Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Potter mania - the final instalment

As predicted, we did end up not standing in the midnight queues. After a hearty breakfast, we went down to the local ASDA at a very civilized hour of around 11AM. Almost everyone walking out of the store had the book and we entered just as the store announced to get the book while stocks last. We decided to spread out, and first get our copies. I rushed down the book aisles but couldn't find it. And then in the distance, i spotted a lady (obviously a mum) flipping through the pages with her young son tugging at her jeans and asking "mum, does harry potter die?" and i looked around her but still couldn't spot it. Finally i asked her and she pointed it out to me - "just around the corner and well in that big box lying there" - i could just see an empty box with a few copies. Shrirang had spotted it at exactly the same time, I quickly picked up the books. Well i shouldn't have really grabbed them in that very greedy manner because i saw a shelf full of them just behind me. You guessed it right, we ended up buying two copies of the book along with ready-to-eat food. ( I couldn't be bothered with slaving in the kitchen - the book was waiting to be read). On the way back, we decided to evenly divide all weekend chores and take turns to keep Mihir entertained - that way both of us would get a chance to read the book.

A few hours later and you can imagine the scene at home - best described by the headlines from the Daily Mail In 1m homes today, Harry Potter and the deathly silence which then went on to say There's a powerful magic at work today which renders bedrooms and sitting rooms utterly silent, save for the rasp of turning pages. - its almost as if they had sneaked into our house with an invisibility cloak borrowed from Harry. So both of us were reading the book, with Mihir trying his best to keep us away from it. But we did finish it - and i took almost three days to finish it - just because of all the nappy changes and Mihir's meal-times that seem to last forever.

I loved the book, it was racy, at times really dark but with some great humour thrown in for relief. As always J K Rowling's description helps you visualize - so the best way to describe it would be to say that i could see it happening (reading her books is like watching a movie). There are twists and turns in the storyline to compete with the erstwhile Khandala ghat - and well saying any more will probably give it away. But this is what i will also point out - the best thing of this book is the way it ties in to the earlier books in terms of weapons used by the good ones to fight Lord Voldemort and his cronies - remember Mandrake roots - so it might be worthwhile to just skim through the earlier books and find things that could be used in a fight. In terms of ranking her books, this one is there - right at the top - but it would still rank second to the first book - that one remains my absolute favourite.

Delicious Vegetable Upma

This is something that my son loves, and as a mother it is a very pleasing recipe for me as I can add all the veggies that I want my son to eat.
The ingredients are: 1.5 tablespoons semolina, 1 tablespoon clarified butter/ghee/unsalted butter, 1/2 small onion, 4-5 curry leaves(these are optional or you can cut them into small pieces), mustard seeds, jeera (cumin), 1/2 carrot, 3 french beans, green peas, water, salt, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, few drops lemon juice, fresh coriander leaves.
What you will need: 1 pan with lid, 1 mixer-grinder, spoons
Method: (1) Cut the onion into tiny bits, & peel & cut the carrot, de-thread the french beans, cut into pieces. (2) In the pan put half the quantity of clarified butter & roast the semolina in it till it is light pink in color. Remove the semolina from the pan & set aside(3) Put the carrot, french beans, peas in the mixer-grinder & run it till you get a paste or till pieces are small enough to be swallowed by your kids. (4) In the pan put the remaining clarified butter, once it is hot throw in the mustard seeds & cumin seeds followed by the curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds sputter, put in the onion & fry till pink in color. (5) Next put in the semolina & then the vegetables-paste, then add water & salt. Put the lid on.(6) After about 4 minutes, stir & add the sugar. Put the lid back on for another 2-3 minutes. (7) While serving add the lemon juice & coriander leaves (which are again optional). (8) Children like yogurt with this dish so this dish can be a breakfast or a lunch.
Tips: You can add any vegetables to this dish as per your choice. Serving this along with a fruit juice will be better & the juice will help to absorb all the nutrients that the dish provides. If you have introduced turmeric to your child, add it just before adding the semolina to the fried onions in the pan


Many of you will identify with me, when I tell you that some days of the month are really tough on me as well as for my family !!
My journey with PMS started after I gave birth to my son. Some say it is the only time of the month when you are your true self. Well if that is true then I have a very scary true self & I definitely do not want to be 'that'. I get angry at every small thing, I never knew I could get so angry...
Some suggest exercising to keep the hormonal balance, walking is a good thing to do as it clears your head. Lately I have started Evening Primrose Oil capsules & have felt some difference in me but I think I need to do more on the exercise part. It is utmost crucial for the family to understand & bear with the lady at this time so that the sailing is smooth for all.

How to Get your kids to chew food?

Hey all, my son is going to be 2 years next month & he still does not chew his food. Is it my fault for giving him soft foods? But he does eat i.e. bite and chew things like french fries, wafers etc.
I have tried feeding him a banana (a relatively soft fruit) as we elders do, he did manage to take bites & chew but after some time he gave up as if to say that it is too much work. So I ended up mashing it for him again after which he ate it all !!

If you have any ideas, suggestions for me please do write them down in the comments.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Climate Change - 1

On Sunday 22nd July, Oprah had former Vice President Al Gore on board as guest. What Al Gore had to say was shocking & eye opening to me. "Some of the leading scientists are now saying we may have as little as 10 years before we cross a kind of point-of-no-return, beyond which it's much more difficult to save the habitability of the planet in the future," Gore says.
While other planets are either much too hot or much too cold, Earth is just right for life.As humans add pollution like carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air, the Earth's atmosphere becomes thicker. The thicker atmosphere traps more of the reflected radiation, raising overall temperature. This process is what we call "global warming." Other major factors adding to global warming, include the burning of coal, oil, gasoline and forests.

Do visit the link
to read about the entire show. Infact Al Gore has written a book 'An Inconvenient Truth', and also now has a DVD documentary; I am sure they are good sources of information.
When I saw the show I was scared & shocked, I even thought 'Oh my Gosh...what a fearful future we have for our children', and thought about all the animals that they may not see for real, they may witness the submerging of some cities, & worst still we along with them will have to witness 'climate change refugees'....what a world we have for them :(
But then again I remembered what my mother always says...she says that let fear propel you further to seek what you can do to make things better. So I gathered myself & sat down to do some reading & research and want to share the knowledge with you all.

Here are some things that we can do as our bit for saving our Earth:
  • Instead of regular aluminum foil or plastic wrap, purchase recycled aluminum foil. It uses just 1/20th of the energy needed to produce regular foil.
  • Look for items without extensive packaging. Most food packaging material uses some petroleum-based plastic. Look for minimally or unpackaged items instead. Experiment with bringing your own packaging or buying in bulk. Purchase brands that use bio-based instead of petroleum-based plastic. Recycle or reuse packaging materials you end up having to buy.
  • Bring a cloth bag to the grocery store instead of using its plastic bags. An estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. That's 1 million bags used per minute. These bags will clog landfills, create litter, choke streams and harm marine wildlife, like whales, seals and sea turtles.
  • Buy local and organic.Buying seasonal, locally produced food helps in a number of ways. Most food travels 1,500 miles from "farm to fork." But buying local food drastically reduces the energy spent on food shipping. Local goods also tend to use minimal packaging, are fresher and come in more varieties. The best way to track down local food is at your local farmers markets or fresh markets. Farmers who grow produce organically use less fossil fuel and release fewer greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Organic farming is better for the land, for the farmers, and for the consumers.
  • Change the light fixtures in your home to 'energy saving' options available. Switch off the main supply to any of your electrical appliances as even if the appliance is 'OFF' it still drawn in power. Use the dishwasher only if you are going to have a full load, for a few items one can do it with hands. Do your laundry weekly, when you can use the machine at full load.
  • Use your own water bottle to carry water when going out. It takes almost 5 litres of water to make one, 1 litre bottle of water. If you are buying a re-usable plastic bottle, use one which is grade-2/4/5 plastic. This information is on the bottom of the bottle.
  • We a lot of chemicals in our homes by way of cleaning products. These are known to cause respiratory illnesses & allergies. There are some well known companies that make organic cleaning products, they are: Method, Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation & Shaklee. The truth about cleaning is that it should not have a toxic smell; clean is just clean.

Things that are not recyclable: Styrofoam peanuts used in packing, broken glass, light bulbs, ceramics, Styrofoam, Pyrex, some yogurt containers, aerosol cans, soiled boxes and anything covered in wax paper are not recyclable. One way to stop these items from entering land-fills is returning Styrofoam peanuts to packaging companies and bringing your own containers to restaurants when you're ordering take-out.

For more information, I suggest keeping a regular vigil on the following web sites.,, My friend Ranjeeta also has a very good write up about the issue, you can read it at: This is just the beginning of a very vast topic, I shall cover more details in later posts. So do keep visiting.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Healthy snacking

Snacks are not always the culprit that they are made out to be in a weightloss plan. Eating little and often is the mantra to healthy eating and weightloss. Given below are some healthy snacks which actually helped me lose weight after pregnancy:
  • Brown bread/Multigrain bread with a thin layer of cottage cheese
  • Fruit salad (Do not include high calories fruits such as mango or avocado)
  • Rice cake with toppings of fresh fruit
  • Fruit smoothie ( has some recipes and you can also modify them according to your taste).
  • Puffed rice (I mix them with raw onions, slices of tomatoes, chillies and fresh coriander leaves)
  • Skimmed milk
  • Salted Lassi (yoghurt blended with water)
  • A bowl of salad (many possibilities exist here but avoid salad dressings.)
  • Cherry tomatoes/baby carrots (one cup) with a yoghurt dip.

If you like hot drinks during the day then green tea is great as it has antioxidants and tastes good without sugar.It also helps the body to burn fat.

Healthy snacking, if done wisely, can be our ally in our weightloss efforts as it can fuel our metabolism and take the edge off our hunger during the main meals.

Lose weight with house work !!

I am sure you must have seen a lot of mothers who are TV or film actors; and wondered how they manage to stay so slim?? I am sure you are already thinking of all the available 'facilities' that they have and we do not...well let me give you a good news...
According to the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, washing the bathroom can be as much a workout as a moderate aerobic session at a gym !! sounds great on !!!
Chores & Calories
An Australian research was equally unequivocal about housework as "moderate" exercise. They concluded that except for vacuuming, most other chores "have the potential to confer health benefits when performed for adequate duration & frequency".

Well if you are a SAHM (stay at home mom) you are probably sniggering that it should take a research to establish that housework should qualify as exercise. Why else would the chores leave you with a sore back? But research also says that these chores will not tone your body, wear off that tummy, get those lovely cuts on your limbs if done in a bored, irritated or lethargic manner.

A study done in Bangalore found that the overall pattern of activity for Indians was rather low while they were in their teens, particularly for girls. Again, the activity level dipped after fifties, showing the link between the high rate of degenerative diseases like blood pressure, diabetes or arteriosclerosis which afflicts this section of our population.

Unlocking Benefits
There are several keys to unlocking the health benefits of housework.
  • Keeping your posture aligned & moving quickly from one chore to another will raise your heart beat & tone up those muscles

  • Tucking in the tummy muscles consciously will act as a great belly-cruncher & prevent later disasters like the dowager's hump,love handles that ruin your silhouette

  • Keeping the knees bent slightly, while vacuuming, will work out the lower limbs

  • Tucking in the tummy while lifting & placing objects, warming up before & cooling down after the chores will de-stress you, making you feel less exploited, and also wear off the lactic acid build up (that is a metabolic waste from any activity) which will later manifest as irritability

  • Cleaning windows & cars works out the upper body. To determine the intensity of your activity try to talk someone while engaged in the chore. If you can hold a conversation you are not burning up calories!!

  • Exaggerating the arm movements while arranging dishes or drying clothes. can help tone flabby arms

Half an hour of - Burns

Decorating or Painting - 160 cals

Ironing - 70 cals

Laundry service - 71 cals

Playing actively with children - 90 cals

Power cleaning (dusting or vacuuming) - 201 cals

Active gardening - 104 cals

Car washing - 143 cals

Scrubbing floors - 100 cals

Cooking - 40 cals

Washing windows - 75 cals

Washing dishes - 30 cals

Rearranging furniture - 100 cals

These are as per the American Association of Cancer Research

How to work out at home while doing your chores

  • Wear workout clothes while cleaning

  • Turn on some spiffy music to infuse energy in your slackening steps

  • While waiting for the cooker whistle to go off or the vegetables to fry just right, do a few lunges, squats or full body stretches

  • Place back each dish individually on the rack, so that you walk that extra mile

  • Strap on a pedometer to gauge how many steps you have actually taken while doing the chores

  • Do bicep curls with anything you are holding; shopping bags, fridge bottles or even milk cartons

  • Always warm up & cool down so you never lose focus of the chores as providing you that powerful workout
This post has inputs from a news paper article authored by well known yoga acharya Shameem Akhtar

Friday, July 20, 2007

Yummy soups for all...

Tomato Soup
2 tomatoes, 1 small onion, 1 carrot, 1/2 beet root, 2 cloves of garlic, a small piece of ginger, 1 teaspoon jeera, black pepper, salt, water. Optionally 1 potato can be added if you are making it just for your kids.
What you need: Pressure Cooker/deep pan with lid, mixer, spoons.
Method: Cut all the vegetables, add 1 cup of water , add the jeera, black pepper & salt. Cook in the pressure cooker on a medium flame till 2 whistles. Once cool, put it in a mixer to get a fine consistency. If you want to give it to kids then strain it, for the rest the extra fibre will only be good. Heat before serving, garnish with a dash of cream & add some bread croutons.

Mix-Veg Soup
2 tomatoes, 1 medium onion, 1 carrot, 5-6 french beans, 1/2 beet root, small piece of cabbage, few florets of cauliflower, spinach leaves, few green peas, 1/2 capsicum, 2 cloves of garlic, a small piece of ginger, 1 teaspoon jeera, black pepper, 1 teaspoon garam masala, salt, water. Again potato is an option.
What you need: Pressure Cooker/deep pan with lid, mixer, spoons.
Method: Cut all the vegetables, add 1 cup of water , add the jeera, black pepper garam masala & salt. Cook in the pressure cooker on a medium flame till 2 whistles. Once cool, put it in a mixer to get a fine consistency. If you want to give it to kids then strain it, for the rest the extra fibre will only be good. Heat before serving & add some bread croutons.

Doodhi Soup
1 small doodhi (50-60 gms), 1 small onion, a small piece of ginger, 10 mint leaves, 7-8 tulsi leaves, 1 or 2 green chillies, 1 teaspoon jeera, black pepper, salt, water.
What you need: Pressure Cooker/deep pan with lid, mixer, spoons.
Method: Cut all the vegetables, add 1 cup of water ,add the jeera, black pepper & salt. Cook in the pressure cooker on a medium flame till 2 whistles. Once cool, put it in a mixer to get a fine consistency. If you want to give it to kids then strain it, for the rest the extra fibre will only be good. Heat before serving, garnish with a dash of cream.

Palak/Spinach Soup
10-12 Spinach/Palak leaves, 1 tomato, 1 medium onion, 2 green chillies, 2 cloves of garlic, a small piece of ginger, 1 teaspoon jeera, black pepper, garam masala, salt, water.
What you need: Pressure Cooker/deep pan with lid, mixer, spoons.
Method: Cut all the vegetables, add 1 cup of water , add the jeera, black pepper, garam masala & salt. Cook in the pressure cooker on a medium flame till 2 whistles. Once cool, put it in a mixer to get a fine consistency. If you want to give it to kids then strain it, for the rest the extra fibre will only be good. Heat before serving, garnish with a dash of cream & bread croutons.

How to make delicious n crispy bread croutons:
I like to use a thick sliced bread for this. I cut the slices into small squares, then I put them on a baking tray, put generous amount of olive oil on top of the bread pieces and cover them well. No salt is added. Heat these in an oven at 180 degree Centigrade for 12-15 minutes. These are the plain croutons. One variation that can be done is by adding Italian Herbs along with the olive oil to cover the bread pieces well. Rest all remains the same. One can find bottles of mixed Italian herbs in super markets. The croutons are best stored in zip-lock bags with some kitchen paper inside to soak in any unwanted moisture. I keep the bags in the fridge. Make these croutons over a weekend and enjoy throughout the week when ever you make any of the above listed soups.

Potter mania - Edinburgh remembered

As i watched the news this morning and saw all those people queuing outside the bookshops (already!!! - by the time they get the book, some of them will have been there for nearly 58 hours) to be able to lay their hands on the latest book at midnight, my mind wandered two years back in time to another Potter book release.

It was around the same time in July and this was the book release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We were in Edinburgh and the book was being released at midnight - and there was a special book-reading by J K Rowling, organized at the Edinburgh castle. It was lovely, the castle was lit up in a soft glow and it was a bit chilly. The castle overlooks Princess Street and we (Shrirang and I) were queuing outside the Waterstones book store - eagerly waiting for the book and debating on who should get to read the book first. And there we were, at around 10.30PM, miles away from the bookstore door, queuing up with like minded people and discussing with others what would be happening in this book. At one point, i remember, it started drizzling and as part of the Potter promotions, they distributed some black coloured raincoats - that looked like the cloaks that the students would wear to Hogwarts. At this point, the Burger King joint next to where we were standing did some rapid business selling steaming tea and coffee. I was quite excited by it all. Children around us had come all dressed for the occasion wearing pointy hats and carrying wands. And as part of the promotion, the book store had arranged for some people to be dressed as Dumbledore and Hagrid. It was fun. We quite enjoyed our wait there - but the debate on who gets to read it first continued. Finally at midnight the doors opened and the queue moved surprisingly quickly - in around 15 minutes we were in the shop. And as we got to the counter, we decide to resolve our fight - we finally bought two copies of the book.

Sadly, this time around, we haven't yet decided on whether we will be going and waiting outside the book store, and in either case, here in London, it will not be the same - we will miss the towering presence of the Edinburgh castle. So for all you know, like staid grown-ups, we might just get our books tomorrow afternoon - from the supermarket. But i am pretty certain - that this time around as well - we might end up buying two copies.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Family Tree

One of my cousins invited me at which is a website where you can build your family tree and stay in touch with each other. It is good fun especially for big globalized families like my grandmother's side of the family. There are already 160 members in our family tree and we have just started.

Face Packs

One of the best things that happen when you are a mother is that you laugh a lot...and as they say laughter is the best medicine; we should be grateful for all that laughter that makes our skin glow !!

With babies around do we have time to go to our parlour & indulge in a facial or anything for that matter??? The answer to many would be 'NO'..well let me share with you some of the little things I do.

When ever (this actually happened daily) my son ate a fruit, say a banana, apple, papaya...he would never finish the entire portion that I gave him so I always had leftovers. These would have gone straight to the dustbin, but instead I put them on my face & neck. Leave it for 10-15 minutes and wash off; and I found my skin looking really fresh, clean and glowing !!

Another thing that is very useful and just a good cleansing job is this. Take equal quantity of chana daal, moong daal, masoor daal, grind all these together in a mixer into somewhat coarse (like your face scrub) powder. Store this in an air-tight container. When you go for bath, just take few spoon-fulls of this mixture, add little milk & use this instead of soap. Do this regularly and welcome back your beautiful skin !!

If you have a hairy baby like mine, you can use it on them as well !!

So do try this and I am sure all of you will have superb skin, & we will not feel bad about not being able to go for that much needed facial.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Time Saving Yummy Curries

Hey this is for all those people who want to make delicious food while still running a tight schedule. I am going to tell you about three variations of gravies/curries that you can prepare in advance and use them as and when you want. The advance preparation saves a lot of time.

The preparations that I am about to describe below are best made on a weekend or on whichever day you have time. I would say 30-40 minutes is all you need. The curries that we will discuss below, will actually be in a thick paste form, so that once they are ready and cooled we can store them in the deep freezer and use them when ever we want to make a gravy of that style. We will make the basic gravy paste, which we will fine tune to our requirement later when we make the curries. Each preparation should give you 5-6 actual curries, for 2 people with 2 servings.

Curry type one:
Ingredients: 1 large onion, 250 gms of tomato puree, 15-20 almonds or cashew nuts, turmeric, red chili powder, cumin seeds, coriander powder, salt, water, oil/ghee.

Other things you need: 1 medium sized pan/wok, mixer-grinder, spatula, spoon, plastic container.

  1. Soak the almonds/cashew in water for 3-4 hours. Peel the almonds and grind them to a paste. It should not be too smooth. Remove from the grinder.

  2. Cut the onions into squares. Put the pieces in a grinder and grind to a paste.

  3. In the pan put about 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee, after it is hot, put in the onion paste, fry the onion paste till they are pink.

  4. Put in the tomato puree, after about 3-4 minutes add the almond/cashew nut paste. Let this cook for 5-7 minutes on a medium flame.

  5. Now add in the spices as per your taste keeping in mind that this is just the base. After adding the salt, fry with constant stirring until you obtain a thick paste.

  6. Allow this to cool and store in a good quality plastic container in your deep freezer.

  7. To make actual curry: Cut a small/medium sized onion, fry it in a pan, add in some cumin seeds, then add in 1 tablespoon of our frozen paste. Fry this until oil leaves the sides of the paste. Add in the other spices as per your taste. Add the vegetables and stir, add water as per the consistency you want. Garnish with coriander leaves.

  8. For this gravy, I suggest Paneer (cottage cheese), Paneer & Peas, Peas & Potato, Peas, Potato & Carrots. I have not yet tried this one with Chicken, but I think it should go well. Only we should add butter when actually making the will have yummy Butter-Chicken.

Curry type two:
Ingredients: 3 large onion, 250 gms of tomato puree, 1 inch piece of ginger, 5 cloves of garlic, garam masala, turmeric, red chili powder, cumin seeds, coriander powder, fresh coriander leaves with stalks, salt, water, oil/ghee.

Other things you need: 2 medium sized pan/wok, mixer-grinder, spatula, spoon, plastic container.


  1. Cut the onions into this slices. Take 1 tablespoon of oil in a thick bottom pan. Fry the onions in this oil until they are dark brown. Be very careful as they might burn.

  2. Once the onions are fried, add the garam masala, turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder. Roast all this for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, grind all this with little water.

  3. In another pan take 2 tablespoons of oil, put in the paste we made in step 2. Fry for 4-5 minutes, then add in the tomato puree. Cook this until you get a thick paste.

  4. Cool and store in the deep freezer.

  5. We can eliminate step 3, and add in the tomatoes when we are making the gravy.

  6. Another variation in this curry-paste is adding grated dry coconut (khobra) & poppy seeds, once the onions are fried. The rest remains same. This variation in gravy can be used for Chicken, Mutton dishes.

  7. Something to remember is that this paste is dark in color, which means that it primarily gets its color from the fried onions and the garam masala. So I suggest you add 3-4 teaspoons of garam masala.

Curry type three:

Ingredients: 2 large onion, 250 gms of tomato puree, 100 gms yogurt, 1 inch piece of ginger, 4 cloves of garlic, garam masala, turmeric, red chili powder, cumin seeds, coriander powder, fresh coriander leaves with stalks, salt, water, oil/ghee. In this the ginger, garlic & coriander leaves can be in form of a paste.

Other things you need: 1 medium sized pan/wok, mixer-grinder, spatula, spoon, plastic container.


  1. Cut the onions into squares. Put the pieces in a grinder and grind to a paste.
    In the pan put about 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee, after it is hot, put in the onion paste, fry the onion paste till they are pink.
  2. Put in the ginger & garlic fry till pink, then add the tomato puree, cook for about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Now add in the spices and stir for 3-4 minutes. Last step after adding the salt is to add the yogurt. Stir continuously. Cook this till you get a thick paste.
  4. Cool & store
  5. I like to use this for Paneer & Capsicum, Paneer & Peas, Potato & Capsicum. Chicken also tastes great with this gravy.

Do try these and tell me about your experience. If you need any help or suggestions do let me know. Till then TC !!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Our Portrait Experience

It all started a couple of months back... i returned from Pune to find a letter with a voucher for a free studio session for my family with Venture Studios. I thought to myself i have never really had a professional photo shoot and this would be a good time for us to have our photos clicked - especially as we are notorious for having really ridiculous expressions in our photos and well to be brutally honest, end up with rather average looking photos (all three of us are prone to put on a camera face - have you seen Chandler's photo shoot experience on Friends). Now Venture says in its advertisements that its not just any other portrait photograph - but its an experience which results in a work of art that you will treasure - to tell you the truth i just thought it was a marketing tag line and was really skeptical about the whole thing - but freebies do entice me (as BMI advertises its loyalty program with - its the free ride that you enjoy the most). So we went for it.

So we booked an appointment for our session. The previous day, our photographer called us and got to know all about us and advised us on what would be good clothes to wear - what to avoid and had a brief chat, making me really comfortable. So we arrived at the studio the next day and were greeted by the right names and they made us feel so comfortable. We started our photo shoot and it was great. We had so much fun together, laughing, lying down, rolling onto our stomachs, with Mihir enjoying all the superman antics and we almost forgot that they were taking photographs at the time. I have never known an hour to pass by so quickly.

Once you have done the photo-shoot session, you then book a viewing session, where the photographer does some magic with the images and presents them to you on a large screen with lights all dimmed and some lovely music in the background - your own movie being played to you. And to say the least, this was an awesome experience. It did bring a tear to my eye to see the wonderful images - expressions captured in time - when you are having fun - letting your hair down - you don't know you are on camera and some truly fantastic moments with the most unbelievable expressions captured by the photographers lens - frozen in time on an image and with some creative magic presented to you - in the perfect setting. This was of course followed by the most difficult decision of all - which photographs did we want - and in what form. Well we had a budget - which i doubled on the spot - and ended up choosing three images - two for two sets of grandparents and one for us and in a deskframe format - this was the format that was most convenient for us - as we move houses here and in Pune. But they have some amazing frames and i know that there is one particular image that i am going to purchase sometime in the future once we have decided where we are going to be for the long term.

The images are then converted to a work of art (printed and framed) and are available to you in a couple of weeks. I just collected mine last week and they are really beautiful images - they look amazing and everytime we look at them, we have a smile. The true testimonial to this is the fact that my neighbour wants me to have her partner over, so that he can see the images for himself and then she is certain he will want to have a session done for themselves.

So you can have a look at their website - they are expanding globally and might soon come to your town and then well its an experience you shouldn't miss on. You can check out their website for more information - its

And for students of marketing and branding - this is one real cool branding story. I can now relate it to the hours spent with consumer behaviour and services marketing textbooks - to experience a live case study - its wonderful. I teaches you so much more than whats there in print. But i guess this aspect of it - will make for another post for some other time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Comfort Foods

Comfort foods are the gastronomic equivalent of a relaxing shower or a favorite blanket. Many people crave comfort foods when they are stressed out or away from home or overworked. With two kids and a house to run I often feel frazzled and tend to seek refuge in food. I know that this is something that I should not be doing but I just can't help it at times.

My favorite comfort foods are icecream and potato crisps. I usually take potato crisps with a can of diet drink or a cup of hot Milo. I find hot Milo refreshing even in warm weathers....somehow hot drinks soothe me more. I am unable to lose weight partly because of my comfort foods. I indulge in emotional eating especially during those long afternoons when I have to keep my active toddler occupied.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Food Doctor

I have just finished reading "The Food Doctor for Babies and Children". It is a book worth reading as it reveals how to ensure that your child is optimally nourished from his food. It looks at each age group and identifies the key nutritional requirements at that age group e.g. 0-6 months , 7-18 months etc.
It also deals with weight problems, fussy eating behavior ,food allergies and intolerances. It gives the top 40 foods for children which I really found useful. And I just can't wait to try out the recipes given at the end of the book....they are healthy and yummy at the same time. The book is practical and the principles of good eating are easy to apply....worth reading especially when you can make a difference in your child's health and development.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

First Day of Playgroup

A friend of mine and I were doing our daily SCS (short chat session) when she told me that she was all nerves as her son was to start going to day-care for 4 hours, 3-times a week; and that the much dreaded "First Day" was the very next day !!

I tried to pacify her, and told her not to worry and that kids these days are very smart and that they love new places and people. Her only worry was that her son is not used to eating on his own and may not take food from anyone other than her.

I think most Indian mothers would worry about that, as we do not encourage our babies to feed themselves. Even I feel it is a very motherly thing to feed our baby with our own hands. I like it.

As I kept thinking about my friends dilemma it brought back memories about my son's first day at playgroup. I too was nervous, but I knew my son would love being with other kids & enjoy all the activities there. For me the primary reason to put him in a playgroup was to give him a chance to interact with other kids.

On the first day, we woke up really early, had bath, and clicked some snaps while getting ready. After some breakfast my son & I headed to the school. We entered the classroom and the teachers began with some good-morning song and greeted all the kids. They then introduced my son to all the others.

By this time my son had seen all the toys around and was up from where we sat and went to explore all the toys. This he did while all the rest had heard a story from the teachers and some more songs were sung.

Then it was time to sit at the table, and my son refused to sit down on his chair and wanted to play in the other room. I was like 'goshhh my son is never going to like school if they make him sit down on a chair !!'

Finally after a lot of cajoling by the teachers, he did sit down, but within few minutes he motioned me to say 'mumma lets go home' !!

At snack time he did not like what was given to him, there again I was worried that he will never eat what is given at school.

After snacks there were 2 more lessons in number counting and coloring.
When they were busy with their coloring I decided to step out to see how my son reacts at finding himself alone with new people.

I sat down at the lobby and 2 minutes later herd my son cry for me, my heart tore apart!! A part of me wanted to rush inside the classroom and take him into my arms, but another part said 'let him be, let his teachers comfort him', 'don't worry he will be OK'...
I was so troubled and did not know what to do...this went on for 20 minutes. Finally the school time was over and the teacher brought out my son in her arms.

While handing him over to me she said 'tell him you will wait here for him everyday'. I said what she asked me to say and saw that my son looked into my eyes as if to say 'You will be there na...for me..' I re-assured him with a hug and lots of kisses.

My son was finally at a juncture where he had to leave me (for a while) for his own benefit. Lot of people told me that it was too early for him as he was just 17 months old, but I knew what my son needed and continued sending him.

Now after 5 months of playgroup he is the most favourite student of the teachers, and obeys them. Most importantly he enjoys every bit of his time there.

Except that he still hates his snacks there !!

What western wear would look good on you?

A few days back as I was flipping through the July issue of the "O Magazine". I came across a website ( listed under 'Editors' Choice'.

I was delighted to see a website that showed us what we can wear & what would look good on us. The site is like a match-maker. All I had to do was to fill in my measurements (there was a detailed picture and description for accurate measurement), and style preferences.

After getting the measuring tape around me a number of times, some times wondering if the tape is going to be sufficient to measure the circumference of certain areas!! I was finally done with filling in the measurement details. I then answered a few questions like 'what is my preference for fitting of clothes', 'where I wear my pants: at waist, below waist etc', 'what my color palette is'. The questions also dwelled into how much I spend on accessories, and which designer label or brands I prefer. Basically they were all related to finding my style & fitting preferences.

After filling in all the details I was told that I belonged to a certain category of body shapes (noo.. i am not going to tell you which one !!). They have 7 categories for body shape.
Then I saw 3 pages full of beautiful clothes that would suit by body type and make the most of the "flaws" of my mommy-body.

The site is good and the results left me feeling that girls like me who have zero knowledge about western wear can benefit immensely from this site.

As a member of this site, one can have a personal online store with clothing matched to ones shape & preferences along with free shipping and free returns. Note: They ship only within the USA.

For all those lucky girls in the USA, in case you do not have a tape measure, myShape actually sends you one, all you have to do is drop them a line along with your address.

For others out of USA, we still can benefit, as we can actually see what will look good on us; and based on the results shown on myShape we can keep our eyes open at the western wear section on our next shopping trip.

Happy hunting !!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Going Green

Watching Declan Curry's (Business presenter with the BBC morning news) experiment with supermarkets and the number of shopping bags used to deliver online groceries got me thinking - ironically - backward in time.

I remember when I was in school, grocery shopping would start with my mum telephoning the local kiranawala (grocer) and resding out a list of things. He would then send a lad over with huge cloth bags - which would be emptied of their contents at the kitchen door - one by one - as my mum would cross the items off her list. The items themselves would be typically packed in paper bags and usually these were made from old magazine sheets. Occasionally, there would be glass jars or bottles and very rarely, plastic tubs. Even these, as far as I can remember, were reused the minute their contents were finished/emptied for storage or making craft items, or in the garden as planters. Large volume items were usually delivered in gunny bags - made of jute - and these would have a myriad of uses - as doormats, as mops for large spills, as planters for particularly huge plants. And when we did get plastic bags, they would stored and reused till they were no longer reusable. Visits to the bhajiwala(green grocer) were incomplete without jholas (cloth bags with a long shoulder strap) or a pishwi (typically a sturdy extra large tote bag made with nylon fibres and for some reason the design was always vertical stripes in contrast colours). And then ofcourse, for everything that couldn't be reused at home, there was the kabadiwala's visit, once every month - and here all the paper, glass and plastic items, and old clothes would be collected, weighed and then he would either give us a per kilo price for the items. Ofcourse, there would always be a doubt about the accuracy of the spring balance - it would always deem everything lighter. I admit I didn't give further thought to where it went from there. But the philosophy for home items was recycle and reuse. But all this changed in a few years and convenience became the name of the game, and plastic bags became omnipresent. But even then, these were rigorously reused, till they became unusable.

Flash forward today, and i think, a lot has changed. Its certainly easy and convenient to do most of the shopping today. But now I complain about the amount of mail that I receive, the number of plastic bags and packaging that we have to deal with, about how we accumulate and bin more junk every passing day. And while I complain endlessly, sometimes I fail to take simple actions to rectify the problems. I can very easily reduce half the mail by simply opting for the 'communication by email' option available with a lot of service providers. I can reduce the number of plastic bags, by choosing the 'deliver without bags' option while online shopping or by carrying a bag when I go shopping. I can easily accumulate all the plastic/glass jars and bottles and take them to the recycling bin. And I can recycle all the paper at the paper recycling bins. I am not sure just doing this is going to make me more green, but its the first step.

So I come to my old favourite. Life comes a full circle - probably we are going back to our old ways - but then it was always simpler when we were little - it just didn't seem so at that time. And maybe it will be really simple as we go ahead. We probably just have to wait and watch and do our bit everyday.

Ibnat's Coke

We all know that carbonated drinks are an absolute "no no" for children.But with fast food a part of our life isn't it sometimes impossible to totally avoid it? For example, whenever we go to KFC or McDonalds my daughter Ibnat sees us sipping fizzy drinks and so she demands her "Coke" as well......incidentally she labels all soft drinks as "Coke".

I learnt a way to minimize the negative effects of cola drinks for children from an aunt of mine who used this simple but innovative idea everytime her daughter demanded a cola drink (ofcourse when my cousin grew up and found out "the real thing" that was another story). The trick is to simply dilute the fizzy drink with water. You can take a little bit of "Coke" and a lot of water. As long as the drink looks dark the child will be happy. Ibnat has even accepted the fact that her "Coke" will always be mixed with water and we carry her water bottle everytime we go out to eat.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bombay Cafe Singapore

On 8th July we headed to Suntec City for digging into our favourite Chaats, Indian-Chinese, Faloodas, Mithais at the Bombay Cafe. It is located at Basement 1 of Tower 3. The ambiance is same as the Tanjong-Katong branch, though we had liked the out side seating at Katong.

We were all prepared with what we wanted to eat. I wanted to sink my teeth into a mouth watering 'Ragda-Pattice' followed by a 'Paav-Bhaji'. I was just thinking about the sweet dish when the waiter came by and informed us that the Buffet was all laid out and that we should try it. What got us hooked was that there was to be a 'free-flow' of starters like 'Bhel', 'Paani-Poori' etc. So it was decided that we would indulge in the buffet.

The waiter got us a plate each of 'Bhel', 'Paani-Poori' & 'Papdi-Chaat'. The 'Paani-Poori' was delicious and brought back fond memories of home. For me the taste was a little bland as I prefer more spice and sour. Ohh !! forget it I just can't find anything that tastes better than my "Ganesh-Bhel" stall along Paud Road in my hometown of Pune.

After tackling the starters we headed for the buffet tables. I looked around, walked from start of the line to its end. Saw a lot of pickles, papads, raita, salads etc. But I was disappointed to see the selection of vegetables (Bombay Cafe serves only vegetarian fare). There were two types of Okra, one was fried the other was a 'Kadhi' infused with Okra.
There was a 'Baingan-Masala', fried potato, 'Daal-Makhni', Veg Manchurian, Szechwan noodles and vegetables.

Plain rice as well as 'Jeera-rice' were also there. The 'Naans' were to be ordered as per our desire. We asked for the 'Butter' & 'Garlic' Naan.

I had some noodles and veggies in Szechwan style, which were nice. after this I did not know what to eat as nothing appealed to me. Finally I settled for 'Baingan-Masala', lots of salad and some 'Dahi-mix-veg Raita'.

Then came my favourite part..sweets !!! I managed to eat one 'Gulab-jamun', and one 'Ras-Malai' which was Yummmmm !!!!

Finally dinner was over and although we were not so pleased with our choice to go in for the Buffet we were in a better mood all thanks to the sweets.

As we were waiting for Amol to come out, I asked CS (our friend) to get me some 'Saunf'. I had the most horrifying moments when I found 2 stones in the 'Saunf' and that too in the 'Saunf' that was in my mouth now :(
Such a horrible end to an OK evening...

If anyone from Bombay Cafe reads this, please make sure the 'Saunf' is clean. It is the smaller details that finally remain in the minds of customers.

For more information check out their website.

The making of a Swimming Champion

On 8th July, we went to the swimming pool at Ranjeeta's residential complex. The pools have been recently renovated, and the pool side as well as the pools are spectacular. The poolside has wooden flooring and some tables and chairs. There are showers, barbecue pits, and even a jacuzzi !!
It was a bright and sunny day, Aadi (my son) was very happy to see the pool. To his twinkling eyes it was a huge bath tub that was waiting to be splashed in..
I started to put the inflatable arm-bands around his arms and made such a face...and was trying to wriggle his arms out of them. But I stayed put and sent him off to the baby pool with his Papa. Two minutes in the pool and Aadi was very unhappy and made it quite evident to us as well. We then took him out of the water and this time we put on a floating vest, a bright yellow with some cartoon.
Once again back in the water, Aadi was horrified to find himself floating in water and that too with the vest coming up to his head!! After a few minutes and lots of encouraging words and cajoling by all of us he got comfortable and then started venturing along the periphery of the pool, holding the blue border as he cruised along.
He enjoyed a lot and was happy that his Papa was also there in the pool to enjoy with him. I was overjoyed to see father & son share a precious and winderful time in each others company. Although there were moments when Amol splashed water and Aadi absolutely hates that, then a bit of agonised cries for "Mumma" came about but the situation was under control as soon as Amol stopped the splashing. After almost an hour, the vest was removed much to Aaditya's relief and my of my !! he was so happy and was saying all sorts of things in his gibberish language....
Then father & son spent some time learning the act of swimming, learning to move the legs correctly to move ahead; Aadi actually managed to do it. We were proud parents, and Aadi was one delighted baby.
When another 30 minuted passed, I said it was time for the session to end. Amol got out of the pool and Aadi very innocently beckoned him to "si-si" meaning "sit-sit" on the pool-steps. We were rolling with laughter !! But as all good things must come to an end, we had to leave the pool and head home for a shower and some food. On the way back home Aadi was wearing his old bath robe.
We decided to take him swimming more often so that he develops his love for water into something more fun like swimming.

"Tumble Tots"

My two and a half year old Ibnat just loves "Tumble Tots". I enrolled her in the "Tumble Tots" physical play programme ( for ages 2-3) around four months ago at around the same time that we relocated to Singapore. "Tumble Tots" is a UK based programme which has age specific physical play programmes for children from the age of six months to seven years.

Parents are present during the 45 minute session once a week and they participate with the children encouraging them all along and lending a helping hand when necessary. I like being with Ibnat and helping her along and I feel very contented when she completes an activity station satisfactorily. She sometimes get distracted by the other activity stations and the trampoline on which she loves to jump........

Young children learn through movement and this is what is encouraged in "Tumble Tots". Going to "Tumble Tots" has proved to be beneficial for Ibnat in a number of ways. It has helped her pick up English and appreciate the fact that movement can communicate messages and represent actions. For example in the beginning of each session the instructor asks the children how they are and wiggles their thumbs while saying that everything is fine.

The music and movement and activities like climbing and rolling is intended to develop the children's sense of balance, agility and coordination. Activities like passing bean bags to each other or rolling a stick down a slope into a hula hoop promote eye and hand coordination . Children are encouraged to roll, crawl, jump and stretch (Ibnat's stretching actually looks like a dance sequence). Ibnat now knows which is "right" and which is "left" because of a song that the children dance to in "Tumble Tots" which goes something like"Put your right hand in, put your right foot in ......".

Ibnat's ability to follow instructions have also improved because in each activity station the instructors explain to the children the sequence of activities to be performed and gives a "demo" using a doll called "Polly".

The only downside is that the sessions are too short. A 60 minutes session would have been better....I feel.

Picnic in the Park

Today was a wonderful day - the sun was out after a long time, the sky was blue and there were some white fluffy clouds floating by in the gentle breeze. Mihir was invited to a picnic in the park - it was a birthday party for three year old Anoushka (my sister-in-law's sister-in-law's daughter). We had a long journey to reach the picnic spot, and Mihir quite enjoyed the journey - he was babbling his baby songs in the tube - to the amusement of many commuters and also managed to have a short nap, just as we reached our destination. While Mihir loves people, he also gets a little flustered around older, noisier kids. But he surprised me today, and to my delight, really enjoyed himself. He's started sitting up without support a couple of weeks back and this is the first time he was in the park since he reached that milestone (for that i have this unpredictable English weather to blame and my laziness). So he was on this mat laid out on the lawn, and was wearing a pointy birthday hat and trying to launch himself into a crawl - much like a frog would leap from a water lily. How he enjoyed pulling out the blades of grass, and crunching up the dried leaves and picking up dried twigs. I had my hands full keeping everything away from his mouth. And all along he was babbling and screeching out with delight and everytime he caught someone's eye he had a huge beaming smile - showing of his little pearly whites. So after about an hour of enjoying all the party fun, it was time to return. On the return journey, he slept soundly and we reached home just in time as the raindrops came down thick and heavy. By the time he slept for the day, the sun was out again with a lovely bright rainbow, almost as if saying - ma, it was such a lovely day today, thank you so much and dont forget to thank Anoushka - wish you a very happy birthday.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Table food for teething baby

My teething seven month old prefers "table food" over pureed homemade or commercial baby food. Ever since he started solids he showed an interest in whatever we were eating. However, I am very scared of "choking incidents " ( I did encounter one in the past ) and so I diligently avoided giving him anything but pureed food.

Since the last few days my baby has been turning away his head and spitting out the rice cereals that I have been giving him with venegeance. So today during our dinner I mashed some rice with "chicken korma" and fed it to him by hand. Ofcourse, I made sure that the lumps were manageable for him. My baby was delighted to be able to explore "new textures" and he chewed or rather "gummed" the food very energetically. And I got a "gummy smile" as my reward for giving him what he wanted i.e. "table food".

Sunday, July 8, 2007

07/07/2007 unique date !!

The 7th of July 2007, proved to be a very exciting and fun filled day not just for my family but turns out that the entire world was celebrating in some way or the other.

First let me tell you what was happening in Singapore on this day. There were a record number of 777 weddings were solemnised on this unique date that appears once in a century !!

Not only was the date significant due to the three 7s but also that it was a very auspicious date as per the Chinese calender too.

Around the world, pop stars, politicians and Hollywood celebrities drummed home the dangers of global warming on the 7th in a series of "Live Earth" concerts spanning the globe and urging people to go green. This though was a musical concert, the message that was put across to every person on Earth was a very serious one. "Go Green"

Live Earth featured some 7,000 events in 129 countries, with a smaller concert staged in the Japanese city of Kyoto and an unusual performance by scientists-cum-rockers Nunatak in Antarctica, where temperatures have risen by nearly three degrees Celsius in the last 50 years.

To know more about the concert you can visit:

At our family level we decided to complete a long standing commitment, which was to go fishing with friends. We had been putting off this plan for almost 2 months, but decided to do something special on the truly spectacular day (guess what it even rained thus bringing down the rising mercury !!).

We set off for Pasir Ris, where our friends stay and after a hurried lunch and after a bit of TV we headed towards the fishing pond. None of us had ever held a fishing rod in our hand so you can imagine what we were doing there. We had to ask the person issuing the rods and baits to teach us how to put the hook and attach the bait to the hook !!

Then we (my son and I) were sitting near the pond while the trio (my husband Amol, Anand & Ranjeeta) looked around us for much needed guidance and tutorials. Anand insisted on supervising the event so that meant that he would not touch the rod nor would he touch the fish once and if we caught one. I was 'in-charge' of my son; so that left Amol & Ranjeeta to take turns holding the rod in water with the bait.

They were very patient, and waited for the 'tug', all along watching a guy nearby catching one fish after another. On two instances the much awaited 'tug' was felt on the bait & rod and Amol & Ranjeeta tried to steer the fish out of water, but the fish (smart boy!!) just ate the bait and ran off (oops swam off).

We were lucky on the third 'tug', Amol after his previous two experiences, waited and played along as the fish tried to free itself and tugged harder at the line. The idea was to tire the fish as it tried to free itself, as it gets ready to give up it surfaces and that is when you are to fish it out. That is exactly what Amol did and Voila!! we had a 1.5Kg fish out of the pond.

What an achievement for first timers!! Wow we were all exhilarated and the tiniest member of our crew ran down from my arms and was ready to touch the fish. He said "Mumma..mumma ishhh ishh" running around the fish, looking at it with a curiosity that only a child can have.

We were to continue fishing as there was some time still left as per our ticket. So we again sat around the pond and tried again and again to get one more fish; but alas !! that was not to be. Much to my sons disappointment :(

We were very proud of our catch and took it to a small shop to de-scale and cut it. Actually that's where we came to know its weight. The lady there complimented us on the catch and suggested we make 'fish curry' with the fish.

The fish was finally fried, we watched a bit of the Ladies' Singles Final at Wimbledon as we ate.

Venus Williams won her fourth fourth Championship with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over France's Marion Bartoli.

What a day...everyone was doing something special in their own way !!

Friday, July 6, 2007

"Cars" The Movie

Ever since my 22 months old son has seen the movie 'Cars', he goes "Ca..Caa..Caaa" whenever (and I mean every few hours) that he wants to watch a clip of the movie on good old At first I was OK with him watching a couple of clips, and I was not surprised to find myself enjoying it too !!He even points the remote controls to the TV and tries to switch it on, all along yelling...(you guessed it right!!) "Ca..Caa...Caaa"

The movie is sooooo good that it appeals to every age group. I remember watching the movie with my husband when we were in KL (and I was pregnant), it was an instant hit with us and we bought the CD immediately and since then and now that our son enjoys it too; Cars has been added to our weekend 'must-watch' list.My son is too young to understand the story-line etc but I am sure he can make out all the different cars and other automobiles featured in the movie.

His favourite is the hero 'Lightning MacQueen '; and is baffled by the fact that the cars in the movie have eyes..& he tries to figure out why the ones on the road do not !!Wow if a movie can make a toddler think and learn so much...what more does a mother want??

Finding the first favourite

While on the subject of feeding, here is what i have to say - after weeks of trying different brands of ready-made baby food, i have found the one that my baby loves - its called plum - and he absolutely loves it. I must admit, i was a little hurt at first, to see that he gulps this down, while he almost always 'phurred out' anything i made for him. So seeing him eat - i tried a little bit - and you guessed it right - i love it as well.

At last a good book on baby food

I came across this book 'Feeding your Baby & Toddler' written by Annabel Karmel. This is a wonderful book for first time mothers as it gives a complete insight into food for babies and toddlers. The book is divided into sections as per the age group of the child. It also has detailed recipes with (i love this part) the nutrients and vitamins in each dish. There are plenty of colourful decoration ideas so that the food looks good and appetising to kids. I think this book will make a lovely gift for a first time mom as it gives you everything you need to know about making food, the utensils and apparatus needed to make good, fresh and hygienic baby food at home. It also has lots of recipes for fast food for toddlers, fussy eaters, family meals, etc.
All in all I feel I should have found this book when my son was going to start eating his first foods. None the less now that I have it I am going to make good use of it.