Wednesday, September 09, 2015

No rhyme or reason

So birthday bwoy Viv has gone on his annual September work trip to Amsterdamn.

I spell it thus because these trips are always hell for me. It's like the moment he boards the plane, my generally compliant, lovely, well-behaved, amazing child turns into a monster I cannot recognise. She refuses to wake up in time for school, takes approx 3786873643 minutes to finish a cup of milk and then about 23846329846 more minutes trying to decide which socks to wear. And I'm in a real rush in the mornings because I need to drop her, get back, make and have breakfast, go to the gym, shower, do my freelance work, have lunch, and set off again to pick her up.

Her pre-nap milk, the early evening fruit snack, and dinner are usually a big struggle too. It's not like she gobbles her food by herself when Viv is here, but with another person to share the load with, it's not as bad. At least we know we can toss her to the other person if we're close to losing it. So when he's away, it's TOTAL WAR. It's like she knows it's just her and me for two weeks and wants to make it as 'interesting' as possible.

Tonight, I'd invited my sis-in-law Clueless for dinner (we had spicy egg curry, something she and I love and Viv doesn't, so it was the perfect menu item to have in his absence). After a particularly grueling dinner mainly because of Xena refusing to eat, it was time to brush her teeth and put her to bed. Both of us kissed her good night and were about to leave the room when she requested us for a 'song story'. I do that sometimes, just sing a story like a song and she enjoys it. But my sis-in-law, fondly nicknamed 'Tootooi' by Xena, had a better idea.

"Mama will sing one line of the story and I'll sing the next line." She said.

"Whaaaa....!" I was so not prepared for this at the end of a long, hard day.

But I agreed. 'Cos I am a poet, and I just know it.

So here's how it went. As you can see, at several points in the story, the lyrics (and we) went a little crazy. It's a mad, mad family, I tell you.

Me - Once upon a time, there was a little rabbit.
Tootooi - *thinking*
Me - Oh I know I know! (whispering to Tootooi) Poor little rabbit had a terrible drinking habit.
Tootooi and me - *fits of laughter*
Tootooi - Ok ok, I got it. He wouldn't eat his food on time, and that was a bad habit.
Me - One night, his mommy made a pot of chicken rice.
Tootooi - *thinking*
Me - Hey! I'm giving you words that are really easy to find rhyming words for!
Tootooi - I know I know!
Me - (whispering) Well, based on my experience with Xena... He took a bite, spat it out and said, "Not nice!"
Tootooi and me - *fits of laughter*
Tootooi - He took a bite of his food and said, "Not nice."
Me - "That's fine", said mommy. "Then no dinner for you tonight."
Tootooi - She tucked him in bed and said, "Good night, sleep tight".
Me - In the middle of the night, he heard a growling sound.
Xena (looking terrified and covering her ears) - Nooo....
Me - Err... nooo... it's fine, it's not scary, it's just his tummy!!
Tootooi - No no, don't worry, the story will have a happy ending!
Xena (still looking terrified) - No, I don't want this song story.
Tootooi - He woke up in the middle of the night, and he was hungry, he found.
Me - He woke up his mommy and said, "Can I have some food?"
Tootooi - Mommy said, "You didn't have your dinner, so too bad. No good."
Me - He went back to bed, but he was very sad.
Tootooi - And after a while, she was not so mad.
Me - She got him some rice...
Tootooi - What? Rice again??
Me - Ok fine. No rice. Mama made him a sandwich and put it on a plate.
Tootooi - She brought it to the rabbit and said, "I hope this will satiate!"
Tootooi and me - *fits of laughter*
Me - Knowing Xena, the next line should be this. She found him fast asleep, rolled her eyes and said, "Great!"
Tootooi and me - *fits of laughter*
Tootooi - He sat up in bed and ate and ate and ate.
Me - *thinking*
Tootooi - And he said, "Mommy, the sandwich was great."
Me - *thinking*
Tootooi - And she said, "Next time don't eat so late."
Tootooi and me - *fits of uncontrollable laughter*

Xena - *giving us the kiddy equivalent of a dirty look and totally regretting her decision to ask for a song story*

Monday, August 24, 2015

Here's looking at you, kid.

"Mamlook Mamlook Mamlook... I can't even keep track of the number of times she says this in a day," Viv said, very amused.

It's true. I hadn't noticed it till he said it, but it's amazing how many things Xena sees/does/experiences in her day that she immediately wants to draw my attention to. And she says it so fast that "Mama, look" has just become "Mamlook" now.

I don't hear "Dadlook Dadlook Dadlook" as much though, but then as I like to tease Viv, for her to share stuff, you need to look up from the damned devices. Close all apps (well, except maybe the camera) and open your eyes. Grrr...

Long long ago, I'd read this quote somewhere - "Through the eyes of a child you will see the world just as it ought to be." But I only see the truth in it after becoming a mommy.

So I thought it would be fun to chronicle her latest 'Mamlook' moments.

"Mamlook! I can almost fit into Daddy's cricket bag!"

"Mamlook how many bananas I can carry by myself!"

"Mamlook! I'm going to jump into the ball pool!"

"Mamlook! I can pull the trolley all by myself!"

"Mamlook! I'm wearing your dress! When I'm a grown-up, can I borrow it?"

"Mamlook! The spoon and straw make a tick in my drink!"

"Mamlook how far I can kick the ball!"

"Mamlook! I'm going to eat all the muffins!"

"Mamlook! The salt and pepper shakers are doing push-ups!"

"Mamlook! The Elsa cake made my tongue blue!"

"Mamlook, I can also do what the firefighter uncle did!" (This was during a visit to the fire station.)

"Mamlook, I'm the Easter bunny!"

"Mamlook! My dupatta is dancing with me!"

"Mamlook! I'm wearing sunglasses too!"

"Mamlook how I dance!"

"Mamlook! I can balance on the rope! But if I fall down, will you catch me?"

"Mamlook! I'm ready to go to the pool!"

"Mamlook how fast I swim!" (That's her instructor. Looks a bit like Dhoni, no?)

"Mamlook, I can fit into the baby seat!" 
(Sigh. Yes, this is literally the baby seat found in mall toilets where mommies can suspend their not-yet-walking babies and pee in peace. And my 4-year-old can easily fit into one. Sigh.)

"Mamlook, I'm 'brooming' my room by myself!"

"Mamlook how I'm making Froggy blow bubbles!"

"Mamlook! I'm helping Daddy exercise!"

"Mamlook how I throw the ball!"

"Mamlook, Fluffy wants to sit on the couch with me!"

"Mamlook, this bike matches my clothes. Let's buy it."

"Mamlook how I can ride my new bike by myself!"

"Mamlook! The pigeons are running away from me!"

Friday, August 07, 2015


Viv returns from an early morning run just as Xena is waking up.
Viv - Good morning, Sweety!
Xena - Good morning, sweaty!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

It's time to say goodBhai

"So which movie are you going to see?" My sis-in-law asked.

She was going to babysit Xena while Viv and I went on one of our really rare dates -- to the movie theatre.

Oh no. She'd asked. Now I'd have to tell her.

So I did. And I appended four of these monkeys to my answer.

I was that embarrassed.

You see, I was going for Bajrangi Bhaijaan. I was going for a Salman Khan movie. Me, the big Salman and Kareena hater, was going for a Salman and Kareena movie. In the theatre. With Viv. Achhe achhe theatres mein achhi achhi movies mein sone wala Viv.

"Lols," wrote back the sis-in-law. "I'll hold this over your head for ages."

Okay, now allow me to explain myself. A friend of mine who watched the movie sent me an excited message, telling me she loved it. But then she'd also loved Dil Dhadakne Do, which I didn't love all that much, so I was still a little cynical. So I decided to check my reliable reviewer Raja Sen's review. Here's what the opening paragraph said:
"Bajrangi Bhaijaan is an overearnest, oversimplified, sweet and frequently schlocky film, which works because of a finely picked supporting cast, some sharp lines of dialogue and, most crucially, its overall heart."
The word 'heart' caught my attention. It had been a loooong time since I watched a movie with a 'heart'. The Munnabhai series, perhaps. Add to the fact that I'd liked all of Kabir Khan's previous movies - Kabul Express, New York and even Ek Tha Tiger. So I decided not to read the review any further, and just go for it. Just me. I was sure Viv would either hate it or fall asleep, and I didn't want to risk dragging him or another friend along in case they hated it. It was a Salman Khan movie, after all. Even I, the all-forgiving Bollywood lover, can barely stand him anymore. But then over the next few days, I kept coming across positive words about the movie and I decided to risk it and invite Viv. After all, he had really liked New York too. To my surprise, he readily agreed.

And so we went, without reading any detailed reviews, and without any real big expectations. And how the movie surprised and delighted us!

No doubt, it is an oversimplified and predictable masala movie, but it is utterly engrossing. What amazed me is that there was an actual story (remember the days when movies used to have actual stories?) and that I actually cared about the characters. (Not Kareena though. I cared about her in Jab We Met, but nothing before or after that.) Gosh, where did they find that kid? Apparently, she was selected out of 5000 little girls who auditioned for the role. She's not only got a perfectly innocent and adorable face, she was able to emote so well. For someone who is practically in every frame of the movie, but has only two lines of dialogue, she was uh-mazing to say the least. Star of the movie, no less. (I just hope she doesn't grow up and do item numbers like most cute child artists end up doing. Or end up as a heroine opposite Salman in 10 years. I don't know which is worse.)

Next up - Salman Khan. I can't quite remember at what point I started disliking him, but I remember really liking him in the good old days. You know, when his body and shirt were not ripped? Remember Maine Pyar Kiya, when he was scrawny and so likeable? Remember Hum Aapke Hain Koun when he was not so scrawny, but even more likeable than before? And then remember the not-at-all-scrawny and not-at-all-likeable Salman of the 21st century? Okay, so his Bajrangi kind of reminded me of the good old days when I really really liked him. (Actually, frankly speaking, after watching HAHK I think I was head over heels in like with him.) It was just refreshing not to see him rip off his shirt, do some silly dance moves and send goons flying in every direction. Now that I think about it, there was a shirtless scene, and some silly dance moves ("Selfie le le"? Seriously?) and some goons also flew but there was none of that 'No matter what I do, it's a 100-crore movie, baby' air.

I came back and read Raja Sen's full review, and I couldn't agree more when he wrote, "This may well be a Kabir Khan film, but for all those who wished to see Salman Khan in a Raju Hirani project, consider that mission accomplished."

The Pakistan parts of the movie made me so so so nostalgic about my trip there, though it's been almost 9 years! As I was telling Viv, I totally bought how the people there were helping Bajrangi. Indians really get a lot of bhaav from the people of Pakistan. At least from my experience. During my trip, everyone was super nice and super chatty whenever they found out I was an Indian.

What I didn't like about the movie were the extremely wahiyaat songs. What on earth was Pritam doing? Original compositions maybe. The movie would have been much shorter and crisper without the musical interruptions. The only saving grace was KK's 'Tu jo mila', which was anyway meant to be a background song.

The other thing they could have done away with was the little girl saying 'Jai Shri Ram' at the end. Gaaahhhh too gimmicky. The 'mama' part was still believable, as 'mama' is indeed one of the first few words that babies say when they're getting started on talking, but 'Jai Shri Ram' was a bit too much.

And then there was Kareena. Loved her Manish Malhotra outfits, but she looked scary. I didn't know what it was, whether it was her ghostly make-up, or the way she made her eyes all round and scary whenever she was happy/scared/angry/crying, but she was hard to look at.

The rest of the cast was excellent, and I especially found the little girl's mom's performance very moving. And Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the reporter was rocking as usual. Many of you might have watched this hilarious and viral video of a Karachi reporter. Omg, they recreated the exact scene and even retained the names of the reporter and cameraman in the movie! It was hilarious!

The movie is a full on masala entertainer, but in a good way. Viv not only stayed awake throughout the entire 2.5 hours of the movie, he said he really liked it.

And me? I don't ask for too much. Give me a good story, give me characters I care about, give me some good laughs and an occasional lump in my throat, and I'm a happy happy Bolly-loving girl.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Bake-aar ki baatein

So Xena and I have been baking up a storm. It's hard to decide who is really more into it because I go to sleep thinking about what to bake the next day and she wakes up from her afternoon nap with an urgent, "Mama, let's go baaakeeee!!!" She has even got a name for the oven! Avni. (Well, it's supposed to be Oven-y, but it really does sound like the desi name Avni.) 

A big thank you to all you bewdas for being so generous in sharing your tried and tested recipes. We tried some of them with superb results. Some of you have even taken the time to email me recipes and tips for newbie bakers, and a big thank you for that! I'm going to try all of it. 

So I thought I'll share what we have been up to the last few weeks - Xena, Avni and me.

After our first venture - the very simple vanilla cake, I was still not confident to dive into really adventurous stuff, so we did some variations of the same recipe just to do it over and over again and see if it still worked. 

We tried a duo-tone cake using food colouring. All good! Viv polished them off in one evening. He was working on his laptop with the box next to him, and no one realised when it became empty! 

Next, we tried a blueberry cake and err... cakelets. Well, I don't know if they're called cakelets, but I had some moulds I wanted to use, so there. 

Xena shows off the blueberry cake. 

She even made what she called the 'blueberry cake flower'.

Then we made blueberry muffins using the recipe shared by blog reader Anphy, and it was a big hit. Thank you, Anphy!

Xena is waiting and waiting and waiting for the muffins to rise. 

The proud baker displays the goodies. 

Then we tried to make cupcakes, using the same old cake recipe. 

Of course, I was nowhere near learning to ice the cupcakes, so we just used sprinkles. Xena gobbled up two of them!

We were totally not sick of the sweet stuff yet, but just to mix things up, I tried making some savoury things. With mixed results. 

The kurkure bhindi didn't turn out to be that kurkure after all. I need to find a better recipe. 

The lasagna tasted good, but the sheets were slightly undercooked. I need to practise a little more. 

The baked vegetables were a super hit. I marinated random vegetables (pumpkin, onions, zucchini, red peppers, baby potatoes, capsicum, etc.) in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, tabasco sauce, salt, garlic powder and pepper for an hour, and just baked them. They were so yum I can't wait to make them again. 

I had some cocoa powder in the fridge that I wanted to use up but I'm not a big fan of chocolate cake or chocolate muffins. So I googled for 'best brownie recipe' and landed on this one

I had another mould that I wanted to try out, so I divided the brownie batter into portions. 

Xena called these 'brownie buttons'. 

We quickly devoured about 5 between the two of us. The rest were gobbled up by Viv as soon as he came back from work. I made another batch later for some guests, and used them as toppings on parfait, with an M&M perched on each. Darn, I forgot to take a photo!

Though the button brownies were more fun, the actual brownie-shaped brownies were good too. We had quite a few of those with ice-cream. Talk about a sudden surge in the household caloric intake!

"Mama, look! I made a flower!" She cried out. 

My very good friend Soumya, who has been a great source of encouragement and tips, took me to Phoon Huat (also known as bakers' paradise) where I bought a lot of stuff, including tools for icing! Yes, I felt like I was ready to ice. 

I came across this buttercream frosting recipe and decided to try my hand at icing some cupcakes for my friend Maya's birthday brunch. 

I used the same old vanilla cake recipe because I loved how soft and springy the cupcakes turned out. I find most cupcakes too rich and overwhelming after the first few bites, but this recipe keeps things light and nice. 

I used this recipe to make marshmallow fondant and cut out the letters in her name to put on the cupcakes. 

I'd bought a cupcake box, so I put the cupcakes in it and started icing. Xena was really excited to see the pink flowers. 

This was taken during the birthday celebration. With the letters and the candles, the cupcakes really did look quite nice. And everyone liked the taste too. 

I feel so encouraged to carry on. :)