Archive for the ‘Work-Life Balance’ Category

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

                                                                                                                        —-Winston Churchill
I have some grand illusions that there are people actually reading this blog and when there is no post for ten days someone actually misses it…reality check M..the only person reading your blog is probably you, your dad, K1 (after you remind him) and you (wait…you already said that). Winter and the rainy season is not a good time for me — the sun makes me smile while the rain makes me grumpy…and the last 3 weeks have been very generous with the water works. To make it worse my viral fever gave me neck spasms (think doctors, muscle relaxants, pain killers…and something called a Chiropractor…tried even that twice)…the pain in my neck continues (now you know why I was staring at you from an ackward angle…it wasn’t you it was me). The sun has been out the past two days and I have been pretty laidback about getting dinner on the table, focusing on walks with the 2K’s. So our dinner menu read something like :

  1. Monday : Annie Chun Udon Noodles with tonnes of vegetables
  2. Tuesday : Veggie Pizza from Costco (my first pizza from Costco and pretty damn good)
  3. Wednesday : Take Out from Tava Palo Alto (Thanks A !!!)
  4. Thursday : South Indian – Sambhar, Rice, Cabbage Poriyal, Bhindi Fry (all made by your’s truely)
  5. Friday : leftovers I guess

Last weekend, I was feeling down and out and what perked me up was a super simple “Chinese Soup”…this is my version of it and it is awesome and awesomely simple to make (don’t judge me for the shortcuts…) but I know you will thank me when you have a hot bowl of soup in front of you in less than 10 minutes.

You will need:

  • Half a red onion or handful of scallions ( I used what I had on hand which was red onions)
  • Chopped Fresh Garlic (about half a head)
  • Annie Chun’s Chicken Pot Stickers 
  • Imagine Chicken Broth (low sodium, organic)
  • Shitake Mushrooms (about 4 oz)
  • Bok Choy (about 4-5 big ones or half a dozen little ones)
  • Shredded Carrots ( Trader Joes)
  • Rice Vinegar, Soy Sauce, Chilli Sauce (if you want it)

Saute the onion and garlic in a neutral oil.Add the mushrooms, bok choy, shredded carrots and fry for maybe 2 minutes. Now add in the broth  and the dumplings. Simmer for 5 minutes, add soy sauce and rice wine vinegar to taste…go easy on the chilli sauce if you are recovering from a viral flu :-)…Take a huge bowl, spoon and start slurping…

This recipe goes out to The Spanish Wok for the The Soup Kitchen Event : Chinese Soup

What are your plans for Earth Day?

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Are you a harried mother who has to plan balanced, nutritious snacks for your toddler every morning? I know I am — and yes, forgive me for I have sinned…I don’t prepare a snack from scratch – instead I look to the grocery aisle and Amazon for support and inspiration when it comes to packing my son’s snack.

Here are some of my snack options :

Dairy : Babybell Cheese, Organic Valley/365 String Cheese, Gogurt
Beverage :  Water in a stainless steel water bottle, SO Coconut Milk,  Juicy Juice ( the small 4 oz cartons),Low Fat Chocolate Milk
Produce : Apples (Baby Apples or lunch box sized apples), Carrots (rarely – I usually need to monitor the intake), Organic Grapes, Organic Strawberries
Snacks : Revolution Foods Mash-Ups, Revolution Foods Sammy Jammies, Kashi TLC Bars, Cliff Kids Bars, Cliff Kids Fruit Strips, Ritz Handi Snacks, Terra Chips, Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars, Nilla Wafers (Reduced Fat – My son’s absolute favorite from pre-school), Pirates Booty, Fig Newton – Apple Crisps, snack bags of nuts – almonds and walnuts.
Prepared Meals : Half a Sandwich with Maranatha Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter
Hope this gives you some snack ideas for school…
For the past few weeks I have been making healthy smoothies every morning with a flat of organic berries that I picked up from the Farmer’s Market – I keep it a little different every morning…here’s how I made the smoothie today and I call it the Berry Surprise Smoothie. The surprise being the black grapes and plums which add another layer of  flavor and the enriched soymilk which makes it  silky and luscious…Enjoy !!!
  • 4 oz of Strawberries ( 6-7 big ones)
  • 2 Oz of Black Seedless Grapes (about 6)
  • 1 Black Plum
  • 3 Oz of Wildwood Probiotic Soy Milk
Blend in Magic Bullet. Add Honey or Agave Nectar if you want it sweeter. I enjoyed it without any added sugar. This recipe goes out to Smitha @ Smitha’s Spicy Flavors who is hosting the event  Healing Foods : Berries, a series  which was concepted by Siri.
Have you been taking care of yourself lately?
ps: my pictures are usually taken with the camera on my phone…so if it is blurry, my apologies.

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Sunday turned into Monday turned into Tuesday…weekend morphing into busy weekdays, yet the one thing constant in these 3 days is the drizzling rain, the grey skies, the empty landscape…and the absolute stillness around. At times, the silence it is comforting and relaxing yet sometimes I long for sunshine…the warmth that heralds the advent of summer…(make the taxpayer in me happy California…give me some sunshine).

To ward off the chill, I long for my mother’s hot comforting Dal (Dal is a hearty lentil stew prepared in India, the source of protein for non-meat eaters). Not being one with immense patience, I don the avatar of a domestic diva and pick up my pressure cooker to create some kitchen magic. I have in my refrigerator a tender opo squash (Lauki) and so begins my journey to recreating one of my favorite comfort meals (oriya ishtyle)

You Need:

  • 1 cup Moong Dal ( I usually dry roast the moong dal before using in this recipe)
  • 1 Small/Medium Opo Squash (chopped into small pieces)
  • ½ Onion, 1 Tomato, 3 Pods of Garlic (finely minced), thinly chopped Ginger (As per your taste)
  • ½ Spoon Olive Oil (if you are feeling particularly decadent use Ghee)
  • Jeera for tempering, Turmeric Powder, Salt to Taste and Fresh Lemon Juice (for that zing!)
  • Cilantro for Garnish

To Make:
Add the olive oil to the pressure cooker. Once the oil is shimmering add the jeera (cumin seeds ) and fry till it is fragrant. Add the turmeric powder. Add the chopped Onion, Ginger and Garlic. When they start browning add in the tomatoes, cook for about 2-3 minutes till it mixes with the Masala and then add the Opo Squash, Moong Dal, Salt to taste and 3 cups of water. Put the pressure on and let it go for 3-4 whistles. When you open the pressure cooker, check to make sure there is enough salt. Add in the fresh lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Enjoy with a hot bowl of brown rice (my sunshine in a bowl)

I have substituted most oils and ghee with Olive Oil in my cooking for the past 3 years. One of the main reasons for this switch is health and to maintain a steady cholesterol level. I won’t say Olive Oil and Indian Cooking go hand in hand…but I will say this much, over time they have learnt to become good friends. I don’t stick to one brand of Olive Oil and have in the past 2 months used an EVOO brand of Olive Oil called Corto mainly to support the local California Growers.
This goes out to Creative Concoctions #4 – Cooking with Olive Oil .

It’s soon time for bed and playing in the background is the song from 3 idiots ( I love this movie because it was the first movie that made my family laugh and smile after some tough times…)

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As I hurry through my daily routine – life does not feel the warmth and fuzziness…what’s up with this saying anyway…it has been ringing in my brain for 3 days creating a dissonance of sorts. I am of the opinion that Apple Pie is definitely placed on a higher pedestal that it should be – the dough is doughy and the apples are stewed…some apple pies more tolerable than others…but overall eh! I have had better. Motherhood – the past 3 weeks has felt the same way – eh! I have been better. What with K2 falling sick, the imminent uncertainty of things work and the constant feeling of rush and the feeling that – crap! There is something I have forgotten on my To-Do List.

Every morning starts with getting lunch ready and packed for the two K’s, 1-2 early morning calls, make my morning cuppa (hot water, honey and lemon), drag K2 out of the bed kicking and screaming, get him ready while I try to finish my cuppa, if K1 is not on a call (which is highly unlikely) – he takes on the mammoth task of getting K2 ready : make the bed, rush through a shower, barely there make-up to hide the raccoon eyes, a final check of the house and out of the door for my carpool with K1 and K2. Wait a minute…did I just forget my office badge, what about my cell phone…yikes! my wallet….The first second of quiet I get when I turn on my computer and sit at my cube sipping a cup of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea…the palpitation dies down and the calm settles in as I get through my day’s list. Where time flies by I don’t know but when I look up its soon time to leave to take the long trek ( 30 miles) to K2’s school and back home…on the way we sometimes need to stop by Trader Joe’s or the Indian Store for some staples – Bananas, Bread, Samosas (yeah! yeah! not a staple but on days of dire needs this fried piece of dough filled with potatoes hits a spot).
Evening is a whirl – what with getting the laundry done, give K2 a oil massage and bath, get his dinner ready, feed him – exhausted I have not really planned dinner for K1 and me…K1 is understanding and we either grab something from outside or eat something low maintenance. By this time it is 9-10 PM. I drag K2 to bed and I try to entertain him until he falls asleep. I am back on my computer either working or blogging, paying bills, creating a new T0-Do List – at 11.00 PM I am ready to call it a night – however, my mind wanders from thought to thought – incomplete to do lists, a walk-thro’ of irrelevant conversations, perceived deficiencies, wallowing in things not done…finally exhausted I fall asleep. Morning is yet again a repeat of the above. My product management mind has synthesized 4 key pieces of learning from this daily experience – of course I am able to practice 50% of it, and am working on the other half of it i.e., have fun and be patient when things don’t go my way
(A) Plan for the short term
(B) Execute
(C) Put 1 hr aside every day for fun
(D) Get a handle on the Monkey Mind

Most importantly, rather than existing in the present moment, the monkey mind focuses on one thought after another, and these thoughts distract me from enjoying the beautiful present- stop me from focusing on my wonderful strong boy growing from an infant to a toddler, the expanse of serenity and beauty that surrounds me (I may be biased but I live by paradise!!!), the strong pillar of support my husband and family have been through the years….

“The mind is like a crazy monkey, which leaps about and never stays in one place. It is completely restless and constantly paranoid about its surroundings. When we talk about the development of peace, we are not talking about cultivating a peaceful state, as such, but about simplicity and clearing the chaos and the noise in the mind”
                                                                — A wise person

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I remove my MBT shoes and stretch my abused feet a little…after 15 hours of constant wear, my feet ache and without a wink of shut eye my eyes water involuntarily…Business Travel my friends is much hyped. It is wonderful to watch acquaintances go – Wow! You are going to xyz country how exciting!

Yet, in reality I look forward to business travel with as much enthusiasm as I look forward to a tooth extraction. Let me enlighten you on some personal travel facts –

(A) I almost always end up traveling Economy

(B) I always either get a body check or a luggage check

(C) At the gate, I see tonnes of people being asked to make their hand baggage lighter (8 kgs is the limit, no more, no less)

(D) They invariably seat me near people with kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love K2 to pieces, but I don’t really think I want to go googly eyed over someone else’s crying kid on a long flight

(E) They always mess up and forget my Indian Vegetarian meal and offer me a cold unappetizing pasta towards the end

(F) No sleep, no in-seat entertainment system = Disaster waiting to happen

(G) Did I mention the constant jostling, feet stamping and apologizing that happens every time some passes by the aisle seat

(H) Unappetizing Airport Food – My mind goes chi chink! as I pay 16 Euro for a sandwich, chips and a juice

However, I am in my hotel now, which overlooks a beautiful albeit frozen sea (it’s all white) lying down on a bed that I did not make myself, eating a sandwich I did not make looking forward to the next couple intense days and honestly it ain’t that bad and there are parts that are very satisfying…now if only I could hug my little K2 and tuck the comforter on him I will be a happy camper.

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Down the rabbit hole…

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was a favorite book of mine as a little child and it was with a lot of excitement that I descended down the rabbit hole at the office party today. Suffice it if I say, I was spectacularly entertained, had a rocking time with friends (and some acquaintances) and was very well fed.

Our floor had the caterpillar on the mushroom theme and we of course feasted on marinated mushrooms and mushroom tarts…yum!

Here’s me getting gyan (aka advice) from the caterpillar – Hmm, was he sleeping or eyeing the mushrooms in my hand I wonder 🙂

Yes, we looked silly but of course we had fun…and I am not the one holding the placards…I only admit to some haphazard dancing….

Choose the one that doesn’t fit…

I am glad I got to hang out with my colleagues at the Mad Tea Party…it almost felt like the Holidays. How has your week been?

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A 18 hr flight that was actually more like a 22 hr flight – our first flight from Pune to Frankfurt taking an unscheduled stop in Armenia for refueling giving us a nail biting 6 hrs debate as to whether we would make our connection…K2 pretty much slept through 80% of the flight…yes that is a good thing. We got back dazed and a little nostalgic about our India trip.K2 has been sleeping days and waking up nights and I am hoping his body clock resets soon otherwise I am in big trouble, K1 goes on an offsite in a couple days and I don’t relish being the sole warrior in this “keeping awake” quest.

Seeing an empty fridge had me go overboard on a food shopping binge –
From Whole Foods – Brussel Sprouts, Apples, Fresh Pack Soups ( Creamy Tomato, Chicken & Veggies), Sour Dough Baguette, Organic Brown Eggs, Kefir, Fat Free Milk, Terra Chips, Bossa Nova Acai Juice, Genesis Today Acai Juice, Hillshire Smoked Turkey Breast Slices
From Trader Joes – Organic Spinach, Organic Carrots, Bag of Lemons, Navel Oranges, Bananas, Truffle Mousse Pate ( Chicken Liver), Sweet Stick Swizzlers, Dark Chocolate Marshmallows, Almonds, Walnuts
From the Farmer’s Market – Potatoes, Onions, Tomatoes, Garlic, Sun Chokes, Cucumbers, Opo Squash, Grapes, Plums, Satsuma Mandarin, Asian Pears, Apples, 2 Bags of Raisins, Honey Sticks, Sinbad Market (Chicken Kabab Wrap, Babaganoush, Chickpea Salad)

I am watching the final episode of “Dancing with the Stars” that I had DVRed…super excited that the star that won was my very favorite “Baby” Grey. Her struggles with health and her insecurities and her sheer grit to keep going on were inspiring — my caveat, I have never watched this show before. I watched  this season for the sole reason of watching Grey dance.

Missing India. Missing Ma’s Dal and Badi Chura. Miss the hugs from Ma and Bapa…miss the squabbles and discussions and warmth. K1 and K2 are in the same place and we are slowly settling back into our old routine. How is your weekend?
Picture was taken on a trip with the parents (mine and K1’s) to Lavasa. There were some picture perfect moments though the trip to Lavasa was bumpy 🙂

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