Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial day weekend: Lassen-Mt.Shasta-Crater lake

The pictures come first

Our Van-

Lassen Volcanic Natl. Park-

Sulphur peaks

Sundial Bridge at Turtlebay

Tree house inside the Botanical garden at Sundial bridge-
Crater Lake,OR snow covered

Shasta Caverns

We were 4 couples who rented a 12 seater passenger van, kudos to the guys for driving the huge vehicle through snow, hail and rain. It was a lot of fun with the girls taking the credit for all the variety food that was cooked and packed for this 3 day trip.

Day 1- Our first stop on Saturday morning was at Lassen Volcanic National park, which was for the most part closed due to the heavy covering of snow. We made a brief stop at the sulphur peaks, the geothermal area where a pungent odour of sulphur was emanating from the peaks. Took a lot of photos and boarded the van and headed out to Turtlebay and Sundial bridge spots on our way past Redding into Shasta.

The sundial bridge as its name, is an architectural bridge shaped like a "harp" musical insutment with strings attached. The walkway was beautiful and ended at the botanical gardens area. Highlights were several varieties of plants, flowers, a bamboo made treeh house, fountains etc. A very serene place which was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Day 2- We drove from the Coldcreek Inn (where we were staying with more friends, Sundar's family and Balaji's family where also doing the trip) to Crater Lake, Oregon. We drove through Klamath National forest and Winema national forests and the scenary was spectacular along the 3 hour drive. Crater lake, as many would agree, is breathtaking in all its shape and beauty. The lake and surrounding area was snow covered and added a Christmas postcard quality to the visit. After a sumptous south indian meal (thanks to the girls), snow fights and several photo sessions followed suit.

Our late afternoon stop was at a small town Ashland in Oregon (again thanks to Sundar for sharing about this place). We spent sometime walking along one of the trails in Lythia Park (that has a river running along thw alking trail abd is full of greenery on either sides). We ate at the Deep Indian cuisine restaurant (hot north indian food) which was owned by Mr.Deep, a former Bay area restaurant guy. We drove back after a tiring, but, exciting day to our Shasta inn.

Day 3- After saying goodbyes to the Sundars and Balajis, we checked out and drove to the Bunny flat trailhead to have a glimpse of Mt.Shasta. A few pictures later, we were driving along the winding roads on our way to Shasta caverns. A boat ride followed by a 15 minute bus tour to the cavern entrance and a 1 hour tour of the caverns was time well spent. The lively tour guide Julie was a major attraction to the guys and showed us the caverns well. The interior of the caverns were filled with stalagmites and stalactites (conical shaped sturctures) and the cathdreal room was filled with them was the highlight of the tour. Due to lack of time, we had to miss visiting McArthur Burney falls and Shasta dam. After a lunch stop at Subway, we arrived back at Bay area on Monday evening.

A good trip with lots of driving (1100 miles approximately), nature attractions, great food and most importantly in the company of friends was a long weekend well spent.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I am Chatty and Nice....

Thanks to Sundar ( and A-kay ('ve bestowed upon me the "I'm Nice" and "I'm Chatty" awards respectively.

Being Nice Award- This award is given to those that are just nice people , good blog friends and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration! Those that care about others that are there to lend support or those that are just a positive influence in our blogging world!" (quoted from Sundar). He gives me this award for always encouraging him to blog.

While I've had my own share of disappearances in the blog world that can only be attributed to laziness and lethargy, not to mention, occasional lack of quality topics to blog about. I've always felt the comments from fellow bloggers is a huge inspiration to continue blogging on a regular basis. While, that has been my pep-up factor to blog as often as possible, it has also made me visit the blogs of others and see the variety of topics that they have to share with the blog world.

I'm Chatty Award- This award is given to someone with whom a good cup of tea can be combined along with a good chat. I can't think of receiving this award from anyone more appropriate than A-Kay. While, we first started posting comments on each other's blogs, we felt the need to know more about the other person (there was a strong feeling that we shared a lot in common). What followed suit were a bunch of back and forth emails in 24-48 hrs between A-kay and me to discover more about each other. We found out that we live in the same city, our husbands share the same last name, we are both DINKS couple, South Indians etc. If this can't be attributed to chatty, I can't think what else would qualify.

I am so happy to receive both these awards from fellow blogger pals and would like to pass them to others in this virtual community whose blogs I think would qualify in these genres.

I'm Nice Award is being passed on to :

Na_an ( -For always being nice, known this person since college. Also, welcome this new comer to the blog world and to blog more.

Aparna ( For being one of my early blog readers when I first started blogging.

Laksh ( A blog space that fosters healthy group discussion topics.

I'm Chatty award is being passed on to:

Sachita ( For expressing profound ideas and being so chatty (another college pal)

Cham ( Another award to add to her kitty, thank you for being the first person to comment on my blog most of the times.

Sundar ( For being the chatter and conversationist he always is and will be.

Thank you bloggers...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Small Joys in Life

Everyone of us have small joys and happiness that we get out of life from time to time. There are also small wishes and things that happen to make your day seem more brighter and worth living for. Today was one such day for me. With the upcoming long Memorial day weekend, dear husband has taken a couple of additional vacation days off to stay home and relax. While, I am waking up to take the 7:30 am train and get to work, he gets to sleep in.

On an impulse, I invited him to drive up to my work place for lunch this afternoon. We've done lunch "dates" (to give it a special name) before on occasion when K has driven up to meet me for lunch. I took the shuttle to meet him at California Pizza Kitchen ASAP in the Shopping Center. It was a nice feeling to meet up for lunch, definitely a change from the routine eating at the desk habit for me and also felt different for us to meet up in the middle of a working day for a meal. Given, that the day is nice and sunny, only added to the happiness I felt.

Incidentally, at work (I work in an academic setting), our Diversity & Access Office and HR Services along with the different cultural groups was throwing a Multicultural Springfest 2008. This is an annual event celebrating the University's staff and its diversity. Some of the actively participating diverse groups are the African-American staff group, American Indian staff forum, Asian staff forum, Filipino-American community, Disability staff forum, La Raza staff association and the Queer University employees group etc. The springfest includes free music, entertainment, art displays, FREE FOOD, t-shirts and raffle prizes for all staff.

After lunch, we drove to the Multicultural springfest, had some dessert (pineapple upside down cake-yum), got some free t-shirts and mugs after which he dropped me back in the office.

What a nice way to break the routine office, back to work.

Have a great long weekend.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Fightful Weekend- Mistakes Made and Lessons Learnt

This was one of those weekends where I ended up fighting with one of my good girl friends. What started out as a dull conversation, due to a misunderstanding, soon became an atomic blow-up and my behavior played a significant role in worsening the situation.

Little did I realize that an innocent phone conversation, that was supposed to make plans for a weekend outing would turn out to be so conflicting. While it has been a few years since I got so riled up and exhibited tendencies and behavior worthy of a kinder gardner, nevertheless, it made me feel that in some ways, I still haven't matured or learnt to behave wiser. When I see conflict with another person, instead of trying to avoid blowing it up or atleast withdrawing, forget even making peace, I charge ahead like a firm headed bull (so typical of my taurean nature) and say a lot of hurtful things about the person on the other end. And, I do all this with a raised voice filled with emotional tension and anger, which only adds more negative impact to the situation. What starts out as an angry outburst proceeds full blast into a blameful tirade, where I bring out all the past issues from several incidents, that probably, don't have relevance to the current issue at hand and what I have is a classic recipe for a snowball fight.

I have very less thought on the outcome of this, on what would happen to damage the relationship I have with the friend and other parties concerned. I am only concerned about getting my pent up complaints out, I think this is a good opportunity to pile up all I have against this person at one shot, without pausing to think even for a second, as to how shocked and hurtful the other person might be feeling because of this sudden outburst. Also, in this case, when the friend was dealing with family issues etc., it makes me feel so bad about myself. I couldn't have picked a wronger time to have this brawl with her.

In essence, here are all the things I didn't do during this fight and have never been able to do during conflict situations-

Didn't stay cool and talk calmly
Played the Blame Game
Got trapped into another fight

While, my friend handled the situation way more maturedly and took the first step in apologizing, she also pointed out my flaws in a manner that was way less hurtful than what I did to her and got me thinking more about my behavior. While we both have a long history and also share a common environment and will be seeing each other often, there is definitely a black mark hole that I've created in this friendship. I hope that I have it in me to things better for us, if not completely normal. While, its very much in my nature to not let bygones be bygones, I really wish that I am able to change that (for my own betterment) and put this episode behind us and move forwward. I am sure that furture conflicts between us will come up, but, I will try and make a conscious attempt to not bring up the old fight or the emotions I felt during it. I also hope to treat her with more sensitivity in the future and when conflicts come up, would rather take care of them right away, rather than letting them build into the kind of fights that can do real damage to the friendship.

Genuine Friendship

By Srimathi Raman

Genuine friends are hard to find.
Friends may not be of the same kind.
Wave lengths need to match.
They belong to life’s greenest patch.
Their nature may differ.
The thoughts will concur.
This ‘friendly’ bond is its own pride.
All other bonds’ envy.
Birth of friendship is not out of compulsion.
This is the specialty of this relation.
True feelings shared are beyond compare.
This makes a genuine friend so rare.
Transparency maintained is super-duper.
Gossips can never hamper.
This has no space for hear says.
Differences do happen; also sorted are these.
There is no place for mediator.
Need for mediation demands a preponderor.
This need reveals the fallacy.
The bond is affected by palsy.
Real friendship is very healthy.
This survives only with the ‘worthy’.
Rareness is the challenge to this relation.
Commonly found is cheap imitation.

Friday, May 09, 2008

To Grandmothers, Mothers and Mothers-in-law

With Mother's Day coming up on Sunday, what better time to pen my memories and experiences with the older female generation. As most know and would agree, mothers are an integral part of our lives, they've shaped us into who we are today and are still and will continue to strive for our best, no matter how ever old we grow. I still see my Ammamma (grandmother) play an active part in my mother's life and how attached the two of them are. A maternal instinct, mother country, mother nature etc. are all expressions that are used to attach the feminine attributes that a mother posseses with other things.

While everyone has individual experiences with their mother, my experiences with my mother are special to me. Being an only child, all my mother's dreams have always centered around me. I was raised by my mother's parents (grandparents) a lot, during my early years (which is quite common coming from India)and also until college etc. hence, I share a unqiue relationship with Thatha and Ammamma, as well. My mother was a working woman, who strived hard to balance the pressures of work and home life. She worked for almost 20 years in the insurance industry, was well respected and loved by her colleagues (fondly known as "BJ" at her office). During her career, she studied and passed several insurance exams to her credit. All this was while I was in school, she made sure I was well taken care of when she worked and never made me feel neglected. I would always find a hotpack full of food when I came home from school in the afternoons and of course, she would also wake up in the mornings and pack me a different lunch/snack for school. My mom took voluntary retirement (VRS) when I was in college to be with me, before I decided to apply for graduate school in the US after my undergrad. Those were some of the best times when I would find her at home with a hot tiffin after I came home from college.

There are many traits in my mom, that I haven't inherited, but admire whole-heartedly. I love her sense of humor (she can be funny at times), her smell (she always, always smells great), and the way she keeps her life busy and meaningful. She can get hooked to stock trading sometimes and pursues her passion. She is very religious and has the discipline to do pujas, say slokams etc. I love her studious nature, even now, if she sets her heart upon writing an exam, she will succeed. I wish that rubbed off more on me ):

Moving on to mothers-in-law, they come in all shapes and sizes and make interesting personalities to study. We have the good types and the not so good types, again it depends on our perspective as to how we view them. I can't help but like the mother-in-law "Marie" in my favorite Everybody loves Raymond and watch the sparks between her and the daughter-in-law Debra. While, my mother-in-law and I don't have sparks like that, we sure do have something nice and different.

To all grandmothers, mothers and mothers-in-law, let mother's day not be the only time when you are remembered and talked about and thank you all that you do.

Grandmothers are mothers who are grand
By:Turlough O'Carolan

Grandmothers are mothers who are grand,
Restoring the sense that our most precious things
Are those that do not change much over time.
No love of childhood is more sublime,
Demanding little, giving on demand,
More inclined than most to grant the wings
On which we fly off to enchanted lands.
Though grandmothers must serve as second mothers,
Helping out with young and restless hearts,
Each has all the patience wisdom brings,
Remembering our passions more than others,
Soothing us with old and well-honed arts.

Everything Mom
By: By Joanna Fuchs

How did you find the energy, Mom
To do all the things you did,
To be teacher, nurse and counselor
To me, when I was a kid.

How did you do it all, Mom,
Be a chauffeur, cook and friend,
Yet find time to be a playmate,
I just can’t comprehend.

I see now it was love, Mom
That made you come whenever I'd call,
Your inexhaustible love, Mom
And I thank you for it all.

Star Mother-In-Law
By: By Joanna Fuchs

Some mother-in-laws are possessive;
Their child they still want to own.
My mother-in-law’s love is like sunlight;
On both of us it shone.

Some mother-in-laws put you down;
They think you’re not good enough.
My mother-in-law shows approval,
Affection, and other good stuff.

Some mother-in-laws interfere;
They think that they know best.
My mother-in-law lets us be;
She’s better than the rest.

And so I just want to thank you
For being who you are;
As a mother-in-law, you’re a star!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Greens Restaurant- A Unique Panfare in SFO

We went to a vegan place called "Greens restaurant" located in the Fort Mason area in SFO for my birthday dinner last night. The restaurant itself is located in the barracks in the Fort Mason area and is a converted warehouse that boasts of lavish wood work and a subdued interior decor. Unfortunately, we didn't know before to reserve a table with a view of the Marina, though, I was prudent enough to call ahead during the day to make reservations for the night. If you do go, remember to make an advance reservation, since this is a popular place in the city.

The staff at Greens were very courteous and the crowd that came to the restaurant seemed so typical of San Francisco, an eclectic mix of several nationalities. The menu has some unique dishes, both under the appetizers and entrees. We had a dish called the Mesquite Grilled Brochettes - skewers of mushrooms, peppers, garnet yams, fennel, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and marinated tofu with charmoula and served on cherry-pistachio couscous. The couscous was like the tamil version of "javvuarisi" and tasted really good. We also had a thai red curry with cashew jasmine rice and mango mint chutney that was also delicious. The dishes had an organic fervor to them and one can taste the freshness of the ingredients and the delicately flavored spices.

We later learned that the chef Anne Somerville specifically designed the menu for vegan taste buds and a lot of the organic produce used in the cooking comes from a Green Gulch farms in the Marin headlands.

Lastly, the dishes seem a little too pricey $16-$25 for entrees and the portions are medium.

Greens was indeed a unique eating experience in the city and will be a nice dining venue for special occasions.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes, that wonderful second day in May that comes once a year is here again. It is that day where you are greeted by each phone call or email or card telling you that you are a whole year older in just one day!

The day started off with K getting me something I've wanted for a while now, amidst other things...a basketball and a net/hoop (yet to come) to shoot baskets at home. Who says shooting baskets is restricted to teen-agers, ha ha! No surprises though, since I've learnt over the years to tell him what exactly it is I want for a present to make both of us happy. Watching the NBA in full-action at this time of the year, this definitely is something that will keep my spirits up.

At work, in my role as HR, as part of employee morale, I usually send out birthday cards for employee birthdays (signed by the entire department) and also hang up decorations,etc. in their office. This year, the group had gotten a card for me and everyone signed it and gave it to me.

I've picked a restaurant in San Francisco for dinner tonight, a vegan place in Fort Mason that was recommended by K's colleague. Looking forward to the evening and also to sample some of the unique dishes from their menu (will surely blog about the eating experience). Of course, a stop at Ghirardelli square for dessert will follow.

I will just say that with this birthday not only am I accepting turning a year older, but what I'm really celebrating is a year full of learning experiences both at home and at work, new acquaintances, continued old friendships, increased physical activity and eating and more frequent blogging - and all the wonderful contacts I've made through this little page.