Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Retrospection [UBC Post 31]

Participating in 'the Ultimate Blog Challenge July 2013' was an amazing and rewarding experience in more ways than one. My thoughts:
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  • 31 posts in 31 days! In fact, I have written 10 posts in 3 days, and they all are proper posts. That in itself is a feat. Didn't I tell you I am the most productive at the last moment?
  • Writing so much was fun. I love writing. I was never skeptical that I will not be able to complete it. It actually made me realize that the more we write, the better writer we become, and more ideas keep flowing. So, need to keep the momentum. I might just take up another Challenge, who knows!
  • These Challenges have breathed a new life into this blog. It was neglected for so long. I have been writing here since my MBA days, so I never thought I would abandon it. 
  • I found some new, interesting blogs. I am yet to read them properly but they have been added to my reading list. 
  • When everyone was writing a post daily (on an average), there was very less time to hop around the blogs. So, that is on my agenda right now.
  • This Challenge was much better than the others because everyone was free to write what they wanted. So, I read some very interesting posts. 
  • Book reviews are the top priority next month. I need to finish a lot of reviews fast. And I am a little behind in my GoodReads Challenge, so need to get focused on that now. 
  • And the best part is that my IndiRank has never been this good. I am at 82, and loving it. 
So, lovely people, thank you for reading. See you around :-)

Note: Special thank yous for Smita and Shilpa. They always pick up the Challenge. I follow.

5 of My Most Favourite Gifts from the ever thoughtful Husband [UBC Post 30]

My husband gives most thoughtful gifts. He would consider the personality, interests and orientation of a person while gifting to him or her. And therefore, the onus of buying gifts for anyone and everyone lies on him. 

I love all his gifts. He usually gives a couple of gifts so that if I don't like 1 thing, I would have other things to fall back on. But that situation hasn't come. I have loved everything that he has got for me - bags, shirts, t-shirts, jewellery, furniture, even book [once]. 

But a few things top the list:

1. Bookshelf
I have a bookshelf which we bought the year we got married. Considering the rate at which I buy books, it was overflowing. So, we discussed, we would get another one matching our bedroom wardrobe. This discussion was at discussion stage only. And voila, I get this bookshelf, delivered on my birthday as the clock struck 12 am. When the bell rang, I was anticipating the usual cake and flowers; but when I saw this I did not know how to react. It has been the best gift ever, from anyone for that matter.

2. Mangalsutra
I am not a jewellery person. I hardly ever wear any jewellery much to my
mother's dismay because I don't look married enough (or prosperous enough I guess). I have never bought any 
jewellery ever for myself. The only piece of jewellery I ever bought was a diamond ring for my husband when we got married. But I was thinking of buying a short Mangalsutra which will go with everything - jeans, casuals, salwar-kurta - for everyday wear. I had shared this thought with my hubby. And I got it on our Anniversary, after a couple of months. I wasn't even expecting it. I love to wear it all the time.

3. Laptop
I got a laptop on my birthday this May. I was kind of expecting it, what with hints thrown everywhere. But I really wanted a laptop for being able to write more comfortably. Writing on a Tab is really cumbersome.

4. Samsung Tab
After I had baby, my days and nights were spent in feeding or taking care of the new baby. It was difficult, rather inconvenient, to keep a laptop around. The ever thoughtful hubby bought this Samsung Tab for me so that I can keep myself occupied in internet surfing or reading during those long hours. 

5. Kurta
I had bought red cotton trousers from Cotton World, on a whim. But I did not like anything to go with it. It kept gathering dust in my wardrobe because I had not got anything to wear with it. My anniversary was approaching and I had nothing to wear [as usual], then I suddenly remembered these pair of trousers. But the same problem persisted. Nothing to go with it. I had only a few days in hand as we were going out-of-town. Hubby told me to order something online. I would surf all the sites - from Jabong to Yebhi, from Inkfruit to Myntra - but nothing seemed perfect. I had lost all hope about wearing it. Finally when we were packing for the trip, the husband gave me this kurta, which he ordered from Inkfruit [I think]. I love it. It goes perfectly with these trousers.

Toddler Times [UBC Post 29]

Life with a Toddler is challenging, fascinating and thoroughly entertaining. What they are capable to do and able to grasp amaze me every single day!

Here is a list of things the toddler in the house does these days. This one is for memories’ sake:

Alphabets: We bought the mega blocks set after much thought and it turns out to be total paisa-vasool. For last couple of months now he has been playing only with these blocks for hours. Saying 'Papa aao, Mamma aao, tower'. Now we have  moved on to making Alphabets. I don’t really remember how it all started. Perhaps I made ‘T’, I don’t remember. Perhaps he joined blocks and it looked like ‘T’, so I said so. I showed him in his ABCD book what ‘T’ was. And then there was no looking back. Barring a few alphabets, he recognizes most of them. Obviously that feels good because I never tried teaching him ABCD in terms of rattofying it. It is better when they learn from their own interest and free will. He makes simple ones and asks me to make the ones he can’t, with his blocks.

Colours: Like alphabets, I was never hell bent on teaching him colours. But we consciously asked him to hand us over certain colours when playing with blocks. Few months back, we had observed that he would match colours while playing with blocks. So, we knew he understood the different colours but could not really identify them. And guess which colour he started identifying first? Orange! He pronounces it as ‘Anela’ for some reason. It is his favourite colour at the moment. He says Orange, Yellow, Purple, Green, Black in his own language but no Red. He hasn’t come around to saying ‘R’ properly so far. So, he can’t pronounce Mumma’s name but that’s Okay.

Vocabulary: It is amazing how his vocabulary is expanding leaps and bounds. He repeats almost everything that we say. In order to have a discussion between us, we now have to spell out the key words so that he wouldn’t understand what we are talking about. Ha ha! One day he told me ‘hat hat’ [move]. May be he picked it up from our cleaning bai. I told him, ‘you should say hatiye’. Another time, I told him ‘hato’. You know what he told me? ‘Hatiye’. It was so cute. One day he was asking for something from his dad [he needs everything that we pick up and that very moment]. He was saying ‘do do’ [give]. Daddy asked him, ‘shouldn’t you say something else when you want something?’ Then he remembered and said ‘Papa pease [please] dijiye’
I would like to think that reading to him from when he was only a few months old, helped him. Because I have read and heard from friends and family that boys start talking much later. It is how they are wired.

Identifying alphabets: Now he tries to identify alphabets everywhere – newspaper, books, packaging, toothpaste, magnets, t-shirts, keyboard! It is incredibly cute. Of course, all kids do that. But it is an exciting phase for us. He will pick up my books and read the upper case alphabets.

Mock reading: He mock-reads these days. You just have to tell him to read something, he would start yapping gibberish. It is actually a good sign. Sometimes we find him looking intently at newspapers as if he is reading. Many times when we are reading, he would pick up the newspaper and start pointing the text and start mouthing gibberish. He would point t every single text, even going back to something he missed.

Mimicking us: Like all kids his age, he mimicks us all the time. He would do dusting like the aunty who cleans. He would try to fold clothes, arrange things like Mumma. He would put clothes in the washing machine like us. And he would do things with complete attention and focus.

Doing chores: We have always involved him in putting his toys and books back. Sometimes he likes to do, sometimes he does not. That’s okay. But I make it clear that Mumma is only helping him. Many times he would clear out toys and books on his own, putting them properly back to their respective places. We would ask him to arrange cushions or get the bowl or glass or put the bowl near sink after he is done or hand over washed clothes for drying, etc. Kids are naturally inclined to do things out of curiosity. We are just trying to get him into the habit of doing chores around the house like all of us. 

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Favourite Food: He likes rice and daal. He can eat chapatti on his own and on good days he would also eat chapati with vegetables, otherwise we feed him chapati and veggies separately. He absolutely loves dry fruits and all kinds of fruits. Even if by mistake we dropped ‘kaju’, ‘kishmish’ in our discussion, we have to give it to him. He loves Milk. He is very open to tasting new food. He likes Pasta in white sauce, cheese, etc. The only thing is if we feed him something remotely spicy, he will not eat another morsel. But surprisingly, he will keep on hogging bhujiya sev despite being spicy! I have not given him too much of chocolates, biscuits, packaged namkeens, wafers so far. Of course, he has tasted them and eats them every now and then but that’s about it. I stop everyone from handing him chocolates. Ya, I know I am very mean, but what to do!

I have stopped reading about developmental milestones because I feel they are different for each child. My experience so far tells me children naturally learn whatever skills are required. I never put him in walker, he started walking on his own and quite early. I never supported him to sit; he started doing that on his own. No sleep training either. I love walking him around to sleep when I am not too tired. Sometimes he will tell me ‘Mumma, aaa aa aa”. Many times he will doze off on his own. So, I know he is doing fine and he will keep doing so. After all, it is a natural process. 

The Lavasa Trip [UBC Post 28]

We decided to go to Lavasa [India’s planned hill city near Pune]for little one’s birthday. We wanted to go out-of-town but did not want to spend too much time on the road. Lavasa sounded perfect. After the whole birthday cake mishap and what with baking happening till the last moment; we finally started for Lavasa at 1 pm [as against 10 am].
Lavasa is at about 70 kms from my place. And it took us around 2 hours to reach the hotel. When we go for long trips, I and the sonny boy sit on the back seat because it provides ample space for him to play, sleep or just jump around. The space between the seats is packed with a mattress. We throw in a few cushions, some soft toys, a few books and we are good to go. Of course, he tries to go to the front seat but I manage to stop him somehow.

The moment we started for Lavasa, it was raining in Pune. It rained almost throughout our journey. We enjoyed the beautiful, romantic showers during our journey. The toddler slept for some time just when we were about to enter Lavasa, and would not lie down on the seat, so I carried him on one shoulder and clicked a few pictures from my left hand. I am a complete photo-person that way :-)

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Somehow we managed to locate our hotel, amid fog and heavy rains. We stayed at Hotel The Waterfront Shaw. We had done some research before going, on Tripadvisor. And as suggested, we opted for a Promenade facing apartment suite, but as one of them pointed out, it didn’t matter. It was raining all the time, so we barely stepped out in the so-called balconies.

The apartment suite was very good, for a couple. There were a few things not suitable with a kid around. All electrical points were low. Turning switches on and off was my toddler’s idea of fun throughout our stay. We had to be on our toes all the time to switch them off. There were heavy, glass-top lamps. We removed the table lamp safely into the kitchen shelf, but we had to be extremely watchful for the floor lamp. It was dangerous.

Everything had glass. The centre table and dining table tops were glass. The cutlery was all glass. The lamps had glass. We eventually asked to remove the centre table.

The main door had no locking mechanism which a toddler could not open. He would keep opening the door and we had to be constantly around him. Many times he would wear our shoes and say bye-bye and walk out. It looked very cute, in retrospect.

I loved the suite. It had a microwave, tea-maker, induction plate, mini-fridge, hair drier and iron. There were quite a few options in restaurants / cuisines. We tried Chor Bizarre [North Indian] and All American Diner [American] at Waterfront Shaw. I tried Chor Bizarre only because of all the recommendations on the net but I liked All American Diner more, in terms of ambience and food [which depends on your personal taste]. We also tried lunch buffet in Zodiac [multi-cuisine] at Hotel Fortune Select, which was okay. 
Chor Bizarre
We ordered in our room a couple of times because sometimes the little one did not like anything at a restaurant, so we had to leave pretty quickly. They took last food order at 10.30 pm. Once we had to request to take order at 10.40 pm after we came back from Chor Bizarre. Nothing appealed to the toddler there. I feel that food must be available round the clock, atleast a few things like sandwiches.

All American Diner
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The breakfast was included in our package, which was a buffet. I always look forward to the breakfasts in such trips. Most of the times there is a mix of Indian and European breakfast options. But I did not like the breakfast spread here - too few options. 

We could not try Water Sports or Nature Trail or even the Toy Train ride. But everything said and done, I think we had a good time. I would have loved to walk around this beautiful township but the rains never stopped. Lavasa is styled as a quaint European town but it will take a few years to reach there. A lot of construction work is going on. If you are looking for a quiet time, with or without your partner; go to Lavasa. It is beautiful.

5 Tips for Raising Book lovers [UBC Post 27]

Every book lover dreams of having a book lover in his or her child too. Though many kids take to reading themselves but there are certain things which you can do to pave the way for your child into the world of reading.

Here are a few tips to raising book lovers:

1. Start Early. Make it a way of daily life.
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The best time to introduce reading to your child is now. Yes. The sooner the better. Even one month old baby benefits when they are read to. At that age, you can read just about anything to him. I remember I used to read aloud whatever books I would be reading at that time. Once it was 'Stay Hungry Stay Foolish' ha ha! Jokes apart, make reading to or with your child part of your daily routine. The formative years are the time to instill habits in kids. Make the best of it. We usually read during afternoons since my son used to be quite hyper just before sleeping. We had to switch off the lights for him to sleep. But recently, I started reading before bedtime and he just wouldn't let us drop that even when we are tired or late. He will get the bunch of books. Sometimes it is too funny!

2. Surround him with good books. 
Today there is an extensive range of books for each age-group. With imported books available at online stores and with several Indian publishers [like Duckbill Books, Tulika Publishers, Tara Books, Karadi Tales] creating books for Indian kids, it is a wonderful time to be a young reader. Take time to research and find books that are appealing and according to the child's age. I had shared a list of Fiction books which I have been reading to my son [ he just turned 2]. I will suggest you must read the book yourself first before passing it on to your kids. Not all books available for children in the market are good in quality and content or preaching the values you would like to inculcate in your child. I had shared my bad experience with a few kiddie books here

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3. Provide enough opportunities for reading. 
If you have good books but your TV is blaring all the time, chances are your child wouldn't be drawn to opening the book. TV is a visual medium - bright, attractive, dynamic. Compare it with a book. But of course, TV will dumb you down, books will make you imaginative. And I am sure, that is what you want for your kids. So, fix a time for TV [not more than 40-45 minutes for young kids]. 
If possible, create a reading corner for your child. See the picture. Even I would like to spend hours here. This place looks cozy and welcoming. We have a playing area in a corner of my living room. This place is for Dining Table but I have decided to wait for a while before I invite more trouble for myself. He will stand on top of the table or jump around the chairs. This place is just across the kitchen, so if I am doing something, I can keep an eye on him. I wanted to create a reading corner in another room with an open bookcase but at the last moment we felt he would start climbing up the shelves. So, we have dropped the idea for the moment. But I am going to get it may be in another year. 

4. Set an Example. Read yourself.
 Like in everything else, the child is going to copy you. If you are a voracious reader yourself, read all the time, love your books, care for your books; then chances are it is going to rub off on your child too. So, do what you preach. 

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5. Join a library. Visit bookstores together. 
A library will provide you a wide range of books. There are different kinds of libraries these days. There are also the ones in which you can order online and get the books delivered at your doorstep. And there are good old libraries where you visit the library, spend time, select books and issue them. I would suggest prefer those libraries. A library is a place where you will find other readers. It is inspiring to find other young readers. 
Along with library, also visit bookstores together when you go to buy books. When the kids are a little older, allow them to choose some of the books [with your approval of course]. 
Moreover, there are storytelling sessions for young kids these days, like the ones Falak takes. It helps to generate interest in kids through interesting storytelling techniques and related activities.

So, have you got any tip for me? 

5 Magazines I absolutely Love [UBC Post 26]

I love magazines, probably not as much as I love books but they come a close second. And you know what, much to my husband's dismay, I hoard them too.

I wish I could say Harvard Business Review or The Economist, even our own Outlook as my favourite magazines. But thank you very much, that is not the case. There are two things which I can never get tired of reading about - Books and Filmy (celebrity) Gossip. 

Here are 5 Magazines which I absolutely love:

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PEOPLE: Somehow I remember I first saw this magazine while standing in the queue of Mumbai-Pune Shivneri buses at Dadar (Mumbai). I was waiting for my turn and checking out magazines in the stall next to the ticket counter. I think the introductory issue had then-much-in-love Deepika and Ranbir. I didn't give it a second glance, brushing it off as yet another celebrity magazine amongst several. But I had heard about the international PEOPLE magazine. So, on one of the days when I went to Landmark, I bought it. And I have never looked back. I have been a subscriber for I think 4 years now. It is not like the usual sensational celebrity gossip magazine. It has a certain standard in the kind of features, interviews it covers. The candid pictures are awesome, but still the first thing I check out even in this magazine is the book reviews section towards the end. I have bought several books from these recommendations. Know more about this magazine here.
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FEMINA: I don't even remember clearly for how long I have been reading FEMINA. In my humble opinion, it is the best women's magazine in India. From gossip to fashion trends, from inspiring stories to interiors, food, makeovers and what not! What I love most are the special issues like the one you can see alongside. The current issue is about 100 years of Indian cinema. Femina has been around for so many years now that its special issues are reflections of changes in the society over the years. No wonder, I refuse to part with them. Here is their official page.

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FILMFARE: I have recently converted into a Filmfare fan. I always thought it was quite boring and repetitive. But recently I saw a few issues and I liked them. It is no secret that Fimfare finds favours with most of the film celebrities. It has gorgeous pictures and some good interviews. So, why not! For me, filmy gossip is never enough. I am always open to reading more.  
Here is the official page of the magazine.  

BRUNCH: BRUNCH is a weekly magazine from the house of Hindustan Times. Actually it is a weekly supplement of the daily newspaper. It also has a Quarterly variant called BrunchQ. I absolutely love Brunch. I love reading about books, culture, society, films, art, etc., and Brunch has all of that. My only grouse is that we don't have a Pune edition of HT. I had been lucky to get Sunday editions (for Brunch) by my papaerwala, but now he is unable to get it for me. So, I have subscribed myself the Quarterly one. Though I can read the online version of the weekly Brunch but I never actually get around to it. Where is the time!  

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LOUNGE: LOUNGE is another weekly from Hindustan Times. It is actually the Saturday paper of HT'S Mint. Mint's Lounge, very similar to BRUNCH, covers trends, social changes, books, culture, movies and anything related to society or culture worth talking about. I used to get even this on Saturdays by my paperwala without subscribing to Mint for all days. But now I don't get it. I read the online version once in a while. Of course, it is not the same thing.

So, what are your favourite magazines?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

5 Home accessories I love around my House and how I got them [UBC Post 25]

In my dreams, I am a writer-cum-interior decorator. I love beautiful but real homes. I love neat, organised, quirky homes which have a character, and don't have a straight-out-of-a-showroom feel to it. I had written about the scrap book I had created for home ideas here. Though I have not updated it in a while, yet I still fancy myself as someone who loves and has the talent of doing up interiors. Frankly, doing interiors is an on-going project. You never feel it is done. It is always getting done.

Sometimes I buy quirky, interesting, (not necessarily expensive) accessories for our home. Here are the 5 things around my home which are my favourites: 

1. The Vinyl Clock

I was looking for a wall clock. I don't like simple ones. It has to be something interesting. I came across this on a website and quite liked it. It was for about Rs 450. This clock is carved out of an old vinyl. At that time I also had little metal figurines playing different musical instruments from @ Home. So, this clock went well with the music theme. It also went well with the vintage feel of the cushions I had bought around that time. But that does not stop my husband to make fun of this clock (and me) at every opportunity. 

2. The Clock from Bombay Store
You can say I have a fetish for clocks. In fact, I am looking for 2-3 more for different rooms. Well, I wasn't looking for this but it found me when I went to a Bombay store outlet. This was for around Rs 750. When I bought this, I never realized that it worked perfectly with the colour in the bedroom (seen here in the background). In fact, it is the exact shade of red. This one also won me some comments (all in good humour) from hubby dear. In fact, to be honest, he makes it a point to make fun of all these interesting home accessories I buy. He makes fun of me but never asks me not to buy any of those things. So, that is a small price to pay for getting your way, isn't it? 

3. The miniature bike from Crazy Daisy
I first came across this in Femina, I think. I instantly fell in love with it. I wanted to have it for my bookshelf. I found from Femina that this piece was by Crazy Daisy, based in Delhi. I Googled their coordinates, called them up and arranged it to be courriered to me from Delhi. Yes, I am that single-minded about things I love. I got this for about Rs 350.

4. Mukul Goyal Bookends
I saw this in BBC Good Homes magazine, and I absolutely loved it. These are such slick beautiful pieces, you cannot not love them. But yes, these are expensive. But I was so much in love with them that I bought them anyways. I could not find them at any of the online stores, so I called them up and found that it was available at a tiny design store in Pune. I landed on that store in Koregaon Park (can't remember the name now) and bought them for Rs 2250. I had to beat around the bush when hubby asked me how much they were for but then I never lie to him so I told him. Of course, he found this ridiculously expensive. Even I found it expensive but that does not mean I couldn't indulge once in a while.

5. Poster by Mario Miranda
When I went to Goa, I wanted to buy a poster by Mario Miranda. Know more about this distinguished artist here, who passed away in 2011. I love his illustrations. But I did not know where to look for them. I had gone on an official trip to Goa. Our company associate knew that an Architect retailed some posters but it was not possible to go to him at that time. It was pure luck when I found posters, post cards and what not at a lifestyle store next to our hotel. I and my friend bought a poster each. I got it framed and put it on my living room wall. And I think it is lovely. Many people do not know who Mario Miranda is but it is funny when they keep looking at it to figure out what was special about the poster that it has got place of pride in my living room. This I got for Rs 700-800. 

Second Birthday Updates [UBC Post 24]

I don’t know if I ever wrote about the little one’s first birthday here, but it was quite chilled out. We had no plans except that we will bake cake for him, wear same colour T-shirts and just have a relaxed, funfilled day. And yeah, lots of balloons. We had exactly the same plans for this year too.
The only change was celebrating it out-of-town. We have not gone out-of-town for a while (say 8 months), so it provided a perfect opportunity to make a trip. We chose Lavasa [there will be a separate post for the trip] so that we wouldn’t waste too much time on the road.

Birthday Cake Disaster and Decking up the Place

I had a premonition about this. It was bound to happen. Once I make a lot of noise about something, it would anything but go smoothly. I had told everyone and their neighbor about how I was going to make a rainbow cake. And when I finally got down to making the much anticipated cake [mind you I already had a practice session. Read more about it here], at 2 am I realized that the cake was not baking properly at the centre while it was sort of burning around the sides. Initially, for some time, I kept on believing that the cake was not burning but that was the brown colour that I had added in the cake. When the cake finally came out, it was anything but satisfactory. I was a little disheartened. We were supposed to leave for Lavasa by 10 am [as 12 pm was the check-in time]. I did not have the patience or energy to make another cake at that time. I was getting numb with sleep. Moreover, since the little one was sleeping, I was doing all the mixing and beating in the balcony [yeah, mommies would know what I am talking about. You don’t mess around a sleeping kid.]

This is how the
Final Birthday Cake looked
I decided I will bake another one in the morning. Somehow. As I said I had the premonition of this happening, and therefore the good sense of getting 2 sets of 200 gm Maida [all purpose flour] and sugar for the cake.

I woke up at 8.15 am. I was waiting for my cook to prepare breakfast for us before leaving, while I also had to bake a cake. It is difficult to do too many things together in the space we have in kitchen [though my kitchen is really quite big. I think about 10 ft X 8ft]. But psychologically, I feel uneasy. I was anyways not feeling too energetic. But I still went about the business. Did the whole thing again. Read about the procedure of baking Rainbow cake here.

Let me also add that my stuff were yet to be packed. My husband is excellent in such situations. Anyways, he is always the one who does the packing. I just give my stuff to him. Since I was occupied with baking the cake, he packed his and little one’s clothes and other necessities. He also fed him his breakfast and kept him engaged in one thing or the other, as I had a lot of stuff on the kitchen floor as well.

After I put the cake in Microwave, I went about packing my stuff and getting ready. The cake baked till the last 10 minutes of us leaving for our trip. But it turned out well in the end. I was prepared to buy a cake if the second one had not worked out. I am not fixated about such things.

I was carrying the icing material with me to do the icing at night. As per plan, I did the icing after the little one slept [in Lavasa] at night. Hubby gave me company as he decorated the apartment suite we had with balloons. Our son, as other kids, just loves cakes and balloons.

The room decked up with balloons
We retired to sleep again at 2 am. When the sonny boy woke up in the morning, he was super-thrilled to find balloons all over the place. Orange is the first colour that he started identifying, and it is the colour he prefers.  Hubby had kept a few balloons for playing but unfortunately, none of those were orange. So, he had to pull out orange ones from the décor. Ha ha!

So how old are we? We are 2!
The Birthday boy also loved his cake, which he wanted to attack like the way he did on his first birthday. We had to stop him and get him to cut it. We also wore our White T-shirts; which had the number 2 and our names at the back, and a little number 2 on left handside in the front. We wore them the entire day. It looked cool, and felt special. And because of all this, our son also remembers now what is 2 and how old is he. 

Apart from these, we just strolled outside, played with blocks inside the room and just had a relaxed time, as intended.

My main task at hand is to make the birthday album as early as possible or it will remain pending like all the thousands of photos of last 2 years. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Simple and easy-to-make Pasta in White Sauce [UBC Post 23]

What do you do when you want to cook something new, and are looking for a simple and easy to cook recipe? Google obviously!

One of the Saturdays, we decided to make Pasta at home. I love pasta in white sauce. One reason is I love anything with cheese, the second reason is that it is bland enough for a toddler (not to say that he does not eat the normal food we cook. He tastes everything that we eat but if he finds them spicy, I don’t force).

This is how my White Sauce Pasta looked finally
I referred this recipe to make Pasta. I found this recipe very simple and easy to follow.I am more-or-less reproducing the recipe here with minor modifications.

Pasta: 1 and half cups
Oil: 1 tsp
Salt: To Taste
Put water to boil in a container (enough to soak the pasta and more). Add some salt and ½ tsp oil. The oil will avoid Pasta from sticking. When the water starts boiling, add Pasta to it. Cook the Pasta till it is soft but firm. Drain the hot water and immediately add cold water to it. Remove the cooked water from the water and add ½ tsp oil to it.

Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Garlic: 1 tbsp (finely chopped)
Capsicum: 1 (chopped; remove the seeds)
Carrot: ½ (chopped)
Cauliflower: 1 cup ( blanched; put it in hot water with a little salt)
Pea: 1/3 cup
Sweet corn: 1/3 cup
Pepper powder: To taste
Salt: To taste
Oregano: To taste
Note: I cooked the vegetables with little water in Microwave for 2 minutes.
Heat oil in a pan. Add garlic and sauté till golden. Then add all vegetables (capsicum, cauliflower, pea, carrot and corn). Cook uncovered for a while but do not overcook. Let the vegetables have a little crunchiness. Add salt, pepper powder and oregabo to taste.

Butter: 11/2 Tbsp
Cornflour: 2 tbsp (you may use Maida if you don’t have cornflour)
Milk: 1 1/2 cup (boiled and cooled)
Cheese: 3-4 Tbsp
Salt: To Taste
Pepper powder: To Taste
Oregano: To Taste
Melt butter in a pan, add cornflour while stirring continuously. Saute till it changes colour to slightly brownish. Add 1/2 cup of milk and stir continuously with a whisk to prevent formation of lumps. When it starts thickening, add the remaining milk gradually stirring continuously with the whisk. When it starts boiling, reduce the flame. Add cheese, salt, pepper powder and oregano to taste.
When it thickens slightly, remove from flame. (If it is too thick, you can add the water reserved while cooking pasta and heat again).This sauce will thicken as it cools, so mix it in between or a layer will form on the top.

Mix all three in a pan, on a low flame. Top it with grated cheese and serve hot.

5 Children's Fiction Books We Love [UBC Post 22]

Ideally, I would have posted this on my Book Blog but since I need to post quite a lot of posts on this blog this month, so I will cross-post on both blogs.

Every mother who is a book lover herself will do everything in her capacity to raise a book lover. For that, it is important to surround our kids with good books and enough reading opportunities. Especially when kids are very young, reading helps in developing vocabulary and language. 

Here are our 5 favourite Children's Fiction books; and let me tell you, I love them as much as my son does. I find them extremely interesting as well as full of opportunities for learning, no matter how many times we read them: 

1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarleThis is my most favourite book. 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle begins with a tiny and hungry caterpillar coming out of a small egg. He spends the entire week eating all sorts of fruits and other food items. Each day he keeps eating more and more, which leads to stomachache. He therefore eats through a green leaf to relieve his pain. At the end of the week, he turns into a big, fat caterpillar. He builds a cocoon around himself, and stays inside for 2 weeks. At the end he emerges out of it as a beautiful butterfly. It is amazing how such a simple book, with minimum words and simple illustrations, provides immense learning opportunities for children. The illustrations are vibrant and child-like. Right from learning the name of different fruits to numbers, from days of the week to lifecycle of a butterfly, there is so much to learn through this concise yet beautiful story. To top it all, there are tiny die-cut holes on the pictures of food items, which the caterpillar has supposedly eaten. This book is also available with plush toy, which can add extra interest to your storytelling. An older child would like the bigger book format or bigger board book, while there is a mini-board book for very young kids.

2. I Udderly Love YouIt is an adorable book about unconditional love. The story is told from the point-of-view of a Mamma cow to the baby-cow. The lines are rhythmic and yet not too wordy. The story has been narrated with a whimsical twist by altering the spelling of few words to words related to cow. For example, 'utterly' becomes 'udderly', 'music' becomes 'moo-sic', 'movement' becomes 'moo-vement' and so on. The Mamma-cow tells her baby that she loves everything about her, every part of her, every mood, everything she does and how everyday is special with her. It also offers opportunity to learn body parts. 

3. The Going To Bed Book by Sandra Boynton: This is an extremely popular book for reading to young children at bed time. It starts from the setting of sun to the entire process of getting ready for bed, i.e., taking bath, brushing teeth, wearing pajamas, exercising (I still don't get the point of exercising before bed though) and turning off the light and going to bed. It comes in lap size also which is handy for the kids to hold and turn the pages. The text is minimum and rhythmic. 

4. The Little Gardener by Jan Gerardi: This book has flaps on every page. Though it is a board book but it is tear-able, especially the flaps. So, with really young kids, you need to be careful. I have had to put the flaps back with celotapes because my son suddenly discovered it was fun to tear the flaps apart. This book explains the process of gardening to young environment lovers. This is a colourful book with bare minimum text on each page (on most pages there are only 1 or two words) with very beautiful, child-friendly illustrations. Even this book is quite environment friendly - printed on 80% recycled paper with soy ink and water-based varnish. This book is useful in inspiring love for gardening and environment in young kids.   

5. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler: I bought this book recently and frankly, I was quite doubtful about its potential for a 2 year old kid. I was skeptical if this relatively long story with quite a lot of text will interest such a young child. But the fact is 'Gruffalo' is a lovable character rather than intimidating. It is an interesting story about a mouse who uses his intelligent to trick a lot of other animals who were preying on him, and saves himself. The text is rhythmic and quite enjoyable. It can be sung with voice modulation to create drama and generate interest (I read it that way). My son calls this book 'Goilla' (he means Gorilla since he finds Gruffalo similar to Gorilla).

The story is about a mouse, who is passing through the woods. He meets a fox, an owl and a snake one after another. Each wanting to trick him into going to their house, with the motive of feasting on him. But mouse tricks each of them into believing that he is going to meet 'Gruffalo' and creates an intimidating picture of Gruffalo which scares the, and they run away. Mouse laughs at them, safe in the knowledge that there is no such thing as a Gruffalo. But he is accosted by Gruffalo himself who also wants to eat him. The shrewed mouse convinces the Gruffalo to follow him and see for himself how all the animals are afraid of him (the mouse). Gruffalo watches snake, owl and fox run away on looking at the mouse (though actually they are scared of Gruffalo himself but Gruffalo does not realizes that). Eventually, when mouse tells Gruffalo that his favourite food is Gruffalo, the latter runs away too. And mouse is left alone. So, the intelligent mouse takes everyone for a ride and saves himself. 

NOTE:I realize that all the books I have mentioned are from foreign authors. I admit, most of the books which we have got so far are from non-Indians but I have got a list ready of some interesting Indian books for kids. I have a few books from Karadi Tales but I will recommend them for a little older kids (they are not in board book format and I have already suffered). There is an Indian rhyme book (with CD) from Karadi Tales which my son finds extremely captivating. Here is the link for that book.

So, do you have any good Children's books to share?

Images courtesy:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Letter to My 2 Year Old on His Birthday [UBC Post 21]

This is a letter to my son who is going to turn 2 in three days. This letter is meant for my son but I thought it will resonate with every parent, no matter what age their kids are.

Dear D,

I never finalized a name before you were born. A part of me was superstitious, while the other part never found any name that sounded perfect for my baby.

When you were born and I chanced upon this name, it immediately felt right. It signifies star. You have been and will always remain the star of our lives, the centre of our universe.

I cannot believe you are two already! Two years is a long time and then not really. It is hard to remember how life was without you. But no matter what, it wasn’t this beautiful!
This letter is not about the milestones you have crossed, because how does it matter whether you started walking at 1 or 1.5 years. This letter is a celebration of our life together in the last two years.

It is unbelievable how much you inspire me every day, and in how many ways. I never felt the need before but now, I want to be perfect. I want to be someone who you could be proud of. I want to be that place in your life where you can always come when you need unconditional love, understanding and warmth.

Every day is special and every moment is precious with you. There are more than hundred reasons to be thankful for this day. Let me count some.

I am thankful for every single day I get to spend with you. Your curiosity, your innocence, your quest for learning, your determination to master every skill make every day challenging as well as blissful. I am just glad I don’t have to rush anywhere else. I feel privileged to be able to live those moments with you.

A child giggles with all his heart, without any care in the world. I am thankful for those giggles which fill my home and my heart with joy.

his year you are going to start playschool and your world is going to expand. Till now, we were your world – mom and dad. But as you cross the threshold of home for school, your world is going to change forever. I am the world for you today, as you will remain mine; but as you grow up, make new friends, learn new things, there will be a world beyond us. It is incredibly exciting as also it is a little sad for me. Let me be thankful, therefore dear one, to have enjoyed those moments in life when we had each other’s attention all the time.

I have been guilty sometimes of feeling irritated when you pull me from all sides for attention. But sweetheart, even then, I never take those times of togetherness for granted. I know this time is special and it is never going to come back.

I have so much more to say. But this is all that I will say today. Because words can rarely articulate what a heart feels. And I am afraid I would go on and on.

I just hope I can remember the finer nuances of our daily lives, the fun we have, the many adorable things you do. I hope I can hold the beauty of these moments in my heart forever. I hope I can remember much more than a photograph or a video can ever capture.

Happy 2nd Birthday, my Star! May you live a life of happiness and contentment.
Lots of Love!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dedicated Page for all my Writing [UBC Post 20]

I don't know how many of you realized, I have created a separate page to feature all my 'writings' at one place. Earlier I used to re-publish them but I felt the need for one page where I can link all the articles / posts I write. There is a Page link called Writing at the top. Or go to this link. There is also a link on right hand side. 

Image courtesy:
Writing has always been a passion but I have never written fiction, neither I am drawn to writing it. What seems like ages ago, I did try poetry though. I am more into feature writing, articulating my thoughts on certain subjects appeals to me. Beginning of this year, I had mentioned I would pursue feature writing professionally this year. I dabbled a little bit into it. 
May be from next year I will have more time on hand as the little one is going to start school by this year end. Till then I intend to keep writing because as many writers have told this again and again, the more you write, the better writer you become. Earlier I used to feel a writer's block, and then I learnt to draw inspiration from my own life, being more observant about things and experiences.

Reading Update for 2013 [UBC Post 19]

I took up a Challenge of reading 48 books this year in GoodReads Reading Challenge. I love this little widget which tracks my progress and tells me if I am on track or I need to hurry up. 

I have always been into reading but in the humdrum of life, we lose focus, get disoriented. Yes, reading is serious business for me. I don't just like reading books, I also love reading about books or buying them. Book collecting is a different hobby altogether.

I have been taking this Challenge since 2011 but I never did justice to it. Last 2 years were also quite challenging as my son was born and I got sucked into taking care of a newborn. It is overwhelming. But beginning of this year, I decided that this year I am going to be focused on my reading. I will not compromise on the quality of books though. Since I am not back into working professionally, I manage some time for reading. I know this year could be the year when I have maximum time for reading, which by any means does not mean I have a lot of time. But I use most of the free time I get in reading, no matter how little.

I have done well so far. I have read some interesting books and have quite a lot waiting to be read and reviewed. I also feel privileged that quite a lot of publishers send me books to review on my Book Blog. What more can I ask for really! In fact, I have to excuse myself from several requests depending on the genre / subject of the books or time I have. 

I have already crossed last year's 21 books. While I write this, I have read 24 books this year, while I am on 25th. 

Here are the books which I have read so far this year:

You can check out more about these books Here.

Here are the statistics:


If I had to pick my favorites out of these; here they are:

Though I have read more of Fiction, I am perhaps more fascinated by Non Fiction and the variety it offers - from memoir to anthology, from gender studies to films, from parenting to true crime. Another thing is a Non Fiction takes far more time to read than a Fiction. I can read a 400 pages thriller in 2 days but a book on Films with 400 pages will be completed in probably a week or even more. However, I want to explore more variety in reading this year.