Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Important points to follow in Personal Finance

Important points to follow in Personal Finance

One is never too old to set one's finances right. From my learning of the Dynamics of Personal Finance, the following points are very important:

A.    Know your ‘Average monthly expenses’.

B.     Always remember the difference between an Asset and a Liability. Buy Assets. Never buy a liability (believing it is an Asset).

C.     Multiple sources of income is the way to becoming rich; however small, those sources of income may be.

D.    Diversify; Diversify; Diversify! Diversify your investments. More the diversity, lesser the risk.

E.     Saving / Investment in the following order:
·        Emergency cash (anywhere between 3 months to 12 months expense money), 
·        Life insurance,
·        Medical insurance (of the earning member),
·        Money for dependent’s (parents’ and / or children’s) needs,
·        Fixed Deposits in banks,
·        Bonds (other than FDs in banks),
·        Equities (Stocks / Mutual funds),
·        Real estate etc.

F.     Pay yourself first. Save first from the income, and then pay others.

G.    Have a good tax consultant, a banker, a stock broker, an insurance advisor, a lawyer, and an accountant, as part of your team. Pay them well for their services. They will serve you well in the long run.

H.    Invest and monitor your investments closely, like a hawk.

I.       Allocate your assets (investments) to suit your risk profile and needs.

J.       Re-balance your portfolio regularly.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Trek to Siddha Parvat in Bhatti, Sanguem, Goa

Dt: 16-11-14

Trek to Siddha Parvat in Bhatti, Sanguem Taluka, Goa

It turned out to be another memorable trek with Eco Treks! I am glad I talked myself into going! 

Siddha Parbat is in Sanguem Taluka, in South Goa. So, about hundred of us eager trekkers started on our south Goa journey on a bright November 16th. Morning at 7.30 am. We travelled for a couple of hrs. and reached the entrance gate to the Siddha Parvat. By now we were on the ghat roads. Someone pointed a huge mountain in front and said we have climb it. I could not see a trail leave alone a path!

Entrance gate

As per the schedule, we were served breakfast of Pav bread, peas curry and Ragi sweet: of course as much tea as we want! After we partook the hot food, there was the usual round of introductions by all. 

Introductions going on

The newcomers / first timers are welcomed with hearty clapping. The trek in-charge discharged a few instructions, and we all started walking / climbing at our own pace. There was no flat ground anywhere and it was climbing all the way. The trail narrowed and only one person could go at a time. On either side of the trail, it was lush green forest, and we could not see beyond twenty feet. 

Steep climb

Lush green forest

At one place a huge tree had split into two and one part fell across the path and we had to go below it. The roots of the trees went crisscrossing across the trail, forming a sort of steps and making the ground more firm.  At places the run off water carried all the top soil leaving only stones and pebbles exposed. 

Under the fallen tree
Some kind soul marked the directions on stones at intervals. Without them you could wander the mountains forever!!! 

Direction marker on a stone

Finally after climbing for one and half hrs., we reached the top of the mountain. It was a like a flat table at the top, and there is a small Siva temple. One wonders how the building material was hauled all the way to the top! We caught our breath and rested our weary legs for half an hr. Those into photography clicked pictures of the views all round. 
Shiva temple at the top

Resting after a strenuous climb

Salaulem dam reservoir can be seen from the top.

Salaulim dam reservoir 

It is a magical place! I wonder, why, of all the mountain tops in that region, only this one was chosen to build a temple on!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Toor dal with Methi (fenugreek) leaves

Methi (Fenugreek) leaves

Toor dal with Methi (Pigeon peas & fenugreek leaves)

Toor dal with methi leaves


Toor dal / Arhar dal (Pigeon Pea) - 1 cup.           
Methi leaves (fenugreek) – 1 small bunch
Salt – to taste
Turmeric (Haldi) - pinch
Green Chillies – 2 nos.
Mustard seeds & cumin seeds (Rayi & jeera) – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – a few        
Oil for seasoning (tadka) – 1 tbs  
Method 1:
  • Wash and separate methi leaves.
  • Add methi leaves, Haldi, chopped green chillies to dal in a pressure cooker. Add 3 cups of water and cook for 2 or 3 whistles or until dal is cooked soft.
  • When cooled, mash the dal to a coarse paste. Put salt into the dal mixture and cook it on stove without lid. When it is done, remove from stove.
  • Heat oil in a sauce pan (kadai), add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves. When they start spluttering pout the oil over the dal.
  • This dal can be eaten with rice or roti. 

Suji (semolina) & Atta (wheat flour) Halwa

Suji & Atta Halwa:

This is a very easy recipe to make; very wholesome, healthy and tasty too. Try it with small quantities initially.

·         Atta (wheat flour) – 1 cup   
·         Suji (Rawa / semolina) – ½ cup
·         Water – 6 cups
·         Ghee (clarified butter) – 2 or 3 tbs. (more is better)
·         Sugar – 1 cup
·         Dry fruits (assorted) for garnishing

·         Chop and fry dry fruits in a tsp. of ghee and keep aside.
·         Heat ghee in a frying pan and roast atta and suji until golden brown.
·         Add water and let it cook. Keep stirring to make sure it does not stick to the base.
·         When the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan, it is done.
·         Add sugar.
·         Remove from the stove after the sugar is absorbed.
·         Spread the fried dry fruits on the halwa and serve hot.

Note: More ghee, better the taste! 

Brinjal & Tomato Chutney

Brinjal & Tomato chutney

Learnt this recipe from my mother. Those days, there were no Mixer / grinders. We had to grind the chutney in the stone pestle. That job was mostly mine. I watched my mother prepare the ingredients, the proportions etc. also what goes in which sequence. That is how I got the hang of chutnyes from a young age.

Brinjals –250 gms.
Tomatoes – 250 gms.
Green chillies – 6 – 8 nos.
Rayi (mustard seeds) & Jeera (cumin seeds) – 2 tsp. each
Curry leaves -  a few
Salt – to taste
Oil – 4 tbs.
Garlic pods – 8 nos.
Tamarind – 1 lemon size

Chop tomatoes, brinjals, green chilies into 1 cm pieces. Soak tamarind in half a cup of water.
Heat 1 tbs. oil in a frying pan; add 1 tsp. each rayi, jeera, 4 garlic pods, green chillies. Fry then to a brown colour. Drain the oil and put into mixer. Add salt to it. Make a fine powder. Add tamarind and make a smooth paste.
Into the pan, put chopped tomato and cook until done. Let it cool.
Add the tomato to the mixer and blend to a smooth paste.
Into the pan put a tbs. of oil and fry the brinjal pieces and fry until almost cooked. When they are cooled, add them to the tomato chutney. Turn the knob just for half a min or 1 turn and switch off. Make sure brinjal remains small pieces and has not turned into a paste.
Heat 2 tbs. of oil, add remaining rayi, jeera, garlic pods, curry leaves. When they start spluttering, pout it over the chutney.
Tastes best with rice.

Tomato Chutney (sweet)

Tomato chutney (sweet):

This tomato chutney, which is sweet, can be served with any savory snacks or rotis.

Tomatoes – ¼ kg.
Oli – 2 tsp.
Sugar – 6 – 7 tsp.
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp.
Rayi (Mustard seeds), Jeer (Cumin seeds), Methi (Fenugreek seeds), Kala Jeera (Black cumin seeds) – together 1 tsp.
Green chilli – 1 no.
Hing (Asafotoeda) – 1 pinch
Haldi ( turmeric powder) – ¼ tsp.
Salt to taste

·         Chop tomatoes roughly.
·         Heat oil in a pan, add Rayi, Jeera, Mustard seeds and a pinch of Hing.
·         Put the chopped green chilli when the above start spluttering.
·         Add chopped tomatoes.
·         After a few minutes add haldi and salt. Cover and cook on a low flame until tomatoes are cooked.
·         Mix chilli powder and sugar. Cook until sugar is melted and evenly absorbed.

Tomato Chutney cum Pickle

Tomato chutney cum Pickle:

I learnt this recipe from my dear friend Meena. This is a chutney but tastes like a pickle. It is a south Indian recipe and quite hot & spicy. Tastes best mixed in rice and donot forget to add ghee!

Tomatoes – ½ kg.
Oli – 1 small cup
Tamarind – 1 small cup
Chilli powder - 1 small cup
Salt – 4/5 ths. of a cup
Methi (fenugreek) powder – ½ tsp.
For garnishing – 2 tsps (together) of rayi (mustard), methi (fenugreek) seeds
Dry red chillies – 4 nos.

·         Chop tomatoes roughly.
·         Heat 2 tsp. of oil in a frying pan, and add chopped tomatoes.
·         After the tomatoes are cooked for 3 to 4 min, add dry tamarind flakes.
·         Cover the pan and pour water on the lid.
·         Cook until tomatoes and tamarind are done.
·         Take the pan off the stove and let it cool.
·         Mix chilli powder, methi powder, and salt.
·         Heat the remaining oil in a small pan; add rayi and methi seeds. When they start spluttering, add red chillies. Take the pan off the stove.
·         Pour the garnishing over the tomato mixture.

·         Tomato chutney is ready to eat after a day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Your views or Balconies


If you are staying on the ground floor and have  adequate space all round for plants, lawns etc. you are very lucky. Those of us who stay on the upper floors do not have such a luxury. 

But we have the option of BALCONIES! and I love them. Balconies can be big, small, narrow, deep or even wide. They sometimes are so big, they can be called ‘Terraces'.
A balcony can double up as a sit-out or dining area when the weather permits, or a play area for children, or a study, or an open sleeping area during summer.
If the living area extends into the balcony, the balcony becomes part of it. In a high rise apartment, it can be converted into a garden. Whether high rise or not, a balcony connects the rest of the house with outdoors or to the nature.

The balcony is your private open area, on par with open courtyards, front yards and back yards. The activities that can be performed in a balcony depend on many factors such as the area of the balcony, the seasons, location of it in the house etc. For eg: if the balcony is towards east side of the house, it can be used for morning exercises or yoga; if it is next to the kitchen, it can an extended preparation space or washing and drying area. Balcony attached to the dining room, when opened by sliding / folding doors, your dining room becomes bigger automatically. Next to the drawing or living room, the living space can spill over into the balcony when necessary.
For me, balconies are intermediate spaces. They connect indoors to outdoors. In fact they bring outdoors into indoors. 

Balconies can be covered or open to sky type, or partially covered and partially open.
The house / flat owner has to decide before hand whether he / she wants a balcony; if yes, then how many or what size. They should also be clear about what they want them for. This will help them to arrive at the optimum size of the balcony. I know a couple who wanted the smallest balcony possible, if at all. For them it was a waste of space.

In a place like Goa, a big or long balcony on the west side is not of much use. The rainfall lashes from west and south west during the long monsoons and very hot during summer months. Unless you want sea views badly opt for balconies on north or east sides.

A beautifully designed balcony makes a statement. It says something about the residents!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Trek to Mhadei river crossing after Kumthal village, Valpoi

We were going on a trek after 6 months. We were going to cross Mhadei river after Kumthal village.
It was exciting thinking about heading into the hills with forest all round, and getting into the cool waters of Mhadei river! The date was 26th oct’14. As the day come closer, I got busy planning what to wear and which swimsuit to take etc. Two days before the due date, effect of Cyclone Nilofer hit Goa and it rained non-stop. All the well laid plans went for a toss, and had to settle for plastic sandals, old trousers, rain gear and umbrellas! So much for anticipation!
The day started out cloudy but dry and there were nearly 100 of us eager trekkers in 3 mini buses! We travelled for one and half hours and stopped in an open place for breakfast. Breakfast is the standard fare of Eco treks, Pav, Alsane curry with coconut gravy and tea. As always it was hot and very tasty. After having second and third helpings, we introduced ourselves and tell what we like about Eco treks etc.

Breakfast time
We got into the buses and travelled for another half hour. We alighted I don’t know exactly where; because, you see it was a mountain road and a thick jungle all around. Then we started walking in small groups few of the leaders in the front and a few took up the rear. We are generally left to go at our own pace.

The actual trek

Those who want to can stop and take photos, appreciate the flora or even answer nature’s call. Because we were in the mountains, and it had been raining, there were numerous small and medium streams flowing everywhere. It was a delight to watch the gurgling water over the rocks, the lush greenery covered every square inch. After walking for about two hours, we came to the Mhadei river crossing.

Gurgling Mhadei river

Oh, What a beautiful sight! Rushing cool water over smooth rocks! Those of us who were inclined to play in the water, got in, and the rest of us just enjoyed watching the nature.

Water sports!

A hot lunch was arranged on the banks of the river and I took my plate stood in one foot of water under the sky and ate happily. It was a very new experience!
Slowly we started back the way we went. By then, the clouds were descending over the hills and it was a magnificent sight.

Clouds on Mountains!

Again we walked for 2 hours and stopped at a village house for tea and bajjis and resting our feet.
We got back to Panjim, with antakshari, friends catching up, some napping and those like me not wanting miss anything, avidly trying to remember every detail along the way. Got dropped off by 7 pm.

It was a good and enjoyable trek. Did not bargain for a wet day, but life is like that; full of unexpected surprises!

Brinjal & Cucumber Chutney


Brinjal – 250 gms.
Cucumber (the type which is almost round and sour) – 250 gms.
Green chillies – 6 nos. (a few more if you want the chutney to be more spicy)
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp.
Mustard seeds – 2 tsp.
Black gram (without skin and split) – 2 tsp.
Curry leaves – a few
Garlic pods – 8 nos.
Tamarind – lime size.
Oil – 3.5 tbsp.
Salt – to taste


Clean and cut brinjal into roughly 1 cm. cubes and leave them in water.
Check whether cucumber is bitter. Discard if it is bitter and use another which is sour. Cut the cucumber into half sm. cubes. Make sure you retain the juice from the cucumber while removing some of the seeds.
Chop green chillies into 1 cm. long pieces. Clean and soak tamarind in half a cup of water.
Heat 1 tbsp. oil into a frying pan, and when it is hot, add cumin, mustard, garlic, black gram, a curry leaves, to it. Wait until they start spluttering and light brown in colour.
Take the pan off the stove. Once cooled, remove the spices from the pan and put in the chutney jar. Add salt to it and grind to a fine powder. Add soaked tamarind and grind to a paste.
Add another tbsp. of oil to the pan, and put it back on the stove. When the oil is hot, put the chopped brinjal pieces. Cover the pan and let it cook until brinjal is almost done. Remove from stove. When cooled, add the brinjal to the mixer or ground paste, and grind the whole mixture to a coarse paste. Check for salt and adjust.
Now add finely chopped cucumber to the mixer and turn the knob just once, in other words, makes sure the cucumber is not become paste.
Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. of oil in the pan, add the balance cumin, mustard (1 tsp. each), garlic, black gram and curry leaves. When they are nicely browned, pour over the chutney.

Tastes excellent with hot rice and ghee.

Salvadordo Mundo Church - Goa

  It was Easter and we have a ritual of going to a natural spring before sunrise and drinking the holy water from it. Since both Jo and ...