Monthly Archives: December 2012

Contemplating A Road Trip To Hampi

“What are you doing about the daycare on Monday? Keeping Varun at home?” Shubhada asked me while I went to grab some tea in the pantry.

Me panicking – ” Why? Is Monday holiday? Is the daycare closed?”

Shubhada – ” Of course – didn’t you see the calendar and the text sent? ”

Slapping my forehead, but of course. We don’t get Christmas Eve as an official holiday at Microsoft but the school and the day care is closed.

So, now instead of staying at home with kids, Shubhada and I came up with ideas to do something together. Our kids are in the same class so they know each other. Our ideas range from spending an afternoon together to driving to a beach. Then we forgot all about it.

Till last night.

And we decided to drive to Hampi. A UNESCO World heritage site, and on banks of Tungabhadra river, Hampi was the last capital of the former Vijanagara empire teeming with grand palaces, monuments and temples. The city was pillaged under Muslim rule and now all we have are striking ruins of the once-magnificent monuments. Here is a Bing images link of what we hope to see.

Hampi is about 380 Kms from Hyderabad. It  takes about 6 – 7 hours to cover this distance. We haven’t done that long a road trip in India. But with Shubhada and Shantanu with us we can make it. So the plan is simple:

Saturday: Drive to Hampi. Stay in Hospet about 12 kms from Hampi.

Sunday: Siteseeing during the day. Chill in the swimming pool in the evening.

Monday: Siteseeing during the day. Chill in the resort in the evening.

Tuesday: Drive back to Hyderabad

Logistics are still being sorted out but hopefully we will find a place to stay soon. And we have to figure out the road : Hyderabad – Kurnool- Guntakal – Bellary- Hospet or Hyderabad – Mahbubnagar- Raichur – Hospet. Also, if restaurants and restrooms are available along the way. Excited!!

Looking forward to a roooad trip with friends 🙂

Rosella Tea and Ginger Cupcakes

Ready to eat

I know what you are saying – cupcakes? After yesterday’s post on healthy snacking? I get the irony.

Why am I doing this to you? In my defense, I ran out of green tea and reached in my tea stash for something else – vanilla chai tea, lemongrass tea, ginger-mint tea, Rosella tea…Wait a minute, I had completely forgotten about this packet of tea from Bali! It would be a perfect with some honey. So off I went to the pantry to get some hot water and sugar as there is no honey in office.

Lovely colour of rosella tea

As the tea steeped, I was charmed by its lovely red hue. The fruity flavor and the red color of the Rosella buds had me at first sip. Immediately I thought this would be perfect in a cake. A fruity pinkish-red cupcake. Weight consciousness be damned!

Tea soaking

I found a few chai-tea recipes (here and here) and earl grey recipes (here and here) but none with Rosella tea. I figured I could conjure one of my own based on these. Steeped tea, few spices to complement the fruity tea, flour, butter and eggs and we should be good to go. I wrote down the recipe that I think would work and tried this at home, making notes where I tweaked it real-time.

Ready to bake

To my amazement, it turned out  to be perfect! Light, delicate crumb, hints of warming spices and flecks of tea and Rosella buds.Except for the red color. They didn’t turn even the palest pink. Other than the vanilla cake like color, I am over the top with the taste and the texture.This is going to be my go to recipe 🙂 Oh, and the house smells heavenly while they are baking.

Ready to eat cupcake

Single cupcake

Rosella cupcakes


Replace with any other tea you have on hand. Don’t like cinnamon and nutmeg? Replace with all spice or cardamom or even lavender. Make the recipe your own and bake them for the Office Christmas party or for school bake sale. Sophisticated enough for adults yet light and fruity for kids. They beg to be made and savored with some hot tea (or coffee).

Vipul was upset when I started making these and I decided that I will take them to work so we won’t eat the entire batch. But one bite, he begged me not to take them to work. And we are almost done with the entire batch. I promise, you wont be able to stop at one!

Rosella Tea and Ginger Cupcake Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup water + 4 bags Rosella tea
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg each
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger (fresh grated)
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup yogurt at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 175 C ( 350 F). Line the cupcake pan.

2. Heat water in a microwave for about 30- 40 seconds and let the tea bags steep in the hot water.

3. Sift and measure all the dry ingredients in a bowl ( flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg). Add ginger and mix well.

4. Cream sugar in butter in another blow till light and fluffy and then add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and yogurt and mix well.

5. Add the sugar-eggs-butter mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well ( or on medium speed of a stand mixer for couple of minutes).

6. Fill the cupcakes till they are 3/4 th full. Bake for 21 minutes.

Let cool before biting into one.

Guilt Free Healthy Snacking Trio

Makhana peanust and murmura

Seriously – this is the time of the year when I start thinking of weight loss, better eating habits and how next year I will try to get back in shape. I guess the Diwali goodies, followed by Thanksgiving dinner, special anniversary dinner and the home-baked goodness bought in by colleagues since Halloween finally take their effect and I no longer fit in my jeans.

This past weekend alone we snacked on dabeli, vada pav, gajar ka halwa and then jalebis, parathe and chocolates. Exercise is the only option but takes a long time for its effects to be visible. In the meantime, at snack time, I crave for something crunchy and fried.

Popcorn used to be my staple in US, but in India I was looking for some interesting alternatives.

trio snacks

Enter – Roasted Makhanas, peanuts and puffed rice.

I had these on Kurnool trip. Ranjana had got these roasted puffed rice and makhanas for the kids and we all nibbled on them.

Makhanas and Puffed rice (or murmura) are popular snacks in India. Roasted and seasoned they are eaten on the go. Luckily, they are widely available across US in Indian grocery stores in largish bags. Dry roasting them in oil or ghee and seasoning them make them crunchier – perfect for that mid afternoon craving.

While they are mostly carb based with about 10% protein (per the package that I bought in India), I added roasted peanuts to the mix to increase the protein. Leave them if you are allergic.

roasted makhana

They are perfect for toddlers as they are bite sized, easy to make , portable and store for weeks in air tight container. Play with seasoning of your choice to keep it interesting. Dig in whenever hunger strikes. They have a satisfying crunch which increases their  snack-factor. Hurrah for guilt free healthy snacking!

Varun snacking

Roasted Makahanas, Puffed Rice and Peanuts Recipe

  • Makhanas – 3-4 cups
  • Puffed Rice – 3-4 cups
  • Peanuts – 3-4 cups
  • Oil or Glee – 2 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Red Chili powder – 2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
  • Fresh ground pepper – 2 tsp
  • Hing ( Asafoetida) – 1 /2 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 – 2 sprigs
  • Salt

1. Half or quarter makhanas if they are big for even roasting.

2. Heat half of oil or ghee in wide shallow pan. Once heated add cumin seeds. Add half of chili and turmeric powder. Add pepper powder. Roast them in oil and then add salt. Finally add makhana seeds. Mix well. Keep stirring the seeds in the pan till they are crisp for about 3-5 minutes.

Take care they don’t char. Remove from the pan and let cool.

3. Add remaining oil and then add hing powder and  curry leaves. Once crisp, add remaining chili, turmeric powder and salt , and then add puffed rice. Roast well till the seasonings mix with the puffed rice.

Remove from the pan and cool.

4. Lastly, dry roast peanuts with their skin on in the same pan for 5- 7  minutes till they are roasted through and crisp.

Remove from the pan and cool. You may remove the skin if you don’t like it. Usually kids don’t.

5. Store separately in airtight containers.

Hanging out with Friends and Family

We had a lively and refreshing weekend get together with friends and family in Lonavla.

A couple of friends are on their bi-annual trip to India from US and after a long back and forth we settled on 16th Dec to meet up in Lonavla. With date and destination fixed we reached out and soon we had others joining in. Some we had not seen in years and others whom we are separated from since our move to India nine months ago.

We met them over two days- had lot of good food ( Kutchi Dabeli and Vada pav), shared updates, ooh-ed- aah-ed over the kids antics and laughed till our bellies ached!

Also, as we were in Lonavla, Vipul’s brother and niece made the trip home to see Varun. My parents, brother and SIL came to visit us as well. Megha and Varun climbed like monkeys on the window grill , gave some milk to the cat instead of drinking it themselves and generally kept their grandmom’s busy.

Big sister

Watching the cats drink milk

With aajis

Climbing up the grill

Varun and Megha played with ‘Talking Tom’ on Aniket mama’s phone.

With mama and his Talking Tom

We met Vinay, Nandu and Ashwin after a long time. You guys rock for driving down from Mumbai to see us 🙂 I am so glad you made it. Seeing you made me miss Redmond even more than ever! It was amazing to see Ashwin try and copy Varun and run around in the front yard.

Bhats and Hingnes

Then Ripin and Rachna came next morning with vada pav, chocolates and cheerios. Soon Kunal, Manisha and Aryan joined us. More stories to share, laughter and another round of vada pav. We met rest of the gang at Kinara restaurant along Mumbai- Pune highway. A perfect location for families to linger while kids play around.



The Doshi’s and Shah’s drove together from Mumbai 🙂 Jekkin and Shailesh – it was great to see you after almost a decade. Oh, your kids are adorable.

Varun was so excited to see so many kids around.

At lunch!More food

We were simply chatting up a storm while the kids ran around, pushed cradles , sat on swings – all in all a fun afternoon.

Pushing the cradle


Aryan and his sweet smile



After hours of chatting, giggling and chasing kids around, and hints from the management, we moved the party to Ripin’s house. After tea we had to make a move to go home and pack for our flight back to Hyderabad. I was surprised how fast the weekend disappeared.

True friends have that effect on you – they make time to visit you and you pick up with them right where you left off , like no time has passed by.Hope Varun is blessed with loving caring friends just as we are !!

Mom’s Sweet and Sour Lemon Pickle

Ready to serve Whenever I have a bad day, am tired or generally feeling down , my go to dinner is to make me some moong dal khichadi and eat it with dollops of ghee and mom’s sweet and sour pickle or devour plain curd – rice with some lemon pickle.


My grand mom and aunt used to provide us jars upon jars of pickles that they would loving make in summer and mature in their attic. Whenever we visited in summer we used to find these typical pickle jars lining the top shelf filled with spicy salty mango, chilies and lemon pickles. Some had pickled garlic and fresh pepper berries. Some had whole mango, others had cubed or grated ones.

We had strict orders not to touch them and let them age so that the flavors would blend in and reward us with their awesomeness a few months later.Lemons chopped up

Like curry, every family has their favorite recipe and its handed down through generations. My mom is particularly fond of sweet and sour lemon but didn’t have the patience to wait for months to let it age. So she has a quick pressure-cooker based recipe that cuts down months to couple of days. It doesn’t require a copious amount of chopping and dicing as she lets a blender do the work. Pressure cooking ( or cooking in a slow cooker for entire day), soften the lemon skins as they are tenderized in the sugar -spice concoction. The pickle is amazing as soon as it is out of the cooker. But let it rest for couple of days before digging in.

Add some sugar and some spice

Of course, everything is better with age and this is no exception. If you can squirrel away a bottle and wait for a month or so, this is pure delight. Makes perfect Christmas and hostess gift given the Meyer lemon season around!

In and out of pressure cooker

Bottled up

Sweet and Sour Lemon Pickle Recipe

  • 15- 20 Lemons
  • Sugar – 1 .5 times the volume of chopped lemons
  • 1/2 cup jaggery – broken in medium-sized pieces
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons red chilli powder

1. Chop and de-seed the lemons. Whirl it through a mixer/ blender till it is roughly chopped but is not all ground.

2. Add sugar, jaggery, chilli powder and salt. Start with smaller amounts of salt and chilli powder. You can add to adjust to taste. Mix well

3. Place it in a pressure cooker taking care that water will not enter this pickle container. Let it cook for 15 whistles. Or for 4-6 hours in a slow cooker.

4. Take it off the heat and cool down.

5. Add more sugar , chilli powder and salt per taste. Mix well.

6. Fill in bottles and place them in a cool dry place for couple of days at least. Resist the temptation to open them up during this phase.

Two days later, enjoy with aloo paratha’s, pohe or simple curd- rice.

Varuns Trip to the Hospital

I was debating whether to write this up or not; but finally decided to go for it. We had very stressful last couple of days since the time the doctor declared Varun has some foreign body in his nose.The actual scheduling of the operation, financial counseling, the fast and the long wait, actual surgery and the post op waking up – was an ordeal.

I have had one surgery in US and it was smooth. I knew what they are going to do to me and when. We knew what to expect. Here other than a number for taking an appointment and a vague idea of the procedure we didn’t know much. I was in too much of a shock to really ask anything to the doctor.

Day before the procedure

After the initial shock of prospect of Varun having to undergo a nasal procedure and more importantly be sedated/ get anesthesia, I read up online and found that it’s not as uncommon as I believed. I mean there are other kids who put stuff up their lil noses.

With that sorted, I called the number to schedule the appointment. Of course it was too early to call them at 9:00 am so we had to wait till 10:30 am when the scheduling guy, Mr D, came to office. Once in office, Mr. D wanted to know about insurance before he would give us an appointment. He told me about hospital package – can you believe it – like a vacation package that includes doctors charge, anesthesia charge, Operation room charges, medicines  and being in the common recovery room for 6-8 hours. I actually didn’t care about the charges. I told him if the insurance doesn’t cover it I will pay for it – just schedule the damn procedure!

My bigger worry was about fasting and how to keep Varun distracted while he was bound to get hungry and want milk at the very least ; and the side effects of anesthesia.

At the end of the day almost around 5:00 pm, after making several calls and back and forth on insurance, we got an appointment for 3:00 pm. With a stern instruction to not to eat or drink after 9:30 am. Okie. It wasn’t gong to be easy.

The evening before the procedure

I had read on parenting sites that kids handle hospitals and surgeries better if they know what to expect. But other than the fasting aspect and sedation and I V, I didn’t know what to tell him without scaring him.

So, I told him that it was a special day when the doctor was going to fix his nose and his cold and for that we all had to fast – which means no milk, no food and no water. He nodded and laughed and went about playing with his blocks. I think I must have repeated it all evening. Before going to bed he said ‘no water, no food – but mama give milk!’

I felt so bad but simply held him while he went to bed.

The morning of the procedure

We woke up by 7:45 am and decided that we will give him a nice breakfast so he won’t feel hungry. But unlike adults, kids don’t eat more than what they are used to and so he ate half a pancake, some milk, and some pomegranate.

By 9:00 am I tried to give him some juice and water but he simply refused.

He was busy playing with his cycle, blocks, pillows that he didn’t miss food till at 11:00 am he asked for water. We tried to distract him with some cartoons. In the car, he asked for milk and even took out the bottle from the diaper bag. Anticipating this we had kept the bottle empty so he knew there was no milk. Again, I reminded him about the fast and distracted him with hoardings on the road. Thankfully he cooperated.

Once in hospital, we were asked to go to the  emergency room for checkup: weight, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure. Varun was irritated with the cuff on his arm but somehow managed to keep it on. The nurse wrote his weight and temperature incorrectly and we had to correct it – and began to wonder what all we would have to watch for that day.

After the check, we went to meet the anesthesiologist. She asked for allergies and Varuns history. In turn, I asked her questions – how will they give him anesthesia ( via IV), do they have pediatric IV’s ( plastic v/s metal – they do have kid friendly baby ones), when will they give IV ( while he is awake), can they sedate him before IV ( she was OK with it), how long before the sedative takes effect ( 5- 10 mins), when will they give sedative ( 30 mins before surgery), side effects of anesthesia and sedative ( nothing major) , and when pressed for side effects ( Said something about taking long to wakeup from anesthesia and irritability then).

I was a bit worried but didn’t really have much of an option.

After the meeting we were asked to wait in the lobby and then get admitted at 1:30 pm.

Varun got hungry and thirsty. Every time he saw anyone pass by with water bottle he asked me for water. It’s so hard to refuse water but I knew if he did drink any we would have to reschedule and go through this ordeal all over again. Somehow we distracted him with other people waiting and tired, he fell asleep. I also slept with him sitting up in the lobby.

In the meantime Vipul went and paid the deposit for the operation’s package. And we waited.

Before the procedure

Promptly at 1:30 pm, we were asked to admit him. We went back to the ER where I waited with sleeping Varun. One attendant came to give Varun IV which I refused. I asked that he be admitted first and given sedative before IV.

Eventually 15 – 20 mins later, we were in a waiting room outside the operation room. The nurse gave him grape flavored syrup which was supposed to make him sleep in 5- 10 mins. Varun was grateful to drink something after the long morning and was asking for more. In 5 mins he was loopy but not at all sleepy. He tried getting up and reaching for cartoon posters and climbing down the chair but his hands and legs gave away and he was like a little drunk bouncing around. I had to hold him tight to prevent any other injuries – but in hindsight it was cute to see him like that giving our big smiles.

His doctor came at 2:45 pm to check on him. I asked him more anesthesia related questions – is general needed or will local be enough? what happens if you don’t find anything etc. He answered briefly and went away to scrub in. Couple of minutes later, the nurse whisked him away to operation room luring him with ice cream.

We were not allowed in.

After the procedure

My heart sank as I saw the double doors close behind him and we were asked to wait outside.

Barely 10 mins had passed when an attendant called us in. I was sure that they were unable to get the IV in or some such. But the doctor stood with a metal tray with 4 thumb nail sized sponge pieces on white sterile gauze. Shock, awe, relief , disbelief swept over as the doctor recounted how they found one piece after another ( 3 in one nostril and 1 in another) and were amused in the operation room. He wondered how it didn’t cause him any symptoms and how we could not have noticed it/ brought him in earlier. I was so ashamed, embarrassed and annoyed at myself for not catching this earlier. What kind of parents are we if we can’t keep tab on our only child??

The doctor left asking us to be careful next time. I guess if we were in Norway, we would be in jail and Varun would be in a foster home. A new low even by our standards 😦

Post Operation Recovery

Happy that it went well, Vipul and I waited for Varun to come out. A few minutes later we heard low earthy moans of ‘mamma mamma’ with the nurses fervent pleas to hold him. I ran to the door and saw Varun, drugged and disoriented, trying to take out the IV and the ID bracelet. He looked scared on not finding us around.

I ran in to pick him up but in that semi awake state he was irritated with the nurses and the restrictions. He wouldn’t calm down till we took out the ID bracelet. He was so agitated that the nurses had to give him more sedative. Those 10 minutes were the craziest part of the day. Varun screaming to remove the IV, couple of nurses trying to pin him down, others trying to give him sedative, yet another trying to tie the IV to a splint around his wrist with tape. Finally I asked them to take off the IV and they begrudging did. They got this giant cotton swab to prevent blood loss and that started another bout of screaming and crying. He simply didn’t like them touching him. Luckily another nurse had sense to get a small cotton ball and I held it on his hand while we waited for the blood to stop flowing out.

After a long time he calmed down and asked to lie down on the bed.

The sedative was finally taking effect – or so I thought. Varun then realized that he hadn’t seen Vipul and woke up agitated asking for Dada. It took few more minutes to calm him down. Then he wanted me to lay on one side of the bed and Vipul on other while he nuzzled between us. The hospital bed was so narrow that we couldn’t fit. That brought a fresh bout of tears.

We moved the bed around so Vipul could sit on another side while I climbed into the bed with him. The nurses were amused but I couldn’t really see a way out. Thankfully they drew the curtain to give us some privacy and dimmed the lights.

I hoped that Varun would calm down but some nurses – doctors were talking on the other side of curtain waking Varun every time with their conversation. By this time I was losing my patience and mentally was on verge of asking everyone to shut up!  Finally after desperate pleas, being hit by  him in the process, and after drinking a bottle of water and another of milk he calmed down.

Within minutes, another patient was rolled in for post operative recovery and the fresh activity aroused Varun. The nurses put the lights back on and woke him up. More whining, crying, begging followed. Fed up, I picked him up and took him to show the other recovering girl. Distracted he began to calm down. Even in this state, he noticed that the girl was crying and repeatedly asked her to ‘not cry’. Don’t cry didi, don’t cry! My baby !

Vipul used the opportunity to pay the bills, collect medicines and leave. We had to pay more than the package price which Vipul was in no mood to argue about.

The sedative that was supposed to knock him out didn’t work at all. Varun felt better once we were in the car. He had more water, paratha en-route. By the time we got home, he was back to his usual self. Playing with the cushions, his car, blocks etc

We were exhausted and starving after a long day. We had some tea and quick dinner and then climbed into the bed to watch TV and just vegetate while Varun continued to play.

I am so glad 12/12/12 was over. It was a memorable day. There is no better way to secure a seat in ‘lousy parents’ camp. The sight of Varun disoriented and groggy, struggling like a chained lion to break free and asking for us is etched in my memory. That’s enough for me to ensure we strive hard we don’t have to go through this again.But with both our childhoods being ‘eventful’ its not going to be an easy task!

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