Monday, December 29, 2014

What I've been up to...

Our Christmas day photos - Neel was dressed up as a tiger cub for the party...

Hey there! How was Christmas for you?

And how are the winters in your part of the country?

The season here in my neck of the woods is setting in thick and fast. Everything is wrapped up in chunky swathes of fog from 6 pm to 11 am. You can hear the mist dripping on the leaves and windows. Yes, it’s that wintery. We are already dressed up like nesting dolls, in five layers of clothing. Soups and stews are a staple. And the heaters are threatening to work overtime. Winter is officially picking up speed, touching sub zero and ready to plummet to the minus numbers.

So anyway, with the sun on a hiatus around here, I’ve been trying very hard to stay perked up. Whatever that means with long hours cooped up inside and a tantrumy toddler in tow. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Doing: Nipping out for long walks in the afternoon - the only window of time when the mists thin out a bit. I’ve also been trying to fit in a 30-minute session of yoga in the evenings and a couple of sessions of strength training and stretches through the week.

Reading: I’m trying to figure out the concept of square foot gardening, and the new book by Mel Bartholomew is on my Kindle. Also, reading Gorgeously Green Diet by Sophie Uliano. I’ve read Sophie’s other two books in the Gorgeously Green series and quite enjoyed them. This one’s turning out to be just as interesting.

Eating: Stews and soups, and the international cooking that I dish up every other day.

Studying: The Aura Wellness Yoga Teacher’s Training course. I’ve finally taken that step of enrolling myself in this program and I’m so looking forward to the journey. There’s a whole lot to study and various DVDS to learn postures and alignment from. So, I’m right in the middle of planning how to eke out that time to focus on my studies, a task that’s proving to be difficult with my shifting schedules.

Creating: Watercolor cards. I don’t know if I can hold out on this new creative challenge, but I’m thinking of sending and gifting handmade cards to family and friends this year. I used to make a lot of cards when I was in college, but all of that stopped when emails and texts became the usual way of sending over greetings. I want to revive that tradition of creating cards this year because that maybe the only way to get some art work done, something that I’ve been craving to do for weeks now. I take anywhere between 30-60 minutes to paint a card and I can do so on my dining table with just a few supplies. So, this seems doable and will satisfy my creative urge in bite-sized pieces of time – just what I have right now.

Listening: To wellness podcasts. I just downloaded a bunch of them on my phone from some of my favorite websites, and am listening to them when I’m awake at odd hours or cooking.

P.S.  And if you’ve been wondering about the mini creative challenge I took up a fortnight ago. Well, I couldn’t get around to creating that Christmas tree, but I have been cooking food from around the world + learning eye make-up + taking more photos (though I want to take pictures more regularly.

Happy Monday + Hello New Week!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

An outdoorsy toddler, his mom and the gray days...

The days are short, the darkness long.
The mornings are a swirl of thick fog and chaos, indecision and yearning for the light. The afternoons a shade of gray, that shade of dull that creeps up when the sun plays truant and the mists threaten to roll in.
When sunny picnics in the garden are a memory to look back on and the toddler's pent up energy is frayed at the edges, grating on your nerves.
When a quick walk on the desolate roads is all you can nip out for. When you're counting down the hours to the end of the day.
The evenings? They pass in a haze of gloom, a gray footnote to an equally gray day.
Sunless days like this, with a toddler at home and a distant dream of 'me-time' on the burner, stretch like bubblegum overchewed to its stringy limits.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What we're eating to boost our immunity this winters...

How I miss the sunshine...

The winter up here, in the plains of Punjab where we live are chilly at the best, and gloomy, bone-bitingly cold, teeth-chatteringly miserable at the worst. And where we live, central heating is the thing that you dream of while toasting your hands around a room heater, dreading that moment when you have to walk out of the room into the chillier parts of the house. You get the picture, right? ;-)

So as days slide between thick foggy mornings, cold misty evenings and pale yellow afternoons with a poached-egg of a sun, it’s getting even more important, and more challenging to stay healthy and flu-free. With bugs thick in the air and sniffles and fever knocking on every door, I’ve been trying different ways to boost our immunity and keep us an arm’s distance away from winter infections. I’m not sure how much of a victory I can claim, but I’m going to try every little trick in my book of holistic living.

Eating healthy and fresh is one of the essential ways we’ve been trying to stay fit in this difficult season. We’re tanking up on things that fill us up with nutrients and keep our immunity at its hilt (at least that's the aim). Here are a few simple things we’re eating.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Setting myself up for a mini creative challenge

Missing the ho-hum of family time...

I’ve been looking forward to Mondays ever since my husband’s been off on another tour of duty. Emotionally and psychologically, it sets the week rolling on a merry pace bringing his homecoming date a bit closer, with just the long weekends to break the pace. It’s the weekends that feel like blocks of concrete. Chunky. Static. Boring. It’s the day when your friends are with their families, when people around are out on weekend trips, when everyone has something else to do. It’s the day that reminds me of what we’re missing out on. Cozy family time and movies in our leisure room, long chats and lots of home cooking, unwinding and slowing down.

So the weekend that just hobbled by was slow and gray and dull. The skies were overcast with a steady drizzle notching up the chill factor of the winters here. We sat cooped up inside, huddled in front of the heater, entertaining Neel and getting him to expend some of that coiled up energy that he so thrives on.
Thoroughly numbed by the deadpan of the days, I decided that I needed to do something to ramp up the creativity, to shake up things in a good way, to add fireflies to the grayness of the days. 

What could I do bring a sway and a stir to my long single parenting days? So, I came up with my own creativity challenge. A set of new creative mini adventures to add sparkle to my otherwise long mommy days. The activities should be such that I’m able to fit them in during Neel’s naptimes or do them in small snippets of time when he is up and about (this means he should be happy to play alongside while I do that particular activity and if you’re a mom, you know how implausible that can be with toddlers). The activities should be fun for me, should teach me something, should get me to flex different creative muscles.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Celebrating this big person called Neel - 1 year and 5 months

I landed on this terrain called motherhood with my face flat on the ground. I stumbled often. I grumbled. I wondered if this endless baby phase would ever pass. If I would ever get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If I’d ever feel sane again. If I’d ever feel a little less harried. I wondered how other mothers did it all (there really isn't anything called 'doing it all'...I know that now). I wondered if I was a real mom, or a fake. Really.

Maybe it was the postpartum depression that made me feel so tightly wound up, so joyless. Maybe it was just me and the fact that I’m not wired to be a ‘baby person’ (my son was the first baby I’d ever held). Maybe it was the 2 long long weeks at the Neonatal ICU and the way that experience shattered something inside. I really don’t know, and I guess, 17 months down the road, don’t much care.

What I do care about is that I’m finally getting my groove. I’m finally getting it. I’m finally coming into my own as a mother. I’m finally able to take the wails and the meltdowns, the chuckles and the tears, the sunshine and the rain, and run with it, all tucked into my stride.

The toddler, small kid, big kid stages are more my thing. I get children, the way I don’t get babies. I see them as little persons with a language of their own, big personalities of their own, minds of their own and a strange logic of their own.

So, as Neel turns 1 year and 5 months old on December 13, I rejoice, I offer gratitude, I pray.  I celebrate the big person that he always was, the old spirit that he is, the eccentric ‘old-man-habits’ that make him both annoying and adorable. I’m grateful for this patch of clear sunshine that we are in at this moment. I pray to the Power above for guiding me on this journey, for returning my son to me when he almost called him back.

It’s such a joy to parent this 17-month-old boy, who is a quirky mix of cute, funny, loud, stubborn, determined, intelligent, charming, challenging. Whether we’re reading picture books and poems at bedtime, scribbling (in the name of art) all sprawled out in the sunshine, playing in the garden or going for our signature long walks at weird times of the day, we’re a team, we’re allies, we’re inseparable.

I’ve always wanted to be in this place of motherhood, when I’m having more fun than fretting, when I’m able to view the exhaustion as just a byproduct of parenting, when I’m more confident as a mom. When I’m still learning and growing but whooping with laughter (and sometimes hollering) on this roller coaster ride called parenthood.

So, when other moms confidently assume that I might be nostalgic about the new baby days, the pre-crawling, pre-toddling days, I couldn’t agree less. I love the present - the sailor’s walk and the Bushman babble, the endless exploring and the busybody bustle, the cuddling and the strawberry kisses, the little games and the funnies. I can sit and watch my son play and babble for hours at an end. It doesn’t make me restless or harried, like I have another place to reach, another route in life to take. 

And that is a piece of precious that I’m going to savor like a lollipop in its last sliver because well, mothering is a roller coaster ride and who knows what each day, each month, each stage will throw at me. But for now, for today, I’m wrapped up in this blanket of gratitude & joy.

 text & photos by chandana banerjee

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Dirty Dozen - 12 simple steps towards a sustainable lifestyle

Neel - in touch with earth ;-) (pic by sandeep banerjee)

So I’ve been telling you about the 50 different things (err..well not 50, but you know what I mean) that I was up to this November. A lot of which centered around living greener & cleaner while reducing the carbon footprint of our family and leading a more sustainable life.

Now I’m the last one to preach a certain lifestyle. But once you’ve tasted the freshness, the goodness of a more natural way of living, it’s difficult to turn back to your older one. It’s difficult to go back to a more materialistic, more toxic, more ‘I don’t have to think about the environment’ way of life. And it's just as difficult to not share some of this goodness.

Also, a lot of you responded to my previous post with questions about living a natural life. So I thought what better than incorporate these 12 steps into your daily life. Take one simple step and make that change before moving onto the next. Choose whatever catches your fancy out of this list or whichever change you feel yourself gravitating towards. Work on it, and then add another one, slowly and steadily working through the list.

Let’s begin with these 12 things to add a pinch of green to our lives.

Cloth shopping bag - noricum

1. Carry a few cloth bags in your purse/tote/shopping basket whenever you step out to go to the veggie market, the mall or to the local bazaar. Stuff the goodies you buy into these rather than bringing home a dozen plastic packets along with your purchases. You can even recycle old plastic packets by taking them along for your shopping trips (yes, I’m known to do that!).

Monday, December 8, 2014

Why I’ve not been around online…

Hello! I hope this post finds you well. Not just well, but at that point in the year when you’re savoring your days. When you’re letting in sunshine into your home, your life. When your days, at the brink of winter, are like crunchy buttered toast with a generous dollop of sunshiney honey. It has been like that for us this past month.

My husband, S, was at home with us (much-awaited holidays!) all through November, and we led simple, creative, happy days, gardening, creating, traveling, being a family. We went with the flow. We planned, but didn’t let the plans rule our days. We slowed down and enjoyed the merry trickle of the weeks. We huddled in and held onto the precious feeling of staying together as a family for a whole month. We learnt to connect more deeply with the earth, and cut down on our carbon footprint by a measure. We cooked, picnicked, played, read. It wasn’t a holiday spent jetsetting to luxury resorts, but it was just the kind of holiday we wanted (I’m working on posts on some of those things.)

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