Thursday, October 30, 2014

That holiday feeling!

A holiday has always been a sure shot way to get me to instant bliss. So when its two back to back holidays, its a double scoop of super loaded, twice as much, packed to the brim blissfulness! Clearly I also ate too much ice cream on vacay (double fudge, chocolate chip loaded, with twirls of dark chocolate, nutty Oreo bits and oozing with decadence....sighhhhh)

Anyway, getting back to the point, we're just back from first, a short-ish holiday in Panchgani followed by a long-ish holiday in Dubai, with a gap of about a week between the two which felt like a quasi holiday in itself since all we seemed to be doing was unpacking, packing and planning for the upcoming trip! We've been back home for a couple of days now and both my children seem to be suffering from a severe holiday hangover. Bedtimes, nap times, waking up times are topsy turvy and meal times have been replaced by grazing whenever the fancy strikes (or not!). But none of that is bothering me right now because I'm still basking in the post vacay glow and not even lunch at 3pm or both kids bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5am can get me down right now (that and the fact that we have a few more days to recover before its back to the school routine and I'm forced to snap out of that holiday feeling)!

The Dubai holiday also ended up being a completely disconnected-from-the-virtual-world one for me because my phone died on me just a few days before we left and I found myself Facebook-less, Watsapp-less and also contact-less for a while so was pretty much cut off from everyone apart from P and the kids. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise (after I'd survived the initial panic attack) because it was just so refreshing to switch off from all of the virtual messaging and info overload; a lot of which can be mostly unnecessary. Anyway, so I also managed to fall off my hundred happy days of blogging wagon in the meanwhile so I'm just going to pick up from where I left off, with a couple of happy holiday posts thrown in in-between (and photo posts too, no less!). In the meantime here's to holidays, new and old, the ones that've left lasting memories and the ones yet to come. Like I read somewhere in a shop window in Dubai, your vacation starts the minute you begin planning it and in true holiday spirit we started planning our next one on the flight back from Dubai. Coz nothing can quite beat that good ol' holiday feeling!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Diwali party ideas for kids

We like to parday! No, that's not some vague pirate custom I'm suddenly into; it is how 'parties' are pronounced in these parts by the resident five year old and her bunch of gal pals thanks to 'Race 2' and the ever popular 'Parday on my mind'. 'Tis the season of light and sparklers and with Diwali round the corner, a friend and I are planning to co-host a Diwali Parday for our two five year old daughters and their motley bunch of party loving friends. Last year, inspired by all the Diwali parties for grown ups happening around us, we had hosted a mini Diwali party for the kids and it was a huge hit. The kids had a blast and the mommies were only too happy to get the kids off their hands and doing something fun while they did their own Diwali prep (we hosted the party two days before the Lakshmi Pujan day). It was also a great way for kids to experience the festival while bonding with their friends and have something to do during their break from school. This year, motivated by all the Diwali love we got last year, we're hosting a Diwali party on a larger scale for the little ones and I thought it would be a good idea to blog about it for other moms looking for some fun Diwali ideas for their children. So here's a quick lowdown on the 'Parday' of the season!

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Who, Where, How, When 
 These party ideas are most appropriate for children in the 4-7 years age group, but with a little tweaking and customization (ideas for some of which are included below) you can make this party rock even for children in a slightly lower or higher age bracket. We are hosting the party on the 20th which is the first day of Diwali and also the first day of the holidays for most kids. Perfect time to get the little munchkins into the Diwali spirit! The party that we've planned is easily doable at home for a group of between 6-12 kids; if you have some open space like a reasonably sized balcony, terrace or a usable common area outside your apartment/ house that's an added bonus. 4pm is the perfect time to start this party (Chaar baj gaye lekin party abhi baaki hai- another favorite with the five year old gang!) since it gives enough time to do the activities we have planned and get some Diwali grub into those little tummies at a relaxed pace. For more on the 'How', read on!

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The 'How': what does one do at a kiddie Diwali party?
Activity One: Rangoli Time
This is my favorite part about our Diwali parday; in fact this was how we got the idea for hosting a Diwali party for our kids in the first place. Nikki, along with some of her friends, loves 'rangolis' and everything to do with them and rangoli making is one of the biggest draws of Diwali each year. Last year, we thought it would be more fun to get a bunch of her friends together and do the rangoli making and voila, our mini Diwali party began to take shape.

Here's what you'll need to get the rangoli making off to a great start:
  • A couple of rangoli stencils: There is a whole host of shapes and designs of these available for Diwali. We used the basic shapes for our gang, but you can use the more intricate ones as well, specially for an older age group
  • Chalk
  • As many vibrant Diwali colours as you like! (Go for the organic ones since the kids will be handling them a fair bit)
  • Yellow and orange marigold flowers for flower rangolis and for decorating the colour rangolis
  • Loads of festive spirit :)

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For the rangoli making last year we used the beautiful open terrace area at my friend's apartment. We used the rangoli stencils and chalk to draw the outlines all along the perimeter of the terrace and then let the kids get as creative as they liked, filling up the designs with a multitude of vibrant colours! There were a couple of only flower rangolis happening as well for the smaller kids who were too little for using the colours. We had a couple of supervising adults helping out and guiding the kids where needed which proved to be a big help since we had a fairly large number of guests, but if you have less people to help just scale down the activity accordingly. For example, a bunch of four kids can work on a medium sized rangoli with one supervising adult. A closed indoor area could work as well with a smaller group but with an open area the kids can get as creative (read: messy) as they like without the party host having to worry about extensive clean-ups later! With older kids you can take it one step further by increasing the intricacy of the rangoli designs and can even try out the traditional styles with pattern dots.

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Activity Two: Designer Diyas
What you'll need:
  • Basic unpainted clay diyas
  • Acrylic paints in a variety of shades, the more the merrier!
  • Paint brushes and palettes to mix and match colours
  • Glue
  • Loads of eclectic diya decor: sequins, glitter, shimmer dust, the works!
This one doesn't really need any explaining. Just give the kids a diya and a paintbrush each and let them at it!
This is a pretty popular Diwali activity among kids and we're including this in the party this year since we have about twelve little party guests and the plan is to divide them into two groups of six kids each. One group does the rangoli activity first while the other group does the diya painting and then they switch activities.

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Once the kiddos are done with all that rangoli making and diya decorating you'll find that this section also doubles up as a how-to for DIY Diwali Decor :) Your rangoli area will be a riot of colours and flowers and you can line up the prettily painted diyas wherever you please! You can some more bling by putting up thermocol cutouts of diyas on the walls and hanging up some sparkly streamers (the kind you use for birthday parties) and paper lanterns all over the party area on the day of the party. Last year, we also got some fairy lights indoors and draped them at a few places around furniture (keep them out of reach of little hands though!) and switched them on after it got dark outside. The effect was magical and it was a big hit with the kids!

Since we're starting the party at 4pm we plan on doing both activities for an hour each. Even with a buffer of about an hour we should be done by 7pm latest, with our little brigade ready to hang up their paintbrushes and get those rangoli stained fingers into some Diwali goodies!

A Diwali feast to gladden little tummies
We've planned quite an elaborate (or at least I think so!) feast this year for our little guests since there's two of us co-hosting this party and between us we have enough help and helping hands on the day of the party. We've put together the menu based on the tastes and preferences of our little invitees, so feel free to go through, pick and choose what you like and design your own menu for your little ones.Here's the dinner menu we have planned:
  • Mini samosas
  • Corn and cheese fritters
  • Lemonade and Tang in industrial quantities for the tiny guzzlers
Main Course
  • Vegetable Pulav
  • Chhole
  • Palak puris
  • Aloo tamatar sabji (gravy)
  • Sides of lots of creamy dahi and cucumber and carrot fingers- hot favourite with the kids and usually among the first dishes to disappear!
  • Gulab Jamun
  • Fruit Custard
I'm not including detailed recipes in this post since all of these are pretty standard recipes, but if you need a specific recipe just write to me in the comments section and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can. Also, for mommies who would prefer their kids to avoid bingeing on the deep fried goodies, here are some tips:
  • The mini samosas can be made with whole wheat flour and baked (and loaded with as many veggies as you like!)
  • The corn and cheese fritters can be replaced with shallow fried corn and cheese patties/ cutlets( load 'em up with the green stuff if you want to as well)
  • Palak puris can be replaced with palak rotis 
  • Desert can be only fruit if you really must, but must you really? Its Diwali after all!
Post Parday Stupor
There won't be much energy to do anything post all that activity and (hopefully) tummy filling that happens (our lot went straight to bed last year!) but if you still have any little stragglers whose mummies or daddies haven't turned up to pick them up yet you can keep them busy with a quick game of cards (another great activity option for older kids) or some Diwali time story telling (for the younger lot). Send them home with their handpainted diyas and a gift of homemade chocolates or mithai if you like, and memories of a delightful parday that they will hopefully cherish and remember- at least till the next big bash comes around ;)

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Come join a set of fabulous bloggers sharing their Diwali moments , easy Crafts, DIY ideas, Recipes and book recommendations with you .

Starting from today till Diwali and beyond, each one of us will be writing a post related to Diwali.
Participating blogs
So sit back, relax and check out all the fabulous Diwali Dhamaka posts in the linky.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Telephone Etiquette 101

Tring Tring Baje Phone!
Hello, hello, kaun, kaun?

Or in our case, 'Hay, hay, kaun, kaun?' Coz the telephone is Mister Cube's newly discovered obsession and he just can't get enough of it! When he's not tinkering with the buttons, putting the phone on speaker mode and then listening on in rapt fascination to the melodious dial tone or trying to break the receiver into smithereens by attempting to dismember the phone by separating the receiver from the rest of the instrument, he is answering the phone (or so he thinks because said answering happens even when the phone doesn't actually ring!) in his own inimitable style. This consists of lifting the receiver, flinging it over his shoulder with a distinctly Shammi Kapoor-esque flourish as he tries to emulate the more mundane version of lifting receiver to ear that other members of the household follow, cocking his head to one side with a look of intense concentration and saying 'Hay?' He follows this up with some extensive gabbledy gook which his sister apparently understands and joins in and much merriment ensues as his little band of household admirers eggs him on between wiping away tears of mirth at this ongoing demonstration of telephone etiquette 101.

Never thought a telephone would be capable of bringing this much joy, or fun! And since we are ringing in so much merriment thanks to the telephone these days, this is what I'm gifting Monsieur Cube for his first birthday (can hardly believe its already been nearly one year since Mister Cube came into our lives!) coming up soon:

*Fisher Price Chatter Telephone image courtesy

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Leftover Parathas

I have a recurring nightmare about waking up to a fridge overflowing with leftovers. Domestic goddess I most certainly am not! There was a time in the distant past, almost eleven years ago to be precise, when the mother in law on her first visit to our first home as newly weds had been aghast to find a little mountain of seaweed growing in the refrigerator's veggie tray. Closer inspection and detailed analysis revealed that it was originally a slab of paneer that had congealed with some leftover dhaniya patta and festered over several days to what now resembled the grassy slopes of Mount Mansfield. What had transpired was this: the husband and I had been taking turns to do the groceries since both of us had hectic travelling schedules with our respective jobs and tended to be on the move about fifteen to twenty days in a month. On one such trip I had ambitiously bought a handsome looking chunk of paneer fully intending to turn it into a succulent paneer makhni. The next day I had to dash off to Vishakapatnam to look into some pressing work issues (stagnating sales of Iodex of the 'Iodex maliye, kaam pe chaliye' tagline if you must know) and had conveniently forgotten about aforementioned paneer. The husband in the meantime bought some fresh and sprightly looking dhaniya (to be turned into chutney, we were informed later), dumped it on the paneer (thereby successfully camouflaging it from human view) and dashed off to Shanghai for a sales conference. Needless to say, the fresh and sprightly dhaniya was soon relegated to an obscure corner of his memory. When the MIL went on her investigative expedition of the refrigerator a couple of days (or maybe it was weeks?) later the paneer had been reduced to a (greyish) shadow of its former creamy, chunky self and the dhaniya was a tragic reminder of better days that had once been lived through. United in their misery, together they just formed a desolate, green clump.

Skimming lightly over that unfortunate incident that has since been relegated to the Distant Past (lets just say, the MIL gets a greenish tinge reminiscent of Mount Mansfield if anyone says the word 'paneer') and coming briskly to the present moment, we have come a long long way since those days and such domestic disasters no longer abound. In fact I'm now quite the domestic diva thanks to the latent Paranoia Gene that was activated post motherhood along with the Health and Safety Sensors. However the traumas of the past do not fade lightly and I often have nightmares in which a shimmering green chunk slithers around an otherwise immaculate fridge veggie tray. My paranoia for Lurking Leftovers had gone into an overdrive yesterday because due to a series of unplanned and unforeseen events the food that had been cooked for lunch and dinner had not been consumed in the desired quantities and as a result I went to bed with a heavy heart and much anxiety about what to do with said leftovers. I needn't have worried though because unbeknownst to me, P turned out to be quite the star when it comes to converting Lurking Leftovers into Bedazzling Breakfasts, and I woke up this morning to freshly brewed tea and P's Luscious Leftover Parathas! Recipe below for those who are interested ( and those who may have shimmering green chunks lurking in their paneer, er, past):

Leftover Parathas

Half and half quantities of whole wheat flour and makki ka atta
Leftover kala chana gravy
Leftover lauki kofta curry
Leftover vegetable ratatouille

Knead all of the above in a large mixing bowl with dahi and some water. Adjust salt to taste. Serve fresh off the pan with dollops of creamy dahi! (And butter for the kids who are still young and don't have to worry about their burgeoning weight).
P.S. You can also add some grated paneer and freshly chopped coriander to the above ;)

Much leftover happiness today which has lasted well past breakfast!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Baby's first steps

And the baby of the house is now officially a toddler! Yes, Mister Cube took his first few confident steps today* :)

Technically these were not really his first steps, he has been on the verge of graduating from baby to toddler for a while now, with a few independent steps thrown in among all the relentless cruising, but today for the first time he didn't falter even once and took a few super confident steps without reaching once for Mama's hand. And once he had begun, there was just no stopping him! He was trotting around in no time with the trademark look of exhilaration clubbed with wonder that all babies have when they first discover walking independently. I still remember the exact same expression on Nikki's face when she took her first steps in our balcony. With her though, I'd been waiting for those first independent steps for what seemed like eons and when the moment finally arrived I was over the moon. This time round, it was more of a bittersweet feeling. My littlest baby is growing up. And he's growing up in what seems like fast forward mode! I don't know if it feels like this with all second babies but they just seem to grow way too soon. Maybe its because as a mother you just have more stuff to do caring for two children and you don't have the intense focus (read hyper paranoia in my case!) you did when it was just the one child, but it feels like time has just whizzed past the second time round. From helpless newborn babe-in-arms to little wriggler to his very own innocuous looking but rapid track belly crawl to sitting, cruising and now toddling, my precious time with my growing-too-quick baby has gone by in a flash.

You'd think with five years of parenting behind me I would've got used to it by now but clearly I haven't. I was really having fun with the cruising and the first few faltering steps which always ended with a frenzied dash into Mama's waiting arms for some much needed comfort before setting off on the next expedition :) But before I knew it (and clearly before I was ready for it, although I wonder if I would ever get to that stage!) Mama's arms were being impatiently brushed off as little Mister Cube discovered that his two chubby little legs didn't need no support no more! And just like that he was toddling, no brakes! And in his case no speed bumpers either, clearly our man believes in living life on the fast track!

And so yet another milestone is achieved and another little birdie gets ready to discover his new found wings. And the little birdie's Mama is going to try and put a lid on her melodramatic tendency to start weeping over her soon to be empty nest (just eighteen odd years away and at the rate at which they're whizzing past I'll probably be blogging about it here tomorrow!) and instead revel in the new found and incomparable joys of a toddler's first steps. Here's to that on #HappyDay4.

*Today was actually yesterday**
** No I haven't completely lost my marbles (yet), Mister Cube took his first few steps yesterday (Sunday the 28th). This post is appearing a day late thanks to the Gods of the Internet- hopefully their wrath will abate today and I'll be back to blogging on a regular schedule.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Breakfast Yoga

Kick started yoga today after nearly a year long hiatus.Its not the traditional yoga that I personally prefer; its closer to power yoga but the class fits in really well with my current weekly schedule and so I decided to sign up. Also, its a class I've done before and I really took to it the last time. Apart from the obvious fitness benefits, it really helped me get in touch with myself physically and mentally (looong way to go before we can add spiritually to that list methinks!). It has the perfect mix of postures, breathing and meditation and is just the right amount of challenging you to the point where you think you can't take it anymore, inter spaced with really feel good relaxation.

Perfect way to kick off a Saturday. Walk through early morning quiet to get to the class. An hour of yoga which felt really good to get back to. Back home to breakfast with the husband and kids only to find that the kids had been brushed and breakfasted (Go P!) and were really happy to see me home. Feeling limbered up, stretched out (in a good way!) and blissed much.

***The Day 3 post is appearing a day late because the internet decided to play hooky last evening for the substantial part of an hour and thereafter seemed to develop a serious bipolar disorder. Also, it was Dandiya night and I'd promised Nikki I'd take her dancing, so after much impatient persistence I gave up and decided to just post today instead.

Friday, September 26, 2014

After Eight

No it's not the chocolate I'm talking about. Although, given the chocoholic that I am, that divine chocolate bathed mint is quite likely to figure in this list one of these days too. But for today, it is the time that I'm talking about. After eight. Eight p.m. that is (Eight a.m.? Now that be a whole different story. School runs. Ack!).

Eight p.m. is when the kids go to bed and I am once again the master of my own time. Eight p.m. is when silence, peace and tranquility descend over our hitherto bustling household where up until then chaos, disarray and mayhem have been merrily reaching an ear shattering crescendo. Okay, maybe I'm getting a little carried away here, those are only the bad days, but anyhoo (Yes! Always wanted to use that word somewhere) post eight p.m., once the two little munchkins are safely tucked in bed, life becomes significantly quieter and one can actually envision oneself sitting down for fifteen minutes at a stretch with a mug of hot chocolate without having to mediate a fight, supervise an art activity or prevent a soap flake or a dust ball from being ingested by the resident soon-to-be- toddler.

Suffice to say the after eight feeling is right up there on the list of things that give me the instant 'I love my life right now' feeling.