Friday, April 26, 2013

Do you like me?

"People like people who like them."

It might seem so simplistic...yet at the basic level we do care about what people think about us.  We struggle through the years trying to fit in, work through our perceived and actual complexes and sometimes (very rarely) find  ourselves comfortable with who we changes required. I wish I could say I am there...I think I am 90% there...the journey to self discovery is hard...sometimes a rude awakening, yet in most cases so required.

You cringe because it seems like too deep  a topic for a Friday night when you would rather be sitting with a glass of wine and some spring rolls ( make that Jalapeno Poppers for me please!)...this introspection came because I was reading a book this week with a oh!so!catchy title " How to make people like you in 90 seconds or less?"  Did I learn much from the book....not really but it did emphasize a few things for me that I took for granted...

Part 1 is an introduction about the importance of the first impression. There is an old saying which is true most of the time -The first impression is the last impression. Nicholas says, all you need is to adopt a positive attitude, make sure your words, tone, and gestures are in harmony, and use your gift in organizing your speech to maintain an attractive conversation by using open-ended questions to try to discover what the other person likes. The key take away for me was why should people be interested in you if you are not interested in is not alway the "me" factor.
Part (2) focuses on the first 90 seconds for establishing a rapport. According to Nicholas, the key to establish a rapport with people is to learn how to  like them. It is not about them liking you it is YOU liking them.
Part (3) is talking about the secrets of interactions. I was amazed when I learned that some people rely on visual cues, others on auditory or kinesthetic (touch) input. Apparently, you  should try to discover what the other person prefers and use it to your advantage! I took the exercise to determine what my cue pattern was and determine how to spot the cues other people used...(What? you want to know what mine is...not so the book :) )
What I liked about this book was the fact that -It's not about hiding your actual personality and shamming people into liking is about you making an effort to be positive, read cues and liking the person which in turn would make them like you...good concept right!
I will be the first one to admit I picked this book up for it's title and read it page to page (yeah! yeah! I can hear the snigger)....did I learn anything earth shatteringly deep...not really! However, as I said before it made me aware of a few things that I had been doing in the past which I could do better.
PS :- The photo above is a perfect perfect rose in my garden....Bapa would have loved this one...hope it makes your day just like it made mine...( photo taken on a Nokia Lumia 900...yeah baby! that phone still rocks)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cha Cha Cha with Chia!

So what do you do when the BFF (N)  you are trying to convince that you found this amazing super food  and proudly show off your breakfast parfait to...takes one look at it and says - Eeew...looks gross! A normal human being would sulk, give up the cause...not me. I do more research to find reasons to convince her why she needs to give Chia a chance...

Chia seeds are to 2013 what Kale was to 2012 and Quinoa was to 2011 ( fads do exist). Fortunately both Quinoa and Kale are still very much a part of our family's food habits. Coming back to Chia - According to the USDA, a one ounce (28 gram) serving of chia seeds contains 9 grams of fat, 5 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of protein. The seeds also have 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 27% phosphorus and 30% manganese....chia reduces inflammation, improves heart health, and stabilises blood sugar levels. 

How do we take our Chia?

In a pretty mug - Muesli ( don't know how to make it...go here) + 2 tbspoon plain greek yogurt (chobani)+ almond milk (unsweetened)+Agave nectar+ 1 tbspoon chia seed (buy them at your neighboring Whole Foods from the bulk section). Let it sit overnight....your perfect pick me up morning breakfast. 

Here is another way I incorporate Chia into my daily routine :

So tell me are you going to Cha Cha Cha with Chia....give it a whirl, you just might like it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Friday to Friday...

"Friday to Friday : Make it happen today, we all have choices to make. Make them count, no matter how small"

How quickly the week runs by...not enough time to catch a breath and it is suddenly time to plan for birthday parties, plays and activities...

Last Friday was the first time I cooked in a long ( too focused on grief and other such stuff) and we met R&M and A and his parents - the cooking was minimal but the social aspect of the dinner was spectacular...Saturday was spent quietly, we watched a couple movies (The Factory...ugh!) and K2 watched Life of Pi.

Sunday saw us making the trek down to Oakland...we ate Ethiopian - where else but at - Ethiopia Restaurant

Then we headed over to the Oakland Zoo...where K2 ran into his classmate and we had an impromptu play date...

Work was busy and I cooked at home Monday through Friday....mostly Salads, Soups and Khichidi here are some glimpses....

I managed to go to 4 Zumba and 1 Yoga my yoga teacher said : the intention was always there... we ended off Friday on a peaceful note at the ISKCON temple of Silicon Valley....they were celebrating the opening of the new temple and Ram Navami ( birth of Rama).They had an amazing puppet show, heartlifting kirtans, warm people and mind-blowing prasad...HARI BOL!

Saturday will see us at a birthday party and Sunday will see us at a  children's play in Campbell.  How is your Friday to Friday going...?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fireworks & American Chopsuey...

“What keeps me motivated is not the food itself but all the bonds and memories the food represents."
Bapa was a workaholic ..he spent hours at the Secretariat and when he came home in the late evenings he came with file boxes (called Tabal Boxes in tamil) and  worked while he watched  Raj Kapoor movies. We sat in the same room as him either studying or watching the movie with him. He was messy and disorganized at home ( and the exact opposite at work) wasn't surprising that put him and the clean, organized freak  Ma together and most times you got - Fireworks!

Ma didn't like going out much to eat and honestly we didn't miss eating out much - what with our regular fare being a cut over the regular...sponge cakes, cutlets, samosas, home made pizzas, dosas....amazing Bhajis and Daals...both north indian and south indian. But sometimes (ok I admit it was more like once every week) the cravings struck...all I could think about was American Chopsuey and Garlic Chicken...Please do not confuse my American Chopsuey with the pasta dish that you get here....this is an out and out desi (aka Indian - Chinese Dish)...spicy, oily and hits a spot that no other dish on this universe could.

Coming back to my American Chopsuey every time there were fireworks, Bapa would cart us out and we would walk to our neighborhood  restaurant - BeachCastle ( right on Elliot's Beach, balmy breeze, awesome view)  for our fix of desi-chinese. Those were uncomplicated, friends, studies, M&B's ( what you don't know Mills & Boons), loving parents ( yeah! the mom was pretty damn strict but loving nevertheless) and very simple ambitions...and what always remained was the fact that Bapa was able to cajole Ma out of her bad moods over spicy Garlic Chicken and American waddled home stuffed and happy...the world was my stage and I was ready to conquer it.

I don't cook Desi-Chinese at home, mostly because I just can't get myself to deep fry vegetables and meat...I  steam my veggies, cook a lot of  lentils and when the craving for desi-chinese strikes -- here is how I make do (read : cheat)

I get the Whole Foods - Sweet and Sour Chicken. I take a large skillet and fry in a tsp of peanut oil  about a head of garlic ( yes it is a lot but trust me it is so delish!) and then I add the Whole Foods Sweet and Sour Chicken and follow directions (for skillet)...I don't add any spices at this stage because the little dude (K2) gets to eat more than his fair share of this...when I am ready to serve ( I add trader joe's  habanero sauce, it is blindingly spicy so treat with care and respect)...I usually serve with brown rice and steamed broccolli and snap peas. What say you? You don't want to wuss out like me and try the real deal...then head over to this video to learn how...

For some reason, I was missing the fireworks, the phone calls and the desi-chinese at Beach Castle today.The roses in my rose garden have bloomed and herald that time is passing by fast...and time heals.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Happiness Project

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” 
                                                                                        -- Aristotle
Has it been exactly a month since Bapa is wonder  I am the perfect candidate for books like - Why Smile, The Happiness Project...given to my bouts of melancholy and ennui this month...I struggle to fill my time with tasks, activities, friends and this elusive Joie de vivre.

I really enjoyed reading - Happiness Project, Gretchen has a wonderful style of reaching to the heart of the matter - her 12 commandments inspired me to think of my own
  • Live  life on your terms
  • Love Hard
  • Live like there is no tomorrow
  • Don't Compare
  • Express Gratitude
  • Enjoy your successes 
  • Embrace your failures and learn from them
  • It's ok to say - Bonjour tristesse sometimes because Sadness teaches you what happiness is!
Like Gretchen, I am an unadventurous soul...I live my life vicariously through books, food and movies...I  like to stay close home  - enjoying the peace and quiet, watching the roses bloom and the fluttering humming birds snuggled in a warm toasty comforter with my cup of chai. So maybe for me happiness is about...letting go...finding peace and accepting the present.I mindfully am trying to do a lot of the things Gretchen talks about in the book - build vitality, be an aware parent, be less of  a nagging wife (yeah! right)...these past two weeks I have cooked a lot and exercised a lot...incidentally here is the last food picture I had emailed to Bapa on March was K2's dinner - Lentil Crepes better known as Adai...isn't it appropriate that the last thing I shared with him was around food and the last thing I told him was - Bapa, I love you.

Miss you Bapa....there will always be love!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Green, Red and Orange...

“The thing is you never get used to it, the idea of someone being gone. Just when you think it's reconciled, accepted... something reminds you, and it just hits you all over again of what you lost”                                                              
I counted 46 buds on my rose bushes with K2 yesterday...not bored, just desperately trying to hang on to a semblance of normalcy and someone asked me last week - what the heck is normal anyway?...Spring is definitely in the air. And there are a lot of kitchens celebrating spring with bright colors, vibrant renditions of loved foods.When I was a child I remember eating greens at least 4-5 times a week and it was comfort food for me...every time I smell crushed garlic cooking in oil, it takes me back to the time when Ma insisted on - clean plates, eating quickly and eating as much veggies as rice...I complained then but feel a little sheepish as I do the exact same thing with K2...the joys of parenthood.

Why this particular green and why particularly now...because it was Bapa's favorite version and I am in a very clingy sort of a mind frame (not to people, just to memories). I remember Bapa loving the trips to the farmer's market here exactly 3 years back - going stir crazy for the greens (Ma loved the persimmons...which I can understand, you don't get persimmons in India).I picked up a bunch of the red greens at the farmer's market along with a slice of brightly hued orange pumpkin and as the crushed garlic perfumed the air...I felt the memories rush in...mostly the good ones and I realize that I still miss him...but it is ok.

You need for  Saago Kakharu Bhaja (Fried Red Greens with Pumpkin)

  1. Your favorite kind of greens (go for Red Amaranth if you are looking for direction, look for the super fresh, super tender greens) - cleaned and cut
  2. Small Slice of pumpkin (orange for the color effect) - diced small
  3. Garlic (Half a head) , Panch Phutono, Dried Chili
  4. 1 tbsp Mustard Oil (most people use way more, I use oil very sparingly)
Heat the oil. Add the Paanch Phutono. Let it sizzle and make some music. Add in the crushed garlic and the dried red chili...once the garlic lets out the wonderful smell, add the pumpkin. When the pumpkin is half cooked add in the greens and let it cook for a while...add Salt to taste...enjoy with a hot bowl of rice and dal  (sometimes I can have it just by itself).

Spring...I know you are here,
The grass is a deep green,
And as the sun sets a flamboyant orange...
I gaze at the stunning red rose in the garden,
At peace...not yet,
But there is a sense that the mind will ease off the pain,
And visit happiness & peace.