Thursday, April 12, 2018

A moment with my watercolors. Black is Beautiful

Trying hard to limp back to work, back to the old routine...
I've got no excuse to dilly-dally and procrastinate, so I have to get my life back on track and get all those things going that are on my mind and my to-do list.
One of them being the quick demos and YouTube videos that are just lying around, unedited and unfinished.
Also have to get my daily drawings, paintings, sketching back on.
At least however much I can manage with my busy schedule.
This watercolor was made for yesterday: "Wednesday Watercolors"
but I didnt get time to upload it here yet.
Adding it today.
Enjoy!


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Weekend Dhamaal: Interview with a Fauji wife: Sahana Ahmed

We, our phenomenal tribe of Armed Forces wives are a force to reckon with!!
We are enterprising, strong, connected, and extremely versatile.
We are ready to face whatever challenges that life throws at us with a "Bring it on" attitude and a fierce smile. These challenges may be career oriented, or vague postings to unknown, untouched back of beyond areas, or the upheaval that our children face with each new move every couple of years, long separations where we are virtually bringing up our children like a single parent, or the unsettled feeling that we get (which I am going through, these days) where we see our life pass us by and we feel that we are capable of soooo much more, if only we were posted to a better/bigger city with more opportunities...
And then we shake our head, shrug our shoulders and make the best of what we have.

I don't do interviews on my blog, though I have been contemplating doing a series on Army wives... authors(you wont believe how many published authors we have among us!) and  creative enterpreneurs, esp woman who have defied the odds and moved on from being just a Mrs. so-n-so.

And made an independent identity of themselves.

So when Juggernaut (a fantastic ebook website that functions as an app on your phone) approached me to do a write up about their upcoming author- Sahana Ahmed, on my blog, I jumped at the chance!

Not only because she is a fellow Army wife (though her husband is retired now) but I have had the opportunity to do some work for her, and I found her to be very warm, relatable and and extremely nice human being with a fabulous smile!
And when I read her ebook The Combat Skirts, (which by the way has been one of the most purchased books on Juggernaut, second month in a row since its debut!!!) I was enveloped in the same warm, fuzzy feeling that her persona exudes.
Sahana's style of writing is witty, charming and very relatable. One is immediately enveloped in the fun and tamasha of a girls' hostel and the trials and tribulations in the love life of the main protagonist, Saba. A fauji kid with a no nonsense approach to life.
Once I started, I read the book in one go, it was so much fun, like watching a well made rom-com!

So I sent her a Q&A, for all who aspire to have thier books published (even an ebook) can take some tips from her and learn about her inspirations and trials!


So here's my conversation with Sahana Ahmed:







1-   Tell us a bit about yourself… where are u from, your background+education.

I live in Gurgaon.

My childhood was typical of an Army kid of my generation; completed my schooling from eleven different places, then went on to study Hotel Management.

2-   So Sahana when did u realise that you had a writer inside you? Moved from writing school essays to writing a full fledged story?

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t write but it was always a hobby, never a career option.

3-   You are a defence kid… what was it like growing up? Did your childhood shenanigans influence the stories whirling inside you?

Oh, totally! Army kids are exposed to so much, it makes them natural storytellers. And there’s a market for our stories. Case in point, when Juggernaut read my story set in a Special Train, they loved it so much, they asked me to write a novel for them. They wanted a love story with an Army backdrop. That’s how ‘Combat Skirts’ was born.

4-   You have married an Army man, did you always want to marry an Army man and why or why not? and how different is the life of an army kid to an army wife? Did you come with some expectations as a wife, and how did they add up?

No, that wasn’t something I had ever actively thought about. I met my husband during Operation Parakram, and by the time we got married, he had retired: an option he exercised as a Short Service officer. Having said that, we are extremely close to his unit and I have never felt we aren’t in the Army anymore.

5-   Your main protagonist is a Army kid, what edge do you think army kids have over civilian kids in terms of outlook towards life, confidence and the hardships/separations they endure while growing up?

I had written an article about this, years ago, called ‘The Soldier and the Beauty Queen’. I used to own a training institute at that time where we had a wing for SSB coaching as well. I had written how Army kids did so well in beauty pageants, and also the hospitality industry, because soft skills came naturally to them. Growing up in the Army, with its challenges and its privileges, a child spontaneously imbibes what are called Officer-like-qualities.

In fact, this is a conversation that happens in my book more than once, most significantly in the climax.

6-   Any particular Indian writer whose books or style of writing really appealed to you or influenced you?

So many! Satyajit Ray, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan... I would love to build my own Malgudi someday.

7-   Any particular routine that you follow when you write… as in when is the best time that you get the most output, and what timings do you follow, seeing that you are a young mother?

With ‘Combat Skirts’, I was writing under a deadline, so I had no choice but to cut myself off from everything. I constantly felt guilty about not spending enough time with my daughter, who was just five then. Thankfully, I have an extremely supportive husband who took care of everything, from lunchboxes to birthday parties to parent-teacher meetings.

As far as timings are concerned, I use my days for research and for the structural work, and at night, I write.

8-   Do you think for newbie writers its important to attend the writers workshops/seminars or take writing classes?

It has helped me. I was part of the 2016 Fiction batch of University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing India workshop. And even though I was pretty clear about what I wanted from my writing, the validation I received from my mentors was a shot in the arm for me. Actually, that is an understatement. The writers I met there continue to be my support system, and I cannot be grateful enough for them.

9-   A lot of Army wives and Army kids are becoming successful writers and bloggers and really creating a mark in the publishing world. Any particular book, blog that you like by people in your fraternity?

Well, Anuja Chauhan and Chetan Bhagat are Army brats too…

One book I would like to mention here, one I loved, is ‘Everyman's War’ by Capt Raghu Raman. And I love your blog, especially the illustrations.

10-  Thank you! What is next in your writing agenda? Do you have another book/story lined up?

I do have something in mind but that’s just a vague idea right now. I’ll spend a little more time with ‘Combat Skirts’, I guess.

11-  What according to you is the best route to take for a newbie author who has no publishing house connection… Take a risk and self publish? Or keep to the traditional way and approach the established publishing houses even if you get rejected time and again?

I would choose traditional publishing for a first-time author. Self-publishing or vanity publishing is easier but there is so much to learn from working with an established publisher.

12-  What do you think is the future for e-books?

I am all for books, regardless of the medium. I was one of the first writers to sign up with Juggernaut, which pioneered mobile publishing in the country, so I can speak from experience here. Today, other publishers are looking to create a digital platform for their books and there is huge money being invested, so the future is bright. However, a few things need to be looked into. Publishers need to ensure that the technology is stable. They need to ensure that e-books get marketing support beyond social media. Writers themselves need to treat e-books with more respect. And readers need to be more open-minded. E-books are as much books as emails are letters.

13-  Any parting words of advice for struggling writers who dream of making it big some day?

Send your writing out into the world, and by that, I do not mean social media. Submit your work to literary journals and magazines; keep an eye out for contests. Work hard, learn the craft, and hang in there.


So people, just head onto Juggernaut already, grab the Combat Skirts and have a warm n fuzzy weekend read!
Her website is: www.sahanaahmed.com




Friday, April 6, 2018

Happy April 2018 with a Coloring Page Calendar!

All my to-do lists (which includes the making of a fun coloring book and a delicious recipe book, and the seed of a graphic novel, ummmm..... should I go on?) have all taken a backseat these days...
I just dont seem to get any time for myself and my personal work.
They are still there on the backburner... simmering within me... reminding me with each passing day that there are dreams sweetie, that you have to run after, that you have to plan for, fight for.....
No one else.
everything else is just life.... dont get sucked into it.
So at least set a time-line, woman!!!
So when making this month's calendar, my illustrative recipe book was on my mind...
I have gotto start working on it....
And maybe have a few coloring book tear-off pages at the back, for my readers to enjoy?
But for now...
This coloring page calendar is just for you my dear friends, to download, take a printout and color to heart's content.... or just use it as your Desktop Calendar....



In case you are confused about the fruits and what colors to be used for them... I will be posting a colored version of it over the weekend.... done digitally, but you can use colored pencils or markers. 
and maybe, not even wait for tomorrow.... just get coloring and use yr imagination!

A few more coloring pages to download and have fun with:




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

An Army Themed Birthday Party with Free Printables!

I have been really busy the last month or so ( mentally and physically) and had absolutely no time or energy to plan and execute a very elaborate themed birthday party for my boys like I usually do!
I absolutely loved using all kinds of themes for Birthday Parties... from  Angry Birds Theme, Chota Bheem theme, Super Heroes theme , WWE Theme, to a fabulous Monster Bash !!
(click on the names above to go to the links, or for more ideas go here)
The elder one whose birthday comes in February understood and let me off the hook easily... from initially thinking of just giving a treat to his friends to having an outdoor Horror movie night with just eatables and popcorn was very doable, no matter how busy I was.
whew!
But my younger one whose birthday came the next month, was turning 9 (alhamdolillah), and he kept oscillating between Pokemon theme to Wizards of Waverly Place theme to a couple of more outlandish themes and I didnt have the heart to refuse him. 
The only thing I could convince him of was to go for an elaborate Army Birthday Party because these days he and his 10-12 friends sleep, eat and breathe the Army... (have even formed a Special Ops Force by the name of HMF) = H*#$* Military Force!
And they go patrolling our Officer's Enclave morning and evening!
And I know even from my civil friends that this is one theme that everyone would want me to elaborate on, especially if they have sons!
so I'll go from one thing to the other and make it real simple for everyone.


To start with, making the invitation was a lot of fun.... complete with "report for Duty" and "Top Secret" mission!
Here I have remade the invite for you to download as many times as you want and use.
Only thing is please dont use them for commercial purposes.




Here is the A4 Printable for Thank You Note that you can cut with scissors and staple it to your goody bags of return gifts.



I had no time to go looking for camo print goody bags, and I doubt I would've even found camouflage paper, let along a camouflage print paper bag.
You can use plain green goody bags (green being the army color) or like I did: get brown paper bags, stamp on blobs of green, brown and black poster paint with a sponge!
Its simple and looks good!


Living in the cantonement or Army Camps made the decor part for me very easy (because I had just one day's time to prepare for the party)
The khaki tent was pitched in the garden, the Camo net was put up...
Lots of Camouflage cloth and hessian cloth to cover up the tables and make a nice rustic and rough decor all around.
I found a dirty old pellet board at the back of my house and used it as the centre point to paint "Ahmad Base Camp" and added a few dilapidated helmets and bags and my husband's boots to complete the photo op.



The balloons used (not pictured here) were green and brown and easily available on Amazon
The prizes that I gave away were also from Amazon... They were small little piggy banks in the shape of Army Jeeps. Available here

I started the party by applying war-paint of green, brown and black onto the soldier's faces!
They were thrilled!


The games were a lot of fun... and super easy to execute!

1- One was a tug-of-war: just divide the kids, give them a hefty rope and let go!!!



2- My tried and tested favourite game for nearly all birthdays, I just change the character to suit the theme! Blindfold pin-the-item on the character!
This time it was pinning the medal on an Army man!
The one blindfolded person who pins the medal closest to its position (drawn on the chart) wins!
here's a picture:


3- Next was my version of a Spoon Race.
But with golf balls painted green to look like grenades, hence they couldn't be dropped!
Whoever reaches the finish line first without dropping the grenade, wins.
My husband forgot to take a photo of this and I was busy painting butterflies on the faces of my little lady cadets.
So got no photos to show you!

4- Next game was a Firing Range with Nerf gun...
I had pinned disposable glasses on a drawing board and the kids had to shoot nerf bullets in them.
6 tries.
Who scores the maximum bullets in the the glasses, wins!
Again no photos to show for it, because the game got over way too fast!
but here is one from the internet that inspired me: from here


Or else you can have little army guys lined up to be shot down!
whoever shoots down the maximum is the winner.
Like shown below and taken from here:



This was the extent of the games that I could manage, but I've got a few more shown below that you can do if you have a biggish space for the kids to jump and run around.

5- You can have an obstacle course (with tyres)+crawling race which would be a lot of adventure and the kids, esp. boys, would love it!



6- Or a fun gunny sack race like shown below, and taken from here


Once the decor and the games are done and over with... We move onto the eats.
I had absolutely no time to go to a Bakery and order a specialised cake....
The Army Bakery was informed just the evening before, and they made a yummy Chocolate Cake with which I improvised and made it into an Army Themed Cake.
Just strategically place a few army men and a tank... voila!
A special army themed cake is all ready to draw gasps of admiration all around!
Don't miss the little soldiers all ready to fight it out in the background... placed in the right positions by my little birthday boy.



Or else you can place little soldiers as cupcake toppers on green icing like shown below:
taken from here

Have the food station decked out like "Mess Hall" and it will be a birthday to remember!






And you know what the best part of the evening was? 
When the actual soldier (my husband) pinned a medal on each one and handed the return gift goodie bag, saying "well done, soldier!" and all the little ones gave outstanding salutes! 




and a recap for your pinning pleasure:



Monday, March 5, 2018

March 2018 "Ode to the dreamers"

My sincerest apologies...
I dont know where my life has suddenly gone off on a tangent that I am not getting any time to do anything that I want to...
Sometimes it happens that there are so many things happening on soooo many fronts, that there is no "me" time left...
And my blog and my art is very much "me" time!
This is the first time in my 6 and a half years of blogging (except probably the month when we were relocating back to India from the U.S.) that I havent been able to put up even a single blogpost in a month...
Come what may, no matter how busy I am, even if its the fag-end of the month, I try and put up my Desktop calendar for my friends to download.
Its been a promise to myself.
And this calendar had been made in end January (when I was obsessed with succulents!) to be uploaded in February 2018.
But I didnt even get time to visit my blog, let alone put up the Calendar.
Its been changed now, and I am using it for March.
Finally!!
I hope you all like it and I certainly hope I get some more time this month to do more of what I want to do, rather than what I am expected to do!!
and that is, of course, more ART!



Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday Moment with my Watercolors

I admit, I am succulent obsessed these days...
And it all started with the succulent miniature fairy garden that I made as a gift for a visiting dignitary. ( A peek here)
And I was hooked!
Even though I know that surviving the intense heat of the Haryana summer will be really difficult for the delicate succulents, but I am nothing if not hopeful.
I shall give them a lot of TLC and just generally hope for the best!
Right now the weather is really conducive and boy are they thriving...
Its fun to be able to sit out in the mild sun of the North India winters, as the fog clears, sip on a hot cuppa joe, nibble on some namkeens., watch the squirrels come out of hiding...and paint the delicate plants in my favorite medium.. watercolors.




Here is a peek at the little lovelies that I picked up from the nursery a couple of days back and cant't get enough of!!





Have I got you all mesmerised and obsessed with succulents, yet...
Join the gang!


Sunday Slurp...Roasted Honey-Garlic Chicken

It seems like been a real long time since I cooked something nice.
And put it up here to share with you all.
These days it feels like I am running against time, failing deadlines, not being able to cope up, and most of time doing everything but art....
And its getting to me, and in the running huffing and puffing, I know I am neglecting the one place that I can be what I am, the place I can dream, and share.
My blog.
And my New Year resolution's gotto be to get my priorities straight and focus on me, my work, my dream projects that have got sidelined and most of all my art...
and of course get back to cooking delicacies for my family.
Can u imagine, I feel lazy and overstressed to even think of baking a cake for them??
But enough of the cribbing...
Lets get started on the juicy, melt in the mouth, sweet and savory, delectable:

ROASTED HONEY GARLIC CHICKEN WITH POTATOES AND BROCCOLI
(Serves 4)


Ingr:

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil or any refined oil will do
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp brown sugar
5-6 garlic cloves- crushed/minced
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil (I used 5-6 fresh basil leaves)
Pink salt (I used Himalayan salt) to taste
freshly ground pepper
1 tsp chilly flakes
juice of 1 lemon
(mix all the ingerdients given above and whisk well to blend)

2 boneless chicken breasts
2 medium heads of broccoli
400 gms small potatoes cut into halves (leave the skins on after scrubbing)
2 tbsp fresh parsely (if you can get them) or maybe use fresh coriander


Method:

  1. Marinate the chicken in half of the whisked marinade for at least a couple of hours. Reserve  the remaining for later. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 200 C and line a baking tray with foil and spray it lightly with cooking spray or oil.
  3. Place the cut potatoes on the tray in a single layer, and brush with a little olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chicken on top of the potatoes (rubbing the marinade well on top)

  1. Place the tray in the preheated oven and roast for about half an hour.
  2. Add the broccoli lightly seasoned in the last 10 minutes... kepp checking so it doesnt get over roasted/ charred.
  3. Serve immediately garnished with fresh chopped parsley or fresh coriander.

And for you pin for later :-)




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