Saturday 22 September 2012

Mother Bear!

You know you need stop eating and start exercising when
  •  Your son can't get enough of hugging you and affectionately says - Amma, you feel just like a polar bear!
  • When the low-rise jeans no longer fit while the postpartum jeans of almost 4 years ago sit nice and snug on your waist!
  • When you catch yourself eating dessert after every meal, and in between meals!
I blame the husband for this – one hundred per cent. Being a single parent is taking its toll on my waistline, if nothing else (how's that for some nifty blame-shifting?) With S travelling a minimum of four days a week, and often five, the entire load of managing house and child-care has fallen on me. With no backup and no one to share my anxieties (real or imagined), two things have happened.
My exercise routine, which once ticked along like clockwork, has fallen by the wayside. With no one to watch over Y in the mornings, I can’t go for my brisk walks any more. Any home-based workout is also out of the question as I have enough to do in the mornings with getting her ready for school and myself dressed for work. Plus, I’m reaching out to food as a stress-buster. I’ve always been a bit of a stress-eater and this situation has aggravated my natural instinct towards emotional eating.
The result? The kilos have piled on (and I look like a polar bear, apparently!). A few months ago, thanks to a nasty stomach infection, I’d whittled down to my pre-baby weight, the lightest I’ve been since Ads was born. While I’ve never believed I being stick-thin, I do want to be and look fit. When I don’t exercise, I fall ill more often and my energy levels are not as high as I need them to be.
Starting last week, I resolved to somehow fit in some daily yoga and walks whenever S is in town (and even if he isn’t, perhaps nightly, post tuck-kids-into-bed walks would work). And stop reaching out for that bhujia or murukku when I’m bored or hassled! No unattainable objectives, just some minor lifestyle changes. Take it nice and slow. Wish me luck!

Observations on mommy's workplace

The kids have both come in to work with me, when I didn't have any childcare and had face to face meetings in the office. They have been angels, busily drawing, reading or playing with the ipad while I was locked away with colleagues. Ads made pen sketches of sharks and dolphins which are now pinned quite incongruously on our notice board! He amazed everybody with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the animal kingdom and had a few comparisons to make between my office and the whole corporate set-up that he has seen at the husband's workplace. These are the main points of differentiation.
Amma's office is very small. Appa's is very big.
There are mostly girls in amma's office. Appa's office has lots of boys and girls. The boys wear ties and jackets.
Amma's office is like a house. There is a kitchen and bathroom and three rooms. They have a lot of decoration. (He meant our studio which has all the handcrafted products - very colourful and pretty!). Appa's office is like a real office and has no decoration.
In Amma's office, they give me a lot of paper to draw and they let me watch youtube videos. I don't think I can do that in Appa's office.
I think the last point clinched it for him. Yay for Amma's office!! :)

Thursday 20 September 2012

Ragi cake - taking healthy to a whole new level!

Another baking experiment with a Ragi cake! I was a little apprehensive about how it would taste. Of course I've done whole wheat cakes with jaggery before and they tasted good but ragi was taking health to a whole new level :) I did not have plain ragi so I used the stuff I use to make kanji  or porridge for Ads. It's a ragi-based sattu maavu or health mix. We both love it (while father and daughter will not go near it!).
I followed the recipe to a T, only adding a little more curd than was recommended since I felt the batter was too dry.
The cake got me a lot of compliments. It has a nutty flavour (because of the almonds and cashews in the health mix) and it is something I'll definitely be baking again. A colleague at office who normally shuns super-healthy stuff helped herself to seconds and thirds and that really made my day :)
No pictures, unfortunately. But do try this recipe and let me know how it came out! has come lovely recipes and I can't wait to try out the ones for the kids lunchboxes. Look out for more cooking updates in this space :)

Thursday 13 September 2012

Waiting for winter

I hate this transition period between seasons. Almost 6 months of huffing and puffing and labouring under the intense heat has left us all drained. The last mile is the hardest isn’t it? October with its promise of cooler weather is just around the corner, yet the thought of another few weeks of moisture and perspiration seems too much to be borne. Monsoons mean houseflies, all manner of strange insects, mosquitoes, Odomos and the ever-present parental anxiety over dengue and malaria. It means stomach infections, missing maids, throwing out leftovers without a thought, and, this year, praying for the rain that comes but infrequently.
Forgive the rant. I stayed silent all through the torrid summer, after all! I managed to get bitten by some insect and the resulting allergy has left me in agony with skin rashes. A visit to the dermatologist is urgently needed, it seems – have been putting it off for days out of sheer laziness.
Updates on the glorious weather in Bangalore by the husband are not helping! Ah well..just a few more weeks....just a few more...the early roses are already in bloom. Can't wait for my favourite seasons - autumn and winter!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Paneer Barfi

Making barfi is something that has always sent shivers down my spine. I've seen my mom slaving in the hot kitchen, stirring constantly until the mixture separated from the sides of the pan...whew...!! It just seems like so much work with fairly dicey outcomes even in this day and age of microwave recipes. I know for a fact that it's after many years of practice that my mom is now able to dish out scrumpilious barfis.
However, a few weeks ago, a colleague who has a sweet tooth and entertains a lot, shared a Tarla Dalal recipe with me. She confided that her paneer barfi was her staple dessert to be whipped up when people came over. Today, I decided to try it especially as the milk has spoilt for 2 days running now and consequently I have a lot of fresh home-made paneer just sitting in the fridge.
I used the same recipe as above....except that I am really bad at following recipes to the T. So I substituted condensed milk for milk powder and sugar, used far less ghee (just 3 tbsp for 200 gm paneer) and dropped ground almonds and cashews into the mix since I know my kids would balk at whole nuts in the sweet. Of course, could not resist popping some of the hot mixture into my greedy mouth. Pure ambrosia!!! You can't go wrong with condensed milk and ghee, can you? :)
Shape the final cooled mixture into flat rounds or even spheres if that's easier. I lost interest once I tasted the final product (as I knew I would) and hurriedly formed the mix into lumpy flat rounds. Aesthetics and patience - not my strongest points!!!
Anyway, I feel thrilled that I finally got to make a proper barfi. Next trial - this!

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Easy snack - buttered beans

Another easy snack and super-healthy to boot. Ads loves these buttered beans with almonds and has been requesting these for snack for the last couple of weeks. I wasn't able to get just the right beans - the one at our local sabji-wala looked so tired and wilted in the monsoon heat! Finally managed to get some good fresh beans yesterday and packed it for Ads' short break today. Y won't have it as-is, I know, so dressed hers up with some corn, paneer and yellow peppers and hopefully those will get consumed.
Cut the beans julienne. Immerse in boiling water for a few minutes. Grate or finely cut a few almonds. Drain the beans and saute in a pan along with a generous dollop of butter (I use Amul table butter). Add salt, pepper (if required) and oregano. Add the almonds, give everything a good shake to mix ém up and it's done! It's crunchy, buttery and yummy :) This also makes for a nice side dish while entertaining.
I remember the first time I ate this. It was on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. We were having sourdough bread and clam chowder and ordered beans just to see what it would be like. One of the best meals I've ever had, looking out over the beautiful bay :)


Monday 10 September 2012

Carpe Diem?

Every now and then I read something someone has written, saying something I feel and want to say so much better and wittier than I could ever have said it. If I could have reached in among my confused jumble of thoughts and picked out exactly the right words to say, each word following the other in exactly the right sequence, this article or something very like it, may have been the end-result. Do read it.
Carpe diem, everyone! Or not! :)
(HuffPost has some of my favourite mommy bloggers, just for the record).

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Teacher's Day

It's Teacher's Day. We've bought gifts/flowers for the kids' teachers and duly delivered those. The children are happy and I'm glad their terrific teachers have gotten some affection and material things in return for the very difficult job that they do!
It was only natural that today my thoughts went back many years, to all the teachers I have had. I studied in 12 schools in various parts of India. 3 years of undergrad while pursuing a cost-ccounting degree, the MBA, not to mention various music and art classes exposed to me a whole variety of teachers, teaching styles and personalities. Considering the very diverse and large sample size, it is surprising that there are but a handful of teachers who made a mark on me. There are but a few who impressed me with their sagacity and goodness, nourished my intellect, challenged me and yet supported me. Just a few whom I truly respected for their mastery over the subject and their desire to keep learning and teaching. The vast majority, sadly, were either nonentities (at best) or malevolent influences (at worst) whom I dreaded interacting with.
I fondly remember my English teacher in Grade 7 who encouraged me to write - essays, poetry, fiction, anything at all. She was the one who turned me from a mere bookworm into someone who enjoyed writing almost as much as reading. She had the most beautiful handwriting and we were in touch for a few years even after I left that school. In high school, I had one good science teacher and a very inspiring English teacher. Again these were people who taught me just for a couple of years before I moved on. College was a nightmare with a teacher who detested me and resented my participation in extra-curricular activities even though I never let those affect my grades. I used to hate going to college that first year for fear of the tongue-lashing that I was in danger of getting, ever so often.
My music and art teachers were overall, quite good. They did the best they could with me :) Come to think of it, the people I've learnt the most from have been my managers (sometimes they have taught me what not to do!) and my friends (some of them actually sat down and taught me Statistics and Economics!). Truly, Life is the best teacher.
As far as the current crop of school teachers goes, one finds the usual mix of truly talented, passionate and inspiring individuals rubbing shoulders with the mediocre and apathetic lot. However, the task of a teacher at any self-respecting middle-class school has become so much tougher. They are expected to not only teach the books, but also design and execute a whole bunch of extra-curricular and curricular activities and projects for their class and school. Parents are more demanding, more competitive, more involved - which is both good and bad. At every one of Ads' Parent -Teacher meetings, I am normally to be found tapping ny feet with impatience as parents before me take up far more than their allotted time discussing every minute detail of their child's day and performance with the teacher, analysing and probing beyond all reasonableness. He said this, she behaved this way, he doesn't eat this, she doesn't listen, why, what, when, how.....the list is endless. And really, none of it seems very serious as I sit there in class, unable to avoid overhearing. Come on, these are 7-8 year olds we are talking about . They are behaving as they are supposed to behave, which is, NOT perfectly! It takes me all of 5 minutes to check that all is well with Ads and that there are no red flags. I sign the sheet that's held out to me and I am done with the PTM for another couple of months!
I look at the detailed performance assessment of my kids with specific remarks on every subject and skill and I wonder - Does the teacher really write an individualised account for every kid or does she do some amount of Ctrl C-Ctrl V? I wouldn't blame her if it was the latter! There's English, Math, EVS, Hindi, Computers, Gym and Physical, Music, Dance, Art, in addition to a whole section on soft skills. For anywhere between 20 and 30 kids! I don't have the patience to read it myself, especially as I know that even negative feedback is couched in such sugar-coated terms as to be almost positive! Gone are the days when Remarks meant - Excellent, Good, Fair, Needs improvement, or Poor! Gosh, sometimes I almost feel nostalgic for those simpler days, though I'm glad that spanking and hitting are now a thing of the past at most of the good schools. Having been at the receiving end of a ruler more than once, I sure don't want my kids to deal with that.
This September 5, I wish that my children have the good fortune to encounter many many excellent teachers and guides. Most of all, I hope they will be good pupils and have the wisdom to know that they can learn from everyone and from every situation and circumstance, good or bad.
Happy Teacher's Day!!

Snack menu today

Working from home ( not happening that much nowadays) means I have the time to do stuff, like...
Baking. Started with wanting to bake a rainbow cake but then realized I was out of food colour. I made do with orange and yellow-coloured whole wheat muffins.

And being able to plan ahead. Soak the dal and get my cook to grate the veggies for the evening snack - beetroot vadas. I love these because of the protein and vitamin kick. These don't look that fabulous (am blaming it on my camera and my photography non-skills!) but they tasted yum :)