With no plans to travel anymore this year, more so during our favourite quite holiday time each year in Nairobi, or to go on a Safari anytime soon, we still embarked on a trip to Samburu national park. This was our maiden trip to this park that has completely different landscapes than the ones we have been to. There is a lot of wildlife Northeast of Mt Kenya and the most interesting are the special five herbivores found north of the equator: Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, Beisa Oryx and the Somali ostrich with blue neck and blue legs. One of these, the Grevy’s zebra is an endangered species. It has fine stripes and a white underbelly. I however loved the Gerenuk. It is a slender and elegant antelope with a small head, bulging eyes, prominent ears and an incredibly long neck. The name comes from the Somali word garanuug, meaning giraffe-like neck. It was amazing to drive through beautiful country side, bright yellow mustard fields, neatly lined up green houses and lush green pineapple farms. At the park we were delighted to see herds of gazelles, flocks of Ostriches, a number of parades of Elephants, towers of magnificent giraffes, troupes of monkeys and baboons, zeals of zebras and many more other animals and birds. Parul visiting us from Tunisia has been so nice and certainly motivated us to make yet another trip in COVID times. Have to say that we felt quite safe with all COVID protocols being followed all the way. Sharing here some pictures and short videos that might inspire you to make a trip soon to Kenya and experience some of these unparalleled marvels of nature.
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So, here we are back home once again and done with the self isolation of 14 days. Back in Kenya , our home for now. This phrase “we are back home” sometimes perplexes me as I use it for so many places that I consider home. Our own homes in Kenya and Canada, our kids’ homes often in two different places, some friends’ and family homes that are no less than home to us. I must say that we are fortunate to call so many places home, what more can one ask for in life ?We had some of the best times of our lives during this stay of almost four months in Canada. Traveling back to Kenya was both enthusing and stumping at the same time. We didn’t feel like parting from kids, leaving our safe haven and sweet home in Kingston. Nevertheless, we wanted to get back to Kenya so that Manoj could have a normal workday and work life.The travel itself was quite hassle free. I guess it was because we were prepared with all that was required in these difficult and confusing travel times. A COVID negative certificate, a bar scan code for Kenyan health authorities, a mask on at all times and keeping distance from people at the airports – it all worked out. In fact, it was quite reassuring to notice:1. That the airport authorities at all the 3 airports we passed through (Toronto, Addis and Nairobi) were quite diligent in following public health guidelines to keep everyone safe.2. Fellow passengers were largely also following the new norms.3. All passengers were supposedly COVID-negative as almost all airlines and airports now require a negative certificate to board a plane.4. There was no cutback on any services on the flights or at the lounge in Addis (though the Toronto lounge was closed), even the entertainment system was now working unlike on our flights into Canada.Though it was relatively warm the day we departed from Toronto, there was a heavy snowstorm the next day, so it is nice to be back to a green and warm Kenya exuding with the warmth of good friends Arun and Brij. Their kindness was felt when we entered a clean house with food prepared and groceries in the refrigerator waiting for us. Settling back into our routines has been a cake walk in the last two days, and I was even more excited to see that my terrariums survived without any attention given to them in about 4 months. I can contentedly say that the journey back was equally good.
लो चले हम… वापिस अपने घर को! ये अपने केन्या वाले घर की बात हो रही है। अब क्या बताएँ कि कितने घरों को अपना घर कहने का सौभाग्य प्राप्त है हमें। किंग्स्टन और केन्या में तो घर हैं ही, अब बच्चों के अलग अलग शहरों में घर, ऐसे दोस्त और परिवार के सदस्यों के घर जिन्हें हम अपना घर ही मानते हैं, अब हमारे घरों की फ़ेहरिस्त में आते हैं ।सोच के देखें तो ज़िंदगी से इससे ज़्यादा और क्या माँगे?यह पिछले चार महीने कनाडा में बहुत अच्छे से बीते। केन्या वापिस आने का सफ़र भी बिना किसी परेशानी के रहा पर दिल और दिमाग़ बहुत असमंजस में रहे। बच्चों का साथ छोड़ना और किंग्स्टन जैसी सुरक्षित और सुहावनी जगह से कहीं जाने का मन नहीं था पर दुनिया के अलग अलग देशों के समय का फ़र्क़ मनोज के काम को बहुत मुश्किल बना रहे थे। केन्या वापिस आना ही एकमात्र समाधान था।करोना के मुश्किल समय होने के बावजूद सफ़र के दौरान कोई कठिनाई नहीं हुई। वो इसलिए कि हम इस सफ़र के लिए पूरी तरह तैयार थे, कोविड टेस्ट के negative होने का प्रमाणपत्र लेकर, केन्या के स्वास्थ्य विभाग के लिए एक bar code ले कर, सारा समय mask पहन के रखने से और दूसरे लोगों से दूरी बनाए रख कर। असल में यह काफ़ी सांत्वना देने वाली बात थी कि 1. तीनों airport , Toronto, Addis Ababa और Kenya की Airport authorities बहुत तल्लीनता और सहज तरीक़े से सब लोगों की स्वास्थ्य सुरक्षा का ध्यान रख रही थीं।2. सहयात्री भी बड़ी सहजता से सब नियमों का पालन कर रहे थे।3. हम यह मान कर भी चल रहे थे की सब सहयात्री कोविड negative हैं क्योंकि विमान में चढ़ने से पहले airport और airline वाले यह प्रमाणपत्र माँग रहे हैं।4. विमान या lounge की सेवाओं में कोई कमी नहीं थी (Toronto की लाउंज अलबत्ता बंद थी), यहाँ तक कि विमान में मनोरंजन कार्यक्रम भी TV पर दिखाए जा रहे थे जो तब बंद थे जब हम कनाडा अगस्त में गए थे।जिस दिन हम Toronto से रवाना हुए उसके अगले दिन वहाँ बहुत बर्फ़ पड़ी, तो केन्या आना अच्छा रहा। यहाँ के सुहावने मौसम और अरुण और ब्रिज जैसे दोस्तों की गर्मजोशी ने हमारा स्वागत किया। साफ़ घर , फ़्रिज में बना रखा स्वादिष्ट खाना और किराने का सामान अगर आपका इंतेज़ार कर रहा हो तो क्या बात है। और ज़्यादा आश्चर्य और ख़ुशी तो मुझे अपने terrarium (काँच के गमले) देखकर हुई जिनमें कुछ पौधे अब भी हरे थे (जबकि चार महीने तक उनकी कोई देखभाल नहीं हुई थी)।
So, we are home in Kingston after a long wait and a considerable amount of anxiety about travel plans over the last few months. Although we are very comfortable in our second home in Kenya, getting back to our first home in Canada and seeing the kids has constantly been on our minds during these uncertain COVID times. It was a long wait for international travel to open back up in Kenya and the very day it opened, we were on a plane. We for sure had a distinctive travel experience this time compared to all the travels we have done throughout our lives.
What an experience it was see so few people at all the 3 airports we travelled through. No long queues at check-in or immigration or security. Though our flight was in the evening that day, we were the first ones to use the lounge so were greeted by lounge staff with a lot of excitement and attention. They even took pictures with us as we were their first clients in the last five months. We have been traveling on Ethiopian Airways for some years now as we love their excellent staff, good connections, great food, lounges and of course their fares. Things that were clearly unusual and unexpected for us this time were: having no entertainment system in the plane throughout Ethiopian airlines, no magazines/newspapers on board and no add-on authentic Ethiopian meals. We really did not mind all this because we realize that all airlines have been running into billions of dollars of losses, and they may not be left with many choices other than to shave off unnecessary costs. As for procedures and protocols at the airports, masks were required everywhere, but no COVID test reports were required by airport authorities or by the airline. The plane was only at 1/3 of its capacity, maybe because it was the first day of the travel or maybe people are just not traveling again yet. While everyone was wearing masks, the airport in Addis did not have strict social distancing protocols when getting people on buses offloading the plane. At the Toronto airport only 50 people were allowed to get off from the plane at one time and walk through the hanger and then after 5-10 minutes the next lot of people were offloaded. A buffet was laid out at both the lounges in Nairobi as well at Addis, but Nairobi airport staff served it at the tables to meet COVID related health requirements whereas Addis lounge did not follow this protocol. Seating was however set up to follow social distancing requirements at both the lounges. Airline staff wore masks all the time and gloves only when serving food, but they did not have face shields or other more intense PPE for their own safety.
While all of us are feeling completely healthy and asymptomatic, we are now in self isolation with both the kids for 14 days in our home in Kingston and have been thoroughly enjoying their company and the quality time we have with them. Having said that, the mere thought that we might have contracted the virus while traveling and may pass it on to somebody here is the heaviest burden on my mind at this time while we are in isolation. Looking forward to catching up with friends after the isolation period.
This is a quick recipe that requires very few ingredients . It is loaded with vitamin E and is perfect for gluten free and vegan diets. This recipe also does not require any oil or butter as almonds have enough natural grease to make the cupcakes soft and moist. Honey replaces sugar to make it even more healthier.
COOKING TIME- 20-25 minutes
2 cups blanched almond flour
1 ripe banana
3 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup berries (whatever you like)
1. Mix whisked eggs, honey and mashed banana together with vanilla essence.
2. Add baking powder and salt to the almond flour..
3. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together along with berries.
4. Spoon the mixture into cupcake moulds and bake for 15-20 minutes on 180C in a preheated oven on the middle rack or until brown.
1. You can choose to put any fresh berries to your liking. I use strawberries, blueberries or raspberries alternatively or together sometimes. You can also use thawed frozen berries by removing their excess water.
2. If you do not find almond flour in the market, grind almonds at home, this will give you unblanched flour which maybe a little darker in colour.
My thoughts today-
COVID-19 has taken over the world stage. As infections rise to an alarming number of 1.6 million globally, and with the whole or most of the world locked down, I am feeling compelled to share some thoughts that have been troubling me for the last few days. While it is encouraging to see that the whole world is coming together to combat this challenging fight against this extraordinary virus that does not differentiate between rich and poor, urban or rural, powerful or weak, Prime Ministers or clerks, I wonder why is this difficult time so different than other difficult times and tragedies that the world has seen and is going through as we speak? Why is everybody so in sync and collected this time?
Isn’t it just because it has now been proven that this pandemic affects the affluent, the powerful, the middle class, anybody and everybody alike so the world is taking note of it because we want to save our own precious lives?
What I find strange is how we have rarely given a thought or paid attention to the 1.5 million people from low-income and marginalized populations that die every year due to Tuberculosis. Or that about 3 million people do not even get the treatment for this ailment at all. This is because unlike COVID-19, TB is predominantly a poor man’s disease that breeds due to unhygienic and impoverished living conditions. It is contagious, but it does not affect affluent people as they are not exposed to those living conditions. I wonder if any of today’s self-sufficient souls, with well-stocked kitchens, secure homes, working-from-home status and maintaining social distancing have ever felt or done anything for these 1.5 million dying each year? They are just numbers, merely statistics for all. On the contrary, as COVID-19 kills rich and poor alike, the whole world seems be together in its fight.
I wish that this wave of compassion and empathy that has now suddenly but pleasantly emerged in the world stays for times to come, and that some attention is given to the eternally existing humanitarian catastrophes that continue to affect the world population. As an example, there are more than 71 million refugees around the world, some in camps, some in very dangerous conditions. There are people dying in hundreds of thousands due to HIV and malaria and much more. In India itself, there are now 5 million internally displaced migrants in isolation camps getting barely enough to eat, no money at hand, nowhere to go. All this due to incredibly harsh measures against the poor to enforce the lockdown. Wish it was handled better with some empathy.
People that are in their comfort zones are able to follow the precautions to prevent spread of this virus, but they often very comfortably look at the underprivileged with disdain for furthering its spread. Unfortunately, it’s not that people stuck in deprived conditions aren’t serious or sane, or do not love their lives or of their loved ones, or are not sensible human beings, or want to expose others to the deadly virus. They are simply unfortunate. We cannot blame them for prioritizing their day-to-day survival over the spread of the pandemic. We have to be sensitive to their conditions, their psychology and their limitations when it comes to blaming them. We need to push for a collective action to create conditions that enable them to take the measures necessary to contain the spread.
Continuing from my earlier posts on photo culture, I have to say that recently I have been taken aback by the undying love for perfect pictures at family events and celebrations. You would think that the most important purpose of these events would be to ensure everyone savours the moments, ceremonies and rituals. I have been both amused and annoyed at times when it seems that the primary privilege of doing so has been bestowed on several teams of professional photographers who get the best access and view. Not only this, they often have to push back the invited guests to ensure pictures are perfect.
I wonder what happens with these professional photos taken at private events. And to what end? I have witnessed first-hand that by the time the pictures are printed and ready to be shared, the intended audience is lost. I think the majority of those pictures/recordings are only seen a few times later likely by close family members who are privy to that professionally created memory. At some events like this, it seems like invited distinguished guests and family members are secondary guests and the photographers are the most important and primary ones.
Considering that it is important to create memories of the event in pictures and save them for future.. I feel instead of paying big money to these photographers with big bodies and big equipment blocking our view, there could be a couple of tech savvy family members taking pictures or a drone camera that does the job without making guests feel secondary, even though at the cost of not having some perfect pictures.
What do you think? Have your experienced something like this?
Why this recipe? How is it green? How am I contributing to making this earth green by following four steps or less recipes?
In an effort to continue to promote use of energy and time saving tools and gadgets, using pressure cooker for this recipe will take about 5 minutes to make the vegetables tender whereas it will take 20-30 minutes in a regular pan. The conventional recipe requires vegetables to be fried to make them tender and then put in the karhi. This alternative will have high trans fat content,
You save: 70% to 80% of fuel energy and 15 to 20 minutes of your precious time that is about 10 to 15% of the total time you spend in the kitchen on an average(assuming you spend a total of 2-3 hours in a day in the kitchen).
GLUTEN FREE- SUGAR FREE
Why this recipe? How is it green? How am I contributing to making this earth green by following four steps or less recipes?
Easy to make, gluten free and sugar free classic indian dessert made in less than half the time of usual conventional recipe. Saving time and energy thereby reducing the carbon footprint on our precious planet.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, there are many changes happening in the world that I am just not able to fully grasp. Continuing on the trend of talking about photos, I wanted to share some thoughts and see whether my friends can share their experiences to help me learn more on this topic.
In today’s maddening photo culture, life seems to revolve around the camera. If you wear something nice, eat something good, go to a beautiful place, meet friends, celebrate an occasion or simply go to work, the first instinct is often to take a picture.
It commonly seems that if you go somewhere or do something without taking a picture, you have not been there or have not done it.
This and the innumerable selfies that people take worries me that this is a sign that society is moving towards more self-centredness.
I wonder — what are the unintended consequences of this phenomenon?
We have taken many technologies for granted without fully understanding their broader social impacts. In this case too, I fear that the easy access to taking countless photos, and the way this is promoted in the media and popular culture, is leading to society falling prey to the natural human tendency of narcissism, in some cases perhaps even bordering on a diagnosis of NPD (Narcissist Personality Disorder).
What do you think?
Do you think our photo culture enables/promotes narcissism?
Is this a problem? If so, how can we solve it?
Continuing on with my musings, I wanted to share my thoughts on a subject that is very close to my heart: the changing trends in photo culture. I often think about photos because I enjoy taking lots of photos myself, especially of special moments with family.
I think one of the most dramatic changes to our society has happened because of the advances in technology that allow billions of photographers to use their smartphones to take trillions of photos every day.
Photos were once precious, and I still think they are. There used to be a time when we had to be very careful and conservative because of the cost of taking and developing pictures – they were reserved for those most special moments and printed to cherish the memories at a later time.
I still think that there are many benefits to everyone having a camera. This easy access has empowered many to showcase their artistic talents, capturing amazing images of new places or experiences and sharing them with useful information. This is so valuable for others that may not have a chance to travel or have those same firsthand experiences. Seeing such pictures is always a delight — it’s something I look forward to when using social media.
In my case, I love taking photos and capturing videos of my family. I think it is so important to keep these records of all the special events, family get togethers, travels and new milestones.
I also spend lots of time curating and archiving photos – many times getting frustrated with the Apple Photos app which I use to store and catalogue.
I like to revisit them to keep the best ones in my records and organize them in an accessible manner. I now have a reservoir of about 40,000 pictures capturing memories of 6 to 7 decades of the whole Mehra and Masand Families.
With many technological advancements over the years, I have found many ways to put these photos to use to create memories for family, friends and myself in the form of coffee table books, personalized daily use items, home décor items that carry pictures that we all love to see often. Memorializing pictures on these personalized items and coffee table books seems to be appreciated by almost everyone I know. Every time I have tried it, I have seen peoples face light up with that smile.
I am curious — how do others approach photos?
Do you take many photos? What do you do with them? Do you have any tips or tricks on curating or archiving the many photos we take? Any suggestions on how to best memorialize special photos or bulk photos?
I got the first taste of my now favorite dessert- Tiramisu, about 20 years ago right here in Kenya. I loved it the first time I had it in a small Italian restaurant in Hurlingam, Nairobi. It was made to order with freshly brewed coffee and liqueur, resulting in an incredible taste, delicate flavours and a hot and cold mix that I didn’t find anywhere else in the world for over 20 years. It was always different, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but never as amazing. It had not occurred to me to try my hands at making it myself until I had a really terrible one at a new dessert outlet in the modern wing of Village Market in Nairobi. The dessert place was so fancy, but the Tiramisu was so bad! I could not see how difficult it could be for an expert desert chef at a high-end cafe to make a decent Tiramisu.
I started out by looking for various recipes available online, but all asked for lots of cream and cheese. I tried a couple and then came with up my own recipe that uses all the essential ingredients and follows the general process but makes a moderately less rich Tiramisu. Having made it so often for the last year or so, I now find it to be the easiest thing to make! I feel now it is time that I share this on my blog for my friends to try and enjoy. Check out the Quick recipes page on my blog to see the full recipe..Quick and Easy – My Tiramisu
COOKING TIME- 20 minutes
100 grams Mascarpone cheese
50 ml brewed coffee
25 ml Irish cream liqueur (optional)
50 grams sugar powder
20-25 lady finger Italian biscuits (or left over bread or cake)
50 grams whipped cream(optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
-Brew coffee and put it in the fridge to cool down
-Keep Mascarpone cheese outside the fridge to bring it to room temperature
-Separate egg yolks from whites and keep whites in the fridge until you need them in the recipe
STEP 1. Mix egg yolks and sugar and put it on a double boiler pan. Keep stirring it until it gets a little thick and sugar looks cooked (about 4-5 minutes). Put this in fridge to cool down. You will start making Tiramisu once this is cooled down.
STEP 2. Beat egg whites with electric beater to a point where whites are drip free and form soft peaks. Similarly, beat whipped cream to a point where is becomes thick and soft NOT to make butter, stop just before that.
STEP 3. Fold in egg yolks mixture, egg whites mix, cheese and whipped cream softly.
Step 4. Mix coffee and Irish cream liqueur in a shallow dish, dip the biscuits in a quick motion into this mixture (do not dip them in the liquid too long as the biscuits are very light and may melt away) and layer them in the serving dish. Spread the cream mixture as per step 3 over the dipped layered biscuits, place another layer of coffee dipped biscuits and then another layer of the cream mixture. Sprinkle cocoa powder and cinnamon powder over this using a small sieve.
1. As a substitute to Italian lady finger biscuits you could use left over bread or cake and dip it well in the coffee and liquor mixture before spreading the eggs and cream mixture. It comes out quite close to the original taste.
2. You can avoid putting whipped cream if you are counting on calories. I have skipped it quite a few times and it has come out well.
3. I also use reduced amount of sugar and cheese at times.
4. You could also sprinkle nutmeg powder as per you taste buds.
5. Irish cream liquor can be substituted with any other liqueur like Amarula, Baileys or other cocoa /coffee based liqueurs.
Why this recipe? How is it green? How am I contributing to making this earth green by following four steps or less recipes?
Quick to make, great to store, quick to steam in a pressure cooker or in microwave.
Dhokla is chickpea flour steamed savoury cake. It is one of the most healthy snacks to have at a time when you carve for something savoury but do not want to have some off the shelf that has pastry flour or shortening in abundance.
COOKING TIME- 5-10 minutes
2 tablespoon oil
100 grams Besan (chickpea flour)
½ cup yogurt
150 ml water
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 inch frozen or fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoon of sugar
3-4 figs of fresh coriander or parsley
1 tablespoon mustard seeds(for garnish)
2-3 green chillies
You will need a regular vegetable steamer or a microwaveable dish that you can use steam the dhokla.
1. Mix oil, yogurt, 50 ml of water, chickpea flour, turmeric powder and salt in a mixing bowl and leave it for 10-15 minutes.
2. This mixture has to be steamed for 8-10 minutes in a regular steamer or 5 minutes in microwave. Just before pouring the mixture in the steamer mould, add antacid powder to the mixture and stir it for a minute, you will see it will start coming up because of the soda in antacid powder.
3. While the steaming is on, take a separate small pan and add 1 teaspoon of oil, mustard seeds and split whole green chillies, once splattering starts, add 100 ml of water and sugar to it. Let it cook for 2 minutes.
4. Let the steamed dhokla cake cool down for 5-10 minutes and then pour this sweetened water mixture on it before you cut it into pieces to serve. Sprinkle fresh coriander or parsley before serving.
1. Dhokla goes very well with spicy hot and sweet chutneys and home made dips.
2. This snack is considered one of the most healthy and nutritive ones as it is steamed.
Spices offer exotic flavours to food, and flavourful food is divine. But spices are not just used to appease our taste.In fact, some spices can be a real boost to the body, and help rid it of toxins. Here are some benefits of spices used in most of my recipes:
1. Turmeric (haldi): Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Arthritis, joint pains, and Alzheimer are some of the known medical problems that turmeric helps in curing. It has been used in India for ages for cosmetic benefits like bringing radiance to skin, curing acne and skin related medical problems.
2. Cloves (laung): Anti-viral, Anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, source of many minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids
3. Cumin seeds (jeera): helps remove toxins, helps with digestion, lactation, common cold, diabetes, insomnia, prevents memory loss.
4. Bay leaf (tez patta): boosts immunity, improves nervous system function, protects oral health, regulates body metabolism and prevents blood-related conditions like anemia.
5. Star Anise (chakraphool): antioxidant, rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, copper, and manganese. Has stomachic, anti-spasmodic, antiseptic, digestive, expectorant, and stimulant properties. Helps to increase the circulation and oxygenation of body parts.
6. Caraway Seeds (ajwain): improve digestion, reduce constipation, lowers blood cholesterol, reduces bloating, belching, gas and gas pains and improves blood pressure. A source for thiamine, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and niacin, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. This is most commonly used as a safe treatment in India for stomach related medical problems for infants and kids.
7. Cardamom (elaichi): Aids in digestion and increased frequency and volume of urination, reduces spasms, lowers blood pressure and increases metabolism. A source of vitamins and minerals like riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, iron, manganese and potassium.
8. Cinnamon (dal chini): Reduces inflammation, eliminates pain and infections, manages diabetes, reduces bloating, belching, gas and gas pains , increases cognitive function, good for bones, prevents cancer and good for the health of eyes and skin.
These are all mild flavoured spices used commonly in an Indian household. All of these are easily available in asian grocery stores all over the world. It is also good to know that they are quite inexpensive.
Spices should be used according to personal preferences/palates and in moderate quantities.