Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My experiments to create a classic French dessert!

So today I was determined to start with my Buche De Noel (Yule Log) project. It was postponed from the 24th because of my strained back. I am not sure why, but something about this dessert intrigues me. It is a very difficult dessert to tackle. More like a challenging task. Maybe, that's why I am hell bent on getting it right.

Lately, I have been baking a lot. I baked a Christmas cake and gifted it to my family on the 25th. I made a classic cheesecake, which came out so well that I called it little pieces of heaven. :) My molten lava cake experiment also turned out to be delicious, although I was skeptical about the chocolate oozing out. However, the chocolate did ooze out and it was like seeing a science experiment work!

Cooking is one of my passions and baking is something I can do all day and not get tired of it. Trying out new recipes is one of my favorite pastimes these days. I baked a loaf of French bread and made garlic bread out of it. Talking about bread, I always thought of it as one difficult item to make from scratch. Anyways, the taste of the garlic bread was good and I was happy. The confidence I got made me try rosemary breadsticks too, which also turned out to be tasty.

Back to the Buche De Noel, which is an important part of the French Christmas tradition. I have been reading about this recipe for about a month now. That's another part of my baking process. I like to do a lot of research before actually working on any recipe. This way, I will be prepared for any unforeseen problems and the final product will be edible and tasty. :) So, my Buche de Noel has five main steps to it.

Step 1

Marzipan Mushrooms and decorations

Step 2

Mocha Buttercream

Step 3

Genoise Sheet

Step 4

Cream Filling

Step 5

Assembling the log

The Genoise sheet is the cake, which will be rolled with the cream filling inside and then frosted with mocha butter cream on the outside. The marzipan mushrooms and pinecone decorations will surround the final assembled cake. Today, I completed the first two steps. The mocha butter cream is set and is inside the fridge along with the marzipan. I am making this dessert one step at a time, so I don't injure my back again. Hmm, I can feel a pinch of pain in my neck already. Hope N does not read this. If he does, he is sure to get upset with me for not taking rest.

That reminds me, N Is not well and is down with fever. So, our Christmas feast and dessert is pushed to the 30th, which gives me more time for assembling the Buche De Noel. Hoping to finish the Genoise Sheet and cream filling tomorrow.

To be continued….

Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Here I come!

So, here I am back again from a long hiatus. To sum up the events in the last 2 months; I completed my internship successfully. I attended some more interviews but have not received any offers yet. I applied for at least 50 jobs. I watched some interesting movies like ‘Avatar’, ‘Three Idiots’, ‘The Blindside’, ‘Julie and Julia’, ‘Inglorious Basterds’, and ‘Die Hard 1,2 & 3’. My Christmas was just okay due to a strained upper back resulting in excruciating pain throughout. Nevertheless, I still sat through ‘3 Idiots’ because of the amazing movie it is. My Buche De Noel (Yule log dessert) Project is still pending because of my back pain. Our Christmas dinner was postponed to 28-29 of December. I did not attend any of the Christmas family get togethers. In summary, I am still jobless and hoping for a positive New Year to change N’s and my fortune.

I have always been a very positive person, however, lately I am just getting tired of this job hunt. To go trough the entire interview, test, and presentation process and still not receive an offer is very much disappointing and frustrating. However, all these feelings change immediately when I get a call for the next interview. I am hopeful again and I do my best. N keeps telling me that whoever gets to interview after me, for the same job ends up getting the job because I change his/her luck. In fact if I look at the previous interviews I attended and lost, from the feedback received, maybe he could be right. If that is true, what an irony it is!

2009 was not a great year for N and me. There were downfalls, lessons learnt and misfortunes. Here’s hoping that 2010 would bring a new, better chapter in our lives.

I wish my readers and friends a very happy and prosperous New Year. May the year 2010 bring you joy and keep you in good health!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TIFF volunteering-an attractive option for moviegoers!

This post is the continuation of the previous one.

So, like I said the whole TIFF was a wonderful experience for me. I enjoyed watching the movies while volunteering and afterwards. I also met interesting volunteers. And, of course the celebrities. After getting to see them so closely, I realized one thing. It is a very difficult life for them. They are constantly on the receiving end of the media glare. They have to look good on the red carpet, dress well and even abide to the fans; sign autographs, watch the movie with the audience and finally answer questions.
However, most of them seem to enjoy it. They stay on the red carpet for a while trying to be friendly, enjoying with the usual massive crowd that gather hours before they actually arrive. Like one great example is George Clooney or even Rani Mukherji. As a volunteer, when I was assigned to the red carpet, I could feel the stares from the crowd. It is like I had won a lottery. :)

On my first night of volunteering, it was cold to be outside and I was tired since I went straight from work. I had no jacket and was shivering due to strong winds. I was almost beginning to regret being near the red carpet, when David Miller stopped by. He waved to us and had a quick chat too, after which he offered us chocolates. Well, I am not a big fan of the Mayor but when he stops by, thanks us for our volunteering services to the city of Toronto and offers chocolates, I think he has an admirer in me. :) I was given an opportunity to watch the movie since the work gets done before the movie begins. I opted out and went home instead happily clutching my first volunteer voucher.

All I had to do was four shifts. I am not sure what it was that made me sign for eight instead. Four shifts were mandatory to get admission to the volunteer party after the festival ends, which was rumored to be great. Anyways, on the days that I worked, I tried to do different jobs each day. Red carpet, anti piracy, balcony, mezzanine, ballots, rush line, reserved seating adds up to all the duties I performed. I ended up watching most of the movies while on duty except for few which were sold out. There was an odd policy at Roy Thomson Hall. The representative would not allow the volunteers to watch the first movie if the shift covered two movies so I missed out on some of the ones I was looking forward to. ‘The Invention of Lying’, ‘Love and its Impossible Pursuits’, ‘Cooking with Stella’ got great reviews but I missed out.

In terms of venue, the Elgin theatre was the best. I loved the volunteering experience there. The theaters, Elgin and Winter Garden are more than 100 years old. Both are beautiful in terms of grandeur and heritage. The Winter garden looks better as it really had a garden look inside with real trees. Last year ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was screened in the Winter Garden Theatre and that’s when the movie received its first positive review and went on to later win the TIFF People’s Choice Award.

I almost forgot to mention this. I stood right next to Rani Mukherji when she came to the Mezzanine C2 pod to watch her movie in Roy Thomson Hall. She looked great but kind of shorter and thinner than how she is in the movies. I was working in Mezzanine that day and was happy to see her. In the whole 15 minutes I was there with her, I wanted to talk to her but did not want to look unprofessional since I was working.

The extra shifts left me with one voucher that I could not use before the festival ended. I missed the volunteer party because I could not collect the party ticket due to excessive shifts and also I totally forgot. :) So, next time I have got to make sure that I work only maximum 6 shifts and I attend the volunteer party too. I am glad that I volunteered for TIFF as it really was fun and enjoyable. All in all an amazing experience and I hope to definitely do it again. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

September-One eventful month..

The month of September passed so fast for me. It was a busy month, with me juggling work, events and job search simultaneously. We celebrated Onam in the first week of the month. I volunteered for the 'Toronto International Film Festival’ for the next two weeks and in the midst of all this, continued my internship too. That reminds me, I will complete two months in my internship in few days and I just cannot believe it still. Time just flew. One more month to go and I am already feeling nervous. Hopefully I will end up getting a full time job somewhere soon.

Onam was as usual. Getting together with family, ofcourse there are lots of them; mainly my extended family. I wore the traditional Kerala sari and also savored the Onam Sadiya. The best part was eating it in the banana leaf and serving the food items to the elders, once all the children were finished with eating. You see, I am still considered a child and seated with all the children. :)

The best part of the events was the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). I never imagined the vast extent to which it is popular and prestigious to Canada and the entire film fraternity. The festival started on September 10 and lasted for 10 days. During the course of the festival, I volunteered most of the days at Roy Thomson Hall, which was the most prestigious venue for TIFF. On the opening night ceremony, it struck me. I was from then onwards going to not only be able to watch some of the best movies but also see international celebrities, and have fun and enjoy.

Each time I volunteered, I received vouchers as reward points. Sometimes I even got more than one depending on the number of hours, which could be redeemed to watch movies in TIFF. N made the best use of the vouchers. He watched almost 10 movies. The movies I watched are Agora (Spain), Soul Kitchen (German), Dil Bole Hadippa (India), Cracks (Ireland), The Waiting City (Australia), London River (France), Rec 2 (Spain), Whats your Rashee (India), Road Movie (India), Precious (USA), Enter the Void (France). Out of the list, I really enjoyed Soul Kitchen the best. I watched it with N and both of us were glad that we went for it. It is a German movie about a chef trying to manage his restaurant in his most troubled times. The best part of tiff movies is the variety of movies you can get exposed to. These foreign movies do not get a theatrical release here and very rarely gets a dvd release too. And the part I cherished was watching all these movies on the big screen in the most beautiful theaters for free. :)

To be continued….

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another birthday passes by

On August 14, I turned 27. I remember last year, I was feeling uncomfortable and jumpy about turning 26. However, this year I am very much enjoying the aging part. As long as I look and feel younger than my age, does anything else matter? :)

I did not have to go to work as I work only from Monday to Thursday. It was a nice day, well spent with family and I enjoyed every bit of it. For lunch we went to Moxie’s. If you ask me one restaurant where we have frequented the most, it would be Moxie’s. It is a nice fine dining place, where you get amazing steaks and service according to N. Whenever we are there, he orders the blackened New York steak and I order the chicken tenders tangi thai style. After I lost my job, we stopped going there. That itself is a big achievement staying away from the one restaurant we both love to go.

The server gave my favorite dessert ‘white chocolate brownie’ complimentary after knowing that it was my birthday. Check out the pictures.

In the evening we went to my dad’s place. He was having a barbecue to celebrate my birthday and that was really fun. Check out the picture.

Now coming to the most important part, which is the cake. I know this might sound a little odd but I baked my own birthday cake. It was a vanilla sponge cake with a butter cream frosting. Actually that cake was for my sister too since her birthday was on August 6. So there you see. :)

The cake came out well. Even the frosting part of it tuned out to be a success. I even decorated the cake. The credit for the sponge cake should actually go to Jenny field. Her emphasis on the creaming method really made a big difference, when it came to getting the moist and tender texture that melts in your mouth. A single slice was so light that I did not even feel conscious of having such a big piece. And the credit for the success of the frosting should go to Ashley. Her upside down frosting technique really made the cake look professional. However, I guess the cake shifted and lost a little bit of the decoration on transit from my place to my dad's. Check out the picture.
I wish I had a better picture to post. After all that work on the cake, I was exhausted and forgot to take any pictures.

It took me long hours to have the cake ready but everyone loved the cake and I was showered with compliments. Well, who does not like compliments? :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A much awaited wish comes true!

I actually had this earnest wish for 6 years now. To donate blood! And I finally did it. It was a joyous occasion for me. I was proud of myself. I will let you know why. :)

It all started when I was doing my MBA. There was a blood donation camp happening in Bangalore at that time. I read about it and was intrigued when I came to know that they were coming to our college. So the camp members had a session with our batch and after their speech I got really into it. Hearing about the number of people especially children, who die due to the scarcity of blood in the blood bank really pushed me. I called groups of students and motivated all of them to volunteer for blood donation. I made all of them sign up and stand in the long queue for the donation. In fact, the seniors also were there right next to our batchmates.

It was a satisfying experience until my turn came up. A nurse pricked my thumb for checking the haemoglobin level and she rejected me. I asked for the reason and was told that my haemoglobin level was below the normal level and that it is the basic criteria for eligibility. I could feel all the stares on me since I was the enthusiastic one who got them to sign up in the first place. I requested the nurse to anyway take my blood. She said that if I donate then I would have to be immediately given blood. :) So I left the queue sad and could hear some people laughing.

It is all history now as I successfully donated blood on Thursday and this time I had the required haemoglobin level. After all, the constant effort of eating healthy, especially increasing the iron content in my food paid off. I had seen the clinic on my way back home from office while walking towards the subway. I had just joined work on Tuesday. I was still getting to know the area. One look at the clinic and like a reflex action, I entered the clinic and signed up for donating blood on Thursday.

When the nurse was checking my haemoglobin levels, I was kind of nervous but that's because I was thinking about what happened the last time I tried donating blood. However, she approved my application and I was very happy. After that everything moved fast. All the formalities of form signing, interview on disease got over. The needle was kind of unusually big and the nurse did say that it is bigger than my vein. Ok let me word it better. The vein she found on my hand was small. :)

I was so ecstatic that I did not even feel any pain. After all, I was finally donating blood.

After about 12 minutes, she said its over. I never knew she literally meant it. It seems no more blood was coming since it was a small vein. The nurse said I had no reason to worry since they had collected enough blood for a child. Only enough for a kid? I felt sad and disappointed for just a moment after which I thought at least I did it.

It took me so long but I finally did it. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

I am back to work finally!

There is some positive news from my end. I got the internship finally. And that too the at the broadcasting company I was very interested in working. I joined last Tuesday and I am enjoying every bit of the new work environment. It is so different from the previous company I worked for and I am already finding this job an enriching experience. I have to take a 45 minute subway ride and then a 10 minute walk to reach the office as opposed to the short 15 minute walk in my previous job. Although the travel time is kind of exhausting, I try and engage myself playing Sudoku or reading the newspaper. Sometimes, I just observe people. There is so much you can observe in terms of new fashion clothes, accessories, shoes and even people. :)

At around 3pm everyday, I feel sleepy at office. :) Looks like I am yet to get adjusted to working again! I never imagined this would happen. Partly the reason could be my current routine of waking up at 6.15a.m, which is very early compared to my previous timings. I hope I get used to it soon enough.

Hmm, I am feeling sleepy now. Well you see, I am trying to get into the routine of sleeping early too. So, I am off for my sweet slumber.

Till next time, take care and have fun.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Colors and costumes like never before!

Yesterday I witnessed the effervescent Toronto Caribana parade. It was a colorful celebration of the Caribbean music, dance, costumes and food in every way. Pumping music, colorful floats, spectacular costumes and the dancing made this parade totally unique. Some costumes were so heavy and elaborate that they had wheels to move. A number of trucks in the parade carried calypso artists with live soca music, blaring from the speakers. Even the non-Caribbean people regardless of color and race, were in the parade showcasing this festival as a unique part of Toronto’s culture. The costumes were so beautiful that I felt it was worth every effort it took N and me to reach the Lake Shore area with the kind of crowd present there. Approximately 1 million!

The parade started in the morning at 10am and was set to complete its run by 6pm. It seems the people stayed back and watched till 3pm. After that thousands of people had enough and jumped the fence to really enjoy the parade in true Caribana style. Wait a minute! Yeah you heard me right. The masses would jump the fence, dance and follow the floats and costumes like as if they are a part of the parade. It took me a while to digest watching people jumping the 8 feet fence. To me, it was mayhem! The whole atmosphere and experience was something different but enjoyable too.

We tried the food and I actually liked it. Ali’s doubles (puri and channa) were my favorite though I also liked the jerk chicken from the Jerk House. Later, I took pictures with some of the dancers in costumes while they were enjoying the cool breeze near Lake Ontario. It was a hot sunny day, which made some of the dancers in costumes tired by the time they reached Lake Shore Blvd. We left at 6pm and on the way back, all tired and weary, I thought I should go for the parade next year too. : )

Check out the pictures.

Through the fence a first look...

I liked this costume a lot. So much blue!

And look at the number of people jumping in the parade. :)

That's me with the hat trying hard to get a glimpse...

The dancers all tired but happy to pose...

The live Calypso singers with their band...

Another eloborate costume...Picture courtesy CTV news

Picture courtesy: CTV news

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back to one of my favorite things!

I am back. Precisely after 6 months. I am sure my readers are wondering what I was upto all this while. Why I disappeared without a trace?

I just could not write and I kept away from blogging. Is that all? Reluctantly, I can say that all this while I had a mental block towards writing. It is sad since the one thing I could always do without an effort is to write. So, the whole disappearing thing and the absence of blog posts is behind me now. I am back and will do my best to make sure that this blog is updated regularly without fail.

I would be kidding if I say that the layoff did not affect me. I thought I would be strong and survive post layoff, however, it took me a while to get back onto my feet. The job scenario was not helping either. There were few jobs available with hundreds of applicants. Interviews came up once in a while and I went through the whole recruitment process too. First round, second round and even final round. In the end, only to be still left jobless as always there was another person with at least 3 more years of experience than me. In the beginning it was exciting to have at least interviews, then it became frustrating to still not have a job in the end.

The feeling of bitterness to actually see another person who hardly works to still have a job, while I was laid off with my track record went through my mind. It made me feel sad. That was almost seven months ago. Now when I look at it, the whole thing did make me a better person. It taught me a life lesson. I know how to survive. I can survive.

Last month N graduated from his university with his MBA. It was a celebration in every way. Getting married and enrolling into business school the next month is not the ideal thing to do. However, the decision just worked out fine for us. Most MBA couples might debate this but we never had any setback in our relationship due to his MBA. On the other hand, I believe our togetherness encouraged him and helped him to do his best. Last month we also celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary in a small way. I felt it came too soon but enjoyed every bit of it.

I am pursuing even internships at the moment. Lets see how that goes. On the side, I am also planning to start a food blog. Cooking and trying out new recipes is a passion for me and I know I will definitely enjoy this. One thing I can assure you all is that this food blog will be different. I will keep you posted.