Bedtime, Parenting

15 ways to ask your kids about school 

Starting school is a big milestone for a child as well as the parents. It’s the beginning of your child having a life independent of home and family. Most parents look forward to this big step and almost all parents are anxious to know what their little ones do at school. Parents religiously ask the child what he learnt at school only to receive vague replies, if anything at all. 

What I have learnt over the last couple of years since darling daughter started school is that children get bored answering the same “What did you do at school today?” everyday. If we want detailed answers from them we need to get creative with our questions.

Here are some tips and questions to get your child talking about school and more:

  1. Make it a point to know the names of other kids, all teachers and nannies in your child’s class/school van. With random names ask questions like Did your friend XYZ come to school today? What color was Miss ABC wearing today? 
  2. Did you have fun at school today? When the child answers usually it’ll be accompanied by what made the day fun and vice versa. If not, you can ask what made the day fun.
  3. Did you play any new games at school?
  4. Kids are usually very excited about birthdays. You can ask if any of their friends are having birthdays in the next few days. 
  5. Who did you sit with today? Did you enjoy sitting with this friend?
  6. Did you learn anything new from a friend today?
  7. Did you learn anything new at school today?
  8. Did you learn a new word today?
  9. Did anyone get a timeout at school today? Why did they get timeout?
  10. What was the best part of your day at school today?
  11. Did anything make you sad at school today?
  12. Did you help someone at school today?
  13. Did someone at school helped you today?
  14. What did you play most with today?
  15. What was the best thing your teacher did today?

These work well if asked at bedtime as well since many kids are usually chatty just before they sleep. Don’t go about asking all the above questions in one day, pick a few randomly and play it by the ear. 

Do leave us a note on the tactics you use to get your kids talking. 

-A

Advertisements
Kitchen and food, Recipes

Grilled Paneer

Who doesn’t love Paneer! The creamy crumbly texture of cottage cheese goes well with a variety of flavors and is a treat for the taste buds. Here is a very delicious recipe which is surprisingly easy yet high on taste.

Ingredients :

250 gms Paneer (Cottage cheese)

2 tbsp chopped green cilantro

2 tablespoon Srirancha sauce (a kind of Chinese hot sauce. If you don’t have it use a mixture of chilly flakes and vinegar)

1 tablespoon white Vinegar

1 tablespoon Soy sauce 

2 tablespoon finely chopped spring onion (or regular onion if spring onion is not available)

Salt to taste 

Few drops of oil to brush the pan with 

Method:

1. Cut cottage cheese in medium sized pieces of about 1/2 inch thickness 

2. Add all other ingredients and mix well 

3. Marinate the Paneer pieces in the marinating mixture for about 15 minutes 

4. Heat a shallow pan (I used indian cast iron tawa) and brush it with a little oil

5. Once the pan is hot put the Paneer pieces on it and cook until it’s nicely cooked and crispy from one side

6. Flip the pieces and cook the other side too. On a hot pan it’ll take about 8-10 minutes to cook both sides. 

Your yummy starter/side dish is ready. Serve it with green cilantro dip (Green Chutney) and onion rings. 

Enjoy!!

-A

Kitchen and food, Recipes

Red Chori (Adzuki Bean) Salad

On my last visit to Indian store I picked up a packet of small red beans called Red Chori. I had never seen or heard of them before so did a quick google search to find that they are a nutritional powerhouse.


These are also called Adzuki beans and are quite popular in Japanese and Chinese cultures. Like other beans Adzuki is high in nutritional value – rich in protein, fiber and folic acid. 100 grams of cooked beans contains about 28 grams of carbs, 8 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of fat. Carrying about 1.3 calories per gram, Adzuki beans make a low-energy-dense food, meaning they are a dieters delight!  

In addition they pack good amounts of Potassium, Iron, Phosphorus, Copper, Folate and Manganese and are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. While having a high protein content, Adzuki beans do not contain all of the essential amino acids, making them an incomplete source of protein. It is therefore required to supplement your diet with other protein rich foods. 

Having no previous knowledge of how to cook Adzuki bean, I looked for an easy recipe and came across a Japanese bean salad which I modified to suit my Indian palate. Here is the salad recipe I tried:

Ingredients :

1/2 cup dried red chori beans

1/4 cup finely chopped spinach 

1 teaspoon olive oil 

1/4 cup finely chopped coriander leaves

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 pinch crushed red chilly flakes

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 carrots, thinly grated

Salt to taste

* 1/2 cup chopped green onion (Optional)

* 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (Optional)

*1/2 teaspoon grated garlic (Optional) 

Method:

Soak beans in water for about 8 hours. Drain them and pressure cook with fresh water and a teaspoon of salt. Turn the gas off after 1 whistle. Drain and set aside to let cool completely. 

Combine all other ingredients and gently toss with cool beans to make a salad. 

Enjoy!

– A

 

 

 

Book Review, Books

Karna’s Wife – Book Review 

Mythology was never a genre I paid enough attention to until I read The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Divakaruni. I was highly impressed by the book (read my review on The Palace of Illusions here) and it made me want to read more books on the subject. 

While Mahabharat is full of interesting characters, I found Karna a tad more intriguing than others. He was a good man but he supported the wrong side in the war, he was a noble person but he encouraged public shaming of Draupadi, he was the most generous soul but he craved for his birth mother’s love until the end, he was the greatest warrior but he died a pitiful death. I hoped Karna’s Wife would shed more light on his mysterious personality. The book does that but there are many things I could not digest. 

For starters, the book portrays a larger than life picture of Uruvi, who by the way is a fictional character created by the author Kavita Kane. Since she’s the main protagonist she was everywhere, she was even one of the reasons for the enemity between Karna and Arjun. I understand why the story has to revolve around her but putting a fictional new character in the centre of an epic I have heard and watched umpteen number of times made it sort of confusing.

Quite surprisingly Draupadi is mentioned everywhere in the book too. When Uruvi is having an intense conversation with Bhanumati about Karna and Duryodhan they don’t talk about Draupadi or anything that could be related to her yet the author writes about Uruvi’s feelings about Draupadi and Karna pining for each other. When Uruvi and Karna are relishing family time and talking about Karna’s sons Uruvi brings up Draupadi out of the blue. These frequent and unexpected references start feeling repetitive soon and Uruvi comes across as highly insecure wife thinking of Draupadi and Karna all the time. 

The book has glorified Karna beyond reason. Everything about him has been revered, even his role in the Vastra Haran. What Arjun did, rather didn’t do was shameful but what Karna did was no less. Uruvi’s mother and Kunti both tell her Karna is a better man than Arjun and that’s good enough to stay married to him.

I’m not convinced how someone with a heart of gold can be so spiteful that he forgot all boundaries and dignity. And he’s supposedly in love with the woman he publicly wanted naked!!! What kind of twisted love is that? How can someone glorify this disgusting emotion? How could Kunti of all people say it was OK to call Draupadi a whore because that’s what she is…. Maybe that was the mother in her talking, but I was so disgusted that I almost stopped reading the book. I was as aghast as Uruvi herself and couldn’t buy the logic that because Kunti was called a whore herself its no big deal if Draupadi was called one too.

Because of the same premise I continued to compare the book to Palace of Illusions, I know it’s not fair but I couldn’t help myself. It doesn’t even come close. The language is fine but the author has spelled out every single thing to the readers which I found very annoying, especially because it’s something we have watched, read and heard atleast a thousand times already. For example there was absolutely no need to tell the Arjun and bird’s eye story, she could have just referred to it and moved on with her tale. Similarly few scenes between Uruvi and her parents seem to have more dialogue than required. Overall there seem to be too many words in the book, and considering Uruvi is the central character more than required are written on Draupadi and Karna.

Uruvi’s confrontation with Kunti is the best part of the book. It’s harsh but spot on. Although here also the author has said the same thing in a couple of different ways making her arguments a bit repetitive. 

While the book has its flaws, the author did her research well. I learnt some new things about Mahabharat which is a huge deal given the number of times we have heard the story before. There is a tale about Shakuni’s brothers which tells why he pledged to end Kuru clan, then the story of Duryodhan’s defeat at Dwaitvana and seize by Gandharva King resulting in his fast unto death and some more. 

Despite the lengthy details there appear some gaps in the story –

“Arjuna shot another astra—the Aindrastra—at him. Karna could have invoked the invincible Brahmastra to counter it but he suddenly froze. It was as if he had lost all his ability to think! I tried to distract Arjuna so that Karna could have time to retaliate, but it was futile. It was as if no one stood between them now—it was just Karna and Arjuna.”

So what happened after the Aindrastra was shot but not countered by Karna?? How was he not hurt? 

Kavita Kone writes that Salya was impressed by Karna’s skills the day of his death and had apologized to him, if it was indeed so why did he not help when the wheels were stuck. Kavita Kone hasn’t mentioned Salya even once during the duel between Karna and Arjuna, even though Salya’s behavior that time ultimately lead to Karna’s death.

At some places the book lacked the right emotional balance. Like after the war when the Pandavas visit Vrushali and Uruvi, Uruvi starts naming the six people who deceived Karna and how. The facts she presents and the details she shares make it seem like a well rehearsed speech rather than a mourning wife telling Arjun to not feel guilty of killing his own brother. During the same visit Krishna telling Uruvi why they had to kill Karna the way they had to feels more like another way to sing Karna’s praises and lacks the right emotion given the situation. And why did they say they have come to take Uruvi and her son with them, why not Vrushali? Vrushali was their brother’s wife too!

Overall, it’s a very detailed and lengthy read which didn’t meet my expectations. I feel the book can be edited and made more crisp and enjoyable. If you do want to read it please do that before picking up The Palace of Illusions. If however you have already read The Palace, you should skip this one.

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

-Aparna 

Book Review, Books

Shopaholic To The Rescue – Book Review

Shopaholic series was my first introduction to Sophie Kinsella and boy I was hooked! The first couple of books were so entertaining and addictive that I looked up her other books and over the years read them all. When my daughter was born reading took a deep dive. I was too busy being a mom that I forgot to take time out for reading.

Couple of years later I stumbled upon Shopaholic To The Stars in an in flight entertainment package and it ignited a spark. I had read every other book in the series and adored them all. Shopaholic To The Stars was not a great book but I sort of felt obligated to read it and when it ended with a cliffhanger I had to read the next part Shopaholic to the Rescue too!

Sophie Kinsella created a brilliant character of Rebecca Bloomwood. She’s silly but funny and charming, vain but generous, is extremely spendthrift but has a heart of gold. She is always getting in trouble but with a sweeping stroke of luck she’s not just able to fix everything but also ends up helping someone in a sticky situation. Her stories are shallow but fluffy and heartwarming at the same time. No wonder she was such a hit in print as well as on screen. But by the 8th book Rebecca started to feel more annoying than funny, more stupid than smart and her stroke of luck became all too predictable.

Shopaholic to the Rescue is too stretched and lacks the fun quotient of the earlier books. There were a few times while reading when I questioned myself why I’m reading this book. I do hope Sophie Kinsella doesn’t write another Shopaholic novel because if she does I will HAVE to read it and then I’ll curse myself for not reading something more worthy of my time.

Please avoid if you can. If like me you can not NOT read Sophie Kinsella then I hope you find it more fun than I did!!

I do like to emphasize that I LOVE Sophie Kinsella and would continue reading all her books, its just the Shopaholic series that I have gotten tired of.

If you enjoyed this review and love reading books please join me on The Book Club .

– A

Crafty baby, Parenting

DIY Diwali Craft – Paper Marigolds 

Every year we make Diwali decorations at home. This gives me an opportunity to get darling daughter excited for the festival and spend some more time with her. A decorated house is a bonus that we all enjoy 🙂

Marigold Flowers: 

When I think of Diwali marigold flowers are one of the first things to come in mind – bright yellow, orange and my favorite maroon ones. I do see marigold flowers in farmers market sometimes but their availability on Diwali is highly doubtful so I usually make paper marigolds to use for decoration. Last year I made these. They came out pretty well and looked real. This time I wanted to make marigolds another way just for the sake of trying a new technique. 

Method: Take a paper napkin (already folded in square) and fold it in smaller square. Put 2 staples in the centre in the shape of a plus + sign. Now cut the corners to get a nice round circle. Just do a freestyle cutting rather than drawing a circle and cutting. Make small incisions about 2-3 mm apart on the outside periphery of the circle. Now take each sheet of the tissue and crumble lightly in the center. Continued to do one by one until you finish all. Your lovely fluffy marigold is ready. 

I have used combinations of napkins to make more colorful flowers. You can do that by layering them before folding.

These are very simple and quick to make. I did until step 4 myself and asked my 4.5 year old daughter to crumple them as per step 5. These marigold are flat at the base so can be stuck on a ribbon or used as a rangoli on the floor or table. I have tried with different color combinations. Make whichever color you like best. Stores are flooded with red, orange and yellow colored paper napkins to celebrate fall so you’ll not have any trouble finding the supplies. 

Happy crafting!!

-A

Recipes

Zucchini/Pumpkin Flower Fritters

I hadn’t heard of people eating pumpkin or zucchini flowers until last year. We were planning for a date night for my husband’s birthday and while researching the restaurant I saw pictures of these flower fritters. I was blown away and couldn’t wait to try them. At the dinner I asked the waiter to bring it without looking at the menu and was so disappointed when I was told its a seasonal item and wasn’t available at the time.


This week at our local farmer’s market my eyes lit up when I saw a vendor selling bunches of these beauties. Without wasting another moment I grabbed 2 bunches and secured them in my bag. The whole way home I day dreamed of those fritters I checked out last year and looked up for recipes online. There are a couple of different ones available but I tried one with chickpea flour batter which seemed easy and closest to what I had in mind.

It took all of 10 minutes to clean and get the crispy delicacy on the table.


What you need:

Zucchini/Pumpkin Flowers*

Chickpea Flour

Salt, Pepper to taste

Oil for frying

What you need to do:

Clean the flowers gently in cold running water. Be careful of the small insects hiding inside the petals. Dry the flowers on paper towels. 

Make a loose batter of chickpea flour in water and add salt, pepper to taste. Heat oil in a shallow pan, the oil layer should be about 1/2 inch deep. 

Dip the whole flowers in the batter, gently shake off the excess batter and put in on hot oil. Keep the heat on high throughout and flip gently after a couple of minutes. The flowers will puff up a little and turn golden brown. 


When both sides are nicely golden take them out on a paper towel and serve hot with tomato chutney. You can sprinkle a little chat masala and lemon juice for extra zing. 

Things to note:

  • *If you are using flowers from your own plant, be careful of picking only the male flowers. Female flowers form Zucchini and you will miss out on the fruit if you use female flowers for the fritters.      
  • Cook only a couple at a time, as overcrowding will cool the oil resulting in oily soggy fritters. 
  • Avoid making a thick batter as it will not bring out the flavor and texture of the flowers nicely.
  • If you don’t want to use whole flowers, you can chop them after cleaning, mix in the batter and make flat patties to fry. They taste like Zucchini. 

Like I mentioned earlier this is a seasonal item and is available for a very small window. Because of the short shelf-life you’ll not find them in super markets. Try your local farmers market in August/September and if you are lucky you may be able to find them. 

Happy cooking!

-A

Parenting

Second Child: Falling In Love All Over Again….

The thought of having second child terrified me. I was scared of not loving him enough. Lately I have heard the same thing from many other moms. It’s only natural to feel this way. 

Recently I came across this beautiful piece of writing by a mother who had the same doubts but learnt how easy it is to love your children irrespective of the order of their births. It warmed my heart to read my own feelings put into words, hope you love it as much as I did. 

“So, this is what it feels like to fall in love so hard, all over again….
I loved your dad with all of my heart. He filled up my heart from corner to corner. My heart shined every time I looked at him. I felt so complete.

Then, your brother came along…..
He rattled my heart. He stretched and shook it till I couldn’t breath. He made my heart bigger and settled himself right in, and every time I looked at him my heart skipped a beat. It’s a side effect of having your heartshaken so hard, I guess.
My heart was so full of love for your dad and your brother that it couldn’t possibly fill in any more or it will explode. There’s just no more room.

Then, you came along….
How can this be? My heart…. It’s beating so fast. How can someone so tiny have that much strength to open up my already filled heart and stretched it out even more? I thought I would need a new heart for each one of you. But mine just grew.

You looked up at me, searching…..
I took your tiny little hand and reassured you that all is right and that I would do anything in this world for you. You squeezed my finger and relaxed. I trembled and closed my eyes as my heart grew from out of me and shined on my face with the warmth of its sunrise.

– By Fam Chiem Saechao”

Mundane musings, Parenting

Stop Telling Your Daughter She’s Pretty

Ever since Darling Daughter’s birth, I am witness to people constantly telling her how cute she is. Everyone who met her commented on her appearance, her dress, shoes, hair style. Initially I thought maybe because she’s a baby people didn’t have much to comment on. Soon she was a smart and active toddler. She was a good talker and before long you could have a meaningful conversation with her. Still people continued to compliment on how pretty she looks. It sort of bothered me but I never took it too seriously until Darling Daughter started giving a lot of importance to how she’s looking. She was old enough to understand and smart enough to process that she received more compliments when she looked more girly. As a result there came a time when she refused to wear anything but dresses. She still refuses to tie her hair up because she feels she doesn’t look very nice that way.

I have been guilty of giving such compliments myself. I understand its a habit we get into because our culture expects women to look beautiful before they can be termed smart or intelligent or creative. Media also reinforces these stereotypes. Around an year ago Darling Daughter was watching a cartoon about a dinosaur family she had not watched before. She told me something the Mumma dinosaur said or did and I asked her how she knows it’s the Mumma and not the Daddy dinosaur and my daughter who was all of 3 years that time told me because she has longer eye lashes and pink cheeks!! 

We may think they are too small but they notice the tiniest things. I was so unhappy with the animators. Why did they have to beautify female animals for a show meant for kids? The books of opposites often have picture of a boy with shabby clothes under ‘Dirty’ and a dolled up girl under ‘Clean’. I am yet to see a book that has the reverse pictures.


This is what we are feeding into our children’s minds unconsciously and it’s extremely unhealthy. During my short stint as a Pre-school teacher I first hand saw many little girls’ aversion to paint, sand, mud… Anything that would make their hands dirty. Hardly any boy was concerned about dirt and appearance. It can’t be all genetic, somewhere we are responsible for it.

Seeing how Darling Daughter is affected by so much importance to vanity has made me change the way I talk to little girls now. I have also started requesting family and close friends to tone down their appearance-centric compliments and focus on her other qualities. Whenever she says something about looking pretty or beautiful I tell her that being kind and smart is more important than being pretty. On every possible occasion I drill into her mind that people who are kind and polite always look good no matter what they wear, but people who are not very kind don’t always look nice despite wearing lovely clothes. 

Thankfully Darling Daughter has started to respond, and is getting more open about wearing clothes other than dresses and occasionally tying her hair differently. I’m not against her wearing clips or frocks, but the reason why she makes these choices bothers me. I know how our society expects too much from a woman and I want my daughter to overcome those expectations. I want her to feel comfortable in her skin and not be vain. 

I want her to love her body the way she is and not let anyone define the benchmarks of beauty for her. I don’t want her to look at others for approval where her appearance is concerned. The earlier generations have suffered enough, this generation needs to have healthy self-esteem and body image.

There is nothing wrong in making an effort to look beautiful and to dress well but there is a right time for that. This is her time to run wild, jump in muddy puddles, get her hands and clothes messy doing things she enjoys – not playing Miss Prim and Proper.


-A

Mundane musings

When Your Misery Makes You Happy 


It’s common knowledge that some people derive happiness from others miseries, but do you know that misery can be pleasurable to the one who’s miserable too?

I was introduced to this concept during my graduation. I had a friend who was more like my soul-sister. She was wise beyond her years and knew me better than I did myself. She was also my room mate and we spent lot of time together. There was a time when I used to be very low and sad. She saw me wallow in my insignificant miseries day after day and possibly got annoyed. Having the good judgement that its a sensitive and explosive topic for a discussion, she wrote me a letter telling me how she felt about my situation and the way I was handling it.

In her letter she wrote that misery can also be a source of pleasure and I had become a person who wanted to glorify the tiniest miseries in my own mind so I could feel good and happy. Her words stuck a raw nerve. I read and reread her letter, mulled over her words and concluded that what she said was shockingly true.

Misery is self indulgent. Sometimes people find it hard to let go of things that make them miserable, or make efforts to improve their situation because misery is easy and familiar. Its always the same so you don’t get an unpleasant surprise. Happiness takes effort and can go away as soon as it came. The fall from a peak of happiness can be very painful, misery has no such risk. Happiness is unreliable, misery is more permanent hence comforting. These are few reasons why some people prefer to stay miserable than try to find happiness. 


You may be thinking that I am out of my mind but hey! I did my research. Here are a few snapshots of things people said about their relationship with distress. 

However, I feel there’s more to it than the comfort and security.

  • Sympathy. Even those who vehemently deny needing sympathy fall prey to this pleasure their misery provides. An off-hand remark about how others are better off that you, a perfectly timed sigh or a strong-looking expression goes a long way in making people feel sorry for you which is rewarded by kind attention and acknowledgement of your desolate situation. It indulges your ego in some twisted way. There is a certain addiction in the way people attend to you when they hear about your problems, the way they care for you because they feel bad you had to go through tough times. Most people don’t want to hurt or neglect a person who’s already in pain, while people who have a normal life and are happy are easy to abuse and hurt.
  • Misery makes you feel entitled. You can say that others won’t understand your pain because they haven’t suffered your loss and feel great about bearing it all with a smile. Moreover, there’s nothing special about being happy. It should be the norm, right? But misery, well, now that’s unusual, hence special. Being miserable and having something major to credit it to makes you feel like a martyr, something that separates you from the lesser mortals who are happy or are leading a normal life.
  • Misery is a bailout card. A miserable person can be selfish without feeling guilty. You can get away with hurting others, being rude or jealous because “you are so miserable you can’t think straight”. You can make rude jokes on yourself or compare your situation with another less unfortunate person to highlight your tragedy but no one can dare say anything that remotely reminds you of it, because that would be “rubbing salt on your wounds”. Yea, you are entitled to joke about it because its your tragedy not theirs. 
  • Misery is easy to talk about. Human nature is biased for all things negative. Most people rarely share their joys with others but readily share their sorrows, it is difficult for us to praise someone but easy to criticize, we crib more than we appreciate. I don’t know why that is but sad things are easy to talk about. Don’t believe me? Be conscious of your casual discussions for the next few days (not business talks) and notice that sooner or later the conversations drift to the sad state of society or the poor infrastructure or corruption or another negativity.


P.S. – If you have had a tragedy in your life that you are not able to overcome, my words may seem harsh and I apologize for it. I am not talking about people who are sad , but about those who have started to derive pleasure from it. It is a sensitive topic and has been written only for academic purposes.