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 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: 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.