Monday, July 27, 2015

Simple Living : Weekend Warriors

"We are driven to achieve, setting ourselves up with lofty goals striving week after week to meet these goals. However, these endeavors don't really nourish our souls completely...when the clock strikes 5.00 PM on a Friday, my mind does a mental hula ...it's time to stretch, work out the cricks in the neck...go for my Zumba class, hang out with my boys, walk the lake and admire the birds, visit my buddies at the farmer's market and concoct a new witch's  brew in my pristine kitchen...Weekend how I love you...you nourish me, nary a care and I always have something to look forward to ...."

When I looked up the definition of a Weekend Warrior - it said - a person who holds a regular job during the week which restricts their ability to party/go on trips/partake in awesome activities, and thus plans epic weekend adventures to compensate. As much variation and quantity of awesomeness is packed into the weekends as physically possible, warranting the rest of the work week to recharge for the next weekend.....SO this definition had me seriously tired. In my definition -  a warrior is a strong person both inside/out, compassionate, disciplined, self-aware,  constantly learning ...happy by themselves and with others...at one with nature.You ask me what makes the Weekend so special -- shouldn't every day be the same for a warrior...sounds great in theory, a bit hard to practice - especially when there are early morning lunch boxes to pack, early morning meetings, fire drills, deliverables, meal planning and cooking, paying bills...just the business of life ...seems to get crammed into the weekdays)

So what makes this Weekend Warrior tick?

#1 Lots of Exercise 

# 2 Nature Walks

#3 Lots of "Us" Time (walks, movie time, BBQ/meals together, xbox dancing). Us time includes our friends (my friend "P" stocked me up on Gongura Chutney, Sambar Powder, another amazing chutney for dosas and Mor Milzhgai...yum!)

#4 Farmer's Market (love the strawberry guy (Jaime), the Pie Lady (Marlee) and of course the egg guy (Ron)

#5 Food ( my killer recipe for the Chana Masala with sweet potatoes to follow)

The 5 "F's" that are integral to my weekends  are - Family & Friends, Fitness, Farmer's Market, Food and of course the flora & fauna :-)

How was your weekend? More importantly did you survive Monday?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Simple Living : You are not alone!

"One in 10 people will deal with depression at some point in their life"



I have spent the last couple weeks : a little uneasy, overwhelmed, anxious, extremely fatigued (the word to use is bone-tired) and feeling like there was a dark cloud over my head. If you know me - you know *that's just not me*...so after a couple weeks or so of feeling that way and trying my usual repertoire of tricks -  positive reaffirmation, nature walks, gym...nothing worked. So I sent an email across to my doctor (gist of it ...sometimes I feel sorry for my doc ;-) )  - I just don't feel like myself.I am feeling out of sorts and blue. She gently reminded me of an overdue blood draw -- so I bit the bullet and got my blood tests done...guess what -- the verdict was severely vitamin D deficient ( D Deficiency causes depression, fatigue, joint and bone pain amongst a slew of other ailments... something we Indians are very famous for). Now I am on high dosage prescription "D" and I feel on top of the world again.

So if you are feeling down and out - remember you are not alone. There are mechanisms to cope...and sometimes like in my case it might be the case of a supplement/chemical (or lack of) - playing havoc in your body.When the going gets hard and you feel really alone...reach out for support (something I didn't do). I talked about feeling different after I found the root cause and fixed the issue (hindsight 20/20).

So this week I made myself a Chia Chocolate Pudding  (vaguely inspired by the Chia Pod - Dark Cacao Noir) just because I wanted to do something nice for "me".



Serves: 2
ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 table spoon  Organic Cacao  Powder( I used the Navitas Brand)
  • 1 table spoon  Organic Cacao Nibs ( For texture and crunch, you can skip - I used the Navitas Brand)
  • 2 Oz Chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup of Almond/coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey ( I added some stevia to make it a little more sweet)
  • Pinch of sea salt (add a pinch of cinnamon if you like cinnamon, I didn't)
PREPARATION
Add to a mason jar (or whatever bowl you are planning to make the pudding in. Whisk all ingredients together. Taste for sweetness. If you want it more sweet add more sweetener of choice. Let it sit in the fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning (it's great on it's own) or you can top it with some berries
Nutritional Insights : Calories per Serving - 300, Carbs - 30 g, Fat - 10 g, Protein - 8 g, Fiber - 11 g 
Chocolate is a huge mood elevator , Chia Seeds give you good fats especially an extra boost of Omega 3, the almond milk was fortified with Vitamin D and the honey helps build immunity - Definitely an easy recipe - that was great to taste and definitely good for you.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Simple Living : Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani

Coke Peete, Whiskey Peete,
Bhool Gaye Nimbu Paani
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani

Burger Khate, Pizza Chabate,
Bhool Gaye Dal Roti
Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani

So I got this mail from my manager last week and yes I had already seen this article the day it came out and it had motivated me to sign up for the Heart Study at the South Asian Heart Center  (the same study that I had my husband sign up for a year back)

Now I can hear you ask me -- what the heck are you talking about M? Get to the point. The point is K1  lost a 67 yo uncle to a heart attack on Tuesday (July 7th) and I lost a 43 yo cousin brother  to a heart attack on April 17th  and what this article is talking about is very real - we have an "Indian Heart" and with it comes the travails of an Indian Heart. I am a statistics kind of a girl, so here's what the article tells us -


  1. Indians have a 50-400% higher rate of heart disease  than other populations, regardless of geographic location.
  2. While most people think of heart disease as a “man’s disease", Indian women have an equally high disease rate as Indian men (yikes!)
  3. Being vegetarian doesn’t seem to protect Indians in the same way that it protects those of other ethnicities. Vegetarian Indians have a similar rate of heart disease as non-vegetarians. And maybe I am half glad I am not vegetarian ;-) ...kidding I am still at eating meat just twice a week.
  4. Being slim doesn’t protect Indians, either. Heart disease occur in Indians who have a normal BMI. I worked really hard to get my BMI to 20, so this is depressing !!!
  5. About one half of Indian men who have a heart attack are 50 years old or younger, and one quarter are 40 or younger. Yup #truth
What can you do about it?
  1. Advanced Testing - Conventional diagnostic tests are not enough. Advanced tests offered by the South Asian Heart Center are better indicators of the emerging risk factors (I just had my blood draw this week for the test)
  2. Understanding your RisksIf you are Indian and have high blood pressure, diabetes, an abnormal cholesterol profile, or a family history of  heart disease, or stroke, you may be at risk. 
  3. Personalized Comprehensive Heart Health Plan - Intervention, Medication, Diet, Exercise and Stress Reduction are mostly recommended depending on how your heart health is.
What did I do about it?
  1. Signed up for the heart health workshop (link above) - they run a very comprehensive panel of tests specific to gauge how your heart health is (my Lipid Profile & sugar are better than normal but who knows what is happening inside...better safe than sorry!)
  2. Work out 5-7 times a week (non-negotiable with self)
  3. Read Ron Sinha's book - The South Asian Health Solution (highly recommended)
  4. Wear my fitbit - track my steps and sleep ( thanks Jen for adding me to the weekday hustle -- gets me to move more during the week)
  5. Cook 3-5 times a week at home and brown bag my lunch or eat a very standard lunch  (heart healthy) at the office cafe. I don't make any rice and very little grains (mostly quinoa and barley), lots of lentils and beans. We eat eggs regularly and a lot of veggies and fruits from the farmer's market. We lay off the carbs and stick to low fat on the dairy products.
  6. Practice Yoga and meditate regularly and read the Bhagvad Gita (gives me a different perspective on things...very grounding!) , take long walks with the family
  7. Practice Gratitude - it's so easy to ignore what we have and brood over what we don't. Listing what I have or what makes me smile that day is an easy way to be thankful. Try it - it really works !!!
  8. Zumba every time the blues hit...maybe it's while I am cooking with Pandora blaring in the background...or it's a sweaty class with one of my favorite instructors.
  9. Participating in the American Heart Walk to help promote awareness  around heart health and volunteering for me is "getting back" ...feeling good about myself.
  10. Cook my son's favorite meals - an example below  (Quinoa with Lentils and Beans cooked Indian Style) , Matar Paneer (with low fat paneer), stir fried beans and a whole wheat chapati )



Are you having a great day -- Awesome,
Are you having a tough day...
Place a hand over your heart...it's still beating...
That means there is still hope...give your heart a chance!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tentative Parenting : Inside Out...


I am inside out, outside looking in,
No matter where I go,
I can't escape my skin
I can act cool, I can act proud
No matter where I go, I am still alone in the crowd
Inside Out, On the outside looking in
                                                           --- Tony Emmanuel 

As I was dusting off the cobwebs of sleep today in the last few minutes of Keith's Yoga Class (Savasana always does that to me...) I also mourned the fact to Uma Aunty that I will be taking K2 to watch "Jurassic World" and why couldn't he just watch "Inside Out" -- As kismet would have it my son changed his mind and we ended up watching "Inside Out". After yesterday's incident -- this was just the movie we needed to watch...

What was yesterday's incident you ask? Well K2 went for an Oakland's A's game with his camp - he got a little bit of money to spend at the stadium - long and short of it is he spent it on baseball cards - he got  really good  cards but doesn't really know much about baseball - did some bad trades and the results in the evening yesterday was this -

We had one sad kid at home and lots of water work...he got a lot of sympathy from dad who said the other kid tricked him into the trade... I was a little harder...let him cry for a while and then said he would lose his ipad over the weekend if the waterworks continued...I got the sad look but the water works miraculously stopped...

This movie had me thinking of the situation from K2's perspective :

(a) He was sad
(b) his friend had played a fast con on him ( I begged to differ!)
(c) He had no way to fix the situation

Sadness was the primary emotion here...however as Inside Out made it aptly clear to him and me today - sadness is not just healthy, it is essential for one's existence as happiness. The key is one needs to be comfortable in one's own skin and with one's own emotions....lots to think about BUT seriously pondering one's parenting skills at midnight after a glass or two of white is sub-optimal. So I will quit while I am still ahead.

Any plans for the long weekend? 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tentative Parenting : The little things in life...

"Enjoy the little things in life, for someday you will realize they were the big things."

Today feels like any other day...not that special or a one-off...I got up in the morning, feeling no different, made lunch for K2, got on a couple calls, went to a Yoga class...walked to lunch...attended meetings, picked K2 and spent time with the 3 boys (the 2K's and my brother "A")...yet it was so much more. It was a Birthday...and it was an incredibly memorable one...
# 1 My Ma face timed me to wish me 
# 2 Aura's wonderful message on FB
#3 K1 wishing me  in the AM
#4 Me talking to my grandma in Orissa
#5 The kids in the bus wishing me Happy Birthday
#6 Birthday wishes galore from my family and friends - whatsapp, fb, txt messages, voice messages (feeling so special and loved!)
#7 My Yoga teacher  Keith threw in 2 of my favorite poses - Kapothasana (Pigeon) and Gomukha Asana 
#8 I got myself vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and Mango Sorbet (that's what I wanted to eat today not the whole wheat carrot cupcakes :-) )
#9 Rashmi took me for an impromptu lunch at the Oracle Cafe
#10 On my way back to my office I saw this elegant bird fearlessly watching and waiting


#11 Dinner with the 3 Boys was wonderful...it was at my favorite Malaysian place....shaved mango ice (yum!)
#12 Wrapping up with a stroll around the lake... 

Someone once asked me - why do you love these birds so much...and K2 told them - it reminds her of Bapa (my father). I think these birds symbolized the life he wanted to lead - free unencumbered by worries, doubts, criticisms, dislikes and judgement.For my 21st Birthday he had brought me back this beautiful "Kiwi" pendant from New Zealand...and every time I wear it, I remember - it's the little things in  the life that count...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Simple Living : Keen on Quinoa


“When you think yours is the only true path you forever chain yourself to judging others and narrow your perspective. The road to righteousness and arrogance is a parallel road that can intersect each other several times throughout a person's life. It’s often hard to recognize one road from another. What makes them different is the road to righteousness is paved with the love of humanity. The road to arrogance is paved with the love of self.” 
                                                     ----A Wise Woman


I was in the Oracle Building 200 Cafe waiting patiently all of 15 minutes for my small bowl of beans and cheese -- sounds unexciting -- well let me correct your misconception -- my lunch is something I look forward to in my mostly uneventful (read: unexciting!) day. I go downstairs and get this bowl of perfection - black beans, quinoa, lettuce, pico de gallo, salsa and cheese and it's a wonderful half hour at my desk with my plate/bowl of goodness.

OK...so I digress -- today was not like most other days -- I usually time my trip to the cafe between 11.00-11.15 AM when I am the only one in line and it's a quick in and out and off to my desk to eat. But today -- I stood in the line virtually counting sheep and people watching...I saw this really interesting Indian Woman standing in front of me - soft voice, soft demeanor (and big gold hoops) and I paid particular attention to what she was ordering...she ordered the brown rice instead of the quinoa...and after I ordered my bowl  -- we started talking and me in my usual steam rollering fashion extolled the virtues of quinoa over rice...in her soft voice - she told me - she is off quinoa. She told me it was because of environmental reasons...I was like is it harmful to the land (clueless! that's me!) -- she goes no - we are stealing the food literally from the mouths of the indigenous people in Peru/Bolivia. It made me feel guilty enough to go and google the issue. Am I going to give up eating Quinoa? Don't know yet -- love me my quinoa way too much to make that decision right this minute (and there's 5 lbs of Quinoa in my pantry that I am not tossing away!)...*head*hurts*

So putting the ethical aspects of  eating quinoa aside I made us for dinner a quick 15 minute Tofu Scramble.


Serves: 4 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped Tomato
  • 1 Pack of Shelled Edamame (Trader Joes)
  • 1 Pack of any brand of Organic Extra Firm Tofu (scramble it)
  • 2 teaspoons masala powder - I used Roopak's  Aloo Kadhai Masala
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

PREPARATION

 Heat oil in large wok over medium heat. Add  onions and sauté until golden brown. Now add the tomatoes and sauté till it's all mushy .  Add the Masala Powder and then add the Edamame and the tofu.  stir  for 5 minutes.  Season with Salt, Cinnamon and Paprika (to your taste, the last 2 are purely optional, I use them). Stir in cilantro. Enjoy with a helping of cooked Quinoa (or brown rice!)
------------------------------------------------------------------
A simple belief  that has been further strengthened by this interaction with woman unknown is : everything that we do and everyone that we meet are put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we're all teachers and we are being taught - if we're willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and keep ourselves open to suggestions and new ideas - we evolve and grow

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tentative Parenting : Sometimes Prioritization is a 4-lettered cuss word!

 pri·or·i·tize - To arrange or deal with in order of importance
Dealing with Engineers and Sales  it had been pretty uncomplicated to negotiate product priorities with the teams. We agreed on some basic tenets (revenue/customer requests, competitive differentiation, architectural improvements etc.)  and the team allowed one person (the product manager) to set those priorities based on those tenets and trusted them to do it right. I tried to apply those same rules to my parenting and it usually works when I am dealing with K2 (alone) and I give him options to pick from -- initially he rebelled and as time passed he understood the importance of options and priorities. Tried to apply the same principle today in the afternoon when I tried to get K1 and K2 to decide on the flavor of cake they wanted baked : K2 loves Vanilla and K1 loves Chocolate...after 1/2 hr of negotiation and them still being at an impasse  - Epic Failure !!!

I gave up and took out my baking mitts and ended up baking both a Vanilla and  Chocolate Cake...with help from the 2 K's - K1 got to the Chocolate Cake before I took my pictures :-(


Serves: 16
ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • Handful of chopped nuts & dried fruits (raisins, hazelnuts, almonds)
  • 1 Cup Mango/Pineapple Puree (or any fruit you wish to add)
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 Cup of Fat free Milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 Cup of Sugar (I used Stevia)
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)  -- for the Chocolate Cake
  • Pinch of Salt to Taste
PREPARATION
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  I stick all the ingredients in my Food Processor and blend to cake consistency. Pour into a round well greased cake pan. Bake 30-35 minutes till  toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Nutritional Insights : Calories per Serving - 120, Carbs - 10 g, Fat - 5 g, Protein - 8 g, Fiber - 3 g