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

Mutton biryani in easy steps

I like to keep my cooking simple and use the bare minimum when it comes to cookware. Why? I hate doing the dishes.

This recipe uses a pressure cooker cause it’s the fastest way to cook mutton – goat meat.

I have listed the steps below for quick reference.

  1. Marinate the meat – overnight – with yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, green chilies, red chili power, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, bay leaves, pepper corns, cinnamon, cardamon, and anise star.
  2. Bring out the pressure cooker, and fry cumin seeds first, followed by roughly cut onions.
  3. Once the onions are translucent, add the marinated meat and fry it till it changes color.
  4. Add water and pressure cook the mix for 8 whistles.
  5. Now layer the dish.
    Meat mix at the base, followed by a layer of boiled rice, followed by a drizzling of lemon juice, chopped coriander and chopped mint leaves, followed by a layer of fried potatoes and fried onions.
  6. You can add another layer of meat, rice, coriander, mint, potatoes and onions.
  7. The beauty of a biryani is the layers.
  8. Simmer the layers to ensure flavors permeate the rice.


1 lb mutton – cut into cubes
1 lb Basmati rice
1/2 cup onion, roughly cut
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 cup oil/ ghee
2 cups water

For the marinade
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
½ cup yogurt
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
2-3 sticks of cinnamon
2 cardamom pods
5 black pepper corns
1 anise star
2 bay leaves
6 cups water
8-10 green chilies
Salt to taste

For the layering
3 small-sized potatoes – fried
1 onion – sliced and browned
1/2 cup coriander- chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves- chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice


Fried Eggs On Potatoes: Papeta Par Eeda

I’ve grown up waking up to the aroma of fried eggs wafting from my mother’s kitchen.

She fried eggs on all kinds of vegetables – okra, tomatoes, onions and even potato chips. I believe this tradition is connected to the community we belong to – The Zoroastrians. Popularly known as the Parsis, this community, largely based in India, loves to eat fried eggs on veggies.

I recall how when there were leftover vegetables from the previous day, my mother would crack an egg on them and vola, a new breakfast dish would be born.

And of all those different eggs and vegetable combinations, one of my favorites has always been – eggs on potatoes.

Here’s the recipe for you to try…
Boil cubed/ roughly cut potatoes.
In a frying pan, heat oil and fry 1 tsp cumin seeds.
Add 1/4 cup chopped onions.
Add 1 finely chopped green chilly.
Add 1 tbsp chopped coriander
Add 1 tsp of chopped garlic and ginger.
Add 1 tsp turmeric
Crack eggs and add some salt.
Cook the eggs covered.
Serve hot with toasted bread.
Great power breakfast packed with carbs and proteins for a long day.

Boil potatoes
Boil potatoes

Frying the boiled potatoes with spices
Adding the eggs

Making a mosaic art mural on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Volunteering on MLK Day:

Each year, the third Monday of January is a federal holiday and is celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr. Day #mlkday. This is around Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The day is observed as a national day of service when people take the “day on, not a day off.” Dr King is known to have famously said, “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.”

To celebrate his legacy, the MLK Day of Service “encourages all types of service, particularly projects that have a lasting impact and connect participants to ongoing service”.

Last year – 2017 – I painted hubcap flowers that were later used to beautify a neighborhood in East Jacksonville.

This year – 2018 – I chose to participate in a volunteering activity that attracted my artistic instinct immediately – mosaic art. The project was interesting – we were invited to help complete an artist’s vision of a wall that would decorate an old heritage spot of Jacksonville.

Mosaic art to revitalize a neighborhood:

The project was organized by Groundwork Jacksonville, a local non-profit doing some really interesting environmental work around neighborhoods. Their website says they are “working to restore and connect the streams and parks of Jacksonville’s Emerald Necklace to revitalize the historic neighborhoods of our city’s urban core.”

The mosaic design is inspired by Sugar Hill residents, past and present. The mosaic will be installed along the S-Line Urban Greenway as it passes under I-95 near the intersection of 13th at Davis Street. Photos of the area look like it has been neglected for a while. I was told that the neighborhood was once home to an active African-American community with several prominent leaders that have made important contributions to the country. So the conceptual 7-pillar design has been inspired by the residents of Sugar Hill. Most of the past residents moved to make way for projects like the construction of i95 and the expansion of a medical center.

Here is an interesting piece describing the history of Sugar Hill.

Mosaic art is a slow, meticulous process

The creative brain behind the project are artists from RouxArt, a local art studio. Our project was indoors at their studio where they had all the material ready for us. We started by placing circular medallion mounds that had been made by the residents of Sugar Hill. This way the mural will be a community project involving the residents of Sugar Hill and citizens from around Jacksonville. The circles would be surrounded by our artwork called the ‘parentheses’.

We were then showed how to put blobs of mortar – using popsicle sticks – on little colorful stones, pebbles, tiles and mirrors and then stuck them onto a panel in different rows. The key tip was to use a spacer and ensure the stones were placed at an equal distance from each other. Guiding us through the process was Kate Garcia Rouh, the lead artist and designer of the project. Each tile had to be carefully placed and then pasted onto the layout. The whole process was pretty meditative.

Here are pictures from the event. I intend to make my own mosaic mural soon.

Mosaic tiles being placed carefully
Adding mortar to mosaic tiles. The Space bar was used to ensure we stick the tiles at an equal distance from each other.



We used different shapes and sizes, textures and materials.



Painting hubcap flowers for East Jacksonville

I love participating in projects that beautify public spaces. Art – in the form of sculpture, murals, mosaics – interacts, reflects, enhances the urban landscape adding character to it.  My first experience participating in a public art project was in Mumbai city, where we painted dilapidated sidewalk walls with graffiti. The paintings transformed the face of an otherwise unnoticed piece of sprawl to something that people would stop and watch. It became a ‘selfie point’ too.

Last year, I participated in my first Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering activity – I was part of a group that painted car hubcaps with spray paints. We used bright colors -red, blue, pink, yellow and orange to transform the round metallic spheres into circular petal faces of flowers that would line housing projects, parks and community gardens in East Jacksonville.

Here’s a photo of me (red tee) spray painting hubcaps in the project that was organized by The United Way of Northeast Florida and conceptualized by the Jacksonville Cultural Development Corporation.

mahafreed painting hubcaps
Photo via

I absolutely loved the idea particularly because it made use of waste – car hubcaps. Otherwise discarded or usually found abandoned on highways, hubcaps are defined as the ‘removable covers for the center area of the exposed side of an automobile wheel, covering the axle’, as per Merriam-Webster.

Here are photos I took of the whole process. We made the petals, stems and leaves.

hubcap art1hubcap art2hubcap art3hubcapart 4



Fried bitter gourd in 3 easy steps

Bitter gourd can sound and look like an intimidating vegetable. It’s crocodile-like spiny rough skin is actually delicious when fried, shallow or deep. I prefer shallow frying and this recipe strictly follows my preferences.

Crispy fried bitter gourd fritters

  1. Slice two small bitter gourds into thin rings.
  2. Create a marination with
    2tbsp curd,
    one tsp turmeric,
    one tsp chilli powder,
    one tbsp salt,
    two tbsp gram powder /besan,
    one tbsp rice flour
    one tsp lemon juice.
    Marinate the sliced bitter gourd for 15 minutes.
  3. Shallow fry the slices on both sides till they turn crispy brown.
    Your fried bitter gourd is ready to be eaten. You can serve it with a sour cream dip or hummus.
  4. sliced bitter gourd roundels
    Sliced bitter gourd roundels

Fried bitter gourd fritters
 Tips and tricks:
1. Ensure you have a large pan so that the roundels do not overlap while frying.
2. The thinner the slices, the faster they will cook.

5 ways to organize your earrings

Studs, hoops, chandeliers, danglers, clip-ons – earrings are the most creative way to make your face look different each day. They are great conversation starters and can make a simple outfit look grand. I love earrings and have a huge collection, mostly gifts, of earrings from India and around the world. My collection consists of fashion jewelry and because it is so large, it’s hard for me to organize. Most of the earrings I have are hook earrings and danglers and if not kept neatly, tend to get entangled with each other. So I’ve always tried different jewelry boxes and organizers to help keep them – accessible, tangle-free and dust-free.

1. Wooden jewelry cases
Musical boxes with carvings and embellishments layered with decks and drawers and hidden shelves inside shelves make for attractive organizers. If you are someone who likes to hide their jewelry away into a mini closet, then these would work perfectly for you. The con of closed boxes like these is that you have to open each section to see what’s inside before choosing what to wear.

earring organiser

2. Earring nets and stands
A convenient way to hang earrings with hooks is to place them on a earring net or stand. (Like the pictures below)  I found this idea to be extremely useful for quick view and access to my collection. The only drawbacks are that the earrings do not stay dust-free and you have to place the net upright somewhere.

B6HSkTKCcAAE34Jearrings in a shop

3. Small plastic boxes and bags
My mother would always get me small plastic boxes to keep my earrings well organized. The clear ones are convenient cause you can view through them and open the one you need. If you use one box for every earring pair, it will also ensure they don’t get entangled with each other. The disadvantage here is that this arrangement may not look very attractive as compared to having a fancy jewelry box.


4. My frugal hack 01: Old plastic bottles

This hack was more out of need than anything else. I had a huge number (more than 60) of earrings and didn’t have enough boxes to store them. So I cut up used plastic bottles and used the base to compartmentalize pairs.


5. Frugal hack 02: Plastic egg cartons

This is perhaps my favorite organizing hack for earrings – it’s cheap, easy and a clever space-saving storage trick.


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

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



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

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


Pet accessories and furniture
Plates and other cutlery


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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