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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Roasted Ragi Chips

I love Indian namkeens (salty munchies). I have a few favourites, and I am sure I will write about them at one point or another. Today, I'll share a picture of my latest find and big time favourite in our home: roasted ragi chips. I get them from a local namkeen and a dry fruit shop (yes there are such stores in India). They are made with whole grain ragi, no oil, are roasted, and seasoned with hing (asafoetida) and mild spice mix of one kind or another.
I am sharing it in my pictures of India series, because I really don't have much to say about them, the picture speak a thousand word. Beside, namkeens in general are very Indian and always muched on with chai. Chai time IS namkeen time. Whether it is banana chips, Khatha Metha, aloo bujia, sev, masala peanuts or chana, you are sure to find something salty served along with your cup in India.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Smart Festive Shopping

As you probably know from a previous entry, we are heading to Lucknow this Diwali. This is not something we do every year due to time and financial constraints. So, when we do, it is a big event that pretty much mean we are expected to go all out with gifts. Such trips requires a lot of planning from us too. We book our travel arrangements as early as possible, and then spend a lot of time figuring what to gift to who. This year was no different, the semi-final shopping list includes hand bags, board games, sarees, books...the usual. Once we sort the list out, DH usually turns the task over to me for the premilinary round of shopping research.

Out of the two of us, I am the savvy shopper. I hunt deals, look for discounts and bargains. I ponder every expenses to be made and am known to go look in several different shops over the course of a day to find something as simple as a black t-shirt and only come home with that, provided I found the right quality at the right price, nothing more. I grew up with a very concervative approach to money and spending, and having lived in Switzerland, I am used to not having any MRP (non existent in my homeland) and having to literally shop around to find a deal.
So, when it comes to something as big as us going Diwali gift shopping, I pretty much function the same way I would for any big expense, and start looking early enough.

Over the years, I signed up with every major e-shopping sites in the country, not because I was planning to buy anything but just to get subscribed to their Newsletters. You never know when a good deal will pop, these newsletters do come regularly with assorted discounts and special promotions. I rarely have any use for them, but still too often enough, I find myself being glad I did sign up. I also love loyalty programs of all kind and use them.
But, just because there is no such thing as getting to many deals in your mailbox, I also look around for special sales, deals and coupon sites and recently found  very useful one: CupoNation. They partner with all my favourite e-shopping sites, list all their special deals and offer additional promotions you can only get through them for these sites. With our Diwali shopping having entered the research phase, this is pretty much heaven sent to assist me in my quest figuring out what to get from where. Beside, they also have coupons for restaurants. This is always a good thing considering that when we end up at the mall, we often end up treating Ishita to something like KFC or McD (we don't get to the mall that often by the way).

I am, and always will be a frugal shopper. As much as I enjoy roaming in markets and shopping districts, or going e-window shopping, I only really buy stuff when I really need them (and take a long time deciding if I really really need it too). Going to Lucknow always mean we are going to spend a lot of money between the travelling and the shopping. Which is why we do plan right AND ahead. Thanks to Flipkart coupons, Amazon coupons and more such coupons only at CupoNation, that task gets easier every time and really help us stay on top of it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Slow down... move to fast. You got to make the morning last...
The opening line from Simon and Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge" song, is stuck in my head at the moment.
Those who follow me on Facebook, already know I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday. Nothing major, my tummy didn't fully agree with the rest of my body in the morning, and by mid-day I was feeling tired, had the sniffles and a sore throat. All symptoms that could be everything an nothing at such point and only required me to just take a day off...from everything.
I haven't really stopped running since Ganesh Chaturthi on August 29th. Thanks to the last minute extended school holiday, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to keep a super active, mega social 5 years old entertained while the monsoon made a come back with a downpour from hell. Downpour which had us trapped inside on most days. We also ended up heading to the doctor for a pinworm infestation, followed by a ringworm eczema on the face, and a return to get a written note saying she could attend school as her teacher wanted to keep her out because of it. Jam in a few gymnastics classes, and play dates, a kitty party I was hosting and the usual everyday chores and errands and you have a recipe for exhaustion.
I am convinced that my feeling a bit funky yesterday was due to all that. And in such cases, I listen to my body and lift my foot off the gas pedal. Moms can't really be sick, we all know it, or at least can't be sick and do nothing but rest. So I limited my burden, and the instant Ishita was in the school bus, just grabbed a cup of tea, a plate of cream healthy crackers ( you know the ones from Britannia), put my legs up and watched the Big Bang Theory (not sleepy enough to nap).
A day living off crackers, bananas, tulsi tea and chicken soup, doing just the minimum houshold wise and an early bedtime was pretty much what I needed to feel fresher this morning. At my best? Nope? But functional enough.
Sometimes it is better not to fight anything and go with the flow, especially during the festive season. I wouldn't want to be burned out by the time Diwali comes, since we are heading to Lucknow this year.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Beaches of Goa

I went digging in all my photo albums to bring you this picture. It was taken in 2006, when DH and I headed to Goa with my mom and sister after our own wedding. July 2006 to be exact. This is the low season in Goa at that time of the year, the monsoon usually lashes, the beaches are pretty deserted, the water rough, the sky heavy, the air humid but cool enough.
I rally can't tell you which beach this one was at this point, we visited all the beaches in the Northern part of the State. If you want to experience Goa without all the race party goers, the monsoon is the ideal time to visit. There will be less crowd everywhere, a lot of hotels have special discounts and monsoon packages, the countryside will be lush and green and people far more relaxed, you should all give it a try at least once if you are in India. What's more, if you are a better photographer than I am and have some good equipment you have the potential for absolutely stunning pictures with the light and contrasts the season has to offer.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

L'art de la table

What does meal time looks like at your place? In all honesty, there has been way too many rushed meals in our home. Meals dumped on a plate straight from the stove and hastily taken to one corner of a cluttered dinning table surrounded by phones, papers and computers.
Fess up! It has been like that in your home too, we all do it in our fast paced city life. Often feeling too exhausted to give meal time any respect or time.
I myself shudder at it, because truth be told, my parents and grand parents taught me better. You see in Europe meal time is pretty much sacred and we take the time to sit down at a neatly set table, eat together as a family and food has to be served nicely on the plate. The French call it "L'art de la table", which translates roughly as "The art of the table" but is more of a way of life and philosophy about food, and the meal time experience. A belief that one doesn't just eat and taste with their mouth, but that every single senses have to be involved in the process for one to feel satiated.
I grew up with these rules, rules of a probably less hectic, less chaotic time. Rules and guidelines I found myself disregarding due to just laziness. But science is on the side of the art of the table concept. We eat better, in lesser (or actually just right) quantity when we take the time to eat and take care about presentation and focus on the meal time. Here are these golden rules I grew up with :
1) Presentation counts, always. No matter how simple the meal or snack is. My grand ma always said that eating straight from a pack of cookies was bad manners, and that if you are eating a small pot of fruit yogurt, the least you could do was to put it on a quarter plate and take it to the dinning table. Taking a small serving plate and arranging a few cookies on it doesn't take much time, but make them look more satisfying according to her. Guess what? She is right.
2) If you don't have time to sit down at a table or pretty picnic spot don't bother eating. Both my parents and grand parents went by that belief. Meal time is important, this is the time you get to absorb nutrients and replenish yourself. It deserve to be taken seriously enough to sit down and make it count. The few times I are a sandwich in no hurry while riding the public transports were the few times I never felt satiated and compensated with loads of crap in an effort to feel full, eating twice as much as I should ever had calories wise.
3) Eat away from the TV. Growing up, our everyday dinning table was in the kitchen, Swiss homes are still built with kitchens big enough to have a dinning corner. My parents believed food is better enjoyed in the company of family and friends and is the place to have lively discussion instead of absorbing nonsense from the TV (at a time we had only 4 channels on the TV...)
4) Serve cooked food in serving dishes, not straight from the pan. This might seem silly but the science behind that idea is that food will continue cooking in a hot pan, even when taken off the stove, and could end up overcooked and it's taste spoilt. Then of course it also looks prettier on the table.
5) Set the table nicely. I grew up being taught how to do it, this was the kids job in many houses, still is. The fork goes on the left, the knife on the right, the water glass above the knife. But that set asside, it meant that the dinning table had to be free of homeworks, papers, and non meal time related clutter. The serving dish coasters went in the middle and everything was put on the table at the same time. No standing up 4-5 times to fetch a napkin, a dish, the salt the pepper or the water while eating, it spoils the experience. Meals were to have without petty interruptions.
6) Once a week, cook something fancier, just because...The idea being that life is too short as it is and one should not wait for a super special occasion to have something else than just the good old steamed veggie, protein, starch trilogy on their plate (convert to dal sabzi roti in an Indian context). Growing up, we dedicated Sunday's dinner time to that, first because we had time, and then because it is a nice way to end up the weekend.
7) Special occasions aren't about showing off your culinary skills. Guest are coming to celebrate an event in your company, and not see you trapped sweating away in the kitchen putting up a Michelin star quality feast together. Everybody in my family went by it, they were fancier than usual dishes, but not to the extent of being exhausting and time consuming to prepare.
8) Go the extra mile with the decorations when throwing a party. While the food was to not keep my mom enslaved to the kitchen, the table had to look extra nice. There was always a freshly pressed elegant table cloth and napkin set involved, along with candles for Christmas as a center piece, or fresh flowers on other occasions. The table was set with our better looking china plates and the silverware went out. Little girls are gifted silver spoons and forks and knives their whole childhood long in Switzerland, one piece a time for their birthday and Christmas. That set becomes part of their bridal trousseau, or at the least a kit for their passage from childhood to adulthood at age 18. It is meant for that use.
9) At least one meal a day should be a family meal. The Swiss lunch break was long enough that people took the time to go back home, so in my family it was a two meals a day thing, but the idea is that eating is a social activity best enjoyed in the company of others.
These were the rules, at least the ones I can remember. And I am not ashamed to say I have broken every single ones in the course of adulthood. Only to realise that a lot of them made too much sense to follow. I have gone back to it, and believe it or not, it makes a huge difference, in how one eat and how much they eat.