Monday, August 31, 2009

Wine country

We headed to Nashik over the weekend to celebrate my husband's birthday. Nashik is considered a 'holy' city that hosts significant religious events and weary pilgrims each year, but we mostly went to check out the wineries. It is Maharashtra's (probably India's) wine capital. The weather was perfect - a little wet, but with the cool breeze, it felt like spring in high-country Colorado.

Vineyard in Nashik
View from the deck at the Sula vineyard.

We sampled some wines (Dindori was a favorite) and went on a tour of the Sula winery on the first evening.

Hills around Trimbak.

We went to Trimbak the next day, around 30 km away. Trimbakeshwar temple houses one of 12 jyoti lingas (Shiva shrine) in India. Without planning to visit them, we've quite accidently seen two of 12 jyoti lingas in the last six months!

Hiking up to Gangadwar.

Our plan was to hike up Brahmagiri hill to find the source of the Godhavari, a major Indian river. We took the path up towards Gangadwar, climbed 500-odd stone steps (the locals love to tell you how many steps lead up to the various temples), and took a quick chai break before hiking on.

Brahmagiri Hill
Vanita, Sunita, and their dad. He makes a good cup of chai.

Brahmagiri Hill

Can you spot the trail that goes up the hill? I'm not sure how to draw arrows on my photos (maybe one of you will enlighten me), but it's the steep path climbing up smack in the center of the photo.

Brahmagiri Hill

It felt a lot like hiking in Scotland - it was misty and wet - but we had a wonderful time. You can view more photos of our trip here. We closed the evening with a tour of another winery (no pictures, I forgot the camera in the hotel), and tasted some more wine.

We had a lovely time in Nashik, although I did feet guilty enjoying the verdant countryside knowing that the farmers in the surrounding area have been badly affected by the poor Monsoon this year (it had started raining a few days before our trip, therefore the green hills). Hopefully, there will be more rain soon and hopefully it will bring some respite.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ganpati bappa moriya*

Breakfast 230809

After a typical Maharashtrian breakfast of poha (flattened rice, all spiced up), we decided to take a walk around the neigbourhood on the first day of Ganesh Chaturti.

Ganesh chaturi - day one

The streets were decorated,

Ganesh chaturi - day one

and people were waiting patiently in anticipation of the evening's celebration.

Ganesh chaturi - day one

We saw Ganeshas being transported on foot, bicycles, and motorbikes. The smaller ones are generally for peoples' homes, while the larger ones are put up on a makeshift stage in the neighbourhood, like this one below.

Ganesh chaturi - day one

Ganesh chaturi - day one Ganesh chaturi - day one
We were inspired to make our own little 'shrine' when we got back home. Bringing a 'real' Ganesh idol into your home for Ganesh Chaturi is considered a big deal. Once you decide to do it, you are committed to bringing one home each year (along with carrying out a whole slew of pujas) for the next several years. We almost bought one this year, but then decided to refrain from angering the Gods!

Sunset 230809

It rained in the evening, but with the setting sun, the larger processions took over the road. I didn't get too many good shots in the dark.

Ganesh chaturi - day one

We also stayed busy in the kitchen, making sweets and snacks. And eating! More pictures tomorrow.

* A cheer heard throughout the festival of Ganesh Chaturti.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Glimpses of the city

I upgraded to flickr pro today. It is an auspicious day and all, so I went for it. In celebration, I'm posting a few photos. And, in celebration of Ganpati...well, that deserves it's own separate post. Hope you are enjoying the weekend.

Chillies and lime
Chillies and lime to ward away the evil eye.

Sandals, anyone?

Roadside shopping
Gajras, garlands of jasmine flowers worn as an hair accessory.

Barber shop
A trip to the barber shop.

Buying veggies in the rain
Buying veggies in the rain.

A heap of fresh ginger.

Selling veggies
He has been selling veggies for a long, long time.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Why does blogger mess up my font size and formatting?

A-line skirt

A-line skirt
Photo taken by my husband.

You are probably getting bored of seeing this fabric. I know my husband is! My apologies. It was relatively inexpensive, and I might have bought more of it than I know what to do with. For my self-drafted skirt pattern, I wanted to make a wearable muslin, and this fabric fits the bill rather well.

A-line skirt

I lined the skirt and used an invisible zipper. I don't have changeable feet for this sewing machine, and I was a bit skeptical about using the regular foot to put the zipper in, so I started sewing it by hand. My husband had to only ask why I wasn't using the machine, and I promptly abandoned the hand sewing, and gave it a shot on the machine. I'm glad I did; it turned out very neat, and pretty nearly invisible.

A-line skirt

I also tried french seams for the first time, and I am a fan. I'm not sure why I haven't tried it before. I have been noticing that a lot clothes I have purchased in India have french seams. I don't own a serger (although, I do covet one), and my machine doesn't even have a zig zag stitch. I see a lot of french seams in my future :)

A-line skirt

The only thing I would do differently is get rid of the darts in front. The darts on the back look very nice, but the ones on the front look bunched up and frumpy. I don't think I really need them, and will leave them out next time.

On the whole, my first attempt at drafting was a success - the skirt is very wearable. What started out as an intimidating processes, ended up being a very satisfying experience. I am already working on a basic bodice block.

Unrelated - but we saw this little guy on our way back home. It might be the tiniest toad I have ever seen!

Tiniest toad

Monday, August 17, 2009

Luggage tags

Luggage tags
I didn't mean to make them quite this large or this sturdy!

When my mum mentioned that she needed luggage tags for an upcoming trip, I offered to sew her a couple. I didn't think it would take too long for me to whip them up. But when I realised that I didn't have any vinyl or plastic on hand, I had to put on my thinking cap and improvise.

Luggage tags
I knew these conference name tags would come in handy some day.

My husband and I attended a conference several weeks ago, and I distinctly remember making a suggestion to the conference organisers to recycle the name tags. I even remember being disappointed when they didn't. But I'm glad I brought them back home with me with the hope of reusing them. I finally did!

Luggage tags

I didn't fully know what I wanted the tags to look like, so it took me much too long to finish the first one (I had to rip out quite a few seams). The second one was a breeze to make. I used bright scrap fabric, a couple of wood buttons and two of my hair ties. My mum loves them, and is now worried that someone might pinch them. Only in India!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leading up to Ganesh Chaturti

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

Ganesh Chaturti is a celebration of the elephant-headed god of good fortune, Lord Ganesha's birthday. It is a 10-day festival that doesn't start till the 23rd of August (the date is based on the lunar calendar, and changes each year), but I was able to get some work-in-progress shots of the murtis (idols), so I thought I'd write up a post.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti
Waiting to be painted.

Each year, several hundred Ganeshas are made leading up to the festival. All the ones I saw were Plaster of Paris (lime or cement plaster) idols that are painted over.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti
Depending on the kind of paint used, it can be a pretty toxic environment.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

Some of the idols can be very large and have to be commissioned ahead of time,

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

but you can also shop around for a smaller one last minute.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

During the festival, a puja is performed each day, sweets are prepared (modak is a favourite - a rice or wheat dumpling stuffed with dried coconut, jaggery, nuts and then steamed or fried), and it is generally a very festive time.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti
Which one is the brightest?

The festival ends with visarjan (immersion of the idol in water) in a lake, river, or the sea. Commercialisation of the festival over the years, the increasing number of idols, and the move away from using clay Ganeshas, has severe environmental consequences. People are being encouraged to "reuse" idols made of stone, and perform a symbolic visarjan in a bucket or bath tub. Considering the hundreds of Plaster of Paris Ganeshas I saw being made, I don't think it is a very popular option. Yet.

In preparation for Ganesh Chaturti

It used to be a lot of fun as a little kid, to watch the large, bright Ganeshas being paraded through town; when Plaster of Paris idols, and loud speakers with blaring music didn't use to bother us so much. This year, I'm going to channel the kid within and enjoy the festival with my husband, who gets to experience Ganesh Chaturti for the first time.

My week

I sewed like a fiend on Tuesday...

Buttercup bag Buttercup bag
My first time sewing with silk. Very nice.

We went to a wedding on Thursday and Friday...

Apres mehendi (henna)

And we celebrated our third wedding anniversary on Saturday...

Anniversary sparkling wine
I made some Chicken biryani to go with the sparkling wine.

It's Sunday already and now it's time for an afternoon nap. I finished making my a-line skirt a couple of weeks ago, but haven't been able to take a photograph yet. Perhaps tomorrow.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Egg-citement in the kitchen

Dinner 100809
Egg curry, spicy green beans, and parantha.

My husband made the egg curry last night, and it was gob-smacking delicious! He used to find it amusing that such a dish existed, but it has soon become one of his favorite things to eat. So when we moved to India, he decided he wanted to perfect the recipe. He got the recipe from my uncle (who happens to be an excellent cook), and that's what we had last night for dinner.

I have stayed away from taking photos of our dinners, because of the low light and my inclination to not use the flash. Do you have any tips about taking photos in artificial, low light conditions?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Aurangabad Part I

It has taken us a while to sort through all the photos we took in Aurangabad; here are but a few. I thought I'd break it up into three posts - here's the first.

Daulatabad fort
Daulatabad fort in the distance.

Late morning the first day after work, we took the local bus from Aurangabad to Daulatabad fort, about 13 kilometers northwest. This fort dates back to the ninth century and was occupied by Hindu tribes, the Bahmani dynasty, the Mughals, and the Marathas.

Daulatabad fort
Chandminar or Victory Tower

Daulatabad fort
The fort is surrounded by a spectacular moat cut out from the basalt.

Daulatabad fort
First step well I've seen.

Daulatabad fort
View from the top.

This time of year, there are very few tourists, and we were glad to take in this grand fort minus the crowds (there were quite a few langurs, though!). I have visited a number of forts in India, but this visit was memorable for a variety of reasons. Although it rained off and on, we spent more time at this site than we thought we would.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Raksha Bandhan

Today is Raksha Bandhan, a day to celebrate the brother-sister relationship. Raksha means protection, and Bandhan means tie. Sisters tie a rakhi (symbolic thread) around the brothers' right wrist and in return, the brother vows to look after her and protect her.


Really, it can be anyone that you think of as a brother/close friend. I don't have any brothers, but I always tie rakhis to my four cousins (or at least try to send them one when we are on different continents). 

Lots of pretty rakhis

Sadly, like most festivals, Raksha Bandhan has become mired in consumerism. But I'm not going to delve into that. I think it's a wonderful celebration. I already tied one of my brothers' a rakhi. He promised to protect me, and very sweetly, gave me some chocolate too. :)