Monday, June 11, 2012

Summertime, and the livin' is easy

Three out of four food bloggers agree that time speeds up in summer. OK, I just made that up, but really, right on cue starting Memorial Day weekend (the unofficial start of summer in the US), life in the One Hot Stove household has been a happy whirlwind of barbecues and brunches and visits to and from out of town family and friends. In our case, there's also that minor matter of preparing for a move and buying a home while living three states away.

Instead of a real proper post, what I have for you today is a (very) random chat about 10 life highlights and food highlights from the past month.

1. Baby boom: Our extended clan celebrated a baby boom in May with the birth of three new babies in one week. My sister has a baby boy and my cousin and his wife have twin baby girls. I promptly knitted/crocheted a hat for each of them- every baby deserves a hand knit, after all.

2. Tres leches cake: I like learning how to cook and bake signature dishes from different cuisines. They are always beloved and crowd-pleasing. My friend Claudia made tres leches (three milks) cake which is a classic celebration dessert in many South American cuisines. We oohed and aahed over each bite. A few weeks ago, I made it myself using primarily this recipe but with some tips from a secret family recipe from Claudia's late aunt (I promised I would keep it a secret). Tres leches cake is eggy (in a good way), rich and sweet and deeply infused with vanilla. It is drenched in milk making it moist and tender as can be. I'll be making this again.

3. Spinach dip: This is one of those omnipresent appetizers but I made it for the first time only a few weeks ago. I found this recipe and it looked promising for several reasons. For one thing, it has the word "best" in the title and I will fall for that every single time. For another, it is a no-cook recipe which can be whirred together in a couple of minutes in a food processor. I liked the method of wringing out thawed spinach in a clean dish towel to remove excess liquid (I was alarmed at how much liquid was wrung out). This is a good recipe to have on hand for summer potlucks and picnics. I would use it as a sandwich spread too.

4. Marinated mushrooms: One of my biggest splurges is the olive bar at Whole Foods. Apart from all kinds of olives, they have marinated peppers and mushrooms- I pile them into the little container and the $$ add up. Imagine my delight when I found this recipe for marinated mushrooms. It is so easy and so so tasty. You just boil mushrooms in salted water, then marinate them in oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. I used red wine vinegar, minced garlic and a dried herb mix instead of fresh herbs and the stuff was still completely delicious. These mushrooms are wonderful to nibble on, and equally at home in green salads and pasta salad or atop pizzas. I'll be making them again and again all summer.

5. Doctoring photos: For some years, I used a free photo-editing website called Picnik to crop and resize photos for the blog and add text to them and so on. It worked so well. Then Picnik closed down (edit: not closed down but moved to Google's picasa and is no longer a stand alone website, as a couple of readers pointed out) and that was sad-making to say the least. But that was for the best (isn't it always this way) because I found PicMonkey. Can I just say that I love this website? It is unbelievably easy to do basic edits (cropping, resizing), to add text and to add several cool special effects. They have a new collage functionality that I love playing with. And no, they're not paying me to say any of this. I just wanted to share the link with anyone who is a strictly OK photographer (like me) but would like use some easy tricks to make their photos look cool(er).

6. A summer photography project: It is Lila's first summer and her days are full of all sorts of new experiences. Unfortunately, V and I are not very good at recording every minute of our child's life. She doesn't have one of those baby books to record her first word or the date her first tooth erupted. And I hate taking videos. But I'm doing a little photography project where I try and take more pictures this summer and write little captions for them that start with "Summer is...".

7. Baby food: At nearly 9 months, Baby Lila is eating quite a variety of foods. I keep a few jars of baby food handy for travel and emergencies but otherwise, we fix all her meals at home. She enjoys sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, carrots, banana, applesauce, pears, yogurt, moong dal and many other foods. Recently we discovered that she loved mango. I got home a bag of frozen mango chunks from Trader Joe's. I partially thaw the chunks by letting them sit on the counter for 20 minutes, then puree them into a "mango sorbet". The kid loves it. If she loves this fairly watery and unremarkable mango so much, she's going to flip out when she (someday) tastes the mangoes fresh from her grandparents' tree.

Lila's first taste of mango
I know I broke my own rule about posting family pictures online, but I just couldn't resist sharing this one. And yes, this little collage was made using PicMonkey. And yes, this photograph is one from Lila's summer series.

8. Father's Day is coming up this Sunday. V's all "Father's Day is just an excuse to sell Hallmark cards and razors". That cracked me up. Why, yes, this whole holiday is nothing but a conspiracy to sell more hair removal products. As a small gift, I made these Father's Day chocolate bars wrappers using this tutorial. All you need is an envelope, scissors, and a scrap of colorful paper or fabric. Instead of downloading the template, I simply cut the ties out freehand from some fabric scraps.

A quick gift to whip up for Father's Day

9. Summer reading- long lazy hours in the company of a book- is such a juicy concept. So what if I have no summer vacation and not even a remote chance of bumming on a beach? Reading is like breathing and I've got to make time for it somehow. This evening, I got home this pile of books to sink my teeth into- have you read any of them?



10. Dale's Tales: We had family from India visiting this weekend- aunt and uncle, cousin and niece. My 13 year old niece was delighted to meet Dalu. At night, she was impressed that he methodically ate his food, then lapped at his water bowl, then made a round of the home to check on everyone and finally settled into his bed for the night. "But how does he know that this is his bed?", she wondered. What can I say? Dogs are smart. They know where their beds are and a LOT more besides.



With food, books, babies, dogs, summer projects and crafts, this post pretty much captures everything I love about my life. Your turn- tell me what you're up to these days!

85 comments:

  1. What.. moving to another state and buying a new house is a MINOR issue???? I think my brain would fry if I have to do that.. Wish you all the very best with your moving.
    Lila is just adorable. LOVE her big eyes -- you can tell she loves that mango sorbet.
    Tres leche cake is one of my favorite. I think I used the same recipe to make it last year. LOVED it.
    Thanks for the link to picmonkey. Will check it out.
    Enjoy your Summer!!

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    1. I'm only joking :) Buying a home is a BIG deal but we're just getting into it.
      Thanks- Lila does have big eyes and they get bigger when she is excited.
      How fun that you made and liked tres leches cake too?? Enjoy this season with your son!

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  2. Awwwww.. Lila is such a cutie pie, good your broke this rule else we wouldn't have got her glimpse, she has very pretty beautiful eyes, loads of love and hugs to her.
    IF you get Alphonso there, try those too damn sure she would adore them :)

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    1. Thank you Kanchan- Lila sends you love and hugs as well! Her big eyes are something we get many comments on, when people see her.
      I don't have access to alphonso mangoes here but will get her some fresh mangoes one of these days.

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  3. Lovely collage of memories and possiblities and snapshots too!
    Summer seems to whiz by...
    :-)

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    1. Yes, time speeds up in summer somehow!

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  4. Great to see Lila...she's ADORABLE! Thanks for sharing the PicMonkey website. As you rightly put it, I too am a strictly OK photographer :D I always edit the photos (cropping, resizing, adding text) on the Mac preview which I think has limited scope. Will check this website out. Good luck with the move and have a great summer!

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    1. Thank you Amruta :) yeah we think she's a bit adorable too!
      I think you'll really enjoy playing around with PicMonkey. I love that it is free and does not need registration.

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  5. Love, love, love Lila's eager eyes tasting her Mango :) God bless her.
    Huge congrats to your sis and cousin. is Lila excited to have cousins :)

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    1. Thank you!! Yes, Lila will have so much fun playing with the 3 other kidlets. Let's see when I can take her to see them.

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  6. Lila is such a sweetie! I am glad u poster her picture. Her eyes are hypnotic:)
    Hope you all have a wonderful summer.
    Dalu is smart & handsome!

    I just finished, ' The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks'- thanks to 'The Cooker, Priya' who told me about it - a must read, and am currently reading, 'The girl with the dragon Tatoo' have you read that?

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    1. LOL yes her eyes are big as saucers! I LOVED ' The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks', read that last year. Especially since I worked with HeLa cells for many years.
      I have not read 'The girl with the dragon Tatoo' and don't know if I will. Made the mistake of seeing the Swedish version of the movie and boy was it violent and graphic!

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  7. Aww.. so cute she is! Glad you broke your policy of picture posting :) Those big eyes are so beautiful. Please do one round of nazar removal, ok? She is one adorable munchkin.

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  8. Forgot to tell you - I've been really enjoying the kolhapuri masala. Made a killer egg burji once and today, managed to actually click a picture of the alu methi I made using the masala. Will post soon. Thanks, N!

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    1. YAY glad you are using the Kolhapuri masala in many dishes. It adds a nice punch of flavor. Meanwhile I am in love with the sweetish idli podi you sent from Subbamma stores. Any idea where I can find a recipe for that??

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  9. Thats a nice and interesting post Nupur ! You make that tres leche cake sound amazing..
    I was also hooked on to picnik and then discovered picmonkey...its a cool and fun tool..have u read the messages it comes up with ?
    You pic of Lila with the mango reminds me of the time my son was about 6 months old and I kept feeding him bits of mango...he enjoyed it so much...I have a picture of him in his diapers and his face almost completely covered with mango :)
    Enjoy Lila's baby days, with or without the pics,they grow up too soon...She's a lovely little girl *hugs*

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    1. LOL yes, if I let my girl feed herself her face and clothes are going to be so smeared with everything. Thanks for your sweet words :) yes, she's 9 months old already and I am shocked at how quickly it is all happening.

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  10. omg...lila is such an adorable little baby!

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  11. Oh my gosh, Lila is precious!! so cute!!! and tres leche cake is amazinggggg! thanks for sharing!

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  12. Enjoy summer Nupur!

    Loved the photo of Lila and the tales of dear Dale.

    My parents are here and I am on a small break. So sightseeing in Singaland is what is planned for us.

    Do check your email. :-)

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    1. Oh how fun that your parents are visiting. Hope you have lots of fun with them and your little boy.

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  13. She looks cho chweet, seems she just enjoyed having mangoes. Enjoy your summer.

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    1. Thank you, and wishing you a fun summer too!

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  14. Always a delight reading your posts Nupur. Baby Lila is cutie pie and I love the fact that she adores mangoes. I know she will be the best daughter you possibly can have, mango loving kids have that you know ;)

    I am hoping to have a lot of time on my hands to do some reading now that the kids are on summer vacation. But let's see.

    Enjoy your summer and hugs to baby Lila and of course to you as well.

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    1. Yes, I was super delighted when she ate mangoes with relish :) Hope you and the kids have lots of rest and relaxation and good books this summer. Is your daughter taking over the kitchen?

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  15. Awwwww! Lila is cho cute! I am so glad u broke your policy of not sharing family pics. I am sure ur parents would have been tempted to send over the entire mango tree for their darling grand daughter seeing these pics. I was missing ur post last few days and I am so happy to read ur new updates.

    - Priti

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    1. Priti- LOL yes my parents miss her a lot but thank goodness for video chat. They get to see her gobbling mango and many other things! Hope you're doing well!

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  16. oops, I forgot, I was almost dropping with sleep last night when I read this post, could not resist Lila and Dalu :)

    Congratulations to your Sister on the new arrival! And your cousin for two! What fun!

    For pictures (editing) I use GIMP, it is a bit like photoshop. I think I will try picmonkey, I liked the collage idea, looks great. Have you tried Instagram on iPhone? Ekdum bhari.

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    1. Thanks for the wishes!! I don't have an iPhone (my phone only makes calls- shocking, I know :D) so never have tried instagram but PicMonkey can add those kinds of effects too.

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    2. Nupur, I was sitting down today to send a few pic to my parents ( S monkeying around) and I thought it'd fun to use Picmonkey and yes! Pic Monkey has many cool pic editing/ special effects options :)
      I am enjoying exploring it and spreading the word around about how you introduced me to Picmonkey and how wnderful it is.
      A couple of fellow bloggers have also started using it!

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  17. Nupur - So glad to see Lila. She has very curious, bright eyes. It's a joy to see your kid enjoying bits and pieces of yummy food! A big hug for baby Lila!

    I've been on a reading spree these days and the pile of books are mounting up now. Recently, I finished - Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee. Both were nice reads. Yesterday, I cooked Peaches, gave bits to my Baby Lab and he loved it. I made a decent Peach Cobbler with Vanilla whipped cream. Oh, I love the Olive Bar, just got my loot last week. Do try their Almond, Shortbread and Mexican Wedding Cookies. They are super delicious and I am planning to make 'em at home. Enjoy the summer while it lasts. :-)

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    1. Thanks Ashwini!! Ooh, I haven't read Queen of Dreams- will look for it. You got Almond, Shortbread and Mexican Wedding Cookies at Whole Foods? They sound delicious!

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  18. Such a lovely read, accompanied by those charming baby pix! You know, this blog is going to come in handy when you write your memoirs :)

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    1. My memoirs?! I should hurry up try and live a more exciting life in that case!

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  19. Lovely post and awesome to see cutie pie Lila.. Have a wonderful summer Nupur.

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    1. Thanks Laavanya- wishing you and your family a lovey summer too!

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  20. Hello, stumbled upon your blog while searching my name (also being 'Nupur')..Nwy, loved your blog, your writing style and of course the delicious sounding recipes n yummy looking photographs..keep up the great work..:)

    Your new fan,
    Nupur
    www.makespect.com

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    1. Hello fellow Nupur :) Welcome to my blog and I'm glad you are enjoying it.

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  21. Lila is so cute :) I think you can keep making this exception and keep posting her photos :)I first tasted Tres Leches in Sugarland (when I met Indira) and have been meaning to try it, but never got around to making it.Will try out with the recipe link you suggested :)As always love dale's tales too :) great post.

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    1. Oh yes I can see how Tres Leches would be very popular in Texas! It is a simply vanilla cake but the flavors are spot on.

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  22. Good post Nupur. Kisses to baby Lila and hug to Daludada.

    Btw picnik did not go away, it just got merged into picasa. You can still use all those things in picasa which is free (from Google).

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    1. Oh yes, I stand corrected. I meant to say that it is no longer a stand alone website which is a feature I like.

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  23. Lila is so very cute! Loved your post.Life is so fun and enrichment. Isn't it? You know in Maharashtra near sahayadris summer is gone - Monsoon is coming- It is cloudy and fantastic! We are all coming out of our summer hubernation and planning some weekend outings. Lets see what is there in store for us!

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    1. Hope monsoon bring lush greenery and pleasant weather to you in Maharashtra!

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  24. What a lovely post, Nupur! Your appreciation for small things in life reminds us what happiness is all about.
    Loved baby Lila's pictures - adorable! And those chocolate wrappers - what a clever idea!!
    I loved the idea of marinating mushrooms. I have some sitting in my fridge and know where they are going to end up now.

    Happy home buying. We just went through the process and know the joys and pains that come with it :).

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    1. Thank you! Yes, my happiness certainly depends on these small moments in life. You will love the marinated mushrooms. I can't wait to make them again.
      Congratulations on your new home!

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  25. aww- lila is adorable- and look at those cutie pie arms!! (glad you broke your rule..:))

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    1. LOL yes I love squeezing those chubby baby arms!

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  26. As always you write such lovely posts and this came with the added bonus of family pictures. i ditto everyone else who thinks Lila is adorable... hopefully she will taste the mangoes from her grandparent's tree soon. Congratulations to your sister. Nice to see Dale here again... goodluck with the house and the move...love and luck!

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    1. Hi arundati- yes, I hope she'll get to visit her grandparents (both sets) in India very soon. Wishing you the very best too!

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  27. blogspot ate my comment :(. Lila is adorable and nice to see Dale here again.... congratulations to your sister and cousins on the babies.... lovely post as always.... goodluck with the move and packing.... love and luck

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    1. Nope your comment was fine waiting to be approved :)

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  28. Always a pleasure to read your posts. Your daughter is too cute for words!! Have a great summer and a happy move.

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    1. Thank you Anu! Lila says thanks too :)

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  29. Hi Nupur..This is a good blog you have.Kudos.Your daughter looks naughty and adorable.Thanks for the PicMonkey.I have been using it since morning,its much better than Picasa Editor.Thanks once again.

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    1. Naughty and adorable- that's exactly right! Glad you liked PicMonkey.

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  30. Lila is just soooo adorable!! with her big expressive eyes and her cute kitty bib! :) btw, picnik did not shut dow. It is now merged into picasa. So you can still use it

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    1. Thanks :) that bib looks huge on her!
      Yes, I stand corrected. Picnik is available with picasa. But for folks like me who don't use picasa it is as good as gone!

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  31. Lovely pics of Lila! Reminded me of the time we were in India for my daughter's first birthday and put her in a diaper and set her birthday lunch in front of her, which included a bowl of aamras. She ignored the rest of the food and went for the aamras and was covered in it by the end of her meal. Love that memory!
    I make The Pioneer Woman's tres leches cake a couple of times a year. It's our favorite recipe.
    Just a suggestion about your move, have you guys thought about leasing in the beginning? It might give you a better idea after your move which part of town you prefer etc.

    -Anu

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    1. Hi Anu- I can see Lila diving into a bowl of aamras just like your daughter!
      You are so right about leasing first and then buying. The only reason we are buying right away is because we're moving to a very small town and we have a very good idea about the neighborhoods.

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  32. Hi Nupur
    Lovely summer post :-) we just returned from our trip to India and after eating all the extra calories there, we have decided to have a summer filled with salads and juices and milkshakes.
    Baby Lila is so cute....she is precious. So glad she loves mangoes....we had a good amount of mangoes during our India trip. My son loved the fruit and loved the taste better than here in US. No surprise there !!!
    Good luck with your move...I've been to Atlanta several times and liked it there...it's going to be exciting...

    Have fun and take care
    Mina

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    1. Hi Mina- thanks! We'll be outside Atlanta in a smaller town. I haven't had a chance to explore Atlanta. We drive through there and the highways are overwhelming.

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  33. Lovely post, Best of luck with your move, hope everything goes well. Baby lila is so beautiful.

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  34. Lila is adorable, Nupur! And you are doing such a good job of getting her to eat everything. We started Vedika on baby food, but she will only eat applesuace or bananas or otherwise she has taste for rice and idlis (yeah, crazy but she munches on idlis like anything ;) )

    Good luck with everything else going on in life. Planning for a move, home buying, a summer infant and a full-time job is crazy enough but I still selfishly hope you will keep posting, love reading your posts more than the recipes :)

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    1. Thanks PJ! You know how it is- you can't get babies (or anyone for that matter) to eat something, they either eat it or they don't :)
      I haven't given Lila idlis yet but will do that this weekend! So Vedika has a sweet tooth eh?
      I'll certainly keep posting as often as possible. I love blogging!

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  35. Lovely post! I am glad I found your blog and have been hooked on to it since then :)) I have tried quite a few recipes of yours like pavbhaji( amazing) , moong Dal ghassi, tamarind pohe to name a few. All turned out to be great!!! I love the way you write. Honestly, one more fan added to ur long list. :)) appreciate ur way to look at life and enjoy little things. Good luck with your move n house. Hugs to baby Lila!!!
    Cheers! Megha.

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    1. Thank you Megha- you are so sweet! I'm glad some of the recipes worked for you.

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  36. Great Post Nupur, I liked those greeting crads for Father's Day. Lucky Dad! It every nices of you to knit some beanies for the newborns, hand knit is every child's right I must say :)
    Congrats for being part of best Indian Blog lists http://indian-blog-list.blogspot.in/2011/10/alphabetical-list-of-indian-blogs.html

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  37. Your daughter is so adorable Nupur! Good luck with the move, and as someone else said, I'll be selfish and hope you continue to post regularly. Love your blog.

    Preeti

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    1. I love blogging so I'm going to try and post as much as possible! Glad you'll be there to read my posts :)

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  38. thank you for sharing the PicMonkey site. I just spent less than an hour and came away with awesome collages and cropping. yay!

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  39. i just found picmonkey thru you and am loving it!
    Lila is super cute!

    We launched http://www.veganchutney.com/ , a photo gallery site for Indian vegan food. Do drop by to submit your recipes. It is difficult to find recipes for special diets and hopefully the site will help.:)

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    1. Thanks Richa! I'll definitely try and submit something to your site. Looks good.

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  40. Nupur,
    I was away on vacation and just got to check your blog. And what a pleasant surprise!! Gosh, little Lila is absolutely gorgeous! Look at her eyes, so alert and so pretty. Thanks for sharing her pictures with us. And congratulations to you and your extended family on the birth of the babies.

    Mamatha

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    1. Thank you so much, Mamatha! I hope you had a wonderful time on your vacation.

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  41. Hi Nupur, Hope both of you are doing well, Just I was going through your posts, of what I have missed!, thanks for sharing photos of Laila, she is so cute with big lovely eyes, congrats to your sis & cousin., Moving houses and states must be so tiresome with baby around. you could post some recipes for kids of laila's age, I have got a cousin & friends who would love it.., I still use your Amti ( I make the powder keep it in my fridge), Kollahpuri Chutney when ever I make misal and usal!, I love all your Marati food, for its authenticity., Just for you to know my eyes fell on one of the comments about subbanna angadi, I love that shop as I come from that place, you were asking about the chutney powder, I had posted one before and now recently an other one about that chutney pudi, If you find it interesting you could check out this link http://samayalarai-cookingisdivine.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/chutney-pudi-bangalore-style.html, thanks hope this helps, as I too love this chutney pudi

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    1. Thanks Jayasri! Thanks SO much for the chutney recipe, I'm going to make it very soon.

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  42. Hi! any idea how long can the marinated mushrooms be stored in the refrigerator...thanx...

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    1. I've only ever stored them for a couple of days. No idea if they last beyond that time.

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