Sound of old tea factory machinery (funny imitation!)

Alan Lane, my dear friend and a retired tea veteran of Assam fondly remembers the start-up sound of the Lister diesel tea machinery of bygone days. Here is an amazing and ingenious imitation by two little Indian kids.  Please turn up your sound to enjoy. You won’t believe it! Thank you Alan, for sharing this lovely video.

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Flowers and my Mother

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My mother in her late forties

Mother’s Day has come and gone but not a single day goes by when I don’t remember my Oma. Oma loved flowers. She grew them, she studied them, she painted them. She was curious and imaginative. She delighted in nature. Today when I see the colors of a fallen leaf, study the bark patterns on a tree and thumb through Ansel Adam’s photographs…. I remember my mother.Om in garden

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I am cleaning mom’s silver medals using this baking soda and aluminum foil method I found on Readers Digest
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Medals my mother won at the Cacher Club Flower Show in 1958

Oma was an avid gardner. Back when we lived in the tea gardens she won many medals at the Annual Flower Show at the Cacher Club: once 10 in a single year (1958). That year she took Best of Antirrhinum, Dianthus, (I never  heard of these flowers I had to Google them: Antirrhinum BTW is another name for Snap Dragon – who knew! ) Pansy, Gladiola, Carnation, Dahlia, Gerbera, Lettuce, Brussel Sprout and Celery! Quite a remarkable feat considering she was the only Indian memsahib competing against British ladies who are passionate, skilled gardeners and fiercely competitive! My mother gave them a run for their money by walking off with all the medals that year. Dad said everybody got tired of clapping. These medals are old and tarnished. Today I will give them a good scrub. I googled “how to clean silver,” and came up with this method using baking soda and aluminum foil. Let’s see if this works.

After mom passed away. I brought back her favorite book with me to America: Flowers of the World by Frances Perry. It’s a hefty authoritative volume and mom’s copy is much thumbed and covered with gift wrap for added protection over the dust jacket. Mom would put homemade dust jackets on all her favorite books to protect them from wear. Sometime she used pictures from old calendars. flower book inside pageflower book coverI was reminded of this many years ago when I loaned a book to a Thai friend of mine, here in Arizona. She returned my book covered with a homemade dust jacket with a picture of an Arctic wolf. I will never forget that. It touched my heart. That kind of care and reverence for books belongs to older cultures. We don’t see that in America.

ceramic plateHere is a small ceramic dish my mom made by molding clay over a glass form. I fired it in my kiln (I used to be a ceramic artist back then) and my mom painted a sprig of chrysanthemum in deft free-hand brush strokes completely from memory! IMG_4700Today I use this dish for my guitar picks and I remember my mother as I drink my cup of tea every morning.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends.  Please remember to make time for the ones you love. I have to constantly remind myself of this. It’s so easy to forget. Cheers!

“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.”
Georgia O’Keeffe

Flame Tree Road (a prequel to Teatime for the Firefly)

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FLAME TREE ROAD is now available on pre-order from Amazon and will be in stores on 30th June, 2015.

Published 30th June 2015 (Mira/harper Collins)

A question I get asked a lot is: “Was the second book easier to write?” The answer is  complicated.

Teatime for the Firefly my first novel slipped out easily into the world. I wrote it in my own sweet time: I never imagined I would get a 3-book deal. That was two years ago. Teatime has gone on to become a favorite of book clubs, garnering rave reviews and I have my readers to thank for that.

With the second novel, not only did I have a publishing deadline but I was plagued with a  barrage of self-doubt and fears. The only way I could get past all that and write this book was to pretend nobody would ever read it. It worked!

Braiding the plot and characters together had its usual challenges but the revision process was easier the second time around. I now knew what to expect. I learned a lot when I worked with my first publishing editor on Teatime for the Firefly. I shared my experiences in an article I wrote for the Writers Digest:“Working with a Publishing Editor.”

So here we are: another milestone. Thank you all for your love and support. I could not have done it without you. I can’t wait for you to read FLAME TREE ROAD. Cheers!

🙂 Shona

CHECK OUT MY REVIEWS  goodreads-badge-read-reviews-2091036a1480ef4dec9cf59676584050

*Book will be shipped to you on June 30th 

FLAME TREE ROAD: Book Launch at the Poisoned Pen: 30th June, 7PM
FLAME TREE ROAD: Book Launch at The Poisoned Pen: 30th June, 7PM

There’s a stingray in my pool!

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We live in the desert and things fall into our swimming pool –all the time.

A desert turtle fell in once and we found it lying at the bottom. At first I thought it was a brown hat. We fished it out and sat it on a rock and I was about to declare it DOA, when lo and behold the creature opened it’s bleary eyes, coughed up a tablespoon of water and shuffled off into the rocks.

Another accidental fall-in was a wee baby bat with a cheeky face amazingly like a Chihuahua. Batty was revived with milk fed with a Q-tip, kept in a dark shoebox in the laundry room (the closest thing I could find to a cave) and released at dusk. Bats probably send out a sonar signal like they say, because only seconds after I set him out on the patio, a whole bunch of aunties and uncles, cousins and friends showed up en masse, and Batty joined them after a rather drunken take off that almost landed him in the pool the second time.

Baby Chuckwalla lizard rescued from the pool
Baby Chuckwalla lizard rescued from the pool

Rescue#3 was a baby Chuckwalla lizard – which had ingested so much water, its stomach was bloated and tight like a Ping-Pong ball. After reviving in the run, Chucky waddled off to live another day. Hurrah!

This wild bobcat (the size of a large dog) lives up by the rocks in my backyard and sometimes pays us a visit. It recently had 3 pups.
This wild bobcat is the size of a large dog and lives up in the rocks behind my backyard. Recently it had 3 pups.

Other pool visitors include a beautiful bobcat that pays us the occasional visit. It has striking markings and elegantly tufted ears.

A young Sonoran king snake once jumped into the pool to grab a juicy chlorine-marinated mouse and probably nursed a stomach ache for the rest of the day. King Snakes (they can grow up to three feet) are harmless to humans and it’s a good thing to have them around  because they kill rattlesnakes.

Baby King snake slithering off after eating a mouse
Baby King snake slithering off after eating a mouse (note bulge).
This mallard duck flew in to romance with our plastic chlorine tablet holder (seen pouting in the far corner.)
The mallard duck that flew in to romance with our plastic chlorine tablet holder (seen in the far corner.)

Then, there are surprise drop-ins. An amorous mallard, veered off its migration course to crash-land in our pool looking no doubt, for a last summer fling. But sadly, the coy female lounging in the corner, turned out to be only a plastic chlorine tablet holder. Mally flew off with a disgusted ‘quack’.

Another time, a not-so-lucky raccoon was found floating belly up, eyes rolled back with  its ghastly teeth showing. My sister who was visiting from India the next day, heard all about it. Sis, if you must know, has little knowledge of raccoons.

Talking to her friend in California, Sis says. “I missed all the excitement, yesterday. A moose fell into Shona’s pool.”

“A MOOSE!” shrieked the friend, “My goodness, what did they do?”

“Oh it was already dead so they just threw it out into the desert,” Sis replies, casually.

“But HOW?”

“With a shovel.”

(More shrieks from the other end)

Sis covers the mouthpiece and tells me. “She can’t believe the moose fell into your pool.”

“Not a moose – a raccoon,” I correct her.

“Sorry, it was a raccoon,” Sis tells her friend, “Not moose. I got the animals mixed up because of the two ‘o’s in the spelling.”

“Then it could be a baboon, too, for that matter, ” says the friend, dryly.

Giving all creatures falling into our pool, it was hardly surprising when hubby looking out the patio door, one morning, declares. “Something large has fallen in the pool.”

I grab my glasses, “What is it? A raccoon? A moose? A baboon?” Anything is possible after all but I’m stunned at what he says.

“Very strange,” says hubby, slowly. “but it looks a little bit like a stingray.”

I can hardly believe my eyes. The creature is HUGE, with dull mottled markings and it’s flapping away at the bottom of the pool, obviously alive, because its large wings, fins or whatever they are, move up and down. In the refracted light of the pool it looks sinister and threatening.

“A stingray!” I scream. “Oh my God!”

Hubby is less prone to theatrics. “That’s ridiculous. We live in the middle of the desert! I’m going out to take a look.”

“No!” I pull him back. “You will scare the thing. It might jump.” The thought is too terrifying.

Suddenly, I have an idea. “Wait here, I’m getting the binocs.”

I peer through the binoculars, hands shaking, unable to focus. I almost drop them when the automatic timer on the pool pump suddenly comes on and the creature jolts forward and flaps around furiously, looking agitated.

“What?” Hubby grabs the binocs from me and adjusts the focus. He stares through them, opens the patio door and goes outside. He is laughing. “Come here, you’ll never believe what it is.”

Can you guess what it was? Hint: look at the first picture. Now wouldn’t you think it was a stingray if you saw it flapping  away at the bottom of your pool – that too, first thing in the morning, before drinking your first cup of tea?

Life is never dull, I tell you.  Cheers, my friends!

Update“What were the shorts doing at the bottom of the pool?” is the sneaky question I am getting. I hasten to explain – they were drying on a deck chair and got blown in by the wind. 🙂