Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Toast to Ten Years…




I am in Seattle now; missing the 2 K’s…yesterday was our 10th Wedding Anniversary…also republic day in India. My Bapa’s e-card was poignant – “It seems only like yesterday….” And he is right, memories of too many hair pins holding the fake hair in place, my mother trying to tuck the sari in place with safety pins…the long ceremony (it started at 5.30 AM and went on till noon followed by a break and the reception from 5.00 PM to midnight). Of course, there was a huge earth quake in Gujarat the same day and I had panic emails from my friends in Santa Barbara asking me if all was well on my end.

The first year wasn’t easy, giving up some…compromising some…yet we both learnt to give in…one more than the other :-)…we listened to each other sometimes, we fought a lot…we ate out a lot and lived the American Dream in sunny Santa Barbara (spiked with excellent Mexican food and margaritas). I don’t remember when the ten years have gone by…learning from each other along the way –
  • K1 taught me the importance of exercise
  • I taught K1 the importance of vegetables in a healthy diet ( his definition of vegetables was potato before he married me)
  • K1 taught me the value of “not needing to win every argument” or being right every time
  • I taught him the value of being organized and having a personal To-Do list ( I don’t know what it is with Men, they are perfectly organized at work and perfectly disorganized at home)
  • Most important we knew we could count on each other …this is especially important when your parents and sibling are on another continent.
K2 added another layer of fun and complexity to our lives. I am exhilarated, frustrated, exhausted and proud to be a mother. I think being a mother is an absolute feather in the cap because it is one of the hardest roles I have had to play in life. I am glad K1 is along for the ride – adding balance, rationale and sometimes much needed light-heartedness – I think sometimes I do tend to get too intense. As I hugged K1 and K2 and left for the airport yesterday…I feel Life is full, and at times it does get overwhelming but there is no place I would rather be than with these two guys in my life. So I  toast the 10 years that have gone by…and of course India’s 61st Republic Day…

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Backbends Etc.



It's time for a new work week - 2 hours of Yoga, Household chores, a trip to the farmer's market, one brain-dead Hindi Movie and one very sleepy toddler later...I realize that this weekend whizzed past at rocket speed.
As I was going through my Yoga practise yesterday, when the teacher asked us to do a backbend of choice and I chose to go "Full Wheel"...my mind went back to 5 years back when both my mind and body were afraid.So for me, backbends are very much about getting the body (and mind) to go beyond what it is comfortable with, to boldly go where my body/mind hasn't gone before. The weather has been wonderfully sunny and warm and it felt wonderful walking in the Farmers Market picking up sweet mandarins, crisp apples, heads of cauliflower, bunches of brocolli, a big head of cabbage, a bunch of carrots and a big loaf of marble rye bread...I cooked some, but mostly left the cooking to the MIL. Recharged and Energized, I am ready to tackle this work week head-on...how was your weekend?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Life as we know it...


Life as we know it…
Mercurial…ever changing…transitional
Bringing a mixed bag of chocolates – sweet & bitter

Life has a very interesting way of driving home points it needs to make. Case in point the last 24 hours…I see myself as an observer especially when I am in an airport. I draw into my shell, alert yet not approachable - Reading a book, working on my computer or appearing lost in thought. I observed a group of elderly people who reminded me of “Forrest Gump” walking through the Security…finding excitement in the Security Check…excited over an Aunt Annie’s Pretzel…they were from a “special needs home” and this was their first vacation in 5 years to exciting Sydney.This recent plane ride had been uncomfortable – middle seat followed by a window….and anyone who knows me knows that I need an aisle…so more the need for me to turn inwards. Sitting in my window seat, I see this young person with sad eyes drinking copious amounts of coffee and eating dark chocolate…I wonder what her story is. We get talking and then I find out her story and then I wish I had rather not known…she is flying down to Portland as she found out just this morning that her father (who was only 56) had passed away in his sleep…I see deep sadness, hollowed eyes and gnawing regret that she won’t see him again…I feel helpless…just knowing that I can’t help ease the hurt this stranger is feeling is excruciating…the pain almost becomes personal.

On a personal front, this has been a week of changes. My in-laws are here for the next 10 weeks from India…so life becomes easier and harder all at once. Seeing K2 blossom in their love, while I struggle to maintain the last dregs of my personal space while readily relinquishing the kitchen domain to the MIL…is a lot happening all at once. K1 is in China, so things will be quiet on the home front and manically busy on the work front. Coming to think of it…it’s just Monday night and I feel like it is the middle of the week already (could it be because I spent my entire Sunday in the middle seat of a cramped up airplane, eating glorified finger food they pompously called Tapas while furiously typing away on my computer). Can’t wait to get home and kiss my son good night and put some of these unsettling feelings behind me…

P.S - The picture is the place where Forrest Gump ended his cross country run...


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Parenting is not a rat race...



During a conversation with a friend J (he is European), I learnt of an article in WSJ about "Why Chinese Mothers are superior"...interested in reading the article? click here
While reading the article, I was in part fascinated and in part horrified with what was shared...the woman very proudly discussed the process of turning her children into droids that played perfect music, never did any wrong and got straight A's...never cussed, didn't watch TV. My 4 year old is extremely precocious, opininated, creative and intensely logical ...yet what he is not is constrained in many ways - he is unruly and rowdy. I don't expect him to do homework...I keep a loose routine and he has TV time, he gets choices for meals and plays a lot...I haven't submerged him in a deluge of activities. Am I proud of it or do I think I am a Good Parent? I don't really think about it beyond the fact that K2-

(A)  needs to experience life
(B) needs to create  experiences (both good and bad) for himself
(C) needs to be fearless...yet understand boundaries
(D) needs to find his own strengths...and weaknesses
(E) Most Important - Needs to have fun

I  of course provide positive/negative reinforcement (remember Pavlov) as the situation warrants.
I remember spending a lot of my childhood worrying about declining grades and increasing weight...and a lot of these worries were a reflection of watching my Ma's reaction to the above mentioned two things...yet to be fair, my Ma compared me to the other "brilliant" children around but never really forced me to do something I didn't want to or be someone I didn't want to...yet the pressure was constant.
Given my Indian Background I can understand where this "self-righteous" mother is coming from but I do not agree with her parenting technique. Parenting is not a Law of Absolutes...it is not about us being in control and ensuring that our children turn out a certain way...we socialize our children a certain way, teach them a certain "ethical system" and ensure that they are adequately prepared for dealing with the vagaries of the world, beyond that they are the masters of their own destiny. Amy Chua, the woman who wrote this article on Parenting is a Professor at Yale...and I am amused at her definitive stance...there is nothing definitive or theoretical about Parenting. What works for me might not work for you...its about taking the "bull by the horn" and going through the experience with an open mind.
A fair example - my aunt brought her son up with pretty strict principles...very much like Amy Chua. For a major part of his childhood and college life he was a Straight A student, an eloquent speaker....one day he discovered drugs....twenty years later he mooches off his parents and I am sure she keeps wondering - Where she went wrong?
Parenting...I have realized is hard. I have experienced it first hand for 4 years...however I know a couple things for certain - (a) it is not a competition (b) it is not a rat race
So to Amy Chua I say --- "Hey Madame Professor!  Let the Sleeping Dogs Lie"....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mea Culpa...

Have you ever picked up a movie not expecting much and then getting blown away...with the intent of full disclosure K1 and I have been trying to cut K2's TV time down...however, as I was picking up the organic eggs and yogurt and a chocolate pie my attention was riveted by the redbox vending machine. I went there fully expecting to pick up an action thriller like "Knight and Day" or "Salt" for some mindless entertainment with homemade popcorn...I ended up picking up "How to Train your Dragon". K2 and I have already watched the movie twice in the past 20 hours...the storyline was great...the special effects amazing !!! Mea Culpa! I have already exceeded K2's TV quota for the week...but there was nothing else I would have rather done on a cold blustery Sunday morning, than sit under a warm quilt with a cup of chai, watching the movie with K2.
How has your weekend been thus far? I made my 20 minute Saag Paneer which turned out excellent and a repeat of the whole wheat cheese pizza from the TJ's pizza dough for K2. I went for a 90 minutes Yoga class and my muscles are still complaining...

Here is a recipe for my quick cooking Saag Paneer. Try it and let me know if it worked for you -

Stuff Needed
  • 1 LB Clamshell Organic Spinach
  • 200 grams Paneer (Indian Cheese available in any indian store)
  • 1/4 Carton TJ's Organic Tomato Soup
  • 1 tablespoon Hot Sauce ( I used the really hot hot sauce from "Curry Up Now"...what can I say I hate wasting)
  • 1 small red onion, little knob of ginger and 4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
(A) In a glass container put the spinach in the microwave for 3 minutes
(B) Cut the Paneer into small cubes, put on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and chaat masala. Sprayed with Canola Oil and broiled in the oven for 5 minutes till golden brown.
(C) Fry the onions, ginger and garlic in minimal oil. You decide how much. I added maybe 1/4 tsp.
(D) Blend the wilted spinach with the tomato soup, hot sauce, garam masala and the fried Onion, Garlic, Ginger.
(E) Add the blended mix to the pan and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Now add in the broiled paneer and simmer for another 5 minutes. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Add the salt to your taste.

Enjoy the dish with a warm whole wheat naan or some hot brown rice. This dish is rich in protiens (from the paneer), iron (from the spinach) and has high fiber content.

I will now stop flogging myself over "too much TV time" for the young un and focus on enjoying the rest of my Sunday.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Date with a Food Truck…


I have been known for my love of food…one week it could be Dimsum, the next it would be Japanese Curry, followed by non-stop pho magic…however in the past month I have discovered a new love – Curry Up Now …I have actually followed the truck around based on its tweets for its Tikka Masala Burritos and Kathi Rolls but what has me head over heels in love is their Goat Curry Over Rice…I am a person trying hard to move to vegetarianism and have mostly been successful due to the fact that I am squeamish to handle raw meats of any kinds…so besides the dino bites chicken nuggets or pre-made chicken meatballs and the truffle mousse there is not much meat around the house….yet there are times when the call of the meat curry beckons me like a siren calling it’s next prey (see the guilt complex rearing its ugly head…). Why this shout-out for curry up now? Well, here goes – their impeccable customer service despite the brilliant tasty food. They hadn’t publicized their new run schedule, so when I was placing my order, I mock complained that I felt like I was chasing them around…voila! The really nice guy offered me my plate for free….totally unexpected but WOW!

Here is what I have learnt about Product Management from this Food Truck –
(A) Find your target market –You can’t be everything to everyone, so find your “sweet spot” and serve them with singular focus and integrity. Every time I visit this truck, there is usually a long line waiting in anticipation. There is a reason for it.
(B) Create Demand and maintain quality– If you follow Curry Up Now’s tweets you will know what I mean – they are clear on what is available and they make it sound so amazing, that I want it right then…and the food has consistently been excellent.
(C) Sometimes Less is More – they have an unashamedly short menu…but nothing short of brilliant.
(D) Share Updates (both internally & externally) – These guys are happening – be it on Facebook, Blog Updates or Tweets
(E) Gather Customer Feedback and react – The dude who serves me my food never forgets to get my likes (regular or spicy), asks me how the food was, and in my recent case reacts with impeccable customer service that leaves you flabbergasted…

Psst…a word of advice – you might think that you can handle spice…I know I can handle spice but the spicy is Too Hot to Handle…so take regular and ask for the hot sauce on the side (the hot sauce has Habenaros and Bhut Jholkia – the latter is the hottest chili in the world found only in Assam, India).

Eat,Memory.

Chi Mangia Bene Vive Bene!”…the Italians have a wonderful saying – Who eats well lives well…

I picked up a book from the library this week strangely titled: Eat, Memory. There were some priceless essays on food memories and other passable ones...I won't point out which one was which...if you love food and more importantly if you believe food has a story to tell, you will pick up this book and read it and I am betting some of you will love it.
Some recent food memories involve a relaxed brunch with a mimosa and a frittata…and a toddler who absolutely loves chocolate mousse. Life has been more than hectic these past few days…playing single parent with a full work load is an interesting juggle and yes I have lost my patience more than once…yet K2 has been patient with me. We made cheese pizza (with the whole wheat pizza dough from TJ’s) and it actually turned out pretty good. I made him a version of fried rice with shallots, carrots, cauliflower and grilled salmon and the way he chomped it all up was extremely gratifying…
K1 has given me a book “Strength Finder 2.0” that I have just started reading. Let’s see if there are any new learnings from the book…anyone out there who has already read it…send me your views. Mid week is not such a bad place to be in --- 3 days of hectic running around behind me, now just 2 more days to go and I will be more than ready for the weekend.