Let’s play catch up

19 Nov

Phew !That was a longer break than I intended to take. And no real excuses as always except sheer laziness.

A lot of random stuff has been brewing at our end. Here’s the Cliff notes version.

  • My mom visited for a short 10 days and we spent Diwali together after years. And it was less exciting than I remembered it to be. Maybe because Dad and Sis weren’t here too.I don’t know. I do know however that I hate my parents travelling without each other to see us now as they age. I wish distances were shorter, time would freeze to prevent aging and health remains as is or betters , but that’s all mere fantasy. The bitter truth is when there is a choice, I wish they would travel together.
  • That said, my in laws are travelling together to come and see us!Yeah! First time since we have been married , in fact. Anyway, like with all family visiting, mine or H’s, I hope and pray I can hold my tongue and have infinite patience , or atleast to last a month without any scene – big or small. And make some happy memories.
  • November and December are my favorite months as work dwindles down and people start taking vacation the world over! Perfect time for some laid back work days.
  • A lot of sweets and savories from India made their way to my fridge and larder and I feel I am the sole consumer. The Husbadoo won’t open a door to hunt them out like I do, and apart from some minor initial excitement when he first lays eyes on them, he forgets about them all together. So I have been hogging and hogging galore.
  • Bandar is growing up fast and I am loving it. The conversations we have one our drives from school or to and from ballet class are so profound and fun.
  • We attended one Halloween Party and one Diwali Party in the last few weeks and met several desi families. I almost feel I am single and  on the prowl here , except of course , I am looking for a family to bond with . Friendships in your 20s and different from the ones in your 30s and maybe we don’t really need besties but just dependable emergency contact kind of friends.
  • We have had some good family weekends off late with zoo visits and coastal drives and brunches. All of these remind me why we choose to move to this city. That and the fact that the husbadoo’s cricket season hasn’t really started in full flow have made for some enjoyable family time.
  • Avocados are the other reason I moved here! Its good fat but fat all the same I know and I might be overdoing it. My daily lunch  – Garlic jalapeno Hummus on bread with half an avocado – OMG!Heaven in my mouth.

Hope all is well in your world , peeps. Drop a comment and let me know how your November is going.


When you WORK remote…

23 Oct

When I was even just in the planning stage of my transition from a work in the office employee to one who works remote at home, I was very clear in my head that I would have a good child care arrangement for Bandar.By no means was working from home a substitute for child care for my toddler . Of course, the H thought exactly the same thing as I did and we pondered long and hard about Bandar’s care in a new to us city, NYC. Bandar had been with a nanny in Texas when I worked in the office and a nanny in NYC was our first thought.We researched this and then later ruled it out as an option. Apart from being prohibitively expensive on the Upper West side, nannies would  not work very well with (i) Bandar’s temperament at the age of 15 months and (ii) my situation of working from the other room in a small apartment with very thin walls in NYC.  So dayare it was and we choose the best arrangement we could. I paid through my nose for daycare in NYC and I honestly think it was the best decision we took given our circumstances.  When we moved to SD we just didn’t even rethink our school versus nanny situation as Bandar seemed to love school and we just choose a preschool.

So its understandable that I am pissed off no end when people think I am in my pajamas at home with the laptop open on my lap, the TV on maybe, something on the stove and my child playing at my feet.We would make the ideal cover shot for “Working Moms ” magazine with that picture.NOT. Oh btw the only thing true about that picture is the pajamas bit – Thank God we don’t have video conferencing for most of our meetings . (side note: i have truly saved by not shopping for work clothes as often as I used to these last 1.5 years) . Anyway, regarding child care and working from home, there are days like Monday this week when Bandar is sick at home and needs a nanny situations , that I can see some advantage of being home. The nanny the agency gave me was awfully useless and needed a ton of instruction on even how to play with Bandar and me being in the other room helped the situation. But that’s only a few days of the year . The other days my child is in school like kids of most working moms across the world.

Let’s address the comments first from colleagues. The “Desi” men in particular are an opinionated lot on this topic – yes, I am generalizing as I have had several desi men versus one non – desi man in the last 1.5 years assume my remote situation was a substitute for child care. The first comment was a desi guy with twin girls around Bandar’s age at the office. This guy is a tad junior to me on the work scale but my assumption is he sees the work I do, the calls I am on and knows the nature of the job – one that requires focus. His first comment on my move out of the office was – “Oh , you are going to have zero child care expenses. Lucky you!” This guy had obviously not spent enough time around his similarly aged (15 month year old at that time) twin daughters. My response was verbatim this – “Let’s try this – I bring one of your girls to the office and plop her in your cube for a day and let’s see how much you get done”. I of course followed this up with a laugh and said “You know what you are saying is impossible right – I would be  a bad mom and bad employee if I did that.” I think he got it at that point and no more was said. But of course I can’t go into this 3 minute conversation with every desi man colleague (All dad of small kids btw) who brings this up in some form or the other.I just shrug and simply say – “No, my child is in daycare” and offer no other long winded explanation.

The one non desi guy  who brought this up recently during my trip to Panama didn’t have kids. So maybe he truly does not comprehend how this situation would look like. But it was a leisurely lunch conversation so after I brought him upto speed on my childcare situation , I even tactfully shifted gears to expensive childcare in the US in both NYC and Cali. Think he got the complete picture.

Women next . I am part of a desi moms group online and often women will post asking about work from home jobs they can do with children at home. And mostly before I respond, I will see atleast one reply to the question saying its impossible to work most fulltime jobs along with caring for a child , which is also a full time job. When I don’t see this comment from someone else , I am the first to provide it. Of course, every once in a while, I will see a work from home (fulltime tech job from the looks of it) mom ask how to entertain her child while she works. Again , I or someone else will tell her to get child care for her kid . And my hope is moms in similar situations follow through with the good advice given instead of the bad advice (suggestions of videos for a 2 year old to watch – ALL DAY LONG!).

Some desi women in the apartment complex who I met at the park are again shocked that Bandar is at Preschool all day, despite me being at home. One even remarked that she felt so sad for 3 year old Bandar. I just shook it off saying that Bandar has fun at preschool. I know she does – so a stranger’s comments did not bother me here. Another woman wanted me to come and chat and bond with her during the day and spend time with her 10 month old. I explained that I am on a ton of conference calls and left it at that.

Most women I work with directly who are moms seem to get the obvious fact that Bandar is out of the house somewhere while I work. They also get that on some of her sick days she’s home with a nanny and sometimes that means she crying outside my study door during a conference call. I don’t even have to complete my embarrassed sentence hurriedly explaining the situation – “Of course, she needs you too when she’s sick and at home” is all they say. Truly nice to here from another mom.

Family – The majority of the extended family on my side and the husband’s , with a  few exceptions definitely do not get that work from home is actually work. I try to only care about the immediate 4 in the inner circle – my parents and H’s parents and have given up on the rest. Also I don’t live in India so I am not really subject to hearing the extended family’s views on this all the freaking time. Some probably think I have it easy being at home while others maybe get I actually work.

My only non problem /non questioners here so far – Management. They do not question my childcare situation – hopefully they realize the job I do is impossible to do with a child on my lap. But maybe its also because have not given senior management a chance to doubt what our situation is with childcare at all. I offer upfront details with my chain of senior command on our preschool hunt in each city that we move to. With my immediate manager , I have even mentioned costs to add some veracity to our story. Also I guess they know I travel fairly frequently and it just makes sense that my child has a permanent arrangement.

Phew!That’s 1.5 years of pent up frustration right here and now I am all blogged out!

Sisterhood of the world Q&A

22 Oct

I am supposed to be working right now – The rest of the family is fast asleep in bed and I am up to actually work. Instead I am taking up this nomination from PB to kickstart my day.

So she’s given me 5 fun questions to answer

1. What is your favorite piece of clothing in your closet?

A pinkish wrap around dress that hugs my curves just so perfectly. I got it off zulily and love that wearing the dress gives me that extra confidence to go about my day. Oh funny fact – Earlier this year on a work trip to  Vegas , I was having the most amazing evening in this dress. We had eaten at Bobby Flay’s Mesa grill and I had received random compliments on the dress from other diners not in our party – yes it really is that cute. And then as the night almost ended , the dress randomly got untied as I was walking in a casino with a female team mate! I quickly retied it but that oops moment was freaky – the fact that it happened on a work trip more than anything else.

2. Which is your favorite ice-cream flavor?

Mint chocolate chip  – there’s something about that combination. Oh and I like ice cream only in a cone.A cup kills it for me.

3. If you could make a signature scent, what would it smell like?

Guess I haven’t thought that much about scents. I typically don’t like floral. Maybe something citrusy would be nice

4. Describe the last dream you remember. Bonus point if it was naughty. ;)

I have vivid dreams almost every night and can usually recollect them .Usually ridiculous and boring.Don’t think I have had a naughty one in a while. Hmm! Last night was this – my VP decides to call me on my land line to just chat- like old friends!  She starts off with asking me about my family and then my age.And I reply happily that I am 30 and she then asks me when my birthday was. Oh by the way, I am having this phone conversation with her from our old apartment in Bombay. And for whatever reason my mom yells at me to get off the phone and my VP overhears this and is upset about it. And I am scared I have pissed her off. I am also worried that she caught me at home on week day at 5 pm, but then I remember I work at home. So weird. The dream then shifts to visas to go somewhere. All my classmates from college and I are trying to get visas to go somewhere .And everyone comes in with a huge application filled out. But I don’t have a form, or a passport and I am crying. The next scene is weird – I finally am on some boat by myself rowing away. I think I am in Central Park because the rest of the dream is definitely in NYC. I then remember I need to go and pick up the Husbadoo and Bandar from the bus stop. I even ask myself why I have to pick them up as the bus stop is right in front of our apartment. Anyway I meet them and they have 3 big bags- Bandar seems to be lifting a crazy heavy one. So I take it from her and she cries loudly.She then keeps asking for pizza and the last scene is like we are each carrying a heavy suitcase and are off to eat pizza..

Phew! I don’t remember anymore of this but see the randomness here!

5. What was your last Google search about?

Ugh,The last thing I googled was market research for work –  boring tech stuff.

But one fun thing I googled this week was “Japanese baby names”. No, not pregnant or close to it even but my biggest worry is we don’t have a good name picked out. Once we have that , we can work on the other stuff!

The End

I am too lazy to think of new questions or nominate others. Please , please do take it up with these questions though as they were quite fun , especially if you want to break the blogging rut.

All things Food – Grad school style

20 Oct

My little sister is in grad school in Europe and she is fending for herself, just like all grad students away from home for the first time have to do . And though I was a new grad student in the US a good 9 years ago and have forgotten maybe the most turbulent times a few especially with regards to the food arrangements are crystal clear in my memory.

  • We were 4 girls living in a 2 bedroom house and got on each other’s nerves endlessly. There were petty fights, big fights, medium fights – we had them all. Fights about food was especially a commonplace occurrence.
  •  To start with labeling food in the fridge became a necessity to set the boundaries – we started this within 1 week of moving in as the situation demanded it.
  • Grocery shipping and settling the bill was by itself an arduous task. One room mate , almost anorexic, drank only milk and ate apples -or so she claimed. So she refused to pay for anything else. So the itemized bill was reviewed, re -reviewed and segmented out. When you have four “unfunded” , thrifty 21 year old girls looking at a bill – there are several things to account for . Which 2 or 3 people would partake of the bread, the cereal , the yogurt and so on? Which items were for one person’s sole consumption only?Did you account for tax of your solo item from the main bill- oh you thought we would pay the few extra cents for that! Fun stingy times!
  • And on top of this, the gallon of milk one hauled up the hill as we didn’t have a car, was often consumed way before one even got a sip. We finally started buying 2 gallons every shopping trip to counter this.
  • But above mentioned “anorexic” roommate did have tons of food from a well meaning relative sent home each month – cereal, cookies, granola bars to name a few.These she consumed in secret , until rats invaded the stock. And then for the first time we actually got a glimpse of the hidden treats , atleast the remains that the rats had left behind.
  • Indian store shopping was another huge deal altogether – no mean task. You had to firstly befriend someone with a  car, and this one girl excelled at . So yes, the only way we ever got a whiff of Indian groceries during grad school was was due to the fact that many a bespectacled Phd candidate well victim to our roommate’s charms.So I do thank her for that.
  • And after all that effort, consuming the last packet of Maggi by yourself would almost definitely result in a major fight – with some serious shouting.
  • Now when I think about it , our common shopping was one big  carb fest! Wish we had bought more vegetables – made more salads, eaten healthier as a whole.
  • Now regarding the actual cooking itself, All my subjis were ridiculously awful and simple – puree onions and tomatoes, throw in either a can of beans/ frozen veggies/cut potatoes, add in random masalas. Eat with tortilla. Pretty damn horrible. To this day, I hate the taste of raw onion in subjis and I take great pains to ensure the onions are well sauteed before pureeing.
  • Pasta dunked in pasta sauce by the bottle was also an evening meal we often indulged in. One particularly warm evening we all actually ate this meal of pasta, store bought sauce and garlic bread at our small little four seater table(second hand in a moving sale) and actually bonded to some extent. A very rare moment for us.
  • Canned mushroom soup was a favorite of mine with toast- I have not bought canned coup in ages now but I still remember the taste vividly . This was a treat I indulged in , on most Friday nights.
  • Peanut butter (PB)  was a source of many a fight. I made myself 2 PB sandwich on most days before leaving for my campus job and several hours of classes. As only one other room mate and I liked PB, we solely paid for the bottle on our grocery list. For a few days in between, I awoke too late to make my sandwiches and ran off to work. The other room mate read about a PB recall and also found our brand new jar (which was indeed part of the batch recalled) about 3/4th empty. I swore I had not opened it , she swore the same – all suspicions fell on anorexic girl who we all knew by now ate a good bit in secret,especially stuff she didn’t want to pay for. But she did not admit to it and so we gave up pursuing this mystery in a week.No one fell sick though.
  • We often attended career sessions with pizza sponsored by hiring companies on campus just for the free meal. I have sat for presentations by several companies who absolutely had nothing to do with my major.
  • My goal to cut personal living costs was to eat as many meals at home or  carry a sandwich or two with me everywhere (Carb fest as I said!). But many  a night was spent working on home work in the grad lab and the Doritos and Honey buns from the vending machine beckoned and I succumbed.  Yes, Honey buns are those ghastly oversweet, preservative filled, calorie laden pieces of crap you used to find in vending machine. I have had more than my fair share!

Fun memories!

Weekend back home

19 Oct

I was away last week for work in Austin. Austin – the one city that feels like home for me. Maybe its because I gained my financial independence, started my career, grew some wings of my own in this city. I do have to admit though that this visit more than others made me miss the husbadoo and Bandar a ton – they were with me in Austin a few months ago and the summer memories we shared are all around me in Austin and hit me at every turn.

Speaking of the two most important people in my life, Bandar was especially co-operative and compliant this last week to give her dad an easy time when I was away. She comprehends the situation, is quite sad about it and often sighs and mentions that she misses mummy but rallies around and is on her best behavior through the week.

I was delighted to get on an earlier flight back home on Friday and both of them picked me up at the airport. Bandar seemed a little subdued and I wondered out loud why that was the case. Within 10 minutes of getting home , she started a fever with high temps and Friday night and Saturday were spent holding her mostly. Needless to say, we were both relieved this happened on Friday once I was back and not when the husbadoo was single parenting last week.

So in the last 2  days we have read maybe 40 different books atleast 2 times each, invented several random games with her toys and watched more than our fair share of Youtube videos. Saturday at least Bandar shut down the laptop after her one sanctioned video was allowed, saying her eyes would get spoilt. But Sunday she was past caring and so were we and we all vegged out a bit with Youtube on.

In between , I sneaked off to the kitchen to do some cooking . Freezing food in advance has been a savior off late. I froze some extra chole before I left for Austin, and we thawed it out for a meal – fairly good, atleast the freezing did not impact it negatively. I also made a pretty damn delicious paneer, bell peppers subji – the trick is some cashews pureed with the sautéed onions and tomatoes. The overall result was restaurant quality indeed. The H and I sneaked in some adult time catching up on Modern Family episodes and eating some store bought Tiramisu cupcakes. (Side note – One does miss the spouse immensely when away, but it sadly gets overshadowed with missing the baby. So I am thankful for the cupcake eating, show watching, catching up on our lives conversations we had this weekend.) This helped keep our sanity while caring for a feverish baby. Apart from the Chole , Paneer and some idlis that I made this weekend , the husbadoo pitched in and made 2 pretty good meals – poha for breakfast and kick ass sandwiches for dinner. A big achievement for us this weekend was the fact, we could not really go out to eat with Bandar being sick and we actually survived on home cooked food (sans cupcakes) for all the meals and enjoyed them too.

Bandar is going to be home with a nanny and me till she is completely okay to return to school. So it’s going to be a tough few days (yes, even with the nanny!)  balancing work and her. And work is busier than ever this week, so wish me luck.

A few seconds

7 Oct

A few seconds of distraction is all it takes to lose your child in a public place. I can now join the list of moms, who I once mentally deemed as utterly careless . (How terribly judgmental of me) It’s taken me a week to get over the whole incident mentally and blog about it. It was awful – simply put, I lost Bandar for a good 5-7 minutes at a grocery store!

It was a perfect evening to start with – I picked her up from school and decided to hit up the grocery stores on the way home. She usually loves this and is super good , she waits patiently till I finish the “boring” store and then go to the ”fun” one with samples – Trader Joes.

We started at the “boring” one. She was sitting in the cart but made a fuss to get out and walk. So I helped her out and told her to stay with me. We were in the bread aisle at this point. I walked towards the veggies with her right behind me. I kept looking behind. Picking out broccoli, I saw she had entered the veggie aisle too and was maybe 5 feet behind me .I wondered about 2 heads of broccoli versus one and that decision obviously seemed to have taken me more than 15 seconds. Because when I looked up, Bandar was no where in site. Panic stricken I ran through the veggie aisle shouting her name. I ran to the aisle next to it as well. Other shoppers offered to help look for her. My biggest fear was she had left the store and gone on to the road. I ran up front to the check out again and asked one of the cashiers to announce her name saying she was in a yellow dress. I ran through about 5 aisles screaming her name again – imagining the worst situations – Kidnapping, walking out to the parking lot on her own etc.

I vaguely heard them announcing something on the speakers – figured they were calling her name. Instead a shopper or two told me she was up front and that they were calling out for me. I was crying by this time and rushed out to the front and saw her holding a cashier girl’s hand and she was handed over to me. She was smiling a small smile and seemed vaguely guilty but calm, I picked her up and smothered her with hugs and asked her where she was. Her version of it she lost me and couldn’t find me.That was all I got from my usually verbose child. Later the cashier told me a customer had found her wondering the store alone and brought her to the front. She had apparently answered with her name when asked. And then they called me. That’s it. I had so many thoughts about the way this played out – what if the customer had not been nice enough to bring her up front? Looks like my child had no concerns about going anywhere with strangers – she let the customer take her up front and had stood calmly holding the cashier’s hand. If anyone had told her they would take her to mommy, I have no doubt my child would have followed and left the store without any fuss or scene – awful to think about but its something I have to teach her quickly. We have read books about this exact situation – getting lost at a grocery store (!), not talking to strangers is another lesson we have spoken about. Anyway, in this case the strangers helped her, so how could I teach her whatever message I wanted to give her in my mixed up head about strangers? She’s too young for hypothetical situations when I tried in vain to walk her through a few?  How could I have been stupid enough to lose her in the first place? What sort of a mom was I? I was so badly shaken by the whole thing for the rest of the evening and even the next few days to some extent. This is one of the family secrets that will never be told to my parents or inlaws –unless Bandar accidently bleats. I cannot deal with being judged or scolded here on top of the intense guilt.

Bandar will not be getting out of the cart till she is 7 at least at this point.And if we ever have two kids I will not be the brave mom out with both a grocery store.I am clearly incapable of the simple task.

Want not , Waste not

24 Sep

I feel awful saying this but here goes – I waste a good bit of food each week.

It all stems from the fact that I absolutely love grocery shopping. Well, I think its not just the act of going to the store to buy groceries itself but the whole planning recipes, looking up ingredients, going to different stores for the best deal, ordering in bulk. You would think maybe it was the whole getting a good deal thing that I enjoy – but no, I don’t get the same high from clothes shopping or furniture shopping. In fact, I often have buyer’s remorse after those, but with groceries I seldom do.

All this is okay if I actually utilize what I buy . Sadly, I think I get carried away in the idea of putting together a meal rather than the actual cooking itself – so I do end up wasting a good bit of what I buy. Produce that looks green, fresh and inviting at the store often meets its end in my fridge a few weeks later. I have millions of recipe pins on pinterest. I read a minimum of 6-7 food blogs every few days or so. My head is buzzing with ideas on what to cook and how to prevent wastage. I cringe every time I throw something in the trash but yet I follow the same cycle each week.

Part of this is the fact that the husbadoo has decreased his consumption of food in general in the  last year or so. Its not that he doesn’t like the food I make, he is just being careful about his portions , which I guess is good. But of course, I haven’t reduced my cooking quantities. I have tried – put away bigger utensils, forced myself to use the smallest ones, but the fact remains that I think its a waste of my time and effort to cook for just one meal. I make a mimumum of two meals worth in quantity. So if I make palak paneer  (PP) for 2 meals for 2 people, he will eat one small serving of it and I am left with 3 servings to put into the fridge. Then ,if it’s a weekend , we might go out for a meal or two. Oh and then maybe Bandar will ask for something specific – very rarely happens,  and I will spend time and effort shopping, prepping to make it for her and then make enough for all of us too. I will just want to eat a salad or just drink a green smoothie for the next meal after a carb overload from Bandar’s ask. So PP gets pushed out from Saturday when it was made to maybe Wednesday night to be finished . Saturday we ate too little of it, Sunday we ate out, Monday we ate Idlis – courtesy Bandar’s ask, salad on Tuesday – PP still left over on Wednesday.

Meanwhile , just because I had some PP in the fridge I did not reduce my food shopping or prep for the week this weekend. So I have stuff prepped for Sambhar, alu masala made for masala dosas, all the kale and spinach washed, ready, bagged for smoothies, 2-3 interesting desi vegetables from the Indian store to try out and so on…A good amount of these will end up in the trash in 10 days from now.

I really need to get better organized. Maybe actually writing out the menu instead of thinking of it will help. Limiting myself to 2 veggies a week maybe at the grocery store  is another tip I read somewhere. But then I hate reading a recipe that I don’t have ingredients for and being unable to make it when inspiration hits. Guess one extra visit to the grocery store never killed anyone.

Fresh produce is the one that’s wasted the most of course. My pantry is bursting at the seams too but its stuff that spoils less frequently usually has every staple you can think of. Bajra flour, ragi flour – I have. 4 types of pasta – Orzo, Fusilli, Spaghetti, elbow macaroni – have it. A wide selection of ntus and dry fruit – Apricots, cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, Chia, Flax, Hemp. But of course aged ingredients turn rancid sometimes – case in point Walnuts and I had to trash them and it broke my thrifty heart. All this inventory also requires immense organization and shelving astuteness and despite having a spacious kitchen in this apartment I struggle with this.

So this weekend, I am going to turn over a new leaf – plan a menu, avoid even seeing a grocery store, organize my kitchen shelves and get ahead of this wanting-wasting game as best as I can.

How do you fare on this front? Would love to hear how you manage this aspect of your lives.


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