Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Mother's Day & Living in the Now!

Today as I woke up in the morning - I didn't really want to think about making breakfast, lunch or dinner - I just wanted to lie down in bed and watch my DVRed shows : catch up on Castle, Grimm, Scandal and The Flash and someone bring me a cup of hot cardamom chai and some piping hot dosas and chutney. Yet, I dragged myself out of bed - made waffles for the boys and went for a killer zumba class. Lunch plans are Sausage Hash (Aidell's) followed by a grocery run and then sitting with Krish to prep for his standard tests - it's math next week. I think this is the story of most mothers (working or otherwise) on weekends. The truth is I wouldn't have it any other way...this in reality is Living with Intent for me ( here's my recent blog on LinkedIn on the topic)

Here's a picture of something I cooked for the boys a couple weeks back : it wasn't a special day but we sure made it special with the meal we ate together : Quinoa Salad, Broiled Cod, Sweet Potato Hash, Lobster Cake (for K2, K1 is allergic to all things shell fish) and Roasted Brussel Sprouts washed down with Prosecco (for the adults).



Sometimes life is about living every moment you have with intent and a child-like enjoyment and openness. As I said in my blog post - "I'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow"

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Simple Living : Keep Portland Weird!



A week before it was time for spring break we were trying to zero in on places to visit.

K2's criteria - # plane ride
K1's criteria - # all inclusive resort in Hawaii
My criteria - # can we stay at home and pop popcorn, catch up on DVRed shows and hit hiking trails (go right ahead and judge me ;-) )

We zeroed in on a car trip to Portland amidst some protests from the young one, who still wanted a plane ride and preferably to Legoland.

About 4 years back after I watched Grimm, I fell madly in love with a city and have had a dream of moving there at some point  in my life (umm...and mind you I had never visited Portland). So a vacation to Portland in my husband's mind was a great idea to prove to me that maybe Sunny California is where we are supposed to be settled (he was so wrong :)). So a week before our trip I send out an email to our work email address and the ideas and suggestions I got from these bunch of remarkable people was beyond amazing...we played it by the ear and had a very rough draft plan of our trip in our heads ( Thanks to Air B&B for helping us keep our plans flexible).

So here's how our vacation played out ( I had 4 pings for the itinerary and to say that my head has grown double it's size is an understatement :) )

Day 1 – Our plan was to leave  the house at 11.00 AM we had tire troubles and by the time we replaced our tires and hit the road it was 1.30 PM. We made it to Redding by 5.30 PM . We went directly to the Sun Dial Bridge and it was so worth the detour. We also walked for an hour in the Botanical Gardens and it was a refreshing break. We then drove to Weed, CA - we were at our Air B&B by 8.30 PM and then grabbed dinner at  Hi-Lo CafĂ© (highly recommended)

Day 2 – Woke up to chickens in the Air B&B clucking while we made our plans for the day. We took a hike to Mc Cloud Falls ( we hiked from the lower falls to the upper falls and the hiking trails are steep, so wear good trekking/hiking shoes) and then checked out Mount Shasta and then ventured into the town. The weather was gorgeous so we decided to pick a boxed  Lunch from Maruti (5 star yelp rated vegetarian indian place) and had lunch by the frozen Castle Lake. We started our drive to Portland  at about 2.00 PM (with a stop in Ashland). We reached Portland about 9.00 AM and had dinner at Circa 33 ( a prohibition era themed cocktail bar with fabulous food!). My son felt very grown up having a Moscow Mule sans alcohol while K1 got to audition his first round of hopper brews that Portland is so famous for. The night view of the city and bridges were just breath-taking and I fell just a bit more in love with the city.


Day 3 – We went on an off-track urban/nature hike to get to know beautiful Portland a bit better - it is called the 4T Trail ( oddly enough I was the first to review this trail on Yelp). We started around 10.00 AM at the Pioneer Courthouse (parked in one of the underground garages there), we took the train to the Oregon Zoo and walked to the Columbia Crest where we had a picnic lunch. The views at Columbia Crest are fabulous after which we took the Aerial tram at Oregon Health Sciences Univ.  and then the street trolley - we eventually ended up on a bus to go to the bookstore. Later on we went to Powell Bookstore ( the smell of books...I will hit up a library or a book store just for that smell...)  and had dinner at Pacific Pie . My husband was raving about the local brews, I will have to take his word for it  as I stuck to the herbal tea but I solemnly promise that the pies (savory - roast lamb and chicken burrito pie) and sweet (chocolate hazelnut bourbon) were the best I have had.EVER. We stopped by at Voodoo Doughnuts (totally taken in by the hype) and waited 45 minutes (we are told people wait in line 3 hours) for our pink box - what can I say - the young one was on a sugar buzz and loved his donuts. My husband discovered a new coffee favorite in Dutch Bros ( just sayin - if you love coffee give this local chain a shot, they are great!)


Day 4 – Was a gorgeous day and we decided to drive down the scenic Columbia River Gorge Area and Multnomah Falls. We wanted to devote an entire day to that experience and Boy! are we glad we did - we were treated to gentle breeze, breath-taking views of the river and the water falls kept us spellbound. We proceeded to the Multnomah Visitor Center and initially decided to do the 1.8 M trek up to the Upper Falls - half way to the trek we decided to go all in and see all the five waterfalls hiking - it was a treat, it was hard for the young one, no regrets but if you have children not used to steep climbs avoid the 7.8M loop. We made it down for a late lunch at the Multnomah Lodge (Wild Caught Salmon Burger washed down with a Blackberry Cider...in case you were wondering) and followed it up with some Retail therapy at the Columbia Gorge Premium Outlet Mall (skip if you don’t want to do consumerish things, but no sales tax wow :) ). Dinner was Thai Food from one of the food trucks - Thai Champa (beyond amazing!)



Day 5 – Drove to Crater Lake - this is a must-see place. The drive there is a little scary with oodles of snow and zero cell phone coverage for 100 miles but if you get over it and focus on the beautiful vistas and scenery - you will love it (this was a mini-note for myself - I really get nervous around snow but enjoyed this trip).  We stayed at the Crater Lake Bed & Breakfast, which was 20+ miles away ( the weather was gorgeous) — we made this plan on the day before with constant weather checking. The weather gods were clearly smiling down at us :-)



Day 6 – Another peek at the Crater Lake (we couldn’t get enough) — then  we were off to Winston Animal Safari. We decided to go home after the safari but you could stay a night at Prospect or Medford and do the trek back home in the morning. On our way back K2 captured a beautiful shot of Mount Shasta with the lenticular clouds on top...a fitting goodbye to an eventful spring break.


I have posted reviews of all the businesses and places we visited on this trip on Yelp

I want to end this long blog post with the wise words of Maya Angelou - “Every person needs to take a day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist a day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 

So have you planned your next trip?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Tentative Parenting : What's for dinner Mommy?

"Housework is something you do that nobody notices till you don't do it"

I walk into the house all pumped up on adrenalin - networking at work after work and  being a part of a cool panel definitely added to the excitement

I walk into the house at 7.45 PM and get a hug and a question - the question is one that fills a lot of moms with dread especially on those days when they are bone-tired and all they are looking for is some liquid sustenance (preferably white and fizzy for me - thank you very much!), a horizontal resting place and a TV remote - What's for dinner Mommy? 

And guess what this planner Mom hadn't planned dinner for tonight. So I take 5 for cleaning up and then get to work in the kitchen. Dinner is on the table by 8.15 PM. What's for dinner you ask? Quinoa Pasta - we usually try and keep Monday Dinners (and most other days actually!) meatless. Here's the recipe I used for my Quinoa Pasta  ( I swapped out the Canellini Beans for Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, I didn't use Zucchini, Carrots and Celery (didn't have it) -  used Spinach, Bell Peppers and Green Peas instead!). The drink of choice for the family was Sambazon's Acai Juice.



A sobering piece of statistic that I read over the weekend ( and I am playing my part in enabling it) was this -

  • In 2003, the Bureau of  Labor Statistics reported that :  63 percent of men reported doing some household activity, while 84 percent of women did most. In 2014, the numbers were almost the same, according to the BLS: 65 percent for men and 83 percent for women. 
  • The numbers are more stark in India where I think the percentage is more like 20% men participating in housework to 98% women (these numbers have no basis in any studies but I will wager a bet that my percentages are not far off)
The reality is that the needle hasn't moved much in eleven years - I take my comfort in the knowledge that I am training my son to be an equal partner when it comes to house work. And to the women in the same boat as me I will give you the same advise that I give myself - Prioritize, Plan and (when all else fails) Pray & Improvise ;-)

So what did you cook for dinner Mom?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Good Life with a side of Banana Bread

I watched a TedX "The Good Life" by Robert Waldinger recently (what with 2016 TED happening in Vancouver one must choose to live vicariously). Robert asked a "simple question" what is your most important life goal?   When millennials were asked the question - the top 2 goals were  #1 Getting Rich #2 Getting Famous (move over Oprah, Bill Clinton...)

He talked about a 75 year study done by Harvard on what keeps you Healthy and Happy and the results were breathtaking -

# Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period
#Social Connections are good for us (family, friends and community) Socially disconnected people are, according to Waldinger, “less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.”
# 1 in 5 Americans will report that they are lonely
# It's better to be single than to be in a relationship filled with conflict
It’s not just the number of friends you have … it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.” ( dang - there goes my justification for my 800+ Facebook friends and 2000+ Linkedin friends)
If you want to watch the talk you can here :


So when K2 and I  saw the ripe bananas on the counter today we did a little happy dance, K2 knew there was baking in our very near future. Here's to "the good life" with a made from scratch Banana Bread which will honest to god have you reaching for a second piece (or in the case of my son his 3rd).


BANANA BREAD
Servings: 10 Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 45  minutes
INGREDIENTS:
1½ Cups Bob Red Mill’s Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 Ripe Bananas
¼ Stick Organic Butter
1 cup of Milk or use water  (I used 2% milk)
1/4th Cup Truvia Baking Blend
½ tsp. Salt
1 Large Organic Egg
1 tsp. Baking Powder
4 tbsp.  Walnut Pieces
2 tbsp. Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

DIRECTIONS:
1.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
2.   Combine mashed bananas, milk, Vanilla Extract, Truvia Baking Blend,  egg, and butter together in a bowl. Mix flour and baking soda together in a separate bowl; stir into banana mixture until batter is just mixed. Stir salt into batter. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.
3.    Fold in the Chocolate Chips and the Walnut Pieces
4.    Bake for 45 minutes in a well greased  9*5 Loaf Pan .Run a knife through it, if it comes out clean the cake is done – otherwise bake for increments of 5 minutes.

      Pour yourself a glass of milk and take a big bite of your banana bread. Let's eat and drink to your, health, family and friends (now get off Facebook...I know I will be ;-) )





Saturday, February 13, 2016

Much Ado about Protein : Part Deux

“Whether through grains, beans, or even fruit, there’s plenty of protein in a plant-strong diet.”  
                                      ― Rip EsselstynMy Beef with Meat
I was born and brought up in the South of India ( Madras) and my fall back diet goes back to Dosas, Idli and Adai  - I have over the years tried to tweak these recipes to make them more protein rich and low in carbs. Here is my go-to Adai recipe for the busy week days - seriously easy to get on the table in less than 15 minutes ( I usually make my Adai in the Waffle Maker - 1/2 a minute per Adai)

PROTEIN & OATS ADAI

Servings: 15 Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes
INGREDIENTS:
½ Cup Black-Eyed Peas
½ Cup Green Moong (with skin)
½ Cup Moth Beans or Matki
1 Cup Rolled Oats
¼ Cup Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)
3 Cups Shredded Red Cabbage
1 Onion
Ginger (as per your taste)
Green Serrano Chilies (as per your spice requirements)
Salt, Cumin Seeds and Hing (as per taste)
DIRECTIONS:
  • Soak the first 3 ingredients  and the methi seeds overnight. Add in the oats first thing in the morning
  • Blend all ingredients to Idli Batter in your food processor ( I do this in my trusty Blendetec)
  • Preheat the Waffle Maker( I use a Cuisineart Waffle Maker)
  • Spray the Waffle Maker (I alternate between Spectrum High Heat Organic Canola Oil Spray and the home use Misto Spray filled with Spectrum Oil)
  • Pour a ladle of the Adai Mix in the Waffle Maker
  • Serve hot with the Jhatpat Peanut Chutney 
JHATPAT PEANUT CHUTNEY
Servings: 10 Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes
INGREDIENTS:
1 Cup Raw Peanut
¼ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
8 cloves Garlic
1-2 Sprigs of Curry Leaves
6 Dried Red Chillies (less or more
Hing, Jaggery, Salt and Tamarind (to taste – I usually start with 1 tablespoon Jaggery and  1 tsp tamarind extract ( tamicon) )
 DIRECTIONS:
  •  Roast the Peanuts for 2-3 minutes in the microwave ( careful not to  burn!)
  • Put the hing, curry leaves, cumin seeds, garlic, dried red chillies in a microwave safe bowl
  • Spray with some oil & Microwave for 1-1 ½ minutes (careful not to burn!)
  • Add the peanuts and the spice mix along with salt, tamarind paste and jaggery to the blender
  • Blend with 1/4th cup of water (add more if needed)
  •  Enjoy with the Adai

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cancer Sucks...find the power in pink!

Doctor: “When was your last mammogram?
Me: Umm..never
Doctor: You are over 40, its a good idea to get it done
Me (defensive): I don't think they are that effective and don't they hurt like crazy?
Doctor: I understand, you are afraid but a mammogram is not that big a deal
I procrastinated almost a year and a half and finally a bit sheepish showed up in the hospital for a scheduled mammogram.As I waited for my turn on the squishing machine, there were butterflies in my stomach - I sent panic texts to one likely source of support (N) and one unlikely source of support (M). As the minutes hand on the watch slowly crept past a very kind-looking woman came and took me in for my mammogram - it lasted all of 5 minutes and it really wasn't a big deal...a little uncomfortable but not too bad. The standard  monologue afterwards had me a little shaky - if you do get called in for a follow-up test it ain't a big deal (yeah right!) - but for now let's just assume all is well.
Cancer sucks...and it's affected me (lost my father to it) and close ones in more ways than one - so any reminder about it is not welcome in my world. Yet, as  I looked at the stats, the incidence of Breast Cancer in women far exceeds any other kind of cancer by a wide margin - 810,170 women were detected with cancer in 2015 in the US and almost 1/3rd of it was breast cancer.


So my one call to action for any woman over 40, if you are reading this blog post please, pretty please schedule a mammogram (if you haven't done one yet!)...show yourself a bit of love.

On my way home today, I saw that the Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom...spring is truly in the air. 

And a saying of Martin Luther King ran through my head as I walked into my house - The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Simple Living : A Chai Break...

"Life is like a cup of tea, its all in how you make it"

I am reading a book that attached itself to me in the musty smelling library (love that smell of books!)  - it was called the Handbook to Happiness. One of the things mentioned in it is Happiness comes to people in different ways - for some it is a habit, something that comes to them instinctively. While for others it's something learnt not instinctive and for others it's that elusive unicorn - so close, yet so far away. One thing that the book talked about was reflection and relaxation as a path to happiness-  A Chai Break is my time for that reflection and relaxation.


I usually drink a blend of teas from Teavana - Maharaja Chai Oolong and   Samurai Chai Mate and I add unprocessed sugar rocks to the blend - so that the brew is slightly sweet. Takes me back to India with the cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, ginger and cloves notes...a chai that warms me with it's spices. 

I try and have a healthy snack with my chai - today it was roasted Makhana tossed in Chaat Masala. Roasted/Popped Makhana is something I discovered in India about 4 years and I was
hooked - it's lotus seeds and the taste is almost like popcorn (for me it's way way better!). Lotus seeds or Makhana are a great source of protein and fiber - they are low in sodium and are a recommended snack for folks suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. They have a natural flavanoid called kaempferol which prevents inflammation and aging. They are also high on phyto-nutrients that help fight diseases. In Ayurveda it is believed that Makhana has astringent properties with specific benefits for the kidney. I didn't know about any of these health benefits when I first started eating the popped Makhana seeds...I just thought they were super delish.

So do you take a Chai Break?