Category: Vacations

Adieu April #GratitudeCircle

Adieu April #GratitudeCircle

April always is the most eventful month of all. This is the time that the children finish their exams, get to see their papers and we travel to Lucknow.

This year we also changed houses (in the same city though).

We hadn’t shifted in a decade so it was a huge step. The amount of clutter we accumulate is amazing. I am pretty proud to say that for once I gave the hoarder in me a rest and got rid of quite a bit of it. Nope, it wasn’t easy but having done it I feel lighter and happier.

Settling in the new house remains a work in progress since we left things midway to make the annual trip to our hometown. That’s something I like to think of as non-negotiable. Not only do two sets of parents wait for us anxiously each year, but also it is my annual recharge more than any other holiday I take through the year.

April was a busy month

What with shuttling between hardware stores picking out things for the new house and coordinating with carpenters while also trying to help the children with their studies, April was crazy. The pressure took much of the fun out of doing up the house but in the end I’m grateful most of it is done. It’s going to be a while before I get the new house in order but I have to keep telling myself that there’s no hurry. 

Grateful for friends I left behind

While saying goodbye was hard it was gratifying to realise how very many connections I’d made over the years without even realising it. The farewells from friends, acquaintances and everyone in between were warm and heartfelt.

The new house

is something I cannot but be grateful for. There’s something exciting and happy about doing up a new home despite the work it entails. The curtains have to go up and the ACs fixed but most of all I’m looking forward to re-organising 12 whole cartons of books. I’ve saved it up for the last as a delicious pleasure. And I’d love for ideas on how to organise them. Should I go author-wise or genre-wise or should it be according to the continent they’re set it? This is going to be fun!

Yup, books are the mainstay of my happiness

Through the crazy last month it was reading, friends and reading-with-friends that kept me happy. I don’t think I’ve spoken about it earlier, but I’d been longing to join a book club – a real live one – for a long long time. Finally, at a cafe near my new home, one was launched and obviously I was there at the very first meeting. It was as wonderful as I’d imagined and I’m looking forward to happy times.

I also buddy read 1984 by George Orwell. This was my third time reading it and I managed to do so without skipping a single page. That was a bit of a feat because it gets heavy and pedantic in bits. It was good to chart my progress along with that of others and that kept me going.

And now I’m home

..shuttling between multiple homes, for I have more than one here in Lucknow. Somedays when I’m torn between how I should divide my time between the large family I wish everyone lived in different cities so I could have undivided time with everyone. However, in my saner moments I realise how wonderful it is to have them close by, despite the time-management I have to do. I’m set for flitting between my parents’ home and my in-laws’ as also those of uncles and aunts and cousins and childhood friends. I know the month shall fly past and I’m looking forward to it.

Linking up with Vidya’s Gratitude Circle.

 

Food and fitness in Lucknow

Food and fitness in Lucknow

I’ve been trying rather hard to keep an eye on my weight this year with some decent amount of success. But then the children had exams and they seemed to need help the moment I put on my sneakers for a walk. The stress of it all meant walks and exercise took a backseat.

Moving on – right after the exams came vacations. We travelled to Delhi and then to my hometown and that meant F.O.O.D.

The first morning in Lucknow I woke up to a pile of jalebis and khastas at the breakfast table. I’ll probably need to do a whole post on the Lakhnawi jalebis but for now let me just say that they served to kick off my food fest. It would have been absolute blasphemy, not to say inconceivably rude, to not be ru-ba-ru with my old favourites. If you’ve been with me on Instagram you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. While the children waded through cartons of Amul Icecream, I renewed my friendship with Lakhnawi sweets – malai chamcham, kaju pedas and motichur laddoos. That’s not to say I didn’t sample the ice creams. This season the Caramel  Cookies flavour from Amul absolutely topped my list.

Coming back to Lucknow, the chaat here is something else. The pani puris are perfect. As Goldilocks would say – not to hot not too sweet, they’re just right. And there’s matar – boiled and mashed white peas fried over a low flame in lota-fulls of ghee (The chat wallahs actually keep a lota full of ghee on the edge of their giant tawa). When it’s garnished with crisp crushed papadi, green chutney, fresh coriander and long ginger juliennes, it’s a party in the mouth.

Matar

And just when the party’s getting too hot you take up a pattal of sweet cool kulfi topped by pista flakes and two types of falooda.

Kulfi with two kinds of falooda

Then of course there’s the ma-ke-haath-ka-khana, my favourite – jackfruit fried to a crisp in mustard oil and singhade ka achar (water-chestnut pickle) – I’m not even sure many have heard of those. My mom, the strongest advocator of healthy eating and the loudest YOU-NEED-TO-LOSE-WEIGHT voice was torn between serving up my favourite foods and exhorting me to not binge. That was seriously funny.

Deep fried jackfruit fritters

Oh and this isn’t really a food thing but I have to make a mention. Each year sometime in the month of May is the Bara Mangal – a grand celebration of Lord Hanuman. I’ve written about it here. Numerous pandals serving free food and drink come up overnight, every Tuesday for a month. It might essentially be for the poor but the puri-and aaloo-kaddu ki sabzi one gets at these pandals is absolutely delicious. No matter how hard one tries, it is impossible to replicate at home. A bit like the kada prasad one gets at gurudwaras – it never tastes the same at home. So every Tuesday my lunch (and sometimes evening snack) menu had puri-subzi.

 

Aloo puri, the staple at Bara Mangal

To make matters more complicated, my sleepy hometown is slowly awakening to diverse cuisines – national and international. So we also have to do cafes and coffee shops, sizzlers and mocktails, fine dining and lavish buffets.

Sigh!

Did you see that? This was meant to be a stock-taking post on food and fitness but fitness seems to have taken the far back seat! This, right here, is what my problem is. I need focus, focus, focus!

For the first few days I managed to stick to a morning walk. Since my two homes – the in-laws and the parents are really close by the walk worked well because I’d start off from one place and drop by at the other for my morning cup of tea. But then the charm of lazy morning conversations took over and the plan went bust.

Now I’m back home and just as I was gathering the courage to step onto my brand new weighing machine the maid did the disappearing act (yet again). I’ve been spending my days mopping and dusting, lunging and squatting more than I’d ever done in my one hour a day at the gym. So my fitness routine should soon be on track. It is true, you know, what Coehello or SRK or whoever said – The Universe does look out for you if you want something with full shiddat.

What’s more my evening walks are beginning to make me happy. The nights are turning cool with the monsoon expected any day now. The days when the wind Gods are happy it’s an absolute delight to be out in the open with my iPod. Most importantly I get to switch off for those thirty or forty minutes from the chaos up at home.

While on fitness – I’d love some help on healthy salad recipes. Do leave them in the comments. Any other happy low-fat diet ideas would be great too.

Linking up with Shilpa and Bellybytes for #FlavoursomeTuesday. 

Vacations, train travel and other happy things

Vacations, train travel and other happy things

April is the fastest moving month of the year for us because it has so much crammed into it. It begins with exams, moves ahead with results and ends with travel and vacations. Quite perfect actually. And so it was that I didn’t quite notice how it crept up upon us and was over before I knew.

There’s a lot to be grateful for this past month.

First things first, the children’s exam results. They were my top worry for months together and I am glad and so very grateful for the way they turned out. The kids weren’t top of the class but they were pretty much what I’d expected, even better maybe. I always worry that I don’t worry enough, that I don’t push the children enough so it’s kind of reassuring to know that it’s alright, that we’re doing fine. So very grateful for that.

The most interesting bit is that N maxed her Art exam while H scored the highest in Science. Seriously, these two couldn’t have been more different!

The other highlight of the month was our 20-hour train journey from Pune to Delhi. It’s a whole different kind of wonderful to share a bit of your childhood with your children and to watch them enjoy it just as you did.

Trains were a very happy part of my childhood, perhaps because travel back when we were children was ever so rare. We’d squabble for the window seat, gaze for hours at fields golden with wheat or dotted with neat bundles after it had been harvested, we’d twist our necks trying to follow the trees that rushed by, we’d wait  for every hawker who came by, begging for a paper cone of bhel or peanuts.

I am glad to say that not much has changed.

Despite the fact that the children had carried along their tabs they did pretty much all what we used to. They went around inspecting the compartment, hung up their rucksacks on the hooks by their berths, spread out their sheets and blankets and settled down quite happily. The welcome tetrapack of juice was all it took for them to become Indian Railway fans. The feeling was only strengthened as lunch and snacks arrived at periodic intervals. When ice cream was served as dessert, they were completely sold over.

We read, talked, played word games and worked on N’s story. It was such a happy day.

The next five days in Delhi were completely relaxing. We managed to visit Kidzania which was a long-pending tick on the children’s list of fun-things-to-do. Although they were a wee bit grown up for the experience, they had a good time. I strongly recommend it for all children. Do try to visit it, there’s one in Mumbai too. The best bit is that it is extremely parent-friendly. I loved the super comfortable parents’ lounge. I ordered in a masala chai and ‘lounged’ on one of the huge sofas with my kindle, leaving the children to do their own thing. Those were happy five hours for all of us.

And now we were in Lucknow. I have so very many things to be grateful for here that I need a whole post, or maybe a bunch of posts.

Is there anything better than being in a place filled with family, friends and the happiest memories you’ve ever made? Click To Tweet

This new month promises to be wonderful.

*********

Linking up with Vidya’s Gratitude Circle

The room on the roof

The room on the roof

Our house in my hometown is way larger than the flat we live in back home. To the twins’ absolute awe and delight it is a stand-alone bungalow, has a huge room on the first floor with a large terrace.

Till a few years back they were too young to go exploring and we managed to keep them grounded (pun intended!). My mum imagined them sliding down the steep bannister and running up and down the stairs and promptly issued a blanket ban. Then there are monkeys, no not mine, real ones – aggressive and fearless – that roam the neighbourhood. We all thought it was best to restrict the children to the ground floor.

Till they were about 5 or 6 they complied.

A few years later they made their way to the first landing then to the second until finally they ‘discovered’ the room. Since the holidays were almost over by the time they made this momentous discovery there wasn’t much they could do. They had to be satisfied with leaving notes all over the doors and windows labelling it as ‘H&N’s room’. And that was that!

Next year the moment they arrived they scooted up to assert ownership. The room was quite bare since it wasn’t much in use and the twins set out to rectify it rightaway. First, they decided, it needed to be furnished. During the long summer afternoons, while all of us adults shut ourselves in our rooms with the hum of the AC for company, the twins went to work.

They picked a mattress from one of the rooms on the ground floor (taking care to replace the covers back on the bed so no one would notice) and lugged it up. If you’ve ever tried walking with a full-sized Sleepwell mattress you’d realise how determined my 6-year-olds would have been. Next they needed tables and chairs. They decided the ground floor had one too many and dragged up some chairs too. The furniture was old, heavy and sturdy, lovingly made during my grandfather’s time. The twins, it would seem, were sturdier.

How they managed to do all of this in complete secrecy remains a mystery.

They put up some more notices at the door, instituted a ‘tax’ for entry and the room was done. That year they spent entire days up their fiddling with the large old broken down radio, carrying up food and juice and playing all kinds of pretend games. It was a relief to have them out of my hair.

Everyone is now reconciled to the fact that that’s where they’ll stay. Their bags are carried up the moment they arrive. They continue to love the place. Despite their fear of monkeys, they walk out onto the terrace and spend hours on the swing.

Last week they decided to have a screen-free day. They spent the morning going up and down busily. Then N pretended to be stranded up in a tower (or something of that sort) and sent down a rope while H tied all kinds of supplies – water and cold drinks and biscuits – which she’d pull up and then he’d run and join her for a snack.

I watched them, glad and grateful, that there was still time before they outgrew their childhood and that silly as their make-believe games might be, they still could trounce technology.

They continue to believe the room is their discovery – no matter that it was my parents who got it constructed after much discussion and many hours of pondering over the plans. “They might have got it built,” argue the little ones, “but then they forgot about it and we discovered it.”

Linking up with

Mackenzie at Reflections from Me.

10 things to do with tweens during vacations

10 things to do with tweens during vacations

 

With the first excitement of vacations wearing off I find the children flitting between the pool and their tabs. It’s as if they have nothing else to do. The moment I try to restrict their screen time they come up with “What shall we do?” – the question that is the dread of all mums. If you’re a mum in the same boat as I, here’s a list to help you out.

1. Master a recipe 
Learn to make at least one dish completely on your own – a salad, a raita, french toast, no bake cookies, cake in a mug. If you find that you enjoy cooking you could work on making your own recipe book. That reminds me to get N to work on hers. She started one during the exams and never got back to it.

This Marie biscuit cake is one of the easiest ever.

2. Read books
Duh! Obviously. Most of you would be reading books, a few at least. How about trying out a short review after you’ve read it? That way you can keep a record of all the books you read and what you thought of them.

3. Make a summer holiday diary
You could write about
Things you did: Played scrabble with cousins, Made french toast, Made friends with your aunt’s pug (N is dead scared of dogs and this last one is high on her list).
Places you visited: A relative’s place, Historical monuments, the Science centre
Foods you ate: Shared mangoes with grandpa, Pain puri at the roadside stall, Kulfi  and falooda, a new flavour of ice-cream.

4. Make a family news collage
How about turning a journalist this summer? Collect ‘news’ about family members. A cousin who graduated from high school, an aunt who got a promotion, a relative who went on a holiday, your achievement in school, a dance you performed or a skill you picked up – all of that is news. If you have pictures that’s like the icing on the cake. If not, no problem. Make small write-ups on pieces of paper and stick them onto a chart paper like a collage. We made one for our apartment complex. We typed out the news items and cut them out but hand written is good too.

4. Learn a funny poem or maybe two
They’re fun to recite. Here’s one to get you started.

5. Plant a plant and learn how to take care of it
Does it need a special kind of soil? How much and how often should you water it? Google it or get an adult to help if you don’t have access to the Internet. Don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb. I have a black one too. Go for the easy ones first. You could simply begin with a money plant in a glass or a bottle. They almost never die on you.

6. Learn the names and know how to recognise at least five new flowers/trees that you see around you
Watch out for the regulars. Can you tell a Neem tree from an Ashoka tree? Or a Banyan from a Peepal? You couldn’t possibly miss the Gulmohur or the tall Eucalyptus. Try smelling a eucalyptus leaf. Does it seem familiar?

7. Take responsibility for one household chore and make sure you do it every single day
You could try folding your sheet, making your bed, folding dried clothes, watering plants, wiping the table after lunch/dinner. Helps to have mum on your side since you’re home all day 🙂 and she’s the one in charge of doing up the cakes and the shakes.

8. Talk to your parents/grandparents and ask them how they spent their summer vacations
Can you try any of those things? How about writing out a small piece comparing their vacations and yours?

9. Make handmade gifts for friends for school reopening day.
You could try photo frames or pen holders. I loved these easy pencil toppers made from duct tape at Atop Serenity Hill. Take a look.

 

10. Make your own school labels
Even if you’re not very crafty you could have a go. Cut out plain white paper labels and border them with Washi tape. That shouldn’t be too tough. Oh and before you do this, don’t forget to ensure it is allowed in your school.

I’ll be trying out all of these with the twins over the next month and sharing what we did. So watch out for detailed ‘How Tos’. I’d love it if you shared yours too.

 

Picture credits: Pixabay and Shutterstock

 

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Everything I never told you #BookReview

Everything I never told you #BookReview

Book: Everything I Never Told YouAuthor: Celeste Ng ‘Lydia is dead’ says the opening line of this book. However don’t go into it thinking it to be a thriller and you’ll love it. This is the story of… …a mixed race couple, Marilyn and James Lee, and their children Lydia, Nathan and Hannah. Lydia is […]