Monday, April 10, 2017

Flying the Unfriendly Skies

Travel, in the young, is a part of education; in the older (maybe wiser), a part of experience.

--Some Wise Person



I woke up early and as I was drinking my AM concoction of ACV and Honey with hot water, a piece of news caught my eyes and I watched this video appalled & horrified at the treatment meted out to a United Passenger...

https://twitter.com/JayseDavid/status/851223662976004096/video/1

I used to be one of those people who used to consider my Premier 1K/Star Alliance Gold as a proud badge...every week saw me on a different continent and I absolutely loved flying the "friendly skies" ahem! United being my carrier of choice...a child later, I have to admit I am happy to be off any premier list and usually will get on a flight very reluctantly. Honestly flying has become more cramped, crowded and delayed than ever…seat sizes have shrunk, your baggage allowances have shrunk and the snacks and drinks offered have shrunk…or no longer free, and à la carte pricing at 30,000 feet has become the in thing…a tapas plate with a drink will be $15…thank you very much! Also most times having to deal with grumpy airline staff, rude concierge service and non-existent traveller support systems...and sometimes your fellow travellers make the journey even more tedious...here are some of my observations on travel behaviors (you can add your own in the comments section) -

  • Air Seat Kickers - this is the worst especially on a long haul flight
  • Air Line Talkers - these are the people who just want to keep talking thro' the flight. I usually wear my noise cancelling headset and play some music...this keeps them at bay
  • Air Seat Recliners - this is especially bad if the person in front of you reclines but the person behind you has strategically stuck his knee into the seat, thereby not allowing you to recline
  • Getting stuck in the middle seat even though your initial ticket said Aisle and worse getting stuck between two big people ( happened to me on a flight to Helsinki...15 hrs and counting...ja!)
  • Air Seat Groomers - I have had a woman sit next to me and do a pedicure and manicure...imagine all that action happening in an economy seat...yikes!
  • Air Seat Squatters - they not only hog the armseats, they get their shoes and socks off and are stretching their legs and hands in every direction available
  • Air Seat Alcoholics - yep! I had a person next to me have 5 double shots of whiskey on a long haul before the stewardess very politely cut him off and didn't give him another one...I moved my seats (thankfully, the airline wasn't full)
Above all, jokes and tongue in the cheek remarks aside,  I hope that the older gentleman in the video gets the justice he deserves...



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cinderella Revamped...

“Women are like tea bags — you don’t know their strength until they get into hot water.”
6.45 AM : The prodigal son walks into the room and whispers rather loudly - Ma, I am awake what about you (well! now I am...awake and a little 😩...fighting a stomach bug!)
6.48 AM : Read my work emails and by the time I get to my personal mail , I see an email that my credit card had a $2000 charge at XXXX (hint : one of those retailers that had a huge data breach) which the credit card co. thought looked wrong and they flagged for me....hell yeah! that ain't me....a couple minutes later the credit card co. assured me I was covered and thanking the Artificial Intelligence Gods that ensured that these credit card co. were able to detect anomalies in patterns...I tried to bolster my inner goddess to get ready for the conference that was happening 30 miles away ( the stomach was still not cooperating...)
7.15 AM : Go downstairs and make my son a PBJ (with almond butter and homemade strawberry jam) for lunch and make his hot chocolate and my chai.
7.55 AM : work upstairs and give a time warning shout to the boys downstairs.
8.25 AM : Boys are out of the house, its a mad rush every.single.day...wonder why?
8.45 AM : Ready and out of the house  on the way to the AI conference and then I see the dreaded sign below on my car - more on my car woes in a separate blog 😞


9.00 AM : Retrace my steps back home and call the car service center  (mentally rationalize...I was feeling sick anyway!)

The rest of the morning and afternoon was a blur of activity when all the body wanted to do was rest...calls, emails, work, a zumba class and a trip out to the service center to drop off the car and pick the loaner car, the dinner run...my stomach still fighting it's own battle of will with my mind...

Ironically, it's International Women's Day today and the reality is its no different from any other day -  I would rather have every day be a day where I strive to be a better version of myself, where I would be bold and question stereotypes and status-quo. I will  be "strong" and rescue myself from proverbial hot situations and stretch myself and teach myself something new. In the wise words of the Cheetah Girls in the song "Cinderella" -
I can slay my own dragon
I can dream my own dreams
My knight in shining armor is me
So I'm gonna set me free, yeah
I don't want to be like Cinderella
Sittin' in a dark cold dusty cellar
Waitin' for somebody to come and set me free...

I'd rather rescue myself!


Right now  I am resting my weary self with some "me-TV time" and a  glass of wine (Ice Wine is my libation of choice - thank you very much!) and a slice of cake ( Red Velvet...not vanilla which is Prodigal Son's choice or chocolate which is what Dear Husband demands BUT Red Velvet for the lady of the house!)...and the stomach is feeling a little better (thank you for asking 😎 )...How is your week going?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sunshine in my Bowl!


"The greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow" 

Our area has been blessed with rain, gusts of winds, hailstorm and lightening all week and then suddenly there were rainbows galore. Nothing comforts more than cozying up in the evening to watch my TV shows with a hot bowl of stew. Moreover, the stews that I have been cooking up have been nutritionally kickass. I am following my year end manifesto and one of the fringe benefits has been that I have lost 7 lbs in less than 20 days and no! I am not dieting. Without much ado, here is the recipe.



Smoky Chicken Chili (Kid Approved)
Serves: 4 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 5 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Lb Ground Chicken
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can organic no-salt kidney beans
  • 1 Pack Grandma's Chili Seasoning

PREPARATION

Brown the chicken in 1 tsp oil directly in the Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker, then add in the chili powder and stir for a bit, add in the the can of tomatoes (or in a pinch pasta sauce), after which you can add in the can of kidney beans -  In the Instant Pot Manual High Pressure 20 minutes, In a regular Pressure Cooker 3 to 4 whistles...Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Garnished with cheese, onions and tomatoes - would have also garnished with cilantro if I had it! Really kid friendly - my son had a big bowl of this and sour dough bread for dinner!

Nutrition Specs :  20 grams of Protein and 15 grams of Fiber

How are your healthy resolutions holding up in the new year?

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Year End Manifesto

"Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right"
                                              Oprah Winfrey


 I try...I really try hard to inculcate good food habits (diet) and exercise. This year I have been so focused on living in the moment and being spontaeneous that I have fallen off my "good food habits" bandwagon with some surprising repercussions for me. 


My cholestrol is now out of whack -  when I drill down on the numbers I know what I have to fix  - reduce my LDL cholestrol . I have said Yes! to eating out a lot more this year than the past years, I have been eating white chocolate like there is no tomorrow ( yes! yes! I know 70%+ is recommended...), I have been drinking a lot more white wine ( yup I know Red has all the anti-oxidants) and I have been generally a lot more lax about my eating habits (pizza bring it on, a couple more of those cupcakes should be ok, I will dance it off later...). True, Exercise has been non-negotiable in my life ( and that is reflected in the HDL - good cholestrol going up 14 points this past year) and I have  been working out every single day of the week except Sunday ( I either hike or walk 4 miles on Sunday).

In the words of Dr. Ron Sinha - Indians have unique genetic and cultural issues that predispose us to Type 2 diabetes, abdominal obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and adverse cholesterol numbers -- I want to make sure the odds are in my favor

Here's my  manifesto for 2017 :
  1. Limit "some" high fat foods (no more bonne bouche cheese on a regular basis for me, maybe switch back to 1% from 2% milk and limit whole eggs to 4 a week)
  2. Eat more fiber rich food ( quinoa, barley, oats, apples, beans) - I used to be pretty good about this - it's about falling back into good habits again.
  3. Limit Sugar - this is truely the dagger through my heart ( my secret vice - Lindt White Chocolate Truffles ...how I will miss you!)
  4. Add Apple Cider Vinegar first thing in the morning back to my routine ( what brand you ask - try Bragg's with the mother - can be found in Whole Foods)
  5. Fast one day a week - I pick Thursday ( why Fast? here's the scientific reason why - read here). I have seen my mother and grandmother do it for spiritual reasons in the past on Thursdays and Mondays...so in my mind its a definite double win.
  6. Eat Khichdi at least twice a week ( easy Khichdi recipes with Quinoa are on my blog, if you are wondering how I make it). Khichdi is recommended in Ayurveda as the perfect food to detox your system gently.
  7. Exercise 6 days a week and walk/hike on Sundays
  8. Limit Caffeine ( Tea/Coffee ) to 1 cup minus the sugar per day
  9. Sleep 8 hours a day
  10. Meditate 10 minute in the morning and do Pranayama for 15 minutes in the morning. 
  11. Practice Yoga at least 3 times a week
  12. Eat out twice a week (vs. 4-5 times this year...perspective is a good thing sometimes :) )
In some ways, my reason for putting this on a blog is to hold myself accountable to actually doing this vs. falling off the bandwagon again. Don't get me wrong - I will still eat the delicious desi-chinese at Inchin's or  a turkey burger at St.John's! just not every week :)

It's so true what Hal Borland said that the  - Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.

Hope you have a wonderful break and an amazing 2017 !!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After...

"You cry and you scream and you stomp your feet and you shout. You say, 'You know what? I'm giving up, I don't care.' And then you go to bed and when you wake up the morning after bleary eyed and grumpy - you realize that things remain unchanged"

I sat glued to the idiot box, watching the seas of red and the small splotches of blue - Poof! the dreams of breaking the glass ceiling of politics in the USA and having our first female president - shatters. I gulp down a glass of wine in disbelief and yet another one ( I am a lightweight drinker and the two glasses are enough to give me a pounding headache which is now playing a symphony with my aching back (sprain)...). And I lay my head on my arm and I weep...I weep for myself and I weep for all those women who had dared to hope along with HER. 
Getting up in the morning, the headache is still there - I feel a small tug on my arm and K2 asks me - Ma, is Trump still the President? Will he throw us out of this country?  My heart breaks for my son....the only country he knows is this one...he was born 5 miles away from where we live. I had told him a lot of stories about the country that I had said Good Bye to twenty years back - the country which in my mind  still has ways to go when it comes to equality for women ... and THAT country had it's first woman prime minister in the 1960's --- more than 50 years back. 
I got an email from friends and family who asked me - so what are you telling K2 about the elections? I said - I have no words....all I feel now is intense grief, shock and disbelief in the way things played out. I have always stayed away from expressing my political opinions - my father was in the Civil Services and his career depended on the politics played by the different parties in Tamil Nadu and we had learnt to wear a veneer of detachment ( even though inside there was a seething cauldron!). But today I refuse to hide my dismay at the way things played out...
And here's what I told my 10 yr old son :
  1. We live in a democracy and the majority have spoken. Your Ma is upset because she expected a different result --  and no the new President can't kick you out of this country - there are checks and balances in the system (always!). 
  2. We don't always get the results we want - I gave him the example of his school elections - where he thought he really had the best plan for the school and he lost the elections - the important thing is trying and trying again ( and that's what she did - she believed in this country and she really pushed hard for what she believed was right)
  3. I told him- Let's please  try and make sure we are practicing love and compassion, even for people with different opinions ( the ones who think justice has been served) - so hard right now but we have to try accepting with grace. Doesn't mean we give up and not try to change things ( speaking of which have you SIGNED THIS)
But that is where I left it with my boy and he got it. Your conversation might be a bit different from mine but don't be afraid to show your children that you are not ok with the decision, but you are dealing with it from a place of love and grace and teach them about the meaning of democracy...we have a lot to say about this but let's say it in a way that makes it count.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Diwali or Halloween!

I took a day off today, hoping to make some Mithai for Diwali. Started the morning early with the usual school run routine in the AM ( it never gets old or less chaotic!) and after that went to the post office and posted my ballot (yes! I am with her) and then attended a Zumba class. Something happened in the gym, that had my brain cells work overtime. I go into the class and get to my designated spot in the front (I am very territorial, or I have learnt to be territorial with all the cats in our gym class - OMG they are ferocious about protecting their spots and I have learnt a thing or two from them!!!). I refrain from making eye contact, don't really want to get social here...I want to dance, sweat, get my steps and get out of Crunch....I hear a soft hello and when I turn I see an older woman - with the brightest blue eyes and golden hair smile at me...here's how the conversation went :

Her : I just love your country
Me (thinking in my head) : Huh!
Me (in reality) : That's wonderful
Her : Could you spend some time with me and tell me more about India. I love Tikka Masala and Bhangra
Me (thinking in my head) : Wow! That's stereotyping
Me ( in reality) : Sure! Happy to...

Thankfully the class started and I avoided progressing that conversation and I left before the cool-down song, so no awkward stilted conversations afterward.  I came home and was sipping my adrak wala chai and thinking about this weird exchange and  here is why it felt weird...I have lived equal number of years in India and the US...I gave up my Indian Citizenship over half a dozen years back and pledged allegiance to this country. I am proud of my heritage and yes! I am Indian first but in India I really didn't have roots...in the 21 years that I lived in India, my father got transferred 11 times and no this is not me complaining - I lived a wonderful life...met a lot of people, visited a lot of new places and learnt to adapt to change...but in the process didn't lay down roots. I think the longest I have lived in any place is the 15 years that I have been in the Bay Area...so when one asks about country...the reality is  US feels more like home than India. Every time I go back to India,  the only constant seems to be my parents ( with my dad gone, that familiarity is slowly disappearing). About a decade back the reality is that the phrase "Dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghaat ka" applied very aptly to me...but in this past decade what I have realized is that "the home is where the heart is" and the heart is in US.

This year Diwali and Halloween happen side by side at our place  - we will have the floating ghost right above the Diyas and will make both Gajar Ka Halwa and some Ghoul jello for the young one...because I don't want to pick between Gajar Halwa and Jello and I don't want to label myself Indian or American. I also don't want questions like - so, when are you going back ( yes! had that happen to me 6 weeks back!). My worry is that with someone like Trump being the nominee of the GOP -  racism which was something that always remained in the background in the past is now  coming out with full vengeance front and center of most discussions.

Last question to you my friends - have you voted or planning to vote on Nov 8th? Your opinion matters and your vote can change the course of such discussions in this country.

Note to my friends N and B - Guys! I am making my political affiliations known. So there you have it :)


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Tentative Parenting : The Grass is Greener on the Other Side...

"The grass isn't greener on the other side. It's greener where YOU water "
I am very impressed with K2 - I had blogged his first brush with failure in the 3rd grade in a blog post (Read Here) He had a similar event happen in 4th grade and then in 5th grade he wanted to stand for the Student's council activity director and I had tonnes of unexpressed misgivings - I helped him with his posters (he had most of the ideas) and his speech (mostly word corrections and a couple suggestions from me). He gave his speech on his birthday and was pretty sure he would win - he lost spectacularly !!! I gave him the right lip service - you gave it your best shot dude! You focus on the right actions, don't worry about the results  (courtesy : Bhagvad Gita) . What else can you do as a parent but  be supportive and not molly coddle. However, there was a part of me that was tired of watching him try so hard and lose.
The next day he comes up to me and says : Ma, I am standing for the class rep on Friday! I  made sure none of my dismay showed on my face and I was suitably encouraging ( I laid it out thick on the husband in the night...seriously he lost 3 times and he wants to try again !!!).  K2 worked on his poster and speech and guess what! he WON Class Rep. He taught me a lesson - this child of mine - never ever give up - tenacity, the right intent and right actions always pay off in the end.


Do you remember a blog that I had posted about 4 weeks back - albeit one where I was recovering from a pretty bad viral flu (so some of the things I said don't  make sense even to me ;-) ). But the grass now "grows" green in my beautiful front lawn. I taught my son something with that incident - he now believes that if you stand up strong for what you believe in is right - things will work out in your favor eventually.

I wanted to thank the folks who participated in the heartwalk on Oct 20th. Our team beat our target  for walkers by  8  and our fund-raising goals by $500 - all thanks to you !!!