Varsha

Jan 022013
 

December 20th, 2012. THE most beautiful and fun beach wedding ever. My second youngest sister got married and boy, did we have a blast in paradise! On the beach. With a 10 week old. Yep, we managed to get through all 4 days, including a 12 hour stretch of travel successfully. If you don’t have a very fussy baby and this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you then…boo to you. Kidding, kidding! I realize that to some this may not seems like a big accomplishment, but to Anil and I, parents to the fussiest and most difficult baby I have ever met, this was a HUGE milestone. Here are some of my new best friends that made this happen:

1. Our stroller. We are proud owners of the Britax B-Safe carseat and B-Agile stroller. The stroller is SO compact, light, and super easy to assemble. It’s fantastic for airports and gate valet check-ins. I seriously don’t know what we’d do without it. Not only was it a breeze to take Dilan everywhere, but he also slept fantastically in his car seat for all naps and even at night! There are probably even lighter (and more expensive) strollers out there, but this mid-range one did the trick for us.

2. My nursing cover. I’m proud to say that after almost three months, we’re still going strong with exclusively breastfeeding. I know that’s really not that long, but every day that I can keep this up is a win in my book. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep it up once work starts, but I’m really glad that we kept things going for at least this long, especially because breastfeeding can be one of the hardest things to do! The Bebe Au Lait (don’t you just love the name?!) nursing cover is a bit tricky to use at first (position baby, pull down / unbutton shirt without flashing the whole world, latch, and feed), but once you get the hang of it, it’s really wonderful because there are no bottles that need to be warmed or prepared ahead of time. You simply feed on demand. I fed in restaurants, on all flights (get the window seat to make this easier!), in airports, on the bus, and even on the beach at night while we were doing speeches during the beach reception. I have to thank Anil for helping me out and fully supporting me with this. And for getting Dilan out of the nursing cover when I was done, even though he farts every time you pick him up.

3. Our labeled diaper bag. I absolutely love our Skip Hop diaper bag. It’s got just enough space to hold at least 8 – 10 diapers, my nursing cover, 3 extra outfits, diaper cream, toys, pacifiers, a bottle or two, and even a few personal items. The best part about this is that it doesn’t scream “diaper bag” and it actually looks kind of stylish. For our trip to Jamaica, I labeled each outside pocket by writing on tape with a Sharpie. This way, when I quickly needed a burpy cloth but couldn’t reach for it myself, all I had to tell Anil was “get me the burpy cloth in B1, please”. It worked like a charm and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re traveling with someone else and your diaper bag has a gazillion pockets.

No mommy musing blog post of mine is complete without a thank you! A big thank you goes out to my wonderful family and especially to Shresta and Grayson for getting married. We had been to the all-inclusive resort twice before, but loved the wedding and our trip just as much the third time around, all thanks to them. They sure know how to get married in style. And…we sure know what to do the next time we travel with the fussiest baby on the block.

 

 

 Posted by at 12:50 PM
Jan 022013
 

Manchurian tofu or paneer is one of those dishes that is so easy to whip up that it makes an appearance at least every few weeks in our house. It’s hearty, satisfying, and pretty healthy too (unless you use full-fat paneer). Here’s how you can recreate it:

Ingredients (for 2 people)

A bunch of baby bok choy, coarsely chopped
1 container of cubed extra firm tofu, baked or fried (see below) OR
2 cups of fried cubed paneer
1 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup of fried onions
1/4 cup of soy sauce, more as needed
1 cup of water
2 teaspoons of ginger-garlic paste
1 green Thai chili (optional)
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons of olive oil
More water and corn starch as needed

Directions

1. Fry the paneer or tofu, or for a healthier version, bake the tofu (be sure to drain it really well first) on parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with some cooking spray at 350 for about 10 minutes. Turn over after 10 minutes so the other side can brown. Take out the oven when both sides are a light golden brown.

2. Heat the oils in a large wok on medium-high heat and add the ginger-garlic paste and green chili. Stir and saute for about a minute.

3. Add the bok choy and saute for about 6-7 minutes. Then add the soy sauce and fried onions, followed by the cup of water and half the cilantro. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Dissolve a tablespoon of corn starch in a little bit of water and add to the mix. The cornstarch will allow the sauce to thicken when taken off heat. Simmer for another 5 minutes and taste a bit of the sauce. Add more soy sauce as needed and adjust the amount of cornstarch and water as well (if needed).

5. Take off heat and set the wok aside for a few minutes so that the sauce can thicken. Add the other half of the cilantro on top. Serve warm with white or brown rice.

 Posted by at 12:37 PM
Dec 052012
 

Sleep when the baby sleeps. This was drilled into my head since pretty much the beginning of my pregnancy. Whenever the baby naps or seems to go down for the night, you sleep as well. Is it effective? Yeah, probably about 80% of the time. I had a pretty difficult labor with a 4th degree tear and some anemia due to the large amounts of blood that I lost during labor and delivery. It’s hard to come home from that and then have visitors who are dying to see your new mommy skills and all you want to do is rest and sleep and recover! Socializing was the last thing on my mind (I know, I’m horrible) and those first two weeks, I indeed followed the golden rule of sleeping when Dilan slept. It was quite easy too since he slept all the time back then!

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m not so much following the golden rule anymore. Has Dilan become easier to handle? A little bit, yes. I’m also able to handle the sleep deprivation a bit better, but more than anything else, I often don’t nap when he does because I simply want to get something DONE. I live and breathe for getting things organized and I don’t do well unless I accomplish something every day. SOMETHING. ANYTHING. So my take on this is that it’s ok to skip a nap because you just want your kitchen counter to be clean, laundry not to pile up, or dinner to be done before the hubs comes home. It gives you the tiniest sense of accomplishment and if you’re breastfeeding and saving a stash of milk for later, a chance to pump in peace! All the baby blogs you’ll ever read will tell you not to sweat the small stuff and the mess around the house. I say, sometimes it’s cleaning up these little things that help you feel best and like a normal person again. If organizing isn’t your thing, you could always take the time to do something nice for yourself (like shower or meditate!). Talk to me in a few weeks when I go back to work and I’ll probably be begging for that nap. Or if you do decide to skip a nap, you can always pick up on my favorite breastfeeding mantra instead: “eat when the baby eats”. One handed, of course 😉

 Posted by at 2:46 PM
Dec 052012
 

Anil recently started getting into shrimp (he normally doesn’t eat any seafood) thanks to an awesome dim sum place near our house. So, I decided to introduce him to shrimp scampi by whipping up this super quick dish. I’m sure there’s a fancier version of this, but with our newborn at the peak of his fussiness, this recipe worked out perfect. Not the healthiest, but that’s why you serve this with a hearty side of salad or steamed veggies! Also be sure to buy local, freshwater shrimp. None of that farm raised shrimp from Thailand in this household!

Ingredients (for two people):

A pound of your favorite angel hair pasta

A pound of deveined and peeled shrimp

1/4 cup of olive oil

5-6 cloves of garlic

4 tablespoons of butter

zest and juice of one lemon

red pepper flakes and salt to taste

1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

 

Directions

1. Boil the pasta according to directions, drain, and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil and melt the butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the garlic and sautée for 2 minutes.

3. Add the shrimp and cook for about 5-6 minutes until no longer translucent.

4. Add the pasta, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and salt and toss together for 4-5 minutes.

5. Take the dish off the heat and sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and parsley. Drizzle on the lemon juice and serve warm! Goes great with garlic bread and like I said, a healthy side of veggies is a must!

 Posted by at 2:42 PM
Dec 052012
 

I blogged about pregnancy products that I love a few months back and thought I’d sort of extend that blog post by talking about my favorite baby and post-partum products. As you may know, I’m big on green, eco-friendly, and natural products, but I also like a good deal and am quite the value conscious shopper and coupon clipper. So, with those two things in mind here are my favorites:

1. Burt’s Bees Baby Bee products.1. I pretty much love all of the Baby Bee products. They smell great, but not too overwhelming and so far, Dilan’s skin has been responding pretty well to them.They’re free of synthetic fragrances, sulfates, and parabens – all ingredients that I try to keep out of our household as much as possible. I also love the fact that Burt’s Bees is a local, Durham-based company and I’m always happy to support our local start-ups and companies! Check them out at: http://www.burtsbees.com.

2. Seventh Generation Free & Clear Baby Wipes. Like the Baby Bee products, these wipes are fairly natural and although they’re thinner than some of the other wipes out there (like Huggies), they get the job done. Definitely worth a try. We have these on auto-order with Subscribe & Save on Amazon, so that we never run out. Find them here.

3. Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm. This is by far the best diaper rash cream that I’ve come across. It beats out Butt Paste and even the Baby Bee diaper rash cream. When we received this, I thought that it was way too pricey for the amount of product you get, but I soon realized that a little goes a long way, so the small bottle last a while. So far, Dilan has been diaper rash free. He even coos when I put this on his butt! Find it here.

4. Earth Mama Angle Baby Natural Nipple Butter. Like the baby bottom balm, this product is amazing, all-natural, and well worth the money. I’ve been fortunate enough not to need it too many times, but if you’re breast feeding and your nipples get sore, this is a must! Works great on other parts of your body as well (elbows, feet) and it even makes for a great lip balm. Find it here.

5. Summer Infant Swaddleme velcro swaddlers. Oh what would we do without these?! We have a ton of aden + anais swaddle blankets. They’re 100% cotton and very breathable. They’re also amazingly soft, so I would highly recommend them….if you’re a good swaddler. I happen to suck at it, Anil’s quite a bit better, but the main problem we have is that Dilan has well above average swaddle escape skills. Bring on the velcro straps that the Swaddleme provides. Dilan sleeps SO much better swaddled in these (arms and legs aren’t flying around everywhere), so these are definitely worth your money as well. Find them here.

Well, that just about wraps up my top 5 favorite mommy (and daddy, to be politically correct!) and baby products so far. I’ll keep updating the blog as Dilan grows and we learn :-)

** Update from two days later: Dilan is starting to escape from the Velcro straps now too! All I wanted was a healthy baby, not necessarily a Herculean one. What’s next, super glue? I kid, I kid!

 Posted by at 12:26 PM
Dec 052012
 

Got some soggy / overripe bananas that you need to use up? I’ve got just the thing for you! I often need a quick and healthy topping for pancakes and waffles that I make for weekend brunch. Considering all the overripe bananas that we have at the end of the work week, I decided to create a topping for these sweet brunchy type of foods.

Here’s what you do: Slice 2 to 3 overripe bananas (horizontally) into small 1/2 inch rounds. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat and add the bananas, two tablespoons of water, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar. Add more water as needed. Bring to a slow simmer and serve on top of pancakes or waffles. If you want to be naughty, top with whipped cream. Voila! Brunch is done.

 Posted by at 12:10 PM
Dec 052012
 

With a newborn in tow and no one else around during the day, getting meals on the table has been close to impossible! Enter the slow cooker. Our Crockpot has been a real life saver over the last few weeks. I modified this shredded buffalo chicken recipe. It’s so easy and makes the best tacos, so you can look like a pro cook, even if you don’t have any time to slave away at the stove!

Here’s what you do (to feed 2-3 people): Take about 3 thawed boneless and skinless chicken breasts and place them in your slow cooker. Pour over about half a 12 oz bottle of your favorite buffalo sauce. We like Frank’s wing sauce a lot! Mix in about half a packet of your favorite ranch dip mix. The trick here is to find one without MSG, if you care enough to leave that out of your food. Be sure to coat both sides of each chicken breast with the mix and sauce. Once this is done, close the crockpot, cook on low for at least 5 hours and then take the chicken out. Shred each breast on a cutting board, toss with two tablespoons of butter (this is where it gets naughty!) and put back into the crockpot. Cook on low for about 10 more minutes and serve with your favorite taco toppings. We like celery and blue cheese, but let your imagination go wild here. Not the most culinary recipe, but delicious, easy, and very fussy newborn friendly!

 Posted by at 12:07 PM
Nov 152012
 

So it’s been a little over month since we’ve brought our pickle into the world! Dilan was born on 10/10/2012, a date which is very near and dear to us. It’s the day Anil and I started dating in college, 11 years ago. We went through a list of names, but settled on Dilan since we find it such a simple, cute, yet pronounceable name (it’s pronounced the same as “Dylan”).  Its origin spans across Sanskrit, French, and Welsh. I’d like to think it’s a name as international as we are :-).

So how have we been coping? Depends on when you ask us :-). Certain days are awesome and we feel on top of the world, others are pure torture. The main reason why I think parenthood is difficult is because of all the pretty pictures, overly positive Facebook posts, and advertisements you see everywhere. It makes you believe that parenting is something fairly consistent that you can just “learn” or “pick up”. Start with the videos they show you about giving birth. Everyone is calm, looks pretty and the baby slides out gracefully and is peaceful.  NOTHING like it in real life. Middle of the night with only 2 hours of sleep. 18 hours of labor. No epidural or meds. Back labor from the very beginning. That was my story. Now am I glad I did it that way? Absolutely! I think it makes me a much stronger and confident person, not heroic or proud, but just stronger. It’s an experience neither Anil nor I will ever forget. But, nothing like they show you in the videos :-). It wasn’t pretty and I’m sure I said some ridiculous things during labor (I was in a daze for a good part of it)!

Now about the torturous days. Don’t get me wrong, we are extremely blessed that we have a roof over our head, food on the table, and enough disposable income to buy just about anything to make our lives a little easier. But even with all that, it takes one little pickle to wreak havoc, in the first-world-problem way. I think a lot of it has to do with our personalities, which Dilan seems to have a good dose of. We’re both fairly independent, somewhat picky, and rebel-ish. We always love a good challenge. You can see that in Dilan when we rock him to sleep, white noise cranked up, and all he does is yawn 12 or 13 times, but then FIGHTS his sleepiness. Why? I think he’s challenging himself…and what better challenge for a 5 week old than to see how long you can stay awake? So that, in addition to Dilan’s reflux,causes a good number of sleepless nights and fussy evenings. And then there’s breastfeeding. DAMN HARD. Breasts unfortunately don’t come with markers on them, so you never know how much you’ve just fed. And then there’s pumping and milk supply. Maybe I ate the wrong thing. Maybe I’m feeding too much. Maybe I’m feeding too little. Maybe I need to pump more. Maybe I need to pump less. Maybe I’m just doing EVERYTHING wrong. That’s how it’s been going for the past few weeks.

All in all, though, I have slowly come to love it. Now would be a good time to thank those who have made me love it. My mom stayed with us for a little over a week and slowly showed us the ropes of parenthood. The in-laws helped fill our freezer for two weekends in a row. My sisters sent text messages of encouragement. Countless friends, lactation consultants, and our pediatrician have given me the one thing that I think makes parenthood a bit easier: confidence. I slowly gain a bit more of it each day and that really helps me to appreciate motherhood. Whenever times get rough, I remind myself why I love it so much: Dilan’s cute noises and face at 3 AM and the way he sometimes shares subtle smiles, which remind me of my husband. Speaking of the hubs – I have come to appreciate him so much more as a daddy. Just when I thought I couldn’t love him any more than I already did, he became a dad. And if that’s not a huge motherhood bonus, I don’t know what is.

 Posted by at 9:28 PM
Sep 162012
 

This is by far the most refreshing drink I’ve had this summer, even sans alcohol! The recipe is quite simple too. Use either a seedless watermelon or make sure you remove the seeds out of a regular one. Cut the watermelon up into small cubes and add about 3-4 cubes to a tall glass. Muddle the cubes and a few ice cubes along with some fresh mint leaves and just a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Add a shot (or two!) of your favorite white rum and top off with ginger ale. Say ahhh and enjoy :-)

 Posted by at 5:05 PM
Sep 162012
 

I know it may seem a bit early to start my first mommy musing when I haven’t even given birth yet, but not being the superstitious type, there are some great tips and truths about pregnancy that I think are worth sharing! There are TONS of mommy blogs out there, but unlike me telling you what you should do in my posts, I’m only interested in sharing my experiences and invoking some serious laughter and “glad I’m not HER” type of thoughts. So for all you moms, here’s your chance to feel much better about yourself and for all you future moms, sit back and don’t (always) do what I did :-). Here are my favorite lessons learned and tips from almost 9 months of pregnancy:

1. Work doesn’t disappear. I’m well aware that a shower and hot meal become impossible realities once the baby is here, but what no one told me is how busy the 9 months before a baby would be! On top of your regular day job, there’s the nursery to complete and product reviews to read on anything from baby monitors to car seats. I know, all first world problems, but a lot of work nonetheless because you have to figure out what you need, what you really don’t, and what will best fit in with your lifestyle. Although I’ve been fortunate enough not to have taken a single sick day off this year (something I’m very proud of!), that doesn’t mean that eating / drinking gingerale and crackers for breakfast at work or trying not to vomit when you’re in front of a customer weren’t part of the deal. It is difficult to work all day and come home to a house full of chores, especially if your first and third trimesters aren’t completely fatigue and illness-free. And no, Mr. Obnoxious Consultant in the office, my nausea filled work days are still not any better than you having jet lag due to your West coast travel and red eye flights. Not the same thing at all!

2. Sleep disappears before the baby gets here. I wish all current mommies would stop telling me to sleep as much as I can before the baby arrives! It’s been impossible for me (and my poor hubs!) to get more than about 4 hours of solid sleep in per night since about 14 weeks of pregnancy. I’m writing this post at 5 AM on a Saturday and have been up since 3:30 AM. I’ve only managed to get in 8 naps since pregnancy started and have a feeling that number 9 might be needed today.  I’ve tried just about any remedy you can think of for my leg cramps, which have improved a lot over the last few weeks, but still wake me up every single night. More walking, hydration, magnesium, potassium, the bar of soap in between the sheets – you name it! The big positive that comes out of all of this is that the lack of sleep should be good prep for when the baby does actually get here.

3. Eat what you like. Another first world problem since I should be grateful that I even have a choice in foods in the first place. But, I’m pretty tired of people telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat! The only foods that sit really well in my stomach are bland ones, carbs, and proteins. I still eat plenty of veggies, and especially fruits, but really can’t stomach that paneer tikka masala anymore. My poor hubs has been deprived of really spicy Indian food (a staple in our house) for a while now, but I know I’ll make it up to him in the future. Until then, my lesson learned is that you should just eat what you like and what sits well (as long as it’s pretty healthy), keep taking your prenatal vitamins, and not worry about what anyone tells you food wise. I’m also tired of people telling me that I must have heartburn. I haven’t had any of it during my pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different. Just let it go. A splurge once in a while won’t hurt you either, though it gets harder to do this towards the end, especially if you’ve gained a lot of weight. My docs keep telling me that I’m a model patient in terms of my weight management, but they’re not the ones that have to lose 35 lbs!

 Posted by at 4:52 PM