Thursday, December 1, 2011

3 Step Christmas Log Arrangement

Here is a simple 3-step rustic Christmas arrangement made with a wooden log , few artificial pine leaves , poinsettia and reindeer.

Step1: Take a wooden log.

Step2: Arrange a sprig of artificial pine leaves and poinsettia flower.(Add pine cones if you like!)

Step3:  Perch a Reindeer or  Santa on top.

That's it! Your 3 step arrangement is done! Isn't it tremendously simple?At the same time isn't it extremely elegant? Yes,it is!!:)

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My Christmas Floral Arrangements

Christmas, decorations , floral and twig arrangements go hand in hand. Here are some of the arrangements I made for Christmas.Ofcourse,it would'nt be perfect but I enjoyed making them and I just love looking at them everyday of this yuletide season!

My favorite geese peeping down

A Silver themed centerpiece

An orange themed decor

A Silver themed dry arrangement

My dining table candlestand centerpeice
Candle stand arrangement

A twig cornucopia  with poinsettia and holly leaves

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Bird House Floral Arrangement

  One day I had this urge to make a bird house!There was no wood at hand nor a carpenter in sight!My eyes fell on a styrofoam sheet  standing in the corner of my craft room.I decided to make a bird house with styrofoam! Of course,this bird house is not meant for the outdoors, but I have hung it in my sit-out where it is not exposed to rain!
For Christmas my  bird house doubled as a cute table decoration  after I perched a poinsettia on the roof to give it a christmasy look!

My Birdhouse Arrangement

For instructions to make this Styrofoam Birdhouse, follow this link...

                                                                  Styrofoam BirdHouse

Well!!Nothing is more satisfying than creating your own Christmas decor and admiring them day in and day out!!:)
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Power of Counting Your Blessings

 Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done’
- A hymn that I love!

Here I am with my parents!
This is exactly what I decided to do this Thanksgiving 2011 and with a flourish I started penning down the countless blessings I have been showered upon!

First and foremost, I thanked God for my life, my parents and my childhood.

I thanked God for my five younger siblings who have been a huge moral support and a lifeline for me all along!
With my 4 younger siblings
My beautiful grand mom-the sweetest, gentlest, soft spoken and the kindest of all grand moms- I love you so with all my heart!

My husband of 40 years and my in laws, especially my brother in law, who we lost a year back. It was wonderful knowing him.
I thanked God for blessing me with 3 beautiful children. The happiest days of my life belonged to the time when they were at home and I was the center of their lives!

I’m grateful for my beautiful home and garden, my computer and the game Farmville (my companions in my empty nest)!

The youngest spoilt brat!:)
Above all, I thanked God for health. Health is wealth indeed. What is wealth without health?Nothing!

As I was half way through writing out my blessings, I realized that I could hardly remember my troubles (of course, there are many!) and it dawned on me that the power of counting blessings is unmistakably real ! I was absolutely soaked in positive energy, positive emotions, vitality, and optimism. Counting my blessings and reliving happy memories made me happier, grateful and above all put a smile on  my face. It is indeed an effective mood booster! Maybe we should call ‘counting blessings’ a ‘gratitude exercise’? I am regretting for not doing  this ‘gratitude exercise’ more often! It would have done me a world of good by annulling my negative thoughts when I've been in dumps.

This gratitude exercise also made me to reflect how I had always reacted when I had been under the spell of either positive or negative thoughts. When in a positive frame of mind, I’d be bubblier, laugh out louder and my eyes would shine brighter. But then, when in a negative mindset, I don’t think I had ever been pleasant- always grumbling, moody, stressed out and whatever! Yes, this is an eye opener for ME !

Our positive thoughts do reflect in our body language and we attract more people around us with our warmth, friendliness and exuberance. To have a positive thinking mindset we  need to have positive thoughts constantly on our minds. It may not be easy but we can try and question ourselves frequently what we are thinking about? Is this thought positive or negative? Would it help us improve our lives or whether it is pointless? Over a period of time thinking positive will become a habit!

The following verses ‘season for everything’, from the Bible, Ecclesiastes,Chap3, have always been very powerful for me.
‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted….
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance…..
A time to get, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away..
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
 A time of war, and a time of peace.’
These verses have always been a perfect antidote for my negative thoughts and depression.When things go wrong, I always think that it is a season and I feel the positive energy flowing back into me. Yes, there is an appropriate time for everything. Surely rainbow will follow each rain!
Finally, I thanked God for showing me the power of counting blessings and to have a positive attitude and a positive mind set in whatever situation.  
Happy Thanksgiving 2011 :)

My 3 babies-a son and 2 daughters

My beautiful grandmother-I dedicate this Thanksgiving 2011 to my grand mom

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Holiday Twitter Birds

Here are a few Christmas Twitter Birds for your blogs and websites!Happy Tweetmas!!

 Twitter Bird with Santa Hat                                     Animated Twitter bird

Twitter Balls

Christmas Twitter Bird.

 Click.. Read More..

Winter Twitter Icons

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas Social Media Icons

The countdown to Christmas has started ! Here are some awesome Social Media Icons for your blogs or websites .Yes,choose whatever fancies you - it's the season for decorating , spreading joy and cheer. Go ahead, your blog or website needs a holiday makeover! Happy downloading! :)

Blogger Xmas Icons

Cute Christmas Stocking Media Icons

Click.. Read More view more Icons.
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Cute Twitter Icons

A Little Birdie Told Me....
Here are some real cute compiled Twitter Icons for your  blogs or websites.Go ahead and dress up your site with one of these cute birds.Download them from the Header link .Enjoy!

Pretty Twitter Birds
 Friendly Twitter Bird Icons

 Black Twitter Icons

Hand Drawn Twitter Birds
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Allure of Teapots

My precious teapot-belonged to my grandmother

 Teapots! The awesome pot with a spout and handle! Why do teapots fascinate us so? Maybe, we love tea? Or could it be that they are so pretty by themselves? No wonder teapots have become tremendously popular as collectables. Moreover, weren't we  imbibed with teapot awareness right from childhood? Who does not remember the teapot nursery rhyme even after many summers and grey hair?

My Collectables
  "I'm a little teapot,
 Short and stout
 Here is my handle
 Here is my spout
 When I get all steamed up,
 Hear me shout

Just tip me over and pour me out!"

Of course we all know  that  it takes just a tea bag and an electric jug to  make a cup of tea! But then, that won’t do for real tea lovers! Tea lovers love their cuppa brewed in the pot with a beautiful tea cosy thrown over it. Sounds so very quaint!

‘Strange, how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.’ ~Author Unknown. So very true and spot on!

My corn teapot on my microwave
Teapots have become a collector’s delight and collecting teapots is not a storm in the teapot! Not only do teapots come in many styles but  also in a range of textures like cast iron, stoneware, bone china, porcelain, glass and brightly colored ceramics. Above all, the imagination, ingenuity and humor in crafting  teapots have made teapots a collector’s dream. Certain teapot designs mirror the taste and history of a particular era as well!

  There are innumerable awesome collectible teapots for every season - Valentine’s Day teapots, Halloween teapots, Mother’s Day teapots ,Easter teapots, Thanksgiving teapots and Holiday teapots . Christmas teapots make the most beautiful Holiday d├ęcor. They look so decorative and festive anywhere, whether perched on your microwave ,fridge, kitchen cabinet or in the nooks and corners of your dining room or kitchen. There are even miniature Christmas teapot ornaments and teapot serial lights to add a touch of charm to the Christmas tree.
My fav white pot

Whatever the array of teapots , be it vintage or new, seasonal or functional, Victorian or modern, Asian or Chinese, they are all so appealing, fascinating and enthralling. Hence,it’s really quite hard for an avid tea drinker like me , to resist the allure of TEAPOTS!

MY sister's collection of teapots

 Check out the fascinating collection of teapots at  Our Store.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bilberry Preserve

  Bilberry! Never heard of it, till my daughter’s friend gifted me a jar of homemade Bilberry preserve from Kotagiri in Nilgris (a hill station in South India)for Christmas last year. It was the most awesome berry preserve I‘ve ever tasted!
  Bilberries are related to Blueberries, but are smaller and darker in color and since the bilberry plant is difficult to grow, it is seldom cultivated and are collected from forests in hilly regions. Here in south India , Bilberries are found in Nilgris, they have tremendous antioxidant properties which are considered very effective in improving night vision, lowering blood pressure and for diabetics.
Armed with this information, I wanted to buy Bilberries when I went to Nilgris for our school reunion in the first week of September2011. To my disappointment, I was told that Bilberries are never available in shops and moreover the harvest season had just got over (between July and August). I was crestfallen. Anyway, the day we were to leave Nilgris, being Sunday, we went to a very cute Church in Coonoor  and after  service there was the church sale. Guess what I saw on a table? Bilberries! I could not believe my eyes and  I nearly jumped for  joy! I managed to get just one kg of bilberries and here is the  Bilberry preserve I made and trust me, it is the yummiest of all preserves.

The difference between a preserve and a jam is that, with a preserve the fruits are preserved whole in their own jelly whereas with jam the fruits are mashed  up into a spreadable consistency.

       Bilberry Preserve

My home made Bilberry Preserve

1 kg Bilberries
¾ kg sugar (you can reduce the quantity of sugar )
¼ cup water
Nip the tiny stalks and wash and clean the berries thoroughly.
Put it in a vessel along with water and sugar. Simmer for about 45mins to 1 hour till setting consistency is reached. Be  careful not to break up the berries while stirring . That’s it! Done! Your Bilberry Preserve is ready!

Bilberry Preserve on bread

To test the setting consistence -Chill a plate in the freezer for 5 mins. Pour a tsp of the preserve in the chilled plate. After 30 seconds, tilt the plate. If it moves but does not run, it is done. If it runs, continue cooking for some more time.I prefer it a little runny , as it thickens in the refrigerator and it is much easier to use as toppings for ice creams and desserts.

Bilberry Jam

My Homemade Bilberry Jam

1 kg Bilberries
Bilberry Jam
¾ kg sugar
1 lime

Wash the Bilberries, put it in a pan and mash it well with a wooden spoon. Add lemon juice, sugar and simmer.Just before  setting point, ladle out a cup of jam and  run it in a food processor for  just one whirl.Put it back in the pan and simmer till setting consistency .While warm bottle it.That’s it.

Absolutely delicious and scrumptious as toppings on Ice creams, yogurts, pancakes and desserts .

The Church in Coonoor

The cute church in Coonoor

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Ice cream

My Ice cream maker
Of course I’m an Ice cream maniac! My family knows that only too well! Hence, when my sister came down from USA she carried a huge parcel for me as a belated birthday gift. When I unwrapped it, guess what popped out? Cuisinart’s Ice cream and Frozen Yogurt Maker! Wow, was I thrilled? Yes and yes. (This ice cream maker is not available here in India.)From now on, no more store bought unhealthy ice creams - only nourishing and wholesome frozen yogurts with fresh fruits and frozen sorbets will do for me! I made Vanilla Frozen Yogurt and Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt the very next day I unpacked my Ice cream Maker. 
Here is the simple refreshing tangy fresh frozen yoghurt I made :

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Recipe

Frozen yoghurt with Bilberry topping
2 cups strained Yogurt or Greek-style yogurt or Hung curd
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
Churning away
Pinch of salt
Mix together the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla essence and salt. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Pour it in your ice cream maker and run the machine. In 20 minutes your frozen yoghurt is ready!Yum!

If you do not have an ice cream problem! You can freeze it in a tray in the fridge. For softer consistency, when partly frozen, take it out of the freezer, beat it well with a wooden spoon and freeze again. Done!

How to make 1 cup of strained yogurt :
You need-
2 cups - good quality plain whole milk yogurt.
Strained Yoghurt
 Take a strainer with very fine mesh, and balance it on the rim of a bowl. Put the yoghurt in the strainer, cover and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, the liquid from the yoghurt would have  drained on to the bowl and the curd in the strainer is thick and creamy. Your strained yogurt is ready for use in any recipe of your choice.

Vanilla Frozen Yoghurt
With Strawberry topping

Suggested toppings-
I love to have my frozen yoghurt with :
·         Homemade Strawberry Preserve ,
·         Homemade Bilberry Preserve
·         Chopped fresh fruits particularly bananas.

Enjoy! :)

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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Journey of Chocolates

   ‘Lead me not to temptation’, I pray as I walk past the sinful array of dark, milk, white, and liqueur chocolates. My spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak! I give in to my temptation and  buy some of the  sweet sensation  and as it hits my taste buds and glides through my throat..hmmmmm...heaven on earth!
The cocoa pod and roasted beans
Have I ever thought how chocolates are made? No, not exactly! Maybe, chocolates just dropped from heaven? Well, I never did have the inclination to really think about it till I visited a chocolate factory during my trip to Malaysia with my husband, sister,brother in law and niece.
   The tourist guide announced that we were to visit a Choc Factory.
 Wow! Was I excited? My first ever trip to a choc factory ! He took us to a place called Beryl’s Chocolate Kingdom. When I entered, I could just see shelves and shelves plus rooms and rooms of  varieties of chocolates . It was more like a choc store! I guessed that maybe  the guides were paid to take tourists to the store,after all, as tourists we do end up buying loads and loads of stuff- mostly unwanted! 
Mixing machine
   Anyway, they did have a few miniature models of choc making machines and a staff from the store explained how the chocolates are made from cocao beans in
such a hasty, brief and speedy manner that I hardly got the details. But I was sort of dumbstruck at the amount of work that goes into the making of chocolates .
   Ofcourse, we do know that chocs are made from cocoa beans harvested from Theobroma cacao tree and it seems that climate and soil play an important role in the flavor of the coca beans. Whatever! The pods look like rugby balls and when they ripen, they turn from green , yellow to orange or red. The beans are left to ferment for several days till they become darker and wrinkled. Then they are sun-dried for a few days and sent to choc factories. 
Here is the gist of the journey of chocolates from cocoa beans and this brief description is good enough for me as I'd rather concentrate on the finished products on the counter! 
Conching Machine

  • First,  the beans are roasted, to loosen  the husk and dry up the nib. Roasting also influences  the flavor and color of the final chocolate    
  • Next, the roasted cacao beans are transferred to a 'winnower'. During this process the beans are cracked by into pieces and then winnowed (blown by air)to separate the husks from the nibs. The nibs contain the cocoa butter and cocoa solids
  • The nibs are then milled or ground to a rich paste to create cocoa liquor.This liquor does not contain alcohol.
  • The liquor is then pressed  to remove the cocoa butter and a powdery stuff known as 'cocoa presscake' is left behind. This, presscake, when ground, becomes the common cocoa powder. 
    Roller Machine
  • In the next process ,milk powder,sugar,cocoa butter and coco mass are mixed together.
  • And put in a Roller Machine for a refining process.The mixture passes through a series of rollers until a smooth paste is formed. Refining improves the texture of the chocolate
  • Then, comes Conching. The liquid chocolate is kept in a conching machine which is sort of a kneading machine and it chafes, heats and aerates the batter
  • After this, comes the process of tempering, where the liquid choc is transferred to tempering kettles as it is essential to keep the chocolate in liquid form 
  • Finally, the mixture is put into molds and cooled in a cooling chamber.
Liquid chocolates poured into moulds
   Awesome! The work load that goes into making these wicked pleasures is truly mind-blowing !As I was pondering about the extra calories in chocolates, it dawned on me that chocolates are really really good for health. You may ask how. Well, everyone knows that vegetables are incredibly healthy for our body. Chocolates come from beans and the sugars in it come from sugarcane – both plants!! Voila, chocolates are veggies!! Don’t feel guilty, just enjoy chocolates! Did I read this somewhere ? ‘I am not over-weight. I am chocolate-enriched!’
Very true,indeed! :) 

The rows of chocolates
The variety of chocolates

Copyright © 2011 Laila. All Rights Reserved
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