Saturday, December 20, 2008

Khari - made

I bought a pack of Puff Pastry sheets, I found the Pampas brand in Village Grocer.

I took two sheets, and layered them one on top of the other, with little ghee in between. I cut them into rectangles, and then into smaller rectangles, I twisted some to make the twisted-version of Khari.I put the cut pastry onto a greased baking tray, put in in a pre-heated oven at 200 C for 25 minutes.
So that is the easy-weasy way to making some yummy, crunchy, crispy Khari.

Do try it and let me know.

Note: Do follow the baking instructions on the pastry pack that yo buy. Each brand has it's own temperature and time settings.
If you want to use multiple layers of pastry like I did, after brushing on some ghee/butter make sure that you roll it out a bit with a rolling pin.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Yippieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee !!! I fount it

I am literally hanging by the roof and swinging from one fan to another in total crazy excitement.....yes....yippieeeeeeeeeee I FOUND IT.....................
I found the easiest recipe to make 'Khari Biscuit'.
Khari Biscuit or just Khari as we call it, is a baked pastry which is eaten with tea...just dip it in ur cup and enjoy !! I love the Hindustan bakery small-ones, the Santosh bakery twisted ones and even the New Poona Bakery ones..
Here is a picture of what Khari. (courtesy superstock.com)I found the recipe on Enjoy Indian Food an amazing blog with loads of recipes for all of us hungry people!!
I sent the link to Amol, who jumped at the prospect of having home made Khari, so he's going to fetch the sole ingredient required i.e. Puff Pastry sheets.
We will be making these tonight or then first thing tomorrow morning. That's when I'll give you my version and my own photos etc.
Wonder where I can find the recipe for those 'cream rolls' !!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I got (e)mail

This came into my inbox today....do read it

Rahul Welde, Asia Pac media head of Unilever, and a friend to many of us, made it out of his sixth floor room on the Taj through sheer presence of mind and faith in God. Am sharing with you all the email he sent upon returning home.
_______________________


Subject : Lucky to have survived ; Living in good shape

My heartfelt thanks to you for your support and wishes during the horrific experience. I havent yet had a chance to connect with everyone and hence this bulk mail - this is so not my way of doing it. My apologies for that.

I want you to know that this is NOT a mindless forward but a straight message from someone you've known.

I wont go much into details of what happened that night. To cut the long story short - I was holed up in my room at the Taj hotel the fateful night of the terrorist attack. Managed to escape by the skin of my teeth at around 4 am - in sheer denial of allowing fire and smoke to swallow me. By gods grace I managed to make the run down 6 floors and some few metres without the devil in my way. You can imagine how happy I am to be here typing this away. ( For anyone who wants to know the gore - let me know. I have the full story and transcripts of my SMSes recorded for posterity - to keep my anger burning and reminding me of my purpose)

I thought I'd leave a few messages which might be of help to all good people. In the modern day world, risks are a plenty. Terrorists, tsnunamis, earthquakes - the list can go on. None of these check on your profile, company, religion, class or seniority when they hit. They just hit. And we know now it can happen anywhere. Here are a few things we could all do to keep it safer and better.

Firstly, value your family and friends. Two things I strongly recommend you check on

1. Make sure you are covered well by insurance. Even if you are well off - leave them better off if the unfortunate were to happen.

2. Let them know details on things like bank accounts, investments etc. Keep a folio with your spouse and close family.

3. Use every waking moment to cherish what you have - family, friends, nature. Stay smiling, laughing and caring.

Admittedly these arent things I thought about deeply till now. I shudder at the thought of what if.

Lets move from the philosphical to the more practical.

There are a few lessons that I want to share

1. When in a hotel or a new place - please NOTE where the FIRE EXIT is. The fire exit route saved my life. I had no clue of where it was and why I ran where I did. Why I turned left or right. Providential escape for me - nothing more. I've stayed in hotels for years and don't remember ever paying attention to this. Its a few seconds invested that can save you from big trouble.

2. Insist on taking a room in the outer periphery - where the fire brigade can reach you. My room was on the inside and I tell you what - there was no chance the fire brigade would ever reach me. They would have always been a few yards but several hours away. Ever thought of this detail.

3. A key item on your survival kit is your cellphone. I give it to Apple for developing the Iphone - a real smart gadget. Whatever your phone – a critical checkpoint is battery life. Often we wait for battery to go down before charging. Dont ! Keep it full charge all the time. All the SMSes saved my senses and maybe even my life.


4. I learnt for the first time that when running through fire and/or smoke - run bending down and wrap a wet blanket around. I did that thanks to a friend who advised me. Its a different story I chucked the blanket thinking that the cops would gun me down mistaking me for a terrorist. Good tip nevertheless.


5. Dont miss the aspect of staying fit - in running shape. Can help you and maybe even you can help someone.


Last few days I have heard/read a lot about peace marches and candles and politician bashing and police bashing and whatever else. I am sure a lot of energy will go in all that. Having been there I can only say that every soul - the cop, the fireman, the medico and even the common man on the street was doing the best he could. I dont blame anyone. I am sure good will prevail over evil in the long term. The short term blips we cannot avoid.

I have a lot to say and yet not much more. God is the greatest and leads to the ultimate destiny. I am thankful for all that has been and all that there is now.

Happy to be writing to you and wishe you and the family best for times ahead.

Am sure we will be in touch. Till then.

Regards

Rahul

ps : feel free to forward this to anyone you think might find the message useful to know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Mom Song - for all moms out there



I'm sure you will like it.
I saw it on Dreaming Reality, and knew that I must put it up for all my mommy readers too.
Njoy !!!!

Reading update

Just a quick one to let you all know that I finished reading 'My Favourite Wife' two days back, and since have started on the autobiography...and it's been great so far.
Will let you know once I am done or may post a passage that I love...

Monday, December 8, 2008

I bought my first autobiography!!

For long I have cherished a dream of collecting autobiographies of people that I consider to be 'inspirational'. Now that does not in any way mean that they have to be famous. But again come to think of it, only famous people have published autobiographies....I would love to read/collect those that are not 'famous'.
Well today was a step ahead in starting my dream. I bought "A long walk to freedom" an autobiography by Mr. Nelson Mandela.
I saw it at Popular, while we were at the IOI Mall today.

I will start reading it tonight. But I think I want to give it it's own time, coz right now I am reading "My favourite Wife" by Tony Parsons. The two books are from very different spaces, and time; hence my apprehension of starting the new book today. But lets see how it goes...

Wish me luck for good reading !!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cutest tools I ever saw

Browsing my O Magazine's October issue, I came across these tools, they are yummy, they are made with ladies in mind and they are tied up with a great cause of Breast Cancer....the best part is that they are pink !!!!!!!!!!!

















I loved them as soon as I saw them and more so because of the cause they supported.
They are from TomBoy Tools (www.tomboytools.com).
The pink hammer is my personal favourite, it costs $15, and $3 per hammer goes to Susan G. Komen for cure.

I like doing my own minor repairs at home, it is quite nice to see what you can achieve if you know to handle just the basic tools.

I love these pink tools, so if anyone out there wants to send me a gift ...now you know what to send!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I am back

I am back, well I knew I would get back to writing but I never imagined that I would be pushed into it by something so maddening so insane so..un-thinkable. I am talking about the Mumbai terror attacks...
All of us have seen, read, heard about the ghastly attacks and time and again it makes me want to talk...talk about making a difference, not about who is to be blamed, who is at fault. I feel as citizens of the largest democracy, we need to balance out all that freedom with some commitment and duties as well.
On a personal level I was fighting an emotional battle...now that I am back to KL, and having to fend for myself physically and more so emotionally, I found myself draining off all my energy and the emotions that were sent away to a locker located deep inside my heart are suddenly surfacing and are demanding their right to be heard and to be dealt with.
It was/is this emotional battle with myself that has been keeping me busy and not in the 'mood' to write. I spent a lot of time reading what other people are blogging about, how they have something nice to always share with the audience. I was trying very hard to get back into doing the same myself, but I needed a push...and boy what a push I got....
The 3 days that we all saw bruised us all, the news reports, the reactions that people had...all were just and worth a read. But somewhere I wanted to read something reassuring, something that said to me "we can always make our tomorrow better". Being the eternal optimist that I am.
I chanced upon this article written by Chetan Bhagat. It made me feel OK. I hope you find some solace after reading it.

'So why did you move back to India?'
DNA
Sun Nov 30, 2008 03:41 IST

Sick of screaming anchors, gory visuals, and tired of well-meant calls, Chetan Bhagat took a walk to the Trident

I had to get out. I had to do that walk to Trident. It was Friday evening. I didn't tell anyone at home as I left my apartment at Mantralaya. I took the short walk towards Marine Drive, passing the homes of politicians - the powerful people who run this country.

I had in my house an acquaintance who had been rescued from the Trident. I wanted to talk to her, but she had to rest after two sleepless nights. She had a flight to catch, to get out of this country we call home. I was sick of the screaming TV journalists and the gory visuals. I was tired of the well-meant text messages, calls and emails that came from around the world - "r u nd family ok?" Physically yes, mentally no way. I replied to all of them, thanking them for their concerns.

I wanted to get away from two questions the most. The first kept coming from our friends in Hong Kong, from where we had moved earlier this year: "So why did you move back to India anyway?", I got asked five times a day.

The second came repeatedly from my 4-year old twin boys: "Daddy, why do we have holidays?" I had no good answers.

I reached the barricades at the LIC building, where vehicles had to stop. I walked ahead and reached the Air India building, the closest point that the security forces allowed us near the Trident-Oberoi hotel.

Four sets of people were present. First, the truckloads of army men, ready to go in and face death if required. Their camouflage uniforms and grass-covered helmets were more suitable for jungles in border areas than downtown Mumbai. They were the only hope that this crisis would end; the only hope that a few organisations in India still work.

The second group was the media. I recognised a few cameramen, as I'd seen them at my book launch or at the premiere of Hello. Today, they weren't scrambling to get a byte from Salman.

Their shocked zombie eyes tried to zoom in as much as possible on the stillness of the two white towers. We watched the various rooms, each a tiny fishbowl of humanity. It was the most luxurious and scariest prison in the world at the moment. Unlike TV, there was a tremendous silence as there were no voiceovers.

The third set of people, the most heartbreaking, were the relatives of people stuck inside. They stood helpless, with no reliable information as they called hospital after hospital. They latched on to hope and energy, which dwindled by the hour.

The fourth set was clueless people like me. We didn't know why we were there. It was dangerous, we were not directly involved, and all updates came on TV anyway.

Still, I had to come, maybe to get away, maybe to assuage a bit of guilt at being safe, maybe to show defiance.

The army trucks drove in for the final encounters. I looked again at the two five-star hotels of my poor country. We don't have a lot of these. Still, someone out there has a problem with us having a few world-class symbols of progress. Someone out there doesn't believe we deserve a peaceful country and a city where work actually gets done. Someone out there feels heroic in crushing a billion people's spirit.

I looked at Marine Drive. The queen's necklace looked beautiful on an unusually clear night, except that there were no hand-holding couples sitting on the promenade. Love had taken a backseat as my country dealt with another night of hate. I and the others gathered looked at the fishbowl windows again. I felt my eyes well up. Because of this tragedy, someone had the audacity to question my decision to come back to my own country. I felt terrible. I walked back home, taking a last glance at a set of relatives who had sensed the inevitable but were yet to acknowledge it.

I dropped off our guest at the airport. We stayed silent throughout the drive.

I returned home at night and slipped into bed with my sons. Their child-like stubbornness was making them ask the same questions again and again till they got an answer.

"Daddy, why do we have holidays?" said one.

"Daddy, why do we have to stay inside for so long?" said the other. I had to answer.

"Some bad men are trying to hurt Bombay. They are outside so we stay inside," I said.

"Who's going to save us? Which superhero will come," said one.

I paused as I looked into their little, sleepy eyes.

"You will. And that is why you came back from Hong Kong," I said as they drifted off to sleep.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Potato printing-a fun activity for kids



My daughter Ibnat,like all other preschoolers, loves art & craft activities. So last Saturday I thought of arranging a potato printing activity for her. In the night before when she was asleep I made the potato stamps.I cut some big potatoes in halves and and drew some designs on them (such as triangles,a cross etc.) carved out the designs by a sharp knife.I then stored the carved potatoes in a plastic container.

The next morning I explained to her what she need to do to make the potato prints.I mixed two wide containers of poster colors for her so that it is easy for her to dip the potatoes.She dipped the potatoes in paints and made the stamps on a paper. She was all excited to see the interesting patterns on the paper.She was engrossed in this activity for quite a while & thoroughly enjoyed it.

For potato printing the materials required are simple.They are:
  • Large potatoes
  • Poster colors (primary colors look good)
  • A sharp knife
  • Marker
  • Large saucers
  • Paper or card
  • Paper towels or an old rag for wiping off excess paints

Potato printing is a fun activity for kids.You can also involve your kids in the drawing of the patterns on the potato but I didn't do so because since I have another toddler I did not want to do the carving with the sharp knife around the children!

Potato printing can be used to make wrapping papers & greeting cards.Your child can add details to the prints with glitter or colorful pens.Other vegetables such as ladyfingers and carrots can also be used.

Art & craft activities such as these boost children's creativity and encourage them to think "out of the box".It also improves their concentration and gives them the satisfaction of creating something of their own.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Care of contact lenses-something I didn't know!

I have been wearing contact lenses since the past fourteen years but there is something that I didn't know about contact lens wear until recently.

I went to my optometrist the other day for a fresh supply of my monthly lenses and after the eye check-up I was just reading a small poster on the wall regarding contact lens care.There I discovered that it is not advisable to wear contact lenses while swimming or during shower (especially during swimming).The primary reason one should avoid wearing contact lenses in the swimming pool is that the water is generally contaminated and so there exists a risk of bacterial infections.If the contact lens wearer wants to absolutely wear the lenses during swimming then he should wear good quality goggles to protect his eyes or use daily disposable lenses on the days that he is swimming.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ballet for preschoolers


About one and a half month ago I enrolled my three year old preschooler in a ballet class in Crestar Learning Centre.I thought of enrolling her because a wanted her to engage in some extracurricular activities and since she already enjoys dancing I thought that a dance class is where she can have a lot of fun.

The program that I have enrolled Ibnat in is known as "Bebe Ballet" and the emphasis is not strictly on ballet postures and exercises but on creative self-expression and on emoting "make-believe" situations.For example,the teacher would ask the children to imagine that they are in a forest and they are the elephants,lions and rabbits.Popular nursery rhymes are also used and ballet moves are added here and there.
Parents can watch the children's dance during the class and this is something I really love.Watching little girls in pink leotard and tutus dancing away to great music is really enjoyable and forty five minutes pass away in the blink of an eye!
In the first class Iba was very distracted but by her third or fourth class she was able to pick up the basic moves.
The most important thing is Ibnat is enjoying her ballet class.
Any form of dancing is good for children because it teaches them coordination and balance.Regular dancing also enhances motor skills and increases flexibility of the body.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Foods That Make Your Skin Glow

Foods That Make Your Skin Glow - This article is from the website www.realage.com. It is full of very good information so do read on.....

Top skin creams average about $400 per ounce (and you thought gas was expensive!), yet most offer little proof that they do half of what they promise. Want to save a bundle and improve your skin? Load your shopping cart with nutrients that have been shown to possess skin-hydrating, sun-protecting, and even wrinkle-preventing powers, says Manhattan dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD. Here’s her grocery list of the best foods for your skin:

Firm and Bright
You’re probably up to your eyebrows (Botoxed or not) with the mantra “eat more fruits and vegetables.” But if you’ve yet to take that advice to heart, maybe knowing that they prevent wrinkles will do the trick.

The skin doc’s three top picks: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and cantaloupe.

What they do: Replenish your skin’s supply of antioxidants, so they're ready to scarf up free radicals whenever they make an appearance. Free rads are highly reactive oxygen molecules that damage cells and contribute to just about everything that can go wrong with skin, from dryness to wrinkles.

Fresh and Juicy
Your body can’t store much wrinkle-fighting vitamin C, so you need to top up your supplies regularly. The easiest way: Have some citrus every day.

The skin doc’s four top picks: oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit.

Ounce for ounce, oranges are the top citrus source of C, but you can only eat so many, right? For variety, make lemonade; squeeze limes on melon; add grapefruit to salad; and, instead of drinking soda, fizz OJ with sparkling water. It all adds up.

What they do: Keep skin’s vitamin C levels high. While C is a nifty antioxidant, that’s not the key reason it’s here. It helps keep collagen -- the supportive protein fibers that stop skin from sagging -- strong and resilient. (Flimsy collagen means lines and wrinkles.) Since collagen breakdown really picks up in your mid-30s, eat citrus early and often to head off aging.

Smoothing and Soothing
There’s a particularly potent antioxidant known as EGCG that does all kinds of good things for skin. The best place to find it? True teas: black, green, or white (not herbal). Brew a full teapot every morning so that sipping 4 to 6 cups throughout the day is a no-brainer.

The skin doc’s #1 pick::green tea.

While all true teas contain EGCG (by the way, that stands for epigallocatechin-3-gallate), the various types of green tea have the most. Dr. Wechsler’s personal favorite is hojicha green tea (available at http://www.adagio.com/). “The roasting process that turns this green tea a brownish color also lowers its caffeine content,” she says -- handy if you’re caffeine sensitive or it’s one of those days when you don’t need another stimulant.

What it does: Gives your skin a healthy dose of EGCG, which is a great multitasker. EGCG puts a damper on inflammatory chemicals involved in acne and sun-related skin aging, it helps prevent skin cancer; and it has a lion-tamer effect on tumor cells. What’s more, green tea contains L-theanine, a de-tensing amino acid -- and anything you can do to stanch the flow of the stress hormone cortisol helps keep collagen fibers intact.

Dark and Green
Certain dark green vegetables, whether they’re fresh, frozen, raw, or steamed, really deliver on vitamin A, one of the most skin-essential vitamins going.

The skin doc’s three top picks: spinach, turnip greens, and broccoli.

What they do:Deliver a hefty supply of vitamin A, which supports skin-cell turnover, the process that keeps cell growth and development humming along flawlessly. Without enough A, skin becomes dry, tough, and scaly.

Fish Faves
Several cold-water catches give your skin a double benefit: age-fighting omega-3 fatty acids and the restorative powers of protein.

The skin doc’s seven top picks: salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, Pacific herring, and most shellfish.

Just don’t, uh, go overboard. As good as omega-3s are for skin (and the rest of you, too), worries about the amount of mercury in many fish mean it’s smart to limit seafood or freshwater fish to two meals a week. That’s a must for young children and for women who are pregnant, who may become pregnant, or who are nursing. (Go here for the government’s fish guidelines)

What they do: Omega-3s fight inflammation, now considered one of the top skin agers, and they also help protect against sunburn, enhancing the effects of your sunscreen’s SPF. Protein is required to build and repair skin cells and to make enzymes and hormones that help keep it glowing.

Fill your grocery cart with all of these foods and you won’t just look younger, you’ll be younger. Eating at least one serving of fish a week and getting the right amount of antioxidants through diet or supplements lowers your biological age. In fact, the antioxidants alone can make your RealAge up to 6 years younger.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bubble Play

Bubble play is one of the most favored activities of my son, and needless to say I love it too. As a child I loved bubble play and am happy to see that my son has taken a liking to it as well.
I bought the bubble play set from Toys r Us, and also the liquid required.
We would play bubbles because it was fun, little did I know that it has so many benefits. I got to know of them when I saw that at Gymboree they use bubbles play as an integral part of their play-gym class. The teacher blows small bubbles and all the children run up to burst as many as they can or then try to catch one on their finger. After this the children sit with their parent and the teacher comes around to each child and blows him bigger bubbles which the child is supposed to burst saying 'pop', during this exercise everyone is singing "bubbles for xyz" for every child there is. This makes the child feel special and at the same time he gains confidence of being in a group.
I also read that the child manages to use complex mouth movement, blowing air out, keeping tongue at a certain position etc in order to blow bubbles. The child picks up language as we tell them to say 'pop goes the bubble' etc. And with the complex mouth movements required to blow bubbles, they learn to move the tongue to make different sounds thus improving language skills. With bubbles we can also teach them what a circle is or what the difference between a sphere and circle is. Numerical games can also be done with use of bubble-play.
With my son we have discovered that he loves to play bubbles during his bath where he has another of his favorite play item - water. When he was younger, where in he would bathe in a tub I would make a bubble bath for him and he would love them. I used the liquid soap by Kodomo for this purpose, this one had moisterisers so that the baby skin is not damaged due to the longer duration in water. Now that he is older and loves the shower, we play bubbles using all the different shape blowers (as seen in the picture above) and enjoy the time, this way I am spared the trouble of mopping the floors after a bubble play and my son gets to do his favorite stuff.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Play in progress...































A picture is worth a thousand words they say....so I am not going to describe what is going on...just that my son enjoys his painting sessions...and this time around I added poster (child-safe, non-toxic) colors and a roller brush to his ever-growing painting set.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New Chair

Whenever we went to the neighbors' house to play, my son would fall in love with the small chairs they have. He would love sitting on them, and look at me as if to say that he wants one too!!
We were in Carrefour the other day and we saw this very cute beach chair for kids. It is a white metal chair, the base is white fabric, and it has yellow & orange flowers on it. It is very cute.
I chose not to buy a plastic chair which was much cheaper, as I am making every effort to avoid plastic as part of my 'go-green' motto for my home.
This one cost us 25 RM which is not much for a metal frame chair with a cloth base seat. We liked it and Aadi loved it immediately so it came home with us!!
Now he sits on it when he wants to watch TV or just look at books etc. sometimes the meals are also eaten with him sitting on this.

Eyes, nose and mouth

For the last 2 weeks my son has been drawing faces, complete with eyes, nose and a line for the mouth. Though at times the frame of the face is absent!!
He is also trying his hand at drawing fish, and supena-man (read as Super Man). The supena-man has a face, two feet and two hands.
Actually the first time he drew a face we were at a restaurant and the master piece was on a hand tissue from the hotel. (The photograph shows this first attempt of his at drawing a face)
I used to carry some paper and crayons for him earlier on, but have not been doing that of lately, I guess I will continue with that so that he can embark on his creative journey while we parents finish our food.
I encourage his creativity and expression with the help of painting sessions, pencil drawing, crayons and color pencils are also his favorite. He also loves his art-class at Gymboree, and now he has moved on to the second level, where they get to paint on paper that is stuck on the wall!! and then they are introduced to different painting techniques, and are introduced to things like tooth brush, hair brush etc for painting effects.
I like this time with Aadi simply because I get to do something that I always loved as a child, and I love to see what Aadi draws to express something that he wants to say, it shows me a lot of the way he thinks and what he likes and what he does not.

My favourite tool

I picked up this new tiny handy beauty from a store located in Endah Parade on our recent trip to Sri Petaling. This is tool that has tiny spikes on its surface, with which we can grate ginger and garlic to get instant freshly made paste. It does not have perforations like a grater, hence the paste stays on the surface itself and is very easy to remove. It really takes no time at all to grate the required amount of ginger or garlic.
I find this new experience of making fresh paste on demand much more fun and the taste that carries itself into the food is also proof of what freshness in ingredients can do.
Next time I head out to Sri Petaling, I am going to pick some more of this amazing tool for family & friends.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My Gudhi Padwa

6th of April was our (Maharashtrian) New Year day, we call it 'Gudhi Padwa' in my mother tongue Marathi. It is the first day of the Marathi calender and the first month is 'Chaitra'.
This day was particularly good as it was Amol's birthday as well; so we made plans for a twin celebration but tried to keep it very simple as it would otherwise become a tiring new year day!!

The night before I sent off Amol with a list of things that I would need for the prayer, especially important were the Neem tree leaves as they are important part of the Gudhi. Well the Gudhi is actually a stick that has new clothing, Neem leaves, flower garland wrapped over it, and the top is sealed off with a 'kalash'. This gives the Gudhi the appearance of a lady dressed up in new clothes and jewels of flowers etc. It looks very pretty.

Well to continue with the 6th, I was really happy when Amol came home with an entire bunch of Neem leaves, and a lovely garland. Only thing that upset me was that he forgot about the garland/toran for the main door. But all in all I was very excited and happy to continue with the prayers as my son understands a lot of what is going on and what is being said, so I made double sure that I did things in a traditional manner as this is how I can show my son what our traditions are and what the reason behind doing all that are.

On d-day we woke up early and bathed, I got busy with the prayer getting all the basic things done, making the 'prasad' (offering) etc. Once the Gudhi was up, I did the prayers, then Amol and Aadi had their turn of offering prayers and seeking blessings for a good year ahead. Later in the day we had to go to the Lakshminarayan Temple. The evening was spent preparing a good dinner and the best part was that our friends Amisha & Praveen came home and added to our joy!!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

First Day in preschool

Tuesday was unofficially Nayaz's first day in preschool.I am thinking of enrolling him in a school called "Y'kidz Montessori Enrichment Centre" which my daughter has been attending since the last one year.

Nayaz went for a trial session last Tuesday and I was with him the majority of the time. When I took him inside the school, he was very apprehensive and clingy.But once we were inside, his eyes twinkled with excitement as they devoured all the colorful toys inside the classroom.

There were around 8-9 toddlers and two teachers and two assistants. The class began with floor activities.Teacher asked each child to get a mat and sit and then to get any toys that they were interested in. The class was quite organized and toys were grouped and labeled.......like one shallow tray had all toy vegetables and another shallow tray displayed fruits.Puzzles and books were neatly stacked.There were also trays in which there were one bowl of dry uncooked macaroni and other bowls and a soup spoon.I noticed that some children took the tray and were putting macaroni from one bowl to another with soup spoons.

The teachers asked me to let Nayaz roam and choose his own toy.This is in line with the montessori method of education which allows children to experience the excitement of learning through their own choice. He looked around and chose a toy orange from the fruit tub and brought it to me. I guess he chose the orange because he is fond of playing with balls.Then, before I could stop him, he banged a child's head with the orange who was sitting with her back towards him.The teacher moved towards him,caught his hand and told him very firmly that he should not hit other people.He looked at the teacher wide-eyed and seemed to understand.

Afterwards the teacher gave him a tray and he was very absorbed in the activity of putting macaroni from one bowl to another bowl with the help of a soup spoon.The teacher showed me that the way he is holding the spoon is the way in which he will hold the pencil.And he showed Nayaz how to grip the spoon.I was sure that he would continue to grab the spoon but to my surprise he actually could follow the "pencil grip". This activity, the teacher explained, develops their fine motor skills.

Before beginning each new activity the children were asked and guided to put back the previous toys.This was something I really liked and would like to implement this at home....haven't been able to teach Ibnat to keep the toys in their places after she finishes playing.

Next it was lesson time and all the toddlers were taken to the next room, which I supposed was the "lesson room".There was a large table surrounded by chairs in which the children sat one by one. Nayaz sat on my lap.The teacher said aloud particular numbers and passed around flashcards.The numbers were etched in sandpaper on cardboards and the teacher passed on the cards to each child for them to look at and "feel" the number.Nayaz was more interested in the "1,2,3 songs" and moved his body to the rhythm whenever the teachers sang.After some time Nayaz wiggled out of my lap and went into the play room again.I wanted to bring him back but the teacher said it was ok to let him roam.

Next it was "lego" and "building blocks" time. Nayaz was more interested in taking off the legos rather than building anything out of it.Soon he got the naughty idea of throwing the legos but the teacher put a stop to it by catching his hand and covering the legos to send the message that "if you do this then no more legos". I am using this idea at home to limit undesirable behavior and it actually is working!

The children were given some snacks and they fed themselves.It was a bit messy but the teachers told me that at home also I should let him feed himself (but I feel that at sixteen months he is too young for that!).

In the last half an hour I sneaked out of the class into the waiting room.When he saw me leaving, he was a bit distressed, as I could see on his face, but the teacher quickly diverted him with something. I later asked the teacher how he was without me and they said that he was perfectly fine.Surprising, isn't it?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Start from your own home

Climate change is now a much talked about subject. The media is providing us with loads of information on what will happen if we don't make some good and tough choices; also there are loads of information on what we can do. But all this is very confusing, and overwhelming.
Here I am going to put in a few simple things that we can surly do starting from our own home.
  • When we use floor cleaners, washing liquids, dish wash, laundry detergent etc use only half the amount that you normally do. A smaller amount also does the same work of cleaning. This measure you can take till you find a earth-friendly option for your cleaners.
  • Using Vinegar, Soda bi-carbonate, Baking powder for cleaning glass items, windows, fridge, bathrooms is a much better option.
  • If you wish to get food packed from a restaurant, take your own metal containers, as the plastic or Styrofoam containers take a long time to degrade into the environment.
  • When packing lunch, use metal boxes as they will last you a long time and food packed in it will remain healthy.
  • This one is a personal favorite: When eating an ice-cream outside home, opt for a cone rather than a cup, as you eat up the cone, but you throw away the cup adding to the waste.
  • Shop for organic produce, in many places the organic section is pricier than the normal produce. Only if we increase the demand for organic produce will we be able to drive down the prices.
  • Better still is to find a market that sells locally grown produce as they will be fresher, and all the transportation costs are avoided in getting them to the market. Apart from the cost of transportation, you save all the fuel, the emissions into the environment.
  • Don't drive alone to work, a wonderful way of socializing is car-pooling. So get to know your neighbors and where they work so that you can pool your resources.
  • This one is very 'interesting': placing a brick or a container (that will fill with water) into your toilet flush tank actually saves water as less gets filled in. This one is specially good for people who are renting a place and cannot change the flush tanks to the one that have a half/full flush option. In Japan, many people actually use the washing machine water to fill their flush tanks!!
Well I think this is enough for starts. I will keep posting more interesting and fun ways to making your life and your home a 'Green Home'.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

M for Multitasking

The last month has managed to keep me away from writing by a myriad of activities and happenings. And i have realized that the only way to survive has been to multi-task and prioritize. But i have been making notes in my diary to be able to write this to just show how everything on earth manages to cram itself in a month:
- To begin with there were job interviews - telephonic and in person. And having not done interviews for ages, they managed to make me really nervous.
- Then there were the dreaded bugs - the flu bug managed to take hold of all of us, followed by diarrhoea for little Mihir - not to mention teething and runny noses.
- There was death in the family
- There was a joyous birth in the family
- We are also looking forward to a cousin's wedding later in the year.
- There was participation in a local badminton competition. There was happiness at doing well and just a bit of frustation at not making it to the finals.
- There have been great results from applying to the local council for funds to start a local badminton club.
- Just found some unpaid bills and i still need to sort it out with the local utilities company - because for me to pay the bill, it has to be addressed to us - so that still remains on the to-do list.
- there was a visit to the local city farm which Mihir absolutely loved till the horse sneezed and then there was no stopping the bawling baby till we got to the turkeys and cats.
- there were the most comforting and heart warming chats with my grandparents - talking to them really lifts my spirit.
- there were plans made to meet up with friends and plans cancelled at the very last minute.
- there has been snow over the Easter weekend
- had mums over for tea, visited mums for tea
- did some good deeds for friends by finding them some house help, storing furniture items
This list is quite endless but just goes to show that while nothing seems to be happening, there's a lot to keep me busy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rain, Rain

It has been raining almost continuously since the last three days and so the two kids and I are stuck indoors.Iba is really cranky but I can't blame her because I myself am tired of the rain. And it is not just a drizzle but a downpour, atleast today it was.

Rain means that Iba and Nayaz cannot go to the playground and so the excess energy that it produces results into tantrums.On top of this, Iba's school holidays have started and this means she has no diversions during the day. Today a cranky Iba requested me to take her out to the library and it was really difficult to control her inside the confines of the house.So I decided to take her out and dressed her in her yellow raincoat and boots.I usually don't make her wear boots but today I just felt that it would keep her feet from getting muddy.

So we braved the rain and went out. It was a heavy downpour and there were puddles on our paths. I was glad that I made Iba wear the boots.Iba was happy to be out and so was I. We stood in the bus and boarded the 410 bus which took us to Bishan.We got down at Junction 8 and had our lunch in the basement. Lunch was rice and chicken(but this was not "chicken rice") at one of the stalls. The chicken tasted surprisingly like the way we cook chicken, so I was a bit surprised.
After the lunch we went to the community library and we went to the basement of the library which is where the children's section is located. I read some books to Iba, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I purposely chose some alphabet & number books. I had picked some magazines from the first floor before going to the basement and whenever Iba was getting up to get books, I was glancing through them. After a few hours in the library and in the Junction 8 mall we headed back home.

It was a good afternoon. But I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow!

Outside food made at home

I wanted to first put this as a comment to Malina's post; but then there was a lot going on inside my head so I decided to make it a post in itself.
Malina's post on eating out the healthy options was indeed enlightening; but I still think that instead of asking them to skip the butter while grilling fish, wouldn't it be better to ask them to use olive oil.
I have been trying to make some simple things that we normally would buy off the shelf. The first one is simple cup-cakes. When I saw Nigella Lawson...yes 'the' Nigella make these easy-weasy cup cakes I was like "yes!! I can make those", but being what I am I was sitting on that thought for some time. Well the cup-cakes that we pick up off the shelf tend to be a bit dry and then my son can't eat the dry stuff, and then not all cup-cakes taste good with a sprinkle of milk or juice. So this was the inspiration behind the experiment. The recipe is very simple: 125 gms each of flour, butter and sugar. Now here is the thing, as mommies we are free to use wholegrain flour/atta, and about sugar, please try brown sugar, not only does it taste yummmmmmmmm it is also more nutritious and less loaded with chemicals than plain white sugar. And another thing is to get the finer variety of brown sugar (a friend told me this; but I forget why she said it was better). OK once you mix in your butter with the sugar, you throw in 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, and just mix these well, maybe for about 4-5 minutes. Then add in the flour and at the end add in 2 tablespoons of milk. The batter is now ready to be spooned into paper cups. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees C and bake the cakes for 15-20 minutes. You need not have the muffin tray to insert your paper cups, I found these cups which have the usual paper cup on the inside, and the outer cup is made of foil, so you can place them straight onto your regular baking tray.
Once this basic cup-cake is mastered then any amount of variations are possible, add bananas to the batter, add some dry-fruit of choice, or chocolate chips the possibilities are endless. I have made 3 batches of these cup cakes within a span of 1 month and every time they turn out better and friends love them too!! Best part is that my son gets to see how a cake is made, and can eat one straight from the oven steaming-hot !!
Now coming on to the second one, this I know Iba loves them a lot...well they are chicken nuggets. This is the way I made them this Sunday: Cut the boneless chicken pieces into thin chunks. Take some mayonnaise in a bowl; and take some salted crackers/biscuits of your choice and pound them into crumbs. Put the crumbs into a plate (make more cracker-crumbs coz if you fall short mid-way it will be very messy to make them again) OK now what you do is take the chicken pieces, roll them in mayonnaise, and then roll them well in the cracker-crumbs. Once you have finished coating all of them, heat some oil preferably olive oil in a non-stick pan and shallow fry the chicken. The will take no more than 5 minutes to cook, and then serve it up with ketchup or a sauce of choice or for kids a mayonnaise dip with some lemon and herbs is also a great hit.
For these nuggets we can also bake them, but right now the oven settings are escaping my memory, I shall pen them down later.
Do try them and meanwhile I take inspiration for some more great things and also some more inspiration to write regularly on the blog!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eating healthy when you are eating out



Eating out does not mean that you have to stray from your healthy eating goals.
Here are some tips & ideas which have worked well for us when eating at fast food chains:
  • If you are eating at McDonald's then hamburger is a good choice,if you eat beef.It has no mayo and is a good bargain at 270 calories and 19 g of fat compared to the other alternatives. If you do not eat beef then another relatively healthy option at McDonald's is the grilled chicken foldover at 392 calories and 19 g of fat.
  • Avoid eating at Burger King where the burgers are too high in calories.
  • Subway is a godsend for people who want to eat healthy and/or control their weight. However, do order the six inch sandwitch instead of the footlong one and avoid mayo and cheese. Don't be tempted too much by their cookies (yes, and I know that they are delicious!).
  • In KFC the problem is that diet drinks are not available. So a soft drink is what you have to order and they are high in sugar. What I do about this is I order coffee and I carry my own low calorie sweeteners.KFC does not make the nutritional information public, but I think that the healthiest options in the menu, apart from the salads, is the "Shrooms Burger" which has no mayo or fried items.

And here are some general tips on eating wisely when eating out:

  • Choose baked or grilled items over fried ones. When ordering salads, request for the dressing to be served on the side so that you can control the amount that you can put on the salads.

  • Always order chicken without skin as the skin has the majority of the fat.

  • In the foodcourts young tau foo, sliced fish soup, fishball soup and other soup based items are easier on your waistline than "Fried Kway Tiao ","chicken birayani" or "laksa"(which is full of coconut gravy). If you are ordering "prata" then order one without any filling (such as cheese.)

  • Pizza is notoriously high in saturated fat and so steer clear of them, whenever possible. If you cannot resist then eat only a slice or two. While ordering pizza, order only half the cheese and double the vegetables to make it more nutritious.

  • Choose clear soups over creamy ones.

  • If you are having grilled fish, be aware of the fact that many restaurants add melted butter to flavor the fish. Ask for your fish to be grilled plain.

  • Order fruit for dessert and have diet drinks or plain water. Freshly squeezed juices without sugar is also a good option.

  • A baked potato with a little bit of sour cream is a smarter choice than french fries or mashed potatoes.

  • When having cold coffee drinks, ask for it to be made with skimmed milk, low calorie sweeteners and to be served without cream.

  • If you really really cannot resist the desserts in a buffet, then split it with your friend or spouse.

Yes, I do follow the above guidelines when I eat out. However, I do give in to occasional indulgences and so should you....it is perfectly normal.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Adventure with alphabets


ur adventure with alphabets is on full swing. I sit with Ibnat every evening after she comes back from the playground and we sit down for some "play" or, rather, studies disguised as play. I concentrate on two letters each and revise as necessary. Ibnat loves to color letters but she prefers water color over crayons and color pencils (I guess because it is faster).


I also bought an alphabet CD-ROM yesterday and so far Iba loves it.It is "caillou's alphabets"(website:http://www.brightermindsmedia.com/)and meant for ages 2-6. Calliou is a four year old boy who guides the children in their adventure. The price is also not very high at $s17. There are games in it like click on apples with "A"s on them or show someone the way to the zoo by clicking on all the "Z"s on the stones. Iba has played the games only twice and already her mouse control is quite good. She even knows how to "click" after I demonstrated it to her a couple of times.


I also do a couple of nursery rhymes with her everyday because she likes "acting out" the rhymes. I also sneak in alphabets in nursery rhymes and ask her questions like,"With which letter does 'Mary' start?".She does not always welcome questions regarding alphabets but atleast the idea that all words begin with letters is sinking in.

Friday, February 29, 2008

ABC


Around two weeks ago Ibnat's classteacher advised me to reinforce the alphabet letters and sounds with her at home, because apparently she is lagging behind her class in this area. And so began my efforts in trying to help Ibnat recognize the letters in the the alphabets. It is not easy because the moment she realizes that it is "work" and not "play" she will just refuse to pursue the activity and move onto something else.

Therefore, I have to make learning fun for Ibnat. She loves finger painting and so I take print outs of the letters (from http://www.first-school.ws/) that I teach her and let her trace her finger , dipped in water color, over it. She sometimes colors the letters using wax crayons. Also when I associate the letters with something she likes she seems to remember the letter. For example she does not forget "z" as "zebra" begins with it. I also use flashcards which Ibnat loves playing around with.

All children are self-centred and so I use her name to teach her the letters. I also use the names of other family members and her friends and this captures her attention.She must be wondering how some letters can actually convey names.

In the montessori schools they make their own flashcards with construction paper and sandpaper. They cut out the letter in sandpaper and paste it on rectangular construction paper. When I asked why they use snadpaper, the teacher said that the montessori approach believes that learning is sensorial and so the child has to feel what she is learning with her hands. Wow! I never knew all this before!

So every evening after Ibnat comes from the playground we sit together with the alphabets. She loves music and movement and so we start with the nursery rhymes and then we move onto stories.This is when I sneak in the alphabets such as telling her the letters with which the names of her favorite characters start. I am also planning to buy alphabet blocks and magnetic letters to stick on the refrigerator.

Other mums......please do share your experiences with me and also give me ideas on creative ways to teach the alphabets.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chewing Gum in Singapore

Yesterday Faisal and I were discussing how clean Singapore is with a very good friend of ours. That is when I first came to know that chewing gum is banned in Singapore because the city-state was having a lot of problems controlling the litter from chewing gum. Imagine my shock and surprise! How can something like a chewing gum be banned....something which is a staple for many people?

When he told me this it occured to me that I have never seen chewing gum in any of the stores in Singapore. But how come I never noticed that there is no chewing gum on sale anywhere?

Today when we were coming back from "Mustafa" in a car, our friend offered us chewing gums. We gladly accepted the "rare commodity" when the cab driver gave us all an angry look. He asked us , "Did you bring this from Malaysia?". To this our friend answered that he had brought it from the States. The cab driver replied that if he had been caught then he would have been jailed for six months and fined $S2000. Our friend ofcourse was unaware of the ban and he vowed that he would never carry chewing gum in Singapore.

We had a good laugh over this while enjoying our chewing gums. We covered our mouths trying to hide the gum because the cab driver very coolly informed us that we would be heavily fined if we are seen chewing these forbidden items.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Celebrate your Language


Today is the 21st of February- a day of great significance in the history of Bangladesh. On this day the nation pays homage to the Language martyrs who fought, more than half a century ago, to establish Bangla as a state language.
This is the language movement day and on this day in 1952 the Bengalis protested to the Pakistani government's order to make Urdu the only state language of the country. The people of Bangladesh( the then East Pakistan) vehemently opposed this decision and demanded that Bangla be included amongst the state languages of Pakistan.The Pakistan government, ofcourse, did not give in easily and tried to suppress the movement. Salam, Barkat, Rafiq and Jabbar andf a few brave young men sacrificed their lives in the movement. The day has since been observed as the Language Martyrs Day which the UNESCO later declared as the International Mother Language Day (I think around 1999), thereby giving it a more universal appeal.

The Language movement is a turning point in history because it reinforced the identity of the Bengalis and gave rise to the spirit which ultimately led to creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Afterall, a language is what reflects a culture.

I am missing Dhaka because in this month there is a different kind of spirit in Bangladesh.The Bangla book fair is also held in this month in Bangla Academy and I used to be a regular visitor there till last year. The book fair or "Ekushe Boi Mela" is the place where a lot of much awaited new books are launched.

So since this is also the International Mother Language Day, let's celebrate our languages and appreciate their uniqueness. No matter how much English we speak in during the course of the day, the fact remains that no language can be as close to our hearts as our mother tongue.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Play-Doh


I first gave play-doh to Ibnat when she was two. I had high expectations that it would really spark her imagination and fascinate her. However, she just took the clay in her hand and kind of tore it into miniscule pieces.Then she started putting those pieces inside her mouth. Though I showed her how to create things out of it, she became more interested in putting bits of play-doh into her ears. Since putting play-doh into ears could be dangerous I just diverted her and took the pots of play-doh away. That is why, though some sets of play-doh says 2+, I personally think that at 2 children are two young to enjoy play-doh.

For her third birthday one of the gifts that Ibnat got is the play-doh party set. It consists of a plastic jar with pots of play-doh and moulds with which the child can different shapes such as heart shapes and star shapes. There are also cake moulds and blunt knives and plates on which the cake can be served.

This time I showed Ibnat how to make a "putty" out of the play-doh and how to mold it into different shapes. I made a cake out of the mould and served it to her on a plate. She became "charged up" and was very eager to try it herself......we had one hour of fun making things together.It was fun for me too and it kind of transported me back to childhood.

So Ibnat has started enjoying playing with play-doh. The play-doh website says that it gives mothers "me time" as it keeps little hands busy. However, Ibnat just wants me to play with her and so I didn't get any "me time" like the website promises!

A sick baby

Yes yet again I have a sick baby; and I have come to understand that every bout of flu he has it drives me to my maximum capacity and tests me in every way possible. Not only do I have to keep up the nutrition intake, add some more nutrition, help all those medications go down the at-times reluctant throat, keep him cheerful, let him watch his favourite movies...make sure he gets all his sleep, and rest, stay up all day and wake up at night to check on him and the much dreaded fever, .....it is just endless. That's why I say that it tests me to the maximum possible limit and every time I think I cannot take it anymore the limit increases on its own & I again seem to have limit-less patience in me. But honestly at the end of the day it all tires me down. This time we're batteling flu for almost 2 weeks now, now ofcourse things are much better with only a dry cough and a runny nose. Optimistic am I not !!!
One thing that I do is make him soups, more than solid food, as soups provide fast nutrition, they are easily absorbed and we can add all the necessary vegetables or meat into them. The taste also makes them more appealing than solid food, a bit of salt, pepper, a dash of lemon..roasted groud jeera.
I also stock up on chocolates as they are another way to give the kids that much needed energy and calories to help tide over the weakness that accompanies sickness.
Fruits is another major thing that needs stocking up. I must say here that I have found that bananas are extremely useful to supress that last bit of nasty dry cough after a cough bout. But before trying it out do remember that I live in a hot climate. So anyone in a cold climate should not indulge in banana-treatment unless you have a bright sunny day.
Tea also helps in a cold, cough. In making tea we can add a bit of crushed ginger, a pod of cardamom (elaichi), black pepper and a cinnamon stick-piece. Add in very little milk as milk makes the throat itchy and makes the cough worse. But yet again nothing beats a warm glass of milk with tumeric in it. I boil the milk with the tumeric and then cool it off till the drinkable-temperature.
All the medicines that need to be given are given to my son just before serving the meal, this way the medicines do not make him want to throw up. What I do is give him his medication, then help him to a glass of his favourite juice, then after 5-7 minutes the meal is served.
I found this way to be much better as he used to throw up if I gave him his medication post-meal. Although the doctors tell me that the medication should be given only post-meal; but I do it this way as it saves me a lot of cleaning up and my baby has no trouble.
Another thing I have realised is that we are not getting enough of sunlight on ourselves, I mean we are not getting vitamin D, and I read somewhere that if we expose ourselves to sunlight for 15 minutes our body makes 1000 IU (or was it 10,000 IU??) of Vitamin D and this surpasses all the external forms of Vitamin D that you can take. So now we have a time in our sun-window where we sit and play in the sun. I must mention here that Vitmain D is the most important of all the vitamins our body needs after all we are here only because the sun shines, and life began that way.
I do want to know what the other mommies do to treat a sick baby, so mommies do drop in your experiences and tricks of the trade so that we all help one another in being better care-givers during those frighful times that our babies are sick.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

It is that time of the year again when everybody acts and feels romantic. You see hearts and red roses everywhere.

I have always had mixed feelings towards Valentine's Day. The romantic in me likes the concept of one day of the year dedicated to love. However, when I think over it rationally I feel that there is too much of a hype over valentine's day.It has become too much of a commercialised event (I read somewhere that valentine's day is also jokingly referred to as the "Hallmark Day").Even companies who want to make a profit out of it should put more emphasis on love rather than on their products. Afterall there is much more to love than diamond jewelries or greeting cards.
However, cynicism aside, we can all celebrate valentine's in our own way. After all there is no harm in proposing to the person you love or cherishing the love that you share with your partner.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Photo Albums in the age of filmless cameras!

A few weeks back when we were in Dhaka, Faisal and I were looking at some old pictures in photo albums. That is when we realized that we had taken the greatest number of pictures in 2007 but developed the least number of pictures in that very year! This is the reason why Ibnat has a beautiful photo album whereas Nayaz's photos are only soft copies in the PC.

That is when we decided that we would create a picture album for Nayaz by developing some of his photos. So my hubby developed some of the younger baby's photo while I was away in Dhaka and last weekend we completed pasting the pics in his album.

As we looked at Nayaz's newly pasted pictures , we were glad that we had compiled the album.There is nothing like looking at photo albums to relive old memories. Clicking "next" in the PC and looking at pictures does not give the satisfaction that we get from turning the pages of an album.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ibnat's Birthday


Day before yesterday we celebrated Ibnat's third birthday with a small party. I did not call her friends in school because I presumed they would be busy with family obligations because of Chinese New Year. So it was just our cousins, Ibnat's friend Ashita and her family and a korean neighbour and her daughter.

The three families that were invited did not know each other so we were a bit apprehensive about the guests feeling awkward with each other. But surprisingly the guests got along quite well much to our relief. We talked about careers, children and South Korea (our neighbour gladly fed us information about her homeland). There were four children including Ibnat and Nayaz and it looked like they were having great fun. They were all very fascinated by my gym ball and they were all trying to bounce it together.
I served some finger food first like chicken nuggets and noodles and it was followed by dinner which consisted of "pulao", roasted chicken, kebabs and vegetable. Everbody relished the dinner except our korean neighbour who ate very little as she thought that the snacks that I served earlier was all that dinner consisted of.

The cake was cut after dinner and everbody clapped and sang for Ibnat. We took a couple of pictures. After dinner we sat down to chat while the kids continued to play with the huge gym ball. I did not arrange any games for them because the kids were in any case too young to understand games but I had made goodie bags for them. After distributing the bags I realized that in a hurry I had forgotten to put the "goodies" inside! We had a good laugh over this.

The korean neighbours left first and our cousins stayed back for a while. We had tea and chatted about how we spent our vacations in Dhaka.

Late in the night we opened the gifts and had chocolates. I was relieved that the party was a success.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Penguin Tales

What a day it has been so far - not even finished half of it and its already upto the brim with adventures for little Mihir and (ofcourse, not to be left behind) me.

To being with, we spotted a fox on the communal lawn, from the balcony. And it looked quite small - not sure if distance was playing a trick on our eyes, but we would like to think it was a baby fox. That kept us occupied for a good fifteen minutes. It was time to get ready for messy play. Because it is the Chinese new year celebration fortnight - Mihir dressed up in his little red Chinese shirt. So off we went to messy play - there was shaving foam, and sopy water and a sand trough, some paints and sticky glue. Mihir had a go at everything and then after being quite messy decided to take a break and play some music instead - so he rummaged through the music box. Then it was time for some fruit and he had bits of grapes, banana, apple and pear.

While the children were eating their fruit, Sue (the early start play lady) had a very interesting story - it got all us mothers astonished and laughing - it was one good bit of stress busting. It started with Sue's friends visiting their friends at Edinburgh for Christmas. So during the vacation, because the kids were getting quite bored indoors, the adults decided to take them to the zoo. So off went 4 adults and 6 kids (all different ages) to the zoo. They had a nice time and as the trip progressed the adults noticed that the kids were behaving a little funny - they thought that they had had enough for the day and decided to return home. The kids were quiet on the way back. Once home, the kids headed straight up to their room and the adults thought that to be a little weird. After a while, it was time to snack and they noticed that the kids were not very interested and would keep coming down one by one. Finally having had enough of this funny behavior, one of the adults went upstairs and to the kids room and guess what - there was BABY PENGUIN in the middle of it. It turned out that the kids just picked him up and put him in the rucksack and kindly fed him some fish fingers. In the meanwhile the zoo authorities were called and they came by immediately to get the little penguin back and the adults were fined £500. By this time, the mothers had gasps of astonishment, admiration, shock, horror and of course all of this punctuated with generous doses of laughter. The kids finished with the fruit and we headed back home. Mihir slept on the way back and i couldn't wait to get to the computer and type out this one for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Organizing the house after a vacation

Coming back home after a vacation is a lot like shifting to a new house (ok, maybe better because furniture doesn't have to be organized). The last few days have been extremely busy because I had to unpack everything that I had brought from home, organize them and make the house functional again for the kids.

I did a lot of shopping from hometown because clothes are really expensive in Singapore.So I have practically bought a year's supply of clothes for the kids. These had to be washed, dried and put in their places.

I was lucky that Faisal came earlier because he had dusted and cleaned up the house. So when I came I did not have to go through the trouble of cleaning up the house. So I utilized that time to stock up the kitchen with stuff like rice, dal, milk and baby food. I also had to buy stuff like floor cleaner, tissue boxes and toilet paper.

A lot of things have changed since we went for the vacation because my younger child Nayaz has started walking. Managing a household with two mobile kids is different than managing a household with a single mobile kid. Though I have a domestic help, the amount of household work that needs to be done still overwhelms me!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Life with a preschooler-Part I

Life with a preschooler seldom has dull moments. Yes, frustration and exasperation crops up from time to time but dull moments are rare.

These days my daughter is full of questions. I think this is a phase that all children go through. Yesterday she stared at my wedding photo and asked me "Maa, why didn't you take me to your wedding?". I was naturally in splits.

Bed times and mealtimes are a bit better now (because I guess the terrible twos are almost over) but Ibnat is still very fussy about eating. Sometimes I fear that she might be suffering from malnutrition. When Ibnat was two,everybody used to think that she was atleast three or four but nowadays many people can guess that she is three (her third birthday is just round the corner)......which means that her rate of growth has slowed down. Brushing her teeth used to be quite a difficult chore but after explaining to her why it is important to clean one's teeth before going to bed she is now more open to it. Ofcourse I have to be playful and imaginative during the brushing ritual. I tell her "Yes, I can see a big "poka" (insect) inside your mouth and so open your mouth wider otherwise it will destroy your teeth."

Ibnat wants her "baba" to take her to bed. They chat for a while and sometimes Faisal scares her with "Mamdo Bhoot" and "King Kong" so that she closes her eyes.

Another new development is that Ibnat is now quite friendly with her baby brother.She is still insanely jealous of him (her dad cannot cuddle the little one without risking an outburst from her) but now they interact and play with each other. She is still interested in wearing her little brother's clothes but I think the realization that she is a girl and therefore has a different set of clothes is slowly coming to her.

Ibnat loves school but she hates the "getting ready for school" part and ofcourse the breakfast part. My maid , very patiently, tries to make her eat by diverting her with "Mr. Bean" cartoon but most of the time her efforts do not yield any results.

The way she enters her classroom gives me a lot of satisfaction.....it is clear that she just can't wait to go inside. She becomes very indifferent towards me and sometimes even forgets to say "goodbye". After school she is very reluctant about coming back home and always says that she wants to go to "Thomson Plaza"(which is mall near our condo) instead.

Keeping a preschooler busy during the long afternoons is really a big challenge. Painting is something Ibnat likes but now the problem is that her baby bro Nayaz "attacks" the water colors and creates a mess. A few days ago he even licked some of the colors and smeared them all over his face. I keep her busy with books and peg puzzles. Cartoons do work at times but Ibnat is not a child who is fond of sitting in one place. In a way this is a blessing in disguise because I do not like the idea of kids being too addicted to TV.

I take her to the playground everyday because there she can meet the other kids and socialise. She loves the playground but is very reluctant to greet the other kids even when they greet her first. She takes time to warm up to them and I think language is also still a barrier to communication for her.

To keep up with a three year old you need a lot of energy and patience. That is why I have started going to bed earlier (I used to be quite nocturnal) and I am also thinking of taking up yoga (that is, if I get the time!).


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Aftermath of the Dhaka Trip

We have just come back from our one and a half month stay in our hometown Dhaka and I am still sorely missing my family and my country.

My hubby did not get a long leave from office and he stayed for three weeks only. I stayed on in Dhaka for another three weeks with the kids.When Faisal was in town I was at my inlaws place and when he went away I shifted to my mum's place with the kids.

It was our first trip to Dhaka after coming to Singapore and it was filled with precious moments with family members and friends. There were moments of chaos, (isn't it expected when there are two toddlers to manage?) panic and sadness (there was a death in the family) but on the whole the trip was a good one.

My sister was also in Dhaka from States as it was her spring break and she had a great time with her niece and nephew especially with her niece. Yes, Nayaz kept trying to attract her attention but Bonna, my sis, is more fond of my daughter. She keeps saying that Iba is any day more interesting than Nayaz. My sister and Iba share a love of dancing and together they danced to the tunes of the lates Hindi and bangla songs.Iba also had a lot of fun with my young cousins especially "Saquib Mama".


There were lots of dinner and lunch invitations and I always ended up complaining to mom that I had nothing to wear (like during college days). Sometimes we had to attend both dinner and lunch invitations on the same day.

Even when we shifted to my mum's place, Iba used to visit her "dadi's" place quite often because she enjoys being with her cousins.In my in law's place the tenants also have kids and there are some young servants and so "Iba" was part of a "gang" of kids. I could see what fun she was having just by looking at her face. Even Nayaz was not left out. He relished all the attention he was getting and he came back a changed person (I mean baby). He now wants somebody to interact with him all the time. He started taking his first steps during this trip and we were all excited as he was a late crawler and everybody expected him to be a late walker.

Now that we are back in Singapore I am hit by loneliness because the house suddenly seems quieter. But I am sure that I'll recover from this temporary depression as soon as I settle down.



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My super-duper weekend

Yes indeed it was a super duper weekend, finally...my parents came down to spend some time with us. I am sooooooo happy to see them!! Aaditya gets to spend time with his 'nini' & 'nanadi'...
The prelude to the weekend was great too, I was getting the house in order, organising things that were out of place & stocking up the fridge & groceries. I had plans of making idli-sambar for the saturday breakfast; but they arrived a good 2 hours later than we had anticipated so it was a mad rush to get the sambar finished in time, well the gist of it all is that we finished eating at 12!!
While breakfast was getting ready, Aadi joined mom in un-packing all the goodies they had brought. I got my favourite Shrewsbury biscuits from Pune, Amol got his Bakarwadi, and khari. Not to mention that as the 'jamai' he got some extra gifts. Mom bought some dry-herbs for Aadi, and I must say that they come in handy when the need arises. I will look for the english names for the herbs & then do a separate post on herbs for kids. Thanks to Mom's arrival I am indulging in home made gajar-ka-halwa...yummmmmmm
They had a very tiring & sleepless night so off they went for a nap, I too joined Aadi coz the previous night I was getting up at one hour intervals just to keep a check on the clock & to make sure we don't oversleep after the alarm.
After the naps, we had tea again & chatted away then mom & I headed to the kitchen to make some more food...evening was spent again chatting & entertainment by Aadi who would takie his 'nanadi' into his toy-room & ask for toys that were beyond his reach and the toys that I had put away saying he is too young for them yet. He did some drawing, clay-work. Surprisingly though he threw a sleep-on-the-floor kind of tantrum & I was shocked for words!! We did not pay attention, and he was OK in a short while. But I am really surprised at the way kids can manipulate their behavior according to their surroundings.
Mom & Papa are in Singapore now & will be back tomorrow, so we're looking forward to that.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An interesting read - French Women Don't Get Fat

In the hectic vacation break, i did manage to read some books and i discovered this one quite by chance in my mother-in-law's collection. Titled "French Women Don't get fat" by Mireille Guiliano, it made me re-commit myself to healthy eating.

The books reads easy and best of all it does not ask us to refrain from anything. Moderation is the mantra and feeling great in your skin is what its all about. It has some easy recipes and talks about the importance of good quality ingredients which makes all the difference when it comes to tasting food and of course very do-able exercises such as walking and climbing stairs. The simplicity of the ideas put forth in the book really appealed to me and i would definitely recommend it to anyone who is trying to tweak their current lives into a healthier life.

You can have a preview of the same on the website http://www.mireilleguiliano.com

It also appealed to me because her suggestions are not very difficult to implement and some quick fixes to get you started really do work. There are some interesting references to "good dressmakers" in the book and just to deviate from the book, i did get some dresses altered to fit better - and i must say a well tailored dress makes one look and feel so much better - so succumbing to nostalgia - i do miss the shopping for dress materials and the visits to the tailor - good old fashioned ways (i had no idea that i would miss them so much some day) - apologize for taking the liberty of a poetic license.

So all in all what can i say - have a look at the website and if you are impressed as i was, i am pretty sure you will want to read the book.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Short cuts in the kitchen

Ever since my son has started ordering what he wants to eat (well it's just the beginning) I have been doing some simple & quick short cuts in the kitchen. For some reason, he has taken a huge liking for Pasta, and off lately, if someone on TV is eating a chocolate, he goes into a "I want this co-tate" mantra. I hope he gets rid of the 'this' in the sentence but till then let me carry on with this post. I keep a bar of chocolate in the fridge to satisfy him. Also as part of the short cuts, I soak up some moong (whole) and once they puff up nicely, I drain them well & put them in a zip-lock bag for refrigeration. Just like moong, our good old matki, chavli come in handy. I am not fond of dry peas so don't keep them, things like kabuli-chana are best soaked the day before you want to cook them.
I also keep a variety of fruits, as they can be turned into a yummy & filling milk-fruit-shake or even a fruity-yogurt (which Aadi likes a lot). I stock up on strawberries, grapes, mangoes, bananas, apples. I have not made grapes into any shake yet as Aadi is enjoying eating them cut into into small pieces. This is also one of my ways to encourage him to chew.
Before cooking up rice or daal, I soak it in wash & soak it in water, this makes the rice softer & also cooks much faster.
Another thing I do is cook pasta or even Maggie in a pressure cooker, this way it gets ready in no time, plus less water is needed & most importantly it turns out a bit softer too. With this method, I throw in the veggies as well so I end up doing the dish much faster.
Regarding adult food, I make extra curry-paste/masala, when I make a curry, this saves me all the trouble for the next time that curry needs to be made. I also use the same masala/paste to make dry vegetables.
I think in a previous post, I had mentioned about pureeing some vegetables, like broccoli, beet root, and using them in soups. I have bought some beet root & have to make the puree. I do this by simply peeling them, cooking them till soft, you can use a pressure cooker or an open pan for this. After they are cooked & cooled I puree them in a mixer-grinder & pour the puree in ice-cube trays. After the cubes are formed I remove the cubes from the trays & store them in a zip-lock in the deep freezer. You can make purees of most of the vegetables in the same way & use them in the kids food, this way we ensure nutrition & also the kids get used to the tastes of real food.
Simple things make our life easier...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A new start

It was one long vacation and i did enjoy every bit of it. Lots happened over the course of the last two months - taking into account the prologue and the epilogue to the vacation.

Well Mihir celebrated his first birthday, started walking, got his first haircut, got a new pair of shoes, understands a whole new set of words and makes dozens of new sounds, has proved himself to be a real cool traveler and a slightly fussy eater... the list goes on. The best bit in the entire vacation was, without a doubt, spending time with family and friends - that really rejuvenated our spirits - and as usual however long the vacation is, it still felt too short.

Getting back to London meant feeling a pang of loneliness. However this time around i am determined not to let it affect me. For starters, this time around i have resolved to eat healthier - and to that effect i am planning to make some menus and plan meals for a couple of days to get me started and ease my grocery ordering. The other thing i want to do is to get up earlier - starting the day early seems to give me so much time - i hope doing this will help me set aside an hour of "me-time" everyday. I hope to put in atleast two posts every week - it would be nice if Neelum and Malina hold me to this. While this list can go on, i think if i decide to do just one thing and achieve it i will be much happier and this should give me the confidence to take on new things. So here's to a new start.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The first week

I have told you all about our first day at pre-school, this time I'll just feed you on the entire week gone by. All in all it was a good week. He is happy with the school, has learnt some new things.
We as a family are actually seeing the sun rise, also clicking some snaps to capture the sheer beauty of those moments. I for one felt a bit rushed with all the morning routine, waking up at 6, and making sure all breakfasts, lunches are made. But in a way it does save me a lot of time later on in the day. The first day of school I had made suji ka halwa for Aadi, but I don't think that was enough to carry him on till mid-day, well he does drink milk first thing when he wakes up, but still I felt halwa was not enough for him. So day-2 onwards, I made chapati for him for breakfast, and gave it to him with his favourite dal, sambar, moong-sabji, milk even. With this change in breakfast, I saw him coming out of school with still some energy in him, and not cranky with hunger. Also to confirm my deductions, Dr. Oz was on Oprah that day & he stressed the importance of fiber & carbohydrates (whole) in the first meal of the day, and since Aadi is not into corn-flakes or any cereal I think Chapati is the best option for him. For the break time I send one poly-pack of Milo with him along his water bottle, Milo just in case he does not eat his snack at school. But the feedback from the teachers is that he eats a bit of the snack so that is progress for me.
Day-2: The day was good, we decided that we (the parents) would drive him to school, all was good till it was time to enter the school gates, he clung onto me for a while, & asked me to go inside with him. I assured him that I would be back to pick him up & that he has to enjoy the day till then. After this short talk he was fine & went in. When I went to pick him up, he gave me his most beautiful smile, and my day was made.
Day-3: We did not send him, as we thought he needs a break, so he slept till late & had a relaxing day at home.
Day-4: This day, Aadi went alone with Amol, I went to the parking with them & strapped him up, at that point he saw that I was not going, so again he was a bit clingy, but then we made a very excited environment, about he getting to go all alone with his Papa in his car etc. I also gave him the map-book just to make him feel important. At the school, there was no scene, he did a proper good-bye, and threw a flying kiss to his Papa.
Day-5: Today I did not even go to the parking, I said bye to him at the door, he was OK after a second, and said bye cheerfully, again at school Papa got a nice good-bye.

New things learnt: What noise an elephant makes, learnt so say 'naughty boy', learnt to say his full name, says 'i don't know' with a finger on his cheek, and when I ask him what he wants to eat he goes "hmmmmmmmm" into a thinking mode, and then comes up with options.