Kickass Pudhina Chutney

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I came up with the most kickass mint chutney today. I’m putting it down here, so that I can make it again.

Ingredients:
1 medium bunch fresh mint, cut the hard stalks out
1/2 medium raw (green) mango (available at Indian stores), chop it up 
4 Indian chilies 
1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp black salt 
1/2 inch cube ginger
a tiny piece of jaggery

1/2 cup water

1/4 super size lemon 

Preparation:

Throw it all together and blend, blend, blend. Keep adjusting for salt and water. Squeeze the lemon over it and blend again. Simply because I have it in my kitchen, 2 grains – yes two and no more, they have a very strong presence, of cooking camphor and blend again. 

Use – Refrigerate – Use – Refrigerate – Repeat till it gets over and make again 🙂

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Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Puffs of Cherry Blossoms-Clouds in the Sky

Puffs of Cherry Blossoms-Clouds in the Sky

Continuing our  flower viewing, we went to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens this Saturday. These gardens are a great alternative ( for people  closer to NYC) to the long drive to D.C. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, so finding a parking stop on a weekend was not easy here either, but easier than it was in D.C.

Photo credit - Ganesh Sankaran

Photo credit – Ganesh Sankaran

The Japanese garden is complete with  a little shrine and a pond shaped like the Japanese character for heart. There are plenty of different varieties of cherry trees to enjoy.

Cherry Walk

Cherry Walk

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In addition to the cherry blossoms, daffodils dance on daffodil hill.

Daffodils

In the shadow of the great Oak

 

Walk a little further and see the Magnolia blooms. Get married.

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Since we are already married –

 

 

Amsterdam Falafel House

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We skipped lunch in favour of viewing the blossoms, so we were famished by dinner time. Looking for late night eats (read kitchen open post 8 pm) we came across this build-your-own-pita-pocket falafel bar. The pockets come in two sizes, small and regular and two varieties – regular and wheat.
The Husband was not very happy as he thinks the only reason to eat falafels is to soak up alcohol, but I loved it. Word of caution, the fries are terrible.

Cherry Blossom Festival

DSC_0232_1At the end of WWII, Japan gifted the United States cherry blossom seedlings as a sign of friendship. In Japanese culture the blossoms are an  enduring  metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life.  Hanami  or flower viewing is a centuries old tradition in Japan. The  practice was first associated with plum blossoms before becoming almost exclusively linked with cherry blossoms in the Hein Period.

DSC_3411-001Keeping with this ancient tradition, the Husband and I decided to do some viewing ourselves. The seedlings gifted by the Japanese people, were planted along the tidal basin in D.C. A fortnight long Cherry Blossom festival culminating in a parade is held every year round peak bloom time. After days of constant follow up with various websites on the peak bloom dates, and juggling of schedules, we decided to avoid the weekend crowd and parade madness, and go on Friday. Friday, however had forecasts of rain. Left with no option, we re-worked our schedules to go on Sunday.That it did not rain on Friday is a different story altogether.

DSC_0034_1Sunday was crazier than we expected. We circled around the city of almost an hour before we found parking around 2 miles from the tidal basin. Given that it’s Spring time, the weather was fine and walking was not a problem. Although NYC still has a few good knee-high boot days left, they are definitely over in D.C.  Shorts and open footwear seemed to be the sensible favourites.  I was quite stunned by the number of visitors who had come to see the blooms.  Beautiful as it was, I doubt a lot of people would drive down to d.c to see it a second time, so most would have to be first time visitors. Imagine so many first time visitors each year – it’s almost as though everyone who lands in the US that year, turns up here. Yeah, I’m exaggerating, but there were a lot of people there that day.

DSC_0258_1D.C has several varieties of cherry blossom trees. A list of locations is available here. The ones around the tidal basin have pale pink flowers. I believe these are the Akebono variety. Deeper pink flowers can be seen along the East Potomac Park. The East Potomac park also has the Weeping Cherry Trees. We also saw a lot of what we think were Yoshino Cherry Trees close to where we parked the car. The best way to enjoy the flowers is to walk along the Tidal Basin and cut across the East Potomac Park.  When the wind blows, the petals swirl around you like little snowflakes. Carry some water and a picnic lunch, and have a great day!

DSC_0055Pleasurable as the flower viewing was, I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t worth a four-five hour each way drive. We didn’t have the time to even consider checking out the festival offerings. I am sure I’ve seen a couple of cherry blossom trees in downtown Stamford, if not the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has a few of them. Next year, I would rather go  picnic under local cherry trees.

Lakota Wolf Preserve

Wolf“Wakan Tanka, Great Mystery, teach me how to trust my heart, my mind, my intuition, my inner knowing, the senses of my body, the blessings of my spirit. Teach me to trust these things so that I may enter my sacred space and love beyond my fear, and thus walk in balance with the passing of each glorious sun. ”

― American Indian Lakota Prayer

Wolves are extremely shy animals and are extremely suspicious of humans. This makes spotting them in their natural surroundings very difficult. A wolf preserve, is probably as close as one can get to seeing them in their natural surroundings. Lakota Wolf Preserve , in Columbia, NJ is quite easily accessible by road. They run guided Wolf Tours twice a day, everyday except Mondays. There is a tour starting at 10:30 am and one starting at 4:00 pm. Reservations need to be made for weekday tours. Once you sign-in at the visitor centre, it’s a short easy hike up to the preserve. Incase you don’t feel particularly up to it, there is a shuttle bus as well.

Is it just play, or is it more?

Who’s the Boss?

The facility is owned and run by Jim Stein and Becky Mace. The couple  care for all the animals at the preserve and have raised several of them from pups.Right from bottle feeding the pups to teaching them to poop  (usually canine mommy’s do that by licking their bottoms, Jim and Becky pat them with warm wet cloths), this wonderful couple has hand raised these wolves.Wolf pups are extremely fussy eaters and the milk has to be at just the right temperature to get them to feed. Feeding the adults is no less of a chore. At Lakota, sometimes they feed the animals road kill (deer) or animals that have been killed by farmers for destroying  crops. These carcasses have to be disemboweled and de-horned before they can be fed to the wolves. And oh..they need to be picked up first and later physically hauled up some distance to the enclosures. Jim and Becky also take care of minor veterinary works on the preserve. For all major works, they have a vet who comes over.DSC_0056_1

There are 3 types of wolves on the facility – British Columbian, Artic and Timber wolves.The tours are not just about spotting the wolves, they are also about learning about them. Since almost all the animals have been born in captivity, are familiar with humans, and know there’s a snack waiting for them at the fence, sightings are guarantee. Jim, the wolf man is extremely knowledgeable, and  happy to tell you all he knows and answer all your questions. In addition to wolves they also have foxes and bob cats. Jim’ wife, Becky is the fox and bobcat lady.The day we went she wasn’t in as her father was unwell and she had to rush to his side. I hope he’s better now. We couldn’t see the bobcats, but Jim brought out the foxes.

ChakaChackachakcha

What does the Fox say?

Jim even tried to get the wolves to howl for us, but they just weren’t in a mood for it. Later when he was filling in for Becky with the foxes, something – perhaps a fire siren in the distance set them off. They raised their heads and sang a beautiful song for us- Song of the Wolves, if you please.

Winter is gone, and the wolves have shed their warm winter coats, but this guy had decided to hang on to his a little while longer.

A Wolf with its Winter Coat