Embracing Winter…

Glass Half Empty
There were days when my whiny cantankerousness welcomed winter. Admittedly, I was a brat then. Unappreciative of Mother Nature’s simplistic attire. I coveted sunshine, my ignorant mind misconstruing rays for happiness. Floral bounties and barefoot walks along the beach became the sole harbingers of joy. I succumbed to an intense yearning for warmth, failing to accept uncertainty & more so, change. A change that is entailed by the necessity for balance. I was blinded by my own stubborn resolve. I visioned winter to be a scorned witch on a broomstick, armed with unbridled blustery winds in one hand and frigidity in the other, constantly battle ready. I wasn’t one to surrender, I fought hard, cursed and complained. If seasons had sounds then summer was synonymous with Mozart’s harmonious symphonies while winter screamed of dissonance screeching like a  rockstar’s broken electric guitar.

No more.

Glass Half Full
The blinds have snapped off and the mind is finally eager to embrace nature’s vivid transformation. Winter’s mellifluous songs are naturally muted if I snobbishly turn a deaf ear. I realize the solution is by far, simple. My only task remains to let myself go. Perhaps if I attempt to embrace the cold, maybe I could avoid huddling in torture. Perhaps if I extend one hand, She will too. Once the answers unveiled themselves, in other words, once the attitude changed, the rest was easy. My mind’s eye was finally ready to feel the season, Glass Half Full.
Emboldened by the faux fur parka, the breeze fortified by frost has become less intimidating. The somber, gloomy mornings have never posed a problem since they have a way of romanticizing the day. The natural, obvious beauty around helps too and Niagara on the Lake, a little town exhibits it immensely : Leafless trees move fearlessly with the gales, their skinny branches bent & curved like they’re in the midst of an intense ballet recital. They mingle with each other, like socialites reveling at a soiree . Whispering gossip also possibly discussing when the heavens will lace their elegant arms with flurries.
Velvety earth culminating after a fresh flurry offers a gentle cushioning for weary feet but the aspect of impish fun comes into play when there’s a generous snowfall and there are mountains of snow to carefully roll and fling at the husband!
Window sills and picket fences lined with green fern and crimson berries and wreaths in silver and gold make up for the lackluster as do brightly lit trees and reindeer topiaries and iridescent ornaments hanging from branches.
There are a couple of pictures below that our thickly gloved hands captured on the phone. (They’re from Niagara on the Lake, a little town that appears to have taken a leap off of Gilmore Girls, a television series based in a similar town called Stars Hollow. I’ll reserve another post to walk you through this quaint piece of calm.)
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Additionally I’m sharing also, a recipe, one of the many festive bakes I indulged in this past month. Food tends to add a sense of ease especially if it involves excessive amounts of sugar.
These are bite sized Mini Chocolate Cupcakes spruced with Peppermint, a flavor that categorizes as a staple in my opinion, in the holiday season. A grand crown of rich White Chocolate Frosting is assiduously placed. The frosting is a rendezvous between a scarlet red and white, much like the striped peppermint candy.
The mint gently masks the sugar. The chocolate counteracts the bout of freshness. They go hand in hand, entwined in sweet romance and to me, their clandestine affair, just came to light.
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Recipe for Mini Chocolate-Peppermint Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting ( Makes 12 Mini Cupcakes)
Ingredients for Eggless Cupcakes

1/2 cup All purpose flour
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp Baking Soda
1.5 tbsp cocoa powder
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp Canola Oil
1/3 tsp + 1/3 tbsp white vinegar
1-1.5 tsp Peppermint Extract.
1/3rd cup Milk
2 tbsp warm coffee decoction

Ingredients for White Chocolate Frosting (Adapted from Sally’s Bake Blog)
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter(Softened at Room temperature)
85 gms White Chocolate
1 cup Icing sugar
2 tbsp Heavy cream or milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
a pinch of salt

How to make the Cupcakes:
1.  Line your mini cupcake pan with liners and preheat oven to 350F.
2. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients: Self Raising Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Cocoa Powder.
3. To this , add Brown Sugar and give it a good mix.
4. Next, in go the wet ingredients: Canola Oil, Peppermint Extract, 1/3tbsp white vinegar.
5. In a cup mix milk and 1/3 tsp white vinegar to make buttermilk. Add the buttermilk to the cake mix in the large bowl and mix well to ensure there are no lumps.
6. Mix in the coffee decoction and fill cupcake liners till they are 2/3rds full.
7. Bake for  12-15 minutes.
8. They are done when a toothpick comes out clean.

How to make the Frosting:
1. Whisk together butter, milk/heavy cream, vanilla essence together in a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, until soft and creamy.
2. Add icing sugar in parts and keep whisking.
3. In a separate bowl, add chopped white chocolate and microwave for 20 sec. Remove, stir and repeat. Twice should do but if not melted after stirring, repeat once more.
4. Add the tempered chocolate to the buttercream as you whisk.
5. Whisk for 3-4 minutes until nice and creamy.
6. Pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes.
7. I added the icing into a bag with Wilton 6B tip in and lined with crimson colored food coloring.
Happy New Year everyone!

Highline Park, New York City

New York City is not just a place, it qualifies to be a phenomenon. One visit and one can’t help but fall in love….And with that, I once again begin my NYC Series in the blog. (“Once again” because the Toronto winters had prompted me to long for the the Cherry Blossom in Brooklyn.)
The glitz & glamour of Times Square, the romance of the Empire State Building & the magnanimity & allure of Central Park can wait because this post is about a less spoken, much needed,  interesting asset to the city, The Highline/The Highline Park. The Highline in the West Side of Manhattan is a 1.45 mile linear park, 30 feet above street level & WAS in fact a railway line. The railway line has been entirely transformed into a public park since 2009, replete with benches, prolific greens & flowers, live music & the primary requisite of all parks, an ice cream shop to aid in dousing the summer heat! Although the park is owned by New York City, it is operated & maintained by Friends of the Highline, who are in fact responsible for protecting the line from demolition. Continue reading “Highline Park, New York City”

CHIKMAGALUR – The Coffee Land of Karnataka

Summer begins early in Bangalore, largely in the past few years. For reasons I won’t bore you with in this post, come February 2013, all we wanted was a getaway to escape the soaring temperatures and avoid getting baked in the afternoon sun. Chikmagalur seemed like the perfect place to do that and more. Located at the foothills of the Mullayanagiri Range, this little town bestows the clichéd “picture perfect”, watercolour painting-like scenes that not only deceived us into being in a parallel universe but also astonished in a way because this beauty lay so close to home. Well, close because it’s a short road trip away, about 4 hours although it did take us longer since the husband and me were keen on a stopover at a little town called ‘Channarayapatna’. Significant mainly because my husband spent a good chunk of his childhood here. A serious case of nostalgic fever was evident on his face as we clicked away pictures of him and a bunch of students from the alma mater. The little things, no? Continue reading “CHIKMAGALUR – The Coffee Land of Karnataka”

THE SERAI, KABINI

Amidst river banks, wilderness & light drizzles, we rang in the husband’s 30th, back in 2013. Nothing like a birthday falling on a weekend, nothing like a road trip to celebrate and nothing like an indulgence like The Serai.
A five hour drive from home( Bangalore) which included stopping at Kadambam for breakfast( if you ever happen to be on the Bangalore – Mysore highway & have a soft corner for South Indian food, don’t miss this place!), we were finally at The Serai, Kabini just in time for check in. There’s a minor possibility of finding yourself blankly gazing at the silent waters & the lush greens without a care in the world. Of course, if you’ve gone through some of my other posts, you know how I love escaping the city life into a quieter world, even if it’s for the shortest time (this time it was a one night stay). Continue reading “THE SERAI, KABINI”

SRI LANKA

A vacation of many firsts- the first time I set foot on a plane, the first time I drenched my feet in the waters of the sea, the first time I got a whiff of the fragrant orchids, the first time I took a vacation with the husband. Yes, this is where we honeymooned but even if you’re not honeymooning, Sri Lanka offers more than a handful of reasons to gather coveted memories. If I’m being honest, at that point in time I wasn’t sure what to expect and admittedly, the last thing on my mind, what with all the wedding hoopla & everything but, I was blown away. All credits to the husband because he had it all chalked out so perfectly.Here’s a succinct version of our 6 day holiday…. Continue reading “SRI LANKA”

WAYANAD – VYTHIRI RESORT

” And forget not that earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
– Kahlil Gibran
As I sat in the car by the husband’s side , I could hear faint chatters from the boys, him & the little brother…faint because my mind was occupied reminiscing a previous journey to Kerala. It was a long time ago, back when I was a little child and despite my best efforts, I could only put together smithereens of a simpler past. I remember we visited Cochin and stayed at a friend’s place, I remember not being able to sleep all night and the “aunty” telling me to close my eyes & count sheep ( which was a completely new concept to me), I remember the vast tea estates and what I remember vividly is our mode of transport, an Ambassador car. These were popular at the time especially for trips like these for reasons I’m not sure but it’s massive roundish shape & tinted glasses sure made it impossible to forget if not cherish. The vacation was a necessity for my parents more than us,( at that time just me & my first brother) since my dad was frequently travelling & my mom did the other kind of travelling…running behind her two children. Continue reading “WAYANAD – VYTHIRI RESORT”

THE SERAI, BANDIPUR

“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear”
 -Rumi
As I stretched my legs across the balcony of our cabin,sipping away a Mint Lassi, I couldn’t help but wonder…Will I miss India? The answer was “yes”. She will always be home, even if I’m 10,000 miles away. It was only a few days later we would be off to a foreign land.We have done this before but it was different this time. Continue reading “THE SERAI, BANDIPUR”