Life and other things

Ranting & Raving!

I have a love-hate relationship with shopping malls. I love the idea of one stop shopping but I hate how horribly big most of them are. As if this was not enough to leave me open-mouthed,those large independent chain of stores which have three or four floors of inside the mall tire me out completely. I almost never buy much while shopping in malls unless I am quite sure of what I want to buy before I go. Because knowing what you want makes it so much easier. But, if like me, you are most certainly clueless all the time, then what do you do? Just walk with the family aimlessly, stop at one or two stores when you find something pretty outside the window, then go inside and look at a few things and come out saying you didn’t like anything(The truth being that they are all way too expensive).

But I love shopping for my son, so those quirky shops where you can buy some nice books, puzzles or a little toy is where I am happy at. Ok, I also like shops where they have fancy kitchen gadgets, or anything related to kitchenware. And I also love shops where they sell nice pastries. And recently I have also started to like shops that sell some nice skin care products too. So, you see, my problem is not with the shops itself, its the idea of putting it all inside one huge building with directions only in one corner. Oh well, but London isn’t full of malls. Thank goodness for that. I think my rant is over at this point and I am getting into serious stuff now.

So, talking about skin care, I thought I will share my experience with a product I have been using recently hoping it will be useful for some of you looking for something new. As someone who only takes a minute or two to freshen up, reading up on how really to take care of your skin has left me in a state of shock. For the lazy person that I am, I have never thought beyond a face wash and a moisturiser. But somehow, turning 30 years old has bought with it a newfound devotion to skin care. Although I don’t really see any obvious wrinkling or dark spots, I have become the woman who wants to have better looking skin. Also, I am one of those women who has never been a fan of make-up and all that glam. I have no regrets for my skin isn’t too bad but I think we all could do with some extra help now and then.

After all the reading up and endless videos I have watched on skin care, I have realised that the best way to get started is to simply wash your face every day before going to bed with a really good face wash. One that can cleanse all the gunk out of your skin…   And then use store bought or homemade face masks/sleeping masks often and exfoliate twice a week. These simple steps that I have been following for a while has brought some remarkable changes to my skin. My skin is a lot more even and feels amazingly clean. To me, this is big and I feel so good that I am actually doing something for myself that works.

And you may have heard about the various steps in skin care, like cleaning, toning, moisturising etc etc.. And I for sure know I cannot be one of those who can do all these day in and day out. So, I started to look for a product that can take me a step further and feel like I am doing something really good for the skin. Like, one multitasking product rather than buying a lot of serums/essences/oils. That is when I came across this Korean brand product called Son & Park beauty water. I have been using a dab of this liquid every single day for the past four months or so. I use it twice a day and sometimes thrice too. Because it only takes a few seconds to apply.

Can you see I only have a little bit left??? I really love this stuff! 

This beauty water is just like water but beautifully scented. Not too strong and very gentle on the skin. It is a very smart multitasking liquid. It works as a toner when you want to. Some mornings, when I feel lazy to wash my face as soon as I wake up, I use this to refresh my skin. So, I would say it acts as a cleanser too. There have also been various afternoons when I feel like my face is dull and I want it to feel a bit more lively before stepping out for a quick walk or to the corner shop, then I quickly dab this stuff on my face and instantly feel better.

So, if you don’t have the patience like me for a long skin care routine, but you still want a product to help you for a “lift-me-up moment” then go grab one of this and thank me later only if you like it that is  😬

DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert in skin care neither am I a model. Just a 31 year old mum who is trying to experiment with her life! And this post has been sponsored by my husband!

Teary Tuesday! 

It was a rather painful Tuesday morning this week. My child(now 3 years old) has started nursery very recently and still gets upset on and off while I drop him. And on this day, he cried like never before. I was standing there not knowing what to do really. I just bravely put up a smile and decided to be cool and composed. But it wasn’t helping. I had to leave anyway. He saw me through the window while I was trying hard to smile and wave bye bye but all I could see was a face that was begging for me to not go. But he still waved back!

At that point, I loved him like never before simply because he was able to wave bye bye while he was full of tears at the same time because he is trying to keep his mummy happy. Oh what a lovely little boy I thought! 

 I quickly got back to the car and guess what I did??? I cried for a good two minutes after which this silly mummy felt good! Here’s what was going through my mind. I now know I cannot have him next to me forever. I have to learn to let him discover things on his own some day. And these days are just the beginning of it all. And I headed off to a spinning session at the gym which is the only reason why I like getting exhausted at the gym to be honest. I love spinning. It helps me focus and helps me think through things from a nicer perspective. A good 30 minute workout helped me get through the morning after which I got home to cook some lunch and went back to pick him up only to find him sitting in the reading corner engrossed in books. And so involved that he didn’t even notice I was standing there for about five minutes. And, I then had to get his attention by whispering a hello and that smile he had on his face when he looked up to see me made everthing so worth it…. 

If anybody ever asks me,  I think It is this part of motherhood that has been the biggest challenge so far. The part where they grow up to do such things like going to school and being on their own…. 

Tiramisu

We are back in London after a rather long holiday in India. This week has been busy as we have had a lot of things to clear out and also do all the unpacking. We are almost done and slowly this change is starting to feel more normal. I even managed to whip up some dosa batter in between all the de-cluttering. Last night I was the tired mother who was sipping on a glass of Merlot and also trying to make dosas for the half pint who was happily sat on the kitchen counter to see his mum in action. Somehow, those few moments I shared with him while I served him and watched him eat made me feel oh so nostalgic. I was the little child in my mother’s kitchen who always sat on the counter and enjoyed having food off the stove while mom and I spoke random things. Yesterday, I saw myself sharing a slice of my childhood with Neil while he enjoyed his dinner just like the way I used to. This whole scene from last night made me feel something that pretty much sums up life for me. All I want to do is cook for the family with a bottle of wine perhaps….

It may only be appropriate to share one of my favourite recipes while I am talking about how much I love to cook. The recipe is only a matter of getting things in order and layering them up to form a Tiramisu. This is a non-alcoholic version only because I find the existing amount of coffee and cocoa is enough for me to go bonkers. So feel free to add a bit of rum to your coffee decoction if you are more grown-up than I am.

 

Ingredients

Cocoa powder to sprinkle the tiramisu

Coffee to wet the sponge fingers

Mascarpone -500 g

Eggs- 6 medium

Sugar -120 g

Finger sponge -it depends on the size of the box/tin u will use

 

This is the dish I like to use so it is easy to build a neat layer. The wider the better!

First prepare the coffee like you would normally do.( enough to soak the finger sponges , I usually fill a pasta plate) pour into a bowl and let it cool.

Whip the egg yolks with half the sugar to obtain a very light and creamy mixture.

Add the mascarpone to the mixture and work the whole thing with a whisk (or wooden spoon until creamy with no lumps, At this stage it should be very creamy

Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt, add the sugar (the remaining half), with a wooden spoon, add them gradually and gently into the mixture of mascarpone and egg yolks, so you now have the cream for the tiramisu.

Soak the sponge fingers one by one in the coffee and start to build your layers.

Cover the fingersponge soaked with a layer of mascarpone cream adjusting with a spoon.

Sprinkle the surface with cocoa powder. Go ahead with  the second layer of fingersponge, cream and cocoa. Also, if before you have them arranged vertically, then place them horizontally (and vice-versa).

Complete with plenty of cocoa powder to cover the surface of your Tiramisu and Store in refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Post-wedding musings!

The confetti has settled, music has been stopped and the feasting is done. Everyone’s heading back home. The most awaited wedding is over. And life has started to feel a little pointless already and I am wondering what to do.  Today, there is an overwhelming sadness that it’s all over..Why can’t there be weddings to plan every month? I want to wake up every day and still feel that there is a wedding  just a few weeks away because there is a certain happiness in planning  and getting lost in all the madness. But despite all the stress,personally I think the last few months have been rather amazing.

While we are all relieved in many ways that its over, I think it is the closeness of family and friends that I miss the most. Because, even after years, one may not remember the details of your dress but one will surely remember how nicely you treated them. And the little things that you remember of them. We were so happy to have almost all of the family around. Some of those I haven’t seen in years were around too. So you can imagine what an emotional ride we have had over the last few weeks. At the end of it all, I am thankful to everyone who joined us and helped us in their own way. And I only wish for a wonderful life ahead to my dearest brother and sister-in-law.

What I discovered about my body…. 

Many years ago,  I found soft lumps near my armpits (quite close to my breasts) so, I naturally got worried. But the fact that I was only 25 years old then was a good enough reason to feel convinced that it may not be a dangerous symptom. I anyway got it checked by a doctor who said it was due to improper circulation and asked me to stay away from some foods temporarily and there was nothing to worry about. Feeling a little relieved, I decided to move on with life. And then I got married at 26 and had my boy at 28 whom I breastfed for just over a year. So, I didn’t feel the need to worry and simply ignored those bits near my breasts.

Worrying comes to me naturally. I find reasons to worry and sometimes I worry that there is nothing to worry about too. However, now that I am on a vacation in Madras and I have a lot of extra time, I started to look at the mirror more often and those soft lumps were kind of disturbing me. Having heard enough about this, my husband and my mother forced me to get it checked again. So, I spent sometime online looking for a specialist doctor here in Madras and managed to book an appointment too. Instead of feeling good about the upcoming meeting with the doctor, it only felt like the world had stopped in my mind. I started to put all the if’s and but’s to my future. I wasn’t sleeping well either. So, the day arrived for the check up and I hurriedly and forcefully swallowed a couple of spoons of something for breakfast and left home.

There, at the clinic, were so many women (some very depressed looking and some normal) waiting to be seen. I knew it was going to be a long wait. I went up to the receptionist and had a kind word with her and also told her how horrible I was feeling and all that stupid talk that I do when I am stressed. Although she first said it was going to be an hour or so before I can get checked, I was called by a nurse within five minutes of talking to the receptionist. The nurse asked me a few questions about my overall health and also reassured me that I was going to be ok. But immediately she also said if needed we may take a biopsy. And she left the room.

Just then came another friendly nurse who took me to the ultrasound room.As soon as she saw the lump like thing I was worried about, she smiled and said you are going to be fine. This only looks like fat. I was smiling too but I couldn’t believe it either. She quickly did an ultrasound for my sake and showed me those tissues on the monitor and they looked like any normal tissues and we also did comparison to lump/fat free areas on my breast. It was only then I started to feel better and ofcourse happy. And now all that was left was to see the doctor and get a written note signed from the doctor herself to say everything was fine.

The doctor arrived in another few minutes and gently examined my breasts and again pointed out that it was only an extension of axillary tissue. These tissues can be prominent when one puts on weight. So, the bottom line was do not gain weight. Holy moly! After One quick hug to the lovely doctor that she was,  I left the place feeling rather embarrassed instead of relieved.

Although I love being a woman, certain things about it make life difficult at times. That doesn’t mean we have to hate ourselves and our body. No doubt this whole episode has got me feeling relieved but it has also reminded me to love my body with all the fat, undone eyebrows, frizzy hair and what not…………………………………. it’s all in the mind!

From farm to plate(About my parents farm)

When I was little, I didn’t think I would ever learn to cook. I thought cooking was one of those menial tasks and it involved no amount of fun. Maybe because our mother never let us help her much. The best she wanted from us was that we helped her decide what to eat and that we finished what was served. But, as I got older and a little wiser if I may say so, I started to realise that there was more to cooking than merely chopping and mixing.

Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about where the tomatoes or spinach that you eat came from? No no, I am not that kind of a person who grows her own vegetables and eats only from her own garden. But I am the kind that likes to go pick stuff from the farm preferably or to the least from the market. I find it comforting. I am a little more independent here in London than in Chennai, so I end up buying way too much and often times from very expensive organic shops. I do this with a slight hope of avoiding those greasy takeaways that we do every now and then. Buying too many vegetables is one way of making sure that i almost never want to waste any of it and less of hearing that ” we have eaten out so much this week and we should be spending less bla bla” from the husband. But only the one who cooks can understand the emotions of another isn’t it??? So,When I do cook, I try to use the best possible ingredients.I don’t make what I made the day before or sometimes even a week before. I love food cooked with different coloured vegetables and a reasonable amount of flavour. Apart from trying to make it healthy,I do all of the above to earn that well deserved break from cooking. So when we eat out, I feel a little less guilty.

But here comes the best bit, I am actually very pleased to tell you that my parents own a small farm in Chennai which is a few miles away from our home. And ever so often we get some lovely greens and other vegetables delivered to our house. What a blessing!!! And every time my mother tells me on the phone that she cooked some really delicious stuff using our own farm fresh produce, I would feel so jealous. The last time while I visited home, I was lucky enough to have tasted lots of food made with vegetables from the farm. And needless to say, today I am a bit nostalgic and missing all the food and fun.

Here are some pictures of the produce from the farm which I clicked last year.

 

The Entire lot_MG_6979

The white long ones are Banana Stems which make for an amazing South Indian Style Kootu/Lentil coconut gravy.

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Raw Bananas, Guavas and Vazhapoo(Banana Stem flower)_MG_6981

Musmusukai Keerai(Mukia maderaspatana)

Usually served in the form of Kootu(Curry with lentils and coconut)

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Agathi keerai(Sesbania Grandiflora)

Usually served as Kootu or a dry stir fry with Toor dal and coconut

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Manathakkali Keerai (Solanum Nigrum)

Usually served as Kootu or a chutney

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Helpers around the farm and the house_MG_6993

The bunch of leaves below the Banana Stem flower is Murungai Keerai (Drumstick leaves). This is a very tasty one and usually cooked in Sambar or added to dosais and adais. 

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Banana stem flower (Best had as Kootu or a Vadai(Dumpling)_MG_6997

 

Agathi Poo (My mother made an amazing thokku(Pickle) with this flower and it was out of the world.  I will find a picture of this pickle and post it sometime soon. _MG_6998

 

The little black beauties in the picture above are fresh manathakkalis/black night shades/sunberry. These berries are sun dried and added to kara kuzhambu(a spicy tamarind based curry).

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I hope you enjoyed this post 🙂

 

Smoothie series #3 Papaya, Dates& Seed mix Smoothie

I am not going to lie by saying I was so busy and I couldn’t post any smoothie recipes after the first two. I have only been eating some proper finger licking south Indian breakfast all this while on most days because the mother was here. So, it was clearly a well thought through decision to only make healthy smoothies once a week when family visits you. And get pampered for the rest of the days. Now, the family is back to good ol’ Madras and the three of us are back to the grind. Which means, I will be trying very hard to eat healthy and end up getting stressed only to gobble up cheesy potato wedges with Jalapenos and almost half of the medium(sometimes large) pizza which the husband lovingly orders to cool me down. Oh well! So,while I am still in the mood for a smoothie for breakfast, here is the next one.


To make this you will need : 

Fresh Ripe papaya- roughly cut to one cup

Two pitted dates 

A sprinkle of sunflower seeds and any other seeds of your choice. 

Milk or yoghurt of your choice 

First crush the seeds in the blender and then add fruit and milk. Blend altogether once and enjoy. 

Smoothie Trails #1 Banana Flaxseeds and Vanilla

I am kickstarting a new series called the “Smoothie Trails” on the blog. This series will feature some( I am aiming for 5-10 atleast) easy and healthy smoothie recipes to start your day on the right note. This is my attempt in spreading the word on eating well. All of these recipe ideas will use simple ingredients but most importantly fresh ones. You can also easily tweak any ingredients to make it just the way you would like it. Let’s get started with the first recipe that uses everyone’s favourite Bananas.

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To make this smoothie : 

Banana- 1 medium sized ripe

Any Milk of your choice or Greek Yoghurt

Vanilla pods or extract

Flaxseed powder – A spoon

Granola bites or Oatmeal to give you more fiber.

Blend all ingredients except the flaxseed powder to a thick puree. And sprinkle some flaxseed powder on top and there you have it.

 

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Some television talk and a healthy recipe 😁

First of all, I am not a TV person. I don’t remember the last time I sat down on the couch to watch some tele on my own. Not because I am so busy but it is just not my thing. Pah! What a boring wife/friend do I make of myself!

My way of relaxing is to lie down and browse for recipes after I have had a glass of good wine. When it comes to a drama or a sitcom, I hardly have any patience to begin with. But there have been a few shows which I really loved watching. Downton Abbey will remain my most favourite ever. I also liked watching Gavin and Stacey, Only fools and Horses and some episodes of IT crowd. Okay, they are all British because I am a little biased towards the English when it comes to humour, cakes and manners.

We now find a little time to watch our favourite shows after the man-cub goes to bed, but the challenge now is choosing which one to watch. So, every time my husband and I decide to watch, we spend way too much time on choosing than actually watching. This is one of those things like “where do we eat out” dilemma. But there are always exceptions. So, we do manage to find shows that interest both of us such as the ones I said above. But 99 times of 100 , we are on opposite poles and choose what each other won’t enjoy. So, one such show that I watched recently which I knew he wouldn’t enjoy is an American TV show called Grace and Frankie. It was surprisingly a delightful watch. I am now moving onto Season 2 which was released earlier this month. This is available on Netflix if you want to watch too. I am not great at reviewing TV shows as I don’t watch a lot but all I can say is if you are looking for something rather warm yet funny, then you might give this a try.

But before you do that, you may also check out my recipe for a delicious side. Perfect for munching on while you Grace and Frankie.

Oven baked Sweet Potato fries:

Step 1 : Cut Sweet potatoes lengthwise. Put them in a food bag, add salt, paprika and Olive oil. Shake the bag to coat evenly.You could leave for about 20 minutes before you bake. (Might be a good idea to turn the oven on now for preheating)

Step 2 : Arrange them on a baking tray. Make sure you use a cooking spray or some sort of oil to avoid sticking. And another tip I learnt is to separate each of these sticks so they don’t stick together and become mushy.

Step 3: Bake in a preheated oven at 190-200 degree celsius until they start to look like fries 🙂

Serve on its own or with any sauce of your choice although my favourite is Sweet chilli.

A Mangooooeey fudge recipe.

Is your mother one of those generous souls who never knows to cook in small quantities? Mine for sure doesn’t know. The other day when we were on the phone chatting, my mother had told me she was busy all day as her dearest sister visited her after long. I knew she must have cooked a lot and spent the day gossiping and also exchanging recipes etc etc etc. My auntie is no less when it comes to cooking. She cooks well and cooks a lot of food each meal. These two ladies can happily spend their time watching tele, shopping and what not. Simply because they have a lot of house helpers and they can afford to be served each meal. So much so that I do feel very jealous at times. But despite all the help, they  choose to cook each meal only taking very little help from the maids. They find so much pleasure and happiness in cooking for others. Be it for the men of the house or for maids, the food is the same. And needless to say, the food is way too delicious when it is cooked with so much love. I have seen my mum make dosas after dosas for her maid and still does. I would’ve expected it the other way round, but such is the kind of love the family shows when it comes to serving food. I failed to understand this respect while I was younger, but I am ever so glad that I have realised it now. I may not cook enough to feed an army like they do, but whatever little I cook, I cook with love.

While we are on the theme of cooking with love and no negativity, I did manage to flop a lovely recipe this week. I tried to bake a cardamom cake and failed miserably. Not because I went in with anger, but because I was lacking sleep. That’s all!  But we all tasted it a little bit while it was warm, and fed the rest to the ducks this morning. Oh poor ducks, they must’ve cursed me later on for giving them such awful cakes. But just to compensate for that cake disaster and feel rather good about fixing our vintage refrigerator, I thought I should make an easy dessert that I was quite sure would be a hit with the boys because whats not to love about anything with mango in it. I have been wanting to make fudges for a while and this came about as a good chance. It was whipped in five minutes and cooked in seven minutes. But took overnight to set as a fudge. Yummy was my son’s response while he was licking my mangoo-eeey fingers.

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I thought I should share this very simple recipe on the blog and here it is

Mango puree- 1 cup or less (I used Alphonso)

Milk powder-3 cups

Double cream – 180-200ml

Sweetened condensed milk – According to your preference for sweetness

A pinch of saffron

Mix all the ingredients except mango puree. Do a taste check for sweetness.

Microwave for 3-4 minutes till it starts to bubble on the sides. Take it out and tip in the puree and mix well.

Microwave again for 3-4 minutes till it has bubbled well and looks like a thick paste.

At this stage, it should be still a bit flowy. Now, take a plate or a wide pan, grease with ghee or butter. Spread the cooked mixture evenly. Let it cool before you refrigerate for setting.

Beautiful looking easy peasy fudge is ready to be gobbled up.

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