Sunday, July 22, 2012

Trip to Tirupati-Tirumala in March 2012 - Vishesha Seva

We had planned a sudden trip to Tirupati-Tirumala in late March 2012. Our plan was to drive to Tirumala on 25th March, Sunday, visit the temple the same day, stay there overnight and drive back early on 26th March, Monday. However, we had heard that (23rd March being Ugadi), the weekend will be very crowded. We had also not planned/booked accommodation there in advance. In spite of this, this trip turned out to be a really good one! 


We took the normal route -> Bangalore Old Madras Road (NH5) - Hoskote -> Kolar -> Mulbagal -> Palamaner -> Chittoor bye pass -> Puttalapattu -> Tirupati -> Tirumala. 

Sunday, 25th March 2012
We started early Sunday morning, 5.30AM. We had decided to stop only once for breakfast. So around 8AM (when our daughter woke up), we stopped somewhere beyond Palamaner, at a place called Priyadarshini (or something like that). We had some decent breakfast - idly, pongal and coffee and then proceeded towards Tirupati. We reached Tirupati around 10.30 AM. 

Just before the Security checkpoint at Tirupati (before we start the uphill drive), a TTD staff asked us for a lift, since he had just missed his shuttle. Just to ensure that he was really a TTD staff, we asked him to show an ID,which he did. He got us quickly through the security check, helping us load our luggage onto the scanner and then putting it back into our car.

While we were driving up, we got our first shock. The TTD person told us that the crowd was really too much and it was taking people 7-8 hours of waiting in the queue. Also, the normal accommodation was going to be impossible to get. However, he called up somebody and found that we could get tickets to a Special Seva (Vishesha Seva) Monday morning. Also, he suggested that we go to the "Padmavathy Enquiry Office" to book our accommodation (these start at Rs. 1000 per night), rather than the normal ones. This advice turned out good for us.

Once at Tirumala, we drove to the Vijaya Bank counter, where we purchased Vishesha Seva tickets (Rs 600/head) for Monday morning. We discovered that, to enter the temple using the Seva tickets, we had to were traditional dresses - Male: Veshti + Angavastram, Female: Saree. So we purchased these from the local market. After a bit of searching for accomodation at the different Mutts in Tirumala (all of them were full), we went to the Padmavathi Enquiry office and booked a room (Rs 1000 per night+Rs. 1000 Refundable deposit) at the Sripadadam Guest House. After lunch and some rest, we roamed around the town and the garden.

Monday, 26th March 2012
We woke up early, since the time mentioned was 6.30AM and the staff had asked us to arrive at the Vaikuntam Q Complex - 2 by 6 AM. We entered through the "Supatham" entry. This is also the same entry for parents with infants. After the initial checking and scanning, we were made to wait at (what I call) "the cage" till about 7.15 AM. We were then taken to the place where the "Seva" happens. This is adjacent to the main temple itself. This is a nice big hall where we were asked to sit, leaving some space in the middle. At around 7.30 AM, with the accompaniment of music, the "Utsava Vigraham" is brought and placed in the hall. There is an elaborate puja performed here. All these are visible without any difficulty. Here's a description of the Seva on the official site

After the Seva is completed, we are taken directly in the Central temple area. The usual confusion happens here, there is a free-for-all entry here, and the usual "Jaragandi-Jaragandi" and pushing-pulling by the staff. But overall, a very good "Darshan". We were out of the temple complex after collecting the "Prasadam", by 9.30AM. 


We packed up our stuff from the room, picked up the refund of Rs.1000, had some heavy breakfast and started for Bangalore, by 11.30AM. The downhill drive was slow, since traffic was allowed two-way. Drove back non-stop except for a coffee and we were home by 5 PM. A great trip all-in-all! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Kids' Stories - Learning ABCD the fun way

ABCD story for kids!

This is one of P-'s favorite stories.She enjoys it totally, and listens attentively till the end! This is how it goes...

A-for-Apple and B-for-Ball were going for a walk. There they met C-for-Cat and D-for-Dog. A-for-Apple asked C-for-Cat where they were going. C-for-Cat said they were going for an all-animals' meeting and asked if they would also come and witness it. All four started walking.

In some distance, near a river they saw E-for-Elephant. D-for-Dog asked E-for-Elephant if he was coming for the meeting. E-for-Elephant said he was waiting for F-for-Fish.

G-for-Goat was walking in the other direction, and on his head was a H-for-Hat. F-for-Fish asked G-for-Goat where he was going. G-for-Goat said he was going to the shop to get some I-for-Ice Cream and asked if they would accompany him. C-for-Cat said he did not want I-for-Ice Cream, but will instead drink J-for-Juice. As they were eating I-for-Ice cream and drinking J-for-Juice, they saw a K-for-Kite flying high above. At that time, L-for-Lion came there and asked why everybody was looking up. They said they were looking at K-for-Kite.

While they were looking up, they saw M-for-Monkey jumping from one tree to another and they were all wondering  why. When E-for-Elephant asked M-for-Monkey why he was jumping, M-for-Monkey said he saw an N-for-Nest and wanted to know whose it was. O-for-Owl came that way and said that it was her N-for-Nest.

Meanwhile, P-for-Parrot started shouting, "Q-for-Queen has come, Q-for-Queen has come". But it had started to R-for-Rain. So, everyone started hurrying into the S-for-Ship which was waiting there. At the same time, T-for-Train also arrived there. Since R-for-Rain was very heavy, they all opened their U-for-Umbrella and ran into the S-for-Ship and T-for-Train. Q-for-Queen looked at her W-for-Watch and got into her V-for-Van. Since she had a pain in her back, she got in to the V-for-Van to go to the hospital for an X-for-X-ray. In the V-for-Van, while she waited, she ate some Y-for-Yogurt..

Soon, the S-for-Ship and T-for-Train started moving. Just then, they saw an animal running and shouting "stop stop, wait for me!". What was this animal? It was Z-for-Zebra!




Other Kids stories in this blog

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ramya's Recipe Series: Palak Methi Balls


Palak Methi Balls

Another nice snack from Ramya's Recipe book!


Ingredients
  1. Palak – 2 cups
  2. Methi – 1 cup
  3. Gram flour – 2 tea spoons
  4. Rava – 2 teaspoons
  5. Atta – 4 teaspoons
  6. Chilli paste – ½ teaspoon
  7. Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon
  8. Sugar – ½ tea spoon
  9. Salt – To taste
  10. Oil – 2 teaspoons


For Seasoning
  1. Mustard – ½ teaspoon
  2. Jeera – ½ teaspoon
  3. Till – ½ teaspoon
  4. Hing – ½ teaspoon
  5. Oil – 1 teaspoon

Procedure

  • Mix all ingredients 1 to 10
  • Make 5 – 6 portions and roll it in your hands



  • Steam it for 10 minutes
  • Allow it to cool and cut it into discs

  • Add oil in a kadai and add mustard, after it splutters add jeera, till and hing
  • Toss the discs in the seasoning and serve

Note
  1. Ginger paste and coriander can also be added
  2. Increase or decrease the amount of chilli paste as per your taste
  3. This can be prepared without adding sugar also

Friday, April 06, 2012

Ramya's Recipe Series - Thavala Adai


Thavala Adai - A type of Rice Cutlet

This is a very tasty evening snack item. 




Ingredients
  • Idly rava – 1 cup
  • Water – 2 cups
  • For seasoning:
  • Dry chillies – 3-4
  • Mustard – ½ spoon
  • Split Urad dal – ½ spoon
  • Gram dal – ½ spoon
  • Grated Coconut- 2- 3 spoons
  • Salt- To taste
  • Asafoetida – A pinch
  • Oil


Procedure
  • In a kadai heat oil and add mustard and red chillies (broken into 2 or 3)
  • After the mustard splutters add split urad dal and gram dal
  • After the dals turn red add Asafoetida, water and salt
  • When the water is boiling add the grated coconut and idly rava
  • Keep mixing till it is 3/4ths cooked
  • Remove it and after it cools make it into lemon size balls
  • Flatten these balls
  • Heat another kadai and place these flattened balls in it and add oil
  • Heat it till it becomes golden brown on both the sides
  • Serve it hot with sauce or tomato chutney or any chutney


Note
If idly rava is not available, grind rice or par-boiled rice to rava consistency and use it.


More posts from Ramya's Recipe Series

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Daughter discovers Gravity - Newton Apple Story for Kids


So, this is our latest story for our 2-year old daughter.

1. There was a man called Newton sitting under a tree.
2. Which tree? Apple Tree (include A for Apple somewhere now...)
3. What color apple - Red Apple
4. Suddenly, a red apple fell from the tree on Newton's head (ask her to show where her head is).
5. Why did it fall? Gravity! Newton ran around shouting - Gravity, Gravity!

What did our daughter learn through this story?
 - A for apple
 - Apples are generally red
 - Body parts
 - & most importantly - Gravity!


Other Kids stories in this blog

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Ramya's Recipe Series - Masoor Dal Soup

Ingredients
  • Masoor dal- ½ cup
  • Cinnamon-2 pieces
  • Carrot, Beans, peas, Cabbage-1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped
  • Salt- to taste
  • Pepper powder- to taste
  • Corn flour- 1-2 spoons
Procedure
  1. Boil the masoor dal in a pressure cooker with a small piece of cinnamon
  2. Boil the finely chopped vegetables with a small piece of cinnamon
  3. Mash the boiled masoor dal using a blender
  4. In a  kadai add little oil and add a small piece of cinnamon.
  5. Add the mashed masoor dal and the boiled vegetables.
  6. Add little water to the corn flour and make it into a paste. Add this to the masoor dal till you get the desired consistency.
  7. Add salt and pepper powder before serving
Note
  • Remove the cinnamon pieces before serving
  • Any other vegetable like cauliflower can also be added
  • Fresh cream can be added while serving
  • Add lesser corn flour and more water if you want the soup to be a thin soup.


More posts from Ramya's Recipe Series

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ramya's Recipe Series - Bottle gourd Kofta


Bottle Gourd Kofta

Thanks to Aveek's mom!

Ingredients
For Kofta
  1. Bottle gourd- 1 grated
  2. Ajwain- 2 tea spoons
  3. Jeera powder- 4 teaspoons
  4. Chillies- 2 finely chopped
  5. Besan- 4 teaspoons
  6. Salt- To taste
  7. Oil- For frying
For Gravy
  1. Tomato- 4
  2. Onions- 4
  3. Cinnamon, Clove, Cardamom- 2 each
  4. Chillie powder- 3 teaspoons
  5. Salt - To taste
  6. Oil- 3-5 teaspoons
Procedure
For Kofta
  1. Squeeze out all the water from the grated bottle gourd
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients and make into balls 
  3. Deep fry the balls and set aside


















For Gravy
  1. Cut the onion and tomatoes
  2. Grind the tomatoes and onions separately
  3. In a pan add oil and add the Cinnamon, clove and cardamom.
  4. Add the onion paste and saute till golden brown
  5. Add tomato paste and saute till the raw smell goes
  6. Add salt and chilli powder.
  7. Switch off the flame once the oil begins to separate.
Add the koftas to the gravy and enjoy.
Note
  1. Green chillies can be avoided in the kofta if you don't prefer hot koftas
  2. Instead of Cinnamon, clove and cardamom you can use garam masals powder(3 teaspoons), do not add chillie powder if you ar eusing garam masala powder.
  3. If you like it spicy increase the garam masala powder.

More posts from Ramya's Recipe Series

Friday, January 20, 2012

Prakruti's Crow Story

When my daughter is asked for a story, she tells the story of a crow.

  1. A crow went up and sat on a tree.
  2. It sang a song but fell down. 
  3. It got hurt on its head and went home.
  4. Its mother applied medicine on its head and so, it recovered quickly. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ramya's Recipe Series - Microwave Banana & Dry Fruits Bread - Eggless

I will be starting with a dessert/snack first! This is an Eggless Banana Bread (with optional dry fruits). I learnt this from a cousin, with few of my own additions/improvements. 

The main ingredients... 
  • Maida - 2 cups
  • Powdered Sugar - 2/3rd cup
  • Oil - 1/4th cup
  • Baking Soda- 1/4th tea spoon
  • Over-ripe Bananas - 2
Optional Ingredients:
  • Dry Fruits: Powdered walnuts, Almonds, Cashew - 1/2 cup, Raisins- 15
Method
  1. Pre-heat the microwave at 180C in the convection mode. 
  2. Sieve the maida, powdered sugar and baking soda. Mash the over ripe bananas and add them. Then add oil, powdered dry fruits,raisins and mix well. 
  3. Now, coat an aluminium tray with crystallized ghee. Add the mixture and bake in the microwave in the convection mode at 180C for 1 hour.
  4. After 1 hour, allow the bread to cool. Slice it and enjoy




Tips
  • Use over ripe bananas, it gives the best taste.
  • Banana can be substituted with grated apple
  • Sugar can be reduced to 1/2 cup if you prefer less sweet bread
  • For diabetics, sugar can be substituted with equal quantity of Sugar-Free/ Equal powder. Also, use apple instead of banana.
  • Powdered dry fruits add taste and flavor.
  • Coating the tray with crystallized ghee gives best result. If that is not available, butter can be used.

More posts from Ramya's Recipe Series

Ramya's Recipe Series

Ramya has been experimenting with different recipes and I have been the guinea pig. Generally, they have been good and I love the new stuff she makes. So, we thought she should start posting her recipes too. Her first post coming up soon....
More posts from Ramya's Recipe Series

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another short story for my 2 year old daughter - how her day passes...

I started a series of short stories that I tell for our daughter before she goes to sleep.
She has started play-school since November 2011. So, one story that we tell her is how her day passes...
1. Mother wakes her up at 7.30AM, brushes her teeth and makes her drink milk.
2. Father gives her a bath, and hands her over to mother to put her into her school uniform.
3. Mother give her breakfast
4. Father drops her in school at 9AM by car.
5. Mother goes to school at 12PM by walk, picks her up and comes back either walking or by an auto.
6. Grandmother gives her lunch and puts her to her noon nap.
7. Father picks her up from Grandmother's house and brings her back to her house
8. She plays, eats dinner and goes to sleep!


Other Kids stories in this blog


Monday, January 09, 2012

Short stories for my 2-year old daughter

My 2 year old daughter keeps asking me for new stories every night before going to bed. I have used up most of the kid stories that I remember, and now have started inventing my own stories based on other stories that I read. She has been listening to my adaptations of Tintin, especially Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon.

My stories are really a set of statements, mostly less than 10 and simple. She really enjoys these stories and sometimes repeats to me/her mother. My latest story is inspired from Tom & Jerry, and the Lion & Mouse story.
1. Tom is chasing Jerry because he is hungry.
2. After running around for some time, Tom manages to catch Jerry.
3. Jerry begs to leave him, and offers a piece of cheese that he has at his home.
4. Tom agrees, and follows Jerry to his house.
5. Tom sees that Jerry has a small kid.
6. Tom is a nice cat, so he lets Jerry go and asks him to give the cheese to his kid rather.

My daughter really enjoys this story - especially since she likes cats and cheese :)



Other Kids stories in this blog

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Laziness and Task Management

Managing my tasks has been one of the most difficult tasks! After a lot of advice from family and friends, I have started maintaining a single list of all my tasks. When I was using a single laptop with MS Outlook, I used the inbuilt task list. Now that I no longer have Outlook on my laptop (I work for IBM, and we use Lotus Notes as our email tool), I was looking for a better tool (preferably on the web). I didn't like the Lotus Notes version of task management, primarily because launching Lotus Notes is a task in itself (with a start date and end date) :)
I was therefore trying out a variety of tools on the web.

Gmail Tasks
I started with Gmail Tasks. This was great because, it was integrated into Gmail. I liked it also because I didn't have to do much in terms of clicking; tasks and subtasks could be created using just the keyboard. However, I wanted slightly more detailed options - especially for reminders, start date, due date, and the UI was not so intuitive for that.
I then tried TaskAnt. I liked it, but, the UI was too detailed. Needed something more simplistic. 
Next was TeuxDeux. This was just the opposite of TaskAnt. I really liked the minimalist interface. Just the way you use a diary - a day-by-day view of your tasks. You could move your tasks across dates with simple drag-drop operations. The problem was that it was too minimalistic: no reminders, no sync with GCal, etc. 
I then tried TodoLy. This seemed to be good. Everything that I wanted: some detail, reminders, etc.. But, I had trouble synchronizing. It used to always revert to the default list of example tasks. This was not a great example for a good intuitive UI.
Finally, I found what I wanted: I Do It. This works great. Email/GCal integration, ability to categorize by projects, contexts and tags. Good reminder system, and synchronizes quite quickly. It also has a desktop version, and desktop shortcuts that help me quickly add tasks without loading the webpage. Hopefully will stick onto this for sometime

However, I was just researching about other tools today and I found another one: Producteev. Seems to be good, will start trying it out now. More research about this on the way.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year Resolutions & Douglas Adams

I have been a great fan of Douglas Adams ever since I started reading his "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" six-book trilogy! I was such a crazy fan of the book that I had an index of my favourite parts of the book. I used to participate in online quizzes, conduct quizzes and post in online forums, and such... I have re-read the book an uncountable number of times - focusing specifically on the indexed pages. I recently listened to the audio versions of the book. Found some parts much more interesting than while reading. I also inspired quite a few friends to start reading his books. Whenever anybody asks me for book suggestions, that is the first book I suggest.

Recently, I listened to his posthumous book - "The Salmon of Doubt". This book is a collection of previously published and unpublished material, mostly content from interviews, introductions to his books, his views on technology, and god (he was a faithful atheist). I am now reading the paper book now.

One of the topics in this book is about his thoughts on celebrating the New Year (the New Millennium rather, since it was written in 1999). How, it is just another excuse to celebrate and has no other significant significance! Exactly, what are we celebrating it for, a change in the digits of the year?

Another thing he talks about is about New Year Resolutions which I completely agree with. Every end of year/beginning of the new year, we write down our resolutions on a piece of paper (I tried writing on it on an online document editor - Yahoo Notebook, then Google Notebook, recently Google Docs) only to forget where we wrote it until it is time for the next new year resolutions!

Only one New Year Resolution for me this year: No new year resolutions this year!!

Happy New Year 2012!