After much confusion and fear of stocks running low, the government recently clarified that sanitary napkins were also part of essential goods. That must have been quite a relief for so many women.
Thankfully, I switched to zero waste menstrual practices almost two years back. When I switched to cloth pads, I did not know it would especially be a blessing in times like these. That is one less thing to worry about right now.
Making the switch to Sustainable Menstruation
Minimalism is extremely relevant in the present context. After making several small changes in my lifestyle, switching to sustainable menstruation was the logical next step for me.
I joined this online community (closed now), which encouraged discussions on Sustainable Menstrual Practices. I read about women with far more challenging circumstances, switching to eco-friendly menstrual practices because disposable options have a hazardous impact on our bodies as well as the environment.
Let us first understand, what do you mean by Sustainable Menstruation? Sustainable menstruation means adopting such practices that are safe for the environment.
Why switch to Sustainable Menstruation? What is wrong with the disposable ones?
Disposable sanitary pads are full of chemicals to make them super-absorbent, dry for hours and odour free. These chemicals are harmful to our health and can cause several kinds of diseases and infections.
Disposable napkins are made of plastic and are non-biodegradable. Therefore, all the sanitary napkins ever used are still lying somewhere because they take millions of years to decompose.
Disposable napkins are expensive. A significant percentage of menstruating women in India do not use disposable pads because they are expensive. Efforts are being made to make cheaper options available but the more long-term solution would be to create awareness about hygiene and menstrual health and encourage the use of cloth pads and biodegradable pads or menstrual cups.
Menstrual cups: I haven’t used them personally but they are the most preferred option among women who need to go out for long hours. All they need is a little clean water to clean it and get back on.
Cloth pads: Right now, this is my preferred choice. It works almost similar to disposable ones. There are different options for days with more flow and less flow.
Biodegradable pads: They are exactly like disposable ones, in usage, but decompose more quickly.
Why did I decide to take the plunge?
I have been working towards minimizing chemicals from my lifestyle. I hardly ever use any creams. I have minimized the use of shampoo, stopped using conditioners and serum. Therefore, stopping the use of disposable pads, which are laden with chemicals, was the obvious next step.
The way climate change is reflecting on human tragedies is scary. Scientists are warning of much worse consequences if concrete and immediate steps are not taken to curb global warming. It is important to take some necessary steps towards an eco-sustainable lifestyle. Being ignorant or living in denial is not wise. By throwing disposable pads during every cycle every month, for years, we are just adding to the burden on the earth.
I stay at home most of the time. I can change and wash my pads easily at home. Even if I venture out for a few hours, the cloth pads are as good as the disposable ones.,
It saves a lot of money (even if that is not the main intention, why not!)
Every small step taken by each individual goes a long way in creating a global impact. So, we should try to do whatever we can. I have observed that for every change, all it requires is the will to make a change and the mindset.
And while I am on the topic, I don’t understand the taboo associated with this subject. We discourage superstitions associated with menstruation in our home. It is also important to educate and sensitize both girls and boys about this very fundamental ‘periodic’ process that is the foundation of life.
These times are surreal. 6 months back, we had no inkling of how a virus is going to shake up the world.
On 9th March 2020, Maharashtra reported its first 2 cases of coronavirus or COVID-19 (in Pune). India reported its first case on 30th January itself, but it doesn’t seem real until the time it knocks at your door, does it?
The numbers started piling up in no time, with cases being reported from different parts of the city. By 12th March, when my son came back from school, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to send him back the next day.
Fortunately, his school is quite proactive and always puts the interests of children first. They shut the school immediately.
At 8, my son is like other 8-year-olds; his life revolves around school and friends. I was expecting some resistance in putting across the idea that he wouldn’t be able to go out to play with his friends with immediate effect. Surprisingly, he took it well.
From the evening of 12th March till now, we have been staying at home.
I’m sure every family is finding creative ways to keep themselves occupied in these times of social distancing and self-isolating. With an active 8 year old boy at home, our activities are obviously skewed towards child-friendly ones:
We have been playing Scrabble since our son was 4, and it is still the most popular game in our household. We play at least one game every day and try to mix it up. We also play other board games and card games like Letter Ladder, Monopoly, Guess-in-10 (Cities), and 300-pieces jigsaw puzzles, but 90% of the time, we end up playing Scrabble. With a single child, one or both of us become his play-buddy.
It is quite interesting how kids have devised a way to play with each other. Since most of them stay in the same building or the facing building, they have been playing different games from their respective balconies. Quite a stroke of genius actually!
A bit of digital screen time
Since we do not watch TV, we allow 30-45 minutes of an age-appropriate, supervised, offline mobile game to our 8-year-old. He has been (actually we all have been) playing this relatively harmless and cute game called ‘Dino Park’. It has several levels in which you need to dig out bones and make dinosaurs. It encourages interest in dinosaurs too (which was an unintended and unexpected outcome of playing the game). We also played a few online geography games to brush up his knowledge of countries and flags.
Initially, we used to go out early in the morning to run/ walk / cycle and get a bit of sun but when things started getting more serious, we stopped that as well. I’ve always done home workouts and therefore, I try to do something or the other at least a couple of days every week. It is important to be consistent to succeed in anything.
It is also important for the kids to get some exercise everyday whether or not they are playing outside, more so, when they are into sports. So, our budding all rounder has been practicing and showing tremendous improvement in his rope jumps. We also encourage him to do body weight exercises as also advised by his coach. The reason I started working out a couple of years back was to inculcate the habit in my son. You cannot tell kids to do something and not do that yourself.
With time on hand, the best thing to have happened is that our son has started taking a lot of interest in helping out in the kitchen and learning to cook. Kids should be encouraged when they show interest in household chores, even if it takes more time and sometimes get messy. Though he has been making tea for an year now, currently he has become completely independent in handling everything on his own – lighting up the stove, measuring water, adding spices, measuring milk, tea and sugar, straining tea and serving too. He also took to making dough quite easily (something which many people make a mess of) and making kachoris and chapatis.
Helping each other
With self-isolation, we have also not had our house help for 13 days now. All of us have been pitching in to do the household chores. When everyone shares the load, one person does not feel burdened. It should be a way of life in every house.
Since the time my son was born, I had two goals for him– to inculcate a habit of reading and to internalize in him that housework is everyone’s work. It is a blessing that his dad is a good example to emulate.
We have spent very little time watching movies since I do not propose anything on my own that involves a screen.
When I was little, our school took us to watch ‘Karamati Coat’ in a movie hall. I loved that movie and wanted to show it to him for some time now. Luckily, I found it on YouTube, and we finally watched it recently.
Since he is into sports, I thought he would also enjoy ‘Chak De! India’. I forward scenes, which I feel are inappropriate for him.
Since we cannot get any new books or visit the library, we have been sharing books. I pulled out some books from my collection, which are suitable for my little reader like ‘People who changed the World’ and ‘History of the World’. I have started reading his ‘the Gita for children’, and also started the mammoth ‘Parva‘. Since he has been playing a game on Dinosaurs, he also started rereading ‘Dawn of Planet Earth’.
I don’t ask him to read anything, the trick is to read it yourself. They soon want to read what Mumma is reading. Always works!
Honestly, this is the first thing I have written in a really long time though my son keeps writing random things every day. He wrote a paragraph on ‘Karamati Coat’ and decided to make questions on it. He wrote the process of making ghee, and made a visual tutorial to solve Rubik’s cube too (which we are currently improvising).
Personally, it was thrilling to sketch after ages. My son sketched all the dinosaurs. Dad and son also did some 3D sketching. He also likes sketching by looking at objects or scenery, and he has quite a good understanding of scale and perspective.
Of course, it isn’t hunky dory all the time, but with nowhere to go and no need to rush on things, our home is far more peaceful.
There are so many free online resources available right now to help people stay at home but thankfully, we have not had to try any of those. We definitely haven’t picked up his schoolbooks because we have never ‘taught’ him that way. We just follow interests and go with the flow.
Yesterday, all of a sudden, he asked us whose picture was used on Indian currencies before Mahatma Gandhi was born, and we used that opportunity to learn about evolution of Indian currencies.
It is a difficult time for the entire world. Perhaps for the first time, we are all in it together at the same time. Let us be a little more responsible and do our best in stopping the community spread. Let us stay at home and support people who are leading from the front.
Taking my whole wheat cake recipe to another (read healthier) level, I replaced sugar with jaggery; and got an absolutely healthy and delectable cake which everyone in the family loved. It has zero all-purpose flour and zero white sugar, and it’s yummy!
Coming back to jaggery, I have almost completely switched to jaggery for all my sweet requirements (like in my coffee or in my desserts). I don’t mind the difference in the taste. In fact, it works for me.
Whole Wheat Flour (Aata): 250 gms
Jaggery: 125 gms
[Tip: Jaggery has a textured taste and you can increase or decrease its quantity according to how sweet you want the cake to be. ]
Cooking Oil / Butter (melted): 80 ml
[Tip: I take approximately one-third of the whole wheat quantity]
[Tip: Beat the yellow and white portions separately for best results]
Water: 100 ml (approximately)
Baking Powder: 1 tsp
Baking Soda: ¼ tsp
Vanilla Essence: 2 tsp
Cinnamon powder: ¼ tsp (optional)
Salt: ¼ tsp (optional)
Mix all the dry ingredients, viz., Wheat flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Cinnamon powder and Salt. Keep aside.
Mix Jaggery with a little water and melt it by putting it on stove or microwave.
Add a little water
Melt the jaggery
Beat the eggs in separate bowls for 4-5 minutes.
Mix the Jaggery, oil and eggs together. Make sure that the jaggery has cooled down because once it gets cooler, the batter will thicken. So, if required, add a bit of water for smooth consistency. How the cake turns out also depends upon how uniformly the ingredients have been blended together.
Add the dry mixture from Step 1 to the wet one in Step 4. Add Vanilla essence to this
Grease the container and dust with some whole wheat flour. I used a 500 ml Borosil square glass bowl. Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. For Microwave-convection users, select 200 degrees temperature in Pre-heat mode.
After it pre-heats, pour the batter to 80% of the capacity of the bowl.
Select 200 degrees temp. C in Convection mode and bake for around 35 minutes. The time depends upon the container you are using. Any smaller cake will take less amount of time, anything bigger will take more. I baked 2 cakes of this size with this batter. I usually don’t bake the entire thing in one go; so if anything goes wrong, it can be fixed in the next one 🙂
Insert a pin or knife towards the centre to find out if the cake has baked well. If the knife comes out dry, it means the cake is ready, take it out and let it cool.
After all the hard work, I was skeptical if the cake will turn out well. But in the end, everyone loved it and that’s what matters!
Now you need to consider a few things when it comes to whole wheat cakes.
a. The cake will be less spongy than the regular all-purpose flour cake.
b. Consider it as an alternative to cookies / biscuits which you or your kids eat. If oil is a cause of concern, remember, all cookies have oils; even the healthier options. They just have a small percentage of whole wheat flour. Here, we are making an entire cake with whole wheat flour and jaggery. And don’t forget, no preservatives. I love giving this in my son’s tiffin and he loves it.
Suddenly everyone is talking about ‘Sattu’; it has become the new super food that you must include in your diet. The eastern and northern parts of India (may be even central) have always had Sattu as part of their diet, especially during scorching summer months; but for the benefit of everyone else, let’s understand what exactly Sattuis.
Simply put, Sattu is the powder of dry roasted Bengal gram. Sattu shouldn’t be confused with besan. While Besan is the flour of ‘raw’ gram, Sattu is the flour of ‘roasted’ gram. Sattu is coarser and healthier.
Why Sattu laddoos make for an excellent snack for kids:
Extremely quick to make. Hardly takes 5 minutes. Just make it whenever the kids are hungry. No need to make and store.
Perhaps the easiest laddoo to make; easier than even peanut laddoo, certainly easier than besan laddoo. Can be made even by kids themselves.
A minimalist recipe. Don’t need to remember too many ingredients or any proportions.
No cooking involved.
Packed with nutrients like protein (23%), carbohydrates (64%), fat (13%) [ Source]. It is fiber rich and known to also contain Calcium, Iron and Magnesium.
Keeps you cool in hot summer.
It is certainly my no. 1 go-to recipe for a healthy and quick snackfor my 6 year old.
Sattu / Roasted gram flour
Ghee / Clarified butter
You have to take quantities according to your preference and taste.
I take the regular sugar, you may use powdered one. The regular sugar granules give a crunchy taste.
Take Sattu in a bowl.
Add sugar (as per taste), Ghee (that gives moist, rich taste) and water (only so much that it can bind the laddoo.
Mix everything and make balls or laddoos. That’s it.
Cooking is not really one of my favourite things. The thing which inspires me to cook and experiment with food is Health. I’m passionate about my and my family’s health. For that, I’m ready to go that extra mile and experiment with recipes that would appeal to them.
I discourage junk food at home, but let me make this clear that there are also days when I end up eating Aata Maggi (ready made noodles) for Dinner or may be give jam cookies to my son 3 days in a row.
What matters is making an effort as much as you can!
Gram flour (besan) laddoo is a popular Indian sweet and extremely nutritious. It is a house favourite. All of us love it. After a few failures I finally learnt an easy recipe from my mother-in-law and now I find it very easy to make. Therefore, I make it often. It is a nutritious snack for kids; better than the store-bought cookies any day.
Here’s an easy recipe to make besan laddoo at home:
1 cup = 150 gms
Gram flour / Besan : 3 cups
Semolina / Sooji (of fine quality) : 1 cup
Clarified butter / Ghee : 1 cup (approximately)
Powdered Sugar : 3/4 cup (or as per taste)
Heat a wok and add 3/4th of the total ghee.
Add Besan and Sooji to the ghee and roast the mixture on low flame till you get a roasted aroma from the mixture and the colour is golden brown. Make sure that the mixture has roasted evenly by stirring it continuously and breaking all the lumps.
Keep adding the rest of the ghee as and when required. The idea is NOT to make the mixture too oily because you would not be able to make laddoos otherwise. Initially, you might feel that the mixture is dry but DON’T put more ghee in the beginning.
When it has been roasted, it leaves ghee which is also a sign that the mixture has been cooked well.
You can always add more ghee towards the end if you feel that the cooked mixture is dry but adding too much in the beginning can backfire (has happened to me many times earlier).
Once cooked, take off the mixture from the heat and let it cool down. When it cools down, add the powdered sugar and make small smooth balls of laddoo.
Always keep the ghee on a lower side. You can always add more ghee, if required, towards the end. If you end up having too much ghee in your mixture, you cannot do anything except eat it as a halwa 🙂 [been there, done that!]. But let me not scare you, it is really not that difficult. For example, if the ghee required is 1 cup, put only about 3/4th cup to begin with. Let the mixture roast well, you would know if you should add more.
We personally don’t like the laddoos with only besan because it tends to stick to the mouth. We are adding sooji for a textured taste. You can also use besan that is coarse and not too fine.
There is no rocket science to the proportions. Just keep it 3:1 of besan and sooji respectively. Always use the finer quality sooji. You can experiement with the proportions according to your taste and what kind of flour you are using.
What I personally do is cook the mixture slowly on low flame while I’m there in the kitchen for cooking lunch / dinner. This way you don’t really have to invest any extra time to roast the besan and sooji mixture.
Sometimes I just put everything together in a wok and roast it on low flame for a long time. There isn’t a special technique to it. What you need at the end is a moist mixture that can be made into laddoos. You can add cardamom powder for flavour and dry fruits, if you want.
I always assumed that Joshi Railway Museum would be a typical museum dedicated to the history of rail transport in the State, but I discovered that it was actually a big set up of miniature railway system.
It will evoke childhood memories of playing with tiny train sets. You remember how we used to have a toy train with the tracks that would go round and round? Yeah, this is just more elaborate.
It is a set up of a miniature city but the beauty is in its detailing. There are several signals, posts, fences, tiny houses, platforms, announcement systems, restaurant, circus, swimming pool, fire engine (among other things) and of course, different kinds of trains. The whole thing comes alive when the show is conducted inside the hall with the help of a voice over (VO). I believe the VO is available in Marathi, Hindi and English. The show runs for about 30 minutes (if I remember correctly). But do not go there expecting anything extravagant. This place has been around since 1998 and the whole set up is quite simple.
Learn more about the things on offer, here.Hereis a recent write-up on the place.
There’s a time when most kids start taking interest in the outer space – the stars, the planets and the solar system. This prompted me to look for a science related experience, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Pune too had aScience Park of its own.
The place (spread over 3.5 acres) has actually a lot to offer. There are indoor sections on different themes like Automobile, Fun Science, Climate Change, etc. There’s a Planetarium, which could be interesting for slightly older kids. My (then) 4-year-old got fidgety in the dark. The auditorium shows 3D films. Our most favourite section was the outdoor one, which had a lot of interactive exhibits including one display of Dinosaurs.
Learn more about this Park here. It is certainly a good place for kids.
We have been to Empress Garden several times. Spread over 39 acres, it is home to many rare species of trees and flowers; and its flower shows are quite popular. But honestly, we haven’t been there during flower shows.
Empress Garden is a good combination of a lot of things which will appeal to you as a parent seeking greenery and a good playing space for your children. It has very low ticket charges and therefore attracts people from different demographics.
There is a good parking space (which is really such a pain area and can be a deal-breaker for a lot of places), several playing options of swings, slides and rides to occupy the kids for a long time, a trackless toy train ride of the garden, a basic eating joint and a toilet (the last two not extremely hygienic but serve the purpose). There is a small water body which makes for a pretty picture and kids can also be seen playing in it. It is certainly a good place for picnics where you can take food and play frisbees or balls.
I am sure very few people know about this place and after visiting this, I can say, that’s a pity! The moment I entered this place, I was zapped by how real and fantastic this place was. The entire village life unfolds in front of your eyes at Gram SanskrutiUdyan (or the Garden of Village Culture).
It can be an interesting place for your kids who have never experienced village life and culture. The complete village life has been showcased in this fairly large walk-through set up. You get to see people from different professions busy at work like a village doctor, a cobbler, a teacher teaching kids under a tree, a sweet-seller, a shopkeeper, sculptors, shepherds, and so on. There are kids playing, animals roaming around, wild animals, market place buzzing with buyers and sellers, tamasha (the stage style village entertainment); and none of those things are real. The detailing is so good, you would forget you are in the middle of a make-believe village.
It came as a surprise to us that Pune too had an Appu Ghar, and we spent no time in planning a trip to the place. Appu Ghar is one of the oldest amusement parks in Pune (Nigdi) with fun rides like Columbus, My Fair Lady, Roller Coaster, Merry Cups, Striking Cars, etc. Check out all the rides here. Every ride has separate but minimal charges. It may not be of the scale of Delhi’s Appu Ghar but it sure is a fun place to go with kids. Since it was developed in early 90s, it is advisable to keep your expectations low because you cannot compare it to the swanky places of current times.
Kids and outdoors spell magic; there’s no doubt about it! Sinhagad Fort is another favourite of the families with kids for weekend trips. In fact, it is quite popular with people of all ages for its beauty, location and food.
Though there isn’t much left of the ‘fort’, but going up the flight of stone steps is an exciting adventure for kids. Walking right to the top, watching sunrise or sunset and enjoying the flavours of local Maharashtrian food are the things which attract quite a huge crowd to this popular destination every weekend. There is also a small temple at the top.
The best time to go there is from monsoon to winter because it could get very hot when you reach the top. Or you can go there very early to catch the sunrise.
We went there on the first day of the year to celebrate the New Year with fresh air and a bit of physical activity. Eating bhakhris and curd in earthen pots while sitting under a tree made our day memorable.
I believe there are adventure parks near Sinhagad fort, so you can plan a family outing while also visiting the fort.
Spread over 10 acres, Pu La Deshpande garden (also called Okayama garden, situated on Sinhagad Road) is a surprisingly well-maintained and well laid out garden. It has a parking space as well as toilets.
Considering the total area, the garden has been designed in such a way that you just keep walking and you will cover the entire area, walking through small water streams, fountains, little bridges and slopes; and there is also an elevated point inside the garden that offers the panoramic view of the place.
The only problem here is that stepping on the grass is not allowed (which is actually the reason why it is so neat and maintained). There are guards after every few steps who remind you that you cannot step on the grass.
There is another garden inside the same place called Mughal garden, alongside the Okayama garden. The ‘Surya Namaskar’ statues showcasing its different ‘asanas’ are quite an interesting part of this garden.
Though my idea of garden is where the kids can run around, yet this garden is a good place to take your kids to for its sheer beauty and greenery. Since it is spread out over a huge area, kids do not get bored.
Aga Khan Palace is a historically important landmark in Pune due to its connection with India’s freedom movement. Know all about it here.
It served as a jail for Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi during Quit India Movement. There are statues and pictures of Gandhiji, Kasturba Gandhi’s samadhi and information about the time they spent here.
It is clean and well-maintained, and is a favourite for school trips, but what I love most about this place (with respect to little kids who do not understand so much about the historical aspect of the place) is its huge and well-maintained lawn. Kids just love to run around here. The overall aura of this place is of peace and tranquility which appeal to the grown ups.
I think, it would not be preposterous to say that Peshwe Park is a kid’s paradise. It is full of adventure activities for kids of different ages like net climbing, grappling, wall climbing, rope slider, skyway, tower climbing, etc. In fact, the entry fees is higher for kids than for adults because everything is for the kids.
There is also a short toy train ride. It was a memorable day for my son because he had a fantastic time there. Actually, he was spoilt for choices and the look on his face during those activities, was priceless. There’s so much to do. We kept running from one thing to another. There are videos on YouTube showing different adventure activities in the park. Check out this link for a host of pictures of the garden.
Read all about the park here. Apparently, the idea behind this park was to let kids enjoy the thrills of adventure activities from young age and get over their fear.
There are toilets inside the garden, while the food counters are right outside the gate. It is a must visit place for everyone with kids.
Any other ideas about non-mall places are welcome. I have consciously left out the Zoo because personally, I don’t like it that much. But schools take kids to the zoo often and kids seem to enjoy too. I must also accept the fact that I have taken my son to the zoo when he was very small. And actually, I speak from that experience. I don’t know, I just felt uncomfortable around caged, overweight animals kept in unnatural surroundings for our entertainment.
No matter how much you try, you cannot avoid eating cookies completely. I refuse to buy cookies for home but my husband does. I avoid giving my son cookies in his tiffin but other kids get, and then he questions me why I don’t give him cookies! All this junk food vs healthy food lecture does not appeal to little kids.
So, I have accepted the fact that cookies are here to stay. And therefore, I try making those at home once in a while to make myself feel less guilty. Recently, I made Whole Wheat cookies at home and they turned out to be super delicious. Whole wheat lends a textured taste to the cookies. Most importantly, they were well-received by the audience at home.
By using only Whole Wheat flour, this recipe offers a healthy alternative for kids in place of regular off-the-shelf biscuits. Here’s the super easy recipe to make whole wheat cookies or biscuits at home:
Whole wheat flour (aata) – 1 1/2 cups
All purpose flour (maida) – 1/2 cup
[Note: You can completely avoid all purpose flour and go for 2 cups of whole wheat flour]
Powdered sugar – 1 cup
Clarified butter (ghee) – 1 cup
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Vanilla essence – 1 tsp
Almonds – 1/2 cup finely chopped (optional)
Milk – 2-3 tbsp (if required)
Mix everything except ghee and milk.
Then add ghee slowly, mixing the dough well.
The final dough should be smooth and not crumbly. You must be able to make smooth balls with it.
If not, then add 2-3 tbsp milk to make the dough smoother in consistency.
Make small balls and press lightly to give a cookie like shape. You can also use cookie cutter to give shape. I used hands.
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius. For Microwave-convection users, select 180 degrees temperature in Preheat mode.
Place the cookies on a tray and bake them for anywhere around 25-30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius in Convection mode. The time may vary slightly.
When ready, cookies will be slightly brownish in colour.
Take them out and let them cool down completely.
After they have completely cooled down, you can have your home-made crunchy, textured whole wheat cookies with tea or coffee, and let your kids have them without any guilt.
You may add a tiny piece of cherry or a strip of almond at the center of each cookie.
The cookies on the sides of the tray cook faster, so place them accordingly and keep an eye. You may find that those in the center haven’t cooked while the ones on the sides have turned brown.
This recipe is really very simple. I make Nankhatais (traditional Indian biscuits) with the same recipe using all purpose wheat flour and gram flour. All you need to do is add powdered sugar and make the dough with ghee. The dough should be smooth.