Monday, December 30, 2013

Hello 2014

Salut
   اسلا عليكم
Ciao
你好 
Sawubona
今日は 
Hallo
ନମସ୍ତେ

Never have I waited with so much of anticipation for one year to end and another one to begin...2013 SUCKED BIG TIME ! there is just no reasoning or rationale for losing a loved one and trying to make peace with it....I haven't yet, maybe in time I will but for right now I am still in the denial phase.

Ironically before 2013, I have never set resolutions for myself and have been able to have spectacular success with life milestones :
  1. Not being a pack rat - maintaining a reasonably minimalist life style
  2. Zero Debt - hard to conceive, even harder to implement - done & done
  3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  4. Make Family a priority
The 2013 resolution I set for myself last January - Live Life in the Present, Live Life Unafraid -- I failed at rather spectacularly - I have spent the past 9 months exactly not doing that - grieving over things in the past ( my father's death), afraid of disease (cancer and such things) and lamenting the if-only's (if only I had booked my tickets a week early in March...)...so I want to try that resolution one more time this year...especially inspired as I hear this beautiful beautiful song - Clouds by Zach Sobiech -
Well I fell down, down, down
Into this dark and lonely hole
There was no one there to care about me anymore
And I needed a way to climb and grab a hold of the edge
You were sitting there holding a rope
And we'll go up, up, up
But I'll fly a little higher
We'll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
Up here my dear 
It won't be long now, it won't be long now
January 1st, 2014 is the first blank page of a 365-page book. I will make sure that the story I write is not a  borrowed idea, expected outcomes or history lessons. It will be  about new learnings, living, pushing myself, changing myself and shaping my own destiny unafraid of the path I am charting for myself.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Seven Learnings from Jury Duty


"When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty."

I didn't expect my first jury summon to end up in me getting selected to be a juror...yet that was the case. It did put a lot of the other stuff on hand in the back burner...initially I was a little cranky -- thinking about all the things that needed to get done, my To-Do List, my gym classes missed. However, I soon got into the spirit of "By the People For the People"...and by the end of it I was glad I was a part of the process (from the 12 Angry Men which is all men...to 8 men and 4 women in our Jury, where one of the woman became the Foreperson (yes I am talking about me) does seem like some progress).The gist of the case - a civil case over a car accident that happened some years ago, with the plaintiff claiming medical, pain & suffering.
The jury was an interesting mix of people from a yoga teacher, to a customer specialist, a really involved research scientist, a ditzy woman (no I am not talking about myself...and really sometimes I wonder if she was in the same room as me), a public company CTO, a guy who wore designer nail polish (yup I said guy!) among others...as I met these people that I was going to be spending almost a week with...I had a flashback to a movie that was a requisite for one of my courses in Non-Verbal Communications and Group Dynamics - 12 Angry Men. The movie was on to something - I was really struck by how the lessons I learnt as a part of this Jury will hold me good stead at work
  1. Long gone are the days of my way or the highway...it's obvious that to reach closure with the decision and for everyone to feel a part of the process it will require a society with a cooperative value system rather than mechanisms and systems dominated by individualistic efforts. If I had my way the decision would have been very different and absolute. I didn't believe that the Plaintiff's case had a leg to stand on and would have awarded "zero" pain and suffering. Yet, as a part of a group where 3 individuals believed that the teenager deserved pain and suffering compensation, the decision was different, though not very radical for the defendant...
  2. “being willing to stand alone” is uncomfortable but it is ok to be uncomfortable if the decision comes from your strong beliefs and the reality is even though I am mocking the ditzy woman -- the strength of her conviction that the teenager had suffered was unbendable and unshakeable...having that kind of conviction in the face of dissent is absolutely admirable (however frustrating...and seriously was she in the same room as me???)
  3. There was a sincere dialogue towards a solution.  In my experience, respectful listening and sincere consideration tends to influence others in the group in a similar manner. So important to consider in work life where we tend to run roughshod on people. 
  4. Constructively integrating opposing views can contribute to developing effective coalitions - what struck me the most was our decision was an integration of the group's view...our views were too radically opposed for us to reach a consensus but I think we reached a decision that all 12 jurors agreed with
  5. Just listening - sometimes we think when we talk we sound so smart and say amazing things...but  just shutting up and listening really works. I am learning to shut up and make it about you not me...easier said than done!
  6. We really did avoid the pitfalls of Group Think..."putting unanimous agreement ahead of reasoned problem solving”
  7. Embracing Diversity and valuing it gave us a greater capacity to adapt, discuss and agree...reaching the desired state i.e., the decision.
If you haven't watched " 12 Angry Men" and have 92 minutes to spare...I urge you to do so -

If you don't...you read my blog post ;-)
I would like to leave you with a quote from the movie - " I don't believe I have to be loyal to one side or the other. I'm simply asking questions."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I am enough...

“Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling"     
                                 -- Brene Brown - "The Gifts of Imperfection"

The truth of the matter is I cannot be perfect, maintain a perfectly clean house, check off To-Do List both work wise and in my personal life, maintain an equanimous self and be a perfectly loving wife, daughter/daughter-in-law, mother and employee. There are days (who am I kidding, happens most days!) when I am not put together...there are things I forget to do, bills I forget to pay, a son I forget to hug...K1 rolls up his eyes and says - you going into work like that!...so I am in  my super-casual capris and I forgot to dust on some makeup ...I feel a little inadequate and insecure. The reality is I (and if you ask yourself you too...) tend to brush these insecurities under the rug, wear a pretend face of Optimism and Happiness (tell me you don't do it?) and tend to conquer my fears in all the wrong ways ( by pretending that I am all right!)...I keep striving for that elusive Perfectionism while I sacrifice my peace of mind, happiness and sense of well being. Universe does give us "Wake-Up" calls and we are just as quick to hit the snooze button and go back to our way of living ( it is a known entity however distasteful). So, this book "The Gifts of Imperfection" was my aha! moment ( I have been having a lot of those since March)...

I have been priding myself on "Self-Sufficiency"...but the reality is I was (am) needy...needy of approval and praises from my family, people around me  -- telling me what an awesome job I was doing at work, at home, with K2, with life in general, how I have "arrived" (yeah right!). What I learnt was Self-Sufficiency is not quantifiable, its a mental place, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough. And the truth was I was not there yet. I can be there...awareness is that first step towards accepting myself with all my perceived flaws and claimed strengths. With that thought in mind I accept that -  I am Worthy now, not if, not when, I am worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.  Because at the end of the day as Maslow so beautifully put it in his hierarchy of needs -- we need to be loved and belong...and if we can't love ourselves we will never believe that anyone else can and without that...we will always have a "closed heart" and strive for that unachievable goal.

This week has been  a good one - work wise and on the home front. I have cooked some and one of the new things I tried was a Chana Kheema ( a spicy Chicken Mince and Chick Peas Curry) which turned out AMAZING...so much for being the mad scientist in the kitchen.



Plans for the weekend include R&R and a hike. How is your weekend playing out?

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Happiness Diet

I was glancing through my kindle yesterday and I was struck by the number of diet books I had on it (28)...some of them
If you are wondering, I haven't really done anything on these diets beyond feeling virtuous that I had them on my Kindle. There was one book that had a Food Title and yet was a great read - Better than Chocolate : 50 Proven Ways to Feel Happier.
I think we Human Beings have an uncanny knack for complicating our lives, trying to fill that empty void with material things, going through the motion, losing faith and hope...comparing, envying and sometimes just wallowing in unhappiness. The reality is Happiness is not elusive, it is not a mystery and it is definitely not something reserved for the special few. It is just a "hop, skip and jump away". You have to choose happiness.

To say I loved the book was an understatement...I need all the props I can get...I keep going back to Diwali in India last year with the 2K's , Bapa and Ma. Bapa was so happy - we lit the diyas with Ma, he took me to a shop and got me a kurti, Ma made us some amazing cutlets and every time those memories rush into my brain, there is a physical pain in my heart...a pain that I won't see Bapa ever again (yes I understand he lives on in my memories, but it is not the same as sharing jokes, fears, talking on the phone everyday - no judgements - only support and love). I miss that and there are days when I feel alone and sad and that feeling of emptiness and void fills my being. And on those days books like this help. Read the book if you want to know all the 50 proven happiness inducers, out here I will talk about the 7 that have made a huge impact on my life -
  1. Make a Happiness List : I have never written down one formally but there are a lot of things that bring a spring to my step and maybe that is  the topic of my next blog
  2. Exercise : This week has been hard work wise and I almost didn't make it to my Zumba Class...I walked in 3 minutes late and dancing to a beat I didn't always get but which made me sweat like crazy definitely made me happy
  3. Self Acceptance : You are made a certain way for a reason...accept it and love it. I always worry about my weight, my odd sense of humor but lately I am more accepting of my perceived flaws and indulge in accepting myself in a positive way.
  4. Minimize your desires : I have been reading the Bhagvad Gita and it says Desire leads to Attachment and when Desires are thwarted it leads to frustration and unhappiness. Why not just want and need less...happiness will be automatically ours
  5. Practice Gratitude : Every night before I go to sleep I list to myself three things that I am Grateful for...and I usually go to sleep feeling Happy.
  6. Change Your breathing - since I discovered that Breathing can get me to control my temper, I have practised intentional breathing (pranayama)
  7. Act Happy - I am not saying Fake it But I am saying if you smile even though you don't feel like it...in a couple minutes you will see your mood is elevated...people are smiling at you, the clouds part on a rainbow, that growling dog suddenly starts wagging it's tail....you get the picture.
I am so glad it's Friday today...this week was intense and the weeknights were crammed with activities we couldn't avoid...like Trick or Treating yesterday with the little ones...but I did look forward to Friday Evening because I got a chance to roll up my sleeves and create some kitchen magic. 


I made Rice Kheer - get my fool proof recipe here and I made Rava Ladoo for the 2K's. The recipe I used was from this video  (warning - this  recipe is in Marathi). Have a  wonderful Diwali!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Notes from an Immigrant's Kitchen

My home is in my new country,
The culture, people and language still unknown,
Missing the familiarity of the Old,
Yet there is a growing sense of belonging,
As I build a brand new set of memories
It was hard to land in a foreign land with two bags containing all your belonging  (a sum total of your existence for  two dozen odd years)...I carried two baggy business suits (stitched by my Bapa's tailor) and a number of new clothes, stuff I wasn't comfortable wearing but deemed appropriate for the new lands. Tucked into my suitcase was a bottle of homemade mango pickle, a kilo of Moong Dal and a packet of home-made masala. I lived for the first 6 months in DC with two bachelors (my brother and his roommate - Kevin Babu). My first introduction to their kitchen was an empty fridge with just an expired milk carton, a Chinese takeout box (growing suspicious stuff) and a bottle of expired mustard. The cupboards had a half-finished carton of pringles and some generic brand of instant coffee. I spent my jet-lag in a haze of Jerry Springer, stale pringles and black coffee. 

From eating Dal, Subzi, Chawal on most days to maybe a grilled cheese sandwich (made the indian way) or on a really inventive day Desi Chinese to moving to an Amrikan city (Washington DC ) which lived and breathed diversity. I remember wearing a salwar kameez to George Washington University the first day I went in for an Orientation meeting and I don't remember feeling awkward, stared at or conscious. My first meal at school was a chicken hotdog at the  stand by the library...it was a revelation of flavors - the spice of the mustard, the bite of the onion and the crunch of the Hot Dog...all enveloped by a warm bun. I explored Mexican, Lebanese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, American, Italian, Ethiopian, Turkish and many other cuisines all in that period of twenty months in college and from each one of those cuisines I took a little something that I stored somewhere in the far recesses of my mind. 

The reality is this country embraced me with a fervor that I reciprocated...I have morphed into a sum total of my experiences...both Indian and Amrikan. My food reflects this wonderful amalgamation...my past Indian heritage (albeit confused between South-Indian and Oriya and exposed to Maharashtrian), my healthy inclinations (chia seeds, Farro, Barley, Kale, Dark Chocolate...need I go on) and my present cultural dispositions (which is nothing short of schizophrenic...at least my son has simple tastes that run to Pizza, Pasta and Chicken Tikka Masala...I would probably need 200 pages just to jot down my food cravings and likes). I would be totally lying if I say I crave Dalma and Ghanto everyday yet there are days where I would want nothing better than to sit down to a hot bowl of moong dal and the familiarity of a Baingan Bharta..as the chill hits the air and I sit in my pink socks (did I tell you I hate hate socks with a passion, but gave in to wearing them to avoid chilled feet, now I wish someone made nose socks :( )...I made myself a bowl of Moong Dal with Lauki (get the recipe here) and Baingan Bharta with a healthy twist-  I put about a 1/2 pound of Edamame in my Baingan Bharta (Egg Plant Mash).


The reality is everyone (or almost everyone I know) loves talking about Food. Food evokes familiar memories...for me it takes me back to the uncomplicated times in India with Bapa...and for a moment I feel just a tad bit closer to him.

What are your weekend plans? I plan to do some Yoga at home with K2 tomorrow...and then look forward to Chai and a English Muffin smeared with almond butter and marmalade.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Seven things I won't regret doing as a mother

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly." ---Richard Bach 



For me to not blog almost a month feels weird. The last couple weeks have had their highs and lows and I won't say I have been so crazy busy that I couldn't blog. However when I was 20, a very wise person once gave me a book with a note in it (I still have the book A)...the note read - If it doesn't come naturally leave it...so that's what I did I left it. 
Last week, I was reading an article on Huffington Post  "20 things I won't regret doing with my kids" and it inspired me to come up with my own list. I am not as verbose as Rachel and I love the number 7, so here goes -
  1. Saying "No" when it's easier to say "Yes" - K1 is a softie, K2 can wrangle just about anything from him - new pokeman cards, lego toys, more ipad time...K1 just hates playing hardball with K2 and is putty in his hands. The result is I always sound like the "NaySayer"....you hear me saying No! more than Yes! ( and K2 is persistent - he will ask me the same thing 20 times and still get a No)
  2. Teaching him to respect people and  and express gratitude - K2 will not learn how to say his "please" or "thank you" if I don't show him how. I try to teach him through example...a small thing we do is thank the school road crossing guard every time she helps us cross the road (we look Annie in the eye and say Thank You Annie!). He sees me stop the car in grocery stores and let people cross the road vs. act impatient...of course there are some times when he sees me irately cussing some senseless driver (but that is a rare occurrence and I never claimed I was a saint ;-) )...but more importantly he sees me showing people respect, courtesy and gratitude.
  3. Letting him cook with me - This one is hard. It started off when he was 2 and half years old, where he sat on my kitchen counter and watched me cook his food. I questioned my sanity  a number of times especially when he broke one of the eggs on my pristine floor and I spent the next 15 minutes on my hands and knees cleaning and sanitizing. However, I do believe that in the next  2-3 years I will teach him to make himself a snack, maybe even breakfast...I am teaching him a life skill, one that will hold him good in years to come.
  4. Singing him the same bedtime song for the past 6 years - sleep krishu sleep, mama loves you sleep, daddy loves you sleep, bapa loves you sleep, aai loves you sleep, baba loves you sleep, jinx loves you sleep....its not rocket science, the need in us to be loved is over-riding and to know that we are loved brings forth an onslaught of serotonin...which lulls us to sleep and builds our sense of self-worth, self-esteem, confidence.
  5. Teaching him Yoga and Bollywood Dancing - the subliminal message I am giving him is moving is fun, moving is good for you. So we belt out Shakira or Chamak Chalo (what you have issues with my selection...talk to the hand!) and do uncoordinated dancing or drop down to a dog or simply try to chill in butterfly. He sees me go to the gym consistently for Yoga and Zumba and the lesson he is learning is - Exercise and Movement is good for you.
  6. Saying I am sorry - I am a little short on my patience and somedays I am more of a "bitch" there I said it than other days. I know somedays I just lose it when I should have held it together and K2 is thoroughly confused with my outburst...and for those days I am not embarrassed to just hold him close and say - I am really sorry K2. I had a really hard day and I am sorry that I took it out on you. He doesn't let ego come in the way and most days just gives me a hug and says its OK.  And he is learning an important lesson - sometimes you make a mistake, acknowledge it and move on. 
  7. Letting him become a big boy - he has an opinion on everything nowadays - color of his clothes, the type of shoes he wants to wear, the types of foods he wants to eat, the games he wants to play, ....and sometimes that rush of fear as I watch him evolve and grow is overwhelming...the important thing for me to remember is he is his own person and there are decisions I need to let him make (hard lesson for me especially because till the ripe age of 20 I was told what to wear, eat and do with my life...but you live and learn and sometimes you learn to do something that is radically different from how your parents raised you). 


A lot of these learnings have been bittersweet and it is a journey for me as much as it is a journey for him. At the end of the day I do believe that our kids don't remember what we taught them but they remember what we were...
How is your weekend treating you? K1 is off to an Inner Engineering course while K2 and I will go  out catch a movie  and grab a bite to eat.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Innocence of Childhood

Innocence of childhood lost,
To the passage of time...
What happened to those days of 
climbing trees
Trusting blindly, laughing constantly &
hopscotch
As the years race by,
I wish that my child would not wish
to be all grown up
Ironically all I wish for is to be a child again

What I wouldnt give to go back to my childhood...I will be the first one to admit that it was  not  uncomplicated...yet the food memories that fill my childhood were incredible and I could probably write a fat book full of recipes and memories made with Bapa, Ma, Munu and the Food from my childhood. Bread Roll was one of our tea time favorites...and now it one of K2's favorite foods...he calls it  Bunny Rabbit Ears...

 Bread Rolls aka Bunny Rabbit Ears

Ingredients

4 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread
1 Large Boiled Potato (crushed)
½ Cup of Frozen Peas
½ Cup of Grated Carrots
1 Shallot (finely chopped)
A handful of fresh chopped Cilantro if you have it
Oil to Pan Fry
Masala: Dry Roasted Cumin and Coriander Powder, Amchur Powder, Turmeric Powder

Method

Soak the Bread Slices in Water, Squeeze out all the water and keep the bread slices on a napkin sheet

For the filling – Take 1 spoon of Vegetable oil in a cooking pan. Add the Shallot (or onion) and then the turmeric and cumin and coriander powder. Add the boiled potatoes, peas and carrots, Cook the mixture till the carrots are done (about 3-5 minutes). Add Salt to taste and Amchur for a tangy bit. Cool the filling

Now take one slice of bread. Add the filling to the center. Roll the slice of bread. Roll it and with your hands seal press all sides (see the finished bread roll for a better idea).

Pan Fry in a shallow frying pan with vegetable oil. Serve hot with ketchup and love.

I am sending out this recipe to - Nupur's - What's with my Cuppa? and Savi -Ruchi's - Only Sandwiches, Burgers and Panini's and Gayatri's Cook Spot - Mom's Special

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Seven Habits of Well-Liked People

I can say that I don't care about what people think of me...the truth is you can catch me on that BS pretty quick...I DO care and I do look for affirmation, recognition and respect both consciously and sub-consciously  - it is hard to graduate on that Maslow's Need Hierarchy...Life has a way of making everyone of these rungs matter...and you keep sliding down and then crawling up...as the situation warrants. However, to be liked is an intrinsic need and over time I have realized that likeable people have a few common characteristics :

  1. They are approachable and genuine - they don't really have too many airs around them and most people are able to connect with them on an equal playing field...it's not like they are sitting/standing on a pedestal and you get a crick in the neck trying to look up to them vs. at them
  2. They are interested in you -  they are interested in you, even concerned...it's not about I did blah! blah! blah!...it's a two-way conversation where they engage you, draw you out and care about what you are all about
  3. They have a sense of humor  they laugh with you NOT at you. I *absolutely* love people who find humor in the strangest/serious situations especially like Chandler did in Friends.
  4. They embrace the power of touch -  this is a strange observation coming from me...I really value my (and the other person's personal space) however I also believe that a simple touch can convey empathy, understanding and care. Touch breaks down natural barriers and decreases the real and perceived distance between you and the other person--a key component in liking and in being liked. But with that said, there is a fine line between propriety and impropriety please  tread carefully
  5. They are empathetic - you  feel like they get you and understand where you are coming from or what your point of view is without being too opinionated and judgemental 
  6. They ask for nothing in return - likeable people focus on what they can do for you--not for themselves...hard in todays networking world where there is a constant give and take but reverse that equation consciously and see how you can focus on the "give" more vs. making a conversation / relationship /interaction focus on quid pro quo
  7. They know it is hard - people usually shuffle through the superficial greetings because they feel safe vs. Accepting that being a little more deferential, a little more genuine, a little more complimentary and a little more vulnerable means putting yourself out there. Sometimes putting yourself out there poses a huge risk but even if you crash and burn with that situation/interaction you "like" yourself a bit more for taking on the risk...still a score in my book.
Why am I going all serious on this topic ? Well I had K2 ask me very seriously today - Ma, X is being mean to me and I am being mean back...is there anything I can do to make him like me? I pretty much had a similar talk with him which gave me the fodder for this blog post.

Today marks 12 years to 9-11 which was devastating for the nation and 6 months to my losing Bapa which was devastating for me. I did place my grief aside intentionally and focus on Ganesh Chaturthi...the birthday of my favorite God - Ganesha.

Tomorrow is a day from hell with early morning calls for both K1 and me and there was almost a "rock, paper, scissor" for who would drop K2 in school tomorrow. In case you are wondering - I am it!  How has the week been treating you?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Let's Eat Toast...

I got an email this week which pretty much read like this -
"Thank you for sharing your blog.  I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed reading this post and a few others on your blog as time permitted over the weekend.  I actually printed out your seven steps to a healthy you as they seem very sensible and within reach – no crazy diets or strange supplements – just common sense things that seem fairly easy to incorporate."
To say that it made my day is an understatement... I started this blog as a stress buster initially, the reason I put so much of my heart and soul into it is because it was (and still is) my way of reaching my Bapa...my blog brought him relief (from hospital treatments,  chemo & boredom), pride (too much of it in his daughter's ability)  and happiness (because the topics close to my heart were close to his too K2, Food and Work)...and he always always egged me to go on and do what I loved which is write...

The past couple days have been busy and I have been overworking (intentionally)...I believe we set our own pace and I set very hard deadlines for myself this week...I worked extra hard in the Zumba classes and by Thursday I was ready to collapse from exhaustion...I was seeing doubles of the spreadsheet I was working on...when K2 walked up to me and asked me - Ma, what is for dinner? My first reaction was to snap, the second reaction was to order chinese...I was bone tired and willing to cut corners...yup! exhaustion and irritability makes good sense fly out of the window. However, I dragged myself  away from Castle...this fabulous new find on TV, it was 7.40 PM. As we walked to the Kitchen I racked my head on what I could put on the table in 15 minutes which was healthy, balanced and  nutritious (tall order I know!)...out came my handy cutting board...one minute later  I had chopped one apple, one peach and added both to the Blendtec with one packet of Amazing Greens, 72% Guittard Dark Chocolate, 8 Almonds, 2 Oz Baby Kale (EarthBound Deep Greens), 4 Oz Dreams Hazel Nut Blend and I had this smoothie ready in 37 seconds which K1 consumed in literally 3 minutes ( 240 calories with < 15 g of sugar (all from the fruits), 8 gms of fiber and 8 grams of protein). I toasted bread  and spread an amazing new find on top of it - Melt (butter alternative with coconut oil and flaxseed oil) on it. I also made a grown up version of my childhood favorite (Anda Bhurji or scrambled eggs) with Red Onions, Broccoli and Shitake Mushrooms)...I was done by 8.05 PM...dinner and cleaning was done and complete in 25 minutes straight...

Lesson of the day : learn to make do...and enjoy the making do....then even that will feel super-special. So did you eat your toast today?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Seven Steps to a Healthy You!

With Age comes the realization that we are mere mortals with our bevy of problems, aches & pains, allergies, likes & dislikes. Yet one thing that stays a constant companion is Good Health...there are some simple, easy steps that we can take to maintain our health :

  1. Drink Water throughout the day and cut out soda : I always forget to drink water till I get thirsty but cutting out soda has become second nature. They have free soda at the office but you never see me reaching out for anything other than a hot cup of herbal tea or water
  2. Stock up on healthy portable snacks : Fruits, Seaweed (try Annie Chun's Grab and Go), Kits Organic Bars, I microwave peanuts and put them in snack bags, string cheese, almonds, dried cranberries and raisins, Belvita Cookies and if I want to indulge...Snackwell Yogurt Pretzels
  3. Plan Healthy Meals : I have a rough idea of what we will be eating most of the week -- some of this meal planning includes ordering fresh home-cooked foods. I stock my freezer with Organics like Sukhi's street wraps, EVOL Burritos, Amy's Readymade Indian for my son. My fridge has ready made adai batter (indian crepes), greek yogurt, fresh organic eggs (chicken and duck), Clam Shells of triple washed salads - mostly Organic Girl, easy to cut and eat raw fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, apples, oranges, bananas) and of course sometimes  the brownies and tarts (from Whole Foods)
  4. Pack Lunch : My  family carries lunch to office/school...whether it is a sandwich, paratha or pasta, our preference is to carry a balanced meal from home or order a packed lunch beforehand  rather than go pick some food from the cafeteria.
  5. Fit Exercise into your lifestyle : Exercise is not an afterthought anymore in my life...I go to the gym at least 4-5 times a week for Zumba and Yoga. We go for walks or hikes as a family...we don't make excuses...we look for workarounds so that both K1 and I can go to the gym and yet take care of the daily routines. K2 is in swim camps and sports camps all summer and I see him becoming so strong and athletic.
  6. Feed the Mind : I am a junkie for all books self-improvement and tend to read quite a few books in that genre. Coursera and the Bhagvad Gita are constant resources in my life that I draw on from every day of my life. And of course I do throw in the more than occasional chick lit.
  7. Sleep Enough : As I give this advice I flinch...I have only just started sleeping again. The last few months sleep has been elusive...I have started developing a routine...and I have my sleep hour to 11.30 PM and sleep at least 7 hours. My goal is to sleep by 10.30 PM and get 8 hours of shut eye. I tend to work after 9.00 PM and sometimes time just passes me by too quickly.
Most important when you slip - Cut yourself some slack! However, make sure you get back on the bandwagon otherwise life will pass you by.
Yesterday my brother brought over his Blendtec and I made a quick smoothie for breakfast this morning. Presenting to you the Enlightened Greens :


  • 2 Green Fuji Apples ( they were from my friend P's garden)
  • 3/4 Box (5 Oz Clamshell) - Organic Girl - Five Happiness
  • 3 Oz Blueberries
  • 6 Oz Greek Yogurt
  • Honey (use stevia if you don't want the extra calories)
  • 2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
  • Water (depending on how thick you want your smoothie)
Use the Smoothie button and in less than a minute you have a delicious breakfast on hand. Here's me drinking to your health! And to all  my fellow Indians back home -- Vande Mataram!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Losing my Father...

"I was my Daddy's girl,
I know he loved me the best
The time we had... 
Wasn't nearly enough
And yet we did -
pack in an entire
Lifetime of love...and memories.
No regrets or grief...
Only love for the man you are,
And the man you will remain in my heart."

                                              circa Nov 12th, 2012
It was almost the end of November. Her heart was heavy...she had spent 30 blissful days with Bapa and the time to go back  to the US was fast arriving - on this particular walk he told her - Ma, I think I have only 3-6 months left. She changed the topic...that her indestructible father was but a mortal was not something she wanted to face yet...though the reality of it loomed ominously over her head. Suddenly as if to lighten the atmosphere heavy with unshed tears, flew a bright green parrot squawking noisily at the father-daughter duo. Their conversation moved on to lighter things...Oriya fathers and daughters love talking about food (or at least this father and daughter duo did) and she asked him - Bapa...what do you really want to eat? He said - Kaleji Kosha. She knew that he had said that partly because she was avoiding eating meat due to his health issues and loved Kaleji (mutton liver). So when she went home, she asked her Ma to make some Kaleji Kosha. Oriya Mothers are famous for cooking and feeding their families till their stomachs are filled to the point of bursting.  Ma got out her degchi and sent Shankar (the gardener) to get the freshest Kaleji available in the market...both father and daughter enjoyed the Kaleji Kosha that day like there was no tomorrow... he was right...four months later he was no more...it has been 9 months since then and all I remember is the love, the laughter and the hope...the hope that miracles do happen and we will get more time......but the reality is  there were no tomorrows, happy endings or miracles in this story...just gratitude for the time that we got to spend together and love for the man that Bapa was.



For Kaleji Kasha you need :
  • 500 gms - Mutton Kaleji (wash in warm water cut into small pieces and keep aside) 
  • 2 large Red Onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 large Vine grown tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
  • the ubiquitous Tej Potro (Bay Leaves)
  • My Ma doesn't use whole masala because we just don't like the taste of the whole cardamom or clove in the curry (so we lightly microwave 2-3 cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and grind the same - use about 1/2 tsp of this mix...it is potent and can overwhelm)
  • the usual suspects - turmeric, chilli and cumin/coriander powder
How my Ma makes it?

In a large degchi (this is the cast iron kind)...heat up 2 tbsp of mustard oil (if this was my kitchen it would be 1 tsp of Olive Oil). To this add a pinch of sugar (it helps the Onions to caramelize). Add a pinch of hing (this is something my Ma and I do with our cooking, avoid if you don't like hing) and tej potro. Add the ginger garlic paste and Onions. Cook till Onions are caramelized, then add the tomatoes and the usual suspects (turmeric, chilli and cumin/coriander powders). Now cook till everything integrates and the smell in the kitchen is pure magic (takes about 15 minutes...but follow your eyes and nose). Now add in the Mutton Kaleji (liver) and cook for about 1/2 hr plus...add the 1/2 tsp of the ground masala mix and salt to taste. The secret here is patience, no adding water (keep it on low flame) and cook, taste, cook...follow that process till it tastes perfect (and looks like the picture above)

Enjoy with hot phulkas or rice (add some love and laughter on the side…makes for great memories)


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Show me your Heart



Life is so full, that at times it gets overwhelming...I learnt the principle of KISS (keep it simple sista) early in my work life but learnt to apply it late to my personal life but some wise person said - Better Late than Never.

Heart Disease is the No.1 killer in the US (one out of every three are impacted by it). The No.1 cause for this No.1 killer is STRESS. Our lives are overflowing with To-Do Lists, Juggling, Parenting, Cooking, Working, Balancing Spreadsheets and we still  itch to add activities to  our weekend schedule.This year I have decided to take a stand and am putting my money where my mouth is - I am participating in the Bay Area Heart Walk.

Please support this cause - it has affected a lot of us personally...K1 lost both his paternal grandparents to a heart attack and a stroke and I know a number of you have stories similar to his...it's about building awareness and mindfulness...one step at a time...it could be your lunch money for a day, maybe more...every little bit counts.

Donate for my cause here
Walk with me here


Saturday, July 27, 2013

An Ode to my best friend's brother...


She wrote you are gone...
We haven't met but it's almost like I know you...

A person who genuinely cared for your friends and family,
An easy smile, a positive attitude...

A void you have left behind,
Your children young, wife bereft, parents lost, sister broken

I begin to berate life's very purpose,
Having seen death from such close quarters...

Yet as I pick up the Bhagvad Gita this morning, it says...
The faithless remain pathless...

So I wish you a safe onward journey my friend's brother,
I still haven't lost faith or hope,
There is a coat of cynicism yet beneath that veneer is a hope...
That Life is indeed a journey...you are just walking it elsewhere now.

I promise to be there for your sister,
She is important to me you know...
Time will dull the edges of the pain that is sharp now...
And all that will remain is warm memories of - A Good Soul.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From the Diary of a Grouch

Have you had days - when all you wanted to do was whine, complain, beat your head with your hands and say why me? Not wanting to meet friends or acquaintances...snapping at will at people, circumstances and even animals (yes, guilty as charged...I had a one-way conversation with this incredibly noisy sea gull on a walk to clear my head)...in sum total : A GROUCH!


What do you do with yourself then? Well - here is what I did...

  • I went on a long walk alone and cleared my mind....the walk with nature as my sole companion really helped put things in perspective
  • Went to a Zumba Class where we danced to what else - Gagnam Style (my least favorite song!) but it makes me laugh
  • Got my fix of Ted Talks on Net Flix...(check out the one's termed Life Hacks). Here is the one that I absolutely loved by Jane McGonigal (creator of the app SuperBetter) on - The game that can give you 10 extra years of life...

So are you going to focus on building your Physical Resilience, Mental Resilience (will power is like a muscle  work it to build it!),  Emotional Resilience ( build three positive emotions to every one negative emotion you feel every hour) and Social Resilience ( build gratitude, reach out to your friends and families...)...seems like simple mantras offering us so much positivity in life right?

So this grouch has decided to work on building her Social Resilience this very moment....and quit being a grouch...Cup of Chai anyone?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tentative Parenting : Just Cook!

K2 : Ma - which is the richest nation in the world...is it the US?
Working Mom (stumped) : Well there are different ways of measuring rich...umm what do you mean by rich? (note the evasive tactic)
K2 : I mean rich in terms of money
Working Mom (fessing up) : K2, very good question. How about I check and let you know by evening?

And I did keep my part of the bargain, while I was at work  in between my lunch of Fried Rice (made with 7 whole grains, Tofu, Red Bell Pepper and Shitake Mushrooms) and Low-Fat Cottage Cheese, I did a google search and the winner is Qatar.

While I try to feed my 6 year old's brain with trivia which he might retain for future use, I worry about the nutrition abuse that he is exposed to in the US.

Some hard statistics:
  • About a third  of the children (31.8%) in the US are obese today 
  • Boys are more likely to be obese than girls
  • Childhood Obesity predisposes our children to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension among other alarming illnesses ( my father's mother and my father both suffered from Diabetes and Hypertension)
What can we do as parents? My blog title sums it all up - Just Cook!

This week I have cooked a couple different meals for my son:
  1. Focus on a good source of protein (cheese, lean meats, dal/lentils, beans)
  2. Ensure that your child is getting adequate vegetables and fruits
  3. Make the source of carbs : whole grains and fruits vs. processed foods
  4. Make sure there are good fats in the meal (nuts, avocados etc)
  5. Focus on Diet but also focus on exercise. We go for at least 2 walks a week of about 2-3 miles.
One of his favorite Indian Meals in : Matar Paneer. I cooked a low fat version of it from scratch. It took me all of 1/2 hour to have the Matar Paneer on the table with brown rice. I rounded the meal out with a fruit.


Fish is a good source of protein...in this case I simply seasoned it with salt and pepper, dipped in egg wash and dredged in panko bread crumbs and oven cooked it in a saute pan.


I do give desserts to my son, but the desserts look something like this. Serve up a slice of this mango pudding (agar agar or china grass makes it set) with a lot of cut fruits.

Net-Net : We shape our children's nutrition choices...their understanding of what is good for their health and what is not...and getting them accountable is key to their health...if I could leave you with one last piece it would be this -
it is not an exercise or nutrition regimen. It is to walk your talk and believe in what you preach and actually practice it. At the end of the day, the dumbbell and diet don't get you and keep you in shape and healthy...it is your sense of accountability ...investing in your child's nutrition mindfully

Monday, July 8, 2013

Seven Life Lessons from Vicky...


Vicky is not a relative...she is not a much-loved Aunt...nor a friend not a colleague...come to think of it she is not even an acquaintance. I met her in March in a Zumba class when all I wanted to do was run back into the restroom and cry, or pull the comforter over my head and wish the world away - it was March 21st...only 10 days since my Bapa had passed away. She was standing next to me - old, wrinkled and in really tight bright pink leotards...when she saw me looking at her, with twinkling eyes and a quick smile she said - Hi Honey! Haven't seen you in this class before? I admitted to it being my first class with that instructor...then the music started and we started dancing...we were creatures of habit...so for the next 4 Zumba classes I stood next to Vicky and we had the 2 minute conversations before our classes...Vicky was 81 (more than double my age, more than 2 decades older than my mother)...I don't see her much nowadays ( my schedule changed, so I picked another class)...yet the life lessons I learnt from this wonderful woman is something I will cherish for years to come.

  1. Follow your Bliss - Dancing made Vicky Happy...she lived in a  senior home but came to the gym to meet younger people and instructors. Didn't matter if she missed a beat, or had 2 left feet...DANCING MADE VICKY HAPPY and she did it no matter what
  2. Laugh at your mistakes - I have to say that first day in the class I focused less on the dancing and more time watching Vicky...she made a lot of mistakes...salsa, merengue, cumbia , african beats, bhangra...yet I saw her smile at herself and keep going till the last song
  3. Believe yourself beautiful - I saw her playing the role of a femme fatale with the spin instructor (he was probably in his late fifties)...nothing sordid, just an endearing sort of a repartee that had me spellbound...watching her confidence in her femininity and poise. 
  4. Life CAN be simple again -   Vicky chose to focus on one thing at a time -  You don't have to do it all, and you don't have to do it all right now.  Breathe, be present, and do your best with what’s in front of you. 
  5. Be nice to others - I looked like death warmed over...my hair a mess, my oldest tights and loosest t-shirt, obviously make-up was mostly an afterthought for me... yet after that first class she turned to me with that twinkle in her eyes and smile and said - Has anyone told you, you have the most beautiful eyes?...it was so genuine and from the heart.
  6. Be determined to be positive - this was the most important one for me...she was so chirpy and positive. She had on one of those knee supports and told me that her knees hurt her even to  shuffle...yet with a blase attitude she said - hey I am over 80 and don't yet need a knee replacement...that counts for something right.Understand that the greater part of your misery or unhappiness is determined not by your circumstances, but by your attitude.
  7. It’s better to look back on life and say, “I can't believe I did that,” than to look back and say, “I wish I did that.”  In the end, people will judge you in some way anyway.  So don't live your life trying to impress others.  Instead live your life impressing yourself.  Love yourself enough to never lower your standards for anyone....I saw Vicky doing just that!
I think rather than set exacting standards for myself...I will give myself a hall-pass. I don't want to ruminate in nostalgia or wallow in self pity for those that I have loved and lost .... Instead, I want to rejoice in being imperfect and being Me...as Dr.Seuss said it - 
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Temperatures Rising & Letting Go...

It is so hot here today it reminds me of India ... But at least in Madras, we had the humidity...here it feels like slow roasting...

I refused to go fishing with the boys today (they caught 8 trouts which my brother cleaned and cooked)...squeamish about seeing a whole fish vs. a fillet. The day was hot, so I lazed around for a while catching up with my courses on Coursera and Bhagvad Gita. My head was heavy I could attribute it to the 5 double shots of tequila I saw N adding to the Margherita...of which I had about a glass and a half  or it could be that I won't be seeing her for a while (she leaves for India tomorrow). I left her place last night (loaded with goodies from her fridge/freezer...homemade masala, coconut chutney, cream cheese, Coriander/Mint Chutneys...) and went to a session at Iskcon and the session was on "Letting Go". The session was not relaxing and truth be told my headache was so violent I was in an extremely judgemental and contrary mode...
Ironically my session on Bhagavad Gita today covered the same topic "Letting Go"...there was a concept called "Ladder of Fall" which I found extremely intriguing and here are my cliff notes on it :

There is a beautiful analogy of a ball rolling down the stairs and gathering momentum, it might possibly be easier to catch the ball when the momentum is lesser but as it reaches the bottom of the stair to catch it is harder…similarly man can fall down and to fall is not wrong, but it is wrong to remain fallen. I have added my thoughts on how you can remain mindful  (at the least you can have a good laugh, at the most it could be food for thought)
(a)  It is important to understand that brooding causes attachment. It is easy to think of what we want and get attached to it. I am attached to the idea of a clean house, so for me I feel that a good vacuum cleaner is my answer to a clean house. For the past 2 months I have been fixated on a Dyson Vacuum Cleaner (supposed to be the best!).
(b)  Attachment gives rise to desire - This thinking about the vacuum  has made me attached to the idea of owning it.. The repetitive thoughts about a cleaner house have strengthened my desire to possess the vacuum cleaner at any cost (it is $500 which is five times a normal vacuum cleaner).
(c)  This desire causes me agitation and anger – my common sense prevents me from buying the vacuum cleaner...my Eureka gets the job done.
(d)  Anger causes delusion – An angered mind is not a haven for peaceful or controlled thoughts and intellect is bypassed and I feel like irrationality prevails
(e)  Delusion makes us forget our past knowledge : We are a sum of our values and past learnings but delusion makes our mind computer hang and  our past knowledge and acquired wisdom is unavailable to us
(f)   When past knowledge is forgotten, the intellect is destroyed  - when the intellect does not have access to past knowledge and wisdom it shuts down and does not prevail
(g)  A destroyed intellect destroys the individual – what differentiates a human from an animal is intellect and without intellect we are no different from an animal

We can prevent ourselves from going down this slippery slope by staying firm in the knowledge that happiness is not in objects but within ourselves (and if you are interested, I haven't yet got the Dyson :) )

I did go to the Farmer's Market today and brought : Half a flat of strawberries, raspberries, red bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, Organic Eggs, Sukhi's Samosas and 2 Kale Salads. I also cooked some (Brinjal Gotsu and Usal). Incidentally, I made both the curries with the masala  I got from N's house and pictures are below. I look forward to restarting ordering food from House of Lakshmi  and leaving the cooking to her on these hot hot summer days...

How has summer been treating you? Have the temperatures been rising or have you been letting go?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yet another Birthday...



What matters most in life is often what we neglect till it's too late and we focus on things, events and people that are irrelevant and unimportant...isn't that why we end up writing blog posts like "The 7 regrets on my death bed". Passion takes a backseat to "making do", wellness to working and balance to busyness...so true is the saying "Life is not a dress rehearsal" and yet we put off things that are truly important and focus on minutia...Bapa was a workaholic and work gave him a lot of satisfaction...he put off the European Vacation, the trip down to Napa valley for "after retirement" and what we realized was that there is no time for later...
My birthday resolution : stop focusing on a number (whether it is a year or a lb more...) and think instead of life as it exists this present moment...and decide what would make the next few days, weeks,months, years...and lifetime spectacular and focus instead on making those moments happen....maybe it is having one mojito too many, maybe it is a belly laugh with a story of scorpions and trousers (I bet I got you curious!) or something as basic as following your instinct and passion to do what you really want to do...travel a little (Egypt, Turkey and Thailand), splurge on The French Laundry...get over my fear of water and swim...hug K1 and my baby (K2)...he doesn't fit in my arms anymore...when did he become so tall...

What I have realized is that  with every birthday it is a chance to reflect and a chance to start new...and I will grab every chance I get...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tentative Parenting : How to talk to little boys?


K2 : Ma, please tell me you haven't been reading?
Working Mom : Of course, I have...every night in fact. My kindle has 322 books on it
K2 : Maybe you need to buy me a kindle and I start reading...
Working Mom : Don't make excuses. I won't stamp your reading log and then you won't make the summer reading club and guess what I am half way thro' all ready (and it's just the first week).

K2 cried for 10 straight minutes before going to summer camp and I felt like a really mean person for taking such a firm stand with him yesterday. However, there is this article that I read on Huffington Post by Lisa Bloom and I can totally relate to it. My son will pick reading as the last possible activity on his list of things to do...he likes being read to but he will pick a video game, the iPad or even cycling to reading. It baffles me...I was the "proverbial book worm" give me an excuse to stay with a book and I would gladly take it then and now. I see the stereotype getting played out with K2...at school and even from K1 (he will dribble with him, or throw him a ball vs. read with him or take him to the library), the subliminal message he is getting is : Girls read, boys do not. 
Is it a surprise that the top 10% in a class is crowded with girls (in K2's  class it is Petra, Sophia and Katie) and the bottom 10% is crowded with boys. K2 was in the bottom in the first half year of school year, his reading and writing below average....in the 2nd half of school year he improved leaps and bounds because we are trying really hard to get him to love books. Strangely enough, I followed  the strategies listed in the article even before reading it :
  1. Make favorite reading lists 
  2. Take him to the library, the bookstore, book festivals.
  3. Take him to summer reading events at the library or kids author events 
  4. Take him to Shakespeare Plays in the park (last year was Henry the Vth). 
  5. Read to him, read with him, read side-by-side nightly. 
I really do Push reading as if his life depends on it and at some levels I do believe it does...it builds his knowledge and perspective but more importantly it helps him grow. No one said it better than Dr. Seuss...