Monday, December 30, 2013

7 Fail-safe Last Minute Ideas For New Year's Eve Loners

As the official post to mark the end of 2013, here is a list of things you can do on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, should you happen to be alone, single or just plain bored of the repetitive clubbing, party and alcohol-infused scene.

7. Learn to solve the Rubik's cube. You're going to have to actually get yourself one of those colourful cubes first. See how far into the puzzle you can go without checking for solutions online. It takes about an hour or less to master it. Too easy? Once you're done, try out any of the nifty patterns available online, like the matching cubes in the pic. Yea, I'm a total cube pro!

6. Stroll the night streets. Everyone else has probably either turned in for the night or is somewhere really far away having a good time while being least concerned about how you are feeling at this very moment. This also means that the roads will be relatively empty enough to enjoy a nice cool stroll outside with just your thoughts for company.
5. Try a new cuisine. Take your pick, eat it at a restaurant or slave over your kitchen stove and then eat it. And if you've done them all you could always...

4. Blog about it! Anything and everything. Be choosy. Tell the world about how after trying out every cuisine the world has to offer, the planet still disappoints or surprises you to no end.

3. Play with shadows. Switch off all the lights and sit in the darkest room with only a torchlight on and enact a shadow play with your hands. Let your hands do all the talking to each other and record it so that you can post it up on YouTube later.

2. Origami time! Yep, that's right. This could keep you up all night creating new connections in your brain instead of being pissed drunk like everybody else. Look up any of the many origami-related tutorials online and fold your way into oblivion.

1. Read a book. Not at home, of course. Remove yourself from whatever four-walled place you've been hiding in and read a book you've been meaning to for the past year. It's way better than reading indoors any day. The best part is that you'll probably be left to read in peace since everyone else is partying away or watching the fireworks display but you won't care because fireworks bore you to kingdom come.

Got some ideas of your own? Share them in the comments below for the rest of us.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

16 Book Titles You Should Have Read in 2013

There's a new year closing in on us and what do we have to show for it? Something or the other and some more than others. But let's talk book titles instead. In case you're wondering Paulo Coelho reading list is complete, no, it isn't. Who says you can't create another one to read side-by-side? Nobody!

Here's a list you should probably have read during 2013.You may find most of the titles mentioned popular already. Most of them are. In case you haven't, you'd better add these to your list for 2014.

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a beautiful story about a young girl named Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others during WWII. Reminds you of a cuter and more interesting Robin Hood.

2. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight tells of a workaholic single mother discovers her only child has committed suicide and gradually unlocks the shocking truth of her daughter’s last days.

3. The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner has a deadly maze riddled with killer creatures and a bunch of boys. Mazes with killer creatures are always exciting.

4. Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth revolves around yet another dystopian society with five factions and a courageous teen ready to change the future.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort has this man who gets ridiculously rich, wastes away his money on drugs and partying, until reality kicks in.Sounds like someone you know or yourself? All the more the reason t read it then.

6. Horns by Joe Hill is about a boy who mysteriously wakes up one morning with horns and uses his new paranormal powers to hunt down his girlfriend’s killer.

7. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is comical and brimming with intriguing characters, odd situations, and a vulnerable mama's boy named Ignatius J. Reilly.

8. The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp has got some dewy romance but makes the list because the movie version premiered at Sundance and received rave reviews.

9. Serena by Ron Rash follows newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton as they create a timber empire and ruthlessly kill all who fall out of favor. Nothing is more fun than a slew of murders to get to the top.

10. Enders Game by Orson Scott Card has an alien invasion and a gifted kid on the side of the good guys. Alien invasions are cool and as a reason should suffice.

11. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a murder mystery with a killer plot twist to befuddle even the obsessed mystery book fan. Try not to get confused along the way. It can happen.

12. The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel is an adventurous story about a group of art historians and museum curators who risk everything to save works of art before Hitler destroys them.

13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman is about a 17 year old girl that has an out-of-body experience and has to make a life or death decision.

14. Carrie by Stephen King tells of a girls who discovers that she has telekinetic powers.

15. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is about a terminally ill girl who falls in love despite her odds.

16. World War Z by Max Brooks is a documentary styled novel on a zombie apocalypse.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Magical Christmas - Music Box Snow Globe

There are a few things I find worth collecting, music boxes and snow globes are among them. As luck would have it, I found two of my favourite things as one at a Marks and Spencer's store while shopping for winter wear (velvet is in, people). These snow globes, that also happened to be wind-up music boxes, were all lined up on a top shelf and simply couldn't be ignored.

I bought one that had a Santa, Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, a Christmas tree, a rat and a fox all dressed up in the usual Christmas colours, standing in the snow. When you wound up the the key at the bottom of the snow globe, they all kept twirling around and around with little snow particles drifting about as the music box played the tune of "Jingle Bell Rock."

Check out the video to watch Santa and his furry friends twirl about to the musical notes of "Jingle Bell Rock."

You can pick up your very own musical snow globe at the Marks and Spencer outlet at Deira City Centre, Dubai. Although I'm sure they might have them at their other outlets too. The snow globes are priced at 110 Dhs. each.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

5 Reasons Pets Are Awesome For Your Health

Want your day to start special? Mine does. Everyday. It really helps if you're an animal person and if your building isn't kind enough to let you keep your own pets, like mine.

On my way to the metro near my place there is a little fish shop where two little cats sit and sunbathe right in front of the shop. Sometimes I pet them if I'm not in a hurry. There's also these adorable black cats in an alley before the metro entrance who are extremely friendly an love to be fed and petted should you stop to say hello. Caressing their soft and warm fur is such, sweet, pleasure.

Once I get off at the metro near my office there's a lot of greenery and more pets bounding, skipping and strolling about with their owners. Most of them are these cute and fluffy little toy dogs with so much love and happiness glowing right out of their fur.

Not all that convinced you need to have a pet or should pet a friend's pet dog or cat?

1. A growing number of studies have suggested that kids growing up in a home with “furred animals”, whether it’s a pet cat or dog, or on a farm and exposed to large animals — will have less risk of allergies and asthma.
2. Your pet dog, cat, rabbit or fish are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking, a dog is a natural conversation starter.

3. Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog or petting a purring cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties.

4. Walking a dog or just caring for a pet; for elderly people who are able, can provide exercise and companionship.

5. They're good for your heart. Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmassy Trinkets For Christmas

Christmas is coming! While most of us are busy or done with Christmas decorating, gift shopping or playing carols all day, all hubby and I have managed to do is survive through the work week anticipating our recuperating periods over the weekends.

Of course, that didn't stop me from picking up a few sparkly trinkets that spell Christmas in bold red and gold. So even if you aren't able to go all out for Christmas or even if you are, know that these beauties will look great on you either way.

I found these pretty earring sets at the little Claire's outlet on the third floor of Deira City Centre, here in Dubai. They're having a sale on Christmas trinkets that you shouldn't miss on your next trip. The glittering earrings I bought there come in affordable prices and for each set of earrings or neck pieces you buy, you get the other set for nothing. A Christmassy deal breaker, indeed!

Happy Shopping!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

3 Reasons Deira Fish Market is Worth a Visit

If you've been living in Dubai for long enough you already know you can fetch fresh fish at a decent price at your local supermarket. You probably do this because, like me, the fish market is a bit too far away to bother spending the minimum taxi fare. Unless you're stocking up for the month. Then it makes sense.

But for all its worth, the Deira fish and fruit market makes for a great visit at least once a month. Here's why.

Have Your Fishy Purchases Carried For You
Are you a lazy person who wants someone else to do all your carrying for you? Great! You can now hire someone to carry all your vegetables and fish parcels for you for a reasonable price. Back in Bombay you'd have to be content with just bringing along your servant/maid. You don't really have to be lazy, though. If you need to buy more than a few kilos of fish, it's actually advisable to hire one of the guys with their trolleys to save you your energy while you...

Bargain Your Way to a Great Steal
Yes, you can bargain here too. No fixed prices. Pick a price you think the fish you want is worth and the fresh catch of the day could just be yours. But if they're selling for a price that's too low to believe it's only because the fish is getting stale and you seem dim enough to take it off their baskets. Be warned, anyone who follows you around with a tray of really low-priced fish during break time (2pm to 4m) isn't to be trusted.

Get Your Fish Cleaned, Cut and Filleted by Pros
Working class folk like ourselves do this because it's so much better than having to spend those extra few minutes cleaning or chopping up fish and then having to scrub the cutting board clean. A few Dirhams extra could help save some time once you're back in the kitchen at home. You don't have to look too far to find one of these guys, ththough. They've probably been tailing you since you bagged your first purchase of the day.

5 Fish Shopping Tips
- Never agree to the first price. It's a margin the sellers use in case you bargain. Makes for great profit if you don't.
- Keep valuables safe. You never know who wants your smartphone or stray currency notes sticking out of your back pocket.
- Walk away from the price till they bring it down to your level.
- If it smells funny, don't buy. Obvious tip, but some sellers can be really convincing.
- If say, the stall you're at isn't selling mackerels, ask them where you can find some. They can be helpful too.

Hope these are reasons enoughg to get you to visit your nearest fish market over the weekend. Or act as a reminder that you need to re-stock. Even once is worth the trip. Plus, the floors are cleaned at regular intervals too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gobble up a Lindt Chocolate Bear

Berry the Bear with his felt buddies
After years of ignoring the rows of specially wrapped Lindt chocolate figures at the sweets section in malls I finally gave in. Snugly covered in delicate gold foil was a bear that was meant to be disfigured and devoured.

Berry the Bear loses his hearing
The taste was as heavenly as any Lindt milk chocolate should be with all the melt-in-the-mouth moments you could dream of.

I could only document the joy so far until finishing up the bear seemed way better than having to stop to click more pics of every bear part bitten off. Between my hubby and me, we finished him up good.

The only preserved remains of the bear is the little red collar ribbon he arrived with and the heart pendant stringed with it.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Book your Tickets! Chicago - The Broadway Musical Live in Dubai

"Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a story of murder, greed, corruption and violence, exploitation and treachery, all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts."

That's right! Winner of six Tonys and a Grammy! Longest running American musical in Broadway history! Chicago, The Broadway Musical on fame, fortune and all that jazz, is coming live to Dubai.


Set in the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife by day and cabaret dancer by night who maliciously murders her lover when he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she cleverly dupes the public, the media and even her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her crime into a barrage of sensational headlines. Think it sounds like today's headlines? You're not alone.


Even if you haven't seen the Oscar Winning film, though it really would be a plus if you did, you'd still want to experience the show live on stage.

Chicago will play from December 19th, 2013 to January 3rd, 2014 at the Sheikh Rashid Hall, Dubai World Trade Centre.

Like me, you can book your seats through Ticket prices start from AED245 and onwards. See you there!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Indians abroad - Criticisms and probable solutions

A few weeks ago, a close friend posted a copy-paste of a status on Facebook from a popular page. You'll have to admit it can give you the giggles, at first. By then you are probably sniggering at yourself. The post went like so.
***Late morning crib: a humble message for our phoren-returned friends and other lessser citizens***
Yes, we know Finland and Sweden and Canada are awesome, thanks for sharing your skiing and snorkeling pictures ten thousand times on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and pinning them up on every vertical surface. But you know what? Most of that awesomeness comes from the citizens of the country. You never tire of telling us 'Dude! Random strangers wish each other on the streets! Shopkeepers SMILE at you! They don't ask you why you want to return an item! And the streets are so clean, you could eat ice-cream off them!'

Yeah, well, why not try doing some of that firangi stuff yourself? Say hi to a few people you meet on the road. Don't honk as if you expect your sonic blasts to carve a path for your car through the traffic. Be honest when you return that t-shirt or dress at Lifestyle. And for pity's sake, don't spit or pee on the roads even if you choke or burst.

Those countries didn't get where they are overnight. Can't our dear old Bharat Mata and her citizens do better than a bunch of freezing little islands? Let's try, at least, can we?


 While most of us would move on once we're done with our half-smile for the day, here's how I see it. Plus, little quick fixes we could certainly do with. 

  • I learned to smile at strangers long before I knew I would end up staying abroad. When I did, some responded warmly (and it's awesome when they do), and some didn't. They just stare back, astonished or make weird disapproving faces. And then it makes you wonder if it's just in our nature to have a stick up our you-know-what.
 Customer service in banks here in Dubai really are a pleasure. The genuine-looking smiles, the neat uniforms and adherence to standard procedures are always something to look forward to. 
To Fix This: We need better training facilities back home. They have standard training courses before you can work in anything customer related. They even send "mystery shoppers" to check performances. If you're not trained to smile genuinely all bloody day, you won't.
  • I've avoided littering ever since I leaned to read those little symbols that are on food packets that tell you not to. There are also fines here for littering that could make you poor. You cannot eat, drink or carry fish (thank goodness for this one) on trains here. Leaving behind a magazine on the metro alone would end up costing you 200 AED; that's a little more than 3,000 INR.Back in Bombay if you found plenty of dustbins to dump your dirt in, consider it luck. Local Goan beaches have started to get as flithy as the ones in Bombay. That just goes to show that we're a dirty lot, except in our own homes.
To Fix This: People need to read, understand and follow rules. Really, it's that simple. Unless you want to pay fines. 

  • As for honking, it's true Dubai is quiet even during traffic jams. Tire traction can remind you of the ocean. And that's because they're taught not to be a nuisance. If you don't adhere to simple rules like, avoid lane-cutting, crossing signals, etc. they actually won't give you a license to you learn to drive right. 
    Oh and the many fines. You can get too poor to own a car eventually. And if you commit a mistake thrice, you'rrrrrrre out! Bye, bye, license.
     To Fix This: Better training by standard training schools. We have too many fakes back home. Oh and a few more fines.

  • The peeing and spitting bit is just dumb!  
To Fix This: KILL the paan industry! Have more public toilets, especially at beaches and parks where people need to pee a lot. Fine those who feel the need to be generous with their saliva. Really, use a sink!
Now that you've gone through this lengthy vent, we can all get on with our day!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reading Collection - Selected titles by Paulo Coelho

I'm not sure why I hadn't read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist for so long but I'm genuinely glad that I did. It was spiritually awakening and much more.

Since then I have acquired and added e-copies of 15 more by the famous Brazilian author to my reading list. Here's what's new on my trusty little e-reader.

1. Aleph
2. Brida
3. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept
4. Eleven Minutes
5. Maktub
6. Manual of the Warrior of Light
7. Manuscript Found in Accra
8. The Devil and Miss Prym
9. The Fifth Mountain
10. The Pilgrimage
11. The Valkyries
12. The Winner Stands Alone
13. The Zahir
14. Veronika Decides to Die
15. Witch of Portobello
16. The Alchemist

'Brida' I read during my years in catering college and found it to be not my cup of tea. Albeit, I've heard good things about 'Eleven Minutes' and 'Veronika Decides to Die', so perhaps I'll save those for last.

Read any of the above titles? Would love to read your reviews on them in comments section below.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Google's Greatest Doodle is an Epic 8-bit 'Doctor Who' Game

Choose your Doctor and go whoosh in your TARDIS
Barely a day before the much-awaited Doctor Who 50th anniversary, Google does something to please every single Doctor Who fan in the universe. What is it? A special Google "Whodle" (as it is known in the Googleplex in Mountain View) with an 8-bit platform game in which you play the Doctor through all his 11 incarnations. No, John Hurt's "War Doctor" isn't included since it was revealed after the Doodle's production began. Does this matter? Nope.
Daleks, Cybermen and a Weeping Angel
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Timelord, this epic multi-level Doodle has been in the works for four months. A, it became known as the "Whodle." The company says it's the largest interactive Doodle yet created.
The game was designed by Matt Cruickshank, a British Who fan who moved to the Googleplex last year. Cruickshank managed to get the BBC interested in the idea, so the Doodle uses authentic sound effects from the show — including the TARDIS' famous "whoosh" which you get to hear as you work your way through the 5 levels of the game.
You use the arrow keys or you mouse like any of the previous Google Doodle games. Your goal as the Doctor is to retrieve all of the letters in "Google" stolen by an undoubtedly sinister Dalek and return them to your TARDIS. And it gets tricky but is all too much fun avoiding the exterminating Daleks, deleting Cybermen, the Weeping Angel and terrible tiles that can zap you into regeneration on your way to completion.
You start with any of the eleven doctors, but fall afoul of the evil foes of the Doctor and you regenerate into the next one down the line. It's pretty quick and you can easily get through the levels in less than 10 minutes.
You don't have to be a Doctor Who fan to enjoy this doodle. In case you've not played it yet, play it here. Allons-y!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Go crazy at Valleydez!

Located snugly on the first floor of the Egyptian-themed, Wafi Mall, in Dubai, is ValleyDez, a boutique
concept like no other.

If you’re a first-timer to the store, be sure to be greeted by a delicate glass counter as you enter, that smartly displays the store’s latest fashion accessories.

Step into this little boutique and you would agree that it isn’t your regular apparel store. At Valleydez, you are certain to find fresh couture befitting a more sophisticated clientele. Neatly arranged are gorgeous, fiery dresses in global cuts and colors, chic day wear and accessories to mix and match with absolutely anything!

Stroll through the petite shop, take your time, and breathe into the elegant yet funky ambiance that takes you into a world of beaded, embroidered, classy outfits and evening wear.

Products showcased at Valleydez are handpicked selections of creations from leading and emerging international designers, directly off world-famous catwalks: Milan, New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. Though most of the brands at the store are of international fame like Sephora and Charlotte Sparre, there are also elegant and iconic local names like Meher & Riddhima and even oriental touches like those of Manish Malhotra.

A little memento that caught my eye was a dainty, glittery ‘Dubai Expo 2020’ bracelet. Who knew something so simple could come in such a pretty form. Other similarly sparkly and uniquely designed trinkets and accessories came in brightly colored plastic designs and even a display dedicated to metallic designs that sang to the tune of punk.

At the store, you are also likely to meet a cheery and helpful, Ms. Jenny. When not busy with other shoppers, she can promptly tell you almost anything you want to know about the kinds of fashion and sale items available at the store. Now that’s good service!

The appeal lies in the unique diversity of designs, aimed at every girl’s inner chic and adventurous fashionista. Their one-of-a-kind d├ęcor includes the logo silhouettes on wallpaper. The boutique seems subtle at first, with chalky pastels of lavenders and pinks; but the feel is a mixture of Marie Antoinette meets the Mad Hatter at Alice's Tea Party that suitably reflects their eclectic product range.

So if you are looking to make classy, contemporary statements and take fashion to a whole other level, go crazy at Valleydez!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Dubai Sightings - Partial Eclipse at Sundown

Nothing like spending an evening with a celestial view of wonder. Simply mesmerising!

The eclipse started around 5.20pm, November 3rd, just before sunset, giving residents and stargazers alike, a narrow window of opportunity to watch it as the sun set at 5.40pm. Depending on weather conditions, it was visible from most UAE emirates including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain, Sharjah, and Ajman.
Partial Eclipse, Dubai, UAE
The eclipse started as an annular eclipse, with the ring of fire around the sun disk. It later morphed into a total solar eclipse, but unfortunately wasn't visible anywhere in the Middle East at that time.

While it was total in some parts of the world, hybrid solar eclipses are described as rare. The last one was in 2005 and the next will occur some 10 years later on April 20, 2023. If you missed this one, hopefully you'll see the next.

According to the Nasa, the total solar eclipse would be seen in Gulu, a city in Northern Uganda, parts of Congo, Kenya, and Ethiopia. So if you're from there, hope you were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the 'ring of fire'.

PS: Got great pics of the eclipse? Tweet them to me at @fatterbrain on Twitter or email them over.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Snack Time! Tangy Pan-Fried Pineapple

When life gives you partially raw pineapple, fry them. In fact, almost anything raw tastes delicious when cooked the right way. And that's precisely what I did with the fresh store-bought pineapple I brought home.
Growing up on Bombay soil, my dear mum taught me that no edible food should go to waste. Here's how you do it..
You will need
A partially ripe pineapple, cut in pieces
1 tbsp. Butter/Oil
2-3 drops of soya sauce

How to make it
1. In a non-stick skillet, heat up the oil.
2. Throw in the pineapple pieces. Stir every few minutes till it browns just a bit.
3. Add the soya sauce and stir for another five minutes before turning off your stove.

While you could feast on your sweet and tangy snack the way it is, there are other ways to enjoy your pan-friend pineapple.

1. Makes for a great side dish. Especially if there's some creamy curry and steaming-hot, rice.
2. Deck-up a dessert.You could alternatively swap the soya sauce with a teaspoon of sugar during the frying process. Then impress your friends by topping your ice-cream sundae with some sweet caramelised pineapple bits.