To Universe, with Love

Moving on: Spring

Posted on March 26, 2015

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I have been having days when i cant get out of bed, with a certain sadness that doesn’t leave. Things gone wrong, loss, separation and anxiety seem to play a bigger role of late. My solution to every problem is exercise and nature. Yoga has been helping me a lot to cope. And so has the sunshine. I am thankful for the end of the cold gloomy days. Its beautiful waking up to sun streaming through the window. And the idea of making matcha tea once up.

2015-03-25_0002 I have bit goodbye to my yoga studio and started doing my asana practice from home. I have had it with the background music and excessive commentary in class. Its time for a little more intimacy with the movement. I have a few books that have been helping me develop a routine. There is the flow as practiced by ashtanga asana practitioners. Somedays, i go with my own flow as learnt through the years from Yoga To the People and P90xYoga. I have been reading “The Heart of Yoga”, by T.K.V Desikachar, son of T. Krishnamacharya. Its beautiful. His interpretation and personalization of philosophy is rather free spirited to what felt like a dogmatic rule of literature i was previously exposed to. I would like to attend his school in the future.

2015-03-25_0003This is spring on the mountain. Our walks are very exhilarating. I cant wait for the next one. We saw a few Japanese Cherry Blossoms last month that are no longer in bloom. But deeply moved us. Watching the white petals drop was a meditation of sorts. Harsha named them “little drops of heaven” and we were transfixed at the sight of them shedding.

2015-03-25_0005 Thankful for the chances i have ahead. Excited for this spring. Deadlines. Deadlines. I should not miss these chances. Dear spring, I welcome you.

Dear tatagaru, with love.

Posted on March 20, 2015

2015-03-19_0001 Once upon a time, in this magical land called Bellary, lived the most wonderful man. He was the perfect gentleman. And my grandfather. He loved us and we loved him. Today, he passed away. And he is survived by the most beautiful love stories. And a huge well knit family. And not a single enemy. Instead of crying, all we can do is talk about how wonderful he was. And tear up.

Dad’s notes: Grandma and everyone else, have been holding up really well. Instead of emotionally falling apart, a secret unspoken pact has been made to celebrate his life. There are many ways to mourn a loss, and this is how these wonderful people decided to do it. There was a moment on the last day, where grandpa was fading away. Grandma sits next to him comforting him. “Look at me, i am your Rani ( her name )”. He looks at her. And you could see the pride in her eyes for being his wife all these years. The pride for being with such a wonderful person. All the stories she has been sharing have been of how supportive he was and how wonderful he was to her. And to everyone. She told my dad about how she would go to him with her problems and he would take care of everything for her. This, ofcourse is not true. Because i know all the wonderful things she did for the family. Times when he was too gentlemanly and she had to step up her game. They were a great team and a wonderful couple. Full of nice things to say to/about each other. #lessonsInMarriage I feel like i have a piece of him with me. In my mom. In Harsha. In my brother. In my sister.

Sudhakka’s notes: They decided to tell my ( 101 year old gorgeous super smart ) great-grand-ma about grandpa. She has been suffering from Alzheimer’s. And hasnt been recognizing people nor remembering events. They werent sure if they should tell her the news, but eventually did. She mourned the loss for an entire day, couldnt eat anything and went about telling everyone what a good man he was. The next day she forgot about it all, but there is a sadness in her that she doesnt know the source for. And is unable to eat food. There is a depth to all of us, that makes sure we cant forget our loved ones, even the the brain cells are trying their best to help the process.

January shopping fast and February minimalism game

Posted on February 21, 2015

clutter copyGoal: Go on a yearly shopping fast. The problem with making such statements is the unrealisticness of something that big and knowing my own history with such resolutions. Last year, Maanasa and me tried to do a 12 things a year resolution. And i failed miserably. I want to take it seriously this time and do it systematically. “The difference between having a dream and achieving it is having a plan”, says my advisor, Dr.Li. I agree. So i want to take it one month at a time, and with a plan of renewing it every month.

Why: I took some time out this weekend and went through all my purchases in 2014. I do all my shopping online and hence it was easy to see it all. After i scrolled through email confirmations, it was shocking to me. Most of them were impulse purchases. And since i am a heartless editor, most of my impulse purchases were returned or eventually donated away because of my dis-satisfaction.

Pre-planning: I did some shopping/stocking up during thanksgiving which made going into this fast easier. I was putting off making this post till now to observe how it goes for the month. I think having excess makes it much much easier to resist new purchases. I am in the process of downsizing all my possessions. Seeing my previous purchases go, makes me analyze essentials from non essentials.

Rules: Absolutely no clothing purchases. Absolutely no incoming shoes/accessories. No kitchen stuff. No books and other sorts of media. Would like my bank statements to have groceries and gas. And travel. Period. Minimize eating out.

And i survived January !! It wasnt easy.

Phase 1: On the brink. I was this – [ ] close to buying a green dress from anthro, an Isabel Marant jacket on ebay, a blue scuba dress from AndOtherStories, and hiding it.

Phase 2: Self pity. I love fashion, this is not fair, i kept telling myself. I can never be one of those people.

Phase 3: Massive online browsing. And more self pity

Phase 4: Nothing purchased. I survived it. Am acutally proud.

Phase 5: Failure. Bought something. But let it go right away.

Phase 6: Pride.

Phase 7: Success. This is not that bad. I could do this again. Every alternate month from now on. Even if i want/need something, i will have an average of 15 days to sleep on it.

clutter copyFebruary. Lets go further, the infamous minimalism game. Elimination of clutter, became the goal for February.

Goal: Get rid of ‘d’ number of things as the date of the month. I am not for counting things, but looks like i have to, just this month. Thank god this month has 28 days, i made it easy for myself in a way. Also, i broke the rules a little and did all my detox over the weekend. I did not want to prowl the house everyday looking for things to donate. Felt like a waste of time. But it got really really hard half way through the month. Do i really have 10 things on an average to donate per day ? Apparently i do. Shocking.

Result: Books donated. A stash of 12 Kinfolk magazines sold. A campomaggi bag that went to a new home. A coffee machine and a juicer sold. A less than elegant wine rack that found a new home. Ugly UGGS finally leave my life. Less Miu Miu. Two designer handbags leave my closet forever. Cheap junk jewelry discarded. Clothes donated. An ebay pro seller in the making with excellent product photography. A pair of oxfords leave me. A purple herringbone winter coat finds a new home. Julia Child’s book given as a housewarming present. Excess tech gadgets sold. A coffee grinder purchase avoided. 30% of my closet gone. Music records leave my home. A down sized tea collection. More space everywhere. More light in the house. “Did you white wash the walls?”, i was asked. “Is that really your closet?”, my sister in law asked. More light. Less clutter. More peace.

While i was selling my designer bags and other stuff at lower price, i didnt feel like it was a loss for me. It was in no way enriching my life if i kept it and letting it go feels like such a relief.

I survived February ! I did good. Towards the end, i thought there wont be anything left at this rate. Now, everything else i own is my favourite stuff. And well used. The only electric appliance i own is a Vitamix.

I did good. I have been reading quite a few blogs like the Zen Habits and Minimalists. I am not comfortable with the word minimalism, its a little extremist i think. But living with as less as possible, yes please. This exercise has been time consuming and mentally draining……I think i can stop now, for a little while. And re-evaluate in the summer. For March, i want to do a 5 days a week yoga challenge. And hit the mountains atleast once a week. And take a picture a day to upload to instagram.

 

They came home: Last year’s Holiday Shopping

Posted on January 8, 2015

Its ironical that i write this right after a simplification update. But i feel like i need to come clean and be honest about my end of the year purchases. The return period has passed and these are the things that survived the buyers remorse.

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  • I am taking the easy way: pinning to pinterest and using the screen shots to make a collage to not spend a lot of time on making this blog post. I refuse to put in links to the products here, because i dont want to be one of the bloggers who tempts people to go purchase products they like. Especially after how hard i am trying to embrace a simpler lifestyle.
  • Traditional wisdom says: stay away from holiday sales. I usually stock up on my skincare for the entire year from sephora, with their 20% off coupon. And got some things that were on my wish list for a long time, that i had put off buying till thanksgiving so that they become more affordable ( work bag, oxfords ).
  • One of the purchases i needed to make was a tote bag for work. Something that is big enough to carry my laptop and lunch, that is not a backpack. I can’t believe how hard it is to find something in this size that is not luggage. Thank you Emerson Fry.
  • Another purchase i made was black oxfords. Churches oxfords which are a cult and known for their quality are too expensive. I picked these because of their leather upper and insole + rubber sole which are hard to find at the price point i was willing to spend.
  • I also picked up their black clutch, which i think is the most amazing design i have ever seen. It has an attached wallet that is in the most convenient place. This was an impulse purchase that i do not regret.
  • The one i do regret but couldn’t return is the brass pendant from Madewell. I threw away its receipt and it was the only instore purchase i made.
  • Every winter, i go on a hunt for a dark red lipstick. And never find one. This year, i did. Its a great accessory to go with the grey/black outfits that i wear in winter.
  • A clean mascara to try: rms volume. I finally make a foray into eye makeup.
  • A night time perfume: Fresh Santal. Sexy as hell ! Not floral, little fruity, dark, musky and very sensuous.
  • A cognac belt to replace my old one that needs to go.

It did feel like i was falling of my resolve to simplify when i made and purchased this list. I made a bigger list and edited it down to this. I am even embarrassed to post this. Some of these items, i could have lived without, like that silly looking pendant. The clutch was a frivolous purchase that i couldn’t part with. I will be more careful in the future. Also, having done this, i feel i am ready for a very long shopping fast. If i fail at it, i know i was using the upcoming fast as an excuse to shop. That’s extra motivation to stay on track.

Simplify: An update

Posted on January 7, 2015

Six months ago, i took up a resolve to simplify. I think i have come a long way since that post. I made a few categories and put down a few lists of to-do’s. Here is an update on what i have achieved so far and what i havent.

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Home: This used to be my biggest weakness. And it was fuelled by people coming in and praising my apartment. It has been a childhood dream to one day live in a cute beautiful apartment as an independant women. But when i do my weekly cleaning, i can see things collecting dust, way too many ornamental items and items i have collected over the years but meant nothing. We wanted a warm, cozy and well lived in home full of interesting stuff. We grew out of our kid phase and we now want a clutter free home.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 12.40.05 AM These lines by photographer Rodney Smith summarize what i want. I am far for achieving it. It is a journey. But i have come a long way. I got rid of anything that dont serve a real purpose or are insanely beautiful. Harsha let go of his attachment to things he didn’t want to let go a few years ago. And its like a wheel in motion. Everyday, i can quickly scan through and let go of things that i dont need without any remorse. There are hardly any incoming household items anymore. I am also immune to the charms of items showcased on instagram. I can admire and move on.

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Kitchen: Once upon a time: my fridge, freezer, kitchen and shelves were too well stocked. For the last few months, I have been making weekly lists and sticking to my list. I now don’t waste any food, make simpler food and am learning to cook with emphasis on one ingredient at a time. I dont run off to purchase macro nutrients and exotic superfoods every time i read about how good they are for the humans. I let go of my spiralizer, food processor and juicer. I improved my knife skills instead. And drink fibrous smoothies without wasting or using too much produce. I still have an impressive cookbook collection. But i read and re-read them so much that i treasure them. There is very little i need to let go to clean it all up and i am making progress.

IMG_3531Closet: I have my first capsule wardrobe in place for the winter ( video coming soon). I am quite proud of how i got there and how content i am with what i have. I haven’t bought any clothes in a the last few months, but shoes and accessories are another story. Unlike the capsule closets i see on the internet, mine isnt all neutrals or too minimalistic. I could do with less, but i detest throwing out things that are in use for the sake of minimalism. I feel like i am at a point where i can do an extended shopping fast.

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Reading: Unsubscribing to most bloggers who are like magazines promoting consumerism and are full of affiliate/sponsored links is the best thing i did to help myself. I now have very few blogs i follow. The people i am surrounded with, live very simple lives. Its the bloggers who have influenced me into this lifestyle. I do have a few friends who buy whatever is cheap just because its cheap, but that sort of thing never influenced me. I log into facebook less than once per day. I finally feel like i am in control of what i want to read and am not clicking on everything posted as they come in. I now read and re-read books i want to learn from without a deficit in attention. I got rid of a shelf full of books i know i will never read again. I have another shelf full of novels that i think needs to go. Soon.

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Photography: Although i had nothing new come in since my last post, i see a decrease in my obsession. I have a mirrorless camera and a DSLR. Although the Fujifilm is easy to carry around, i am very disappointed in the quality of the pictures. I am angry with myself for falling for the whole trend of mirrorless. I now use it as a prop in my pictures. I need to sell it away in the next few months. I let go of some of the collectable books on photography that i owned. The only way i will get better is not by reading but photographing more.

 

DSCF0174-2Art/Artists: I came to a hard realization. I don’t create as much as i want to. Disproportionate assets, rubbing this failure in my face was hard to live with. I gave away most of my art supplies to my little sister who likes creating and has the time at this point in her life. Since i read very selectively, i am not tempted to own new supplies/books by artists/stalk artists. I have more time to do vs getting inspired.

DSCF0116Skincare: This is one aspect where i failed terribly. I stock up on skincare during the thanksgiving sales for the entire year. I am no close to getting rid of the zillion samples i have in a big box nor simplifying my routine. Sometimes, i feel like i took the turn the other way, by adding more products into my top-shelf. To-Do: Do a skincare routine post. Hopefully, i can get some clarity in thought if i wrote it all down.

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Exercise: I do yoga regularly and hike from time to time. This year, i am going to keep at it. My diet is simpler and i am not on the quest to complicate it.

The journey is the destination. I feel like its a constant struggle for me to work on myself and to get to my goals.

I let go of lot of ‘things’ i could live without. Instead of missing these items, its mostly a relief. Its less clutter, more space, less cleaning and less time thinking about upkeep. I did order a lot of stuff online like i usually do, but i managed to return most of the stuff i ordered. This was a step up from what i was doing prior: keeping stuff because returns were a pain. I currently enjoy reading about minimalism, try to connect it to that mindset, read about Japanese philosophy on beauty, etc to keep going. I sincerely believe that i need to shift my values and priorities to stay on this path. We are looking to move into a tiny apartment in SFO in the future. Real estate space is gold and rents are skyrocketing. I no longer dread it, but welcome the challenge.

End of year lists

Posted on December 31, 2014

Resolutions? How cliche ! But here is a list from what i want to do and have yearned for. Some are frivolous and some are necessities. Here we go… 

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1. Dont be afraid to use social media. I think my old friends miss me and know nothing of my life. But posting pictures, announcements and other good stuff sounds like bragging to me. And i hate adding clutter to my friends feeds. But i see a need to post some updates. I will try to post once a month, this year.

2. Yoga. I keep getting caught up in what is the good/bad yoga debate. And put off by the snobbishness of a few of these yogis. But i don’t want anyone to have this sort of influence on me. I love it in all kinds and how ever i can get some ( #trueLove ). I should keep at it.

3. Use iXpenseit everyday. I have told myself to control my spending habits but never actually did. I have come a long way in changing my attitude towards owning stuff. But one effective thing to do is writing expenses everyday. It was life changing in the past and it can be again.

4. Check emails, feeds, etc less often. I do good with not hanging around the phone and reading every message as it comes in like a lap dog. But i think i need to apply this to the computer as well.

5. No more buying cookbooks. I have enough to teach me for my lifetime. And mom to answer any questions.

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    6. Plan trip with Maanasa. Its long over due. We keep talking but never do. Napa?

7. Friday nights are for dancing. Bad time allocation during week gets me to stay in working on the weekends. This has to change. Friday nights, are for dancing.

8. Knife skills class. This has been on my list for too long. Owning a chefs knife and have no good technique makes me a charlatan. I have tried with youtube videos but a class might help.

9. Make bed. Our bedroom is pretty nordic looking after all the decluttering i did. I think making our bed every day should be a habit i learn asap.

10. Go on a one year shopping fast. I have been preparing for this for years but never done it. I have made lists of essentials and accumulated them so that i can cut out the frivolous. Start with a January fast. And take it from there. Baby steps.

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     11. Detox the kitchen. I have a kitchen that professional chefs would feel at home in. And serving utensils fit for a king. I am a student and a professor who lives a relatively geeky lifestyle. Errr….

12. Let go of the books i will never read again or are not worth the re-read.

13. Simplify skincare routine. I dont need much. I am very greedy. And adventurous in Sephora. Absolute waste of time/space and borderline waste of money.

14. Wear mascara. Good shoes, simple clothes and nice eyelashes make an outfit, in my book. I see makeup as a chore but would love to do little something everyday. Stay away from eye liner at all costs though. It doesnt look natural and shows the effort put in, like i am trying.

15. Blog more. I dont promote my blog on facebook, etc. But i have a fear of people reading it when i know its a relatively inconspicuous space. I dont want to shy away from writing what i want because i fear judgement from people i know and dont know. Its all okay.

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     16. Sleep less. Owing to my erratic eating schedule, i have my days where i have no energy and sleep in a lot. Doing yoga is the cure for it. I know it.

17. Eat lot more. Again, eating too many greens, raw food and the likes is not giving me enough energy. I want to eat more starchy and fatty food.

18. Become a ruthless list maker. Everyday to-do lists. Weekly ones. Monthly ones. And do them.

Amen.

Tea: the recipe

Posted on December 25, 2014

Does brewing tea need a technique? Absolutely ! The tea masters have figured out the temperature, leaf to water ratios, brewing containers, swirling mechanisms and serving rituals the heighten the pleasure of tea drinking.  In Japan, during the 15th century, tea ceremonies evolved as a spiritual practice. Tea began to reach all ‘classes’ and was extremely popular. They paid attention to every nuance of tea making and enjoyed the ritual. People would invite artists/masters home, prepare tea and have a conversation. While we the mortals don’t participate in tea ceremonies and are too busy being busy, least we can do to perfect our cups is by paying attention to a few things: like steeping time and the temperature of the water. So here we go. 

 

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Quality: First things first. Same rules as with any other food. Pick the best quality you can afford. And organic for good health and for the sake of the environment. And fair trade if you care for how your money gets distributed. Your dollar is your vote. Between Asian stores, ebay and amazon, i found sources that i am quite happy with.

Single Estate Teas: Tea bag producers try to keep the taste of their product consistent year in and out, to cater to the markets by mixing teas from multiple estates and by aiming for the same consistency. But the tea lovers appreciate the subtle nuances and look for pure blends that capture the essence of teas of the province in which they are grown.

Storage: We protect our investments. And never let food go waste. Airtight and opaque containers places far from heat sources, sunlight and moisture is the way to go.

Water: Start with fresh cold/room temperature water. Spring or filtered water recommended. Hard water can disrupt the flavour of the tea.

Amount of tea: I see various recommendations like one tablespoon per 8 oz of water, in most recipes. Loose leaves are hard to measure like that. Finer teas like Yerba Mate require much lesser amount. The experts correlate it to the surface area of the tea leaf and the size of the pot in which they are allowed to soak in. Trial and error maybe? Experiment to find the right amount. I used to drink Starbucks chai, before i discovered tea. It took me some time to get used to not having all the sugar and creamy texture of tea. Now, my taste buds really appreciate the subtle taste of tea without any add-ons.

Temperature of water: Tannins are chemical components in the tea (and wine) are responsible for how it tastes. The higher the temperature, the more that get released. The delicate leaves like the green ( 180F ) and white teas ( 175F ) require lower temperatures than their more processed counterparts. Black ( 205F ), Oolong ( 200F ) and Pu-erh( 195F ) require boiling water to best extract the flavours.

Brewing time: Attention needs to be paid to make sure the tea doesn’t get bitter (tannins release again). Steeping times depend on the delicateness of the leaves and the oxidation levels of the tea. Rule of thumb: white ( 1 min ), green ( 2 min), black ( 3-5 min ), oolong ( 3-5 min), herbal ( 5-7 min ), etc…

Number of infusions: You know what they say: The first infusion is to wash the dirt off the tea. The second is to really taste the tea. The third is light, but really contains the soul of the tea. True story. Infusions work for larger leaves than the finer ones. Steeping time can be longer for the later infusions.

Type of tea pot: Yixing teapots are crafted from special Yixing clay, also called “Purple Sand”, which contain micro air holes in the pot to keep the tea hot, longer. Cast iron pots are popular for their ability to keep the tea hot for long. Oh well, … the best pot is the one you got. I like cast iron for its beauty and longevity. Don’t want breakable pots that i have to keep replacing over my lifetime. A tea ball is fine too, but i like to let my tea leaves breathe and allow some movement.

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Now to the universal vague recipe. Preparing fine tea is very simple. But it does require some mindfulness and appreciation for what you are doing.

Step 1: It is recommended that you use a preheated teapot. ( Meh ! too pretentious i think )

Step 2: Add the recommended amount of tea leaves per cup.

Step 3: For black, yerba mate and oolong teas, bring fresh cold water to a roaring boil and pour it over the tea leaves. For white and green teas, use water that has just started to steam slightly. Or the water that has boiled and is starting to loose its energy.

Step 4: Follow the brewing time. Sit down and take deep breaths.

Step 5: Separate the leaves from the tea and serve. Save the tea leaves for the next infusion or the compost.

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       Mom: “What is there to write about tea?”

Me: “Read my blog”

Mom: “What are you doing research in? Tea? “

Me: “Where does curiosity end? Should it be confined to areas of life where we get paid for or are deemed as full time jobs?”

 

Want to meet other tea nerds? Here is a list i am compiling: Tony Gebely, TeaMuse, …

A few tea companies that i havent tried: Rishi Tea Company, Harney and Sons, Bellocq, Davidson’s Tea, Teavana, …

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