Monthly Favorites | January

I talked about my impulse to share about some things I am loving here & got some really good suggestions on how I can make it interesting.

One of the suggestions by Moksha was to do monthly favorites like the YouTuber Sherry Shroff. A little interesting fact – I have loved Sherry’s monthly favorites videos since a long time. In fact, they are some of my favorite videos on her YouTube but I find doing monthly favorites myself scary. My reasons are no doubt petty, but they matter to me. 😀 First of all, I am not someone who goes through a lot of products to make a good enough monthly favorite products list. However, I am now seeing this as a boon – it means my monthly favorites will be a good mix of experiences & how the month went, instead of only ‘products‘. Secondly, I also fear getting too much into the groove of tracking your favorite stuff throughout the month which may take away the joy of just being, but I hope that doesn’t happen, and, therefore, I am just taking the plunge here.

I now present to you my monthly favorites for January ’22. 😀

RiteBite protein bar: Ritebite is my new favorite snacking brand. You will know when you read my favorite #2. I keep trying a lot of snacking brands and I think food will always be a feature in monthly favorites one way or the other. The biggest reason I like RiteBite is because of favorite #2. Chips is a food category where its difficult to make a healthier alternative for regular chips that just tastes as good. I love their chips & if I go by their claims, one packet of their chips has ~10g protein. As for their protein bar, I like it for a very straight forward reason. It tastes good & is not as expensive as other protein bars available in the online space. Just to be clear, I don’t consume these products as any supplement or meal, its just that I snack a lot and I understand no packaged food is as good as home made, but I just look for healthier alternatives to the regular snacks I am addicted to.

RiteBite chips: I have already explained this.

Crax: Do you remember this brand we grew up eating? This particular variant is very tasty and a good snack for chilled out things like watching a movie. You know, like popcorn.

Cheesecake from ‘Salt & Sugar’: Its a cloud kitchen in Gurgaon that you can easily find on Swiggy/Zomato. We recently got their blueberry cheesecake for our friends’ wedding anniversary & it was a hit. I have had better cheesecakes, but it was a good mix of everything – product, price, promo & packaging. 😀 The taste was such that four of us demolished a full cake in half an hour.

Himalayan Ciders: We recently went on a trip to Shimla & again had the famous Himachal Ciders. Its a lovely drink to try out if you like trying out new things in alcohol. The apple one which is the most common is not that great for me, but I love the ginger ale variant.

Kurkez: There is a famous bakery on Shimla Mall Road called Krishna Bakery. I am not sure what their claim to fame is although most of the stuff I tried, I loved. They have this specialty item called ‘Kurkez’. I really can’t explain what it is. It is such a desi colonial hangover dish. It is a completely Indianized cutlet but looks like a seekh kabab. Just have it with the ‘white sauce’ they give the next time you are there. I don’t know whether you will love it or not, but I for sure miss it!

My new Kaftan: My massi (maternal aunt) gifted me this Kaftan which is a traditional Kashmiri dress & I love it to bits. She is selling Kashmiri clothes until 28th of Feb after which she would move to another handloom product that is seasonal for the North India. In case you want to buy what I am wearing in the picture, please reach out to her – +919216745142

Kindle Cover: This has nothing to do with January and I got it a long time ago last year but its one of the best purchases ever! I was very torn for the perfect Kindle cover and I was being too critical of all the options I had. Finally, went for this one and its so sturdy but also feels good to the touch. I love it!

Aroma Therapy sunscreen: Sunscreen is one thing I am always experimenting with. Reason? I am yet to find a perfect one, but this one’s close. First of all, it smells amazing to me, a fresh herby smell but nothing overpowering. (I have a very sensitive nose). Secondly, it glides on my skin so smoothly and while it may be light for parched skin, but I also have normal to dry skin and this is decently moisturizing for me. To me, the texture seems like it would work for most skin types.

B&BW Vanilla Lavender Candle: This is my first ever Bath & Body Works candle and its a bit controversial that this product is on my favorites list. Let me explain. I have used some of their cosmetics in the past & they are known for having amazing fragrances. This also means that most of their products are heavily fragranced, I have ended up loving some of those fragrances, but the fact that they are heavily fragranced made me feel uncomfortable about using them a lot. Same goes for the candles. They smell amazing and the fragrances are very long lasting. However, no doubt they are overpowering and in this age of soy candles which are more environment & inhaling friendly, they continue to be made of paraffin. I don’t think I’ll be repurchasing these any time soon but there are 2 reasons why its on my favorites list – 1) I love this fragrance & since its long lasting, I use it very, very often to create an ambience. this itself is a good enough reason, but 2) I have tried a couple of Indian newer brands for candles and my experience hasn’t been even decent, forget being good. So, if you are completely satisfied with any soy candles that smell amazing & are available in India, please share your suggestions in the comments.

Trip to Shimla: We recently did a cousins trip to Shimla which was a lot of fun. This trip came with its own challenges due to the friction of finalizing plans, this and that. However, Shimla is one place I always love to be, no matter how crowded and commercialized its getting. The weather was chilly but with that sweet sunshine and we also got to witness snow at Narkanda (although not snowfall). However, the biggest highlight of this trip was the place we stayed at which brings me to my next favorite.

Marley Villa: This was your typical villa with a swing, tiny garden to play cricket in, wind chimes, creaky floors and a colonial interior. So heritage feels, such beautiful bar glasses. They have a functioning kitchen from where two caretakers & a cook serve all meals. The view from the garden is top-notch. The best part – its located slightly away from the mall road so you don’t witness the typical crowd but its close enough for an appetite building walk up the mall road. My favorite part was the garden. If I had to find cons with this place, one is that its not completely private. It is basically a set of two villas that are connected to each other, which didn’t bother our group in any way by the way but parking gets tricky up the hill. The other con is that we stayed in a 5-room villa as we were 9 people and there are two rooms in that villa which don’t have a door separating them, only a curtain. Depending on who you are travelling with, this may matter with regards to privacy.

So, these were my monthly favorites and I would love to know some (or all) of yours now. Please comment your favorites or leave a link to your blog if you do similar posts.

If you liked this, check out more of my latest posts:

My Book Club in Ljubljana | Blogmas 7

The other day, I was telling Rahul about the book club that I had joined in Ljubljana and it struck me immediately that how one of a kind experience it was, you will know why as you read along. While talking to him, I opened my drafts in WordPress and noted it down as a post I had to do.

As I always do with personal stories, I am going to explain a lot of details, whether you get bored or not. I’ll try to keep it interesting.

So, I had moved to Ljubljana for work and before that I was living in Berlin with few of my closest friends (including Rahul). Living in a new city with your closest friends who are preparing for certain goals (in this case, internships, jobs etc etc) means that you will not feel you are in a new city, but rather get all the more comfortable in your comfort zone, a place that will very quickly start feeling like home. This also means that we hardly ever tried to make any new friends, or go out with new people.

And then came my move to Ljubljana. I never considered even for a fleeting moment that my lifestyle is going to change drastically. I will not have people I know and can fall back on with me. It just didn’t strike me as a move. It was exactly like this – I sat in a bus from Berlin to Ljubljana. I land in Ljubljana and realize I don’t know anyone here. This is exactly what happened. I got so overwhelmed with being alone at that time point that I was super emotional even while house hunting. I could cry at the drop of a hat. This one time I was house hunting and I took a bus and I started crying. A lady walked up to me in the bus and consoled me. I still remember that cold, wintry bus ride perfectly well.

Then, as luck would have it, Rahul also moved to Ljubljana due to work. I again got into my comfort zone. Both of us sort of stopped making efforts to make more friends. This is extra bad because I met some really lovely people at work back then. I was working in a startup and most of the people were my age and a really fun bunch. We had some good night outs together but it was pretty limited.

Eventually, Rahul had to move to another city then and I was on my own again. I was at my worst at that time if I consider a range of couple of years here and there (yes, this is a cue that I have seen worse form of depression). I was in a super pathetic state and like I mentioned, some of my co-workers were amazing. A boss of mine, who is one of the kindest women I have met, was constantly worried for me. At this point, I was feeling super homesick and I was absolutely not making the most of enjoying your solitude in an all new country/city/continent. Something that would seem like a dream to most was turning out to be a nightmare. I was certain of one thing though, I need to come out stronger out of this and, therefore, I am not going to rush back to India until I am supposed to.

This is when I saw a notification of a book club being started on Facebook and I just decided to join it. To give another chance to meet more people. I managed to attend only one of the meets as I was supposed to travel back to India after that but I am so glad I gave it a go. There are so many reasons for that.

First of all, it was an intimate group so it felt very cosy and, you know, not like a formal event.

Secondly, the members I met were all from such different spheres of life. Usually the people you hang out with are either known to you due to college, job or something similar, so you kind of relate to their lives. But this was a super diverse group. Funnily, one of the Portuguese girls worked in Zomato Portugal!!! What are the chances! To find a Portuguese in a book club who works in an Indian startup!

Lastly, the best thing of this meet was the place it was held. One of the members were hosting it in their home and it was bang in the middle of the old city centre! Can you imagine? A house, almost like a castle, in a European mediaeval sort of setting. I wish I had pictures. Their house had typical castle stairs, kitchen – everything. I actually got a little scared while walking up the stairs, the lighting was also pretty dim, modern but dim, to create an effect. Once inside, it was all modern appliances and everything, but still the lighting was dim to create that vintage chic mood. It was so different. I doubt I am ever going to attend a book meet, or any meet really, like this. 🙂

So, now you know, the book club meet was so different, not because of it being a book club meet, but so much more. I honestly wish I can visit that house once again, with Rahul this time.

5 Indian things I appreciated after living abroad | Blogmas 2

I clearly remember how much I used to hate my mom’s habit of putting excessive coriander in everything. And then I went to Europe for around 10 months and I missed it’s presence in regular food terribly. I came back and became equally or more obsessed with coriander.

So, i dedicate this post to 5 such Indian things that I have only appreciated either when living abroad or with age. I am sure Indians who moved abroad to settle can add a lot to this list. If you are reading this, please do consider adding yours in comments!

1. Amla: Indian gooseberry is a superfood that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I know you will say that it’s way more popular than many other superfoods but my point is just how versatile and tasty it is in so many dishes. Why people don’t eat it more often? Maybe because they don’t know how easy it is to incorporate in so many dishes! Apart from amla candy & murabba (preserve), nothing else seems to be super popular. I think I’ll do a post on some easy peasy recipes with amla.

2. Coriander: of course. No brainer . Chop and put it in any Indian dish and see its magic happen.

3. Spice box: just why do people elsewhere not use a spice box? Just why? If you are reading this and don’t know what this is, please Google. You will know its importance in a South Asian’s life. This point can also be extended to pressure cooker actually. Why are people buying canned legumes and not using a pressure cooker?

4. Fresh mangoes need i say more?

So this is my list but i am sure many others can be added to this list. Please do let me know in comments. Mine are a lot around food but yours don’t have to be. 😀

5 things to remember when planning a workcation in Himachal

We recently went on a 15 day workcation to Manali and Kasol and I just have one thing to say – I am so regretful of coming back in 15 days. I miss the crisp air, the deodars, the beautiful green views, the snow clad peaks and the pristine rivers all around. It was just wonderful. Too difficult to put in words. Living in a cottage in the middle of hills is a dream come true for me. I could also mention that I woke up early to enjoy the beyond ethereal mornings but I continue being the same shit who wakes up late even there.

We were for a week in Kasol and another week in Manali, and its just nothing but a fortunate coincidence that both the stays turned out amazing in their own ways. I am going to mention a bit about them before I begin with the points to remember for a Himachal workcation. Especially because both the stays were nothing like anything I have stayed at before. 🙂

Kasol: We stayed at a place called Kasol Heights. It’s difficult to categorise it as a resort or campsite. Well, it’s not luxurious like a resort but it’s like this – multiple camp style rooms spread over a valley, with a pond, river, waterfall and, of course, man made activities (indoor games, pool etc) all within the campsite area. It’s amazing to get up and step out of your room to have a river flowing right outside the room. We had to cross a tiny bridge to go to the dining area. 🙂 Below is a picture of the bridge and the pond. It’s a very offbeat experience. Few downsides to the place – located on the outskirts of Kasol and it’s a downhill trek from the main road so every time you have to go to the Kasol city, you have to do this. Secondly, it’s not a luxurious place if that’s what you are looking for. Thirdly, the in-house meals are very home style, in case you are expecting anything else.

Manali: it’s an interesting story how we booked this property. So, we had no plans of going to Manali and the initial plan was of 2 weeks in Kasol itself. We had not booked any stay until we left for Manali. Now there’s a portal for finding workcation friendly stays called, well, Workcation, but they don’t give you the location until you have booked. We had shortlisted a few properties from their portal on our way and we were trying to locate them on Google Maps after entering Manali. On our way to do that, we came across Himachal Tourism’s ‘Log Huts’. It was my suggestion to check out this property, reason being I hold Himachal tourism to very high standards due to a dinner I had been to in Shimla as a kid. 🙂 The guy on the reception was more than excited to show us the stay. Log Huts offers cottages complete with bedrooms, dining, kitchen & living room and they have such an old world charm to it. Every cottage has their own garden area where we used to play cricket. I should also mention that the location of this property, popularly known as Log Huts area, is one of the best in Manali. Manali is basically divided into 3 main areas – New Manali (has mall road and full of tourists), Old Manali (more hipster vibe and cafes but cramped), Log Huts area (my favorite as this has a very old world and clean vibe, right out of Ruskin Bond books). If I had to nit-pick a con of this place, then it can be you getting bored of restaurant food for a long duration stay (not a con for me though).

Now coming to the 5 things you should remember when planning a workcation to Himachal:

1. WiFi: A lot needs to be addressed here. First of all, many properties mention that they have WiFi but they may mean a dongle. A dongle is less likely to work smoothly as compared to a well functioning WiFi. Having Wifi may also mean it’s patchy. I observed this myself in some hotels. Point being, if you are planning a workcation in Himalayas, be fully assured of the WiFi situation at your stay. Best bet is testimonials from someone known, but I would consider proper discussion with the property contact bare minimum. Same is applicable for power cuts.

2. Where to go? This is a tricky one. When we went to Manali, it was not brimming with travellers. Currently Manali is literally flooding with vacationers. It’s neither safe given the Covid situation, nor it would be fun. Now let’s talk about the more offbeat Himachal options like Jibhi, Shoja, Chitkul etc. I have not been there but I would imagine that the wifi situation would be poorer as they are more remote. I would still consider them a good option if you can be sure of network and that the number of people visiting that place is not too many. I would apply this same rule to places in Uttarakhand. My suggestion, though, would be to give serious consideration to some offbeat homestays which have properly worked on making themselves workcation friendly as they will have better amenities for a comfortable working environment and not a lot of people. Not to mention differentiated experience. Linking one such here I saw on instagram – Mokshamcampsite

3. How to go? We did a road trip and if you are planning to go to a place in Himachal or Uttarakhand from Delhi or around, this is a pretty plausible option. (Provided you are comfortable with driving and not a newbie). Otherwise, I would consider taxi as an option, I would personally avoid flights or trains as much as I can. I have taken multiple flights during the pandemic as my parents and parent-in-laws are in different parts of India, but that is sort of unavoidable. A trip on the other hand is.

4. How to pack? This depends on what you are expecting out of your day. If you are mostly working through the day, you can pack your lounge wear, basically what you wear at home but with at least one warm jacket and socks thrown in for the night. If you are planning long treks, please do a proper Google search on what to pack for a trek. I have never been on a long trek (I really want to but I am also scared due to my vertigo and fear of height issue). In general, I am a pretty light packer. I usually like to find substitutes from local markets of what I could have brought, which could also ultimately become a souvenir. Obviously, I only mean this for things which are not adding to my carbon footprint. On this trip, I did end up carrying my electric kettle for a change. 🙂 this is something unlikely for me being a light packer!

5. Being in line with the situation: if you are traveling in a limited capacity vehicle, going to be in a secluded place, avoid the crowds , you are essentially doing the same things you would do at home, so I would request you to be mindful of the ongoing situation. All the precautions that you take while stepping out for groceries need to be taken here. Even more so, since there will be many clusters with a lot of people. Apart from that, you Want to be mindful of dealing with the property staff, for your as well as their safety. If you are mindful, you may end up benefiting the tourism industry in these trying times, and if not mindful, then it could actually get worse for them.

So these are the stories I wanted to share of my travel and I am so happy that I managed a detailed post after a long time. Especially glad for having done this on a weekday, which is why I am not proof reading it. 🙂 I am waiting for your comments and feel free email me for any other questions as well!

44 | Of Cities that feel like Holiday

Bangalore has always felt like a holiday.

As I step into the airport with a one way ticket to Delhi, this fact hits hard in a bittersweet way.

I guess it’s a lot to do with the kind of life that you have in a city more than the city itself. I was on my own here, so I was making all the decisions for myself, be it good or bad and being alone leaves you with less responsibilities and much more time to chill. Which means I had a lot of time to explore around, thus, making it all the more like a holiday.

However, it has a lot to do with the city itself. I first wrote about Bangalore here. When I was visiting Blore for the first time as mentioned in this post, I was staying at a particular spot in Indiranagar and very casually I just happened to think – if I ever move to Blore, I want to stay in this very area! When I moved to Blore for my job in 2017, I ended up renting a place right there! The universe conspired to make it happen? So, I was in one of the best areas which made me feel really good about this city. There are a lot of shitty areas in Blore, in fact, a lot more shitty areas than the good ones because this is a very unplanned city which never really bothered to ready itself for the influx of people it gets. I have barely been to any of these, so these pretty areas that I was in added to the holiday feel. My travel to work was taken care by office for a long time and rest of the time I had to go to my base location in this area itself, so that means I didn’t really have to kill myself over the infamous Blore traffic. All in all, the gorgeous weather, beautiful cafes & bars and bookstores in my area just lead to making this city feel a lot like a Holiday.

Bangalore, you will always be special. I have only gratitude for all the gorgeous places and experiences and gratitude to the almighty for the opportunity to explore within and around in a wonderful setting. 🙂

I hope this move back to Delhi for all the good reasons is as (or more) successful and full of happiness! ❤