Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My First Knitting Project

I recently took up knitting. Suddenly faced with an overwhelming amount of time on my hands, this was something I was not used to at all. For the longest time I was always busy racing against time to do more. So with time aplenty, I needed something to fiddle with and to distract my mind from a million rushing thoughts. 

The first few attempts were just about playing with wool on a pair of needles. I thought I would be ambitious and try a scarf or a hat or even a pair of gloves. It was a bit more complicated than I first thought, however, and it took me time to get used to the knitting terminology. Anyway with my little niece due to arrive in a couple of months I thought of a perfect baby shower pressie for my sis - a baby blanket. The plan is that if I successfully completed the blanket then I would knit a matching pair of baby mittens, beanie and socks! I found this gorgeous patchwork patten online and it was really simple to do - only time consuming. So now three months later I'm almost done. The patches of yellow, blue, green, pink and orange have been sewn together and I'm working on a border.

Here's a few pictures:

Before sewing them all together

A close up of the sewn up patches

Baby blanket
Now I just need to get the border along the edges and I'm all done - my first ever knitting project!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Beginner's Luck!!

I signed up to Protagonize a few days ago. I needed a place where I could collaborate with other writers, get feedback and just have a load of fun writing. Protagonize was my answer and it is such a lovely site. I was completely taken by surprise waking up this morning to find myself having been selected as featured author for my NanoWriMo story for a day! (See my web badge on the right hand side) I was speechless to say the least and I could feel myself doing cartwheels in my head - I would fail and hurt myself miserably if I attempted to physically do them. It was my five minutes of fame and I tend to think of it as beginner's luck. Not only has it given me a tremendous push to keep writing but I just hope this does not jinx all my future efforts. 

I had writers block for so many years. In fact, I cannot a remember the last time I wrote freely and without a care in the world. It seems years of disappointments and being bogged down by being too focused on my career took me away from the one thing that makes me feel alive. Writing. This relationship I had with writing turned cold and unwelcoming. It was just like I was being told that if I did not care so much for it then I would not get any food for thought. I always felt that something was missing. But I would just attribute it to my career or my personal life. I would strive that much more to achieve something new in those domains. Every time I did, my mind dried up a bit more.

All it took was a forced break and a change of course to ground me and bring me back to who I really am. To the things I really love and enjoy and to the life I was always meant to lead. I do not expect large things from my writing. But I know that my renewed relationship with it has slowly started to breath life back into me. If I get an audience of one, that is good enough for me. If I manage to reach out to someone through my writing then again, it would mean the world to me. Above all, I now realise that I am a more fulfilled and whole person by writing freely and never again will I make the mistake I made before.

For all those writers out there - keep writing!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NanoWrimo 2010 - I did it!!

It took me 25 days of self-egging on, if you will to reach 50,000 words. The result: my first ever complete novel! I am ecstatic to say the least. Today I finally finished the entire story at 55533 words. This is what I would call going above and beyond. I am still basking in the success of actually finishing it and I keep avoiding the task of redrafting that I will have to do. But, yes, I did the first draft in 27 days. I can easily do a redraft and another redraft.

I came across Protagonize, a collaborative writing community and signed up. I'll be posting chapters from my novel up there on my profile as soon as I can. If you want to follow the story, check out my profile here.

Now I think I deserve a luscious bar of chocolate in celebration!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Babysitter

This piece is inspired from Wicked the Musical..

Nelly sat on the bench blinking. A man had come running up to her and in one breath had asked her to look after the baby. It had all happened quite fast and before she could respond, the man had placed a hundred dollar bill in her hand and told her that he would return in an hour. She had tried to resist but he had already run off before giving her a chance to respond. Nelly looked down at the baby that had been placed in her arms moments ago. She never considered herself much of a babysitter and this was certainly a most peculiar situation. She was just a random person sitting on a bench in the promenade overlooking the sea, reading her book and minding her own business. The baby slept peacefully. She had soft chubby cheeks and the smallest nose she had ever seen. There was just one other thing about her that made the situation all the more peculiar. The baby was a slight shade of green; just like Nelly herself. The chances of coming across someone else just like her were close to impossible. Perhaps this was more than just a quick babysitting job. Nelly started to think that her future might start to take a new turn and all she could do was to wait patiently for the man to return.

To be continued... watch this space!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Memories of war

Writing prompt for today: Memories of war

As night fell, life started to take on a subtle form of normality. Men and women roamed the streets, looking for survivors or loved ones in the rubble. Ambulance vans were busy transporting the injured to makeshift hospitals. Shops that had spontaneously shut for business started opening again, their displays rearranged to reflect the promise of life that had been given.

Sara had been at home at the time of the strike, down in the basement of her building, along with the others. It had been an agonising hour of waiting, wondering and constant listening. The bombs had missed her neighbourhood entirely in that air raid. But now the sirens sounded again.

Sara and her friends rushed to the makeshift shelter in the basement of the restaurant. It was her birthday today and her friends had dragged her out despite her repeated protests. She huddled next to her friends, ready for the memories that would begin to haunt her from this ten year long war. She closed her eyes and listened. She heard the sounds of babies crying, of whimpering women and murmured prayers, of planes flying low and fear gripping men. She felt the tremors and vibrations and heard shattered glass and muffled explosions. No matter how hard she covered her ears with the palm of her hands, the sounds continued to invade her. They came from beyond but more from within. In the midst of her tremulous state, she felt a warm embrace and held on tight. It was all she had and she felt grateful that this time she was in good company. After it was all over, she opened her eyes and felt nothing, just a ringing in her ears that echoed the memories of this war.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Encounter

I took the first line from the book "Maya" by Jostein Gaarder and wrote my own little piece...

I will never forget the damp, windswept January morning in 1998 when Frank landed on the tiny Fijian island of Taveuni.

Most of us had been up for a large part of the night. The rain had been relentless, although many had taken the opportunity to indulge in a late night party despite the storm. It was no surprise to see the reception brimming with bleary-eyed tourists, those who were scavenging for that extra bit of good news about the weather and others who were submitting to a breakfast that seemed to be calling to them before its time. So no one paid attention to yet another visitor checking in to the resort. Frank stood at the counter, with suitcase in hand, the dark sunglasses he wore speaking boldly of a man who had something to hide; hardly befitting as a disguise.

“Good morning, sir. Welcome to Taveuni.”

“G’day. I have a reservation.”

Frank dug into his briefcase and handed Timi, the young man at the reception, a piece of paper while he drummed his fingers on the counter. It struck me as odd to bring along a briefcase to an island resort.

“Uhh, I’m sorry, sir, but there seems to be some mistake. Uhh..”

“I’m sorry?”

“This reference number, are you sure…”

“Of course, I’m sure! What seems to be the problem?”

“Your booking, uhhh, well I have no record of it.”

“Far out! I called and confirmed from the airport, twice!”

“I’m sorry, sir, but there’s nothing…”

“Look, will you just check me into any of your available cabins, er, bures, will you!”

“I’m sorry sir but we’re fully booked and…”

Frank slammed his fist on the counter as the argument quickly got out of hand. He was slowly attracting a crowd around him and murmurs started spreading from the guests nearby. Timi was shuffling through papers with one hand and balancing a handset to his ear with the other, his brow heavy with sweat drops, while Frank continued to hurl abuse. By then I had decided that enough was enough and I walked up to the counter.

“It’s okay, Timi, he’s with me.”

“What?” roared Frank, flicking his head around.

There was a moment of silence as everyone else turned to look at me before the murmurs started again. I waited until the moment faded and very soon the crowd dispersed, making their way outdoors, I presumed – a more fitting distraction. Frank slowly took off his glasses and I could finally see the shock in his eyes, a twitch forming at the outer corner of his right eye. His mouth fell open as he fumbled for something to say but all he did was to follow me out.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Falling back

Falling back
on years of toil,
Falling back
Through tears that hurl
Themselves through, to the core
Bringing out emotions, to the fore -
Diving and sifting through

Sometimes I find flashbacks attacking me. Out of the blue, scenes from the past just haunt me for the longest moment. I finally shake them off and realise I had returned to the past through living the present. It may be nothing more than a moment that I can ignore and move on. Or there could have been a reason for it to bring me back to something that is linked to my present day.

I often wonder about this. What is it that makes a memory come to you without warning? I can understand when smells trigger memories, like the smell of freshly brewed coffee that brings back childhood memories of breakfast with the family. Or the smell of my mother's perfume that reminds me of those mornings as I was getting ready for school. But what about those memories that just conjure themselves out of their own volition. I may be sitting, busy working on something, minding my own business when suddenly it hits me. It stays and grows until I find myself back in that scene, living it and breathing it. Then suddenly I am out of it again, with no warning, just a feeling of familiarity and perhaps remnants that I realise were once misunderstood.

I had one of those days today. One where one flashback after another kept playing games with me. Different scenes from different parts of my life. Random pieces from different puzzles being thrown together into a box, if you will. Mental exhaustion was a certainty but a newly acquired perspective was another. I remembered and looked back and learnt new things, saw old people in  a new light. I understood.

This is what experience does to you. It makes you grow into a more well-rounded person. This is one of the reasons why memory is there. To put things away until a time when one is ready to understand that full meaning of it. I know that ten years from now I will look back on those same memories and see something I did not see today. 

It is a unacknowledged wisdom, I realise now, that it is good to fall back on your memories.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weekly prompts

Here are the pieces I have written over the past week. A week is too long - must be since my writing's picked up so from tomorrow I will start posting my pieces on a daily basis. I might even expand on some of them as I go along. So here they are - most recent first:

One way or another

The lyrics to that old Blondie song kept coming back and now the tune was playing in her head – over and over – in the background to the thoughts gripping her, like elevator music. It was enough to drive her insane, especially with the long drive ahead and with the fog, it would take even longer to get home. She fumbled with the radio dial while trying to keep her eyes on the road until suddenly she stopped at the song playing: One way or another, I’m gonna find ya I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha... She pursed her lips momentarily and started humming along while all she thought about was that she would get home – one way or another.

The widow maker

A raging fire that showed no mercy stopped at nothing in its way. The flames danced and multiplied disproportionately as the wind fed their fury. It was a manifestation of an arsonist’s vision: to devour land by the hectares. Many days passed before the fire was smothered. Now the area would never be the same again. Fire fighters saw it as a monster in the making. But Gladys, standing in the spot where her house had been, thought of it as a widow maker.


Holding the piece of paper in her hand, she looked down at it again. There was only one word on it: Resigned. It was scribbled with a paintbrush on ribbed, white and heavy paper. It almost felt like a sophisticated piece of artwork and looked like a signature. The layers of soft paper that she could see beneath the surface gave way at the edges. She could tell that it was torn from a sketchbook, perhaps in a hurry. The black paint was fresh and intensely dark. Rounded and soft letters took away the impact of the exclamation mark at the end of the word. She turned the piece of paper over then back again but there was nothing else to give any other indication.
The phone rang, suddenly jerking her out of her thoughts. She dropped the paper on the coffee table and reached across from the armchair.


“Oh good, you’re there! Did you get my note?” He sounded excited as he yelled through the receiver above the din that she could hear coming from the background.

“Note? Aah.. note..”

“Yeah I left it on the coffee table.”

She flicked a glance at the piece of paper that she had dropped. It all started to make sense now. She looked at the word again and got a different notion this time. She felt uneasy.

“Hello? Are you still there?”

“Yes yes, here. Where are you? What happened?” The music in the background was getting louder and she could hardly hear him.

“I did it!! I finally did it! I resigned and I’m down with the gang celebrating. Listen I’ll be home as soon as I can. We must celebrate!” There was a slight pause before he said, “Honey? I promise I’ll make it up to you this time. We’re free now,” he laughed, “free to do whatever we will, just trust me this time. Gotta go, will be home soon.”

“You resigned?” but her voice trailed off as she heard the click on the other side. He had hung up. Her legs gave way and she sank in the armchair. He had been talking about this for a while but she never thought he would have the courage to go through with it after all the threats they were receiving. A dark void started filling with a mixture of panic and fear inside of her. She dared not think of what would happen next. It was too late to persuade him to take it back and she knew that the threats were serious. They had to leave. There was no other way out.

Left Behind

An ode to being,
For those who are left behind.


Sweet and mellow
Freedom hit by fear –
Left behind.

Autumn in the orchard

A field of green is starting to tinge
with hues of colour.
Leaves that cringe give in to a fall
in fiery red honour.
It subdues a chill in the air,
a thrill to kill any jolly trace of summer.
Deep crimson, yes sir,
but only just
in mounting mellowness,
the sun sends a dust of rust,
and bittersweet brown and amber.
Look up to a blue that sails over
a change of season

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cappuccino Ricotta Dessert

I came across this delightful recipe as I was flicking through the TV last night. A cappuccino ricotta dessert and I just have one word (well 3!) to describe it - La Dolce Vita!!! Yummy! Now I am not a coffee fan at all but I thought I could modify the recipe slightly to adjust it to my taste. The chef said she stumbled across this dessert in a trattoria right outside of Rome in a place called Marino. Trattorias are known for their diverse menus and family-centric recipes, she said. This one sounded and looked delightful. It was also very easy to make. Here is all you need:

Espresso coffee
A tub of ricotta cheese
Vanilla pod (or essence)
A couple of biscotti
Sprinkling of cinnamon & cocoa

She put the sugar and vanilla in a blender and mixed them well and then she added the ricotta cheese and a tablespoon of coffee. She then spooned the mixture into coffee cups. Crumble several pieces of biscotti then sprinkle cinnamon and cocoa. Use a spoon and dive right in!

Since I am a non-coffee person I decided to replace it with my one true love - chocolate! To be more precise a good quality dark cocoa. I even thought about getting a good quality chocolate and grating it until it was granulated. That would be absolutely divine. Imagine Lindt's dark chocolate orange in this. Mmmm.

Another thought - fruit! Ricotta cheese and fruit go hand in hand after all. If it were berry season then I would choose raspberries and blackberries for this. Blending them in with the cheese would create an amazing texture of roughly cut up fruit pieces. Top that with the biscotti, cinammon and chocolate and I think I would be on my way to dessert heaven!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Frailty of Life

I just heard about my cousin who was hit by a speeding car while he was crossing the road. He died instantly. He was 45.

Life is so very fragile and we just have no control over it. I imagine my cousin waking up this morning as usual, going about his daily routine. Leaving his home, in his mind's eye, the things he needs to do running through his mind and those he would do on his return, not realising that he would not be returning. I see him standing on the sidewalk, waiting for the right moment to cross the road. Perhaps he took a risk and decided to leg it. We all do it once in a while. Perhaps he waited until the road was clear. Either way, whether he was overly cautious or not, the result was the same. Death was waiting for him and it was his time.

How many times have I been so caught up in life, in getting to my next goal, in achieving more. How many times have I fretted about the apparent inadequacies that life supposedly threw at me, forgetting how close the end could be. We do not know when it will happen or how. How many breaths do we have left? They are numbered, you know. Not a breath more and not one less. An unknown constant that lingers in the background of a unique formula that belongs to every person, called life.

I wonder how my end will be. Where will I be? Will I be alone or will I have loved ones to see me off. Will it be sudden or will I be ready, prepared and in silent anticipation. Will I be accepting and happy or apprehensive and scared. Will I know or have an inkling or will it just take me by surprise. Will I be mourned and missed or will I just be a statistic. And when it happens, after it happens, what then. Will it be an afterlife of happiness or...

I pray that it is the former. I pray that I live my life now to its utmost for the promise of an everlasting elevation. I pray.

I pray for my cousin that he find peace and is at peace. I pray that I can meet him when my time comes in a better place, strifes no more.