2

Travelogue : Seattle, Washington.

I got to get out of town after a looooong time, and it was awesome!

I was planning on visiting Seattle for quite some time and I was quite inclined to make it happen ASAP, come rain or shine. And boy, did it rain! My friend SP from Minneapolis, and I booked our tickets, and so we started planning.

I did not plan a whole lot for this trip, which was both good and bad in a way. I got a few suggestions from Mad and DD but the snowfalls and road closure put a dampener on those plans. all for good though, because instead of Mt. Rainier, we covered the Boeing factory! The drive to Everett was quite nice. It was raining(but, of course) and the surroundings were so lush and green! San Diego is freakin’ awesome but I do miss seeing greenery in SoCal. The Space Needle turned out kind of sad because it was all fogged out and there was no view except from the elevator. It was mean of them to charge full price with the rotating restaurant shut for construction and fogged out view, but ah well. The Chihuly glass garden turned out to be a great show stealer and was one of out favorite sites in Seattle.

We saved the most interesting, and sort of pretentious(but I am all about it!) Seattle experiences for the last day. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room is a must have experience, even if you are not a coffee person! We tried their flight and chose three delicious coffees. We saw beans getting roasted and ground, and packed. We saw crazy brewing methods and hipster men in fun mustaches. We learnt that the menu is ever changing because these are small lot batches from different parts of the world. One of the coffees that we chose was from India! The whole experience is like wine tasting, but leaving you super caffeinated instead of drunk.

If you like Portland, you will like Seattle as well, though I prefer Portland more. Maybe it is because we both are weird?! I do have a travelogue on Portland. But I highly suggest visiting Seattle, maybe during better weather conditions.

My friend and I pigged out on food and drinks and each night, managed to return to the hotel in good time to catch up on sleep and experience total relaxation. We needed some rejuvenation to break out of the funk, and thankfully, we got that.

Leaving you guys with some pictures and tips for Seattle trippage.

  1. It will be helpful to get an idea about weather when you go. It was very cold and rainy when we went. I admit that I forgot about that when I booked my tickets. But in all honesty, I just wanted to go, come what may.
  2. Carry your good warm jacket, and thermals, and umbrella.
  3. Spend a good amount of time at Chihuly and do watch the glass blowing demo. It is quite interesting! It is every hour, am to pm.
  4. Buy your souvenirs inside the space needle visitor center and not in the little shop outside. Ha!
  5. If you are a Seafood lover, Seattle is the place for you. Hang out in the Pike Public Market and you will know what I mean. From what I hear, skip Mexican food.
  6. Commit on spending a couple of hours at Starbucks roastery. And also keep a few minutes spare. As many know, coffee is a friend of the digestive tract. ‘Where is the restroom?’ is a common question with some urgency, that the servers get asked. 😀
  7. The airport is kind of far from Seattle mainstay. There is a train from the airport to downtown Seattle and I recommend it if you opt to not renting a car. Also, parking charges are kind of exorbitant in Seattle. We used Lyft to get around and it was very reasonable. There are a bunch of bike shares too for a buck an hour or so!
  8. There is a beautiful Japanese Garden by Capitol Hill which was closed for the winter season, but I recommend that.
  9. I feel rather bad that we could not go to see Mt. Rainier and the reflection lake, but that makes me want to go back during summer. It is an hour and half drive from the airport, and can be covered in a day trip.
  10. Pick for a hotel or AirBnB in downtown to stay close to the action.

 

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2

10 awesome Valentine gifts for your single gal pal.

So, you have a date for V-day? Good for you. I am going to sit here announcing how it is such a rubbish consumerist/capitalist day while inside I am boiling with anger and screaming ‘WHY, GOD, WHY?!’ But hey, congrats again!

Now, you definitely don’t want your single gal pal to feel sad and left out, and most definitely don’t want a third wheel. So, go ahead and make her feel better or this will happen.

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I have written some solidly helpful posts in the past to raise awareness for single people on Valentine’s day, or Singles Awareness Day as I prefer to call it. This is a dumb stupid day, with the exception of being Mad-DD’s wedding anniversary.

Leaving you guys with some helpful gift ideas to help that single gal pal(obviously, me) get through this dumb day.

  1. Subscription to a dating app: Your gal pal needs to get out and start dating, if she isn’t already. I force myself to go on all these dates just because I fear that I am going to miss out. Major FOMO, and YOLO! Get her a premium account on Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, Dil Mil, Aisle, etc. Maybe skip Tinder.
  2. New iPhone battery: For all those apps, you need a solid battery power. Without getting into the iPhone vs Samsung debate. let’s just get your gal pal(me!) a brand new battery for only $29. I forgive, but do not forget, dear Apple.
  3. Photoshoot: How about some nice display/profile pictures for her, eh? Get your DSLR out and shoot some nice candids for her so that she looks cooler and funnier and more vivacious than a drunk kitten.
  4. Uber/Lyft gift card: Sometimes, all she needs to get out and have a good time, is the option of not driving at all! Let her drink, but not drive.
  5. Urban Decay Naked palette: Just because it is my current obsession right now, but I cannot justify spending $54 on it. I feel nicely blended eyeshadow on my droopy hooded lids, will solve all my life issues. I will take a Sephora gift card, thank you very much. SP has fulfilled the clinique gel liner obsession already.
  6. Zip my dress: Look at the product for God’s sakes! The biggest disadvantage of being single is a mad struggle to zip your dress up. Let your gal pal have a moment of peace from crazy body contortions and get her one of these. A back lotion applicator wont hurt too, while you are at it.
  7. Mani-Pedi gift card: The nail bar lady says how will i find boyfriend if my nails dont have design on them. Maybe that will get us singles, doubled.
  8. Lip mask: Confidence is key for your gal pal, and she needs to be ready for all situations, as learned from The Bachelor where Mr. Pillowlips is a kissin’ bandit. Get her one of those Laneige sleeping lip mask or something, and let her become Miss Pillowlips. Never thought these words will flow out of me.
  9. Belgian chocolates from Costco: when nothing works, let your friend dissolve into divine sugar rush. The Belgian chocs are DIVINE! PB-certified. But just one box, okay? We don’t want that photoshoot look like it was done 5 years ago.
  10. Bottle of Pinot Noir or straight up Tequila: Just ignore all above and let her chill with Netflix, and some good red, or Margarita, or plain ol’ shots.

I accept cash/check/PayPal/Venmo and all courier packages.

31

29 it is!

Another year older, another year gone by so quickly!

Yep, it was my birthday yesterday and I had a wonderful time with some of my favorite people.

Like all princesses, my birthday isn’t limited to a single day, but spans across the weekend. The celebrations started from Friday afternoon when my buddies at work took me out for a huge birthday lunch. They ordered a shot of Fireball and beer for me and the result was 10% of efficiency for the rest of the day. I kept myself awake at work by thinking of elaborate ideas to take a nap, but without real success. I should have taken a leaf out of George Costanza’s book of ideas like the hammock under his desk.

The celebrations extended in the evening when I went out for a Japanese dinner with Shawn, Alicia and a few others form the Softball team. I love Ramen and their Ramen was no exception and I really enjoyed the vegetable sushi as well after a very long time. I am not big on sushi because of a few wasabi related incidents in the past(fire in the brain and tears from eyes, nose and ears), but this sushi was quite good! Abhi, Nish, we have another new spot to go to! After the dinner, we headed to a real divey-dive bar, in Tustin where our group became bigger as more of our friends joined in. Now, it was a Karaoke bar with an open mic. We belted out quite a few songs like Bohemian Rhapsody, Sweet Caroline, etc. But the real highlight of the evening was the thorough butchering of Summer of 69 by Alicia and yours truly! I think we were hopping like bunnies more than singing! The DJ announced out that it was my birthday party and the entire bar was upon me to wish me.  We sang almost all the songs as a chorus to whoever was singing and by the end of the night, we had lost our voices. It was all worth it!

Saturday passed by in a whirl, where I did grown up things like laundry, vacuuming, renewing my apartment lease, crying at the depleting bank balance. I was expecting Abhi and Nish in the evening, but flight related incidents with their mom and sis postponed their visit to the next day. Shib called from Kerala after fighting with terrible phone network. I spoke to Hazra over video chat for quite a bit and the poor guy tried to order a cake for me which turned out to be a fail. I was so touched by his gesture and assured him that it truly was the thought that mattered to me! I headed out to the mall in the evening to use my discount coupons and birthday vouchers from stores that I may not shop full-price from. 😛 I ended my Saturday at the grocery store where I had an unexpected ego boost when the cashier gave me student discount without even asking me if I was one! To celebrate, I treated myself with some Chinese takeout. Yep, I love Asian food!

I spent most of my Sunday being lazy and talking to friends on the phone. Thank you Moo and Ani for the infinite wishes, and so much love to Ani’s Jonah for the cutest message ever for his PB Maasi! The xBF also called and we spoke for a long time. It truly made me happy and very satisfied that we now trying to get to a stage that we can joke and laugh and look back and look ahead without ruining our moods and dissolving into tears. It was good. Abhi, Nish showed up late afternoon with some absolutely yummy desserts and I finally cut my birthday cake/dessert and got to make a wish by blowing out the candle. Well, I think I forgot to actually make a wish! The day ended with another FaceTime chat with the folks.

Monday came bright and early and really hot with 100 F or 40 deg C and 9% humidity. More friends from work took me out for lunch and we had Thai food. Did I already mention that I am a sucker for Asian cuisine? I skipped gym yesterday and chilled at home with my friend Adriane to watch the presidential debate. We had my birthday dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy and celebrated with the group of friends that I call the OC squad! Of course, the prime members are Shawn and Alicia. 😀

It was the culmination to a fabulous, celebratory weekend and I couldn’t be happier. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by people who love me, care about me and keep me in their thoughts and prayers. No one can take the place of my parents, my family, but my friends come very close. I feel grateful.

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I have entered the last year of my 20s. I am determined to make it worthwhile. I want to do everything so that I can look back and say that I ended up my 20s with a bang. God willing!

10

Travelogue : Weekend-ing at Baltimore-Washinton DC

I had a tryst with a different part of America over the last weekend.

I was over to visit my bestie AH over at Baltimore who is in US for 3 weeks on some training session through his work. It was a trip that I had to take because I am going to miss his wedding in January which is such a bummer. All in all, it turned out great because I even got to meet my very special friends! Murat, his wife and his brand new baby girl Damla! He isn’t big on Facebook but he was scrolling through the feed to read about what was going on in Ankara. He came across my picture and he noticed it was tagged in Maryland. He asked Becca if he was seeing it right. He texted me right away and we made plans within the next 15 min and AH and I drove off to Murat’s about an hour outside Baltimore. I was under the impression that he was far away! Haha! They are my buddies who got married in Turkey in September! Boy, Murat did a great job timingwise. 😛 We were teasing him about his, ahem, strong swimmers. Baby Damla is beyond cute. She is a sweetheart and she wouldn’t stop staring at me with her big gray eyes and smiling with her tongue poking out! It was a great drive with lush greens on both sides of the road and it was a great evening with friends.

In Baltimore, the location of AH’s hotel was at the harbor and it was so picture perfect with graffiti, cobbled streets, street-side cafes. I have heard a lot about the issues plaguing Baltimore currently and how it can be a rough neighborhood, and from what people told me, the downtown is a much nicer area. I did not go to the highly recommended Aquarium because I have been to Sea World 3 times and I am perhaps done with fishes for a loooooong time.

 

We took a day trip to Washington DC and saw most of the iconic buildings and monuments. We spent a lot of time at the Smithsonian and I cannot recommend enough the Air and Space museum and Natural History museum. Please do not miss the Smithsonian! Here are some pictures.

Travel tip:

  1. Perhaps the most important tip would be to factor in atleast $15 parking charges a day into your budget. We did a lot of car moving here and there and saved some dough. It’s a horrible situation with very expensive parking rates in both Baltimore and Washington DC. In hindsight, do check ZipCar availabilities around your place of stay.
  2. Wear your best walking shoes possible.

 


This trip was a particularly special one. We had always wanted to take some sort of vacation together since college days. But with me here and the boys and girls in India, it was obviously very hard. The boys do go on way more trips than my girl friends though and I feel jealous that I miss all those. Moo and I managed to travel together to Turkey, meet up in US and all that, and that ways, we are quite satisfied. With AH, we had never thought that we’ll meet up in America like this! I would have loved to have him come home and see California but financially it wasn’t possible for him and so I flew out to meet him. It was worthwhile also because of meeting Murat and ticking off DC from my list.

I cant help it, but this trip was also bittersweet. He was visibly upset when I left and he said this. ‘PB things are going to change now’. His words could not have been truer, however much in denial I am. Things are changing and they will continue to change. I am trying to hold on to those days but they are like sand between my fingers. The more I forcefully hold on, the more they escape.

Maybe I just need to let go. Everything.

19

Pune-Lonavala-Pune

I have called Pune home since 2002. I came to the city just before starting high school and I was half-expecting to be out of there soon looking at the way we were moving every few years. My prophecy sort of did come true after 4 years, even though partially. I got into an engineering college in Lonavala and had to move to the college girls’ hostel, it being a residential college. Initial months were really hard, due to several reasons. But after 2 years and countless number of crying sessions, I found my groove and turned my life around to get the maximum out of it. I would not trade away any part of it and would do it all over again, any day. I am very glad that I stuck to living in the hostel and not outside in the city, or even at home in Pune, 1.25 hours away by local train.

One of the memories associated with Lonavala, besides the incessant monsoon rains, is all the traveling and commute. During my first 1.5 years, I had a boyfriend who was from north of India and was full time in the hostel since he couldn’t go back home as often. So, I would spend the weekends in the hostel itself and would go back home once or twice a month with all my laundry and to replenish my snack supply and get my fill with the doggie-doo. We used to get around 20 days of break before the final semester exams to study that were called preparatory leaves or the PL. I would even spend most of my PL in the hostel, either studying in the room or the library with the guy. Bad idea. My grades, friendships, personality, everything suffered. Soon after, I broke up with him during the second year. A lot of things changed with respect to friendship too and I switched rooms. Things got back to track, my life was beyond fun, and my grades shot up(almost 😛 ) after that.

My new roommates were all from Pune too and they would go home every weekend and would stay put there during the PLs as well. I started doing the same. When the college would end on Fridays, we would catch auto-rickshaws to the city train station and catch the evening local train to Pune. If we were late, we would catch the Pragati Express that would stop at Lonavala during its 3.5 hour journey from Mumbai to Pune. There was another train that stopped in Lonavala at about 7.15 pm or so, called the Deccan Queen, which is my absolute favorite train forever, and was an absolute delight whenever I could catch it. We had the morning and late afternoon trains’ schedules memorized and we didn’t even have to take out the time table from our bags anymore. We were of course keener to catch the local train because even if it was slower and more crowded, it was almost 1/3rd the price of the Express trains. Sometimes, we would have some class on Saturday morning and we would have to stay back on Fridays and that would be when we used to be on our grumpiest best, and repeating outfit from the previous week. It was not that big a deal because I literally wore the same t-shirts every week. My dating and social life was booming, but unless the plan involved friends and the girls staying back as well, weekends in Pune were not given up anymore. Also, just because us girls we lived together, it did not mean we didn’t see each other in Pune. We have spent innumerable weekends hanging out with each other, watching movies, shopping, and doing other shenanigans.

Friday evenings were the best, because we had the anticipation of going home. But Monday mornings were evil. We had to catch the 6.40 am local and that meant waking up at 5.30 am to reach the station on time. N started from the previous station or the point of origin and would catch seats for us. I got in on station 2 and Ani on station 3. We were always in the women’s compartment so it was easy to spot N and for Ani to spot us. Then our college decided to mix things up for kicks and changed the timings to start an hour earlier in the mornings and thanks to that, we had to catch the Sinhgad Express going to Mumbai at around 6.10 am. Now, that was murder! But I am very happy to say that I never missed a train. My obsession with time and punctuality saves me from such headaches. My dad had to catch that train on Mondays because he worked in Mumbai during the week, when I was in high school and then after high school, he had to come to drop me every Monday. It was our running joke how his Monday mornings are always going to be painfully early. But the last time he dropped me for my last week in Lonavala, I don’t know who was more emotional.

Another fun part of the commute was traveling with my dad sometimes on the way back. He would go to Mumbai for work at times on Fridays and while coming back he would tell me if he took Pragati or Deccan Queen. I would wait back for those trains to be with him while going back to Pune. He would stand at the door when the train would pull in and wave his hankerchief at me. I used to be so embarrassed but so amused with that. He still does that at times in crowded places to pull my leg. His office was in Chinchwad which fell between Lonavala and Pune. If I was in the local train, I would call him up 15 minutes before Chinchwad and if he was done and ready to go home, I would just get down there and we would go home together in his car. It used to take around 45 minutes, but I thought that time was precious. Otherwise I would get down at the second last station in Pune, say bye to N and catch an autorickshaw home where dad would pick me up half ways.

Such fun times have been had in the trains. On Monday mornings, we would always talk about how sleepy we were as soon as we sat down, tried to sleep for exactly 2.875347 minutes and then would start talking. Around exam time, we would come armed with books in hand to try and study but everything else happened like staring outside the window, chatting, my texting with the then crush, food, clothes, all this with the book open. We have had very interesting fights with other people in the trains regarding capturing seats and specially window seats. I have a vague memory of someone sitting down on me and me pushing the said person away. Most of the regular commuters sort of knew each other. I used to see a short-haired lady get into Sinhgad Express from my station till Mumbai and she would head back in the same train in the evening, every single weekday since almost a decade. She used to know when our exam time was depending on the amount of books open in our hands and would wish us luck. Someone had tried to snatch our seat once and she had spoken up for us. We have even been fined for sitting in a higher level compartment on a lower level seat ticket and it was not fun to meet Ani’s dad for the first time when detained by the Railway cop. It was not our fault and we had no idea we were doing wrong. Hmmpphh. Even waiting on the station for the train to pull in was fun. Whiling time away at Lonavala station was awesome because of yummy Bangalor Iyengar bakery products like cakes, muffins, puffs or Maganlal’s fresh Smaosas and the fried green chillies. Wait a minute, let me wipe my drool off the keyboard, be right back. Now, Pune station on Monday mornings was also fun.There were stray dogs around and the ones who lived there were particularly big and strong for some reason. They ate protein regularly due to the kind train station folks who owned stores there. It used to be funny when the big dogs would randomly stop by dad and I, and start sniffing our ankles and legs, catching on Moony’s scent. My dad would freeze and I would find that very amusing. One big event on Fridays, was trying to get out of the train in Chinchwad. It was a red zone with respect to crowd during peak office timings, and I had to shamelessly use my drawing sheet holder and backpack to push the crazy ladies out of the way to get out. It was a ‘you snooze, you lose’ sort of a deal.


How I miss all that. If I get to go back to the college for a day, I would start that right from a Monday morning, waiting at Pune(Shivajinagar) station and end it with a ride in Deccan Queen with the best chai in the world. For now, I have to be content with the memories. *Sniff* Damn you, allergies!

39

10 Valentine gifts for instant breakup…

It is coming! Apocalypse of Love is coming! This is the 3rd consecutive year where I am going to absolutely hate on the concept of Valentine’s day and curse the xBF to oblivion and utter some abusive words for the Crush, who’s name I am sure I won’t remember when I come back to read this post in a few years.

I had jotted down some interesting points on how to spread the joys of Single Awareness Day on Valentine’s day. If you want to read about that, go HERE. If you still insist on not being ‘aware’, go ahead and do your thing.

For people who are a part of a couple and want to be on the fast track to being single, I am going to make your job easier by listing down some of the top instant-breakup gifts that you can give a girl. Because I am a girl. Also dear future partner, let this be a guide to ‘what-not-to-gift-PB-like EVER’.

  1. Envelope with straight up cash : You are her lover and not her mother’s sister’s husband who got invited to the wedding. You must make a better distinction between the occasions. Since, we are on the point, checks, Visa gift cards are also off the table.
  2. Weird Und*rw*ar : My friend had gotten his GF this really weird thing with strategic keyholes, and yes, he told me because we are almost siblings and he was sharing how lost he felt in the store, which incidentally was called ‘Pink Kitty’. He never ended up giving it to her after seeing the face I made. Ha! Also, I don’t know who or why someone would like edible UGs. Nope.
  3. Deodorant : Perfumes are beautiful. Perfumes are sensual, playful, s*xy. But, please, do not give a girl Deo sprays. It is almost like telling her that she stinks.
  4. Cookbooks or cookware : Unless she really enjoys cooking or requests you specifically, giving a cookbook or cookware says that you want her to seriously work on her cooking.
  5. Bunch of yellow roses : A friend actually gave his wife a dozen yellow roses and she was horrified! His reason was that the yellow roses were cheaper by almost 2 bucks a pop. He is lucky that they were already married. For the uninitiated, if you want to or have been in a cuddle with someone, give them red roses! Yellow = Friendship.
  6. Showpieces/Figurines : I don’t know how to describe these, but these are the little pieces you get in greeting card stores like Hallmark or archies, that look like little angels or birds or dogs or cherubic babies. An ex used to give me a bunch of these and I hated them. What the hell am I supposed to do with these in a dorm room and no home to decorate?! Moo hates them too and her line of reasoning involves a dust-phobia. It is true! The amount of dust we have in India, makes keeping home spick n’ span really hard!
  7. Self-help book : Give her ‘How to be a nicer person’ and say bye-bye to love forever.
  8. Clothes or bags : Some people like to get clothes as gifts. But if your girl is like me and extremely picky, I would suggest to steer clear. Most men that I am friends with or have dated, have not had (good)similar taste in clothes as mine and it makes an awkward situation when I express the desire to exchange a la Rachel from Friends.
  9. Gym membership : Are you calling her FAT?!?!?!?!
  10. A small velvet box, with no ring inside : This is the worst gift I have ever seen if you are dating. I saw a vlog by a very famous youtube personality’s boyfriend who gifted her a small square box on their anniversary with a bow on top and recorded her reaction. They had decided no gifts, but he was trying to be sweet. She went all oooh and aaaah and emotional and opened the box only to see a tiny gold chain inside. Her next set of oohs and aahs was weirdly high pitched and absolutely fake.

So, keep this in mind and have a good Valentine’s day. Whatevs.

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2

Travelogue : Sequoia National Park

I think I am a medium sized human. I am not super short, but I am not tall. I look like a mid size girl(I don’t think I am ready to be called ‘woman’ yet) at almost 5’ 4”. But I felt really, really tiny standing next to the massive Sequoia trees that form the forests of Sequoia National Park. I wish I was taller. Like just an inch more, or two.

It was Madhuri’s happy budday on Thursday and her boy DD decided to surprise her by flying over from Connecticut. He had taken Abhi, Nish and me  into confidence and we planned a nice little day trip to Sequoia and King’s national park on Saturday. We reached LA on Friday night and prepped for the next day which had to begin early to utilize all the daylight we had. I was up at 4.30 am to shower and we left at 6.45 or so after a Starbucks pitstop. We also took a lovely breakfast break where we had enough breakfast for all the king’s men. We had scrambled eggs, green omelets, toasts, pancakes, biscuits, hash browns, fresh orange juice between the 5 of us. Thanks to that, I was knocked out in the car for almost an hour. The food, and car’s movements and the never ending road is enough to push me into a deep stupor.

The drive to Sequoia is about 4 hours from LA. The road is beautiful because it is lined with huge orange tree farms. We even saw some farms owned by Halos that supply tangerines/clementines/’cuties’ to Walmart and such. At one point, we even got out, took pictures and stole 3 oranges. I had a very terrifying thought of a sniper up in the tree waiting to shoot trespassers, thanks to DD and Abhi.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we reached Sequoia. By the way I have to totally mention that I did not like the way the visitor center lady refused to give me a map. I am not sure how much it costs them, but they may as well print out a non-glossy plain version to hand out to people if they are so worried. It really pissed me off. But I also blame my hormones for over-reacting. I was in a lot of pain, and very moody. 😦

After driving up another little bit to the visitor center, Nisha spotted a sign about gas and that prompted her to ask if we had enough gas in the car. Turned out, we had barely enough to drive back to the gas station. So that cancelled our plan to go to the King’s but that was fine because we were anyways going to run out of daylight by 4.30 pm. There was no point in going to King’s and drive down those winding slopes in the dark.

At Sequoia, we did a little hike in the woods to go to this Tunnel Log which has been carved out of a massive fallen tree to let vehicles pass. They say that they never move the trees and let nature take its own course. Some of the trees have been there for almost 2000 years! A few witnesses say that the tree suddenly starts to snap and the roots make a huge sound like thundering avalanche and that’s when the tree falls. It is all a matter of minutes. I would rather not stray in that tree’s path. There was also an interesting point about forest fires and how natural fires are beneficial to the eco-system. Due to man-made activities, these fires have become rarer and more dangerous. So rangers start controlled fires to help in boosting the ecological balance of the Sequoia and Redwood trees. Oooh, and there are bears in the area. Also, we spotted a deer from very close in the car!

There was a foot of snow on the sides but the roads were clean. Some parts had the frozen, slippery snow, but it was okay to walk as long as you were careful. We were driving an all wheel drive SUV, so we did not need snow chains as well.

Some pictures form the park:

Pointers:

  1. There are campgrounds at the start of the national park and we plan to go back there to camp overnight in the spring. It is beautiful and very green.
  2. There is no gas for 40 miles inside the Park, so definitely put gas in the car before you enter the park. It doesn’t hurt to have a full tank.
  3. Keep in mind the amount of daylight you have if you plan to go hiking and plan your spots to see accordingly.
  4. Carry your camera and wide lens(if you have them). Beautiful opportunities to capture a very different landscape.
  5. Wear waterproof shoes with good grip. I wore boots but without any grip. But thankfully, I did not fall.
  6. There is nothing inside the park to eat. Or at least I did not see any café or restaurant. We carried potato fry and bread to make sandwiches. So, stock up accordingly.
6

Travelogue : Death Valley

Thanksgiving. Long weekend. Get out of town. That’s the mantra we seem to be following these days. Any long weekend or vacation spent at home is akin to a crime.

My holidays started pretty much when a very old friend from college Sayali came over to my part of the country to catch up on our friendship and enjoy her vacation. We had a blast, went to Las Vegas, clubbed, gambled, boozed and did the usual Vegassy stuff. After coming back to Orange County, we visited the local beaches which were too cold to be enjoyed thoroughly. Yet we had a great time sitting on top of the lifeguard’s post and talking.

Thanksgiving dinner was had at my buddy Shawn and Alicia’s where food was served to us in quantities that will put an elephant’s diet to shame. I am still eating leftovers and I am still set for two more meals.

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One of the very exciting things that I did was to go to the Death Valley National Park with Abhi and Nisha. It is one of the largest national parks in the country and is a huge expanse of flat lands and mountains, a lot of it actually below the sea level. The say that Death Valley is the land of extremes. The temperatures range from 120 F in summers to 20 F in winters, which is around 48 C and sub-zero. Also, you get to see extremely beautiful night skies with the milky band. It was a few nights after full moon, yet we could see a gazillion stars just at 7 pm. My skin tingles at the thought of a moonless night over there. And a date. Meh.

We stayed at the Panamint Springs Resort which is a family owned resort with a few rooms, pre-built tents, RV hookup sites and campgrounds. It is an old and basic arrangement but worked very well for us. The restaurant had vegetarian options in pizzas and burgers and a couple of appetizers. Nothing fancy considering that it was a friggin’ remote location with ZERO cell service. Yep. No internet. No phone. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

We stayed in the lodge on Friday night after a 4 hour drive from OC to Panamints springs area. The drive was rough with a lot of unpaved roads as would be commonplace in such an area. In the next couple of days, we enjoyed quite a few Death Valley massages as Abhi called ‘em gravel-ey roads. We ate and slept, prepared for a an early day. We had some sumptuous buffet breakfast on both the days with pancakes, scrambled eggs, cereal, croissants and such. On Saturday, we set out to cover most of the sightseeing in the area.

There are two things worth mentioning. First, I was awed by the sand dunes. They were so beautiful! Now, I have an itch to go back to Rajasthan in India to see the desertlands. For the nerds interested, scenes from Star Wars have been shot at those Sand Dunes in the Death Valley. We walked quite a bit in those dunes to get to a nice high point and then returned with scoops of sand in our shoes, socks, jeans, yep.

The second point of interest that I loved was Badwater. It is a highly salty marshy area with encrusted soil on top as of now because of the heat and is about 300 ft below sea level. The history says that a traveler thought it was a good spot for his mule to have a sip of water but the mule refused to drink it. So, he named it Badwater. The water is so saline that only a few special aquatic creatures like this bunch of weird snails can survive there. To maintain ecological balance, straying off the boardwalk is not permitted. By the way, there is also a Badwater marathon for idiots who like to run in extreme weather conditions and die. Count me out.

Leaving you guys with some pictures I took during the trip.

Pointers:

  1. September-November seems to be a great time and so is spring. Any other time will ensure that you will either boil or freeze to death.
  2. Come prepared for some walking and bring your hiking shoes. Each point is atleast half a mile away from the parking lot with some good hiking loops around.
  3. Bring plenty of water. Don’t be too fussy about food if you are a vegetarian and be prepared to eat same meals. It is not a place to expect buffets.
  4. If you are a social media or smartphone addict, you are screwed.
  5. Bring all your camera equipment. The place is indeed beautiful for photography and astronomy enthusiasts.
  6. Book lodging or camping grounds well in advance. It seems to get full real fast, especially for long weekends.
  7. Do an estimate of the amount of daylight you will have and the places you want to see. Pace yourself accordingly.
  8. Forget everything above and let Abhi and Nisha plan, so that you can sleep in the backseat. 😀
28

Why you shouldn’t be living alone and why you should be…

So you have lived with your parents or roommates all along and you decide to take a plunge into normal adult life where you want to live independently and on your own terms. Or you may want to get away from a totally neurotic 60 year old crazy woman who has partial OCD and doesn’t give you the key to her iron door and gives you a tiny, tiny stove in the name of a kitchen. Aaaarrrgghhh. You may want to taste that freedom before (if) you get hitched and bound for life. Meh. 

I just did it, and here is why I will give you some good reasons to not do it.

1. Your rent is going to increase multifold. I did a stupid accounting mistake thanks to bi-weekly paychecks and now I am scrambling around figuring out the major dip in my banking account.

2. Utilities. You will be responsible for those. All of those. You will suddenly realize that you are an electricity guzzler and internet freak. You will also be responsible to buy lame things like dishwashing soap, and toilet bowl cleaner. Yuk.

3. If you have lived with parents so far, you WILL have to cook. Don’t think about eating out all the time, because point number 1. If you had cooking turns with roommate, you will miss the days where you could just chill and your roommate slogged. If you were in a PG situation, then you may be used to it.

4. If you are a hoarder like me, you will have atleast 15 big boxes and 2-3 suitcases with 4-5 plastic bags of stuff. Your back will hurt like no tomorrow and you will feel overwhelemed looking at the stuff you have.

5. I label my boxes like ‘kitchen-immediate use’, ‘bags, headgear and steam iron’, ‘dinner set and towel’. But there are two boxes I had to call ‘random shit’. I hate items that don’t have categories because they are usually small and hard to organize. Where the hell do I keep my finger puppet?? At least my Viking helmet, bunny ears, Disney Minnie ears and witch hat belonged to ‘Headgears’. Do I sound a leeeetle bit crazy?

6. I usually end up losing some stuff. So will you. Agreed you will find money and stuff in hidden places, but overall, you will lose stuff. I am still looking for my car registration papers due in November. Mummmmyyy.

7. When you live alone, you will have to take care of the uninvited guests. The creepy crawlies. Yep. No one is going to show up with a slipper when you yell out Spiiiidddddeeerrr!!

8. You will have to throw out the trash on your own, every few days. And collect the mail, every few days.

9. You will have to clean the house regularly on your own so that it doesn’t look like a hobo’s shelter.

10. You are responsible for your safety and to check if all the windows and doors are locked shut every night. There won’t be another person to blame if God forbid, something happens. Just run very fast back to your room after turning the lights off in the living room.

ONE reason why you should live on your own:

NO MORE PANTS in the house!!!

  

19

Birthday No. 28

So, I am a 28 year OLD lady as of Saturday, Sept the 26th.

A giant big thanks to everyone who wished me. It made me feel very special and Princess Butter appreciates every bit of that.

My parents sent me the cutest homemade card on Powerpoint which had a picture of me and Moony. We skyped a couple of times on Friday and Saturday.
My day of celebration had already begun on Friday afternoon with my birthday starting in India at that time. My R&D group took me out for a team lunch to Lucille’s which our usual watering hole. The team is so awesome that hanging out with them is always fun. After the lunch, I came back to my cell phone to a barrage of missed calls and texts from the best friends. I managed to sneak out of office for some minutes to have a nice chat with Hazra.

I had to go to the mall after work to return something and I ended up breaking my shopping ban. Once more. But I found the perfect skirt at H&M for Ani and Moo’s bday gift top and it just had to be bought!

Friday night saw more Skype sessions with parents, this old friend Sayali, calls with Shib, Ani, Moo. My last bday wish was from Ted who decided it would be perfect to tell 60 ‘lies’ on my bday to make me happy, ranging from how nice I am to how I am not weird at all. 😀

Saturday dawned bright and early, with me waking up with princess-ey stretches a la Bollywood actresses. No. It dawned sharply at 7 am with a call to Shawn that “I donttt wannnaaa get upppp!” But I did get up and I headed to the beach at 8 am with Shawn and Melissa. It was cloudy till about 10 am and got super sunny after. We were there till around 10.30 am. 11 days of sun in Turkey have not done what those 30 min did to my skin with respect to tanning. I have clear demarcation where the clothes were and a tan line and it’s so ridiculous! California sun, y u so harsh?!

Corona Del Mar and the glorious California September

I got back from the beach to an awesome surprise! I had a package from Sheri’s berries with chocolate dipped strawberries!! Shib and Hazra sent it to me and that was such a ‘awwww’ moment. 

I showered and ate a bit and I took a nap for, err, 3 hours after. I had a bday dinner with friends at 7.30 pm at an Indian restaurant. The ‘Merican friends love Indian food so that was a great choice of place. Aaand I got 2 bday cakes! Yay for that! A funny thing happened though. The waiter decided to sing Happy Birthday song in Hindi to me, ‘Baar Baar ye din aye’ and proceeded to totally mis-pronounce my name 😀 Friends who don’t know Hindi were obviously clueless but quite amused. I really, really enjoyed my dinner with people who rate quite high in my life as friends. A few drove over all the way from San Diego or LA and that made me feel so special, I can’t even explain.

After the dinner, Abhi-Nish, Madhuri, her roommate Akansha, and I drove over to LA because we were going to spend the night over there. Why were we in LA? We had tickets to Arijit Singh’s concert!! The concert was on Sunday evening and it was a total blast! To be honest I wasn’t such a huge fan and I was not expecting much. But he sang his songs, and KK-Emran Hashmi’s songs that were a rage when I was in college, and a few other hits. The orchestra mixed it up a bit to make the hit numbers peppier. We ended up standing and dancing for the last one hour to Kabira(Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani), Samjhawan(Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya), and a few more. It was the most fun dancing to his renditions of Gangster, Jannat, Murder 2 songs. All in all, it turned out great fun. We got home by 12-12.30 am and here I am in the morning guzzling down coffee at work. Thank God Dennis is not in today.

Arijit Singh live!!

  
I had a great birthday full of happiness, a lot of laughter, happy tears, and all in all, a lot of joy. I spent the weekend with my people, and with gifts from my people back in Pune that made me feel closer. I feel that I have finally stepped out of the fog and in general, I am in a better mood now. I find myself smiling more often, laughing more freely, and feeling sad a lot less. Now if only someone tells the skin and hair to stop ageing, it will all be perfect. I am NOT ready to start anti-ageing regime mentally. I anyways got told that my mental and physical age doesn’t seem to match, and I am perfectly happy with that, thank you very much.