Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seven Steps to a Perfect Day...and the perfect cutlet

Perfect Day - I ask myself what the hell that is today...a laundry load to fold, homework to finish with K2, sleepless night, headache, lunch box to pack, rush to get K2 to school, a discipline note from K2's school to deal with (don't ask I won't tell)...as I sit in an Yoga class and breathe deeply and focus on nothing...all the mad rush and angst vanishes away and the focus is on the breath and all things good...and  it hits me that the choice to whether my day is perfect or not is up to me. Why Seven...because I like the number seven...this could be thirteen, sixteen or even 2 for you...but ask yourself what makes your day perfect...till you figure it out here is my list :-)
  1. Don't sweat the small stuff : Fancy that advise coming from the master planner who plans, organizes, builds meal plans, weekly plans, budgets, to-do lists and other minutia in life to the nth detail...however truth is I am trying (and to some extent succeeding) to quit sweating the small stuff...the reality that we are really not in control punched me in the face couple times already and I am slowly learning
  2. Listen to Music : As I listen to Pandora Radio ( whether it is the Eagles (Hotel California) or the Carpenters (Top of the World)...or some idiotic tune from Rowdy Rathore), I automatically perk up and the workload seems a lot more manageable
  3. Treat yourself and others nice : I went for a restorative yoga class today and just made myself a hot cup of green tea that I am drinking and munching Nonni's Cinnamon Raisin Thins and it is relaxing.I won't be too hard on K2 ( I took  tv away for 3 days amidst tears, as consequence for the note) 
  4. Goof Around : On Sunday, K2 and I played "Just Dance 3"...we danced the Halloween Dance about 3 times and I lost every time....reason was : my son has danced this song about 20 times at his "choice time" at extended care and is something of a pro at it....I would have danced it a 4th time just to see the sheer joy on his face after he won....and the bonus was I burnt some calories along the way
  5. Do something you love : For me it is different things on different day - today it was about checking 2-3 things off my To-Do list. Yesterday it was about making yummy cheese dosas for my son and listening to his over-the-top praises ....yup! he realizes I am a sucker for his compliments....on Sunday, it was hanging out with my kooky brother and the 2K's and being thankful for it
  6. Help Someone : I was a score keeper...cynical...even with K1 - divide the work equally, not too flexible. I am not saying that I have 100% changed but I am aware and trying...K2 and I were at the farmer's market 3 weeks back and there was this woman sitting on the road with a 2 month old baby asking for help...I bought some bread and gave it to her...the feeling of warmth that came from helping her for no other reason but just because I felt like it...was "priceless" and there was K2 watching and internalizing something from that incident...
  7. Love Hard : Something the master in Kung Fu Panda (yes the cartoon!) said stayed with me -  Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, but Today is a gift. That is why it is called the "present." I still worry, plan and organize...that is an intrinsic nature that I won't let go easy BUT I also value and cherish what I have...the love of family, friends...so don't forget to tell them you love them...and don't worry about tomorrow...coz it will happen the way it has to happen no matter what...
As K2 and I were chatting yesterday evening (he was sitting on the kitchen counter and I was standing making dosas)...I asked him what his favorite food was : he said - Ma, I love your dosas but Aai's (my mother) Cutlets are Delish...so without much ado here is my Ma's Beetroot Cutlet recipe (in Indian cooking cutlet is not a cut of meat...it can be but in most cases it is a vegetarian patty with a huge flavor impact)...this was my go-to dish as a kid and I didn't realize it then....it was fabulously healthy too...(I have done a couple swaps that I will mention and you decide how you want to make it ...with the swaps or my Ma's classic)

You Need :
  1. 2 Beetroots (finely grated)
  2. 2 Carrots (finely grated)
  3. 2 Sweet Potatoes (Boiled - my mother uses regular potatoes, the sweet potatoes make it sweeter)
  4. Fresh chopped Cilantro
  5. 1 medium finely grated onion, small knob of grated ginger, 3 cloves garlic
  6. Secret Ingredient - Roopak Kadhai Masala (don't know where to get that, I don't either -- my sister in law picks it up from Delhi for me OR Use your favorite brand of garam masala)
  7. Panko Bread Crumbs, Egg White for binding 
SWAP : I shallow fry my cutlets in a  pan, my mother used to deepfry them in a deep kadai (I think she shallow fries now too).

What you do :

  1. In a mixing bowl mash the boiled Sweet Potato
  2. Microwave the grated vegetables for 2-3 minutes
  3. In a little oil fry the onions, ginger and garlic
  4. Add the grated veggies and the boiled mashed sweet potatoes, cilantro and the spices. Add Salt ( I usually don't add any chili powder but you can kick it up with chili powder).
  5.  I make oval patties. Dip in the Eggwhite , Roll in Panko Bread Crumbs and Shallow Fry. Serve with Ketchup. 
I usually serve this with a yogurt cucumber dip, a boiled egg (for added protein) and a whole wheat butter toast to make it a complete balanced meal.This is one of K2's favorite foods. He is happy because he gets something  that is crunchy and yummy and I am really happy because he is getting healthy veggies, some hard hitting carbs (from Sweet Potato) and a myriad of nutrients including beta carotene's, antioxidants etc.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Creativity Unleashed : A Doodle and a Poem...

"Vakratund mahakaay, Suryakoti samaprabha, Nirvighnam kuru me dev, sarvakaryeshu sarvada."-
O large-bodied Lord with a curved trunk, you who have the brilliance of ten million suns, I pray to you to always make all my activities obstacle-free."

Yesterday as I was sitting in a looooooong meeting, with my raspy throat feeling generally sick...I started thinking of  Ganesha...Who is Ganesha you ask me? He is my buddy...been by me all the years of my life, I rub his tummy anytime I get anxious or worried and I feel better, I make deals with him all the time (now you know if you see me talking to myself in the car), you might even see him around my house, my car, even my neck (the pendant on my chain) - he is the elephant god....the remover of all obstacles...and my not-so-creative self started doodling ( I even used the Orange, Blue and Yellow highlighters at my desk)...here is what I came up with (and yes I am very proud of it) and I gave it to K2 for safe keeping - Happy Ganesh Chathurthi !

When K2 was born  in 2006, I got 8 weeks of maternity leave and like some new mothers I was both overwhelmed and bored. In the nights I  took to this exciting hobby of blog hopping... During one such blog hop, I discovered a poetry competition that had been organized and I got hooked (JL do you remember?). Every week we were given a couple words and we had to come up with a poem around those words. The words for the first competition were - Changeling…Fury…Paramount…Aphrodisiac…Tantalizing…Shrouded…Weave…Engage...and Empower. I was very creative as a young girl but lost it somewhere along the way...this was my first effort at poetry (rusty with 15+ years of disuse)...

Looking at me with huge longing eyes was this wee changeling...

Standing half drenched in the fury that the skies had unleashed...

Her hair unkempt, her body so thin that the ribs one could count.

I looked away from that barely shrouded picture of poverty...

She showed me a glimpse of a world I did not want to see.
Weaving her way unsteadily to me,
She stared at me...my prosperity a tantalizing bait of things unknown
Yet paramount in her was the need to survive,
Looking in through the windows of my fancy car,
She implored with her expressive eyes..and I drove away...
Leaving behind a trail of dirt.
Money... my ultimate aphrodisiac,
Why should I engage in this fruitless battle with my conscience,
When I could empower my capitalistic self to multiply,
In my world, there is no time for pity....

So there...don't you think this is Creativity Unleashed....well you ain't heard the last of it...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In the Pursuit of Happiness..

Happiness is only 50% preset by genes and the other 50% by our intentions and choices...happiness is within our control, a skill that we can choose to develop. 

I am an unhappy camper today...hit by a myriad of aches and pains...huddled under the comforter, a rasp in my throat, procrastinating on some work stuff...do it today on a weekend or do it tomorrow...workday...it needs to get done anyway...I was surfing movies on Netflix and I reached a documentary "Happy" which seemed like the perfect antidote for my grouchy, grumpy self...

This movie was like Warm Apple Pie topped with rich whipped cream...it started in Calcutta following the life of a rickshaw puller who found happiness in abject poverty from the love of his family to a tour guide in Louisiana whose happiness was in the Bayou trawling in his boat for a glimpse of wildlife, the stillness and the sheer beauty of mother nature...following a 106 year old woman in Okinawa, a single mother in a coop in Denmark....and ending back in Calcutta.This movie was 6 years in making...not whimsical but very deep insightful and thought provoking.

 Here are 7 things that  are my key takeaway from this documentary

  1. Practice Happiness : Don't wait for happiness to come to you...find it in everything you do. As I was watching the documentary, sipping a cup of herbal tea the aches and pains slowly subsided and I had an Aha! moment
  2. Invest in yourself : Find what makes you happy - it could be as simple as a book, a yoga class, lunch with a friend, a good meal...find it and invest the time to do what makes you happy. A Sunday walk in the farmers market makes me happy and I try to take the time to go to the Farmers Market  once a week come rain or shine.
  3. Invest in Community : Whether it is your child clamoring for your attention, a ladies night out, tennis with your neighbor, a dinner with close friends or just ordering out pizza and hanging together...investing time beyond yourself helps expand your sense of well-being and makes you belong.
  4. Rethink Success : Japan is a highly successful country with the dubious title of having the most number of suicides in a developed country...ever thought of why? The movie talked about a young man in Japan who literally overworked himself to his death..."Karoshi" as the Japanese call it...he has a grieving widow in her early twenties and a 3 year old who does not yet comprehend the magnitude of her loss...is success at any cost worth it...or do we as a culture need to revisit our definition of success...
  5. Prioritize Helping Others : My mother in law is a doctor who retired 7 years back. She chose to for the past 7 years to practice at the Ramakrishna Math every day seeing between 25-30 sick people for  free...she has prioritized helping others here and I think in that she has found happiness.  
  6. Practice Gratitude : I got an email a year back from someone close (and yet not so close) saying - Thank You...I was surprised and skeptical (maybe I am not used to someone saying thanks)...however, I remember slowly feeling good as I read and re-read that email...it was a warm ray of sunshine that day...it is not very hard being grateful for all that life has given us...and when you really think about it...life has given us a lot
  7. Become Self-Aware : Self knowledge and happiness are often a parallel journey. It's  pretty simple; happy people do the things that make them happy. As you become happy you connect more closely to who you truly are. Figuring out what you want and what is really important to you will improve your happiness - the key is being authentic vs. faking positivity.
How has your weekend been? We did make a trip to the Farmer's Market - I got a small winter melon, green beans, organic apples, asian pears, white egg plants, brownies, snickerdoodle cookies, 3-seed bread, brown eggs....and yes, that made me happy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Conscious Box & Metamorphosis...

"Any transition serious enough to alter your definition of self will require not just small adjustments in your way of living and thinking but a full-on metamorphosis"

My mind is tired....tired of thinking thoughts it should not be...K2's butterfly garden has flowered...the 5 pupae have transformed to 5 beautiful painted ladies...K2 is ecstatic and I think he has learnt some important lessons in metamorphosis. The hope is as time goes he will understands how this relates to change and transformation in life.

Today I received my first vegan  Conscious Box - Discover the best in the planet every month is their mantra. Compact box...very thoughtfully packed... Here are a couple pictures I took...

the next picture is the welcome card in my box :

 the third picture is of the super cute postcard included in the box : 

Here is a quick run-down of what was in my box :

  1. C3 for Stress : All natural stress relief (how did they know?)
  2. Teecino : Herbal Coffee (French Roast, Hazel Nut, Vanilla Nut)
  3. Funky Monkey - Purple Funk ( this will go in K2's Lunch Box)
  4. Happy Baby : Orange Mango Coconut Milk ( this will go in K2's Lunch Box)
  5. Vaska : Laundry Detergent
  6. Clean Well : Disinfectant Wipe
  7. Purity Cosmetics (2 Lotion Sample)
  8. Artisana : Goji & Milk Thistle Butter
  9. Ancient Minerals (Magnesium Oil)
  10. Hurraw - Coconut Lip Balm
  11. Kelapo : Virgin Coconut Oil Sample
  12. Vega : Pre-Workout Energizer
  13. Madecasse - Chocolate (80% cocoa)
What surprised me was the fact that I had used exactly 4 (Funky Monkey, Happy Baby, Artisana and Madecasse)  out of the 13 items they had sent and knew about 2 (Vega, Clean Well), while the others were all new news for me...I am definitely looking forward to trying the Magnesium Oil and the lip balm and will be packing the Funky Monkey and the Happy Baby in K2's lunch box...Thanks Conscious Box for giving me some "Happy Thoughts" in a week that has been extremely intense....

Saturday, September 8, 2012

An Indian Innovation...

I was sitting on my laptop working. K1 had dropped K2 in school and was getting ready to leave for work, as he was quickly microwaving  his Quakers Apple Cinnamon Oats, he was muttering to himself...

Me : What happened, some weird work email?
K1 : Damn thing is always sweet
Me  (voice going shrill) : Did you just insult me?
K1 : Nahi yaar, the damn oat is always sweet - why don't they have savory Oats or a savory Protein Bar...I am sick of this craze with all things sweet

So I was talking to my Dad that same night...I asked him as usual - what did you have for breakfast Bapa? He said - I had Quakers Masala Oats with peas...I searched high and low for Masala Oats in my Indian Store, in health food stores, even amazon...no luck. When I heard A (let's call him A1) was coming to the US mid month last month, I told my Ma to get me 10 packets of this Masala Oat for K1. My sis-in-law (let's call her A2) got me not 10 but 50 packets of Lemony and Masala Oats. 2 weeks passed by and I hadn't really made the Oats...Bapa asked me multiple times whether I had tried it...(I hadn't for various reasons).
Today when the boys came back from soccer and K1 said - I am hungry is there anything to eat...I whipped up these veggie oats in literally 10 minutes for them.

Vegetable Oats

  • 3 Packets Quaker Masala Oats
  • Chopped Onion, 5-6 Curry Leaves
  • Frozen Peas, Shredded Carrots (Trader Joes)
  • Organic Spinach (Organic Girl)

  1. In 1/2 tsp Olive Oil give  a tadka of mustard and urad dal...add the curry leaves and Onions
  2. Saute till onions are light  brown...add the veggies
  3. Saute for 5 minutes
  4. Now add the 3 packets of Oats
  5. Fry for a minute and then add about 450 ml water
  6. Cook for 3 minutes
  7. Add Tomato Ketchup ( you can add tomatoes in step 2 after the onions are brown if you so prefer)
  8. Serve hot with Dahi (yogurt)
Feeds 2 very hungry people. The serving you see is how much K2 ate...so I am a happy camper.This recipe goes to the event : Healthy Snacks being hosted by  Cuisine Delights

How has your weekend been thus far? Work has been intense - however I have been unwinding with a couple intense cardio kickboxing and zumba classes...I have also been dragging a very reluctant Jinx for a round around the lake...here is a pretty sight that greeted us this Thursday...

I stood by the lake watching this lone pelican dive for fish while Jinx was catching a breath...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seven Habits of Highly Unhappy People

Today has been a good day - a high adrenalin  cardio-kickboxing class, lots of to-do items crossed off at work, dinner cooked ( mung daal with roti ), dinner eaten as a family, son's lunch packed for tomorrow (cheese dosa), one large load of laundry folded (yes, it is important :-)), a long walk with K2 and Jinx along the lake...I am happy. Ironically, I was reading a  newsletter from the BrahmaKumaris of Silicon Valley this weekend and it had an article on the 7 Habits of Highly Unhappy People ( and if you know me you know my obsession with 7...no...then go here and here and here and one of my all time favorites here ...believe me now, ok let's continue :) )...so here I was intently reading the article and feeling in parts sheepish and in parts ashamed...why? simply because everything they said held true in my case...I consoled myself that in the path to learn half the battle is won with awareness...and I am aware now...so maybe I make positive changes...we will see.

Painting Credit :  Botero Fernando 

Here is a gist of the article :

It is  only when we acknowledge that we are 100% responsible for our own happiness that we start to ‘notice’ our actions that create our unhappiness and start to shed the habits that sabotage our contentment and joy.  Here are the 7 habits of highly unhappy people:

Judging: When you judge others you lose your inner peace - constantly trying to understand every action or reaction...even when the other person does not have you on their radar...

Criticising: Criticising is attacking, and somewhere ‘in there’ usually lies anger albeit in a milder form. And when you are angry you are unhappy.

Complaining: Complaining is endemic in some cultures (my desi bandhus  our culture leads this wagon). Complaining signals the presence of distress and therefore the absence of happiness whereas ‘giving feedback’ and ‘making a request’ ensure that there is no discontentment. 

Blaming: Projecting blame onto someone else is not only a happiness killer but usually a habit to avoid responsibility. It’s driven by the perfect combination of anger and fear -- makes me very apologetic for the million times I have turned to K1, my dad, my mom, A, K2 and the handful of close friends I have and used the words - it is your fault

Arguing: Trying to prove we are right, or attempting to make others right, is usually both a tense and grumpy affair. Put my brother A and me in a room together and we will argue ourselves hoarse...maybe we are doing it out of habit...the feeling at the end of any argument one won or lost ain't a good one.

Competing: Most of us have assimilated the belief that competition is good, fun and even joyful. But a glance at the faces of long distance runners, tennis players will show that 99% of the game is played in a state of abject suffering. Occasionally, in the middle of the game or the match, someone will let a little joy slip out, but it doesn’t last long. Competition contains fear by definition, which along with anger, are the sworn enemies of happiness. 

Controlling: Attempting to make others dance to our tune is a demonstration of the belief that others, and not we, are responsible for our happiness.

These 7 of many habits block  happiness from lighting up our life. Many of these habits are second nature to either the culture I was born in and some learnt in the culture I made my own ...or simply unique to my personality. I have been in an introspective mood these past 4 days since I read this article and felt it was a sliver of wisdom meant for everyone...so my friends find your inner peace - your inner source of strength and happiness.