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24 June, 2020

The Summer blooms #WordlessWednesday

I couldn't resist sharing these blooms from our home garden 💗





Until next time, 

Linking this post to #wordlesswednesday hosted by Natasha and Esha.



21 June, 2020

New Mexico - Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

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In our 4 day - New Mexico Road trip, Tent rocks were a highlight of the trip. Kasha-Katuwe which means white cliffs got the status of National Monument in 2001. 

The unique cone-shaped rocks formed by the layers of volcanic ash and rocks by pyroclastic flow from the volcano of Jemez springs are beautiful to watch/hike. This eruption that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago caused the slot canyon and tent rocks. 

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Kasha - Katuwe Tent rocks National Monument, New Mexico



Read our previous travelogues of New Mexico trip - 


Day 1 - White Sands National Park
Day 2 - Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Day 3 - Roswell and Bandelier National Monument


Know before you go!


Kasha-Katuwe tent rocks national monument is open all days (8 AM to 4PM) and can be reached from Santa fe through exit 264 off I-25 and through NM-16 onto NM -22. There are directions and signboards throughout the route. The entry is $5 per vehicle.

The parking is limited, so it's better to reach early. Restrooms are available at the starting of the trails. Bring plenty of water and carry snacks as nothing is available inside. The monument is closed to dogs excluding service animals.

It's summer! So, don't forget these travel essentials!









Trails


There are 2 trails - Cave loop trail (1.2 miles) and Slot canyon trail (1.5 miles).

The cave loop trail is an easy family hike that will take us to one viewpoint to see tent rocks from nearer.

The slot canyon trail is a bit difficult but completely worth it. It goes through a narrow slot canyon gaining the elevation of steep 630 ft. It gives amazing views of tent rocks and also of the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains. 


The First view from the trail 


Hiking with Kids

We hiked Slot canyon trail with kids (5 and 8-yr olds). The initial trail is flat and easy. The narrow slot canyon is beautiful with sun rays entering in between. 




We went there in early February and in many places, it is slippery with water and melting snow. The trail is neither paved nor  marked properly. But, Since many people are hiking, we followed them. 






Kids enjoyed the photos in the slot canyon. Then, the trail gains some elevation and we get the first view of cone-shaped rocks from top. An amazing place to take photos. If it's not slippery, the trail might not have been difficult with kids. In summer, it might be easy.


The cone from nearer

Slot Canyon


The next part of the trail climbs up still high and some more amazing views of the tent rocks. 



Rewarding Views!





We returned from the slot canyon trail and continued through the cave loop trail. This passed through good views of canyon and rocks and then through a small cave. 


Cave


So, though a bit difficult with kids, we managed by stopping multiple times, drinking water, and having snacks on the way.

We started our return journey around noon and stopped by Cochiti lake on the way. We also bought some souvenirs at the Cochiti pueblo gift shop and information center near the dam.


Cochiti lake


We started back to Colorado Springs after that and reached by the night. You can read my previous travelogue on Santa Fe. It's a beautiful town and a must-visit. Since we already visited Santa Fe, we didn't stop again. 

We passed through an 1852 style restaurant on the way back. That was awesome!





How did you like our New Mexico Travelogue? Do let me know in the comments.

Until next time,





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New Mexico - Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument



16 June, 2020

The Grandmaster & Other Short Stories by Chinmaya Desai - [Book Review]

“Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take action after clicking one of these”

Book Details:


Title : The Grandmaster & Other Short Stories
Author: Chinmaya Desai
Genre : Short story collection, Fiction
Print Length : 134 pages
Source : A Kindle copy




Blurb:


Never judge a book by its cover…you will be surprised by what lies within!

A Chess Grandmaster is accused of losing a World Championship game intentionally… A middle-class sexagenarian from Nagpur receives a surprise visit from an old friend… A lady will go to any extent to get an ingredient for her recipe… A Mayan explorer in 498 AD encounters a storm and drifts to ancient India… A Brigadier plans to surprise a civilian with a war memento… A politician wants to save the beautiful Seria Valley from an unscrupulous builder… A jet-setting banker gets into a verbal duel with a woman during a plane journey…

Debutant author Chinmaya Desai delves into the lives of “ordinary” people and answers some extraordinary questions. Through his lucid and captivating writing, he brings to the fore how there is always something more than what meets the eye.

The Grandmaster & other short stories is a selection of fictional tales that provide a glimpse of life’s different facets and oddities. It is these experiences that make our journey interesting, colorful, and ends where you least expected it to. Explore these fast-paced tales, with a twist that will keep you turning pages till you reach the end…


Purchase Link:


Amazon 




My Review:


This is a beautiful collection of 17 short stories. The good thing about this book is the selection of stories. I felt, each story to be unique and simple to understand.


The Grandmaster


I loved this title story of the book. Simple with a twist and good characters.

These lines of analogy between an organization and chess are awesome.

"He likened chess to an organization, the eight pawns or soldiers like factory workers – toiling day and night; the two bishops or camels like the sales force, crisscrossing the country to hard-sell products; the two rooks or elephants like audit, accounting and finance – moving only straight, but firm in their dealing; the knights or horses like innovators – jumping two and half steps at a time with new ideas; the king like a Chairman – slow, steady and surefooted and finally, the queen like the CEO – aggressive, but in control of each and every one!"

The carrots

I loved this story for its simplicity. I agree that faith heals.
The quotes below each story are very good.

Professor Parimal

Another good story with emotions. I agree with how we judge people without knowing them.

The hounds of Bhaskar villas

The funny narrative brings a smile. Also, it makes us understand the everyday tidbits of the upper-middle-class lives in the city.

The Inspiration

It's a beautiful story though a fiction. It is really an inspiration to know about the people who protect our country against all odds. When compared to their efforts, everything else looks simple and easy to achieve.

The Mathematician

This is a work of imagination but well implemented. It shows the importance of Indians discovering zero in the number system.

The politician

A good story with unexpected turns.

Husband's guilt

I loved these lines and it is exactly how marriages are set in India. I didn't enjoy the story though.

"Stars, planets, almanacs, caste, sub-caste, age, height, weight, complexion, educational qualifications, salary (boy), cooking skills (girl), family history, references, wavelengths and many other variables had been matched in an attempt to ensure a happy and a bright future for the couple."
This is super fun to read. Check these lines 😃


"They started dining out almost every weekend and planned small weekend trips at least once in three months; each experience meticulously entered into the vast online realms of Facebook with the diligence of an Immigration official."
"Their savings, like the Mumbai flamingos, migrated south and their waistlines, like the Arctic penguins, migrated north."

Mother's love

This story didn't click with me, but these lines are fun and great at the end of the story about plagiarism.

“I wrote several letters to my sweetheart. I forgot to sign them. She has now married the postman.”


Taskmaster G 

This is a story that proves something good might happen when you least expect it.


The woman in the yellow saree

This is a casual story with food for thought. I agree that the biggest problem women face is getting respect from their own family members and society.

Female foeticide, rape, and eve-teasing continue to hurt women still in places like Rajasthan. 

What might have been better?


There are some spelling mistakes in the book which I thought might have been avoided by editing. I didn't like a few stories but it completely depends on individual taste.

My Rating: 4/5


Until next time,






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Zooming on #WordlessWednesday





Until next time, 

Linking this post to #wordlesswednesday hosted by Natasha and Esha.


13 June, 2020

Gratitude List for May 2020 #GratitudeCircle

May continued to be 'New' Normal. Work from home, loads of office work, struggling with helping kids in e-learning, no option to travel and relax due to Covid etc., But, we are learning a few things due to Covid as family, and focusing on a few important things of our life. So, All is not bad.


There are many things to be grateful for :



  •  Kids had their summer holidays started and thus, rest for us as we need not support their e-learning 
  • Could improve my health and focus on home-cooked healthy meals
  • Could reduce office stress by implementing a few methods
  • Could, at last, make online dance classes work well 
  • Could sleep for more time and relax a bit





Here is my Gratitude List for May 2020:



1. Improvement in health


I did a lot of changes in my lifestyle and diet to focus on my health. The good news is that I could see some improvement. I am sleeping more nowadays, reduced morning office calls, increased the intake of grains, vegetables, and fruits in my diet, and took things slow.

I haven't put any targets to complete any tasks for my blog/dance school/office work. I just went with the flow and did whatever I can without working hard.

I am usually more ambitious and tend to jump into multiple tasks at a time. I am trying to change this which will reduce my stress. So far, it's great.


2. One outing after a long break


Due to COVID, we couldn't travel at all for a few months. But, in the last month, we went hiking in our town itself. Colorado Springs is a nice place as we have many beautiful options to hike around our area.




We practiced social distancing, wore masks, carried sanitizer, didn't use public restrooms etc.,
Redrock canyon open space is a good place to hike on a warm day. There is a lake with geese swimming in groups. 2 hrs of our time were spent leisurely after a long time.




We also could go for evening walks in the last month as Summer just started and the weather is great here for walking. We walked only inside our apartment and kids enjoyed their bikes.


3. Researching and trying new healthy recipes


I am grateful to my Yoga teacher and of course the Google search that I am able to learn many new healthy recipes that can easily be made. I hate cooking, so whatever it is that I try, it has to be simple and quick. I don't like to spend much time in my kitchen.




Fortunately, I learned to make millet soup, minestrone soup, lemon rice with foxtail millets, tasty veg salads, healthy smoothies, and a lot. So, the last month had seen a big spike in my learning curve of healthy cooking. I am excited to continue my learning.


4. Art and Dance


I couldn't draw much in May as I said, I am not forcing myself on any task these days. I do only when it's possible and don't stress if I couldn't do it at all. I could draw my first Mandala.




I could make some dance videos for students and I could take online dance classes to my satisfaction now. Researched some tips on taking online zoom dance classes and seems like it is working. But, it cannot compare with direct Dance classes where it was easy for me to correct student's mistakes.


5. Blogging and Books


I could participate in a blog link up for creative writing prompt - Red Roses

I could read 2 parts of my favorite historical fiction 'Ponni's beloved' - An English translation of famous Tamil novel (Ponniyan Selvan) and here are the reviews of Part 2 and Part 3. Try to read these books if you love historical fiction.





After 2 months, I could write our travelogue of the New Mexico trip - Roswell and Bandelier National Monument. I got an opportunity to write a sponsored post as well in May.

So, overall it's a great month for me. Since summer is here, the weather will be great and we can have more outdoor time in June. Hoping for a good month with some travel if possible.

How was your May? Did you get used to the new Normal?

Let me know in the comments.

Until next time,









Linking this to #GratitudeCircle hosted by Vidya Sury.



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01 June, 2020

I'm a Gigolo by Andrew Segal - [Book Review]

“Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take action after clicking one of these”


Book Details:


Title: I'm a Gigolo 
Author: Andrew Segal
Book one - The Aberration Series of short stories
Genre : 
Short Story, Crime thriller & Romantic suspense
Publisher : Happy London Press (Expected Publication: July 1st, 2020)
Source : A digital Advanced Review copy from RABT Book tours



Blurb:


I am a Gigolo

He’s gorgeous, cool and slick. Small wonder those wealthy American dames are falling over themselves to taste his flirtatious skills, just where it counts. Seduction is the name of his game, and he knows how to keep
a secret. 


Trouble is, our Gigolo is also a mischief maker, a man with a mission - to make a killing. So he’s got a secret of his own. But, can he keep it that way?

Deliciously sensual, with a touch macabre, the opening tale, I am a gigolo contains ten startlingly original and provocative short stories, that you’ll need to be brave to read at bedtime.

Purchase Link:





My Review :

I love short stories, but this genre is a bit new to me. Erotic and Horror.

I loved most of the stories and all are having the perfect narration which is gripping throughout. Most of them have unpredictable endings.

 I glued to the book when I read a few stories and couldn't put it down until finishing the story. Some are average, too gory, and not that impressive. Whereas some are unique in their storyline and characters. 

Here are a few stories that I loved:


I'm a Gigolo

This title story is erotic and humorous too. I love the climax.

Killing me slowly

This is an interesting read with cunning plots and again, climax wins my heart.

Rosenfeld's ghost

This story is amazing and thrilling.  I couldn't put down without finishing it. Completely unpredictable.

Death zone, Everest

It's interesting with the gripping narrative throughout.

End game


The mind games and some unexpected behaviors. Yes, interesting and not predictable. 

Beads of Blood

Another unpredictable climax. A different take on abusive relationships and mindsets.

The book cover is ok, and the title is good as I'm a Gigolo is a unique story that stands out in the book.


My Rating : 4.5/ 5



About the Author:


My inspirations have come from real people, events, or situations that have presented themselves. Titles like, I am a Contract Killer, I am a Gigolo, Death Zone, License to Kill, are all based on my own life experiences, questions asked, incidents occurring.


Let me be reassuring, thus-far, nobody has been murdered on my watch. But the notion gave rise to the impetus to write my first murder mystery, The Lyme Regis Murders. Could I make the jump after years of writing macabre short stories to a full-length drama? That familiar beating in the gut, said, ‘Yes, try it. Give it a go.’

And so to that cozy coastal town where nothing untoward ever happens. Or perhaps it does. The author seeks to shatter notions, change people’s perceptions, spoil long-held views. That was my intention in entering into the world of crime thrillers. I’ve found that ‘nice’ people are not always what they seem. The helpless can be transformed into the most dangerous, the most dangerous become the most harmless. It’s all up to the writer and what they’re hoping to achieve. 

For me, there have been 10 children’s books, 4 books of short stories and so far, three novels, with a fourth in the mixer.

Whilst a short story might be written with a flurry of adrenalin in the space of a few hours, a book will need more than just a flash of creativity. It will need perseverance, discipline, and dogged determination.
But then, isn’t that what is required of every ambition?

Contact Links

Author Links
Website
Facebook

Until next time,

27 May, 2020

Eternal Kiss #WordlessWednesday

This photo is from Carlsbad caverns national park in New Mexico.

This formation is called Eternal kiss as both the upper and lower stones just touch.

Can you believe that this formation is completely natural and formed million years ago underground?





Until next time, 

Linking this post to #wordlesswednesday hosted by Natasha and Esha.


26 May, 2020

The Sword - Ponni's Beloved Volume 3: An English Translation by Sumeetha Manikandan - [Book Review]

“Some links may be affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take action after clicking one of these”

Read Book Reviews of Part 1 and Part 2

Book Details :


Title: The Sword - Ponni's Beloved Volume 3

An English Translation of Kalki Krishnamurthy's Ponniyin Selvan

Author of Original Novel in Tamil: Kaliki Krishnamurthy
English Translation: Sumeetha Manikandan
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Print Length: 387 pages
Source : A Kindle copy




Blurb:


Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan is a masterpiece that has enthralled generations of Tamil readers. 

Many authors have written phenomenal books in Tamil literature after Kalki Krishnamurthy, but Ponniyin Selvan remains the most popular, widely-read novel. It has just the right mixture of all things that makes an epic – political intrigue, conspiracy, betrayal, huge dollops of romance, infidelity, seduction, passion, alluring women, unrequited love, sacrifice, and pure love.


Purchase Link:





My Review :


Volume 3 has less story covered when compared to 1 and 2. The story threw more light on some characters like The Prime minister, Prince Madhuranthakan, and Samudra Kumari (it's so tough to write the name of her character :p).

The respect towards the Prime minister character grew a lot after understanding the tactics people have to use in high positions in a kingdom. Even though Vandiya Devan has good intentions,  he always gets caught in some or the other trouble and gets rescued by Vaishnavan. So, I was doubting his capabilities while reading.

It's good to read about Kundavai pouring her feelings out to Vandiya Devan before sending him to Kanchi. This part also delved deep into Vanathi's character. The transformation from a faint-hearted girl to a brave lady is amazing.

The flashback of Madhuranthakan's mother, the plan revealed by Nandini to Ravidas, and, the meeting of Kundavai and Ponniyan Selvan are the highlights of this part.

The pace of the story is fine but thought this part has less story and more conversations. The English translation as usual maintained the nativity of the story. There are a few minor grammar mistakes and typos though which might have been avoided.


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


About the Author:


Sumeetha Manikandan is a freelance writer and an author who loves to write and base her plots on the tambrahm community of Mylapore, Chennai. She is the author of ‘The Perfect Groom’ that has been a bestselling ebook on the top 50 charts of Amazon India ever since publication.


An avid reader, she loves to read across different genres – romance, historical fiction, non-fiction, mystery, fantasy, etc. A history buff to the core,
she is currently translating Ponniyin Selvan – the evergreen Tamil classic epic history by Kalki Krishnamurthy into English.

Married to filmmaker K.S. Manikandan, Sumeetha lives in Chennai, along with her six-year-old daughter.

Until next time,


24 May, 2020

Roswell and Bandelier National Monument #NewMexicoTrip #Day3

The First day of our #NewMexicoTrip started with White Sands National park.

After our day spent completely in Carlsbad National Park on #Day2, we drove to Roswell and stayed there in the night. 


New Mexico Trip with kids



International UFO Museum and Research center


Roswell, as you might know, is famous as the Land of Aliens, which is a fun place to spend a half-day. As many blogs suggested as this is a must-visit, we went to the International UFO Museum and Research center

The museum has a lot of information and collection of facts about UFO sightings, aliens spotted at different places across the world, Voice recordings, and paper clippings of UFO sightings in Roswell, movies that were taken on this theme etc., The Entrance fee is $5. 


Roswell




The museum is mostly focused on the 1947 Roswell crash and the UFO sighting event. The museum also has a gift store with souvenirs and books related to UFO.


Roswell UFO museum



Roswell UFO museum




Bottomless Lakes State Park


While we were driving Roswell from Carlsbad, we found the signs to Bitterlake National wildlife refuge and Bottomless Lakes State Park, but we couldn't stop by due to lack of time. 

I suggest that you check Bottomless Lake state park if you get time. Bottomless Lakes State Park has 9 small and deep lakes which are around 18 miles from Roswell in Pecos river valley. There are options to hike around the lake.


Downtown and Alien Stuff



The whole downtown is filled with pictures of Aliens, almost before every store. McDonald's and KFC's also changed their architecture with Space and Alien themes. 

Alien Zone (Area 51 museum) and UFO Space Walk are worth a visit if you want to take a selfie with Aliens :p

We started from Roswell to Santa Fe around noon and by the time we reached Santa Fe, the weather was pleasant. So, we decided to visit Bandelier National monument before signing off for the day.


Bandelier National Monument


Bandelier National monument protects around 33,000 acres of land with ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs. This is a fun and educational place for kids to hike and learn. 


Bandelier National Monument


Geology


The ancient Pueblo people lived here around 1150 CE in dwellings constructed from Volcanic tuff. The cliffs of Frijoles Canyon were created from the ash of massive volcanic eruptions from the Jemez mountains. 

A million years ago, A volcano erupted spewing a lot of Volcanic ash. After the magma is emptied, it collapsed down to a circular depression called Caldera. Bandelier is located near this caldera known as Valles Caldera. After the ash is cooled, it became a soft and light rock called tuff. Ancestor pueblo people used these tuff rocks to build their dwellings. 


Bandelier National Monument




Hiking in Bandelier National monument with kids


I have read in multiple articles that kids will surely enjoy hiking in Bandelier. We took the 1.2-mile main ruin trail. This trail takes 45 mins to 1 hr, covering around 21 numbered stops and some of them are Big kiva, talus house, and Longhouse. 

There are some ladders to climb and see cavates (small human-made alcoves). Kids enjoyed climbing them and this trail is good and easy for kids.


Bandelier National Monument


We wanted to take 2.9 mile Upper falls trail to watch waterfalls, but couldn't do as the trail is closed due to icy conditions. The alcove house trail seemed tough with kids due to 140 ft. vertical ladders. 

The drive back to Santafe is also beautiful from Bandelier National monument. We saw many burnt trees on the way. Fire danger seems to be high here.


Bandelier National Monument


I suggest you visit Valles Caldera recreational area and Jemez falls if you can. We couldn't do them as we were tired and it was becoming dark. Anderson Overlook, White rock overlook, and Bradbury Science museum are worth a visit if you have time. 

We reached the hotel by 7pm itself and we could taste the awesome dosas from "Paper Dosa" restaurant. This restaurant has become our favorite in Santa Fe and we are going to visit this every time we travel through Santa Fe from now onwards.


Paper Dosa


The Plan for the next day is to hike the famous tent rocks. More details in my next travelogue. 

This is our second visit to Santa Fe and so, we have already visited some good places here. Read this travelogue to know more about the best places to visit in Santa Fe

Until next time,






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Roswell and Bandelier National Monument