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BLAH-BLAH

I had to do something productive, or I would've died of boredom.

Took a shuttle to visit new Ikea in Jacksonville. Surreal


So after a long wait, Ikea’s 290,000-square-foot Jacksonville store finally opened its doors on November 8. I was one of the many Jax residents who wanted to visit the new store to buy some fancy-looking décor and furniture for my house, my priority being a shoe shelf.

For months earlier, there were rumors and then news about the new Ikea store being built at St. John’s Town Centre, a large shopping area in Jacksonville’s Southside.

Interestingly, the open date was announced with another important date – the date when people could start queuing up for the opening. So two days before the store opening, Ikea enthusiasts lined up – some equipped with tents, chairs, mattresses and food supply -outside the store. Why the frenzy, I wondered only to learn that the first few entrants were going to be welcomed with great fanfare and also receive a freebie.

On its website, IKEA made the announcement – the first 46 visitors would get an EKTORP sofa in celebration of the 46th US store opening while the next 100 visitors would receive a free POANG armchair.

Ikea freebies advert on Ikea website
A banner calendar on Ikea’s website with details about freebies for the first few customers in Jacksonville

I decided to avoid the crowds and go on a later date. Unbelievably, when I visited the store on November 11, the parking lots were full. I actually drove a mile away to a parking lot and took a shuttle to the store. Here are pictures of the massive number of visitors’ cars and some photos from first visit to the store.

Weekend scenes: Ikea parking lots were packed
Weekend scenes: Ikea parking lots were packed

Packed parking lot at Ikea Jax

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The shuttle that was taking customers from the parking lot to the store.

 

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Inside the store, there were 50 room displays that showcased Ikea furniture assembled in mock settings. I walked in and out of rooms.

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Posing with the famous Ikea store bag inside a custom-designed patio area inside the store.
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Dining room products on display.
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Edison bulbs are really the in things to buy.
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These crushed paper pendant lamp shades looked quirky. They are called KRUSNING
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Getting comfortable on a dorm-inspired setup
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Shelf units
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Ikea rats
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The kid’s toy section
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Ikea mice

I did not quite understand why there were stuffed rats and mice. And so many on display. When I googled them, I found their product pages on the website. One says Gosig Mus and the other says Gosig Ratta. Gosig means cuddly or huggable. I also found a very funny and relatable post by a ‘husband’ who visited IKEA with his wife. He too was wondering about the abundance of stuffed toy rats at Ikea. You totally must read the post titled My Wife and I visit IKEA again and I try to figure out why. 

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Pet accessories and furniture
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Plates and other cutlery

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The check out

My purchases from my first Ikea visit were minimal cause I plan to go again when it is less crowded. I want to visit the famed restaurant inside for the Swedish meatballs and try the yogurt too.

Here’s what I bought:
1. White microwaveable plates and bowls
2. A countertop utensil holder for my spoons called ORDNING
3. A glass bottle with a cork called Korken.
4. Dark chocolate called Talanda – my best purchase!

Side observation: It’s really interesting how the Scandinavian product names are connected to English. For example, Korken – a bottle with a cork.

Here’s some more:

  1. Mus – Mouse
  2. Hanga – coat hanger
  3. Frostig – refrigerator

Found this Ikea dictionary. It’s a fascinating list of IKEA product names and their meanings. The website makes for a fun read.

 

 

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Shopping inside a train in Mumbai city


Mumbai’s local trains are synonymous with rush-hour crowds and over-packed compartments. Everyday, commuters scramble, shove and push to squeeze into their choice of transportation. Inside, catering to these crowds are train salesmen and women. These professionals sell all kinds of ware – knickknacks, food items, jewelry, clothes, and household items.

Each one has a unique selling style to grab attention and win customers – a rhyming jingle, an eye-catching display, an engrossing demonstration or a personal request to try the product on sale. Senior citizens, single moms, young children, persons with disabilities- the Mumbai train vendor could be anyone.

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A differently-abled vendor sells stationery – extra long ball-point pens – in the women’s compartment of a local train.

I absolutely enjoying shopping in a local train. I’ve found some really pretty earrings like this pair…

 

The pair of red earrings I purchased during a train commute in Mumbai
Earrings and hair accessories are common wares sold in Mumbai local trains. The prices range from Rs 10 to Rs 500 per piece.

Hair accessories are best purchased during train travel. Check out the variety this vendor was displaying.

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Toothpicks, hair clips, earbuds, necklaces on sale in the Mumbai train
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Sweet corn, lime, green chilies: Who needs to go to the market for groceries?

It’s fascinating, inspiring and distressing, all at the same time, to see some women vendors carrying their babies in tow. Some have to enter over-crowded compartments to get home. This is what peak-hour train travel looks like…

Over-crowded inside of the women's compartment of a Mumbai local train.
Overcrowding is a common feature of Mumbai local trains especially during peak times – in the morning and evening – when commuters are heading to and fro office.

Here’s a small video dedication we shot documenting these fascinating professionals unique to trains of Mumbai, and India.

I found two bloggers who have posts about Mumbai local train vendors. They make for interesting connected reading.

Do check them out.
1. Local Train Vendor by Poonam Choudhary
2. The Ladies Compartment in Mumbai Local Trains

Related: A must-follow photojournalist on Instagram is Mumbai-based Anushree Fadnavis, whose train diaries capture the essence of the daily commute in Mumbai locals.

My grandma


She loved listening to the radio
In her terrace rose garden,
On the top of a bakery,
That she lived in,
To be close to her baker sons,
And speak to customers,
Who loved her sense of fun.

She didn’t like long bangs,
She thought they damage the eyes.

She loved her camera, like she loved her radio,
And her knitting needles.

She would give biscuits to strangers,
And make random conversation with anyone.

She carried a photograph
Of a man with a swollen throat,
And warned smokers on the street
About the consequences of smoking.

She rocked me on the rocking chair,
When I was a baby.
She got me Cooper’s chocolate walnut fudge,
When I grew up.
She had a long cane,
And caned me when I was naughty.

She made the best vasanu – A parsi sweet made of nuts.
She loved her children and grandchildren.
She wore long gowns,
And could make anyone smile.

The last time I met her,
I took an instant photo of us;
She loved it so much,
She hid it under her pillow.
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Granny!
You went away, your photos are with me now.
Inside my phone and heart.
I know you’re watching me.
The sky looks beautifully painted,
Ever since you have been gone.


We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
And time’s forever frozen still

Acrylic on canvas: Stress-busting joy


I’ve always wanted to paint on canvas but for some reason, I never got down to actually doing it until last year. I still dream of painting in the woods, with a large easel and unlimited painting supplies – an assortment of brushes, large palettes, and paints. Colors – matte finish, glow in the dark, pastels, glossy, neons, every kind.

Getting down to painting on canvas
Over the last couple of months, I managed to visit an art store – Michaels, and finally picked up a couple of art basics. Here are a few paintings I’ve completed and proudly displayed on my walls. They’re novice attempts but they gave me great joy. The process of planning what to paint, choosing a canvas size, sketching an outline, selecting the colors, choosing brush strokes, editing mistakes and waiting for it to dry made me feel indescribably unflustered.

First acrylic painting on canvas
My first canvas painting was an already-drawn dog. It was a kit that came with paints, a palette and the canvas, pre-sketched. Pretty easy to do.

 

 

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Painting on canvas: Cute dog with muffler and hat

 

 

My second attempt was a vase of peonies. Inspired by impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir’s classic artwork, I managed to do this painting with help from a tutorial by artist and YouTuber Ginger Cook. I followed step-by-step instructions from her YouTube video on painting red peonies.

 

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Inspired by Renoir: Peonies in a vase

 

Now that you have seen my version, here is the original and Ginger Cook’s version of red peonies in a vase.

 

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Ginger Cook and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s versions of peonies in a vase

 

Cinnamon Cooney, Ginger Cook’s daughter, whose Internet pseudonym is TheArtSherpa. is another delightful painter who creates painting videos on YouTube.
Before I attempted to paint on my own, I looked for tips and tricks on acrylic painting on canvas. The Internet has many but Cinnamon’s videos are easy to follow and she really makes for an adroit teacher.

My third painting on canvas was that of my favorite subject after unicorns – magical sea horses. For this painting, my inspiration was the work of Joy A Kirkwood. She has a huge collection of sea horse paintings and each one of them is unique.

 

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Seahorse painting on canvas

 

My latest attempt was inspired by MF Hussain. The Indian artist is renowned for his Cubist-style horse paintings.

 

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My version of MF Hussain’s horses on canvas

 

I now intend to do larger canvases. I do not have an easel yet. It might be my next purchase.

Another future plan is to learn Indian traditional Madhubani painting.

This is what it looks like

 

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Madhubani painting classes 

 

Finally, check this photograph I took of a painter at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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I’ll try doing this after I retire, perhaps.

Pizza topping experiments


BOILED EGGS ON PIZZA

A few days ago, I put some boiled eggs on my pizza and baked it. They were edible and so was the pizza. Yes, I would be hiding something if I didn’t tell you that the eggs were slightly rubbery in texture. But heck, at least I tried something new. I thought my idea was rather unique and so I shared an image of my creative masterpiece with my brother, who happens to be a chef.

 

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Boiled eggs on pizza

 

Predictably, I got a rather snarky Ramsayesque reply. It felt like a hard slap on my pizza face.

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WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF TOPPINGS YOU CAN ADD TO A PIZZA?
I googled it to see if there was any such rule. A rule that dictated how many toppings were too many. And there really isn’t.

Here are some of my other pizza tops with toppings. Do you see anything you would want to try?

AVOCADO ON PIZZA?
I even tried avocado once and it was good.


I use my pizza toppings to fill taco boats when I’m bored of eating pizza.
This is what they look like…

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On my recent visit to Mumbai (India), I managed to grab something that I would call an ‘Indian pizza’. The Masala Papad – a crispy tortilla made of moong dal or a lentil variant, topped with toppings – is a popular street food in Mumbai. Eaten as a snack, it has all kinds of vegetarian toppings, the most interesting ones being – pomegranate and raw mangoes. Check out the photo of what a ‘masala papad’ looks like…

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Also, watch this video of how it’s made.

Coming back to pizzas. Here’s a WIP list of some of the toppings I have used on pizzas so far.

1. Onions
2. Tomatoes
3. Green chilies
4. Garlic
5. Broccoli
6. Capsicum / Bell peppers – All colors
7. Cheese – cottage, mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar
8. Sweet corn
9. Tomato sauce, hot sauce, tomato pizza sauce
10. Mushrooms
11. Chicken
12. Pineapple
13. Avocado
14. Spinach
15. Olives
16. Zucchini
17. Basil
18. Oregano
19. Bacon
20. Pesto

Meeting Rex, the old-standing orange T Rex of Jacksonville


One of Jacksonville’s oldest landmarks is a dinosaur statue
When I first came to Jacksonville in 2016, I remember noticing an oddly-placed dinosaur statue while driving through Beach Boulevard, in the Southside. With cartoon-like features, pumpkin orange skin and red lights for eyes, Rex makes for an attractive landmark. On an otherwise uninspiring landscape flanked by retail outlets and grocery stores, the unassuming demeanor of a tyrant lizard with giant bone in hand, is a guaranteed eyeball grabber for passers-by. Rex’s big nostrils, jagged teeth, wide grin and white belly give him a distinctive, hard-to-ignore appearance.

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His name is Rex
Curious to know more, I decided to look for information about the structure. I googled about it only to realize that his name is Rex, after all he is an avatar of the bipedal carnivore, Tyrannosaurus Rex. I even noticed that he had his own coordinates listed on Google Maps with directions to take me there. Obviously this was no ordinary dinosaur. ‘Historical landmark’ claimed Google search results and he also has reviews on Yelp.

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Rex has a past
A remnant of the miniature golf haunt, Goony Golf Complex, Rex was originally one of its unofficial mascots. In the distant past, his mechanical arm would operate a door that collected golf balls at the now no-more Putt Putt golf ground.

I even found a black-and-white photograph of him in the book, ‘Images of America – Jacksonville’s Southside’.

rex Images of Jacksonville southside.pngGreat for selfies
So if you ever visit Jacksonville in Florida, don’t forget to take a selfie with this dino, he surely makes for good pictures.

 

Bheeda par eeda: Eggs on okra


Since my last egg-breakfast-recipe blog post was a hit, I decided to do one more.

This breakfast recipe is a great way to start a day for someone who needs an energy boost first thing in the morning. The slimy Okra which is also known as Ladies’ Fingers is a popular ingredient in Indian kitchens. The green fingers, are chopped and fried with onions, potatoes and tomatoes to create a vegetarian dish usually eaten with Indian flat bread – chapati. I love eating this dish for lunch but I also like to top it with an egg for variety.

In fact, Parsis (followers of Zoroastrianism) love topping their vegetables with eggs. Popular variations include:
– Tomata par eeda (Eggs on tomatoes)
– Turia par eeda (Eggs on ridge gourd)
– Papeta par eeda (Eggs on potatoes)
– Kera par eeda (Eggs on bananas)
– Methi par eeda (Eggs on fenugreek)

– Sali par eeda  or Wafer par eeda  (Eggs on potato straws or eggs on potato chips)

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Wafer par eeda – I learnt how to make this from my friend Shirley Mistry

Below is the recipe I used to make my eggs on okra. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  1. One cup okra – chopped into rondelles (circular cuts)
  2. One onion – finely chopped
  3. One tomato – finely chopped
  4. Two garlic cloves – finely chopped
  5. One slice of ginger – finely chopped
  6. Four green chillies – finely chopped
  7. Turmeric – one pinch (1/4 tsp)
  8. Salt – one pinch
  9. Ajwain (carom seeds) / Jeera (cumin seeds) – one pinch
  10. Oil – one tbsp

Process:

Heat the oil. Add the carom seeds/cumin seeds and wait till they splutter. Add the chopped onions and fry till they get a golden brown color. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and chillies. Fry them for a minute. Add the turmeric, salt and fry for another minute. Add the tomatoes and fry till they change color. Now add the okra and cover the pan. Cook for a few more minutes till they are tender. Now add the egg and your ‘eggs on okra’ is ready to be eaten with buttered and toasted bread.

You could also try adding all these ingredients and baking the dish.

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Baked bheeda and eeda

Here’s an old video I had created on the process.

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