Sunday, September 15, 2013

If that ship has sailed...

If that ship has sailed don't you think you can get on a speedboat and catch up to it? I always thought that was a possibility, maybe because I'm an optimist. Very few people are very lucky, for others opportunities are few and far between. Don't you think it would be a shame to miss out on something just because you didn't pursue it with your best effort? I think it would be totally tragic.

Life is full of unplanned occurrences, glitches and bumps along the way. Our most perfect plans are vulnerable to unpredictability. You can take this unpredictability as a reason to become hypertensive and fearful of the future or see it as factor of excitement in your life. If everything worked out as planned, then there would be no stories to tell, no problems to solve and perhaps nothing left to talk about! You can't prepare for every challenge beforehand but you can develop the strength and devise a plan to overcome the challenge when faced by it. So back to catching up with our sailed ship; perhaps a helicopter if not a speed boat? Don't have the means for either then how about just swimming? C'mon if Diana Nayd can swim from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64 you can surely do a few strokes too ;)

Exhaust all possible resources before you wave adieu to that ship. And once you do, don't look back knowing that you tried whatever was humanly possible. Don't fret, obsess and regret. Somethings are not meant to....but those that are may not always come easily.

If you have a story to share of how you didn't let an opportunity pass you by, even though you were faced with difficulties, then please share them with me. 

Since our theme was nautical I decided to end this post with a seafood "salad"- maybe it will help you stay in shape for that swim :) Enjoy!




Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Family Recipe - Aaloo & Puris

On my list of top 10 things that really annoy me, not sharing a family recipe is definitely up there. Food is meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone at any time. Another list topper is not giving people credit for their recipe or claiming it as your own. C'mon, that's just lying or hiding the truth; both are wrong :) Share great recipes & extend your food legacy; give others credit for their recipes and extend theirs. After all, their food filled your tummy and your day with yumminess. 

In my last post I promised to share my favorite traditional Pakistani breakfast recipe. It's what my mom made on weekends for us and I still ask her to make it whenever we are together. I hope you will try it too and enjoy it with your family and friends. Here is what you will need.




Ingredients for the Aalo curry (potato curry):

1) Five small golden potatoes; washed and thickly sliced (peeled or unpeeled)
2) 1 teaspoon red chili powder
3) 1 teaspoon salt
4) 1/4 turmeric powder
5) 1 tsp tamarind juice
6) 1/2 cup water

For tempering the Aalo curry:
7) 1/2 tsp onion seeds (kalonji)
8) Half white onion sliced
9) A few green chilies, whole, stems removed
10) 1/4 canola or vegetable oil

For the Puris (fried puffed bread):

1) 1 cup whole wheat flour
2) 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3) 1/2 tsp onion seeds
4) Water for kneading the dough

Method:

Wash, (peel or not) and thickly slice 5 small golden potatoes. 


Add 1/2 cup water, salt, red chili powder,  turmeric powder and tamarind juice. Boil on low/medium heat till potatoes are tender and some water remains. 



Heat 1/4 cup oil and add 1/2 small sliced onion, green chillies and 1/2 tsp of onion seeds. Fry till onions turn light golden.



Temper the potatoes by pouring the oil with all the ingredients on top of the cooked potatoes. Cover and set aside till ready to be served.



Mix whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, onion seeds and water. 


Knead to make a soft (but not sticky) dough. Make small balls from the dough (slightly bigger than golf balls). Flatten it on a hard surface and roll out into flat circles (like tortillas). 



Cut each circle into 4 triangles. 



Heat oil in a deep wok and fry two puris at a time.



Serve hot and enjoy!



Note: Don't bite into the green chillies (unless you are used to that kind of heat- they are mainly for fragrance and garnishing.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Abstinence and my absence of mind.

Abstinence and absence of mind will go hand in hand for me this year. If I don't eat, I basically don't remember much and my whole day is like a fog. I'm truly scared of this year's holy month of Ramadan, mainly because this is the first time in my adult life that the fasts will be so long- almost 16 hours long.... basically a 16 hour long fog for me. I am a very unpleasant person to be around when food is missing from the scene, ask my nearest and dearest. I am also a useless person to be around when I don't have access to frequent doses of caffeine and carbohydrates. To make things remarkably difficult, I have a robust toddler on my hands who is always bursting with energy, bless him. You get the picture, it will get ugly. 

At the same time, I am also very excited about fasting; I see it as a test of my will power, strength and my believes. I see it as a challenge and love the devotion and dedication that it requires. Fasting can really whip one into shape and instill the idea of discipline that we might have been lacking during the rest of the year. It's a fixed schedule of eating, praying, sleeping, reading etc. What is also great is the flat stomach that is at its lowest level in the hours closest to sunset ;) Go weigh yourself then, it will give you enough energy to jump off the scale with joy, I promise.

People often say that Ramadan is a good time to kick your smoking habit. I disagree. Don't make any big changes in Ramadan. Fasting is serious work, don't make it harder. Look forward to your reward at sunset and enjoy it. What I would recommend though is to carry over the discipline of Ramadan onto the next month and use it then to get rid of a bad habit or to get yourself into a healthy routine. 

Ramadan is so much more than just abstinence from food but for the purpose of this post food is what I want to focus on (of course, as always.) Ramadan calls for abstinence during the day but allows you to indulge after sunset and, man, do people spread out a feast. Here are some yummy ideas to add to your own spread whether your observe Ramadan or not :) Carb up people! It's going to be a long race.

1) Simple Pakora recipe


2) Fruit Chaat




 3) Kaala Chana Chaat


4) Jalebi - Mmmm...Best when served hot!


5) How about a twist on samosa and french toast?



I hope you will try some of the yumminess and report back :) Check in next week for one of my favorite breakfast dishes. It's a family recipe that I would love to share with you. See you then!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The mane attraction.

If your hair looks put together then most probably you will too. A lot of women and men spend long hours and countless dollars trying to get the right kind of hair/hairstyle. You kind of have to invest in hair - it's sitting on top of your head! I have had long hair my entire adult life mostly because I have developed an attachment to it and will suffer from separation anxiety if I cut it off.  Mine is straight and I like to style it in different ways. Here are some of my current favorite products and hairstyles.

Hairstyles:

- The sock bun. Perfect for those days when I have no time to style my hair any other way.  I just make a high pony tail and roll my hair inwards with the insert. Before the inserts became common I would literally use a sock but that never worked really well. Inserts are available at any accessory shop like Claire's, Icing, ULTA etc.



- Curls/waves. I use the old school hot rollers. Curling irons/rods are just not for me. With my long hair it would take me forever to sit and curl sections of my hair one at a time. Instead, I put on the hot rollers, do my makeup and take the rollers off- voila! soft wavy/curly hair with half the time and effort.



- Keeping things straight. The best style for your hair is the one you were born with. Since mine is straight anyway, I let my hair air dry, divide it in two sections (top and bottom, not left and right) and then quickly run a hot flat iron through it. Sometimes I use a protective, anti-frizz spray to prevent damage from the heat and keep the frizz out.



Products:

- I don't spend big bucks on salon brand shampoo and hair conditioners. I've tried them and haven't seen much of a difference between those and regular drug store brands so why spend more? I like L'oreal's Total Repair 5, Herbal Essences Hello Hydration and Aveeno's Living Color shampoos and conditioners.



-  L'oreal's Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm is great for weekly treatments to make hair soft, smooth and shiny. I noticed a considerable improvement in the shine and general health of my hair.

- Aveeno's leave-in treatment is good for those days when you haven't deep conditioned your hair and feel like your strands need some moisture. The only drawback with this is that I felt like I was going through the bottle very fast. Nevertheless, it's a good product.



- Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth Anti-frizz creme. Let me just say that it is not a great "anti-frizz" as it claims to be. So if that is your primary concern and you have thick and coarse hair, don't bother with this product. Having said that, it works pretty well on my long straight hair. It leaves it soft and smelling great, not sticky or greasy. It also takes care of a little frizz for me. I use it more as a hair refresher than as an anti-frizz cream.



- John Frieda's Frizz-Ease Heat Defeat Protective Styling Spray. Protects from heat of styling tools like flat iron and curling rods and controls frizz.



I don't know much about what works for curly or coarse hair so if you do then please share your favorites with us :)



  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Notes to and from a new mommy.

I still consider myself a fairly new mom because my son is only 21 months old and, just like him, I am learning something new everyday. Over this period of time I have learned a lot about myself, the baby, of course, as well as about adults who are eager to dish out advice; most well-intentioned and less judgmental than others.

Here are a few things I would like to say to people wanting to "help" the baby and the mother :)

-Keep your advice to a minimum. Offer advice when the mother asks you or when you see the mother doing something that could potentially endanger the baby's health (which is highly unlikely.) Don't blabber on about how you did a certain thing in your days. Gently offer your two cents at the relevant time but only if it will make a significant difference. 

- Inundating the mother with your words of wisdom could actually backfire. You could end up overwhelming an already exhausted individual.

- ASK what the mother (and even the father) need help with- don't assume. Everyone's situation is different. Maybe the mother wants a stretch of five to six hours of sleep at night. Depending on your relationship with the family, offer to watch the baby one night a week by staying over until the mother finds her bearings. If the mother prefers to watch the baby herself but needs help with laundry or cooking then offer to do that and do it graciously.

- Please, please, please offer to help mothers when you see them traveling with children and infants. If they don't want your help they can say no. It's a lot harder to ask for help and hear a, "No," than to offer help and hear a "No, thank you."

- If a mom is visiting you with a small child and you do not have small children to look after yourself then take some burden off of her. If her child gives trouble at night, offer to watch the baby one night. If you work, offer to help on a weekend. I have heard the argument that the mother has to watch her own baby and its her responsibility and that others shouldn't be expected to pitch in. My answer to that is that it's not about responsibility or expectations, it's about helping someone - everyone deserves a break and a new mom more than anybody else. 

- DO NOT expect a new mom to help YOU with something. I know it sounds ridiculous but I have seen it happen.

-It is nice to visit the mother and baby and I am sure they would appreciate the company...for a little bit. All I wanted to do with any down time I had was to sit there silently and do nothing. I just wanted to relax by myself. So don't plan a day long expedition  unless you are going with the intention of helping and not just entertaining. Send the mother for a nap, put the baby down for a nap and sterilize the bottles- that is how you help :)

I had a very difficult time with my son for the first six months because he had severe acid reflux, constipation (which caused gas) and he started teething early. All those led to him being very restless and he would wake up every two hours at night and napped for 30 minute stretches during the day. Nursing was also very challenging for me. To top it all, we had moved to our new house the day before I went into labor so most of our things were still in boxes when I brought my son home. I had never been so tired as I was in the first six months after giving birth. Maybe I needed more help than an average mother because of my particular situation; everyone's situation is different, so ask the mom/dad and help!

Few things new mother's need to remember which might help them deal with their new (adorable) situation a little better:

- People forget how hard it can be to take care of a child- don't hold it against them. You'll forget too unless you make a note of it (like I am doing here.) Even mother of several children forget once the children have grown up.

- Everyone was not created equal- you are a unique individual and so is your baby. Your babies growth process will be different from other babies and the way you handle your child will be different from other mothers. Follow your natural instincts - don't sweat it.

-If you can't handle something at a given time- ask for help, don't feel like you must deliver all the time. Even those around you might not know what you need until you ask.

- Nursing is NOT EASY. It is supposed to be the most natural thing but, in the first few weeks, I felt it was the hardest thing I have ever done- harder than natural labor! It is important that you make it your priority and try and get yourself and the baby comfortable with the process so your baby can benefit from the milk made especially for him/her. However, having said that, you can only do what is "humanly possible," as my best friend said. There are many other aspects to being a mother; nursing is just one of them. Do your BEST and if it doesn't work, supplement with formula and be satisfied with whatever you did and focus on your child's other needs. My other bestie (I know I have smart friends :)) said that in the big scheme of things it is more important how you raise your child than if you nursed them or fed them formula. You are not a bad mother if you didn't nurse your child for a certain number of months. 

If you have a great mom then learn from you mother like I have but at the same learn from your child as well - let him/her guide you on your journey to motherhood. Trust yourself; you are the mother and you know best. You will always put your child's needs first because, after all, there is no ME in motherhood :)  






Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Make room for room service

I was instantly saddened after I read the first few lines of the NY Times Article saying that the New York Midtown Hilton was doing away with its room service. As a frequent traveller, I think it is a bad move and a very inconvenient one for a lot of us. My big fear is that trends set in New York are picked up fast by other cities and that will just be sad, and, let me repeat, INCONVENIENT. Here are a few reasons:

-It affects mothers or anyone taking care of small children. I have a very personal example; I was actually staying at the Seelbach Hilton in Louisville last year and ordered room service twice in my three days there. Sure it was expensive but the convenience factor and the quality of the food made it worth it. I ordered in because my husband was at meetings and my son, 10 months old at the time, fell asleep at an odd time and I was hungry! I didn't want to disturb him because he was off schedule anyway. Another time it was pouring and I didn't want to push a baby in a stroller in the rain. The article says that food can be delivered to the room from an outside restaurant but has to be picked up in the lobby. Am I supposed to lug my sleeping son (at the risk of waking him up) into the lobby and then carry him and the food back up (with a potentially screaming and mid-sleep awoken baby)? I don't think so. I'll stay at a hotel that offers room service. Since I am not the only mother in the world I am sure a lot of people can relate to this scenario.

- People staying at a nice hotel for business, vacation or to spend some quality time with their honey really count on room service. You probably want to relax, chill, rest and rejuvenate. Maybe you don't want to run around town dining. Maybe you did it all day long or your were stuck in meetings all day and now just want to sit and eat in your bathrobe in front of the TV.

- There is definitely a charm to the waiter arriving with a cloche on your food and knocking on your door because, like most people, I don't have a butler roaming around with a tuxedo in my house. If I wanted my food to arrive in a paper bag; I would have stayed home and ordered Chinese.

- Don't even get me started on what will happen without room service breakfast.... 

I agree that room service is ridiculously expensive but as a hotel guest you always have the option of not ordering it. Hilton has used that argument to abolish room service - the say that it costs them too much to have a standing staff and food when very few people order it. I am skeptical about that - room service food prices are inflated by almost 200% and they still can't afford to keep it going? What's next? I'd have to make my own bed because maid service is costing the hotel too much? I think I'll choose another hotel.

I don't want an end to this!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Give Your Green Thumb a Go

Until a couple of weeks ago I had never planted anything- nothing. I love flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables, legumes; pretty much anything that grows from the ground. This year I decided that instead of just smelling and consuming plants and vegetables I should try growing something too.

I have to say that it wasn't easy; mainly because I didn't know what I was doing! I got some very basic information from the store where I bought my plants from and decided to dig up some dirt and plop the plants in. I'm giving the most basic tips here. If you are looking for more professional results then please consult a professional :) Basically this is what you need to do:

- Get a pair of gloves, a trowel, and the herbs/plants flowers you want.
- Also get some potting soil. I got Miracle Grow Moisture Control.
- You will also need mulch. Apparently, herbs and annual plants (plants that usually have a one year life- they are cheaper but you would have to replant every year) need mulch around them.
- Then get digging!
- You don't need to have a backyard to do it, you can plant them in pots and put them in your terrace/balcony or even a windowsill.

I have some space to work with so in my front yard I put hydrangeas, some annuals and some knock out roses. In the backyard I've planted, mint, rosemary, dill, tomatoes, strawberry, cilantro and a pineapple (the pineapple is in a pot for now.)

So far the annuals have bloomed beautifully. The knock out roses are expected to bloom in two weeks. The herbs seem to be doing well too. BUT my hydrangeas and the dill plant are on the verge of dying...I'm not sure why. I think I might have over watered the hydrangeas...The dill plant's death is a mystery because it sat between the mint and rosemary plant and both of them seem to be thriving. Would any of you know what happened?

Anyway, the point is that I gave it shot. And you should try it too. Why, you ask? Here are some good reasons: 

- It's a satisfying feeling to grow and nurture something. Even though I have a toddler, it was still a different kind of satisfaction to nurture a plant.
- It brings you close to nature; you will marvel at nature's beauty and its bounties.
- It can turn into a healthy habit/hobby. Gardening is hard work so it's good for your body. You can do it just for fun or you can take it as far as you like- there's a lot to learn about plants and how to take care of them.
- You might just start cultivating enough produce to feed the family or to share with friends/neighbors.
- For those looking to tan, working in the yard is a good idea (but please do wear some sunscreen.) For those who are not, wear a hat and, of course, higher SPF sunscreen.
- There's really no down side to it. None that I can think of.

From the 20 plus plants I planted only two didn't do well and I think that's not so bad. I'll write another post updating you with my plants' developments :) If you are an expert gardner then please share some tips here.

Herbs in the backyard


Annuals
What I hope my yard will look like one day:)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You spin me right round baby....

Most of us hate the gym. I did too and it is still hard to motivate myself to go when I've missed several days in a row. But the key to gym success is finding what you enjoy doing. I love boot camp and spin class. I'll tell you a few things about spin class later in the post.

Let me tell you how I motivate myself. It may seem a little masochistic but I like really difficult workouts; I will use a Seinfeld quote about roller coasters to explain how I like my workouts, "Figure out what will kill me and then back it off a little bit :) " You see, when I am done with a hard workout I feel a sense of accomplishment; it's a power trip, a show of my strength and a sign of achievement. All of those factors make me feel fabulous (as if the endorphins were not enough.)

You may not enjoy anything that requires even the lift of a finger, and that's fine, I guess, for you. But what about those that love you and depend on you to be healthy, happy and alive?
- Yes, exercising will make you happy, its a scientific fact.  Read about it here.
- We all know why it's good for the body.
- A New York Times article says it's great for the brain too.

All these factors combined will improve the quality and, may I say, quantity of your life. So even if you don't care enough about yourself, do it for those who care about you.

If you enjoyed riding a bike as a kid then give spin class a shot. It's easy on the knees and you can adjust the levels according to your endurance. Plus you do it sitting down, for God's sake, how hard can it be ;) Actually, it can be a little tough, I'm not going to lie to you, but definitely worth a try.

Here's how to spin correctly:
-Adjust your bike according to your height (you can always ask the instructor to help you.)
Stand next to the bike, your seat should be aligned as high as your hip bone. This is important because you don't want to hurt your knees, which you can do overtime if you sit at the wrong height.
- The seat can also be adjusted horizontally to bring it forward or backwards. I keep mine between 4 and 5 and I'm 5ft 5in.
- The handle bar can be high or low. But you don't want it to be either of the two extremes. I keep mine right on top of 6. Keeping the handle high can make it a little easier to work out because your chest is open which makes it easier to breath. You can lower it overtime and continue to ride at a level that is most comfortable for you.
- Ride with you lower body. Push through your abs, hips and thighs. Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed.
-Pedal with your heels, not your toes.
- Try to make full circles.
- Think of the bike gears ranging from level of 1-10. The lightest being 1 and the hardest being 10.
Start pedaling at level one for a minute, then slowly add gear.
- Take your water bottle and stay hydrated.

It's best to go to a class offered at your local gym where the instructor is available to answer your questions and guide you through the class.

You can buy spins shoes which are highly recommended by instructors but I still use my Nike Free Run 2 sneakers for all my workouts and they work just fine.

Now spin that wheel! Don't give up. You can do it!

Pretend you are racing for your college, for your county, for your country, go for the gold!! Push hard. You can't give up now, people are depending on you! Oh you are SO close to the finish line! :)






Saturday, May 4, 2013

What went wrong with the Jodi Arias trial...

HLN is what went wrong with the Jodi Arias trial. The murder and the lies shocked the nation, including myself, however, I was more shocked my the  outrageous treatment of the case by HLN. They left no stone unturned in shaming Jodi Arias, but really shamed themselves in the process. A national TV channel needs to be more responsible in what they present to the public; they should stick to the facts and keep their sensationalized opinions to themselves.

Let me make a few things abundantly clear:
- I am not a Jodi Arias supporter.
- There is proof that she is a liar and a murderer and I agree with that.
- She deserves to be brought to justice for what she did to Travis Alexander.
- I hope I never get to know anyone like her.

What I do support is a fair trial; both in the eyes of the law and the public. I am not going to be the judge and jury of the case; both of them already exist and I will let them do their job fairly, without tainting their perspective. What good will it bring to anyone by defaming Arias further? One will only give her more of the attention that she does not deserve.

HLN really out did themselves this time. If the jury is anything like Nancy Grace then we just wasted time, resources and tax payers money. I'm sure if Grace could, she would have had Arias injected with the lethal dose as soon as she was arrested. Grace is so adamant about what she thinks is right that she turns a deaf ear to everything else. I like the concept of Grace's show but she can get so worked up that her anger often clouds her judgement.

For example, apparently Arias said "bullshit" during Juan Martinez's closing argument; do you blame her? She is on trial for her life. Let me also point out that no one really heard her. She said it under her breath and the camera captured it. Grace, decided to make a display of it on her show by saying that this is the kind of regard Arias has for the courtroom. But what about Grace's own action? In pointing out Arias irreverence Grace said the words "bullshit" on national television, loud and clear - when did this become ok? Where was Grace's reverence for the public? This was the second time I have heard "bullshit"on HLN (first time a guest said it in Jane Velez-Mitchell's show a few weeks ago.)

Now let me talk about Vinnie Politan on HLN "After Dark." It seems like Politan has made it his full-time job to prove Arias guilty. But that doesn't bother me - what bothers me is turning that show as a place of entertainment, of cracking jokes (when there is nothing funny about the case), and making it a safe place to sneer at Arias. I was horrified to see strawberry frappuccino's being served on HLN After Dark and people drinking and chatting away like it was cocktail hour! Those who have been following the case will know that Arias mentioned at some point that she bought a strawberry frappuccino from Starbucks (and, of course, now we know that HLN will find anything to make fun of and do it rather thoughtlessly.)

There was also a point where the hosts and their guest started to make a "house of cards" because Prosecutor Juan Martinez mentioned it in his closing argument. Even Judge Hatchett was part of this activity too - Come on, you are a judge, show some class!

The nastiness has been going on since the beginning of the trial. HLN even went on to discuss how Arias wore her hair in court one day, they made a parody of Arias doing certain antics (the details of that ridiculous venture escape me, thankfully), they even discussed Defense Attorney Nurmi's clothing at one point... How is any of that relevant to the case or to Arias being a murderer? It makes everyone look like bullies. Is this the message HLN wants to give the nation?

What's really sad about all this and forced me to write something about HLN's coverage is that hosts of these shows are educated, well qualified individuals who should understand that they have some responsibilities towards the public. Hate Arias all you want but don't turn it into a fiesta for the sake of ratings and derate your credibility.

This is a sad and horrifying situation. One person is already dead, brutally murdered, and the second is on a trial for her life. Yes, justice will be done if she is convicted but that still doesn't make it a win-win situation for anyone; Travis Alexander will never come back and Jodi Arias's family will mourn her loss (even if the rest of us hate her.)

Usually I end my blog posts with a recipe of a food connected to the mood of the post but nothing will make HLN's coverage tasteful.  



Friday, May 3, 2013

Do it while you can...

Call your cousin, meet up with a friend and tell your family you love them while they (and you) are still around. Time is tricky simply because we don't have any control over it; we don't know how little or how much time we will get with someone - will it be the last time you will see them? Will you get to eat your favorite meal again? Will you get to hug your favorite person again? No one can tell you for sure so you best get to it right away.

I got a rude shock on Wednesday. An unexpected and unpleasant news which made me sad, guilty and regretful. In retrospect, I am thankful for it because sometimes one needs a harsh dose of reality for things to get into perspective. I reflected, asked for forgiveness and decided to do something to salvage the situation (whatever is left of it.) The details of the news are sad and I don't want to share them because the idea of this post is not to make you sad; the idea is to share my lesson with you so that you can skip the regret and utilize your time in a way that you can feel good about later. Try these:

- When someone makes time for you, you should return the favor. Everyone is busy, you are not the only one. The person obviously values you enough to spend time with you and it wouldn't kill you to do the same - even if you do it once.

- Show appreciation; whether its by smiling or saying thank you, by praising someone or by giving a small gift. 

- A call just to say hello, and not when you have an agenda, is probably one of the best gestures. I know a lot of people prefer email/facebook/twitter/text rather than the old fashioned phone call but the fact that you will set aside a time to make that call and speak to that person with your undivided attention makes the gesture so much more meaningful. It's ok if you get voicemail, you made the effort. If they call back, try and carve out time for a conversation. You won't regret it.

I am not suggesting you spend your life bonding with everyone that crosses your path; I'm recommending that you do it for people who are dear to you (and maybe even an old acquaintance who just happens to be a very nice and genuine person- people like them deserve your time.)

And, of course, make time for what you love. Not just the people but the things you love too. Remember, if you are happy you will radiate happiness so start with yourself. May I suggest eating your favorite food and really enjoying it :) Here are a few recipes of most commonly loved foods in the East and the West. Eat while you can...:)

Sindhi Biryani       

Fried chicken and biscuits

Pad Thai


Pizza



Saturday, April 27, 2013

Wait, let me take a (mental) photo!

I have been doing a lot of that lately, just taking the moment in with my eyes and storing it in my mind and not on a memory card.

We are all glued to our phone which also happens to be our personal assistant, our computer and, of course, our camera. It is so easy and so tempting to take a picture of anything and everything and be gratified with the instant viewing and sharing. 

Nothing wrong with that, except:

1) It's easy to miss the moment as it is happening, reviewing it only in the photo we took or the movie we made, AFTER it has already happened. When my son took his first steps, I watched him closely (with both eyes) cheered him on (clapping with both hands), and was there to hold him (again, with both hands!) as he lost his balance. That memory will always be crystal clear in my head and I don't need to see any photo to remind me of that special moment. I'm glad I saw it in real time, with full presence of mind, as opposed to through a tiny screen on my phone/digital camera.

I did make a video and take pictures the same day, and the day after, for family and friends but I didn't want to miss the real deal when it happened for the first time. I enjoyed the experience without distraction or without sharing it with an electronic gadget.

2) When our life is flashing before our eyes, moments before dying, I doubt it will flash in the form of digital photos :) I think it will flash in the form of memories experienced through sight, sound, smell and perhaps even taste. I think it will be moments you spent holding a loved one, snuggling your baby, laughing with your friends and all the things you experienced when you were not looking through a phone or camera screen.

3) The billions of pictures that we take through our camera, how many do we actually bother printing, framing, or putting in an album?? Maybe five percent of them? Maybe less. So not only are you missing the moment, you are missing the moment for a photo that will live in a memory card for the rest of your life.

But don't get me wrong; take photos and make movies by all means but don't rush for that phone or camera at a key moment, instead enjoy that moment and capture some form of it moments later. So put down that phone and look around you; when you see something interesting just look at it for a while and don't rush to take a photo :)

Yeh, put that down for a second :)


Saturday, April 20, 2013

There are vampires out there...

Not literally (seriously doubt it, sorry Twilight fans!) but definitely figuratively. These are the people who will suck the positive energy out of you like a vampire would suck its prey's blood. 

Interestingly, in spite of all the blood chugging, vampires are still always pale. The same applies to energy suckers; you can spot the type from a mile. They look gloomy, down and out and just plain miserable - just visualizing that in my head was a downer, imagine how much it sucks to have those energy suckers around!

Recognizing energy suckers:

- It's the person after talking to whom you feel bad about yourself, or guilty or, of course, drained of all positive and productive energy.
- These are the people who will always think that their lives are worse than everyone else's, doesn't matter how good they have it. 
- They always feel entitled for more.
- They always feel unlucky and underserved. 
- They find faults in your success.
- They underplay your achievements.
- They are jealous of you and WILL kick you when you are down.

I don't think you will confuse them with good people going through a bad time but remind yourself of that distinction. These individuals are different from those who are generally happy but maybe sad or upset for some reason for a while- in that case your shoulder should be the first one for their tears. 

The keys to be sucker-free!


- You can only help those who want to help themselves. Understand that sometimes there isn't much you can do for someone who is mentally set on being unhappy. They may not even know it, but if you notice it, help them recognize that. If you see progress, help them further. If you see regression and feel yourself sinking with them, jump ship! 

Having said that, don't be too quick. Of course, how much time you can give to a "sucker" will depend on your relationship with the person and your own levels of patience and endurance. Give people a chance. But know your limits. There are other people in your life who rely on your positive energy, so make sure you have some left for them.

- If you can't exclude "suckers" from your daily life, learn to create a mental shield- don't let them latch on! Don't indulge the "sucker" by listening to their saga of (self-created) misery. Offer regrets and move on, something like, "Oh I'm sorry to hear that, I'm sure things will look up soon but I better finish my project/assignment/cooking," might help.

It first you may feel like a horrible person, which you will because you are not a "sucker" and you don't like to bring people down. Remind yourself that this is not how you deal with people normally- this is how you deal with the ones who are determined on being miserable.

Now let's drink and be merry! To honor our "suckers" I thought I'd share a Bloody Mary recipe ;) Just subtract the vodka for a virgin version. Click here for the recipe, courtesy of www.whiteonricecouple.com






Have you dealt with a "sucker" successfully? If so, please share your strategy :)


Friday, April 12, 2013

Go, play outside!

A piece of advise that should be practiced as it's being preached. How often have you heard of parents complaining about their kids being tied to their video game controller or glued to their computer screens/Ipads/smart phones/tablets (phew....exhausting list!) But your complaining alone is not going to resolve anything - it might even make matters worse. You have to set an example by doing not just saying. So try doing this:

- GO OUTSIDE WITH THEM. You just have to do it. Don't have the time or energy? Well, neither do the kids these days; they are using up all their energy and time trying to keep up with constantly budding new technology and their friends' Facebook statuses.
Also, let me just put it out there, if you are a parent, you better dig up new wells of energy and time because, well, you are a parent and you are responsible for the welfare of another human being who depends on you.

- See it as an opportunity to get the much needed exercise that many of us also claim we don't have the time and energy for. This is how you will nurture two birds with one stroke ;)

- While you are out there, learn and teach a new sport/game. Teach the ethics of good sportsperson ship. Teach fairness, tolerance, the value of teamwork and how to deal with defeat.

- Start this practice early on in your child's life so that they can get hooked onto the habits of building, playing, learning and inhaling fresh air :) 

What are some of your family's favorite outdoor activities?




Photo courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/78/Playing_children.jpg
                         http://farm1.staticflickr.com/174/379059886_27812a7411_z.jpg?zz=1

 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Small Sacrifices, Big Benefits 3/3

I would like to wrap up this three part series by focusing on the soul. Here's how you can make some sacrifices to reap big benefits :)

For your soul:

- "Sacrifice" some time from your week to teach what you know how to do well. There are a few benefits to this; you are polishing your existing skills while teaching someone a new one that they can use for the rest of their lives, as well as forward to others. Also think of this as continuing your legacy in this world :) Win, win, win.

- Take a moment to think before you comment, "sacrifice" the need to say something bitter or harsh even if you deem it to be true and on the mark.  There are big benefits to this particular sacrifice - you will save someone from getting hurt by your words and that good karma will come back to you sooner rather than later. Plus, you will feel completely awesome when you look back at your tongue taming :). Trust me, it has taken me a long time to adopt this trait and I feel so much better with my sweeter tongue :)

- "Sacrifice" some of your wealth for the benefit of others, aka, charity. You will only get richer, in more ways than one.

Please share some of your "sacrifices" that bring big benefits to your life. I would love to hear from you.  





Photo courtesy: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7142/6583248381_9f96c1f9b3_z.jpg
                             http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4142/4885681811_3c9121f444_o.jpg

Friday, March 29, 2013

Small Sacrifices, Big Benefits: Part 2/3

I hope you tried to incorporate some of the "sacrifices" I mentioned in last week's post and your body is thanking you for it :). This week I want to talk about another set of small sacrifices that will benefit your mind. 


For your mind:


Rest:
- "Sacrifice" your television watching by 20%. Give that time to your mind to just rest- without meaningless chatter, background noises, or that flickering light from the TV. If you watch an hour of TV a day, cut it short by 12 minutes. Dedicate those 12 minutes to your mind instead to relax, rejuvenate and even rejoice! I think this might be a good anti-aging trick as well ;) Your eyes and ears will thank you too!

Learn:
- Let laziness take the back seat (that's where it wants to be anyway!) "Sacrifice" your laziness to learn something new. As we have all heard, the mind is like a machine- it needs to be used as well as cared for to function properly, otherwise it will rust. So even though you should conscientiously take the time to let your mind rest, as mentioned above, doing so will make it perform better and stay in shape. 

Sharpen your mind by learning, discovering and solving things/issues that are a little beyond your comfort zone. If you start doing it now, you will recall this blog post when you are 93, (because your brain will be sharp enough to do so!) and you will thank me :) Jokes aside, mental stimulation is key in Alzheimer's and Dementia prevention.

Exercise:
- Exercise your way to a better mind. Yes, exercise. The link above actually ranks exercise as the number one of keeping your mind healthy. So "sacrifice" the desire to park right in front of the grocery store or the gym and instead park as far as possible. You can squeeze exercise into your day in many ways. 

Please share some "sacrifices" that bring big benefits to your life. I would love to hear them and incorporate them in my life :)










Friday, March 22, 2013

Small Sacrifices, Big Benefits: Part 1/3


Best things come is small packages and so do big benefits. If we make the tiniest change in our habits we will see their effects add up overtime. Here is a quick list of "sacrifices" for your overall well-being. This week we will focus on the body and next week I will talk about small sacrifices for the sake of your mind and your soul.

For your body:

Drinking:

Sacrifice drinking cold water for room temperature water. You will notice that you drink a lot more and we all know the advantages of drinking more water (need a refresher, click here.)Also, I have heard that the Chinese don't drink cold water, in fact, they drink hot water because they believe it is better for your body. So drink up, room temperature water that is :)

If you drink alcohol a few times a week, start by "sacrificing" one alcoholic drink for tea/coffee, cranberry or grapefruit juice. Milk anyone?:)

Smoking:

If you are a smoker, start by sacrificing that one cigarette in your day or week and when you feel ready build up the count from there. A dear friend of mine (ehem, no names will be mentioned) always says to me, "But I smoke only one cigarette a day,"  and my response to that is always the same, "that means you smoke seven a week and 365 cigarettes a year!" See what I mean about things adding up? Surely, you see the danger of smoking 365 cigarettes, don't you? 

Eating:

Last night when I had baked some cookies for dessert I made one less than I usually do. Even though I always want four (yes, I'm a cookie addict, I know) but I don't ever make more than three and yesterday I made just two! Yay me! Maybe I should get a cookie for being so good ;) Kidding! Joke. The point is, just make the smallest of changes and you will see the difference. Eat two less pieces of french fries, one spoon less of ice cream, one bite less of pizza and one morsel less of rice. Maybe you can even sacrifice half of a decadent dessert for some fresh, seasonal fruit instead? Sweet fruit is really yummy and can be very satisfying. A sweet sacrifice indeed :)




Friday, March 15, 2013

Be in a good place.


A lot of us are in search of utopia. We keep wishing for things to be a certain way for our lives to be perfect. Perfection is boring, and may even be impossible at times. Let good be good enough and you will be much happier.

Pause for a second and count the things that are "pretty good" in your life. I think you will need more than just a second :).  I can tell you that when my husband walks through the door, or my son finishes his food, or I get a hairstyle right in one go, I'm in a good place ;) 

Here are some (more substantial) ways to be in a good place:

- Don't reminisce over the past too much. Nostalgia can be good sometimes but not when it holds you back from connecting with your present and your future.
- Connect with your community, build a bond and get involved. There are cool people everywhere, after all you are there too, aren't you?
- When you build a support system for yourself it becomes easier to not brood over the "good old days"; you will think more about the "good upcoming days."
- Feel good about yourself; dress better, eat better, live better! 
- Workout in a class and get motivated by your instructor. My spin instructor, Sherresa, says, "If it doesn't serve you, it has no place inside of you." So exhale and get the negative energy out :)  
- But before you exhale, breath some fresh air in. Step outside and do it.
- Love those that are around you and show gratitude for the value they add to your life.
- Is there someone you'd rather do without? Well, still be grateful that they taught you the difference between those who perk you up and those who drain you out.
- And always remember, no matter how bad it is, it could be a lot worse - so enjoy the present and quit the complaining.

Life is sweet and salty and sometimes bitter but after this post we have agreed to focus only on the sweet and salty, right? Try a combination of that in your next meal, something like chocolate ice cream with a pretzel cone, trail mix, chicken or fish with a pineapple and brown sugar glaze; let your imagination run wild...and come back and share the recipes :)

What makes your life "pretty good"?