Long distance travel with a baby/toddler

This past March we took a 8500 miles odd trip to India. Which translated to a 27hr flight (wait, we’ll get to it), multiple domestic flights within the country and several car trips without a carseat. If all this hasn’t made you question our sanity, you are a better person than I am. We learned quite a few things. We had learned a thing or two from our last trip to Vegas last year.

Long distance travel with a baby

Tickets/Itinerary
Look for the routes with the smallest possible flying time. I cannot stress this enough. Longer layovers are fine. The baby could probably use the running around. You too!

Consider buying a seat for your kid if you are flying long distances. The bassinet seat in flights aren’t really that great. They have a weight/height limit and you’ve to remove your baby from the bassinet every time there’s turbulence and during takeoff and landing. It’s a problem if you just got the baby to sleep. Also, they don’t turn off the lights at the end of the aisles. We created a makeshift blanket fort. Not elegant, but whatever works.

Food
If the baby is breastfeeding, life is simple. If they are on formula, the sticks (we used this Similac On the go) are super helpful. The air hostesses are super helpful. We found it was easier to use multiple bottles than trying to clean the bottles in the tiny bathroom inflight. We would just wash all the bottles during the layover.

If you are traveling to a place where there’s a lot of humidity, you might want to keep the formula in the refrigerator to prevent clumps.

Keep snacks handy. Our daughter is a huge fan of Happy Puffs. Fruits like orange, apple slices etc also work. You just have to be careful about not squishing the softer fruits.

We also ended up using the Plum Organics purees. Our daughter was partial to the sweet potato ones. If your kid hasn’t tried this before, let them try it before you leave for your trip. That ways you’d know which flavor works and which doesn’t.

Clothes
Keep a track of what the temperature is like at your destination city. This seems like common sense. But we misjudged how hot it got in one of the cities that we visited. So we had to go shopping for shorts. Also, due to the heat, we needed fewer diaper changes. But the heat also meant frequent baths, so having cotton onesies on hand helped.

We went to the beach quite a few times. After the frigid waters of Northern California, the warm waters of Goa, Karnataka beaches was AHH-mazing! Bebu had loads of fun. I wish I knew about the existence of swim diapers then. Chalk that one up against rookie parents.

Diapering
We didn’t really think about this a lot before. I mean, after 1 year, you think you know everything there is to know about this. Well, you thought wrong! Just try changing a diaper in the tiny bathroom in the economy section. There’s no space!! That was the first time I changed a diaper on a kid who just wouldn’t lie down. Also, as I mentioned before, if you are traveling to a warmer region, you’ll be surprised by the fewer diaper changes. We brought back a third of the diapers we took.

Out and about
Again, with the heat, using the carrier, while we were out, was completely out of the question. But it served us well in transit. Also, we didn’t take our stroller, coz we assumed that we wouldn’t use it in India. But in the hindsight, it would’ve been helpful during the layovers. We could’ve used it when the baby slept. An umbrella stroller might be a good bet.

Keeping a thermos handy helps. Especially if your babe drinks only warm milk.

Misc.
The monitors were a lifesaver. You might need to get an adapter depending on the country that you go to because of the voltage difference. We used our pack & play which survived the multiple flights.

Make sure you have minimal check-in baggage. It adds up pretty quickly with stuff like the diaper bag, purse/bag which serves as a catch-all for things like wallet, extra stuff, tickets, passport. Don’t add a hand luggage to it, if you can.

Toys will go a loooong way in preventing a meltdown. Use inflight magazines. Younger kids love them.

Let loose..
Yes, you won’t be on the same schedule as back home. Yes, there will be things that won’t go the way you planned. But, when you look back at the 100+ pictures on your phone, you’ll realize that it turned out ok. Maybe better than the planned version in your head!

~Preeti

New paths

I thought of writing a post about my resolutions/intentions for this new year on the 1st January. But traditionally the new year has never been a monumental date for me. But my birthday which follows in the next month has been special this year. I turned 30 this year. It seems like a new beginning. I don’t think I cared much beyond how the cake tasted when I turned 10. Turning 20 was ok too. But this new decade, seems full of new promises. New exciting promises.

The part of my 20s, before I met Z, seem like a haze. It was part of my growing years where over-the-top reactions to everything seemed to be the norm. The more irrational, the better. This quote by Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy (if you haven’t heard about it, you haven’t missed much) was my status message once:

Dr. Meredith Grey: Maybe we like the pain. Maybe we’re wired that way. Because without it, I don’t know; maybe we just wouldn’t feel real. What’s that saying? Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop.

I mean, c’mon. How sad is that?!! I cringe everytime I think that I put that up! People saw that!!

But then with Z, things changed. I changed. It’s as if I finally found my anchor. And I was ready to face and reach out for everything that I wanted. Infact, for the first time I knew what I wanted. I wasn’t cruising by, I was moving towards a tangible goal.

One of the most important things that he taught me was ‘We are past the age of reacting at things’. It took me some time to wrap my head around this concept. But it’s so true. There are days where I still slip. But it’s a work in progress. I’m happy with how far I’ve come. But there’s so much room for improvement.

I can’t really begrudge my 20s. I met Z, got a wonderful job, made great friends, and to top it all, had a healthy & sweet baby, who’s almost one (that’s another post though). But I’m really excited for this new decade. There are so many things that I want to try. Knitting, cooking, getting around to making my Pinterest pins a reality and new adventures with bebu. It’s as if I’ve a fresh blank canvas & I can turn it into whatever I want. And I’m excited to start!

~Preeti

Takoyaki to Appe: Think differently :)

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Appe, to me till quite recently was alien and all of a sudden my facebook news feed had atleast three people posting about Appe. What a coincidence! Until last year we were crazy for Japanese street food (octopus balls/Takoyaki) and bought a Takoyaki pan as well for that but never got around making them and was lying in a corner somwhere.

Yeah thats what Appe is in a nutshell, indian octopus balls made with idli batter. It was destiny!

The following recipe makes seven delicious round crispy Appe.

You need : 

  • 1-Cup of Idli Batter : This is readily available in Indian grocery stores. If you are interested in making this from scratch folks I found this really good recipe
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 8-10 curry leaves (available in south asian/indian grocery stores)
  • 1tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1/2 green chilli (optional)
  • salt to taste

Steps :

  • Heat the Takoyaki/Appe pan with a little bit of oil in each pocket till it smokes and reduce the heat. This step is really important as it will make the pan nonstick and the Appe will come out crispy from the outside and mushy soft on the inside.
  • Mix all the ingredients and pour the batter in each of the pockets (mine had seven) and cover it so that it steams from the top and gets golden from the top. Wait till the top steams and kind of sets itself up firm. Take a regular chopstick or a knife and flip them over to reveal the golden crisp side. This was how it looked for me.

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  • Cook it on the other side as well so as to crisp it up a bit. The onions caramelize as well in the process giving a sweet note to an already slightly tangy idli batter.
  • Serve it with coconut chutney (here is a good recipe), hummus or ketchup .

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Ginger, curry leaves, green chilli and caramelized onions pack a nice flavor punch.

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or as is.

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The Tandoori Chicken

By far the most popular of the Indian Clay Oven (Tandoor) dishes. I am trying to put this into a simple recipe where the only thing that takes time is the marination. Three steps and that should do it.

Preparation Time:  15mins
Marinating Time: At least 4-5hrs
Cooking Time: 20mins

Ingredients: (serves 4 people)

  • 4 pieces of the chicken breast butterflied so that cooking is faster. Make slits so as to increase the surface area hence more marinade absorption and more flavor
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1tpsp coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, garlic powder
  • 4 tbsp Shaan Tandoori Chicken Masala (this is roughly 1tbsp/chicken piece. The masala would be available in any indian/pakistani/persian grocery stores)
  • 4 tpsp cooking oil (this is again roughly 1tbsp/chicken piece)
  • 2 tpsp lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Steps:

  1. Mix all dry and wet ingredients to make a thick marinade. Coat the chicken with this marinade and let time do its job. 4-5 hrs is a minimum, and a day would be awesome. This is how the marinated chicken looks.

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  2. After around 4-5 hours, its time to hit the oven.

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    Every oven is different (that’s a disclaimer to say that if your oven screws up, not my headache :D) but to simulate the Tandoor, put it into roast mode and crank it up to maximum (our maximum is 500 deg F). If you have a convection oven, that would be the best. I propped the chicken on a gril to allow an air gap so that it cooks evenly from the bottom as well. This is how it looks

  3. And voila, 15-20mins later, you have a juicy, flavor-packed moist tandoori chicken.

The finale

Procrastination

If you’ve ever read and identified with ‘procrastination’ you’ve stumbled over this quote from Calvin & Hobbes (which is one of the greatest comics ever!)

Calvin: “You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: “What mood is that?”
Calvin: “Last-minute panic.”

 This is so true for anyone who has put a task on the backburner just to watch that funny video or in today’s scenario catch a youtube video or see a tumblr page filled with cute kittens. You get what you were doing originally done, but there’s always something missing. But you stifle that voice saying ‘well, atleast I got it done, albeit at the last minute. But still’….

I’ve struggled with this for the longest time but never knew about it. There were always things that I knew I wanted to to. Infact, a lot of things that I needed to finish, but I didn’t get around to. The result was more often sloppy work, a growing pile of things-that-need-to-get-done-someday and sadly sometimes, missed deadlines, bad grades and unfulfilled promises. I just thought I was lazy to finish something. And that was becoming a problem. You see, since it was becoming such a regular occurrence, I kind of stopped caring about it. And that was just plain wrong in the hindsight. I abhor labeling something. The issue becomes about that label rather than the problem at hand. But in this case, it was waking up to realize that this is fixable and not something that I’m stuck with forever was a great feeling. And the turning point was having the baby. I realized that I was able to get things related to her done. Infact the things on the nice-to-have list were also getting done. And that was when it clicked. LISTS!

I realized, belatedly, that growing up I never created a list for anything. I always depended on the fact that I could remember everything that needed to be done. Which worked when I was in 9th grade, not so much after I entered college. And that’s when things started going south. Recently I stumbled over TODO lists. They aren’t exactly new. I just had my head in the sand when it came to this. I had used it before, unsuccessfully I might add. Because I was never fully invested in the idea. Earlier I had excuses. ‘Oh the app isn’t perfect’, ‘I forgot where I wrote this down’, blah blah.

But for the past few months I’ve been successfully using this. And what worked? A pen and paper. The simple act of writing down things I needed to do, not worrying about whether they are doable given the timeframe. And the act of crossing things off the list was so satisfying!

There will always be things that are more interesting than what needs to be done right now. But, that’s the key phrase. Needs to be done right now! I think I’m on a good track right now. It takes some getting used to. But so far so good.

This post was prompted by this article -> Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

~Preeti

January Cure – Week#1

January Cure

When it comes to home, we have a laundry list of stuff that needs to get done. But with work and grocery and other stuff, that gets these things get relegated to the bottom of the list. And the end of holidays doesn’t help either.

But January is supposed to all about resolutions. And also writing down your intentions for the new year. That’s a post for another day though. But today is about Apartment Therapy’s January Cure challenge. They have these assignments that you have to do over the week. And if you look at the way they’ve broken these down, your ginormous list of getting your home in order actually seems doable. SOLD!

As part of the first assignment, I’ve written down the things I want to tackle as part of this challenge. As with every list, this is super ambitious. I know I won’t be able to get all these things done. Also, for quite a few of these I need Z’s help. But even if I’m able to knock off half the things, I’ll be in a better place that I’m right now.

Assignment#1 - Project List

Entry way:

  • Create a foyer board
  • a catch all for the mail
  • Rehang the mirror
  • Clean the shoe stand & cabinet

Living room:

  • Pack away the Christmas tree
  • Add stuff to that corner/nook
  • Make the dining table functional
  • Add some kind of storage for blankets
  • Get a rug
  • Create a functional coat closet

Kitchen:

  • Add shelf liners
  • Rearrange stuff
  • Add some open shelves
  • Find that elusive ‘perfect’ buffet cabinet

Nursery:

  • Add a functional closet
  • Clean out the existing storage
  • Create a play area
  • Add curtains
  • Wall decor

Master bedroom & bath:

  • Roman shades for the small window
  • Purge the closets
  • Clean out the dresser drawers
  • Figure out a storage strategy for the bathroom

~Preeti

Winding down

As the year comes to an end, we enter the retrospection mode (not you? then I guess it’s just me..). To say that this year was different than any other, is an understatement. With bebu, everything seems a lot more precious. And some, not so much. The center of my universe has changed for sure. And I have too. Bebu has given me a new perspective about myself. I wish I was half as confident in my teens. But, you live and you learn. How we were in the past, shapes our future. So I can’t really wish for things to be different.

There’s a series of letters written by people to their 16 year old selves, Dear Me. This triggered a whole slew of posts across the internet with multiple people talking about their experiences and what they learned. And I can see why. Our view of who we are and where we want to head, changes so much from our tween years to when we hit our 30s. I’m a few months shy of hitting 30. With a baby and being with this amazing person for a good part of 7 years, I see where I was then and how far I’ve come. I can say that I love being at this point in my life. So, I know I’m late to the party, but now seemed like a good time to pen this.

Letter to my 16 year old self
My letter to my 16 year old self:

  1. Be more confident. Everyone isn’t here to judge you. Even if they are, should it matter?
  2. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers. But don’t let that stop you from asking questions
  3. Try everything. You don’t have to like it. It’s even ok to hate it.
  4. Don’t let other people tell you who you are. Find it out for yourself.
  5. Don’t pretend to like something because others do.
  6. It’s ok to be quirky. That’s what makes you unique.
  7. Don’t give up on things. Don’t let the first tumble you take prevent from getting up and trying it again.
  8. Keep reading. Books, newspapers, stupid romantic novels, comics. There’s something to learn from everything
  9. Try to find something good in everything. That’ll prevent you from being negative.

There are so many things that I could add to this list. But that’s not just applicable to my 16 year old self :) What can I say, need to keep iterating on a better me everyday.

Happy New Year!

~Preeti