Friday, June 29, 2018

Maid Of the Matter: 5 tips to save time & energy and stay stress-free

Ever so often, I stumble across intense conversations about..maids (domestic help). During social visits, in parties, at welfare meets, in Whatsapp groups, I see the topic of maids sneaking into conversations. I get it – here in India, we do depend heavily on house help. 

It’s not just the colossal dust that needs to be cleaned and mopped and dusted from our floors and shelves that finds us utterly dependent on domestic help, but also a certain mindset that prevents us from picking up a broom or rinsing our own dishes or even cooking our own meals. And more often than not, when we pay someone else to cook and clean, we find them come up short - more so, in today’s world.

Sweeping and mopping that’s not up to the mark, dishes that retain stains of previous meals, food that isn’t cooked hygienically or tastefully, and unprofessional attitudes (i.e. asking for higher salaries than what’s fixed in a society, answering back, grumpiness etc.) lead ladies into fraught-with-anxiety discussions about maids and the daily annoyance they cause them.

But is there a way around this? Is there a way we can stop this profuse time drain? Can we find a way to discuss maids less (no one needs to stop ‘coz we need to talk sometimes to find a way out), so we can pack our days and conversations with more hearty and interesting things?

Over the years, having employed a variety of domestic help, most of whom entered my home with a bucket load of baggage and attitude issues, I can safely say that the help at the end of my arm is way more reliable. 

As my son crossed his toddler stage, I slowly delegated less and did more to reclaim my peace. We went intentionally maid-free when we moved to as big town (for a while we hired someone for the basics, but again, we noticed that that brought in more hassles, so we went back to our maid-free existence).

Note 1: I don’t spend the entire day cooking and cleaning – in case, you’re wondering if that’s all I do, so I can mange in maid-free mode. With an almost 5-year-old, a blog to write, workshops to teach and a new green start-up to grow & tonnes of books to read and hobbies to tend to, my day includes all of this and cooking & a dash of cleaning.

Note 2: I’m not suggesting firing the maid (like I did).

With these 5 methods anyone can reclaim control over their house chores + time and be less dependent on maids and maid-related issues:

1. Invest in a dishwasher: I bought a dishwasher a year back and can say that it’s one of the best things to have happened to our home. The dirty dishes, once stacked properly, are squeaky clean and germ-free after a wash cycle. Whether its summer and the basin water too hot to put my hands in, or winter with freezing cold tap water (yes, in Punjab, the water was just as temperamental as the climate), I don’t really have to worry about the temperature of the water anymore. Neither do I have to fret about semi-clean utensils or a wild jumble of washed dishes in the drying rack, waiting for a maid to arrange on the shelves. Yes, at Rs 36,000, the cost of a dishwasher might seem steep, but it’s worth every little penny in terms of the stress-free dishwashing experience that it offers.

2. Check if you need cleaning gadgets or tools: There are great cleaning tools available in the market that can make the mundane chore of cleaning and mopping a lot easier. I use a spin mop to wipe up the floors, but someday, I wouldn’t mind getting a Floor Cleaning Robot. Yes, you heard right – there are circular robots that’ll sweep and mop for you (google the offerings by Milagrow). Interspersed with manual cleaning, it’s a great house-cleaning solution. Also, stocking a cleaning caddy with everything you need (baking soda, surface cleaner, cloth wipes, duster, scrubbers and brushes) to dust and wash around the house, makes chores a tad easier. And of course, we all have washing machines, so that's one job less to worry about.

3. Elbow grease and gym workout: We often drive to the gym to work out and keep fit, or invest in a treadmill for a home-based workout. But interestingly, a full-body workout is available for free right at your home via house cleaning and chores. Whether you’re sweeping, mopping the floors (even with a Spin Mop), dusting, wiping gadgets around the house, washing bathrooms or even emptying your dishwasher, you’re engaging all kinds of muscles and keeping those joints supple.

4. A change in how we perceive housework, including daily cooking: A slight shift (okay, Major shift) in our attitude about doing our own work (at least a lot of it, if not all) instead of having to get it done by someone else, even if we’re not happy with their output or attitude, can make a Lot of difference in how we approach housework. Its food for our family and it’s the house we live in – when I keep that in perspective, a lot can get done through DIY.

5. Ask your family members to help: Whether it’s your spouse or kids, everyone can do something for the house – it’s their home too and chipping in just makes the load lighter. When kids are involved in keeping their home or room clean, they understand the value of work, won’t depend on others to clean up after them when they grow up and will learn life skills. My husband helps me keep our home clean, while our little one, does what he can (like grate the cheese, mop up the spills he makes, pick up crumbs, prune the houseplants & water them). I totally believe that just one person cannot do every single task to run a home, especially, if you’re also managing business/project/job.

Try these five tips and see if you can free up time. I get more done with less stress with this maid-free/minimum approach than when I had more help. Yes, when we’re not discussing maids most of the time or following them around to check if they are cleaning/mopping properly or showing them how to clean or cook our way or trying to figure out why they answered back when you were perfectly polite, we can reclaim back precious time (yup, even while doing a fair chunk of the housework with the help at the end of our arms). Time that we can spend reading books, learning a new skill, watching a movie at home or setting up a venture.

Do you do a lot of your own work + cooking? If you have any tips to get it done more efficiently, do leave a comment below.

And hey if you're on Twitter, follow us at @chandanawriter.

Would you like to detoxify your personal care products, greenify your home and introduce your kids to eco-friendly ways? Download my 17-min Online Workshop for Free at Gorgeous Girls Go Green.

#maid #housework #housechores #housecleaning #cooking #dishwasher #spinmop #time #stressfree 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

7 Fauji Wives / Military Spouses You Often Meet

by Tara-Aroha Kabir

Okay, so before I get on with this, let me just say that military spouses are like every other human being, and human beings are similar across the board – in the defence services, in the corporate sector, in villages, in towns. It’s just that whenever we’re part of a tightly-knit, you-know-everyone kind of community, we as people can have a very high impact on each other’s lives. Each person can become an influencer, letting her words, attitudes and actions impact the other lady’s life + the social dynamics, positively or negatively.

I’ve found that we spouses can generally fit into one or a combination of the following personality types.

Disclaimer: These personality types are found across the board – within the services and outside it. However, like I said, since each of us is an influencer in our own right in our tightly-knit communities, it’s easier to spot different personalities, especially if these impact our lives.

Disclaimer 2: Any resemblance to people living or dead is un-intentional and pure coincidence.

So, here are some of the military spouses who make up the social fabric of our filled-with-pride service life:

The warm-helpful-kind spouse: It’s these ladies, who actually make life in the services what it’s known for – warmth and camaraderie. These are the women who’ll be the first to drop in with a hot-case of home food when you move into your service quarters, be there for you when your husband is deployed, and willing to help you out when you’re stuck in the doldrums. These women are the foundations of a good fauji spouse life. They make your time and their time at any base happy and a tad easy.

The I’m-born- for-this-life spouse: These ladies know how to rock-and-roll with everything that the services life throws their way. Multiple postings, 101 house shiftings, endless parties and beerings, welfare meets and more welfare meets – you name it and they know how to fit right in with a charming smile, a helping hand and oodles of gumption. Spotty internet connections, far too many social commitments or even lack of job opportunities do not faze them out, and they settle into every fauji situation + station like Eskimos in the snow. Always armed with the right attitude and the perfect wardrobe for any occasion, these fauji wives/military spouses are a barrel-full of fun to be around.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

#TravelSari – 5 Ladies who sojourn in their saris

Saris have been cherished and bought on shopping sprees. They’ve been carefully preserved in heavy trunks and worn with élan for weddings & parties. But are saris, these days, worn on travels & sojourns; on trains & plains; for road trips & cruises; at beaches & mountains; at museums & monuments?

Our sari feature today is all about the gorgeous ladies, who wear their beautiful saris during travel trips. These are #realtime women, who take their saris out of the social media realm and wear it during their holiday zone. It takes a shift in the way we think of our saris (i.e. party wear or for photo ops or for office/restaurant wear) and a little adjustment in how you carry it off as you trek up a hilly road, walk through golden sands or stroll through vineyards. 

Sangeeta Venkatesh: Going ‘beachy’ in a sari:

My husband Venkatesh and I simply love Goa! With clean beaches, wide roads, great food (even for vegetarians like us), great hospitality  - this is as international as a destination in India can get. I can bathe/ swim in the sea and be the archetypal beach bum for hours! We have come back here again and again, and have celebrated some personal milestones in this beautiful coastal region.

And if it was Goa, it had to be a Kunbi/ Gawda revival saree from Goa Adivasi Parampara.  This saree was originally worn by Kunbi and Gawda tribe women who were basically paddy field workers.

Who says you can't pack a saree for a Goan holiday?”

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sari In Your Suitcase – 6 ways to travel light + in style with your saris (& a call for collaboration)

Even though I love wearing saris for pretty much any occasion, I didn’t like traveling with (yes, with) them. With petticoats, blouses and multiple saris, as well as the usual brouhaha of regular clothes and accessories, my suitcase would be brimming with things to wear. Not my favorite way of packing (I’d prefer to travel light any day), so the saris would have to be left behind or carried along in a larger suitcase. But over the years, when my travel often combines pleasure and work, I’ve found a way to pack light and still take along saris + the accessories to go with them.

Here are some tried and tested tips on traveling with saris and still staying light.

1. Choose saris of similar color to cut down on the number of petticoats and blouses to take along. If I choose a turquoise blue Chanderi cotton, a crisp greenish-blue Bengal cotton and a river blue Kota Doria, I can team them up with the same petticoat, and even the same blouse (I don’t wear matching blouses, but funky ones that can be mixed-and-matched to create new looks). That means two petticoats and blouses less to pack and carry! I use this trick often to reduce my luggage and still have the pleasure of wearing saris wherever I go.

2. Let the saris you pack be light + stylish. Personally, I prefer to take saris that are light (no heavy silks for me while traveling) and can be worn at various occasions. Example: Whether I’m teaching a workshop, attending a meet-up, going out to the club or tucking into a meal at a restaurant, my Kota Dorias and Chanderi cottons are great for all these occasions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Brigade That Builds Brands: Maryam Hasan Ahmad's take on crafting an Artsy Army life on the move

We're back with another interview from the 'The Brigade That Builds Brands' series. It's all about fauji wives / military spouses, who make work work for them through multiple postings, back-to-back social commitments, spotty internet connections, long stints of single parenting, community mindset regarding how military spouses should or should not work and a lot more. Today, I’m talking to Maryam Hasan Ahmad about how she juggles her life as a brush-wielding artist and as a wife of a man in boots ‘n’ beret - an Army officer. 

A talented illustrator and artist, she didn’t give up her work to fit into the fauji life, but instead, carved out a freelance career that she could pack and take along to the multiple postings across the country and world. I hope that this interview will get you revved up to create a freelance career around your passions too.

C. Please tell us something about yourself – what do you do, where are you based and how long have you been a fauji wife.
M. I am a freelance illustrator of children’s books, fashion and portraits/caricatures. I am, as of now, based out of Haryana and have been wedded to the Olive Green for 15 years.

C. What has been your business or creative journey been like: how & when did you start your venture?
M. I am an Applied Arts Graduate and have been freelancing in illustrations since college, and then did a 2 year stint in Chennai as an animator in a French Animation studio. Those two years were a big learning curve. But all that came to a standstill after getting married and being sent to obscure places where there were absolutely no job avenues. Internet was a blessing that got me hooked onto online freelancing while following my husband around the world. Now I could work from any corner and have clients from all over the world!! This opened up a whole new world for me and my dreams. Our 2 year tenure in New York was another time of personal and professional growth. I started my blog there, attended a lot of arty lectures and seminars… learnt studio pottery. Participated in a couple of pop up fairs and started selling my handmade products online.

Friday, June 8, 2018

6 Things to do in Nauchukiatal & Slow Summer Travel

Finally, I got my escape. A last-minute, hurriedly-planned and quickly put-together travel to the hills. The moment you type ‘weekend getaways from Delhi’ into Google, you get tonnes of options. From Nainital to Ranikhet, Almora to Mukteshwar, Corbett Park to Bhimtal, these hill stations studding the crown of Uttaranchal beckon you with promises of cool mornings, cloud-swathed mountains and verdant forest cover. But, we decided to go to Nauchikiatal – a tiny hill settlement with a tongue-twister of a name, sandwiched between Nainital and Bhimtal. 

About an hour’s drive from the Kathgodam railway station, the mountain roads twist and turn (dose up on anti-nausea meds if you have motion sickness like me) to bring you to a quiet little place with lesser touristy footfalls than some of the other places in the region.

However, when we made our way into Nauchukiatal , a pretty lake town set amidst lush mountains, there were throngs of tourists, waiting for their turns on the boats or tucking into street food. For a moment I wondered if we’d arrived at the right hill station because honestly, a place packed with people isn’t my cuppa of holiday tea. But as we entered The Camphor Tree’s premises at the edge of the town and nestled amidst hills & woods, the tourist ho-hum seemed to fade away and all that mattered was our 2-day holiday stretching ahead like an ice-cream on a summer’s day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

5 Eco-friendly & Organic Gardening Steps Fauji Wives (and anyone with a garden) Can Take In A Snap

We military/fauji folk often live in green areas with sprawling gardens, prolific backyards, and lush surroundings with trees and abundant fauna. The air there is clean, the skies blue (sans a film of smoke) and the opportunity to tend to the Earth, bountiful. But even though most of us like to get our gardeners to create immaculate gardens and plant rows upon rows of vegetables and flowers, not many of us actually take eco-friendly steps.

Military areas might look lush green and soothing to the eye, but in reality, how green are our gardening and lifestyle practices? Hey, don’t turn this off already – read on to find some super simple ways that you can maintain your garden, enjoy the vegetables & fruits you’ve grown, and still make the whole experience richer for you and Momma Earth.

1. Don’t let your gardeners spray pesticides in your garden. Time and time again I’ve seen that the local gardeners (most of them are untrained) insist on spraying down flowers and vegetables. They don’t really ask for permission to do this (as they think this is a perfectly normal practice), so it’s wise to speak to them beforehand and tell them not to get the chemicals in. Instead, learn about eco-friendly ways to deal with garden pests and pass on the info to them for implementation.
Green go-to tip: In my experience, using neem oil and Panchagavya, and planting garlic and calendula around veggie gardens often keeps pests away.

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