Mitti Se Handcrafted Soap – Review

IMG_20180912_082740

Mitte Se Green Tea Walnut handcrafted soap is what I use for Ana kutti. My go to soap generally is Rustic Art, a review of which I had given here. But sometimes when Big Basketdoesn’t have stock of Rustic Art, I go for Mitti Se. I like the soap a lot but Sucrose likes Rustic Art better.

Mitti Se goes one step ahead of Rustic Art and gives me an exfoliation scrub in a regular soap. SO when I have to clean her dirty foot/heel, the rough walnut layer really helps. Needless to say it is not popular with Ana for that very reason. But I am getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start at the beginning.

IMG_20180912_082717

Why Mitti Se?

I like their vision of creating products that are Earth friendly and safe on skin. They are clear about keeping their products as close to the natural ingredient used by minimizing processing of the product. I love that! Its as close to making a besan-haldi-curd face mask at home. Their products, they say, are alternatives to harmful chemical products that in turn harm the environment, both during manufacture and disposal.

Their products come in biodegradable packaging too, as can be seen here.

The Packaging – The soap comes packed rather attractively in a dried leaf with a wax paper inside. The pack is sealed naturally with a string tied around to hold it in place. This is very much in line with their idea of minimal disposal of their product. A big thumbs up from my end for that.

IMG_20180912_082814

The soap – The soap has a lovely fresh fragrance and is rather frothy. It moves easily on the skin and washes well too. The walnut scrub wears off with subsequent washes, but once before I have had it through the life of the soap. Mostly the scrub stays.yhrough the rigours of washing. It is truly a good scrub and takes away the necessity to buy another one separately. As I had mentioned earlier, it is useful in removing dead skin and dirt from Ana kutti’s tender feet without causing much trouble. But she didn’t like it much because the scrb was slightly painful.

IMG_20180912_082646

The soap smells of green tea and has very few ingredients, which is what makes me like it more. There is a lot of transparency in their ingredient listing. In this soap, there is green tea, essential oil of lime, walnut scrub, wheat germ oil which is good for skin firming. This soap can be used by adults, but I use it for Sucrose.

IMG_20180912_082622

Price – This soap costs Rs. 160/- for a 75g packet. It is definitely steep and that is why my first choice is Rustic Art, which is at Rs. 155/- for a 100g soap. But Mitti Se has all the right reasons and values and it is a good alternative to other similar soaps.

This post comes to you with a good scrub to compensate a soft, soapy bath. 🙂

Big Basket – One Stop Place for Groceries

I technically don’t celebrate Deepavali, being a practicing Muslim and S who technically should celebrate, on account of being a Hindu …doesn’t, at least not with the pomp and gaiety that’s associated with the festival. He is happy to simply have a special dosa and kootu breakfast that is made for Deepavali, followed by a brief visit to his parents where sweetmeats are exchanged. That is the length and breadth of the day for him. All that changed when I married him. First off, my dear friend P, who invites me home for lunch every Diwali since we first met, has continued the tradition even after I got married to S. So after a sumptuous aforementioned breakfast, I distribute sweets to neighbours who come bearing their own platters laden with tasty adhirasams, moti paks and murukkus. Then Sanjay and I would visit his parents and simply laze about or wonder where we could go to check out the fireworks. That simple routine changed a few years ago when our friends wanted to converge at a place where they could dress up and meet and greet and soak up the spirit of the day. They zeroed in on our place purely due to convenience. Since then we have been hosting our darling shenanigans for Diwali and I have fallen on Big Basket and Amazon to cater to my last minute Diwali purchases. And any last minute purchase before big festivals is fraught with uncertainties. There is delivery headaches and product availability problems due to surge in demand. Suffice to say that I have not had a very good experience being the novice Diwali hostess.

Screenshot_20181211-105340

This year however I planned and left all of my shopping to Big Basket. Right from their scented candles to the region- sourced sweets from their specialty stores  – I was big-basketing with elan. I have been a Big Basketeer from before Sharukh Khan sauntered into our TV sets convincing homemakers to buy monthly groceries from Big Basket. I’m happy to say that I have been a loyal customer since when their website used to sport a basic interface with household essentials and with a blank space for some of the local vegetables instead of having a picture of it. Still, I stuck to them as they had online payment, a wide variety of products in their website and brands that I generally would go to Nilgiris Supermarket to buy. I found them to be better than Grofers, which I had tried along side Big Basket and found to be a bit tedious. I had started using Big Basket when I was pregnant with Anakutti and hence was looking for easier options to shop for groceries. Amazon took care of most of my non-grocery shopping, but Big Basket was the answer for regular groceries.

Screenshot_20181211-105408

 

What I like:

  1. The variety – Big basket has a variety of categories to choose from. The categories like Fruits and Vegetables, Foodgrains and Organic Staples, Branded foods,  Household and Cleaning to name a few have many items under them as well. You name it, and they might just have it. They have all the main pulses and grains, branded foods like biscuits, soft drinks, cosmetics, skin care products, imported products, meat, fish,eggs and these days sweets and cakes from nearby shops. In addition they have sis so convenient to log in and shop from BB.
  2. The Easy to Use App – BB, like all the new online shopping websites is app friendly. The interface is very easily navigable and is colourful. The pictures that accompany their products are true to the what we receive. Plus they have a search support for many languages. Tamil, telugu, hindi, malayalam…it’s all there. Mostly I catch myself typing kadala paruppu for chana dal, and sure enough it is brought up in the search.
  3. Organic Products – When I made my transition to using more organic stuff in my everyday cooking and living, it was BB that had my back. I was able to pick and choose a wide variety of organic products, when they were still a novelty in the country. The early brands like 24 Mantra or Pro Nature were available easily and now BB themselves have entered the fray promising organic products from their stable.
  4. Quality – I find myself buying certain products like their Royal Rice flour (to make amazing idiyappams, idlis), Royal dals (all of them), their biriyani rice in particular. They have a no-ask return policy but I have never used it in all these years, especially in the past one year. Their products are so fresh and good and as a result translate to good dishes. I had problems with their veggies which earlier used to be so pathetic – mouldy and old sometimes. I have called their customer service and have complained. Though they dutifully return the cash back, I have never got the confidence to buy vegetables from them. That too seems to be changing now, as the few special fruits like seasonal apples, grapes, yellow banana and salad vegetables like brocolli, capsicum etc have been faultless.
  5. Delivery – It is these days difficult to get a quick delivery slot unless one opts for their express delivery for which we pay Rs. 30/- per order. But their deliveries are on time, whenever the slot and the delivery guys are all courteous and capable. Plus they deliver items free for order value above Rs. 1000/-

Screenshot_20181211-123107

This Diwali, I got items like scented candles, diyas and fairy lights to decorate my home. I ordered special sweet packs and savories from Telangana and Bangalore to be distributed to friends and close ones instead of standing in long queues outside popular sweet shops in the city. Bought a nice big pack of ice-cream for the Diwali dinner, beautiful paper napkins to go with the platters and fresh, fragrant marigold flowers for puja needs and decorations. I was blown away by the quality of the flowers – they were fragrant and fat like well fed pigeons. I was also happy with the traditional sweets I ordered from Big Basket – Sunnundalu from Pulla Reddy Sweets and laddoos from Punjabi Chandu Halwai.

Screenshot_20181211-123147

Are you a Big-basketeer yet? Do you like it?

I hope this gyan brings with it the ease  and quality that is Big Basket’s USP. 🙂

 

 

Baking Tales – Carrot Cake

After my tryst with baking bread, I felt like perfecting a nice carrot cake recipe. I know what you are thinking – as if I didn’t have enough dismal attempts at baking in my kitty. But what do I do? Much like the sometime hot sometime cool weather we have been seeing, I have been having days when I feel like whipping something up and some when I want to eat something somebody else has whipped up. Not a good proposition if you are watching your weight, I know.  And when I bake, I generally like to whip up a few tea cakes, the only ones which I seem to love these days. I am surprising myself by staying clear off heavily iced cakes, and definitely the marzipan ones.

Achu Kurian

So this urge to make a carrot cake flared up when I got Achu Kurian’s book Cakes, Desserts and More from my club library. Though the title is very unimaginative, I was taken up by the cover of a delectable Black forest cake, and quickly brought it home to pore over. I settled for the carrot cake recipe featured in the book, resisting the desire to check a picture by picture recipe instead that is available on my favourite blogs online.

I generally like trying out recipes from cook blogs and some of my favourites are – sallysbakingaddiction (she is absolutely a Goddess for us novices), amadteaparty – I love the way she weaves a story with her baking and cooking episodes. In addition to these two I of course follow the two colossus The Pioneer Woman and Nigella Lawson. I also check a million other blogs for other cooking ideas and inspirations and am part of Home Baker’s Guild in Facebook which again is a wealth of information. Why am I writing all this? With so much inspiration and such detailed recipes available online I needn’t have had to check recipes for cakes in books. But I did and I had hoped it would work well.

So, imagine my surprise when after following the recipe somewhat to the ‘T’ the cake was dry and egg-y smelling. I was very surprised actually as I had followed the tedious steps (including whipping egg whites to stiff peaks – a job I really hate), and yet the cake was dry and lumpy. Perhaps Achu Kurian would have a reason why my cake had turned out wrong. I couldn’t get past the egg-y smell of the cake and I felt the colour of the carrot cake was too mild, not the rich orange-y one one would expect. Anyway, I was disappointed but not disheartened.

IMG_20181002_144437
Achu Kurian’s recipe – It was tedious and the cake was lumpy

The other day when I got some carrots in hands again, I tried Divascancook’s video on Carrot cake. Monique had termed it her Gram’s Carrot cake and I just didn’t look further, somehow feeling that if a recipe came tagged with a grandparent’s experience then it shouldn’t even be questioned. The recipe was super duper easy, and involved just simple mixing of dry ingredients together first, then the liquids together and then incorporating one into another and mixing lightly. The resultant cake was so so soft and crumbly that I had a tough time keeping my hands off it. I had to keep some for Ana kutti who I use as an excuse to bake these babies.

 

I know the pictures are crappy, but I was seriously too taken up with the aroma and the texture of the cake. I felt like a greedy cat that day. Next time, better pics. Promise.

After almost eating and enjoying  a third of the cake, I felt it would be nice to improve on its flavour if I could add a topping. This carrot cake was slightly less sweet and cakes being an indulgence should taste like one. So I browsed for a nice topping for my yummilicious carrot cake.

The most common topping I know is a cream cheese one for carrot cakes, but just then I did not have cream cheese (yep, you already know that about me…me and my impulsiveness). I did have some lovely chocolate bars and I decided to go for a chocolate ganache.

I had chanced upon a video for chocolate ganache while I was surfing for a recipe for carrot cake, and since I have been meaning to make a good ganache for sometime now I quickly made it.

It is thanks to such generous, sweet people that the internet works. The ganache was beautiful, chocolate-y, smooth and was an absolute complement to the carrot cake. I thought cream cheese was the correct topping for this cake, but the ganache seemed like a match made in heaven itself. I don’t think I took a picture of the gooey, ganache sitting prettily on the humble carrot cake… or may be I did. I just don’t remember. The only thing I do is the feeling of utter contentment and happiness when I had had that first mouthful. Oh god, just today I finished the last crumbly, sweet crumbs of the cake and promised myself of making one more so that I don’t cheat Anakutty off her last piece, like I did today.

It is recipes such as these that shakes the rational person out of me, leaving instead a this weak in the knees person who knows with every mouthful that she takes she is going to have a wicked, driven workout waiting for her.

There’s nothing rational about this post.

Yeasty Business

I made my very first bread yesterday. And though I do sound a bit nonchalant, not the least because it was dense and blah to taste, I still do have a ‘mann mein laddoo phoot rahein hain’ (golden yummy sweet exploding in me) moment. I think I felt the same when I had made my first cinnamon rolls. I love working with yeast, love the springy, stickiness of the flour and how they come about to become tender, beautiful rolls/ soft buns. Bread making is so organic. The smell of yeast baking in the oven when mixed with flour and sugar is so primal.

IMG_20181008_155353 (1)

I had been meaning to try Shano Biju’s recipe which people on a FB group that I am part of have raved and raved about. But the recipe had egg and fresh cream; both of those were not in my fridge and since I have been meaning to make bread for ages, I just went with the second best recipe I had filed – one from Cookingfromheart. The recipe sounded pretty do-able and I had already bought 24 Mantra’s organic wheat flour as suggested in the recipe. The wheat flour had been languishing in my pantry for months now and I didn’t want it to get too stale/ old. (But yeah, look at my conceit…trying to act so pro instead of starting from a more basic white bread recipe). Without much preamble and proper planning I just upped and started to make the bread.

The one thing you never do when you are trying a new recipe especially one that involves yeast and proper time lines is to be impulsive. Never. I should have known the recipe was doomed when I started with Shano Biju’s Tangzong method, discarded the attempt mid-way as I didn’t have fresh cream and eggs (how can I not have had eggs!!!) and then I moved to the other recipe. I had just made the yeast concoction (taken from Cookingfromheart) for the bread which had to rise for about 90 minutes, when I realized suddenly that I had to go for my yoga class. Aw the timing of it! Yes, this is about the time you can call me ‘a stuffed pot’. Duh!

IMG_20181008_155404 (1)

So I came back from yoga a good one hour after and attended to the bread making. Just before dashing out for the class, I kept the slurry in the fridge to prevent over rising by the yeast.  When I got back, with my brains still settled at the base of my foot, I worked at incorporating the cool slurry into the dough (every decent baker I know suggest waiting for ingredients to reach room temperature before incorporating them. I had to go and do just the opposite.) I kneaded and kneaded and could see not much give in the dough perhaps the yeast was still sleeping from its stint in the fridge. I carried on, intending to see this to its errrmm rightful end. 🙂 The wheat dough lacked that bounciness that I generally get when I do my cinnamon roll dough. But I worked at it very lovingly in fact, coaxing it this way and that.

The folding of the dough was problematic again. After giving it a good roll with the rolling pin and folding the dough as per instructions I felt like I was cramping a dead body into my bread tin. A fold appeared in the middle which never got resolved later as the bread simply did not rise!

While the baking was underway I started to feel responsible, sad that it had not hit me earlier. I actually salivated over the rich, yeasty smell that wafted out of my rickety oven. Against all odds I was curious to see how the bread would turn out. I peered in through the glass and could make out no visible top/dome and whatever was in there was languishing at the bottom of the pan as if it was in love with the base of it. I reluctantly opened the oven in between to put some butter on it for colour (as if! after the treatment I had given the dough, this was just being pitiful and childish.

Finally the bread was made in time for tea – one of my favourite times of the day to finish baking. Though it cut well, it was dense and quite bland. I definitely had to up the salt and of course, rework my whole attitude towards baking bread.

The best thing that happened yesterday however, was of feeling more confident. Earlier it was a untrodded zone, but now I had blundered in blindly and still had a dense bread as proof of my efforts. I had identified most of my mistakes. I think I would have felt particularly dejected if I had followed the recipe to the ‘T’ and had not got desired results. At least this time, I can look forward to a second better chance. The day shouldn’t be too far when I could enjoy a slice of artisan bread with its strong yeast smell and delightful flavours.

The only gyan that would be served up today here is to not follow any of the above :-D, except of course the two recipe links.

Aloe Veda – Activated Charcoal Face wash review

Looky here my dearies…look at my new swashbuckling, dirt and germ fighting absolute kicker of a face wash. I am so in love with this one that I have almost cheated on my previous one which I lovvvve a lot too.

Aloe Veda

I am glad I hit gold where it came to taking care of my face in a gentle and organic way. Let me give you a brief idea about my skin. My skin has been a cause of my fragile confidence on my looks. While I like to consider that I am a smart looking person, my skin gives me cause to pause in the best of times. I have had acne and subsequent scarring – a result of a misguided Ayurvedic therapy. I have large open pores on my face and an oily skin to boot. As you can see below, the acne scars are far from fading and now at 39, I have started getting age spots as well.

IMG_20180722_104028

I had long since stopped using harsh products that end up leaving my skin feeling stretched and dry like a cloth that has come out of the washing machine. I thought that was an indication of how well the soap/ face wash did its job until recently I read that it was just the chemicals leaving that feeling. A good soap should leave your skin feeling the same as how it was before using the product, except cleaner. Most of the regular products available in the market, even Himalaya were a disappointment. Of late, I am happy with Khadi and Biotique. In fact, my previous face wash from Khadi ticked all the right boxes, but a review of that in another post.

IMG_20180718_203014

In an attempt to adopt a healthy lifestyle I had started choosing skin friendly, natural products and those with some social consciousness. I did not have much confidence earlier about the efficacy of these products; my general perception being what has been fed to me over the years – if it was natural, it was not too effective; much less, in combating problems that are unique to present pollution conditions.

But after using Biotique and Khadi products regularly and seeing the positive effects it has had on my skin, I have had the confidence to try other natural products too. Hence, this Aloe Veda face wash.

What I love: 

Just the label itself. It says – Activated Charcoal. This is an activated charcoal deep pore cleansing face wash. Activated Charcoal is the new hero in the block. Sanjay, my husband who has been incidental in my adopting this kind of a lifestyle has been expounding the benefits of activated charcoal for quite sometime now, and to now find that in my face wash was a huge thing for me. I am sure many good organic product brands have come up with this magic ingredient, but this is my first branded one. I have a friend who makes soaps at home and have used her activated charcoal cream to good results.

I simply loved the soap-free feel of my skin after I washed with it. The liquid is black and hardly lathers. I gently rubbed it all over my face and washed it with very minimal water. Instantly I could feel my face feeling refreshed and clean.

IMG_20180722_104114

About Aloe Veda Activated Charcoal Facewash: The bottle doesn’t look very aesthetic unlike other Aloe Veda products I have seen. This one looks pretty ordinary with its green cap and black body. The contents of the bottle are also black with a creamy texture. I bought it because I wanted something that targeted my oily, blemished skin. The face wash smells a bit medicinal too, but after washing my face I didn’t get any smell at all. For me, that was a plus.

IMG_20180718_202616

This Indian brand of personal products is inspired by Aloe vera and uses other natural products in it. This face wash is sulphate free, paraben free and has lemon peel extract in addition to activated charcoal and aloe vera. I have not picked up Aloe Veda products earlier because it was a bit expensive. But this 100ml bottle for Rs. 210 looks like good value for money.

This is a thumbs up from me.

 

Rustic Art Baby Soap – Review

How are you folks? Lazy and so-eternally-pressed-for-time Rational Mum is here again. Were it not for the rational part of an otherwise scatterbrain disposition, I don’t know how I would function at all. I have a month’s posts to catch up on, yes, and so I’ll dial into the high speed version of me and get those posts coming up.

I have been busy with my work as a Soft Skills Trainer, something that I love doing when I am not busy running around Sucrose. But that meant I was out at work, being hands on and on my feet with not a minute to really type out a creative blog. Scratch that… there has been some time in my hands but I have whiled it away with the French Open and now FIFA world Cup and Wimbledon. And then there was Ramzan in the month of May – June, which passed in quiet contemplation and fruitful self search. Soon, I realized that I was doing exactly what I advised my participants of Time Management Program against procrastination – The work you procrastinate is not your priority. And that’s why it doesn’t get done. Make it your priority today and see how things get done.

How could this wonderful blog and the other one that I write not be my priority? How had I let these blogs languish? No way was I going to let that happen. And so here I am with so many topics that I would like to write about, but starting off with a review of one of my favourite soaps to use for Sucrose.

Rustic Art was one of the first few Indian soaps, as far as I know, to foray into natural and safe on skin cosmetics. I have seen this brand around for quite sometime now. These days the market is flooded with beautiful looking, awesomely smelling soaps that are touted as being organic or herbal. And though I would love to have tried every one of them for regular use, the price was a deter and I was not completely sure of the credibility of new products. For now I was sticking to Rustic Art, because it had stuck around for sometime now. Lol.

Rustic Art Baby Soap
Rustic Art Baby Soap

I made the transition to Rustic Art after I found it difficult to buy the soap I was using for Ana kutti’s bath in her early toddler days. The soap I had used then was economincal and was the shop G Organics’ own brand. It was situated near my mother’s house in Alwarthirunagar and though they had a branch in Anna Nagar, Thirumangalam I was loathe to make the trip to get the product. I did the next best thing – surfed the internet for similar options.

Rustic Art comparatively is more easily available. It can be picked up in many organic shops and also in big supermarkets and most importantly on Big Basket. I am a huge Big Basket customer; a transition I had made when I was pregnant with Sucrose. Rustic Art has soaps for adults too, but I always buy only their kid’s version. S and I use Mysore Sandal Soap because of its high TFM. Another blog post for that.

Their USP: The need for completely natural products without harsh chemicals and synthetic colours and artificial fragrances, not to say suspended plastic globules and stuff, had this brand preparing and selling body care and home products. They also believe in supporting skilled and unskilled labour and use eco-friendly techniques to prepare their products. I got all of this from their website of course. I would have loved some more information on the people who started this and the road map to getting these products to the consumer.

The packing: Rustic Art’s Baby soap has a cloth wrapped around it with a thick orange paper that had the name of the soap and the ingredients used, on it. I of course initially marked it to clever marketing, because it was pleasing to the eye and the cotton cloth was a eco-friendly substitute to paper. I was impressed. This, however, also adds to the final cost of the product I am sure.

IMG_20180520_113129
The cloth cover with a wax paper wrap – Rustic Art

The soap: The soap has a nice pleasant smell and it is soft on the baby’s skin. It lathers well and the smell lingers for quite sometime on the skin. It is irritant to the eye, so your toddler must be made to close the eyes while washing off. The fact that it is irritable to the eye, makes me believe that there is no chemical added to mitigate that factor. Which is totally fine by me. There are a lot of good ingredients used in the soap – coconut oil, neem oil, castor oil, olive oil and the like, all organic and also chamomile, green tea, vanilla which adds to the wonderful aroma of the soap.

The price: A 100gm soap costs Rs. 155 which would be around three times the cost of an average soap but is still almost half the price of most organic soaps.

I have been using this soap on Ana kutti for the past two years and I have been very happy with it. Her skin is clean and soft after use and there has been no adverse effect on her till now.

Hope this gyan reaches you with a soft, fragrant, organic bubble of goodness on the side. 🙂

Activities To Engage A Toddler in Summer

I had great difficulty in maintaining this blog last month. Oh, the time! How it flies. I honestly don’t have anything to show for being busy in a day and it embarrasses me no end that I have no recollection whatsoever of what I had done in a day to be so busy. Sheesh!

Sucrose is enjoying her summer vacation and I am doing my two bits to keep her occupied and happy. It is truly two bits from my end as I rehash some of her loved games and toys to engage her, instead of going full out and taking her to summer camps, day to day activities, parks, restaurants, zoo, movies etc to keep her occupied. My time invested in her these days is much less than what I would have if she had gone to school. I have resisted the urge to buy educational/activity based games like Flintobox and have instead relied on time tested method of allowing her to do her own thing. So, she is actually forming and performing in her own imaginary world with a few of her soft toys, she whooshes about the house in her Magic car or rides her cycle around the house, sings something loudly and quite in tune as she scribbles on notebooks and colouring books, helps around the house a bit, watches me do some cooking or baking or simply just sits on the swing and stares into the distance.

The flip side is of course that she is bored many times. She comes asking me for “something else”, which according to her is an activity other than the one she is engaged with. Problem however is that there are not as many games or play things as her “give me something else” demands are. So I do what I suspect many rational mothers must be doing – turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to her demands. I allow her to be bored  for a while before I pitch in with a story or another distraction. After a while, she forgets what she is asking me and gets involved in some other activity.

There are a few things however that I try my best to involve her in everyday:

  1. Cycling or any outdoor activity – Everyday I take her to the ground floor of our building which is rather spacious and has natural light and good breeze. I let her ride her cycle, socialize with the old and the young and the pregnant cat to boot. She then runs around the building and makes me run too; sometimes it is the other way around. Altogether she is quite tired and hungry by the time we are back home.

    Ob4IV1525236457
    Loves to cycle…even if it is her older cousin’s.
  2. Reading a book together – I love books, but because of my middle-class upbringing and the schools I had been in, the opportunity to read a lot of books did not present itself. I want to rectify that with Sucrose; she was going to grow up reading a lot of books. For now however, I read for her and I love how she brings a book and we go through it together. She loves hearing stories from me and I grab an opportunity for telling a story as I later get to see her doing the same in her cute little way.
  3. Singing songs/ rhymes – Ana kutti loves to sing and dance. She has a sense of rhythm and tune. She remembers songs and rhymes and picks them up in a jiffy. So I do include a bit of dance and prancing about to rhymes sang by us or played on my mobile. IT sure does release a lot of endorphins and wow, what an exercise that is!

    VLJud1525236055
    Roughhousing with her father
  4. Cuddling and roughhousing – Thanks to S, Ana kutti gets serious roughhousing. I find myself grinning unconsciously when I hear her squeals and giggles as she jumps and tumbles and gets eaten by a zombie (in this case, her father). They have their post lunch play on the bed planned, so that on any day she would be the one to lead the way to the room for her afternoon nap which of course is the end result of all that play.  Research has it that children who regularly engage in rough play with their parents are able to be emotionally secure and resilient. I particularly liked this blog post about the benefits of roughhousing. I do a lot of cuddling as I can’t get enough of her. When I look at her I can only imagine the time slipping away from my fingers. Very soon she is going to be old enough to articulate her displeasure (hopefully not) at being cuddled, but till such a time I would like to make the most of it.

    O3npu1525235944
    Pretend play makes for good candid pictures too
  5. Pretend play – From time to time, as I mentioned above, I do let her have her alone moments. I try not to check or interfere in what she is doing and I do try to take care to hide an errant talcum powder, lotion or sketch pen from her vicinity so that it does not find its way to my creative daughter’s hands or body or bed spread or my just swept floor. I am one for pretend play as I believe it helps improve imagination, language skills, thinking and problem solving. She has the run of the house and the objects in her vicinity to include in her play. They make for many candid photos.

There you go! My ways of keeping my toddler engaged at home. What are yours? Do share. 🙂

This post is served with some deep mom-daughter bonding on the side. Lap it up!

 

 

Bamboo India Toothbrush Review

I’m excited today as my first bamboo toothbrush has been delivered. You heard that right…a toothbrush made of bamboo, not of plastic. And I love the feel and the look of the product already, which should not surprise me so much I guess as these nouveau, environment friendly products now do come in aesthetic, attractive packaging.

Here’s how the packaging looked.

IMG_20180330_135715
The outer package

Pretty cool isn’t it? Or pretty and cool shall I say?

IMG_20180330_135829
The toothbrushes come in this pack

These days (by now you know that that means from when I was pregnant with Sucrose), I take particular notice of anything that is environmental friendly or is organic or is farmer friendly. I have become that consumer who thinks she is doing her two bits to the society by placing her hard earned money on the roulette of improved health and safer environment. I know that it can boil down to a glorified feeling of social consciousness, but do believe me when I say that the reasons I have adopted such choices are because of Sucrose. (Flashing my beatific, angelic smile here).

I had seen Bamboo India’s video on WhatsApp where I was reminded of how every plastic tooth brush ever made – since the first in 1938 is present in our planet. Plastic toothbrushes make for the second largest waste after plastic bags and India uses 150 million brushes every MONTH. I immediately checked out their site and the products there which are rather few in number. Since I have been planning to get a proper toothbrush for Ana kutti, I jumped at the idea of starting her off with something like this – earth friendly and so hopefully body friendly.

IMG_20180330_135855
Our charcoal bristle toothbrush

I like that it is light in the hand and is quite ergonomic. It is smooth and the bristles are soft. The bamboo is smooth because it is heat treated which carbonizes the surface to prevent growth of microbes, make it water resistant and improve its life span.  I had chosen a charcoal coated bristle one as S and I believe activated charcoal is good for removing impurities. Bamboo India assures that charcoal helps remove plaque, reduces teeth staining and reduces bad breath and odour.

IMG_20180330_140007

Before the British came and colonized us and took is back in health in the name of modernization, we Indians were using only charcoal to brush our teeth. I remember using charcoal for brushing my teeth when I used to visit my home town in Kerala for the summer vacation during the early 80s. We city dwellers were mesmerized but dubious about using this spiky, silvery black powder for our teeth when our cousins were using it with ease.

I am going to inaugurate it tomorrow on Ana kutti’s teeth, secure in the knowledge that I am not adding to the plastic landfill and even though the bristles are not altogether completely bio degradable, they are at least less abusive than their plastic counterparts..

At 155 rupees per piece it is definitely steep and cannot be accommodated in budgets in houses with many members, I think this toothbrush can be started off on the youngest member of the family. They might contribute to a smaller carbon print at an early age at this rate.

This gyan comes to you with a frothy, environment-friendly smile on the side :).

Snack Ideas for Toddlers

When Ana kutti started Montessori school at the age of two, I tried doing a quick search on the internet for snack ideas and the search ended equally quickly as I browsed through articles after articles of snacks made from bread, poha, pasta or chappathi. I realized with disappointment that there was precious little is available online on what a two year old can take in her snack box.

Ana kutti is finishing a year in her Montessori school now and in addition to having a light breakfast, she has her snack in school around 10:30 a.m. Mostly her snack box is empty when I check. The things she doesn’t like are sweet corn, fried idlis, pasta, chappathi and the like. Except sometimes when I truly have to rack my brains for something to put in her box, I have managed with a combination of fruits and a carbohydrate/ protein snack.

I have shied away from giving her too much bread – one, because it is made with refined flour and that with cheese or jam or peanut butter spread is a combination that will increase the acidic levels in her body. Secondly, the increased levels of salt, sugar and chemicals bread has is not funny. The same applied for pasta – there is time enough for her to indulge in such high refined flour and cheese diet. Just not now. I would have liked it if she approved of chappathi, but she found it cumbersome and dry sometimes. She loved eating idlis at home, but when I packed them to school it came back untouched. I couldn’t easily pair it with something bland and liquid without it getting messy. So it was given only at home with mild sambar or rasam on the side.

Most websites have complicated snack recipes that are hard for a two-year old to hold and eat and much less appreciate. Early years in play school or Montessori demanded a simple, mess free snack which hopefully was also nutritious. Biscuits, chocolates, fried food were not allowed in her school and I was happy about that. Eggs, the awesome, wonder food was also not encouraged due to cultural and religious preferences, but I made sure she had it at home.

Here are a few of my ideas for a simple, nutritious snack for toddlers, that are easy to handle and are light on their taste buds.

  1. Steamed nendran banana – This yellow banana or plantain variety (Musa paradisica) that is widely cultivated in Kerala has high calorie content, thereby making it a perfect snack for toddlers. Many Indian mothers feed their children this banana to improve their ward’s weight. In addition, it also has a high Vitamin C, B complex and many micro nutrient content. I steam this banana lightly (for five minutes in a double boiler) so that it gets a soft consistency, as it has a very starchy taste in its raw form unlike a regular sweet banana. Ana kutti loves this banana, which I cut into thick circles and send it in her tiffin alongwith a tiny portion of assorted dry fruits and nuts.
  2. Steamed sweet potato – Sweet potato is no stranger to anyone. This wonderful vegetable of the potato family has a delightful sweet taste that is an instant hit with kids. This vegetable is one of the few that has a high Vitamin A content and a good source of other vitamins like C, B and minerals. This vegetable is fairly easy to cook too. I scrape the skin of slightly and add 1/4 cup of water to cut pieces. After sprinkling salt, I cook it gently until it is done. I cut these pieces into smaller ones and pack half of a whole one in Anakutti’s box. It comes back clean.
    Pickled plum
    Check out the recipe for boiled sweet potato at Pickledplum.com

    SundalVarieties_Subbus Kitchen
    These are typical sundals. Subbuskitchen is one of my favourite blogs for South Indian recipes
  3. Sundal or boiled grams – Sundal is a popular South Indian snack, packed to the brim with nutrients. Sundals are made from many types of grams – peas, chickpeas, kidney bean, brown chickpeas etc. Of these, Sucrose enjoys the ones I make with chickpeas and brown chickpeas. Chickpeas are very high in fiber, and that is one of the main reasons for it to be consumed by people. It helps in maintaining the satiety value and hence the urge to over eat or snack unnecessarily. chickpeas also are rich in iron, calcium, phosphate, magnesium and other minerals which are important for building bone structure. I simply boil these chickpeas with salt and add a dash of ghee before serving it to her. The chickpeas by themselves have a good taste and the ghee adds value to its nutrient content.

    bigstock pic
    Assorted nuts and raisins. Pic:Big stock pics
  4. Mixed nuts- These are invaluable tiffin box fillers. I give Ana kutti a mixture of cashewnuts, groundnuts, fried gram, walnuts, raisins and dates. It is a known fact that nuts are valuable sources of good fat and proteins. I take care to pack only a few of these as they are hard to digest. Raisins are high in iron content and so are dates. These two also have high fiber content, so I make it a point to add this in her tiffin box along with a starchy, carbohydrate rich snack.

    cut-fruit-2016b
    Colourful, cut fruits
  5. Fruits – Fruits are every mother’s saviour when it comes to healthy snacking. Since they are naturally sweet, attractive and juicy they figure a lot more in a toddler’s diet where other foods don’t. Some of Sucrose’s favourite fruits of which I give a few slices are – apples, pears, papaya, watermelon, grapes, kiwi, small banana (yelakki, rastali) to name a few. She loves piercing each piece with her tiny fork and savouring it at her leisure. Although she likes oranges a lot, I don’t send them to school simply because it stains her clothes and could get messy. Instead I ensure that she indulges in this citrusy delight at home.

From the above, you would notice a distinct absence of bread. I do send bread with jam and butter on an odd day, but it is not a staple snack in her tiffin box. Also, I make tiny, coin sized snack out of idli/dosa batter and grate cheese on top. This also I choose to send only when other options are not there. Sometimes of course, I send chips or fried stuff like murukkus, thattais and such, which are all quintessential South Indian snacks, but I find them reasonably better than the processed ones available in the market.

The important thing in the above mentioned ideas is that all of the above are suitable to a two – three year old child who has started play school or montessori, and who is now trying to eat independently with spoon or fork. There is no profusion of flavours, or complex masalas or spices added, nor are there any difficult cooking method involved like baking or frying. Everything is light and nutritious and fills up the child enough so that they are ready for lunch when they get home.

What do you pack for your toddler? Please do share.

Ragi Porridge – A Perfect Weaning Food

A few of my friends were amused that I was dispensing gyan on child rearing practices over the internet and asked rather cheekily, “If there was anyone reading these posts,” little knowing that adding the very Indian word ‘gyan’ to the link gave me an edge over choosing my url. Still, that is why I haven’t shared this blog’s link with any of the shenanigans. Since they don’t mince words much (and I love them for that), I thought I’d strike it out all alone in this vast repository of blog posts and revelations and reviews and…you get the drift and await your reactions and responses and discussions on the topics that are dear to me.

There are certain topics which however, I can speak with some authority and one among them is on nutrition and health. I have done my Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics and though I did not pursue my career in that, preferring to meander instead into corporate soft skills training, I do remember my theory very well. It has been helped greatly also by posts shared on social media by other health conscious people. The challenge for any caring parent is to sieve through the deluge of data and pick the ones that are authentic and helpful in improving their health. I have made plenty of healthy choices once Ana kutti was conceived, which became a way of life once she was born. One such choice was her weaning food – the humble porridge or kanji as it is generally called in Tamil Nadu.

I have emulated my mother who has of her mother and we have a practice of feeding our 6month+ old child porridge as they get weaned from their mother’s milk. I have to date seen only benefits of this unassuming, humble concoction in the children of our family and I was sure to use it on my Sucrose. I have never once given her the many branded baby food like Cerelac, Nestum, Nan etc and have not regretted this decision ever.

There are many porridge mixes available in the market that are sold as health mix or sathu maavu, which does the job well if you are alright with the high sugar content some have. Porridge can also be made at home, like I initially did as I was unwilling to expose my baby’s tender digestive system to heavy proteins ( cashews, almonds other nuts that are added to health mix) and carbohydrates which the porridge was going to be filled with.

What is porridge made of?

Organic foods centre
Ragi or Finger Millet. Pic courtesy: Organic Foods Centre 

 

 

A porridge can be made of cereals and millets. In South India, we get a lot of millets and grains, so typically a porridge is made of either wheat or rice or ragi (finger millet) or oats to name a few. Some of my North Indian friends give wheat, daliya (which is broken wheat), corn and lotus seed porridge among others. Since I live in Chennai and the weather is quite hot, I gravitated towards ragi (which is a millet) and rice mostly. I did not overthink this choice much, except to ensure that the ragi I bought was from a good source or was organic.

Today I am concentrating only on Ragi or finger millet porridge.

NDTV food
Nutritious, fiber rich Ragi flour. Pic Courtesy: NDTV Foods

Advantages of Ragi Porridge:

  1. It is gentle on the stomach, especially ragi and oats. As I mentioned earlier, sathu mavu or health mix generally have a mixture of grains and nuts, whereas making porridge with single grains are better for a 6 month+ baby as it is tender on the digestive system and prevents gas.
  2. Prevents constipation. I am secretly proud that Ana kutti has never once had constipation in the days following her shift from breast milk. Even now, except for one odd day when she has gone out and eaten a processed food diet, she has never had problems with her potty. Ragi has a high source of fiber and as it is gentle on the stomach, it is an excellent choice for porridge.
  3. Nutritionally packed. These cereals and millets are packed with a lot of vitamins and minerals that will now be needed for our weaning baby. Ragi or finger millet is packed with calcium, which is good for the bones and has high iron content. Using sprouted ragi increases Vitamin C in it leading to higher absorption of iron in the body. The benefits of oats is recorded widely, thanks to Western research. Rice is rich in Vitamin B complex which is very, very important for the overall development of the body.

Preparation:

Manna
Manna’s Sprouted Ragi Flour. Easy to use and trustworthy.

As I said earlier, there are many ways to prepare porridge and I am sharing one of my life saver, Swasthi’s link here. She has a wonderful, informational blog on food choices and food preparation for babies, toddlers, children and so on. Her blog was invaluable for me while making the transition in Ana kutti’s feeding plan.

I am giving below the directions for preparing Ragi or Finger millet porridge the way my mother has taught me.

Ingredients:

Ragi flour – 2 tbsp

Water – 1/2 cup

Milk – 1/4 cup

Palm jaggery – 1/2 tsp or as per taste or sugar – 1/2 tsp

Method:

  1. Mix the ragi flour with water in a thick bottomed pan. Take care to remove lumps if any.
  2. Cook this mixture gently over low to medium flame, stirring continuously.
  3. When the ragi mix starts to look shiny it means the flour is cooked. Now add milk and shaved palm jaggery to it.
  4. Once it boils remove from flame.
  5. Add a teaspoon of ghee to this and feed the baby.

Things to remember:

  1. Don’t overcook the ragi or keep it on the flame for long. Once it thickens and becomes shiny, it is done.
  2. I use sprouted ragi flour to improve the nutritive value of the porridge. I trust Manna products and I find this particular one very good.
  3. Palm jaggery is an excellent sweetener and it is so much healthier than white sugar. I have never used white sugar for Ana when she was a baby, preferring this quintessential Malayali sweetener more. This is nowadays easily available in stores, so do use that as a first option if you can. More on palm jaggery in another post.
  4. Palm jaggery can of course be substituted with jaggery or brown sugar or sugar. If using any type of jaggery for your baby, remember to dissolve it in a bit of water and strain so that stones if any are removed.

I still feed Ana kutti this concoction for breakfast. It is a sure way of ensuring she completes her potty before leaving to school 😀

What do you give your 6 month old? Please share your views in the comments box.