Monthly Archives: January 2013

An Interesting Thought on School Selection

Or rather Parenting. Or both as they go hand in hand.

All these days, I was under the impression that I have to choose a good school for my son. School where he will be exposed to usual academics as well as extra curricular activities and make life long friends. A good school that will ground him, teach him discipline and ensure that he doesn’t fall into bad influence as everyone going there will more or less want the same for their kids.

A senior colleague and a mom who has been through it all, pointed out that school plays a small part in the grand scheme of things. Kids rarely behave badly in front of teachers/ on school grounds. The negative influence and effects of that ‘bad influence’ are experienced outside school when they hang out with their friends – either in their homes, cafe’s or classes – where they can actually spend their pocket money.
And its wrong to think that good school/ marquee school == good friends. Its more important to know who your kids friends are and become friends with their parents. Get to know their parents and what they think is important to them ( money, reputation, latest gadgets, fashion, art etc) to get an insight into how the friend might be brought up. Once you find out parents who share similar values, together (you and the friends parents) can maintain a better control over how your kids turn out.If the 5 – 10 kids your kid hangs out with share similar values and upbringing then negative peer pressure is less(er).

There are less chances of them abusing their free time, pocket money and health.

As a kid, my mom was friends with all my friends mom and it was extremely hard to do anything without all mom’s agreeing to it. So birthday parties, sleepovers, movie outings, classes we attended etc were all regulated if not outright monitored. Who am I kidding – there was at least one parent or teacher present with us all-the-time.
I used to hate it. There were no secrets and all parents knew if something happened.
Even Vipul’s friends and their parents were friends. They still know what happens in our lives.

The more I think about it, its actually a wonderful way to teach kids values and morals and lessons in life-long friendship.So, maybe I should talk to my friends who are in the same boat and get Varun and others to go to same school – so there is a group already and we are a bit safe from the hazards of modern schooling.

Experienced parents  do you agree? Is it more manipulative? Controlling? Eager to hear your thoughts!

Flaky Buttery Pumpkin Biscuits

Pumpkin Biscuits

What do you do when your kid won’t eat his veggies? You sneak them into unsuspecting food items.

For past few weeks, I am having hard time to get Varun to eat vegetables. He used to have peas, bell pepper, broccoli, baby tomatoes etc but nowadays only pasta, rice and chicken are his staples besides milk and fries. Not proud of the last one. The only exception to this is if its something warm and crispy – like cheese paratha or puri’s or if its something novel – like shelling peas and eating them as you go.

So, when I found a recipe to make pumpkin biscuits I decided to go for it. Light and buttery. With no added sugar, and with real pumpkin puree, goodness of whole wheat flour and butter, they are perfect as an after school snack or breakfast. And best of all it can be made easily with no special skills needed. If you can mix, knead and roll dough, you are all set. Cut them up with a cookie cutter and bake them for a quick golden treat. They taste even better with butter slathered on them though I can imagine maple syrup or jam would do the trick as well.

Pumpkin biscuits Perfect with Butter

I must admit Vipul and I loved them more than Varun though he was intrigued by the color and wanted to try the ‘cake’ as he insisted on calling them. He ate a few bites before running away. But he asked for it this morning at breakfast and ate some. Small victories and baby steps!

Fresh biscuits from oven

Pumpkin Biscuits Recipe

Makes about 12 biscuits

  • Whole Wheat Flour – 2 cups
  • Baking Powder – 2 teaspoons
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Ground nutmeg – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ground cinnamon – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Fresh grated ginger – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Fresh cardamom seeds crushed – 1/2
  • Pumpkin Puree – 1 cup
  • Milk ( Or Butter milk) – 1/3 cup
  • Flour for kneading/rolling – 1/4 cup

1. Sift the flour and then add baking powder, salt and the spices. Mix well and then refrigerate for 10 minutes

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C or 400 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

3. While the dry ingredients rest, whisk the pumpkin puree and milk together.

4. Add the pumpkin puree mixture to the dry ingredients and knead well into a dough. again let rest for 5 minutes.

5. Lightly dust the counter where you will roll the biscuits with flour. With a light hand-roll the dough into a 9″ x 6 ” rectangle. Fold into thirds like an envelope. Turn this ‘folded envelope’ by 90 degrees and then roll again into 9″ x 6″ rectangle.

Once again, fold into thirds. Turn again, roll and fold. Just make sure you use a light hand while rolling else the ‘layers’ will squish into each other.

Roll the dough into thirds

6. Now roll this into a flat square about 1/2 ” thick. Use cookie cutter or sharp metal bowl to cut your shapes. As you cut you will hear ‘poof’ as the air comes out of the layers formed.

Form the biscuits

7. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with left over dough. Form the last biscuit with the remaining dough.

8. Gently transfer the biscuits to the baking tray and bake for 15 – 18 minutes.

Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

5 Kids Related Blogs That I Read

I am sure, there are several others (baby center.com being the most widely used), but these are the top 5 blogs that I find myself going back regularly for kid related advice and inspiration.

What else is in your reader? What would you recommend?

1. Parenting Advice: Ask Moxie

http://www.askmoxie.org/

Nursing, Sleep, Discipline, Weaning, Work, Travel, Books and a lot more. She never fails. There is almost always someone who has asked her the same parenting question that I have and I love that I am not alone. Most meat is in the comments section and there are some posts that I have read and re-read so many times that if this was a book they would have been dog-eared at the very least.

2. Food and Nutrition: 100 days of Real Food

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/

Full of recipes for sit down meals, lunch boxes and snacks. Absolutely love this site.

3. Kid Activities and Events: Red Tricycle

http://www.redtri.com/

They share local things to do, make, visit eat with your kids. Love their seasonal events and activities for Seattle. Thy also have local events for other US cities.

4. Decoration and Organization: Family @ Apartment Therapy

http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/family

Organization, Storage, Room Design, Party planning, room tours – oh! this is eye candy. Check it out if you are in for some organization and redesign of your kids room. Even if you are not planning, the site will inspire you to do so. Be warned, this will draw you in!

5. Products, Reviews and Tools: Baby Bargains

https://windsorpeak.com/babybargains/category/baby-bargains/

Used the book, recommend the book and love the online community. They review everything baby gear related from cribs, to diaper pails to mattresses to toys to clothes to car seats to high chairs to even mom gear and kid vacations. If its for kids in US, they have reviewed it, rated it, and given advice on what to buy and what to stay away from.

Eco-Friendly Jobs: Raddi-Wala

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In India, it is common to see folks reading their morning newspapers with their morning cuppa. Some sit on their haunches and read while others nestle on their cushy sofas and read. What do you do with all the old news papers and even magazines once they are read?

Typically, they are stacked and stored till they are sold by weight to a raddi wala ( paper dealer) at the end of the month. Based on the newspapers subscribed, it may be as little 2 kgs to as much as 10 kgs. The raddi wala sorts the papers – Glossy, English, regional, magazines, books etc and then weights each pile. He pays you for the entire lot based on the rate for each type of paper. And off he goes with the entire lot. He sells it to a whole sale raddi wala who in turn sells it to paper recycling plants.

As people are paid for this old newspaper, they save it and recycle it. Good incentive. In Mumbai, you often find these dealers walking around with a weigh scale and a large bag calling our loudly ‘raddi waley’  on Sunday mornings when they know folks are free and willing to spend a few minutes over the old paper recycling business.

Mom used to keep an eye out for the vendor on last Sunday of the month. These guys are territorial and usually you will have the same guy ( or someone from his family) visiting you to collect your old papers. They give better rates to regular customers.

Once he came up to our house, typical dialog ensued.

Kya Bhaav hai  ( What is the rate?)

Bottles bhi lekar jaoge ( Do you take bottles as well? )

And once he started measuring, more questions and warning poured in to ensure they got paid for the paper collected!

Vajan barabar hai na? ( Are the weights correct? ) This is to ensure that they are not tampered with.

Theek se taulo! ( Weight correctly!) This was to warn against cheating.

Once he came around, neighbors would start bring their papers and magazines as well and it soon turned into a mini social affair.

In Hyderabad, we asked our security guard at the complex entrance to send us a raddi wala. We had newspapers and books to give away.

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Meet Mahesh. He has been doing this scrap paper business for several years. He asked me if his nephew and cousin can use the books instead of sending them to a recycling center. He weighed the books and the papers, paid me and within minutes took the entire haul away.

Before leaving, he told me he also takes scrap metal, wood and old furniture for recycling. I took his phone number so we could call him again.

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Varun was fascinated mostly by the scale and the weighing that he wanted to touch it. But when I actually asked him to touch the scale, he was shy and ran away. Well, there is always next time!

Reality Bytes: Ten Months Later

Vipul came back from his 10 day long trip from US and reminded me that its been 10 months since our big move. Wow. The last two months have gone by swiftly. It’s no surprise given that we did a little bit of travelling ( Andaman islands and Hampi) and also met with friends in Lonavala.

We made an impromptu road trip with friends which was exciting as it was our first road trip in our car. We ( as in Varun and the car) fared well  so we are looking forward to more road trips. Luckily, per Times of India,  there are more long weekends this year that 2012 to allow us to explore around Hyderabad!

Over the last couple of months, we have met at least 5-6 other folks at work who have moved back from Redmond to Hyderabad – it is comforting in some sense. One of our dear friends from Redmond, Sushil – Athika  have moved here and we met them over dinner one evening and just chatted – like old times in Redmond.

The best thing that happened in last couple of months was my recent stay in Mumbai – thanks to the relatively easy workload. It was fun being in Mumbai. Familiar places, shops, restaurants, language, mode of transport. I knew where to go, what to do – unlike in Hyderabad where I have to always find out my bearings. It made me wonder if we had moved to Mumbai ( or any city where you have lived in the past) would it have been an easier transition? On one level that would have been awesome but I don’t think Vipul would have loved it one bit. He hates Mumbai, its traffic, pollution and is allergic whenever we visit 😦

Working at IDC

On work front, there have been several changes at Microsoft, including folks moving back, charters changing and new opportunities coming up – some exciting and others ho-hum (IMHO). Some of the charters that moved back were the ones Vipul and I were considering to opt for when we moved so we felt relived that we didn’t choose those teams then. Else, we would be back in US by now without much of a choice.

The trips and dinners with friends and family offer a way to not think about the day-to-day life and just chill. Vipul’s work continues to be crazy. He barely has any energy left to do anything other than plop in front of the TV which drives Varun and me crazy! Varun wants to play with Vipul, Vipul wants to watch TV and I want both of them to leave me in peace for a few minutes – which rarely happens 😉

Life with Varun

On top of that we had to go through Varun’s nasal procedure, change his day care, find a school for him. Its stressful on the school front. Almost every one tells us to enroll him in nursery next year in a school and curriculum of our choice as its easiest to get into in nursery than in later classes.  We were trying to defer this to next year but seems like at least in a couple of schools that we are interested in, we may be in for a surprise if we defer. In fact, I met a little girl on the flight from Mumbai who was about 3-year-old and attends a pre-school in US. It got me thinking that if Varun was in US, I would have probably enrolled him into a structured school there, so shouldn’t I be doing the same here? Lets see, we will think about it for one more week and then decide.

To Stay or not to Stay

Being here for so long, everyone wants to know about our plans. Be its friends, family or colleagues. Some are more discrete than others. Will we stay here? How long will we stay? Will we return back after two years? Will we go back to Redmond or some place else?

Will we buy a house here? Apartment or villa? When will we know when we are ready to commit to India? We have received advice to move back as schooling is better in US, lifestyle is better, savings are better. Yet, we see more and more families moving back here. Sigh.

At face value, all of this makes it hard to want to stay here. But I don’t think things are much different from what would have been in US. Except for less traffic on the roads and more variety of food/ wine, and frequent meetings with friends, things would pretty much have been the same. Additionally, we would have had to do housework and cooking. So yea, some days we are all in favor of moving back and others we want to stay put.

In Two Minds

We are constantly in two minds – which makes it real hard to live in the present and be at peace. That manifests itself in squabbles over little things or in fleeing away from it all. I really envy people who actually had a solid reason to move back to India ( practice a religion, being closer to family and family moving in with them, moving to the same city where they lived and easily adjusting). They have moved on with their lives buying a home, customizing it and enjoying it. Or the ones who realized this is not right for them and moved back.

It takes us months to commit to buying a piece of furniture. Design, style, color, pattern, height, firmness …the reconciliation of what we both agree on takes forever. This is much more complex than that – we have Varun and his future to think about, save for our retirement and plan rest of our lives!

All I know is that whatever we decide, will be binding. We are not moving again after this decision. I had my share of change. I think I am craving constancy now. And a house with a white picket fence. I wish we could make up our mind as well. But it’s so freaking hard!Lets see what choices we make this year – either ways will keep you all posted!

When The Chatwala Comes Home…

Masala Puri

We had street side chaat at home…the chatwala came home, complete with his tokri (basket), stand and made it from scratch at home. Same taste, except this was made with home-made curd and distilled water to reduce contamination/ keep it hygienic. I haven’t had so much chaat in years.

In Vile-Parle, at my cousin’s house, there is a chaat wala who has been making house calls for years. So, when I told them about my week-long stay in Mumbai, we made a plan to call him on Saturday weekend. Armed with puri’s, puffed rice, teekha and meetha cutneys, sev , potatoes, onions and whatever he uses he came over at 8:15 pm.

Chaat wala made a house call

Soon, we had platefuls of bhelpuri’s , pani-puris, dahi puri, sev puri etc. No standing by the road awaiting our turn, no nagging worry about how safe the water is for consumption, no chasing Varun. Varun played while we had an chat-pati evening. Spicy, Tangy and crispy.

Varda enjoying Bhel Puri

Bhel Puri

Chaat wala in action

Sudeep and Abhishek enjoying Pani Puri

Pani Puri

We must have had several rounds of chaat. This was a novel concept. Perfect for small parties or kitty parties. No preparation and minimal clean-up. Once he was done, we paid him, cleaned up a bit and that’s its we were ready for some home-made dessert – phirni. Chat wala doing house call was first for us – you can probably tell by the tone of this post 🙂 Apparently, they also know a dosa guy who makes house calls. We have that already planned for when we visit next!

Phirni

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