Monday, October 29, 2012

Disney on Ice

While browsing through the internet for interesting things to do in and around the Bay Area, I came across the 'Disney On Ice' show. Since I'm a huge fan of animated movies and love all things Disney, I was very keen on attending this one. To make things better, I found an awesome deal on the ticket prices-50% off. There was no stopping me now. I immediately booked the tickets 2 weeks in advance and waited for the day to arrive.

 However, on the day of the show, I had the day packed with back to back job interviews. I was so caught up in the interview prep that it almost slipped from my mind. Later during the day, while checking my email, I got a notification from the ticketing company that there was some mix up with my seats and new seats were reserved. I was kicking myself for forgetting about the show I was so eagerly looking forward to. That email really saved me. I couldn't care less about the change in the seating. I came back home from the interview and kept looking at the watch for the right time to leave. V came home early from work and both of us set out to the Caltrain station to catch the train to HP Pavilion in San Jose. Thankfully, the pavilion was across the station.

The place was buzzing with activity. For a moment I felt out of place because it was dominated by children. Parents were bringing in their kids-most of them dressed up as their favorite cartoon or fairytale character. I saw several fairies, princesses and even a Hulk! They all looked so pretty with the wands, glittery dresses and crowns.

The show was held in an ice-skating ring and we had our seats in the Upper bowl. Fortunately, they were good seats and we got a clear view of the show. Although, all the seats behind were completely entry, the show had a very good turnup.

Disney on Ice basically is a ice-skating performance by Disney characters with the usual song and dance sequence. From their website, I gathered that they have several themes for this. The one that we attended was '100 years of magic.' Disney was celebrating their 100th anniversary by having 65 of the most popular disney characters all in one show.

The ever-popular Mickey mouse along with Minnie, Donald and Goofy were the hosts of the show.

Pinnochio, Alladin, Jasmine, genie, chipmunks, lion king, Mulan, Nemo and several others came and put up an absolutely scintillating and dazzling performance. There were fireworks, glitters, laser, colors and music. It was no less that watching a Disney movie on screen.

The spectacular skating show recreated some of the magical moments from the famous Disney movies which was a complete delight to watch. The performers were incredibly talented and watching them dance transported me back to the movies and cartoons. All the performances promoted a message of friendship and celebration of life. I thought they did full justice to the money that I spent. Total entertainer!

San Carlos Art & Wine Festival

Ever since I came here, I have been reading about Art & Wine Festival but somehow never got a chance to attend it. It's a festival organized by the Chamber of Commerce of each city in the Bay Area. The biggest one of them all is the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival.

I was very upset that I couldn't attend any of these due to some reason or the other. Luckily, while browsing through the Caltrain brochures, I found out that the last of these festivals is going to be in San Carlos. I checked out the dates as well as the location. Close to the Caltrain station-that made things easy. Actually, most of the Art & Wine festivals were held in locations that were very close to the station.

The one in San Carlos was right across the station. It was a two day event. I was quite taken aback by the number of stalls at the festival. Hats, scarves, pottery, dolls, sculptures-everything on display. It was fun checking out the vast array of items. Not to mention the wine. There were equal number of wine stalls selling wine by the glass. People had to buy a glass and a token to taste the different types of wine.

There were a few food courts too. And of course the downtown was full of restaurants on either side of street. As usual, vegetarian choices were very limited. So I settled for a veggie gyro which was ok-tasting. Since it was scorching hot, instead of sampling the wine, we headed to the nearest Starbucks store and got a milkshake.

Tattoo, mehendi, face painting and other fun booths were the main attraction for children. There were music performances on both days too. Sadly, we didn't have time for any of them.

Overall, the festival was more like the exhibitions in India which have a lot of items on sale but most are ridiculously expensive. Yet, we all love going there despite the crowd. This was something similar except that I wish it had more yummy food.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Palo Alto International Film Festival (PAIFF)

I came across the details of this film festival on a flyer outside a store while strolling down California Avenue downtown. I came back home and checked out the website. It was exciting to me that it was very close to the Caltrain station (accessible to me) and that they had some interesting volunteering opportunities. I immediately signed up for two shifts.

Now, this is the second year of PAIFF and they mainly showcase independent films across different genres. It is a four day festival in the last week of September and the movies are shown in 3 different theatres-Palo Alto Square 1 and 2 and the Aquarius theatre. They also have free movie screening for the public in the outdoor theatre at the festival village.

I volunteered on two days. The first was at the office before the day of the festival. I was in charge of answering phone calls. Honestly, I was very nervous as I didn't know what kind of questions I had to answer. A few calls asked me details like parking space which I had no idea about. Then the volunteer manager handed me a list of names and phone numbers and asked to call each one to see if they are available for volunteering. It had 120 numbers! Imagine the horror of having to call each one and repeat the same message over and over again. Most of them went directly to voicemail. Overall it was a tiring process and honestly I had expected something more fun that this. To compensate for this boredom, I took an hour long break and treated myself to yummy burger and fries at a nearby restaurant called 'Workshop' On the whole my first volunteering experience was nothing like I'd imagined it would be.

My second shift was on Friday. It was but natural for me to be skeptical about it after my first experience. Nevertheless I still went there. This time I was working at the Festival Village. I was assigned to the Information Booth. My responsibilities included answering questions about the event, directing patrons to the appropriate places. This definitely was fun. I got all sorts of questions ranging from details about the movies playing, show times to silly questions like if I had chewing gum. It indeed was fun interacting with so many people in one day. There were two other kids assisting me at the booth. One of them had no idea what he was doing and was giving all sorts of crazy, wrong answers. I even suspected he was talking to himself. A total wacko.

There were food trucks selling very yummy and cheap food. When I got a chance I went to check out the food there. I must admit, I had the yummiest sandwich in the Banjara Bistro truck. I reminded me so strongly of 'Kachi dabeli' I got into a conversation with an elderly gentleman who was also volunteering. We had a nice chat while devouring our food.

Digitally remastered version of the movie 'E.T' was being screened on the big screen to celebrate the 30 anniversary of the movie. Before the movie began, there was a small Q&A with some of the members of the technical crew who worked on the film. Although they were all Academy award nominees or winners, sadly I didn't recognize any of them.

 Though I didn't stay back to catch the movie, I received this

and saw this. Which I thought were really cool.

As for the actual film festival, I used my free ticket vouchers (volunteer perk) to watch 2 movies back to back (yeah, I love doing that). I saw the movies 'Butter' and 'Zarafa', both of which, I thought, were absolutely wonderful.

Overall, it was totally worth volunteering and participating in the Palo Alto Film Festival. I'm definitely going to attend it next year too!

Ganesh Chaturthi

The first Indian festival after our big move here. With all the crazy, hectic schedule, I definitely wasn't prepared for it. However, I'm proud of how well I managed it :)

Since I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew, I decided to keep it simple. To begin with, I didn't even have a Ganesh idol. I went to the nearby Indian store and picked up a Ganesh photo. 

Now for the prasad. Last year I had bought some modaks from a sweet shop and used it as prasad. This year I wanted to make something on my own. I spent a lot of time going through YouTube videos on modak recipes. They didn't seem too easy and I wasn't in a mood to take any risks. So I decided to make this:

Choco-coconut barfi-my own version of the barfi with a twist. Although I wouldn't say it came out perfect but it sure as hell tasted amazing. I packed some and gave it to my neighbours. "It tastes exactly like my grandma's barfi" they told me. It felt so good to be appreciated for the hard work. Next, I took some along with me to my gym. I fed the instructors and they were ooh-ing and aah-ing about the delicacy. I knew it was a hit with them. 

I just lit a lamp, offered the barfi, played the aarti on YouTube and prayed. That was how simple my first Ganesh Chaturthi here was.