Sunshine Blogger Award

I was delighted to be nominated for the Sunshine blogger award by Brooke of Anywhere with Brooke. Check out her blog for coffee spots in Louisville or her suggestions for things to do in Bordeaux.

sunshine blogger award.jpg

Quoting Brooke, “The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given to bloggers by bloggers. It is given to bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

So, thank you, Brooke, for the lovely nomination and responding to your questions:

  • When did you start your first blog and if it is not the current one, about what was it?

I started my first blog back in 2004. It was called ‘View from my desk’, where I shared random musings when I felt like it. I removed it after a decade because I just wanted to focus on my two current blogs – this one and my food blog.

  • Dream travel destination?

Currently, it is New Zealand.

  • Name one book/movie that has inspired you

Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham.

razors edge

  • What countries have you traveled to?

I have traveled to over 25 countries, the most recent one being UK.

  • Tell something funny that has happened to you in a plane

I remember a funny conversation on my first time on a budget airline that had started operating in Sri Lanka. I had been delighted that I had got a return air ticket quite cheaply, until my neighbours on my flight chatted about the affordability of the airfare. I learnt that they had paid one-third of what I had paid for my flight. That was my intro to the big sales and seasonal discounts offered by budget airlines and I found it really funny that contentment can be quite relative.

  • What is your own favorite post from your blog?

My favourite post from my blog, Arctic Lessons, is on my travel to Kiruna, Sweden, in search of the northern lights. I also wrote it a long time ago, during my pre-blogging years, and I enjoyed writing it without having any audience in mind.

  • What are your three must listen road trip songs?

I don’t have specific must listen road trip songs but go with my mood. This means that when I listen to the same song back home, I am taken back to that particular road trip.

  • Do you believe in destiny?

I do believe that we meet certain people or experience certain things in life that we are meant/ destined to, but that we are free to make choices on how we wish to deal with these experiences.

  • Share your secret blogging advice with everyone

Blog link ups. It is not a secret but blog link ups are a great way to come across other bloggers, who blog on similar themes as you do. Since I participated in my first travel blog link up back in May, I have come across over 100 travel blogs which I enjoy reading.

  • Train, car, ship or plane travel? Which one do you prefer?

Trains. I prefer to travel by trains over land.

  • Introduce your blog in three words

A traveler’s tales.

Passing on the blog award, I am delighted to name my 11 nominations for the Sunshine blogger award.

  1. Mandy @Emm in London
  2. Carolann @Finding Ithaka
  3. Lauren @Lauren on Location
  4. Michelle @Michwanderlust
  5. Cathy @Mummy Travels
  6. Van @Snow in Tromso
  7. Clare @Suitcases and Sandcastles
  8. Isabel @The sunny side of this
  9. Katy @Untold Morsels
  10. Elizabeth @Wander Mum
  11. Marcella @What a wonderful world

If you choose to pass on the blog award, please display the sunshine blogger award logo in your post as well as answer my five questions for you.

  1. Why do you travel?
  2. Do share a travel experience that moved you deeply.
  3. Which is your current dream destination?
  4. What blogging advice would you give for other travel bloggers?
  5. Do share a motivational quote or short verse that has often inspired you.

Have a wonderful day!

A Guest Post for Eid: Wattalapam or Steamed coconut pudding

Indu at Indu’s International Kitchen is a lovely food blogger whom I have known since I started my food blog, A Taste of Sri Lankan Cuisine in 2013. While her blog had a similar initial focus to mine of documenting my mother’s recipes, she soon diversified her blog focus to recipes from around the world as well as her original and fusion creations. Do visit her delightful blog and check out some of her Kerala and other recipes.

When Indu was on her Sri Lankan culinary journey last December, she invited me to do a guest post on her blog. The timing was not great for me then but this month, as I am at home in-between work, I have had a lot of time to focus on my two blogs. So, I wrote back to her saying that I would be delighted to share my mother’s recipe for Wattalapam – a very popular Sri Lankan dessert stemming from the Malay cuisine of the country. Indu kindly agreed to post it on Eid, which is today. I am re-blogging her post here.

So, I would like to wish all Eid Mubarak!

Indu's International Kitchen

Wattalapam(Coconut Custard Pudding)Happy Eid to all those who celebrate! Today marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.  I sincerely hope that the new year will usher in peace and happiness for everyone and reduce the suffering that we have been recently witnessing across the globe. Life is simple and let’s keep it simple. Live and let live.

Anyways, today’s post is a guest post from a co-blogger and a good friend Ahila.  Ahila blogs at ‘ A taste of SriLankan cuisine‘ where she blogs authentic Sri Lankan recipes of her mom. When I had done my virtual tour of Sri Lanka earlier this year, I had asked Ahila if she could do a guest post. But she had been very busy with work and other engagements and so she was unable to do one at that time. But now she reached out to me when she finally had…

View original post 155 more words

Success essential for sense of accomplishment?

It seems ironic that a sense of accomplishment is dependent on success or extrinsic validation. Should it not be more of an intrinsic validation, that you have done the best that you can within the environment available to you? This is something that I have been increasingly reflecting upon.

Eleven years ago on this day, I met with a road traffic accident which led to a lengthy recovery process, including a six month period in which I was hardly able to move. During that recovery period, nudged by my mother, I started typing random thoughts on my laptop from the moment I was able to move my right hand fingers even when I could not move the rest of my hand or body for that matter. It eventually resulted in my first book – The first step, something that I should feel a sense of accomplishment about. For having been both a cathartic process and something positive that I was able to focus on other than the frustrations and pains of recovery, the completion of that book should in itself have elicited a sense of accomplishment. Yet, I began feeling that only when my family and then my friends and acquaintances started reading it and giving me positive feedback. While during the writing of my book, I had simply focused on the pleasure of writing and not on who would be reading it or how it would be received, it seems surprising that once the book was completed and published, I seemed to expect external validation for my sense of accomplishment. The book is available on Amazon and given the limited sales of the book, I seem to feel the sense of accomplishment even less. I hesitate to call myself a writer, even though writing has always been a passion of mine since I was eight, simply because the two books that are out there have not received either sales success or critical acclaim. The question I ask myself is why should it matter whether people read the book or if they like it or not, all it should matter for my sense of accomplishment is that I transformed a traumatic experience into a positive one through my writing.

What baffles me further is that even when I have received recognition or external validation in my professional work or academic efforts and I did feel a sense of hubristic pride at those times, it was fleeting and not a real sense of accomplishment. Is it because I felt luck had a far greater role than my efforts in the recognition that I received?

Ever since I read J.D.Salinger‘s novella, Seymour – an introduction, this excerpt from the novella has been floating around at the back of my head.

“Could you try not aiming so much?” he asked me, still standing there. “If you hit him when you aim, it’ll just be luck.” He was speaking, communicating, and yet not breaking the spell. I then broke it. Quite deliberately, “How can it be luck if I aim?” I said back to him, not loud (despite the italics) but with rather more irritation in my voice that I was actually feeling. He didn’t say anything for a moment but simply stood balanced on the curb, looking at me, I knew imperfectly, with love. “Because it will be,” he said. “You’ll be glad if you hit his marble – Ira’s marble – won’t you? Won’t you be glad? And if you’re glad when you hit somebody’s marble, then you sort of secretly didn’t expect too much to do it. So there’d have to be some luck in it, there’d have to be slightly quite a lot of accident in it.”

While luck has a hand in the external validation of efforts as it involves others and their own goals/ motivations and you are aiming for success or validation by them when you expect them to provide it, it does not have much of a role in your own part of the work. It is not luck that I wrote during my recovery nor is it luck that I put in a great deal of effort when working on causes I believe in and it is certainly not luck that I have travelled extensively in the past decade. It was more a prioritization of which of my passions I wished to invest my time and energy and then putting in a lot of hard work to achieving them. I certainly should be feeling a sense of accomplishment for having achieved several of my goals I set out for myself. I don’t though. Perhaps because my goals are constantly evolving.

Why is authentic pride or the sense of accomplishment so much more difficult to feel than hubristic pride that relies on external validation such as success and recognition? Dr. Raj Raghunathan, or Dr. HappySmarts of the Coursera course A life of Happiness and Fulfillment, would say that our happiness depended on nurturing authentic pride and reducing/ eliminating hubristic pride and that by changing our thoughts consciously, we can achieve it. It is a difficult process as we live in a global society that values success, power and money, all of which are extrinsic and have no bearing on our happiness or sense of accomplishment. Except for the few lucky ones, most of us have been raised from our childhood at home, at school and subsequently at work and among peers, to expect external validation as an indicator of our accomplishment.

I have finally reached a point in my life where I have realized that success is not mandatory for a sense of accomplishment. My current goal is to nurture authentic pride rather than hubristic pride.

G12 Adventures – Random musing #2: On a nudge influenced policy and its viability…

Cross-posting this from G12 Adventures blog which I am hosting this month -http://g12adventures.blogspot.com/2015/04/random-musing-2-on-nudge-influenced.html

(G12 Adventures is a blog that the Generation 12 cohort of the Asia Pacific Leadership Programme (APLP) of East West Centre, Hawai’i, initiated and it is hosted each month by one of the cohort members)

I read in a recent Sunday Times Sri Lanka edition about the proposed colour coding system on soft drinks. The authorities hope that system will encourage people to be more conscious of their sugar intake and thereby reducing high sugar levels observed among school children.

Why do I find this interesting? Because I have been reading Thaler and Sunstein’s book on Nudge for my behavioural public policy course under my current masters studies on social policy and development. And, I had been trying to think of examples where the Sri Lankan government might have used ‘nudge’ concepts to influence the public in a direction that they felt was beneficial for the well-being of the individuals.

When I read this article, I felt that this could be considered an example of a nudge. Where the policy does not force people to do something and the economic incentives are minimal but rather informs people of the choices and indicating their own preferred choice by the traffic light coding system on soft drink packaging.

Would this work as it is? The producers of soft drinks are going to be amongst the first to resist the coding system because a colour coding system does provide easily interpreted visual information for consumers and a rational human being would tend to keep away from the red coded food products in most instances. However, the more important question is: will consumers be ‘nudged’ into a more healthy choice in consumption simply by looking at the colour codes?

The key here would have to be the awareness campaign and to ensure that it becomes the latest trendy choice to opt for low sugar beverages. If there is a crowding out of soft drinks with high sugar content due to decline in consumption, then producers would start taking steps towards re-examining their soft drink production and possibly, reducing sugar content in their products.

So, it does look as if the proposal by the Health ministry is viable and could be effective if sufficient attention is paid to the awareness campaign.

However, this proposal assumes that the high intake of sugar content is from processed products purchased from the markets. It does not take into consideration the inclusion of sugar in home made products. According to an earlier Sunday Times article on sugar and salt consumption levels as a positive correlation to a rise in diabetes, heart disease, obesity etc., it quotes the Medical Research Institute chief as stating that 70% of salt consumption of the average Sri Lankan is from home-cooked products and only 20% from processed food. As a similar breakdown was not given for sugar intake in the article, one could perhaps assume that the same holds for sugar consumption until evidence indicates otherwise. Therefore, targeting only soft drinks and other processed food is not likely to drastically reduce the current statistics of high sugar levels.

What do you think of this proposal? Are there other pitfalls that the proposal is missing in its conceptualization? What can be added on to this proposal to make it more effective? Are there similar policies nudging people towards healthy consumption in your country?

My initiation to cooking

Cooking is the last activity that I ever thought I would indulge in. Of course, I have put together a hasty lunch or dinner in the past, when I have had to but most of my meals at such instances were pretty much instant or micro-wave ready meals. In the instances when I took the trouble to cook, I was only prepared to take the effort to cook meals that could be prepared in fifteen or twenty minutes. A simple noodle or pasta dish and at times rice with dhal curry was the most I managed.

Yet, sometime during the first half of 2013 that changed. I can now cook. More importantly, I enjoy cooking.

The reason this change has been surprising to me and my family is that I have never enjoyed cooking before. I always felt it was a waste of time to spend time in the kitchen. I also never had the patience to go through a recipe, understand what seemed like a secret, complex code and make something. Fortunately for me, whenever I am at home, Amma’s excellent cooking and ownership of the kitchen spared me the need of venturing into that domain.

Apart from my dislike of cooking, I also had a mental block that I should not be in the kitchen. I remember as a teen, my father used to make a fuss that as a girl, I had not ever stepped into the kitchen and would not be able to make anything in an emergency. He would keep harping about the fact that he had been able to cook rice, dhal curry and a sambol at the age of eight. I would feel discriminated as he never said the same to my brother. So, I would dig in my heels and refuse to go anywhere near the kitchen for cooking. Luckily, my mother has always been liberal minded and anyway, preferred us to focus our energies on our studies and then our career. She just requested us, both my brother and I, to help out with grocery shopping which I happily undertook as my siblings and I took turns with it growing up.

However, over the last few years, I had been increasingly worried about Amma’s health. After returning home last year from some months abroad, I saw that she had become very frail. I felt that the fact that she does not eat proper meals, but rather snacks on a slice of toast or some instant noodles, was also a crucial factor in her weakening health. Amma’s excuse has always been that she has never been able to eat what she cooks. She says that after cooking and feeding the family, it feels as if she has eaten a full meal.

For Amma’s birthday last April, I felt I wanted to do something special. I decided to try my hand at making an apple crumble. As a friend had said that it was very easy to make and I love apple pies, I decided to make it. It didn’t turn out as I imagined it would but it was eatable and everyone at home was surprised. Amma particularly was quite proud of it. When my sisters heard about my attempt at making an apple pie, they started suggesting that perhaps I could think of making some food for Amma regularly to encourage her to eat better.

I gave it some thought and since I had just completed a consultancy assignment and was at home, in between work, I decided I would give it a try. The problem I had was deciding what to cook. Amma was anyway cooking complete Sri Lankan meals for us each day. There was no point in me trying my hand at making a curry when hers was the best. So, I decided to make my cooking attempt fun for me while making it interesting and tempting for my mother. I enjoy travelling and decided that while I was at home, I would look at travelling through food.

I scoured the net and depending on my mood, would select a nutritious, mostly heart healthy, diabetic friendly recipe from a different part of the world each time. From simpler, healthier Vietnamese style tofu noodle lettuce wraps and savoury vegetable pancakes, I soon progressed to making okra and chickpea tagine and mushroom and barley risotto. It didn’t necessarily mean that my food turned out well all the time but at least, they were eatable, flavourful and different.

Amma, while not having significantly improved her eating pattern, at least consumes a little of what I make and hopefully gets a slightly better nutritional balance. She is a very picky eater and I appreciate fully now the patience she must have had with us as kids to experiment and find what we preferred and to encourage us to eat balanced meals.

I still don’t enjoy spending much time in the kitchen and try to finish up in an hour, when I do go and make something. What I am quite proud of though is that looking at a recipe now feels like reading in a language I understand. I can now decode. More importantly, I am able to cook something that tempts my mother to try it out.

As I am sharing this post at The Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday #32, I will share one of the recipes I tried out for my mother – this is a slightly adapted version of Eating Well’s mushroom and barley risotto.Cropped risotto

Mushroom and Barley Risotto

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: average
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 vegetable bouillon cubes dissolved in 4 cups water
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup red grape juice, freshly squeezed and chilled
  • 3 cups spinach, chopped
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Chopped carrots and spinach, for garnish

Preparation:

  1. Mix the freshly blended red grape juice with vinegar and refrigerate a couple of hours before starting the cooking.
  2. Bring broth and water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Adjust heat to maintain a steady simmer.
  3. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they begin to release their juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Add barley and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add an eighth of the grape juice and simmer, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute more. Reduce heat to medium.
  4. Add 1/2 cup hot broth to the barley and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding the grape juice and hot broth by alternatively adding an eighth of the grape juice, stirring until the liquid has been absorbed, and then adding 1/2 cup hot broth. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until the barley is tender and creamy but still somewhat firm, 35 to 45 minutes. (You might not use all the broth or you might need to add some of the water in reserve)
  5. Stir in spinach and cook, stirring, until it is wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in cheese, margarine and vinegar. Season with pepper.
  6. Garnish with a little chopped carrot and spinach and serve warm.

Source: Adapted from Eating Well

My Request…

Re-blogging Prudy’s post on little Danny’s touching birthday request.

butter, basil and breadcrumbs | simple. rustic. delish. recipes.

There is no recipe tonight…. just a simple request.

I cannot tell you how much all of the love and support that you gave to Mike and me…after I told you about his illness… meant to me. While I’m not surprised, because over these last few months, I’ve come to know that there are so many, many good people in this world…I am deeply touched by the kindness that you showed to the both of us.

I know that many of you are moms too, so I know you feel what I feel. I would give my son anything that would make him happy (within reason…I’m not buying him that $30K truck that he wants!).

Like I told you, we are blessed. Michael has the disease, but it’s manageable. He can live a long life.

Last night, I was watching the news…and there was a short segment about a…

View original post 231 more words

Not a book review: Waves

On the eve of the Sri Lankan New Year, I decided to schedule the kindle free book promotion of my short story collection – Waves, for these two days.

Waves

Waves is a short story collection of my early writing – most of the stories were written during my undergraduate years at Peradeniya university. It is a collection of 10 short stories exploring moments in peoples’ lives that causes different responses akin to the movement of waves.

Two of the short stories from this collection has been included in two anthologies: ‘The Gaze’ in Contemporary Short Stories of the SAARC region 2012 and The Cuckoo’ in Kaleidoscope 2: An anthology of Sri Lankan English Literature (2010).

As I was considering reprinting The First Step in 2010,  I decided to share the short story collection as well and self-published it. Again as in the case of  ‘The First Step,’ based on the feedback I received from readers of the first 100 copies of the books, I decided to make the collection available on Amazon for anyone who might be interested in reading the slim collection of 10 stories.

Having self-published the books, I did not consider marketing it or promoting it as I felt it was sufficient to make the books available online. However, I came across a blog that was primarily a book review site that I happened to like. On an impulse, I contacted the Indian blogger and Samarpita agreed to read and post her review on her site. After reading the collection, she connected me with some of her fellow book reviewing bloggers in India. Their reviews are available on Words’ Worth by Samarpita and Leo’s A Bookworm’s Musing.

Apart from that instance of soliciting a book review, I have not promoted the book. As Amazon does offer the option of holding a free book promotion, I decided I might as well make use of the promotion tool.

So, Waves will be freely available for downloading to your Kindle reader or your computer on April 13th and 14th (as amazon.com runs on Seattle Washington time, the promotion will be activated from Sri Lankan time 1p.m. on April 13th to 1p.m. on April 15th). I invite you to download the book during this promotion period and if you do, please do post a review on either Amazon or Goodreads.

Book details:

  • Title: Waves
  • Author: Ahila Thillainathan
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Self-published
  • ISBN-13: 978-9558535097
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc (July 19, 2012)