Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vanity is beautiful

A story, a realization and the simplicity of it

A friend of my older daughter Miss V, lets calls her Ms. Inspiring.

The kids were hanging out together, laughing, giggling and just having a great time especially since they met after such a long time. They are now in different schools but hang out when schedules permit. I notice Ms. Inspiring's hair cut... I mean she went from a hip length to a short bob and she totally rocked it. But I asked her, how come?

Ms. Inspiring tells me, ' I donated my hair for kids who need it' and I was astounded. Before I could respond she continued: 'It's hair, they will grow back' and she went off to play with Miss V and the other kids.

And I was standing in the doorway.... astounded and definitely inspired.

That was 1.5 years ago.

I started growing my hair, honestly mainly out of vanity. I haven't had long hair since a very long time (11 years ago I had grown them out to style them well for my wedding!)
So I started growing them and thoroughly enjoyed the buns, the  braids, the wind through them and having the girls style them and play with my hair. I had completely forgotten about that conversation with the 8 year old friend of V.

Recently someone in the extended family was diagnosed with a 'Big C' and that's when it all came crashing in...... the conversation with the 8 year old, the face of my relative and the shallowness of my vanity.

Long story short (no pun intended):

The before and The after


Thank you Miss. Inspiring for making it so simple 'It's hair, they will grow back'

The hair donation went to Wigs for Kids whose motto is 'Helping children look like themselves and live their lives!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Day 3, 4: Resort Stay & Journey to El Nido

Continuing the story of the Phillippines in a week, read here for Day 1 and Day 2

Day 3: Rainy days, but a stay at the plush resort with friends

This day started again with torrential rain fall and was our day with the friends. We had originally planned to take an island hopping tour and explore Mactan/ Lapu Lapu. But rain forced us to improvise and we all headed to the lavish pools of the resort.
So when it rains, we enjoy the pool even more! It's brilliant actually!

A lazy lunch and some more conversations followed. My friend and I decided to get matching tattoos (sticker ones) and this day turned out to be a lovely relaxed and fun filled day. By the evening, they were 'not' ready to return to HK and we packed and 'got ready' to head to Palawan/ El Nido the next morning.


I am so thankful for great friends, who adjust their own schedules to take a combined vacation. Though we met them after 5 years, it felt like we started where we left off and it was just simple and of course with a few more kids in the mix.


Day 4 A morning flight to Palawan and a long 7 hour drive to El Nido

Cebu- Flight to Palwan/ Puerto Princesca- 7 hour drive to El Nido!!!
The TRAVEL TIME is the ONE thing I wish I could change. It was really late that we found out about a a direct flight from Cebu to El Nido, so for anyone who is planning, do that. Cebu- El Nido direct
It saves you a day of travel time and this way you can maximize your time on the beach instead of travelling from one island to the other.

We reached El Nido around 7 pm and met our host of the Bed n Breakfast we had booked for. Tony was the sweetest host and really helped us navigate the local area. His BnB was one street off the beach and really in the middle of the activity hub, all the fun and frolic the city of El Nido has to offer. He made us feel so at home and went above and beyond to help us book our tours for the next two days.

Though we had done research and knew we wanted to do Tour A & C, he connected us to his known tour company Caldao Tours and booked us in for the next morning with a custom Vegetarian Lunch order. We walked around town, grabbed some dinner and then headed back for some rest and more sleep.

More on Tour A & C coming up

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

You thought I forgot???

Nope, I have not forgotten about the whole business of buddying up, logging food and being a little more active than I was before. The long, painful but satisfying journey for 'Getting Fit' 

So I am still 'at it' albeit slower with hiccups and not 'glamorous results' but hey the slow and steady wins the race.
And the winner gets a pat on the back :-)

Working Out
Last few weeks, with a travelling spouse, the 'workout' took a back seat. Yes, I could have done the exercises at home, but I decided sleeping in will be better (It was!!!)
But now that life is back to normal with equal number of adults to kids, I am back at the gym. The first day back in the class after 3.5 weeks was crazy bad and though I was not really sore, I definitely was 'tired' sooner. But the rhythm is settling back in which is a good thing. However, my old old knee injury is acting up and until the doctor gives me a clean bill of health, I plan to just enjoy the "Ride" class, which is 45 minutes of riding a bike mixed in with limited strength and cardio. Love it!


My Fitness Pal
Yippie, 50 days streak aka logging in almost every morsel of food in the app to see how much I am eating. I have been logging but have been over the calorie intake almost every single day. I have been unbalanced, ideally it should be in the ratio of 50:30:20 for Carb: Protein: Fat. I have been 'Way Off' and I blame all the delicious goodness of Indian sweets and snacks around the house.

BUT I am logging religiously, sometimes at a high level sometimes faking the data based on memory for the day.  I know I know, hopefully will get back in the groove soon enough.


Buddying up
With summer setting in and our eagerness to be out and about, my buddies and I are 'at it'. Even a simple message of 'Good Job' or 'Let’s go to the gym tomorrow' or 'Why haven’t you logged in' are good encouragements.
Of course, my new buddy aka my husband is waking up at the ungodly hour of 5:30 and coming with me to the gym. And having this new buddy is all the more 'fun'



So there you have it, the details...

Summary: 
There has been no weight loss, but NO GAIN as well. There have been NO clothes being suddenly too big for me (I wish!), but the best result for me: I am able to sustain extended soccer games with my kids in the park and really make a run after the Frisbee in the evenings, so I am truly loving that!

For me getting fit is less about 'the vanity' of it but more about the 'energy levels' of it. And though the compliments help, the true fun is listening to my daughters chat in the morning: 'Mummy just came back from her yoga and she is stinking eeeew'
I chase them every now and then to slather them with a 'sweaty hug'.


Perfect way to start the morning.

Friday, June 2, 2017

When you least expect it...

When you least expect it...

There was a time when I was IN the 'blogging circuit', meeting fellow bloggers, attending various events, reviewing theater etc.
And now as time has gone by, I have become less and less involved in these.. I do still enjoy blogging and writing and having an outlet. I still follow my favorite readers and enjoy the conversations, i am what you call a blogger with no readers ;-)

And then yesterday I get an email from 'Indian Top Blogs' that I am listed in the directory and have earned a spot on the the 'Top Blogs'
Well... what do you know!


Don't believe me, I know you don't... check out their link..

So when you least expect it, you may get surprised and its definitely a good feeling!

I guess a speech is needed, I mean all 'Oscar winners' give it... So here it goes
'Thank you my faithful reader(s) [I wonder if anyone more, the stats on the blog show a few daily, so thank you for being patient with me]
Thank you my kids, my husband, well you are the topics in most posts and it is indeed fun to capture your antiquities [Though not fun to live them.. I mean she did what]
And then of course thank you food... you add the 'spice' to my posts, no pun intended'


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A newly created Milestone

I have older kids, well 4 and 9, and I since I am off the diaper duty, I call them 'older' kids... but they are teeny tiny in my mind.
But as they are getting 'older and wiser' there are lesser and lesser milestones that I track or remember to track. No more first steps, first words, first solids, first steps...

There are no key milestones with these kids, just good and onward and upward development.
I know that's how it should be and it is, but it makes me a little sad every now and then. They are still my babies.

So today, I 'create' a new milestone for 'Tween' (my 9 year wise girl) and my 'Pre-schooler' (The 4 year old Chatterbox)

Tween, Miss V: First sleep away trip from school!
Pre-schooler, Miss S: First night not sleeping in the same room with her older sister!

The morning of the trip.....  
Miss V, was up and packed 3 days prior to the trip, she wakes up at 5 am, makes her own milk and is ready at 5:45 to leave. We don't have to be in school before 8 am, that's how excited she was!

Miss S, the little sister shadows the older one, gives her extra hugs, steals older sister's bear for the night (since no one to fight with) and is just holding her older sister's hand throughout the early morning!

The morning of the trip.... me an my thoughts! 

I know the trip is only 3 days, 2 nights long. But its freaking long in my mind. She is off to a camp which is open pre-season for just their school. She is with her wonderful friends and her super involved and caring teachers. It's super safe and even more protected than I can imagine. 
Her school has gone above and beyond to ensure kids are looked after and parents are comforted. But still, this is a big milestone! 

It's a school trip which encourages her to be more independent, explore the nature, hike the wilderness, mount and do the horse riding, play unlimited soccer, Grill smore's by the camp fires!

But here I am on the other side of the white bus waving good bye with a brave grin showing her how trully Happy I am for her!
And then I sit in the car and breathe, That's my baby hitting another milestone...


She is ready, I am not!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Day 2: Philippines: Oslob & Kawasan Falls

Before we had booked Philippines, one thing that was a MUST DO for me was the swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob.

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE.

Yes, the day was super long, we started at 5 am and ended at 9 pm, but booking a private tour, having a 10 seater van after a jet lagged flight was totally worth it, since when not doing the activity, we pretty much slept in the big van.

Note: Booking tours in Philippines is a big plus, they have really good cars, all in one package including pick up, stopping for food, activity, suggestions for local stuff and then they drop you back. It's quiet brainless during the day for you then and you are never worried about safety if you have pre-booked using a good company. I used Cebu tours for Oslob-Tumalog-Kawasan falls and they were really nice.

Now, we were driven to Oslob and the day started out with torrential rainfall. i was definitely nervous, but the tour guide/ driver mentioned to us, we will be fine So kids packed up and we headed out!
The drive was gorgeous, but taking the 18 hour flight the day before, we were all knocked out and slept until we stopped a a cute cafe outside Oslob.... we could see 15-20 boats in the water and lots of tourists.

But we started at the cafe with a local's breakfast of sticky rice and mango. yes, Mango, you can imagine our utter happiness. After breakfast and changing into our swim gear we headed to the Whale Watching tour area. Now, reminder: No sun-block allowed since the chemicals harm the whale.

Here booking with a tour company really helped since they had secured our permits and after our orientation of the 'what to do with the whale shark' tour we were loaded on the boats for a 30 minute 'swimming with the whale shark'

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!!

The whale Shark are peaceful and so massive. My older daughter V jumped in the water with us, but was nervous and stayed closer to the boat. The little one S stayed in the boat and awed the Whale Shark. I was half prepared for a 'crying session' with the little one, but she was super strong and stayed on the boat being our whale shark spotter.


Sumit and I swam or rather 'shivered' with these gorgeous creatures. We really tried to toughen up and get a picture with the whale shark, but were partially successful. This is definitely a recommended trip.

After the Whale Shark and the oohing and aahing,we headed to Tumalog falls, where more than the falls, i had fun on the bike ride to the falls and then the 'natural fish spa' eeeew, we all sat in the water, the fishes come to feed on the dead skin and eeeew, I could not do it for a long time, of course the older monster loved the 'spa' and Sumit was pretending to love it to.

These Tumalog falls are nothing to write home about, but just since the water was so shallow and th mist was worth it with the kids. We returned back to our cafe and Miss Ruth, the tour guide to enjoy a Vegetarian Lunch. These were by the far the best noodles I have had. So simple and so earthy and so delicious, These lemons, were tiny, juicy and tangy!!

A little more relaxation and then we bid farewell to Ms. Ruth and headed to Kawasan falls. Again the drive though gorgeous, our jet lagged bodies forced us to deep slumber. By the time we reached Kawasan falls, it was pouring down really hard.

But we braved it out and hiked a mile to reach the Kawasan Falls. Complete disclosure, I added this to  our custom tour, one can do Oslob and return back, but I really wanted to explore these much spoken about falls.
The highlight here (minus the rain) was the clear water and the raft ride which takes you below the falls. After much waiting and getting wetter in the rains, the three of us went on the massive raft and were 'water massaged' on it. The little one decided to stay on shore and watch us. Good call. The pressure of the water is crazy hard and though it was amazing fun, it would not have been worth it.

We hiked back and enjoyed some coconut water. And then drive back to Cebu was loong. I think about 6 hours. We were all knocked out solid. By the time we reached the hotel, we were exhausted and tired and happy to see our friends.

We freshened up and met our friends for dinner and some more cake and conversations which are never ending.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The drive back home

As parents, our weekday life is pretty routine to be honest, morning routine, dropping the kids to school, work, picking the kids, shuttling them to classes, park/ summer fun, dinner, bedtime. Simple and routine and I like the predictably, I like the simplicity of it.

But in all this routine, the kids are super busy and honestly as a parent, I am generally pre-occupied, be it for work or whats for dinner or even my phone.

The one time, that I am focused and ensuring I hear the kids is when it's just the kids and me is the drives and of course dinner time. The radio/ music is generally on low volume in the car ride and we chat, they talk and I listen. 

In the mornings, its generally a readiness for the day and hugs and kisses, but the evening is when the girls are chatty, they talk about their day at school, what they ate, whom they played with, what they didn't like and what was so awesome about their day.

And that's my best uninterrupted listening ears to them. I try to listen on all these conversations since without the girls knowing, they shed a light into their minds.

Its about them and what bothered them when someone didn't play with them. Or how they felt when a friend stumbled in the park. This is that one conversation which makes me realize every single day that these girls are being their own person. They are not just telling me how their day was, but telling me what moves them, what bothers them what excites them.

And as much as I think I know my kids, this one conversation is an eye opener every single day and i learn something new about them.


What's your best 'uninterrupted listening ears' time with your kids?



Monday, May 1, 2017

Day 1: Flight into Cebu and relaxing in Mactan

Day 1:
Our flight into Cebu was via Taipei and of course flying on my Birthday Day, going east means, I lose a day since I cross a date line, my Birthday was less than 12 hours long. And that was not fun. 



But my kids and friends and hubby made up for more than that.... they sang Happy Birthday whenever, I got flowers, cake and more cake and lots of hugs, so in effect it did become a 10 day birthday celebration! So no complaining.


After reaching Cebu, we reached the hotel to be greeted with their delicious fresh fruit juices as welcome drinks and our friends and extended long hugs. For the Cebu portion of our travels, our friends, their cute 15 month old munchkin had flown in from HK to have a combined vacation and catch up. It was really awesome to see them and be able to coordinate our chutti together.

We started with pigging out on food, after a 20 hour flight getting daal tadka with palak paneer in the most unexpected place was awesome. The one thing we were warned about Philippines was its not vegetarian friendly, I disagree, the pounds I packed in my trip also disagree with you.

Anyhow, after pigging out on food and see the 15 month toddle around, we headed straight to the beach for some sun, sand, snorkel and sand castles. Then the pool and then our friends had renter a private villa with a private pool. So heading into their pool with some 'desi music' and kids going crazy swimming, life is good. It was the perfect start to the vacation.


By the time dinner time came, kids were zonked out and before the meal was served. I think it was more helpful for having them sleep then eat, so they slept, we ate and caught up with our friends and of course there was cake!!!!

We crashed early tonight… well midnight is early when you are with friends, since we had the next morning of our much awaited trip to Oslob, for swimming with whale sharks!


More to come!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ziggi Ziggi

Ziggi Ziggi

Meaning Ok Ok... and that was not the only word we learned in our ten day trip to Phenomenal Philippines.
The trip was wayyy more that Ziggi Ziggi, it was simply astounding!


Philippine’s is a cluster of 7500 plus islands, breathtaking natural beauty and really simple and happy people. We are left mesmerized and would love to go back and explore more of the islands some day!
We visited two main islands: Cebu and Palawan. Our itinerary is shared below with more details to follow soon

Part 1: Cebu
Day 1     Reach Cebu @ 10 am, Meet friends, beach, pool, private pool and luxurious dinners
Day 2     Full day trip to Oslob and Kawasan falls: Swimming with the Whale Sharks yay!
Day 3     Rainy days, but a stay at the plush resort with friends: Pool time, chill time, Catch Up time!
Day 4     A morning flight to Palawan and a long 7 hour drive to El Nido : Looong travel day

Part 2: El Nido/ Palawan
Day 5     El Nido: Tour A: Caldao Tours : The lagoons, the day at the sea and the lovely Asian hospitality
Day 6     El Nido: Tour C: The beaches, the boat and the sun and breathtaking views and snorkling
Day 7     Early am drive back to Palawan via the Underground Caves @ Sabang: A Natural wonder of the world along with a zip line with the kids… the longest zipline over the ocean!
Day 8     Stay at the resort with Sandbar, boat rides, water slides and a local dinner, a relaxing and pampering day
Day 9     A few more water slides and then fly back to Cebu for more beach/ water and local candy shopping
Day 10   11 am: fly back to Chicago and day dreaming of the beach!
Day 11  Settle back to reality and relive the fun of the trip


This trip was dotted with a combination of really action packed days, some long travels, some really chillaxed days and meeting our dear friends after 5 years!!! Yes we did all this in only 10 days and we all wished it was longer. Philippine’s though really far from Chicago was totally worth it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Before the trip, an update on 'Getting Fit'

Spring Break is here! Yay, well let me restate, spring break for my 9 and 4 year old is here, yay and instead of maniacally looking for child care and classes, we are using the time wisely and heading to the beach.

So before start our beach bumming and lazing around on the soft sand under a gentle sea breeze and the sun making us relaxed, here is an update on the wonderful buddying up and Getting Fitter business.

My buddies are ‘at it’ along with me; we are sharingdelicious yet healthier variations of recipes, tracking our meals in My Fitness pal and above all are nudging each other to push a little harder in the gym. And the support helps, it really does!
We are just nudging and not nagging and my husband, Sumit will be quick to remind me that I am on the 'edge between nudging and nagging' so back off! :-)
Trust me when I say this: NOT A SINGLE POUND LOST- in 65 days of continuous logging in my meals painstakingly in Fitness Pal and 45 days of waking up at idiotic 5:30 am on weekdays for my gym class, NOT A SINGLE POUND LOST!


BUT, and this But is important: I am feeling so much healthier, I can hold a plank for 41 seconds instead of three seconds, I can do 14 continuous push-ups instead of zero and above all, I can carry 2-2 gallons of milk on my 4th floor walkup unit without crashing on the couch right after!
Yes, my standards of fitness are very basic, I call them 'achievable goals' or 'baby steps' or even 'let me get to this goal and then move a small step up'.

Trust me, for as long as I remember, I have felt 'unhappy about my shape or my arms or my flab or my F-A-T or just hating myself after I chow down that cake' and for right now, just doing something about it is making me feel happy.

The other day my 9 year old was talking about fitness and Sumit asked her, who is fit according to her and why: She very casually said: You and mummy, since you do yoga every day or go to the gym and are happy.

Of course we were gushing and explaining her about the three pillars of being Fit according to us: Good food, good work out but above all Mental Peace. With the most emphasis on the last one ‘mental peace’

BUT, my 9 year old's comments made me very happy; she does not look at me as ‘as I view myself’. She looks at me being F-I-T and being happy and that itself is the best body image lesson I could ever give her without even trying to.


Now, all heavy conversation aside....... be safe and be happy and I will be back from my beach vacation all relaxed and sun-tanned and craving more fun in the sun!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Keep it Simple Silly!

This past weekend weather wise was gloomy, rainy and a little cold. Well its Chicago in Spring time :-)
All right, no weather comments, our winter was really good this year.

But in this weekend in midst of meeting friends, celebrating our friend's kids milestone birthday's by Sunday evening we were all 'spent', not tired but just really needed a relaxed evening in.
Sisters, Friends for life!

So what did we do? Really nothing but still a lot!

Both the girls received long oil massages a la moi, followed by their long baths. And then the sisters unwind-ed with a board game while I sat with them and hand fed them- by choice.

The girls are now 9 and 4 and really self sufficient (the 4 year old does get fed her last few bites at mealtime), but it felt really good- Just to feed them with no time crunch.
From a while ago, remembering their baby zone

The little angels are growing up and there is only I realize as they get older, the time for cuddling and 'I Love you's' will reduce.... and so this Sunday evening, they played, while I hand fed them their favorite meals and time stood still for me to get amazed and just enjoy them be in their normal zone!

From even more 'long time ago'

Keeping is simple, really simple!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Femi-Nazi….. No Thank You Please!

Here is what Mira Rajput, Shahid Kapoor's wife said" “I love being at home, I love being a mother to my child, I wouldn’t want to spend one hour a day with my child and rush off to work, why did I have her? She is not a puppy; I want to be there for her as a mother.”
 
Does her line bother me? Like the hoards of posts out there, of how her thoughts are antiquated. Honestly no!

I think it’s a very matter of fact line and often I have felt the guilt of only spending one hour with my kids and just hugging them before jumping back on a conference line. So Yes, it’s actually a true statement. I have wondered why it feels like I am juggling the world to ONLY get an hour with the kids. Is it worth it?

What Mira says is actually true. Whether I like it or no, for us mothers the guilt follows no matter what our path.

Privilege of not working, privilege of making a choice of working, privilege of husbands pitching in, not having the privilege to choose, all aside. I think as mothers, if one thing we have not learned is being supportive of each other as mothers!

I have my own village of friends, my mom friends and it’s not based on if they work or not, it’s based on 'we genuinely like each other and have shared core values (yes cussing and bitching is also a shared common value)'.

Our friendship is based on ‘Please can you pick up my child since I am not well', It’s based on, “Can you talk to her, I am loosing it right now with her” Its based on 'I am just too tired today, can you please.. .' It’s based on ‘Let me pick up the school play costume for your daughter”.
Its a village of MY friends and trust me working or not has nothing to do with it. It’s just a support system in place.

I actually agree with every single thing Mira has said. So let me break up her lines and give my two cents...

Mira: I love being at home...
Garima: and I am sure she has to go out supporting her hotness-Greek- god- of- a- husband (Sumit, sorry!!!) in his media events, or running errands or whatever. Don’t we all?  I do love being home and just putting my feet up or folding laundry while Netflix binge watching on or just having a board game night with my friends and family!

Mira: I love being a mother to my child... 
Garima: I mean I have posts and posts gushing on them and gmail accounts filled to the brim with their pictures! I am who I am with my two beautiful kids in tow.

Mira: I wouldn’t want to spend one hour a day with my child and rush off to work... 
Garima: Oh yes, the mommy guilt. I even feel guilty when I am out with my girlfriends on a spa party (true, I just think of them a little less though while getting my nails done as compared to a conference call). It doesn’t mean I don’t live my life, but I do miss them. And I do wish I could pause time and just watch them sleep or just not be yelling 'Lets go we are late' ALL THE TIME!

Mira: Why did I have her? She is not a puppy; I want to be there for her as a mother.”... 
Garima: I have had this similar feeling more than I would like to confess! This one I differ a little though. I feel with whatever I do, work or not, I want to be there mentally, emotionally and physically for my child.

Currently I am a working mother of two, I have tried being a Stay at home mommy for two and that really didn’t work out well for me, I was really cranky all the time and snappy and generally nasty. I was there physically but not happy emotionally.

And I realized FOR MYSELF (Yes Sumit you can now say I-Told-You-So). I am better person and a happier person when I do something for myself, be it working, be it going to the gym, be it sleeping in, be it sending my kids for summer in India and reconnect with my partner in crime.

And I very strongly believe in, If I am happy, it shows and overall my family will be happier!!

My social media stream filled up with dishing Mira on a platter and saying 'Its' not the right example for the daughters, it’s not with today's age' etc etc. . I STRONGLY disagree; I am daughter of a home maker, a very strong, extremely well educated and really awesome example of a mother. And I think she has set an amazing example for me, and she reminds me and my sister in law often: working or not, Be yourself, be happy and you need to be there for your kids, for your family!

Me working right now does not make my choices wrong or right. It just makes it something that makes me happier, more content! Of course, I do fantasize about the other side, grass on the other side is always greener isn’t it?

More diplomatically, every mother is a working mother.
Trust me, food does not magically appear, snots don’t get magically cleaned up, laundry does not get magically folded, schedules don’t magically work like a well-oiled machine, homework’s don’t get turned in on time, family balance does not magically happen.

All mothers are working; it’s a lot of freaking work to be a mother, a parent!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Sometime I get fancy without trying...

.....or rather I get fancy when I make a mistake.

Now Mac N Cheese, at times is like the quick fix dinner on those days when you'd rather not do anything else. The Aunt Annies's and the veggie loaded Mc N. Cheese quiet a staple in our family for the simplicity of it.

Blob of the pasta!
The other evening, Sumit said, lets make the mac n cheese from scratch instead, and it had been a while, and I said why not. Long story short, my pasta/ mac n cheese looked like a 'blob' of too much sauce and over cooked pasta. I was quiet confident that the kids and me would not like to eat it. Sorry, we are vain that way, food needs to look good.

That evening, I was on the mend from a nasty flu and was in no mood to start over or even order in. So the brain sparks flew and 'Mac N Cheese Balls' were born!

Mac N Cheese Balls Recipe
1. 3 bowls of cooked Mc N Cheese (it being gooey and sticky is not required)
2. For crisping: 2 cups Panko, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
3. Oil for roasting/ crisping the Mac N Cheese balls

Note: I have this cup pan which makes quite a lot of things in my kitchen, and is non stick, so easy to clean and its an amazing alternative to frying. It gives amazing round shaped whatever you want with 1/10 of the oil needed for frying. I have made, Veg. Manchurian, Kofta Balls, Lauki Kofta, Appa, and now mac n cheese balls!


Process
1. Mix all ingredients of the crisping and lay it in a flat plate
2. Let you ready to eat Mc n cheese cool down and make balls of it. Roll it in the crisping flour (Panko, Cheese+ herbs)
3. Heat the pan, and place a little oil add the ready to cook balls and let it get crisp (Yes you can fry them as well, but then you will need more panko and more oil.... and more time in the gy ot burn it off!)
4. It takes about 2-3 minutes to get crisp on each end

Note: Since Mc N Cheese is soft, you have to be careful in turning the 'balls over'. One can even make a 'Mc N Cheese' patty/ burger on a regular pan, like this Falafel recipe of mine. and enjoy!!


The girls and us loved it. I think Miss V was excited to have 'appetizers for dinner' and Miss Chatterbox S loved dipping this in Ketchup and enjoying!


For me, I enjoyed the 'fanciness of cooking' and getting complimented 'Such fancy every day cooking mom'

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sometime you don't need to say 'I love you'

It was one of those days.... those tired long days where you are just exhausted and you still have a lot on your plate left...

It was one of those days and I am driving home around 6:30 pm with the two girls in the car listening in while I whine to my husband, "I am so tired tonight honey'. He acknowledges and says, 'I hear you, see you soon!'

I pull into the garage and climb up to the house and am left astounded.

The husband has done the following: moved his meetings around for an hour to complete dinner preparations and emptied the dishwasher and I am greeted with a quick peck on the cheek and he runs to get back on his work calls.

I was left speechless and misty eyed!

The Panini that night could not have tasted better!

This one evening was way more that any amount of "I Love you” s we have said to one another.

It's the empathy of " I understand”, it’s the acknowledgment of “It’s tough and I got your back” and it’s the true sense of feeling “We are in this together


Miss V was quick to observe and say 'Thank you papa for dinner tonight'.

We all talk about gender equality, empowering our next generation of children but actions speak louder than words. I am hoping my girls realize that being in this world today: It’s the partnership and it’s the support of one another which makes a successful person, a successful spouse and a successful family.

Girl or Boy at this point really does not really matter.

Thank you Sumit for always being there for me and the girls and actually following the ideology you believe in so strongly!





Thursday, March 2, 2017

They are only this little.... now

Kids say the darnest things....


This qualifies more as 'mis pronunciations' rather that funny anecdotes and as my final baby is growing up, I want to make sure I track this and embarrass her later as she grows older!

'Lipzoc'... Mummy can you please put strawberries in my lipzoc.
---It is funny as hell, we corrected her once saying its Ziploc and she thought we were making fun of her, so she said 'You don’t know, its 'lipzoc' and not 'Ziploc'

'Valina'... Little Lady says... my favorite flavor is Vallina
--- We know its Vanilla, but I just don’t want to correct her, Vallina ice-creams are just so good, what do I say!

'Ear is broken'...Little lady sadly gets ear aches pretty often and then she says the next mornings 'My ear is broken please be careful around it!'
--- Yes, I can tell her its ear ache, but where is the fun in that, Ear is broken is just so innocent.


Kids grow up way too quickly (cliche but true) and in a few years when I am reading these posts, it will me remind of 'Valina icecreams' and the giggles that surround my house!


Life is too short, enjoy the silliness!




Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A balanced meal... and Alloo Tikki Recipe: Yep, the healthier kind!

Being on any kind of fitness regime does not mean giving up food, its actually quiet the other way around. You need nicer and healthier food to ensure you can continue any workout you are signed up for. This way you dont pass out with less energy!!

And if you are just following portion control like me, it's even more important, since you want to ensure that every morsel counts for a filling feeling and a delicious taste!

So there are days, when my lunch looks like this: A delicious salad loaded with goat cheese, fruits and quinoa!


and then there are days when my dinner is this: Alloo Tikki

I could to the latter, any day you want! But to ensure we stick better to our goals, I modified for a healthier version.

So here a recipe of 'Allo-Chole Tikki' a North Indian Delicacy/ Chaat item which is high on taste and with this modified version, a healthier version as well. I agree this is elaborate, so definitely not an everyday item!

'Allo-Chole Tikki' = Potato Patty, smothered with garbanzo curry and garnished with beaten yogurt, chutney and spices

Makes 10

Potato Tikki(Cutlet)
Potato: Mashed 3 cups
Quinoa: Boiled 1.5 cup
Finely shredded carrot: 1 cup
Finey chopped Kale: 1/2 cup
Spices:
Salt, Pepper, paprika: Per taste
Cinamom: 1 tsp
Chaat Masala: 2 tsp
Bread: 1 slice torn in smaller pieces (Helps to bind better)
Panko: For coating: Optional
Oil: 2-3 tsp for cooking

Process:
Potato Cutlet:
1. Mix all the ingredients really well in a dough consistency and adjust seasoning
2. Make medium balls (~10-12) and flatten like a burger, coat in panko/ bread crumbs
3. On medium flame, on a pan with some oil, let the burger crispen 3-4 minutes each side.
4. When both sides are crisp, alloo tikki/ burger is ready!

Chole: IP Version
Onions: 1 medium finely chopped
Tomato: 1 medium finely chopped
Garlic: 3 cloves finely chopped
Ginger: 1/2 inch finely chopped
Carrots: 1 cup finely shredded/ chopped
Serrano Peppers: per taste
Spices:
Salt, Pepper, paprika, Garam Masala: Per taste
Cinnamon: 1 tsp
Chole Masala: 3 tsp
Optional: Moti Elaichi -1, Bay Leaves- 2/3, Cloves 3/4
Garbanzo: 1.5 cups soaked. If you use canned, adjust cook time- see below
Oil: 2-3 tsp for cooking

Process:
Chole in IP:
1. IP in Saute mode: Add 2 tsp of oil all spiced
2. After 1 minute, add ginger, garlic and onions
3. Saute for 2-3 minutes till fragrant
4. Add the tomatoes, carrots and saute for 4-5 minutes
5. Add the washed soaked garbanzo (or canned)
6. Close the lid. IP in Manual, High Pressure for 25 minutes. (If using canned time= 10 minutes)
7. It was a slow release of pressure, and I opened the IP after 1 hour or so.
8. Note: If making in regular pressure cooker, pre-soaked (overnight) is better, or use canned, timings for pressure cooker is the same.


Garnishing:
1 cup yogurt beaten and 1/2 cup water added to liquefy
Green Chutney
Tamarind Chutney
Chopped cilantro, onions
Fine Bhujia/ Sev & Peanuts: Optional

Serving:
In a plate, lay the cutlet, cover with the chole curry and garnish!

Enjoy when hot, tastes better with company, so call me over when you make it next!

Sorry, no pictures... this was gobbled up fairly quickly!

Note: This has a high content of protein thanks to quinoa and the chickpeas. So though this is higher on calorie count, it is well balanced with all the healthier vegetables. The other element for all my curries which is a big hit int he family is shredding carrots in any gravy I make. Be it gnocchi, or Chick Pea stew, or even simple potato curry! Carrots : well the kids enjoy it without knowing there was ever carrots in them!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Getting Fit, some good and some even better


By now you know, I am not the 'fittest person' and I am far faaaar from being the size I want to be, but, well I am doing something about it.

Last year was much better health wise for me and definitely spirits wise as well. This year, I want to continue the trend in the right direction. And I have a buddy system in place now with a lot of follow through and just checking in with each other to ensure we are 'doing something about it'

So what's going on in the 'Getting Fit' business?

1. My fitness pal: I have been logging religiously on this for 36 days now and I want to continue until spring break and then enjoy the beaches to come back to more of the same.

2. Balanced meal: I have been eating everything (which is what I love about this tool), and I have increased protein in our vegetarian meals, more tofu (this tofu steak has become a staple in our house), more quinoa and definitely more lentils (which I really don’t like and hubby loves) and continuing our regular vegetable infused dishes

3. Working out: So this has been a big game changer, I have signed up for a neighborhood gym and 3-4 days a week, I have been waking up at god awful 5:30 am to go for a 45 minute class. I have been crashing every single night at 9:30 pm. Some days I have even gone for a 5 am class, which for me is crazy good.

4. Weighing in: I have been weighing myself once a week, there has been no weight change, it has not gone up or down. My trainer says: Muscle formation. I will go with that story, makes me feel better, but weighing in day makes me feel like ‘examination day’ and so far, no pass and no fail. I am focusing on the no fail element! It gives me hope that I can Pass someday

5. Buddying Up: This has been the real motivator. I take a morning class; Sumit heads out for an evening class. We encourage each other and discuss the crazy workout our instructors think we can do. The kids have a hearty laugh when we enact the trainers! I message my partners in crime, it’s just nice to be able to say: ‘I am so sore, I can’t walk!’ or 'Why haven’t you logged in today'

I was debating whether I should post this or not especially considering it’s only been a month and my before and after pictures look exactly the same!


So here it is
Yay, I have been going strong for a month    : the good
My gosh, waking up at 5:30 am really sucks: the bad

I can do this……. and sustain it                    : the best


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What's your 'soul food'

This one is not about recipes, or healthy eating or my kids keeping us in splits of laughter, this one is more about 'soul food'

We all have that one thing in our minds and in our palates, that we think of that menu item and there is a sense of 'gush and warmth'. On a long tired day if that was on the menu at home, you will gobble it up. When you think of that food, you remember your growing up years sitting on your tall dining table with your mom serving you and coaxing you to eat. You really didn't need the coaxing since you were ready with your spoon and all to dig in and finish it off! Seconds please?

So what's your soul food, that one item that makes you think of being a child again. That one item that just makes your worries disappear!

For me its a very simple one: 'Chawal-Curry-Bhujia' aka 'White Rice - Yellow curry - chick pea crisps'.
You dig in with the Papad-um as a spoon and just eat it! Nothing else matters....
A very traditional and wholesome Indian meal.



I wonder with my kids what will it be 'soul food' for them? They are growing up in this melting pot of cultures where the influence's are what we eat at home, outside and with their own friends. Will it be a simple 'Rice-Curry' or a 'hot piping soup'. Will it be 'bowl of noodles' or a simple 'mc n cheese'. What will be the one thing that will make their taste buds tickle, eyes misty and they imagine the smell of food.
As they grow older, form their own minds and personalities and set on their paths of the future. I wonder, what will be their 'true soul food' !


Note: Picture above is from 'google'. thank you having the images of my childhood food that I could cherish

Monday, February 13, 2017

Homemade Granola Bars

Mornings are rushed and I should be the 'good parent' and say, my kids eat a healthy wholesome breakfast, but reality is very different. They are generally chugging milk down, or being coerced to finish the last few bites of the cereal/ oatmeal. every single weekday.

I have no issues if they eat in the car, and fruits and the kids cereal bars are our go to energy boosters in case we are really running late or in between school and classes. I have a bag now in the car just dedicated to collect the orange/banana peels and cereal bar wrappers. And it gets filled up really fast!

I used to feel guilty about this, now I dont. It is what it is! So yes, I am the best mom my kids can get!

Recently I was wondering, these granola bars whould not be that hard to make! And well after researching eggless versions, i combined a few recipes to 'try making' this.

Honestly, start to finish (except cooling time), it took my little lady and me only 20 minutes to make, which was really awesome!

Makes 8-10 cereal bars.
Ingredients
1 heaping cup packed dates, pitted (deglet noor or medjool)*
2 pouches of Instant Oatmeal (If you have steel cut/ rolled oats: crisping time is longer)
1/2 cup mixed nuts, chopped : We used almonds and cashews (Other recipes I reviewed had pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts etc.)
1 1/2 TB butter
1/3 cup honey
2 TB brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (A dear friend had gifted me home made vanilla extract for Xmas, delicious!)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup craisins (or raisins)


* Note: If your dates have become hard for being in the fridge too long like mine, don't worry, just put the dates in hot water for 4-5 minutes and they will be 'hydrated'

Step by Step Process: 
1. Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a "dough" like consistency.
2. Toast your oats and the nuts in a 350 degree F (176 C) oven for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
Note: Toast them in different pans, its quicker!
3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium heat, while stirring. Cook and stir for a minute
4. Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl
5. Stir the warm butter and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
6.  Add craisins
7. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment paper so they lift out easily.
8. Press down firmly until uniformly flattened - really pack the bars
9. Bake for another 15-20 minutes. Now this is optional step, i did make mine for additional crispiness. If you choose not to re-bake, please put this is refreigerator to cool.
10 Remove bars from pan, let it cool overnight and chop in 'cereal bar' length

To store: I cut the parchment paper around each bar just to avoid them sticking to each other and also because I was feeling 'fancy' and kept in an airtight box.



These turned out delicious and in the morning, it was not the kids who devourved them but us. But yes, I am definitely planning to make more variations of these. I will always have the store baught ones in car, but for mornings, this may go really well with my 'luke warm' coffees

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Kids say the darnest things...

If there was a race between my two girls of who spoke the 'most outrageous' things... well in my opinion, the Little Lady will be first followed by a close finish by the Miss Chatterbox.
Yes you read that right: the 4 year old will win for the most ridiculous things said instead of the 9 year old! Uff!

Case in Point

Story 1:  'Cow Dog'

Scene: While driving to school
Little Lady: Mummy look there is a cow dog
Mummy looking around on the streets of downtown Chicago.... and a Cow, hell no, Dog yes
Mummy: I cant see it baby.. oh wait a minute, the black and white spotted dog: that's a Dalmatian
Little Lady: Yes I know its a Dalmatian, but from today it will be a 'Cow Dog'
Mummy: Why?
Little Lady: Well only cows have black and white spots but this is a dog, hence 'Cow Dog'

No reasoning can trump this 4 year old

Story 2: 'I know how this will end'

Scene: In a afternoon 'scolding' the Miss Chatterbox for something
Mummy: I am shocked and disappointed in you
Miss Chatterbox: I know this will end, you will now yell at me, I will cry, you will take something away, I will cry, We will hug and make up
Mummy: Ouch....

In my mind: I better change my 'scolding play book' and get something more effective

Story 3: 'Dress and leggings'

Scene: The older one is home due to an injury and has some friends visiting to check in on her, I take a quick trip out of the house to pick up the little one from school and tell her on way back: We have a surprise at home for you. On entering the house peeps in the living room and sees the friends and squeals with happiness

Little Lady: oooh, yay. Let me run inside and change into my dress and leggings
Mummy: Really laughing loudly: They want to just see you.
Little Lady: noooo, i want them to see me in my dress and leggings!

10 minutes later, the little lady enter with aplomb in her dress and leggings: My friend said correctly: This one is going to be an interesting one to raise.


I agree and run for the hills....

Friday, February 3, 2017

Quick Food Fix: Crusted Tofu

Breakfasts on weekday's in my house is cereal/ oatmeal for the kids. A hot coffee which becomes warm by the time I get to it and then a lot of 'running out the door'

Yes, Yes I know, breakfast should be the biggest meal yada yada yada. I swear whoever came up with that either woke up at 5 to ensure that happens or just preached and didn’t practice. 

So yes, breakfast is definitely not the biggest meal in my house, it’s just the most rushed!

However, the other day, I had an extra '20 minutes' at hand! so instead of sitting and sipping on my hot coffee, I said let me try this 'Hot breakfast on a weekday thing'

It worked out, it was quick to put together, was delicious and well I did enjoy it. However, it was once in a blue moon thing of a weekday breakfast for me, definitely hard to keep up. 

Recipe for the crusted tofu


Ingredients: 
1 package extra-firm tofu

Wet ingredients:
3 tsp All purpose Flour/ Chickpea Flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Water to mix

Dry ingredients:
3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (Takmariya)
2 tsp Crushed Peanuts (optional)
Salt, pepper, red chili as per taste 

Oil for toasting/ frying on a pan
Scallions, sliced 


For the nuoc cham: Dipping Sauce:
1 tsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp chilli sauce (optional)
2 red Thai chilies: thinly sliced


INSTRUCTIONS
Optional: Drain the tofu for as much time as possible — 20 minutes to an hour. It makes the crisping portion quicker, however if you don’t drain no worries, just let the tofu crisp for a few more minutes!

The nuoc cham/ Dipping Sauce: 
In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients! Ta Da

Prep: 
1. Mix Chickpea flour/ All Purpose flour with 1 teaspoon of water to a smooth and runny paste. 
2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a plate.

Process
1. Cut the drained tofu into cubes
2. Submerge the tofu into the Flour-Water mixture,
3. Then coat the tofu in the sesame-panko mix.
4. Repeat with the remaining cubes
5. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and add about 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil. 
6. Place the tofu cubes into the frying pan. 
7. Crisp tofu slices for about 3 to 4 minutes a side, then transfer to a serving platter. 
8. Garnish with scallions. 


Enjoy a healthy, quick to put together 'dish' with the dipping sauce. 


Full disclosure, I feel this would be a better appetizer recipe, it was filling for breakfast for sure, however the flavors are strong and I had 2 breath mints before work to ensure that no one else knew about my 'breakfast of a king' mood!