A Photo A Week Challenge- Stacked

   This would be my first time participating in Nancy Merrill’s Photography “A Photo A Week’ challenge. I had once written a post before when the theme was ‘still life’ a few weeks ago and then totally forgot and the deadline went by! But anyways, here I am with the first post and I am hoping I will be able to participate more.

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This is one of my favorite photos, with the contrast and the ‘balancing act’. It probably does not fit the prompt ‘stacked’ in a very conventional way but to me it looked as if the branches, with the snow on them, were arranged in that manner and so am hoping it will work:)

 

Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely weekend!

For a cold-ish night- Chicken & Gravy

   I am glad that Fall is here…well almost here. It is getting harder to get up in the mornings and that desire to cover myself up with another light blanket and just be cozy for a few extra minutes, is getting harder to fight. The dazzling blue sky, crisp air and that autumn smell is enticing and while it feels tricky to calculate in how many layers to dress up the little guy for school, it is a happy feeling overall. Till winter shows up.

    I have written on a similar topic before as well and you can read that here but I get this urge to write a bit more around this time of the year. You see it’s ‘Durga Pujo’ time back in Kolkata and few other parts of India and the Bengali in me still yearns for it, in spite of being in this country for a good number of years. And that longing does not go away. I get super nostalgic and reminisce till it almost hurts a bit and at the same time makes me ecstatic and sometimes, I chew off the good man’s ears with favorite memories from that time. My kids have not reached that age yet where they will understand that frenzy and since we live in a land far away, I doubt they ever will. For them the excitement of Halloween and Christmas will always be a bit more and that’s probably okay. My son does get excited though about getting dressed in Panjabi (or Kurta– the traditional attire for men in India) and going to see Goddess Durga and Her full Family, all decked up! He loves the general merriment, especially the beating of the dhaak ( a membranophone instrument from India) that is almost ethereal and one of the most awaited sounds for every Bengali around this time back in Kolkata. And that makes me happy. So, while it is quite different here physically, in my mind I keep taking short trips to past Pujos during this time. That’s the wonderful thing about weaving memories…they remain for you to enjoy and cuddle in whenever you want to.

   New Jersey nights are different from the glittery glamour of Pujo nights back home. They are quiet and offer a very different symphony. Chirps of crickets, occasional rustling of leaves, a solitary car alarm breaking the sound of silence in the neighborhood. They are colder too. The intoxicating smell of the shiuli (night-flowering jasmine) does not fill up the senses here but the reds, yellows, and oranges of the leaves sure make for a visual treat. While we do stir up Bengali delicacies during this time of the year, Fall also heralds the beginning of trying various casseroles, one pot dishes, hearty soups, ramens and similar comfort foods! And that gets me scouring the internet for inspirations and recipes and firing up the stove eventually. A couple of nights ago, I had this desire to have some chicken and gravy, something that I have somehow never made before and after going through a handful of recipes, I found one from https://thesaltymarshmallow.com/one-pan-smothered-chicken/. I made a couple of minute alterations and I will note them in red in the recipe below. It was super delicious and an instant hit even with my little guy who is a picky eater! I am sharing the recipe here and I hope you get to try it sometime and enjoy it as much as we did.

One Pan Smothered Chicken

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Nichole

Ingredients

  • 6 Slices Bacon, Diced
  • 2 Pounds Chicken Thighs, Bone in and skin on
  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Stick Butter, Divided
  • 3 1/2 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Milk

Instructions

  • Cook the diced bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. (I did not have bacon)
  • While the bacon is cooking, mix together the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a shallow bowl or dish.
  • Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and dredge the chicken on each side into the seasoned flour until coated. Shake off any excess flour and set the flour mixture aside for later. (Also, I did not have chicken thighs and I had to use drumsticks and the cooking time was a little longer. Check for internal temperature of 165F. I had also marinated the chicken earlier with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, a little bit of chipotle mustard and a little bit of mayonnaise)
  • Once the bacon is removed from the pan, add half of the butter to the pan and allow to melt.
  • When the butter is melted, add the flour coated chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown.
  • Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the remaining butter to the pan and allow it to melt.
  • Sprinkle one cup of the remaining seasoned flour to the pan and whisk for 1 minute until the butter and flour are well combined.
  • Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and milk until gravy is smooth.
  • Return the cooked chicken and bacon to the pan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

 

   The good man made some mashed potatoes that was super smooth and yummy too. We had this with seasoned quinoa (and by seasoned I mean I had added salt, paprika and lemon-pepper powder to the water when the quinoa was cooking). We enjoyed the dinner as a family and even our 10 month old joined us in her high chair, squished some of her orange puffs and made various noises, which according to the little guy was her trying to join in the ‘grown up’ conversation we were having!

 

 

   And as I went to bed that night and drifted away to sleep, the festive nights of Kolkata seemed to be a world away, and the gentle lullaby and the humming of the pedestal fan were the only sounds breaking the lull of a sleepy house.

 

[I don’t know the name of this tree or the flower, but this look reminded me of the Shiuli phool (Bengali for flower) back in India that blossom during these autumn months and a whiff is enough to tell you that Pujo is here.]

 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are weaving memories that will keep you warm and snuggled, wherever you find yourself.

Organized Chaos

   It says ‘morning shows the day’. Not going into the philosophical meaning of this age old saying and instead sticking with the very literal sense, there are days where it seems that it was tailored to fit me! Well, we all feel this way, probably more frequently that we want to, don’t we?

   The other day it was a crazy morning as usual where the school going kid was not waking up and the little one was generally jumping (well, almost!) in her crib and the alarm was going off in the good man’s phone that he was unable to turn off with sleepy eyes. I took a couple of deep breaths and the rest of the clan managed to calm themselves down in their own ways and I was able to drop off the kid at school, miraculously, on time. Oh, by the way, I got honked on way to school too…and I was not at all at fault!

   We came back home and then ensued round two. I made my morning tea that I usually take with two biscuits (the ‘English’ biscuit, by the way) and I balanced it precariously on the edge of the cup and right when I was about to take my first sip, I saw it had fallen in the tea and given the tea a rather heavy and crumbly consistency. And that was that.  I got up to continue with my day’s work while the little one thought it would be a good idea to  crawl over to my flip flops, put them on her lap and take a nibble!  While I managed to prevent that from happening at the nick of time, I stepped on one of these tiny- yet- strong -enough -to -injure -a -grown -up- cars and let out a huge scream, internally, (yes , that’s possible!) as I did not want to scare the life out of the crawling baby. I limped a little for the rest of the day.

   It was time, soon, to pick up the little boy from school and I realized all my everyday pants were in the washer ready to be dried! AAAAHHHHHHH. I decided I would go out wearing what I was and would avoid eye contact with anyone once I was there. And how do you think that went? I met more parents than I ever have in the last one and a half years and they thought it would be good to exchange pleasantries (they are really nice people, nothing against them) and so there I was, in my pajama bottoms, talking about possible play dates. I am hoping that this has happened to people before me!

   Once home, lunch and bath time went by pretty uneventfully and I managed to out down the little ones for their naps. Now, they are usually good with their nap time, sleeping easily for an hour or two. And I needed it to happen that day as I wanted to get going on the dinner before going for my Yoga class in the evening. Take a guess how long nap time was? If you guessed 25 minutes, I give you a round of applause! I took a very deep breath, let all the worries out and the three of us had an awesome afternoon. We  rolled on the floor, got silly, had tickle fights and afternoon snacks, most of which my little one preferred to eat off of the floor and we sang songs as well! I remembered to run the dryer and got dinner started, that the good man finished cooking later. I reached my Yoga class 7 minutes late and had to wait outside…who reaches a Yoga class late??? It rained heavily later and I did grocery, got drenched and got grumpy.

   And then, when I reached home and turned the door knob, I was greeted by  peels of laughter and just like that all my crabbiness, from being late for yoga class and getting drenched among other things, just vanished. A goofy face and a toothless laughter hugged and squished the stress out of me and I counted my blessings.

    It’s chaos everyday and I call it organized chaos. And I love it, on most days. We all have/had such days where simple things go wrong and tiny things irk us and toy with  our inner peace. The frailty of human nature! How easily we let ourselves get lost in the transience of  moments that might be flawed and fret over that what is going to pass soon. Reflecting upon our current blessings escapes our notice in the mundane ups and downs of daily life. I wonder if we are a little quick in letting out big sighs and rolling our eyes!

 

    There are things that we would, ideally, want a little different in our lives and it is true that we let that get to us sometimes. It bothers us, makes us sad, makes us question past decisions and overall leaves a sour taste in our mouths. But, then when we pause to look around and see all that we have, does it not fill our hearts with gratitude and does the restlessness not disappear?   Piles of unfolded laundry mean our families has enough clothes to wear, accumulated dishes in the sink mean our families has enough to eat, paying bills means we have a roof over our heads and jobs that provide for all of that, text messages and phone calls to return mean there are people who care, giggles and crayon marks on walls mean we have little ones growing up. I really could not care less about how I look, what cars we drive, the gray on my hair, that jeans which I no longer fit into and judgmental people. What about you? What brings you happiness in your daily life? How do you deal with tiny things that disturb the so called balance of our perfectly imperfect lives?

 

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance “-Eckhart Tolle. 

 

Thanks for stopping by and hope your week is going well!

THANK YOU

This morning, WordPress had one notification for me: “You’ve made 100 posts on bitsandpieces”. And I was like- “Whaaaaat?”

While this is a teeny tiny number, it means a lot to me- to the me who kept the blog ‘private’ for close to a year, to the introvert in me who shies away from people and things alike, to the me who is usually a lot on the fence, to the me who tends to overthink, to the me who questions her actions and thoughts at all times, to the me who feels many other similar things that do not necessarily help her confidence!

I took this plunge because I wanted to break out of this shell of mine that has kept me from venturing into new possibilities and to let my guard down a bit. Thoughts like- “I have no niche nor am I great writer or a good photographer, what is that will make my blog stand out, there are so many awesome blogs out there…why even bother, who will ever want to read what I write, what will everyone think”– sowed seeds of self doubt and a couple of times I even came quite close to deleting my account and its contents. But I persevered and I am glad I did.

While I do not bring anything new and extravagant, anything wise and wonderful to this community, being a part of this has helped me grow as a person a lot and I am thankful for that. It has helped me embrace myself for who I am and helped me grow. It has helped me have meaningful conversations and learn through those. It has encouraged me to read more and think better. It has inspired me to take better photos. It has helped me go through forgotten tales and shake off the dust of days gone by. It has helped me share my thoughts, however random, and encouraged me to keep going. Over and everything, it has been a privilege – to read powerful and inspirational articles, to embark on this virtual world tour through wonderful travel posts, to read stories of resilience and celebration, to marvel at photos that leave me spellbound, to be able to bring into my kitchen food from cultures different to the one I grew up in.

And all of this has been possible because of YOU- YOU who took time to read what I wrote, YOU who liked what you saw/read, YOU who left encouraging words, YOU who forged a connection, YOU who inspired, YOU who took just a glance.

So, these 100 posts have been possible because of YOU and I am grateful for that.

                        THANK YOU for guiding, for inspiring and for comforting.

Today, I am sharing some of my favorite photos from when I started out first and one new photo, which was taken by my son this morning on our way back from his school. This little guy has started asking for my phone a bit more of late for taking photos and that brings a smile to my face every time!

 

 

 

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Marigolds – taken by my little man this morning.

 

Thank you, as always, for stopping by and I wish you happiness today and every day.

Monday Motivation

 

On Beauty (Khalil Gibran)

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
     And he answered:
     Where shall you seek beauty, and how
shall you find her unless she herself be your
way and your guide?
     And how shall you speak of her except
she be the weaver of your speech?
     The aggrieved and the injured say,
“Beauty is kind and gentle.
     Like a young mother half-shy of her
own glory she walks among us.”
     And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is
a thing of might and dread.
     Like the tempest she shakes the earth
beneath us and the sky above us.”
     The tired and the weary say, “Beauty is
of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
     Her voice yields to our silences like a faint
light that quivers in fear of the shadow.”
     But the restless say, “We have heard her
shouting among the mountains,
     And with her cries came the sound of
hoofs, and the beating of wings and
the roaring of lions.”
     At night the watchmen of the city say,
“Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the
east.”
     And at noontide the toilers and the way-
farers say, “We have seen her leaning over
the earth from the windows of the sunset.”
     In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall
come with the spring leaping upon the hills.”
     And in the summer heat the reapers say,
“We have seen her dancing with the autumn
leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her
hair.”
     All these things have you said of beauty,
     Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of
needs unsatisfied,
     And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
     It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty
hand stretched forth,
     But rather a heart enflamed and a soul en-
chanted.
     It is not the image you would see nor the
song you would hear,
     But rather an image you see though you
close your eyes and a song you hear though
you shut your ears.
     It is not the sap within the furrowed bark,
nor a wing attached to a claw,
     But rather a garden for ever in bloom and
a flock of angels for ever in flight.
     People of Orphalese, beauty is life when
life unveils her holy face.
     But you are life and you are the veil.
     Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mir-
ror.
     But you are eternity and you are the mir-
ror.
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You are strong and courageous and amazing. Have a wonderful week and thanks for stopping by!

Sunday Sky

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“With the new day, comes new strength and new thoughts”- Eleanor Roosevelt

Have faith in yourself and in the power you have to do good. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you all have a peaceful week.

 

 

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge- Blue

Amanda   touches on a very important topic this week and I applaud her for generating thoughtful conversations through this week’s prompt. This is clearly one of my favorites and while I try to actively participate as much as I can, there are times when I miss out but watching and reading responses is also as much a delight.

   Mental well being is just as crucial as physical and while there is much more awareness now than even a few years ago, there is still, unfortunately,  a considerable stigma surrounding this. When someone is going through a tough time, just letting that person know that you are there is a huge help. And I speak from personal experience. It has happened to me and it has happened to  people I love dearly and I am glad and honored that I was in their thought and they in mine. As life continues to unfold in all its craziness and glory, it gets overwhelming from time to time and for many of us that builds up inside to a point that makes us feel less than what we are. The feeling of loneliness can be a pretty huge burden to carry. ‘How are you’, ‘how was your day’,’ how are you feeling’, ‘what can I do’, ‘do you need something’ are some simple yet infinitely comforting, and mostly appreciated, words we can use to let each other know that there are shoulders to lean on to, ears that are willing to listen and hands that are willing to help out. It is difficult to ask for help  when going through a storm…and so it’s only human to extend that helping hand. 

While the color blue is associated with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, sadness…I am going to focus on the gorgeous blue sky during spring and autumn months, an almost Prussian blue as that happens to be a very dear color. I am not a huge fan of the color otherwise but that gorgeous blue sky just draws me in. I do love turquoise and cobalt blue as well!

Sharing some photos from my archive for this prompt and hoping to capture some new photos this Fall. The Friendly Friday Photo Challenge is hosted alternately by Amanda and Snow. Go take a look!

 

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Know that you are not alone.

Thanks for stopping by.