As The Stars Fall – Book Review

As the Stars Fall.

Author: Steve N. Lee

Genre: Fiction

Format: Kindle

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Apart from animals and writing, Steve Lee’s passion is travel. He’s visited 58 countries and enjoyed some amazing experiences, including cage-diving with great white sharks, sparring with a monk at a Shaolin temple, and watching a turtle lay eggs on a moonlit beach. He’s explored Machu Picchu, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China, yet for all that, he’s a man of simple tastes — give him an egg sandwich and the TV remote control, and he’ll be happy for hours!

He lives in the North of England with his partner, Ania, and two black cats who graciously allow Steve and Ania to stay in their house.

SYNOPSIS:

When a young girl suffering with her own tragedy comes across an injured young dog, she can’t resist helping him. Both having braved the worst the world had to throw at them, the pair quickly form an unbreakable bond. They picture their future as an endless stream of adventures filled with love, laughter, and good times.

But life has one last cruel trick to play…

At one moment heart-warming, the next heart-breaking, this is the story of a devoted dog’s roller coaster journey to be the one thing every good dog dreams of being — a best friend. Through a touching tale, As The Stars Fall explores how compassion can make us whole again and friendship can heal even the most broken of hearts.

MY REVIEW:

The story begins with a scene many of us may have witnessed on our streets, of stray dogs fighting to survive in a world that does not welcome the idea of having these creatures around. A scene that’s sure to bring on the waterworks, if you are an ardent dog lover, like yours truly.

It’s a moving story of a dog, his life on the streets, how it changes when he meets a friend who puts him before everything, and how he touches the life of those he spends his time with.

If you have read and enjoyed books like ‘Marley and Me’, or, ‘The art of racing in the rain’, you will find this book equally fascinating and enjoyable.

There are moments of joy and laughter, and then there are moments when your eyes tear up at the life lead by the hero of this book and his little friend.

In short, this story is a dog’s journey on this planet amid people who love him, hate him, are crazy about him, and also who are disgusted by him. Frankly, though, I will never understand how someone can not like dogs!

WHAT I LIKED:

The story looks at the world through a dog’s eyes. How a dog views the world, its people, the life of these people, and why they do things the way they do.

The words used could very well be those of a dog, that is, if he could talk!

There are moments of hope for the canines; moments when you feel that there are people who may not appear to be so, but who do, indeed, care for animals. It’s just that their way of expressing love is slightly different.

The moments between the little girl and the dog are proof how caring and understanding children are towards animals, how very pure of heart and loving they can be, if given the chance to be so.

In fact, this book would make for an amazing children’s book! Kids in the 9 to 12 age group will love it. The language is easy-to-understand and very relatable for kids. It could, actually, ignite in them a love for, and an understanding about dogs.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE:

There is not much to nitpick about this book, except that the initial chapters seem to ramble on about the everyday life of the dog and his friend. It tends to get a bit tedious and I did skip a few pages every now and then.

And, the chapters that contain the most happening parts are too little. Maybe the author could have done away with the excess elaboration of the dog’s new life after getting adopted. But, that’s my honest opinion; no offence meant.

MY RATING:

Being a dog lover, I would give every book on dogs a 5 star rating. However, considering the parts that I found dull and monotonous, I would give this book 3.5 stars.

Having said that, I would urge you to get this book, at least for your little ones. It’s written in a language kids will understand, and will, thus, get them into the habit of reading–which seems to be losing its charm these days. It could also make them aware of how dogs live, think, and feel!

As the stars fall

Sweet Pumpkin Puri – Recipe

Pumpkin can be used in a variety of ways. Not just the simple pumpkin sabji with methi seeds, but raita and sambhar, too, turn out tasty and nutritious when prepared using this humble vegetable.

Today, I am sharing another recipe that has pumpkin as the main ingredient.

It’s sweet to taste, but can also be made savoury with a little change in the ingredients used. Pumpkin, though, remains a constant, as does the method of preparation — deep frying.

 SWEET PUMPKIN PURI

The sweet pumpkin puri, or vada, if you wish to call it that, has jaggery as the sweetener and not sugar, so this makes it healthy, too, and you don’t need to worry too much about cholesterol because we will use ghee to deep fry the puri.

INGREDIENTS:

Sweet pumpkin puri - recipe

 

Pumpkin – 250 gms

Jaggery – 1 small bowl

Wheat Flour – 2 cups

Sweet pumpkin puri - recipe

Rava (Sooji) – 1 tablespoon

Salt – a pinch

Ghee – to fry

 

METHOD:

Wash and peel the pumpkin and chop it into medium-sized pieces.

Pressure cook the pumpkin pieces for 5 to 10 minutes, or one whistle.

Bring it out, and once cool, mash it well.

Place a pan on the gas and put in the mashed pumpkin and then the jaggery.

Allow the jaggery to melt on low flame. Make sure the pumpkin paste and jaggery don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Sweet pumpkin puri - recipe

Once the jaggery has melted, switch off the gas and take the pan off.

In a large bowl, take the wheat flour, the rava, salt, and mix well.

Then, add in the cool pumpkin+jaggery paste.

Do not add water.

Sweet pumpkin puri - recipe

Mix all these ingredients very well to form a dough.

If it feels sticky, use oil to grease the palms while kneading the dough.

Sweet pumpkin puri - recipe

Once the dough is made, leave it aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a kadhai, take some ghee–either homemade ghee, or store-bought.

Heat the ghee well.

In the mean time, make small balls of the puri dough.

Then, place a ball on your greased palm, pat it flat into a thick puri and slowly slide it into the kadhai.

Fry well from both sides till golden brown and remove it on a paper napkin.

Serve hot.

Sweet pumpkin puri - Recipe

 

FOR SAVOURY PUMPKIN PURI:

Instead of jaggery, add turmeric powder, red chili powder, salt, coriander powder, and deep fry in oil.

You can have these savoury puris either as is, or with your favourite pickle.

 

PUMPKIN FACTS:

A cup of cooked pumpkin – the quantity we used in the recipe above – provides us with an array of nutrients: proteins, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, copper, vitamin B2, and iron.

Being bright yellow-orange in colour, pumpkin provides us with beta carotene that’s necessary for strengthening our immune system to fight off infections.

It also makes pumpkin good for our eyes.

The beta carotene in the pumpkin makes it a good skin-food, keeping our skin healthy and protecting it from UV rays.

It is rich in fibre and low in calories which makes this veggie the perfect choice for weight-loss.

 

TWO FUN PUMPKIN RECIPES:

While chopping pumpkin, keep aside the peel. It comes in handy for preparing a chutney that’s way different from the usual ones we make.

Here’s the recipe:

Do not throw away the pumpkin peels!

 

Pumpkin can also be used to prepare raita, especially during the summers. It’s an easy-to-prepare recipe that doesn’t need a lot of time or ingredients.

Check out this recipe:

A cool recipe for hot summers

 

Do try out these recipes to reap the benefits of this squash vegetable. They are good for the health, and fun to make when running low on time and energy.

 

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Sweet pumpkin puri - Recipe

8 Indian Spices for Good Health

Spices have been an important part of the Indian culinary scene. Without spices, our food would be bland and our palette, lacklustre.

Not only do these spices add aroma, flavour and richness to our various recipes, but also provide numerous benefits for our health.

Let’s look at some of these spices found in our pantry and how they help us improve our health and cure ailments without side effects.

 

INDIAN SPICES THAT ARE GOOD FOR HEALTH:

CUMIN:

Let’s begin with one of the most common spices that we use in our everyday cooking: Cumin, or Jeera, as it’s known in Hindi.

Spices for better health

Cumin is best known to give relief from indigestion. It also helps in easier elimination of waste, and is used as a digestive aid.

Consuming Jeera water has been an advice to those suffering from anaemia as it is rich in iron and manganese.

TIPS:

Roast cumin seeds and grind them into powder. Add a pinch to buttermilk to get relief from indigestion.

Along with mustard seeds, you could also use cumin seeds for tempering. It not only adds flavour, but also makes the food easy to digest.

CINNAMON:

Cinnamon is considered diabetes-friendly as it lowers blood sugar levels.

It’s high in anti-oxidants and protects our body from the harmful effects of free radicals.

Indian spices and their benefits
Pic courtesy: Pixabay

It is used to bring relief from sore throat and cold.

TIPS:

Boil a glass of water with 2 tiny pieces of cinnamon sticks. Sip this water to relieve the itchniess in your throat when suffering from cold and cough.

Add powdered cinnamon to coffee, tea, curries and desserts to benefit from its medicinal properties and enjoy its woody flavour.

RECOMMENDED READING: 10 proven benefits of cinnamon

AJWAIN:

Ajwain, or carom seeds, are the highly aromatic, flavourful seeds that are an excellent digestive. High in fibre, these seeds improve digestion as they help release gastric juices. They also treat heartburn along with digestion issues and give relief from irregular periods, too.

TIPS:

Mix a pinch of ajwain seeds with grated, dry coconut and eat it after dinner. It will help get rid of gas and ease digestion.

RECOMMENDED READING: Two herbs that aid your digestive system

FENUGREEK SEEDS:

Fenugreek seeds are used for various purposes apart from adding flavour to our meals.

Spices and their benefits

High in water soluble fibre, these seeds help slow down digestion, absorb carbohydrates, and lower blood sugar levels.

Their anti-inflammatory properties give relief from arthritic pain.

The fibre in the seeds also aids weight loss.

These seeds are great for hair care as they reduce hair fall, too.

RECOMMENDED READING: 5 benefits of fenugreek seeds

 

CLOVES:

Cloves have been our go-to remedy for toothache since ages.

This aromatic spice is very versatile in nature as it is used in desserts as well as curries.

Spices and their benefits

The antimicrobial properties in cloves help kill bacteria. And, it is this quality about cloves that helps maintain oral health.

TIPS:

Grind cloves along with a piece of cinnamon, ginger, and black pepper. Add it all to boiling water to make a perfect drink for sore throat. Add a spoonful of honey and drink this herbal tea at least 3 times a day. It will give you faster relief from a sore, itchy throat than any OTC cough syrups, without side-effects.

 

CORIANDER SEEDS:

Garnishing our food with fresh coriander leaves is a culinary ritual. But coriander seeds are also useful not just for adding flavour to our food but also help in treating various health issues.

Spices and their benefits

One of the most surprising health benefits of coriander seeds is in easing menstrual distress. The natural stimulants present in these seeds maintain hormonal balance. This alleviates the pain and discomfort during our periods.

TIPS:

Consuming water boiled with coriander seeds during periods will help tackle menstrual pain. Just boil 2 cups of water with a teaspoon of coriander seeds added to it. Let the water boil till it reduces to half the quantity. Cool it, strain it and drink it.

 

TURMERIC:

This rich, golden spice has been an important part of Indian cooking since ages. It’s also been used in Ayurveda for its medicinal properties for thousands of years.

Spices and their benefits

Turmeric has several uses. Its natural antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties make it the best medicine to use on wounds, to disinfect the wound, and stall blood flow.

It’s also anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic, all of which makes this spice the most powerful spices of all!

TIPS:

To cure a sore throat, warm, turmeric milk is the best tonic, as compared to other cough syrups.

A mixture of half a spoonful of sugar and a pinch of turmeric eaten before bedtime gives an undisturbed sleep especially when suffering from a bad cough.

A pinch of turmeric is a better anti-septic than any anti-septic ointments in case of nicks and cuts.

 

BLACK PEPPER:

Black pepper is another spice that’s very good for health. Known as the king of spices, it’s best used to aid digestion, detoxify the body, and in weight loss.

Spices for better health

It cleans the intestines and stomach, and prevents constipation.

It is also believed to be good for skin and hair as it prevents wrinkles.

TIPS:

Place a peppercorn in your mouth if coughing while asleep. The peppercorn prevents cough and helps you enjoy an uninterrupted sleep.

Add a pinch of black pepper powder to your tea while boiling. It brings relief from cough and cold.

Black pepper helps flush out the toxins from the body through sweat and urine. But, please don’t go overhoard in consuming black pepper. It’s spicy and could lead to an upset stomach.

Keep crushed black pepper handy for use in your recipes, from salads and soups to curries.

 

CONCLUSION:

The spices we use in our everyday cooking not only add flavour and taste to our food, but also benefit our health and overall wellbeing. Including these locally grown spices in your meals will ensure you stay healthy and well-nourished, too.

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8 powerful spices for good health

Share the load, spread the love.

My husband never does the laundry. Ever. Then why am I writing this post for Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad #ShareTheLaundry movement? one might ask.

I have never considered doing the laundry as a “load”, really. I mean, it takes hardly a minute or two, right?

Just dump the clothes in the washing machine, add the detergent, press the ‘START’ button, and, TADA! your work is done!

Putting the clothes out to dry takes about 5 minutes. So, where IS the load?

Our washing machine and detergent manufacturers have indeed made our lives so much easier and relaxed.

The real load for me? Cooking.

Ugh! Just typing the word is exhausting.

Every morning, when the time comes to cook breakfast and lunch, I hear my body groan in protest. “Do I have to enter the kitchen?” it grumbles.

Meal planning for the day, prepping, cooking, and then clearing the platform – that’s the real load for me. For some, it is an exercise in mindfulness; for me, it’s a task I rush to get over with.

Before the lockdown, life was simpler.

I would finish the cooking by 9 every morning and it took less than an hour. Hubby would leave for work and I would have all the time on my hands to write, read and create my favourite mandala designs.

But when the lockdown was announced, I visualised my well-planned schedule flying out of the window.

With hubby home, I would have to make multiple trips to that dreaded area (the kitchen). There would be that much of cutting, chopping, cooking and clearing to do, followed by extra time spent in front of the sink with heaps of dirty dishes.

When would I blog? When would I draw?

The impending doom sucked the life out of me and I could see my blogging taking a back seat, as also my art.

How would I survive?

And, that’s when stepped in my knight in shining armour: hubby dearest.

The day our PM announced the first lockdown, my man rushed straight from work to the supermarket to shop for groceries that would last us a month.

When he returned home with bags full of provisions, veggies, fruits et al, I felt I had reached heaven.

It does sound dramatic, but seriously, it felt like Santa arriving on Christmas Eve, with bags full of everything we would need, and some more!

That was the first load off me.

Next, he announced that he would take over the kitchen. This meant, meal planning for the day, every day, looking up recipes that did not need a whole lot of ingredients, and preparing those recipes would be his responsibility.

All I was supposed to do was clean the house and do the dishes. That’s all. And sometimes prepare chapati, or roll out the puris. But that’s it. That was doable.

Can you imagine how big a relief that was for me?

My work would be over by 8 every morning, after which I would just make some easy-peasy breakfast for us. After that I would retire to my room to write or blog, and hubby would take over the kitchen.

He would call me once lunch was done and we would enjoy the sumptuous meal he had prepared.

Mind you, hubby is a fabulous cook–I have learned a lot just by watching him in action.

#ShareTheLoad
Sharing the load

So, every meal he made was simply superb.

There were times when I would be lost in my writing and he would quietly do the dishes as well.

What a pleasant surprise it would be for me when I entered the kitchen on such days to find the dishes all clean and sparkling, and the sink devoid of a single utensil.

Now, if that isn’t sharing the load, I don’t know what is!

The two and a half months of lockdown showed me a whole new side of hubby–the man I have been living with for more than 22 years.

#ShareChoresMultiplyLove is the hashtag I would love to use to describe our life these past months, with every bit of the sharing done with such love, patience and dedication, I feel fortunate.

I am BLESSED, indeed, to have a guy by my side who never thinks it’s beneath his dignity to share the load at home, or perform the so-called womanly duties and responsibilities.

All I can wish for is, may his tribe increase!

How we would love to see more men announce – I will #ShareTheLoad and help in household chores in association with Ariel India and BlogAdda

Cracking the Code – Book Review

Cracking the code: My journey in Bollywood, by Ayushmann Khurrana and Tahira Kashyap

Genre: Autobiography

Publication: 8 February 2015

Length: 153 Pages

Format: Kindle Edition

SYNOPSIS:

Cracking the code: My journey in Bollywood, is an autobiography of the one actor who has made a name for himself selecting roles that are completely different from the run-of-the-mill roles actors usually settle for. I think ‘experimental’ could very well be his middle name!

Ayushmann Khurrana, in his book published way back in 2015, recounts his journey from his childhood, to his days as a Radio Jockey, a Video Jockey, a singer, and an actor in the Hindi Film Industry.

It’s really a book that he has written for aspiring actors who leave behind their simple world, and travel to Mumbai–the city of dreams–to try their luck in the big, bad world of Bollywood.

Some of them taste success and have a longer shelf-life; some others vanish after a very short innings, and still others fail to make a mark or get noticed and return home, broken hearted, disillusioned.

It’s a book where he shares his codes for success–tips and life lessons that at once encourage you, fill you with hope, boost your morale, and act as a beacon for those setting out on a journey that’s riddled with uncertainty.

 

MY REVIEW:

A book for aspiring actors is what he calls it – a book for those who have huge dreams of the glitz and the glamour of Bollywood.

A book for those who think they have it all to make their mark in the film industry, but, who, sadly, fail to make it despite their best efforts.

It’s a short book–153 pages–and one can finish if off in an hour or two. But, in these 153 pages, Ayushmann has packed enough gyaan that could be useful for whatever journey one might be on.

Not necessarily film industry, but any industry, any vocation you may have chosen, this book helps you know how to tread the path to success.

 

Give your best to whatever opportunities you get; never underestimate the significance of even the smallest of junctures. Your past actions will one day become your future redemption.

 

Ayushmann has shared lessons he learned through his experiences as he grew up from an “ugly”, stick-thin boy without the saleability factor into a commendable actor, who can carry an unusual story on his able shoulders with his craft, his screen presence, and the relatability factor.

The book has a conversational tone, with stories that resonate with you, and the struggles you face building up your career.

There are codes after every chapter to ponder shared by someone who hasn’t received his stardom on a platter, but who had to toil to achieve it.

 

WHAT I LIKED:

The language he has used, the style, the tone, all of it makes you feel as if you are sitting with the guy in a coffee shop on a rainy afternoon, listening to him narrate his story about how he made it to Bollywood–his childhood dream.

How he went through all the ups and downs, the trials and the tribulations, the lack of confidence due to his not being “presentable”, but with enough confidence in himself, his capabilities, and his ability to give every job, big or small, his one hundred percent.

Not once does he come across as preachy, boastful, or Mr Know-all-ish.

His ability to laugh at himself, speak about his shortcomings, and share some very embarrassing moments with the reader, candidly, makes him endearing, and relatable.

You need not be a Bollywood aspirant to know how tough life is.

Whatever career you choose to follow, you have to face hardships, learn lessons, and find your way through the labyrinth of twists and turns.

It helps if there are words to guide you shared by someone who has been through an equally difficult phase but emerged from it a winner.

It gives you confidence and the will power to continue on the path you have chosen, and give every shot your best.

 

 

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE:

Frankly, there wasn’t anything I did not like.

In the past couple of months, I caught up on quite a few Ayushmann-starrers and was impressed by the ease with which he slips into the roles he picks.

This book, therefore, had to be read to get to know the person I see on the silver screen!

MY RATING:

I loved the book. Period.

An easy read, you can spend an afternoon going through this book and glean a lot about how to deal with failure, with success, and with else everything in between.

It is an insightful read for youngsters who are on the verge of setting out on a career path. Movies, or no movies, this book will inspire you enough to do your best whatever the situation, the circumstances.

I give this book 4.5 stars. (It could have done with a little bit of proofreading and editing.)

So, if you haven’t read this book, then do pick it up at Kindle Unlimited–it’s free!

 

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