Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Halloween again

It's Halloween and for a month now, the ghoulish decorations have been up outside homes in our area. Walks in the neighborhood are all the more interesting now because some people always come up with different and weird ideas to spook people. I took pictures of the ones that I liked most ...

The tradition of Halloween was brought to the US by Irish immigrants, but it's now celebrated by ALL children here (mainly as a way to stock up on candy for the year :)), by the candy and costume-making industry for obvious reasons, and by adults who get creative for costume parties - which can be pretty fun.

Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain, which is a harvest festival. During this time, the ancient pagans stocked up on livestock meat for the winter, and built huge bonfires where the slaughter waste was burned. Since winter was a time of disease and death, which they associated with evil spirits, they wore costumes and masks to ward them off, or to mimic them.

The name itself comes from All Hallows' Even (for evening) as it is the eve of "All Hallows' Day" or "All Saints Day".

A couple of houses have got this giant spider web with a giant yellow & black spider, which I hadn't seen before. In one house they had set it up to go all the way from a tree to the ground, which looked great. But I couldn't get a picture of that one. One of my neighbors had it too, and I got a picture of theirs.

There are the ghosts hanging from trees, of course.

And witches with poor navigation skills ...

The Jack-o'-Lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, who was a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old farmer. The legend goes that he tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. Angered, the devil cursed Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night with the only light he had: a candle inside a hollowed turnip.

I didn't carve my little pumpkin this year. No specific reason why not ... but here's my power-point Jack-o'-Lantern.

There usually is a pizza gathering on our street on the evening of Oct 31st, to which parents bring kids in costumes. After the get together, the kids go trick-or-treating. I haven't yet bought treats ... am thinking of buying dried fruit packets this year, to make it a little healthy.

The setting sun lights up the neighborhood during our walk. There are lots of deer here too. Didn't see one on this day, though.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Season

October is the season of color - bright orange, brown & all shades of yellow, and warm, glowing sunlight which sets the colors on fire. This was a time of wonder for me when I lived in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where trees slowly turn from green to light shades of yellow to orange & red, before softly floating to the ground.

Here in Texas the change of seasons is not marked by such a brilliant display. Still, the orange hues do make it here in the form of pumpkins!

I thoroughly enjoy taking pumpkin pictures. We used to drive up to a farm in North Georgia every October when we lived in Atlanta, to take some pictures. This morning we went looking for a pumpkin patch in Austin.

We found a church that has been selling pumpkins seasonally in its yard for the past 15 years. They had the bright orange globes scattered all over the yard, catching the sunlight and glowing like they were on fire!

There were pumpkins of all sizes, some huge and some tiny. And some of them had interesting patterns on them ...

with bright orange bodies and deep green eyes.

Some dared to be different from all the others ...

And some were metallic green ...

There were quiet ones ...

And there were small gourds with bright green and yellow patterns ...

There was this small submarine gourd ...

And this very pretty one too ...

After taking a bunch of pictures, we left with these two little beauties.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tagged again

It seems to be a season for tags. I've been tagged by Robyn of ArtPropelled and Pinkdogwood of Wandering Mind.

Robyn has a visually stunning, very artistic blog that is an inspiration. Pinkdogwood has thought-provoking posts that are very interesting. So do check them out.

Robyn's tag: 7 Random or Weird facts about me

  1. I am scared of riding on roller coasters and cannot EVER be tempted to go to an amusement park.
  2. I’m pretty sure my right hand is longer than my left, though no one believes me.
  3. If I had three other lifetimes, I would be a full-time artist/photographer, wildlife activist, and travel writer in each of those.
  4. I don’t like cheesecake or vanilla ice cream.
  5. When I look down from heights, I have a small urge to jump (my mind tricks me into imagining a floating experience!)
  6. I cannot wake up early in the morning, though I can stay up all night.
  7. I really, really want, at some point, to be a surrogate mother to an orphaned baby chimp.

For this one, I tag Jude, Karine and Sydney - that's not 7, but my readership is still pretty finite!

Here are the rules:-
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Pinkdogwood's tag:

~ Begin Tag details

copy ~Two questions in each category, answer them and then tag your friends from the blog-o-sphere. Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been tagged and you are all set.

Yesterday - Your oldest memory - What were you doing 10 years ago?

Today -Your first thought today morning - If you built a time capsule today what would it contain?

Tomorrow - This year ….What do you see yourself doing 14 years from now?

~ End Tag details ~

Oldest memory: I am 3 years old and living with my grandmother, uncle and aunts, doing various things like collecting kundumani (Abrus precatorius: a bright red and black seed), riding on my uncle’s motorbike and walking holding my grandmother’s hand.

10 years ago: I was preparing to defend my PhD dissertation, and had just (~6 months earlier) met the guy who would be my husband.

First thought this morning: Wish I didn’t have to do all that reading for class this evening, so that I can paint!

Time capsule: my parents, good times with my sisters and their families, walks around the Lady Bird lake with my husband, cuddly moments with my cats, sounds of birds chirping and squirrels scolding (the cats) and morning sunshine spilling into my backyard.

This year: not much of it left. Most thoughts are on finishing the semester well and fitting in a visit to see my parents and planning a nice vacation.

14 years from now: Us living much more simply and sustainably, close to forests or mountains, working actively to protect a small pocket of habitat for wildlife, with days spent working outside and not in an office building, with no need for vacation because we are doing exactly what we want to be doing each day. Sigh. Who knows?!

For this one, I tag Priya & Robyn .

To those who have been tagged - no compulsion, since there are lots of tags going around!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Santa Fe: City of Art

I had mentioned in one of my previous posts that Santa Fe would be a city I wouldn't mind living in. So thought I'd do a post on this artistic city.

Raghav had a conference there last year and I went along because I had some time off. So while he was busy indoors, I explored on foot and visited several of the art galleries and small museums scattered all over the city center.

Pretty painted door

Walking around in Santa Fe is like wandering around in an art museum. The city exudes art. This is mainly due to a decision by the city planners to impose a unified building style in the city. All buildings have to have the Spanish Pueblo Revival look, with earth-toned, adobe walls, rounded corners, subdued lighting, and flat roofs.

Local cinema

A bonus was that it had snowed the day before we arrived, and the beautiful adobe buildings framed with fresh fallen snow made them look absolutely dreamy.

The pink and brown buildings have bright colored windows and there are interesting sculptures scattered all over the city.

There were little artistic touches everywhere. Murals on the walls ... even the arrows leading to the restrooms in the little mall in the city center were creative!

Mural on the wall inside a building

Arrows leading to the restroom!

There was a street market of local Native American artists and potters in the morning one day. They had just spread out their wares on the sidewalk, and were in business! I bought a small fridge magnet from one lady. The piece is very small (only about 2 inches long), with lovely, intricate brushwork. She collects the clay from her land and makes these pieces with natural dyes.

In the past, after harvest in the late summer and early fall large chile peppers were strung to dry so that chile would be available for cooking year round. These bunches of chile pepper pods are called ristras. Today they are also displayed in this manner for decoration, and can be found all over the city - looking bright and spicy.

Santa Fe is also home to the oldest church in the United States, the El San Miguel Mission. The church was built in 1610, the year the city of Santa Fe was founded.

We were there in January, and Christmas lights and decorations still adorned some homes and the big local church. It was beautifully lit at night.

A short drive from Santa Fe is the Bandelier National Monument. A pleasant, short walk here takes you into the Frijoles Canyon, which contains a number of ancestral pueblo homes and cave dwellings carved out of the soft rock cliffs. Very dramatic and beautiful site. Will save the story of that visit for another post! What I wanted to include here is the entrance sign to the monument. Even this sign deviates from the norm and is charmingly decorated with traditional little motifs!

On the drive back to the airport, we had some stunning views of snow covered open land.

And so by the end of this short visit, I had fallen completely in love with Santa Fe!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Austin Wildlife

Here are some pictures from last weekend's visit to the Wildlife Rescue.

There wasn't much work to do because we were delayed and went there a little late in the morning. Most of the feeding and cleaning was done by then, but there were two special little babies that needed to be fed.

The baby raccoons had been found in a shed, apparently. But looks like many people just round up raccoons and drop them off here for no other reason than to get rid of them from their property! So it's quite possible that these babies were stolen while their mother was away, and she's looking for them right now. :(

Last weekend while we were there, one lady showed up with yet another perfectly healthy raccoon - she had been steadily catching them on her property and dropping them off at this rescue center. She said they were getting into her vegetable patch. The volunteer there who talked to her said that the last time she'd brought in a lactating mother raccoon. They had asked her to look for babies, but the lady didn't get back to them. If separated from their moms, these babies just die. I wish people wouldn't do this, and would just get a fence and learn to live with wildlife!

These little ones were fast asleep when they were extracted from the carrier to be fed. As soon as they woke up, they started screaming and searching frantically for the nipple! They hadn't learned to drink yet, so couldn't really suck on the nipple. So it was quite a production getting the pedialyte into their hungry little mouths. :)

There were other curious babies there too. This one kept clawing its way to the top of the crib, trying to get to us.

They are just weeks old! The ginger ones have found families already, but the black one still needs a home.

Cute, aren't they?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I've been tagged by Cariad in Crete - my first time! So here goes ...

Just so those who are not interested in these details don't get bored, I've interspersed the answers with goofy pictures of our cats. :)

This is shy little Shadow

1) Clothes Shop

I am totally distracted while shopping for clothes in India, for cotton skirts, blouses, saris and more. But here in the US, I rarely go shopping for clothes unless I need something in particular. I do enjoy looking at outdoor/athletic gear at Academy or REI though.

2) Furniture Shop

We have a working collection of stuff for now - I didn't enjoy the process of shopping for them! I am not very attached to my furniture - want to be able to sell it all at a moment's notice and move to far off lands. ;) I like the designs at IKEA or Pier 1 Imports though.

Gundu is an expert in the art of sleeping - you'll see

3) Sweet

I am more of a hot, spicy food person than a sweet person ... but when in the mood for sweet stuff, I like Hit chocolate cookies or chocolate wafers. And Indian milk+cashew sweets of all kinds!

4) City

There are many ... in the US: Santa Fe in New Mexico, and anywhere on Maui! Outside the US, of the places I've been to, I liked & wish I could live in Alleppey in Kerala and Cusco in Peru.

He's working hard here, holding the papers down
5) Drink

Ginger chai - I am addicted to my evening cup of ginger tea, especially on cold or cloudy days! On hot days I love coconut water, and spinach-pineapple juice from Mr. Naturals, a Mexican vegetarian restaurant here in Austin.

6) Music

Too many kinds to list here ... it depends on my moods, and I have many of them. Then I listen to ghazals, jazz, salsa, indian classical, bollywood hindi songs, tamil songs, pop music, or any other world music. Looks like I've listed all the music I know, but I really can't pick one and it does all depend on my mood! :)

He is scared of rain and hides when raindrops start to fall

7) TV Series

I haven't watched regular cable TV in a few years now, so I'm not in touch with what's happening now. But my all-time favorite TV series has to be Seinfeld. I have watched ALL the episodes multiple times, and can still watch them again. :) I also like Keeping Up Appearances, and Frasier.

8) Film

This is like the music question! But let's see - my all-time favorite movies are: O Brother Where Art Thou, Dirty Dancing, Out of Africa, Before Sunrise, Office Space, Roman Holiday ... you get the idea!

"Are all the guests gone?"
9) Workout

I've been into sports my whole life - so any chance I get, I like to play basketball or volleyball. Am addicted to hiking, and though my knees don't cooperate anymore, I like to run and bike as well.

10) Pastries

Not too much into cakes or sweet pastries, with the exception of black forest or tres leches vegan cake!

11) Coffee

I love the smell of fresh ground coffee, but hate the smell of brewed coffee! So I don't drink any. The only form I like coffee in is ice cream!

Even watching them sleep is relaxing!

I guess I need to pass along the tag - so I pass it along to: Blu (Blucamels in Brittany), Sydney (Adventures in Nature), Chris (of ShadyGrove), & Pinkdogwood (Wandering Mind) ...

Remember me as loving you

When we leave some people behind in time and move ahead only with their memories, time seems to pass so much more swiftly ...

I read this piece often (don't know the author) and it's strangely comforting:

"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying."

The painting is an old one from about 18 years ago that I painted while in college as a reproduction of a favorite poster by an unknown artist. The poster had this child's face with the words "Remember me as loving you." It seemed apt for the day.