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Friday, February 26, 2010

Brown Paper Packages

Brown Paper Packages tied up with string....
These are a few of my favourite things.
Warm, exciting, woodsy and so brown... I love the smell of brown paper and the visual appeal of packs made of it. They are reminiscent of summer holidays spent in covering and labeling books and notebooks for the beginning of the new session or warm, fresh out of the oven cakes and buns and offcourse new books - lots and lots of them.
Poly bags are nice and attractive but they just take away the deep pleasure and satisfaction one feels when one buys something from a store. I love Nalli that way - they wrap the clothes in a brown bag, expertly tuck the open edges inside and then slide them into their Nalli cloth bags. And offcourse the brown, firm, Fab India tote bags and great to take home the purchases. Clothes invitingly stacked together inside and carried home in style.
And I love the sheer variety of shades possible in brown papers - the sombre, very dark, almost blackish brown, or the light sandy brown or the bright, almost orangeish brown- to name a few. The myriad of hues possible in brown itself was evident when the teacher would carry the homework notebooks in a pile.
Yesterday I had been to Tulika Office in Alwarpet. A typical home office, with hardly 5 people I observed. Brown cane chairs with colorful tables in the reception and a stack of books displayed for browsing. I spent a whole hour there browsing slowly over their catalogue, going through each book evaluating them for suitability for Ojas & Tejas, shortlisting books that I loved and then making a final list of what I want to buy. And they offer 10% discount on the final price.
In a single word, Tulika books are delightful. They touch your soul unlike the usual fairy tales. They tickle your imagination, leave room for the kids to interpret and form their own versions. They attempt to keep our tradition alive, tell a story but at the same time do not take their sight off the concepts, teach kids words of regional origin, and also expose them to International locations. To tell you the truth, I wanted to pick up the entire lot- but then forced myself to be content with a dozen of them.
I have picked up English, Hindi, Tamil and bilingual ones. Some of them are specified for 6 years and above but I picked them because I loved them!
And they were neatly piled and pushed inside a brown paper bag and handed over to me. As I walked back to the car, I hugged the brown paper package to my chest and digged my nose into the pack, taking in the mingled smell of new books and brown paper bag.
So watch out for the reviews!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Restricted Play

Me- why are you coming home (after playing) so late? It is so dark outside
Brother- You only said naa that I should come home the moment the street lights are turned on- they have been switched on now only
(Can you beat it- there was a power shutdown therefore the street lights were switched on late!)

We had two simple rules when we were growing up
- Come back home by 6 ish/ when the street lights get on and Dads in general come back home from office.
- If we are playing in frined's home during the morning hours, then we have to come back home for lunch. No eating lunch in neighbour's place uninvited or without prior information

Recently I came to know about someone whose 3 year old daughter spends hours together in her neighbour's home- and her parents do not bother to get her home even during lunch time. When all kids her age will go home after playing, this kid will walk into her neighbour's house. Our manners prevent us from refusing a child entry into our homes. But irrespective of that, I have my own set of rules
1. Incase a child comes home, I first inform the parent that the child is in my home. This is basically to ensure that the mother knows about the whereabouts and she is not searching all over the complex for her child.
2. When the child leaves, I drop the child to his or her home or inform the parent to pick the child up even if it is the next door neighbour.
3. Incase I am offering food I check with the mom- it should not interfere with the meal that she has prepared at her home
4. If my kids are playing in the neighbour's home unsupervised- I keep checking on them personally just in case they are creating trouble there
5. I insist that my kids help in putting the toys away after playing or else I pitch in before leaving
6. Since we live in an apartment block with secured play area, I am flexible about timing of play as long as they are doing it in the play area. But if they are in the neighbour's house, they have to be back by 7.30 latest. (offcourse depends on the neighbour also)
7. I am yet to have a situation wherein my kids go to someone's house without informing me. Somehow they have bypassed that milestone altogether. Let's wait and watch!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Urgent Reminder - For Your Action

Save Fuel Campaigns are running full scale on National TV & Petrol Bunks and Traffic Signals.
And as a tree hugger I hereby give some "gas" on the issue...
Saving Vehicle Fuel

1. Drive only if you must. Walk or Cycle if you have to go to the neighbourhood store. If you need to cover many stores in a single location, park the car and walk to all of them. It is good for health too!

2. Drive fuel efficient cars within the city

3. Car pool if you can. Saves money too and ensures lesser cars on the road. If you are a corporate- try to provide office transport
4. Limit visits to the petrol bunk- fill when you are nearly empty and do a full tank. You save time and the extra distance you need to travel wherever applicable. Ok I correct this line- Thanks Sue for pointing out - it's better to not go below half tank is what most of them say - check out this discussion
5. Plan your route in advance
6. Drive at constant speed, avoid sudden brakes, remove the foot off the clutch, drive in the gear appropriate for your speed - 40 is the suggested speed for maximising fuel efficiency
7. Switch off at signals if you have to stop for more than 30 seconds. and start only when the 3rd/ 4th car ahead of you start moving.
8. Keep the tyres pumped up. Infact there are many other technical points to watch out for - you can find them here in a nice presentation format.
9. The car is not your additional wardrobe space- do not overload your vehicle with junk.
10 Service the car
Saving Cooking Gas
1. Cover cook as much as possible.
2. Pressure Cooking is faster and thereby saves both time and fuel- After one whistle, cook on lowest flame.
3. Small burners are for small vessels- Don't plonk them on the large burners.
4. Reduce the flame while stirring, adding spices etc or when boling starts. Apart from saving fuel and preventing burning of the dish, it also prevents your hands from feeling the heat of the flames
5. Use shallow, wide, lighter pans and kadahis made of metal wherever possible- they heat up faster, cover the entire flame on which they sit and cook faster- metal being cood conductor of heat gets hot faster than traditional terracotta pots
6. Adjust the size of your vessel depending upon the quantity of the food you are cooking.
7. Soaking lentils/rice etc before cooking ensures faster cooking.
8. Clean burners are more fuel efficient
9. Assemble all raw materials before lighting the gas
10. Cooking a large portion that is good enough for 2 meals also saves fuel, time and effort
11. Avoid adding too much water- most veggies give out their own water while cooking. especially for non veggie stuff I don't add water at all as the meat lets out water that is sufficient for cooking either in a pressure cooker or in a kadahi.
12. Clean vessels- minus the coating also save fuel
13. Little things like planning the entire family's meal to be done at a single time saves fuel- avoids multiple reheating / gas lighting
14. Allow frozen food to reach room temperature before cooking. Infact if I have to reheat food I leave it outside while I am cooking other stuff so that the temperature comes down and when we are ready to eat, then only I heat the food
15. Cook with separators or do sametime cooking- boiling eggs & potato together for egg curry, or Chicken and rice cooked together for chicken fried rice, (make sure you account for the chicken stock that will be released while cooking), the masala base cooked together for 2 different preparations and then divided at a later stage.
16. Keep (ginger garlic) pastes, ground masala handy so you are not slicing/ pounding them at the time of cooking
17. I spend some time every day in deciding the exact sequence of cooking I am going to do- popcorn before daal in the same cooker, using the same hot non stick tawa sequentially for dosa, parathas, bread toasting, omelette - the maid is happier too!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Big School

No no they are not old enough to go there.
Practice for annual day is in full swing and the sons have to be sent to the big school for the final practice week- where the annual day will be held during the weekend.

Being the type who still gets lost in her own office campus, the husband accompanied me on school drop on day 1. I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of finally getting to see the big school campus.

With the proverbial bated breath I waited to catch the first glimpse (like the girls of Malory Tower of Enid Blyton fame). Will it do justice to my anticipation?

I cannot explain the joy I felt at seeing the colourful building, sprawling campus, huge playground and impeccably maintained campus with a professional reception- something different from the usual school offices! The entire frontage took my breath away.

I have been cribbing about the fees that is touching sky high but perhaps my solace is that in exchange I am giving the kids a worldclass experience of 15 years - a phase that they will like to look back with delight, fondness and pride- just like the way I do when I look back at my school years.
"Fingers Crossed!"
I met a mother of a student studying there last evening who said- my son is very happy here and that is all that matters to me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Winter is Cool but Summer is Nice too

I love Chennai winters. It's cool without being brrrr cold requiring layers and layers of woolens, there is a nice nip in the air and the kitchens are not sweaty at all. The kids (and their father) can play during the mid morning hours without feeling the heat of the sun (and at the same time be out of my hair)! Except for the dust, it also feels good to drive with the windows rolled down.
Part of the reason we had our wedding held in Chennai was because the December weather would be a welcome escape to people travelling from the North.
Well, starting yesterday, I have begun to switch on the A/C at night, the kids are sweaty all over everytime they do a little running race and I do not even want to talk about the kitchen. Yet I refuse to acknowledge that winter is over so soon.
Except for the fact that I can also do one thing that I like about summer.
I can leave office while the soft rays of the setting sun are reflecting on the cars and reach home while it is still enevin (evening in Ojas Tejas speak)- which means the kids are happy as their only complaint during winter is-
Mamma tum enevin mein ghar aao, night mein nahin aao (Mamma, you come home during the evening not at night)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Idiot Proof Guide to Using a Mosquito Bat

Man to shopkeeper- I want to return this mosquito net
Shopkeeper- Why?
Man- The entire night I waited, not a single mosquito got trapped inside.
What is a mosquito Bat?

It is a tennis racket type of device (not a bat) which is powered by batteries or is rechargeable and does not attract mosquitoes on its own- one needs to swat around the vicinity of the mosquitoes and they come in contact with the circuit and die making a fire cracker kind of sound.

No kidding, I did imagine that the mosquitoes will get attracted to it if the so caled bat is placed near the bed and die because what is the point of having a device if you need to hunt mosquitoes with it.

So the first night of buying the aforesaid "bat", I left the bat switched on helpfully and waited for mosquitoes to die with a crack. I bravely left the windows open because- ab koi dar nahin!

To my dismay I spent the entire night odomos-ing self and the kids and killing them mosquitoes that came near me. Woke up next morning fuming. Thankfully happened to mention this to my neighbour and she quickly corrected my perception of the workings of a mosquito bat. One word 'Hunt"

How to Use a mosquito Bat?

Move the switch to the on position and wave the bat in the vicinity of curtains, hanging clothes and other mosquito haunts, pressing the button. (the crucial words- pressing the button).

So the next day I was very excited. I became the mosquito hunter and went behind these blood suckers pressing switch 1 and switch 2. No success. Mosquitoes sailed past me and I waved the bat around them. I placed a dead mosquito on the coils (that had died while I swatted at it with bare hands in sheer disgust) and no prizes for guessing that it did not spark. I was convinced that the bat is faulty and the next day I went to the shop to exchange it.

The shop guy looked towards the general direction of the sign- NO EXCHANGE, NO RETURN and muttered no guarantee.

I said loudly, but I bought it only previous day and even the dead mosquito did not "die" on it.

The shop guy said-wait madam, I am checking.

He used the tester and the effing bat sparked. I was shell shocked. Then I saw he has not switched on the switch 2- so I asked him - so we have to swat without switching on switch 2?

So he says- this switch is for the torch and you need to switch the switch 1 on and press this button on the side while swatting at the mosquitoes!

So how really should the mosquito bat be used?
I repeat, switch the first switch (not the torch switch) to on and press the button on the side while swatting at the mosquitoes

Do not touch the coil while the switch is on or while charging
Stow away the charger plug while not charging else you may get a shock if you are touching the plug and the coil portion
Do not hit the bat on any object else the bat may spoil
Keep away from children
Keep away from a swatter as he may accidentally hit you if he sees a mosquito buzzing near you
Warning- swatting mosquitoes with the bat is extremely addictive. Use it with utmost discipline just before going to bed and if you do not have netlon on the windows then keep the windows closed unless you are prepared to wake up in the middle of the night and swat away.
Keep it away from you when you have visitors or in the middle of a conversation your addicted hubby might get up and start swatting mosquitoes. Infact it is so very addictive that you might actually swat with it outside your home and be tempted to do it for the neighbours' homes and the entire building too!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Attending a Wedding on Valentine's Day

I know that Husband dear you are not reading this so I can say this aloud...
If just attending a wedding made both of us want to get married all over again, then probably, inspite of the fact that,
- we proclaim that the only good outcome of our wedding are Ojas & Tejas
- and that perhaps we spend more time quarrelling than anything else
- and that we disagree on most things....

We did make the right choices!

errr. Atleast you definitely did! ;P

Monday, February 15, 2010

Is This a Milestone?

Ojas requests me while we were sleeping- Mamma, sing a song.
So can I officially call myself a filmy "Lori Gaanewaali Maa"
Offcourse I sang- Udi udi, aaja main hawaon and other songs of such genre!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Life Finds a Way

Said the cute Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park.
I say maybe a little nudge in the right direction from humans help too!
There are only 1411 numbers of our beloved stripey left and concerned citizens are collectively roaring.
We are talking of ways to lead the change.
But the buck must stop somewhere (no animal puns intended here) which is why 13 nations have come together to work on saving the tiger.

So How was my question. Will just talking and writing and sms-ing about it help? Yes it definitely makes all of us aware and sit up and think, which is why for starters I did an intensive google search to see what are the actual steps apart from awareness building that could be taken to save our tiger.

So what do I gather from my Internet tryst?

  1. For Starters- Understand- understand what it does to the ecosystem when the tiger becomes extinct- Tigers are at the top of the food chain (among other carnivores offcourse) and humans are the only threat to them. Tiger eats grazing animals and grazing animals eat vegetation. To cut a long story short- Tigers go extinct, so grazing animal population increases and they eat up the forest which in turn affects the human population. Therefore a healthy tiger population means a healthy forest / landscape.
  2. Accountability- who is accountable to protect the tigers- the government? forest department?- I found an old article which talks of privatising forests to save the tiger- involve locals, allow them to benefit out of the forest earnings, make forest reserves and wild life tourism a viable investment option for corporates.
  3. Fund Generation- Ecotourism places a value on the natural habitat of tigers which makes us stand up and protect it. Given a little peace, protection and space the tiger population should theoretically spring back to a healthy number.
  4. Discourage Poaching by legalising- If Tigers were Chicken would they have survived?- An out of the box idea suggests we farm tigers to commerciaize their body parts legally and at a fair price, we could succeed in discouraging poaching. There are arguments that counter this but well, it was worth a thought! Anything to save this guy! China seems to agree as demand means opportunity rather than a threat.
  5. Support - donate or visit accredited zoos who have a tiger conservation program on the cards like Corbett in India - We visited Corbett in 2002 and probably we were the last of the few people who actually followed a tigress. We were taken through a presentation which indicated the scary and steady decline of the various varieties of the big cat. Alas!

Go through the links, read up, think about the views. And maybe next time you take a holiday, do a wildlife tour, won't you?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Madurai Appu

Situated on ECR road, near the Kabab court et al.
What's good-
-Dirt cheap
-so called multicuisine- we were pretty surprised when the masala fish turned out be something like the chinese chilly fish.
-reasonably fast service
-tasty food esp for me who is suddenly willing to experiment more southern cuisines including the kerala parotthaa!!!

What's not so good-
- looks downmarket somehow- stone floors, ordinary looking menu card

We had mutton 65, chicken 65, the aforementioned fish, ceylon paratha, mutton kothu paratha and country chicken!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Can Dinosaurs Come into our Living Room

Asks Tejas.
happe to mention that a dino is bigger than our house. That reassured him a bit since he says- so then they cannot come inside our house.

The kids are doing Dinosaur month in school.
Ojas comes home and tells me that they are supposed to colour a picture of a dinosaur.
I started shaking in my shoes at the prospect of looking for a dino pic so I asked Ojas back- where will I get a pic of a dino?
Says Ojas- exasperatedly- from the net!
Not bad. I came to know of the word internet during my MBA days.
So anyway, I drew a dino which was a cross between the camel photograph from Snoring Shanmugam book and a dino (err I hope) and they colored it in brown and black etc and took it to school.

As a follow up, I showed them bits of Jurassic Park.
Ojas had a fun time shooting at the dinos with laser light noise gun and Tejas was still saying I am scared
Ojas reassured him with his clear simple logic- don't worry, they canoot do anything, beech mein plastic hai- there is plastic (TV Screen) in between!

While on topic, the Walt Disney Dinosaur is way pleasing to us - we watched it on TV last month. A dino egg gets displaced and the newbie dino is brought up by lemurs. As catastrophes drive them out of their haunt, they join a herd of (veggie) dinos who are also looking for a new haunt with lots of water. Watch how they traverse the long, challenging and difficult journey sweetened with the young dinos love story who has till then never fallen in love as living among lemurs he couldn't find someone of his type.
Thisis a good hearted dino and hence very kid & adult friendly. Do catch it if you can!
I love the last line of the movie- we do not not what change lies ahead for us but we can only hope that our time here be remembered
Isn't this particular sentiment true for each one of us?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Signs that You are Finally Morphing into a Mom

1. The kids go in denial when they see the photos of a 2 year old you with your Mom- they mutter even in their sleep- Mamma you cannot be small, you are big
2. Your handbag contains stuff like- chocolates, pencil, eraser, a toy car, multiple hankies, sketch pen, kid's waterbottle etc
3. Your office table has a piece of crayon which came along with your laptop bag. And you leave it there because either you do not want to throw it away or you actually like doodling with it
4. You start writing with pencil again
5. The last 5 book reviews on your blog are that of kids' books.
6. You are enjoying kids' birthday parties
7. You rush the kids to the toilet if anyone speaks any word that remotely resembles 'Potty"
8. Everyone banks on you to get the kids' nose cleaned and you are a pro at it now and take special pride in nosie-less noses.
9. Your home is strewn with children's books
10. You are sleeping comfortably on rubber cloth with toys poking at you, kiddy books falling out from under your pillows and err no pillows - that too.
11. You can take the kids to the loo in the middle of the night and promptly fall back asleep
12. You have forgotten and forgiven the kids for sleepless nights and you find it hard to remember that you were really breastfeeding almost throughout the night in the good old days. And you certainly do not remember how, with great difficulty you would make the kids go back to sleep afte rthey woke several times in the middle of the night.
13. You forget that inspite of (12) above, you would go to office next morning in the good old days and inspite of (11) above now, you still feel you do not get enough sleep!
14. You stopped watching real TV and watch only cartoons or Animal Planet
15. You are extremely regular about the evening going out with the kids in the apartment


Friday, February 05, 2010

मुझे नींद आ रही है

तो हाथी कैसे सोते हैं?

We find out in Tulika books " I am so Sleepy"

Bahadur the baby elephant is very sleepy but has forgotten how to sleep. So he goes around asking his friends how to sleep. Each animal tells him to sleep in his or her style but Bahadur moves on as his memory tells him that

हाथी ऐसे नहीं सोते

Will Bahadur remember how he was supposed to sleep?Join this cute baby elephant in his journey through the forest meeting all the familiar characters like Shanmugam, Hutoxi etc.
Mommy tip- I always ask the kids to describe and interpret what they see in the pages. So if the Sun is painted yellow it means it ought to be morning and not evening as the evening sun is orange in our parts!
pic courtsey - Tulika Books

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Eecha Poocha

Another cumulative tale this time in Hindi based on a Malayalam tale, published by Tulika Books- Eecha (fly) and Poocha (cat) make a delicious kanji but they cannot scoop it without a spoon. Eecha flies off to get a Jackfruit leaf and Poocha - typical of cats, cannot control himself and empties the entire kanji into her tummy.
As a result the tummy swells up - the process of which is illustrated too!
The tale follows a logical sequence as Poocha goes around asking help from animal to the animal's caretaker boy and so on to other objects ....for bringing her tummy back to size.

The cumulative tale format gives the kids a chance to participate by repeating the words page after page and therefore makes it totally interactive.
The wordbirds explain the origin and meaning of regional words - things like how traditionally kanji is eaten with a jackfruit leaf.

pic courtsey- Tulika

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Top Things That Irritate Me The Most

IBH very helpfully sent this link which made me abandon my original idea of doing a book post today and pitching in with my own list.
That it looks very similar to the original is not coincidental.
  1. Wet towel left on the bed or chair
  2. Celebrating Diwali on all days- Lights/ fan left on in the rooms
  3. Drip drip drip- taps left dripping
  4. Leaving dishes and boxes uncovered
  5. Not wiping the countertop or table after use
  6. Leaving electrical appliance main switch on or the mosquito mat on for the entire day
  7. Shoes left outside right next to the shoe cupboard
  8. Spilling food/ beverage etc inside the fridge and not wiping it
  9. Clothes strewn on the floor
  10. Curtains not opened during the day and windows not closed during the evening
  11. Exhausting supplies and not telling me so I meet an empty box when I am ready to cook
  12. Tiffin box not given for wash
  13. Handwash bottle not refilled
  14. Beakfast and Lunch morphing into one meal- they take so long to eat that one ends and the other begins!
  15. Wardrobe gone haywire - nightwear mixed with daywear, pants and shirts piled in one bundle and undergarments found among shirts.

Ah well, I could go on and on. But yes, I am taking steps in the direction of reducing my burden

For starters, on most days my kids are made to dump their clothes in the washing machine, put their toys or books away and put their shoes inside the shoe cupboard.

Weekends and holidays and dinners are eat yourself days. Though the duration of time I spend in screaming - eat eat, chew chew it will be easier to just stuff their faces. But I am persevering and hoping that the day they self eat comes soonest

Self dressing and self taking a change of clothes.

Helping me in doing the bed sheets, arranging the pillows.

They do a mean job with folding clothes. I am thinking I could make them do that everyday! Probably they could even start arranging their cupboards!!

Clean your mess drive- they do a mean jhaadoo after making a mess of the living room. Anti Child labour guys- be damned! You don't have kids at home is my guess.

Setting their table with their placemats for their dinner

Taking out bowls and spoons etc if they need to eat something.

Brushing their teeth by themselves during weekends.

Doing their daily ritual of body lotion application by themselves.

Yes the little things do matter!

What's your list of annoying habits (in others)!

Monday, February 01, 2010

This Chinese Chicken Recipe Usually Turns Out Very Yummy

Deep fry for a few minutes 1 kg chicken and sprinkle pepper powder on the pieces. Remove from pan.
In the balance oil, add 1 crushed/ powdered star anise, 1-2 red chillies and lots of pepper powder.
Saute onions, ginger garlic paste, salt.
Add the fried chicken pieces and cook on medium flame until the chicken gets cooked.
Add 2 tbsp soya sauce, 2 tbsp tomato sauce, 1 tbsp vinegar
Separately mix 1 tbsp cornflour with water enough to make gravy and add to the pan.
Boil until you get the desired consistency and quantity of the gravy. Sprinkle a pinch of MSG and turn off the gas
You may add spring onions, coriander leaves, dried chives etc for decoration and zing.

Can replace chicken with paneer. Need not fry paneer though.