#UnwrapChristmas with Christmas Cake

It only takes a spark to get the fire going.
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
That’s how it is with God’s love,
Once you have experienced it
You want to sing
You feel like spring
You want to pass it on…

A few of us gathered together for Secret Santa tidings, divided by names and united through a common Christmas spirit of sharing. And it is in this spirit that we bring this blog chain to you. I am celebrating the spirit of Christmas with the #UnwrapChristmas blogpost chain.

The arrival of Christmas is heralded by the smells of exotic spices, nuts and goodies in the oven. Yes, the most joyous and magical time of the year is synonymous with the festive cakes and bakes. I was introduced to Christmas baking as a kid by our Christian friends who used to bake Spiced Gingerbread Loaf and Rum Cake during this time. I remember how their home used to smell of candied peel, dried fruit and whiskey/rum.

Since, the last couple of years, I have been baking different loafs and cakes for Christmas, so I thought of sharing the recipe of my favourite Christmas Cake with you here. Christmas cakes are usually rum-oozing bakes with fruits and nuts soaked in the liquor for at least a month, but here is a Christmas Cake with rum/whiskey soaking indulgence in a jiffy.

Christmas Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 11/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 11/2 baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 150g butter, chopped
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped candied fruits
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 2 (25cm x 8cm) bar pans, line bases with baking paper.

2. Combine raisins, dates and brandy, let them stand for 30 minutes.

3. Place sifted dry ingredients, butter and sugar in food processor, process until combined. Add eggs and condensed milk, process to combine.

4. Fold dry-fruit mixture and dark chocolate chips into cake mixture, spoon mixture into prepared bar pans. Top with combined candied fruits and almonds. Bake for 60 minutes or till the skewer comes out clean. Cool in pan before turning out.

5. Drizzle some glaze over it, I prefer without it though.

Go on and enjoy this  Christmas cake which is rich and spicy and bursting with boozy fruit.

May your heart and home be filled with all of the joys the festive season brings. Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

This is my third consecutive year of writing for #UnwrapChristmas blog chain. My  earlier posts are

#UnwrapChristmas with Secret Santee!

#UnwrapChristmas Doing a Little Something Extra

I now invite Esha Mookerjee-Dutta to carry forth the Christmas cheer.

Secret Santa 2017


Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone When Traveling

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You surely love your comfort zone. Right? After all, it is familiar and predictable and makes you feel safe and secure. It is a healthy adaptation of your life, for you know what is your risk tolerance and what is non-negotiable for you. I’d say that it is a dangerous place as well, for it stops you from growth and newer experiences. In fact, it is a self-created prison which has walls made up of can’ts, shouldn’ts, negative self-talks and rigid thoughts and ideas.

Should you stay safely in this prison? The answer is a big No.

They say that you must live your life to the fullest and that means you must experience and explore unknown territories, both outside and inside of yourself. You should strive for more, you should step outside your comfort zone. Now, all that sounds good, but how do you do that?

To find out more… do check out My Guest Post on Dipanwita’s Blog Cocktails, Mocktails and Life.

This post is written for the December blog hop #mymojo with Shalzmojo

Linking up for #wordsante with Namysaysso for every post deserves some love.

Do Not Disturb… DND [Guest Post]

Hello everyone! I am really excited to welcome Anagha Yatin Joshi from Mocktail Mommies and Canvas with Rainbow on my blog. She is an an engineer and management graduate by training, and a mother to a growing teenager son and a pre-teen daughter.  She loves reading, traveling and is an accomplished bathroom singer! She indulges in a lot of chitter-chatter with her friends, mostly Mocktail Mommies buddies (yes, they are 8 of them!). I hope you enjoy her fun chatter here.

Over to you, Anagha…

It was the month of October. The Rain God was lashing the city with all its fury and might. Watching the incessant rains, someone was getting upset beyond manageable limits. Soon the living room was filled with occasional rants and grunts. The rumbling of the celestial bodies was matched with an equal shout from Master Grumpy bear…. “Hey rains, you…DND!”. I lowered the book, that I was reading, a little bit from my sight to take a stock of situation.

Here was my son, standing tall but all upset, his nostrils flared up! He had made grand plans for four days… the much-awaited holidays after a grueling fortnight of exams. There was nothing in our ability that we could do to stop the march of the mighty dripping soldiers though…

But what fancied my attention was “DND”… “Do Not Disturb!”

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Innumerable occasions flashed from my memory as if competing with the lightening in the skies. All were my very own moments of utter frustration for not getting my “DND” tag honoured. Now before you start fancying that I am going to complain about the incidences of irresponsible staff at the hotels where I might have stayed during certain journeys, let me caution you that its not the case…

I welcome every new month with a great fan fair. Only reason being, I love monthly grocery shopping at the nearby super mart. A predecessor to this is a mandatory stock taking. With a pencil and a chit of paper… Oh yes, I belong to ancient times; I use pen and paper for making the list and not the smart phone. So I usually set out on my mission to prepare the list. 

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While making the list, I am half present in my kitchen and half way already transported to the super mart. The grocery, the toiletries, the bakery, the dairy products and many more sections of the house, kitchen and the super mart are at once floating in different spheres of my mind. 

A big DND is written in Bold and Italics all over my face.

As the fate could have it, it is never honoured. Either the doorbell announces a casual visitor or my own clan comes up with some emergency situation, mostly their fights or the man of the house needing an urgent detail on phone! And the result? I am bewildered with two toothpastes staring in my face when I wish to fit in the one recently purchased next to them. The mosquito repellent refills are in the mood to repel any more addition to the stack. The grains declare the flood situation as the containers are filled till their brim. 

Poor me, I am so at loss of space and words courtesy my list that was never done to my satisfaction! Post my monthly grocery shopping sojourn, it then takes me ages to make sure that kitchen cabinets do not explode with the deluge of surplus grocery packets!!!

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One more from a real long list…I love mathematics since time immemorial and am so proud of being a mathlete! But this very pride bites the dust when I am facing the green grocer and trying to calculate the exact amount to be paid for 650 grams of apple or 800 grams of lady fingers! When I am busy doing some mental maths, believe me at those times, I find it far more complicated than rocket science. 

DND flag is up on face by this time, which the green grocer fails to recognize, so do the fellow buyers. The honking on the street by the vehicles also join this gang.  They all collectively dishonor my right to privacy for calculations! Sans any pen and paper, I then try to figure it out in air. The mobile rings at that very precarious moment. All the numbers and calculations done so far, vanish from the air screen. By the time I reach out to the mobile in my purse, which is like “Alibaba’s den”, the ring dies out. Gone are the numbers and the caller. The green grocer then takes pity on me. No wonder most of the times he says, “Madam, you finish purchasing first. Don’t bother about “hisab”!” DND flag is then hoisted down, so very unceremoniously and with a pain of great defeat! 

Have you faced retreating of the DND flags? Do let me know… One thing is for sure, though they are signs of utter frustration, they make for a good laugh in hindsight!!

This post is written for the December blog hop #mymojo with Shalzmojo

Linking up for #wordsante with Namysaysso for every post deserves some love.

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All pics courtesy Pixabay and ImagesBazaaar

Tornado Giveaway : The Face At The Window

Name of the Book: The Face At The Window

Author: Kiran Manral 

Read a review:

  1. Vikas Datta
  2. Ava
  3. Sukanya Venkatraghavan

The Story:

What if at the end of one’s life, one realises that one has lived out a lie?
Mrs. McNally, a retired school teacher, living alone in a cottage at the foothills of the Himalayas, has secrets that if revealed could shatter the two people she cares about the most, her daughter Millie and her grand daughter Nina.
Torn by her desire to reveal the truth that could change Millie’s life, and the need to let things continue as they are, Mrs. McNally grapples not just with ghosts from her past, but also a strange, vicious presence in her house that seems to want something from her. Will she ever find the peace that eludes her, will she be rid of this entity haunting her house and, more importantly, will she find closure? A gently nuanced, layered story that deals with the lack of identity and an eternal finding of self, The Face at the Window holds a mirror to the fears we are all afraid to voice, the fear of ageing, the fear of not belonging, and above all, the fear of having no one to love you at the end of your life.

You can buy the book @

amazon.in | amazon.com| amazon.co.uk

Check out all the books of Tornado here

About The Author : I went from full time journalist to full time mommy to blogger to author. My blogs, www.thirtysixandcounting.wordpress.com and www.karmickids.blogspot.com, are both in Labnol’s list of India’s top blogs, but are sadly languishing neglected now. I was a blogger columnist with Tehelka Blogs on gender issues. 

I was also, professionally, India Cultural Lead and Trendspotter with CEB Iconoculture US and am currently Senior consultant with Vector Insights LLP. 

Because I spend more time than is healthy on twitter, I got listed a non celebrity ‘social media star’ on twitter by the Times of India and IBN Live named me as among the 30 interesting Indian women to follow on twitter and among the top 10 Indian moms to follow on twitter for 2013. Sheroes also listed me as among the top 20 women influencers on twitter in 2014. (http://sheroes.in/articles/must-follo…) I am on the Planning Board of the Kumaon Literary Festival, Chair of the Women Unlimited Series of the Taj Colloquium, Mentor with Sheroes.in and Qween and on the Advisory Board of Literature Studio.

My debut novel, The Reluctant Detective, was published by Westland in 2011. My second novel, Once Upon A Crush,published by Leadstart, was released in May 2014. My third book, All Aboard, was published by Penguin in 2015, as was Karmic Kids, my first non fiction book, published by Hay House in 2015 as well. My fourth fiction work, The Face At the Window, was published by Amaryllis in March 2016. 

Most importantly, I have recently declared my body a 100% Nutella free zone. 

Stalk her @
Facebook | Twitter

#TornadoGiveaway is an initiative of The Book Club. Click on the icon to go to the event page of the Tornado .. Lots of fun awaits you 🙂

In Association With our Media Partners

A To Z Challenge 2016 Theme Reveal

Yes, it’s that time again! The much awaited A to Z April Challenge is just around the corner. And over 1200 bloggers from around the world are gearing up to don their creative hats and are sharpening their writing skills. Yes, we all will be writing posts from A to Z, every day in April except Sundays!

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This April, I will be participating in this mega event for a fourth time in a row.

In April 2013, I wrote on random subjects from A to Z.

By April 2014, I got the hang of this challenge and there was quite a buzz about to theme or not to theme. So, I decided to go with the theme of Marriage from A to Z in exactly 55 words!

Loaded with the experience of the earlier 2 years, in 2015, I wrote about Emotions and Feelings from A to Z in 55 Words.

While writing about random subjects leaves with you a lot of choices, writing on a theme keeps you focussed and helps you explore and grow more in the chosen subject.

I loved challenging myself to write in 55 words these last two years, so I had no doubts about the word limit each of my post would have this April. Why just 55 words, you may ask. Well, it’s a win-win situation for both you and me. 55 words are just short enough to grab your attention and time and long enough to cover the subject and as for me, well, it is the perfect way to challenge and kick my dormant muse!

With clarity on that aspect, I moved on to give some thought to the challenging aspect of this challenge and that was, “What theme to pick on?”

I did an extensive 5-minute research (Yeah, I am pretty good at it!) and decided to go for….

Ahem!… Can we have the drum rolls please…

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2

My Theme for April A to Z Challenge 2016 is…

Cultivating Happiness from A to Z in 55 words

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”  Remember this rhyme from our school days? From early on, we were taught to recognize and celebrate feelings of happiness! And today, we know that happiness is not only one of the most positive emotions we can experience, but being happy is also the key to a fulfilled, healthy life.

Most of us believe that happiness is a result of some external circumstance, but it doesn’t have to be. Happiness a daily habit and it can be cultivated in our every day life.

So, this April, I am going to explore ways to cultivate happiness and joy in every day life instead of letting it be a product of chance. And I am going to express all that in just 55 words.

I am looking forward to you all joining me in this journey!

And did I tell you that I am in AJ’s team (one of the Co-host for this year’s challenge) as wHooligan and that’s third year in a row!! Joining me are LuAnn Braley (my buddy and we have been together as wHooligans for 3 years now! How cool is that!!), Geetika Gupta and Doreen McGettigan. We will be watching you and of course doing all the ‘hard work’ behind the scenes!

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I am very excited about this April challenge. In case this appeals and interests you too, then you must  check out the A to Z Challenge website and sign up as a participant! There is still time, and it’s a lot of fun, I promise!

Happy reading, writing and connecting all through the April! Cheers ♥

AtoZ Reflections #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2Z

A-to-Z Reflection [2015]

This year, it was my third April A to Z Challenge. After writing on random subjects and long posts in the first year and a theme based 55 word stories in the second year, I was clear that I would go with a theme based 55 word stories this year again.

Fellow bloggers in our little blogging group were sharing their count of scheduled posts as early as March and I was totally cool with my zero score. I don’t know what gave an otherwise worrying cum panic attack queen me, such a carefree attitude and not getting worked up.

Towards the end of March, when I got to know my travel plans for April, my cool demeanour did a 180 degree turn. I was scheduled to be out of home for more than a fortnight in 4 different trips! Given the places I was traveling to and the super hectic schedules that I would be having then, my panic buttons were pushed to the maximum. While, I work well under pressure but this time the pressure got to me. I struggled to get the first few posts live on my blog. But then, I somehow managed to schedule the posts for the days I was traveling.

One day will be forever etched in my memory… It was April 23rd and I was leaving for Rishikesh later that night. That morning, in a span of six hours, I wrote six 55 fictions for alphabets U to Z. And it was an exhilarating moment when the story for letter X was written in flat ten minutes. I actually patted my back!

Flocking at fellow bloggers blogs and reading what they shared from A to Z is something that I liked the most. It was amazing to see such diverse themes and varied styles of writing. My reading plate was full of fun, interesting, insightful, inspiring and some beautiful writings. April A to Z challenge is a perfect time and place to explore some new blogs too. And I am glad that I came across some pretty wonderful blogs. I am hoping to read them regularly.

While writing, reading and commenting kept me busy from morn to night on non-travel days. The story is entirely different when I was out of home. The places that we travelled to this time had internet connectivity ranging from zero to poor. At some places, even the phone didn’t work. So, the first day at these godforsaken but very beautiful places, I fretted and fumed, silently.  So desperate I was to read and comment on blogs of my friends through my phone, that at a camp site, I even climbed 40 steps to get on top of a water tank. Yes, you read it right… a water tank!! While two colleagues were coolly talking to their loved ones on their phones, the signals on my phone refused to oblige, even at that height. It was then I practiced my favourite mantra… Let Go. I used my smartphone as a clock and an alarm piece then on, and all was good. But once, I returned back to civilization, like a starved soul, I devoured reading, writing and commenting sometimes till as late as 3 am, much to the chagrin amusement of my husband!.. Naah! He just gave up on me!! 😉

April A to Z Challenge is all my time favourite challenge. And the one this year has been extra special. It gave me a platform to connect and network with some really amazing bloggers from around the globe.  AJ, Beloo, Cat Graham, Debbie, Eli, Elly, Eloquent Mind, Genevive, Inderpreet, Janaki, Jyotsna, Kadambari, Kathy, Keith, Lata Sunil, Lisa, Little Princess, LuAnn, Nisha, Parul, Prasanna, Rachna, Rajlakshmi, Roshni, Ruchi, Sanch Living Life, SG, Shailaja, Shalini, Shantala, Sheethal, Soumya, Sulekha, Sundari, Susan, Suzy, Swathi, Tulika, Ma’am Usha Menon, Vidya, Vinitha, Vinodini, Vishal, Vinay

And also that I really pushed myself this April. There were so many obstacles, so many challenges and that I conquered them all and posted all my posts at 12.01 am for each alphabet every single week day, fills me with pride and satisfaction, even today! April A to Z Challenge 2015 has been a great therapy!

A BIG THANK YOU to all who were part my A to Z journey which was full of feelings and emotions this year. Your support and encouraging words has meant more to me than you will ever know and I’ll cherish that forever!  ♥

A to Z Theme Reveal

This April, I will be participating in the A to Z Challenge for the third time in a row.

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For the first, I took each day as it came and wrote about random subjects from A to Z.

By the second year, I had gained some experience and during that time there was quite a buzz about to theme or not to theme. So, I decided to go with the theme. Last year, my theme for the A to Z Challenge 2014 was Marriage from A to Z in exactly 55 words! Yes, I wrote about the ingredients that make or break a married relationship and packaged them in 55 Fiction. It was a fun and a challenging experience.

Having written without a theme and on a theme from A to Z, these last two years, I spent some time on whether to theme or not, this year. Mind you, both are quite challenging in their own way. Writing on a random new topic almost every day or writing on a planned subject(which could be restrictive) from A to Z has its thrills and chills.

I did an extensive 5-minute research and decided to go with a theme for the April A to Z Challenge 2015.

And the big moment has arrived. It’s time to reveal my theme for this year’s challenge.

Drum rolls please…

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My Theme for the A to Z Challenge 2015 is : Emotions and Feelings from A to Z in 55 Words.

Emotions and feelings are an integral and essential part of our life’s experience. They drive us and even drive us astray. Healthy and unhealthy expression of emotions comes naturally to us. So, this April I will be exploring the varied positive and negative emotions and feelings in the form of short stories expressed in exactly 55 words!!

Why 55 words again, you may ask! Well, it’s a win-win situation for both you the reader and I the writer and I’d not like it not any other way 😀

Hope you’d enjoy reading the 26 stories on emotions from A to Z as much as I’d love writing them. See you around!

[tweetthis]#AtoZChallenge #AtoZReveal Check out my theme. What’s yours?[/tweetthis]

And did I tell you that I am in AJ’s team (one of the Co-host for this year’s challenge) as wHooligan and that’s second year in a row!! Joining me are LuAnn Braley, Kripali Kulkarni, TaMara Sloan and Sue McPeak. We will be watching you and of course doing all the ‘hard work’ behind the scenes!

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Happy reading, writing and connecting all through the April! Cheers ♥

Little Happy Things

Happiness in life is one thing that everyone aspires to have. It is seen that most of us, in our restless search for happiness through something significant to happen, continuously miss the insignificant, which may not be insignificant at all.  Over the years, it has been observed that true happiness is found in simple and seemingly unremarkable things. It’s the small and simple pleasures throughout the day that give us more  happiness than that one big achievement. And it is the sum total of all these little things that make life more enriching, and beautiful.

Here’s my list of little things that fill me with happiness and bliss. littlehappythings

  • Reading a well told story. It is sheer happiness to be transported into the magical worlds the written word takes me to, the experiences that it leaves me with, the feelings it evokes me with, the beauty that stays with me long after the last page is turned.
  • Baking a perfect cake and seeing it wolfed down with appreciative ‘Oohs and Ahas!’
  • Learning is happiness. The excitement of learning a new skill is incomparable. Yesterday was a happy day when I got to attend a food photography workshop, which was on my bucket list. Aah! The joy of growing, learning and changing!
  • Happiness is getting-together at home with family and friends. Ooh! The fun and banter that comes with laughing and sharing stories over food and wine, with friends.
  • The other day, I was standing in a queue at the airport shop and buying a box of Karachi biscuits. A stranger (a foreigner) holding a similar box but a large one of the same brand was standing just ahead of me. What a happy coincidence! Seeing me hold a medium sized box, he turned back, smiled and in a mischievous conspiratorial tone while pointing towards my box, said, “There’s a big box too.” Without batting an eye, I matched his conspiratorial tone and said, “I have a small family” and we both burst out laughing! Happiness is a fun conversation with a stranger.
  • The theatre lights go down, the salt and butter dusted popcorn is waiting to be devoured and the opening credits roll in. Aah! The joy and happiness of watching the much awaited movie of your favourite actor in the cinema hall.
  • Happiness is getting that comforting and solution driven message from a friend in the middle of the night when I was panicking on seeing my laptop infected with malware!
  • Last week, as I turned in the key to open the door of our home, the aroma of food wafted through the air! The bliss of being treated to a delicious dinner  cooked by the husband after a long day at work!!

Happiness is not ready made.  It comes from our own actions. It is found in small positive experiences in our day to day life that makes us feel contented and at peace. It is found in being thankful for all the little things which happen around us and to us every day. Happiness is looking for the hope and light even when it seems hidden. All said, the little things matter. Even if they don’t seem like it at the time.

What are the little things that make you happy?

The Great Indian Litterbug

Resume of The Great Indian Litterbug

Name : Great Indian Litterbug.  My friends call me, GIL! You can call me, Gily.

Address : I am omnipresent like God. But unlike Him, I am visible in every nook and corner of this country. You don’t have to pray hard to find me. All you have to do is just step out of your home and look around. Yes, just look around! And I will be there to greet you with a smile drenched in paan-red lips.

Skills and Strengths: Spitting around. Yes, I love doing that. I can do it anytime and anywhere… place, time, absolutely no bar. I can thrill you with a variety of sounds that accompanies my spitting. Of course, my personal favorite is ‘pichak’ and ‘peetch’ that is produced after having a mouthful of gutka, paan masala and/or paan.

The perennial cold that I suffer from makes me cough all day long! Aah! The unhygienic conditions we have in our country! The forceful expulsion of the phlegm with accompanying sounds is another skill set that I have. Doing aak-thoo especially from the bus or train window or when somebody stops me for asking directions or just about anytime is my passion. Since the phlegm is sticky, thick and viscous fluid, it can cause discomfort and congestion of your nasal passage and throat. Getting rid of it with distinct sounds is so gratifying. You have to take my word for it! Try it sometimes! Man, you will love it too.

Additional Experience : Pissing anywhere. Well, it is an age old practice. Relieving self out in the open without any fear or shame is kind of liberating. And also, when a man has to go, he has to go. Place and time cannot stop him doing what he got to do. I have had the pleasure of sharing many walls with even the rich getting out of those luxury SUVs and sedans. The passers-by pass our watering walls with covered noses as if they are inhaling some horrific smell. I wonder why they do that. The piss rolling off the wall and onto the pavement does not bother me at all. What bothers me though is placement of pictures of Gods of all religions on my favourite walls in the city.

Aim : My aim in life is to paint the town red… and yellow too. I am steadily and consistently inching towards my larger goal. Public spaces, buildings, walls, corners, pavements, bazaars, railway stations, bus stands, restaurants, hospitals… are witness of my scarlet and ochre works of art.

I look forward to meeting you for a personal interview and would love to share more of my achievements and accomplishments.

Aak Thoo. I mean Thank you!

This post is written for Indiblogger and http://greatindian.timesofindia.com/

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