Longwood Gardens  

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லாங்கவுட் தோட்டம்

The main attraction of a small town - Kennett Square, PA is Longwood Gardens. Located at about 70 miles Northwest of Baltimore, the beautiful gardens were once owned by Pierre DuPont. He brought the gardens from one Pierce family to save the gardens from being sold for lumber.

We started with a water fountain show, which wasn't that great. But if you have kids, I'm sure they will love it. Then we walked around the Flower Drive, the Italian Water Garden, the Pierre DuPont house, and a few meadows.

There was another water fountain show at 2:00 pm and it was neither good nor bad. You start to get a feeling that the $16 per person entry fee was not worth it. We then visited the garden Conservatory and that was the best place. Filled with a variety of roses, hibiscus plants, shrubs, palm trees, and a number of other interesting plants, the conservatory gives you the money's worth, if not more.

Here are a few photos:

Lake Anna  

Posted by Ray in ,

A beautiful countryside lake, about 85 miles southwest of Washington D.C. - That is where we spent our Saturday.

Lake Anna, a beautiful man-made (the best oxymoron I have used) lake was a wonderful getaway for a weekend break. About 2/3 of the road trip was covered on I-95 and the rest on scenic winding country roads. Ranches, country homes and vineyards dotted the route. After a while we reached a small port at Lake Anna.

We decided to rent Jet-Skis. I had to overcome some initial fear as none of us knew swimming. But thanks to the "wonderful" DVD presentation and the fact that Rajkumar had already decided to rent the Jet-Ski, I decided to do the same. And that was the best part of the day.

The first few minutes were scary. The Jet-Ski was wobbling and I had difficulty in handling the handle-bar. But after a few minutes, the fear slowly 'dissolved in water' thanks to the Life-Vest that we were wearing. It took a few more minutes to control the Jet-Ski. Once in control, we started skiing and boy, it was fun. But I continued to have difficulty in steering the Jet-Ski.

On the other end of the lake, Rajkumar and Pavithra were cruising on their Jet-Ski. It probably reminded Rajkumar of the good old days of his Yamaha riding in Annamalai. By the time I got my ankle wet, he was completely wet. He was just zipping across the lake. Spurred by his showboating, I decided to now hit the top gear and in a short while I was jumping over the waves and did a little bit of showboating myself. As we jumped over the waves, my Red Sox cap flew away (I knew something would happen to it when the rental guy said he was a Yankee).

Being the pillion rider for 40 minutes, Kavitha decided that it was her turn to handle the Jet Ski. We returned to the port and with the help of the rental guys, we switched seats and after the initial hiccups, she started Jet-Skiing. She had fun too.

Overall that was the best part of the day.

The afternoon was spent in the Lake Anna beach. We played Frisbee and throw-ball (where the ladies won in a thrilling match), ate bhel-puri, sat on a pier with our legs in water.

Thanks to Rajkumar - we went to a great place and had some good adventure.

నూనె వంకాయ కూర (எண்ணெய் கத்திரிக்காய் குழம்பு)  

Posted by Ray in

Alright...this week it was எண்ணெய் கத்திரிக்காய் குழம்பு.

Karthikram - I have sent the above plate to you via FedEx :)

அடை அவியல்  

Posted by Ray in

Adai Avial

Popularly known as 'கார அடை' (kaara adai) in Maami Mess, Chidambaram or as Malabar Adai in Indian restaurants across the US. Kavitha made Adai Avial at home this weekend. And this is how it turned out ...

Commemorating the event, we made a stamp. he...he

Bloom Time  

Posted by Ray in ,

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

- William Wordsworth (1804)

In these simple words, we can understand Wordswordth's joy at seeing the Daffodils. Great lines.

Though I don't have thousands of flowers, a few that have bloomed have given me great joy.




Some new additions to the Garden are:
Green Beans, Raddish, Spearmint (Pudhina), Grape Tomatoes, BeefSteak Tomato & Asiatic Lily. I have also planted a few Chrysanthemum clippings. Hopefully they will make it. I don't think I will spend any more money on the Garden. Will only spend time maintaining it.

Frank Sinatra  

Posted by Ray in

Yesterday I walked in to a music store that sells old CDs/ DVDs and brought a Frank Sinatra Collection for $4.99. There were quite a few Frank Sinatra CDs. I just picked one and asked the lady sitting in the Sales counter about the collection. She said it had all the happy songs of Frank Sinatra (Later in the evening I was told that his sad songs are not that sad). So I decided to buy the CD and played it in my car.

I had never heard Frank Sinatra songs - I only knew his name. The first song that came up was "The way you look tonight". Here is a short clip from the song from Amazon. Listen to the end of the clip. The music and the voice is full of life and after listening to it for a couple of times, you feel like singing along. There are a few videos in Youtube as well.

The tamil song that immediately came to my mind was "ஒரு பெண்ணை பார்த்து நிலவை பார்த்தேன் மனதில் குளிரில்லை" sung by TMS (music Viswanathan - Ramamurthy). Both songs are about how a man feels seeing his love in the night.

Also try listening to Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. There are many videos in Youtube. It will remind you of the good old days of PB Sreenivas and TMS.

Story Review  

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Yesterday I had my first story reviewed by the Silver Spring Writers Group. Most of them felt that the story was good. There were quite a few suggestions. Some of them were - add more details, manage the tense (I mixed up the tense). There were some logical questions as well. Where on earth would a prisoner get access to carpentry tools, that too in his last few days?

Thanks to my good friends - Kim, Michele, Jane, Jay, Chris, Alvin, Leslie and Beth - at the Silver Spring Writers Group. In a few ways, they are my gateway to American Culture 101. They are an encouraging bunch and I have already started thinking about my next story. Will post it once I complete it.

My First Toastmasters Speech  

Posted by Ray in

I gave my ToastMasters Ice-Breaker speech yesterday. Got some good reviews. The evaluator said I overdid my hand expressions and used a bunch of filler words. The grammarian said my grammar was good but said I used "uh" and "um" about 14 times. I was told to work on that. If you are interested in knowing what I spoke, continue reading (some of you who know me well, please understand that this was only a speech and I tried not to lie too much).

What I want to be

A recent survey has said that the number 1 fear for people is public speaking and number 2 is death. So according to the numbers, people would prefer to be in the casket instead of giving the eulogy. So here I am to give my Ice-breaker speech to break my fear of the ice - public speaking.

My parents named me Ravichandran. Ravi in Sanskrit means Sun and Chandran means Moon. They probably wanted me to enlighten the whole world. But the closest I got to that was when I was a kid, one night when my cousins were stealing stuff from my Grandfathers carpentry shed, I was holding the torch light.

As a kid, I never had a proper goal. I wanted to be everything that I liked. Initially I wanted to be a doctor because doctors have their own rooms with all the fancy things hanging on the wall. They have a bunch of good looking stationery on the table. I didn't know at that time that they were all free gifts from Medical representatives. Also they had Air-conditioning. A/C was a luxury in India back in those days. Still considered to be a luxury.

I also wanted to be a bakery salesman. Because you could eat all you want. Fresh biscuits and puffs and pastries. I also wanted to be a policeman because you can beat others. I'm sure you understand that kids like eating and beating. I was a well-built kid, but not a bully.

And then I wanted to be cricketer. Cricket is a religion in India and cricketers are Gods. I wished I would have a magic ring or a lamp which would help me hit sixers off every ball. I wanted a ring that would help me take 6 wickets in an over. Overnight, I would become a celebrity.

A kid, I'm sure many of you here would agree with me, always wants attention.

As a kid, I was good in studies. I always came first, that is after the top 10 students in my class. I hated Mathematics. I was never good at Math until my 9th grade. Then it all changed. My parents sent me to a private tutor who changed the way I looked at Math. He not only made me do well in Math, he also made me love Math. Apart from teaching Math, he used to tell me a lot of stories from Hindu Mythology. For the first time in my life, I liked a teacher.

He used to tell this often - A young kids' brain is like fresh clay. A teacher can make a Lord Ganesha out of it or make a monkey out of it. So being a teacher is no joke. And that day I decided, whatever I would go on to do in my life, I will become a teacher someday.

I did my graduate study in Computer Science and that is what is helping me make a living. I will continue to make a living being a Consultant. But one day, after returning to India, probably around the time I retire, I will become a teacher.

A teacher should stand in front of the class and should be able to inspire the students. And for that good communication is important. I hope ToastMasters will help me become a good speaker and communicator.

Thanks for listening.

This is all I could speak in 6 minutes. If you have a Toastmasters Club, near your home, I suggest you join if you are interested in improving your speaking skills.

Your comments are most welcome.


Vegetable Garden  

Posted by Ray in

I now have a small Potted Garden in the lawn outside my apartment. This is what I currently have in the garden:

Tomato (Roma): Got a single plant and planted it in a big 5 gallon pot. Its growing well and just this past weekend I added fertilizers.

Bell Peppers: Brought 6 plants and planted them in two 5 gallon pots with each pot having 3 plants. They seem to grow very slowly. Added fertilizers this past weekend. Hopefully they will do well.

Onion: Planted seeds a couple of weeks ago and now I see some shoots off the seeds. This weekend I will remove them and will plant them in separate pots.

Cilantro: Planted a few coriander seeds in a small pot. They seem to grow very slowly. Its been 4 weeks now and only now the leaves have started taking shape.

Methi: In a 2 gallon pot, I planted a few fenugreek seeds and they grew very fast. The pot now has a thick bush of Methi leaves. After a couple of weeks, will probably use them in Methi paratha or dhal.

Hydrangea: We almost lost this plant as we planted it way too early before summer. I had to dig up the plant and keep it inside the home and it grew again. Just this past weekend I planted it outside. Hopefully it will grow and have some good blooms.

Yellow Dahlia: Brought a single plant from the local greenhouse and transferred it to a 4 gallon pot. The flowers look beautiful.

Orange Marigold: Brought a single plant from the local greenhouse and transferred it to a 4 gallon plant. I have a few flowers now. Hope to have some beautiful big blooms.

Zinnia: Planted seeds in the pot in which I have the rose plant. All the seeds have germinated and I now have some small plants. Will transfer them to individual pots this coming weekend.

Carrot: Just planted seeds. Hopefully it is not too late to plant carrots.

I brought almost all the plants/ seeds/ fertilizers from a local greenhouse - Edmondsons Farms. I also picked up some manure (yes....cow dung) from a local milk farm. Have a lot of work to do this coming weekend. I'm planning on planting more tomatoes. I will also be planting a few Chrysanthemums as the summer progresses. I also planted a Himalayan Blue Pine sapling. I hope I can keep it alive and see it grow as a big and beautiful fern.