12 September, 2021

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - [Book Review]

Book Details:

Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Genre: War Fiction

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Print length: 372 pages

Source: Copy from the local library

Blurb :

Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, the #1 New York Times bestseller A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.

“Just as good, if not better, than Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling first book, The Kite Runner.”—Newsweek

Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel that confirms his place as one of the most important literary writers today.

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss, and by fate. As they endure the ever-escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end, it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.

Purchase Link:

My Review :

I got this book from our local library and this is the first book by Khaled Hosseini that I read after listening to many great reviews.

This is a heart-touching story of 2 women in Afghanistan during the period of war with Russia and when the country is occupied by the Taliban later. Mariam who is smart and intelligent raised by her mom had to go through so many difficulties in her life for one bad decision of trusting her father Jalil. 

We feel the problems of Mariam through the story and relate to her helplessness after she is forcibly married to Rasheed at a young age. 

Laila who is the neighbor of Mariam in Kabul is a girl raised by her parents who are educated. Her life turns upside down when their parents die due to the bombing and her friend Tariq leaving with his family to Pakistan due to war. She takes an important decision in her life knowing that it would hurt her forever.

Rasheed's character makes us hate him. He uses the rules of patriarchy the best by manipulating both Mariam and Laila.

The rules set by the Taliban on Afghanistan women seem cruel. It is so sad to read that women didn't have freedom even to walk outside their house without a male companion and that even the police never cared about domestic violence.

It is inspiring to see how women survived without their basic rights in those times. Mariam has to take the difficult decision but she is brave enough to sacrifice her life for the good of Laila who is like her daughter. 

Laila is courageous enough to rebel against Rasheed and even get beatings just to meet her daughter. Mariam and Laila are some of the best women characters I ever read.

The story ends very well, but it makes us shiver thinking of the atrocities against women in those times. 

Usually, war stories are depressing to read. But, this story though heart-wrenching and emotional, it makes us feel positive and hopeful.

What's great?

The way story is written makes it relatable to the readers. The characterization is thorough and deep. The message at the end is great and it is definitely the best read.

My Rating:


I recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction, and real war stories.

About the Author:

Khaled Hosseini is one of the most widely read and beloved novelists in the world, with over thirty eight million copies of his books sold in more than seventy countries. The Kite Runner was a major film and was a Book of the Decade, chosen by The Times, Daily Telegraph and Guardian. A Thousand Splendid Suns was the Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year in 2008. Hosseini is also a Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency and the founder of The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. He was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and lives in northern California.

Until next time,

15 August, 2021

Mammoth Hotsprings, Yellowstone Itinerary Day #3

 Read this post to plan the Yellowstone Vacation with kids - How to Plan Vacation to Yellowstone

Our Day #1 itinerary covering Yellowstone Waterfalls - The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Our Day #2 itinerary covering the mid-way geyser basin - The Grand Prismatic Spring

 Our Day #2 (part 2), itinerary covering the Upper and Lower geyser basin - Old Faithful Geyser

On Day #3, we covered the Northern part of Yellowstone - Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hotsprings, and Roosevelt arch.

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On the way to Mammoth Hotsprings, we can visit the Norris geyser basin.

Norris Geyser Basin:

Norris geyser basin is the hottest and the most dynamic area of Yellowstone. The temperature on the surface can be as high as 459 F here. This area changes frequently with seismic activity and water fluctuations. 

Norris Geyser Basin

This place is home to the world's tallest geyser 'Steamboat geyser' which raises to 300- 400 ft when erupted. 

This area is divided into 2 parts - Back Basin and Porcelain Basin. We first visited the Porcelain basin which is more dynamic with a large concentration of geysers. We can see the hottest geothermal features called Fumeroles here. They release steam and gasses with a loud noise. This trail is 3/4th mile with bare ground and some Broadwalk. 

The Back Basin is shaded and geysers are scattered across different locations. The Broadwalk trail is 1.5 miles. We walked to Steamboat geyser only and returned back as it seemed lengthy under hot Sun.

Steamboat Geyser:

This is the world's tallest geyser which can splash water up to 300 ft. The eruptions are entirely unpredictable. Last time, it erupted on July 8, 2021, and it erupted for 37 days! 

We can see this geyser in Back Basin after the Emerald pool. There is a connection underground between the Cistern pool and the Steamboat geyser. When a Steamboat geyser erupts, it drains the Cistern pool completely and it fills back after the eruption. Isn't this amazing?

Next, we drove to the Mammoth hot springs area. The drive to Mammoth hot spring is beautiful. 

Mammoth Hot Springs :

For hundreds of years, people used to collect the minerals in this area to use it as white paint. The mineral deposits are formed by the network of fractures that form a plumbing system releasing hot water from underground to the surface. Due to chemical reactions with limestone and carbon dioxide, Calcium carbonate is deposited on the surface forming travertine, the rock that's formed in this area. 

Canary Springs

This area is almost near to the North Entrance to a town called Gardiner. The whole Broadwalk with many steps covering Upper and lower terraces is around 1.75 miles. On a hot sunny day, it is tough to hike this, it is better to carry water and snacks as there are many steps too.

A must-see attraction on the Upper terrace is Canary Spring. The colors of the water - blue, green, turquoise are beautiful to watch flowing down the white rocks. 

After you finish the trail to Canary Springs and back, you can proceed to the lower terrace. On the way to the lower terrace, the blue spring is fabulous.

Mound terrace

Patterns on the terrace - Close up

The yellow mound terrace and the pattern on the terraces are amazing. We couldn't see any water flowing through the Minerva terrace, but I think, the landscape here is changing over time.

Lower Terrace

Liberty Cap:

We can see the Liberty cap at the end of the trail. This rock is made of travertine (a type of limestone formed in hot springs) and it is known to be one of the extinct thermal features.  

Liberty Cap

Terrace Grill:

We stopped by Terrace Grill restaurant for our dinner. Dinner is delicious and we tried the homemade ice cream in the next store as well. If your kids love buses and trucks, terrace grill will give this free cardboard toy bus for kids meals. :-)

Female Elk

We also saw Elk while having dinner at picnic tables opposite the Terrace grill.

Roosevelt Arch:

Then, on driving for 15 mins or so, we reach Roosevelt Arch. In 1903, the partially constructed arch was dedicated by President Roosevelt with much fan-fare. The arch is named after the President as he was vacationing in Yellowstone during the construction.

Roosevelt Arch

2 miles off the Mammoth Hotsprings towards Gardiner, there is a place called Boiling River where the water from hot springs mix with the river water making it the best place to swim. The bathing area is a 5 to 10 mins walk from the parking area.

Other places to see around are Tower falls, Petrified tree, and Undine Falls (1.8 miles out and back trail).

If you have at least 2 to 3 hrs of time and you love animals, drive to Lamar Valley. We had to skip it due to the lack of time.

So, that's it from Yellowstone. It was a great 4-day vacation there. At last, the time has come to say goodbye to this other-worldly place.

The next day we drove to Idaho - The state which is famous for its potatoes. We found some great waterfalls, cool bridges, and a place that is similar to the Moon. 

More in the next travelogue.

Until next time,

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10 August, 2021

The Captain's Daughter by Doreen Berger - [Book Review]

  Book Details:

Title: The Captain's Daughter

Author: Doreen Berger

Genre: Middle-grade fiction, sci-fi

Publisher: Polaris Print LLC

Print length: 254 pages

Source: Review Copy from the author

Blurb :

"A cozy family adventure…" — Kirkus Reviews

For most adolescents, growing up is hard enough when one has both feet planted firmly on the ground. But for mischievous, twelve-year-old sisters Diane and Robin, life is complicated further by the fact that their father, Captain William Marsh, is the commander of the Starship Polaris. Living among the stars provides a never-ending realm of creative possibility for the free-spirited girls’ pranks and adventures.

When aliens bent on profit and revenge kidnap Diane and Robin, only their indomitable spirit, ingenuity, and a common love of trouble allow the pair to escape the alien vessel. Finding their way home seems assured until the sisters realize they have been taken further from home then they could ever have imagined, and that they must evade an enemy who will stop at nothing to get them back into his evil clutches. Blocked by interstellar battles, malevolent creatures, and overwhelming obstacles, the sisters fear they may never find a way to return to their own universe and to the father they love.

Purchase Link:

My Review :

I got this review copy from the author. I am not a big fan of middle-grade fiction/sci-fi, but the blurb seemed interesting to me.

This is the story of 2 girls Dianne and Robin, who lose their parents in a space attack are raised by their uncle Marsh. Marsh is a captain for the advanced spaceship - Polaris. The story is about the girls' abduction and rescue. 

The story is wonderful and it focuses majorly on relationships, family values, and love. There are some great scenes about the best parenting behaviors. 

Marsh is good at both disciplining their daughters and also showering them with love. The girls are adventurous, sometimes turn to trouble makers like any other children.

The girls are smart and use their intelligence to escape from commander Blassen, but things don't go as planned and they end up in a parallel Universe. Whom do they find in this parallel Universe and how they return home back is the remaining story.

What's great?

The story, characters, unexpected twists, and the portrayal of family love.

The title of the book is apt and I absolutely loved the cover.

What might have been better?

There is nothing much to say in this section except a few minor things. 

I felt, there is a little bit of confusion when the narrative goes between 2 parallel Universes. It might have been easier for the reader if the book clearly mentions which Universe the chapter is about. 

After the girls are rescued once from Blassen, the next few chapters felt a bit boring.

My Rating:


I recommend this book to children aged 9 to 11 years who love science fiction. 

PS: I have received this free review copy in exchange for a review and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Until next time,

31 July, 2021

Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin - Yellowstone itinerary Day #2

Read this post to plan the Yellowstone Vacation with kids - How to Plan Vacation to Yellowstone

Our Day #1 itinerary covering Yellowstone Waterfalls - The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Our Day #2 itinerary covering the mid-way geyser basin - The Grand Prismatic Spring

 On Day #2, we covered the midway geyser basin in the morning and Upper and Lower geyser basins in the evening.

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Upper Geyser Basin:

The upper geyser basin is composed of multiple paved paths and boardwalks which allows us to see many geysers from nearer. 

This is the place with the highest concentration of geysers. As we all know, Old faithful is the popular geyser in this area.

The Upper geyser basin loop is 3 miles and can be reached from Old faithful inn. 

Upper Geyser basin Trail

The old faithful inn was designed by Robert Reamer in 1903 which is a historic building with lodge pines. The architecture inside is beautiful and the place on the roof with seating to view the Old faithful erupt is well designed.

Old Faithful Inn

We started our trail for the Upper geyser basin from the Old faithful inn parking lot. There are many Bison happily resting near Old faithful inn and rolling in the dust.

The trail starts at the castle geyser. Castle geyser is a big cone and one of the oldest geysers in the basin. As of now, it's erupting every 10 to 12 hrs and the National park service displays the approximate eruption time for all the geysers.

We cross through the crested pool along a bridge and the other side has 3 geysers - Spasmodic, Grand, and Turban geysers. They all erupt at once every 1 to 3 hrs. This is fascinating to watch. The water rises above 10 ft.

The heat in this area comes from Yellowstone Volcano which is inactive. The molten lava or magma is as close as 3 to 8 miles underground in the Upper geyser basin. So, as close as we can get to danger :-)

The beauty pool is colorful to watch. Then we pass through several geysers like Giant geyser, Grotto geyser, and riverside geyser. We saw Grotto geyser erupting venting off a lot of steam and making loud sounds. There is a bench to sit on just before Grotto geyser. We also saw an Elk in this area up close!

Morning Glory Pool:

But, the highlight of this trail is Morning Glory Pool which is one of the not-to-miss locations.

The photos don't do much justice here and you should definitely watch this pool.

Morning Glory Pool

Unfortunately, this pool has become a victim of Vandalism. Since people dropped coins and trash in the pool, steaming vents closed making the temperature drop, blocking the natural spring water.

Orange and Yellow bacteria give the color to the spring that we see now. It would have been magnificent before the steam vents were closed. 

After this trail, we had dinner in Old faithful Inn watching the Old faithful erupt from the roof. This is an amazing view!

Old Faithful Geyser:

What's so special about this geyser that it has become an icon in Yellowstone?

Old Faithful has been faithfully erupting at regular intervals since 1872. The water can rise to 180 ft max when it erupts and it erupts every 60 -110 mins. The eruption might last between 1.5 to 5 mins.

Old Faithful Geyser

The national park service predicts the eruption to the exact hours and mins. Since it erupts almost every 1 hr / 1.5 hrs, it is easy to catch it erupt. We had dinner every day at Old faithful inn and watched the eruption at least 2 to 3 times in those 4 days that we spent in Yellowstone. 

Watch the video of the Old Faithful eruption.

This is the second not-to-miss location in Yellowstone in the Upper geyser basin.

During the eruption, the temperature of water in the Old faithful may reach 204 F. It releases around 3700 to 8400 gallons of water for each eruption!

Old faithful Observation Point:

We were too tired to walk to the observation point, but the trail to the Observation point is around 1.3 miles. From there, you can watch the complete upper geyser basin and the Old faithful.

Lower Geyser Basin:

The lower geyser basin covers all types of hydrothermal features like geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots.

We took the trail to the fountain paint pots only as we were tired by that time. The fountain geyser in this area seemed to be most impressive when it erupts. It is the most predictable geyser it seems.

Fountain paint pots are formed by mud pots bubbling and popping mud. They look a little pink and other colors which gave the name Fountain paint pots.

Fountain Paint Pots

Red Spouter is interesting to watch in that area. It is like a hot spring in winter, a muddy reddish pool in spring, and fumarole steam venting out in summer and fall. Isn't it amazing how it changes with seasons?

One more place to watch is Biscuit Basin. We couldn't stop there due to a time crunch. Biscuit Basin loop is a 2/3 of a mile hike that covers some colorful hot springs and geysers. This area is unpredictable and volatile. It recorded an earthquake at 7.5 on the Richter scale in 1959 it seems.

We wrapped up that day and returned to the hotel. The next day we covered Norris geyser basin, Mammoth hot springs, and Roosevelt Arch. Watch out for the next travelogue soon!

Until next time,

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell - [Book Review]

 Book Details:

Title: The Family Upstairs

Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery, thriller, suspense

Publisher: Atria Books

Print length: 352 pages

Source: Copy from the local library

Blurb :



“Rich, dark, and intricately twisted, this enthralling whodunit mixes family saga with domestic noir to brilliantly chilling effect.” —Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author

“A haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read.” —Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Purchase Link:

My Review :

I got this book from our local library intrigued by the blurb. 

Oh my God! It's a perfect mystery thriller with a lot of unexpected twists in the story. I thought it is a horror while reading the first few pages. The story parallelly narrates  2 different time periods touching 3 to 6 characters.

Libby who unexpectedly inherits the ancestral house in Cheyenne walk is excited as well as curious about this inheritance. She tries to learn more about the house and the mysterious murders that happened 25 years ago with her friend and an investigative journalist Miller.

Lucy with an abusive ex-husband and 2 children, tries to come back to the house after 25 years to find the baby they left in the house long ago.

Henry is a pivotal point to the story and the most mysterious character. Clemency, Justin, and Phin play an important role in revealing the facts gradually about the house and their families.

Connecting the dots from past and present and reading the story from different people's perspectives is the most interesting part of the book. 

What's great?

Unexpected twists, parallel stories, interesting characters, and mystery maintained till the end.

What might have been better?

I would love to read more about Henry. The story ends well, but the curiosity about Henry stays when you finish the book. 

I didn't feel the title is apt. Yes, the mysterious family of David stays upstairs. But, I felt, there is more to the story overall.  

I would love to read more about David and his personality. A few pages from the perspective of David / Birdie / Justin / Henry Sr / Mom might have been better to understand the reasons for their strange arrangement. It really seems unbelievable that David could twist the mind of the main family members and use them to his advantage. I wasn't sure about his final goal. 

My Rating:


I recommend this book to readers who love suspense stories with multiple unexpected twists. 

Until next time,

25 July, 2021

Midway Geyser Basin - Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone Itinerary Day #2

 Read the Yellowstone itinerary of Day #1 here

On Day #2, we covered the most important and vibrant places in Yellowstone. 

We started after 11 am to avoid traffic as we are going to visit the popular sites that day. We directly reached to Mid-way geyser basin first. 

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Midway geyser basin:

Midway geyser basin is actually a part of the lower geyser basin, but due to its isolated location, and being between lower and upper geyser basins, it's called the midway geyser basin.

The parking area at the midway geyser basin is not very big and so we parked the car on the side of the road just near midway geyser basin. For me, this is one of the not-to-miss locations.

The midway geyser basin trail is a 0.8-mile Broadwalk that passes through multiple hot spring pools like Excelsior geyser, Grand prismatic Spring, and turquoise pool. 

First, we passed through a wooden bridge and we saw the hot water with steam rushing to the Firehole River. This was pretty amazing to watch. It was very windy on that day and the heat from the Excelsior geyser was pretty evident.

Boiling water gushing to Firehole river

Excelsior geyser was once the largest geyser in the world. After its eruption in 1880, it became a thermal spring now discharging 4050 gallons of boiling water per minute. The temperature of the water would be around 199 F. The bright blue color is amazing to watch.

Excelsior geyser

Bacteria Mat and colors!

Here comes the most colorful spring in Yellowstone - The Grand Prismatic Spring. The temperature of the water ranges from 147 to 188 F. This trail is one sure way to walk near the bright blue, green, red, and turquoise colors. But, the best way to watch the colors is through the Fairy falls trail from up!

The trail passes through 2 beautiful, yet small pools - Opal pool and turquoise pool. 

As I mentioned before, the best way to experience the vibrant colors of Grand Prismatic Spring is to watch it from the top. We had a quick picnic lunch and We drove to Fairy falls trail, which is the next stop.

Fairy Falls trail / Grand Prismatic overlook:

This trail gives access to 2 trails - Grand Prismatic overlook and Fairy falls.

An easy 1.2-mile hike takes us through Grand Prismatic spring overlook. Even though the trail is easy, it climbs around 105 ft in 0.6 miles which makes it a bit tough on a sunny day. This hike even on a sunny day is 100% worth of your time.

The Grand Prismatic shows up bright with its blue, red, orange hues letting off steam into the air. This is the largest spring in Yellowstone and the third-largest in the world. This is also one of the most photogenic places in Yellowstone. The various colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring are due to the presence of microbes and due to the sunlight being scattered by mineral particles in water. 

From Overlook

Fairy falls trail is 4.8 miles out and back trail. We couldn't do this trial as we were tired by that time. Fairy Falls is 200m high and one of the spectacular waterfalls of Yellowstone.

We visited the Upper geyser basin which is the home of Old Faithful and the Lower Geyser Basin on the same day evening. But, since this travelogue is becoming too lengthy, will cover them in my next blog post.

Until next time,

Vegetarian Indian Instant Pot Cookbook by Pavani Nandula - [Book Review]

 Book Details:

Title: Vegetarian Indian Instant Pot Cookbook: Authentic Recipes Made Quick and Easy

Author: Pavani Nandula

Genre : Cookbook, Food

Print Length: 219 pages

Publisher : Rockridge Press (July 13, 2021)

Source: ARC from the author for review


Make Indian meals at home with vegetarian recipes for your Instant Pot

The Instant Pot makes it quicker and easier than ever before to cook up hearty dal, fluffy rice dishes, savory curries, and other meatless meals that capture the unique flavors of India. From restaurant favorites to regional home-cooking classics, this Instant Pot vegetarian cookbook is filled with recipes for a wide variety of meat-free Indian dishes that can be made entirely in your Instant Pot. Every recipe includes realistic time estimates that account for every step of the cooking process, including pressure-build and pressure-release time.

Inside this Indian Instant Pot vegetarian cookbook, you’ll find:
An Indian cooking primer—Learn how to stock your kitchen with common Indian ingredients and adapt traditional cooking techniques, like tadka (tempering) and bhunao (sautéing), to the Instant Pot.

Quick dishes—Many of the meals in this Instant Pot vegetarian cookbook come together in less than 45 minutes, and you’ll find convenient labels for super-fast recipes that take 30 minutes or less from prep to table.

Sample menus—Find menu suggestions for everyday lunches and dinners, dinner parties, holiday celebrations, vegan meals, and more in this Instant Pot vegetarian cookbook.
Staple recipes—Make your own Indian essentials from scratch, including ghee, paneer, peanut chutney, and garam masala.

Unlock the flavors of Indian cooking with help from this easy Instant Pot vegetarian cookbook.

Purchase Link:

My Review:

The instant pot has made our lives easier - it takes just one pot, no spills, is easy to clean, carries multiple tasks like steam, pressure cook, ferment, etc.,

I use instant pot to make biryani, dal, fermentation of idli/dosa batters, and yogurt. But, I didn't know for what other recipes I can use this instant pot.

Pavani's book is both for beginners of the instant pot and also for people like me who are using it for some recipes. This is also for beginners in Indian cooking. Pavani introduces us to spices, lentils, legumes, and other ingredients used in Indian cooking.

 The book is categorized into appetizers, dal and bean dishes, rice dishes, curries and stews, vegetable and grain dishes, and staples.

I am familiar with a few curries, dal, and rice dishes, but never tried appetizers, grain dishes, and stews with Instant pot. Vegetable Momos seemed interesting to try. Spicy tomato rasam seemed easy and useful for everyday cooking.

I would love to try Rajma masala and Chana saag next time. I liked the recipes of Paneer Makhani and Baingan masala in the curries section. 

Hearty Vegetable and Grain dishes have a wide variety of recipes like Hakka noodles, Indian-style Mac and cheese, Indian-style burrito bowls, and Vegetable Frittata. 

I tried the Vegetable Biryani from the book as it is quick to make on weekend evenings.

I loved the design on each page of the book. Tip about how to make the recipe Vegan is useful. Some recipes also have cooking tips and variations. I loved the way the author mentioned the combinations to pair the recipe with. 

The photos for the recipes are appealing. 

My Rating: 5/5

I recommend this to all who love to try Indian recipes on Instant pot.

About the Author:

Pavani is a food blogger, recipe developer, and photographer at Cook's Hideout (cookshideout.com). Her blog is all about delicious vegetarian dishes from India and all over the world. She shares recipes that are easy to make and tasty to eat.

Until next time,

20 July, 2021

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck - [Book Review]

Book Details:

Title: The Wedding Dress

Author: Rachel Hauck

Genre: Women Fiction

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Print length: 351 pages

Source: Copy from the local library

Blurb :

Four brides throughout time. One dress that ties them all together. The New York Times bestseller from award-winning author Rachel Hauck!

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift—and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress—or feel certain she should marry Tim?

Then Charlotte purchases a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new, shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it?

Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the beauty of finding true love.

Rachel Hauck sweeps the reader away in this New York Times bestselling tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

My Review :

I got this book from our local library intrigued by the blurb. Fortunately,  I got the large print which is very comfortable for my eyes. 

The story of the book is unique. A wedding dress connecting the stories of 4 women of different time periods. It's wonderful to read the contemporary story of a modern woman Charlotte. Charlotte is an independent and successful woman and owner of a bridal showroom that is popular in Birmingham.

The novel takes us through the story of Emily in parallel who is not afraid to voice her opinions on discrimination of colored people in 1912. I loved the character of Emily more than anyone else. She is not perfect, but never afraid of expressing her feelings. She is not clear about her love for Daniel but takes the right decision in the nick of time.

Charlotte is as confused as Emily when Tim decides to postpone their marriage. But, her interest in the dress is so high, that she cannot stop herself from investigating further to know the origin of the bridal gown that she buys in an auction sale. In this process of learning more about the bridal gown, she understands the love of Tim. Even Tim realizes his love for Charlotte.

Mary Grace's story is interesting too, whereas Hillary's story fades before others. 

Characterization and concept are a big plus for this novel. The title of the book is perfect and the blurb is very well written. 

What might have been better?

An equal strength of other characters like Hillary and Mary Grace might have been done better justice to the blurb. Their stories fade a bit before Emily and Char's. The story seemed to be focused on 2 characters.  

Tim's character is ok but seems like he matured immediately after his accident. Before that incident, their love doesn't look very genuine. 

There are some typos in the book that might have been avoided.

My Rating:


I recommend this book to readers who love women fiction and Historical fiction.

About the Author:

Rachel Hauck is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author.

She is a Christy Award Winner and a double RITA finalist. Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Club. She is the recipient of RT's Career Achievement Award.

Her book, Once Upon A Prince, was filmed for an original Hallmark movie. The Wedding Dress, The Wedding Shop, and A March Bride have all been optioned for film.

Until next time,

13 July, 2021

Yellowstone Itinerary #Day1

Time is just flying by and I couldn't get enough time to come to this blog post till now. 

Yellowstone National park with geothermal wonders and geysers is the first national park designated in the world. Yellowstone is not just an inactive volcano with hot springs and geysers, but a wonderful ecosystem with waterfalls, forests, mountains around, and a variety of wildlife. 

I am sure Yellowstone National park is a great place to visit for all ages and will meet the expectations of visitors. But, the traffic might be more than expected at most of the places. The trip becomes a bit overwhelming with a lot of places to cover and hike. So, it is recommended to plan the trip better and choose places to visit as per your interest. Check this post about the Travel guide to Yellowstone

We reached Yellowstone by evening from Jackson, Wyoming. Grand Teton National park near Wyoming is another beautiful park with zig-zagged majestic mountains which is worth a visit. Read the Grand Teton travelogue here

We took the accommodation in West Gate hotel in West Yellowstone near the West entrance. So many Wests :p The hotel is clean and great to stay with kids. The pool is well maintained and free breakfast options are great. 

This post covers the places covered in 1.5 days. On the first day, by the time we reached South Entrance, it's around 4 PM. On the way to the West thumb geyser basin, we saw beautiful waterfalls on the way. 

West Thumb Geyser Basin:

West thumb geyser basin is unique as the hot springs and geysers are on the banks of West thumb lake. The scenery is pretty amazing while walking on this boardwalk trail as we can see the vast lake and mountains too. 

The inner-loop trail is around 0.3 miles and the outer loop 0.5 miles. This trail is on Broadwalk and covers many hot spring pools, fumaroles, and geysers.

This is a good introduction to the park. Don't miss the abyss pool, Black Pool, and Fishing cone.

By the end of your trip, you will become familiar with these terms -

As per nps site,

This map is super useful to understand the places to visit and all the entrances. 


After visiting West thumb, we turned left to follow the route to the West entrance. We drove through the famous geyser Old faithful in the Upper Geyser Basin, Midway geyser basin, Lower geyser basin, Madison junction, the west entrance to West Yellowstone. We had dinner at Old faithful inn on the way to West Yellowstone and watched the Old faithful erupt while eating. 

We didn't cover anything on that day, but I suggest you cover a small waterfall - Keppler cascades near the upper geyser basin (no hike required) and Firehole falls on Firehole canyon road if you have time. 

Day #1 itinerary:

The next day we started after breakfast and reached the west entrance around 11 am. The traffic was ok till Madison Junction, but from there it was going bumper to bumper. Since the west part is more popular this is expected at this time.

We quickly changed our plans ad turned left from Madison junction to cover Canyon. We didn't stop by Norrison Geyser basin as we plan to cover it later.

We reached Canyon by 2pm and we could do a small hike to Gibbon falls on the way. These falls are beautiful and the paved trail is only 0.5 miles.

Gibbon falls

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone:

One of the beautiful parts of Yellowstone is Canyon. We reached Lower falls road through North rim drive. 

Brink of lower falls is 0.7 miles out and back trail which is a must-visit! Don't miss this! It's amazing to see the rainbow while the water is gushing down. But, the trail is steep and it takes time with children to go down. Carry lots of water and snacks.


Lower falls is the largest waterfall in Yellowstone. This 308-ft waterfall is the most photographed location in Yellowstone. Lower falls can be seen from different viewpoints like Inspiration Point, Grand View, and Lookout Point.

Brink of Upper Falls is 0.3 miles out and back trail. Brink of Upper falls is not as steep as the brink of lower falls. Uncle Tom's trail is tough but provides beautiful views of upper falls. 

Upper falls is an 110 ft waterfall, not as majestic as lower falls, but is completely worth a visit. It can be reached by south rim drive. 

Artist Point:

Whatever I say in words, it is very less when compared to the grandeur of Artist point. I realized why it is called Artist point after watching the falls from the viewpoint. 

You need not be an artist to get inspired by nature, after all. If nature can impress a common man, an artist can paint a great painting, right? 

It is one of the not-to-miss locations in Yellowstone. 

Artist Point

If you feel hungry, don't forget to stop by Canyon village. There are several options to dine in there. 

After the canyon, we drove towards the West thumb geyser basin on Grand loop drive. We drove along Yellowstone lake. Yellowstone Lake is the largest high elevation lake in North America at 7000ft above sea level. The Yellowstone lake continues to West thumb lake where there are multiple underwater hotsprings, geysers, and fumaroles. 

Mud Volcano and Dragon's Mouth Hot spring: 

On the way to Lake village, you can stop by Hayden valley where you can spot wildlife in the evenings. We returned from Canyon in the evening and we spotted a lot of Bison, Elk, and Moose. We stopped at Mud Volcano near Hayden Valley.


Mud volcano is a 0.6-mile loop trail on Broadwalk. One of the most acidic features of the park known as Sulfur Caldron is here. The strong pungent odor of rotten eggs can be experienced here. 

Dragon's mouth spring is a highlight of this area. It is a hot spring with water bubbling out from a cave releasing gases. While it releases gases, it produces a booming and gurgling sound like the growling of an animal. Since there is a lot of pressure, steam also vents out from the cave at the same time. Pretty amazing to watch!

On the way to Lake village, you can hike to the Natural bridge if you have time. It is a 2.5-mile trail through the forest. 

We continued on the Grand loop drive crossing the west thumb geyser basin towards Old faithful. We stopped by Old faithful lodge for dinner. They have good veg dinner options as well.

It took around 45 mins to reach West Yellowstone from Old faithful. Thus we completed the lower loop of figure 8 in Yellowstone :-)

It is good that we changed our plan to cover Canyon on the first day instead of covering Old faithful and others that are busier in the mornings.

As usual, we got stuck in traffic for at least 30 mins while returning to West Yellowstone near Madison junction. Usually, people stop to look at a wildlife or for river access near madison causing traffic jams. Sometimes, animals cross the road and of course, they have the right of way :-)

Without knowing we easily hiked 7 miles on that day covering all the above places.

The next day's plan is to cover the most famous parts of the Yellowstone - Lower geyser basin, Midway geyser basin, Grand Prismatic Spring, and Old faithful inn in the Upper geyser basin. Stay tuned for the #Day 2 itinerary.

Until next time,

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