Inspired by Life

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Surviving

This is the story of my life for the last 10 days - it started out with an itchy throat and grandly escalated to a full-blown cold and cough, sinus infection, nausea, upset stomach and regurgitation. It seems to be a pattern with me each year, around this time to become ill.

In fact, last year in February, I was getting married and 10 days before the wedding, I had a severe attack of bronchitis and laryngitis, to the point where I had lost my voice two days before the wedding. Despite all the teasing that I might not be able to say yes when I got married, I managed to eke out a few audible words on the big day and spent the honeymoon in Vegas recovering from the sickness.

Today I feel so much better physically, but sad that it has set me back on all the projects I had going on when I became sick. Playing catch up is not fun, especially for people like me, who like to make progress and knock those tasks off my list. 

How many of you have been battling colds and sickness this winter? And what do you do to catch up on things?

On His Blindness - John Milton

"When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

John Milton wrote this poem in 1655 in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet - a lyric poem of fourteen lines. The theme of this poem is God judges humans on whether they labor for Him with the best of their abilities - this theme stuck in my head all through the poem. The key to the meaning of this poem really is when he alludes to the Parable of Talents in the gospel of Matthew. I enjoyed reading Milton as his prose and poetry contained deep convictions and dealt with the issues that were contemporary.

This particular sonnet begs to be pondered upon and reflection is one of the ways to pay respect to this piece d'art. I begin to wonder - Is my soul more bent to serve therewith my Maker? Do I ever realize that if I bear His yoke, I serve Him best? Prose and poetry that incite thought and carry a very universal quality that stands the test of time, are things of value that my soul seeks after and soaks up.

What are some of your favorite poems? Why?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Under-$40 Phone Plan - Land Line & Cell Phone

I still distinctly remember the first time I owned a cell phone. I was 20 years old and had moved to the US a year ago. It was a red chocolate bar Nokia phone with AT&T and I had a brief yet expensive relationship with that phone and with AT&T.  Expensive because I needed a way to call my family in India without having to always use phone cards (how silly of me to think international calls would be cheaper on my cell phone).

I have come a long way since that first phone and have run the gamut from Motorola Razr to Palm Treo to the iPhone 4. At one point in my life I had my personal cell phone, a company phone and a pager. (yeah, remember those things that would beep a number and you would have to find a pay phone to call them back, hoping you don't run out of quarters while you are on the phone?)

I mean, really, I don't think my social or economical position in life really warranted having two phones and a pager. I still remember the days of not owning a phone and running to my neighbor's house to talk to my dad on their phone when he would call us from Saudi Arabia, where he worked. It was a beige rotary phone at first and then they upgraded to the one with buttons that you could push. It was always amazing to me how all of my friends and I would find each other or end up at the same place and not one of us had a phone!

After years of having expensive cell phones and cell phone plans, I realized a very important fact: I really only spoke to THREE people frequently! My husband, my sister and my high school friend, who lives in California. Why on earth was I paying nearly $100 a month plus tax, for a cell phone to speak to three people??? Occasionally, I would get phone calls from other friends or make random phone calls to my friends whom I have not talked to in a while. (Those of you who don't call me, don't feel bad - I know life happens and I don't always call you either :) We can always pick up where we left off when we do call each other).

So, my husband and I decided that we needed to take a serious look at our phone bills to figure out how we could minimize our expenses. We realized that together, we had unlimited talk and text plans and his phone included a data plan. I, then added an iPhone 4 to the mix and now we both we so wired into the tech world that we both knew where we were every minute of every day and knew how to reach other too! This "accessibility" was costing us an arm and a leg to maintain and I only used a fraction of my data plan and less than the smallest minute plan that AT&T had to offer. So, we downsized. My husband lost his iPhone 3 and that made it easier to downsize :)

We kept my iPhone so we could have navigation and web browsers, etc. We got rid of his iPhone plan entirely. And the great thing is that through a turn of events, we ended up having a plan that is not on a contract, so we could end our iPhone plan any time, without termination fees! We needed a phone for me to use during emergencies, or to pick my husband up at the train station, etc. And this is what I use:


I have averaged about $7.00 a month on this the last two months. It is not glamorous, I have to triple tap to send a text message, and it is a prepaid phone. Since we needed to solve the problem of phone cards to call our families in India, we "switched to "Vonage" and now I have unlimited talk time to India and 60 other countries and it only costs me $24.99 a month. Although I really only call India :)

Both land line and cell phone plan - under $40!!! Another way to simplify my life this year.

What phone are you using?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Functional Kitchen

In my previous post, I had discovered the joy of re-purposing a drawer into a spice drawer. This motivated me to continue in the kitchen and see how much I could de-clutter. I removed all the items on the floor and moved them to my dining area. I then swept the whole floor and mopped it. While it dried, I sorted out all the clutter that I had moved and I was thrilled to find I could do this:


There is a reason I did not take a before picture - it was a mess! It was overflowing with pots and pans, and two of those large pots I could easily do without, so out they went. I then realized that all the pots and pans I ever use are the ones on the bottom right of the picture. Seriously! I also had a light bulb moment when I realized I had more space and could take all my baking stuff out of the cabinet, where it was hard to reach, and put them out on this shelf, where I could see and use them. The cabinet where the baking stuff used to be, now holds my wok and some other cooking utensils that I don't use everyday but at least once a week. I had been dying to buy a shelving system to display all my cookbooks which I use frequently, but I kept thinking that I was buying more stuff instead of getting rid of stuff. Today, I had chance to move them into my kitchen without having to spend an extra dime and don't they look great on this shelf???

After a good scrubbing of the oven, the counter tops, the microwave, the stove top, the sink, the baseboards and the floor, my kitchen is now functional, efficient and looks great!


Are any of you working on any projects right now?

Simplify my Life 2011

I liked what a friend of mine said about New Years goals: "January is for dealing with all the crappy leftovers of the previous year. February is really when you figure out what it is you want to focus on this year." And in keeping with that theory, I have decided that 2011 will be the year of simplification. My motto is Simplify My Life, and with this end in mind, I am going to work on small or large projects that simplify my life.

I am not sure how I ended up in the kitchen with this small project, but that happens to me sometimes, as I am cleaning or working on something else around the house. The kitchen is one of the most used places in our apartment and also one of my favorite places to be. Considering how much it gets used, I thought I would do a Power Hour Purge. This is when I pick one area of my apartment and spend an hour purging all old/unused/unwanted things and clean and spruce it up. Although this did not take me an hour, I decided to go through all the drawers in my kitchen and purge.

In the process, I found out that I had two meat tenderizers, of which I have used one twice in the past 3 years; 7 spatulas of different colors; three can openers and I only use my favorite one every single time and ignore the others; random measuring spoons from two different sets and different colors; manuals to appliances mixed in with screwdrivers and nails in a drawer that never gets opened; three bottles of the same spice - dried parsley and 6 boxes of matches. Wow! Really??? You should try it sometime and you will be amazed at how much Clutter is in your kitchen drawers!

I realized that since I cook everyday and had very little precious counter space, I should reconfigure where I had my spices, since they were all cluttered together and I almost always had to knock down a few to find what I wanted in the shelf overrun with spices. So as I cleaned out one drawer, something happened and voila!


All the spices that I use the most fit in this little drawer right next to the stove, which previously used to house the 6 boxes of matches and oven mitts! I cannot tell you how thrilled I was (I am easy to please) to make something so simple to use and easy to access. This allowed me to clean and reorganize my other spice shelf (yes I have more than one) so that I could see all my spices and use them more easily.



Operation Simplify is on its way! Let's see what else I get into next!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Glorious, Beautiful Day

I have a million tasks on my list that are screaming at me to be completed, and yet, I find myself drawn to the warm sunlight pouring through my windows and casting little shadows on my balcony. The trees are rustling in the soft breeze that is blowing through my whole house right now. I have opened all the windows and the patio door and everything seems fresh and lovely. I stood out on my patio, eyes closed and facing the sun, just soaking it all in. Not a single thought in my head just enjoying nature at its rare best this winter. Bliss!

I know without a doubt that I am a happy girl when the sun is out. I love the sun and how it makes me feel! The warmth, the light, the happy feelings it evokes in me are priceless. I can do anything when the sun is out and frolicking in the trees. I can be anything that I want to be. I love how the sun lifts up my droopy spirits and makes me want to soar above the world.

Perfect!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dinner Group - February 5th, 2011

We had a group of our friends come over for dinner on Saturday and it was one of the best times we have had together. Our conglomeration of food represented a few different food groups that ranged from Asian chicken to Jello Cake. Yes, my friend that made it does consider that a food group and it was great, actually!

Getting to know people and having fun together is such a necessity to our existence here and we seem to have that in abundance. We have met and made friends with a plethora of wonderful people who are talented, loving, funny, warm, helpful, intelligent, and that list goes on. At the dinner on Saturday, we had a businessman, two pregnant mommies, one of whom is an attorney and the other a corporate trainer, a foreign services officer moving to the Marshall Islands, one who lived all over the world, a medical student, a graphic designer who owns and runs her own business...our conversation covered a variety of topics.

We were so grateful to have them over and spend a fun evening with them. In fact, we had so much fun that we are planning on doing it again and inviting some more people over!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ping Pong & Wall Street

The only thing they had in common was that Aaron and I played ping pong today at the Chinquapin Rec Center and then came home and watched Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps starring Michael Douglas and Shia Le-something. (Although I must admit I visualized playing Ping Pong on Wall Street, as I wrote the title.)

The generous donation of someone in the community rendered itself to Aaron and I being the first ones to christen this brand new ping pong table at the rec center. I made myself proud as I learned to return some of Aaron's sneaky serves and held my own in some quick volleys. We played for an hour and really enjoyed it!

The movie was a good one and Michael Douglas was great in it. The portrayal of money, greed, power, life was done in a very realistic fashion and I appreciated some of the honesty in the movie. During this movie, I whipped us up a yummy Thai Fish Curry and Rice dinner and we spent the evening in this manner.

A good day.

P.S. Aaron actually finished reading a whole book - The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and he loved it! I finished reading The Guernsey/Potato Peel Pie Society and was sad to see it end. I could have read that book forever - I loved it!

The Carpetbagger's Children - Ford's Theatre - February 3rd, 2011

Looking for any reason to return to Ford's Theatre, Aaron and I discovered that during the week, with the 35 and under category, tickets to shows were only $15 a person!!!! Not ones to pass up a chance like that, we bought ourselves two tickets to this show on the day we visited the Museum. We did not read up on the play and were thoroughly surprised and entertained. The set was simple and costumes were of the period. The whole play consisted of three characters - three sisters, who were the carpetbagger's children and the play was a narrative of the times long gone, but delivered in a way that made you feel as if you were living with them during that time.

The three actresses were fantastic as they took turns, remembering the stories and anecdotes, and their depiction of the other characters in the story, including their mother, was hilarious! The play also spoke of a time when things were about land and schemes to swindle one of their money or inheritance by investing in some insurance this, that or the other. Their portrayal of small-town life and the intertwining relationships of family and community was at times charming, funny, sad, and downright hilarious! The play also touched upon the society at the time, how men and women were regarded and how the country was changing due to the industrialization. Farms and farmers were going out of business as they could not keep up with the machines and it really affected the lives of many American at the time.

It was a beautiful, funny and thought-provoking play and was done fantastically well! If you get a chance to see it, you really should! After this play ended, Aaron and I went to the Hard Rock Cafe right next door, a stark contrast to what we had just witnessed, and discussed the play, while we were being drowned out by Mick Jagger in yellow tights, screaming about his inability to get any satisfaction, no matter how hard he tried.

It was a fun evening at the theater!

P.S. I do not have any pictures of it, as I did not take a camera, which is a bulky yet light one. But it did allow me to concentrate on the play itself and enjoy every bit of it, including the historic aspect of watching a play in the same place where Abraham Lincoln once watched plays too!

Feed the Missionaries - February 2nd, 2011

We love the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints!!! Without them, I would not have found a new way of life that has led me down so many paths and each one has been rich with experience and blessings.  I am sure that moms all around the world, wonder if their boys are being taken care of my the people they are serving ( of course, they know the Lord does His part always :) ). In India, we were blessed to have some very special missionaries who were dedicated to the work and the church. The mission has grown and flourished because of this commitment that they made to spend two years of their lives devoting themselves to serve the Lord.

My mother always set the example for us in feeding the missionaries. My sons is what she called them and they loved her in return. This love for the missionaries and appreciation for the work that they do has been handed down to me as well, and we try to do our small part in make sure they are fed :) This week, the missionaries asked if they could invite a couple that they are teaching over to our home for dinner with them. We loved the idea, and since the church is focusing on fellowshipping activities, Aaron and I felt that this was one of the ways in which we could do our part. In inviting missionaries to have discussions and share lessons with us in our home, the people that they teach would also have a chance to learn more about the gospel in a much more relaxed setting and be more comfortable and approachable.

The couple that came over were delightful. She was a member and he was not. They were newly married and really enjoyed being with us. They were happy to be included in this event and we invited them to come back to our home for a game night, which they said they would love to do. It made me realize that when the prophet asks us to do something and we do it, even on a smaller scale, the blessing are a hundred-fold. Not only are the missionaries blessed, but so are the investigators and those who host them - service to our fellowmen is truly service to our God.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - February 1st, 2011

A wonderful group of women got together one evening in a fabulous apartment, to discuss the ways the happiness could be achieved or approached. Happiness - that elusive and deceiving little bugger. But the thrill is in the journey, at least, it is for me. Although I had not read the entire book, as I was battling the pages of a few others at the time, I really liked the simplicity of the approach and the good, sound advice that was offered in the book. The ladies that were in attendance were open, honest, beautiful, funny and warm human beings and I was thrilled and comforted to be associating with them. One of them, even decided to spend her birthday with us :)

It was a book that all of us, at some point in our lives, have thought about. Maybe not in the exact way that she had written the book, but the concepts are universal and timeless. We talked about whether the author had a nanny that took care of her kids, so she could devote her time to all her projects; we discussed the propensity of human nature to accept happiness as a part of us or are we destined to believe it only if it has been logically explained to us; we talked about things that would make us happy - books being one of those things, of course; we talked about setting goals and discovered that a few of us had similar goals - simplify our lives.

I loved this evening, spent with fantastic ladies, who all seek from the best things in the world, and just make my little world a better place to be in right now. Looking forward to the next book club meeting!

P.S. I have not really written too much about what the book was about since the title lends itself to the explanation but if you are interested in starting your own happiness project, here is the blog associated with the book - http://www.happiness-project.com/

A Tea Party - February 1st, 2011

What a lovely idea! I don't think I had been to any since I was a very little girl and being half- British and living in India, people really came over for tea and biscuits. At our tea gatherings in India, the tea - I never consumed, ever, and the biscuits - I devoured, more than my fair share. In fact, I loved biscuits so much that I was nicknamed "Milk and Biscuits" by my friends and family. Biscuits, by the way, are not the kind that are covered in sticky, white concoctions. These biscuits were more like shortbread cookies - the kind that you could dip in your tea, or milk. My favorite thing to do was to dip my butter biscuits in my cup of hot milk, and hold it there for a precious few seconds, until, saturated, the biscuit breaks in half and falls in to the cup, only to be joined by several other half-soaked biscuits. Once my cup was full of these, I would mash them up into a paste, and happily slurp them up with a spoon. How terribly odd, I know, but I really loved them this way!

I am sure, that the hostess of the tea party I recently attended, would have been horrified had I attempted the same stunt at her house. Although, we did not have biscuits, we did have the most delicious finger foods, and a choice of a few herbal teas, and water. There was even an edible basket, that looked so great! We had a spread of mini lemon-poppy seed muffins, pie crust filled with sun-dried tomatoes, ricotta cheese and other yummy things and baked in a muffin pan, chicken salad sandwiches, mini lemon bars, etc. The food was delicious and the company was excellent. The children added that segment of cuteness, all dressed in yellow, at the request of the hostess.

We had a fun time and got to know each other, although I think it was mainly me, getting to know these other ladies who were amazing, to say the least and very friendly. A tea party is a grand idea and one that I would heartily support, should it come up any time in the future.