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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 31: Here comes 2014

What do I want out of 2014?

That it should be bigger, better, greener than 2013! Which is a tough task considering that I thought the last year was pretty cool ;). I know that a long list of resolutions never works, at least not for me, so I am setting myself just these 3 goals. Anything else achieved is just icing on the cake:

1. Find a way to get fit ! My struggle with exercise continues, now also compounded by the fact that my neck refuses to let me adopt most normal forms including even yoga that seems to aggravate my spondylosis.

2. Figure out a reminder system that works, and of course actually set up a schedule to trigger those reminders - I need this for everything from my home chores to my drinking water. As I mentioned to a friend recently, the only water drinking app that would work for me is one that would fill a glass every hour and hand it to me :P.

3. Move closer to providing my own vegetables, I would love to say 100% by the end of the year, but let me be realistic and say at least 50% :).

Happy 2014 Everyone!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day 30: 2013 - My Personal Journey

I cannot wrap up my 2013 reminiscing without talking a bit about my journey over this year. I would in fact go so far as to say that I found myself this year :).. Which still makes me nowhere close to perfect, but just happier that I know the things I'm content with, and the things I would like to make better.

I KNOW that I want to get as close to self sustainability as possible where vegetables are concerned, but this involves a lot of better planning for my gardening so I have a long way to go.

I KNOW that I want to reduce processed food, but this means that I need to plan and make items like my own bread a lot more often, which is the point that I'm usually struck by lethargy :P.

I KNOW a lot of my shortcomings in dealing with the children, but knowing is nowhere close to getting over them :(. Taking baby steps and reminding myself every time I stumble, and hopefully I'll get there.

I KNOW that the only kind of work-life that I would consider is one that I can do predominantly from home, and that would have flexible timings. Asking for a bit much? Maybe, but it has helped me discover that I could do something that I enjoy and that is relatively stress-free, such as writing, even if I'm not reconciled completely to the money I earn out of it yet ;).  It helps that I have a wonderfully supportive hubby who takes the stress of being the main earning member on his shoulders, and makes it much easier for my peace of mind.

In that context, I also KNOW that I should explore more work options based on the needs stated above, probably something that makes use of my previous work experience, though I find that it's tough to get over my diffidence in exploring something new.

I KNOW that you can make lovely friendships through the most unexpected mediums, and Facebook has played a big part in meeting like-minded people, both in gardening and in just "being myself". Even if I decide to limit my time on social media, I'm definitely going to stay in touch with a lot of these wonderful folks.

Some more reminiscing and resolutions on my wishlist for 2014, coming up as my last post for the year :).

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day 29: More About the Year Gone By

2013 has been the year of changes where S was concerned as well. It's his last academic year at our beloved Montessori school before he moves to a "big" school in 2014. Hopefully the same one that D goes to, fingers crossed and waiting for the admission to go through. And noone else is allowed to say "He's a sibling, he'll DEFINITELY get in" to me :P.

Where health is concerned, I felt he had made big improvements in his allergies, mainly thanks to homeopathy, but the end of the year has not been as good. The really extra cold winter of Bengaluru has left him battling a couple of infections at which point I do tend to move to conventional allopathic meds, simply because they give comfort from the symptoms so much more easily. We will keep on with the resistance building homeo meds, and hope the next year is kinder and leaves him much stronger at the end of it :).

Personality.. hmm that's a tough one to assess in his case. Not so much of an open book or rather not as naive as D, that's my impression as of now. A lot of stubbornness has been thrown into the mix, and he's finding that his charm is not going to let him get away with all kinds of behaviour any more ;). The good part is that he can get into the middle of any conversation, and make himself at home, which I hope will serve him well in life. We are calling him the sales guy of the family, taking after my bro-in-law in the previous generation ;).

Here's to my little fella who's not so little any more, who came out into the world earlier than we expected, and still keeps surprising us with his mischief and equally with his wholehearted shows of affection, wish you a lovely 2014 and every year to come! And wishing me a bit more patience in the bargain as well ;).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day 28: It's time for Bye Bye 2013

It's time to say goodbye already.. the year has gone by so quickly.. these are thoughts that I seem to have at the end of nearly every year now .. :). I guess it has to do with every day going by in a flash, the kids looking taller and acting older ... I felt I should write down my thoughts on how each of us has changed in the last year.. let me start with D.

For Damita, 2013 has been the year she has started becoming a young lady. She is 8 and a half at the end of the year, and has many strong views and insights, many of which I stop to wonder they came from. It's a lot of fun to play the guessing game to try to understand where she might have got some idea from or what runs through her head. Much to my delight, she has developed an interest in food, and believe me this was a big change from the fussy eater of even 2 years ago. She plays the keyboard beautifully, when she actually puts her mind to it :). In a lot of small ways, I see her personality beginning to develop. Her self-confidence has grown since she started school and now she can hold her own more easily than I remember her doing before. At this point, she loves to fight with S, disagreeing on just about everything though he also has a hand in these situations ;).

She has always been interested in reading, but this year she has turned into a voracious reader, with everything else getting ignored when there's an interesting book in hand. The irony is that I can hardly wholeheartedly tell her not to or to prioritize her other stuff, as she reminds me of what I was like at her age ;). I must admit though, that I think she's probably a bit ahead of me at the level of reading at the same age if it comes down to a comparion :P, a happy admission for a mom to make I guess.

In my hope that she should always feel like coming and telling me what's up - the good and the bad - I try my best to listen to her whether she's talking about a storyline in the Geronimo Stilton book or a fight she had with a friend at school. I personally don't think it is possible to completely be a friend to your child, but it surely has to be part of the "parent package" :).

Welcome 2014 my lovely daughter, to a lot more learning, a lot more books, and TONS of happiness in it for you.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day 27: Bittersweet

To a reading crazy mom like me, this was the word that came to mind today.

We took a Just Books membership a little more than a year back, once I realized that buying books is no longer an option for D, as she kept going through them before my back is turned :). Since S was still not as much of a reader, this meant that I could indulge my enthusiasm once in a while and pick up the latest bestseller for myself as a part of the 4 books package that we had signed up for.

Over the last few weeks, S has developed a renewed interest in reading and I saw him devouring one book after the other at home with a sigh in the back of my mind. Why a sigh? I know the signs, and this meant that when I walked into Just Books for our next set of books, I could mostly no longer pick one for myself :P. 

As of now I pick the books, so I'm going to see if Enid Blyton retains some charm before he shifts to Just William ;).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 25: A lovely Christmas breakfast

Those who know me well know how much I hate spending time in the kitchen, and it's only for some unusual days or recipes that I would willingly spend most of my morning there ;). Christmas is of course one of those days and I decided that I had to make Appam and Stew for breakfast, as this is something I don't try too often. I have used the ready-mixes once in a while, but somehow was always a bit hesitant to try the "from scratch" deal. Mom-in-law did give me the recipe for the Thattai-appam but said it would be slightly different for the typical palappam, which she doesn't make much.

Response from S on hearing what I was making - 'I never knew that you knew to make Appam!"

Enter a friend whom I originally met through gardening, but with whom I've had a lot of diverse discussions since then and her lovely cooking blog called Enriching your Kid. I was chatting with her a couple of days ago, and she mentioned that she had a palappam recipe on it, so I immediately went and found it and decided to try it out :).

This was the outcome, the recipe for the Stew was also from her blog:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 24: Can I Earn some Money?

D's school does not allow any cash transactions for their tuck shop or canteen, and as she pretty much doesn't go anywhere else without me, pocket money has not been a much raised concern at home. We also put it off for later, thinking that we would use it more to teach the concept of money than anything else.

Much to my surprise, this was our conversation yesterday:

D: Amma, I want to earn my money. Give me something to do!
Me: Huh, but why, what happened suddenly? Do you want to buy something?
D: I don't know all that Amma! Just tell me something to do!
Me: (Thinking aloud) Hmmm.. maybe you can fill a bottle of water for 5 rupees.
D: That's too much Amma! I'll do it for Rs. 2!

LOL, that's the cutest thing I ever heard. She has "earned" her first 10 bucks by now, all of which will be aggregated to finally buy a book I'm guessing. Thinking of more monetizing schemes to keep her occupied now, and here's my chance to buy a cute piggy bank as well :).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 23: The Secret Santa Game!

Those who read my posts would know that I have quite fallen by the wayside with no posts for nearly a week.. well I'm blaming it on the frenzy of playing Secret Santa in the Marathon Bloggers group ;).
I was introduced to this fun concept just last year through the group and this year too, Monika very sweetly coordinated the process as Head Santa and enabled us to have a lot of fun all over again :).

I was not very clear with my wishlist, simply because I wanted to be surprised :). With a general request for books, I was thrilled to receive one that I would definitely have bought and read soon, and another one that I can't wait to be introduced to! And the fun of opening a present - that definitely does not seem to happen too often nowadays so I enjoyed every bit of it ;).

I still don't know who my Secret Santa is, but I have an inkling it's someone from Mumbai.. waiting for the process to completely unwind and everyone to receive their gifts, before figuring it out and thanking my SS personally :).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

For Day 17: Theme time again!

And one day he just willed himself to leave the bloody world behind. They said he died because they wouldn't accept him for who he was. But was it as simple as that? Could "they" ever understand the agony of being trapped in a body that he knew he didn't belong in.. Fighting the battle of living his stand in dignity and slowly but surely giving up the futile attempts at trying to make people understand... Only he knew that it was not he who died but she.

My 2nd attempt at Fiction on this blog, written for Themed Tuesday of the Marathon Bloggers December blogging challenge for the theme "They said he died because they wouldn't accept him for who he was.."

For Day 16: Tis the season ... :)

We have had a tradition of spending Christmas at my parents-in-law's place in Chennai, but somehow in the last couple of years it has not worked out that way. Last year, we had an engagement to attend in Kerala, and this year due to a shorter holiday for D, and hubby traveling as well, it seems like we'll be in chilly Bangalore for the festive season.

Well, whether we are here or not, 2 items that are a must-have in this season are up and shining away now, so it feels a bit like Christmas here already :).

The kids of course had great fun helping me decorate the tree, which has some handmade ornaments from the kids, some from a secret santa exercise I took part in last year on my bloggers group and one special handmade copper wire one from my aunt as well :).

For Day 15: I know what you did last weekend :)

The group of very smart waitresses in Cinderella - ballet production by Yana Lewis Dance Academy on 14th and 15th of December.

Monday, December 16, 2013

For Day 14: Make-up 101

I have always been a low to no make-up kinda person, it took me a while to realize this though, so there has been a point when I realized I had about 10 odd shades of lipstick I hadn't used in years and finally threw out!

So when I was faced with some elaborate make-up demands for D's ballet program this weekend I decided I would start preparing a bit early :). While on our Dubai vacation, I suddenly walked into a MAC store and bought some pink blush and eyeshadow much to hubby's alarm, until I explained what it was for ;). Just this week I realized that I would need pink lipstick as well, so went and picked up a lipgloss - oh well maybe I'll try to use it occasionally so that it doesn't go completely wasted other than for a day.

Wish me luck, I have no clue how to draw an unshaky line of eyeliner both above and below her eyes !!!
Update: The eyeliner got better on the 2nd day, even got a compliment from D ;).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 13: Laughter is the best medicine

Today is themed post day again :)..

Laughter.. hmm somehow today the first thing that came to mind on seeing this quote was Suppandi.. such a favourite in our childhood days.. it was so much easier to appreciate humour then, without thinking about all the extrapolated aspects! This is mainly to do with all the name calling that seems to abound in this cartoon - words like idiot, fool and stupid are used in nearly every strip !! Well, I remind myself that I read it when I was young and it didn't really prompt me to start calling people names :P.. but still I can't help but mention it to D once in a while. I would never discourage her from reading it however (much like the fairy tale exposure that many parents seem to over-think nowadays), as I believe we need to keep our eyes and ears open to all inputs, and learn to take in what enriches us while disregarding the rest. Uff, too much funda for Suppandi I know ;).. so go read this now:

Day 12: No one ever tells you..

When you have kids, no one ever tells you that you will be under intense scrutiny in the time you spend around them. While this was nice when they were younger, when anything Amma wears is beautiful and they think Amma always "looks nice", I find that things are changing as they grow up to have a very clear mind of their own. Reactions to my latest haircut for example:

From D, who has very serious views of growing her own hair at the moment:
Amma! Why did you cut your hair? You don't look nice! :P
How the mighty have fallen...

From S, who's very observant:
What .. Amma! You cut your hair eh? I was wondering if you had tied it up in a ponytail but now I realized it's cut!

And on trying out the new lipgloss that I had picked up for use for D's ballet program:
Amma! You're wearing lipstick?
As you can make out, this is an unusual event ;)

First try at a "selfie" :)
This post is part of the December blogging challenge #MB2013 from Marathon Bloggers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 11: Found some pics

I was hoping to write a post last night, but I got super sleepy and completely forgot :(.. Found some of the Dubai pics on my hubby's phone, so these will have to do as a catching up post!

Decided to embrace the "windblown" look ;).. Loved the angle on this one - At the Top of Burj Khalifa

Nice one of me and D with the Burj Al Arab in the background... and date tree framing the pic in full tourist shtyle

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 10: He grit his teeth and bore the pain…

He knew it would only be a few more minutes and he just had to hold on to the pain until then.. a few more steps.. nearer.. nearer... and at last he saw it.. the finish line of his first ever Marathon. He crossed it and at last vocalized the pain.. which was now also a huge gasp of victory... and plonked down on the nearby patch of grass to soothe his aching feet.

For the themed post of #MB2013 December blogging with Marathon Bloggers. My friends who are runners, pardon me if it is factually incorrect, it was the only scenario that came to my mind :). 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Day 9: Just calling to remind you...

After getting the umpteenth reminder on my phone for something or the other, I was struck by how much my attitude has changed towards these. There was a time when I used to think "Why on earth do you think I need to be reminded to get my chimney cleaned?!".. but now in the midst of hectic schedules and a worsening memory (:P) I actually have started appreciating them. Here are some interesting interactions I have had:

  • The aforesaid chimney cleaning service centre which is one from Faber keep calling me literally every 2 weeks. The service person who used to work with them and had been coming to my place for years, started his own service centre so I started telling the caller "Please take my name off your reminder list, I don't need this any more." Polite, slightly irritated and even very angry responses later, I am still getting calls :). Funny end result, I couldn't contact my regular guy for a couple of months and ended up getting help from them again in a crisis situation.
  • Car service center - they remind that service is due, send someone to pick up and drop, I've literally never visited the place ;). I was most impressed especially when for the free service they provided all these conveniences and charged me Rs. 0 !!
  • Tank cleaning - yes I got it done through this very professional agency called Shudhi services, and was most surprised to get a reminder call from them after 6 months!
  • Pest control - The erstwhile Godrej Hi-Care who are now ISS Hi-Care are very diligent with their reminders, so much so that I renewed my contract with them after a 5 year gap simply because they kept in touch.
Other than these of course there are the usual insurance and other payment reminders by post, but the danger in depending on these is that they do occasionally get missed out and then you might be left with a delayed payment :(. The best way to handle most regular payments especially time bound ones like electricity, water is to get them on ECS, really reduces a lot of stress.

Getting back up to speed and posting on time for the Marathon Bloggers December Challenge #MB2013 :)

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Day 8: Saturday Part II - Christmas program

The same day was also the Sunday School Christmas program with both D and S being a part of it. The run up to it included regular practices managed by the very dedicated team who manages the Sunday School at church. D even sang a couple of lines of solo much to my delight, especially when I learnt later that she had actually volunteered to be tested for it :). Believe me, this was a big difference from even a year back, so the new confidence was lovely to see!

S in the left corner, can you spot him?

All posts in December are part of the Marathon Blogging challenge #MB2013, a repeat of what we did last year.

An event filled Saturday - Part I

December has been a month filled with activities and hectic weekends, and a couple of them culminated today (Dec 7). The first was a Science and Arts exhibition at D's school that I thought was very well thought out and well organized as well. It wasn't just children displaying their projects but had so many facets to it. They had sold coupons in advance, which could be used to play games in the different subjects. The first one I attempted was this veggie identification game :). Can you identify them all, I did ;) ?

A small canteen was run by the kids as well, with us first needing to exchange money for paper notes that were photocopied actual notes cut out to shape .. and the kids had to handle the calculations and change etc. I was so impressed by this concept, I think many of us can use it at home to get the children to understand both math and money concepts!! I'm definitely going to :).

Oh yes, I am running late on my marathon, so the day's events have been divided into 2 parts ;).

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Day 6: Everytime I get angry I...

Take a deep breath... or at least try to ;) !

It was Themed post day again yesterday (Dec 5), and though I missed it as I was hardly at home I had these thoughts bouncing around in my head all day.. let's see if I can make sense out of it all ...

Anger is something I have lived with for much of my life.. recognizing quite early that I was what is called "short-tempered". Though I also learnt early on how to put a lid on it for most purposes, I could never ever master it and it manifested in different ways including quite a tempestuous teenage. I think it always happens that it is those you are closest with that you display your anger on, at least this is how it has always been in my case. This is probably because I know the strength of the relationship I have with this person, and some outbursts along the way are always going to be worked out later.

Once I had kids, I found though that it was just too easy to blow that occasional fuse when they tried my patience. I have questioned myself (A LOT) as to why this was the case, when most adults who know me would probably term me to be quite even-tempered. Maybe it is to do with the strong bond or the fact they NEVER hold it against you and are so loving and affectionate within a few minutes of being scolded, but whatever it was I did not like feeling that way and really needed to change something.

Around this time I came across the Orange Rhino website, which I have mentioned earlier on this blog as I actually took up the challenge mentioned there of going without yelling for a week (to begin with). Yelling of course is subjective and you can choose the index you consider normal, which made sense to me because I believe kids do need to be taught about right and wrong and correcting or disciplining in some situations doesn't constitute being out of control. To me, being out of control was not just a mental feeling but physical as well - feeling breathless, having palpitations, mouth going dry - this level was what I most wanted to avoid. But no, I fell by the wayside within 3 days and wondered if I would ever get there. Since then, I have consciously begun my own version of the challenge, which means trying to control outbursts but also introspecting a lot more when they do happen. I recognize that it is mostly a result of my impatience or expectation, and definitely hardly ever 100% to do with the kids. For example, most morning outbursts can be controlled simply by waking up half an hour earlier and having extra breathing space, but I am oh so NOT a morning person :P.

A friend who was introduced to the Orange Rhino through my  FB timeline took up the challenge around the same time and did a much better job at it ;). You can read her posts here - I found these very introspective and useful too and especially loved the candidness with which she described her thoughts and behaviour.

I would say I am probably 50-60% of the way, and personally I have found humour to work the best in a situation that threatens to become explosive - I cool down trying to find funny words, the kids laugh and calm down and sometimes forget what they were being stubborn about, and of course are most relieved that I have cooled down ;). Leading to exclamations from D "Amma, you are so funny when you are angry!"

About dealing with adults who try my patience, I find that as I grow older, many things don't feel as important as they did to a younger me, and not worth getting angry about :). I have also learnt to back down and out of battles when I feel the familiar anger rising during an interaction, especially when I know that convincing the other person of my point of view is not worth it. This approach, for example, has made me a much more peaceful driver on Bengaluru roads ;).

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Day 5: Back to baking

My Day 4 post for the Marathon on my Citizen Matters blog here:

And on to Day 5 :). I didn't have much to write about, and then realized I had a couple of photos that I hadn't yet uploaded or shared so those it will have to be.

Baking is a favourite activity of mine, but I go through these major ups and downs of having days of crazy baking, or a complete lull. To break the monotony and also get tips from an expert, I decided to go for a baking workshop with Nandita Iyer of Saffron Trail at her lovely home in Whitefield. Getting a peek at her amazing terrace garden was an added bonus ;)

As expected it was great fun, and to keep the momentum going I got back and tried the cinnamon rolls right on the next day :).

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

She had always wanted a daughter but now...

When she had gone through hours of labour with all those Lamaze techniques and finally went through a C-Section (much to her relief!), the first sound she remembered after coming back to the hospital room was this tiny little creature screaming her lungs out. And her first thoughts "They can be so loud?!" "Is something wrong?" "What should I do now?"...

Hahaha I will always have vivid memories of that first year.. the sleepless nights as my little baby for some reason seemed to not want to go to sleep.. trying to think up new and effective lullabies.. passing the breastfeeding phase to find it was going to be a challenge to get her to eat solids as well... Phew!

And just as quickly, at 8 months she started sleeping through the night (it was still a challenge to actually put her to sleep, but still 7 hours of PEACE after that!).. got her first tooth.. got toilet trained super fast.. and started walking a couple of months after her first birthday.

Oh yes, the memories of those labour pains fade and whatever craziness you go through in those early months, there are just so many "Awww" moments that it absolutely fools you into wanting to have a second one ;)...

That bawling bundle now wakes up at 6 am with hardly a fuss, gets ready to leave for school by 6:45.. does most of her homework on her own... reads at least a book a day... loves to draw.. loves to write... where did the years fly my baby?

Why I missed Day 2!

As my Dec 1st post came out of my drafts, oh well who am I kidding it was pretty much fully written and I was just hesitating to post it, I forgot to mention that I have taken up a marathon blogging challenge once again for this December. And I missed day 2?! That was much earlier than I expected :(. So here's why..

My little fella has been showing a good improvement in resistance and has been battling his allergies much better than before. All I had to do was think about it to myself of course, and WHAM he's down with a bad attack of congestion followed quickly by fever. He's always a bit of a charmer and though I know that his actual discomfort is also accompanied by a whole lot of dramatics, but still when he starts screwing up his face my heart melts. Didn't feel like writing anything much, so gave it a miss yesterday. And though he's been not feeling too great, the diplomacy is all intact ;).

Me: Where do you want to eat lunch S, with me or with Paati? (My parents stay downstairs and he eats lunch with them on weekends)
S: (in a verrry subdued voice) Whatever you say..
Me: Quickly realizing he's trying to not "hurt" me, but keeping options open as he can watch some TV when downstairs which I wouldn't put on here ;). LOL! Took pity on him and sent him down to eat.

On to today's themed post next :).

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Why target the princesses?

Most of you who have read my blog regularly know that I don't write here much about my strong opinions, mostly only about things that have happened and memories I would like to keep. But there's something that has slowly been getting under my skin in the last few weeks, and I felt it's relevant for me to put it down in this space. Read on, you've been warned ;).

A popular video by GoldieBlox talking about toys for girls was doing the rounds.

While I thought the video was pretty awesome and provides a great option for toys for girls (not boys?), I felt a wee bit irritated that they had to incorporate the part targeting the princess loving kids in the video. Why not consider the princessy items as just another option in the market and let them be too. You can take over the market because you are unique, not necessarily by discouraging something else. Somehow it seemed to me that the upbeat aspect of the ad got a wee bit tarnished by the negativity.

From personal experience I've found that even though dolls or Barbies have never been particularly encouraged at home but D has lately gravitated to playing dress-up Barbie games on the computer, and says she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up (Must admit, that's also due to my watching Project Runway :P). It probably has to do with peer interests and examples, but is it necessary that I discourage this enthusiasm, just because "Oh princesses are so passe!". Why not just let her be, let her explore other options as well, and pick what SHE wants and likes in the end. I'm pretty sure she's not going to want to be a "princess" though I hope she always feel as special as one.
Afterthought Note: I do understand that the advertisement is not against the princess-kids but against the inundation of princess-products and their advertising, but I still feel it could be done without that aspect.
Note 2: I ensure that my daughter understands that most dolls, much like folks in movies or cartoons, are no indication of what people look like in real life.

I come across this negativity in many an argument nowadays - For me to be right, you have to be resoundingly wrong! To prove my worth as a SAHM, I have to bring down working moms - and it's absolutely vice-versa as well - so many working moms condescend and talk down to SAHMs.

Why not just live and let live? As long as a person is content and happy in the space they have chosen, I say Kudos to them and their choices! I am lucky to have family and friends who have hardly ever questioned my choices, and I hope to inculcate the same non-judgmental outlook in my kids as they grow up as well, so wish me luck :).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kidspeak and Poetry

Sometimes I tend to forget that at the age of 5.5, so many phrases still are not familiar to him. Though one would not think that when you hear him discoursing on various subjects ;).

S: Amma, this homework is tooo difficult.
I have a look, and it says "Name 5 things you come across in your bedroom"
Me: Why S, don't you know the things in your bedroom. I'm sure you can name 5 easily!
S: Bed.
Me: Ok good, write that down first.
S: Writes down "bed", and then demonstrates to me by climbing on to the bed and going "across" it - Yes, you can cross the bed! :).
Me: Doubled over with laughter for about 5 minutes. And then explain to him what "come across" means.

What fun it is to try to teach this language and nuances like how "come across" is not the same as "go across" :P.

And as for D, she is just so creative in so many little ways, it astounds me sometimes. She's been an avid reader for a few years now and I can(and do ;)) take a little bit of credit for passing on that love and encouraging it, but the other aspect is that she loves writing down stuff as well. Sometimes a diary of events, sometimes a short story, and the latest are these short poems that I was very thrilled to read :). Writing creatively is not something that comes easily to me, I only do ok with very mundane descriptions of stuff that has actually happened, so I'm pretty awed at her ability and hope to nurture it the best I can.

Here's one of the latest from her repertoire:

In other news, I still plod on with the big questions of parenting, such as the differences (or are they the same?) between chart paper, KG cardboard and my latest discovery of ivory paper?! :)

Friday, November 01, 2013

Dubai Part III and final :)

If I keep being wordy about this, I might need about 10 parts, so decided to go the photo route ;). Here goes:

Day 5:
At the Aquarium at Dubai Mall 
Stood near the tank of Piranhas for a long time to get a click of those teeth ;).

I hope they can't come out of there!

At the top of Burj Khalifa, actually the 124th floor.
I clicked about 20 pics of the sun setting gradually, will not bore you with all of them ;)
Also saw the Fountain show which is next to the mall, no pics as it was dark by then, but it was quite spectacular.

Day 6 and 7 were spent mainly meeting friends, which was very relaxing after all the hectic sightseeing and walking around and a lovely catching up as well.

Day 8:
A "quick" camel ride at the Desert Safari

Mehndi is a part of the experience, but this "extra shiny" one came at a cost :).
Day 9:
IKEA! No pics allowed inside, which made sense I suppose.

Got driven around on the Palm Jumeirah which is completely reclaimed land
This pic has the Burj Al Arab adjoining the sea and the Burj Khalifah in the background
Another breathtaking sunset from the same location
Day 10:
We nearly gave this one a miss, but as I had promised D some snow we managed to just about make it to Ski Dubai. 

I found Dubai's lampposts most fascinating. I must have seen and tried to click at least 7-8 varieties, here are a couple of them :).

And it was time to be back and into our routines before we knew it!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dubai saga - Part II

After the Day 2 full of activity in Al Ain, we continued the weekend (Fri/Sat for them) with a visit to Abu Dhabi. But before that, here's a view of our hotel - Arabian Dreams which was a Club Mahindra property. We were very happy with our experience there, the room provides a full kitchenette and not just the usual water heater you see in most places. There was even a washing machine which was very convenient for a longish trip like ours.

Day 3 was a whirlwind of sightseeing trying to take in a place full of character as much as we could in a day :). Here are some glimpses of what we saw:
Checked out the F1 circuit

The gorgeous colours of the sea on our way

Checked out the opulence of the Emirates Palace Hotel

Yes.. of the bathrooms there as well ;)

Amazing view

And the highlight of the trip, the Mosque at Abu Dhabi

Day 4 morning was spent in Deira City Centre, the urgency of the trip being that I had my heart set on picking up slippers from Birkenstock which are not available in India. Thanks to a kind friend (whom I got to know through FB!) who gave me pointers on where to go and even came along on that day, I was shortly after the proud owner of a pair. For the afternoon, we planned to visit the Global Village which is a setup on a large ground provided for exhibitions. It is unlike anything I had ever seen before - each country puts up their pavilion with stalls and shops of the goods sold in that country. India had the biggest display and lots of lovely goods from Kashmir and a few other states. A couple of clicks, one of a quirky auto from the India pavilion, and another of some lovely blue glazed pottery that caught my eye at one of the other stalls.

Remaining of the trip in a nutshell and mainly in photos, coming up soon :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our Dubai Holiday - I

Those of you who've been reading my blog would already know that my holiday posts are always a "bit" long and have to be broken up into parts. Well, I will definitely have a lot to say about this one in Dubai, as it was a really really memorable one :)

The planning was actually quite impromptu, compared to my usual obsessing over destinations. I try to book the Club Mahindra holidays in advance so as I was looking over their website thinking about Rajasthan in October, I realized that they now have a functional resort in Dubai as well! This being one of those places where we always knew we wanted to go at some point, I thought I would just go ahead and book and think about it later ;). Turns out, October was a good time of the year for Dubai and we just went ahead with booking the plane tickets soon after.

With advice from relatives who suggested to factor in a couple of weekends when they would be free as well, we even rebooked the dates from 10th to 20th (advantage of booking early, we could cancel and rebook without trouble). As luck would have it, that week turned out to be the week of Bakrid and everyone had loads of holidays there.

Note: We found later that there is a significant difference in price when booking an Emirates flight from Bangalore Vs. Chennai, so do note for those who will be planning a trip in the future!

Day 1 we got picked up from the airport by an aunt and uncle of my hubby's and went to the Club Mahindra hotel - a place called Arabian Dreams which pleasantly surpassed our expectations. As we had taken a morning flight, we were not all that tired or jet lagged and decided to start sightseeing bright and early at the Dubai museum. The place is great for learning the history of Dubai and about the local craftsmen and businesses in the early years.

That's a model not an actual one :)
The evening of our first day was to start off our (enforced?) habit of long walks, though on this day it was completely by accident. As we were still new, we walked around in circles a bit and even places that were close by seemed to take forever. Picked up a light meal at one of the malls and then walked back to the hotel.

Day 2 was spent at Al Ain, which is in Abu Dhabi, that is another Emirate of the U.A.E. We visited the hot springs at Green Mubazzara (and these were HOT not warm, I literally couldn't keep my foot in for more than a few seconds though D was most comfortable walking around - a mystery to me!). Here we also stopped at a date tree laden with dates and even plucked a few. This is not usually the season for them, so this was not a normal sight on our visit.

This was followed by lunch at the picturesque Jebel Hafeet. The day was rounded off with the afternoon spent at the Al Ain Zoo. We managed to put in so much road travel so soon after we reached Dubai, thanks to hubby's kind relatives - the earlier mentioned aunt and uncle - who were pretty much our tour guides in Dubai. They took us around themselves to a whole lot of places, and even when not with us gave us all the info we needed. Add to this, a few other friends and relatives whom we spent time with, and the combination of touristy stuff with the home ambience thrown in just made for a wonderful holiday.

The captivating budgerigars

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blogging at Citizen Matters!

As those of you who visit this blog regularly might know, it has "diversified" a lot in the last couple of years :). While I believe my gardening and cooking to very much be a part of my "life as a mom", I was happy to accept a kind offer from Citizen Matters to start a gardening blog on their website. So this means I won't be blogging much on gardening on this space (note I say "much" ;)), and here's the link to my second blog post in the new space:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Homework! Help!!

Ever had that feeling when your kids come to ask you a question about their homework?

sidenote: Yes I am writing a parenting post at last ;).

My older one D is just in her 3rd standard, and this is already a common sight at home:

D: Amma, my Hindi homework is about Samyukt Vyanjan. What does that mean?
Me: Hmmm.. let me think.. (I actually did a lot of Hindi in school, so why can't I remember this?!)
As I'm thinking: But why can't you just bring your Hindi workbook home baby, so that you can actually see what you did in school (smart deflection ;)).
Finally: What else, turn to Google!

D: Where does Violet come on the rainbow?
Me: (Very confidently, I'm sure I know this) It's at the bottom, red is on top.
D: Oh I thought it was on the top.
Me: Hmmm.. Really? Wait let me check "just in case"..

D: I need 3 words with "ei" where it is pronounced as "ee"...
Me: Weird? But that doesn't really sound like "ee"...
Thankfully hubby came up with "conceit" at this point, but still had to browse for that final "seize" !!!

Arghhh!!! I'm quite terrified what the years are going to bring. What do you think fellow parents, does anyone else feel like we need a refresher course to keep up with our kids work at school?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fighting a cold with Carrot Soup

We are all in a "cold"ed state this weekend, and hubby's request for hot soup made me wonder what to make with the items available in the fridge. I was tempted to resort to ready soups, but it collides with my philosophy of eating healthy, especially when already feeling sick. It was carrots that caught the eye, and so carrot soup it had to be :). Browsed online and found a few recipes, but some had potato, some had leeks and I didn't want to add either of those(didn't even have the second of course :P).

So I decided to come up with my own combination for a change, and it came out quite lovely much to my surprise ;). At the risk of turning my blog into a recipe/food blog due to this being the 3rd recipe in a row, I just had to put this one down. The following will make one quick bowl of soup:

2 medium size carrots or 4 small ones
2/3 medium size small onions/shallots cut into thin slices
2 tbsp of roughly cut ginger
2 pieces of elaichi
2 cloves
A handful of coriander leaves

Though most recipes recommend boiling the carrots in water towards the end of the recipe, it was quicker for me(being not too well myself) to throw them in the cooker on top of my rice vessel so that's what I did.

After heating about 1 tbsp of the oil of your choice, throw in the powdered spices. Add and lightly fry the cut onions, throw in the ginger and fry for a little while more. Pour in some pre-boiled water and add the cooked pieces of carrot along with salt to taste. After this has boiled for a couple of minutes, add the coriander before switching off. Blend the mixture in a mixie or food processor, and serve hot.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Bread Blogathon contd - White Sandwich Bread

Every time I pick up a loaf of bread from the store, I have these guilt pangs of not knowing exactly what went into it. I still end up doing it a lot because of my bad planning(most of my bread recipes take a couple of days) that makes me unable to bake bread on a regular basis. But once in a while I get this energy streak, and there was this time I decided "Let me at least make a plain sandwich bread, even if made with maida I will know exactly what went into it!". So I went and looked at my brand new books (thanks to that Flipkart sale :)), to find a quick and easy recipe. Finally the one that was most approachable was from one of my older lot - "Beard on Bread".

1 package or 2 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast ( I used Instant yeast, which means I used 25% less quantity)
1 1/2 to 2 cups warm water
2 tsp Granulated Sugar
3 3/4 to 4 cups All Purpose Flour or Maida
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp Softened butter for buttering bowl and pan (I used Cold-pressed oil)

This recipe will make 1 large loaf using the approx. 9 x 5 x 3 inch pan, or 2 smaller loaves using the approximate 8 x 4 x 2 pan. I tried calculating how I could make 1 smaller loaf and went with halving the quantities, but somehow ended up with a slightly smaller than usual loaf, that tasted AWESOME though!

If using active dry yeast, proof your yeast first to ensure it is still active. This means adding the yeast to the warm water with sugar in it. In my case I used Instant yeast so just added it directly with the dry ingredients. Mix the flour and yeast solution and knead well. This might take anything from 5-10 minutes. I used the KitchenAid which makes it a whole lot easier. Beard says "To test whether the dough has been kneaded enough, make an indentation in it with your fingers; it should spring back. Sometimes blisters will form on the surface of the dough and break, which is another sign that the kneading is sufficient."

Shape the dough into a ball and leave the dough to rest for a few minutes, and then put in a well-oiled bowl for the first rise. Allow it to double, which should take 1 to 2 hours. To know it's ready, the dough should not spring back when pressed.

For the second rising, deflate the dough and then shape into the desired shape of the pan. Cover and leave to double in size again. This might take 40 minutes to 1 1/4 hours. During the second rise, preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Make cuts on top of the loaf, brush with water if required, and set the timer for 35 minutes. Actual baking time may be upto 50 minutes, but start checking after 35. If the top seems to start blackening, cover with aluminium foil. Wait to cool before slicing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bread Blogathon contd. - Peter Reinhart's Transitional Whole Wheat Bread

Where bread making is concerned, I have these weeks of feverish enthusiasm where I want to try one bread after another, and then all of a sudden everything else seems to take priority and I just take a long break from it ;). So well, a couple of weeks back I was back to this feverish stage, and I tried three different types of bread in quick succession.

Though I had stopped buying books after moving over to the Kindle, where cookbooks are concerned I really miss the lovely colourful photos when viewing on the Kindle. And thanks to the sale on Flipkart, I have started building up a bit of a collection. Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads was a book I picked up at full price a few months ago though, and was a bit overwhelmed by the information he has given on not just the technique but the fundas as well. I took it up once again, determined to get a hang of it this time, and ended up trying this transitional bread, which is 50% WW and 50% APF or Maida. His technique involves a 2 day process, but very little actual involved "doing" time. It's just that little bit of extra preparation to do some steps the previous day, and leave it in the fridge or room temperature as required. It is a looong recipe, so I will not be writing all the minute details here. In case you feel something major is missed out, do let me know in the comments and I'll try to fill in the gaps.

1 3/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour (227 gms)
1/2 tsp salt (4 gms)
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp Milk, Buttermilk, Yogurt, Soy Milk, or Rice Milk (I used buttermilk)

  1. Mix all of the soaker ingredients in a bowl for about 1 minute, until it forms a ball. (I used my KitchenAid stand mixer to mix it). 
  2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. If you need to leave it for longer, you can put it in the fridge and use within 3 days. If refrigerated, remember to take out a couple of hours before you need to use it.

1 3/4 cups Unbleached Bread Flour (227 gms) - I used Maida and added 1 tbsp gluten to it to substitute for bread flour, next time will be trying plain maida to check the difference.
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Filtered water at room temperature.

  1. Mix all of the biga ingredients in a bown until it forms a ball. Using wet hands, knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes to ensure the ingredients are all well mixed. It should feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then knead again with wet hands for 1 minute, it will become smoother but still be tacky.
  2. Transfer dough to a clean bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. Remove from fridge about 2 hours before mixing final dough.

For final dough (Day 2):
Use all of soaker and biga
3 1/2 tbsp Whole Wheat Flour
5/8 tsp Salt
2 1/4 Instant Yeast
2 1/4 tbsp honey or agave nectar (or) 3 tbsp sugar or brown sugar - I used honey
1 tbsp unsalted butter or vegetable oil - I used oil
3 1/2 tbsp extra WW flour for adjustments

  1. Place the soaker on top of the biga (in circular shape) and using a metal pastry scraper, chop into 12 smaller pieces (pizza style). Combine these pieces along with all the other ingredients above (except the extra flour), and knead well for 2 minutes. If using a stand mixer, you can mix with the paddle attachment on slow speed until it forms a ball, and then use the dough hook to knead further. Add more flour or water until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.
  2. Knead until the dough doesn't feel sticky. Leave to rest for 5 minutes, and then knead again until the gluten is strengthened and the windowpane test is passed. Form into a ball and leave in a well oiled bowl to rise in a warm place. In about 45-60 minutes it should rise to 1 1/2 times its original size.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and form into a loaf pan shape. Place into a greased 4 by 8 1/2 inch loaf pan and leaf covered to rise. In 45-60 minutes it should have risen to 1 1/2 times the original size.
  4. Preheat oven to 218 degrees C,  during the second rise. When ready to bake, place loaf pan in oven and lower temperature to 177 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate and then bake for 20-30 minutes until you see a rich brown colour and the internal temperature of the loaf is 91 degrees C (This is a great indication for bread loaves, else it was always tough for me to assess). If you feel the top is burning too soon, cover with aluminium foil and continue baking.
  5. Transfer to cooling rack and cool for at least an hour before serving.

And now you know why I was lazy to take up writing down this recipe on the blog ;). The actual doing though is not all that tough.. the steps go by quite quickly. And yes, here was what the loaf finally looked like :):

Sunday, July 14, 2013

It was Movie Week :)

We've had quite a few movie starved years, to most viewings limited to what's on TV. In the last couple of years, we managed to go for a few animated kids movies, and the occasional "grown-up" one too, but this week was a refreshing change. With hubby spending some time at home, we managed to catch a couple of morning shows.

Singam II - A total masala and action packed flick, carried totally on the shoulders of the able Suriya. I must say I went in with exactly this expectation and thoroughly enjoyed myself :). There are very few tamil movies that I manage to watch in the theatre so this was quite a treat, and I enjoyed every punchline and every exaggerated fight sequence! Once upon a time, I used to turn up my nose at "violent" movies, and considering that the last tamil movie I saw was Viswaroopam (a total gore-fest), how we seem to change with the times ;). Mentioning the heroines as an afterthought, because they nearly were that in the movie - Hansika Motwani actually had a meatier role than the continuing heroine from the first movie, Anushka Shetty. The usual sudden song sequences and grinding hips were very much present as well :).

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag - It helps sometimes to be a bit vague and unaware of the stories of famous people like Milkha Singh, because it made the movie that much more enjoyable for me. I guess for someone who read up or already knew his history before going into the movie, it might seem a bit slow moving at times. But in my case, I was completely riveted by the story, and needless to mention Farhan Akhtar as well. In this case, the story completely justified it being a complete hero-oriented movie, but I was still quite surprised by the length of Sonam Kapoor's role. I was also waiting during the movie credits on a few lines about what Milkha Singh was doing after the happenings in the movie (English movie ishtyle I guess), but that never happened.

Talaash - This one was on TV last night, and we never managed to catch it in the theatre when it was playing of course, so I determinedly sat and watched it until 12 o'clock. And had to go a little "huh?!" at the final twist part. I need to elaborate here, and JUST in case someone actually wants to see this one later, do not scroll down...
I mean, seriously "Sixth Sense" style?!! My mind refused to take in the whole supernatural twist, though of course that was the tagline of the movie and I should have realized something like this was coming I suppose. No wonder this one did not have a great box office showing, though disappointed that one of my favourite actors was stuck with this storyline.

Forgot to mention, I also liked the fact that none of these movies were 3-D!! Lately it seems like every movie we've been to, has been with those glasses on, and the charm has worn off a bit for me.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Orange Rhino Challenge

This one's been lying in my drafts for a few weeks now, so I thought it was high time it saw the light of day.

It started with this post I came across on Facebook, and also shared on my timeline to much discussion :)

Soon after that I visited the Orange Rhino page and read many more of her blog posts. I just felt a big connection to her writing, and her straightforwardness in expressing her shortcomings. I was nodding my head to so much of the stuff she said, such as this Ode to the Moms I shall never be. I also liked the fact that she set realistic goals, and encourages everyone to do the same. It's not about taking it on for a year like her, you can try a week, a month or even not count at all if that works better for you.

She had a recent 30 day challenge, not so much a no-yelling challenge as a preparation on how to start the journey. Well I read the emails, agreed to everything but somehow feel an inertia to just say "Here I am, starting off now!". Still pretty much at the introspection stage and wondering how to go about it, but here are some thoughts.

  • There are degrees of yelling, and I don't consider just raising my voice as a bad thing to do. It is only the times when I feel hyperventilated, blood rushing to my head that I know it's crossed the line, at least in my eyes.
  • No yelling does NOT mean no disciplining. As a generation of parents, I think we (and by that I mean many others ;)) let our kids get away with a little too much. Kids will be kids, yes, but there are absolute no-nos and basic behavioural stuff that I will not condone. In such situations, if some degree of yelling is called for (again not the type mentioned above), so be it.
  • In most situations where the worst type of yelling happens, there is nearly ALWAYS a secondary reason involved - a headache, a missed deadline, a fight with the better half. So most times it is a question of stopping and thinking, now if only I can remember that an instant before the yell!
  • Involving the kids can be embarrassing (Ma, but you said no yelling!) but effective I think, so that's definitely in my plan.
Can't delay the inevitable much more, so here goes. Announcing to the blogosphere and my friends and  family reading this, that tomorrow shall be Day 1. I'm sure many updates shall be coming up on "restarted" Day 1s so watch this space ;).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A new life is always exciting!

And I'm talking about my garden of course :).. I honestly feel plants need more taking care of than babies.. as babies grow up and learn to do things like drinking water and milk themselves, but with plants you have to continue to do the watering and feeding for a long long time :P.

I had a lot of lows in the garden over the last few months, especially with leaf curl refusing to leave, and though I'm not completely sure if it has eased up yet, at least SOME things seem to be growing. Here are some snapshots which is always the easiest way to convey what's going on :)
Guava nearly ready to pluck, so what if I get only 4-5 every season I appreciate every one of them!
Sold to me as Israeli Oranges, finally deciphered to be Kumquats
No matter how many times you have seen beans germinate, it remains a fascinating sight!
The box contains Arka Suvidha, Pelandron and Winged beans - all seeds from Annadana
The photo might look like a repeat, but this is the number of chillies on the plant after I harvested the last lot!
Forcing me to add more "spice" to life ;)
Kale in the making
I thought I had killed this orchid off, but it decided to come back to life!
I do love my colours :).. though my need for brightness is mostly supplied by my veggie flowers I still love a few flowering plants and succulents on my terrace, here are some:

Here's to the monsoons and some "automatic" watering for my plants soon !!