Eggless Carrot Cake

There is no doubt among my existing friends that I loooovve baking with eggs. There was no doubt in my mind that eggs lent a certain flavour and taste to the cake which other substitutes couldn’t. So I have resisted trying eggless recipes for almost all of my life…until now.

When you have a child many rational choices go down the drain, I know. But what I was not prepared is how like pets, they too change our lives to suit and revolve around them. Sucrose has a lot of friends who are vegetarians. She probably was one of the only two non-vegetarian girls in the school she had studied earlier. Since I liked to not just bake, but to also share, I had to take a call. Learn to bake a few good eggless cakes or hold my ‘piece’ for ever. (well okay, that’s an exaggeration).

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I am completely prejudiced here, but except for a few good Indian bakers whose recipes I follow, I am mostly comfortable using a Western baker’s recipe. And cakes without eggs were not usually the norm abroad…until the ‘vegan’ movement came to be. So now we have a lot of vegan cakes and recipes made by good bakers.

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I had shared a very nice recipe from divascancook website here, and now I am sharing this beautiful and amazingly tasty carrot cake that doesn’t have any egg. It uses only buttermilk and oil for texture (I think) but the proportions are perfect.

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The recipe is available here: I have not changed a single element in the recipe, including the cream cheese glaze on the top. Except for the shape – I didn’t have a bundt cake tin, so

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I poured the batter into two 6″ cake tins and cut them up separately. I couldn’t stack them as the two cakes were slightly thick. I should have probably poured the batter into 7 or 8 inch cake tins. Or else pouring the whole mix in a single 6″ or 7″ cake tin would have worked out well too.

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I had prepared the glaze for the cake like Oriana had mentioned in the recipe but had added an overzealous pinch of salt. Combined with the cream cheese, this addition gave a slightly salty taste to the icing. But no one was complaining. :). For children, I think a regular chocolate or butter cream icing could work.

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I am surprised by how much I loved the cake. My earlier outings with eggless recipes have not been the very best; I have had misgivings about the taste mostly. Although Sucrose’s birthday cake which I had baked and decorated was eggless, and though I received a lot of compliments for its taste and texture, I was somehow a bit skeptical about it.

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But not with this one. This one right here is a must try recipe for people trying out eggless cakes. It is moist, tasty, soft and crumbly). It’s a perfect accompaniment to your tea or even to indulge in some guilt free pleasure. Thanks to Oriana of mummyshomecooking. 🙂

This yummy gyan comes to you with an extra dose of egg-free indulgence.

 

 

 

 

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Product Review – Azah Sanitary Pads

It sometimes bothers me that mothers who pay through their noses for toys, experiences, food and dresses, think so much when it comes to alternatives to environmentally unfriendly things and physically . Take for example our sanitary pads.

We still use those plastic lined, chemically infused gel liners which nestle close to our vaginas, spewing heat and cancer inducing chemicals into our body, but think a million times more if we would have to buy a natural alternative at a higher cost. That of course goes for all shampoos, soaps and products we use on our skin. But today I would like to concentrate on our sanitary pads.

Personally, I think it is convenient to use sanitary pads as they are sturdy and useful in these busy times. But the problem is that they are hot, itchy and cause rashes easily. I have been looking for an alternative for quite sometime now and was happy to lay my hands on the very aesthetically designed sanitary pad – Azah.

Azah Sanitary Pads – Ultra Soft, Organic pads

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Azah Sanitary Pads – An organic alternative during periods

Why Azah?

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Because I like their write up on the back of the pad –

Feeling healthy and good about yourself is not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity. Make the switch, because your body deserves better.

So true, isn’t it? A healthier, hygienic ‘you’ is more rewarding to your loved ones and to yourself.

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The Packaging – I love the aesthetic, pleasing design and especially the motif of a petal on the box. The whole box has light pink and purple flowers in a mild print. Inside the box, the pads have individual packs and are placed neatly in rows. It is very easy on the eye. There is even a note inside the pack which looks like a thoughtful gesture.

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However, when I saw the individual pads having their own premium packs, I thought it was just a hype to charge more in the name of organic pads. Was there a need to have individual packs with premium packaging? As I figured out later, apparently it does. The individual packs can be disposed off in the same pack instead of having to search for a paper or a plastic wrap to do the same. Turns out that even that addition was thoughtfully done.

The Product – True to their claim, the pads are super soft and cottony to feel. The gum behind the pad is strong and adheres to the panty quite well. The wings are well placed and prevent the pad from slipping. I used a regular size as my period flow is not very heavy, and not once did I have a problem with leakage or staining. The best part of course is that once I wore it, I didn’t feel like I was wearing one. No itching or scratching…just a natural feel. This is something that has to be used to be believed. Plus, I felt happy that I my carbon print was lesser than when I used a regular, plastic sanitary pad.

 

Price – A box of regular sized (280mm) 12 sanitary pads cost Rs. 239 which is more than double what regular sanitary pads in the market cost. But I think the favour you do to your body, plus the convenience of wearing this sanitary pad for a longer duration due to its super soft exterior makes up for the steeper price. This gets a big thumbs up from my side.

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I use Azah sanitary pads (regular) for my high flow days, which last only for a couple of days. For higher flow, one can use their XL pads. I have tried those too, but I found the wings to easily come off and for the pad to curve inwards. I am not sure if this is the case with the quality of the pads or any other factor.

Do drop in a line if you have used this too, and do share what you feel of the product.

This impartial product review gyan comes to you with a super dose of self love and empowerment. Love your periods. 🙂

 

 

 

Leaving Montessori School Behind

Sucrose has started regular school, after two wonderful years of amazing learning in her Montessori. She has happily embraced the new school while gracefully leaving her old one behind. While the emotional side of this departure was very obvious – she asks after her teachers and recounts occasionally what they have taught her in the past year; she still referred to her friends from her Montessori in the present tense – what we hadn’t factored was the tremendous learning she was leaving behind, as she stepped into her new school.

She spent two years in Nishta Montessori, a small enterprising school, which is run by a dynamic and attentive Mrs. Jayanthi and her talented team of teachers and helpers. I can’t stress enough how much Montessori style has helped Sucrose till now and how much it integrated us parents into our child’s learning.

  1. Sucrose can write numbers till 20 almost correctly, and I was not even aware of it. It happened in stages. One day she got home and started writing the numbers 1 to 10. I was impressed and happy and bought her a book to practice her numbers…only we never got around to using that book as she already knew to write to 10. Now she writes numbers till 20. What the icing on the cake is that she loves to write on her own and has filled many blank, used envelopes and one-sided papers to practice writing.

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    A proud display – numbers written on her own. Pic – Rational Mum (RM)
  2. She can not only write the numbers till 20, but she can also count till 30 very easily. That’s not a big thing I am sure, but I was happy anyway.

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    Pic – Rational Mum (RM)
  3.  She can join and read three letter words using phonetics. ‘cat’, ‘dog’, ‘car’, box, bag etc are all read with gusto. They have been taught to match the picture with the respective words respectively. That way the children read the words first and then once they understand the word, they choose the corresponding picture to go with it.

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    Reading 3 letter words at 3 years. Pic – Rational Mum (RM)
  4. Montessori education is big on making children understand concepts, be it math or science or language. Sucrose had a three dimensional feel of different concepts, like rods of different lengths which they arranged as per ascending/ descending order; wooden cylinders of varying sizes and weights that had to be placed in the right slots; transferring solids and liquids to different containers and such. Not only were these excellent hand and eye coordination activities, but they also introduced concepts like long -short, heavy -light, big-small in a nice way.

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    Making sense of numbers as quantity. Pic – Rational Mum (RM)
  5. Trips and extra curricular activities – the school had a lot of visits planned for the year – the zoo, museums, circus, parks etc in addition to dancing and singing to random songs in class. Many times Sucrose would ask me to play a song or recognize one that would play somewhere and dance to it. Since I was not exposing her to those, I realized later on that they were dancing to songs in class.

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    This was a visit to a goshala – a cow shelter. Pic – Rational Mum (RM)

We, parents were loathe to take our children out of the school, but each of us had our pressures of sending them to ‘regular’ schools.  Montessori education goes as per age and not as classes – LKG, UKG, I, II etc. Children are pushed into activities as per their interests and are presented various materials and concepts through the term. The learning happens on their own terms and results in a happy, confident child.

If you are thinking of starting your child off a regular pre-school or nursery, I would suggest a Montessori school for those early years.

This bit of rational gyan comes to you in Montessori founder Maria Montessori’s words –

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A Lesson on Hope

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The little testament of hope

This picture right here aptly represents what our outlook to life should be. Just look at this picture of a plant that I had given up for dead in my balcony – this beautiful purple shoot has pushed itself out of the soil with this green green leaf at its tip waiting to unfurl like a lush flag. Until it had poked its green head out of the soil, I had thought this plant was dead and gone. But there has been so much happening under the soil, don’t you think? The roots have been taking hold of the foreign soil, making the base strong and permanent; the shoot – against all odds -has pushed stubbornly through the hard soil and has come up with this proof of life – a leaf ready to unfurl. Ah, the miracles of nature. It lays out lessons on hope to the keen observer.

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I had brought this plant from my trip to Bangalore in January, with very slight expectations of it growing in Chennai’s weather and with the varying degrees of sunlight that my modest balcony receives. This plant was said to have medicinal properties and was graciously given to us by Sanjay’s aunt from her teeming with life garden, who advocated eating a leaf a day to combat diabetes. Imagine that! The leaf had a lovely sour taste and was not hard to eat, so I brought it to Chennai.

The plant promptly dried up as expected but we continued to water it regularly. There were no visible signs whatsoever that the plant would grow back, but we still watered it. After six weeks of no-show, of lulling us into believing that it was dead, this beautiful purple shoot pokes its head out of the soil! Oh the joy I felt to see .. of life.

I immediately got hit by an analogy of how some of our dreams may take time to unfurl or to come true even though we invest our energies into it. The key to knowing if it is worth the trouble or not is not let go of one’s belief in it, but to persevere and nourish the dream. This happens to be true in my case. I have been busy trying to get a room in our flat ready for Airbnb and have invested money and time in getting the place tip-top to receive guests. It was so thrilling – this start of a new dream. I loved the idea of starting something like this and couldn’t wait to usher my first guest in. Only, it did not happen that way.

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Here are some snaps of the room. It is a nice cosy one which accommodates two guests. We got the walls and windows cleaned, painted, the bathrooms uplifted, and spent a lot of time in sprucing up the room as it needed a lot of work. The room was advertised on Airbnb and we waited, and waited. For two months we waited before our first guest came in. On hindsight it looks like less time, but at that time I started having a lot of doubts about the prudence of this decision. Nothing seemed to happen. We tweaked the prices and the description a bit and waited some more. Meanwhile formalities from Airbnb was completed and a couple of our annual trips made, I didn’t realize then that my dream was taking hold, spreading its roots and absorbing nourishment from the love and care we were showering on it. The shoot was coming up.

Now with a couple of bookings done and people hosted with great vigour, I am starting to understand the similarity to that sturdy shoot pushing its way out of the soil. With the right amount of attention and work, I think any dream is ours to fulfill. Isn’t it right? More often than not, after investing time and energy, we feel like giving up when things don’t work out. But nature tells us to be patient… to believe, to give time for it to mature. When the time is right it would take off surely. The trick is to protect it, nurture it and never give up on it even when there is a no-show.

Of course, like our Night Jasmine plant which has dried up to nothing after giving us so many many portions of medicinal tea, sometimes we may need to let some dreams go. Those that have been milked for what it’s worth and whose benefits have been enjoyed by all. It is prudent to let that go, the way I had to let my Parijat/ Night Jasmine plant go.

But for now, with summer extracting the very essence out of all these plants, there is growth everywhere. Small, tiny leaves tremble in the summer breeze waiting for the nourishment to reach them from below and with the right mix of elements the magic occurs…a promise has been born.

 

Woman to Woman

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Happy women’s day to you. How was the day? This year International Women’s Day’s campaign theme is #balanceforbetter.  It is aimed at achieving a gender-balance in the working world. That is so progressive and high up there as far as goals for working women’s rights go. It means that other parameters like exercising basic rights – right to education, right to work, right to speak, right to practice one’s beliefs, right to vote, right to give birth to a baby girl without facing backlash is already being worked on.

It isn’t. Not in all places in the world and especially so in our own country. While International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate working women’s rights, it is also being hailed as a day to celebrate womanhood. Many work spaces have tacky celebrations, half-hearted attempts, and misplaced  intentions, after which things get back to being the way they were. Big companies like Airtel, Indian Oil Corporation, Siemens, P&G and many others are yet to appoint an independent woman director as per regulations that come to effect on April 1st 2019. And these are the big guys; it is no brainer what the situation is like in smaller companies. This is the stark reality in the corporate sector these days.

My post today, however, is to bring attention to the numerous women whose lives are governed by the whims and fancies of other women. As mothers, wives, sisters, employees, friends, lovers, workers, law makers women have the power to change the lives of other women for the better and though fantastic attempts are made by some, it is no surprise that many fail and are the reason for an other woman’s misery. We hear of dowry deaths and female infanticide even now.

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This day deigns to remind us that there are so many many women out there who don’t have basic rights or dignity in living. There are women who don’t have the freedom to make a choice without a man or another woman giving approval. And sometimes as fellow women we fail to understand these problems. The first step to women’s empowerment should be taken by other women. There should be compassion and empathy among other traits as we give other women their due. I pledge to do so this year.

I leave you with this eye-opening interview with Germaine Greer that was published in THE Hindu on March 8th . According to Wikipedia, Greer is a liberation (or radical) rather than equality feminist. Her goal is not equality with men, which she sees as assimilation and “agreeing to live the lives of unfree men”. She argues instead that liberation is about asserting difference and “insisting on it as a condition of self-definition and self-determination”. It is a struggle for the freedom of women to “define their own values, order their own priorities and decide their own fate”.

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That pretty much defines my thoughts on the subject of Feminism. There are too many blurred areas and I need to dive deep to understand it. But for now, I am glad that women like Greer have identified and defined the nature of feminism.

 

 

 

 

Five Children’s Books (0-2 years) your Child will Love

The saying goes that a Child who reads will become an adult who thinks, and since that has worked pretty well with the child’s parents (ahem!) I was determined to get Sucrose into reading books. But the journey didn’t start off like I expected. There were parents who were reading to their three month old child, and I was not doing that. Sucrose used to turn her head away distracted every time I tried reading a story for her. She didn’t seem interested when I read out stories even when she was as old as 8 months. It didn’t help matters that my husband Sanjay and my mother were master story tellers and would have her in rapt attention through out. I was happy she was lapping it up, but with books it was a slow journey. I really started buying books only after her first birthday and even then they were mostly to complement the books she received for her first birthday. In a way, I was thankful for all the books she received for her birthday as it took off the guessing from which book to buy for her and it did give me a chance to see what interested her.

Keeping that thought, here is a list of five books which kept her attention immensely to this day. I haven’t included My First Words or Parts of the body or Touch and Feel books, and have only concentrated on story books for children.

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Spot’s Story Collection

Spot Books – One of my dear friends had gifted a set of Spot books for Sucrose’s first birthday which were just perfect for her. This is a classic, written by Eric Hill and is colourfully illustrated with just a line in each page to read out to your baby. Initially, I had used those books only for show and tell. I would point out Spot’s friends hippo, dinosaur, monkey and other characters like the inquisitive cat, bird, his family and such to Sucrose, in addition to the many things happening on the page. This exercise helped improve her vocabulary and formed the basis for future reading. These books bring to focus Spot’s family members and friends. Since your darling would be having a similar experience as a baby, she would be able to associate with the characters shown in the book. This is a good buy. Available on Amazon India as individual books.

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – This was the first one that made me realize the potential of a brilliant book on a child. Sucrose took to it like fish to water. The fantastic journey of the caterpillar through the seven days of the week, cut -outs in the book to show how the caterpillar ate through food in its hungry quest, the colourful illustrations – everything made this her most favourite book in her 1st year. I used to mimic getting  a stomach ache as I read out the large fare the caterpillar ate on Saturday and she used to love it, making me read the list of foods again and again and laughing when I acted as if I got a stomach ache myself. Eric Carle has written this book with a great understanding of children that age. And that brings me to the next book in the list, written by him.

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Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr/ Eric Carle

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle – This book has whole page illustrations of single animals and birds in vivid colours. I love this book as a reader too. It is simple, rhyming and colourful. It is very cleverly designed to help children learn colours and names of animals and birds. Mine did it very easily and soon she started ‘reading’ out the whole story simply by seeing the pictures in the book. I have taken video of the way Sucrose reads the story and I am darned proud of her!

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Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell – When Sucrose started Montessori, the school encouraged reading in children and so they happened to have a library going on with parents sending five books each. As per Montessori rules, the books should not be those of animals talking or doing what animals or birds wouldn’t do – so I couldn’t send the Spot books or Polly Penguin or the many Pepper books. As a result, we received books that were merely sent to fill up the token 5 books in a bag. Many were on Good manners, parts of the body and such. And then, we got a pack of books from one of her friends which had Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell in it. This was a flap book which told the story of a child sending animals back to the zoo because they were unsuitable as a pet. This book was a delight. It led to many interesting reading with the lil one opening the flap to see which animal was going to visit. I particularly liked the words used to describe the animals – too big, too tall, too fierce…and so on. This one was a keeper. I have since bought My Presents by Rod Campbell. And she likes it too.

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Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown – After The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this was one book that was real value for money and an absolutely wonderful book for babies and toddlers. To this day, Sucrose asks me to read out the rhyming story of the bunny who says good night to all things in his room. Not only does this book have references to my favourite poem – The Cow Jumped over the moon, it also introduces the child to numbers in the form of words like – a pair of mittens, three little bears sitting on chairs etc. Also Sucrose loves the part where I would go, “and a quiet old lady who was whispering hush”, I would linger and repeat the word “hush” softer and softer just for emphasis. What I first thought as a publishing mistake, actually turned out to be a deliberate inclusion in the book, for as we turn the pages and as bunny says good night to the room and the light and the cats, the pages become darker and darker until at the last page, the colours are dim just like bunny’s room, The lights are off, the quiet old lady is gone and the kittens are sleeping peacefully curled up on a rocking chair while the mouse sits on the window sill watching the stars. I would recommend this wonderful book written by Margaret Wise Brown with illustrations by Clement Hurd which sits right next to our bed side table, to any parent who loves to read a good night story to her darling pet.

This list of course does not include the very many Parts of the Body, My first colours or 50 words to know or the touch and feel books. I have listed only story books which have held her attention during her first and second year as a baby. She still likes them but the dynamics has changed. She sometimes ‘reads’ these books herself, stringing a story from the pictures and illustrations, but what hasn’t changed is the timelessness of these books.

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Don’t forget to drop in a line about books you read out to your little moppet. It will help improve the list and bring clarity to the choices available in the market.

Nagarhole National Park Trip – with my 3 year old

My first post of 2019 and it is two months in! Wow, I didn’t expect that when 2018 drew to a close. 2019 started off with a mad rush to finish work assignments so that I could go on my very first trip of the year. A bunch of us friends had gone to Nagarhole Tiger Reserve or National Park. I have written about it in great detail here, but suffice it to say that it was invigorating to spend the first few days of the year chilling out in cool climes in a real forest, surrounded by wild animals, making safari trips in the misty mornings and cold evenings and pretty much managing a notorious 3 year old to be silent in the vast, sensitive, silent surroundings.

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The pristine, beautiful surroundings – Nagarhole National Park. Pic – Rational Mum

This was a first trip of a kind with 3 year old Sucrose. The travel was long – we went from Chennai by car to Bangalore, stopped over for the night and started in the morning to Nagarhole which was another 4 hour journey. Also I couldn’t expect food and amneties that would suit a 3 year old, so I had to plan a bit. Here are a few of things I did right and things which I could have done in the trip.

  1. Travel – We love travelling by car if we can help it. Sucrose is pretty used to travelling by car alternating between watching the world go by, or talking to herself or sleeping through the journey. But this trip involved a lot of travel and there was another kid too in the trip, which was a good thing sometimes but not always. He had a toy with him through the trip (which I felt was a brilliant idea), but it led to fights between the two as I had not thought of bringing a toy for her. Calming the two down was quite a task and led to some running back and forth between the cars. I had packed books for her to read and a couple of board games which she loved, but those could be used only when we had checked in somewhere. For the car, I think a small, familiar toy or two would keep restless minds occupied. We had a lot of toilet breaks and coffee breaks that helped stretch our legs a bit and that is essential while going long distances. But the commodity that was most needed was – water. I always had her water bottle filled and ready as I didn’t want to substitute water for aerated drinks or packaged juices. They were full of sugar and carbonic acid anyway. For snacks I pack simple biscuits, salted pea nuts, and a simple bread-butter-jam sandwich. It has always worked. Sometimes when she is especially cranky or being difficult I give her a lollipop, because she likes them so much.

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    Warm yet comfortable clothes – Nagarhole Trip. Pic – A Rational Mum
  2. Packing – This was a forest and the weather was cold, touching 17 degrees at night. So I packed thick, full-sleeved t-shirts and leggings, jeans and t-shirts, sweater and monkey cap to protect her ears. She already had a cold in the trip but the warm clothing helped her and didn’t aggravate her problem. Of course, books and board games were also added. She had her own bag for the trip and since we were going by car, the weight didn’t really matter. My rule of thumb while packing for her is to have two sets of clothes for a day and a night dress which could be repeated for at least two nights. One pair of sneakers and sandals, and a set of underwear for every day we were travelling. Since the weather was cold through out Bangalore and Mysore, I didn’t worry too much about giving her a bath in the morning. It was done whenever we reached our destination. Her travel clothes are always comfort first. So she was generally dressed in loose, cotton t shirts and tights.

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    The two kids in warm clothes and sneakers. Pic – A Rational Mum
  3. Food – We didn’t expect much choice in the forest as we were staying in the guest house inside the forest. We would consider ourselves lucky getting something regular to eat, we decided. I, however, packed a compact steamer ( a life saver, generally) to make idlis or boiled eggs, potato or even make rice. But luckily that was not needed. The food was very homely – idlis, chappathi, rice, gravies, papads, curds and stuff. Between that and snacks the children were fine. We even got hot milk on all days, so that was taken care of too. I try to make Sucrose eat fruits during the trip as she wouldn’t get constipated. It was such a relief that she was fine through out.
  4. Safaris – If I had had a choice, I would have left Sucrose in the guest house during the safaris, but she wouldn’t stay put. She was up and about as early as six in the morning, jumping about excited. It was a challenge to keep her and the other 8 year old silent during the trip to the silent forest. In the still place, sometimes,  their squeal or talking could really ring through, warning animals close by. So we were not very lucky to see any tigers or other carnivores. If your child is restless or loud, it would be better to have low expectations from safaris.
  5. Safety – Safety is paramount when spending time in a raw jungle. Every walk or travel was not taken for granted. We didn’t want to startle the deers grazing near the forest guest house and the many boars and peacocks that had families set up near by. The children were asked to play within our sights and in the evenings they were herded inside to play those board games I had mentioned earlier. Since there was so much of activity in the day, the two fell asleep promptly by 9:00 – 9:30pm.

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    Lot of things to do. Pic – A Rational Mum

Since Sucrose was going to be four and had a friend through the trip, it was easier for me to chill out with my friends. I didn’t have to keep checking about her comfort and safety. This was truly one of the advantages of travelling in a group. I am already looking forward to our next trip this year – a trip to Kerala by train. I have already done this with her when she was eight months old, but I am still looking forward to seeing how things will be this time.

The important thing to do of course is to keep travelling and getting her to appreciate the perks of travelling and to help her develop sensitivity to different culture and customs and appreciate God’s gift to mankind.

Happy travelling!