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Welcome to my world

I’m writing a blog. I’m writing a blog… I’m writing a blog……..

I’m over thinking, over analyzing and scared shitless.

How could I have writers block without being a writer?

A month of procrastination later, here I am. Confused.

So I’m going to start by letting you know what I think my blog is going to be about, and don’t blame me if my mind wanders a million different places at once.

I’d love to think of myself as a little creative, but don’t we all. I can’t draw or paint to save my life, think stick figures.

But then again my forte lies in cooking, pintrest-ing, sarcasm, mood swings, my relationships (in which I invest wholly), drinking and eating.

But most of all what defines me is a 7-year-old, who changed my life the day I heard his shrill cry pierce my brain.

I could do my intro talking about how I’m an economics graduate with an MBA yada yada, but how boring. Also, how generic.

I’d like to think my life experiences have defined and shaped me into the ball of craziness that I am today.

And my insanities, in turn, will shape this blog into the fun space I intend to create.

I have so much to say: from how bad a parent you’re being, to PCOD, to my favorite recipes, to my hilarious adventures, to restaurant reviews, to Bigfoot and Unicorns to my travel adventures!!!

So don’t be judgmental and leave all preconceived notions of reality behind.

Be a little light hearted, ditsy even, lord knows we all need it.

And remember, sometimes the best laugh you have, is at yourself.

Happy reading!!

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Nuclear But Joint

I’m on a bit of a memory lane ride these past couple of weeks. There’s that nostalgic brewing, and making me go *sigh*. I guess its got something to do with the weather, and something to do with finding myself on the wrong side of 30.

Yes, yes, we all remember my meltdown last year at turning 35. But this year, it’s recap time.

So much has changed. Not just in the past year, but in my life. From where I was till where I am has been such a fantastic journey already. I’ve learnt a lot, mostly the hard way. And I’m still learning, everyday.

And of course the people who have been a part of my process of growing up, and the people who have grown up with me, and those whom I hope to grow old with.

There’s been a new addition to our family too, I have a new sister in law joining the ranks shortly. She’ll be the youngest and last addition to our generation, that spans 15 years.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about when I got to know my husbands family and what my mom and mom in law have taught me and how they have shaped me over the years.

I was a naive 24 year old when I got married, came from a nuclear family and was thrown into the deep end of the pool. My mom and mom in law did the best they could to keep me afloat, and continue to be my anchors.(Ironic use of words no?)

One of the first few things my MIL told me about their family was that it was “Nuclear but Joint”. My reaction? WHHHAAAAAT?

It sounded like when someone makes finger food out of regular food, and that offends me greatly. Like biryani in a kulhad or a bite size taco. No.

Anyhow, so here I am in this massive family, I had to learn a whole new set of rules. Behavioural and conduct wise.

I wasn’t allowed to be the brat who sprawled on the couch and feigned death everytime I was expected to do a chore. I had responsibilities and expectations. *gasp*

My husband was sometimes kind with his words, and helped me understand the eccentricities of being in a humongous family of 30 people, other times, he let me fall flat on my face and enjoyed my struggle.

It’s impossible to find your voice, have others accept you, and love you, while having a personality, when you enter another persons family. It’s intimidating.

They have their way of functioning, their rules, their dynamic. And you have to learn from it. If you can’t pick up on the subtle audio visual clues, tough turds.

There were unsaid rules about where we sit, pecking orders, dining table seating, room allocations, literally everything you can and can’t imagine. Buh-bye brat on the couch, you’re now up and offering the elders snacks. And being married to the good boy of the family? The expectation chart was ridic.

But it’s not just them, in my own family, even though I believe that we are a relaxed bunch, there are unsaid expectations. I know my mom will deny the word “expectation” with vehemence, but it exists. There are certain rules. It’s ok. In wonder how crazy my sister in law thinks we are though, lmao.

Without rules in a family, there’s chaos. The larger the family, the larger the chaos. I maybe wrong in using the word rules, lets use the word guidelines instead.

It kind of helps us find our place, our comfort, while the elders find theirs.

Each one of us knows what our role in the family is. We know how to help. We know how to co-exist. We don’t step on each others toes. Each one of us has a role. Each one of us has a unique significance.

There’s respect for our diversity ( my in laws are mathurs, with a dash of jat, marathi, marwari, patel, spaniard, bihari and counting). There’s respect for our identities.

There are a set of challenges unique to the situation. But then there’s also all the fun, indulgence and love. There’s more of everything.

And whenever there’s 30 of us in the room? The only thing you’ll hear is laughter.

Gossip? Tell me more!!

Gossiping, bitching, kitty party conversation, whatever you might want to call it, we love it!!

And ahem, the men love it more than us. So don’t even try to deny it.

You know how men come home and want to “discuss” their colleagues/bosses/pantry boys?

Yup, you got it.

Actually 90% of the times I can get my husband to pay attention is when I have something to tell him about xyz or I say babe call me I have gossip, and boom, the mans schedule clears up.

Couple of weeks ago we were driving, and our sole male companion decided our conversation was so good, that he was going to drive at the speed of a snail. Too juicy to miss.

Now off the bat, let me clarify, that whatever ugly name you might give this, it’s actually purging.

Do you even realise how many complex relationships we have to juggle with people we potentially despise( 99% relatives)??

All this, while adjusting our blow dried hair, smiling through clenched teeth, and imagining stabbing that person instead?

And what did you see? You saw me smiling politely while asking that nosey relative how her grandchildren and dog are. Smiling, while she suggested the gym her daughter uses, and the dietician her neighbour used. *kill kill stab stab*

What you may see from afar are the smiles and nods. Whereas inside I’m committing the goriest murder possible.

So that’s where this bitching comes in.

Trust me if we didn’t purge ourselves of these emotions often enough, the entire female population(and male, don’t exclude yourselves boys!) would be behind bars.

It’s an outlet, in so many more ways than just complaining.

Sometimes it just needs to be a one way outlet, sometimes it’s a way to seek advice, sometimes it’s a plea for help, sometimes it’s to present your case……. even though to you it may seem like the other person is making a big deal about an unreturned phone call, please understand how complex relationships can be.

Handling relationships is like ballroom dancing on top of thinly solidified lava while holding a boom box stacked on top of a bomb sandwiched between airplanes.

Comprende?

It’s exhausting, unnecessarily time consuming and the politics of it are frankly so stupid that it makes you want to pull your hair out.

And by relationships I mean work (the politics of which are aaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh), relatives (sigh), school whatsapp groups, park parents, house staff, neighbours and every other possible thing you can’t even imagine.

So excuse me if I let off a little steam every so often with my friends.

Believe me if I didn’t, I would be an axe murderer.

It’s healthy in so many ways that I cant even list.

It enables sanity, balance and perspective.

It helps better decisions, less rash behaviour and civilised exchanges even with the most vile creatures.

I mean how else do you deal with all of the storms brewing around you continuously?

So before you go bitch me out for defending the miracle of “free speech” remember how much we all love it!

Peace out!!

P.S. don’t be the fool who thinks it ok to hurt someone’s reputation or feelings by being mean. There’s a big difference between gossiping and character assassination.

Paris? Oui Mon Amour!!

It’s sometimes hard to explain certain feelings and emotions in words. They don’t do justice, they don’t connect the dots, and frankly there’s no word for the breeze that smells like love.

That’s Paris in one word, love.

The city of love, luxurious food, fashionable people, beautiful art, fine wine…. if it had so many adjectives written for it, it had to be something special.

We had promised each other that we would visit the city of love together. Just the two of us. But ahem, the third wheel to our tricycle, called little A, wanted in of the action too! So off we were, and this was our last stop after Portugal. So frankly it had high standards to meet.

Right at the beginning let me dispel the most rampant rumour about the French. They are not rude. Parisians are like any typical big city folk, they honestly would rather be on their own way than answer where the Eiffel Tower is (you have google maps, hello!!). They are polite when spoken to, it never hurt to say bonjour or merci to anyone actually. They just want to be left alone, like New Yorkers, Londoners, Delhiites, Mumbaikars, you get the drift? If you expect someone to spend 15 mins carefully (and painfully) explaining in a foreign language something that you should’ve researched before you came, it’s unfair. Also, they seem to have changed their ways for the better from about 10 years ago, when they earned that bad rep.

So that out of the way, now that I have defended the Parisians, I hope you know the direction this blog is taking.

I’m in love!!

Four days in Paris was never going to be enough. Maybe a lifetime isn’t. But that’s what I got, so I was going to make the best of it.

We got a gorgeous and surprisingly roomy apartment in the 2nd arrondissement, and to the uninitiated, it means I was close to everything and yet in a beautiful residential neighbourhood. And steps from the apartment was the metro (everything is close to the metro btw) and one of the liveliest streets filled with dozens of fantastic restaurants. (And before you roll your eyes at my perpetually amazing picks of air bnbs, please re-read my article on my planning prowess)

What to see? Everything!

But since no one has the time for everything, we shortlisted what we absolutely had to do. And got skip the line passes off viator, and don’t undermine this bit, I skipped a 700 strong line at the Louvre and a similar one at the Eiffel Tower.

So what we did cover:

The Eiffel Tower: Iconic, yet strangely ugly, it’s synonymous with Paris, and provides a wonderful birds eye layout of the city. Get a good guide, and some history is thrown in, like did you know that the tower was initially red?? Yuck!! And don’t bother with the summit, overrated. (We used a pre-bought skip the line for this and the Louvre)

The Louvre: Everyone will tell you that you need a day or a week at the Louvre. Just give it whatever time you have, but don’t skip it! The art is stunning, the sculptures were our favourites.

(P.S. The Mona Lisa is seriously meh)

Notre Dame: Stunning outside and the inside doesn’t disappoint either! Don’t get intimidated by the long line snaking outside, it’s quick.

Sainte Chapelle: Lets just settle for stunning?

Champs Élysées/ Arc de Triomphe: Maybe on a quiet day. Otherwise it’s overrun with tourists and touts alike.

The Seine: Murky, just like the dark underbelly of Paris. But the most iconic structures lie along the river, so it makes for a great walk.

Le Marais: The one neighbourhood that deserves special mention. Boutiques, patisseries, restaurants and beautiful people. This is the place I’d live in Paris.

What was on our list but we couldn’t manage it was Montmartre.

And Ofcourse, where we ate!!

Near the Eiffel Tower, a bit of a walk, is Rue Petit Cler which houses amazing restaurants, specifically Le Petit Cler.

We ate crepes near the Louvre at Eggs, Milk & Flour.

Duck and Foie Gras at Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie. And I didn’t know either could be so darn delicious!

Breakfast? Frenchie-to-go and their granola and eggs benedict, heaven!!!

And one of the most fun meals we had was at the uber chic Miss Ko. Fabulous food, cocktails and what a cool ambience!!

Night out? Got you covered! Put on your dinner jacket and head to Hotel Costes.

You can pretty much land up at most brasseries and expect good food.

For boulangeries, I highly recommend Eric Kayser. See a random one with along line? You’ve got a winner, get in line and grab a baguette.

The iconic Angelina for hot chocolate.

Macarons? Pierre Herme and Laduree Ofcourse!

And don’t miss out on the eclairs at le eclair de genie (2 locations), I mean the guy has it down to a fine art.

There’s also artisanal cheese, olive oil, truffles and all that wine to be had, why did I even come back!!

Oh, and you can shop with the swish set at Rue Saint Honore, swish about at Galleries Lafayette and roam the quaint shops in Le Marais, your Euros will never be enough.

Whatever you see, whatever you eat, in Paris, it’s never enough.

The city exudes beauty in everything it does. And you carry a little bit of it back with you.

Paris, mon amour, a lifetime isn’t enough for you!

(Eiffel Tower picture courtesy: Avantika Malhotra, it’s spectacular isn’t it?)

Portugal? Let’s go!!

When words don’t do justice to a country you want to never leave, where you’ve imagined your vacation home perched on a cliff overlooking the raging ocean, where you’ve imagined your summer and winter alike….. it’s safe to say you’re in love.

After several hiccups from visa delays to delayed flights and what not, we found ourselves in Lisbon, and at the start of an 8 day trip covering 4 cities.

Lisbon is one of Europe’s oldest cities and is located on hills, and the heart of the city is basically between 2 hills and a flat-ish district. (And by hills I mean bring your sneakers, please don’t even attempt anything else.)

Every street you walk, every building you see, is history looking back at you. The tiles facades make you stop and ogle at every single building in awe.

Ok, so before I go all over the place, a quick layout of Lisbon? Alfama on one hill on the far side, the old gorgeous district, good for getting lost in the streets. The flat centre is baixa or the old town, which houses Rossio and pretty much the central square leading up to the river. Next to that is chiado and then barrio alto, both which are on the hill and have probably the best restaurants in Lisbon.

It’s extremely safe (but don’t leave your brains behind, mind your bag etc type basic sense). Public transport is a breeze and extremely reasonable. And then again so is Uber. (For public transport I recommend the €6.80 daily card that allows you use of the metro/tram/funicular/bus, bought at the information window at metro stations)

The old, rickety trams that have become synonymous with pictures of Lisbon as so cute! But sometimes totally not worth the wait. Point in case Tram 28. Unless you like being packed in like sardines with no breathing room, please take tram 15 to Belem instead, and you won’t regret it!

Belem is another part of Lisbon where you need to go. With the best custard tarts, or pasteis de nata, and home to the monument of the discoverers and the Jeronimos monastery, it’s a place you can just sit by the water and spend the afternoon.

Now for the most important part of the Lisbon bit, where we ate!!

Cafe Bernard for brekkie, a coffee/hot chocolate and people watching.

Anything by Jose Avillez! We ate at The Taberna by Avillez and Pateo.

Sea Me. Seafood and the best sardine sashimi. Trust me, just order it. (Btw summer in Portugal means the best sardines and don’t shy away, I’m picky about my fish and it was fabulous). Not to take away from their national fish, Cod, which is pretty darn awesome.

Ofcourse Confeateria Nacional/ Manteageria for pastries.

And don’t miss the Time Out market, no matter what anyone says. They house several top Portuguese chefs, have fantastic food, for everyone. The best ice cream from Santini. And eclairs to die for. Just go.

Petiscos or tapas are delicious in most places and if you indulge in wine, vinho verde or their green wine is super easy drinking. Actually most of the Portuguese wines, red, rose and white are great!

Ok, now that we know what to eat, what to see? Santa Justa elevator is so overrated. Instead walk by the river, don’t eat there, too touristy. Walk Rua Augusta and the side streets, marvel at the tiles. See Rossio train station, the clock tower, the castle and get lost a lot. You’ll know why I said you will fall in love.

A day trip (actually about 40 mins) away from Lisbon is Sintra. And it’s a fairy tale. I mean if a 10 year old were given colours and let their imaginations go wild, in the most breathtaking possible way. It’s perched high on a hill, and getting there from Lisbon is a breeze. €5 from Rossio, then the Scotturb bus upto the palace. Buy a ticket, additional transport upto the top incase you want and voila! Don’t bother eating in Sintra, but believe me you don’t want to skip this.

We also did Coimbra, which is another 2 odd hours from Lisbon by train, but it’s a very quiet university town (FYI, one of the oldest universities in the world). Not to say that it isn’t beautiful. But we used it as a wind down from the sensory overload that was Lisbon. But it can be a day trip, I wouldn’t recommend it as a stop.

From Coimbra, we finally ended up in Porto.

It’s so much smaller than Lisbon, but it’s Portugal’s 2nd largest city. It has wide open streets, gorgeous old buildings and churches. The most massive main square has to be one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. And their train station, Sao Bento, is adorned by the most spectacular tiles, just stand and stare please.

The city of 7 bridges is also (surprise) home to port wine. And it brings it’s A-game, with the most beautiful wineries perched on hills opposite the main town. And the view from the riverfront( ribeira) is stunning.

Again, please walk down the streets leading down to the riverfront, explore the lively, happy vibe. Music wafting through the streets, the inviting smell of pastries, and the seagulls reminding you that the water is close. Magic.

I’d say 2 nights in Porto is great, enough to explore the city, to enjoy their take on Portuguese cuisine, to sample their port and cruise lazily on the river.

Oh wait, the food? Yummmmmmmm.

Their heart clogging sandwich Franceshina is legendary. Majestic cafe is a treat for the eyes. Cantina 32 is probably the most fun meal we had. And they also have their own version of a time-out-esque market where the port cellars are. Which incidentally also houses Miss Pavlova, just taste her stuff.

Other places to go? Nazare for the giant waves. Obidos, Fatima, Algavre, Alentejo…… everywhere!

I could talk about Portugal for probably another 2000 words and not do justice to where we went or what we ate or what we saw.

But when you come back from a country, and the best memory etched in your mind is how nice the people were, how friendly and happy they were, you know you’re going to go back.

Happy travels!!

P.S. Questions? Write to me! I’ll be happy to help 🙂

Get. Set. Plan.

When Lao Tzu said,” A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving”, he didn’t take a 15 hour flight with an 8 year old, only to have his luggage arrive 2 days later.

I plan vacations like Alexander planned invasions. Military precision. Tactical knowledge. Attack plans.

My planning skills are legendary. I mean legen-effing-dary.

The thought of “winging it” or “taking it as it comes” just makes me die a little bit inside. I can’t do it. Just can’t. *cringe cringe*

No man, I’m not a psycho-vacation-over-planning monster that you think I am. I just like to be well prepared, and I hate surprises.

I will, however, meticulously plan my to-do, to-see, to-eat and to-pack upto a month in advance. I’ll make restaurant reservations and viator trips. Basically, I’ll do everything to make sure I don’t spend my vacation being a cross between Godzilla and a weeping mess.

Mostly everyone I know is close to planning summers, or shortlisting destinations, or if you’re like my husband, you will cross that bridge when you come to it *eyeroll*

So, I thought I’ll share some of my travel favourites, to help you plan, and to simplify what should be a relaxing, pleasurable and well earned break.

Travel websites and resources, in my opinion, are paramount. My top resources are

www.fodors.com

www.frommers.com

And of course the usual suspect tripadvisor.com.

Rick Steves is also a fantastic resource, but is more subscription based.

Fodors and Frommers, both give relevant information without the giant, long, boring stories. And they even suggest itineraries spanning days to a week or two.

(I don’t use them for hotel or restaurant suggestions)

Pinterest is another great resource, with so so so many travel blogs, links, and resources.

The best place to find activities are tripadvisor and viator. They have a fantastic array of things to do, and viator allows you to book at competitive rates.

For where to stay?

Europe and the US, we always Airbnb or VRBO(vacation rentals by owner, same concept as Airbnb) it. It’s massively convenient to have a living room while traveling in a group, even as our family of three. And seriously, the washing machine means I don’t have to overpack (and I love doing laundry, ok?).

South east Asia? They have the best hospitality in the world!! Always pick a hotel, maximum bang for our buck guaranteed.

Picking restaurants?

If you’re like us, and what you eat is as important as where you go, please research the restaurants.

I love Pinterest and tripadvisor equally. Pinterest has fantastic blogs and links on great restaurants. And it allows you to save them for reference later! Tripadvisor is also fantastic, but I like to read a lot of reviews and see the menu before I commit myself to the precious few meals I will have to enjoy the cuisine of where I am.

I can’t tell you what to pack, because I’m a compulsive overpacker. And closeted hoarder(of curious objects).

Another few websites/apps you will like to have handy?

Yelp/ Opentable/ Zomato

Accuweather

Google translate

Google Maps

Everywhere we travel, we learn something new. Every trip throws a certain amount of unknowns. (Like what the hell a poke bowl is, or why my SIM card mysteriously won’t work till the last day of my vacation)

But I hope what resources I’ve shared above, help you to eliminate the unpleasant unknown, equip you a little better, and prevent meltdowns.

Happy planning!!

P.S. none of the websites listed above paid me a damn dime for writing such awesome stuff about them.

And also, write in if you have any questions or resources to share!

Women Do, Women Don’t

It’s fantastic how little things get under my skin.

And the irritation festers till it comes out in a blog.

Women’s day has come and gone so very many times during my existence, yet till this time, it didn’t annoy the crap out of me.

Heck I even did a women’s day lunch once, and enjoyed it.

But this time around, everyone who said happy women’s day, I wanted to snap their heads off.

Pages and pages of blogs, of text messages, of Facebook posts *ugh* made me want to just explode.

Do you realise that you’re saying “everyday is women’s day” and “we are powerful” and “we are empowered” like we owe someone a clarification? Like it’s a pathetic reminder to people that we are owed rights and equality?

If you’re asking for it, by reminding everyone on Women’s day, that we are also equal citizens and gender equality is actually a thing, you’ve defeated the purpose my dear woman.

We’re sending texts like “I’m not beautiful, I’m strong and successful”, damn people, you got it wrong. We are beautiful and strong and successful. There’s nothing wrong in accepting that we were obviously made the better looking sex. And yet we were given brains to go with it. Take the damn compliment and stop being so defensive.

That’s just one example of the zillions of things I read that annoyed me.

Men and women alike sent a bazillion texts about how amazing their wife, mom, daughter and neighbourhood aunty is. *thunderous slap*

Instead of making this one more greeting card holiday, how about we actually care about women instead?

{I read a few sensible things too, about supporting one another, rallying behind one another, together we are so much more, stuff that was actually positive and empowering.}

We don’t need one day to remind us and everyone around us that we are infact the more powerful, super-taskers, successful, smarter, etc etc sex. We know it, everyone around us knows it, we just need to start owning it.

Support the women around you everyday, don’t just send them a text on some day Hallmark decided. Help them achieve their dreams. Say thank you. Do the laundry. Give them a break. Ask them how their day was. (I hope some men are reading this, so I’m giving a LOT of examples so they have ideas, *sigh*)

And for the women?

Don’t be apologetic, don’t be defensive, don’t be humble damnit. And for heavens sake, don’t be martyrs.

We don’t need Women’s day, we have everyday so we can shine!!!!

P.S. I really don’t need to remind you still that these are ONLY MY opinions…..if you have a counter opinion, write a blog!!

One is enough. Thanks.

I just read a beautiful article on how being a mom of one doesn’t mean you’re a lesser mom. It doesn’t mean your struggles weren’t real, that you’re enough of a mom.

And as usual, something stirred.

The older I get the happier I feel.

The older I get, the more comfortable I get.

In my life, routine, friends, food habits, every single facet.

Comfortable or fixed, whatever you might want to label it as…… I call it comfortable.

And that also means my motherly pangs are slowly and surely withering away. Becoming less baby crazy, baby steps (haha I made a pun).

Not in that way. I still madly love little A, and I’m going to be alpha mommy to him, crush his little cheeks with kisses, and baby him even when he’s 50. I mean, I’m an awesome mom (despite my moms doubts).

I still adore, and dote, over all the amazing babies I’m surrounded with. I love all their ‘firsts’ I’ve been a part of. The fact that their mums and dads let me be such a big part of their lives. The hugs and the kisses, the cuddles, the babies yet to come *sigh*

Ok, re-focus woman!!

I just slowly have begun to realise that my boat might just have sailed. Little A is 8, he’s easy to handle, a breeze to travel with, and just so big!!

And also I’m really, really done with advice about how it’s not too late.

I’m tired of being afraid of wearing an empire waist dress from fear of someone congratulating me (seriously, why are you so intrigued by my stomach? It’s fat not pregnant).

And no, I do not want to meet your doctor or know about your 3rd cousin becoming miraculously pregnant at 36.

Seriously, cut it out.

(I am really just trying to justify my decision to myself now. Seriously, this is therapeutic venting too.)

Now I’m at a place where I cannot physically and mentally put myself through the processes of another baby. I mean at 35, do I really want to do diaper and bottle duty at 4 am?? I have grown to love my sleep so very much!

(And I know, I know…….. I pushed a lot of people around me into having a second one, into considering and having their first ones also. So I am seriously not being hypocritical!! I still love the chaos and cuddles that come with a ton of kids around me!)

I’m just too far gone into the pillowy comfort of being the mom to a single child, and just too darn old to do it again. Like everyone admits, being pregnant is the easy part.

Soooooooooooo……. thank you, one is enough!!

For now I’m happy to be surrounded by little A’s friends, my nephews and nieces, friends’ babies and babies to come. There’s enough love to go around.

We might look like a nuclear family to you, but for me, my family is humongous!!

{ I’m sharing the link of the article I read, with thanks to the mom who wrote this:

https://karacarrero.com/mom-of-an-only-child-no-lesser-mom/ }