Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baby Shower for my Best Friend

There is nothing as exciting as planning a baby shower for your best friend, someone you have known since you were little, like really little, and have grown up with - someone who knows every little secret of yours, as you do theirs, a friendship which crosses the line into family.

I have known Anuja for the last 15 years, maybe more. She is meticulous, disciplined and well mannered. That is how the world knows her, I know her as a kind, funny and honest person. To plan her baby shower was a fun thing and a huge task (when i write she is meticulous, i mean METICULOUS!)

Aided by technology (whats app!), her mom, dad, aunts and my family planned her baby shower.

Invitations

After annoying Anuja's mom to the limit about making guest list and determining return gifts, we had a final number. It was to be a combined baby shower (girls and boys, men and women).



Then came the invitations - We made little diapers with paper invitations inserted.
They are super easy to make and with the right kind of paper, look absolutely adorable.




Our invitations had the following words -

 
                                                        Love, joy and wonderful things, 
                                                        All the things that a baby bring,
                                             Please join us in celebrating a baby shower for

                                                              Anuja and Karan 
                                                
                                                            Venue - Benchmark, Aurangabad
                                                            Date - 
                                                            Time - 7 pm onward

        Dress code : blue, pink or yellow. Make your choice - a boy, a girl or you are just not sure!


Theme

We had a pink, blue and yellow theme.
So, guests were asked to wear pink if they thought it would be a girl, blue if they thought it would be a boy and yellow if they didn't know what to think!

Guess which team we were on?



The organizing committee - working and posing


Since the event was at a club, outdoors, there was not a lot of decoration to be done, but whatever we did was in this pink-blue-yellow theme. The dad-to-be had a tie and for Aunja we had made a "mum-to-be" sash complete with a tiara.



Envelopes with messages written by the guests inside



Games

1. Little babies popping - We froze little plastic babies in ice, in small glasses and the team that first popped its baby out won!

Little babies that were put in cups and frozen
2. Drink from the bottle - It is not as easy as it looks and takes a really long time to drink from little baby bottles. We filled them up with Pepsi and one member from each team had to finish it. The first one to finish the Pepsi would win.




3. Feed the baby - The team had to nominate 2 members, one who would feed, but be blindfolded and the other who would eat, but his / her hands would be tied behind their back. And no one expected the bowl to be full of Cerelac, some like it, some don't and some couldn't seem to place the taste!

It is easier and less messier to feed a baby!



4. Baby Whispers - Exactly like chinese whisper, but the message was sent by Anuja's mom at one end - anything to do with babies - advise / tips / funny things and by the time it reached the mom-to-be, the message had unsurprisingly been twisted and turned over its head to a whole lot of gibberish.



5. Do not utter the word "baby" - As guests entered, they were handed glow bands to be put around their wrists. Anyone who hears another person utter the word "baby" was to get the person's glow bands - all of them, if there were more than one! The person with the maximum number of glow bands at the end of the evening would win!




Here's wishing the baby all the happiness in the world, and joy and health to the lovely parents-to-be. I cannot think of anyone else who is more ready to shoulder this responsibility and enjoy it :)




Sources of inspirations -

1. Baby Shower Games
2. Invitations
3. Decor
4. Baby Book inspiration

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If i were a boy...

If i were a boy..would getting me married be my parent's top priority?
If i were a boy...would i be told to sit properly at the age of 6, neatly tucking my legs and frock?
If i were a boy...would i be asked to make to make tea and learn how to perfect the round "chappati?" Because after all that is what my life was going to amount to - cooking good food?
If i were a boy...would i be asked to clean up the house and kitchen?
If i were a boy...would i be excluded from talks of politics, education or business - because i was not expected to understand them?
If i were a boy...would i be asked to wear full length clothes covering every inch of my body so as not to tempt and invite trouble?
If i were a boy...would i be asked to laugh softly, cry softly and talk softly?
If i were a boy...would i be asked to be driven about and accompanied by a grown up every time i stepped out?
If i were a boy...would i be expected to come home by 7 because god knows what terrors lie in the dark?
If i were a boy...would my chances of being married be forever ruined if i was caught with a drink in my hand or a smoke in my mouth?
If i were a boy...would my character be ruined if i was caught talking to a stranger of the opposite sex?
If i were a boy...would i be expected to ask for help and act docile, even when i knew my fitness would far excel the others?
If i were a boy...would i be expected to keep shut if someone hit me, because making a big deal about it would bring shame to the family?
If i were a boy, would i get the first bite of the sumptuous food placed on the table?
If i were a boy, would i be told to keep my opinions to myself because we are not supposed to hold a thought or opinion in our head?
If i were a boy... would having / not having kids be my decision?
If i were a boy...would i be trusted with money, trusted to earn it and trusted to spend it?
If i were a boy... would maids, cleaning, cooking and washing be my sole responsibility?
If i were a boy...would i expected to give up a career for home?
If i were a boy....would i be asked to sit in the kitchen with the other boys while the women sat and drank and made merry?
If i were a boy....would i expected to wait for my wife to return from work or a party to eat, no matter even if i am dying of hunger?
If i were a boy...would i expected to fast for my wife?
If i were a boy....would i expected to leave my home, my family and adjust to a new one without a complaint?
If i were a boy...would the inability to produce children lead to my ostracism?
If i were a boy...would i be required, and expected to hate other boys?
If i were a boy...would i be capable of  talking only about dresses, shoes or women with the other boys?
If i were a boy...would taking a vacation on my own be tantamount to my parents losing control over me?
If i were a boy...living in another country, would i be termed as damaged goods because i live in with a girl to share expenses?
If i were a boy...would flirting with multiple women make me a slut? Or would it be a matter of pride?
If i were a boy...would my life and its major decisions depend on the women who surround me?


Fortunately, i have had it easy. With parents, cousins, my husband, my immediate circle not making  a distinction - i do not think it would have made any difference if was born a girl, or a boy!

But for so many women out there it is a daily struggle, a struggle to make their voices heard, to live the life they want to. So if you are a man - respect your mother she has sacrificed a lot for you, treat your sister as your equal, let your wife be independent and do not let her be tied down at home.

But more than the men, the change has to begin with us - women!
Respect women, all kinds of women - single, married, straight, gay, mothers, sisters, career women, home makers, feminists - all.
Refuse to be categorized and refuse to categorize other women.
Raise sons who understand the importance of being respectful and raise daughters who will fight for the respect.Be generous mother in laws and accommodating daughters in law. Respect men the way you want them to respect you.

And do not be the ones to berate or humiliate another woman because she does not fit your mold of how life should be lived.

It is very easy to celebrate women's day and have men declare their love and respect for us, but the real respect must come from womankind.


Source: http://www.feministmum.co.uk/2014/10/is-feminism-new-cool.html




Thursday, March 5, 2015

"I am stunned as to how permission was granted for the convicts interview inside the Tihar jail here in the first place"
                          -Rajnath Singh, Home Minister

Really Mr. Singh, is THAT the most stunning/ shocking part of the whole incident? Think about it. A smart man like you should be able to figure out that the RAPE was the most shocking part, not the filming of the documentary in Tihar Jail.

"Broadcast of the documentary should be banned to prevent the defamation of the nation"
                           -Rajiv Shukla, Congress leader.

I will not waste my time asking this man to use his head. Sure, the documentary is going to defame the nation, not the rape itself. Believe that.

Essentially what the men in our government are saying is  - let us sit down and abuse the authorities who gave permission for the documentary to be made, let us criticize the British filmmaker who created this documentary, and let us protect the dignity of our nation by, forget airing our dirty laundry in public, but in fact, denying its existence completely.
Let the media have its moment, let the Bollywood celebrities write their pieces (that can always be blamed as a tactic of the Opposition party), let the rational individual vent on Twitter and Facebook, and let the frustrated people write in their blogs. Let the college students have their marches and the activists their dharnas.
We will stand united and not let anyone defame our beautiful nation, with its pristine mindsets and progressive values.

What does the government fear the most? The law and order situation after the documentary is aired? Women live that situation day in and day out. We do not need a documentary to remind us of how exactly unsafe we are in this country. And you don't see us causing a law and order situation now, do you? So do you really think we will be a cause for concern when we see our very same lives being played out on screen?

Will the men cause law and order issues? Many men think like the rapists, many men think worse than the rapists and then are few who think of women as human beings, and not objects. And then there are the fathers, brothers, husbands and sons of the women who have suffered rape. And each category of men is aware of just how wrong the whole thing is, but if they are not causing any trouble now, what are the chances that they will cause trouble after seeing the documentary.

So basically, there is nothing new in the documentary that people, women and men, in this country don't already know. So what is the harm?
Is it the fact that the government has failed to bring the accused to justice? Is it the fact that after watching the documentary, the government fears, that people will actually sit up and take notice of the fact that it is actually a freak show that they are a part of. That airing this documentary will brand every Indian as a pervert. And even if it does, how far from the truth is that really?
Will it actually make mothers realize that educating the boys is more important than asking the girl to wear appropriate clothes? That respect is to be given no matter the appearance, that a no means a no, and you can never ever own another person or his/her body, that physical strength cannot be used brutally, with that strength comes responsibility? Will it make women realize that silence is never the answer, that a fight has to be put up?
Nirbhaya's father is right when we says that the documentary will hold a mirror to our nation. It is our option if we want to clean it, or shatter it. And a shattered mirror will not make the image go away, it will only break it up into a million other pieces.

Because forget protecting women, forget getting justice for the heart broken parents, forget expediting the punishment for the perpetrators, forget educating boys to respect the girls, and girls to stand up for their rights. The need of the hour is to protect our nation from humiliation.
Humiliation of having to face the world when the nation's clothes have been stripped and its ugliness is there for all to see. Standing naked in front of the whole world, showing our flaws, not knowing how to hide the hideousness, having nothing to cover the twisted mindsets, baring our depraved souls and thoughts, hanging our head in shame, the shoulders burdened by the heavy burden of parents, siblings and spouses still waiting for justice.
And then when the world criticizes you, humiliates you, rapes you, are we going to look down on our nation's ugly naked body and say it was our fault. We brought it upon ourselves? Because in this one and only instance that statement would be true.




References

1. Rajnath Singh
2. Rajiv Shukla
3. Read the heart breaking article written by Nirbhaya's father, still waiting for justice - ET article

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Let the crumbs lead the way

There is something very satisfying about making bread at home.
A product which is ignored in our daily life until the morning, you realize you are out of it. It occupies a compact little place in your kitchen and in your diet. You always, always have bread at home.
I cannot pin point the moment or day that i decided to bake my own bread, but the minute i decided i wanted to, i knew there was no way,now, that i was not going to.

After scouring Google and Youtube, i settled for starting with a plain white (maida) bread recipe. Time for complications and variations will come later.

And even if everyone says it is tough, it is one of the easiest baking and kneading that i ever had to do. Do not let the words "yeast" and "kneading" scare you. It is quite simple.
I always cook by intuition, rather than specific measurement, so please bear with me when i cannot give you the exact details - just follow your gut!

Makes one loaf of bread. 

Mine turned out smaller in height than a loaf because my loaf mold was huge for my batter. If you double the ingredients, or have a smaller loaf mold, yours might juts look like the store bought bread!

Ingredients -

1. Warm water - 0.5 cups
2. Yeast - 1 teaspoon
3. Sugar - 1 tablespoon
4. Butter (i used normal salted Amul butter, you can opt for unsalted) - 1 tbsp
5. Milk - 0.5 cup
6. All purpose flour (maida) - approximately - 2.5 cups 
7. Oil - a little bit
8. 2 bowls
9. Baking tray / loaf mold

Method

1. Warm 1/2 cup of water in the microwave, for 10 seconds. Add 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp yeast and let it sit. 
TIP - Yeast is easy to work with. I used dry active yeast that you get in any grocery store. Use water that is barely warm. You do not want hot water that will kill the yeast! 
Let the mixture sit for 5 - 7 mins. After that just stir it and if the yeast has completely dissolved in the water, you have unlocked that level and moved on to the next in the game of "bake your own bread!"

2. Melt butter in bowl, add milk and whisk. Add the yeast mixture to this and add flour (in half cup batches) till you get a lumpy batter that you can remove onto your counter top and knead.

3. Knead for a good 10-15 minutes, and keep adding flour in half cup measures, till the dough is not sticky anymore. It should be springy to touch. If you press it down with a finger it should spring back. It took about 2.5 - 3 cups for me to achieve that result and about 12 minutes of kneading.
When you knead, don't press down, rather stretch the dough. 

4. Make it into a nice round ball. Coat another big bowl with oil and toss the dough call in it. Move the dough ball about in the bowl to cover all sides with oil. Cover and keep near a warm place. I had to keep mine for 1.5 hours - 2 hours to get an actual rise in the dough.
Warmer temperatures are ideal.






5. After about 2 hours, take the dough out and roll into a ball, two if you plan to make two loaves, and keep the ball (s) aside for 10 minutes.

6. Since loaf mold are rectangular, start stretching the sough ball into a rough rectangle. Once it becomes rectangular, fold one long side of it inside and then the other long side. Where the two sides meet, pinch the dough together. Do this along the length of the rectangle and also the sides. This should give you a nice taut surface under neath which will become the top of your bread. Repeat the folding in from both long sides of the rectangle to get a tauter shape and top.
Place in the mold and keep it to rest for 30 mins. Make sure you have lined the mold with non stick cooking spray or oil.
You can also add a splash of beaten egg yolk on the top to give it a nice golden colour (with a brush if you want to be fancy, or even the back of a spoon will do :) )

7. Preheat oven at 220 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Just before putting the baking tray, turn the temperature down to 190 degrees Celsius.
Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, bake for 2-4 minutes with only the top heater on. Keep a close eye on the bread. This is the stage at which the bread might burn! You know the bread in done when you can tap the bottom of it and a hollow sound follows. Like its hard on the outside but hollow on the inside! (Reminds me of someone's head!)

Remove from the oven, allow it to cool down (or not) and eat your fresh home made bread!









Helpful links

1. Beginner Guide to making bread
2. Bread Making tips