Thursday, March 23, 2017

6 Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon #6wkMMM 2017

MY LOTR LOVE STORY
I am one of those last-mover crazies who does everything when the world has done doing it. I watch movies when the DVD comes out and movies go off the cinema screens, watch YouTube viral videos when they are not viral anymore, and watch TV show seasons when they disappear from TV and show up on Netflix (an year later!). Naturally, I watched Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) in 2010 ... 10 years after the movie hit the cinema screens and broke global records for everything. It became a legendary cinematic masterpiece and a phenomenon more than a film. I watched the trilogy, one movie after the other, like one would consume a bottle of happy pills. I don't think anything on any screen has created this big of an impact on my life as LOTR. There were life lessons, powerful dialogue, thrilling battle scenes, and heartwarming little stories embedded in each movie. Perhaps there was a sinking void in my heart that needed filling. That's exactly what the movies did to me. 
THE MAGICAL REPRISE - THE HOBBIT
After watching the LOTR trilogy I was seriously cursing myself for missing out on the LOTR madness when it was the big thing in 2001. What was I doing back then? I was dealing with high school - trying to stay on the honor roll! I couldn't believe my ears when they announced The Hobbit soon after I finished watching LOTR. What good did I do in the world to deserve this? The magic was coming back, the fandom was being stirred alive (not that it ever died!), and I was going to be part of it this time! When Peter Jackson appeared in the first Hobbit production vlog, I was glued to my computer screen. I watched the first film being made - step by step - and it felt like Peter Jackson was talking to me and sharing my excitement about LOTR and the whole magic coming back to life. I remember how I watched the LIVE broadcast of the premiere launch of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. 
Middle-earth News celebrates the 6 Week Middle-earth Movie Marathon annually and that is my cue to break into a Bilbo run and celebrate both trilogies.
 
Schedule:
An Unexpected Journey: March 25–March 31

The Desolation of Smaug: April 01–April 07
The Battle of the Five Armies: April 08–April 14
The Fellowship of the Ring: April 15–April 21
The Two Towers: April 22–April 28
The Return of the King: April 29–May 05
I'm going to recycle my Bucket List because this is exactly what I intend to do as always! Hopefully, I'll be more committed this time, and might win something from the giveaways! My mind is pretty chaotic and overloaded with pressures and I need this kind of movie binge.

Monday, March 20, 2017

April A to Z Challenge 2017: Lessons Learned At 30 (The Great & Powerful Theme Reveal)

Let's face it, I have come a long way and I have survived. No joke! I have fallen, broken to pieces, crashed, melted, burned ... hope you get the picture?
Last April (2016) I wrote 26 Advices You Won't Forget (don't bother with the English and its correctness in that title). Catch those olden golden entries. 
This year's theme is Lessons Learned At 30. Obviously, they're learned from experience - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let's just say we all battle our share of demons (internal and external) and I have had quite the handsome load. Turning 30, to me, is one insanely fantastic affair. I have been waiting for this rockstar of a milestone since forever. I am a licensed adult now! I mean I can (hypothetically, of course! Since I am a Desi) take the car out for a spin, or piss off the socialite aunty (aiming at suggesting an un-eligible bachelor for me), or teach a toddler how to sing Hakuna Matata and get away with it with the simple one liner "I am 30 years old!"
 This spectacular cake was done for me by my sister Sara of Sara's Baked Creations.
While, for me, it is the genie year of awesomeness, my mother looks at it like my deathwish! LOL. Why? Because almost my entire Facebook friends list is 'Married' and most of them are on their 2nd kid. I am still planning more real estate buys instead of babies, and checking out eligible rental homes to invest in instead of fishing for an eligible bachelor to settle down with. It is not that I am not open to marriage. I am just not that open so as to become a stepladder for illegal immigrants (banned by Mr. President), or for divorcees with strange explanations spanning the lands of the United States. The single guys are either confused, lost, or are guarded by overly possessive mothers and sisters who want to run the show of their lives. I'm waiting for them to become 45 year old men!
I'd be writing down the lessons I have learned from my life with all due hilarity. Please stay tuned, and I'll be visiting you soon! 
To my mother who fears seeing silver in my hair someday ...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Signing Winter Off

I was in apocalypse-prep mode for the Nor’easter named Stella. Over the last weekend news broke out about a Nor’easter (mad snowstorm!) hitting us on Monday and bringing several inches of snow. Yeah right! Jonas, last year, was a bigger show. We went into ‘apocalypse-prep’ mode and raced to Giant and Patel Brothers. Giant was for milk (because my family will not survive without Chai), and Patel Bros. because there was no Sooji (semolina) in the house. What if we have to make Sooji Halwa in the middle of a snowstorm? With Chai, of course. 
So I silenced the screams of my aching back and drove out to Patel Brothers. I found the store decked with buntings and paper poufs for Holi. It is the Hindu religious festival also called the ‘Festival Of Colors’ or the ‘Festival Of Love’. Even the Google logo was jumping with colors.
They were selling colored powders by the packs and they had run out of Khoya (which I wanted!). Everybody must be making mithai (sweet treats) for Holi. Well, maybe next time, the recipes will have to wait. The Uncle who runs the store has promised that Khoya will be back!


I took the ladies to Target (Starbucks included!) and tried the new drink on the menu (I always do that!). We also got a Valentines cookie (seasonal!) for Maryam and a slice of Pumpkin Bread for ourselves to share. It was like our final goodbye to the Winter of 2016. 
A post shared by The Abbie (@abbiesadventures) on
I treated myself to Starbucks Coconut Milk Mocha Machiatto (brilliant, creamy, yum!) to bid Winter goodbye. I have officially had enough of the harsh weather and I am over ready for Spring.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Winter's End Game

"It is blocking the front door, we are stuck inside." said the reincarnated Robert Frost of a Tenant at one of my rentals. He sent me a photograph after taking an effortless walk outside and standing in the front lawn. Mind you there was a statewide Nor'easter advisory and every sane soul had been advised to stay indoors because a mad snowstorm was blowing! Besides! There was always the back door for mid-snowstorm casual strolls! But you can't reason with an argumentative Tenant who uses the word 'emergency' too much. So I rang every tree removal person I know.
Snowstorm Stella - the unexpected Nor'easter - was as highly anticipated as the grande finale of The Vampire Diaries that announced the death of one of the Salvadtore vampire brothers. I ignored Stella and crossed my fingers for the safety of Damon Salvatore. He lived --- but Stella was offended and threw a fit. Trees came crashing down around one of my rentals. Half a tree fell on the front roof, and a branch of pine came down in the same house's backyard and clung to a power line. And while every Marylander was safely inside the house, my Tenant was roaming around taking photographs of fallen trees and requesting emergency tree removal when every service on earth was suspended for the day!
 
Nobody responded because the world was in apocalypse mode and the Tenant just had to sit inside instead of ball dancing in the back and front yards. My mood was upset already because I knew that tree removal = big time expense. Plus, this particular rental has a Whomping Willow family living in the backyard. A couple years back I had 3 gigantic pine trees removed from the lot. And still, one of the remaining decided to curtsy during the blizzard! 
The next day, the front tree was chopped up and hauled away and cost me a fortune! I hate you Stella. It was my lawn and landscaping guy doing the honors which kept the expense under control. Had it been a full on tree removal service with fancy shmancy bob cats and wood chippers it would have eaten up a big chunk of money. He hauled away branches in a truck and made a couple trips to the dumpster. The beauty of a dumping facility is that they CHARGE YOU for dumping trips! Plus, he had to pay the extra guy he'd gotten together with to tackle the baby cousin of Whomping Willow.
I had tried being smart. I'd called up the City to ask if the guy could bundle all this junk up and pile it there for yard waste pickup on trash days. They said chop up everything in 4 feet lengths and make bundles not exceeding 20 lbs and store in paper bags and only bring them out to the curb on trash day which was a week from then. So, instead of inflicting torture on my landscaping guy I just asked him to haul it away!
 
So Winter's end game was pretty nasty for me. The only person who derived happiness out of this was Robert Frost!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Abbie's Adventurezine: The Sink Monster, Spring Bucket List, & Other Stories

All Graphics Are Clickable! They're Linked To Blog Entries Of This Week.


"Sister! There's A Monster In The Sink!"

 
This past week has been one of those hectic landlady weeks when you get to hear that your very 'smart' tenant wants to draw a 'bottom line' (exact words!) and expects you to pay half of ALL the damages he/she himself/herself does to the rental unit. Uh ... when did we agree to that? Some tenant species treat rental homes like hotels.
"Sister, since this is YOUR property I am ASSUMING that you will share all the expenses."
A voice of reason told me through my boiling rage fit that this guy had definitely not read the lease he signed. He had a clogged kitchen sink and the trash disposal machine was functioning but not draining it. I have known sinks and trash disposal units for 6 years now since I moved to the US and not once have I clogged them. They work fine unless you throw an entire animal load of meat in there without turning the crusher machine on. Solid chunks go in and clog the pipe. Period! That's your 'negligence' and 'misconduct' like the lease reads if you clog the pipe.
"I don't think there is any food clogging it." he insisted. 
So before jumping to the conclusion about the 'Sink Monster', I began to Google my rights and responsibilities as a landlord (lady!) before I answered this argumentative guy professionally who insisted that nothing was clogging the sink and there was some plumbing choke that I am obliged to have fixed. I texted my agent (the poor agent! he always suffers my panic attacks!). He confirmed that I was thinking right and told me to deduct service charges (if the guy did not agree!) from his security deposit.
I had to take photos of the lease! And yes I had to dig out the lease from my emails to take that photo. All this to confirm the obvious to someone who was stubbornly asking me to arrange an emergency plumber because the STINK from the sink was too much. Dude! The stink was because of decomposing food! Phew! Meanwhile I was texting away my plumbing guy asking for an appointment. The legal jargon seemed to have made sense (of course! supported by photographs) and the tenant agreed to pay for the monster in the sink.
The plumbing technician managed to find the monster three course meal that was dumped into the poor sink and contributed to the clog. 
The case is sealed. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Aloo Cholay Bhaji

INGREDIENTS
Boiled (or canned) chickpeas, 6 cups
Boiled potatoes, cube cut, 2 medium sized
Fried onions, sliced/crushed, 2 tablespoons
Chopped cilantro, as needed
Tomato puree, 1/2 cup
Ginger and garlic paste, 1 tablespoon
Sliced ginger and garlic, very little (optional)
Red peppercorn, 1
Black peppercorns, 4
Cloves, 4
Fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon
Caraway (Nigella/Kalonji) seeds, 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon
Cumin powder, 1 teaspoon
Red chili powder, according to taste
Garam masala (allspice) powder, 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder, 1 teaspoon
Nutmeg powder, generous pinch
Mace powder, generous pinch
Turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon
Canola oil, 1/4 cup

  1. In a large cooking pot add ginger and garlic paste, sliced ginger and garlic (optional), red and black peppercorns, cloves, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and caraway (nigella/kalonji) seeds and set on moderate heat to fry until ginger and garlic paste browns slightly.
  2. Add potatoes, fried onions, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, garam masala powder, and nutmeg and mace powders and cook well together, mashing the potatoes. 
  3. Add chickpeas and continue to cook and fry together.
  4. Add tomato puree and continue cooking for two to three minutes or until oil separates before adding 4 cups of water to simmer cook and make a thick gravy. 
  5. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with puri.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Fears Complete Me

Graphic: A Pink Dream by Juli-SnowWhite via Deviant Art
Apologies.
I am not the kind of positive, rainbows-and-sunshine-everyday thinker that pep talkers want me to be. I like keeping my personal dark cloud over my head! I am a woman with fears, insecurities, and gut feelings. They sum up to make the whole (mad!). I have taken notes from my personal experiences (ouch!), Godsend inspiration, and experiences of others around me (when they walk into walls I take notes!).
My gut feeling is my defense strategy. It is crafted after years of troubles. It is as if my psyche, my body, and my aura can all sense if something's the matter.
And, of course, when I word it all out the planet launches criticism at me. This world is a pushy place. There's always pressure to move on --- disregard past experiences, gut feelings, and fears and move on --- and this pressure pushes people (ladies in particular) to take a crazy step or disarm their defenses. 
Fears, on the other hand, are not the same as gut feelings. They're the hovering dark clouds; the grey, empty mirrors, that cast an eerie shadow over the present. But I feel they are reminiscent of earlier mistakes, mishaps, and bitter happenings. And when they cloud my brain it is only for the better. In that fog I swim and find clarity. Again, the gurus of positive thinking would recommend stashing fears away. But, I cannot! They have delivered important lessons to me. And the fears that keep me from attempting the unknown, simply guide me to be more careful.
How much do you entertain your fears and gut feelings? 

#FoodJournals February 2017

Food Photo Of The Month: Tehri (Curd & Turmeric Vegetable Rice) Recipe HERE
February has been a very weird month. January skipped my life because I was traveling, my iPhone died for good and I was just traumatized by how horrible the trip was altogether. There were some seriously good fine dining adventures though. Instead of showing them all in one go here, I have decided to mention them as we go month to month and I attempt to recreate them. 
February's throwback is pretty tragic. In Karachi city there is some issue with the gas supply. Low gas made the flame go zero and when it couldn't heat the metal cookware we resorted to the old caveman technique of heating the bread over whatever little flame there was. 
I made Khichri this month specially for Maryam because it is a good mix of protein and carbs. Get the recipe HERE
Served on board my Emirates flight, this was the Arabic Mezzeh. Babaghanoush (seasoned, mashed eggplant), Hummus (seasoned, mashed chickpeas), Muhammara (a hot pepper dip with ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil), and Sarma (Grape vine leaves, stuffed with rice, chopped mint, lemon juice, pepper, minced lamb). I am not a big fan of everything on this platter but I would seriously like to attempt the Sarma and Babaghanoush.
 
Cauliflower Leek Soup (a low carb alternative to the potato leek soup) was served on board too. Soups are on my 2017 Kitchen List and I intend on trying this out. I have Googled a good All Recipes recipe for it as well. 
Let's talk about sinfully delicious indulgence now. New York Coffee in Karachi is one little place that knows how to do its cakes and coffees right. It was super rich, very very moist, and incredibly delicious! Think Ovaltine, think fudge, think yum! There's a recipe I found on Sarah 'n Spice which incorporates marshmallows. Perhaps when I am in the mood for committing a high-calorie sin I'll stir this up.
I found Stone Hot Pizza in Virginia. This is whole wheat crust! Hats off! Pants Off! (omit the pants part please, I got too excited). When I found out after reading their menu I wanted to throw a happy dance fit right there. But I thought it wouldn't be wise. Totally enjoyed the Romano and the BBQ Chicken pizzas.  
There's a little moment I'd like to share. I always keep nutritious desserts ready for Maryam and Sooji Halwa is one of her favorites. She calls it the "Lellow Hawwa with Kimmich" which is baby talk for "Yellow Halwa with Kishmish (raisins)"
Kitchen's closed for February 2017 and open for March 2017! There are quite a few Springtime desserts I wish to try out for example something lemony is definitely part of my Spring Bucket List 2017.
What was your February cookery? What are your new plans for March as it speeds away? 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Spring Bucket List 2017

I never knew I'd be making a Spring bucket list someday but I believe the most traumatic experiences put you in touch with the most unique aspects of your personality. I was on a very challenging trip, away from home, let's just say it was a 'not-too-pleasant' adventure. There was chaos, panic, and fast-paced madness that induced an emotional wreckage of nerves. Now that I am back, I intend to enjoy the slowness of things. I can even sit and watch the grass grow - I trust myself on that one. 
March 20, 2017 - June 20, 2017

I actually bought lemons - as if life has not been giving me enough - because somewhere in my mind I want to make some lemony dessert. 
Are those monks in the photo? I got it from Google Images. They sure do look like monks. Anyway ... I do have plans to visit the Cherry Blossoms (Japan's Yoshino trees) this year unless they plan to shed early.
I am not an outdoorsy person. I am such an indoors-y person that I was thinking of making an artificial little garden somewhere inside the house! Imagine! But I do wish to sit outdoors this Spring and have my chai. 
My wardrobe needs emergency attention! Hijabs (scarves) need to be color-sorted, clothes need to be color and occasion sorted - go figure! Warm stuff needs to be transferred to the stow away closet for next winter. Phew! 
I like putting up little ensembles of the season in different areas of the house. It creates a welcoming, seasonal feel and keeps depressing vibes away. It gives me an opportunity to create little artsy wonders. 
I'm digging up the floral prints and scooping out some classy jewelry pieces fit for Spring. 
What are your Spring plans? Let me know in Comments below.