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Friday, April 24, 2015

Screen less Fun for your kids

Ok confess, you let your kids watch a lot of TV during the Summer break. I know I relax the rules around the idiot box as the Mercury and humidity rise. We all do it.

There is a big difference though in increasing the amount of TV time and watching TV all day long. I am and always be against the later. TV all day long is dumb, and will only drive everybody crazy. You can't have crazy when confined indoors most of the day with no breather and escape possible. Kids have more energy than adults, and need to spend it constructively for their sake and yours.

The good new, is that they really don't have to spend all their time glued in front of a screen. Think about it. If your childhood was anything like mine, we had a very limited amount of TV channels growing up. And I am saying 2-3 at the max when I say limited. These channels had to have just about everything on them, not just cartoons the whole day long. And our moms had to deal with us during our Summer vacation just lie we do, heck they didn't even have tablets and smart phones loaded with kiddie apps.

And we turned fine didn't we? And ai don't think many of our own mothers turned completely neurotic not having the luxury of endless TV to keep us occupied while they went on doing their household stuff.

Frankly I remember my own mom managing to give us a lot of activities we could do on our own without her help when she needed to get other things done, or simply relax with a good book. There was no constant hovering and pressure to make us do the perfect Pinterest worthy craft project, or entralling us to bake the perfect organic, sugar free, and gluten free pie.
I had the right balance of independant activities and "mom and me" activities. And as you know already, I also had to help out around the house too. The option my mom had that I don't have in the Summer break is taking us outside in the middle of the day. Summer in most of India kicks your butt far more than it does in Switzerland.

These past two weeks, I have been busy collecting craft supplies, finding reading books, puzzles and indoor activities to keep Ishita occupied and entertained until the evening when we can finally venture outdoors. I let her watch the TV all morning (until 10-11am) because during that time I need my breather to gather the strength to go through the day, and then have all the usual household duties that come with the job of a SAHM. I then enrol her to do some cleaning, and we then have some screen less activities. Or together, or her alone while I read a book or write something.

Resist the urge to hover, this is very important for the sanity of everybody evolve. Kids should learn to do things on their own, and parents have to understand that letting kids play with a pack of play dough on their own is not child neglect.

Here are some of the things Ishita and I do at home during the Summer:

- Colouring and drawing. Nothing structured here, she takes her crayons, and do as she please, the only rule I have is that the scribbling stays on the paper. Doodling on the walls, floor and furnitures is not allowed (and punished).

- Painting and crafting. This we do together most of the time, she works on her own project, while I do mine. And now I have a special trick to make cleaning easier...more on it later (don't rob me of one blog entry forcing me to reveal it now)

- Loom bands. You know these colourful elastic bands your crochet together to make bracelet and other ding-wings? The ones that everybody seemed to have been into in the past year. We decided to take the plunge this year. Ishita can do simple bracelet on her own while I browse through YouTube to find tutorials for more complicated ones. This is something that is not only loads of fun, it also help develop a good hand eye coordination and sharpen mathematical skills (counting, patterns recognising and making...)

- Reading practice. Ishita's teacher asked me to make her practice her basic reading skills as she did have a little difficulty with it during the year. So, we bought a lot of early readers books with a lot of the sight words and easy words she has been learning all year round and she has to read one book a day, all Summer long. It is cool, she even gets to fill a reward chart each time she does.

- Unsupervised play time. She gets a lot of it. And don't go all crazy on me, I am just asking her to go play in her room with the toys she have. No dangerous substances or tools involved. Unsupervised playtime with building blocs, dolls and cars encourage kids to come up with their own stories and role playing. It develops the creative mind and help them solve problems on their own too. Meanwhile, you are free to cook lunch or dinner, or just sit down a couple of minutes to catch your breath...your choice.

- Puzzle time. As in jigsaw puzzles that is. Ishita surprised me this week by asking to do a puzzle, so we bought a 300 pieces one that we can do together. Puzzles are awesome. I grew up doing them. They were my mom and I favourite way to spend long Winter evenings. As I grew I frequently did 1-2000 pieces puzzles. And the more fun is that you can redo and old puzzle and still be challenged by it. We would put it on the big dinning table and do it whenever we had time. Some days we were just happy if we put about 20 pieces together in one evening (we choose them hard on purpose). Jigsaw puzzles are not only relaxing, they also sharpen the mind, analytical skills and spacial skills. I owe a lot to my years of jigsaw puzzle solving.

- Play dates. Kids can be very social, and need their friends. Invite some of them over, along with their moms. Let the kids play together while you enjoy a cup of tea, a few munchies and an adult conversation with your own peers. We all need to vent with our friends. The other moms around you are all going through the same challenge this Summer...think about it.

The whole point is that your kids need to have their mind challenged to grow. And , no, you don't have to be their personal entertainer 24/7. This micromanaging craze is something the internet invented to make parents who serve ready to eat meals once in a while guilty.

Repeat after me, you are not a bad parent for letting your kids have some independence...repeat again...and again, and again. Isn't the Summer break looking better and less daunting already?

 Surviving Summer

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Summer cooler : Musk Melon Juice

a healthy Summer drink.

One of the biggest danger in hot climates is dehydration. With each drops of sweat goes both water and minerals. Which leaves you energy less.
And I don't know about you, but I tend to feel seriously less hungry than usual. A thing which of course isn't so great when you sweat buckets and loose more than just water through your pores.

Fortunately, there are plenty of natural options that will both quench your thirst and re-energise you. The good old Indian "Aam pana" (raw mango water) is one option. Then there are all the various vegetable and fruit juices you can blitz in a blender or juicer, or even homemade iced tea.

Today, I will share one of my favourite Summer drink, which is not only healthy but also super easy to make.

Musk Melon Juice

Those living in the US might know the fruit in question under the name "Cantaloupe". Musk Melon is the name the fruit has in India. But truth be told, this thirst quencher can be made with just about any melon you want. The beauty of it, is that it has only two ingredients and minimal processing.
All you need is one ripe melon, a thumb length of fresh ginger and a regular mixie/blender. Scoop the flesh out of your melon in the blender, grate the ginger and blitz away until you have a nice purée. That's it! Your juice is ready.
One musk melon makes two glasses of juice that is full of flavour, water and fiber, without having to add anything else to it, and certainly not sugar.
As the temperature soars, this drink makes Summer that much more bearable and survivable.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Home decor in a rental home

Rental properties come with their own sets of challenges, especially when it comes down to home decor. In India, people usually don't stay more than a couple of years in a rented house or flat before moving to the next one. Landlord whims and job demands oblige. The most desirable arrangement being of course able to afford AND live in your very own property, which in this time and age is getting increasingly more difficult.

a DIY painted jar makes for perfect home decor in a rental.

Because of this rental constraint, people are usually wary of spending too much on home decor, and with reason. What is the point of spending a fortune on wall treatment and custom furnitures when you know you are going to have to leave the place in just a few years? Then, there is the landlord issue, most aren't too crazy about their tenants carrying on big home improvement plans in their home.

Living in a rental pretty much means that you are going to be stuck with the walls and flooring that came with it when you signed the lease. That, however, does not mean you need to live in blah, bland and dull quarters. There are plenty of ways to instil character into your home on a budget. None involve painting the walls, and all can be packed and moved to your next home without problems.

The problem, is that when people of home decorating, they usually visualise expensive custom made furnitures, lavish wall treatments and customised lighting solution. All of it are possible (though seriously not even necessary) in a home that you own. Home decorating is thankfully not limited to this, and it is possible to have a really nice looking home without spending a fortune in the decorating department.

invest in quality wooden furnitures that will last for years

Here are a few cheap home decorating ideas you can easily implement in your home, rental, or not:

- First, invest in basic but quality furnitures. I know, that one might not really appear to be "cheap". But, believe me, it is in the long run. When you relocate often, cheap laminates and plastic furniture then to break more easily in transit than solid wood ones. Heck even without relocating, crappy laminate will barely last you a year or two without starting to fall apart. I speak from experience, trust me.
Pick quality over quantity, and keep them simple. Your furniture should be versatile to adapt to your switching homes often. I myself recommend to pick all of them in one range of colour, so that when the chest of drawer no longer fits in the bedroom, it can still look great in your living room matching the dinning table.

- The best way to give a personal touch to any space is by using soft furnishing. Think curtains, rugs, throws and pillows. You are guaranteed to find something fitting your budget and it can be taken down when you move or even get bored of it. If you keep a few sets of cushion covers and curtains around you can switch them regularly and alter your home decor at will. And it will not even take you more than a few minutes to give a room an instant makeover.

cover your plain old walls with colourful art and pictures to give them character

- Lend character to your boring off white walls by hanging pictures. The big problem in rental homes is that you are usually stuck with white or off white walls (and trust me it is better than the salmon pink I got once). The beauty if this neutral wall treatment is that no matter what you hang on these wall, it will pop and look good. So, take advantage of it and have your favourite pictures professionally printed and framed.
Don't limit yourself to pictures though. Have you accumulated a few cute postcards and greeting cards over the years? Turn them into wall art. Have an artistic bone in your body? Grab a canvas and paint. Found a few cute carvings, plates or flat baskets in a bazaar or on a holiday? Pin them to your walls...
The possibilities are endless and it can be neatly packed when you move out and on to the next home.

- One of the biggest problem in rental properties is storage. I've lived in rental all my life. In India, you are often stuck with whatever wardrobes and cabinets the flat or house came with. This means that you will have to get creative to get all your belongings to fit in whatever storage options. Sometimes, it even has to be left in plain sight (or almost). Fortunately, the market is inundated with storage options : bins, boxes an canisters come in all shapes, colours and sizes, and pretty much at any prices to fit any budget. Pick some that go with your decor and store all that clutter away in your shelves and cabinets and you are good to go, from home to home.

- Last but certainly not least, unleash your DIY potential. Repurpose and paint old jars and boxes. Turn old clothes into cushions and throws. Make wall art out of paper, card or magazine clippings. Internet is full of inspiration, go nut!

All in all, giving personality to a space is neither requires a lot of money, nor a owned and paid dream house (or apartment). With the prices of real estate going higher every year in India, and the fact people move around a lot more and much longer for their career, it is likely one will spend more time in a rental property than in their own home. That doesn't mean you have to put home decor on hold and live a life of generic blandness and boringness.

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