Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

First, the settling into the new house, and all those home improvement projects.

And some significant family events.

Mia came home in March and celebrated her first birthday in December.

Mia in action

Mia in action

My niece, Ira, made her presence felt with her non-stop activity and, in Reva’s words, comic relief.

Never-sit-still Ira

Never-sit-still Ira

Kelu came home 14/15 years ago, and refused to leave. This November, he ran off to the hills and never came back. Missing you, Kelubhau!

Kelu

Kelu

For me, it was the year of the water sports.

And finally, all that delicious travel!

Malaysia

Canada

USA

and, of course, Indonesia!

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Day 19: My weekly big bicycle ride

My last day of vacation dawned hot and sunny, but I was not to be deterred from the desired cycle ride around a lake. Madison has 3 lakes of different sizes. We went kayaking on the smallest Lake Wingra, and people watched on the terrace at the largest Lake Mendota, but the mid-sized Lake Monona just begged for a cycling trip.
Armed with a bike and a big biking map I set out for the ride through charming lakeside neighbourhoods and parks. Biking in Madison is Very evolved, with bike paths all over the city, and there are Rules to be followed! A lot of the route around the lake had almost no traffic, making it a pleasant, unpolluted ride that took me a little over 2 hours to complete.
Rukmini worked while I cycled, then we met up for more food and more shopping before heading home for a home-cooked Palak Paneer meal (and a sinful cupcake).
Uploading photos is going to take some more time, because I’m all packed and checked in, ready for my flight back.
And that is the end of my wonderful vacation!

Day 17: On foot in Madison city…er..town

Yesterday was my day about town while Rukmini went to work. I started off with a leisurely breakfast at Starbucks with an eyeful of the Capitol across the street.
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Fortified by the cookie crumble mochaccino, or something like that, I started my walk around the Capitol square, taking in the sights, and the museums (closed on Monday’s). Then came the tour of the Capitol, with an excellent guide and interesting stories, and a walk through the Senate and Supreme Court and other important offices of the Wisconsin government.
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Rukmini joined me for a light Italian lunch at Francesca’s al Lago, then took off again while I walked over to the Monona Terrace designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, overlooking the Monona Lake at one side and the Capitol at the other. I have the FLW coloured pencils jigsaw puzzle, and I so wanted to buy the transparent colouring books and the suncatchers, but settled for the fridge magnets instead, to be able to stay hands-free while walking around, rest of the afternoon.

I then strolled over to State Street, the #1 attraction in downtown Madison, taking in the eclectic shops full of pretty, colourful, mostly useless stuff, and couldn’t help buying a few for myself.

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After being on my feet for 5/6 hours, it was time to give them a break, (read: to be whisked off by Rukmini to get our nails done). Oh bliss! Foot massage equals rejuvenation, and fresh local beer and cheese curds (local favourite pub snack) gives a spurt of energy for…..shopping!
We ended the day on a (relatively) light note with some sushi at Muramoto (numerous and excellent vegetarian options for me!), and an episode of our favourite TV show!

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Day 16: Falling in love… With Madison

My friend, Rukmini, came down to Chicago yesterday to drive me to Madison, the final leg of my very exciting holiday. Everyone I spoke to before that was amused by the contrast between the big city and small town vibes, while I was thinking about putting up my feet and relaxing all the 3 days here.
We had a cheerful 2-drive up, singing along with the latest Bollywood numbers, and laughing over inane matters. Pulling into town, Rukmini decided to give me an orientation to the town. Instantly I was a fan! There was the Capitol building, the University campus, and best of all, the lakes!
Later in the evening, we went kayaking on Lake Wingra, how could I not be supremely happy? All thoughts of chilling out flew through the window, and plans were made afresh for cycling and walking about.
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Next we headed to Memorial Union on Lake Mendota for some locally brewed beer and spectacular sunset.

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Finally we strolled down State Street and got some night shots of the Capitol before calling it a night.

Day 15: Urban Drama

I had just 24 hours in Chicago before driving off to Madison, and my cousin Varun was in charge of the itinerary. Chicago has a reputation for fine architecture, it’s arty vibe was obvious as soon as we hit downtown, and I was excited.
Our first stop was lunch by the river (naturally), and then the Magnificent Mile walk, taking in the big pretty buildings.

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We were walking up to the Millennium Park when we came upon this zombie parade, complete with morbid make up and protesting placards. Thank goodness I knew about the zombie craze, else it would’ve been a creepy sleepless night!

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Millennium Park is one of the most interesting urban spaces I have seen. There’s the obviously well-known Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, and the Pritzker Pavilion, but Varun showed me so many interesting spots around the park that I was charmed.

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The Cloud Gate was wonderful, nicer than I expected, but my favourite on that hot day was the dipping pool.

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We walked through the Art Institute without looking at the exhibits, but these windows by Chagall stopped me in my tracks.

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We then headed for a boat tour. The architectural tour was sold out, but we got another that took us on both the Chicago river and Lake Michigan, with a lot of welcome sprays and some good views of the Chicago skyline.

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There was still some light when we finished the tour, various street performers had started their shows, and there was a general festive air all around. Simply lovely!

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Day 14: Goodbye New York!

It was packing day, sadly, with Souvik having to take a late night flight back home, and me leaving for Chicago the next morning. Rupali advised us not to venture out to NYC, but rather stick around and shop some. We spent the morning dashing in and out of stores, buying up stuff we thought we needed ;-), then met with some old pals for lunch. For once, I left my camera behind, but everyone else’s iPhones were employed to take pictures. Now I’ve got to wait until one of them sends me a photo to post here.

If we’d had another week here, we could’ve met more friends and planned a hundred more activities, but it was not to be. We did manage to squeeze in one more sight – the hallowed grounds of Princeton University – thanks to Rupali’s extreme enthusiasm for driving us around.
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We wrapped up the day with a couple of excellent Cosmopolitans rustled up by Srini, the master bartender.
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Rupali & I have been friends for years and years. When we get together, we can chat for hours, as we did in this trip, late into the night. That left me no time to post last night. But as luck would have it, there’s wifi in the flight (a first for me!) and I’m excited to post from 30,000 feet in the air!
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Day 13: Park and Cruise

Thanks to the rainy days we had earlier this week, we left the two crucial outdoor activities for Thursday, with the forecast for sunny weather. Another first; I have never prayed for the sun before.

And sun there was, in all its shining glory! We headed straight to Central Park, hired bicycles, and started our ride through. A couple of km into the ride had me puffing inordinately, and we found that the tyres were almost flat. That entailed a grumpy ride back to the shop for a change of bike, and we had to restart our tour.

Central Park was, is, pretty enough, bustling with people basking in the sun, and plenty of slopes to make the ride challenging. Exactly a week ago we had been cycling in Stanley Park, and I couldn’t help drawing comparisons. The highlight of Central Park was all the running bare-chested men showing off their toned bods! Hmmm. Now Souvik is setting that kind of target for himself ;-).

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We spent 3 hours at the Park, and could’ve done more, had we not had a cruise to head to. Fabulous to catch the sunset, and learn a little about the history of the city, and some funny stories. Lots of photo ops too!

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