Thursday, February 09, 2017

100 book pact - 81 to 90

81/100 Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

A first-person account of a butler from a distinguished household, during a time when there aren't many left like him. The butler is out on a very rare road trip alone, and the story is told in a series of memories and flashbacks. I enjoyed this one.

82/100 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg

A middle-grade novel. An unusually narrated story of a brother and sister who run away from home for an unusual reason, and hide in an unusual place - the museum. Quite liked it.

83/100 The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

A story told through in the POV of a 9 yo boy called Bruno, who becomes friends with a boy in Auschwitz, on the other side of the fence.
I had to wait for nearly 6 months to get this book at the library, since there were that many people in line before me to read this book. I can't quite decide how to rate it. On one hand, it gripped me and chilled me, so I do understand why the book is so popular. On the other hand, there was an underlying sense of dissatisfaction that the events are unrealistic, and Bruno and his sister don't act their age at all in any way. I am all for an author taking some license with events and facts, but this, I felt, stretched it a little too much, and I kept saying, "Aw, come on, this can't possibly happen." (And I'm not talking about the finale.) It diluted the enjoyment for me.
"prince"

84/100 The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Set in the 1960s in Mississippi, this is a book told in the voices of three women - two black, one white. The black women are maids who work in the house of white women. It is a book about race and relationships.
One of those books that I just couldn't put down. I kept finding reasons not to sleep/work/exercise so that I could get back to this book. I think I'm more in awe at the writer's storytelling skills than anything else. She's done the three voices so well. She's got those characters fleshed-out beautifully.

85/100 The Maid of the North: Feminist Folktales from Around the World by Ethel Johnston Phelps.

You know how it is with fairy tales being full of damsels in distress whose only destiny is to get married? This book seeks to place before us stories from different cultures that satisfy everything that fairy tales need to - the magic, the fantasy, the adventure -- but the women here are smart, clever, and courageous. And if they happen to be beautiful, it is only because it is an essential part of the story. They are also independent, know their minds, and take charge of their own lives, not waiting for men to help, and sometime assist men too. And even men are more well-rounded here, without being limited to being "handsome" and "prince".

An interesting side-note: Puttachi had no idea that these were supposed to be women-centric and feminist stories -- she hadn't observed the title. Halfway through the book, when one of the female characters in a story was in trouble and there was a man who was worried about her, Puttachi said, "Ha, why is he worried? She can look after herself. Doesn't he realize that?" I am not sure if it is Puttachi's general opinion about the independence of women that made her say this, or whether, already conditioned by the tone of the stories that went before this, she had already accepted and internalized that the women in this book were capable of looking after themselves. If it is the latter, then that is why we need more books where women play strong roles. Women being strong and capable must not be looked upon as something to marvel about and comment upon -- just like a brave, strong hero is not considered an anamoly -- that is where we should be headed as a society.

The book is great to read aloud - it has a lyrical beauty, and it is simple. Also, it is complex enough to keep adults engaged, but not so dark as to make kids uncomfortable.

#100bookpact #100bookspact

86/100 Kunti's Confessions by Women's Web

https://www.amazon.in/Kuntis-Confessions-Other-Short-Stories-ebook/dp/B01NCSCXY2?ie=UTF8&keywords=kunti%27s%20confessions&qid=1485495608

Inspired by words from books by India's best women's authors, this bunch of 15 stories are funny, pensive, heart-warming and philosophical. They are stories of hope, strength and feminism in its various hues.
Most of them are well-written, especially if you consider that the writers are amateurs (Are they really? A short bio of each writer would have been nice! It would've inspired other aspiring writers!)
I agree with what Aparna, the editor of Women's Web writes in the introduction, "Reading these (stories) was a revelation as to how many talented writers exist today in India, and how many of them are unafraid to draw deeply upon the stories often hidden under the surface of women’s lives."
A big thumbs up to both Aparna and Sandhya Renukamba for putting these stories together. I hope there are more collections to come, and I hope that they get better and better.

87/100 Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino

A pageturner. Even though I had to make a list of all those dozens of Japanese names to keep track of all the characters, it didn't slacken my pace. I loved how the author creates all these inter-connected characters and reveals the pieces of the puzzle to us piece by delicious piece. And another thing I admired in the storytelling is how the author narrates the developing story of the main characters over the years, through the eyes of minor characters. Some of these minor characters fall by the wayside (sometimes, literally) and some go on till the end of the book, but that's a clever writing trick, and difficult to do well, I would think.

88/100 Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A true graphic memoir of a girl in Iran who lived through the Islamic revolution, through persecution, and through the Iraq war. Hard-hitting, informative. Witty, funny. Heart-breaking. Amazing.

89/100 Devi, Diva or She-Devil by Sudha Menon

My book review for Women's Web

90/100 How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Useful, practical, and generally common-sense advice on parenting. A good guide for interacting with others with kindness and understanding. Actually I think it will do us all a world of good if we read it and practice these suggestions with each other (as well as with children).

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Goodreads Author Page

Just wanted to share with you my Goodreads Author page.

If you've read The Secret Garden, would you mind leaving a review/rating here? The Secret Garden on Goodreads.

As for Avani and the Pea Plant, if you have not read it yet, you can read it online here - Avani and the Pea Plant on Storyweaver.

And once you're done reading it, could you hop over to Goodreads, and leave a rating for me here? Avani and the Pea Plant on Goodreads.

If you don't have a Goodreads account, I must tell you that it is a wonderful way to keep track of the books you read and the books your friends are reading. And it is free, and sign up is easy!


Monday, January 23, 2017

Giveaway of The Secret Garden

If you are still around and haven't given up on me due to the inactivity on my blog, here are two things I want to tell you:

1) I'm going to do a post-a-day on my blog soon, and make up for all the silence.

2) There's a giveaway of my book The Secret Garden happening on Indian Moms Connect. Here is the link (at the end of a lovely review).

One copy up for grabs in India, and one in the US. Do sign up!

More about The Secret Garden:

Why don't fig trees bear any flowers?
What is the relationship between a gigantic fig tree and a tiny fig wasp?
Why are hornbills such great parents?
And what does a hornbill have to do with fig trees and fig wasps?

Find answers to these questions and much more in The Secret Garden, an engaging book with beautiful illustrations and rib-tickling cartoons. The book tells you all about the fascinating relationships between living beings in nature, and why one cannot survive without the other.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

100 Book Pact - 71 to 80

71/100 The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Ellie's scientist-grandfather experiments on himself and turns into a young boy who is barely a couple of years older than her. As Ellie adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new (?) grandfather, she also learns about the immense possibilities of science, and about how far it can go - sometimes too far.
This book ticks a lot of boxes for me - it has science, open-mindedness, the importance of questions, strong female characters, cultural diversity -- it is even set in the Bay Area haha! So I should have liked this book better than I actually did. I have no explanation for that, though.
Appropriate for 10-14 ages, I think. Some of the ideas might be too much for younger readers to appreciate. Puttachi hasn't read it yet, so I can't say for sure.

72/100 Infinity Ring Book 1: A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner.
This is a series of books, each by different authors, about two children who live in a parallel universe, but keep going back in time to "breaks" in history, and try to set things right. In terms of literary merit, this doesn't have much going for it. But the storytelling and plot is exciting - just what a kid would want to grab and read. Puttachi is on the fourth book now, but I stopped at this one.

73/100 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Puttachi saw this in the library of a different county, and thought it looked interesting. After all, it is about a boy who wants dogs desperately, and she identified with him :) So I got it from our county library, and both of us tried reading it simultaneously. Billy Colson wants two coon hounds, so that he can hunt raccoons. The book speaks about a very different time and life, in rural America decades ago. The book is autobiographical, and is full of hunting and killing and skinning of raccoons. It does have a whole lot of dog-love and loyalty and friendship and bravery. But the hunting got a little too much. I had gone ahead in the story, and after one point, where there was a particularly gory incident, I told Puttachi to stop reading it, knowing her as I do. She agreed with alacrity, which probably means that she wanted to stop too. I ploughed on ahead and finished it, and can see why it is a classic, but I wouldn't recommend it in a hurry.

74/100 Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Rarely has a book been recommended to be by more people. And I can see why. Most (perhaps all) the people who suggested that I read it have read the English translation by Srinath Perur, which I've heard is very good. But I decided to read the Kannada original, because, well, why not?
It is the story of a middle-class family that attains sudden wealth. There are so many things to praise in this novella. The nuances. The details. The emotions. The depiction of the way that the nature of humans change, with variations in their fortunes. And the characters! So clear! And when they change, they do so true to their nature, making one wonder -- was that behaviour really surprising? Wasn't that characteristic present in them all this time? Didn't it just come out now, thanks to circumstances?
The sense of foreboding in the novel is a character in itself. Its presence is so slight that sometimes you wonder if it is even there. And then, the ending, which initially disappointed me. But as I dwelt on it and turned it over in my mind, I realized that this was the best ending that this story could have had. And this ending gave the story another layer. I simply have to read it again.
By the way, the Kannada book is actually a collection, and has other short stories of Vivek Shanbhag's. They are good too.

75/100 A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Short review: Absolutely loved it.
Long review: I'd placed a request on this book at the library, but knew it would be some time before I got it. So in the meantime, I got another book by him "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry", but I couldn't get through that one at all. I almost wondered if I should read A Man Called Ove after all. But I'm so thankful I did.
Ove is a grumpy man who isn't what he looks like. That's all I'd like to say about him without giving too much away. The shades and the layers in this character are phenomenally well-done. This is one of those books that gave me satisfaction in so many respects. I laughed, I cried (while reading it in public, and got strange looks), I was touched, I was inspired. And probably another reason I liked this so much that Ove is a lot like a certain man I know, and I had to stop reading at times in order to hold my tummy and laugh at, and appreciate the similarities.

76/100 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

After a long tussle about whether to continue reading the Harry Potter series to Puttachi, or wait until she is older, I caved in, and continued, partly because more and more of her peers are finishing the series and it is becoming nearly impossible to keep her away from spoilers.

We hurtled through the sixth book, thanks to things heating up in the story, and very often, I ended up with a strained and croaking voice, reading through long passages. As I write this review, we are already on the seventh book.

*Spoilers ahead*

For Puttachi, last week was a double disaster because, within a few hours, she went from 'What? Trump won?" to "What? Snape killed Dumbledore?"

Somehow, she has always been an ardent believer in Snape. ("I'm sure he is secretly good.") So she is deeply disappointed at the turn of events. Now I can't wait for her to find out that she wasn't wrong after all.

Here's to the final book!

77/100 The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schiltz

This is the diary of a girl who escapes drudgery on a farm, to go to Baltimore to work as a hired girl. She is employed by a Jewish family who is kind to her. A beautiful, sensitive book of growing up, discovery, feminism and freedom. This is a young adult book, but I think adults will appreciate it too. Too early for Puttachi, though.

78/100 The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

I like Allende's writing. Simple and flowing, and lyrical and deep. This book speaks about the many different kinds of love. Informative too - I didn't know much about Japanese internment camps before I read this.

79/100 The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain by Neil Gaiman

I haven't read anything by Neil Gaiman before, so I picked this up on a whim. It is a graphic novel, and the story itself is like a short story. I wasn't too crazy about the kind of illustrations, though I must say that some of them gave me creeps and I had to hide them with another book while I read the text. So they are effective, obviously, and definitely suit the text which is very dark and macabre. And yes I did like the story.
I almost gave it to Puttachi to read before I did - glad that I didn't. By no means is it for children.

We did it! My throat is raw, my jaw is stiff, but I just finished reading aloud to Puttachi -

80/100 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

With a lot of nail-biting and wide-eyed apprehension and tumbling around the floor with joy and excitement, Puttachi absorbed the final chapters. I had to take several breaks to choke back tears all through the book, with Puttachi waiting patiently or offering to take over when I couldn't continue.

Now I can finally sit back and relax, and not worry about stifling Harry Potter spoilers that seemed to be waiting in every corner, poised to spring out at her.

Once again -- especially now that I'm making feeble attempts at writing a short novel -- I am in awe of Rowling, her capacity for imagination and her painstaking detailed planning of this complex plot.

We started the first book 18 months ago, during our move from Bangalore to the Bay Area. And now it is done.

The question now is - what next?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

San Francisco

- Have I told you that I love San Francisco? Something about it. The charming houses, the juxtaposition of the old and the new and the weird, the skyscrapers, the graffiti, the sense of vastness, the crazy inclined roads.
- It has character, something that the suburbs -- even with their wide open spaces, and the hills (green now) and even though one such surburb is home to me -- don't have.
- Going to San Francisco is a sure-fire way to recall that I am in the US. Else, most of the time, I forget ;)
- I saw San Francisco in darkness for the first time this weekend. The night lights, the skyline with those lit windows - they drive me crazy with delight.
- A San Francisco winter evening is like being in a Christmas movie. Without the snow.


Thursday, December 01, 2016

Article in National Geographic Traveller India

Ever since I was a little girl, I've held National Geographic magazine in awe and respect, and so, imagine my delight to have an article published in the November issue of Nat Geo Traveller India.

You can read it on Page 32 here - https://issuu.com/11blabmagg655/docs/9scsdcs


Friday, October 28, 2016

Come and say hello at FSACC!



The Festival of South Asian Children's Content, presented by Indian Moms Connect is going to be held on Nov 5th, at ICC Milpitas, California. It promises to be an exciting event - do see the Facebook page and website for details.

I'll be reading from Avani and the Pea Plant at 11 am. I'll have with me little jars with pea plants in different stages of growth, for kids to see, and hopefully be inspired!

If all goes well, I'll also have lots of copies of The Secret Garden for sale. 

Do come over, and say hello! And get signed copies of my books! If you don't live around here, or cannot attend, please do share the event details with friends and family who might be interested.

The details of the event:

Venue: India Community Center, 525 Los Coches St, Milpitas, CA 95035

Date: Nov 5th 2015

My session: 11 to 11 30 am.

See you there!




Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Pact - 61 to 70

61/100 - The 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
An unusual story of a centenarian who decides to avoid his 100th birthday party at the senior home, and skips town, going on a long journey and leaving bodies and unbelievable stories in his wake. The story see-saws between the present and the old man's past as a bomb-maker who has participated in the major events of the world. The book was fun about half-way through. Then the novelty wore off, and I skim-read the rest of the book.

62/100 - A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy
Had never read anything by this author before, and I thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity and beauty of her words, and the amazing insight she has into human psychology. This was a collection of short stories, and I read them in bits over a long time, partly to savour them, and partly to not get muddled up over the narratives. I'm going to try her longer works next. Any recommendations?

63/100 - The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
I wasn't expecting this kind of a story when Puttachi pleaded with me to read this book. This is essentially a book about the beauty of nature, and the importance of bravery and friendship, with a little fairy protagonist, written with sensitivity and love by an author I have come to admire.

64/100 - The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A beautiful, moving story of a bookstore owner in a small town. Unlikely storyline, engaging narrative, and sympathetically written. Loved it.

65/100 - Writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg
One of the better books on writing that I've read. It is honest, encouraging, and kind. Halfway through the book, I was sure this was the best book I've ever read on the subject of writing, but towards the end, I changed my mind. Not the best, but among the better ones. Deserves a re-read.

66/100 This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
This is a collection of her published essays, essentially her memoirs. It contains one essay on writing, "The Getaway Car" which I would say is the one essay that any writer needs to read. It also has a foreword she wrote for "Best American Short Stories 2006" which talks of my favourite form of fiction - the short story. The rest of the essays are good too.

67/100 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
I read this one out to Puttachi over the summer. I don't remember reading this before at all, though I know I did. Phew, its a big book. On one hand, I kept thinking -- get on with it, enough with the description! And on the other hand I couldn't marvel enough at the depth and the width of her imagination. Rowling's success lies in this - that she has built this wide, believable world full of the tiniest details, allowing the reader to get completely immersed in it. And if anybody had ever told me that I would read such a big book out to somebody, I would have laughed at them. The things we do for our kids! To be honest, though, sometimes, my throat would get hoarse but we would be in the middle of an exciting thing, and then Puttachi would take over and read it out to me.
Anyway, it was fun, though ideally, I would have liked Puttachi to wait for some more years before she read the 5th, 6th and 7th books.

68/100 Criminal Tendencies: Great Stories by Great Crime Writers by Mark Billingham
I don't recall why I picked up this book. Was in a mood for crime (reading it, that's all) but wasn't in the mood for something long, I guess. Anyway, it was okay. A collection of stories by famous and emerging crime writers. Only about 3-4 stories among the 20 or so in the book were good.

69/100 The Charming Quirks of Others (Isabel Dalhousie series) by Alexander McCall Smith
Too meandering a story for my taste, and too much of pondering over ethics and morals. Besides I couldn't bring myself to like, or even tolerate Isabel Dalhousie, and it became worse after I found shades of Anne of Green Gables in her (of whom I'm not too fond). Yet, I ploughed through the book out of loyalty for the author, but halfway through, I just gave up and skimmed through to the end.

70/100 Swimming Lessons and other stories from Firozsha Baag, by Rohinton Mistry
I've been bowled over by Mistry's novels. They are dark and depressing but leave an indelible mark on your mind, and they always leave me with the feeling that I shouldn't have read them, and at the same time, that I'm glad I read them. I hadn't read these short stories of his, though, and they didn't appeal to me as much.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Spanish

It all started off, for me, with the yellow boards on recently cleaned floors, saying, "Cuidado: Piso Mojado" and in English, "Caution: Wet Floor".

I love languages, and when a new language constantly makes its presence obvious to me, I feel the need to learn it. Learning a new language is like being able to get a glimpse into another world.

In many public places here in California, there are boards in both Spanish and English, and for me, it was but a natural progression to want to learn Spanish.

Duolingo came to the rescue. It is free, and fun and convenient. Both the website and the app are great to learn from. Puttachi and I have been learning Spanish together over the summer.  It's exciting to recognize words written in Spanish on boards, and to guess what the notice is about, without having to look at the English version.

It cracks both of us up when we speak like this - "It's going to be cold manana, so don't forget to take your chaqueta azul, and I'm going to cut manzanas and put quesa in your emperadado for el desayuno" :)

It doesn't have Indian languages yet, but I read that Hindi will be added early next year.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Avani and the Pea Plant on Storyweaver

You can now read Avani and the Pea Plant online in English, Hindi and Marathi.

Read it here.

Share it with the little ones in your life, please! And I would love, love, love feedback!! :)

Roald Dahl's stories for adults

Here's a piece I wrote for Scroll.in, on Roald Dahl and his stories for adults.

Read it here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Olympics

The Olympics has the power to move me to tears, and a lot of it flowed in the past two weeks.
Those emotions on display.
Those remarkable, beautiful bodies - fit, ready, and tuned to reach great heights.
That grit, the determination.
The thought of all the hard work of these athletes through the years, all for this single moment.
The sacrifices and dedication of the unseen forces behind the athletes.
The thought of those who couldn't make it so far.
It is a sobfest. And the end of the Olympics is always bittersweet - I'm glad that I witnessed another Olympics, but there is a wistfulness that I've to wait another four years for the next Summer Olympics.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Pratham's Storyweaver

Puttachi had been learning Hindi in her school in India, and she was about to start learning the Kannada alphabet when we moved here. So I taught her the Kannada alphabet myself during the break that she had between schools in India and the US. I didn't want her to forget the Hindi alphabet, and I wanted to make her more familiar with the Kannada alphabet. So whenever we have a few minutes, she chooses a Level 1 story on Pratham's Storyweaver platform, in either Hindi or Kannada, and she reads it aloud. It is working really well. Just wanted to share this with anybody else who might be looking for something like this.

Note: Since this is an open platform, some of the translations and stories are by members of the community, and the language/grammar might not always be top-notch. Check before you let your child read it. (It is indicated on the book whether it is a Pratham original, or by a community member.)

The weather here

The weather here is weird. You never know when it will change. Just because it is hot now doesn't mean that it will stay hot. I never go out without a jacket handy even if it is sweltering hot, because by the time I come back in two hours, I might be frozen. And if I'm walking in the shade, I'll need a sweater, and if I step out in the sun, I'll need to peel it off. And yesterday, I needed sunscreen and a jacket at the SAME time. All I can say is "Whaaat?"

And of course it doesn't help that I'll need a jacket if I enter a store like Trader Joe's or Sprouts, especially near the frozen foods section. It is not fun lugging around a jacket everywhere you go, I can tell you that.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Portola Valley Redwood Park

I've talked about my previous experience with Redwoods before.

This time, we were careful to choose a shorter hike, especially because I had a hamstring injury last year, which affected me pretty badly. It has healed now, but I didn't want to take any risks. But the experience was as good, and the redwoods still hold me in thrall.

The redwoods, to me, feel like they are giants, benevolent ones, who stand tall and look at us puny creatures with a mixture of loftiness and compassion. I feel they are just standing there, leaning against each other, arms crossed, perhaps. Sometimes I even feel like I am intruding upon their privacy. I know, I am probably nuts, but then that's how they make me feel -- like they are real.


The roots of a fallen tree

Old Tree - 1200 years old, and 12 ft in diameter

Old Tree soaring into the clouds




Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley

Perhaps not as glamourous and flashy as the Exploratorium in San Francisco, but the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley is a place where you and your kids can spend an entire day. There are a limited number of installations, but there's so much you can do with them! We caught a show at the 3D auditorium (Tiny Giants) and the planetarium (How far are things in the universe.)

Also, the views from the place are spectacular!

In the foreground is the University of Berkeley, and across the bridge, you can see San Francisco. Being inside a big city like San Francisco is one thing, but looking at the same city from a distance is quite another thing. It gives me goosebumps. As the day wore on, the fog receded, and we could see the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz too.





Looking for a song - in the previous century

In this age, when any song you wish to listen to is a click away, and when you have software that can find out the name of a song for you if you just hum a few bars to it, it seems like an eon ago when you had to bend over backwards if you wanted to listen to a certain song.

It was just before the advent of the internet. I felt a strong urge to listen to the male version of the song Tujhse Naaraaz Nahin Zindagi from Masoom. I tried humming it to myself for a few days, but when the longing didn't subside, I asked a few friends if they "have" the song. ["Have the song"! The phrase sounds so awkward now!] They didn't, and so I decided to go to the shop and buy a cassette with the song. [Go to the shop to buy music! And a cassette!]

I had to search in more than two or three shops before I found the song in a Gulzar collection - it was a double cassette, but I bought it. I had to go elsewhere after that and so I had to put off listening to it [One had to go home to listen to a song, unless you had a Walkman on you!]

Finally, I got home, tore off the plastic laminate wrapper, and put the cassette into the player. I fast-forwarded  to the song. [One had to fast forward or rewind, and it took some trials to get to the right spot! Couldn't go straight to the song!]

Finally! I thought, and pressed the Play button. And paused with anticipation . . .  and it turned out to be the female version of the song, which I don't like at all.

The frustration!

We have it so good now!





Thursday, June 30, 2016

In praise of the hills

Living in a city that is lined by hills that you see anywhere you go, it is natural to come to think of them as home. It was brought home to me when, a few months into this country, we were driving back from San Francisco, and the moment these hills came into view, even though we were miles away from home, I felt, "We're home." And it was then that I realized how much these hills have become  a part of me -- one of those things I know I'll miss when we leave.

For most of the year, these hills are full of grass that is yellow or brown or golden depending on the season or the time of the day. They wave in the breeze, and the hills look stunning against the bright blue sky.




But come winter, and the hills start turning green. It is a hazy green at first, something like moss on the ground just after a rain.




And then they become rich green, a verdant, pure colour that makes the heart skip a beat. So beautiful that sometimes I cannot trust myself to drive on the freeway that meanders through these hills. So beautiful, that several times, I have asked S to just take the car and drive a couple of miles on the freeway just so that I can sit in the passenger seat and look at the hills and absorb as much of the beauty as I can without having to worry about changing lanes or bother about speed limits.






And just as you think it cannot get any more beautiful, winter comes to an end, the rains cease, and the hills start looking like clothes that have been out in the sun too long. They fade, ever so slightly at first, making you wonder if your eyes are just playing tricks on you. And as the jackets and woollen socks come off, and your clothes get lighter, the hills become lighter, but they make up by pushing up thousands of wild flowers of various hues.



And then, before you know it, the sun bleaches the grass and you are left with shades of yellow, green and brown.




But you know that it is just a matter of days before it is gone and the long months of dry brown and yellow grass is back.

And you look back with fondness at that dark green of winter and wonder how you will get through the dreary summer months of beige, and yet, when the hills are yellow and brown again, the waves of yellow grass rippling in the wind make your heart lighter again, and you think -- I'll be just fine.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sonoma

This weekend, we'd been to Sonoma. We went to 2-3 wineries, and to downtown Sonoma, which is historically interesting and significant. General Vallejo's garrison was here, and the Sonoma barracks, which is an adobe structure, is still standing, and has several rooms full of museum displays that speak of the history of the place.  A couple of links here and here

A volunteer dressed as a Mexican soldier from the early 1850s showed us how to fire a musket. As he described the parts of the musket and explained how to load it with gunpowder, I saw that within 5 minutes, he had used about 4-5 terms that have come into regular English usage - "lock, stock and barrel." "Don't go to barrel with your gun half-cocked," etc. And did you know what a ramrod is?I certainly hadn't thought about it -- It is a rod used to ram the gunpowder down the barrel of the musket! And the volunteer also told us that a good soldier would be able to fire three shots a minute. Just three shots!

Some pics:
Grapes in a vineyard

Can you spot the frog?

The historic Toscano hotel, Sonoma. This place
was right out of a Western movie.

Servants' quarters, early 1800s

The kitchens, early 1800s


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