Meeting virtual friends and especially friends with common interest is always fun. Here is a nostalgic post of our blogging group meet up which had cooking, baking, singing, dancing, chatting and loads of memories!
Those of you who follow the blog know I participate in monthly blogging marathons (BM). BM group is 8+ years old and is a very active young group! There are many veterans in the group who have been part of it since its inception and new members keep joining. We also have some members who parted ways and moved on. For some of us, it has become a fraternity.
Every two years the group meets on a weekend in February. The first meet was in Ahmedabad in 2013, the second in Chennai in 2015 which I attend and the third in Delhi in 2017. This year is a big milestone, 100th month of the group's existence and we wanted maximum participation. Usually it is the Indian members of the group who meet. To increase the participation and to accommodate the NRIs, we met last month, July 17-21st in Hyderabad.
Destination was decided a year ago and a 5 bedroom villa booked almost 6 months ago. Depending on the inputs from the participants, Vaishali and Valli came up with an agenda. Cooking and baking was part of the agenda this time, and thanks to Amara, the only localite in the group took charge of procuring necessary ingredients. We had a dress color code for each day.
Day 1, July 17th
Dress Color - Yellow
Members started landing in Hyderabad by 9am and most of the members arrived by noon. Amara received them all, took Vaishali and Srivalli to the villa while Archana, Gayathri, Preeti, Priya Srinivasan, Priya Suresh, Ruchi, Sandhya, Sharmila, Sowmya, Srividhya, Varada and Veena went sightseeing straight from the airport. I met Valli, Vaishali and Amara at the villa for a brief period and went back home.
Some of the ladies in yellow
Late that evening, by the time I got back to the villa, sightseeing group reached the villa and so did Ritu, who took the evening flight to Hyderabad. Pavani and I were the late comers though we were temporarily localities. Vaishali welcomed us all the traditional way with an arti and tilak. She also insisted we dance before entering the villa.
After self introductions and greeting everyone, we had dinner. While all this was going on, the baking team and cake decorating team were busy doing the necessary prep work for the next couple of days. The last member to arrive that night was Pradnya.
Decoration in progress
Later, we all assembled in the living room for some chit chatting. There was music & dance, followed by discussions on blogging. I made a long list of questions to ask Srividhya and Sandhya. Though I could not get to all questions, they covered most of the topics ranging from social media, key words, SEO and many more.
It was a long day for most of them hence retired early, after midnight. I do not remember when we actually went to bed.
Day 2, July 18th
Dress code - green, white for photoshoot and traditional wear for dinner
Agenda for the day - cooking a North Indian thali, cake decoration, group photoshoot, dinner at a restaurant and sugar crafting demo.
Some of us woke up around 6 am to wonderful aroma of North Indian cooking. North Indian cooking team got to work pretty early as the aim was to finish cooking by 10am as the professional photographer was to come by 11 am for the photoshoot. Vaishali, Pradnya, Ritu and Preeti were part of the cooking team and I might have missed the sou chefs on the team.
North Indian Thali
While North Indian team was busy cooking, cake decorating team was busy decorating the BM cake. Gayathri, our baking queen along with Ruchi & Ritu decorated the cake. Gayathri baked the cakes at home, brought them to Hyderabad and assembled it here. It was caramel, chocolate ganache cake.
Some of the ladies in green
Harini and Kalyani joined us that morning. Kalyani actually cancelled her trip but managed to surprise us in the last minute. Though Harini and Kalyani joined us for just few hours, glad they could make it.
We had the maximum number of participants on day 2 hence exchanged our gifts. We all gifted ourselves a thali set! Since we had the thali sets, Vaishali made one North Indian thali for the photo.
While everyone was busy with their own activities, Valli and I picked up a surprise birthday cake for Viashali from Country Oven.
For the photoshoot we all dressed up in white with a customized BM 100 aprons. A professional photographer did the photoshoot and my temporary driver, Sai also took some photos. Sai's uncle use to work for us and when I am India, if he is free, he drives me around. Sai is actually a photo and videographer in my home town and when he doesn't have any bookings for the month, he fills in for his uncle when I am in India. Coincidently, July is not an auspicious month for weddings and ceremonies hence he was free for 2-3 weeks. Since he was around anyway, he agreed to take some pictures for us.
We posed for lot of photos, cut the BM 100 cake and then brought in Viashali’s surprise cake. No one knew about the surprise and hence missed capturing Vaishali’s reaction to the surprise birthday cake. On hindsight, we could have better handled it by letting a few members know about the surprise.
After the cake cutting & photoshoot, we had lunch and relaxed a bit. Srividhya and Shrarmila were the first batch to leave but glad they could spend almost 2 days with us. I had to step out for a short while and I joined the group in the evening for dinner at Vivaha Bhojanambu.
We all dressed up in traditional attire. The plan was to go for thali and unfortunately this place does not serve thali for dinner. So we opted for banthi bhojanam. Banthi bhojanam is where everyone is seated in a row and the waiters serve food. I was a little disappointed with the service, especially the way food was served. However, the food was tasty and most of them seem to have liked it.
After dinner, we returned to the villa, changed to night dresses and were ready for Ruchi’s sugar craft demo. Ruchi is Viashali’s neighbor who went to baking school. She gave us a recipe for preparing the dough for sugar crafting and showed us how to make flowers.
By then we all were dead tired and called it a day around 2am. Please comeback tomorrow for day 3 activities.