Life goes on…

It has been an eventful, to say the least, last couple of weeks around the world…wouldn’t you say? Personally, I never imagined that we would be witnessing something of such gigantic proportions in our lifetimes… and it’s kind of hard to know what to expect going forward. News feed has been depressing, scary and at times triggering the panic mode.  With small children at home, whose immune systems have not developed fully yet, the fear if pretty real.

With every passing hour, more and more grim reports flood the inbox. Schools are closed and here in New Jersey, starting today, there will be a curfew in place from 8pm through 5am for some time now. It is whole lot of unknown and with a crisis of such unprecedented nature, I can’t stop wondering when and how will this end? When will we get to return to our ‘normal’ lives or will this be the new normal?

I have been seeing a lot of posts on social media as to how people have been gifted the gift of Time’ to unwind, to slow down, to mediate, to pick up that book taht has been on the shelf for a while. I agree but I also feel this applies to the ‘privileged’- those who can work from home or have been asked to stay home, without worrying about pay cuts or losing their medical insurance. What about those who depend on their hourly wage to put food on the table? What about the kids who now run the risk of remaining hungry since schools are closed? What about small businesses who may have to close shop as recovering from the financial fallout of such proportions will be impossible?

Here in my blogging world, half baked thoughts, half written posts, unanswered messages await while deadlines of some of my favorite challenges keep passing by. Going to the grocery store feels like a challenge as the fear of contracting the virus does not seem to be an irrational one at this point in time. And worrying about parents and in laws and other loved ones, living on the other side of the world, does not let the mind be at ease, ever.

One evening, just a couple of days ago, as I was busy alternating between scrolling through Instagram and Google News, I heard the gentle music of guitar coming from the other room. I put down my phone and strained my ears to catch the lines. My son, oblivious of everything, including  the crazy thoughts in his mom’s head, was trying to sing “Ob la di- Ob la da” by the Beatles and the only lines he could were

“Ob la di Ob la da, Life goes on

La la, How life goes on”.

I couldn’t help but smile and think about the lines he was trying to hum without a care in the world.

I am letting the frightening thoughts in my mind take a break. They are clouding the present moments that I get to spend with my kids and husband, now that he is working from home.  I don’t want to miss out on the silliness that the little ones engage in or the faltering steps that baby girl has started taking because I am too busy thinking only about all that terrifying things. I don’t want to miss the signs that are clearly telling the Spring is slowly making her way in and I also don’t want to miss out on messages of hope that is carried by the soulful music filling deserted alleys.

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Wishing everyone, especially those in dire circumstances, who have loved ones in communities that have been hit hard, who have been directly affected by this terrible tragedy, strength and love to help through such difficult times. Hoping our world heals fast and we learn our lessons.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday Motivation

Sufi Saying-
“Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.

At the first gate, ask yourself: ‘Is it TRUE’?

At the second gate ask: ‘Is it NECESSARY’?

At the third gate ask: ‘Is it KIND’?”

 

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Thanks for stopping by.

Monday Motivation

How often do we seek extraordinary moments of happiness and in trying to achieve  ‘perfect’ moments take extrinsic steps? Such moments, we perhaps don’t realize at many times, cannot be created or chased after. It is upto us to recognize that those are within us and around us. In the humdrum of daily life, challenges are many and we often find ourselves striving to gain back our mental space and the peace from negative energy,  untruthful people, deceiving situations. It takes a lot to alienate ourselves from all the chaos outside and an even greater effort to fight the war that rages inside.

Be still. Be calm. Be true. Be grateful. Be conscious.  It may take time but slowly we are certain to attain a clarity, that will help us acknowledge that in spite of all that has gone wrong or all that is going wrong, blessings are in abundance. Our mental space will no longer be for anyone to toy with and we will not give anyone the power to disrespect us, to make us think less of ourselves.

We will have arrived. It is easier said than done but at the same time it is within our reach to practice peace, practice humility, practice rising above pettiness, practice mindfulness.

 

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Thank you for stopping by. I am grateful for you and what you help me learn.

Monday Motivation

Although Monday is almost over here and the Tuesday morning sun has risen in many parts of the world, still  here I am!

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Be true and be you… be kind and be gentle…be kind and be patient. It is a much better place for you to be in and for others who are in your circle.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Cook, Eat, Repeat- With Love, From Japan

When I was thinking of doing this ‘cultural exchange through food’ in the form of a monthly challenge, I knew it would be daunting and I would have to keep myself really motivated. And just a month into this, I am only beginning to get a feel of that. And then life throws curve balls at times that you don’t always know how to deal with and so extra energy goes towards dealing with that! Unfortunately, this month is something of that. And while I have recipes ready, I do not have the time to sit and type it all up and let you take a peek into my pocketbook of memories through the stories. And I don’t want to put in a halfhearted effort and just write something for the sake of posting. So, while half of the month is gone and I haven’t shared anything with you yet, I will be doing so shortly. Maybe post a couple of recipes together! But first, I need to gather my thoughts and claim my mental space back from some unnecessary and unsavory issues. While I deal with that and work on sharing my stories with you, I will let you know about this month’s theme- ‘Japanese Cuisine’- my second most favorite cuisine in the whole wide world!!!

So, if you have any favorite recipes that you want to share, or your experience of trying and loving (or not) the cuisine, any photos you may want to share or recommend any blog that has delectable recipes from Japan, please do so through a post of yours and leave a link in the comment section for me and the others to find! I would be so happy to read them:)

I will be back midweek with two recipes and share snippets of my experience while living in this land that I fell in love with.

Here’s how to participate

  • Create your own post with your recipe, story, photosanything that you might wish to share that represents the theme of the month- JAPANESE CUISINE
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or maybe leave a link in the comment section.
  • Join whenever you can!
  • Visit some of the other posts shared.

 

Thanks for stopping by and I will be back soon!

A Photo A Day: Last 30 days or so

Time for the monthly a photo a day update! As I was scrolling through the phone for photos taken, I realized I wasn’t going out as much and also it being winter, the scene is a bit dismal. We also did not have a lot of snow this year (and I am not complaining even a tiny bit!) and so there isn’t a lot of pretty white stuff to capture as well. White and black, gloomy and bright, transient yet imperishable these were my moments during the last thirty days or so!

 

These were people moments and the best ones, obviously! The little guy turned five, did not cry at the dentist’s office, has been feeding his little sister and being all other kinds of awesome…being a superhero is just a small part of that:) And the little sister has been active a lot as well, coming up with ingenious ways of mischief  and running after her is easily making my Fitbit congratulate me for my 10,000 + steps! Brother-sister duo have been making their own memories as well as they play with each other for longer than before and ‘read’ books together:)

 

Celebrations and food have been a big part of the month gone by. On top of that, I had the rare opportunity to sit at the table, read a couple of pages of a very favorite book and have lunch….a surreal feeling almost 😉 Cook, Eat, Repeat started last month and I look forward to sharing more with you in the months to come!

 

Happiness on finding flower petals from a special occasion inside the pages of a book  and the ‘are-you-kidding-me’ feeling that comes when ‘unpaired’ socks come out of the the dryer, co- existed in harmony and I am grateful for that.

Just one foot in front of the other is okay. Along the way, our moments keep us company- moments that are silly; moments that make us question our faith in the bigger scheme of things; moments that hurt; moments that make us pause and soak it all in; moments that lift up the spirits and make us push a bit harder; moments where inspiring stories from around the world and this platform that I have come to love so dearly, make us look at things from a whole different perspective; moments where kindness and a friendly ‘hello’ make us smile; moments that don’t make sense and moments that are just perfect.

What have your moments been this past month? Would love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by:)

 

Resolutions, or the lack thereof

We made it through the first month of the year, some holding fast to the resolutions made, some falling off sometimes but getting back up again and some still wondering if they should have made at least a few tangible goals. As I am trying to think if I was able to stick to my resolutions, I feel that I might not have made any! So, as you can tell I am that person in the third category;)

While I consciously, probably, did not make any goals, I have slowly started doing things I hadn’t done before, or you can say slowly adding things to my daily habits and making alterations to existing methods of doing things to adapt better to the increasing demands of daily life. I won’t say I have been absolutely following the new habits rigidly and am stopping a lot too, but it is getting better and I can sense small  palpable differences.

I have been doing five things that were not part of a conscious resolution- three of those I have modified to suit my current needs, and the fourth and fifth ones are new that I am trying to make a regular habit of.

Journal, Gratitude Journal, Sayings- are things that have been adapted from their older styles. Allow me to explain a bit.

The old ones- Journal:  I have had journals for quite sometime now and while I do not write regularly and had stopped altogether lately,  I now make it a point to note down just special moments- of joy and of sadness as well.  Gratitude Journal: I bought one of those pretty looking gratitude journal notebooks and have started listing 3 things that I was grateful for at the end of every day (I used to do a similar thing in my regular journal but this is better). Sayings: I have another notebook that I write down sayings or quotes of learned souls that affect me and this gives me clarity, joy and instills humbleness when I feel low.

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The new ones-Jar of Good and Everyday List

Jar of Good- I saw on a friend’s Instagram post that she had decided to start a jar of good (inspired by someone she follows), the idea of which was to keep a note, in a jar at the end of every week, jotting down just one good thing that had happened. And the jar is to be emptied and the notes read on December 31st to help us see that probably in spite of all that we complained about throughout the year, we also had pretty incredible, even if simple, moments. Moments that probably got lost in the shadow of the joy of a new promotion or taking the long awaited trip, though these are things that absolutely should be put on those notes too! Along with moments that are humble and pivotal to our mental health. I have been doing this and I can’t help but wonder how this is going to turn out!

 

Everyday List- I have recently picked up this habit (after seeing it on Marie Kondo’s Instagram post) of jotting down things to be done in as much detail as possible, either for the day or in the next 2-3 days -as I see fit- and use that as a guide for the day/s. I never had done this before as it wasn’t necessary but I am beginning to see that this helps better than just having things on the family calendar/ roster, simply because “think about 5 new lunch ideas for school” does not get a place on that roster! Good old bullet points have made a difference. Have you done something like this before or something similar maybe? Do you find it useful? Or are you ‘store it all in the mind’ kind of a person?

 

 

 

So, the lack of resolutions this year has helped me adapt my old habits better while also adding new things to help me navigate this crazy life. I usually do all of these things at the end of the day and to be honest, I cannot even do it everyday as I am ready to collapse on the bed. So my journal gets left out and some days my ‘sayings’ notebook doesn’t get picked up. But my ‘everyday list’ and ‘gratitude journal’ are doing much better! It may seem like a lot of work, that is superfluous as well. But it helps, at least me, to round up the day in a better way. There are days I don’t feel like doing this and I either just fall asleep or read a couple of pages of whichever book I happen to be reading or re reading at the time. And that’s okay! Something that brings us  joy, mindfulness, clarity, closure doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be restricting. The purpose then gets defeated. So, I am letting these grow on me slowly and enjoying this process!

Do you think we all have such habits that we stick to or adapt or let go or add on? How do you end your day? Is there something you wish you could do different? I would love to hear from you if you don’t mind sharing.

 

Thanks for stopping by and hope you get a reason to smile today!

 

Cook, Eat, Repeat: “Aam Panna”

Here I am with my third and final post for this month – the ‘Aam Panna‘ (Aam- Mango in Hindi language  and Panna – a concoction of sorts).

As Google will tell you, it is drink made from raw mangoes that helps one cool down during the intense heat of the summer months in India and supposedly has heat-resistant properties. While I can’t comment with a 100% guarantee on the latter, I can certainly say that it is something that is just perfect for the hot and sultry days of the summer in my home country. And if you gave it a try, I am sure you too would love this wonderful  concoction of raw mangoes, mint, a bit of sugar, a pinch of black salt and a pinch of roasted cumin!

Living in a land that is far away from the sights and smells I grew up with has been an adjustment and even after all these years, it still is. I wonder if it is the same for others  who are away from their motherland as well. I have heard some people say, who have been here much longer, that they still feel that something is missing, something no amount of opulence and comfort can make up for. A pull that does not let go, a love so deep and poignant that it is hard to put into words.

This drink is humble and accommodating and reminds me of growing up in India. It reminds me of quiet afternoons and the fiery Gul Mohor (flame of the forest); of the exhilarating champa (plumeria) and bushes of hibiscus; of that sole peddler whose voice could be heard over the whirring of the fan blades, trying to make the last sale of the day; the occasional tired barks of stray dogs lying in the shade of the trees, coiled and too tired, from the heat, to move; of my Ma’s beautiful voice humming a tune while going about the daily chores; of that heavily fragrant smell of ‘Keo Karpin hair oil that Baba could not, and still cannot, do without; of the repetitive thud of a ‘cambis‘ ball hitting the wall as my brother tried to get the ‘spin’ perfect; of that small black and white ‘Oscar’ television that stood in the corner of the room, hidden by an embroidered TV ‘cover’; of special summer programs that we watched on that same TV with cousins who often visited when school was closed; of secret crushes and stolen innocent glances; of undiluted love from warm embraces of my Rangadadu (my mom’s uncle..my favorite grandpa among all). It’s a drink that reminds me of the matters of the heart.

 

HOW TO MAKE!

There are many ways by which you can dress up or dress down this simple drink, all of which you will find online, in plenty. Here’s how I like mine!

Serves :  Happy souls! Time : about 20 minutes (that includes 15 minutes of boiling mangoes)

Ingredients : Raw mangoes (either 2-3 fresh whole ones or about 2 cups of frozen pieces)// Water- about 2 cups for boiling and more(about 1 cup per person) for making the actual drink// Sugar- 3-4 Tbsp// Mint Leaves- a handful// Black salt- 2 tbsp// Roasted and ground cumin powder- 2 Tbsp// Ice Cubes

Method : If using fresh raw mangoes, cut the mango in small pieces and boil in water for about 15 minutes. If using the frozen ones (which are already usually cut into pieces) you may have to increase the boiling time by 5-7 more minutes. Once done, strain.

[Note: Sometimes the frozen mango is cut in slices and not chunks- in that case the boiling time will be about 7-8 mins total only. ]

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In a blender, add ice cubes, the mangoes, and the other ingredients mentioned above and puree . (Note that you will not be needing the entire batch of this purée  for a glass of aam panna. You can store the rest in the fridge for 3-4 days easily).

 

In a glass, add a couple of ice cubes  and fill about a little more than 1/4 of the glass with the mango purée . If you want a slightly fuller taste, and this is better tasting for sure, fill 1/2 of the glass with the purée. Then  fill up the glass with water. Add a couple of mint leaves and give the concoction a good stir! I sometimes also add just a pinch of the roasted cumin at the end, on the top.

 

 

[  You could grab cumin powder from your spice shelf or if you happen to have whole cumin, spend a couple of extra minutes and roast about 2-3 tbsp on a pan in low heat till their color turns darker and you get that wonderful smell. Grind it using a mortar and pestle and store in an air tight container. Using this will enhance the flavor much more].

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Aam Panna is indeed a very refreshing drink and you can easily adjust the sweetness by adding more or less sugar!  Go ahead and make one yourself one and be sure to pour out another for your loved one!

Thanks for stopping by. And I will see you next month, which is just next week, with something totally different! Till then, cook- eat- repeat!

 

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Dreaming of Summer

There are days that seem to drag on and on and then there are more such days. And the cold weather along  with the gloom and the rain does not do much to uplift the spirits! What do you do on such days? Fall back on memories of the warm weather and the beauty of all that is possible on gorgeous days that make you happy deep down in your elements! I checked for some of my favorite summer memories from the past few years and it kicked up that yearning for summer a notch! Here are some of those for you.

 

 

The bright sun and the scorching heat that makes one squint and reach out for those dark shades, shorts and sandals.

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Giggling children filling up the neighborhood and parks, the twinkling of little bicycle bells, kids waiting, almost patiently, for their turn on the swing are sounds and sights that breathe life into this void of glee that the dreaded winter creates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gurgling brook or the endless ocean, the squishy sand between the toes, lazy evenings in the park or hikes along forgotten trails all are part of that tapestry that is etched in memories galore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How about sipping on that drink that you look forward to at the end of a tiring day or enjoying a good book under the shade of a tree in the park in the evening as the sun plans to rest for the day. The sweet smell of summer flowers add colors of the rainbow all around and that occasional rain tantalizes the senses as you breathe in that heady earthen smell.

 

 

 

 

Revisiting one of your most cherished places through the pathways created in your mind and heart, feeling that sparkle of joy and bliss, reminiscing that magical trip can bring solace to an aching heart. For me, it was the trip we took visiting a dear friend in Florida back in 2013. The sun kissed beaches, the magical sunsets, the palm trees swaying and heart to heart chats with old friends can be hard to compete with.

 

 

Till that day comes when it no longer gets dark at 4.45pm and the chirping of birds break the eerie silence that surrounds us at all times, I will be thinking about these and look through some more! I may be all wrapped up in a blanket and sip on coffee while I do that, but I still will:)

Thanks for stopping by and my last post for the month on ‘Cook, Eat, Repeat’ will be up in two days!