Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Seven Steps to Zero Stress

You don't get ulcers from what you eat. You get them from what's eating you.
We all know Stress is bad for us...I am sure a lot of us struggle to find our Qi in this busy maze of life. I have been working on myself to see how I could reduce stress in my life and here are the  7 things that work for me right now ( I am sure it will change over time but definitely works right now...)

  1. Establish a Routine: When you establish a routine, the difficult becomes routine. If I took all the things on my plate in its entirety, I get stressed. Instead when there is a routine things fall into place and things look more manageable
  2. Give Yourself Time to Grieve: Whether it is a picture, talking to my mother, just listening to a song or even browsing the internet, I think of my father at least twice in an hour.I don't try to dodge the grief and let the emptiness take over for a little while, then I hit the gym and the endorphins banish the grief ( there is the knowledge that it will come back but I am ok with it)...there is the knowledge that sad and happy can coexist.
  3. Make a Grateful List : This was the last piece of advice I got from my father and internalized ( I blogged it)...I  make a grateful list every night and I keep this list simple and handwritten.
  4. Don't Try to Be Perfect : I have always struggled to keep the house clean, the pantry organized, all the  bills paid up, with healthy meals on the table, have all my work checklists checked. The feeling of guilt when we eat out is acute...however, what I have realized is it's not ok to stress - the laundry will wait a day or two, we can eat out or outsource the food making, I don't have to dust and mop and clean everyday, and sometimes me not getting a to-do item done at work is not the end of the world, it will hold till tomorrow...as my Dad says it...All is Well!
  5. Focus on the success inherent in failure : I have learnt from my successes and failures...I have watched Bapa find positivity in adversity and what that has taught me is that Failure is a great teacher...it teaches you patience, acceptance, humor and humility...more often than not it makes you appreciate the folks who are less fortunate and it makes any sense of entitlement I feel disappear...so what if I have a full time job and have to juggle that with home stuff...the lady who cleans my house goes to adult school (to learn English) every night, she is 3 months pregnant, there is a 18 month old at home, she cleans homes 50 hours a week and she doesn't have a husband home to help her financially or with her child...
  6. Take K2 to the Farmer's Market : Need I say more ;)
  7. Focus on the now
Things are a little full at work this week (fiscal year end)...K2 has 2 weeks of 1st Grade left and his play "Hansel & Gretel Eat Right" happens this week...he is the Raccoon...How is your week looking? What's cooking in your kitchen? There is some chatpata chaat in our future this week :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Next Genderation...and an Aha! Moment!

For the fact that I work in the Bay Area (a dozen years) and have had the dubious pleasure in two of the companies I worked at of being the only woman Product Management Lead...I have to say with a certain amount of regret that I haven't really been to any of the conferences hosted by PBWC. This year was a marked change...I was at The Next Genderation conference in Moscone. My first thought on walking in - (a) Holy Shit! this is a lot of women (~ 4000)  Second Thought - Dang! my hair is short ( hey if you were looking for something more than sheer vanity look elsewhere...seeing all these women with their lovely tresses was intimidating...I understand now why K1 rolls his eyes every time I come back after a hair cut)...Vanity aside I think this conference gave me a lot of food for thought...I got to see live on the stage successful women who were sharing the "secret sauce"...be it Jackie Speier talking about keeping a close network of friends who would remain with you no matter what ; to Sheryl Sandberg asking us to lean in...to gorgeous Rita Moreno who at 81 defined Joie de vivre...to Jennifer Granholm who told us to take on the hard challenges...whether we succeed or fail, we will surely learn from them.

 My head is whirling with all the things I heard...some were immensely helpful and others I will soon forget. I loved  the session on body language where I learnt not to tilt my head while listening (you are acting submissive)...don't smile too much...don't fiddle with your hair or jewellery ( doesn't apply to me ;-) )...don't nod your head ( M told me about that one a week back,  nodding your head like tilting your head is an act of submission, I am trying so hard to internalize it...but it is a cultural thing you see...most Indians are Bobble heads...)...my aha! moment came    afterwards on a long cold walk with K1...here is what I realized : The secret sauce that worked for one successful woman can bring another woman abject misery...here is my example...when I had K2...my life changed dramatically yet instead of taking my leg off the pedal...I ahem! leaned in...I took a new role which played into my area of expertise...pretty sure I would crack the code and nail it...what those 9 months taught me was humility and an acceptance that sometimes leaning in doesn't work...you need to lean back and get your priorities in order...(and my priority then was my baby...and no I couldn't afford to use the next door office as a nursery)...I chose to join as a smaller fish in a bigger pond and what an experience that was...and guess what I loved my job and got to spend time with K2 (there were no sacrifices or compromises just finding out what worked for me).So find your secret sauce...it might help you : become a CEO,  write a book, raise a happy, healthy and well-adjusted child or something as touchy-feely like finding peace/happiness...

What else did I do today - K1, K2 and I whipped up a quick 30 minute dinner that looked like this...

For the curious - it was Khichidi made with brown basmati rice, whole moong  dal and Garbanzo beans, a simple moong sprouts salad and Palak Paneer...as a friend says it - Life is good!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Simple Gratitude is...

  • a warm meal and a full belly
  • a hug and an apology from K2 after a full blown tantrum ;-)
  •  K1 coming home after a LONG business trip
  • 2 Advils to take the edge off the pain
  • a What the Hell...I am still going to  Zumba class!
  • a wonderful poster "all about clouds" from K2

This week has been tough...I have  a "crick in the neck" and yes, it is worse than it sounds. Went to a doctor, am on heavy duty pain killers, traction and of course even did the Chiropractor thing again...but seriously what is stress & lack of sleep induced will run it's course. My doctor  nailed it when she said  - Sweetie, you have been through way too much, you can try to hold it all together but will break down at some point...just let it go!

I finally slept 6 hours last night and it felt good...also R lovingly made me a bowl of typical Odia Kosha Mangsho which I  relished yesterday...it took me back to those uncomplicated days when I was young and it was a Sunday and Bapa donned the apron to make the above mentioned dish. P another friend of mine who just started her own home catering business House of Lakshmi brought me an authentic south indian office lunch which had me swooning with the taste of the food. It was a homely meal with 2 Phulkas (Chapatis) which were soft and delicious, curd rice, masala bhaat with cabbage, the MOST amazing sprouts salad and how can I forget....Mor Kolambzhu. I am hooked to her food now and have been raving about it to my other friend P who I met for an oh!so short while today. Here is a visual view of how the food would look if it were on a thali...

There is simple gratitude in my heart for these warm friends who brightened up my days with these kind gestures. I am also grateful that today is my last day alone without K1 and he is back from a ten day business trip...so true is the saying Distance makes the heart grow fonder...

To assuage my guilt for all the wonderful food I wasn't able to share with K2, I made for him his favorite food - Cheese Pizza. My fool-proof recipe ( this is a 5 ingredient recipe so all the freebies in blue)-

You need for the pizza dough & Pizza Sauce
  1. 1 1/2  Cups Sprouted Organic Whole Grain, Stone Ground Wheat Flour (Arrowhead Mills)
  2. 1 packet yeast ( I used the fast rising yeast packet from Trader Joe's)
  3. 1 Cup homemade Pizza Sauce (  4 cloves of  Garlic, 6 Tomatoes - sweated down to a pulp in one tsp Olive Oil, Salt and a pinch of sugar then pureed...this yields 2 cups of the tomato sauce) -- (P.S - I have been known to sneak  cauliflower, broccolli, beans and carrots into my pizza sauce....)
  4. 2 tbsp EVOO
I used the Pizza Dough cycle on my bread maker (Cuisine Art) and let the dough rest two hours. Take out the proofed up dough, Flour and knead...roll the dough out. I cut the dough into heart and round shapes using cookie cutters.I par baked on 450 degrees F for about 7 minutes and then usually freeze the pizza base for use.

To Assemble :
  1. 1 cup pizza sauce 
  2. Grated Mozzarella Cheese
Assemble on the pizza tray and broil in the oven or toaster oven till done.

This kid-friendly 5-Ingredient Fix Recipe goes to Pavani at Cook's Hideout , an idea conceptualized by Valli at Spice your life. Need I say K2 - polished his plate clean.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tentative Parenting : Calumniating Cheetos and a Compromise!

I need to start eating healthy, but first I need to eat all the junk food in my house so it's not there to tempt me anymore.

 I am going a wicked shade of red as I write this post...not because I am uncomfortable  that I visited the golden arches (yes! it was for an Egg White McMuffin if you are interested and it was awesome) but that I did it twelve hours after sermonizing my poor impressionable 6 year old on the evils that are propagated by eating processed and fast foods.... 
Here is how it all began : K2 has never eaten Cheetos and has watched his BFF eat Cheetos  about 2-3 times during lunch every week...his crunchy snack is usually apple slices or carrots. As we walked down the aisles at Whole Foods, a whiny voice next to me says - Mama but you promised you will look for it....(remember the half-hearted promises you make when you are half engrossed in some To-Do list for work)...but of course Whole Foods does not carry Cheetos, so we made the trek to Target where we picked up a tiny bag of Cheetos ( 2 for $1)...the only flavor available in a bag that small was "Flamin' Hot" (can you hear the evil laugh my inner-self gave)...so that is the one I bought for K2. That guy who complains about the turmeric and cumin powder in his lentil soup quietly finished the damn fiery packet of Cheetos without a squeak (I saw him gulping down 2 glasses of H2O ). What are Cheetos you ask me?

Cheetos is a brand of cheese-flavored, puffed cornmeal snack made by Frito-Lay...what strikes me the most about this snack is its violent orange/ in our case red color ( that is so obviously not from a food source). I think there are plans to ban Cheetos in California as a certifiable health hazard. And, hey, with each bag clocking 26 grams of fat and 25 percent of the recommended daily intake for salt -- not to mention the questionable dyes and fillers -- this ban couldn't have come sooner. K2 agreed that the pack of Cheetos he had was his first and last....and because he ate the Cheetos, he agreed to try a new vegetable yesterday - it was Turnip ( I roasted it in a pan with sea salt and Olive Oil...he ate it all).  He also agreed to eat healthy for the rest of the week as compromise. He is really loving Amy's Mattar Paneer - so I make sure I give that to him at least once a week ( he had it twice this week)....he thinks it is a treat, I  think it is a super healthy meal - talk about win-win.

I am liking this compromise...

News on my end - I got this detox  pack from Costco, unfortunately while I was at Costco, I also got the big bag of Aidells Chicken Meatballs, Mary Gone Crackers, Amylu Chicken Burgers and a big hunk of cheese....now the Catch 22 is that no diary, meat or caffeine allowed for 2 days before I go on my detox plan....every time I get off my black tea, the headache is unbearable and I need my cuppa fix or poke someone in the eye...no wonder that quote above called to me this week. 

What are your weekend plans? Plans for today are : a ginger beer, a plate of crackers from Mary Gone Cracker with Habanero Cheddar and a couple episodes of Grimm. I have signed up for three online courses on Coursera (2 on Nutrition and one on Leadership) and another online course on Bhagvad Gita...every one of them have quizzes and assignments due....so the cup runneth full.  K2 has a crystal mining set that I want to help him with over the weekend....maybe a hike and picnic if the weather permits...

Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful Mom and all the wonderful Mothers out there. 

p.s : Incidentally, today marks 2 months since Bapa passed away. I have been missing him but time and the business of busy  living has made me put the pain behind and focus on finding peace. It is a hard thing to do but as I said before it's all about baby steps.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Life Lessons from Dr. Seuss

My son's favorite book when he was 3 was "Cat in the Hat", 4 was "Green Eggs and Ham", when he was 5 "Lorax"...is it any surprises that I wished him Dr.Seuss style for his 6th Birthday. Truth be told I got hooked on to Dr.Seuss when he turned 3 - Cat in the Hat taught K2 on how he could use his imagination and have fun...Green Eggs and Ham taught him the lesson of persistence and how he needed to keep an open mind (with new foods)...and this was about the age he was getting picky about vegetables and everytime I read him Green Eggs and Ham...I could slip him an extra serving of Spinach, Zucchini or Broccolli. With Lorax he learnt the importance of nature and mother earth and the need to protect it... I love the fact that the stories are so light-hearted and yet have so much to give...here is something fun I read this week and shared with K2 with some caveats :)

 #2 is awesome and all that...but if you stick out too much friends will be a scarce commodity...so I do want my son to have his unique wonderful, sunny personality but draw a line at extremely quirky behavior (Catch 22 right..I say fine balance). #4 is awesome in theory but in practice...try it without hurting people or being boorish...with K2 and his warm nature...not a difficult life lesson to learn...he knows how to "get along".

My favorite Seuss book is - oh! Say can you Say....I would read this over and over again to K2 and still have the tongue trips with the twists ....what is your favorite Dr.Seuss...?