29 things to do.

I love LOVE making lists. I can’t tell you what joy it brings me to cross off as many tasks as I possibly can on my daily to-do list. So I decided to experiment with a BIG Birthday goal of accomplishing 29 things before I turn 29 on the 17th of May, 2015. It was fun coming up with the list. Some tasks can be easily crossed off, others require more effort and time, but all are FUN.

It will be work I know, but I want to do this. I need goals. I’ll update the list as I progress. Here goes:

1. Start a new venture (I have an idea what)
2. Participate in 30 days of lists
3. Cook 29 authentic, traditional South Indian recipes and blog about them
4. Send an article to a newspaper/magazine
5. 29 projects with Medha
6. Learn Photoshop
7. Read the Bhagvad Gita
8. Visit the British Council
9. Read all Harry Potter books
10. Volunteer
11. Make a list of birthdays/anniversaries of family and friends
12. Visit a museum
13. Travel to a place I’ve never been before
14. Watch Smash season 1
15. Learn Telugu
16. Review a fancy restaurant we visit for my blog
17. Have my picture taken with the kids once every month
18. An usie with Prasad every month
19. Get grills done to our home
20. Get a facial done
21. Send out birthday cards
22. Subscribe to highlights genies magazine for Medha
23. Read “the happiness project” once again
24. Clean my inbox
25. Finish onward and upward class
26. Make a folder for the study material related to o&u
27. Once a month list all the things I’m grateful for in my life
28. Finish work on my kids’ album
29. Buy myself something special when I cross the halfway mark.

I hope you feel inspired to come up with your own list. If so, can you please share?

Jack-fruit , A sweet summer snack.

As a kid summers meant vacationing at my grandparents’ house, spending endless hours playing “house house” or making mud-pies in their huge backyard. Summers also meant eating traditional South-Indian meals prepared by my grandma and gorging on fruits like Mango and Jack-fruit. On sunny afternoons in the US, I longed to be back in India, in Kundapur, inside the cool interiors of my grandparents’ house, with the ladies of my family and the fruity aroma of a Jackfruit pervading the whole house.

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A Jack-fruit is chopped from a tree when it ripens (But, sometimes it is chopped even before it ripens. The raw fruit offers its own uses); a huge knife is used to cut the shell open; a few well-oiled ( because it gets sticky!) hands are needed to pluck the edible parts from the shell of a single fruit.

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The edible part of a Jack-fruit, the flesh surrounding a seed, is hard and not-sweet-enough if the fruit hasn’t reached the peak of its ripeness but it is richly yellow, delicate and sugary when it has. I missed devouring them when we lived in Arizona. But now that we are back in India, not a single summer day goes by without the blessing of a Jackfruit.

Sometimes we eat the ones that grow in our own garden; At other times we buy already-plucked flesh that’s sold by roadside vendors (We clean them before we eat, of course); A Jack-fruit has traveled to us by a bus (when relatives sent us a big parcel wrapped in a Sand Bag); One traveled by a train with a bunch of relatives visiting us; Another lucky Jack-fruit came airborne via an airplane with my in-laws who brought it from Udupi to satiate our appetite for its juicy, succulent flesh.

I gobble a few pieces everyday after my meals. When my taste buds hanker for some kind of dessert I go for this fruit instead. I can’t imagine the days without Mango or Jack-fruit. Scorching summers are so bearable because of the bountiful presence of such fruits.

A Jack-fruit’s flesh can be eaten as it is or can be used to prepare desserts like mulka ( a deep-fried delicacy) or gatti (a healthier, steamed variety) whose recipes I’ll learn and post eventually. Even an unripe fruit (whose shell is removed) can be hacked and used (flesh, seeds and the innards included) to prepare a curry that is meaty in texture. What a versatile fruit! Is that why it is called a Jack-fruit? A Jack-of-all-fruits?

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Madhav at one.

Facts about Madhav at 1 :

Madhav at 4 months old.
Madhav at 4 months old.

1. At age 1 he is still crawling, which means he hasn’t begun getting into bigger trouble or exploring farther, which’s good. But crawling also means he acts as a mop, cleaning the dirt off the floors of shops or houses that we visit, which means a lot of cleaning work for me.

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2. He prefers rice (or ground finger millet) with yogurt over a piece of birthday cake and chews with his tiny incisors which makes him look like an old man when he’s eating! Cute!

I don't want no cake! Gimme my rice!
I don’t want no cake! Gimme my rice!

3. He still wakes me up a couple of times at night. Not so cute!

4. Capping a bottle or a pen is his most favorite game. He can play it all day long. It is fun to watch his eyes light up and a big smile spread across his face in elation every time he gets it right.

5. He opens his mouth wide with a loud “aaa…” when we ask him to show what’s inside.

6. There’s a cane seat he loves to sit upon. He thinks it is his potty. So every time he is seated there he HAS to go!

7. Madhav just loves to sort through his sister’s pink bag full of colorful accessories. No matter what he’s been doing, he tosses aside and speeds towards her when she takes it out to get ready.

8. He wants just the thing his sister is holding and will fight to get it!

9. Madhav is the happiest when dad returns home from work and the angriest if he doesn’t pick him up and cuddle!

10. He recently started calling me “Amma” and and uses it every few minutes to see whether I respond. (Or to hear how impressive it sounds as it bubbles out of his pressed lips!).

Fun at Farmhouse.

My in-laws have a farmhouse in the outskirts of Hyderabad. It is pretty, has a lush green lawn in the front and is located far from the din of the city. We don’t spend as much time there as we should because it is still not stocked with the amenities required for a longer stay (plus, it is occasionally visited by snakes!). We go there to have it cleaned or repaired or to have a look at the vegetable and fruit garden.

A farmer and his family manages the house and the sprawling garden on the property. Drumsticks, Eggplants, Tomatoes, Tamarind, Herbs and Mangoes grow in abundance and we all enjoy plucking the bounty to eat right away or to bring them home to cook.

When an opportunity for a visit to the farmhouse presented itself recently I embraced it. It had been long since I’d taken good pictures of my kids and there hadn’t been an occasion to use my big camera. I got the camera and the kids ready and off we went.

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While my mother-in-law checked on the premises I enjoyed the beautifu; weather and my kids at play. The lighting was perfect to “shoot” my kids; it was just before sunset, so it wasn’t awfully bright to make the kids squint or sweat and it wasn’t dark to impel the use of flash ( which I’m not so fond of!). And they were so playful, to this photographer’s delight. So I stepped back and let them have a jolly time. Adjusting the setting of my camera to iA (Intelligent Auto, an automatic setting because I had no time to manually operate when the kids were in motion. Anyways, my goal is to record their activities and not worry about whether I’m being a good photographer or not.) I clicked away.

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My firstborn fueled the love for photography in me. And now, my second and his vivacity have strengthened my passion for recording our lives through pictures. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I did taking them.

My Ideal Day.

One Productivity exercise I read about in many blogs and find truly fascinating is to jot down how I want my Ideal day to be, right from the moment I wake up to the time I fall asleep, and work to make each day come as close to this as possible. Since I’m very fond of experiments that claim to improve my life with nothing more than a piece of paper, a pen and a bit of discipline, I decided to try it and came up with a list.

Here it goes:

  •  Wake up at 5 am
  • Braindump- clear my mind off past troubles and future worries onto my journal; Record my kids’ activities in their journals. Sip a steaming cup of Tea while doing the above activities.
  • Cook while the kids are still sleeping.
  • Morning walk along with my husband. Grab a phone or camera before heading out, to capture the rising sun and his dramatic splash of sunlight on the greenery that surrounds us.
  • Breakfast time. Peruse lessons from Onward and Upward class instead of watching Barney and Friends or Elmo’s World with Medha while feeding her.
  • Project time with Medha
  • Build/ Sustain relationships through phone calls/emails.
  • Lunch.
  • Publish a post while the kids are napping.
  • A brief nap to restore my physical and mental energy so that I can make the best of the rest of the day.
  • Play with Medha and Madhav at the park.
  • Dinner
  • Storytime for my kids.
  • Reading for pleasure.
  • Off to bed at 10pm.

Well, most days don’t look like this. The day after a rough night waking up a couple of times to feed my baby doesn’t start early. I wake up groggy. And if my day doesn’t begin well it doesn’t go well.

All the things that bring me pleasure like journaling, blogging gets pushed to the backburner. The only activities I end up doing will be the basic, survival stuff like cooking, feeding and keeping the kids busy (Yes! It’s super-difficult when I’m not myself!). And I haven’t included the other 101 chores that crop up and fight for my attention like shopping for diapers, heading to the ATM, etc. Some days my kids don’t sleep long enough or eat fast enough to leave me with ample time for writing and reading. But the above list of things that make up my ideal day is far better than having none at all.

This is a sort of blueprint for how I want to live my day, everyday. When I stick to it I’m very productive. I’m well aware that there will be days when I’m unable to accomplish half the things mentioned in the list like when I’m traveling or attending another boring party. My job is to make such less-than-ideal days few and far between because I thrive only when I’m disciplined.

My number 1 goal

I’ve been feeling down lately. Reading other blogs and wondering whether I’ll ever come up to them fill my time. I know it’s not the right attitude; measuring myself against the giants of blogging will only make me feel tiny. It isn’t helpful either. I must snap out of it. But I’m unable to.

Everyday I write, go for morning walks with my husband, feed the kids ( an activity that gobbles up about half my day!), get chores around the house done, read books to Medha from my tablet, organize story-time for my kids and a little girl from the neighborhood, play at the park. Sometimes, when I’ve accomplished most of the tasks on my to-do list or when I post in my blog, I feel like my day has been productive. But there are days when I’m gripped with a strange fear- that I’m wasting away my potential, my life; that I’ll die with my dreams unrealized and my passion unpursued.

My passion (currently) is writing. Reflecting on my thoughts, choosing the right words to transform them into sentences and seeing them in print, even if it is just digital and read only by a few brings me incalculable amount of joy. When I clearly know what my passion is I must do whatever it takes to realize it, shouldn’t I? Lately I haven’t been able to. It isn’t that I’m too busy. So?

I know I must not sit around waiting for someone to push me towards my goal of becoming a freelance writer. Oops… I said it. My dream. I think I took the FIRST step towards realizing it by acknowledging it. I owned it. I made it mine, but I made it public too. I’ve made myself accountable to you-

Writing about the lessons I’ve learnt and the experiences I’ve had and inspiring and teaching interested folks along the way or Teaching and Motivating through my Writing – is what I truly want to do in my life.

No more wondering and worrying. I must get a pen and paper out and make a list of all the little tasks that need to be done to get published.