Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back ...

I am simply thankful for all of life's blessings, great and small, in spite of all the challenges thrown my way this year. Looking back, the predominant feeling is that this year sped by SO FAST ... WHOOSH it went, before I could pause for a breather! It was January just a while ago, and before I could realize it, here I am on the last day of the year, looking back at the days gone by ... Wow, indeed! As is usual of life, the year had its share of the good, the bad, and the ugly, an eclectic mix of experiences over which I had no control, and I am eternally grateful to God for taking me through it all with aplomb and grace, with nary a scratch and no regrets whatsoever.

The highlight of the year, unarguably, was my trip to India for my high school reunion, one ridden with nostalgia and peppered with faces so precious and dear, and experiences colored by love that only a long absence can bring. I had the time of my life in those two weeks back home, meeting all my long lost friends, teachers, and loved ones. Back home, we celebrated two milestone birthdays this year, the husband's 50th, and the kid's 16th, with a splash in Las Vegas to commemorate both the birthdays. Professionally, I did very well too, and I can say with all honesty that I was able to go to work with a big smile each day, despite some new kind of challenges that I was able to weather out quite well.

The down side was that there were too many hospital visits this year, but then again, with God's amazing grace, we were able to sail through it all with a minimum impact or fallout. My shoulder injury was my biggest challenge of them all, one that saw me in a lot of pain and put me through some grueling physiotherapy that I continue to this day. However, with the love, support, and understanding of my family, I have come through, and I look forward to the New Year 2012 with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. Hope springs eternal that the new year will bring about many more blessings, and like the two-headed Janus of mythology, I look back with one head at the year that has just passed, and with the other, I look forward to the new one that's just about to dawn. Happy New Year to all of you, my friends, and may all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions! :)

And speaking of resolutions, I may not be blogging as much in 2012, as I have these past two years, and I'm all set to work out with my personal trainer from next week onward ...YAHOO!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Merry Christmas to all my family, friends, and loved ones! I have been having a fantastic winter vacation, and everything has gone according to plan so far. Today marks a milestone birthday in the family - yes, our baby has turned 16 today! It seems as if it were just yesterday, but the inexorable passage of time has brought us 16 years forward to the present, and we recall with gratitude to God, every single one of those years. From his first birthday in India, and his second to his seventh in America, and then the eighth birthday onward in Canada, we have had a fantastic ride through the years, by the immense grace of God. With the advent of the milestone 16th comes the inevitable rite of passage for every teenager, the process of getting one's driver's licence. Wow, where did the years go, I ask myself?!?

To mark the occasion, we attended a beautiful candlelight service at Olivet Church last night. The ambiance was so serene and evocative of that long gone Christmas Eve in Bethlehem when the Christ Child was born. The sermon was so meaningfully delivered, from the point of view of the innkeeper's wife - "Make sure to always make room for the Savior!" - and we returned to the twinkling Christmas lights at home, so upbeat and full of cheer and optimism in our hearts. It is my fervent hope and prayer that God enable my son to reach many more milestones in life, and I wish for all my friends the love, hope, and peace of the Christ Child, the joy of Mary and Joseph, the light of the Star of Bethlehem, the faith of the shepherds, and the wisdom of the Magi, this Christmas and always!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter Break

I feel like a child, now that I'm off work for the next 17 days. It's Winter Break, a time to relax, rejuvenate, and recharge my batteries. Every year, around this time or so, everything seems to drag just prior to the holidays, and all of us, myself and those around me, seem to long for the holidays to begin. The dark days of winter seem to have something to do with this mood, but the bright lights of Christmas promise a lot of cheer and merriment just around the corner. Had a fantastic time yesterday at work, with lots of joyous carols and partying and potluck food, and everyone was beaming in anticipation of the much-needed break that was almost there.

My plans are simple - to sleep in every single day, have lots of R & R, cook some delectable food, enjoy an occasional glass of red in commemoration of the holidays, and catch up on my winter reading. I have downloaded Adam Gopnik's "Winter" on my iPad, the much acclaimed CBC Massey Lectures for November 2012, that are both broadcast and published simultaneously every year. I also have downloaded Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein, plus subscribed to the National Geographic, one of my favorite magazines, on the iPad - enough to keep me happy and sated for the winter. Throw in a day trip to the US for some shopping, and also some eating out, and I'm all set to enjoy my holidays. Here's to me and a fun break, a fantastic way to cruise to the end of the year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sinless in Sin City!

Whether you want to live a little or live large, Las Vegas is the place to do so! With milestone birthdays in the family this year, we decided to make a splash in Vegas, and on the long weekend in November, we made a beeline to Sin City. It is called so, apparently for all the pleasures it has to offer, and the decadence of it all hits you the moment you land at the airport. We had been there 10 years ago, but boy, what a change the city has gone through in the intervening years! With larger and newer casinos on the Strip, Las Vegas has something to offer every one of its visitors - excitement, escape, and everything all at once, before you can pause for a breather! This was OUR time, so to speak, so we decided to stay at one of the ritziest resorts on the Strip, take in some shows, and do the tourist thing, all in all, but as sinlessly as possible, mind you!

Inside The Venetian, with its natural-looking fake skies

The Las Vegas Strip

The slot machines at the airport terminals give you a fair indication of what Vegas is all about, and if you're not wary of your gambling urges, you might find your wallet getting thinner as soon as you land in this gambling destination. After a lame experiment or two at the slot machines, just to get into the spirit of it all, we made our way out of the airport to take the shuttle to Mandalay Bay Resorts where we were going to stay. On our drive, we found the city as electrifying as its neon signs, and the huge lobby of the resort was awash in over-the-top Christmas decorations, each one of them so unique, artistic, and compellingly appealing to the eye. Our Strip view room on the thirtieth floor was a delight to stay in, and it took us no time to realize that the resort was a self-contained world in itself, with its fascinating shops, luxurious spas, artificial beach and wave pool, decadent eateries with world-class chefs, and entertainment galore, not to mention the gambling opportunities for gaming aficionados.

Airport slot machines

At the Shark Reef Aquarium, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

We are not the gambling or drinking kind of tourists, but just walking along the Strip and taking in all that each casino had to offer was an entertainment in itself - the musical fountains and the splendid conservatory at the Bellagio, the gondola ride complete with our serenading gondolier at the Venetian, the musical extravaganza of The Lion King and the underwater magnificence of the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, the rocking blend of music, dance and acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil's Viva Elvis at the Aria, the luxuriant rain forest cafe and regal lion habitat at MGM, the delectable buffets offered by all the resorts, the incredible splendour of the Luxor and Caesar's Palace, the medieval charm of the Excalibur, the mind blowing shopping experience everywhere - all these and more made our stay in Vegas a memorable one. Construction along the Strip is still continuing to boom, and who knows, maybe ten years later when we revisit Vegas, we may have to redefine ritz and glitz!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Charm Of Hotel Rooms

To those of you who think that hotel rooms are impersonal and lacking in charm and warmth, let me assure you that they are far from that. For the diehard traveler, hotel rooms are a haven of relaxation at the end of the day, and a place to chew the cud of their wanderlust in. When the daytime adventures come to an end in a new place, and those legs beg to be put up after hours of wandering around and taking the sights in, there is no better place on earth than a cozy, comfortable hotel room. They are a home away from home, however temporary that might be. I consider my stay in hotel rooms as an extension of my whole travel experience, imbued with its own characteristic magic and romantic charm.

I have stayed in very many hotels in North America these past 15 years with my family, and one thing we always do as soon as we check in is to take a picture of our hotel room before we actually start using it and mess it up. Thus those pictures have become an intrinsic part of our travel adventures, and bring back fond memories of those fascinating places we stayed at. Be it in ritzy, glitzy Vegas, or magical Disneyland, or mountaintop retreats, or fabulous getaways with killer ocean views, every single hotel room has an undeniably unique charm to it. I love to take a tour of the room and check it out in detail, while the kid loves to roll and tumble around in bed and test it out. The husband watches us with amusement, and if there's a fantastic view through the window, then he too gets caught up in its charm. Please see below the most recent one we stayed at in Las Vegas.

At the Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas

Our room on the thirtieth floor

A view of the Strip from our room

Yet another view from our room

It has always been my wish to run a cozy bed and breakfast after my husband and I retire, one particularly for book lovers. I dream of this place being somewhere in the heart of nature, in the countryside, or on a mountaintop, or on the oceanfront, a place where handpicked guests with a passion for books retreat to. I see myself sitting along with my favored guests, quietly devouring our books, and sharing with each other what we've read about. On a hot summer's day, we would take our books out into the garden to be read or go out on nature walks or just putter around in the garden by way of relaxation, and on a cold winter's day, we would sit snug by the fire, reading to our heart's content. On a stormy day, we would sit by the windows, watching the storm raging outside, or would snuggle under the covers in bed, with our books for company. In addition, I would love to invite writers to my cozy retreat and have them read aloud from their works to my guests. How idyllic that sounds, not to mention that the background for my dreams is a hotel of sorts! Wishful thinking it might all be, but I'll take whatever is a reality right now. Here's to more travels, more stays in hotel rooms, more room service, and more indulgences to come!