The Grand Plan to meet Santa

Note: After two weeks of India travel, I am trying to get back into the daily rhythm of life and prepare for the holidays.  

This is a re-post of my article from last year, as it is that time of the year again. This year also Santa plans to secretly deliver the presents to my children. Will he succeed or not, I will share with you in my next update.

Merry Christmas and Happy holidays my friends!



This Christmas, I wanted a picture of my kids with Santa, but the long lines were demotivating until I found my favorite store hosting one such event. That morning I promptly got the kids ready and shoved them in the car to be ahead of the crowd. While we waited in the queue to get clicked, I indulged the kids into Santa conversation. My older son pointed to the seated Santy and whispered-

“Mom, he is not a real Santa. The real Santa understands and speaks all languages of the world, while this one speaks only English.”

His hypothesis was convincing. Nevertheless, the kids were happy to get a picture with the human Santa.

While waiting for the photo print, we reminisced last Christmas when my little munchkin managed to get a glimpse of Santa’s sleigh in the sky — “the blinking red light in the sky is Rudolph’s nose!” he gleamed. <Absolutely made sense, after all Rudolph has a very shiny nose.>

But this Christmas, my older son had a Grand Plan, which was to take a picture with the real Santa (who lives in the North Pole), and then go for a ride in Santa’s sleigh.

I told my son that Santa wants little kids to sleep on time so that he could work his magic while they are in bed, but this kid was too adamant, so I decided to play along, secretly hoping that his plan fails.

The preparation for the big meeting began after dinner time-First of all; we sprinkled the reindeer food (oats with twinkling colored sugar) around the house so that Santa could see our house from the sky. Then we baked some soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies and kept it on the dinner table with a tall glass of milk. <Its no wonder that the jolly old fellow has a big belly from eating all those sugary cookies! > We decided to put a side of carrots also, just in case Santa was calorie conscious this season.

The highlight of the big game plan was to stay up late in the night to witness Santa. One established way to avoid sleep are the movies, so we watched an old classic ‘Jason and the Argonauts’. We were in awe to see the special effects, especially the army of skeletons. My son strived to stay awake and was restless to know about the time of Santa’s arrival. So we tracked Santa’s location using one of the smartphone applications. The Santa tracker application showed that Santa’s sleigh was in Canada and that there were still two and a half hours for his arrival to our house.

I have to admit that I was nervous about my son’s unyielding desire to meet Santa, as it meant that I would have to reveal the truth about St. Nick. Deep in my heart, I was not ready to spill the beans yet, as I enjoyed planning the whole clandestine affair and the element of joy it entailed.

To kill time we discussed how Santa could distribute presents all over the world so fast , and his likely use of magic or teleporting technique. As my kid’s eyes got heavy, our talks began to plummet. My son agreed to take a short nap after setting a two-hour alarm so that he is up on time to meet Santa.

To my relief my son fell asleep and I once again could enjoy being a secret Santa. My hubby switched off the alarm, and we all slept until my son woke us all up at five in the morning. He dashed towards the hung stockings and the wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. He called out for his little brother who was still in bed, and then both the kids ripped open the wrappings.

I videotaped my children’s excitement and was overflowed with gratitude for yet another opportunity to keep the magic alive.

Photo credit: Lars Tinner via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Camping in Fall: Yosemite

My husband and I got bit by a camping bug this fall so that we could weave some memories with our children in the wilderness. The chosen place was ‘Yosemite.’ We had been to Yosemite before and done some popular hikes, but camping was the focus for this fall visit to Yosemite.

With little experience in camping, we were not prepared to go all out in extreme wilderness. We wanted the camping experience to be just right so as to not scare the kids and at the same time expose them to the concept of camping. After all, we want them to take several more trips in future without making much fuss.

Having clarity on our expectations from the trip, we chose our destination as ‘Evergreen Lodge’ in Yosemite. The second week of October, we drove from Phoenix to Yosemite, with an overnight stop at Kingsman, AZ.

Our tent was large and clean, equipped with camping essentials- sleeping bags, towels and a lantern. Glad we requested for some extra blankets as the nights got cold though not uncomfortable.

2016-10-11_09-54-11_813.jpeg

2016-10-11_09-52-39_825

2016-10-11_09-53-08_184.jpeg

Close to the tents were some hammocks tied between the trees. The sight of people reading a book on the hammocks was rejuvenating

My pet peeve in the entire trip were the shared showers. Their location though was near the tents, but I found the walk from the tent to the toilet/showers painful, and they were not particularly clean.

I was relieved to know that the Yosemite bears had not paid a surprise visit to the lodge yet. The very reason lodge did not allow us to cook outside to keep the wildlife at bay. To make up for it, they had a restaurant on their premises, which we went couple times to enjoy our dinner in Pajamas.

Outside, we ate once at Buck Meadows, which was a family friendly place. The food was fine and hot.

2016-10-10_13-49-33_428

The favorite part for our children in the lodge were the nightly unlimited smores! The children waited to return from our daily hikes and dinner, to the beautifully lit patio and make their own smores.

2016-10-08_20-20-49_184.jpeg

Kids play areas blended well with the natural beauty. There were rope bridges, climbing structures that we paid visit to everyday.

2016-10-09_08-27-37_758.jpeg

This lodge is close to the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which I found scenic but did not make it to  my must visit list.

 

2016-10-10_14-36-06_398.jpeg

2016-10-10_15-14-33_475
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Few hikes that we did in this trip included the Merced Grove to view the Giant Sequoias.

2016-10-10_12-13-48_898

2016-10-10_12-13-40_957.jpeg

 

2016-10-10_11-00-22_003.jpeg
The Giant Sequoias @Merced Grove

On the whole, this trip was pleasant and was a fine introduction to camping for our children. On our way back, we spent the night at Las Vegas and got to see the Sin City through the eyes of children. Instead of usual casinos, we spent couple hours on the street at Hershey’s and M&M. Sweet, just like our camping! Isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World of Holiday Shopping: Carts and your Shopper Personality

Crunk! Crunk! I have a knack for always getting the defective, noisy shopping carts with a wobbly wheel. These are the carts that require more than an effortless push (Grunt!!!!). Likewise, when I maneuver the giant carts of Costco and Home Depot, I wish that the retailers would come up with self-driving carts. My whim seems to be coming true as retailers experiment with these prototypes—http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2016/09/13/walmart-patents-self-driving-shopping-cart/#.WDR3L3eZN-U

Because of the regular rendezvous with the carts, which is more frequent than meeting my friends, it is only natural that I have an implicit connection with these four wheelers. Additionally, with the kicking off the 2016 holiday shopping season, there is no avoiding them as we, the consumers, move the carts through the aisles and load these wheelers with the materialistic presents for the loved ones.

Between the shoving and pushing the shopping cart through the crowds, I have encountered various types of personalities, some hybrid of the others.

15627238721_9662ca00e1_z

Can you identify yourself with one of these shopper traits?

Go Getters

These are the passionate shoppers who come with a predetermined objective— ‘the 62 inches TV or the laptop with a rock bottom price’. These people are oblivious to the surroundings as they hustle their carts through the crowd to get to the desired aisle.

Ad Libitum

These shoppers leisurely walk while pushing their carts, pausing and stopping at different aisles as they prowl through the racks to find something to their heart’s desire.

Planners

These shoppers are the ones you see walking with a list on their phones and/or with the stack of paper coupons in their hands. They have multiple stores to visit to get the best deals.

Unpredictables

These are the ones that tread in front of you with a steady speed, and then surprise you with a sudden stop and sharp turn. The unpredictables make me wonder about the plausibility of having turning signal indicator lights on the carts.

Recreational Shoppers

These are the people who stroll taking their own sweet time to walk the aisles, appreciating the goods and decor. They are often without a shopping bag or cart. They enjoy window shopping and/or people watching.

Freebie Hunters

These peeps are in the store with the purpose to devour the freebies/sample offered by the retailers, often food and drinks.

Preachers

These people desire to make the world a better place to live. They do not deter to approach the strangers and let them know about improving their behavior.

Inconsiderate

Have you encountered any orphaned carts blocking the shopping aisles? These people are the perfect example of discourteous shopper insensitive to the world around them.

Invisibles

These peeps are the ones that you do not see in the retail shops. They escape the complete chaos by doing their shopping online.

I confess that I have shown each one of these traits at some point in my shopping life. I have sometimes carelessly parked my shopping cart in the middle of the aisle while distracted by the charm of some product, and then being apologetic on realizing my faux pas. More often I have treated myself with an impulse buy placing me in the category of Ad Libitum. On some rare occasions my organized persona comes alive and I make a real list (not just in my mind) before I tread to the mall, and that positions me as a planner.

Whatever your shopper personalities are, remember to be gracious on this Thanksgiving and beyond (This is my Preacher trait!;-).

Wishing my readers an enjoyable and safe holiday shopping experience!

Photo credit: Timothy Valentine via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: Traveloscopy via Foter.com / CC BY

Pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Period.

The modern society has designated blue color for boys and pink for girls.Period.

Little did I realize before having children that these colors go beyond the dresses; They manifest themselves as body images, personalities, mannerisms and the entire outlook for the life.

I grapple with this color issue in everyday life while raising my boys. For one, I want them to be part of the society where they can go freely and select ‘pink’ if this is the hue they desire without the fear of, ‘What others will think?’, But we are not there yet.

Stories untold

I had overheard several examples when children teased the kid for selection of another gender color; this is mostly true for boys because-

'Girls can wear blue, but boys cannot wear pink.'

The above is the statement quoted by a salesman when I and my hubby were crib shopping for our first child.

That was years ago, but in a recent discussion with one of my mom friends, she mentioned that her son came home from school in a bad mood. He said,”Kids laughed at me for using pink scissors in the class!”

These children will build our future society based on the concepts they learned in their childhood. If they learn that it is alright to mock at their friends, then imagine the future that we have created.

Kudos to our society, that has succeeded in creation of immense stress where these kids cannot openly express for the gender prejudice that inhabits their little peers, which indeed is not a sign of a healthy society.

What has the world come to?

I would say the girls have more freedom than boys regarding colors, toys, and general entertainment. Boys do not have liberty to wear pink, play with dolls or even watch the TV series of their choice without being ridiculed.

As an adult, our mentality is superfluous than the children we raise. Adults can quickly discern a toy or TV series as a boy or girl specific; whereas children if left on their own, choose based on the functionality and the story that keeps them engaged.

http://www.creighton.edu/publicrelations/newscenter/news/2015/november2015/november172015/toysandgendernr111715/

We live in a world of double standards. Most woman would want a man who could watch a chick flick with her. But as parents, we do not encourage that idea for the little boys as we steer our kids to conform to the set masculine standards for this gender.

The fashion industry has evolved to include pink and purple for men. There are countless pink shirts, t-shirts, suits and tie for men in shades of pink.

http://www.fashionbeans.com/2013/mens-ss13-key-colour-pink/

http://mensfashion.about.com/od/theoffice/a/weddingattire.htm

But then why is there a pink taboo in the little people’s world?

Who are the Influencers?

As you enter the retail stores, there is segregation of the toys by gender. So, even if the little girl wants to play with dinosaurs or trucks, she might not have the courage to cross the gender boundary and go to other section with her parents for that toy. OR even worse, she might not be exposed to such a play at all for she would never visit those aisles.

The media-TV commercials, books further solidify the conventional beliefs of boys versus girls.

But the most important influencers are still the parents, as the children see and interact with them in these roles at home.

And, who benefits from this?

Retailers realized that the more they could gendersize their merchandise the better they can sell. So, we have not only clothes but the whole gamut of things related to the boy and the girl stuff- cribs, accessories, decor, toys, TV shows, movies and so on.

Our society’s progress is skewed– on the one hand; we are moving towards gender equality, equal pay, and job opportunities while on the other hand, we allow the consumerism to mold our children’s mind to the stereotypical concepts that would stay with them for the lifetime.

What can we do?

As a parent and an adult, it is our responsibility to educate children about the actual reasons behind the color segregation, which is consumerism. Gender separation of the colors, toys, books, clothing, entertainment is not an identity, but a mere means to earn more money by the retailers. If children themselves are aligned to specific interests then it is agreeable, but being forced by these outside factors is not acceptable.

Education at home itself would not suffice. The child can understand this concept but not have the dare devil courage to defy the color rule publicly in fear of being bullied. There has to be a mass awareness, at the level of schools and other public and media sources.

Similar to colors, that run deeper than the clothes, masculinity is not about wearing blue or playing with trucks and swords or even about watching Star Wars; and being Feminine is not about wearing pink, being submissive, to cook, sew or waiting to be rescued by a Prince. It is about taking charge of your life, and respecting and being kind to the people on the other side.

If I can teach this to my children, I have done my job as a parent.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Do you have any untold stories to share?

Photo credit: AquaOwl via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Diwali, the festival of lights

The air smells festive and the sweet aromas of the mithai (Indian desserts) and the savory pakwans saturate the atmosphere. This is the time to celebrate the Diwali festival, the biggest Hindu festival of the East. During this time each year I reminisce the colorful celebrations in India and  relive the moments through the pictures and videos shared by my friends and family. With these pictures, I take you to the wonderful journey of Diwali celebrations.

Deepali or Deepawali, comes from Sanskrit word which means row of lights. It is the biggest Hindu festival and falls between mid Oct to November on the darkest no moon night. Diwali though observed for a day, it really is an attitude of life; An attitude to be gracious, create friendships, discarding the bitterness of hearts.

img_2345

In India, Diwali preparations and celebrations start days before the real Diwali. The markets are adorned to attract the customers as it is the biggest gift giving season in India.

IMG_2342.jpg
A popular market completely transformed by the decor in Jaipur, India

Mithai (sweets) are made or brought from the market in bulk and exchanged with friends and family. These sweet exchanges remind us to forget the past acrimony and cultivate friendships.


Houses are cleaned and the entrances are decorated with designs made with colored powder; This art is called Rangoli. These decorations are done to welcome the guests and the Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi, who is believed to visit the houses on Diwali and shower us with wealth.

img_2440
My friend’s house in Phoenix

Houses and the market buildings are lit by Diyas and lights, which propagate festive fervor.

 

 

Diwali is also the day to count our blessings and be gracious towards the wealth by offering prayers to the the Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi. During this time the Indian market is filled with the statues of the Gods and Goddesses, and the decoration that goes with the it. The flower garlands to decorate the entrance of the houses and worship area, sugarcane stalks to appease Goddess Laxmi’s ride Eravat, the Elephant.

 

The family dresses up in their best of traditional clothes to offer prayers to the Goddess.

IMG_2457.jpg
Beautifully decorated worship area in the house with offerings of fruits and sweets

After the ceremony, family savors delicious big meal. For the children, the most fun part is lighting the fireworks. Children gather with the adults outside of the houses or in the common area of their community where they enjoy bursting fireworks.

img_2437
We celebrated Diwali at our house with some leftover 4th July fireworks.

The celebrations continue days after Diwali. This festival is also an opportunity for me to call my dear ones who I am not able to stay in touch due to excuse of the overwhelming routine.

This festive season can get overwhelming and exhausting, like any other, nevertheless I look forward to it every year to share the joys with people around me.

Wishing you all my readers a beautiful Diwali, a festival of lights! May your lives illuminate  with good health, friends and prosperity!

 

Photo Credits:Vikram Seth, Rajni Seth,Vineeta Grover, Tulika Prasad

 

 

Drumroll, please…

Today is the special day!

It is my Blog Anniversary!

Hurray, I completed one year of blogging!

Today is the day when I care less if you judge me for being full of myself!

After all, I deserve to indulge a bit and celebrate creating 41 blog posts.

I partially share this crown with my hubby who encouraged me to pursue writing and shared some kind words,

“Either you go for it with full throttle or just don’t ever regret in future for not trying to write.(Period)”

And, oh those gentle words of his left such impression on me that I jumped right into this blogosphere pool, and ever since have survived 365 days and have become future hopeful.

Blogging has done me good in many ways—

Blogging taught me discipline.

I had committed myself to writing a post every week. I faltered many times but then I continued to write regardless. We humans are much more conscious of our actions in public, so by creating a blog I announced to the world ‘expect me to write,’ and ever since I have stood by it.

Writing blogs made me resilient.

I have learned to write irrespective of the likes and praises. In one year, I have received 19 likes, which is beyond pathetic. Though likes are a great energizer, but not the sole motivation for me to write, else, you would have read a demise letter of my blog rather than this anniversary announcement.

It introduced me to some excellent writings and bloggers.

The better I want to write the more I read about the world around me.It exposed me to  quality write-ups and some wonderful sites.

 13346577593_019296f0bc_z

It made me friends with my long lost passion.

Few years back when I wanted to get back into my corporate career, I read an article about ‘finding your passion.’ It made me ask myself what is that purpose in my life or the fire in my belly or the thing that defines me? The article made me contemplate about my interests, and I dug deeper and deeper. Though writing has been one of my interests I had never given it a serious thought. With the creation of the blog, I write regularly, and it fulfills me when I play with words and hours fly by like few minutes.

Here is a link to that thought provoking article for my readers-

https://experiencelife.com/article/whats-your-passion/

It repurposed my life, or you can call it midlife crises:-)

Yep, I changed the course of my life and on this journey I do not have a GPS, but comfort of my own passion that provides the directions to my dream.  In this learning journey, I consult several sites and youtube videos, research new terms, some I understand while some I pass as jargons. It has been a slow but a rewarding journey.

I learned that if I put my mind into something, I can do it.

And then later I even get to feel good about myself.

Most importantly, it has introduced me to few friends like you who read my posts and provide encouraging comments to keep me going on this path I’ve dared to tread. I am grateful for your followings and appreciation. It fuels me to write better, for you, and for myself.

I am no Shakespeare, but I am glad to be me!

Photo credit: scottmdi via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: symphony of love via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

10 reasons to fall in love with the Fall in Phoenix

Living in Phoenix, I would not know that the fall season has started unless I see on the calendar or the wardrobe changes in the retail flyers. Neither the leaves change their hue, nor do I hear the dry foliage crackling underneath my feet, but still there is something magical about the autumn in Phoenix.

Here are the 10 reasons why I love fall in Phoenix-

1.The temperatures dip

The fall season is the much-needed respite after the scorching long triple-digit summer temperatures.

A few weeks back a flyer advertising lash extensions caught my eye because I found it inappropriate for Phoenix area. It read, Summer is short, lashes don’t have to be! Really! Are you kidding me! S-h-o-r-t summer in Phoenix! I am positive the creator of the flyer would be passing by Phoenix to call its summer ‘short’.

2.Plants turn a new leaf

After getting bashed by the ruthless hot sun and intense heat waves, this is the time when the plants again become alive and turn green again (besides the native cacti like Saguaro which are evergreen).

13972386656_f783162648_z
Saguaro cacti

My tomatoes and pepper plants (I call my few alive plants, ‘the survivors’) are blooming again as if it is spring. 

3.Beginning of the outdoor life

While some Phoenicians continue living their outdoor life in all seasons just like the evergreen Saguaro, people like me wait for the fall to get the outdoor gear out. This is the time to take out my yoga mat in our backyard, go for morning run, hiking and visit to the famers market.

2016-04-23_182019706_40d0b_ios
Roadrunner park farmers market by Sumit Seth

4.Cherish the parks

Parks are a part of enjoying the outdoor life, but they need a separate mention for its importance to our family. The beautiful Phoenix parks during fall are a haven for us where kids can run around, have fun and get completely wiped out and ready for their beds.

5.Save on electricity

After cranking up the air conditioners for four months, fall is the time to give the big machine some rest, and in turn, save on the electricity bills.

6.Beautiful sunsets

Arizona sees one of the most spectacular sunsets in the continent all season around. But as the temperatures drop this time of the year, it becomes a lot easier to go out and enjoy the beautiful sunset colors.

10272656_10153321314401198_5039459946425531021_o
Sunset in Phoenix by Kanika Ahuja

 

unnamed-2.jpg
Colorful sunset by Amita Jyoti

 

Some of the places to enjoy the best view of the sunset are listed here-

Places to see sunset in Phoenix

7.No bundled-up Halloween

We do not have to worry about layering ourselves and children in warm clothes for trick or treating as the temperatures are pleasant.

8.Guests are welcome

Fall is the time when the snowbirds visit and the summer transit birds return. We have crowd visiting Phoenix to find a refreshing place to spend their fall and winters.

9.Beginning of the festivities

Fall is the time for pumpkin patches, farm visits, sports, state fair, art exhibits and concerts. Check this site for all the fall happenings-Fall events in Phoenix

10.Day light saving time

Phoenix does not observe the daylight saving time like most of the country. So when the rest of the country would adjust the clocks this fall on November 6th to end the daylight saving time, we would be comfortably sleeping in beds, and will wake up to see the same time on our clocks.

Photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna via Foter.comCC BY-NC-ND

 

The big decision:ready for a pet dog or not?

Their side of the story: pets are fun

“Mom, when can we have a dog?”

“How many stars can get me a dog?” (Our children earn stars for good behavior which they can use to buy a small gift)

“Can I ask Santa for a pet dog?”

Our kids plead to own a dog and offer to care for it too!
“Mom I will take our dog for the walks. So, can we please have one.”
But honey, “Are you ready to pick up the poop as well?”
After a lot of thinking, I hear a reply, “Maybe Papa can do that part.”

Author and illustrator Mo Willems has perfectly represented the idea of owning a dog, in his book ‘The Pigeon wants a puppy.’

http://pigeonpresents.com/book-info.aspx?bid=33

In this delightful picture book the pigeon really really wants a puppy. The pigeon is even willing to care for the pup. But when it realizes that a pup is a lot more work than watering it once a month, he settles for another pet idea-“I want a walrus!”

But unlike the pigeon in the book, my kids continue to entertain the thought of owning a dog. And my answer to their request is a BIG NO.

I am not a mean mom or maybe I am! Though biased, I am not perverse to the idea of having a pet, rather I love and adore dogs.

#Shoutout-I am a dog lover from inside out!

My Conundrum: pets are fun, but they are a big responsibility too

The above is true in the reverse order, responsibility followed by fun. After all, a pet is a live being and requires nurturing and care. I cannot even get my plants to blossom amidst my crazy schedule, so how can I even consider a dog!

“But it is not fair Mom that you had a dog when you were a kid, and we can’t have one!”

The above is a valid argument, and my response requires journey into my past.

I grew up with multiple pet dogs. And I am so grateful for all those incredible memories associated with my furry friends. My favorite pet was my brown dachshund! He was my friend, accomplice, my warm pillow, the slime for my mail envelopes, my anti-depressant and sometimes a whistleblower. With all those things bundled in one small package, he is the cutest memory of my childhood. When he passed away, my world fell apart, until I got it all together again.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of him to share. But this is close to what he looked like-

67615052_6c538292c3_z

 

So by not keeping a dog at my home, am I not depriving my children of the joys and learnings associated with having a pet? Indeed, I am!

But unlike my childhood, which was in a setting with plenty of household help, we are on our own in Phoenix plus bitten by wanderlust.

The final verdict

Pets are a gift. They teach us to be affectionate without anything in return. I know having one would teach my kids to be more responsible as they make efforts to care for it.

Nevertheless, I am not ready to take up another responsibility amidst the travel, writing, hauling the kids from one class to another, volunteering and the countless work. It would not be fair to leave the poor soul at home alone most of the times when we go out for work or travel. I do not consider our lifestyle to be a fit for a pet dog. Atleast, not for next few years.

For now my children would have to take solace in playing with their stuffed toy pets.

Photo credit: Hedgehog Fibres via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Photo credit: Aaron Jacobs via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

What if ‘food in a pill’ became real?

Driverless cars, human-like robots, 3D printers, Google Glass are some of the inventions that were mere fictions few moons back. With the fast-paced technology advancements, ‘food in a pill’, a fiction so far, also seems perfectly attainable. In line with that prediction and to my horror, our food is overly processed and continues to shrink in size. (Perfect examples are cereals and granola bars.)

What would happen to our world if and when ‘food in a pill’ became true?

  • It would mean leaving our lifeline in the hands of the reckless pharmaceutical companies who selfishly aim at pocketing more money with utter disregard to their social and moral responsibility.
  • There would be no lunch bags, instead, only pill boxes. Kids would be able to select the pill boxes with their favorite characters.Pill5
  • There would be no dinner tables, so no dining rooms. Instead, we will have poker tables, foosball tables, and other entertainment. The dining area would be replaced with a game room.
  • Children would munch on sugar-coated, multi-flavored pills. We would have egg- or bacon-flavored pills for breakfast, turkey and ham pills for lunch, and mild vegetable flavor pills for dinner.Pills1
  • Pharmacies would replace the fast-food joints and restaurants. There would be a food pick-up line, separate from the prescription drive-through lane.
  • Pharmacies would have ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffets, where the pills would be arranged beautifully on the table. There would be ‘vegan,’ ‘gluten-free,’ and ‘nut-free’ pills, too. On special occasions like Thanksgiving, pharmacies would serve ‘turkey meal’ pills.
  • Pantries would look much more colorful as different colors and shapes of pills would occupy the pantry boxes in place of lentils, beans, and nuts. The labels would read, ‘breakfast,’ ‘lunch,’ ‘dinner,’ ‘snacks,’ ‘comfort food,’ and ‘boredom food.’
  • Celebrity chefs would be a thing of the past, just like having a stove or a microwave in a kitchen.
  • If kids ever come across an apple tree, they would not know what to do with the fruits.
  • People would have more time on their hands, time saved by no cooking, no dining, and no cleaning up after meals. Children would play more video games and drive parents crazy. Adults would catch up on their favorite hobbies and TV series. People would socialize more often to kill the ‘meal’ boredom, maybe even get into more arguments and fights.
  • There would be an emergence of mouth/jaw yoga studios to get those lazy muscles moving.
  • Grandparents’ stories would begin with, “This tale is from the times when people used to eat seated at the dinner table…”

In the absence of real food, the entire landscape would go for a toss. Real food not only keeps us healthy but occupied and sane too. In essence, some inventions look good only in fiction, and ‘food in a pill’ belongs to that category.

Are you ready to replace this-

Pill3.jpg

with this?

Pills4.jpg

Photo credit: Dvortygirl via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: 27147 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: whoever, whomever via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: Michael Stern via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Artist in doing nothing. via Foter.com / CC BY

The love affair with food

IMG_1789
Rice Pilaf/Biryani

One of my friends messaged me a picture of rice pilaf – the dish that she ordered in the restaurant. The rice looked so beautiful that I could virtually smell the fragrance, and my mouth started watering. Where food is concerned, I let all my senses – sight, smell, taste and the sound- go wild. This perfect sensory amalgamation is the key to savoring the food on our platter.

Ever wondered why the food prepared by a loved one tastes divine and satisfying?

The energy of the cook influences the overall taste and experience of the food. Though the fresh ingredients, spices, and herbs render a flavor to the dish, the key ingredient to every recipe is the intent. No wonder the food served with love tastes delicious and gratifying!

IMG_1637
Savory semolina cake
IMG_1649
Butter Paneer Masala

The above logic does explain a lot about the varying degree of cooking outcomes for the same recipe. When I am grouchy, I inadvertently also season my dish with a pinch of bad temper. And at other times the burnt rice also tastes delightful.🙂

Another reason for the variations in taste is also because I do not cook with precise measurements. I follow my instincts. Cooking, to me, is what painting is to an artist! No two pieces of art are the same, nor are my dishes. There are off course pros and cons to this approach. Firstly I cannot share my recipes due to lack of measurements, and then there is always an unpredictability (I like to call it a mystery) about the outcome even though I’ve prepared the same recipe multiple times.Then there is also the joy of creating an edible piece of art.

The dance of spices in my pantry

For me food preparation is beyond a chore; it is an act of love. Love for myself and for my family who I want to nourish. I cook every day, sometimes multiple times in a day. As I usually cook Indian meals, needless to say, it is a laborious affair, nonetheless, an activity that I cherish (on most days).

SpicesMy love for food translates into the affinity for spices. These are the ingredients that offer exceptional flavor and fragrance to the dishes. I have over fifty spices and their blends in my pantry, some that I use more frequently than others. Besides the flavor, these spices render inherent health benefits-

  1. Turmeric- a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
  2. Cumin-relieving nausea, stomach pains, indigestion and diarrhea
  3. Cayenne-helpful in arthritis, weight loss and as a decongestant
  4. Asafoetida-helps in treatment of bronchitis and aids digestion
  5. Coriander powder-an antioxidant and relieves abdominal pain

Eating food is much more than providing your body with the nutrition

My Yoga teacher illustrates an example of a body that gulps down food while watching a horror movie. In doing so, the body’s nervous system is distracted towards the stress or excitement, thus inhibiting the body’s digestion process. The result is a sub-optimal absorption and an unsatisfied body that tries to consume more food. And this habit of distracted eating is one of the causes of weight gain.

The ritual of being seated in a relaxed environment and engaging all your senses to relish a meal results in physical and emotional well-being. That is the reason the experts now emphasize the benefits of mindful eating. No wonder, before I even taste, my sense of sight and smell signals my digestive system to prepare for what lies ahead!

Next time, if you are confused about using fork-knife, chopsticks, spoons or your hand to eat, just remember, your mind (awareness) is all you need to dive into your platter, and you will not be disappointed.

Having such an eternal bond with my food, I find the idea of having food in a pill, as seen in the various science fiction movies, incredibly ludicrous. I cannot fathom gulping my entire food experience in a matter of second.

I am not willing to give up my love affair with food. At least not for years to come! What about you?

http://www.vibenaturalhealth.com.au/blog/nutrition/digestion-and-the-mind-body-connection/

Photo credit:Rachna Bhalla

Photo credit: Michael Stern via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: cbertel via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Confessions of Living far away from family, and making home away from home

 Family

like branches on a tree

grows in different directions

yet our roots remain as one.

Living away from your family –parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, and aunts– is a choice many of us make in hope for a better future or by the will of fate or the circumstances. Whatever the reason to build a nest away from home, the truth is that somewhere it creates a nagging yearning for the family and the place that we leave behind. For some people, the geographical distance from their loved ones is hours drive away, while for some, like me, it is several long tiring hours in the air, measured by oceans, continents, and multiple time zones away.

Haven’t we all heard ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’? But when this distance is thousands of miles away, this fondness changes into a longing that overcasts our everyday life. There are times in my life-festivals, birthdays, weddings, birth, funeral, reunions, and other milestones– when I get homesick. And, thereafter I start making plans to visit the family (like REAL BIG planning goes into it). I have to find at least three weeks of vacation in the calendar. I then look for flights with reasonable price, connections, and travel time. (No kidding, with connections and layovers some flights take 40 hours or more to the destination!). There is added level of planning and the associated stress if my children accompany me. And, by the time I complete all the intricacies that go into making the travel happen, my homesickness is taken over by travel anxiety.

When this long travel is not practical, I simply stay put and wait for the blues to pass. I say to myself, “Toughen up Girl!!” It does help to video call the family, but sometimes it makes the feeling worse as I see the faces but cannot touch or hug. During these times I fantasize about teleporting.

Frequently some or the other incidents triggers nostalgia. And, then I end up sharing the stories of  ‘When I was little….’ with my children, hubby, and friends. If you would ask them, there are some memoirs I’ve repeated multiple times. I dread the day when my kids would start saying, “Not again, Mom!”

I typically start and end my day with a phone call, just to be sure that ‘all is well’ at the far end of the world where part of my heart resides. These comfort calls last less than a minute as both sides have nothing to share but the fundamental joy of hearing each other’s voice. Rare times when I receive a call at odd hours of the night, I wake up in terror of receiving that dreaded call carrying  some unpleasant news.

Plus there is a frustration of not able to always be physically present with the family in times of their need. Most often my availability is restricted to giving advice over the phone.

There is also a bit of disappointment that my kids will not be able to experience the friendships with their cousins like I did, hanging out with them every summer. To compensate for this lost time, I do take the kids to meet the family as often as possible, and it is such a pleasure to see them get along with their cousins like they were never apart. But then time flies and every trip has to end.  Life starts its routine; The wanderlust settles, but the yearning remains.

While residing in my abode, I have developed a special gratitude for the friends that make me feel at home, by their impromptu visits, invitations to celebrate festivals together, and offering help in times of need. These kind of friends are the support system, and they successfully fill the vacuum generated by living distant from the family. I find a familiar comfort meeting other international families too, for deep inside we all understand and share a void of living away from our roots.

Having described my emotional rollercoaster above, I am sometimes consumed by dilemma to continue living overseas or return. Good thing this feeling does not last long.

To sum up, my story is a living example of having feet on both boats; wherein I try to balance the boat that rocks but also keep the other one from drowning. And I essentially try to fill the geographical gap by scheduling visits, and video calls. But like a said, yearning remains! It is always there

So, what is your story? Do you live far or near your family?

Photo credit: The Wandering Angel via Foter.com / CC BY