Archive for March, 2010

Kanwal’s Healthy Corner – Salmon Masala

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Salmon is a wonderful fish loaded with healthy fats and protein. Although one of the fattier fish out there, salmon is very flavorful with accents of a more ‘fishy’ flavor. There is no reason to mask this wonderful flavor, but more the reason to enhance it! Also, I love cooking salmon with the skin on, in fact most of the essential oils are located in or near the skin, just make sure the skin has been scaled well (the scales are not edible). Enjoy my recipe below for a quick and easy Salmon Masala!

Ingredients:

  • 1lb. of salmon, quartered
  • Lemon wedges

For the Masala Mix:

  • 2tsp. turmeric
  • 1TB. chili powder
  • 1TB. red Pepper flakes
  • 1TB. coriander seeds
  • 2TB. garam masala
  • 2tsp. salt
  • 1TB. black pepper
  • 2tsp. olive oil

Preparation:

Mix together all of the ingredients of the Masala Mix. Coat each piece of salmon with this mix. Turn your oven on to 375 degrees. Bake the salmon for 10-15 minutes or until crisp on the outside and done inside.

Enjoy with a salad and spritz of lemon!

Servings: 4

PS: This masala mix can be used on any type of fish or chicken!

If you would like to have a recipe revamped or have any questions, please email me – Kanwal – at kanwal.ullah@gmail.com. Or you can post comments here and I’ll check in from time to time… You never know, your next question could be featured on next week’s column for The Ajnabee! Bon Appetit!

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“Zen and the Art of…” – DATING

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I am incredibly proud to introduce a new voice on The Ajnabee. She is the multi-talented, beautiful, warm and simply fabulous Zenobia Shroff. I met Zenobia nearly two years ago during one of the most important days in my life – the day I watched, for the first time, Sooni Taraporevala’s film ‘Little Zizou’. Much has been written about this little film that could – and did! – and all of it praised the wonderful performance by Zenobia as Roxanne, the mother figure we all wish we could have in our lives! Although her powerful acting prowess and genuinely kind personality made her the perfect choice for playing the role of Roxanne in ‘Little Zizou’ – Taraporevala recently confessed that ‘Zenobia was a gift from the gods, a saving grace’ – the gorgeous Zen herself is a single girl in the city. This fact makes it even more commendable that she found her mothering instincts so naturally, organically and convinced everyone who has been lucky enough to have watched the film that she is indeed the perfect mother. But I could go on and on and bore you to death. For more on Zenobia Shroff, read her bio on the ABOUT page or watch her in action on YouTube. And, by all means, stay in touch with her here on The Ajnabee where her column is titled ‘Zen and the Art of…’! N-joy her funny and insightful piece on dating in the city!

WHAT? I HAVE TO PUT ON MY FACE FOR THIS!

At thirty-four I decided enough was enough! The gods had taken it upon themselves to collectively doom my love life and I was not going to take it anymore. Armed with a good friend and my best summer look, I enrolled in a dating service offered at a local coffee shop. Doing something of this nature was not something I had imagined for myself at this age or for that matter, at any age. Raised the youngest of three girls in a liberal upper-middle class household in Bombay, India, I had your standard school-girl fantasy (or for some, reality) that I would be married with two kids, the house and the dog by the time I was thirty. I however chose a different path and as a result found myself still single in the city at thirty-four. This was my choice. I did not have any regrets but the proverbial biological clock was ticking. I love children. I hadn’t met any one with whom I wanted to have them. So I decided to do something about it. My good friend Lauren told me about the coffee shop. The atmosphere was decidedly “Friends” like, with over- stuffed couches, magazines and giant coffee mugs. You had to go through books of profiles, pick men you were interested in and if they were interested in you too, you met at the coffee shop for a chat and hopefully more. I was sure it wouldn’t be that hard. After all these years of being single my “man-dar” (man plus radar, a term I proudly coined myself) would surely not let me down, right? Hah! Think again!

I picked three guys. Since I had a background in psychology and was at the time working in a psychiatric program as my day job, I started off with Paul, a psychiatric intern. The second guy was Matthew, a talent agent. Being an actress I saw definite potential there. The third was a self-described Michael J. Fox type. I chose him for that fact. So let’s start with Paul. It was a particularly hot summer evening. He hobbled in twenty minutes late, apologizing and sweating profusely. I said no matter. The delay, he informed me, was due to the length of his session with his therapist. It went long. Not a good sign. Over the next half hour we discussed the pressures of working in psychiatry. I ask him how he deals. He says, poker–faced “Oh, I just punch my fist through the wall”. I swallow hard, and flee shortly after, visions of my face being used as a punching bag swirling through my over-active imagination. Still I tell my self, one bad apple does not spoil the bunch.

In that spirit I meet Matthew. Matthew has described himself as “very cute, 5 foot 6 inches”. I leap up to greet him. We’re shoulder to shoulder. I’m 5’2’’. You do the math. As for ‘very cute’, I’m not going to touch that. Let me just say I was raised a lady. “Michael J. Fox’’ does not respond to my request to meet him. Thus ends round one. I am slightly deflated. Down but not out. A few weeks later I get a call saying there are four men wanting to meet me. I am newly buoyed. I go down to the cafe, check out the profiles and agree to meet all four. Profiles, ladies are very deceptive.  If profiles were to be believed there would be not one unhappy woman on the planet. We would all be bathed in love, happy, rich and multi-orgasmic!  And gentlemen – love you all but a helpful hint here – please tell it like it is. Don’t pretend to look like a movie star and live like a king. If you are a personal assistant to a banker don’t put investment banker under occupation. We will find out eventually. And then it’s just ugly.

Case in point, Dick. The first of the four, an actor. I consider this a good starting point. Now Dick you must understand has described himself as a Richard Gere look-alike. And Richard Gere is one of my most favorite movie stars. So naturally I am curious. Slightly cynical, but curious. We meet. Throughout the meeting I sat and silently scrutinized his face, what part of it he was referring to as the Richard Gere factor. He meanwhile is prattling on endlessly and carelessly. Finally he says, “So how do I measure up to my profile?” and it’s like, honey you don’t!!! Not to mention that he was an out of work actor, with all the requisite bitterness and whining that goes with it. (Not that I would know anything about that!)

So clearly this plan had holes. I needed to come up with a new plan. I needed to be ruthless, much as it was against my nature. Sitting there for one hour listening to them drone on was too much. I’d give them half an hour. Prove yourself buddy, or I’m outta there! But apart from that I had to have an out. A tag line. This then is what it boiled down to: “ Excuse me, I have to make a phone call” the phone call inevitably borderlined on an ‘’emergency”, and would beat a hasty retreat. This did work a few times after, though good, god-fearing girl that I am I was consumed with guilt by my deception. Yet it had to be done. My only hope was that they would not follow me because thay would have found me at the neighborhood Barnes and Noble frantically looking through Feng Shui books on how to redeem this mess! What should I buy? Crystals? Hearts? A pair of sitting ducks?

(Continued)

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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner – Simply Salad

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Sometimes all you want is a salad for a meal. Not only do you get some much needed nutrients, but it’s also quick and easy to prepare a salad. Of course, you can vary your salad anyway you like by adding chicken, croutons or cheese… but I usually like to keep my salads light and simple. If you are trying to watch your weight, I suggest staying away from creamy, full fat dressing such as Ceaser and Thousand Island. Instead opt for low fat versions. Fat free dressings just taste too artificial for me and can have added sugars, so I suggest staying away from those as well. Of course, there is nothing better tasting than making your own dressing! Enjoy my recipe below for a very simple, yet flavor blasting salad with a simple dressing!

Ingredients:

  • 1c of mixed greens
  • 1c of spinach
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 12oz. of button mushrooms, quarted
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced

Dressing:

  • 1/4c good balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4c of fruity extra virgin olive oil
  • 2TB of freshly cracked pepper
  • 1tsp of salt
  • 1tsp of garlic powder

Preparation:

Place all of the salad ingredients in a bowl. Place all of the dressing ingredients in a glass jar and shake shake shake. Pour desired amount of dressing on salad. Enjoy!

Servings: 2

 ♥ ♥ Nina’s last word – This sounded so delicious, I made it immediately for dinner. Thanks Kanwal, for keeping us delightfully light!

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Mangalam is an Affair NOT to Be Missed!

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Maybe calling it an affair might not be the correct wording, considering that two wonderful people Priyanka and Lisa – will be getting married for Mangalam at Saloon in NYC on March 25th, but it’s definitely going to be an event to be remembered!

Backed by the Bruce Knotts, Executive Director of The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, wondrously talented NYC jewelry designer Niraj Parekh and Bibi Magazine, the night is one you do not want to miss.

Pack your sense of humor, courtesy of comedian Aladdin who will performing the ceremony, your dancing shoes, courtesy of Mumbai’s Award-Winning DJ Ash, who’ll be spinning his groovy Bollywood music and a bit of cash for the Raffles, Giveaways, Gifts, Bangle Bazaar and Henna. But also your sense of style as this is going to be a fun dressy affair where you Desilicious fineries will feel right at home.

AND your $20 donation will be benefitting AIDS/HIV infected children in Africa, which gives the evening a great humanitarian and totally unselfish vibe. I’ll be there and I hope to see you too! For tickets, click here.

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Life Imitating Art

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
I am often surprised when I find in films I watch or in the books I read some personal, familiar references. It always feels cozy and cool, as if the writer/director/actor have gained some insight into my own life… The top prize goes to an Indian actor — name purposely withheld — to whom I sent my screenplay a few years ago. I even included a CD with my script since in my story – music is the third character, after the boy and the girl parts. Nearly a year later, I was traveling on a flight to India and the selections of movies included a new film starring said actor.        

The story seemed vaguely familiar but my doubts were confirmed when the main song of my CD started to play on his convertible car stereo, at a pivotal point in this story (as — you guessed it! — it does in mine). Anyway, to those of you who are wondering how the film had been made so quickly, chuck it to the magic of Bollywood. And to those who are questioning why I didn’t sue, again, chuck it to the magic of Bollywood. Ultimately, the fight would have taken years, and a great burden on me to prove true and the thought that such a successful actor liked my story that much, well it made me more proud than angry.

But fear not, this is not a post where I get to bore you with personal anecdotes and stories of me, me and more me. This is all about how life has a way of making some films come alive for us. I ask you to share your own “Life Imitating Art” stories in the comment section. A couple of mine follow, just to get the game going: ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ — When I first watched Danny Boyle‘s film I knew I was witnessing history in the making. It has proven both momentous and controversial, but the film took a whole new meaning for me back in January, when I met the ‘real’ Jamal on the streets of Bombay. During the latest of my visits to the Maximum City — as it’s affectionately called these days — I noticed a conspicuous lack of street urchins on the street.

Could they have all been lured by the glamour of Danny Boyle’s filmmaking and enrolled themselves in acting schools? Or perhaps had they moved on to less tourist-infested cities in India, where they could still pull some of their charmingly familiar stunts? Or perhaps, the Indian authorities had relegated them all to the Juhu and Dharavi slums to prove that such suffering and poverty truly does not exists in India and was just all the imagination of a couple of foreigners, inspired by an Indian writer in the Foreign Service — hence read: out of touch? Just as these disastrous thoughts began to consume me, I took a taxi back to my hotel from South Bombay.

As my smart taxi driver avoided major traffic in Bandra, he turned down an alley and there HE was! The quintessential Bombay streetwise boy, the one who could sell you a painted stone, or even a newspaper in illegible Hindi script, for three times its price. He approached my open window and thus we began a complicated conversation about Salman Rushdie — of all people, his photo was on the front page of the newspaper he was peddling! — which included the three words I know in Hindi, the ten words he knew in English and a whole lot of head and hand gestures. At the end of the conversation, he told me his name was Salim (OK, not Jamal, but close enough, as that’s the brother’s name in the film) and wanted to gift me one of the papers. I paid him $100 rupees — to put it into perspective that’s the price of about thirty-three newspapers — and we winked each other goodbye.

‘Mississippi Masala’ — Quite possibly one of my favorite films ever, if you haven’t seen it, quickly put it on your Netflix queue. It’s the best film ever made about racism, mixed couples and national longing. Sounds like a weird combination? You have to watch it, I told you! A few years ago, I went back to LA a few months after leaving the apartment I had shared with the man I then referred to as ‘the love of my life’. It was a hard journey back, that first time without him, since I kept expecting him to show up at the airport, then at the motel where I was staying, and again at my dear friend’s wedding — the event I was to attend and the reason why I made the excruciating voyage to the land of remembrances.

But my sour mood and heavy heart were soothed by the cranky, rough but pretty young Indian woman who checked me into my room at Motel Patel. I still remember her name, Chayya, like the title of the song that opens Spike Lee’s Inside Man’ and one of the greatest musical numbers ever written by ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ composer and Oscar winner A.R. Rahman. Anyway, Chayya immediately reminded me of Meena — the title character in Mira Nair’s film — and somehow, at that moment, that connection soothed my heart and warmed my soul. I will forever remember her voice, her demeanor and the saving power of her being.

‘Children of Heaven’ — In this Iranian film from 1998, a young boy loses his sister’s shoes on the way to getting them repaired. I have not watched the film in a long while, but a little skinny boy in my neighborhood recently reminded me of Ali and his misadventures, which turn the film into a feel-good drama about family bonds and the power of being resolute. I simply took one look at his slight, long limbs, caramel complexion, short cropped hair and oversized white sneakers and began sobbing. I mean, the boy was just walking, and not on his way to war, prison or his father’s funeral. But something in his gait brought back all the tears I shed upon first watching this beautiful film. It’s funny how life imitating art can sometimes trigger so much in us. A lesson, perhaps, to those who think that making a film about violence, misery and hate is OK?!

So, now I would love to hear all about your own experiences when life has managed to bring back your favorite film scene or a book character was brought to life by someone sitting across from you on a train. Do share… You know what they say “sharing is caring!”  

This post was originally written for PopCultureDivas.com.

Images courtesy of Fox Searchlight, Majid Majidi, Mirabai Films and Warner Bros.
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Watching Your Weight or Minding Your Shape?

Friday, March 19th, 2010

OK, so The Ajnabee is hardly a meeting place for those with weight issues. I mean, there are as many posts about chocolate and cookies – and these days Macarons! – as there are film reviews. And that in itself is saying it all. But then there is Kanwal’s Healthy Corner to help you prepare those everyday meals and an alternative to making food that is healthy, low fat and low cal. Contrary to popular belief, though, we do care about our shape as we travel the world (by connecting at the best airports), eat good quality chocolate and watch fantastic new discoveries in filmmaking. And the key word in the previous sentence is ‘SHAPE’. We care about our shape. Never about our weight!

So here is where I draw the distinction. In this weight-obsessed world we call the USA – I never stepped on a scale while I lived in Italy, my pediatrician would weigh me at checkups and write down the result without much fanfare – there is a strong emphasis on those numbers on the scale. Yet few look at themselves in the mirror as a way to appreciate their bodies. I was blessed with parents who are both naturally slim, so weight has never been an issue for me. But shape has been my healthy obsession since I first put on my pink ballet slippers at age five. And I’ve never looked back – pardon the pun – but have always made sure to spend a good amount of time assessing my assets – hum… another funny sounding phrase I must apologize for! – to keep myself in good shape.

In fact, even women who are enviably skinny (I am definitely not one since I enjoy my Indian and Italian food way too much to watch what I eat) can be out of shape. And setting goals to be in shape can be a lot more fun and doable than setting about to try and lose or gain weight. Go for a run early in the morning, do some yoga in the privacy of your own apartment, sign up for a Pilates or dance class and watch your weight concerns turn into shape pleasures. Seriously. And while you are at it, stop to smell the roses on your jogging path and notice the sun rising before your very eyes, right in front of your yoga mat.

Another reason I prefer to think of getting healthy as minding my shape is because weight is such a yoyo factor, particularly for women. That time of the month, extra muscles from an intense workout, fluid retention from a salty meal can all add up in the pounds department and sabotage our good intentions. But if you are looking at your shape each day, you’ll notice great changes in your muscle tone and won’t be frightened by a little water gain, which will probably enhance your shapely figure anyway. I still don’t own a scale and honestly, when I do step on one at the gym, it’s always such a meaningless number. Like age, weight is so personal… What is skinny on a friend at 130 can be fat on me. Chuck it up to bone structure and size and what the Italians call a ‘Falsa Magra’ – literally, a ‘fake skinny woman’ of which I am DEFINITELY one!

Finally, I don’t wish to diminish the strife faced by those who grapple daily with their battle to lose weight. Again, I am thankful to my good genes for the absence of that in my life, but can assure you I am not so pretty myself when I stop exercising for a month. Any good weight loss program must combine food management and exercising to be successful. I’m just saying, watch a little less what you eat and mind a little more what your body looks like to find inner beauty and a healthy balance. Buy yourself a new pair of running shoes, or a yoga mat and please, thrown out your scale!

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Macaron Day NYC 2010 – Get Ready to Be Delighted

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

What is light and sweet and plays a symphony of taste and texture in your mouth? A macaron. But don’t call it a cookie or your Ajnabee privileges will be revoked! And, I’ll even pretend not to know you when I run into you at one of the participating bakeries around the city celebrating Macaron Day NYC 2010 this coming Saturday, March 2010.

The festivities will benefit City Harvest and that is one charity organization that I understand to the core of my soul. Their mission to feed the hungry by avoiding food waste is one that is near and dear to my heart. In this society that thinks bigger – portions, that is – is better and recycling is only done if we can make it someone else’s problem, City Harvest is a breath of fresh air. Fresh, tasty, fragrant from the kitchen, air! Not to mention, they think up the most delicious holidays!

So, drop by any of the participating bakeries this Saturday and pick up a free sample of this typically French delight. Some of the delicious spots include L.A. Burdick in Flatiron (they are personal faves), Almondine in DUMBO and Park Slope, La Maison Du Chocolat locations around the city and Macaron Cafe on West 36th Street. But click on the Macaron Day link above for all the info you’ll ever need about celebrating the delicious holiday!

Bon Appétit! – possibly pronounced in a Julia Child voice and accent…

Images courtesy of Macaron Day NYC and Macaron Cafe

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Kanwal’s Healthy Corner – Rice and Lentils

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

We all love rice and beans. So delicious, fiber filled, protein packed, quick and economical! Now, instead of rice and beans how about we try rice and lentils?! With all the wonderful benefits of beans, lentils provide a different texture and slightly nuttier flavor. Lentils are also a great taco and burrito stuffer. Enjoy this wonderful recipe for ‘Rice and Lentils’.
Ingredients:

  • 1 can of lentils
  • 1tsp. of olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1TB. of minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of cooked brown rice

Preparation:

Heat a saute pan on medium heat. Once hot, add the oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute for a minute. Add the tomatoes and saute for another minute. Add the lentils and vegetable stock. Stir in the salt and pepper. Allow this to come to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Enjoy hot over brown rice.

Servings: 4

ABOUT KANWAL

My name is Kanwal Ullah. I am a 27 year old IT Professional living in good old Jersey City, NJ. As some of you may know, I have a deep passion for healthy living. Most importantly, healthy living starts with what you put in your body. Therefore, my passion also exists in healthy cooking. When I’m not in the kitchen working on healthy recipes, you can find me at the gym or roaming the streets of NYC for great food finds. Born as the daughter of two wonderful Pakistani parents, I particularly crave the culture and food from my ancestors. However, I do not like the fat and calories that have crossed continents to get to me! My passion has developed into revamping our South Asian Cuisine to make it more heart healthy and figure friendly! I also run my own blog called Ask Kanwal.

If you would like to have a recipe revamped or have any questions, please email me – Kanwal – at kanwal.ullah@gmail.com. Or you can post comments here and I’ll check in from time to time… You never know, your next question could be featured on next week’s column for The Ajnabee! Bon Appetit!

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‘Afghan Star’ on HBO, Thursday March 18th

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Watch it, by any means necessary!

A light-hearted competition such as ‘American Idol’ or ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ acquires a whole new dimension in a country where it is against Taliban laws to sing or dance. It takes on completely different implications and results in a war-torn land where you are even forbidden to show your hair if you are a woman. Such is the premise of Havana Marking‘s documentary ‘Afghan Star’ which will air on HBO on March 18th at 9 p.m. and throughout March and April thereafter. The film enjoyed a successful theatrical release last year and was distributed by Zeitgeist Films, a company dedicated to bringing some of the best Indie releases from around the world to US audiences.

Hailed by Oprah Winfrey as “A fantastic documentary about a talent competition in a country where you would never dream such a thing is possible” and World Cinema winner at the 2009 Sundance Festival, the film documents the dramatic stories, considerable struggles and heartwarming personal victories of Tolo TV‘s ‘Afghan Star’, a contest first filmed in Kabul in 2005 which continues to rewrite the rules in Afghanistan. Yes, that same Afghanistan that has been carried into a democracy-obsessed 21st Century kicking and screaming.

Under the witty and intelligent guidance of its host and producer Daoud Sediqi, the show went on to entertain viewers from all walks of life, while gently unifying a country divided by more than thirty years of war and several rival ethnic factions. Sediqi himself “Is now in the US  - he was granted political asylum and now works as a DJ on VOA” Marking pointed out and continued that during a screening at Sundance in 2009 which received a 15 minute standing ovation he was present “And it was brilliant to see him get the recognition he deserves.”

The film closely follows the journey of four contestants from the third season of the show, each a remarkable human being in his or her own right: Rafi, a young and handsome Tajik pop star wannabe; Lema, a woman torn between her duties as a family girl and her role as a traditional Pashtun woman; Hameed, a young man who is seen as the poster hero for his own Hazara people, a tribe previously persecuted by the Taliban; and Setara, a woman from Herat with an independent spirit and courageously controversial opinions, which quickly add up to inspire contempt in the older generations of viewers. After all is said and done, it is indeed Setara — with her “Dress of Freedom” outfit and sensuous moves — who comes out the winner, though rest assured my statement does not, in any way, give the plotline away.

In her touching, truthful film, Marking steers comfortably clear of showing her own personal views and opinions, while allowing each member of the audience to pick their own favorite contestant — as I clearly did with Setara — and to observe a country in the midst of a transition. ‘Afghan Star’ is a film that leaves the viewer in awe of the resilience and joy displayed by generations of people who have only known war in their lives, only witnessed destruction in their land. It also leaves those of us who can watch the film in the comfort of our homes — sitting on a plush couch, sipping sodas and eating popcorn — just a little more thankful for all we so easily possess.

When asked about her fascination with Afghanistan, a land that most Westerners associate with war and destruction, Marking answered “My father had travelled there in the 1960s – my parents were wonderful hippies – and always talked about it. The images from that period were so epic, but all my life it was a no-go area. I always longed to go.” And about her initial draw to this project she continued “I was trying to find a project that would take me there. I had a great friend working [in Afghanistan] and she kept telling me how amazing it was. Through her I talked to a journalist who told me about Afghan Star. I knew instantly it would work, and that it was perfect for me.” 

Perhaps ‘Afghan Star’ is an allegory representing the very country both the film and the contest take place in. Afghanistan is indeed a nation torn between its youth and its traditions, its desire to modernize and its need to conform to customs. In light of the recent election crisis in Iran, the film feels like a mirror into the unifying power of music and art, staring the dividing force of politics in the face.

Poster image courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

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Of Awards and Good Friends’ Blogs…

Monday, March 15th, 2010

The fabulous Cate Masters was kind enough to bestow ‘The Circle of Friends’ blog award on The Ajnabee. Apart from thanking her profusely for it, in turn I would also like to bestow this honor on a few of the authors’ blogs I have visited lately and loved! And once you are nominated (TAG you are IT!) you must in turn mention who nominated you and then pay it forward to a few other blogs you love to visit – from time to time. Thank you for the fun, Cate you are the top!

Ladies, lets keep being the fabulous Divas we are!! And Cate, once again THANKS YOU!

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