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front view of the taj falaknuma palace

Weekend Stay in Hyderabad Fit for Royalty—Taj Falaknuma Palace

Once in a while, it’s good to indulge yourself, and there’s no better place for that than Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad. From the moment you enter the gates, you feel the attention to detail and care at every step. The lavish palace and grounds, the gorgeous views, and the exquisite food selection pamper your senses. The Taj Falaknuma Palace truly redefines luxury and stands as a testament to the grandeur of a bygone era.

A Royal Welcome

Winding through the chaotic streets of Hyderabad’s old city, passing the iconic Charminar, you might almost miss the discreet entrance to the Taj Falaknuma Palace. Once you enter the gates (only by prior booking), it is a different world altogether. 

You hear the call of peacocks and other birds chirping away. A serene forested path leads you to the Palace gates. If you stay at the palace, a horse-drawn carriage takes you up the cobbled path to the palace steps (a golf cart awaits guests visiting only the restaurants). The palace staff greets you with a welcome photo. Our young son was gifted a toy sword. The ‘Little Nawab’ was thrilled, and it didn’t leave his side for the duration of our stay.

We were offered a gajra (small floral garland made of mogra flowers) for our wrists or hair, and its beautiful fragrance lingered with us throughout the hot summer day. The refreshing drinks on arrival and a framed photo of us upon our departure were thoughtful touches.

From the moment we stepped foot into the palace, we were greeted with warm smiles and impeccable hospitality, so typical of all Taj properties. Since we had planned our stay on the occasion of Mother’s Day, the housekeeping staff made a special effort to decorate the room with rose petals.

Taj Falaknuma Palace

Nestled in the enchanting city of Hyderabad, the Taj Falaknuma Palace stands as a testament to timeless elegance and indulgence. A weekend stay at this magnificent palace is an experience that transcends ordinary luxury. 

The palace, perched atop a hill, commands breathtaking views of the surrounding city. The sheer beauty of its architecture, the intricate detailing, the exquisite chandeliers, the marble staircases, and the sprawling gardens all remind you of an era long gone but preserved with utmost care.

Our suite was spacious and tastefully decorated with all modern amenities. The marble bathroom, complete with a clawfoot bathtub, his and her sinks, and premium toiletries, was a delight. Our son couldn’t get enough of playing in the bathtub and had another soak with rose petals before bed. 

Day & Night

Exploring Taj Falaknuma Palace

We arrived at the palace in the late afternoon, but even the heat was no deterrent to our exploring the palace grounds. The gardens are absolutely breathtaking, with lush greenery, fountains, and sculptures. The views from the balconies overlook the city, and on a clear day, you can see the other end of town. 

Even those like me who are not keen on photographing themselves at every turn will be tempted to take multiple pictures. Guards and other staff members are only too happy to help you take pictures and will suggest the best places and poses to make your picture Instagram-worthy!

In the evening, the in-house historian takes guests for a guided heritage walk, where you explore the palace’s stunning architecture and hear about its intriguing past. Every room fills you with awe. During the tour, we were served some cool, refreshing drinks, which helped us beat the oppressive heat. 

At the end of the tour, we were treated to a lively Qawwali performance. It was an exceptional show made even more outstanding by the fact that none of them used any microphones. Their sublime voices and the acoustics of the palace were enough to carry their voices across the garden.

A lively musical performance

In the evenings, in front of the restaurants, you’ll usually find a small display of items on sale. Early evening there were pearls, and later on, there was a stall of itar (traditional perfumed oils). We found these very reasonably priced and of superb quality. 

Sunsets and sunrises are magnificent from here. Early morning is also the best time to take a dip in the pool, which is hidden away among the lush gardens. In the early afternoon, we lounged under the mango tree, heavy with fruit, till it was time to check out.

Dining at the Taj Falaknuma Palace

We were treated to an array of culinary delights prepared by skilled chefs. From our welcome chocolate cake in our room to the evening pakoras and meals at the restaurant, we wished we could take a bite of everything twice!

There are two restaurants at the palace: Celeste, a multi-cuisine restaurant, and Adaa, serving traditional Hyderabadi cuisine. If you’re looking to over-indulge, you can also book a private dining experience on the balcony overlooking the city under the stars.

We had been to Adaa previously and loved the delicious kebabs and biryani. It is a luxurious meal as it would have been savoured by royalty in their heydays. 

We chose to dine at Celeste during our stay. One sip of the mango basil soup, and our son was in heaven (as per his own words). We ensured we left some space for desserts and were not disappointed with the tiramisu and sorbets. We needed a walk after that meal! 

Breakfast the next morning was also at Celeste. The delectable spread had everything you could ask for (including sparkling wine—talk about indulgence!). We took our time and spent a luxurious two hours savouring the delicious buffet.

The kitchen staff were kind enough to invite our son for a quick baking class in the kitchen. Our son enjoyed that experience, and we enjoyed the cupcakes which we took home with us.

The Difference in Visiting and Staying

You don’t need to spend a full day here to enjoy the palace’s luxuries. We had previously been to the restaurants here for lunch and dinner. It is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion. 

If you are just visiting for a meal, your access to the palace grounds would be limited, obviously. They do take all guests on a palace tour (they have fixed timings you can confirm at the time of reservation), but it won’t be as detailed, and you won’t be allowed to take pictures inside the palace rooms.

If you’re there to dine, a cover charge is applicable in both restaurants, whereas if you’re staying there, you will be billed as per what you order.

Our weekend stay at the Taj Falaknuma Palace was nothing short of extraordinary. The unparalleled luxury, the attention to detail, and the seamless blend of heritage and modern comforts made it an experience of a lifetime. 

Handmade mother's day card with butterflies

Celebrating Motherhood: Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a special day dedicated to celebrating the women who have raised and nurtured us. Mother’s Day is celebrated worldwide, typically on the second Sunday of May. It is a time to appreciate the hard work, dedication, and love that mothers put into their families every day. 

Motherhood is a demanding role that requires constant effort and multitasking. However, let’s refrain from patronising them by calling them superheroes or self-sacrificing angels. While these labels may seem like compliments, they can undermine the hard work and dedication that mothers put into their families every day. 

Although I must say, most moms do have powers that help them find anything in the house and know exactly what you need, even before you ask. They can cook up a storm in the kitchen, fix anything that’s broken, and still have time to dispense life advice that you didn’t even know you needed. And let’s not forget about their ability to make you feel guilty about not calling them enough, even though you just talked to them yesterday. 

handmade mother's day cards with colourful flowers

When it comes to gift-giving, mothers typically appreciate sentimental and thoughtful gifts that show how much they are loved and appreciated. Some popular gift ideas include jewellery, personalised items, spa treatments, and heartfelt cards or letters. However, the best gift a mother can receive is spending quality time with her family, playing a game or sharing thoughts and stories.

If you do decide to get her flowers, make sure you’re the one tending to them; put the flowers in a vase and change the water every two days. If not, you are just giving her another chore to do, and she certainly doesn’t need more of that.

Moms don’t want to be reminded of housework on Mother’s Day. So if you’re planning on gifting her kitchen gadgets, think again. Focus on her personal interests and what she would like to do. Maybe she would rather spend a day out of home with her friends or stay in her room reading a book without anyone disturbing her.

Refer to my previous post on Unique Gift Ideas for more gift ideas. 

Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet occasion for those who have lost their mothers. It is a day when we are reminded of the memories and moments that we shared with them. While it can be painful to celebrate this day without them, it is also an opportunity to remember and honour their legacy; lighting a candle, visiting their favourite spot, or doing something they loved, there are many ways to cherish their memory and express gratitude for the time we had with them.

It is also a time to reflect upon the fact that mothers are not perfect or saints. They come with faults and complications, as any human. Let’s try to understand and support them instead of putting them on a pedestal and loving them as they love us!

a red rose on yellow background and captioned
Bowl of korean bibimbap

Sunday Lunches: Korean Banchan and Bibimbap

We love to eat out and try a variety of cuisines. This time I wanted to recreate a Korean dish at home after watching hundreds of Reels on making Korean cucumber salad.

I love that Korean meals have a variety of sides, called banchan, that can be paired with rice; they include greens, vegetables, meats or tofu, pickles, and sauces. Once you get them together in a bowl, you have a full meal called bibimbap. It’s a satisfying, delicious, healthy meal to be made and had at leisure.

Bibimbap literally translates to mixed rice, and you can mix and match different ingredients to make your personalised bowl of this delicacy. The variety of banchan might look intimidating to make, but they’re quite easy, and most of them can be made beforehand. 

Korean Banchan

Banchan is a side dish served with rice and is mostly plant-based. There are hundreds of different varieties you can try depending on your preference and the availability of ingredients. Here are three dishes I made in advance.

Korean Pickled Garlic

This is by far the most time-consuming item to make because it needs time to pickle. I made this almost 45 days ago since the garlic took so long to soften. I used the recipe from Korean Bapsang, which was easy to make. 

In the first stage of soaking the garlic in brine, mine turned green after a few days, but that is normal and doesn’t alter the taste or texture. The pickle is pungent, so I had it with rice to tone down the strong taste.

Korean Cucumber Salad

bowl of spiced cucumbers
  • 5 English cucumbers, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Gochujang paste or Gochugaru powder
  • ½ tbsp sugar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp salt (I used a teaspoon of miso instead)

Soak the sliced cucumbers in salted water for 15 minutes, then drain the water. Mix all ingredients making sure to cover all the slices. Refrigerate till you need to use it.

Soy Peanuts

bowl of soy braised peanuts

The original recipe calls for a few specialised ingredients that are not readily available or won’t get much use at my house. I made these with a few basic ingredients, which turned out great.

  • 1 cup fresh groundnuts, peeled and boiled
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • A sprinkle of sesame seeds

Drain the water from the boiled peanuts and add the rest of the ingredients into a saucepan.

If the liquids do not fully cover the peanuts, then add a tablespoon of water.

Boil on medium heat until the liquid evaporates, frequently stirring, so the peanuts don’t burn.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

Banchan Options

  • Kimchi
  • Stir-fried bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and/or spinach 
  • Nori sheets
  • Fried egg
  • Cooked carrots or radish strips
  • Stir-fried mushrooms

These are just a few options, and there are plenty of ways to make them. I stuck to the basic ginger-garlic salt and pepper seasoning for the stir-fried items.


I used this recipe from Korean Bapsang as a guide and modified it based on what I could find.

Jasmine Rice

The traditional way to cook Jasmine rice is to steam it, but I just wash it and put it in the pressure cooker. I used 2 cups for 4 people.


The dish calls for strips of meat. However, I just got some chicken cubes and marinated them for an hour before throwing them all in the frying pan on high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side.

For about 500 grams of chicken, the marinade I used was

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 string of green onion finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

Bibimbap Sauce

korean bibimbap

Assembling the Bibimbap

Since everything cannot be served piping hot, this dish must be at room temperature. Start by placing the rice at the centre of your dish, then add the other items on the side, with a tablespoon of the bibimbap sauce. 

Top with a fried egg (optional).

You could have each item separately with the rice or mix it all in one go. Either way, it is delicious.

Note: Some links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 

Baby with a board book

Encouraging the Love of Reading: Tips for Parents to Inspire Kids to Read

Reading is an essential skill that is fundamental to a child’s development. It can help improve language skills, build vocabulary, enhance imagination and creativity, and develop critical thinking skills. However, in recent years, there has been a growing concern that children are reading less due to increased screen time and a lack of interest in books. This trend has been further exacerbated by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns that have impacted children’s access to books and learning environments.

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of reading for children and provide tips on encouraging kids to read. We will also examine how the lockdown has affected reading in kids and provide insights into the types of books that children prefer. 

I hope that this inspires parents and caregivers to foster a love of reading in children and unlock the many benefits that reading has to offer. You might even be inspired to start a reading habit for yourself!

You can also check out my earlier post on How to raise a Reader

Are kids still reading books?

In an era dominated by screens, social media, and digital entertainment, it’s easy to wonder whether kids are reading less. With so many distractions available at their fingertips, it’s easy to assume that books have taken a backseat in children’s lives. 

According to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (a US-based organisation), the percentage of children ages 6-17 who read for pleasure decreased from 53% in 1984 to 44% in 2019. That’s a significant drop, but it’s important to note that the decline hasn’t been consistent. For example, the percentage of 9-year-olds who read for pleasure increased from 52% in 2012 to 57% in 2019.

Another factor to consider is how we define reading. While some may argue that reading only counts if it’s a physical book, the reality is that many kids are reading on screens or listening to audiobooks. In these cases, although they might be enjoying a book, they are not fully utilising the important benefits of reading a physical book. 

It’s important to also consider the role of libraries and schools in promoting reading. In India, we lack good libraries, especially for younger children, where they can choose good books that interest them and have an almost endless flow of reading material.

Schools have a critical role to play in promoting reading. Research shows that students with access to high-quality school libraries and librarians are more likely to read for pleasure and perform better on reading assessments.

Another reason why kids are not reading for leisure as much is because of high stress on academics. The pressure to get good grades is such that most children spend almost their whole day immersed in academic books. So, when they do get some free time, the last thing they want to do is read another book.

The most important thing is to promote a love of reading among children, regardless of the format or platform they choose. Whether it’s through physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks, reading has the power to educate, entertain, and inspire, and that’s something that every child should have access to.

Child in a reading nook reading a book

Did the Lockdown affect reading in kids?

Overall, the lockdown has had both positive and negative effects on reading in kids. While it provided more time for reading, it also created challenges related to access to books, increased screen time, stress and anxiety, and increased distractions. 

In India, kids without access to online tools during the lockdown went without formal education for almost two years. The Annual State of Education Report (ASER 2022) has revealed that following the COVID-19 pandemic, the fundamental reading and math abilities of students aged five to sixteen in the country experienced a significant decline as schools resumed operations.

With parents and caregivers also overloaded with work and chores during this period, education for many kids was a low priority, and we are yet to see how that will show up in the long term.

Benefits of reading

Reading is a valuable activity that provides numerous benefits for people of all ages.

Reading improves cognitive function by challenging the brain to make sense of the text, process information, and remember details. It can enhance vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills.

  • Reading reduces stress by providing an escape from daily life and allowing you to immerse yourself in a different world.
  • Reading expands knowledge by allowing you to explore new ideas, concepts, and experiences. It can provide exposure to different cultures, historical events, and scientific discoveries, which can expand knowledge and broaden perspectives.
  • Reading enhances creativity by stimulating the imagination and encouraging you to think beyond your own experiences. It can inspire creativity in various forms, such as writing, drawing, or even problem-solving.
  • Reading increases empathy by providing insight into different perspectives, emotions, and experiences. It can help you understand and relate to others, which can improve relationships and social interactions.
  • Reading boosts academic performance by enhancing vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills. 

Overall, we can all agree that reading for leisure is a beneficial activity, and by incorporating reading into daily life, you and your kids can reap the numerous benefits of this valuable activity.

How to encourage kids to read

Kid with The Construction alphabet book and construction vehicle toys on the bed

There are many ways to encourage children to read. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start Early: Encouraging a love of reading should start from an early age. Read to your child daily and let them see you reading as well. This can create a positive association with books and reading.
  • Make Reading Fun: Children are more likely to read if it’s enjoyable for them. Let your child choose books that interest them, and read together in a cosy spot or create a reading nook. You could also have them read to you or even act out parts of the story.
  • Use Technology to Your Advantage: While digital devices can be a distraction, they can also be used to encourage reading. There are many reading apps and e-books available that can make reading more interactive and engaging for kids.
  • Make Reading a Part of Daily Life: Encourage your child to read during downtime. Have books available in different areas of the home, and allow them to bring a book with them when you go out.
  • Connect Reading to Real-Life Experiences: Help your child connect reading to their everyday life by taking them to the library, bookstore, or book club. You can also discuss books with your child and relate them to real-life experiences.

Overall, it’s important to remember that encouraging a love of reading takes time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it. By making reading fun and a part of everyday life, you can help foster a lifelong love of reading in your child.

What books should my child read according to their age?

The types of books that kids prefer can vary widely depending on their age, interests, and reading level. Here are some general guidelines on the types of books that are popular among different age groups:

Shelf full of kids books

Picture Books (ages 0-5): Picture books with bright, colourful illustrations and simple stories are popular with young children. These books often feature animals, familiar objects, and characters that children can relate to.

Early Readers (ages 5-7): Beginning readers typically enjoy books with short, easy-to-read sentences and simple vocabulary. Books with familiar characters or topics such as animals, sports, and adventure are popular with this age group.

Chapter Books (ages 7-10): As children become more confident readers, they often enjoy longer books with more complex storylines. Series books, such as The Magic Tree House or Dragon Masters, are often popular with this age group.

Young Adult (ages 10-18): As children enter their teenage years, they often enjoy books with more complex themes and characters. Young adult books can cover a wide range of genres, from romance to science fiction to mystery.

It’s important to remember that every child is different, and their reading preferences may not fit neatly into these age categories. Some children may enjoy books outside their age range or that don’t fit into a specific genre. The key is to provide children with a variety of books to choose from and encourage them to read what they enjoy.

Will my kids enjoy the books I loved during my childhood?

Enid Blyton and similar authors have been popular for generations, and their books continue to be enjoyed by many children today. While some of the language and themes in these books may be dated, the stories and characters can still resonate with children and provide them with hours of enjoyment.

Blyton’s books, in particular, are known for their adventure, mystery, and humour and often feature relatable child characters that readers can identify with. They also introduce young readers to new vocabulary and concepts, which can help expand their knowledge and understanding of the world around them.

While there are some criticisms of books written in the previous century for being sexist, racist, or elitist in their portrayals of certain characters or situations, many modern editions have been updated to address these issues and provide more diverse representation.

Ultimately, the relevance of Enid Blyton and similar authors will depend on the individual child’s interests and reading preferences. Some children may love the classic feel of Blyton’s stories, while others may prefer more contemporary authors or genres. 

Forcing kids to read what you want them to might just backfire as they’ll associate reading with negative emotions. Instead, you can discuss books that you loved as a kid and why and ask them about books that interest them. They might pick up a book from your list if you describe it in an interesting way.

Note: Some of the links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 

Building with attached temple against blue sky and crescent moon

Travel India: Places to Visit in Pune

Pune was always known for its educational institutes and its cultural scene. In the last decade or so, it has also developed as an IT and industrial hub. However, no matter how much it ‘ develops ‘, Pune is still a small town at heart. From its traffic chaos and small airport to the mandatory afternoon siestas and green spaces in crowded areas, it is charming, infuriating, and contemporary all at once.

Historical monuments are nestled along busy streets filled with pubs, cafes and restaurants that serve International and modern cuisines; tradition and adventure go hand in hand here. This is the land of the proud Marathas, with plenty of monuments to commemorate the legacy within and around the city, where bigger forts welcome trekkers and day-trippers.

Things to See in Pune

Pune is best explored at leisure, in the unhurried way of a true Puneite. So take it easy and plan a maximum of two places a day. Here are just a handful of places to visit.

Aga Khan Palace

This was one of the first places we visited because it was close to where we were staying. The palace was built in 1892 by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III. It was built as a way to provide employment to locals who were suffering through famine. The beautiful architecture is best admired from the peaceful lawns. There is a memorial to Gandhi in the yard. This is because, in 1942, he, along with his wife, Kasturba, Sarojini Naidu, and Mahadev Desai, were all under house arrest at the palace for two years. Some of the rooms act as a museum housing artefacts from their time here. It’s a quiet place to spend an afternoon.

Shinde Chattri

This small temple memorial tucked away on a busy street, is dedicated to the 18th-century military leader Mahadji Shinde, the Maratha army commander-in-chief under the Peshwas. It is a small compound and is rarely crowded with tourists. The beautifully carved structure is impressive, and the colourfully painted hall inside still retains some of the splendour of the olden days. The coloured window panels let in a sunlight stream, lending an almost nostalgic feel to the place. 

We also met a couple of kittens that call this place home and were entertained by their antics for a long while.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple

Although I’m not religious, I do appreciate the serenity of a temple complex, especially a well-maintained one such as this. The temple sits on a pedestal surrounded by beautiful green lawns, its carved sandstone exteriors gleaming in the evening sun. Photography is not allowed inside the temple to avoid an accumulation of selfie-taking crowds. It is beautifully decorated inside with elaborate idols in their own mini temples.

Katraj Jain Temple

We chanced upon this place by accident. We saw the sign for the temple, and since we had time, we went to explore. We parked near the pristine Jal Temple, made with white marble and surrounded by what was supposed to be a moat but was empty that day. I can only imagine how lovely it would look surrounded by water. We went inside the main temple complex, thinking it’ll be a quick tour, but were surprised by the enormity of it.

Also known as Aagam Mandir, it is lined with gorgeous corridors, walls, floors and ceilings. Each section has a shrine dedicated to one of the various Jain Gods. The shrine for Lord Mahaveer is made up of five metal alloys (panch-dhatu), weighs 5,000 kg, and is 12 feet tall! 

The temple is on a small hill and offers a panoramic view of the sprawling city all around.

Pataleshwar Caves

Dedicated to Shiva, this 8th-century rock-cut Hindu temple is a monolithic excavation of a rocky hillock. You climb down to the clearing where a large circular Nandi mandapa graces the entrance to the cave. The caves are made of basaltic rock, and their stark stone pillars are intimidating and graceful at the same time. There is also an active temple inside the caves for the devout.

Mahatma Phule Mandai

You might think, what’s so special about a vegetable market? Housed in a Colonial Era building, this sprawling market is overflowing with colours and conversations. We came here during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, and the building opposite the market is where you park and explore the Ganpati mandaps on foot during the festival days. The burst of colours in the market and the fresh produce is therapy for a foodie!

Dagaduseth Halwai Ganesh Temple

Said to be one of the most popular temples during the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities, it is always overflowing with people who have come to seek blessings. The temple is over 130 years old and was funded by a sweetmaker. 

Birla Ganesh Statue

You need to climb a whole bunch of steps to get to it, but the view is worth it. On the outskirts of Pune city, this gigantic 72 feet Ganesh statue is visible from the highway itself. There’s not much else to do here. This is more of a pit stop on the way to Lonavala or the Japalouppe Equestrian Centre nearby.

man praying in front of large ganesh statue

Things to do with Kids in Pune

For younger kids, any neighbourhood park is a great opportunity to run around and explore. Almost every neighbourhood would have at least one. These are some of the other places our son enjoyed.

Okayama Friendship Garden

Pune-Okayama Friendship Garden also called the Pu La Deshpande Udyan, or Japanese Garden, is one of the largest gardens in Pune. The manicured lawns and numerous water features are soothing, especially in the mornings. Two other themed gardens are beside it, each with a minimal entry fee. They are all great for an evening walk; however, you don’t really enjoy the garden’s purpose as you’re not allowed on the grass and have to keep on the paved pathway. There’s a children’s play area just outside which was fun for our son as he finally got to run around and play.

Raje Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Udhyan

For those of us who have young kids, or are kids at heart, do make a stop at this park. Not only does it have a play area, but it also has a functioning toy train (in the evenings), which is super fun.

Saras Baug

This is a decent park with a small lake that’s great for walking or for kids to run around. The lake is home to a few tortoises and plenty of colourful birds and dragonflies. On a small hillock, there’s a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh.

Japalouppe Equestrian Centre

It is an equestrian centre for those interested in riding horses, but it is so much more for casual visitors. We took a day package that included a meal, a tour around their petting zoo, and a pony ride for our son. Kids (and adults) get an introduction to various farm animals and can even hold and pet some of them. Our son was hesitant to touch the animals at first but then soon got comfortable with all the furry creatures.

Hands On

This indoor play area is fantastic. It’s small, so the child is not overwhelmed, but it has ample activities for the kids to enjoy for hours. You can choose to play with them, or sit at the small adjoining cafe where you can still keep an eye on them, or leave them with the trusted helpers while you finish your chores.

The Circus

Taking our son to the circus was quite nostalgic for us. The whole experience of sitting under the huge tent watching acrobats and clowns performing was great fun.

Monalisa Kalasangram

This open space has a large nursery and usually hosts farmer’s markets over the weekends and other shopping and cultural events. Keep a lookout on their Instagram page for the latest updates.

Places to Eat in Pune

There’s something for everyone and every budget in Pune. Do not miss the authentic vada pav available at every corner of the city. If you’re looking for something spicy, then also try missal pav from your local street vendor. Another speciality is the Maharashtrian thali meal, which never disappoints. 

Here are some more places to try:

  • Anna Idli: This is a chain of restaurants for your fix of South Indian breakfast of idlis and dosas
  • Brasserie Cinq: They have some delectable French cuisine, from French onion soup to tiramisu, and some superb dishes in between.
  • Cafe Goa: This tiny place serves a finger-licking good Konkani thali. Perfect for a lazy Sunday so you can sleep after a heavy meal.
  • Cafe Paashh: This is one of our favourite places. The small garden at the entrance gives you a sense of serenity, and the modern Continental and Indian cuisine looks and tastes perfect.
  • Cafe Peter: If you love casual Southeast Asian food, then this is the place to go. It’s an informal cafe which is more of a hangout spot for the young’uns. They serve up the usual pizzas and pastas as well.
  • Chafa Cafe: The food and coffee here are delicious, and the ambience is relaxed and chill. Go for some healthy, guilt-free, flavourful food.
  • Gajalee: This is a must-visit for all seafood lovers. Choose to go for a thali or order off the extensive menu. They even customised some of our dishes for us.
  • German Bakery: It’s always buzzing, so you might not get seating immediately, and there is a security screening to get in since the bomb blast inside the cafe in 2010. The desserts are mouthwatering. Now other branches have opened across the city so you can go to the one closest to you.
  • Kayani Bakery: Ever since the bakery started, there has been a line for their Shrewsberry biscuits and mava cakes. Go at 8 am or 4 pm to be assured of their availability.
  • Kerala Cafe: If you’re looking for a hearty Indian meal, then this is the place to go. Serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, you can opt for the thali or order separate dishes.
  • Mandala Hot Pot Culture: This tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant packs a big punch when it comes to flavour and freshness. Everything is made fresh from scratch, so reach and order before your usual meal time. The hot pot is the star of the show, but every other dish we tried was also beyond expectations.
  • Pathyam Ayurvedic Restaurant: This is a little away from the city and more of a day trip than just lunch. You’ll have to book in advance; The restaurant serves a 5-course tasting menu of fusion Indian food. You could spend a few hours roaming the gardens and say hello to the cows.
  • The Poona Project: This place has the best pizza in the city. Located inside the Phoenix Mall, it’s worth battling the crowds for.
  • Sante Spa Cafe: The cafe’s healthy vegetarian and vegan selection is so scrumptious that you will be spoiled for choice!
  • The Sassy Spoon: Go for the quirky decor and some cool selfies, and stay for the fabulous food and cocktails.
  • Savya Rasa: Yet another South Indian restaurant on this list, but one that shouldn’t be missed. They serve thalis and have an extensive menu as well. The food draws a huge crowd, so it’s better to make a reservation. Browse the antiquities while you wait.
  • Vaishali: The place to be for any college student in Pune. Casual Indian food is the mainstay of the restaurant, and it has been a staple among the students of the Fergusson College nearby.

Weekend Trips from Pune

There are so many great options for weekend drives from Pune. Trekking spots and fort ruins are some of the favourites for the outdoorsy crowd. Here are some other popular towns just a few hours away.

  • Lonavala is just 70 km from Pune and is great for trekking or relaxing. Combine the trip with its neighbour Khandala.
  • Panchgani is just 100 km away and is a favourite weekend destination along with its neighbour, Mahabaleshwar.
  • Matheran is just 120 km from Pune. 
  • Alibaug is a much smaller version of Goa at just 140 km distance with forts and temples to explore.
  • Thoseghar Waterfalls is best to visit around the monsoons, just 140 km away.
  • Kaas Plateau, near Thoseghar, comes alive in September with flowers all over the hills and is a beautiful sight to see.
  • Nasik is 200 km away and has plenty of things to see, like the historical Panchvati, Sula Vineyards, and Trimbakeshwar Temple.
Apples and pears with 4 cups of apple crumble set on a wooden table

Easy Fruit Crumble Recipe for Breakfast or Dessert

I’m not an early riser, so I’m always looking for ways to make my mornings easier. One of the most time-consuming parts of my mornings is making breakfast for my son. It needs to be quick, healthy, and tasty so that he eats without a fuss.

This mix-and-match fruit crumble is easy to make, filled with fibre from oats and fruits, and it’s so delicious you can serve it as dessert.

Ingredients for the Crumble

  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp raisins (optional)

— Cream the butter and sugar, then gently mix in the dry ingredients. 

— Keep in the fridge while you prepare the fruit filling.

glass tray filled with chopped strawberries and blueberries

Ingredients for the fruit filling

  • 4 cups fruit of choice 
  • ¼ cup cornflour
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

— Some great fruit combinations are a mix of berries (strawberry, mulberry, blueberry, raspberry), roughly chopped apples and pears (with the skin), peaches and plums, and even some pineapple.

— Combine all the ingredients in a baking tray.

— Take the crumble mix out of the fridge.

— Using your hands, tear off small pieces and crumble them on top of the fruits, ensuring it is spread evenly all over the tray.

— Bake in a preheated oven at 210 deg C for about 30 to 40 minutes till the crust starts to brown.

— Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

— You can top it with some yoghurt if you’re having it for breakfast or with ice cream if serving it as a dessert.

Mixed berry crumble served in a bowl
The Grand Mysore Palace exterior lit up with 97,000 light bulbs at night with a crowd of people in the forefront

Hyderabad to Mysore Road Trip: A Travel Guide

Mysore or Mysuru surprised us in many ways. It is beautiful with wide roads, many parks, lots of greenery, and great places to eat. There are no high rises either, giving you a sense of openness with a clear view of the skies from anywhere in the city. The old world charm still lingers around every corner and hopefully people recognise what an advantage it is and not try to change it in the name of development.

The Mysore Palace has been on our list of places to see for a long time, but it always got sidelined by other tourist cities. Recently my sister moved to Mysore, so we immediately planned a trip there. We wanted to drive from Hyderabad to Mysore so that it would be convenient to move around Mysore at any time of the day. It is quite expensive to rent a self drive vehicle in India, making it difficult to plan logistics for domestic travel. 

We were in Mysore for six days, including the days of travel and could roam the city at leisure. There were a lot more places on our list that we decided to save for our next trip to the city.

Road Trip from Hyderabad to Mysore

picture from the front of a car showing the empty highway road with clear blue sky above

The roads on this stretch are excellent and we only got stuck in traffic once we reached Bangalore. It’s always best to leave early in the morning so that you reach your destination before evening. We left at 5:30 am and reached around 4 pm.

There are small eateries on the way though only a few were open early morning. Some places had usable, clean washrooms as well. 

Andhra Pradesh and onwards, speed bumps are not clearly marked, so you must be extra careful to avoid large bumps or sudden brakes. 

Once you enter Bangalore outskirts, cops are just waiting at this stretch of airport road (both ways) to fine you for speeding over the limit of 80 kmph. The fine is Rs 1,000, and even if you don’t see them, they’re hiding there and will catch you at the next checkpoint.

We had planned to take the bypass road from Bangalore to Mysore, but the bifurcation of that road and the one leading into the city was chaotic and easy to miss. Going through the city can take anywhere from 30 min to 2 hours. If you miss the bypass road, take a U-turn once you get off the flyover. Google Maps didn’t show us this option so we just went through the city. In fact, even Google Maps gave up trying to navigate the chaos that is Bangalore roads and traffic. 

man sitting in the driver's seat of a car, talking to a police officer in an orange vest

The last stretch of the journey was slower than usual because the new Mysore Expressway was not fully functional, and we had to switch over to the service road part of the way. 

On our return journey, we planned to meet a friend in Bangalore in the morning before continuing to Hyderabad. If possible, don’t plan to enter Bangalore because we regretted our decision. Although it was nice to meet our friends, the day traffic added an extra two hours to our travel time. This snowball effect meant we were on the road till late evening, which meant more truck traffic, further slowing us down. We reached home around 10 pm and were on the road for almost the whole day.

Things to see in Mysore

There’s plenty to see and do in Mysore if you have the time and inclination. Otherwise, it’s perfectly acceptable to lounge your days away in one of the city’s many cafes and parks. 

It’s best to keep your itinerary light, especially if you’re travelling with kids. The weather is mostly warm, even in December, so take it easy and stay hydrated.

For me, the best part about going around the town was that everything was within a 20-minute driving range. We didn’t face any major traffic jams, except around the Palace, making it easier to get around the city.

Here are some of the places we visited while we were there.

Mysore Palace

The Mysore Palace is the first thing everyone thinks of when they picture the city—and for  good reason. It is simply gorgeous inside and outside, especially when it is all lit up in the evening—with 97,000 light bulbs! 

the mysore palace all lit up against a black sy

We had gone during the holiday season, so it was crowded even on a weekday. It is best to go in the evening, around 4 pm, so that you can roam inside the Palace, then wait outside on the lawns till the lights are switched on at 7 pm. 

The inside of the Palace is stunning. The main entrance corridor displays the various items used during the famous Dussehra procession every year, including the Golden Howrah, covered in 80 kg of gold leaves.

As you go further inside, each pavilion leaves you spellbound with its beauty. Every aspect of the design is awe-inspiring, from the floor tiles and gorgeous pillars to the painted walls and ceilings. Take your time to admire all of it.

We walked around the Palace grounds after the tour on our own. There are temples you can visit and canteens for snacks. We settled in front of the Palace fountains waiting for sunset. Vendors were selling tea, snacks, and toys that kept us entertained meanwhile.

The lights are turned on section-wise to not overwhelm the grid. It is a marvellous sight to behold once it’s lit up in all its glory. It was worth the wait.

Be aware that lights get switched on only on Sundays and Public Holidays. However, since Mysore is trying to attract more tourists, especially around the December holidays, we saw that the lights would be switched on every day.

Everyone needs to take off their shoes to enter the Palace, which we found absurd. There’s a counter where you can deposit your footwear and collect them after the tour. We kept our socks on!

Jayamarthanda Gate located east of the mysore palace is fully lit up at night

Also, note that taking pictures inside the Palace is not allowed. However, since we had gone in on a heavily crowded day, no one bothered to stop the hundreds of clicking cameras—a silver lining to an uncomfortable time.

The inside tour required a bit of a walk that included stairs. There were no ramps in some of the places.

Jaganmohan Palace Art Gallery And Auditorium

the white palatial facade of the Jaganmohan Palace Art Gallery with a fountain in the front of it
A painted mural inside the Jaganmohan Palace Art Gallery in mysuru

Close to the Mysore Palace is the Jaganmohan museum. The impressive facade you see as you enter is being used as an auditorium, and the museum space is behind it. It used to be one of the mansions owned by the royal family, and this is where they stayed when the Palace was under repairs or renovations. 

Here too, you need to remove your footwear (I don’t know why!), and you’re not allowed to take pictures. The halls are beautifully decorated and lined with paintings from the Royal Family’s collection. 

This tour involves a bit of walking because you snake along a pre-set queue till the end, and if you step the wrong way, you’ll hear a sharp whistle asking you to get back on track. 

Mysore Railway Museum 

boy in a brown tee shirt smiling and pointing to a sign that says Mysuru Rail museum

This was such a pleasant way to spend an evening. Even if you don’t have kids, you can go there to check out some relics from the Indian Railways. It is interesting, interactive and well-maintained. Kids can explore the inside of a railway buggy or its engines. There is also a small train ride around a (very short) circular track, which is good fun for kids. The ride is included in your ticket price. It was the highlight of the trip for our son.

Although it was a fun evening, it was annoying to hear a loud whistle every other minute from one of the many security guards trying to stop someone from touching this or going there. It’s a children’s place—if you don’t want them touching it, don’t keep it out! 

A rail buggy has been converted to a coffee shop here, but we heard quite a few customers come out disappointed with the food and the expensive rates so we didn’t bother going in. 

You can also take a walk to the Mysore Railway Station just next door. It’s a small and charming station, not very crowded, and reminds you of scenes from stories such as Malgudi Days.

St. Philomena’s Church

The church spires tower over the cityscape amid a busy street. The Gothic style architecture and its colourful stained glass windows look beautiful. Visitors can go inside, but since we had visited on Christmas day, the timings were not listed and it was overflowing with people wanting to go inside. We contended ourselves with admiring this beauty from the outside for this trip.

Kukkarahalli Lake 

This is a beautiful nature trail with a lake inside. It’s close to the Railway Museum, right in the middle of the city. We reached here just before closing time and couldn’t enjoy it in its entirety, but it’s on our list to revisit as soon as we can.

The park is open from 6 am to 6 pm and is frequented by walkers and joggers, although you can just grab a bench at the edge of the lake and take some time to relax, watching the many birds go about their daily routine. Around the winter months, you’re also likely to spot many migratory birds. 

Brindavan Gardens

With the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam towering over the gardens, it is a magnificent sight from afar. Just a 30-minute drive from the city, it is one of Mysore’s most popular tourist sites. The roads could be better, and signages and maps point to the old route, which is now closed to the public. If you ask a local, they’ll be able to direct you to the right track.

No doubt this place used to be glorious; however, signs of wear and tear are now clearly visible. We skipped the boat ride as it was pretty hot and walked around the gardens with their cooling fountains and the artificial waterfall feature.

We walked up to the children’s playground and were disappointed to find most of it broken or unsafe to use. The small aquarium offers a short respite from the sun, but it was annoying to see the caretaker agitate the fish with a pocket laser light to give the visitors a ‘show’.

Evenings are supposed to be better for visits as the gardens and fountains are lit up. There are two hotels inside the gardens for those who want to enjoy the peaceful view for the duration of their stay. Brindavan Gardens is a good place for taking pictures, but the trip did not feel worth the time for us.

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is on the circuit between Brindavan Gardens and Srirangapatna. It is best to visit from November to February as the lake inside is filled with migratory birds. It is more of a park than a wildlife sanctuary, and you’ll find many families coming here for a day of picnic.

We saw hordes of Spoonbills, Openbill storks and a few ibises. We even spotted a crocodile sunning itself on a rock in the lake.

As we neared the entrance to the sanctuary, we saw a line of cars parked on the sides and assumed we needed to park there. However, there’s a designated parking area near the entrance gate, which is better to use. These wrongly parked vehicles created quite a nuisance blocking the already narrow roads and increasing the wait time for everyone.

Mornings are the best time to visit here. We felt we could’ve avoided Brindavan Gardens and come here instead. By afternoon, it was crowded, and the wait time for the boat ride was over an hour. We chose to take the EV ride instead. The small electric vehicle takes you around the park and stops at specific viewing points for you to get a better view of the birds. After the ride, you can also choose to walk around on your own. 

people in a small ferry in a lake at the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary looking at birds nesting in the trees

There was a small play area for kids and a snack stall inside, but since it was overflowing with people, we decided to call it a day and head back to the city.


old monument with a dome among the trees at srirangapatna

The erstwhile capital of Mysore under Tipu Sultan, Srirangapatna is a city full of historical, religious, and cultural significance. It is about a 30-minute drive from Mysore city, and is best to explore during the early morning so that you’re not roaming in the hot afternoon sun. It is called an island town as it is surrounded by the Kaveri River. The town is under consideration for a UNESCO Heritage Site status.

As soon as you enter the town’s main gate, also called the Bangalore Gate, you’ve entered the fort, so don’t go looking around for the Fort (as we did) that Google Maps shows in some obscure place. Although there are many spots you can explore if you have the time, we just did some of the more prominent ones.

jama masjid, mosque at srirangapatna
  • Jama Masjid: The Mosque is the first monument you see as you enter from the Bangalore Gate. The mosque grounds are open to visitors during the day if you’d like to look around  (only men can go inside, that too only during prayer times); however, we chose to just marvel at it from outside.
  • Monument to Tipu Sultan: A small plaque marks the spot where the body of Tipu Sultan was found after he was killed in battle. It’s right on the main road, so you can catch a quick glimpse as you drive by.
  • Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple: Dedicated to Vishnu’s avatar of Ranganatha, this temple is part of the important pilgrimage route on the River Kaveri. It draws many devotees, and there’s a thriving tourist market right outside it. Instead of going inside, we walked around the temple, admiring its beautifully carved exteriors. There’s also an impressive wooden chariot near the entrance with wheels almost as tall as us.
  • Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon: Just behind the temple grounds is the dungeon where Tipu Sultan imprisoned British soldiers. It is named after Colonel Bailey, one of the prisoners who died there. You can still see the hooks to which the shackles were tied and the prisoners tortured, but now it just looks like a place of serenity with its plain white walls below ground level with a cool breeze flowing on a sunny day. It is a prison without a single door, and the symmetry of its arches is eye-catching.
  • Daria Daulat Bagh: Also called the Summer Palace, it is one of the most beautiful monuments on this circuit. Set in a well manicured garden, the structure is built on a raised platform with a roof and open on all sides. The walls, pillars, and ceilings are adorned with colourful frescoes of portraits of kings, scenes from the royal palace, or battles being fought. Bamboo curtains have been installed all around to protect the precious paintings inside. The rooms inside have paintings and artefacts from the era. The ticketing system is only online/digital payment, not at a counter. This created chaos, and it took much longer to get in. I hope they sort this out soon.
  • Tipu Sultan Gumbaz: This is a tomb where Tipu Sultan was buried along with his father, Hyder Ali and mother, Fakhr-un-Nisa and other family members. The white dome glistens against the blue skies in the sun and is a beautiful sight to behold. Just outside the entrance, there are vendors selling souvenirs, snacks, and rows of horses available for short rides. The Nimishambha Temple is also close by if you want to stop there.
  • Sangam: This is the confluence point of the three rivers—Kaveri, Lokapavani, and Hemavati. It is considered a holy site for Hindus. Many families offer prayers and perform the last rites for their departed loved ones. Unfortunately, not everyone cleans up after themselves. The view of the rivers looks fantastic, but everything around it is filled with garbage. There are some food stalls here, and that too, contributes to the piles of plastic wrappers strewn about. Go there if you have time just to look at the serene waters.

What to eat on the Hyderabad to Mysore Route: 

There are plenty of food options on this route, but we packed some breakfast and lots of fruits and snacks to avoid longer stops. If you’re starting from Hyderabad, there’s a food court in Kurnool and some smaller ones on the other side of the road as well if you prefer a hot breakfast.

Just after the Kasepali toll plaza, there is another breakfast spot with a coffee counter by Chennai Aroma Coffee. We just stopped for coffee.

There’s also a small food court with a KFC at Anantapur. The KFC opens at 11 am, but there’s a biryani and tea counter that was open at 10. You’ll get clean loos here, so it’s worth a stop.

Penukonda in Andhra Pradesh has a massive Kia factory, and the town has some of the best Korean food we’ve had in India. We stopped at Time Korean Restaurant on our return journey. The food and service were exceptional. They serve a variety of banchan or small side dishes, and the portion sizes of the mains are on the larger side as well. 

There’s a Korean grocery store just below the restaurant, which is a great place to stock up on some snacks for the road. 

The restaurant is near the Penukonda Fort entrance. If you want to go to the fort, you’ll need to account for a few hours of walking. In that case, it would be best to stay overnight in a guesthouse in town. (Check Noah Guesthouse.)

On the way back, since we got delayed and were on the road till late evening, we wanted a quick, light dinner before reaching home. There are lots of small eateries starting from 150 km away from Hyderabad. We had a simple dosa at Sandarshini Udipi restaurant at Jadcherla.

What to eat in Mysore:

I was surprised at the variety of eateries in Mysore. There are, of course, plenty of small local eateries for the quintessential South Indian breakfast of idlis, dosa, and vadas. We tried a few places for breakfast and loved it. My husband usually went to the nearest shop and packed some goodies for breakfast. If you’re staying in a hotel, you could just request housekeeping for some plates and bowls. 

Some other places we loved to eat in Mysore are listed below.

The Old House has delicious wood-fired pizza. Their pasta, salads, and desserts were top notch too. Service is slow because it is always crowded. We waited a long time to place the order and then even longer to get served. Parking is also difficult to get. They’re in the process of expanding, but I doubt the seats will be empty even then.

Glen’s Bakehouse has a lovely laid-back ambience. The coffee was good, but the food was too creamy/cheesy for our taste. They had a minor gas leak incident when we were sitting outside. The staff ran out without alerting the customers, and then they put cotton mattresses on the leak, which caught on fire. Thankfully, the fire brigade came in time to put it out before it got worse. I’m not sure about rules in India, but it should be mandatory for all restaurant staff to be trained to handle fires. 

We loved the breakfast and coffee at White Teak Coffee Roasters. The spacious lawns are great for chilling out in the evenings and their pancakes and sandwiches are delicious.

The Dolphin Bus was a treat for our son, who had been very patient with our busy day. It is a stationary bus opposite the Mysore Palace. It has good ice cream sundaes and chaat. They have a bakery section with cookies, bread, and sweets, so you can also pack some goodies to take with you.

a red bus converted into a restaurant in mysore

If you like seafood, then Fresh Catch Seafood restaurant is a must-visit. It feels like a fast food restaurant because the service is such. It’s not a place to lounge about. Squid ghee roast, prawn molly, and fish mango curry with appams were finger-licking good. They do have some Chinese and tandoor items as well but we felt the local cuisine options were far superior.

Noodle Theory is a tiny place with just a few tables. The concept is to make your own mix of noodles or rice. It is a vegetarian restaurant, so the protein choice is limited to tofu and paneer. The noodles and rice we ordered were great, and so were the lemonades. We didn’t like the sushi, though. 

Farmer’s house is a place for fresh honey and vegetables, and they have a weekend bazaar for fresh produce. There’s also a bookstore inside, which is a pleasure to browse. On its terrace is a nondescript place where you get an excellent vegetarian thali meal served on a banana leaf. The food is not spicy and is wholesome. The hosts don’t advertise it as they want it to remain a slow pace eatery. The food is made around 12:45 pm and served till they run out. Go for a lazy afternoon fare because you’ll want to sleep later.

Indian thali meal served on a banana leaf

On Christmas morning, we went to Radisson Blu for breakfast. It was a decent spread at a reasonable price. 

The Cute is a small resort on the Srirangapatna and Brindavan Gardens circuit. We stopped there for lunch since we couldn’t eat the spicy food served at the roadside stalls. It has good Indian cuisine, and they catered to our preference for non-spicy food. The rooms looked clean and up to par.

Shopping in Mysore

If you are looking for something traditional, Mysore silk and sandalwood items can be bought from one of the many Cauvery government shops around the city.

We loved the Clay Arts store at Mandya, which is between Brindavan Gardens and Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. They have cookware, planters, gifting items, water jars, and much more for much cheaper than city stores.

I also loved Jaipur Junction in Gokulam. They’re great for some block print clothing and silver and gemstone jewellery.

mysore roads are relatively empty except for a cow and egret taking a walk together

Silver Nest, also in Gokulam, is a great place to get silver jewellery, malas, and brass artefacts at reasonable rates.

Beware of the tourist trap that most auto or car drivers will take you to. These stores, they say, are government-approved, but the quality of the merchandise could be better and seemed expensive. We fell into that trap even though we had our own car. On our way to the Mysore Palace, an auto driver spoke to us at the traffic signal and told us the Palace was closed in the afternoon. He then said why don’t you visit this shop meanwhile, and we did!

Abstract collage of circles in various shades of blue. A thin strip of cream paper runs through it on the side

Unleash Your Creativity: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Collages

Collages are such an interesting form of art. It’s the bringing together seemingly unrelated, independent items and blending them in artistic harmony. Collages can be simple with just three or four elements or more complex, with elements often clashing with each other to convey a message. Essentially, the elements of collages are not something you make or create. Rather, it is a collection of seemingly random scraps of paper and other visual elements combined with individual artistry and glue. In fact, the word collage is derived from the French word collér, which literally means to glue,

I was always a collector (or hoarder, depending on how you looked at it) of stickers, wrappers, cut-outs, labels and tags, letters, books, and anything that interested me and could be kept in a box. Since we moved homes often, I threw out many of these boxes as apartments don’t have a ton of space for storing ‘waste’.

Now, I’m more judicious in what I keep or collect. Since I restarted my art journey three years ago, I’ve collected more papers and haven’t thrown out some of the scraps from papers I’ve used. These bits and bobs had been stagnating in boxes for the most part. I used some of them and turned them into greeting cards from scrap, but there was still a big box waiting to be used. So, I turned to collage-making.

a simple collage of different green textured paper overlaid with a yellow circle. A twine of leaves stretches diagonally through the page and the word Celebrate is pasted on it

Types of Collages

There are several ways to make a collage, depending on the materials you are using and the desired outcome. Here are a few basic methods:

Digital collages: 

Use photo-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, or online tools like Canva, PicMonkey, etc, to combine multiple images into one. You can resize, rotate, and layer images as desired. 

A collage of various pictures on a floral background. Digital Collage made on Canva

Cut and paste: 

Print out images and use scissors or a craft knife to cut them into desired shapes. Arrange the cut-out pieces on a piece of paper or canvas and glue them down.

Collage of a woman's face and neck surrounded by images of

Mixed media: 

Combine various materials such as paint, fabric, and found objects to create a collage. Use glue or tape to adhere the materials to a piece of paper or canvas.

Image of 2 hands holding a sheet of embellishment stickers. In the background are scrapbooking supplies for making a collage
Photo by cottonbro studio on

Regardless of your chosen method, it’s important to experiment and have fun with the process!

How to Make a Paper Collage Project

Collages are a fun and versatile art form that allow you to combine various elements such as photographs, illustrations, and found objects to create a unique and visually striking composition. Whether you are a beginner or have experience with other art forms, making collages is a great way to unleash your creativity and explore new techniques.

There are no hard and fast rules for making a collage, but you can follow these steps if you are new to the art form.

  1. Gather the images you want to use for your collage. Have a variety of elements ready at hand. Collect as many interesting pieces of paper or material in different colours and shapes as you can stick. These could be anything from postcards and old photos to laces and ribbons; washi tapes; packaging material; cut-outs from picture books, magazines and newspapers; words, phrases, and just colourful bits of paper. Whenever I have time, I take out the die-cut machine my sister had left with me and cut out shapes from nice packaging paper or boxes. You can cut them out neatly using scissors or a cutting blade or just tear them out for a more rustic look.
  2. Select a theme for your collage. Usually, a picture or cut-out will give you an idea of a final image, or you might have a visual of what you’re looking for and seek out the images or shapes accordingly. 
  3. Decide on a layout for your collage. You can use a grid pattern or arrange the images in a more free-form way. Begin by arranging the images on a surface, such as a poster board or piece of paper. You can use glue or tape to attach the images to the surface.
  4. Visualise your collage. To get the creative juices flowing, I like to spread the scrap stash and try a few different combinations. They could be sorted by colours, shapes, or themes. There’s no right or wrong way—just go by what feels right visually.
  5. Add textures to your collage. Using different papers and materials makes your artwork more interesting. However, if you’re going for something simple, then it’s best to stick with similar textures.
  6. Finalise your collage. Continue adding images and adjusting the layout until you are satisfied with the overall look of the collage, and glue all the pieces together. It helps to take a picture of the collage you’re happy with before glueing the elements together.
  7. Embellish your collage. You can add text or other embellishments to your collage.

Learn how to experiment with different materials, techniques and styles to create a collage that truly represents your own style and vision. It is an activity that people of all ages can enjoy.

various elements of a collage is spread out on a sheet of paper with boxes and pouches around
3 floral plates set on a vibrant pink and green mat. Each plate has 2 white mochi balls. One of the plate has the mochi balls split in half revealing the fillings - one with yellow mung dal and the other with black sesame seeds fillings

An Easy Sweet Treat: Mochi Balls

I remember having mochi ice creams when I used to live in Hong Kong, a long time ago. I tried other versions of mochi as well with sesame paste, red bean paste, and mung dal to name a few and loved them all.

However, once we moved back to India, there were no places I knew of that served mochi. Even the main ingredient, glutinous rice flour, was not available in stores. Thanks to a growing interest in international cuisines, there are a variety of ingredients from all around the world available in India these days.

Now, all ingredients are easily available either in speciality stores or online. Mochi is not even that difficult or time consuming to make. Mine don’t look picture perfect because I chose speed and convenience over looks, but with a little patience and practice, you can make them more presentable.

With the festival of Sankranti around the corner, why not try a different version of the quintessential tilgud? I made two types of mochi, black sesame seeds and mung dal.

Sesame seeds filling

Black sesame seeds in a white bowl with a red rim on a wooden board with some

Toast the sesame seeds on medium flame and let it cool. Then grind the sesame seeds to a coarse meal. Add all the ingredients into a bowl and make small balls. Keep in the fridge till ready to use. 

You can also use regular brown sesame seeds as well.

Mung dal filling

yellow moong dal cooking in a saucepan
  • 1 cup boiled yellow mung dal
  • ¾ cup sugar

Make sure the dal is cooked but not watery. Drain the excess water and mash or puree the dal. Add in the sugar while it’s still hot. Mix well and form into small balls. Keep in the fridge till ready to use. 

Moong dal and black sesame balls ready on a wooden board ready to be filled into the mochi dough


  • 1 cup glutinous rice flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • cornflour for dusting
  • Few drops of food colouring (optional)


  • Mix the flour, sugar and water in a bowl.
  • Cover and microwave for a minute.
  • Remove and stir again, then cook for another 30 to 60 seconds.
  • It should come out like a sticky dough mix. Mix in the food colour now if using.
  • Dust your hands and rolling surface with cornflour.
  • While the mix is still warm, roll it over a surface heavily dusted with cornflour. Sprinkle the top with some more cornflour.
  • You can either use a glass or small bowl to cut circles, or just use your hand to tear a piece and stretch it out to house the filling.
  • Take the prepared filling balls and place one in the centre of the stretched out mochi dough.
  • The edges should be sticky enough to close around the filling, but if not, then use a little bit of water to moisten the edges and seal.
  • Dust with some more cornflour and keep on a plate.


  • It’s best to work with smaller quantities of the mochi dough as it becomes very sticky and tough to use as it cools down.
  • Get a few helping hands to join in to make this more fun.
  • You could use toasted sesame seeds or fried mung dal as garnish over the mochi balls.
  • You could even try some fusion fillings like puran poli filling or something savoury by omitting the sugar in the dough.
3 floral plates set on a vibrant pink and green mat. Each plate has 2 white mochi balls. One of the plate has the mochi balls split in half revealing the fillings - one with yellow mung dal and the other with black sesame seeds fillings

Note: Some links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. 

collage of 52 book covers from my 2022 reading challenge

Reading Challenge: 2022

This is my 10th year of the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I’ve been challenging myself to read more books for the last ten years. Even when my son was born, I managed to read thanks to my Kindle Paperwhite. 

I have been trying to diversify my reading shelf since 2018, and even though there’s a long way to go, I’ve done pretty well in reading books from around the world. I would get a lot of recommendations for books from lists made by users on Goodreads. I also followed the Goodreads Choice Awards and made sure I read as many books released in the year so I could vote for the awards in each category at the year’s end. So, it was disappointing to learn that Goodreads only lists books that have been published in the United States—not just for the Choice Awards but even other lists such as the Most Anticipated Books.

Goodreads, apart from being a super slow and glitchy site, is willfully leaving out so many well-deserving books because of this rule. Unfortunately, I am yet to find a suitable competitor for the site. It still has the most comprehensive book repository and reviews.

With this jaded feeling, and after getting interested in the Wheel of Time series, I decided to spend the year reading the entire series mixed with a bunch of random books I come across.

Usually, I would have a separate post for each category, but this year was dominated by Fantasy Fiction interspersed with some short stories and suspense thrillers. So here goes!

Fantasy Fiction: Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time series revolves around the adventures of four teenagers from a small town as they shape the world around them in ways not even they could’ve imagined. Rand, Perrin, Matt, and Egwene set out with Aes Sedai Moiraine, much like the Hobbits did with Gandalf. The series was exciting from beginning to end. Read my full review here: Wheel of Time

Amazon Originals Short Stories

These short stories were great as in-between palette cleaners while reading the WoT series. They are sorted based on a variety of themes. If you have Kindle Unlimited, then you can read most of them for free. They are only available as a Kindle ebook or an Audible. These are just a few of the collections. Look out for plenty more!

Kindle Paperwhite showing the coloured book cover of Oinkan Braithwaite's short story book Treasure. The Kindle is surrounded by green long leaves, orange lilies, and an embroidered piece of cloth

Hush is a collection of six stories, ranging from political mysteries to psychological thrillers, in which deception can be a matter of life and death. Read my Reviews here: Hush Collection

Forward is a collection of six stories of the near and far future from out-of-this-world authors. Read my reviews here: Forward Collection

Faraway is a collection of retold fairy tales that take the happily-ever-after in daring new directions. Read my reviews here: Faraway Collection

Out of Line is an inclusive collection of funny, enraging, and hopeful stories of women’s empowerment and escape. What happens when women step out of line and take control of their own lives? Read my reviews here: Out of Line Collection

Suspense Thrillers

I love a good mystery. Each one on this list brings a different kind of energy to the genre. And what’s more, is that they’re from different parts of the world.

  • Blue Monday by Nicci French: The book deals with a child getting kidnapped and a psychologist trying to help the police after she suspects her client of the crime. There are a few twists and turns, as any good mystery novel should have, but the ending was unexpected for me. This is an interesting take on the nature vs nurture debate.
  • The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir: The book starts off with a woman being murdered in a most gruesome way. We follow the team of investigators as they try to find the killer before he strikes again. But their only witness is a child of 7. So they bring in a child psychologist Freyja who tries to coax out as much information as possible from the child. It’s a fast-paced story and interesting enough that you’d want to race to the end.
  • Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei: Nga-Yee’s sister dies by suicide, but she suspects something more sinister than teenage depression and wants to know who made her take that drastic step. She contacts a hacker for help. There are plenty of twists in the tale. It sometimes felt as if everything fell right into place for the hacker N to prove how he was always a few steps ahead of the game. 
  • Framed by ​​Surender Mohan Pathak: The story starts off as a typical Bollywood Mafia movie with a quick retelling of the gang wars that have led the characters to the present moment. The rest of the story follows the three main characters as their motives and past deeds are slowly revealed. The plot is clever enough and would work well as a play.
  • All Yours by Claudia Piñeiro: Marriage is challenging and hilarious. For the most part, the narrator is Ines, who is more concerned about her standing in society than with actual events. Her matter-of-fact way of dealing with her husband’s infidelity and subsequent actions is hilarious. We get a little bit of an insight into Ernesto’s, the husband’s, mind as well. And in this power struggle between the two, their daughter is having a crisis that she’s had to deal with on her own.
  • The Bangalore Detectives Club by Harini Nagendra:  This is a soft mystery book that takes you on a journey while investigating a crime. The reader gets an inkling of the socio-political situation around the time, providing an interesting background for the story’s evolution. At a dinner party Kaveri attends with her husband Ramu, she witnesses an altercation that has led to a murder. When a poor, vulnerable woman becomes a suspect, she puts her inquisitiveness to good use to get her name cleared. Read my full review here: The Bangalore Detectives Club
  • Lightseekers by Femi Kayode: The story starts when three young students are brutally and publically murdered in a Nigerian university town. It is obvious who murdered them, but no one knows why. One of the students’ father hires an investigative psychologist to make sense of his son’s murder. We follow Dr Philip Taiwo as he investigates the case in a remote part of the town of Port Harcourt. Read my full review here: Lightseekers
  • Devil’s Peak by Deon Meyer: The main character, Detective Benny Griessel, seems to be straight from an 80s police drama, complete with alcoholism, family issues, and macho man syndrome but with a heart of gold. We follow him as he tries to solve the mysterious murders happening around the city. We also follow two other characters and see how their lives all interconnect at the end.
  • Confessions by Kanae Minato: The book’s tone is very casual and simplified: A teacher talking to her students about her decision to quit teaching and that she knows which of her students killed her daughter! The other chapters are in the voices of the other characters, either talking about the incident or what happened after the teacher’s revelation. Each chapter reveals a new layer to the story. It’s brilliantly conceived and executed. 
  • Chats with the Dead by Shehan Karunatilaka: Also released as The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, it won the 2022 Booker Prize. This is not your typical murder mystery. It’s a unique experience from start to finish. We meet Malinda right after his death as he tries to understand what has happened to him. He refuses to go through the light before he finds out how he died. He meets familiar faces who are now part of the afterlife administrative process, and through these meetings and his quest to find the cause of his death, we gain an insight into the turmoil of his life.
  • The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Day Outlaw by Ben Machell: It is a true crime book which takes a more psychological and biographical look at the person who committed the crime rather than a book about the crime itself. The book details the life of Stephen Jackley, who decided to become a modern-day Robin Hood. He stole from banks and gave the money to the poor. His plan worked until a simple mistake put him behind bars. It also gives a peek at prison conditions and is a good reminder of how mental health needs to be taken more seriously by society as a whole.
  • The Prisoner by Omar Shahid Hamid: Navigating the corrupt system, a police officer needs to find the kidnapped journalist before it’s too late. It’s loosely based on actual events. as the author served with the Karachi Police for 12 years and has a good insight into the way things work.


As I mentioned before, I did not pay much heed to book recommendation lists this year since almost all of them focus on western publications. This one I read as it was classified under suspense/thriller, but I didn’t find much of that element in the book. Nonetheless, it was a good read.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite with the colour image of the book The Blue Hour by Alonso Cueto on a background of blue and yellow mirror work folk art from India
  • The Blue Hour by Alonso Cueto: The book looks back on Peru’s history, exploring the aftermath of the Peruvian Civil War. It begins with Adrian, a lawyer well-placed in Lima’s high society with a picture-perfect wife and two daughters. The book progresses into a well-crafted psychological drama of a son coming to terms with the painful ghosts of his father’s past. The book details the horrors and crimes of war, poverty, and how people have to live with it decades after it is supposedly over. Read my full review here: The Blue Hour

Children’s Books

Since my son has graduated to reading chapter books, I am reading so many interesting books with him. We usually read a few pages together at bedtime. Soon, he will be reading all by himself…what a bittersweet moment that will be! 

Child with wide eyes covering his lower face with the book by Siobhan Rowden named The Curse of Bogle's Beard
  • The Curse of the Bogle’s Beard by Siobhan Rowden: If you have a kid (or you are someone who loves all things disgusting), then this is for you. Learn the secret of pickling everything, from onions to toenails and other gruesome things. We navigate the family dynamics of a young boy called Barnaby. His dad has just mysteriously left their house, so he and his mom are forced to move in with their pickle-tycoon Grandmother. That’s when things start to get strange and smelly!
  • Dragons at Crumbling Castle by Terry Pratchett: Terry is awesome. I love his books, and I was so glad to come across this collection of short stories that my son could read as well. We loved the imaginative stories, especially the Carpet People, and the hilarious narration. It’s perfect for kids just starting chapter books reading with you or independently. 

What have been your best and worst books of the year?

Note: Some links are part of an affiliate program, which means that if you click on a link and buy something, I might receive a percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you.