raisins and almonds. This is Sriram’s take on a healthy no cook overnight oats recipe. I have a deep relationship with this new discovery because it is a very comforting start for a workday. The chewy texture of the oats with a tangy sweetness from the yogurt and fresh fruits make it a longing relish. This recipe serves 3.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked oats
  • 1 cup home-made yogurt (or greek yogurt)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 large banana
  • 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds (optional)

For the roasted almonds, mildly crush the almonds using a mortar and pestle. Heat a pan and dry roast it for 3 minutes. Remove from heat when the edges turn golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and set it aside to cool.

In a mason jar or any airtight container, bring together the oats and milk. Mix well. To this pour in a cup of thick yogurt and combine. (Alternatively replace with greek yogurt if you prefer thicker consistency) Add 1 sliced banana, blueberries, cinnamon and honey. Slowly mix everything until well combined. If using frozen blueberries, let it thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes before mixing. Leave it to rest in the fridge overnight. Garnish with roasted almonds before serving.

If you prefer to reduce the quantity of milk, replace 1/2 cup of milk with equal amount of water. Also, you can go upto 5 tablespoons of honey if you have a serious sweet craving to satisfy.

DSC_1207

Celebrating love – A balmy spring weekend in Washington D.C

DC6

The Fourth of April

Creating stories with my favorite people is a continuous desire for me. Be it surprises, love letters, food, pillow fights, travel or laughter – I capture candid moments as much as I can so that at best they visually continue to exist. It is important for me to have a multitude of such stories that will make up a good narrative when we age and  I believe this is what makes life so exciting. We have this time on earth to create something unique and quite certainly, no matter what choices we make this will be a story no one else has ever heard of. I wrote to Sriram one day, ” I realized the reason you fall in love with someone is not based on how much you like the same things, but how much positivity you can bring to the other person and influence him/her”. I believe that strongly now than ever before. So here we are, one year through our wedlock, celebrating the reasons we fell in love for.

Sarabeth’s and other jubilees

Beside the reasons of marriage and love, it was the month when we first moved in together and marked it with a contemporary american breakfast at Sarabeth’s. I have a candid shot of Sriram from last April, waiting for our order at our table. Funnily enough, on our first anniversary we impulsively decided that our visit to Sarabeth will become an anniversary tradition . Sriram coordinated our time (and his sweater) to be the same as last year so we could have an identical picture taken. All so surprising because it’s not often when the hubby says let’s take a photo. On the contrary, it’s not surprising how many ways we try to re-live what we cherish. This year we ordered home fries for starters, and french toast – apple-cinnamon french toast topped with bananas for him and almond-crusted french toast with a drizzle of cranberry-cherry syrup for me. The verdict : his choice was easily my favorite simply because it was tastier and the portion was just sufficient. A thin french crust of thinner almond shaves would have made mine a better breakfast.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we spent the rest of the morning leisurely walking across central park, then sat by the pond with a beautiful view of Spring colors and reflections of a pastel blue sky.

duck

CP

CP2

The cherry blossom festival

The last time we travelled to D.C, it was with a larger group of lovely cousins and relatives on a long summer weekend. The capital is rich in archives. For someone vehement about history and politics, this place is a feast. This year however since it is the season of cherry blossoms, we couldn’t find a better way to celebrate ‘us’ than travel to the beautiful annual spring festival. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom during the first week of April, rightly timed for our anniversary. We did not have an itinerary planned for our travel. Considering this was only a weekend’s getaway we wanted to dedicate all of it to soak in the beauty of the blooms. We walked around the tidal basin, also exploring the monuments along the banks. D.C is brimming with beautiful architecture and elegance. To consume every compelling detail of american/world history it is important to not rush through the tour and we were quite keen on that. It is at least one week’s worth of commitment for inspiration. From this trip, a few favorites at the Tidal basin –

Martin Luther king’s monument –  Amongst the many monuments and memorials near the basin, for me this was the most stirring and overwhelming sight. The theme of the monument is based on a statement from his famous I have a dream speech “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” He stands 30 feet tall, emerging out of the ‘mountain of despair’ granite wall behind him.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial – Roosevelt’s memorial is admirably designed to narrate his story during the unusual 4 term presidency. There are waterfalls that represent it, one for every term, each getting bigger and complex in relevance to the term. With the prominence of stone, water and sculpture this outdoor narrative amidst the thick pink blossoms is an educative time lapse.  Roosevelt is seated on a chair here with Fala, his Scottish terrier by his side.

Paddle boating – The best time to do this is before lunchtime. We did a prior booking online a couple of hours beforehand as a precaution because we found a long queue for tickets the previous day. Sunday morning turned out to be more serene and magical than we had imagined it to be. Paddle boating was a first for me which added to the excitement. The timelines weren’t strict, when asked what time we had to return back, they said “whenever you please. Enjoy!” So we spent a good 150 minutes on the boat soaking in the beauty of the coral trees. What more could we ask for?

In a nutshell, it was a lovely start to one of my favorite months of the year. We wrapped up our anniversary watching an old classic – Rear Window

DC1

DC2DC4DC5

Preserving the Good Times

dsc_0139-copy

Looking back at the year behind us, there is a galore of moments preserved in our memory. Though not necessarily eventful, we realized that it’s the most simplest of happenings we tend to retain lifelong. There is a lot to feel happy about and a lot to look forward to. We are nearing our first anniversary and the end of winter, the weather has been surprisingly marvelous. Sriram and I started walking the 3 mile stretch from his lab every evening, like we used to during the summer and fall.  I never got around to writing as much as I planned to last year, but recollecting the best of all the love and laughter we shared is amusing.

The lake is my happy place

In the last week of October we were half way into the fall season gathering our boots and bags for a road-trip to Craryville. We were driving on a misty Friday afternoon, anticipating the clouds to pop in a little while. The drive felt like a beginning of a classic melody with the enchanting backdrop of sugar maple trees and fogginess lingering over the hilltops and slender roads. Sometime after dark we reached the semblance of a magical, mysterious manor. A deep breath of fresh air almost had a rural flavor to it and the two cheerful mule deers by the doorstep reassured that characteristic, visiting politely from the woods to greet us. The house was a vintage classic in its own way, and everything in its rightful place looked odd, beautiful, unique and old all at once. They must have survived through some historic years, unwritten tales and superstitions.

The weekend was all about unwinding in the comfort of a vintage home by the lake, cooking some delicious meals and soaking in the beauty of the fall colors. Nothing seemed more satisfying than sharing these moments with a group of close friends. There was a predicted downpour on Saturday as well, we gathered together for a relaxed breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup, buttered toast and coffee. The showers added a zest of organic character to the experience overall. A slow weekend is great, a rustic den with bursts of floral patterns is a perk(for me at-least) but the cherry on the cake was the discovery of an unusual book barn hidden amidst the groves of burgundy and butterscotch, a few miles away. It was treasure in the midst of wilderness, a good savor of what my dreams were made of ( the likes of living in the outskirts of the city with a swelling book barn in the neighborhood). All it took was looking in the right nooks, we found an interesting lot of old prints and collectables. I brought home a big leather bound book full of vintage postcards and an old Frank Leslies’s illustrated newspaper.

img_5153

hm1

dsc_0079

29927983554_88ab9cc38c_o

dsc_0154

The Hungarian Pastry Shop

Is it possible to love something before you were even acquainted with it? In December last year, during the last few weeks before Christmas I frequented the Hungarian Pastry shop excessively. The place was amply packed because of the holiday season, but I continued to find the subtle cafe sounds quite charming . It is a rare finding, located across the street from the Cathedral of Saint John. The small shop is filled with closely arranged furniture, walls embellished with the original works of a greek artist and delicious servings of authentic Hungarian and greek pastries. There is also a writer’s wall with annotations from authors/poets who found solace in the cafe or penned their first books for publication there. I remember the first time I stepped into the coffee shop, it wasn’t contemporary or commercial, nevertheless the ambience held something special. It was great to sit among artists and writers for as long as I pleased. It was ideal for the creative minds. The perfect theme for a novel. I even got around to bonding with the baristas and learnt to make a traditional Hungarian coffee and cappuccino.

December was a month of indulgence. If our kitchen was a fruit market then it had way too many pears in it. I decided to bake a Pear Flaugnarde from one of my favorite french cookbooks and it was indeed an indulgence. It was quite delicious, the caramelized pears were marvelous and I also felt convinced that it was healthier than most of my other bakes. A lot of my fond memories have been associated with baking, the most recent was a chocolate birthday cake topped with a generous spread of cocoa butter frosting and fresh berries for the lovely husband. While on the subject of desserts, Sriram and I had discovered another favorite bakery last summer and we went out of control by Christmas, finding an excuse to celebrate every other weekend with our favorite Chocolate & Walnut Levain cookies. I have surrendered to a guilt-free privilege for anything sweet. As I tell Sriram, relish it while you can.