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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Harvests and other joys

The most exciting parts of vegetable gardening for me are at right at the beginning when the seeds germinate and the lovely new green plant comes up, and then later when it's HARVEST time :). This was my first harvest of greens (not counting coriander) and I was just so thrilled !!

All set to make Palak Morkuzhambu which I've never tried before but need to give respect to my home grown palak and try something radically new with it ;).

My first transplant - the squash/zucchini is doing quite well, especially the one I put in a big cement pot. One big problem with this plant though is that it is very susceptible to the leaf borer attacks as it has a hollow stem :(. Been trying my best to control using only organic methods, keeping fingers crossed! Learning more about insect pests than I ever have about the ones that attack humans though ;).

The beans has been climbing on beautifully to the trellis behind it. Much to my surprize I hardly had to guide it at all, it just naturally reached out and clung to the support!
That is the female zucchini flower (did not know such intimate details until I started growing gourds ;)). All gourds have male and female flowers, in which the female flowers develop into the fruit (or on top of it like in this case). If they are not pollinated naturally by the insects flying around in your garden, you can pollinate it by hand. Think I see enough insects, bees flying around in my garden, else I will need to stand over them in the nighttime(that's when the flowers open up!) with a brush in hand ;). Imagine the sight! 

Oh I am so kicked with this one. The idea came originally from hubby to reuse this old shelf for plants. So in the style of the planter boxes, we used a plasticky sack material for the lining, made holes and tadaah ! Those are okra saplings, just come up from seed, about a week old.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Only if you....

Give me a hug!!

This is a standard phrase in our house nowadays :). Propagated big time by S who thinks this is the perfect turnaround to when I'm "really" angry with him about something! In the middle of the tantrum (his or mine?!) he'll suddenly realize there's no point protesting further and start saying "I'll do it(eat/write/whatever!), but only if you give me a hug!". 

At first this used to irritate me no end - "What? Stop in the middle of my anger and give him a hug? - what sort of message is that sending? That he can do all that he wants and just hug me and get away with it?!"

Well apparently I have no choice in the matter - having realized that giving a hug is a lot better than dealing with the tantrums that are sure to follow if my anger persists! So hopefully the only message i'm giving out is that I'm willing to compromise with a hug in the middle of the worst tantrums :).

Of course D has not been far behind in figuring out the effectiveness of this strategy ;).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Reluctant Detective

When I was chosen by BlogAdda to review the first book written by one of the bloggers I love to read I was thrilled and really looking forward to it. And it definitely lived up to my expectations ! Thank you BlogAdda!

Kiran Manral is one of my favourite mommy bloggers who writes at karmickids. She is a freelance writer and media consultant. She is also the founder of India Helps, a volunteer network which works with disaster victims.

The cover reads "On how a housewife became a murder investigator between being a school-gate mom and her ladies lunches". The main character of the book is Kay (Kanan Mehra) who is a suburban housewife and mom. She is one of the most relatable characters I have ever come across in a book, probably because so many of her thoughts and feelings are things I have gone through too :). From the first chapter where Kay is obsessing about picking out a dress to wear for a party or later in the book where she talks about the importance of her afternoon nap, nearly every page had me smiling at a shared memory.

The normal routine of her early morning walks is rudely interrupted by not one but two murders close to each other, and at nearly the same spot that she walks by every day. As she is one of the first to be questioned by the police and considers herself a busybody and storehouse of information she finds it difficult to accept that she does not know the truth behind the murders.

Enter Runa, a detective friend of Kay's, whom she ropes in to help solve the murders, but little does she expect that she would end up doing a lot of the enquiries and clue-finding herself! At a point when it seems the police has already solved the crimes and she has nothing more to contribute, she still pulls out a few more surprizes leading to an unexpected ending.

All the characters in the book starting with the lady who is first murdered, to the friends and neighbours and maids that Kay spends time with are very believable and well fleshed out. The depiction of Kay's long suffering husband was also another highlight for me, with me trying to get hubby to read passages or even the entire book if possible to get his views on the depictions :).

I loved Kiran's style of writing - it flows well without the staccato style which many new Indian writers seem to adopt. She draws from the daily experiences of marriage and parenting and a lot of the instances will definitely strike a chord with any mommy/daddy readers :).

Though my original point of interest in the book was as a detective thriller, I found it more impactful as a humorous take on slice of life experiences - from the point of view of a suburban dweller, a mom, a housewife, a fighting-that-never-ending-battle-with-flab-but-still-love-to-pile-that-plate-full person. I think that is the biggest strength of this book, and may Kiran write many more such!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Green Photos :)

Ok anyone reading my blog please brace yourself.. lots of plant photos at various stages are going to be put up from time to time! Some are a repeat from FB too I'm sorry but more stories here of course ;)

I'm finding when I browse the net that photos at early stages of plants are not very plentiful ! So I thought atleast for my memories I need to maintain these :).

Cucumber at 11 days - this is one of the seeds that seemed to take a long time to come out of the soil. I was nearly on the verge of rummaging through the soil to check if the seed was rotted or something and it slowly started peeking out :). Bitter Gourd is taking even longer, and is not even in photographable stage yet ;).
 Karamani (Long Beans) at 11 days - these were one of the quickest to germinate. In fact have plucked out quite a few since even an old set of seeds germinated very well. Might have to remove even more as the plants are supposed to be very bushy and large and won't fit into one pot :(.
 Palak/Spinach at 11 days - Another of those super germinators. I was very proud of my lines of planting the seeds, but I find such a crowd of seedlings now that it again needs to be spaced out. Will removed a few in a few day and hopefully will be able to use in a salad atleast at that stage :).
Radish at 16 days - They are supposed to be harvestable in about a month, so I'm really looking forward to pulling the first one out on 19th Feb to check :).
Coriander at 16 days - the seeds were ones from my kitchen and took quite a while to sprout so I was wondering if something would come up, but once they started peeking out they've been quite prolific so I'm really looking forward to using my own kothamalli !
 Beans at 11 days - these were also quick to germinate. I'm really looking forward to it climbing on the trellis once it starts growing well.
Avarakkai (Hyacinth Beans) at 16 days. This seems to be another prolific vine. I've been told that the trellis may not be enough to accomodate it, let me see. These seem to grow really well even in adverse conditions.

Squash seedling at 11 days. I had no clue that it probably should be germinated in bigger seed trays or directly in the pot - look at the size of the leaf! And after reading today that squash doesn't take too well to transplanting I decided to transplant it sooner rather than later so my first try at germinating in the seed tray myself and transplanting :). Out of 6 seeds planted, 4 have come out quite well, don't know of the fate of the final 2. I can anyway grow max of 2 plants as they seem to get quite bushy so will have to give or throw the rest away.

Friday, February 03, 2012

And Enid Blyton it is :)

I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for D to be old enough to comprehend Enid Blyton - not the golliwog kind of stories but the Famous Five level ones. Finally I came across the Naughtiest Girl books once too many times and succumbed and picked up the first one :). Left it lying around and D started picking it up and reading it. Over 3-4 days she has diligently read the book, relaying to me which chapter or page she was at from time to time.

Questions/Statements during the last days were:
- Does Elizabeth become a good girl at the end of the book?
- I don't like that boy who keeps bothering Elizabeth!
- She realizes she wants to stay at school only after she decides to go home. (This after completing the book today)

I am quite thrilled at this development. Though still unsure if she's actually understood all the words etc., I am glad that my excuse of maintaining a Famous Five collection over the last years has finally borne fruit ;). Now the only worry is to stop myself from buying all those EB's I haven't read in a while for a secret refresher for myself too !!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Sunny spaces, here I come!

I have been following My Sunny Balcony on Facebook for quite a while and drooling over their products. So finally I got in touch with them a couple of months back, and after a site visit and many to and fro discussions finally got some of their range :).

I have a bright niche under a window with a wall recently painted orange, and they suggested some blue coloured terracotta pots here. I loved the plant choices that they suggested too! I took so long to get to this post, as I was trying to clean those pebbles (already there in the space earlier) and put them back for the photo ;).

Some bright coloured terracotta urns on my terrace with flowering plants and aromatics (bit of a rant on the aromatics coming later).

These very cute cups and saucers with indoor plants

I was very keen on a cactus or succulent which I thought would come as part of the cups and saucers but didn't, so I am very proud of procuring and potting this one myself :). For as long as it lasts, but atleast I got a photo while it's still healthy!

And of course the wooden crate which is doing quite nicely planted with my current crop :). That's Avarakkai, Beans, Radish (2 different batches) in the first row and coriander and radish in the second. Still waiting for thyme and mint(2nd row left) to sprout enthusiastically.

I also got some flowering creepers which are supposed to go up a metal pergola on my terrace, but those are quite small at the moment. Also figuring out some pest problems with one of them so fingers crossed regarding that.

A short review:
Overall, I am quite happy with the experience. Their products are beautiful and looked as promised, but  where the plants were concerned I felt there were a few gaps in communication. I was not told about the non-availability of something until I asked for the names of the plants. Some of it could have been as I am a total novice when it comes to stuff like identifying herbs, but still as a customer I was a bit taken aback. When told the herbs in the pot were English Basil and possibly Rosemary I just took it at that. To find later that these are Maruga and Davana (when I tried to recheck with them) was a bit of a disappointment, but I shouldn't be snooty I guess ;). Twas just the enthusiasm of using rosemary from my own garden that was dampened, now I have to go look for a plant somewhere!

I'm sure there will always be a few hiccups in any customer experience, but as long as you feel there is a reasonable follow-up that makes it much better. It was nice that when I was in this panicky state of wondering if the crate has enough drainage, and the issues with the Thunbergia(one of the flowering creepers), I was able to talk to one of them and get things cleared up.