36 hours in San Diego 

Quick weekend getaways are all the husband and I are able to find time for these days. There is nothing I like more than to go out and explore new places, so I am a little bummed about not being able to just head out and see the world. However, I am trying to save up all the vacation time I can for a long holiday in the fall. Until then, weekend/long weekend trips will just have to do. Our weekend in San Diego was quite a welcome break after non-stop slogging since the year began. Obviously, I had a list of places I absolutely HAD to visit in and around San Diego (and no, it did not include the zoo and SeaWorld…I cannot bear to watch animals in that artificial environment). We mostly just relaxed, took long walks on the beach, ate a lot and savored every moment of that weekend in the laid-back, charming city of San Diego.San-Diego

Here’s a quick list of places you can visit in 36 hours:

(You could do a lot more as the distances are so short, but we decided to take it easy and not pack in too much!)

1. Scripps Beach – After landing early in the morning, we decided to head out directly to La Jolla to check out some of the not so busy beaches. Located just north of La Jolla shores is Scripps Beach and this was our first stop. We parked near the Lifeguard Tower and walked all the way to the beautiful and most photographed Scripps pier which is owned and operated by Scripps Institute of Oceanography.scripps-pier

2. The Salk Institute – Also in La Jolla, the institute was only a short drive away so we headed there next, in hope of doing the Architectural tour. The institute was established by Jonas Salk, M.D. and he selected Louis I. Kahn to design the facility. In December 1959, Salk and architect Louis Kahn began a unique partnership to design this facility. Salk summarized his aesthetic objectives by telling the architect to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.” Kahn, who was a devoted artist before he became an architect, was able to respond to this challenge. I truly envy people who are able to work, live or study in these functional pieces of art! The Institute is overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is quite an architectural marvel. Unfortunately, they are only open for tours only on week days so we just walked around the campus for a bit.walk-institute-san-diego

3. Gaslamp Quarter – After stuffing our faces with some of the best tacos I have eaten at The Taco Stand, we drove back to downtown San Diego to check-in, shower off all the sand from the beach and explore the Gaslamp area. The entire strip is quite lively and fun. We walked almost the entire length of it and it is lined with a variety of restaurants and bars. There were also some art galleries and stores hidden between the food places. We stopped for dinner and drinks at The blind Burro. After dinner, we went looking for a popular speakeasy called Prohibition. It is nicely concealed behind a door labeled ‘Law office’. You knock at the door and are are let in. The rest of the night basically involved some great cocktails and bar hopping in the Gaslamp Quarter.Gaslamp-Quarter-san-diego

4.Old Town San Diego State Historic Park – This was my favorite part of the trip! I absolutely LOVED old town. I am a sucker for old buildings and love anything that has some history so I was instantly enchanted. Old town has a lovely old world charm, beautifully preserved structures and so much art. There is a theater, blacksmith, tin shop, a  few restaurants, the Cosmopolitan Hotel, a stage coach exhibit, candy shop, soap shop, teas and coffee shop, an olive oil shop and so much more to see. It was the perfect place for a leisurely afternoon stroll. old-town-san-diego

5. Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial – The drive up to Mt. Soledad is very scenic and on a clear day, you get to see clear 360 degree panoramic views of San Diego from the memorial. The wall of veteran plaques surround the foot of the cross on top of this hill. It wasn’t too crowded when we went up there so we were able to find a spot to park quite easily. We walked around for a bit, took in all the sights and then decided to head over to Coronado Island to relax by the beach. mt-soledad

6. Coronado Island – This was our last stop in San Diego. You can either take the bridge or a ferry to get across to the island. We took the bridge. The bridge itself is quite impressive! It is about 2.12 miles long and looks majestic as it gracefully curves around the connect the island with the mainland. The beach looked very welcoming and is definitely one of the widest beaches I have seen in California. From Coronado Island, we decided to drive along this sliver of land on the I-75, down south towards Mexico. Nothing spectacular like some of the other drives we have done in the south, but might be quite beautiful in the evening to watch the sunset! coronado-island

The Coronado Ferry landing is definitely one of the best spots to get a good view of the San Diego skyline. We decided to grab some coffee/tea, lay on the grass for a bit before heading to the airport to catch our flight back home. ferry-landing-san-diego

Earring making (DIY)

It is quite hard to imagine that earrings were a predominantly male ornament, and the connotations were different for different civilizations in different times! According to the World Wide Web, this ornament actually became a fashion accessory in the 1590’s during the English Renaissance. The gentlemen would be seen wearing gold rings embellished with pearls or other stones around that time. I must admit, I have always had a fascination for earrings. I am often caught  starting shamelessly at people’s earrings, especially if I like them a lot! A younger me would long to wear the bold statement pieces that would be dangling from my mothers ears. And I may have inherited a taste for similar stuff rom her.

mom-1   mom2

She totally rocks these doesn’t she?

Now, I am constantly on the look out for one of a kind, crazy, unusual pairs. Back in India, there is no dearth of variety and the styles catered to my taste so finding the right pair was never too hard. But after moving here, I have found very few that were to my liking. And buying anything that is mass produced is something I just do not endorse. I like exclusive, I like whimsical, I like a little melodramatic… so I attempted making some myself :). Incidentally, that was also the birth of this blog! The name makes more sense now doesn’t it ;). I just never got around to blogging about my earring making efforts because life just got in the way. And something I JUST realized – today is also my 2nd anniversary with WordPress! Perfect occasion for this post then, isn’t it? :) When I look back now, I feel like 2014 is a bit of a blur. Yet, it is a significant year for me and I am so glad I got a chance to rekindle my passion for creating things while so much else was going on!

Coin-earring   Bird-earring-handmadeIMG_1226   yellow-earring

It felt amazing to be able to create exactly what I wanted (I am QUITE picky, you see). Of course, these are nowhere near perfect, I just picked up the basic tools, wires, links and some very exotic beads and other trinkets from old markets in New Delhi and got to it. Some turned out quite well, while others had issues with the wiring and the links and stones would keep falling off! Plus there was a lot that I couldn’t achieve purely due the my lack of knowledge or expertise in working with the wires and other tools.

IMG_1196  coral-rose  IMG_1198

I read a lot of blogs on jewelry design, watched innumerable YouTube videos and just kept at it. After about a month or so, I could tell I was getting better at it and the quality was far better than when I had started.

black-white-gold-earring   pompom-red

I love combining patters and textures so after a couple of weeks, I started experimenting with shrink plastic. Being able to create patterns and watch them shrink down to perfect little tiles for my earrings was so thrilling! Of course, I messed up a lot of them and none of the pairs I made were perfect or identical. Fortunately for me, I like a little imperfection. I feel that it adds a little more character to each piece. This also satisfied my urge to up-cycle and repurpose stuff that would otherwise be thrown away. Plastic salad take-out boxes became pretty little tiles for my earrings. The whole process was truly satisfying and rewarding.

ear-red-shrinkplastic  ear-shrinkplasticear-gold-shrinkplastic  shrink-plastic-new

I don’t think I ever left home without my black sharpie during this phase. I would constantly look out for opportunities to start drawing on plastic and then shrinking it down, much to my husband’s dismay. He didn’t like me staring at the oven, waiting for my wonderful little art pieces to shrink down to perfect (maybe not) patterned tiles. (I promise you, I read a lot about shrinking plastic and this is perfectly safe, provided you keep your windows open and don’t inhale the fumes directly!)

I also did a couple of bracelets and neck pieces with the odd shapes I ended up with. Linked them to old beads I had and voila, I had a brand new piece that looked great. At this point, I was pretty pleased with myself but unfortunately, this was also when things got really busy on the work front and I had to push pause on the earring/jewelry making.

bracelet2  bracelet1

I do plan to get back to making some shrink plastic jewelry and combine it with unusual stones and beads. I haven’t had a lot of time to work on any DIY projects in the last couple of months, but I plan to dedicate one night a week purely for this purpose.

neckpiece-shrinkplastic  rose

Watch this space for updates… :)

Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup

Nourishing. Refreshing. Comforting. Delicious.

This soup is the perfect way to end a cold, damp, rainy day. The Ginger was almost an afterthought but I saw so many recipes online that totally recommended it so I decided to go with it. The mild heat from the Ginger complemented the sweetness from the carrots perfectly.

Carrot + Ginger = The best idea ever! 

I didn’t really follow any one recipe but sort of came up with my own variation. Instead of roasting the carrots in the pan with everything else, I decided to roast them in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper for that lovely caramelized taste!

Roast carrots

roasted carrots  Broth

Here’s what you need –

  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut in small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and Pepper as per taste

Let’s get cooking –

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place carrots in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil. Toss to coat and add some salt and pepper. Toss again. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake, flipping every 15 minutes or so, until tender and browned in spots.
  3. While the carrots are cooking, heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until brown. Add the ginger and the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. When both the roasted carrots and the broth have cooled somewhat, add the carrots to the broth. Puree the soup in a blender or use an immersion blender directly in the pot. Please make sure your soup has cooled enough before you start blending.
  5. Place pureed soup over medium heat and return to a simmer. Add some thyme and ground cumin. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Garnish with dried parsley. Serve.

Carrot ginger soup

Quick homemade soups are my new favorite meal! :)

p.s. This also makes the perfect detox meal after a week long celebration.

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Us crazies turned 3 last week

Easy Peasy Chocolate Cupcakes

I love recipes that involve only a couple of steps. Especially when it comes to baking! This recipe was passed on to me by my mother, who is a terrific baker and would whip up the most extraordinary desserts in minutes! Icing on the cake right!? :)

She never really had the patience to spend a lot of time measuring or whipping or sieving and yet anything she made would taste so incredible. The ingredients would just come together so well! (I still dream of her Orange soufflé with those lovely delicious bits of orange rind. – coming up soon).

I, on the other hand, have always focused on the recipe, getting the exact measurements and making sure it looked exactly like it did in the book or photo and still struggle to get the taste right. With this one, I didn’t have to try too hard to get it to taste good. It is definitely a winner! Made a batch on the husband’s birthday as we had just returned from a trip the previous night and being a weekday, I didn’t have the time to bake an elaborate cake…like this 30 layer cake on his 30th – 

30 layer cake

This year, he just had to make do with these mini cupcakes!

chocolate cup cakes

Doesn’t look terribly disappointed now, does he? :)

Here is what you need to make these beauties –

* 4 table spoons of good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1  cup all-purpose flour
* 1  cup sugar
* 1  tsp baking soda
* 1 large free range egg
* ¾ cup oil
* ¾ cup yoghurt
* 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the over to 180C or 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. The recipe makes about 24 mini cupcakes.

Mix all the ingredients in one large bowl and the batter is ready.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each two thirds full. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the tops spring back with touched with a knife.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before icing.

Simple icing –

* 1 can of condensed milk
* 4 table spoons of good quality unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine until smooth, decorate your cupcakes and watch them disappear! :)