Monday, September 30, 2013

"The List" September 2013

The first two "list" posts here and here were so much fun that I'm making this a monthly feature to recap the noteworthy moments of each month. You'll see that my definition of noteworthy covers everything from vacations to laundry detergent. What is life but a collage of moments big and trivial? Of course the very best part of these posts is when you, dear reader, chime in and tell me what's going on in your life so don't be shy.

So here goes, the list for September 2013.

Baking Lemonies= Brownies minus chocolate plus lemon. I followed this recipe. It is a drop dead easy recipe that comes together in minutes and boy, was it a success. I made a batch for Lila's teachers and one of them said to me that it was the best thing she had ever eaten- I'm not making this up. OK, she may have exaggerating a little bit but yeah, you can be sure I'll make lemonies again.

My only modifications to the recipe were to replace 1/8 cup of regular flour with almond flour- this small change added lots of texture and flavor to these melt-in-the-mouth treats. And I used lemon oil and fiori di sicilia (a citrus vanilla baking extract) which added a little something something.

Cooking pineapple relish. I bought some fresh pineapple for a party and forgot to cut and serve it. So a couple of days later, I cooked up this dish on the fly; it is something in between a pickle and a chutney. Does such a thing have a name?

The recipe for pineapple relish in short: Heat oil, temper with mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafetida, methi seeds. Add fresh pineapple cubes, salt, turmeric, chili powder, a good bit of jaggery. Let it simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pineapple is coated in a thick sweet-tangy syrup. Cool and store in the fridge for 3-4 days. This relish jazzed up several rice and dal meals for me.

Reading The World According to Bertie (44 Scotland Street #4). After a slow start, I'm finally sinking my teeth into this series by A. McCall Smith. Next on my list is Khalid Hosseini's And The Mountains Echoed. I feel a strange mixture of anticipation and dread about starting this book. Because he's a terrific story-teller but his stories tend to be haunting and, well, sad. Do you ever get this feeling?

Watching Craigslist Joe- a documentary about a guy who spends a month living only off free stuff found via Craigslist. Totally random, often touching and hilarious. October Sky- a feel-good inspirational movie (based on a true story) about a high school kid from a small mining town who decided to build a rocket. Is "You can achieve your dreams if you try hard enough" a trite theme for a  movie? No, it isn't. In fact, I like to be reminded of this as often as possible.

Oh, I finished the first season of Orange is the New Black- how can something be so funny and so disturbing at the same time? And for total time-pass watching, I've been enjoying Psych and 30 Rock.


Quilting: I made this quilt for Lila's little friend who also turned 2 this month. There's a town on the front, with houses and roads and buildings and such. He can snuggle under it at night and run cars on it during the day.


Experiment of the month: I made laundry detergent using this recipe. I grated the soap bar, then used an immersion blender to make the "laundry sauce". I've only used it for 2 or 3 loads of laundry but the results have been good so far.
Highlight of the month: We went to the Smoky Mountains for a weekend getaway and enjoyed some gorgeous views. And came back with a crisper's worth of North Carolina apples. Got any must-try apple recipes?

Low point of the month: Our poor puppy Duncan got attacked by another dog in the dog park. The other dog had him by the scuff of the neck and would not let go. I am perfectly useless in an emergency; I stood there and screamed in sheer panic. And when I bent down to do something about the situation, I got kicked in the head! Oy vey. Not to worry, everyone has survived and all is well. Duncan came away with only a small cut on his neck (nothing short of a miracle) that we promptly washed and dressed. On the positive side, he loved coming with us to the mountains. He is such a doll and we are just so thrilled that he is part of our family.

Supporting Asha for Education's Work an Hour 2013. The idea is to symbolically donate an hour's worth or more of your salary to fund education programs for kids in India.

What a month it was. Tell me, please, what have you been baking, cooking, reading, watching, making this past month? Did you try any strange experiments? What was the highlight of your month? And I truly hope you had no low points this month at all!

58 comments:

  1. First off 'ayyo' to Duncan for the attack.. Glad to hear that all is well with both of you.
    Lemonies sound delicious. But my family is chocoholic, so will probably try this for guests :-)
    Homemade laundry detergent is such a huge money saver. Will try my hand at making it. Thanks for the link.
    Your quilting skills are off the charts now.. town on a quilt -- that is quite amazing. good job :0)

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    1. Thanks Pavani, yeah, the dog park incident was a bit traumatic! The lemonies were wonderfully refreshing for a summer treat- but yeah they won't replace brownies any time soon ;)

      I am excited about the laundry detergent, this could really save a few bucks, and if I am happy with it after a few weeks of use, will offer to make some for kid's daycare (they go through a lot of detergent).

      Oh I did not have to design the town on the quilt- the fabric was pre-printed! So as quilts go this was actually a very quick and easy one.

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  2. Hi Nupur

    I love the quilt! It is gorgeous - never cease to be amazed by your creativity and how much you manage to cram into one month. Keep it up. :)

    Simi

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    1. Thanks Simi- I have to say this was a more eventful month than most!

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  3. wow. that's a lot of interesting stuff in a month! compared to that, i did pretty much nothing great or nothing new this entire month. dammit. time for some change.

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    1. Nisha- I'm quite sure you did a lot! Thing is, we tend to forget stuff the minute it happens. When I start writing these lists, I remember that what felt like a mundane month in fact was pretty eventful.

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  4. Hi Nupur,

    Lovely post as usual. I follow your blog regularly. Along with the recipes, love the book recommendations.

    Khaled Hosseini's latest is slightly less intense than his last one (I think). Very enjoyable. The last one - A Thousand Splendid Suns - was indeed very haunting and very beautiful. Maybe I should read it once more. :)

    Love and thank you,

    Iniya

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    1. Thanks so much for this nice note, Iniya! I'm looking forward to reading Hosseini's latest!

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  5. Hi Nupur,u did keep the worst for last ,poor Duncan and u...its good to knw abt yur lists,money saving ideas are also appreciated!
    I baked tahini swirls using pizza dough,cooking- dates and sardine pickles,reading-the sunday times magazine,watching-dr oz shows and hindi movies,making(experimenting)-polished my silver and homemade gel air freshner...

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    1. forgot to add I read the immortals of meluha,wasnt too fond of Amish's writing though

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    2. PS: I think u can call the pineapple dish as thokku,its also part way pickle and chutney,great with rice and dosas :)

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    3. Kangna- thokku, that's exactly right! :) Tahini swirls sound so good. I have several Hindi movies on the to-watch list but can't seem to find a block of time to watch an entire movie. I miss reading the Sunday Times mag.

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  6. Love the quilt, can you share what fabric you used. I make pineapple kesari with left over pinapple.

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    1. The fabric is Wheelie Fun Town- discontinued but I found some online: http://www.fieldsfabricsonline.com/Kids-Car-Roadway-Wheelie-Fun-Town-for-Toy-Cars-Cotton-Fabric-Print-K5000-Multi-130_p_54925.html

      Pineapple kesari sounds wonderful! I tend to favor savory over sweet but would love to make it for a special occasion.

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  7. Lemonies-Cool!..Duncan getting hurt- Not cool:-(
    I read Khaled Husseini's book- don't want to ruin it for you- this one doesn't even come close to the other 2 books he wrote.Something is missing..
    Check out "Funny in Farsi"..it is hilarious- light read.Currently reading "Reading Lolita in Tehran".Another good book- a must read is "The glass castle by Jeanette Walls"
    Cooking- Made Sweetpotato-methi parata and veggie burger patties(using beans and veggies).Both turned out good.Made "pop tartrs" at home- yummy- turned out more like pie..I used apple cinnamon filling.Baked the left over filling into spring roll wrappers.Tasted good.My mouth is watering looking at the pineapple relish..will make a great accompaniment to Parathas.
    My mom used to make detergents at home..nostalgic memories .Keep it up lady-giving an hour's salary for a good cause is inspiring.
    Geetha

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    1. Hi Geetha- Funny in Farsi is on my to-read list! I read Reading Lolita in Tehran a few years ago and thought the writing was too patchy. I wanted to like the book but really did not.

      I love everything you made- especially the sweet potato methi parathas and cinnamon pop tarts!!

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  8. Love that quilt-will make such a special gift. Cooking- didn't make anything special. Did make a one pot meal ( eaten with roti/rice) of 2-3 different daals together( masoor, moong, toor) tempered with big chunks of fried cauliflower/onion/tomato/peas. Tasted pretty good.
    Reading: read a nice little book by Gervase Phinn - called the other side of the dale. Reminiscent of James Herriot- set in the Yorkshire Dales but the topic is v different. Phinn is an inspector of village schools and tells of many heartwarming interactions he has with schoolchildren. I enjoyed this.
    Watching: last tango in Halifax online from PBS. Really enjoying this BBC offering telling of finding love in old age. Also we are loving catching up on episodes of season 4 of the great british tradition that is called the Great British Bake Off. Love the innovations ppl come up with and thank god for you tube!
    High point- going to a local fall festival the other weekend and browsing the stalls.
    Low point: we won't talk about all bad stuff:)
    Another high point that has given me immense joy this month is being able to form a small group of school friends on whatsapp messenger and chatting to them and also connecting with my brother's girlfriend. Really that had been the best thing ever! Happy October nupur.
    Arpita.

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    1. Hi Arpita- Your one pot meal sounds so good especially for chilly evenings. Bengalis know how to make fried vegetables, that's all I am going to say :)

      I caught a few minutes of Last Tango but could not figure out the story- will have to watch the whole thing. I hope you have a most wonderful October!

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  9. Your quilting skills seem have improved tremendously. I love the quilt. Wish I lived close to you, I could have learnt from you. Is there a community like Ravelry for sewing/quilting?
    I am waiting to try to make apple crostata this month. The apple harvest looks very good in CT, this year.
    Sapna

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    1. I don't know of any sewing/quilting community as wonderful as Ravelry, but in fact there are active sewing and quilting groups on the Ravelry forums. But you can't add these projects in the Rav notebook of course. You can share them in the forums. Apple crostata has been something I've wanted to make for a while- thanks for the reminder.

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  10. Lemonies - Yum! Duncan trauma - not so cool! Laundry detergent - wow!
    Khaled Hosseini - Love!. But Mountains echoed not as much as the other two books. Deftnly a very poignant and interesting read in the first half but the book lost me in the second half. Currently reading Mother's Daughter by Julianne Moore. This is about Queen Mary Tudor. Also I would recommend watching White Queen series. It is an awesome remake of three of Philippa Gregory's books.
    So impressed by what you have done this month!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Hosseini's latest- I'll tell you what I think of it once I'm done. Historical dramas are not really my thing, I have to say.

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  11. Both the lemonies and the relish sound so good! I've regularly made "lemon squares" from your blog. It is time to try these for a change.
    The pineapple relish looks like the instant raw mango pickle which is a staple at tamil weddings, but I'm sure it has a completely different flavor profile. Can't wait to try that either.

    Your quilts look so amazing! I can't even sew, so I can never get over how phenomenally talented you sewing and quilting women are.

    I am always into DIY replacements for household products, so I am intrigued by your laundry detergent. Usually, I try the DIY versions for the environmental and health reasons, besides the cost. Is the fels naphtha (I haven't googled this yet) soap good in these aspects? The blender in the mason jar bit scares me.

    Sorry to hear about Duncan's misadventures in the dog park. I've seen it happen in the Piedmont Park (atlanta) dog park, even after they built separate enclosures for the big guys and the small ones. Sad. It is scary to intervene when a dog fight is going on.

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    1. These lemonies are very different from the lemon squares- but both are favorites now around here :) Sewing is nothing extraordinary, anyone can learn it.

      Misadventures happen in the dog park just like they happen everywhere else! Dog fights can get loud and scary for sure, but now I've looked up a bit on how to handle it better if it were to happen again. Duncan loves the dog park so much that we're definitely not going to stay away.

      I was making laundry detergent for the first time so I stuck to a tried and tested recipe. Next time I plan to use castile soap. Fels naptha is no worse than any other soap but it is derived from animal fat which may be a factor for some people. The whole environment-health-costs equation is very personal, I know! By the way, I skipped the whole blender and mason jar business by just using an immersion blender.

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    2. Thanks for sharing the results of your DIY experiments. I agree there is no "right" way and it is a personal choice. Castile soap sounds like a good idea - I've tried using Kirk's castile soap (not as a detergent) and I love it, but it does leave a lot of residue in hard water. Maybe Dr. Bronner's will work better.

      One suggestion for your bushel of apples is a simple apple crisp/crumble. It is so easy to throw together as well - slicing the apples is the hardest part.

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  12. So sorry to read about the attack on Duncan and you :-( hope he feels better soon. How nice of you to send lemonies for Lila's teachers! I am sure she meant what she said :-). The relish looks delicious, I had made something similar with granny smith apples in the past. I love the way Hosseini's book completely absorb me in, yes, I had felt the same way after Kite Runner but now I am better prepared for the journey's his books take me on. I feel so fortunate to have access to such wonderful books! I think I can't never get over it. :-) October sky is one of my favorite movies, hope you enjoy it! The quilt looks wonderful, so much fun and so comforting at the same time! I am sure it shall be a much loved gift. I've never tried making detergent at home, I am wow'ed by your attempt! We had been to Smoky Mountains few years back, it was a beautiful place. I have no good suggestions for apples but I baked the 3 ingredient overripe banana-oats-walnut cookie (ok 5 ingredient with cardamom and nutmeg powders) and I love the chewy healthy treat! I am cooking very simple homely meals as we are having super busy times at work. We just finished watching the 2nd season of Downton Abbey, it was fantastic! The recent movie I saw was Tiffinbox/dabba and seeing all those lunches made me hungry :-) getting a home cooked meal at work delivered by a dabbawala must be such a treat! The highlight of September was my friend's daughter's princess birthday, I still can't believe the party is over, it was on our minds for such a long time. :-)

    - Priti

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    1. Like you, I've been cooking super simple dal chawal meals as well, apart from little bouts of baking.

      I enjoyed the second season of Downton earlier this year. The third season is out but I don't have access to it!

      What's the tiffin box movie?? Stanley ka dabba? Is it on netflix? I lived in Mumbai for many years and the tiffin culture is really quite amazing.

      Congrats on baking yet another spectacular cake this month :)

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    2. Thank you! :-) A cupcake decorating party for my friend's 8 year old coming up next. I am so excited! I can't stop thinking about it.

      I am eagerly waiting for the access of the 3rd season too. I am very fond of some characters. The screenplay, acting, everything is wonderful.

      The movie is 'Lunch Box' I think..also released as 'Dabba' in India. It's about this lunch box that gets delivered to a stranger and the interaction that starts between the sender (Nimrat Kaur) and the recipient (Irfan Khan) by the little notes they leave in the lunchbox. We loved Nawazzudin Siddique's acting, he's amazing. There are little things/details about this movie that I really liked.

      - Priti

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  13. Hi Nupur!

    First squeezes for Duncan. Good to know all are well. It's so wonderful when your pet loves outings as much as you do. I'd like to try the lemonies but without the fancy extract will it be the same?

    At my end this month read a book called Following the fish, it is the journey actually visits of a journalist to the coastal region of India from Kolkata to Gujrat. I have good news about my health the annual check up went well and am allowed to trek so I went off to climb a hill and did a 1750ft steep climb. Then went on a day trip to Kaas Pathar. Now again off on a retreat for atleast 2 weeks again.

    Have been cooking regular meals and made corn muffins for the first time.

    Take care till I am back again.

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    1. Anjali- the lemonies should be fine using regular vanilla and lots of lemon zest. Following Fish sounds intriguing- I will look for it. Kudos on the long trek- I want to hear all about it!!!

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  14. Sad to know about Duncan.
    Quilt and lemonies are star! I loved your idea of home made detergent..
    From my end, celebrated my birthday with family. Took a day off!
    Made a day trip to panchgani, mahabaleshwar, bhor..after monsoons..
    Cooked regular things, trying to increase vegetable and fruit content of our daily diet. Pineapple relish that you made is a very common Bong chutney- Anaras er chutney - without curry leaves !

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    1. Taking a day off is the perfect way to celebrate your birthday! Oh yes, Bengalis do make a wonderful pineapple chutney- how did I forget? Our trip to the mountains totally reminded of of childhood vacations to Matheran and Mahabaleshwar.

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  15. Sorry forgot to mention- watched Lunch box- liked it a lot..also watching chennai express now :) and reading - how to organise your mind and Jhumpa Lahiri's Lowland is waiting :)

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    1. I'll look for Chennai Express- thanks!!

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  16. Baking - Walnut Tart for DH's birthday
    Cooking - Matar Paneer for a friend and family who moved here from India
    Reading - Hmm just finished Wonder and really need a good book. Trying out some Square Root of Murder - given I like Math. Not sure how it will turn out.
    Watching - Finished Braking Bad - phew! Now watching the latest season of Foyle's War on PBS online. Also son's football games on Friday nights
    Growing - our first veggie garden. Looking for lots of greens and cauliflowers and herbs
    Biking - to work 2-3 times a week

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    1. Biking to work is awesome- win win situation to get exercise and save fuel at the same time. My husband bikes but I'm not nearly fit enough to do it! I watched the first episode of Breaking Bad and it did not stick...but Foyle
      s War I absolutely love. The walnut tart sounds incredible.

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  17. Have deliberately avoided Khalid Hosseini's books so far. I know, I know... Ostrich-hiding-her-head-in-the-sand syndrome, totally. I am all for reading lovely writing but I cannot stomach any more sad moments... The world is doing its bit in filling that quota!

    So, I finally found McCall Smith's "The Limpopo School of Deduction" and that's what I am currently reading. I have a book written by Bernard Schlink (author of "The Reader") coming up next. Then there are a couple of others I got from the library but I cannot recall the names.

    Cooking - nothing particularly noteworthy, really. But everything that emerges out of the kitchen these days makes me happy. Nothing beats the taste of home cooking! So blessed to savor it.

    Did you begin Pearl Buck's short story collection?

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    1. Listen, I know exactly what you mean by staying away from depressing books. Loved The Reader (it had some terrible moments too) but haven't read anything else by Schlink. And I'm with you on the home cooking- the simpler the better. Read one story by Pearl Buck so far (the one about the nuclear scientist at Christmas).

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  18. Shubha from SydneyOctober 02, 2013 7:18 PM

    Dear Nupur - great post as usual. Enjoyed reading it. Thank God all well with you and Duncan. Lucky friend of Lila :) to get this quilt.
    Baking - substitute with besan vadi - took it as a "host gift" and was a super hit
    Cooking - Short angel hair pasta sabudana khichadi - exactly like sabudana khichadi but used pasta instead of sago - super hit again
    Reading - finished Dr Sheena Iyengar's The Art of Choosing - highly recommend to all
    Watching - Watched marathi movie Anumati - Vikram Gokhale and Rima - unusual theme for Marathi cinema - liked it.
    Highlight of the month - promotion for older son
    Lowlight of the month - I got a cough and cold - so annyoing
    Supporting - The Royal Deaf and Blind Institute and Mata Balak kendra in Sangola Maharashtra - great work being accomplished by Dr Sanjeevani Karandikar
    Loved your pineapple relish - I used to make it often and called it Pineapple cha methamba. My mother ( will be your grandmother's age) used to make this in summer and I absolutely love methamba
    Ideas for apples - you can make chunda or katki with Granny Smith apples because they are tart. Again another form of relish.
    Thanks again for such a nice post and pictures.
    Warm wishes
    Shubha from Sydney

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    1. Hi Shubha! Is besan vadi like besan ladoo but in vadi form? I agree that the art of choosing is a wonderful read. Congrats to your son and I hope your cold is all better! Oh yes, pineapple methamba. I remembered the flavor profile but not the exact recipe or even the name. And browsing through Ruchira did not yield anything. Have a most wonderful October!

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    2. Shubha from SydneyOctober 03, 2013 9:51 PM

      Hi Nupur
      Besan Vadi
      Butter unsalted 250 g
      Besan 3
      Sugar 1.5 cups
      Water to make syrup ¾ cup
      Cadamom 10 pounded in a mortar
      Greaseproof paper

      In a Scanpan, melt butter on gentle heat and roast besan on gentle heat. This takes about 30 minutes. Ensure that besan does not catch at the bottom of the pan. There should be a pleasant aroma now. Turn off heat and add the pounded cardamom.
      Now in another pan, add sugar and water and heat and boil. Syrup should be one thread consistency. Turn off heat and add to the besan mixture. Stir very well and when it appears thick, pour on to greaseproof paper and let set for 5 minutes. When cool, cut into diamond or square shapes.

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    3. Thanks Shubha! I'll make this for Diwali.

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  19. Action packed month Nupur. Really admire how well you manage your time ! Hope Duncan is doing well. I have been cooking a lot, have had people off and on for dinners, most without notice, so rustled up some meals real quick ! I love the idea of lemonies, not big on chocolate, so this sounds perfect to me. That quilt is adorable. Am sure her little friend loves it. Have you tried pineapple gojju, spicy and tangy - one of my favourites. Your pineapple relish reminds me of that. And laundry detergent - way to go girl !

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    1. Hi Archana- Duncan is back to his playful self and we even went back to the dog park yesterday. It was uneventful :) I think you will love the lemonies. Pineapple gojju! Every region in India has a dish similar to this- gojju, Bengali chutney, methamba!

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  20. Where was the owner of the other dog during the attack? Hugs to Duncan and down with bullies!
    You must do a quilt post once...I'm very inspired by looking at the pic you've posted...great job! any tips on how/where to get started?
    Every time I come to ur blog, I'm most impressed with your time management skills. You go, girl!
    Supriya H

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    1. The owner of the other dog was right there, she tried pulling him off but he was biting on Duncan's neck with all his might and would not let go :( The owner couldn't control the dog, basically.

      There are lots of resources to get started with quilting! Depending on your learning style, enthusiasm and budget, you could find a quilting class near you, or use online videos and tutorials, or find a good book in the library. There are awesome quilting blogs out there that can teach you from start to finish, like this one: http://www.diaryofaquilter.com/p/beginning-quilting-series.html

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  21. Cooking: Toovar Lilva Kachori. Ate these at a Gujarati friend's place. Got the recipe from her and tried at home. Turned out good.
    Watching: Saw Marathi movie "Duniyadari". Really loved the direction and the 70's style clothing. Reminded me of my parents clothing style when they were in college:-)
    Also saw "Bermuda Triangle Exposed" on Netflix. Have you seen "Freedom Writers" and "The King's Speech"? Both are available on Netflix.
    Highlight of the month: After endless waiting and laziness, I finally learnt driving and passed the road test. Looking forward to some shopping trips sans the husband and the kids:-)

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    1. Oh man I love those kachoris! I've seen King's Speech and really liked it but haven't seen the others. Haven't watched any Marathi movies since Harishchandrachi Factory (awesome one) a couple of years ago. Congrats on the driving license!

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  22. Here is something to try with those apples :)
    http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/apple-pie-bread/

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  23. Love your posts, Nupur.. so uplifting.. loved your quilt and lemonies.. hugs to Duncan..poor thing, hope he recovers well. I'll surely try out the lemonies.
    My highlight:
    Baking: Rainbow cupcakes with tons of sprinkles for the daughter's class
    Cooking: Sesame tofu ..really yumm
    Reading: nothing much..
    Watching: tv's not hooked up as yet :(
    Highlight: Moving into own home
    Low point: the boxes and boxes left unpacked

    -Archana

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    1. Congrats on the new home and I hope you have lots of fun decorating it and enjoying it! Sesame tofu and rainbow cupcakes both sound so tasty.

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  24. Nupur, because you are now in Georgai (where I know they are sold), perhaps you can try Arkansas Black apples. They are my favorites. They are excellent apples to store, have a delicious tart taste and their flavor actually improves during storage.
    Happy October from,
    Rani
    Learn more here: http://www.orangepippin.com/apples/arkansas-black

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    1. Interesting! I've never seen these!

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  25. Love your list posts. I'm inspired by both this and your previous post to write something similar myself, with your permission.

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    1. Oh gosh Sharmila- I'd LOVE to read your list post. I definitely didn't invent this, my first list was inspired by another blogger. So please take the idea and run with it.

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  26. Oh no, poor Duncan! Good to know he came away relatively unharmed.
    I love your list post. What a great idea.

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    1. Yes, Duncan bounced back quickly and seems to have forgotten about it- but I am still a bit anxious when we are in the park!!

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Thank you for taking the time to say hello!