Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Do you have days like this ?

You have to, have to read this. It made my day at 8 in the morning and it will surely do yours too.

For fear of Plagiarism, I am not copying the article here.

Go read it Funny Woman's Unbelievably Busy day

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Blog

All of you mom bloggers have inspired me to start a separate blog about my kids. I was pretty hopeless about maintaining their baby books and usually lost interest after the first couple of months. But blogging about them is easy.

What's nice is that (hopefully) the blogs will always remain, which gives a new meaning to the words of the song from Shree 420 - Hum na rahenge, tum na rahoge, phir bhi rahengi nishaaniyan. I have already forgotten so many little little things about what my son or daughter used to do or say. If I preserve them in a blog, I will always be able to look back and reminisce. Even better, my kids can look back years from now, and read about what they said or did, what I felt at each stage of their growing up( even if the kids do at some stage find it embarrassing - which they will).

In fact, the thought occurs to me that most of us who knew our grandparents or great-grandparents only knew them as old people, and in their particular roles. My ajji always seemed old to me even though she was only 42 when I was born. Few of us would have gotten to know them as people, or even thought of them as such. Luckily for our generation of kids, they will have our blogs on various issues to help them understand the people we are or were, long after we are aged and decrepit!It's a wonderful way of preserving a family portrait.

So, for what it's worth, I'm now also blogging about my kids at

Monday, October 29, 2007

Navrathri - my tradition

This post is by Kodi's Mom of Kodimeow Kronicles

Navrathri - always reminds me of....not the silk clad maamis, not vetthalai paaku, not sundal, not little girls parading the streets, not carnatic music...
....but my grandfather. Yes, Navrathri reminds me of my mother's Aaja.

All the more this year, for we celebrated with only his memory, his spirit.

In what I consider the golden days of my childhood, when Aaja was a retired, "active adult", I would be quite amused to see how he always took Navrathri very seriously. It didn't bother him much that this was socially labeled as a 'ladies festival'. For him it was a way to showcase his energy, passion, creativity.

Left to my grandma, she might have kept a quick 3 padi kolu (a kolu with 3 steps), made a sundal, and focussed on the puja, the invites and invitees.

Left to my aunt, the daughter in law of the house, she might have done an even simplified version of the above, for that's all she had time for, with twin boys, a full time job and a long commute.

But with my grandfather, Kolu took a different glow in our house.

A week before navrathri started, he would start the prepartions. Preparations meant walking down to the garden (they lived on the top floor of a two storey), digging up soil, walking back up with that load, cleaning that area along the back wall of the hall to make room for a 9 padi kolu and a miniature park, spreading the soil in the far corner, sprinkling it with water, making even rows with the eraser end of a pencil, lining it with mustard seeds in a perfect row, then watering that spot and...waiting. You see, he was trying to create a lawn effect. A pulveLi.
Amidst the lush green would be a snapshot of some busy Chennai junction - Parry's Corner or GN Chetty Road were his favorites. There would be a fountain in the middle. Perfectly straight two lane roads, marked by white chalk or rangoli powder. Billboards along the corner. Large matchboxes painted as Kumaran Stores and Nalli. Plenty of cars.

I don't recall ever seeing the an idyllic green or the luxury of a fountain in parched, hot-beyond-words Madras of those days - but it was all there in the kolu in Aaja's house. A futuristic Chennai...with more cars than two wheelers.

Once the basic elements of the park was in place, he'd proceed to set up the nine steps for the kolu, drape with a dhoti, dust the dolls, set them up in perfect order, giving due importance to the Gods and Goddesses. A whole afternoon's work would be reflected in the kaLai of the kolu. (the look of grace, elegance)

The kolu would look its best on day 3 or 4. When the mustard seeds would have sprouted and grown evenly to a 1-2 inch height. When all the dolls had been adjusted twice or thrice for the right effect. That's when the Maamis would start to arrive and ooh and aah at the whole spectacle. My grandfather would receede to the background only to show his face to family friends, and would graciously refuse any compliments that were directed his way. Oh, I didn't do much, it was all her (he'd point to me, while all I might have done was bring him the chalk). But there was a twinkle in his eyes those times, a suppressed smile, it was happiness like that of a child...happiness that his effort had brought joy to the beholder, that the details he put in were noticed and appreciated.

This tradition repeated itself not just a stray year or two, but every single year till he could no longer keep up with the physical demands. One of the last few years, the local newspaper gave his kolu a prize for the best in town.

I have missed my grandfather all year. I think of him often, but I missed him most during Navrathri.

Because of the foundation he laid, to me, Navrathri is not just another festival, not just another one of those gazillion traditions every desi family has. The tradition that he passed down to me, consciously or unconsciously, was the enthusiasm and spirit. How you take something from your parent's generation, add your own flavor to it and carry it forward, while keeping the intent of the tradition intact.

The intent of this one is to welcome the Goddesses of wealth, education, courage to your home. To socialize with friends and family. To give. How you implemented it was upto you.

This was our implementation this year...

No Dasavatharm set, or Ashtalakshmis, no wedding setup, - but a Japanese doll, a Thai tea set, a Parisian Notre Dame, a Floridan Mickey Mouse, a Santa Claus - these are the flavors we added to it.

One of the challenges while setting this up was - my very naughty 2 year old's presence! We kept him away from it only during setup and dismantling...the rest of the time, we tried to include him in the festivities. For him, that meant playing with the dolls. So he was told that he could take off only one thing at a time but he had to be very careful. He listened some of the time, but overall, the 9 days passed without serious mishaps.

Next year, we intend to dedicate a spot that will be solely his - where he can set up a zoo or farm or whatever he wants.

Last Navrathri, Aaja saw pictures of our modest kolu and was pleased to see America-vil kolu (a kolu in America). What amused him more was that there were maamis here too who came for vethalai paakku. I wish he could have seen this year's too. And all the ones that the future holds for us.

Maybe he will.

On Traditions by IBH

(This is a guest post by IBH for Traditions– the theme for October)

I come from a family that is abounded with traditions and more traditions. With the festive season on, I would like to contribute my first ever post for DMC or for any group blogs.

*Every navaratri our Golu bommai display has had varied themes. Dad’s hobby of collecting bommais in his every business trips helped us in great deal with different themes. I should say, Appa takes keen interest in our golu arrangements.Appa comes up with the theme for that year and then start collecting the bommais accordingly. In the previous night of the day of arranging bommais, appa and amma takes out the bommai and start arranging according to the theme of the year. Of course, our usual bommais that are meant to be kept with the kalasam (pot with coconut) are arranged meticulously. The fun part though is the arranging of parks, waterfalls, groves (mango, coconut oh what not!) and such.Appa will make sure that it looks so real that our golu used to be the star attraction in our street.

* Tradition of not bursting crackers has been our tradition for so long that we have actually forgotten when we last burst crackers’, the reason being child labor and such .(I know there is always two types of argument to it but we stand by our tradition and its reasons)

*The tradition of wishing each other at 12 AM sharp for all functions, festivals, birthdays, anniversiaries and every occasion that calls for wishing each other. It continues till date and we have been wishing each other even when we live in different time zones and different spheres of earth.

*We always make maa-kolam for every function held at our place. My mom rocks at it and she creates the best maa-kolam ever.

*The best thing from my childhood that am missing right now is ‘Nila choru’ wherein all we cousins used to meet up at our grand father’s agraharam house and enjoy moonlit night dinner on the terrace. Our cook, Venkubhai paati used to make this scrumptious dinner of simple, vatha kuzhambu, rasam and ‘more’ sadam and feed us by making this big ‘urundai’ (ball of food) and go in rounds to put those urundais in our hands. The best part is the last bit of ‘aanai katti’ sadam that all we cousins used to fight for.Not sure if Kaju will get to enjoy the last tradition listed but I am making sure that she is going to continue the other traditions ( trivial but yet powerful in our family) and pass it on to her family.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Durga Pujo and the Annual Pujo Numbers

(This post is by Sandeepa and is shared in parts with Bong Mom's Cookbook)

While discussing Durga Pujo, memories, food etc at my other blog, I forgot to tell you the most important thing, the one thing I liked most about Durga Pujo since I was a little girl of six. It was a tradition if you let me use the term, every year since I was six.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Anandamela and AnandaBazaar Patrika this year

It is the Pujo Shankhya or the Annual Puja Numbers. Now Bengal being the literary state that it is, it has a very rich history of art & literature. So during Durga Pujo, the publishing houses like Ananada Publishers, Deb Sahitya Kutir etc. bring out special editions of the monthly magazines published by them.
These special editions are thick volumes with literary gems from all renowned Bengali authors. Packed with writings by the best authors, these Puja Numbers are something I and every Bengali child in their right mind would look forward to.

When I was a kid, my Ma in her effort to teach me Bangla would get me monthly subscriptions of the very popular Bengali children’s magazine Anandamela. During Durga Pujo this AnandaMela would come out in its special edition with colorful, glossy jacket and stories & articles in different flavors from all famous, almost famous, trying to get famous authors. It was the biggest treat a child could ever have.

Those days these were published and available in the market around Mahalaya and in our small town we would book our copy with the local paper wallah days in advance, in fact right after summer. So while Mahalaya meant getting up at 4 AM to listen to Birendra Krishna Bhadra, it also meant pestering the Paper wallah every day to see if the coveted book had arrived. I cannot quiet explain the excitement, the waiting, the longing for the book to arrive. Days were spent thinking what “Gogol”* might do and where “Santu”** might land up with “kakababu”**. The book would finally arrive along with My Ma’s copy of Desh or Anandabazaar patrika and many blissful hours would be spent in its magical pages.

Even now Durga Pujo for me is incomplete without Pujo Shankhya and I either buy them here or get my Ma to send them. With the Sharadiya being published way in advance these days, my ma easily finds someone to send me the copies and their arrival heralds the onset of Durga Pujo.

Along with shiuli and kashful, the Sharadiya Pujo Shankhya means Durga Pujo to me.

I do not think I will get around teaching my daughter to read Bengali or maybe I would, but if I didn't, I know she will miss out on the wait for these special editions which with their glossy jackets and mesmerizing tales carried the fragrance of Durga Pujo.

*Gogol -- fictional character by Samaresh Babu, another legendary author
Santu & kakababu -- fictional characters by Sunil Gangopadhyay, a very famous Bengali author

Friday, October 26, 2007

Traditions -- by Shobhana

(This is a guest post by Shobana for Traditions– the theme of October, chosen by Tharini at DMC.)

I was thinking about traditions – the kind that we may have followed in my family. One thing was that we didn’t have any particular traditions due to some reasons that I am not sure about. While still pondering about it, the idea clicked…this being the festival season starting with the poojas, diwali, Christmas, Ramzan, new year and the additional thanksgiving for people living outside of India and the SUN TV’s and such cranking up on the advertisements for clothes and jewels, making one ever so home sick, why not write about the clothes, especially the sarees, the silk ones in particular. Hah…nice one eh?

Anyways what really inspired me are the ads for the pattu sarees….so many new models and colors and designs. It is either RmKV, Kumaran, Pothy’s or Chennai silks or the crop of stores that seems to sprout up during the festival season and maintain a very low key after that, until the next season. With the ever increasing occassions for buying clothes such as Akshaya thrithi in addition to diwali, pongal and so many more the need to come up varying designs become a necessity. When talking to my sis in India who mentioned that they were all going to Chennai from Salem to buy clothes, it made me realize that the buying power of people has also gone up and that they are willing to travel far and near to buy something unique for this festival season.

The sarees that I remember seeing in my mom’s closet was the simple chiffon ones and some of the silk sarees that she had. These had simple flowers, lines, dots and such patterns on them…be it the chiffons or the silks. And the color choices were simple too….reds with blue borders, light blue with dark blue borders, yellow with marroon or green borders and so on…just the basic colors. But now….there is a different color for each woman on the face of this earth….for example the 50,000 color pattu by RmKV last year. WOW!!! Are there even so many colors?I kind of know only a few…am I missing something or have been color illiterate? I have made a mental note to check it out in person the next time when I am in India to improve my GK on colors.

And then there are the other choices…Jodi paatu (matching colored saree and shirt for the color twin couple), color changing saree (it presumably changes color when one steps out…what??), Durbar Krishna saree (with the pic of Lord Krishna on the pallu and decked with Swarovski crystals…supposed to bring luck to one who wears it), zip-n-wear sarees (you can buy one saree with 4 different pallus, just choose the one that you want for that day and zip it up), pocket saree, landscape saree, denim saree and the latest addition being the embossed silk saree. Aishwarya pookal, Hamsa damayanth, Imayam, 108 karnas…guessing what those are….these are more varieties of silk sarees. These trends are all aimed for the young adult in the late teens and early 20’s, though anyone else who wants to buy those are not stopped.

MRSA(methicillin resistant Staph aureus)

MRSA or methicillin resistant Staph aureus is a bacterial infection that is not very common but contagious. I read about this MRSA sometime back in ' Parents ' magazine. Over the pat one month I heard about two students who died of this deadly MRSA on a popular news channel.So,I just thought about sharing some info which I came across the net with other moms here.
Article from ' Parents ' Magazine can be found here
More info can be found from here .

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bring on the paints Amma!

[Posted by Rachel of]

I had L last evening ransacking my kitchen. L seemed like she had lost something and she was desperately in search of god knows what! She preferred no help from neither A nor me!!!

So we let her be on her ransacking spree...after a few minutes there was an excited expressive sound!!! L's search mission was sucessful, because she had finally found what she had been looking for...Hmmm and guess what the treasure was..a plastic mesh (the one used to scrub dishes) ...a brightly coloured one that she had specifically picked up from the store when I was buying my monthly stocks...

Well this was bought two months back..I had forgotten about it and so had she..Wonder what reminded her of it yesterday of all days!!

Anyways she then wanted her paints, her own proclaimed palette (a lid of one of her kitchen set pans),her dhurrie..(she always lays her dhurrie and only then does she proceed with her articstic activities!!!)and not to forget her dear plastic scrub..L then specifically preferred to have a sheet only from my sketchbook..which is something very dear to me...anyways, after a lot of persuasion by L..I finally gave in..

She lay her drawing sheet (actually mine)on her dhurrie, dipped her mesh in all the colours and dabbed it on the sheets...After a few minutes she wanted the bottle brush, sponge, her tooth brush to do the same..

Finally she wanted to frame the work of art and hang it right in the place where an art done by me is hung!!!!

This made me wonder how come i never thought of this activity when i was at a loss of ideas to keep L occupied.

I think this is an interesting activity.. It does help them in identifying colours...I even saw her mixing colours..

Just a few pointers when you get your child to do this ..Make sure he/she is wearing old clothes, and newspapers are spread out on the floor..In doing so..after the kids are done with their activity,, all you need to do is to clear the newspapers..

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

From a budding chef's kitchen

[Crossposted at My Two Cents]

Note: I posted this on my blog some time ago. Thanks to Sandeepa who reminded me to post it here for Kids Food Festival :)

Lately there have been more updates about M than there have been about S and while that is natural, it isn't fair. So here is a tid-bit about S.

She created this snack ALL ON HER OWN!! She took foods that she likes - bread, butter, sugar, chocolate syrup, chocolate chips and bananas and put them together to create a yummy (her words, not mine) snack! I leave you with a mouth watering picture of the same. :D

For the record, I have tasted it sans the chocolate chips and chocolate syrup (did I ever tell you I HATE chocolate flavor - except in a cake??) and it indeed was very, very, very delicious. S is proud of the fact that this is a very healthy recipe because it has whole grain bread and a fruit! I really loved the look of pride on her face when she presented this snack to me and later when I photographed it.

Hope to keep this interest alive and maybe she will be competing on "Top Chef" one day.... :D

KUMON: How and why it works for us

[Crossposted at My Two Cents]

(Note: I haven't been able to post for this month's theme or for the Kids' Food Festival. Things are sorta crazy at my end, so please bear with me. I read all the posts, but don't get to comment on all of them for the same reason.)

Some time back I wrote a post on how parents sometimes push their kids unnecessarily to achieve academic excellence. In that post, I also mentioned KUMON - a chain of individually owned math and reading learning centers. One reader left a link in the comment section for an article that discusses a few drawbacks of the KUMON way of teaching math. I read that whole article twice - I swear! I agree with parts of it and there are parts (regarding trigonometry and calculus etc.) that we haven't gone through yet so those don't apply to us. Yet. I highly recommend that you read this article if you are thinking about signing up your kid(s) at KUMON. I am not going to discuss the article here. I am merely writing what works for us in the KUMON method. I am not saying it will, or should, work for other parents too. Every kid is different and what works for S might not work even for M, a few years from now. So, please take everything I am going to write with a grain of salt. Research the options out for yourself and then decide.

S started KUMON math program in August 2003, just before she started Kindergarten. I came to know about it through a friend who sent her son to a center for a brief time. S was a quiet kid from the beginning and we thought being good at something, like math, will give her self-esteem a boost. In the long term, we HAVE been proven correct. Also, I had heard that due to various factors, girls here lose interest in math and sience by the time they get to middle school. I was determined to prevent that from happening to my daughter. I wasn't going to let math become a "monster" to be afraid of. So, this is why our KUMON journey started.

Soon after she started, S began struggling with the homeworks. She would do all correctly, but would take 45 minutes or more to complete each homework. We began worrying if we pushed her in it too early because there is no way 45 minutes of homework is going to be good for a 5 year old. Thankfully, the owner of the franchise that S attended agreed with us. She said it should only take a child 5-7 minutes per homework, and no more than 10-12 minutes even if they take too long. So she reduced the number of pages that S was getting per homework. Once the load decreased, S also began taking more interest in doing her homework again. So, it has been this way ever since - we reduce the number of pages in her homework if she starts taking too long to finish and slowly increase it again once she finds a balance.

Another thing we always made sure of was to never push S into finishing a level fast. We let her take her own time and even let her repeat a level if she takes too long in that level's test (the objective is to complete one page in 1-3 minutes). After all, she is the one who will benefit if she masters the concepts at one level before advancing to the next one. Also, having to repeat a level has never been associated with failure in Kay household. It just indicates that some more time is needed to master the concepts. We do, however, try positive reinforcement to keep her motivated. So, every time S completes a level at KUMON, she gets to buy a board game or a book of upto $15 dollars in value. We are very rigid in enforcing the "board game or book" part. No soft toys, no video games or anything of that sort. She really looks forward to these opportunities. She only gets this gift if she has finished the level for good and doesn't have to repeat it. There are no penalties for repeating a level except that she has to wait longer to buy her gift.

Every year, when we mention that S is in the KUMON math program, her teachers ask us the same questions. How do we keep her interested (because it does tend to get repititive)? And since she is clearly ahead of grade level in math, how do we keep her interested in school work? For the first question, our answer is "Because we never gave her an option. KUMON homeworks are not optional, and she knows that. And, since she can herself see the progress she is making, she willingly does it now." As for the second question, we have noticed that the math that she learns at school is usually complementary to the math she does at KUMON. So, since KUMON math program doesn't really have many word-problems, the school curriculum helps her practice that part. KUMON math does not cover money math concepts while her school curriculum did. And, school curriculum also helps her revise the parts that she did long time ago at KUMON and has forgotten by now. For example, when she was doing multiplication in KUMON, her class teacher was still teaching subtraction. That helped because S was beginning to lose subtraction skills for lack of practice. And this year, she finishes her math classwork and then goes ahead and does extra with her teacher's permission. Which, in my opinion, shows a "will to learn" - a very important ingradient of success.

In my opinion, this is also teaching her a few other things. One - you have to do what you have to do. Meaning, even if you already know multiplication (or any other skill that is currently being taught in class), you have to do it as part of the school curriculum. You CANNOT get out of doing it just because you already know it. Two - never be smug about your math skills because though there are things you are very good at, there are some other skills that you need to work on, just like other kids. (Example - her struggles with money math last year) Three - practice makes perfect. This one she has experienced for herself and now realizes its importance (I hope!)

Almost everyone in our social circle, who has ever sent their kids to KUMON at one time or the other, has mentioned to us how their kids used to get "bored" with math at their school because they were ahead of the rest of their class. Most of them cited "boredom" as a reason for dropping out of the KUMON math program. I don't know why. As I mentioned earlier, it hasn't happened to S. And if it has, she hasn't mentioned to us - which is just as good because we would still have made her do it. "Bored" is a word I don't entertain. No way, no how! I know, I sound like a tyrant. Heck! I am a tyrant when it comes to studies. I know that is THE ONLY TICKET TO SUCCESS my daughters have. S does mention it when KUMON begins to become a burden of sorts. Then we let her take a break for a week or so. Every year, she gets a break form KUMON for one week each in summer and winter. And sometimes an extra week here or there if we feel (or if she says) it is becoming too much for her. That, I guess, prevents it from becoming a huge burden. By now, KUMON is a way of life for her. She remembers to do the homework every day without us having to remind her. I hope this will continue into her middle school and high school years. Because the skills that KUMON is teaching her reach far beyond just success in math. The discipline will definitely help her in other avenues in life. The skill to understand concepts on her own (of course she takes our help when she gest stuck) is going to prove important later in college. The perseverance she is learning in understanding tricky math concepts will pay off later in life.

Coming back to the article - I agree KUMON is not perfect. Nothing is. But we work hard at making it work for us. Like everything else in life. Nothing comes your way custom-made and ready to fit. You have to tuck here, nip there.

The author of the article suggests that parents should do every homework themselves along with the kids. I agree, but not completely. You don't need to do every single homework. You do need to know how to solve those problems and be able to explain to your kid(s) if the need arises. Having solved the problems yourself a few times does come in handy when you have to explain it to someone else.

We had signed S up for KUMON's reading program as well and she attended it for over 3 years. But then we learnt about SCORE's writing program. We liked the program and wanted to try it out. S loved it and even made some remarkable progress in her writing skills. but we had to take her off of the program. There were a few reasons. One - they weren't offering Writing as a stand-alone program. They wanted us to opt for the whole Math-Reading-Writing package. Since we were already very happy with the KUMON math and reading program, we decided not to join SCORE. Two - and this one was a biggie for me, I am not sure if other parents will feel the same way as I do - the SCORE program is COMPLETELY computer based. I mean, even the "writing" that S did was on a computer. Now, call me old-fashioned, but I believe a child should learn how to write well before graduating to typing. And, with all the typing, S was losing her handwriting skills fast. At KUMON, she is required to write everything - math answers as well as answers to the questions in her reading material. I like it that way. As I said - nothing is perfect. You have to work at making things fit you. We tried but we weren't able to compromise on these two issues regarding the SCORE program. I think we might give it another try a few years from now when S is done with KUMON (one can hope, right? :P)

Melting Moments

There are so many moments in the day when I'm totally exasperated with my son, little A. He is usually so deeply engrossed in whatever he is doing that he tunes out everything else. When he's making paper planes ( the latest craze, and thankfully a cheap one), he doesn;t hear me telling him to do something, he forgets to pick up a bite of breakfast or to swallow the bite already in his mouth. Drinking milk can take forty five minutes when he's watching Mickey and friends...

And then there are the moments when he reduces me to a little puddle of mush.

He's been having bad dreams for the past few days and we've been so tired that we have given up and bring him into our bed each time. Last night he went through another such episode, on a night when I was dog tired. Later he woke up to use the bathroom. Still later he wanted a drink of water and I yelled at him. Then early this morning, cuddled up next to me, he says, "I feel so safe when you're near me, mamma."

Then when we were both up, he tells me, "Even when I'm as big as Priyesh ( our downstairs neighbour's 9 year old) I'll still play with you. Even when I'm 100 I'll still play with you, mamma."

How cute is that!

An option!

Yesterday I took L for her checkup because for the last few months excepting last month she had been falling sick constantly.. A and I owed it to her catching it from school..with atleast 3 courses of antibiotics, she is fine by the grace of God now!!

But L starts her day with a string of coughs and sneezes for an hour and she's fine the entire day!! I described this to L's doc and he said it is something referred to as allergic rhinitis! And since A and I didn't want L to be on medication all over again, an alternative that the doc suggested was:

To get L to wear socks during the night and on L waking up in the morning to wash her face right away using warm water...

Believe me, I did see a difference.

I am sure this will be useful to a lot of moms out there!

[Posted by of ]

Ma Durga... Come again the next year

Kucho nimki, narkol naru, malpua, mansher ghughni, keemar shingara, mishti r thalaa, dhok dhok pronaam aar kolakuli.... the childhood memories of Bijoya are too vivid, more so gastronomically.

Days have changed, so my son, who is at least 98% clued on Bong was surprised to find, kucho nimkis are manufacturable in Mom's kitchen as well beside the Chittoranjan Park Sweet shops in Delhi.

So this time, while I prepared to embrace and entertain a large group of family, Mr D prepared for his France visit for an unavoidable workshop. Little sonny R, upset with his Dad's funny tour plans was trying to find solace in visiting paternal Grandparents from Kolkata.

Saptami was chaotic. My Mamashoshur( Husband's Mama) and family had planned a surprise for his sister.... they were visiting us. So even though I prepared a pick up for them from railway station, my in laws were completely in the dark. Even my ten year old son was party to the conspiracy. Chaos bloomed post lunch, I had to leave for an emergency client meeting, my guests could not find the car sent for the pick up, neither could the driver find the guest..... AMAZING. I retraced 45 km to pick them up after reaching back.... and the family chat continued till wee hours of 2am.

Ashtami colourful as usual.... other than me struggling to keep a backup khichuri and accompaniments ready in case we miss the bhog at the pandal. On puja days in Gurgaon pandals, since we always end up behind 1000 at least, a backup plan is an absolute must. Afternoon, in true Bong way, we stuffed ourselves in a hired Toyota Innova and struggled our way through the terrible highway traffic to reach New Delhi Kali bari. Long travel, fights on right AC cooling, and finally we end up standing behind serpentine cues for a glimpse of the Goddess and the happening arati. Thousands were already sitting on the huge mandir courtyard waiting for Kumar Shanu to begin his performance. Terrified of the crowd, and asphyxation we finally plunge out and breathe well before locating a chaatwallah. Soft and crispy aalu chaat and spicy churmur we all had to our heart's content before reaching airport to pick up Mr D.

Navami we packed fast and quick and once again stuffed ourselves in two cars and left for a Jaipur Ajmer Pushkar trip. The days passed off in a whizzzzz.... and on Monday 3 am we came back home, almost crawling back.

House is still full, 24 hours, we are chirping and laughing with family, a rare incident compared to me and little sonny R walking back slowly,into an empty apartment, loaded with school bag, creche bag, Kumon hamper, laptop, a huge loaded purse and an equally cumbrous food tote bag....and getting prepared for the next day.

Me and little sonny R are not seeing eye to eye fearing the magic would go off and once more we would get slotted into the routine life.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bengali Working Mom

Bengali Working Mom

Probaashe Durga Pujo

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Hello to all the moms!

[Post written by Rachel of ]

I just got introduced into blogging a few months ago.. heard and read about blogging but never wanted to take the step...But here I am finally into blogging and trust me I am having fun...not just bloggin in my own space but also reading other blogs..DMC is one blog that interested me..

I have a 3 yr old daughter L. She goes to nursery..She can be a very stubborn person which is reflected in her eating habits as well...

...Anyways she adores colouring and painting not just in her scrap book but also on the house floor and the walls...She probably takes this interest after me..because i am basically an artist and a designer...I can see she has a keen sense of observtion which is obvious in the way she handles her brushes and paints..

She is also awed by the chapati dough..and keeps herself occupied shaping the dough and talks to the dough too..Wonder what???

I only hope and pray that she would show the same interest in food too!!!

Hoping to contribute to this blog soon!!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Navarathri Bommai Golu

[post written by Sheela]

Garuda Sevai.
Arasamaram Pillayar.
Pancha Bootham.
Aaru Padai Veedu.
Saptha Rishi.
Ashta Lakshmi.

These enchanting terms describing the sets of clay dolls my mom collected evoke a strong nostalgia...

Every time I sat down to write this post, I visualized a naive little girl through the gossamer veil of memory, wistfully donning the antique white pattu pavadai with royal purple zari border and a matching puff-sleeved blouse, braided and accentuated with a kunjalam at the end,
...with adukku malli flowers coiling all around it,
...bangles jingling when carefully forming the Bharathanatyam mudras with small hands while reciting 'pathaka tripathaka ardhapathaka, kartharimukaha', and 'aangikam, bhuvanam, yashya vaachikam'
...frozen at the end of the single-digit age where I can remain a child forever.

Family Traditions brings a lot of images as every festival was a reason to establish a tradition at home. And my mom was good at establishing traditions.

The one that particularly stands out in my mind is the Navarathri Bommai Golu.

A couple of weeks before the start of Navarathri, my mom goes to the wholesale stores across town to get little mirrors, combs, kumkuma chimizhs (tiny little containers for holding the crimson powder kumkumam/sindhoor), little baskets to hold the thambulam... I tag along if I am up for it. It is a tedious multi bus hop across town in the hot sun... but, highly rewarding.

And then, about a week before the start of the Navarathri, Appa brings down the bommai pottigal, yes, plural, as my mom had quite the collection - about four large wooden boxes which held the carefully padded, wrapped, packed dolls of various shapes and sizes and make. And, every year, at least a couple of new dolls are added to the collection.

Then, he sets up the 7-step golu padi: a Godrej steel gray set of shelves and adjustable stands which spends most of the year sleeping in the attic, unassembled, yet magically fulfills its destiny by hosting the gorgeous display of dolls for couple of weeks a year.

Ever since I could follow instructions, it was my duty to broom and mop the area where the golu will be displayed. Once my mom knows it is clean, she draws an elaborate maa kolam - traditional design on the floor made with diluted rice paste.

Then Appa assembles the golu padi. At which point, depending on who is at hand and up for it, we cover the steps with either simple white veshti, or Amma's old sarees, pinning up as needed to make sure the cloth drapes the steps elegantly.

If that wasn't fun enough, now is when the real festivities start: arranging the dolls and, possibly setting up more scenes on the floor around the bommai padi.

Amma is particular about the order. The tallest and biggest clay dolls go on the topmost step. Gods and goddess dolls at the top, and mythological symbols and other generic ones (like a pair of swans, elephants and such) at the bottom. If something isn't aesthetically appealing, she rearranges till things seem in harmony again.

Once that is done, more fun starts: mixing sand with color powder, we design a city on the floor all around the golu padi. A little school here, an arasamaram pillayar koil (temple) there. A little circus tent with animals here. A bus depot there. A railway station here. A playground there. Rickshaws and bicycles abound our streets. Little plastic and clay children and adults of all sizes and shapes populate our town.

Finally, I get to do a rangoli design on the floor with my cousins, in the available space, without limiting the motion in the area. And nobody better turn on the fan!

But then, the actual Navarathri has not even started yet!

On the first day of Navarathri, Amma establishes the Kalasam (a bronze/silver pot with water or rice, decorated with mango leaves that are held in place by a whole coconut), and pronounces the golu officially open. And she sets off with a kumkuma chimizh full of crimson kumkumam to invite the neighbors and friends.

Every day of the 10-day, 9-nights festival, people exchange visits, spread goodwill and cheer, sing traditional songs, share chundal and other prasadam...

On the 8th night Amma always sets up the books and instruments for the Saraswathi Pooja: my school textbooks, my favorite books, notebooks, pens and pencils, and, of course, my chalangai and veenai.

These are not to be touched or disturbed all of 9th day (and night) observed as Saraswathi Pooja.

However, on the 10th and last day of navarathri, Vijaya Dasami, we get to sit by the arrangement and write, read, play the veena or dance a little, anything at all that we want to excel in, we practice on Vijaya Dasami...

Of course, that was then.

For the last 15 years, I have not participated in Navarathri celebrations here in the U.S. Over the years, if my mom's visit coincides around the Navarathri time, she sets up a simple 3-step arrangement with whatever curios and pictures she gave me of the traditional mythological beings.

However, along the lines of Navarathri, since Ana was born, we have been celebrating Christmas with a tree decked to the gills, ornaments galore, and adding a new ornament each year (discounting the many that break each year thanks to the kitties living with us)...

But, this year, Navarathri just got over, and since my parents were not visiting us, I decided to establish a simple tradition of my own. No elaborate bommai golu, but, just a 2-step arrangement of dolls I have. Plus, a chundal or payasam of some kind every evening.

I was never the fancy dresser since my teens. But, I made an effort to cleanse myself and drape a silk saree each evening after coming home from work, which in turn inspired my 2-year Ana old to ask to be dressed up as well... then, made some chundal or payasam and offered the nivedhyam...

Somehow, it is not the same without friends and neighbors stopping by, and unless it is a weekend, I am strapped for energy and time to celebrate the way I'd like...No matter.

I am not sure I am up for the 7-step bommai golu anymore... but, if Ana is up for it as she grows up, I hope I have the strength to pass on this beautiful Navarathri Bommai Golu tradition my mom has set up for our family...
I liked this idea of Jessica Seinfeld to include vegetables in kid's foods. After reading this article from here , I started using carrot puree and spinach puree to cook my daughter's meals. Voila,she didn't know it.Thanks Jessica and "Parents" magazine from bringing this thought to us. I cooked pilaf,upma with diluted carrot puree and also added spinach puree to make murukkus. Another way to add nutrition to kids food. I never thought thinking out of the box and being creative would make both of us happy.

The Sheer Khurma Competition

[ This post is written by mummyjaan ]

When Tharini put up October's great theme, I was reminded of countless family traditions which I saw while growing up. Being Ramadhan last month, I recalled many traditions associated with Ramadhan and Eid - I remembered my first fast, the first fast away from home, first Ramadhan with hubby, then with the children.

I also recounted several Eids spent in India and elsewhere in my nomadic life; I believe I have celebrated Eid in at least 10 different cities in the world. One of those Eids was spent in my in-laws' house, the year that I got married.

It was there that I came across the fun 'family tradition' I want to share with you - my father-in-law's "Sheer Khurma Competition", as I will call it.

Sheer khurma is a traditional sweet made in many households on Eid ul Fitr ("Ramzan Eid"). It's also called 'Seviyan'. Sheer is Persian for 'milk' and khurma means 'dates', again in Persian. (The word is distinct from 'korma' which is a kind of spiced curry, although we have often ended up pronouncing the two the same). I do not know how or where the sweet originated, or when the vermicelli became an important ingredient, but dates and milk must certainly have been the primary ingredients.

There are as many variations of it as cooks. From the vermicelli you use, the combination of dry fruits you put in, the amount of ghee you use (minimal or generous - I use sunflower oil!), to the kind of milk you use, whether you add cream, whether it's dripping with sugar or just has a hint of sweet in it, etc. Everyone seems to come up with a slightly different flavour. And of course, people can get as individual as they like with decorations.

This dessert - the sheer khurma - is traditionally the first thing eaten on Eid mornings. Symbolically, you 'break' the month-long fast on Eid day with milk and dates. Sheer khurma is prepared early, before the family goes out for the Eid prayer (usually just after sunrise - but varies a lot in Hyderabad in different venues). Once you get back - very hungry - from the Eid ki namaz, it's time for hearty biryani in some households (my in-laws), or the lighter chicken vermicelli ('murgh sevi') in others (my mum's house).

I won't dwell on the Eid celebrations, the decorations, the finery, the mehendi ,the "Eidis" (gifts) which all children look forward to excitedly. Or the Eid prayer, which is the heart of Eid. All of those are integral parts of the day, of course.

Once everyone is back home and has had breakfast, a steady stream of visitors descends onto my in-laws' house. Being the oldest in a large clan, my MIL's house is always a centre of activity. I call it the "Family headquarters".

My sasurji, after meeting the first few visitors, sets out to individually visit every one of his children's homes. All 8 homes of his daughters and daughters-in-law. The point of the visit is of course, to visit his children on the festival. But the fun part is when he samples each and every one's cooking and at the end of the day, declares one winner - the maker of the best sheer khurma. (He just 'samples' the food - being very careful about his diet and health).

This 'competition' has become something to look forward to.....

All my 'jethani's (husband's brothers' wives) and 'nands' vie to produce the best dessert. I spent one Eid with them in India, before moving to Ireland. As I was the bride and the youngest DIL, I wasn't expected to cook (did you hear that, girls??? I didn't cook in my in-laws' house for a year, and when I go back on vacation, I'm the 'guest' so I still don't). Anyway, I had the occasion to sample all their cooking (hubby and I went with him), and at the end of the day, the 'winner' was my 2nd eldest 'jethaniji', a superb cook. (Winner 3 years running).

I joked that my FIL had acted impartially - having picked a bahu over his 6 betis. I was new in the house and naive. As time passed, I came to know that in this family, at least, there isn't much difference between the bahus and the betis. Which is something truly wonderful. As far as he is concerned, they're all his betis.

The "competition" is an excuse. The actual Eid tradition that Abba is carrying on is visiting the daughters' homes and making them feel special. It does make everyone feel special when "Nana-hazrat" (or "Dada") shows up at the door. The children excitedly look forward to Nana's Eidis. We cherish the time when he puts his affectionate, benevolent hand on our heads and gives us his dua's (prayers).

My first and only Eid in my sasural was a memorable one. I look forward to the day when I will relocate to India again - I don't know when that will be, but I hope 'Abba' is healthy enough to visit my home, when I present him with my cooking. I know I would have a slim chance of winning, but more than that, I look forward to his tender hand on my head, blessing me, my husband and my children, praying for our health and long life, our success and happiness, in this world and the next. Inshallah.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sprouted Ragi Porridge

Ragi (or nachni) is an excellent source of nutrition and I recommend all mothers to try it out in their recipes. Here is one method of preparation of ragi porridge which can be fed to babies right from 6 months -

Soak the ragi overnight and in the morning, drain the water and put it in a closed vessel. The ragi would have sprouted by next morning. Put the ragi in a mixer and grind it with a little water till it becomes a thick paste. Put this paste through a coffee filter or a muslin cloth. Leave this liquid for a while and the ragi 'paste' will settle down.

Take some spoonfuls of the 'paste', add water/milk/ vegetable broth and sugar/salt and cook on low heat with constant stirring till a thick porridge consistency is reached. Add some ghee if required.

As the baby grows, you can add other pulses like green gram, wheat, channa, etc along with the ragi and follow the same method. You can also soak badam, cashew and dates and grind along with the ragi.

Sprouting makes the porridge easily digestible and improves the nutritional content.

Though the process looks elaborate, it is only about 10 minutes of effort to grind and filter the paste. You can refrigerate and use it later.


It was 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I was in a sleepy mood and Aryan was also sleeping. Suddenly, the intercom rang. I shook my head and ran to pick the phone fast, as Aryan would wake at any time. I picked the receiver. On the other side was Meena Mami, one of our neighbors. She had called me to say "Subha, please come home today evening at 06:30 for "vethalai paaku" ["vethalai paaku" is something that is given to all married woman and to kanya ponnu (girls who have not attained puberty) during the time of Navrathri. It consists mainly of betel leafs, arecanut, kunkuma cheppu, turmeric, coconut, and banana, and in some houses they give a small mirror, a small comb, and blouse pieces or some other gifts. I said, "Yes mami, I will come in the evening at 6:30."

As I hanged the phone, my mind started traveling in a time machine and reached to our childhood days of Navrathri. Gone are those days when small girls in colorful pattu pavadai’s with kunkuma cheppu comes to our house and invites "Amma ungala vethalai pakku vangikka vara chonna” (Mom is inviting you to come home for vethalai pakku).

Navrathri, the name itself spreads bliss and happiness in our homes. We are two sisters and my mom was very particular that we learn all the customs and traditions, and Navrathri is the one, which we enjoy the most.

Two days before Navrathri begins, my father takes all the golu bommai’s (God’s idols) from the Paran (Attic kind of storage place) and then unpack the stuff. We used to have uncountable amount of Bommais with us. Typically my father would pack the Bommai with three layers of packing; one with old tattered cloth, then with paper and then a plastic cover, and tie it with a rope, all efforts to prevent cockroaches. Every Navrathri, unpacking this bommai itself takes one day. At this point, I would like to make a special mention of my elder sister, who was (still she is) crazy about these stuffs. The most memorable thing in this unpacking is the bet that my sister and me make. While unpacking, we should guess without opening the package as to what idol is there inside by touching the outer surface it. There used to be a competition between me and my sister, as to who will unpack the maximum bommai’s and guess it correctly. Of course, my crazy sister used to win and that was a real enjoyment. After unpacking all the idols, the setting of "golu padi" begins. My father struggles with the wooden shelves and planks and somehow sets the "padi" and covers it with a new cloth. Then all the idols will be kept in order on the padi.

Apart from arranging the idols we used to create Park. My father used to bring the sawdust and clay. We arrange the roads inside the park; keep a traffic police in the midst of the park. Arrange small vehicle toys, small human being toys. The best part is we used to make snow mountain in the Park with cotton; Wow!!!! it was really a fun affair. I used to bite my sister if she crosses my park border…

Me and my sister used to come home rushing from school just to sit in front of the golu Bommai.
We used to enjoy the hot, hot kadala chundal (black or white channa), kunkuma cheppu, kannadi (mirror), comb, flowers, dress, bangles and what not? All these items we used to get along with vethalai paaku because we were kanya ponnu. Even though, now as a sumangali/ suhasini (married women) we get all these things, the fun and excitement at small age was the best. I wish we went back to those days again!!!!!

I finished my travel in the time machine and came to the present world. Suddenly, some realization came to my mind. Apart from the spirit of a festival, there are many hidden good things about Navrathri. It gave importance to woman more, thereby inculcating the thought in the minds of younger generation that a woman is a backbone of the family and she should be given due respect. Also, it is a festival, which contributes to the creativity of a person. Apart from that, most importantly it emphasizes the importance of treating all persons equally irrespective of whether she is rich or poor, is from a forward or backward caste, etc. Knowingly or unknowingly, this festival boosts the confidence of a woman, her skills, creativity, and what not. Hats off to my Mom and my grandma for following these rituals and letting us know about the traditions

During this Navrathri, I did not even bother to think about gollu and bommai. Caught in webs of office work or commitments, baby, or all silly excuses. Of course, my biggest worry was how would I handle Aryan with all these bommai's.

But, I think in this world of mechanical life, we as parents should take special efforts to pass on these traditions to our younger generation and I vowed myself that next year, I will definitely keep the golu bommai and celebrate Navrathri in its true way and make Aryan understand it's values.

Oh..Aryan is crying, may be he understood my feelings and is angry that I did not keep the bommai this year.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Of peas and stories

Saw this article at the blog Past, Present & Me.

The essay is by Monica Bhide and was in the Washington Post.

I am giving an excerpt here. Follow the link to read the entire beautiful essay here

"We sat on the floor and started by sorting the pea pods, his fingers working furiously to separate the little baby pods from the mother pods and the daddy pods. Some days we named the piles of pods for his school friends — Zack, Sam, Casey. Then we counted. Jai could count to 20 in Hindi by then, and finished counting in English. On a few occasions, we reached 30 together.

Then came Jai’s favorite part, the time for me to tell him stories — in Hindi. We always started with the story of the witch, the one who would come and make a home in your hair if you went out without drying it on a cold day. The story would somehow segue into what Buzz Lightyear or Spider-Man would do if he found this witch. (An interesting question, since we could not find a bit of hair on either of their heads.) Each story had a different ending, depending on which action figure was stationed next to Jai for the afternoon.

After the witch would come the story of an Indian princess who lived in a golden castle. I wanted it to end with her marrying a handsome prince. My son, however, would add his 4-year-old’s spin and American viewpoints. Sometimes the princess would be a doctor, usually a veterinarian, and would end up marrying Shrek. Other times, the gentle princess would be transformed into a superhero and I was pleasantly challenged to come up with the Hindi names for laser guns and robotic evildoers.

One day, Jai asked me, “Mom, apne kahania kaha see seekhi?”

Where did I learn the stories? Why, from Bahenjee, of course"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Working/ stay at home moms

Sorry if I'm raking up old leaves - I joined the club after this issue was thrashed out, but I have my two cents to put in. Before I begin, I apologise for boring the pants off anyone who has read through the debate/ heard it ad nauseum. Honestly, I don't know why this issue turns into an us versus them debate whenever it comes up - online or off. Maybe both sides feel vulnerable and get extra assertive to prove that they're in the better position.

I've been on both sides of the coin. I had to quit when I was 3 months pregnant due to having a job that required lots of travelling which I couldn't do due to complications. I didn't see the sense in joining a new place only to go on mat. leave in 6 months, so I stayed home for the duration. I did enjoy it for a while, loved the fact that I could sleep in and laze about, but it got old fast. All my friends were working women so it was very difficult to find someone to hang out with.

I've never been an overly maternal type of person, so it shocked me when I turned maternal after my son was born. For 6 months after he arrived, I stayed home, mostly because I couldn't face the thought of leaving him at home with a caretaker all day. Even though I was bored and longing for adult company. Somehow I just didn't want to only hang out with other moms, because I felt the conversation was too focussed.

Eventually a wonderful half day job fell into my lap and I thought - ok, let me try this out. Initially it was hard but eventually I got used to it, and he got used to having me go to office. After my daughter was born, however, a wonderful full time job, an opportunity I had been looking for, came my way. The office was (is) literally a 5 minute commute. I made sure we got another carer, so there would be enough hands on deck. And I began working fulltime after 5 years.

It's been just about a year since then. I have times when I'm so swamped by work that I don't even see my kids when they are awake. I hate that. Then I have times when I make a good presentation or a client likes my work. I love that. There are days when my husband is flying into town and I'm flying out and we meet at the airport. I miss PTA meetings. I like seeing my bank account grow and having money I can call my own. I enjoy the arguments and debates that form my work. Every day my feelings regarding working vs. staying at home change. On good days, I think - Yes! I can do it. On bad days, I type out my resignation letter.

When I look at my kids objectively ( and I am quite good at being objective, even about my kids), I don't see two neglected kids. I see kids who may spend a little less time with their parents than other kids do. But through his playschool career and even now, my son gets complimented on his great manners and the fact that he's rarely rough with other kids. I'm more finicky about their diet than many of the SAHMs ( I've posted a blog on this issue at I am very strict about how much television they watch, and what they watch. Even when I'm not home, my son knows what he is not supposed to do and why not - which is again something many of his friends who have SAHMs don't ( and I've blogged on that at My son loves reading ( he's just learning) and my daughter looks like she'll follow suit. My son is trilungual and has an advanced vocabulary in all three languages. My husband is wonderfully supportive and he really wants to be an involved dad, so he does tons of stuff with and for them. On my days off, we paint together. We both tell him stories. I teach him the names of all the plants in our garden. We go to the park and play together. We have fun.

I have several friends who are SAHMs, and are doing a great job with their kids. They've put in the time and effort to spend quality time with the kids, teaching them stuff, playing with them and bringing them up to be good human beings, first and foremost. Sometimes I envy them their time with the kids, especially when my son has vacation from school and I have to go off to the office. That really hurts!

I think it's not a question of whether one is a working mom or a SAHM, it all depends on what you do with the time you get. I'm someone who honestly doesn't fully buy the 'quality time' argument so I constantly have guilt pangs about the quantity time the kids aren't getting. But contrast that with the non-quality but quantity time that many SAHMs provide, and I guess my kids are ok. I'm lucky to have my parents live nearby ( 5 houses away), so when they're in town, it's a great source of stimulation and family affection for the kids and a reassurance for me. But despite all the support systems, ultimately this is one debate that no one can win outright, because each one of us has to work it out for herself. And I'm not even sure you've won it even with yourself, because the feelings towards the decision ebb and flow with everything that happens ( at least they do for me.)

And so I've decided to take it one day at a time. Each day can be good or bad, and I'm just going to live with it. It doesn't sound like a very liberating, Hollywood crescendo of music decision. But it works. So far.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wistfully....this Navarathri!

This Navrathri season has not been good for my spirits. No, indeed it has not. For everywhere I go, I see pretty little girls looking like absolute dolls, wearing their cute cute pattu pavadais and chaniya cholis, with all those sweet matching necklaces, and tinkly bangles and such interesting looking hair clips to hold back the little curls or the straight silky bangs. And dressed in all this finery, they have that perfect little gait, and also a little bit of awareness that they are looking different (just a little bit of awareness) that I could go on staring at them forever.

*exxaaaaaagggeeeerrraaatted siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigggh*

Rainbow seeker than I am, I measured my options. Yeah so I have some. Right. A formal looking sherwani, with overriding sleeves and the silly tassles in the dupatta, when any day I'd settle for a simple elegant little cotton kurta. But then what? Nothing. That's all the choice there is! Forget accessories, forget hair clips, and definitely forget the gait!

Seriously. Living in a house full of Martians and I have all but abandoned any girlishness in me. Its all about roughhousing, and who climbs on top of who, and the sounds of the train going chuk chuk chuk or the noisy engine sputtering car sounds, or just plain and simple screaming like banshees....aaaaand cricket! Cricket cricket cricket! Bah!

I am in serious depression.

For all those who wish to cheer me up...two conditions apply:

1. No hints, teasers or outright suggestions that I can always have another one. Nah ah! Road closed, dead end, finito!

2. Mother of girls wearing their cute cute pattu pavadais and chaniya cholis, with all those sweet matching necklaces, and tinkly bangles and such interesting looking hair clips to hold back the little curls or the straight silky bangs, and walking with that perfect girlish gait.....stay away from this post! You are not my friends right now. From tomorrow maybe...?

And my dear dear Fellow Members of the boys' club...well come on over. Can I get you some tea? Or a hanky maybe?

For now, I am going off to find my best kancheevaram pattu, wrap it around my head and lie low till this storm blows over!

Introduction—Aryan's Mom

Hi, I am Aryan's Mom. Aryan is 13 months old. He is a naughty little toddler who maintains his own blog. Thus DMC will be the space where I would express and share my Mommy feelings.

I am happy to see active members in this group and I am proud to be a part of this community.

Here is the link to Aryan's Blog

Monday, October 15, 2007


When we were expecting our second child, we knew we had to be careful about how to break this into little A's world, since he had been the only child in the family for a good three years. We diligently spoke to him about the new baby and how it would be a great playmate for him, pointed to our own siblings and in general tried to reassure him that it would be a fun experience. The poor kid! First of all, when he came to the hospital the day of the delivery, his visit unfortunately coincided with my being wheeled out of surgery and in a state of general anesthesia-induced oblivion, which really spooked him out. Then, when he saw the baby, his face fell. This mewling, red, tiny little thing was expected to be his playmate/ friend?

He was really disappointed by the baby-ness of the new entrant, and the fact that I had to spend oodles of time with it didn't help, and neither did the fact that I couldn't play with him at the time, thanks to various reasons. He went through his share of tantrums and jealousies over the year.

One of the most rewarding sights to see, however, a year and a half after the baby entered our lives, is them interacting and playing together. Littler a watches her big bro in fascination and imitates everything he does, from sitting on the tricycle to trying to do paltis. And Big brother little a loves to entertain her with his crazy antics and make her laugh. He even insists on pushing her stroller when we go for a walk, hugs her when she cries ( usually when he's snatched back his toy that she has been playing with) and gives her a taste of whatever he's eating ( I really have to watch out when he does that, since many of the things he eats may not be ok for a toddler). My husband, A, took a great picture of them this weekend, which says it all!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dosai Sandwich

Making elaborate meals is easy to deal with, plan a menu and start cooking and most times it somehow comes together alright. Except perhaps when cooking for a crowd when a few recipes that have been tried and trusted simply don't rise to the occasion. But well I was not intending to complain about slips in well planned meals. I was just trying to say that elaborate meals are easier to deal with than getting lunch packed for school that actually get eaten. So...

Always on the lookout for healthy but tasty and easy to eat, a snacky dosai sandwich fit this to T, another item that I often pack to school. Any spread that is a favourite would work be it cream cheese, peanut butter, honey, sugar or podi. One very good thing about using dosai is it does not get soggy like bread.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

1. Dosai batter
2. Idli Podi, ghee
3. Sugar

1. Make Small dosais
2. Spread some ghee on one dosai, sprinkle idli podi or sugar
3. Slap the other dosai on top

Pack it in a lunch box with loads of love and hope it will be all finished when the box gets home in the evening.

Also posted in Daily Musings

OTC Infant Cough & Cold Medicine Recall

[Also posted at my personal blog]
Several makers of OTC (Over the counter) Oral infant cough and cold medicines voluntarily recalled their products. This has created a panic in parents and I have received at least 3 emails from different sources. But the recall has been done voluntarily and is NOT mandatory or a safety recall, which means it is NOT due to a defective product. Here is what I found on a website that has information about Over-The-Counter drug safety:

The voluntary withdrawal of OTC oral infant cough and cold medicines was initiated by the makers of those medications out of an abundance of caution. This is not a mandatory recall or a safety issue.

  • Kids’ OTC cough and cold medicines are both safe and effective when used correctly. Rare cases of overdose from misuse, however, have occurred—particularly in infants less than two years of age.

  • Infants under the age of two are the most vulnerable to the consequences of this misuse.

  • The voluntary withdrawal only affects oral infant cough and cold medications. It does not affect any other children’s medicines.

  • OTC pediatric cough and cold medicines affected by this voluntary withdrawal are listed in the right column of this page, or visit

I think these companies have taken a big, admirable step towards implementing safety where OTC drugs for infants are concerned. I can imagine the financial setback they will experience because this WAS a big market.

I do have a rather strong opinion about what necessitated this recall and maybe I WILL do a post on it - if I get the time. In short, I feel some parents tend to over-medicate children and THAT has compelled these companies to recall their perfectly safe products. It also means a slight inconvenience for parents who turn to these drugs only when totally necessary and at times when it is not possible to get a prescription from a doctor. Oh well. I am ready to go through that inconvenience if it means some other babies will be safer now.

The vadaam tradition

This write-up is for Tharini's theme on traditions this month at DMC. With the festival season in swing now with navarathri under way, I first wanted to do a post on Navarathri and Deepavali, but I changed my mind and I am going to do this post on a slightly different topic – the ‘vadakam/vathal’ (rice crispies) preparing tradition. I don’t know if this officially qualifies as a tradition but this has been something in which everyone in our family were involved in and we enjoyed every bit of it. For people who are not aware of vadakams (vadaams as I call it) – they are deep fried crispies made out of rice flour or sago and have a gorgeous, melt-in-your-mouth taste and they are excellent side dishes with traditional South Indian rice items like lemon rice or puliyodharai. It is also an excellent snack, not very healthy though ;) and it comes second only to pakoda to be enjoyed on a rainy day with a cup of tea. Usually the vadaam season starts in late April or early May before Agni Nakshatram (the time when temperatures peak during the summer). My Paati (Paternal Grand Mom) initiates the preparations and all the ingredients needed like Javvarisi (sago/sabudhana), green chillies, lemon would be purchased and ticked off the list. The veshti (dhoti) on which the vadaams are laid on, are washed thoroughly and dried. My Grand mom used to prepare several different kinds of vadakam – thenkuzhal vadakam, javvarisi vadakam, koozh vadakam are the usual stuff. Sometimes the more exotic varieties like vengaya vadaam (onion vadaam)also feature on the menu.

Before the day vadaams are prepared, Paati instructs me to go to the milling machine near our house and grind the soaked and dried up rice according to the vadaam requirement. She would find a teeny weeny piece of paper, she didn’t like wastage :) and write down in tiny hand writing the exact way in which the flour should be ground. The lady at the mill was very respectful and affectionate towards Paati and she would follow Paati’s instructions very religiously and grind the rice flour exactly like Paati wants. On that day, everyone is usually awake at the crack of dawn and she prepares the dough for the vadaams. Each vadaam requires a different proportion of ingredients and cooking time. I find the vadaam dough absolutely delicious (even better than the vadaam itself) and would eat some when Paati or Amma are not looking :) Paaati prepares all the dough patiently and everyone is ready to go to the terrace at our home by 5 ‘o’ clock in the morning. There the dhotis are laid down and stones are placed in the corners to prevent it from flying. Then the prepared dough is put into thenkuzhal achu (mould) and would be pressed onto the dhoti in neat rows. If it is koozh vadaam then we would just take it in a ladle and pour it in a oval shape on the dhoti. I, my sister and my Mom would press the vadaam onto the dhoti while Paati would supervise. We would place a black umbrella nearby to scare away the crows that come to eat the vadaam. It would take a good two hours before all the dough is finished and laid out in neat rows on the dhoti and the sun would have risen by then. There the vadaams would lie, on our terrace drying up in the sun all day. In the evening we would bring it back and then dry the vadaams a few more times until it is nice and crisp. Of course the best part is eating puliyodharai with the deep fried newly prepared vadaams. Every year we used to look forward to this vadaam tradition though I haven’t done it here in Portland. So vadaam is kind of a rare commodity here and I always ask my Mom or In laws to pack some vadaams when they visit here. Not too bad if I indulge once in a while isn't it?
And here is a picture of the yummy vadaams! The last few pieces left in my stock actually.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Developing Lifelong Relationship...

[posted by Sheela at The Joy of My Life]

... with Food.

Yes, indeed, with Food!

Ever look back on the wee one's infancy days with nostalgia? How easy it was to just pack a bottle or two of formula or breast milk (just in case privacy turned out to be elusive, like at the supermarket), or even just a bottle or two of mush... ummm... I mean, Stage 1 or Stage 2 foods? (Or even just raagi or oats or rice cereal and a bit of juice or water, plus a spoon)?

While it is true that food is a form of nourishment to keep the body and soul together, as many moms know, it can also become a constant point of contention with our wee ones around toddlerhood.

One of the good advices I got from my mom and close family is to never make the dining table (or highchair) a battleground. Food should not add to the child's anxiety. They already have enough to contend with. If gentle coercion fails, find alternate methods. After all, who said parenting was easy? And why should we expect a child, a tiny little entity discovering the world, to understand why broccoli and spinach is better than French fries and pizza every night? Because I said so is not an acceptable answer, at least not for me :)

Another piece of advice that came in handy for me is to encourage independence by putting the food out in front of the wee ones and allowing them to have control over picking and putting the food in their mouths. Of course, once they have the dexterity and co-ordination, that is... (Rather than running behind them trying to shove food in their mouths with the dreaded "Eat this now or else...").

Although I thought this piece of advice was bogus, it actually seemed to have some validity based on some studies at Pennsylvania State University: don't reward if they eat the good food, and don't punish if they reject the good food. Rather, encourage healthy habits by only providing "allowed" foods at all times and staying reassuringly neutral.

There have been ongoing studies on Children's Eating Behavior. As this article in Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics endeavors to show:
The first years of life mark a time of rapid development and dietary change, as children transition from an exclusive milk diet to a modified adult diet. During these early years, children's learning about food and eating plays a central role in shaping subsequent food choices, diet quality, and weight status. Parents play a powerful role in children's eating behavior, providing both genes and environment for children. For example, they influence children's developing preferences and eating behaviors by making some foods available rather than others, and by acting as models of eating behavior.
To meet the challenge of promoting healthy weight in children in the current eating environment, parents need guidance regarding alternatives to traditional feeding practices.

Another article I came across (wish I had bookmarked it) quoted that nutritionist Susan Roberts of Tufts University supports the "Rule of 15″ — parents must set down a food at least 15 times before a child will begin to like it. However, this does not mean we offer broccoli 15 times in a row every meal, every day till the child relents.

This particular Rule of 15, or Rule of 10 more like it in my case, has been true with Ana. I usually offer her what we eat. The first few times I offered beetroot she outrightly refused to touch it. And each time, I tried it with different texture and flavor - say, grated, diced, sliced, sautéed with spices, tossed with lemon juice and olive oil and what-not. Eventually, even though I can't go so far as to say she loves it and asks for it all the time, she at least eats the small serving I offer her these days.

By the same token, if after repeated attempts, the food still stands rejected, then, simply accept it and move on. Since babyhood Ana has disliked sweet potato. I've tried different presentations of it and to this day she still will not eat more than the first bite that I manage with, "Try it and tell me if you like it...just one bite, OK?"

And that could be genetics, per the NYT article I read recently. Apparently, a recent study by Dr. Lucy Cooke in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), managed to quantify the genetic and environmental influence on food neophobia in children. And the results do seem to support that dislike for certain new foods could be genetic.

It was interesting to read that food neophobia (fear of new foods) is an essential and possibly a survival skill: after all, we could not have had many cave babies heading out into the forest and putting anything and everything they found along the way into their mouths and live to tell the tale :)

While it is very tempting to mush down the sweet potato and disguise it somehow and pass it off along with another favorite food, and hopefully feel satisfied that it got into her system, it does not help her learn to like the sweet potato, so I prefer not to do it. If the idea is to get Ana to try new foods and develop a liking for them and thereby establish a lifelong relationship with healthy foods, this strategy of morphing and sneaking it in feels counter-intuitive to me. But, hey, as a mom, if that happens to be my last resort for my undernourished/underweight baby, I'll have to go for it!

Many days, I know I just need to eat for sustenance, but, my favorite pippali rasam and rice with green beans paruppusili seems unpalatable when served 3 times a day for even just 3 consecutive days.

Not because it is not healthy or tasty. Intellectually, as adults we can fathom that much. But, variety is the spice of life. And we eat with more than just the mouth - visual and olfactory senses complete our meal experience.

So, how can I expect to pick a battle with a mere child over this? She barely grazes most days. And sometimes, she sits with us for dinner and within seconds I can tell she will not eat another morsel but she still sits with us at the table till I clear the food away. Except, I save her portion, just in case... And, true enough, some days, she was just not ready even if the clock said so. And when I offer her the saved portion later, she polishes it off...

Anyway, keeping an eye on overall nutrition (instead of balancing every meal), offering healthy food choices and being consistent about it, accepting the fact that certain of our food presentations are going to be rejected and not taking it personally are a few things I have learnt so far, and am sure there is plenty more to learn as Ana grows up :)

p.s: Broccoli happens to be Ana's favorite - it is just a placeholder in this post for the dreaded/hated toddler food - whatever that might be in your case :D

p.p.s: just thought I'd add a note to clarify, after leaving a comment: the point is not to deny certain foods (ex: what we call junk, empty calories) but to restrict and find a balance... how can we help the child develop a good relationship with food so they make healthy choices is what I wanted to get across here :) And there is no easy answer - we can only keep teaching ourselves and our children...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Little crafted box cars

[This post is written by Tharini of Winkie's Way.]

As if Winkie does not have enough train engines, freight cars and track sets, I set out to give him one more. This time crafted from scratch, with the simplest of materials lying around the house. The original idea came in a little weekly craft newsletter. Usually I would glance through them, and since I won't have one or the other raw material at home, I would reject it. But a quick look at the list of stuff needed for this craft and I knew I wanted to try it with Winkie. Take a look at the list yourself. Isn't it simple and easy?

4 matchboxes
Buttons or black stickers
Aluminium foil
Marker pen

Cool huh?

I didn't follow the exact instructions. Once I got a rough idea, I did my own thing.

1. Took out all the little boxes from the matchbox and painted them in different colours.

2. Took a little ribbon and glued the boxes to the ribbon, so all the box cars get connected.

3. Glued on little coloured buttons for the wheels.

4. Cut half a matchbox and glued it on to the first car, so it becomes the engine.

5. You can used scrunched up circles of foil glued on to the first car, and make it the train lights, or use little silver sequins like me.

6. As an additional personal touch, and since I had them at home, I used some alphabet beads I had lying around (I was to make key chains for every member of the family with those, abandoned the idea when R refused to use his!)...and glued them on to the boxcars, named after Winkie and Thambi.

This was the result. In the original idea, they used the matchbox covers as the actual box cars, and the match'box' with the open side up, was laid on top, and filled with little pebbles so it had the total freight car feel. I should do it that way next time.

Winkie does like them, and its easy for him to play with this mini set on the dining table. And for the past 24 hours, he has set aside his Thomas Trains and Salty engines for the simple pleasures of home made goods.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Weaning foods

One of my friends told me about this wonderful weaning food that her sister used to make. Of course, by the time I had my kids, I did not remember the original recipe but I did remember the gist of it, and made this for both my kids. My kids' paediatrician found it a very healthful recipe and has been recommending it to her other weaning mums. This is supposed to be a traditional Karnataka recipe.

Ingredients: 1 cup each
Plain rice
Wheat flour
Moong Dal

Dry roast each of the ingredients and keep aside to cool.
Grind it all into a fine powder and mix to ensure all the ingredients have blended well together.
You can store it in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

When making it for the baby, simply boil with plain water, soup/ veg stock or milk until it becomes a porridgey looking dish. You can serve this plain or add mashed vegetables and a dash of ghee.

Snacks for Kids

This is something I had posted on my food blog, and I am reposting it here, because both the recipes are great for kids. Many of my food memories center around summer holidays during childhood. One of the snacks that we loved the most was Hacchida Avalakki - something that I also began craving when I was expecting my son. I don't know whether it was because he had so much of it indirectly, but this is a favourite dish of my son's too.

Sometime that year, my cousins had come from Dharwad, and one of them had carried a delicious avalakki( poha/ flattened rice) snack which is ludicrously easy to make and low cal too. I often make it and store it during the summer, as it's light, quick to make and enjoyed by everyone.

2-3 cups flattened rice/ poha ( try to get the thinner variety)
1 cup shelled peanuts with the skin on
1 handful curry leaves
2 tsp black mustard seeds
5-6 byadgi chillies ( Karnataka chillies)
1/2 tsp asafoetida (heeng)
1/2 cup dessicated coconut cut into fine slivers
Salt to taste
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp oil

On a sunny day, spread the avalakki out on a clean paper and leave it out in the sun for 3-4 hours. It will get nice and crisp.
In a large bandley (wok), heat the oil.
Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop.
Then add the turmeric, the asafoetida, the chillies and the curry leaves. Fry until the chillies and curry leaves are crisp.
Add the dessicated peanuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin darkens and any exposed bits turn pale brown.
Add the coconut slivers and fry until they turn light brown.
Add in the avalakki, the salt and the pepper and stir to mix everything well.
Store in an airtight jar.
I love the smell of heeng so I tend to add more of it than I've mentioned.

Hacchida Avalakki
1 cup avalakki ( plain poha)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tbsp oil
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
Handful grated fresh coconut
1 cucumber, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
Handful coriander leaves, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime ( or more, to taste)
Salt to taste

In a bandley, heat the oil.
Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop.
Add the avalakki and stir briskly for a few minutes so it turns crisp, and turn off the heat.
Add all the other ingredients, lime juice last, and stir to mix well.
Serve immediately, and eat fast before it turns soggy! Omit the green chillies and reduce the quantity of onions for younger kids. Also, in the avalakki recipe, omit the nuts in case you are worried about allergies.