Retail therapy

It’s not what you think, and it don’t cost a thing!

a box of cards at the craft store

Love at first sight

The highlight of my weekend showed up in the produce section!

How sweet you are to end my melon-choly

A beverage container lifted my spirits!

Yes, indeed!

Does the world weigh down upon your soul?
Need to find some mirth so you feel whole?

Just look at all the labels and the signs
In stores, on fruit, and e’en adorning wine
The words shape-shift and take you by surprise
The chuckles hit — you laugh until you cry!

***

Thanks to CLJ for the bev idea! 🙏💙

Finding love in unlikely places

The purple flowers on a package caught my eye. I had ghee to make and a cake to bake, so into my basket it went.

There’s more to dig on the back and sides, including the promise of a “nice surprise” if you “peek inside.”

That call is on the tear-off flap — easy to miss in the rush to bake to get to cake.

But slow down a bit to look within and there it is …

… love

Arts and crafts walk — Jaipur, India

Want to travel with me? Come, let’s explore Jaipur in northwestern India!

We’ll find our way to the walled Pink City and meet our guide at Ajmeri Gate. It’s Vineet Sharma of Jaipur Walks With Vineet. Being a local, he shares his love of the city by leading guided walks.

Ajmeri Gate to the walled Pink City

Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan. Its rich heritage, centuries-old traditions of arts and crafts, and sumptuous cuisine present a bewildering array of choices for visitors. There’s so much to see and do that choosing a small sliver to explore sounds like the way to go.

As we have time for just one of four themed walks, what say we do the Arts and Crafts one? Vineet-ji has thoughtfully offered to incorporate elements of three other walks — Cuisine, Heritage, and Bazaar — into the day’s agenda. The cuisine element means tasty nibbles along the way!

En route to our first stop for the day, we pass Maharaja’s School of Arts and Crafts, which seeks to preserve Jaipur’s heritage.

I love exploring a new place this way. A leisurely pace — and no parking worries.

Tints and washes of color surprise and delight at every turn.

Street food aromas catch our attention as we wonder what treats and eats await us.

Vineet-ji is taking us to Jaipur Moorti Kalakendra (literally Jaipur Statue Art Center).

The marble comes from quarries in Makrana, Rajasthan.

The craftsmanship — wow. I could watch for hours.

These artisans ham it up, drawing me out of my reverie.

Where are we going next, Vineet-ji? The flower market! We catch quotidian sights along the way.

Mustard seeds get sorted

And here we are, breathing in the perfumed air of the flower market.

A vendor offers me a rose. I tuck it in my hair.

Ornate entryways and doors abound in Jaipur.

A highlight of the tour is the shop of Bhanwarlal Kailashchand Sodhya Halvai — maker of the city’s best mohanthal, a sweet made from moong dal. A wedding must-have not sourced anywhere else.

We get to taste a fresh batch. Still warm and so good.

Just-made mohanthal, a moong dal sweet

Vineet-ji has established a great rapport with these artisans and vendors. He and his guests receive a warm welcome and generous samples wherever they go.

And now for a close encounter with the city’s famed kachoris (deep-fried snack, sometimes with a filling) at Shri Shankar Doodh-Dahi Mishthan Bhandar or Shri Shankar Milk-Yogurt Sweet Shop.

Khasta (stuffed) kachori served with a dollop of plain yogurt to cut the heat

Filling groovy!

What do the yellows in this entrance say to you?

I find them cheery and welcoming. This building is a haveli (traditional dwelling that encompasses the homes of a number of families).

At Ramsingh Tambe Wale, we’re about to look at multi-level tiffin carriers. This type of container is popular all through India for packing/delivering meals.

The Hindi sign reads peetal bartan nirmata, which means “makers of brass vessels.”

Can you feel his pride in his shop and his wares? It’s palpable.

Filigreed facades and grilles (jalis) are an architectural/decorative feature that the Mughals brought to India from Persia. Another haveli beckons. An open door.

It’s time for yet another snack! This time it’s poori (fried wheat flatbread) and alu ki sabzi (potato curry). This is a sit-down item that feels like a full meal.

And on to the glittery part of the tour.

A ringside seat to kundan (gemstone) and meenakari (lacquer work) jewelry-making means we’ll catch a break from walking.

For the kundan style, we watch a craftsman cast the gold frames for the jewelry. He fires the metal in a kiln and removes it from the mold to plunge it in water.

The annuli will come off the stems and ultimately hold gemstones like rubies, sapphires, and the like. The craftsman holds the stems up to a photograph of a kundan necklace to illustrate.

And now we’re in the workshop of Deepak Sankit, a master artisan of meenakari (enamel jewelry-work). He’s a paramparik karigar or “traditional artisan” whose craft goes back several generations.

Drawings serve as templates to shape the metal.

Powdered colored glass fills the hollows for brilliant hues when fired.

Kiln me softly …

We’re off to our next stop on the tour. But look, a pickle shop!

I love the hand-rendered signs. Let’s ask if they’re looking for assistants so we can learn how to make these mouth-puckering preserves and taste a different one every day!

What’s next? The four-hour tour is coming to an end as Vineet-ji brings us to a different section of the market.

These ladies may be shopping for a bridal trousseau.

We then arrive at a place that sells wedding attire: chunrees (scarves), safas (turbans), sarees, and more. Our walk ends in a riot of color!

How wonderful to experience Jaipur with someone who knows the city like the back of his hand.

What did you think of the walk? 🙂

***
Jaipur Walks with Vineet
TripAdvisor: Jaipur Walks

10 Years!

Hey there! I’m happy to report this blog crossed the 10-year mark in July. Through monthly posts, it became my corner of the internet to highlight the beauty and creativity in our world. Bits of joy found here and there.

lilac flowers in Stanley Park

Stanley Park, Vancouver

Birds, trees and flowers are frequent topics, with wordplay, math in nature, snack hacks and restaurant reviews making an appearance too.

I might pause posting for a bit to tinker with the site, and think about where to take it next. I so appreciate you for being here. Thanks for reading and following!

Circling back

One day I found a baby bird on my balcony floor. I had no idea what species it was.

DSCN0176

The top of the balcony pillar held a clue.

DSCN0183

A mourning dove momma!

The little guy wandered out of his twiggy abode and took a tumble to the floor. He looked grown enough that I decided not to put him back. Mom probably fed him crop milk during the day, and he got bigger and stronger.

He hung out mostly behind the pots in my balcony, with Mom keeping a watchful eye.DSCN0179

But he loved to sunbathe too. DSCN0184
The stripes you see are balcony railing shadows.

The pot-parazzi weren’t far away.DSCN0182

He looked me squarely in the eye when I popped into the balcony for quick pictures.DSCN0191

Here he is, by the balcony door — a teeny bit closer to my world than his.DSCN0194

Check out the beautiful half moons his feathers make. I left the blue car in this shot so you can see the parking lot below.DSCN0197

Talk about living on the edge! This was a day or two before he fledged.

Mom was back at dawn the next day. DSCN0201And life went on.

***
A bird takes wing was the first post on this blog in July 2010. I lost the photo album in that post when an image hosting service wound down some years back. Luckily, I had the pics saved elsewhere, and they became the basis for this piece.

Johnson Street Bridge – Victoria, British Columbia

I love bridges. They are enablers in the best sense. Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria, British Columbia, is a bascule bridge that swings upward to allow boat traffic to pass.

Here it is with vehicular traffic on it. I was south of the bridge for this photo.

JSB by day

And here you can see it lift up.

Johnson Street Bridge is a single-leaf bascule, with one arm that lifts and lowers. There are double-leaf bascules too.

Here’s a different angle of the bridge lifting.


Bells clang and lights flash when the leaf is about to rise. If that happens when you’re on the pedestrian walkway, safely make your way to either end.

Johnson Street Bridge walkway seam

Seam in the pedestrian walkway where the leaf meets the pier

When the boats or ships in the harbor have passed through, the bridge slowly lowers and settles with a resounding whomp!

From the viewing deck you can take in the whole spectacle and see boat traffic too. You might even spy a sea otter doing flips in the water if you’re lucky. I was. 😀

This bridge just happened to be a 5-minute walk from where I was staying. Here it is, all lit up at night.

JSB at night

***
Johnson Street Bridge has evolved since it was first built, with this newest avatar taking five years (2013 to 2018) to complete. Hear from the principal engineers in this American Institute of Steel Construction paper.

Homing in

White-winged doves built a nest in my balcony. Third year in a row. He brought twigs and she arranged them into a shallow bowl. Two days later, an egg!

white-winged dove nest with egg

A rare unattended moment (when both parents went to get breakfast maybe?)

Meet Dad.

male white-winged dove incubating eggs

Dad had the day shift for incubation.

This is Mom.

female white-winged dove incubating eggs

She did evenings/nights.

white-winged doves; mother and baby

Ooh, baby.

The chick fledged roughly two weeks after hatching. It walked to the edge of the balcony, then back to the nest, and paced the length of the balcony … “Am I really ready?” and then it flew the short hop to a railing and took off. “Yes! I own the sky.”

A parent came back that evening.

white-winged dove near nest

Parent and nest with non-viable egg

This species typically lays two eggs that hatch a day part. Last year and the year before, both eggs hatched. This year, only one made it. Wonder what happened …

white-winged dove juvenile

Baby came back the next day

What a treat to watch this all unfold, from nest-building on May 16th to first flight on June 16th. Each day, the nest-duty shift change took place around 9:30 a.m. (Dad’s turn) and again around 5:00 p.m. (Mom’s turn), with the bird on the nest cooing and the other flying in from a nearby shade tree to take over.

I couldn’t have asked for sweeter companions as I sheltered in place. 🙂

***
From the archives:
2018: Dove tale
2019: Dove tale – a spring reprise

Geek out:
The Cornell Lab: All About Birds – White-Winged Dove
Audubon Guide to North American Birds – White-Winged Dove

Plant-based pun and salsa recipe

For a couple months now, I’ve been hitting the grocery store at 6:00 a.m. when crowds are thin. Masked and list-driven, I’m in and out quick. On a recent visit, I found some free advice in the freezer case:  Live Life on the Veg!

CAULIPOWER Pizza - Live Life on the Veg

Two bits of wordplay on each package. See if you can find both 😀

I’m happy to report success with a fully plant-based diet for over three months now. No cheating. Didn’t think I could pull it off! Desi (Indian-style) chai without cow’s milk seemed like an abomination, but Oatly stands in quite well. For your Earl Greys and strong blacks like Tazo Awake or Tetley, Nut Pods (Original), a plant-based creamer, does the trick.

The Forks Over Knives documentary prompted me to really think about what I eat, and the move to plant-based renewed my love of fruits and vegetables. My grocery cart shows it. My plates do, too.

For Buddha bowls, a simple formula of 1/2 cup cooked grain, 1 cup cooked chickpeas/lentils/beans (for protein) and 2 cups veggies/greens takes the guesswork out of nutrient-dense meals that are also satisfying.

A navel orange, cold from the fridge, makes me happy nowadays. Juicy snack and aromatherapy in one! And orange is such a happy color.

I went on a green kick with this homemade salsa.

Homemade_Green_Salsa

Green Salsa
1 pound tomatillos
1 green bell pepper
1 fresh jalapeno
1 clove garlic (optional)
handful of fresh cilantro leaves (no stems)
1/2 teaspoon salt
lime juice (optional – to balance flavors)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional – to balance flavors)

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place halved tomatillos, whole bell pepper, quartered and de-seeded jalapeno, and garlic on lightly oiled baking sheet and roast until bell pepper collapses. A little bit of charring is fine. Roasting time will depend on your oven. Took 30 minutes in mine.
  3. Remove transparent membrane from bell pepper, halve and remove stem and seeds.
  4. Blend roasted tomatillos, bell pepper, jalapeno, and garlic with cilantro leaves and salt. Taste! Add lime juice/sugar/more salt and blend to get a flavor balance you like.

I went by instinct with these ingredients and quantities, so feel free to experiment.

Enjoy salsa with chips, in tacos, on roasted potatoes or grilled vegetables, in savory breakfasts — the possibilities are endless.

Be well, my friend!

***
From the archives:
Love the sight of fruits and veggies? You might like Lettuce rejoice.
Crazy for curry puffs – Hack an Indian snack best enjoyed with a hot cup of chai.

Nestling in North Vancouver

When I won free plane travel at a company Christmas party, I coveted the Ninja Kitchen System a co-worker won in the same raffle. She thought me nuts for deeming her prize superior to mine.

I finally talked myself into booking a trip some months later. I arrived in Vancouver to my Airbnb pad, a garage turned cottage, complete with Murphy bed, kitchen and bath, and WiFi. And skylights! The perfect tiny house nestled in the backyard of my hosts, a retired couple with still active careers.

Cottage

I saw a robin’s nest outside my front door and two more in a trellis.

My hosts turned out to be the nicest people on the planet. I had written off the rest of the travel day to settle in and prepare for the next few days of sightseeing. I had even tucked into my suitcase a few backpacker soups to reconstitute with hot water. But my sweet host, B, wouldn’t hear of it. She wanted me to have a nice dinner on my first vacation day. She drove me to the grocery store so I could buy some salad vegetables, fruit and cheese.

She then dropped me off at a trailhead on the lower slopes of Mount Seymour, with a photocopied map and her handwritten notes. The trail was a short walk from my (already) sweet home away from home.

BridlePathRamble

That night I ate a simple and satisfying dinner of a red pepper/cucumber salad and a  local cheese.

The next day, I took a guided sightseeing tour of Vancouver. It was a quick introduction to the city, covering Stanley Park, Granville Island, Chinatown, and Gastown. Here’s Vancouver’s North Shore as seen from Stanley Park.

NorthShore

View of Vancouver’s North Shore

A visit to the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area, a birdwatching park that overlooks the Burrard Inlet was in my top-three list for the trip. I planned to hoof it there and return by bus, but B offered to drive me there. We went a little after dawn one day. There were waders in the mud flats, including some kind of heron.

BurrardInlet

Burrard Inlet

GreenPlantMacro

Flora at Maplewood Mud Flats

Then B showed me squatters’ shacks that were moved here, relics from the city’s past.

SquatterShacks

Squatters’ shacks, Maplewood Mud Flats

B then dropped me off at Deep Cove, a seaside village that is home to Honey Donuts (endorsed by Kate Winslet in Lonely Planet). A 45-minute hike up Quarry Rock (part of the Baden-Powell trail) led to a panoramic view of Deep Cove and Indian Arm, a salt-water fjord.

IndianArm

View of Indian Arm from the top of Quarry Rock

When I had plans to attend a concert in the city, B and her hubby gave me a lift to Bao Bei, a Chinese restaurant with a contemporary menu, where B suggested I enjoy dinner before the show. I had chickpea tofu for the very first time. Tasty!

One sunny morning I went on a guided hike in Lynn Canyon, which included a walk across a suspension bridge. The other hikers in my group were a pair of graduate students from Toronto and an academic counselor from New York. Our guide’s love of the outdoors showed in his knowledge of local flora and fauna, as we took in the crisp air and canyon views.

LynnCanyon

Waterfall in Lynn Canyon

B and her hubby thought nothing of giving me spontaneous rides/lifts. They dropped me off at Lonsdale Quay one afternoon so I could take the SeaBus to Stanley Park and walk the Seawall.

Seabus

On board the SeaBus

When I booked my stay, I had no expectations of my Airbnb hosts other than a quick initial meeting and key handoff at departure. On the flight back to Dallas, however, I realized that B and her husband had helped me experience their beautiful city in ways I could never have planned.

I felt at home.

CottageBlooms

I couldn’t have asked for a nicer perch or better tweetment!

***
For more armchair travel, see my previous posts on British Columbia:
Queen Elizabeth Park – Vancouver, Canada
Pun-tastic British Columbia