Experiences, Experiments, Learnings, Us

Photo book

Gifts don’t get any more personal than a photo book. The hardest part in making a photo book is the time commitment involved in selecting the pictures.  Most templates allow you to autofill the pages, but I prefer to manually select them in order to be able to sequence them to my liking. I have made three photo books so far. The first two were made through Shutterfly and the one I made today is through CVS. How would I rate the two products?

  • Design, layout and templates – the two are comparable
  • Ease of use – they are similar
  • Price – the cost of photobook by itself is cheaper in Shutterfly (25 pages for $15) but when you add shipping cost ($8), it is more expensive than CVS (20 pages for $20). You can offset some of the cost in Shutterfly through coupons and special deals.
  • Time – Standard shipping can take 5 to 10 days for Shutterfly. In the case of CVS, you can practically pick up the order within two to three hours from the time you place an order. Given that almost every town has a CVS, this option definitely maximises on convenience.
  • Quality – Shutterfly outshines CVS in terms of quality. With Shutterfly, you have more choice in terms of hardcover, the photo sheets are glossier, and the photo book sturdier.   CVS, in absolute terms, is decent. But relative to Shutterfly, it lags.

If you have the luxury of time and have promotions that you could use, Shutterfly is the way to go. On the other hand, if you need a quick turnover, CVS is a not a bad choice at all.

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Experiences, Experiments, Food, Health and fitness, Intentions, Me, Uncategorized

January Reflections

I did the monthly reflections post last year for a couple of months and abandoned it after. Let’s see how far this year takes me.

January has been a slow and steady month.This is the time of the year I normally tend to push myself to build new habits. But this year, I am just going with the flow without any grand goals or lofty ambitions. Just making sure to put in small consistent steps every day. This month I focused on infusing some discipline into my eating habits and imbibing 15 to 20 mins workout. It is not a lot but it has helped me get some of my stamina back. I also worked on one of my very annoying habits – I often leave my handbag unzipped (yikes!) and forget where I leave my keys (I never lose them but always misplace them as a result spend a lot of time searching). I can’t say I have conquered the clumsiness (I doubt I ever will) but have certainly been more mindful.

For workout, I wanted to share the youtube video series called Jessica Smith TV. It works well given the weather outside. There are many styles to choose from setting you free from monotony. They are for different chunks of time ranging from 10 mins to 30 mins, so lack of time cannot be used as an excuse. There are different levels to choose from. And the person who does it, keeps reiterating that something is better than nothing, which is kind of a great slogan when it comes to workout because you don’t have to do a lot, just a little something everyday. Some days that pushes you to do more and on other days, atleast you know you did a little something.

How quickly one month has gone by, isn’t it? Where are you with your new year goals?

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Detox, Experiences, Experiments, Family, Food, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Kids, Life, Me, Us

Word of the Year

How did I do? Is it worth continuing with the word of the year? Is it a meaningful exercise?

I did ok with Mindfulness  although I forgot  it was THE word a few times. Setting intentions in the beginning of the year did unintentionally influence my everyday actions. I am able to sense tension, tightness and panic when things don’t go my way. I don’t become zen or calm about the situation right away. But I have learnt that the place to start is relaxing my jaws and facial muscles. Paying attention to that tactical action, settles me a bit even when there is restlessness raging within. I talk myself into getting some alone time and engage in some productive work so I am not being disruptive to the ones around me. It works a few times even if not always. I have also learnt to drift back to sleeping when I wake up in the morning. This is worth a mention because it is part of my effort to not to be a slave to my To Do or routine.

Mindfulness like Discipline and Detox (my Word for the prior years) is a lifelong practice. So this year was just the beginning. I did not move mountains or boil the ocean but I have made incremental progress as a person. So I see value in pursuing this practice.

For this year, I am choosing the word “Us”.  Hari has five to six years with us before he takes full responsibility for himself. There are so many interesting things to do with him. There are so many things that he needs guidance on. I want to be fully present for him in this critical phase of growing up. Ram is still young and he needs me differently. I want to do all the things that I enjoy doing with him – reading, cooking, playing, coloring and what not. And with Da, I will be a little nicer, kinder and compassionate instead of using him as my punching bag. As rudimentary all these aspects sound to you or may come naturally to many of the moms that I know of, they are hard for me. I tend to oversee these finer aspects as there are so many things I want to dip my tips in. 

While the “Us” does not preclude my parents, siblings and families, I am doing pretty ok on that front, which is why I am narrowing the focus to the immediate concentric circle around me. 

This does not mean I will abandon pursuits outside home. Far from it, I want to do my bit, so they are not going away. But I will be deliberate about what I take on and make sure that I balance between what gives me intrinsic and extrinsic joys. I missed out on reading, writing, cooking experiments, and connecting with friends this year and I hope to pick up the slackness there.  I will strive to be more consistent with eating clean and healthy and working out.

These are the intentions I am setting for the year. What are yours?

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Experiences, Experiments, Gratitude, Inspiration, Little Moments, Ram Leela, Uncategorized

BFG

Last night’s mental list of things to do.

  • Dust kitchen counter
  • Make dinner
  • Unload and load dishwasher
  • Iron Da’s clothes
  • Research on renovation related stuff
  • Plan meals for next two days

Guess what took priority instead? The thing that was not in the list to begin with – the BFG costume for Ram!

BFG

There was a lot of moaning and groaning in my head. Why can’t the school just do a Halloween parade instead of creating a Story Book Character Day*? Why can’t Ram just pick a more readily available costume such as an astronaut or the Ninja Turtle? Why can’t Da return the tile sample tomorrow and work on this costume instead? Why me?

Ram had thought through and had his heart set on being the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) based on a book by Road Dahl. He already had a vision of how he wanted to look. There was no turning back at this point. Well, the small problem was, errr…. the only person who could help him last night, yours truly, is not exactly an artsy craftsy creative person. How are we going to pull off a last minute BFG costume when we are spending an hour looking for socks and bath towels?

Let’s just say, necessity is the more of creativity. Ram and I teamed up and raided our Halloween pile to do our own costume – a vampire cape for BFG’s night time cloak, a Nehru vest for BFG’s waist coat, a regular pant and an army t shirt. Now what do we do for giant ears? What about Sophie? Ram borrowed an idea from Hari’s Halloween costume – we were going to use a headband to attach two giant cardboard ears so he could wear them with ease. After some drawing, cutting, taping, the giant ears were ready. For Sophie, we took a little girl toy from the Candyland board game, and stuck it to one of the giant’s ears. We emptied the K’nex box and made it into the giant’s suitcase. The only thing that was missing was the trumpet. We conveniently agreed that the BFG was not going to be in a particularly musical mood the following day.

As I waved Ram at the parade this morning, I was so proud of what we had pulled together. Cute little Sophie peeking out of his “ears”, one of his hands clasping the suitcase, and the other holding on to the BFG book.

I am thankful that Ram stretches my imagination, squeezes my non-existent creative juices and makes me do things that I would never try on my own. When he sees you doing things for him, you can sense his gratitude welling up for you. His eyes sparkling with excitement and anticipation.

There are very few things that are rocket science, isn’t it? With some imagination, a lot of willingness to try and fail, and some patience, more often than not, you find a way to make it work!

* The goal, as the name implies, is to dress up like a character from a book. It could be any book!

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Experiences, Experiments, Gratitude, Life, Little Moments, Ram Leela, Uncategorized

Tenderness and Meditation

For the first two to three hours of the work day today, I was consumed by fire drills. Thankfully, things turned around as the day progressed. I am deeply grateful that days such as today are an exception rather than the norm in my work world.

Ram and I spent quality time this evening. We recited some slokams together, played scrabble and ended the day with meditation. The guided meditation asked us to think of someone we love and send happy thoughts to that person. As soon as we closed on the meditation, the child eagerly said, “I kept you as my friend amma. I sent heart shaped wishes to you.”  Such unconditional love only a child can radiate! So grateful for this willing child who will grab every single opportunity to soak in and bond with me. I am thankful for a quiet low profile evening. Deeply grateful to Sangi for pointing to this very useful link – https://annakaharris.com/mindfulness-for-children/ on a fellow blogger’s post a while back.  Ram loves the meditation audio and looks forward to this part of our bedtime routine. I do too!  I also use it every weekend in my Sunday school. It feels like the right way to start and I can’t wait to see where the journey takes us as a class.

On that note, tudlu, see you tomorrow!

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Experiences, Experiments, Family, Little Moments, Memories, Milestones, Us

Solar Eclipse 2017

The total solar eclipse of 2017 was an underwhelming experience in our part of the country. From what I saw on the live streaming of the eclipse, for folks who experienced it first hand, it was spectacular and profound – the temporary darkness smack in the middle of the day, the sudden chilling of the air, and the realization that we are all connected by this cosmic energy. I can only imagine!

We too had our share of fun. Yesterday, Da had made a contraption out of a carton for our viewing. It was super fun parading in and out of the house to catch a glimpse of the sun and the moon playing tango.

I hear we will be in the path for the next total solar eclipse in 2024, so better luck to us then.

See that crescent shaped sun? 

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Experiences, Experiments, Food, Kids, Little Moments, Milestones

Finicky to Foodie

The children’s lunch boxes for the most part are embarrassingly plain and simple for two reasons. Firstly, Hari and Ram prefer it that way. Secondly, like it or not, kids use lunch time more to socialize than to fill their tummies. Food is not a priority at school lunch time, at least not for my kids. So I stopped fretting about planning lunches long back and have learnt to focus on other meals that they eat at home instead.

A week back, the tween expressed interest in introducing variety to his daily lunches. There were a number of caveats thrown in. “Amma, no cheese, as it smells”, “I like the mac n cheese but it makes me feel heavy”, “I don’t want hot meals that go cold.”

If you pictured me rolling my eyes during this conversation, you are spot on. Past the rolling of the eyes, I did smile to myself wondering at how far we have come. What a finicky eater this child was as a toddler and what a foodie he has grown into! The child is still particular about what he eats and has strong likes and dislikes but a good meal makes him feel like he is at the top of the world. We brainstormed and came up with a menu that works for all of us – Hari, Ram and I. 

Monday – Pasta with seasoning

Tuesday – Buy from cafeteria

Wednesday – Aloo or paneer paratha

Thursday – Paniyaram

Friday – Rice and beans or leftovers from Thursday dinner.

And wait, wait, it’s not done yet. For the sides, a fruit and or nuts is acceptable. But on Fridays, the child requested that I  pack something that would surprise him. Again, another rolling-of-my-eyes moment. But again past that, I found the ask endearing and a way to add a little zing, a little something that would set Fridays apart from rest of the week, a little happiness boost. Plus, it seems like a nice way to build on my non-existent ability to surprise someone

Any lunch box ideas that has worked for you?  Any surprises that you would pack for your child? or would like for yourself in your lunch box? 

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