Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Resolutions

No New Year is complete without thinking about Resolutions! Its a must. You might not follow them, might not write them, however we always think about it.
Next Year.. I will, I have to, I wont!

Here are my 2011 Resolutions... Check it out on Smartly Chicago and leave a comment!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Year 2010 in Review

I came across this article on CNN- Year 2010 in review with 10 simple questions…. Here is my take…and now all you reading it, consider yourself tagged.. so I better be seeing your responses soon enough!

1. 2010: How do you pronounce it?
Twenty Ten of course... is there any other away?

2. Make a facial expression that shows how you feel about the year.
Roll your mouth and put hands on cheeks for additional effects!

3. The best thing I bought was my daughter's kitchen set.

4. For me, 2010 was exciting, eventful and memorable. [Answer with three words]

5. I totally cringed this year when I was caught with 'foot in mouth' disease. I have learned the hard way to never say never!

6. The best thing on the internet by far was me finally figuring out Google Reader!

7. I'm pretty sure I over shared on Facebook this year when I published the article about my food poisoning.
A friend of mine was kind enough to point out- I really don’t care how often you poop girl! ;-)

8. The best day of the year was October 31st 2010

9. The best place I visited was Hawaii, which is 4251 miles from where I live.
Really it is that far...

10. Next year, I'm planning to breathe more and travel even more! Fingers crossed

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pre-conceived notions are sometimes wrong

Especially about movies

Case in Point: Star Trek.

Hubby watched it and recommended I watch it as well. Me, having my pre-conceived notion about it said: Oh no, I'd rather not. I don’t know the different characters and somehow have not followed the series. He was like, that’s exactly what I thought, but it’s really nice and you must watch it.
And I did, I loved it, every minute of it. The story, the graphics, the language, the alternate-reality concept, the thought and above all the line "Vulcan culture is preserved but we have lost a civilization"
Very nice movie... I am now contemplating catching up on the series. Let’s see.

Second case in Point: Sherlock Holmes.
I had read a few of Sherlock Holmes series as a kid. I enjoyed them then. Above all FB and other review sources didn’t speak highly about the movie. So I was double minded. But, on a snowed in Xmas afternoon with cozy blanket, it seemed like a perfect choice. And I enjoyed the movie a lot. I loved the simplicity and above all the depth that the different characters portrayed in the movie. I loved the representation and how small details can reveal so much about a person. Nice movie.

So that’s what my Xmas weekend was. Daughter enjoyed the new play-blender immensely. And we enjoyed good board games and then some more board games. Nice lazy weekend!

So, tell me which movies recently unexpectedly exceeded your expectations?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Any one up for e-betting?

Phew... so I am now convinced, my stomach has a mind of its own. I think I am recovered completely, since I can eat most of my normal foods and then my tummy will remind me... selective foods please!
The catch, tummy does not tell me, what the criterion for selection is.
Case in Point: Over the weekend, I had complete Indian meal, a delicious impromptu dinner and so on. But tummy was fine. It was perfect.
Come this morning, I said- let’s have Bagel. And an hour later, tummy was back to doing what it's been doing lately- hurting. Hmm, I thought spices were bad, apparently not, just bread or rather bagel. WTH!
How do I know, what works, what does not? Hubby asked the perfect question lately. Is tummy okay now? I said yes and only to recant two hours later.
Then I thought, its coffee, so I went coffee-less for almost three weeks. Three cups total in three weeks is Coffee-Less OKAY. But stomach seems fine with or without it.
I had rice, which was my staple meal a couple of weeks ago, is resulting in tummy aches. So now, I am off rice. Hmm WTH!
So if you see me lying on my tummy and pretending to sleep, you know it’s my tummy telling me - He He.. I got you!

I am thinking of starting a wager now... what do you think it is:
Spices – Yummm. Dude I have been feeding my family almost bland food for a while now!
Carbs - Roti's, bread, does rice belong here?
Caffeine - Coffee, I barely drink soda's FYI
Starch – Rice, Potatoes right?
Protein - Mind you, I am a vegetarian, so it’s mainly pulses and spinach I think
Fiber - All vegetables, fruits
Sweets – All holiday candy, cookies come in this category.
Processed food- not that I consume that much of it.
Dairy – aaah!
All of the above - Haha!
None of the above- I am just making all this up!

And yes point noted, before I teach V about food groups, I will study before hand!
So come on, lay your bets! It’s like Wits and Wagers man!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mid-Week breaks...

I really could get used to these! A few months ago, a girl friend of mine decided to meet mid-week.. hmm.. why, just like that- everyone needs a mid-week break we thought. A simple dinner one evening after V was asleep, we girls headed off to a neighborhood bistro, had a blast and swore to do it once a month.
It’s been fun ever since. We meet more often..And before the current mid-week break is over, we are already planning for the next one. We told more girl friends about this crazy mid-week break idea and they got hooked on. And we all know it will be a late night and we all know it’s a working day the next day! So now, it’s no longer where, what, who, why.. it’s just more of when. We know the remainder is logistics. As long as we know when, the rest will get worked out easily.
When we do meet as couples, as families, us girls would still be laughing at that stupid joke or the yummy food or that crazy server or how we were literally thrown of the restaurant since it was way past the closing time! Good Times. :-D
It’s not fancy, it’s just what a break is suppose to be. We have had dinners, pot dinners, eat what’s left over, eat what needs minimum intervention, snacking dinners, order-in dinners. Bottom line, anything and everything works provided we have the company and loads and loads of conversations and loads of giggles and some heartfelt conversations.
So the boys I think said- enough! Now, they are trying to meet up weekly, sit over there glasses and discuss business, play poker whatever. May be I will call it- Boys night! Now, we have some kick ass girl poker players. The mid-week break is now extended, its just a mid-week break for everyone! We try to meet up as often as possible, either set up the poker table, have good-bye parties for little pets, meet up to gossip, offer expert relationship advices, tease the funny accents, or even just plain old bitch!
Aaaah... such fun!

Here is to more mid-week breaks!

Note: Yes, I know next day is a working day, but the week goes by so quickly now with the mid-week break. Yes, V still sleeps 'almost' on her regular sleep times... 30-45 minutes later than normal is okay! Yes, friends accommodate by reducing volumes for a bit until V is snooze land! and Yes, thank god for coffee for me the next morning.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How food poisoning can help..

Seriously.. it can.
As a reminder, I was hit by a bad food poisoning incident about two weeks ago, right after our wonderful Anniversary dinner.
It’s been a fortnight and lingering weak stomach condition remains.
I am eating food again and can process it normally. Finally, but food poisoning has helped... here is how
1. I can still not fathom eating outside food. I tried it once, and was holding my stomach the rest of the day.
2. In the holiday season, with the social life buzzing, I HAVE to choose wisely; else, I will once again be holding my tummy. Recently, I stuck to just salad at a holiday party with yummy food everywhere around. Damn!
3. I don’t have a choice but say 'No, Thanks' to the endless supply of holiday cookies and dessert. Again, I tried eating one and well, you guessed it right, holding my stomach later.
4. Coffee is still a delicacy. I am no longer having my 'mug' a day, but a mug on a weekly basis hoping that I don’t have to hold my tummy right after.
5. Snacking has reduced to zero. Since my options are hold tummy or snack, I choose neither. I stick to munching tasteless crackers for the hunger pangs still!
6. Best of all, I still can’t take spicy food well. Last weekend, our friend had made the most delicious Paneer dish. I ate it and licked it all and thankfully it was not spicy!

Urgh.....come on man.. weak tummy please recover. Let me enjoy my favorite month and the holiday festivities... it’s been so scary for me, that even on weeknights with a bunch of friends gathered, I am happy cooking for all instead of ordering the 'Pizza'.

So food poisoning has helped, in making me sulk, look down upon food and really dread meal times. I enjoy cooking a lot, but I don’t enjoy cooking the same blandish food every single night.... Any ideas/ recipes for better/yummier easily digestible food??
And for the record, we eat in regularly. But now that I know, I cant eat out at all, I am really not a happy person.

To my family- thanks for understanding and not sulking at simple dinner menu's! And above all keeping the helping hand ready. Hoping I am back to 'normal' food soon!

Edited: Updated correct title

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's a home to you?

Yes, I am glued to HGTV. I thoroughly enjoy turning pages of those shiny magazines that show pristine homes, lovely set-ups, clean closets, organized toys and the likes. I try a simple DIY, we clean together, V puts her toys away. Things around the house are 'neat'.

But I know my home is more than what it looks like.

To me, my home is
..when friends can drop in anytime and ignore the unfolded laundry or better yet, help me fold it.
..when we can have a gathering of friends within an hour of the first email reading: "Too bored, lets meet up tonight"
..when friends can navigate my kitchen and know exactly what’s where.
..when V does not have to worry about her toy being in the right shelf.
..when V can have her play friends over and they can enjoy smacking lips on brownies without worrying about the crumbs.
..when V and her friends help in 'cleaning up' the toys that were strewn in every room of the house.
..when music can be played loudly and SD and V can dance around without worrying about bumping into something fragile.
..when the kitchen can be under stocked, meals are not four course but conversations, laughter, smiles are plenty. That’s the best party ever!

To me my home is all of the above and it’s perfect.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Recipe: Quick Daal Makhani

It’s no secret, I can’t grocery shop! I tend to overspend, under analyze and leave the store with more things than I really need or my family can consume. The worst is, for the life of me, I can’t differentiate between a good tomato to a bad tomato unless of course if there is fungus involved!
Keeping all that in mind and ensuring weekends are away from errand running, my dear hubby steps up the game. He does all our grocery shopping. The freako planner in me, sends him a list of things we are out of and must haves and then it's fair game for him. I love him. I really do, and not just because he grocery shops or not just because he never fails to make fun of my fruit spotting... just because, he 'voluntarily' helps me out here. Occasionally when we do go together.. I am Alice in Wonderland!
A while ago, I asked him to get daal.. and he did. He just didn’t get the green moong one I needed, but got the black udat instead. By the way telepathy is not his forte. Daal is daal. He got me there!

Hmm.. so I am stuck with Black udat and I scratched my mind, searched the internet... and here is my revised recipe for a quicker Daal Makhani. Well it’s not that quick.. but prep time is not much and then cooking time is what it is. But I assure you, the lazy me cooks it at least twice or thrice a month on weeknights! So it can’t be that hard.

Prep time: 10-15 minutes Cooking time: 45-60 minutes

1.5 cup whole urad dal (black lentils) - I have Black Split Udat, which works fine as well.
0.5 cup Rajma (red kidney beans) - Canned ones are fine
0.5 cup Channa dal (Bengal gram dal)
0.5 cup Chickpeas/garbanzo beans - Canned ones are fine
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and chopped finely
2 – 3 garlic cloves
2 green chillies
1 onion Finely chopped
1.5 tomato Finely chopped
salt to taste

Store baught: Daal Makhani Masala tastes fantastic and very repeatable with consistent taste.
0.5 tspn or more chilli powder
0.5 tspn garam masala
0.5 tspn Haldi

for tadka
1-2 tspn ghee
1 tspn cumin
1/2 Bay Leaves
1/2 Cloves
Just a little Cinnamon.

To finish
1/2 cup Yogurt or cream (I prefer Yogurt for the tangy taste and definitely healthier than cream)
Finely chopped coriander

1. Soak all of the lentils (udat, rajma, chole and channa dal) in water for 6 hours, or preferably overnight. I tend to soak them in the morning before work and return to make it for dinner. Wash 3-4 times before making the daal.
2. Heat ghee in a pressure cooker and add cumin, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon
3. When bubbling, add garlic, ginger, onions and sauté till translucent
4. Now add 2-3 tspns of the Daal Makhani masala. Saute a bit more
5. Add chopped chilli and tomatoes. Sautee till cooked (about 5 min.)
6. Add all the soaked lentils.
7. Add 4-5 cups of water (I prefer our daals a bit thicker, but add water based on the consistency you like)
8. Close the pressure cooker and leave the gas on low-medium.
9. The daals take a good 45 minutes before the first whistle. The longer is stays in, the better the flavors.
10. Once the daal is done, open the pressure cooker, mix/ blend the daal. Adjust seasoning.
----- You can add an additional tadka if you like the look of fresh tadka!
11. Add whisked yogurt and reduce the gas for another 15 minutes.
12. Top with freshly chopped coriander.

Eat away!

I know, it sounds like a long process, but trust me, while the daal is getting cooked, I tend to finish making the remainder dinner, clean up, and get time to play with V.
Plus nothing better than fresh hot daal! High in proteins and healthy. I consistently get the hi-five from my daughter. Best of all, hubby and I enjoy it with chopped onions on the side.
As you can see, the grocery shopping arrangement in our family is working brilliantly.
Wink Wink!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Where is the "Sorry" ?

It’s been a while... and after a break, here is my latest article on Smartly Chicago.
Go on read on… comment on.

I wrote this post right after I recovered from a very bad case of Food Poisoning and the rudeness of the restaurant manager. I just think compassion is missing nowadays and more importantly good etiquette.

Being cut off

Not literally.... but being cut off from the world... or more rightly cut off from the 'grid'. The grid of social network, media, news, emails, phones and anything else that keeps you 'connected'.
Recently on our annual family vacation... that’s exactly what we did. The data network on the blackberries was switched off. The laptops were stowed away. And minus a few phone calls back home or coordinating a few excursions. We all were literally cut off.
And it felt great. Amazing. Free.
Before we left, I had put in a couple of pre-scheduled posts. I had responded to my work obligations and above all activated my Out Of Office and then lived to the text: "I will have no email connectivity."
I know there is no obligation to check emails every two minutes, see FB, read the news, check if the weather changed from noon to two pm or even just surf the network. But we all still do it. Guilty as charged and we don’t realize what we are missing out on.
During our vacation, we were up and about from 6:30 in the morning and would be bone tired by 8. We’d sleep early to refresh ourselves and then the next day began the minute we saw the sun shining outside. No TV, no catching up, nothing.
My book and the sun block were my company while my daughter snoozed on the sun kissed beaches. Our TV conversations were taken over by discussing the warmth and the colors of the flowers. We noticed the tiny red bird on the tree just because we were gazing up the tree instead of our 'smart' phones. And I am very happy to say that I rejuvenated myself and SD and I explored a lot more than we had researched on the net. Just talking to locals and learning the ways was way more information than any Google search ever gave us.
Now that we are back, we are re-adjusted. Connected. But still refreshed. Consciously or not, the TV is not on as much anymore. I realized I didn’t miss it as much. The post dinner time has been taken up by a fun game of bananagrams or finishing books sooner or just relaxing or calling up friends and catching up instead of 'fb-ing' them.
I know by no means, I am saying good bye to my living in the fast lane anytime soon. But every once in a while, staying offline made me enjoy my life more. Way more.