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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

World of Words Wednesday - N is for 'New Looks, New Beginnings'

So I missed the last two weeks as Wednesdays sailed by me and my half-written posts for each day of the week did not make it to my blog. But I had a commitment - I had signed up to be part of the Spooktacular Giveaway hosted by Kathy and that meant I had to put up a post in time. I decided I need to use this opportunity to use the wonderful template I had won a couple of weeks ago (my L post when Lady Luck was smiling upon me - which did not make it here..) in a Bloggiesta giveaway hosted by Aloi at Guiltless Reading and sponsored by Envye (you have to check out the templates she has - it was a tough decision picking one out of all the beautiful ones). So, here I am trying out the new look on my blog. For those of you who have visited before, do let me know how the new look is - as for me, it brings a smile to my face (and am hoping will bring posts to my blog more often than not!!).
So here is my New look for ABC Wednesday's letter N. 

A side by side comparison for those who are here for the first time:

And a few more glimpses into another 'N'- the Navratri doll festival (or golu as we call it) at our home.  While you are here, go ahead and enter the giveaway on my blog currently (and there is a linky to almost 300 other blogs with fabulous giveaways on this hop) - May Lady Luck favor you, me, and everyone!



Spooktacular Giveaway Blog Hop!



October brings to mind many things for me - birthdays of beloved family members and close friends, and festivals - so many of them! While the kids start planning their Halloween costumes in earnest, I plan on the sweets and snacks I think I will make for Deepavali (or Diwali - the festival of lights)- think being the operative word here! With Navaratri barely having waved goodbye to us, we have Diwali calling us forward followed by Halloween of course. And it is fun to celebrate everything - the lights and the costumes (and the sweets) all make this month spectacular indeed.
So to celebrate the same, here is something sweet - a $10 Amazon Gift Card to pick out a treat for yourself. 
And to those of you who have visited earlier, I am trying out a new look on my blog - a big thanks to Aloi at Guiltless Reading and Dana Fox of The Wonder Forest and owner of Envye Design Shop for this template. I am still playing with it so as the hop progresses, you might see changes here :)
Use the rafflecopter to enter the giveaway, and visit the many wonderful blogs to increase your chances at winning amazing prizes. Thank you to Kathy for hosting this hop.
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Navratri Kolu - Down Memory Lane and Back to the Present with How Tos, Whys and Whats - Part 2



Other memories (part one of this post is here) that come up are those of the sundals, the sweets, and of course, the dolls and the displays at each house we visited. The same humble bean with the same set of accompanying ingredients takes on unique yet wonderfully yummy flavors in different homes. We did not pause to think of this fact then but enjoyed the sundal. We would inevitably find the 7-cup barfi or the coconut barfi in the goody bag given to us (and the badam paalu served) and that would taste different too under the hands of different chefs.

So what is Navratri and what is it's significance?
Navratri literally means nine nights and the tenth day is called Vijayadashami (means victory on the 10th day). The mother goddess is worshiped in her various forms over the nine days. The first three days for the form Durga - the destroyer of evils and granter of boons; the second three days for Lakshmi - the giver of wealth; and the last three days for Saraswathi - the goddess of wisdom and knowledge.
Various stories and traditions add to the richness of this festival celebrated across India in different ways. In Tamil Nadu, Navratri is celebrated in many homes through the colorful tradition of the Golu or kolu (golu means courtyard). This is a display of dolls arranged in steps - number of steps should be odd (3, 5, 7, 9 and so on). The dolls are arranged in a hierarchy across the steps beginning with the kalasam and dolls of goddesses on the top step to reptiles, fish, etc in the bottom step (depending on the dolls people have with them).  The display is kept for the nine days of Navratri and on the 10th day, any one doll is symbolically laid down to sleep to indicate that Navratri has ended for the year.
Here is one look at my golu this year.

This post goes towards ABC Wednesday's letter K

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Navratri Golu - Down Memory Lane and Back to the Present with How Tos, Whys and Whats - Part 1



Down Memory Lane 
Navratri – The name always conjures memories of garba and golu for me. The garba dances we used to enjoy avoiding when we were younger (around 10 or so) and dancing when we were a little older (in our teens) where I grew up; the golus in various Tamil homes in our colony – including my favorite one – ours! Mom made out the list of invitees – all the ladies in the colony – on sheets of paper – arranged in the order of their addresses – with a column for them to sign in and let her know if they could attend and when. My job (and I always had my best friend with me) was to walk around the colony up and down stairs, ringing bells and convincing everyone (they did not need it though as they always enjoyed the display and the food that mom laid out each year) to attend, and of course, sampling the sweets, savories, and the yummy drinks many of the aunties invariably ended up giving us as we must be tired with all the walking. 

The photo below is of a Navratri Golu from years ago with my paternal grandparents who were among the simplest and strongest people I knew, and smartest too.

Navratri Golu Padi
The Steps – Earlier and Now
Setting up the steps was an event in itself – wooden planks from shelves, books, biscuit tin cans, random pieces of furniture all made their way to the golu setup area – and we arranged them all to get our 7 steps. Now, mom uses the readymade metal steps for golu each year.

Here in the US, I worked with makeshift golu steps too all these years.  They have been made using, as mentioned earlier -  books, planks from bookshelves, and other random pieces of furniture put together. That requires a lot of imagination on how we can use the things we have around the house (the ones that are currently usable at that time!). This time, I was without a few important furniture pieces needed for the makeshift steps and decided it was time to make one that can be dismantled and stored easily at the end of the festival for use next year.
Thanks to posts here at ThinkingWood and here at Love & Lentil, we were able to build our first very own padi.

Items we used:
Total Cost ~$120



What we did: 
Mark and then drill holes into the wood pieces where they need to be joined. 
The bolts used to put the pieces together - the L-shaped ones were used to attach the horizontally running supporting planks (that attached the two stair risers together) with the stair risers; regular screws with nuts and bolts were used to attach the vertical supports to the stair risers. 
 
Photos of how we attached them together (from both sides) below
 


So here it is - in its I-am-waiting-for-the-planks form - our 5 steps golu padi. 
Dimensions: 
4 ft length by 4 ft depth by 3 ft height
 
The planks were then arranged on the stair risers (no need to nail or screw them on!) - just place them on the stair risers. Once that is done, cover with cloth of your choice - based on experience and tradition, I have noticed that plain white works best on the steps so the dolls placed on them will be displayed to the best advantage. Maybe I should have stuck to a plain color for the background too where I have the maroon with gold leaves but I am going to see how this works this time.  


Completed picture of the golu with the dolls will come soon. 

More coming in Part 2 ..

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reviews Galore..and more..


by
My thoughts: The selection of the giants featured in this book was just perfect - Abraham of Ur, Pericles, the Apostle Paul, Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa. The stories of these wonderful men and women across nations and times shows us that 'we can' be giants too! This shows us that history and biography books can be interesting and thus teach more in the process.
Rating:A-





Razia’s Ray of Hope – I had seen this book featured across many blogs last year and wanted to read it way earlier than I actually did. And now I am glad I did. And I agree with the real Razia Jan that ‘education is the key to positive, peaceful change in the world’. 
The story follows Razia as she strives towards her dream of going to the new school - her patience and perseverance in getting her family's support results in sweet triumph. The realistic portrayal of Razia, her family, her village, and of the struggles in a world other than what most of us know is wonderful and inspirational. A must-read for everyone - though the book is aimed towards kids, adults can benefit by reading this too. The accompanying illustrations are beautiful and make this book a treasure indeed along with the well written story. 
A great book for classrooms as part of multicultural studies. This is another wonderful book from Kids Can Press and part of their CitizenKid collection.

Rating: A+
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8
Reread Level: 5/5

 

Disclaimer:Thank you to Edelweiss and to the publishers for sending me a digital review copy of the books above. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on these books were in no way influenced by the author or publicist. They are my personal opinions formed when I read them..

Water Can Be: Just like the previous book ‘A Leaf Can Be’, this book is magical. Using wonderful watercolor illustrations and words that flow, both the author Laura Purdie Salas and the illustrator Violeta Dabija have once again seamlessly blended their talents to create a wow factor with simplicity, with words and pictures that are at once sublime and superb. As we turn the pages, we can see the many phases and faces of water as the seasons change. For example, water can be a kid drencher, or a rainbow jeweler; it can be a puddle or the sea! The backmatter includes a lot of useful information – a glossary, a list of books for further reading, and a useful index called ‘More about Water’ which goes into some detail into the water cycle and more.
Laura’s website includes guides and activities that can be used with the book in a classroom for kids both young and old; or at home for some rainy afternoon.

Rating: A+
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8
Reread Level: 5/5









Edie's Ensembles: The artwork is simply gorgeous and there is a wonderful lesson to be learned - that you just need to be yourself - the you inside - the one that matters. My kids (even though they are already older than the intended audience) enjoyed seeing the outfits Edie makes as they got weirder and weirder and appreciated her imagination. The story lost me a little a couple of times and it might be tough to get younger kids to understand some of the whys and whats of the story. But I loved the end of the story as Edie realizes that you do not need to always be the center of attention, that who you are inside matters more, and that to be friends, you do not need to be popular or well-dressed or .........
Rating: B
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8
Reread Level: 3.5/5


Disclaimer:Thank you to NetGalley and to the publishers for sending me a digital review copy of the books above. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on these books were in no way influenced by the author or publicist. They are my personal opinions formed when I read them..

As part of my goals for Bloggiesta, wanted to get on my overdue reviews and start on reducing that pending list - so today's reviews are part of that process, thanks to Bloggiesta!


 For ABC Wednesday's letter J, I wanted to be a little more earlier than just in time! Jokes apart, ABC Wednesday has definitely kept me trying to write posts about varied subjects and on a weekly once schedule at least. Jostling with regular blog post writing and bloggiesta updates are the preparations for the wonderful celebrations of Navratri coming this week, and I definitely find joy in both. For something else that brings a smile to my face, a couple of photos from our visit to Universal Studios not too long ago.