I have been part of this amazing group of bloggers in the Blogging Marathon. Though I have blogged multiple recipes with this group I have written very little about the people and the behind the scenes action. So this and the next two posts are a kind of ‘The making of’ part of the Blogging Marathon group with details about our meet up for the 100th edition.
- Blogging Marathon (BM) has been a lifeline of sorts for me. I moved to Malaysia in 2014 with a workaholic husband in a new challenging role and a 1 and half year old daughter. My neighbours didn’t know English and I was stuck in a strange land with crazy levels of domestic chores and no one to talk to. That is when I discovered my love for baking bread but I still craved for some human contact. Thank my stars that I discovered BM in mid 2015 and life definitely looked up for me. I still remember waiting till late evening when my husband would return from work and I would leave my daughter with him to rush to the only Starbucks in town to upload my BM post for the day because the Internet at home was patchy. Later I discovered I could get the Internet access from the parking lot and need not go into the cafe to spend precious forex for it. Typical jugad mindset you see. Since then I have always referred to BM as my road to sanity. When I moved back to India BM metamorphosed into a way to redefine myself as a blogger and baker and give me confidence as I transformed from a career oriented individual to a cranky and cuddly mom.
- So as you see BM is a super important part of life. Srivalli and Vaishali are the two main pillars of this multi talented, enthusiastic and absolutely crazy collection of people. Srivalli started the BM initiative in 2011 and is the boss lady. She is a multitasker to say the least and one of my main reasons to go for the previous BM75 meet was to confirm if she is human or some advanced form of AI. Every time I meet her I ask how she manages a job, kids and two blogs to get some tips but I only come back amazed and befuddled to say the least. She has an amazing amount of patience which I believe is the main reason she is able to manage multiple bloggers with varied issues and constrains and continue going strong for 100 marathons and more.
- Vaishali reminds me of my mother. She always has a smile on her face and any challenge is ‘easy peasy lemon squeezy’ (to quote my daughter). By the time I comprehend things she has completed them with grace and charm and makes it all look like a breeze. If Valli sets out to challenge us with unique themes for our BM Vaishali will finish it with a cherry on top. When you tell her to blog about flatbreads she puts up an entire thali. Now I am wondering what she will come up with when Valli says thali.
- Now that the introduction is done (yeah, this is just the beginning) I want to talk about what we did for 5 days of our meet up. The planning started nearly a year in advance. I was amazed that some of our BM members actually came from across the world to be here and spend these days celebrating this momentous occasion.
- Day 1 – Dress code Yellow
I reached Hyderabad early morning because I had to meet my uncle. After that I went to Kamat hotel near Birla Mandir where the girls were having lunch. It took probably 2 minutes to get comfortable with everyone, even people I was meeting for the first time. After lunch we visited the Birla mandir which is a beautiful temple with a fabulous view.
Then we decided to head to the villa where we were to stay for the 5 days of our trip. Our bus driver had a tough time to figure out the place and Archana had a worse time trying to make him read a basic google map. Finally we reached the villa where Vaishali was waiting for us with a pooja ki thali and gave us a warm traditional welcome. We settled down admist excessive chatting and catching up with everyone. We ordered some dinner which was tasty. As the rest of us sat to talk some more, the cake team of Gayathri, Ritu and Ruchi were so busy getting the cake decorated and ready for the next day. Gayathri is our baking queen and she makes some delicious cakes. I don’t need to say a lot about her since she is a star in the baking world. Ritu has blossomed into another cake star and each of her creations is better than the previous one. She is one determined and persevering lady. I met Ruchi for the first time in Hyderabad and she is another expert on all things cakes and does stuff that I haven’t even heard of.
Amara and Usha met us at the villa. These two lovely ladies have been coordinating and running around for this event for over six months. I strongly suspect Amara had a magic wand because she would get us just anything we asked for in terms of ingredients and equipment for cooking and baking. She would simply nod her head with a smile and before you know it, the requisite item would appear in front of you. Usha reserved her magic for coming up with one awesome event after another each of which I will detail over the three posts this week.
Srividhya and Sharmila, who were able to join us only for a day, had rehearsed a lovely dance for us and they were an absolute riot. Pradnya reached late at night and simply refused to let anyone sleep. We spent a long time chatting into the night where Srividhya gave us a lot of tips and information about how she manages her blog and various other social media channels. Pavani also came to the villa later and spent the night chatting with us over the course of which we realised that her ‘pavam’ photo on her blog is totally a misnomer and she was an absolute revelation in the most fun way.
Day 2 – Dress code – Green / White / Traditional
We were scheduled to have a North Indian Thali prepared by a group led by Vaishali. So I had a comparatively easy morning which I mainly spent in clicking pics and catching up with everyone. Suddenly the doorbell rang and Kalyani was at the door for an absolute awesome surprise. She had to cancel due to her health and so seeing her was so amazing. Harini also managed to come for a few hours and it was lovely to meet her. Wish she could have spent some more time with us.
One of my main reasons to go for this BM meet was to meet Varada who I have been blog-stalking for a long time now. She had agreed to bake yeast breads and sourdough breads for us during this meet and I was determined to soak up as much knowledge from her as possible. So we started reactivating the dried starter she had carried with her all the way from the US.
I will write in detail about what I learnt in the coming weeks but I can say this in a nutshell that I had a fabulous time baking with Varada and learning so much. It is my most exciting memory of the event.
Then we had to change into our whites and denim aprons which Vaishali had got for us for the cake cutting. We had a professional photographer whose capabilities were truly tested with our various demands and multiple poses.
After the cake cutting, there was a surprise cake for Vaishali’s birthday which was also fabulous.
Then we changed back to our greens for another round of photos. Finally it was lunch time and the aromas were making us quite hungry.
Each and every dish tasted amazing and I wanted to eat more even though I was full. Then we bid farewell to Srividya, Sharmila and Kalyani who had to leave that day.
Usha had picked a lovely restaurant called Vivaha Bhojanam for a typical Telugu meal for the evening. We were to wear traditional attire for it and I was super nervous about having to drape the sari by myself. But thank heavens, Gayathri was around and before I blinked twice she had completed draping the sari for me and I could only stare in awe.
The restaurant seemed to be inspired by a Telugu movie of the 50s which had a famous song ‘Vivaha Bhojanam’ that talks about Gatothgaja eating a feast at a wedding. (Kalyana Samayal Sadham song for the Tamil audience).
We were served a huge variety of dishes one after the other. Valli was sweet to wait for the entire meal to be served and click a picture while the rest of us were wolfing down all the dishes and demanding for seconds.
We returned to the villa and Ruchi generously shared some cake decoration tips with us with a detailed and step by step presentation on making flowers to decorate the cake.
So much happened and it has been only 2 days. I will post about day 3 tomorrow. Do drop in to read.