Things I do to keep Neel busy!

Now that Neel is 9 months old, he is quite active. When he is not playing with his toys or crawling all over the place, he stands up holding something and is slowly learning to walk. He doesn’t sit in one place. He gets so bored at home and expects me to take him out for walks all the time. When we are out, he is the happiest!

As I work 2 days from home, I’m trying to find different activities to keep Neel busy. So far I have tried these after checking many websites on pinterest:

  • Keeping Neel in his playpen right next to the sofa– When I sit and work on the sofa, he plays in the playpen. I do this to show him that I am right next to him. I sometimes keep the TV ON. I know it is not a good idea, but it is OK once in a while! (I do need to somehow get my work done! 😦 )

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  • Playing with edible sand- Its a simple recipe- Mix flour, coconut oil and some food colors and put them in a tub or cardboard box. Toss a few toys in as well. This worked for sometime until he found it too tempting to start eating it. He still needs to get used to this concept that he is not meant to eat everything!

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  • Playing with kitchen utensils– He loves to play with the steel utensils I have brought from India. He enjoys the noise they make while banging them on the floor.

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  • Goody bag– Everyday I place some items inside a bag and point it to Neel. He finds it interesting to open the bag and remove all the items from it and play with them. It keeps him busy for a while.
  • I pour some water on his high chair and place some bottle caps. He really enjoys splashing about.

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  • Playing with bubble wrap– He is still too young to understand the concept of bursting the bubbles in the bubble wrap. But he enjoys crawling all over the bumpy sheet.

  • Making a fort out of the lounge chairs– Mike has made a fort by rearranging the lounge chairs outside in our kitchen garden. We have placed some toys around and he plays with them in a secure area.

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What do/ did you do to keep your kids busy? I would love to know some tips and tricks. Please share…

Love.

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Mainland China- Restaurant Review

I think it was watching the movie “102 Not Out” that sparked our interest in Mainland China. There’s a scene where the main characters all go to this fine-dining place to celebrate a milestone. It looked tempting. We’d never tried this before even though we’d passed by it so many times on our way to other restaurants. Being vegetarians, we, not exactly my husband and I, but a few members of my family,  refused to go on the grounds of it serving non-vegetarian food along with vegetarian, being smelly etc. etc. But one fine Sunday we decided to check it out. Everyone else took a safer route and went along with the restaurant we normally dine at. It was just Prasad and I. We called it a date. 🙂

First things first, there was no smell as we entered. It was quite empty at that hour. We were greeted by friendly staff and huge Chinese statues. The restaurant was done up beautifully. I walked around looking at the paintings and hangings on the wall. We went with the buffet. Vegetarian. There were separate tables for vegetarian and Non Vegetarian entrees.

The Eight Treasure Vegetable Soup was a comforting meal in itself. It felt like just what the doctor prescribed for a gloomy day. It perked us up immediately. We both went for another bowl each. And then came starters, one better than the other- vegetable Siumai, corn and mushroom dumpling, crispy vegetable herbal salt and potato hunan style. Even their appearances were a delight, especially the dumplings. I was tongue-tied at how delectable the crispy vegetables were. They were all so tasty just the way they were that I didn’t need to pair them with any of the many sauces that were placed alongside the snacks.

We were almost full by the time we were through with the appetizers. And then came the main course. I’m not a big fan of Chinese food anymore, thanks to Prasad, who has dampened my appetite for it by ordering some bad takeaways. But there, at Mainland China, I found myself taking a bite of everything and simply closing my eyes in pleasure. I was in Food Heaven! Now, back to the main course, the ginger and capsicum fried rice, the vegetable hakka noodles, the vegetable in Chinese parsley sauce, okra and tofu in hot chili mustard sauce, everything, even the stir-fried vegetables were lip-smackingly good! I’m not the adventurous type at buffets. I eat only the things I really feel like eating, but at China, I was trying everything.

The Sweet and Sour vegetable with Crisp noodles was a dessert in itself, but I had my eyes set on the Dessert spread. We were so full by this time that we had reserved space  just for one special sweet. But how could we not try the others? They looked so pretty and forlorn! 😦 Good-natured folks that we are, we decided to try them too. 🙂 The mousse, the chocolate biscuits, the Deep-fried milk, Uff! Everything tasted divine, but what left an indelible mark in our hearts and minds were the combination of crispy honey noodle with sesame topped with assorted ice creams and a generous pouring of hot chocolate sauce all over. I said to Prasad that I could cry out of sheer joy!

I felt so bad for the family of 3 seated beside us, none of them smiling, 2 of them immersed in their phones, pulling at their chicken legs as if it were just another meal and not a godsend. I asked Prasad if I were allowed to compliment the chef. He didn’t let me and I’m glad he did so. I would’ve surely embarrassed myself in my over-excited state! Yikes!

We stepped out of our routine, our comfort zone, the usual North Indian Buffet we go to,  and gave Mainland China a try… 🙂 It is quite pricey, but it is well worth checking out, at least once. Ha! But I’m sure you will not stop at once!

“What we are ………….” Wednesday!

Hey guys, What are you up to?

Here’s what Madhurya and I are doing this Wednesday…..

Madhurya:

Reading: “Pride and Prejudice“. I was too young when I read it the first time to understand it well. I am enjoying reading this book again. My sister and I love Mr. Darcy!!

Watching: Brooklyn Nine-Nine series on Netflix. It’s really silly and funny and kind of a stress buster for me.

Eating: lots of homemade Indian food. I currently have a strong urge to eat South Indian curries and dosas and enjoy making them too.

Making:  a list of fun activities for Neel to do at home on his own while I work.

Wishing: that my parents and my sister’s family was living close to me. Well, the bright side is I will see my parents soon.

Learning: to take it easy and not be hard on myself. Everyday is a new day with a baby at home. Everyday I make a new schedule to stick with but if one day it works out, the next day it doesn’t. So instead of cribbing about it, I am learning to take it one day at a time.

Thinking: about baking my favorite chocolate chip cookies or a chocolate cake this time? What do you think? Will Neel allow me to spend some extra time in the kitchen?

Listening: to kannada song “ondu malebillu”. It is so soothing and melodious.

Loving: the antics of my super-active baby. He has started to stand while holding something for support and enjoys standing on me, the table, basically anything and everything he finds. He just doesn’t want to stop!

And me…
Reading: I just finished reading my sister’s “The Seafront Tearooms” by Vanessa Greene. A nice book to enjoy on a lazy rainy day. Now on a hunt for another feel-good book. Can you recommend any?
Watching: “You’ve got mail” on Amazon Prime. Something else prescribed by the doctor to lift my blues. 🙂
Eating: Yesterday’s Mango Italian Festa Icecream cake from Ibaco. 🙂
Making: .Nothing, sadly, although I PLAN to make something every single day.
Wishing for:a clearer mind, better time-managing skills and more energy.
Learning: Yoga. I joined a class. Finally.
Thinking: about spending less time online and more time making stuff happen.
Listening: to lots of interesting podcasts and videos. Found a new one.
Loving: reading to my kids. I’m currently reading this to Medha and this to Madhav. 🙂
Love,
Madhurya & Manasa.

Currently…(29/06/18)

  • Projects, Assignments, Tests, Dictations, what not… We (the kids and I) barely have time for free play, answering questions Madhav comes up with, listening to stories Medha weaves, for movies, for ice-creams, for simply meandering through aisles of stationery supplies, for doing nothing… What am I turning my little kids into?
  • A friend’s mother has been diagnosed with Invasive Carcinoma, which has us all talking and talking and questioning the ways of this World.
  •  Madhav- “When I’m 8, Medha will be 11. When I’m 11, Medha will be 14.”

           Me- “When you are 97, Medha is gonna be 100!”

           Madhav- “What age will you be then?”

           Me- “I’ll be up in the sky, smiling at you guys. “

           Madhav- “No mama. You will be here only.”

Hugs me and we move on. Or at least I do. After a while he comes up to me and says, “You WILL be there mama. You will be dyeing your hair to become younger.”

  • I’m learning make-up and skincare, 2 things I vicariously enjoyed but denied myself, saying I’m too busy or I’m not so vain. But I hadn’t realized I was making myself unhappy by not doing the very things that made me happy. Like Julia Child said in her book, “My Life in France”,(I don’t remember her exact words, but..) I’m in my 30s and I’m still learning so much about myself.

We don’t have to have everything figured out. We just need to be willing to learn.

  • I’m a mess right now, what with so many things to do, but hardly any time to get them all done. You gotta see my to-do-lists. You will think, nah, you will KNOW that I’m crazy! I also know I just need a break, to come up for air. It will take time, but I’ll be OK.
  • Read “Eleanor & Park” . A sweet story of romance for young adults. It was good, not great. I wish I had read it long ago. Maybe I would have liked it, but now, the romance didn’t resonate with me and Eleanor and her household kept depressing me. Reading “Strengthsfinder 2.0″ and this line kept me thinking…

         “you CANNOT be anything you want to be-

          but you CAN be a lot more of who you already are. 

-Manasa

10 things that have made my life (a bit) easy as a new mom

Here they are:

  1. Swing

We bought this swing before Neel was born. A lot of people recommended this to us in case the baby turns out to be a light sleeper. I found this on Amazon. We installed the swing in our living room and used it during Neel`s day-time naps. I was able to do my work and keep an eye on him. He slept great in the swing. But we made sure not to use this during his night sleep. We wanted him to sleep in his bed. But on some nights when he was an absolute terror, we had no option but to use the swing. He was able to fit easily inside till about 4 to 5 months.

The swing comes with spring (costs extra) and belts inside to keep the baby safe. The drawback is it needs to be swung manually, which can get a bit tiring and boring!

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  1. Rattle Toys

I bought a few of them in bright colors. They can be held easily. Neel loved them and still does. I keep one or two in my bag to keep him entertained on our travels.

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  1. Stroller/ Car seat

We bought our stroller and car seat from Joie. Till about 4months, when Neel slept a lot during the day, we could just take his car seat out with him sleeping in it and put it directly on the stroller, without waking him up. You don’t even need an adapter to fit the seat on the stroller. For walks and to run our errands, this was quite helpful.

  1. Night Light

I bought this at a shop called Rappelkiste in Germany. I used this light till Neel turned 5 months old (I stopped using this when I started to sleep-train him. More on this in my next posts). When he would wake up in the middle of the night and was not ready to go back to sleep, he would just stare at the projected pictures on the ceiling and blabber at them. I would let him play around till he got tired or bored.

  1. Pillow

I bought this pillow during my pregnancy to help me sleep better. After Neel was born, I used this pillow to place him on. When Neel started to roll over, we had really bad nights. Every time he moved or turned, he would wake up and cry. They say the best way to stop this from happening is to swaddle the babies. Sadly, Neel never liked swaddling. So I used this pillow to keep him from moving a lot and that actually helped. It also helps in transitioning babies from swings to beds.

  1. Baby crib mobile

We bought this mobile at Ikea. I loved its simple and cute design. We did not hang this on his crib. Instead, we hung it above his changing table. He loved it. It was quite amusing to watch him look so animatedly at it as if he was challenging the creatures to play with him.

  1. Sippy cup

Neel, like most babies, never liked to drink from feeding bottles. He only wanted it from the source herself! My mom suggested to try different bottles or sippy cups. And he really liked the sippy cups better. Now I am also trying to get him used to the steel cups (which you generally get in India).

  1. Jars

When we started to feed solids to Neel, I wanted to store his food in sealed containers to make sure it wouldn’t get spoiled. As I made his food in large quantity, we used these jars of different sizes to store it. And it was easy and safe to take them while travelling too.

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  1. Car seat mirror

I use this to make sure that I am able to see Neel while driving. When I drove and he cried in the back, it used to make me very nervous. So we fixed it in front of his seat to make sure that nothing was bothering him physically (like one time his cap had covered his eyes and he was crying a lot). You can buy this in most of the hardware stores.

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  1. Baby carrier

Another item which I think was one of our best investments is this carrier from Cybex. Thanks to the elastic material in the center, it adjusts according to the shape of the baby and I don’t need to adjust any straps. It is quite ergonomic too. I used this a lot when I traveled to Dubai and India.

What helped/helps you as a new mom? I would love to know…

-Madhurya

“What we are ………….” Wednesday!

Here’s what Madhurya had to say:

Reading: (Re-reading) The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie. I am looking for new interesting books. Any suggestions?

Watching: Thor Ragnarok. I am so in love with this movie. I love the humor!

Eating: Watermelon and fresh strawberries. We plucked the strawberries from a farm nearby. They are so sweet and juicy!!

Making:  a list of projects for my #100craftadventures on instagram (I will update this in our blog soon)

Wishing for: a lovely sunny weekend so we can do more hiking, swimming and spending time together.

Learning: to experiment different food recipes for us and Neel (I don’t want Neel to be as picky as I am when it comes to food) and different methods to keep Neel busy while I work at home.

Thinking: about starting a Moms group or a Reading group here. Hope it works.

Listening:  to Tamil songs like Aluma Doluma & Donu Donu.. Thanks to Manasa, now I cannot get these songs out of my head. Even Neel starts to dance when we play them on the radio.

Loving: my “Today I am happy about” journal where I list out at least 5 things that made me happy every day. It is just to remind me that no matter how bad a day goes, I need to see the bright side.

 Here’s what I had to say:
Reading: “Writer Mama” by Christina Katz. I’ve had this book since forever, but I’m reading it now. Guess I never considered myself a writer. Can I call myself a writer now? I always write, don’t I? I still wonder…
Watching: “The Hollars” on Amazon Prime. I’m only now beginning to enjoy the perks of watching what I want on the Prime app on my phone.
Eating: Mangoes. Lots and lots of Mangoes. ‘Tis the season, y’all….
Making:  Masks, Animal masks, for Medha’s Inter-house Competition at school.
Wishing for: more time to do some creative projects plus more time to relax. Is that too much to ask?
Learning: how to do make-up that looks natural. My skin isn’t the same I had in my 20s. Sigh!
Thinking: about how mamas are being so so protective these days. Is that healthy?
Listening:  to Marie Forleo’s Interviews on Youtube. She brings such inspiring people to her channel.
Loving: my daily writing habit.
Love,
Madhurya & Manasa.

Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary

It was the month of May. We wanted to get away from the heat and our daily routine. We’d heard about Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra on our last trip to Tadoba, so we decided to check it out. We knew the place would be hot, but we were so not prepared for quite literally an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” kinda experience!

Tipeshwar is about 5 hours from Hyderabad, which is awesome. It isn’t as far as Tadoba, but is on the same route. We booked our stay at a newly opened resort right at the entrance to the sanctuary. We left home around 1 pm and reached by 6:30. We would have reached earlier had we not stopped to change our punctured tire. That took us nearly an hour as we had to figure out how to get the spare tire out of the car and find that there was no air in it. Thankfully there was a petrol bunk right opposite to where we had stopped. Our men rolled the huge tire across the highway like a couple of 6 year olds having fun along the way, pumped air by themselves and rolled it right back. We didn’t stop anywhere after the fiasco.

We got onto a rocky terrain after the smooth highway, to make our way towards Sunna gate. There were low-roofed squalid huts, tiny stores that seemed poorly stocked and women walking around holding cans to attend to nature’s call in the fields nearby. It wasn’t a pretty picture. In fact it made me realize how granted we take basic facilities like a comfortable home, a restroom etc. After much driving we finally reached our destination. It was sundown time, yet it was too hot, the air thick and hard to breathe in. It took a while for our bodies to get used to the heat.

The rooms (tents) made of canvas were spacious and clean. Since it was hot outside, it was hot inside as well, despite the fully functional ACs in every room, but I did not mind. I sat and read and wrote and slept whenever I could, as the kids were with their cousins in the other room. When the power went out, which was quite frequently, the Generators were turned ON. Food was delicious and healthy throughout our stay. With so many kids in the group, the cooks even customized our food to suit our varied tastes, without bickering. I don’t know if the exceptional Customer service was because there weren’t any other guests in the resort!

Our Walk in the morning took us through barren lands, cracked open, yearning for Rain water. A couple of workers from the hotel accompanied us along with a house-dog (There were a lot of Dogs at the resort, but they were a harmless sort. They barked at the wild boars, which were a menace. Take care of your shoes and snacks though!) We crossed ploughed fields, climbed atop a mountain full of dry teak trees and leafy tendu trees (that are used in making beedis. Apparently the fruit is a delicacy around here). It felt a bit breezy atop the mountain. Madhav walked bravely and earned the affection of the staff, who kept calling his name and going out of their way to help him cross the slippery dips and climbs. The way back was a bit scary and exhausting, but everyone enjoyed the adventure, even the less-prepared ones wearing slippers instead of shoes. On our return, we tried climbing the machaan (a wooden platform used for viewing wildlife). Madhav and I struggled while Medha climbed like a monkey. She kept going up and down, up and down.

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Our Safari into the jungle was HOT! It was 3 in the afternoon and the Sun was overhead. We were loaded with quite a few bottles of lemon juice and water, but we realized, that pretty soon we would have a shortage, no, a crisis at hand!

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We drove through rocky roads, ascended hills, turned curves and everywhere the landscape was barren- bald trees and parched soil. We could spot the birds and animals easily. Usually I suck at sighting, but this time I pointed out all the creatures left and right. We saw the usual monkeys, Peacocks, spotted deers and nilgais. Indian Rollerbirds with their blue, wide wingspan became a hit with the adults and kids alike. They were everywhere and provided such cool bursts of color amidst the brown and muddy landscape.

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All we did inside the jungle was park our vehicles by the Tipeshwar lake and waited, for hours. Kids began getting restless as they weren’t allowed to talk or get out of the vehicle, play or eat snacks as that would make them even more thirsty. They took turns and sometimes squabbled over whose turn it was to see through the binoculars we had. There were herons and peacocks and other birds by the lake. Nilgais and Spotted deers could be seen quenching their thirst too. A few jeeps left, but we were told to wait as the tigers would come out for water. And they did, just as it was time for us to leave. There were 3 cubs and a mama tiger who all came, one by one, to take long swigs from the lake and just loll beside it. All the animals, except a few birds, had vacated the premises by then. All of this happened quite far from us. I had to zoom in through my camera to see them. Although we enjoyed the sight of the Tigers and were reluctant to leave, I felt that we were more worried about whether we would have enough water to drink till we reached our hotel! We asked other people if they had any water to share. Some lent us, some didn’t. And when it was time to leave, our guide brought us a bottle from somewhere which we simply gulped down. fighting over whose turn it was to drink! We’d lost it! I feel so ashamed of myself just thinking about it now.

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Can you spot the 3 cubs?

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We made our way back in the dark. It was Medha’s birthday and the men had gone and bought a cake, so we got Medha to cut it during dinner. Someone said the cake looked a bit funny. Tipeshwar is not a big city to house a fancy bakery, of course the cake would look and taste funny! But Medha was happy she got to celebrate her birthday in the jungle with her cousins! Thank God we were fine the next morning, despite all the things we subjected our bodies to!

What a rough night it was! Medha dozed off right away. Madhav slept with his grandparents in the other room. Somehow I couldn’t sleep, so I just read. It felt like there was a knock on the door every few minutes. I thought the dogs were just playing. Then I heard the wind howling. It was picking up its intensity, almost pushing open our locked doors. Then came the thunder. I thought our tents would be blown away or get burnt due to lightning. I simply read on…. Then I heard Madhav’s voice. “Mama”, “mama” he called out. I ran out, all panicky, my wildly-beating heart in my mouth, assuming his tent had blown off and that he was getting drenched in the rain with his grandparents! But…

He was just having a good time while the grandparents were out checking what was going on! That kid! I was worried sick! After a rough night through which we hardly slept, I thought our safari in the morning would be cancelled, but it hadn’t. It was 5 when we were woken up by the staff. We were late! There was quite a throng of visitors already lined up by the gate to the jungle! We got ready and left. And then we were told that one of our jeeps had broken down and there was just one. We thought of taking our Fortuner inside, but decided not to. The roads were not suitable for our car and we didn’t have a spare tire. All of us, that is 6 adults and 5 kids, squeezed into a single jeep and crawled into the jungle once again. It looked beautiful in a bent-but-not-broken kinda way! The rain that had scared us last night hadn’t ruffled most of the jungle’s feather! Everything still looked dry and barren, but there was beauty in it, or maybe, it seemed to me to be so. I understand that nature goes through these cycles called seasons and now it was time for summer, peak summer that too.

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This time we were well prepared with lots of water bottles, but we weren’t as thirsty. We waited a long while by the lake again, but this time had no chance. Someone said they spotted the Star male (the sole male, the father of the cubs we saw) in another location. We went there but he had left by then. We were a tad disappointed, but It’s all a matter of luck we know. We got back to our rooms, got ready, settled our dues. (About 45,000 for 3 rooms for 2 nights i.e 7500 Rupees per room per night inclusive of food. ). The jeeps were paid separately- 950 for permit, 2000 for drivers. We had to pay for 3 jeeps as the fourth one had broken down. We thanked the folks at the resort wholeheartedly and left.

Tipeshwar is so close to home, we will surely pay a visit in the cooler months.

-Manasa