Ending the year and my 2015 reading challenge by skimming through and absorbing many good thoughts from my favorite inspirational comics by Zen Pencils. If you are new to Gavin's blog, then you got to get his books and/or visit his website with the same name to see how awesome they are!
This is my third Agatha Christie book for 2015 (here are my first and second) and as always I am mesmerized by the writing and the reveal of the murderer. Peril at End House is eighth book in Hercule Poirot series and is an intriguing read. It was quite refreshing to see a vulnerable side of Poirot as he struggles to use his good old brain cells until he succeeds to catch the culprit by the end.
It has been just over 6 months since I started reading actor-turned-writer Ms.Twinkle Khanna's tongue-in-cheek TOI column - 'Mrs Funnybones'. Now, in her new book where each of the chapters are humorously named from A to Z, the author gives us a glimpse of her world with a hilarious take on various everyday incidents. It is a very quick, afternoon read with couple of LOL moments. Probably not worth $14.83 (paperback) but surely worth spending $2.15 on a Kindle edition. P.S - the copy pictured above was bought by mother for 250 Rs in India and sent to me.
There are tons of authors out there who talk about the perils and pleasures of 'Writing'. Some are preachy. Some thoughtful. Some give practical advice on how to overcome the infamous writer's block. I have read a few just out of curiosity and among all of them I really loved Dani Shapiro's "Still Writing". She has an incredible and beautiful writer's voice who churns gorgeous prose with such vulnerability yet full of clear wisdom, raw honesty and enough encouragement. I truly believe that there is a budding writer in each one of us and highly recommend this amazing book to all. Just like I did, you might even order a copy and keep it on your nightstand for that much needed inspiration in the most lonesome times.
Ok. I admit. As a 30+ year old, am not allowed to give a real review on any of the Wimpy Kid books. The intended audience is age 8+. Confession: I fell in love with this series when I borrowed my little niece's book couple of months back and read it in one sitting. The story is about a boy named Greg Heffley and his troubles at home, school and life in general. 'Cabin Fever' is the 6th installment in Wimpy Kid series and the book has a perfect wintery setting: a holiday bazaar, Santa Claus, an anticipation for gifts in a household getting ready for Christmas and an unexpected snow blizzard. In the midst of it, Greg is secretly worried that he will be punished for an accidental vandalism. Read for the fun of it. To remember how it was being little many moons ago. Life is definitely not easy when we are just a kid. ;-)
Honestly, I picked up this book only because it was a chosen as November's pick in Boxall's 1001 Books To Read Before You Die Goodreads group. I never heard the word "hard-boiled" fiction before and delved into it not knowing what to expect. Once done, my first thought was - "How did I miss to read any of Raymond's works for so long? I should have atleast heard about him and have one of his books in by TBR list, like I always do!". It was a fun, fast read with vivid scenes, striking dialogues and mystery built until the last the few pages. I added one more character to my ever growing list of fictional detectives - Philip Marlowe. What a superlative book! Must Read.
I am sure most of you heard about '1001 Books You Must Read'. It is a literary reference book list compiled by 100+ literary critics from around the world and edited by Peter Boxall. I have been dreaming about giving this list a try for a long time and finally took the plunge. The first book is from my favorite author - Agatha Christie. Did you know this is the ONLY book of hers featured in the list. Just like all her mysteries, the story has an unexpected twist at the end that will knock your socks off. An absolute must read.
There is no doubt Agatha Christie is THE QUEEN of mystery genre. This is my second book (And Then There Were None was my first) this year and I can't get enough of her brilliant writing. Set in a small town of Chipping Cleghorn, a murder is announced in local news paper and committed. Is it just a joke or a crime with a deep ulterior motive? I have to admit though this book is great, I have a soft corner for Poirot’s stories. Or it might be just that I love love David Suchet. (who plays the character of Poirot on TV) Next on my to-be-read list: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Death On The Nile. Do you have any favorite Agatha Christie novels? I would love to know.
Speaking of birthdays, one of my favorite authors celebrated her 125th birthday on September 15th 2015. It was none other than Agatha Christie, who created some enigmatic characters like Hercule Poirot. Did you know she is widely acknowledged as the best-selling author in the world after Shakespeare. Right now, as I type this post, I have my nose deep in one of her most popular murder mysteries - 'And There Were None' and loving every bit of it.
Imagine someone who sits (almost) at the same spot everyday in the train, next to a window, watching the numerous, unknown houses passing by. Now, that could me OR the protagonist of this riveting novel by Paula Hawkins. ☺️This is also my first attempt at audiobooks, narrated by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey and India Fisher. What a wonderful justice these women did to each of their parts. I even found talking to myself in British accent long after the book was over. Highly recommended.
One City One Book, unique to San Franciso is an annual literary event where the entire city reads and discusses the same book. For the year 2014, it was 'Tales of the City' by Armistead Maupin. It is the first book out of a series of nine novels and the story takes place in 1976 about residents of a mythic apt at 28 Barbary Lane. One common underlying theme of Tales of the City is that the characters are on an endless exploration of love, loss, loneliness, ambition and sexual adventuring. It is an easy read and an eye-opening throwback on SanFrancisco in 1970's.
My second book by Jodi Picoult this year (the first one was The Story Teller). The author manages well to blend in mystery, love and supernatural elements. There is a heavy dose of research on elephants which at first is very endearing but wears you off as the story slows in pace. The ending is strange, surprising and unpredictable- all at the same time!
Right from references to how newage companies like Google operate to a glimpse on how old musty bookshops are, the story works for the most part. What I thought was the plot didn't end on a satisfying note and the 500 year old mystery which makes the basic premise of the book was very conveniently solved.
"Living" Cynthia Swanson says "is not made up of details, but rather of highlights." Kitty (or Katharyn), the protagonist of the book lives in Denver (year 1962), has two distinct worlds and as the time passes, both seem like a reality. The premise is very interesting I must say but after 275 pages or so I felt the story dragged with too many details I didn't care for. 100 pages less and a tightened story line would have made this a much more compelling read.
This is by far the best book I read on how to cultivate habits in such a way that they stick around for a long time. I really love how Gretchen Rubin introduced the concept of The Four Tendencies. Once you know who you are, it is easy to strategize and improve upon any kind habit! An absolute must read.
I love flowers, a LOT. So, no surprise there on how much I loved drawing 'Flux'.
Rick, one of the Zentangle founders gives an interesting background on how it first originated -
“We taught flux from the very beginning of Zentangle. Maria learned the inspiration for this tangle at a calligraphy class she took about 25 years ago. And if memory serves (which it often does, albeit reluctantly), Maria was drawing this patterns on that magical day when I interrupted her in her studio which sparked this amazing Zentangle adventure." Source: Tangle Patterns
Letter 'E for Echoism'. What I like most about Zentangle is that - there are no mistakes. If you don't like a stroke, it is an opportunity to transform it into some new. Just like Life where every decision (good or bad) has something new to teach us!
Here is a fun Zentangle for Letter D. Diva Dance comes in three variations - Waltz, Foxtrot and Rock 'n' Roll and I chose to draw the second one! If you wish to be in a zen like state after a stressful day, I would highly recommend to brew a cup of tea, put some music on and spend few minutes tangling. It is YogaForBrain for sure.
While I was mindlessly loitering through Barnes and Noble one weekend, I stumbled upon a Tangling Drawing Kit by Penny Raile. Curiosity won over and I bought it on a whim. It has been three days since I am lost in this whole new world of Tangling and it gets exciting by the minute. Zentangle in particular is an easy-to-learn, fun way to sketch beautiful images by repetitive structured patterns. It was first created by Maria Thomas & Rick Roberts, 11 years ago! Just like learning any new language, I am planning to start from the basics by drawing A-Z Zentangle-original patterns. Today is 'Ahh', one of the very basic patterns with just strokes & dots. This makes great fillers. More coming up soon!
Couple of things am religiously following since adopting this healthy life style -
1. Eat when hungry and Stop when feeling full. If there is still food left, that will be the next meal.
2. Eat lots of veggies, fruits and drink green tea (without any sugar)
3. No white rice. When there is a whole gamut of whole grains to explore, why should we stick to just carb heavy white rice?
4. Walk at least 6K steps or more per day.
5. Limited amount of sugar in take. Some days it is absolutely zero except for sugars from eating fruits.
These simple rules seem to be working as I am 6 pounds lighter as of today. 7 more pounds to go. Let us see how long it takes. I am in no hurry as I want this to be like a lifestyle change rather than a 'diet'.
Day 7, here is how it went -
Morning: 6 soaked raw almonds, Warm water with lemon juice
Breakfast: Egg white Veggie Omelet with 2 Whole wheat bread slices
Lunch: 2 Rotis with Dondakaya (Tindora) curry
Dinner: Oatmeal with Spinach dal and a 1/2 tsp Mango Pickle
Snacks: Green Tea, Cucumber Slices with a bit of salt
Things are going good in terms of me sticking to good eating habits and making healthy choices. I don't crave for white rice anymore which is great considering how much I love it. Also, I tried a new dish today - Kale Dal (with spilt green mung beans). It came out really well and ate along with some 2-day old barley rice + a dash of my mother's instant mango pickle. :-)
Day 6, here is how it went -
At 10:30 AM (woke up late): 6 soaked raw almonds, Warm water with lemon juice
Lunch: (a farewell lunch from my roomie at a Thai restaurant): Papaya Salad and Singapore Veg Noodles (ate only till I was no longer hungry; packed most of the noodles as take-home)
The back ache is still giving me a hard time so I decided to take it head on by doing some yoga poses specifically for lower back pain. It worked. I instantly felt my muscles relax a bit. Now, I have to keep up with those poses for a few days and see if it makes any difference.
Day5, here is how it went -
EarlyMorning: 6 soaked raw almonds, Warm water with lemon juice
Breakfast: 2 Eziekiel bread slices with roasted red pepper & feta dip (from Whole foods), 3-egg whites scrambled with frozen veggies, coffee
Lunch: Blueberries with Hibiscus tea
Dinner: 3 Rotis with Sprouted Mung Dal Masala and Cucumber pieces
A visit to nearby Whole Foods (226 E 57 St.) was long due and finally I made one today during lunch time. Spent around 30$ on various items which will help me stick to this new healthy eating. One of them is Ezekiel bread (in frozen section). I got to know about this from K and am just hoping I will like its taste. Time will tell. :-)
For lunch, I grabbed a salad and soup from Whole Foods food bar. The chickpea salad was so filling that I brought the soup home to eat for dinner. That is one this I learnt from Mayo Clinic Diet . Stop when you feel full and pack the rest as left overs for next meal. Very obvious & straightforward but I duly implemented that just today!
Day3, here is how it went -
No. of Steps logged: 11,802
Breakfast: 6 soaked raw almonds, hummus & veggies
Lunch: Chickpea salad with spinach, charred zucchini, squash and red pepper (from Whole foods's salad bar)
Dinner: Split Pea soup, banana, blueberry yogurt
Snacks**: Green tea, White berries tea
** between the meals or whenever hungry during the day **
One aspect I was very curious about when I picked up this book was to see how one can live with $40 a week. Now I know! - by spending a good amount of time on purchasing locally available seasonal food and preserving them for many months to come. The book takes us through all four seasons and chronicles how the author made the best use of ingredients accessible to her, within budget. What excited me the most about this book is Mather's eloquent writing and recipes at the end of each chapter. Bookmarked a bunch of them to try later.
Today it was very challenging to control my hunger pangs. I was continuously either snacking on fruits or drinking buttermilk/water and green tea.
At around 5:30pm, when my stomach was growling I promptly snubbed my craving to have DD hash browns, went into a store and bought hummus + veggies. This is a moment I will always remember for making a better choice. 😀
It is amazing how things have changed over the years especially in terms of my body metabolism. Gone are the days when I could eat whatever I can and not see a shed of fat on my body. Before I realized fully, I am now 8 pounds over my normal weight. It took several days for me to comprehend and finally accept that fact.
Time to take action and make meaningful choices while eating food from today onwards. A conscious effort is very much needed!
Day1, here is how it went -
Breakfast: Egg White Veggie Omelet with 2 Whole wheat bread slices
Lunch: Fruits (Watermelon, Papaya, Mango, Kiwi)
Drank lots of water and green tea twice
Snack: Munched on 1 pound of Red Cherries between 2 to 5pm.
Dinner: Dal with 3 rotis
Dal made with 4 kinds - Pressure cook a fistful of each: toor dal, urad dal, moong dal and Chana dal. Tempered North Indian style with onions, tomatoes and garam masala.