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Moving Out.

8372279056_c6428dbd9b_zReading Olga’s post about moving and kitchen renovation a couple of mornings ago made me want to write a blogpost right away. I wanted to head upstairs, sit at my writing-table and start tapping away on my laptop. Of course, the fact that I was reading her post as I was gulping down my morning coffee, right before I had to rush out to work made it almost impossible for me write right away. But I find that there is something very soothing about to-the-point and no-fuss writing such as her’s. Reading such writing makes me want to practice such writing. I know that, if it is not my writing style already, it is the style I am going for.

Now that I am here, finally writing this post I realize that it was not only Olga’s writing style that tickled my writing bone that morning. Her post also made me think back to the time that we moved out of our first house into the home we are currently in. It has been a little over 9 years now. How time flies! As I sit here letting my mind wander to that time when we lived in our first house in Bridgeton, so many memories, mainly good ones, very good ones actually, wash over me.

In her post Olga mentions that she felt her current home was ready for her to move out. Things that had worked perfectly fine till right before their move were starting to fall apart. That sentence really hit home for me. I remember the same thing happening at my old house. A perfectly working gas stove with four working burners decided that two of its burners should stop working three days before we moved. The storm door fell off its hinges one day before we moved. A week before the move our air conditioner died on us. I guess the house was READY for us to leave.

At that time though, I did not look at it like that. It had taken us over four months to get the house sold. During those four months we had to work so hard to keep the house immaculate for the potential buyers who might drop by at any time. And with each passing week we were getting more and more worn out and stressed. To make matters worse our new house was close to finishing. So selling the current home was necessary for us.

I had also just given birth to our second child recently and what should have been a joyous time was filled with cleaning, fixing and stressing. Oh, to be young and foolish! Looking back, we should have probably waited till the baby was older before trying to sell the home we were in. But more important than that we should have waited to build our new house. But hindsight is always 20/20. And I guess all is well that ends well.

Even though it has been nine years, even to this day when we find ourselves in our old neighborhood we look upon it with great fondness. While we do not regret that we moved on, we are very thankful we got to live there. We met some loving people who took us on as their own family.

Our house was definitely what one would call a money pit or maybe it was fixer upper. Whatever you call it, it was probably not the house we should have bought. Two young absolutely non-handy immigrants who don’t know a thing about owning a home probably should not have gone in for a fixer upper. The people who sold it to us must have been so thrilled to have naive first time buyers who bought the house because solely because the wife(me!) liked the decor of the house.

Every season brought its own challenges. But all it took was the first downpour after we had moved in to realize what we were in for. The rain seeped from the main level to the lower due to some damage to the deck. Or the first winter when we realized how badly the windows needed replacing. It was then we started realizing the list would be endless.

My parents visited us from India a couple of times while we lived in that house. My dad loved the projects that the fixer upper gave him. He walked daily to Home Depot, got his supplies and worked away. Little by little he tackled so many of the projects. We are so indebted to him. And to my mother and my sister who stopped me from going off the deep end every time we found something else broken in the house. Thank heavens, for a supportive family!

After my dad left for India, apart from the various handymen we hired for the various tasks, we had the fortune of having Don remodel my kitchen. While Don was working hard on remodeling my kitchen, his wife Dotty made sure we were all fed. Don and Dotty were our elderly neighbors who took us on as their own. Both are no more. But they stay alive in our hearts.

While some projects had to be done like the bathrooms which became unusable or the leaking drain pipe, some others were caused by my sister and I. After moving into the house, we suddenly decided that we could handle projects like changing the carpet in the basements or redoing the crown molding. Of course, that led to even more spending on handymen to fix our handy work.

By the time the numerous projects were done, we were about done with the house. But I guess the house was done with us and our poking and prodding as well.

Nonetheless, that little split level brick house with its one acre yard (unbelievable amount of yard work for people like us who had no idea what went into maintaining a lawn) and rose bushes in the front yard and a backyard with a large deck, numerous trees and picnic table will always remain in our hearts as a symbol of our humble beginnings. Humble but happy beginning albeit in a money pit. It may have not have been much of a house, but it gave us a warm, loving and cozy place to call home anyway. Our first real home together! Based on that foundation and everything we learned from it, we were ale to successfully make the transition to our new home. Here’s to the first house & home!

Until next time,

Radhika

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2013 in Life size Bytes

 

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A Comma or a Semicolon or a Kitchen Center Island?

ImageThrough the magic of Twitter, I recently stumbled up on this article about the use of a comma.The article indicates that it is the fifth part in a series with answers to questions about the comma. “Really!? So many questions about a comma?”, I thought to myself. I read the article and was intrigued with how much there really is. I was especially intrigued by when to use a “;” versus a “,”. I began this blogpost with the main purpose of putting into practice what I had learned from that article.

So I sat at the kitchen center island, laptop on the island and begin tapping away at the keys. Suddenly my pressure cooker in which I was cooking daal exploded on me. Daal and malabaar spinach were everywhere. As I was cleaning the mess, all thoughts of the comma left my mind and my shoulder pain became my main thought. I fell this morning while sledding in the beautiful snow currently covering Saint Louis and hurt my shoulder. Once my husband offered to take over the cleaning though, my pain magically disappeared. Magic! So I sat back and started writing.

Speaking of sledding, I started sledding with my sons three years ago. It is something we enjoy doing together. When we hear that there could be snow in the forecast we get really excited. We look at it as our next sledding opportunity. When my first son woke up this morning and saw the snow outside, who did he come running to wake up first!? Me!! I was so happy he likes sledding with me as much as I like sledding with both of them.

Of course, one of the prerequisites of a cold snowy day is hot chocolate. I had to step away from the laptop again for a few minutes to make hot chocolate. Once they had the hot chocolate, they occupied the other two bar stools at the island I was sitting at and began busily arguing over nothing and everything. As I quietly eavesdropped on their conversation, any previous thoughts left my mind and were now replaced by nothing and everything.

Just as I was going to write about their conversation, my husband stopped by the island to let me know he plans to make dinner tonight. He came to ask me if there is something specific I would like. After a ten minute conversation with him and deciding on dinner, I thought I would write a few kind statements about him as a continuation of this post. Instead, I jumped on Facebook to check in on my friends and their snow day shenanigans. And here I am wondering between writing about aforementioned kindness or about the fact that my seriously dedicated athletic friends decided to run the 5K despite the snow. And I just cannot decide.

So, I think it is time I acknowledged that this post maybe going nowhere. A kitchen is the center of a home and choosing to write at the center island of the center of a home may not be one of my better ideas. But I am so grateful that I have such a warm and cozy home, a kitchen I love and a loving family that I can call mine. Writing deep thoughts and using a comma and/or a semicolon will just have to wait for another day!

Before I sign off though, I would like to announce my 30 day challenge. I am challenging myself to not bite my nails for 30 days. Trust me, that is a HUGE challenge for me. My challenge starts tomorrow, 12/15/2013. I will report back on how I did on 01/16/2014.

Until next time,

Radhika.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2013 in Life size Bytes

 

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Fact or Fiction?

ImageAs I have sat at home and battled the flu bug today, I have had some time to dwell on the book I want to be working on. It has been quite a feat considering how foggy my brain has been the past couple days. One idea I have tossed around in my head for a while now, is about making a realistic fiction book out of my workplace experiences.

Between my hacking and coughing, I started laying out the foundation for my book this afternoon. The most interesting place I have worked at, at least from a book perspective, has to be the first company I joined here in the Unites States back in 2000. It was actually my first workplace ever. As an inexperienced beginner, with stars in my eyes, I started there with great enthusiasm, as is expected of any fresh college graduate, I am sure.

I wonder sometimes, if maybe, we should start with a little less enthusiasm when we have just started and then increase the enthusiasm by 2% every year. Maybe that would make for more productive, happier workers and thus more productive workplaces? But, I digress.

Getting back to my first company, it really was a great experience in many ways. So many changes occurred in the company and thus to me in the almost three years I was there. I am sure there were times when I was working there, I questioned myself if perhaps I should have chosen the other company that had made me an offer at the same time this one had. Maybe I should have. Or maybe I ended up where I was meant to be.  I will never know.  But what I do know is that those three years set up the foundation for the fighter in me to rise and fight for my dreams. And by fighting, I mean that I learned to believe in myself more. It definitely prepared me for being a consultant at Company #2.

The book I am working on will obviously be a highly fictionalized version of what actually happened. I mean, how else am I going to sell my book? Page after page cannot simply be “and then they all worked hard and went back to their respective homes”.

As I was listing out the cast of characters of  the book earlier today based on the people I worked with at that company and I had to chuckle. A real cast of characters we were. I could actually set my book in the 1950s or 60s because who will believe me when I say that people used to smoke in the office and stop by your cube and take their smoke break as they chatted with you?

Looking back, the one regret I have is that I did not keep a journal. If I had made notes of everything that had happened on a day-to-day basis, I would have had my story. I would just have to change it up a bit, add an event or two make the story more interesting and then my book would be ready. Now I have to entirely rely on my memory and my imagination.

Speaking of journals, last December I found the Irish author Patrick Taylor and his Irish Country Doctor series. I fell in love with this series. I read the books and then listened to them on audio books. It is series of books which tell a simple story about a doctor practicing in rural Ireland. These books were based on Taylor’s own journals of when he was just starting off as a doctor in Ireland. His books and that of Maeve Binchy have made me fall in love Ireland. The Ireland they write stories about, anyway! I want to go there soon. I hope you are reading this, honey!

After discovering the source of Taylor’s books, I talked to my kids about the importance of keeping a journal. I hope they were paying attention. No experience is insignificant. Every little piece comes together to form the whole puzzle that we call our lives. And journals can be great way to reflect on our lives and maybe share the stories down the road.

All this talk of journals actually makes me think that maybe I should keep a journal and writing in it every day for 30 days as my self-improvement challenge. What better way to motivate my kids than to be the example they can follow!?

While I decide what my 30 day challenge is, I will continue working on my book furiously. It is funny to look back and see myself and others through my mind’s eye. And who knows if it all really happened that way, anyway? After all, it is just my version of things. My version of things based on walking down memory lane today while doped up on TheraFlu and NyQuil, at that. But it sure makes a great story though!

Until next time,

Radhika

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2013 in Life size Bytes

 

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Thirty Days.

ImageA friend of mine, Max, recently started posting his Origami animal creations on Facebook. One animal per day. I noticed that he had started doing this during November. I was intrigued. So after liking about six of his daily origami animal posts, I broke down and asked him “Is November a ‘create an origami animal a day’ month?”, via FB. Once I posted the comment, I wondered to myself if it was like the ‘picture a day’ challenge that people seem to do. My next thought was “maybe I could join the origami animal challenge in December!?

Of course that was the first thought that occurred to me! It is what I do. I see the various hobbies of my friends and I immediately want to do them all and almost all at the same time. My husband calls it my ‘phases’. And I cannot argue with him.

When Max responded to my comment he let me know that creating the Origami animals was a personal challenge he had taken up just to see if he would stick with it for thirty days. He then went one step further and shared the link to the Ted talk which had inspired him. In the video, Matt Cutts talks about how each one of us should go ahead and try for thirty days what we have always wanted to do. Maybe take a picture a day for thirty days. Maybe ride a bike to work for 30 days. Want to be an author? Maybe write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.

It sounds simple enough but I am sure it will be a challenge to follow through for thirty days, especially for someone like me who will find thirty different things I would like to do in those thirty days. So I started thinking about what is that one challenge I was likely to follow through on. It is currently a toss-up between writing, meeting my 10K steps goals every day or taking a picture a day. Maybe learning to measure as I cook? Maybe go totally out of comfort zone and learn sewing?

Part of my problem with not sticking to things is that I do not pace myself. I burn myself out quickly by overdoing it. So whatever challenge I take on, my first step will need to be to pace myself. And pacing myself may mean waiting until January to pick the one challenge I want to take on.

I have recently started running/walking again with the goal of wanting to run a half marathon in a year or so. Seeing my piqued interest, my supportive husband bought me good (really good) running shoes three nights ago. In order to break in the shoes, I have taken two 5 miles walks (with some running included) along the Katy trail in the past two days. Lucky for me, the weather has been cooperative in an otherwise chilly Fall. There is a voice inside me which kept telling me that 5 miles seemed excess for someone just starting out (again). But that voice was largely overshadowed by the other me, who was enjoying the sunshine, the light breeze, the amazing view and just being in the moment.

Maybe my thirty-day challenge should be to gradually let the voice that warns me to pace myself grow stronger. Let it become strong enough to be the perfect balance to the voice that let’s me be in the moment. Maybe once the two voices are equal, is when I should take on a challenge?

I will keep you guys posted on what I decide. Have you done a 30 day challenge? What was the experience like for you? I will keep you guys posted on what I decide to take on as a challenge and I will keep you posted on my progress as well.

Until next time,

Radhika

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Life size Bytes

 

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Back to the drawing board.

I took a temporary break from blogging a few months ago. The break was my time to finish up the Browny book and make good headway on the Skyla Boneigh books. Alas! It wasn’t to be. I have spent the time instead on reading books. LOTS of them.

It started out with me wanting to turn Browny’s story into a full book. I found that I was having a hard time adding detail to the story outline. What seemed like a good idea for a story detail in my head, turned out to not be so once I put it down on paper. Once or twice I found myself going, “Who wrote this nonsense?” before realizing, the who in question was me. I decided to read books, blogs and have lengthy conversations with my sons to learn about how to write a story. Communication Arts are emphasized in American education and my sons are able to teach me a lot on that front.

But it was the reading of the books which was my undoing. You see, I have always been a reader. I LOVE books. I can devour books. But between birthing kids, raising them, work and life I let reading take a back seat. Notice how I don’t mention husband as being one of the reasons for letting reading slip my list of to-dos. That is because he has never let his reading slip. He always makes time to read and write no matter what is going on. And he always encouraged me to read. He used to bring home books for me that he thought I might like to read when he went to the library. I never read those books. And he has the same amount, if not more, of things going on his life all this while as well. Oh well! Moving on.

It was last year that a teacher of my first son told me that he has a brilliant mind and a lot of potential but he may not reach his true potential if reading books is not something he enjoys. I tried the “I am your mom and I order you read” routine for a while but had very little success with it. So I decided to lead by example instead. I started going to the library a whole lot more, taking him along, borrowing books, reading them and discussing books he has read with him. That seemed to have done the trick! He is a voracious reader now. But alas! my addiction was back full force.

I was slowly ignoring writing. I initially masked my addiction with “reading will help me learn how other authors add detail”. But when my addiction was at its worse I would pull all nighters to read a book. I forgot about the art of writing and was more worried about who committed the murder. This past week, I was reading one of short stories written by my son and it finally hit home! While I was impressed with how he took a simple idea and made a story out of it, it also made me realize I truly missed writing.

Hopefully, I have now come a full circle and find a happy medium between reading and writing. Reading enriches the mind but writing helps one express their thoughts and ideas. I want to do both. I want to finish up writing my books. I will also share with you all through my writing some of the amazing authors I have read recently.

How have you all been? Read any good book lately? Do share.

-Radhika.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Dinner

 

About nothing in particular.

This post is about nothing at all. Ok, that isn’t true! It is about writing, something or anything or everything. My goal is to write on most nights if not every night. Past two nights I have had nothing to write about. Again, not exactly true. Last night as I was making dinner (savory polenta with veggies), I had an idea for a lengthy post on the hominess of polenta even though I had never eaten polenta till about 6 months ago and even then last night was only my second time. Seems confusing doesn’t it!? Let me explain a little.
Polenta made the way I make it tastes just like upma, a South Indian dish. You see, you can take a girl out of South India but you can’t take South India out of her! Upma to my family and I, falls into the category of homey comfort food. It is not “comfort” as in stick to the ribs, but just something that means simple, tasty and comforting. Upma is made from semolina which somewhat looks and feels like polenta. So I see polenta and end up making upma from it.
My post last night was going to explain all this and more but by the time it came to write, the polenta had filled my belly and because it tasted like upma (almost!) and looked like upma, it warmed my heart and any thoughts I had for writing the post left my mind and instead I slept like a baby. That is what upma does to me.
I must have upma hangover today cause I could not string together thoughts for a post tonight either. But then I forced myself to sit at the computer and just write. I am glad I did! I could not even come up with a title for the post. Browny is no closer to finding a home, and Skyla is still waiting to solve her first crime, but at least I practiced writing tonight.
Starting this month we have decided to create a monthly newsletter with articles and updates from the four of us. We sent it to family and a few friends. The January newsletter was a big hit. Now we have no clue how to fill in the pages of the February newsletter. Bligh!! Darn writer’s block! Each of us is hoping that the other will involve themselves in scandalous behavior so that we can fill the pages of our newsletter.
But tonight’s post, this post and as much as I have been able to write towards it, is now giving me hope. Maybe it is a matter of just starting the newsletter and soon we will have to stop ourselves from making it a February news novel.
Tomorrow we plan to go watch eagles. Hopefully we get to take some good pictures. I hope that writing and taking pictures and constant practice of both will get us to be good enough to get us to where we have a body of works to show for it that we can be really proud of!
Here’s to keeping at it!

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Dinner, Life size Bytes

 

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A simple curry.

I cook dinner almost every week night and at least one day of the weekend or both. The exceptions to the rules are if work commitments prevent me from making dinner or we have been invited to dinner at a friend’s or we decide to eat out or I am sick. And sometimes sheer laziness will cause me to serve PBJ sandwiches for dinner. But overall, we mostly eat a home cooked meal for dinner.
I am not at all a planner. My weekly meal planning involves my husband asking me what I will be needing for the week night dinners, as he heads out to the grocery store on Sunday and I always reply “Mmm..blllg..djdjd..”. Over the years he has learned to translate that to “whatever you find interesting at the store”. So I end up with whatever he has picked up on a given Sunday.
Strangely, it is a system that works great for us! Sometimes I am keenly aware of what my husband has picked up. During such a week as I drive home from work I think of ways to put together edible meals for my family. Other times I have no idea what is in my fridge. Such an evening involves me opening the fridge and pantry and coming up with some edible. To add to this my husband and sons are very vocal critics of my food and I always feel like I am on “Chopped”. It is actually a very fun process. I highly recommend it to everyone.
My sons categorize my dinners into “special” dinners which generally means non-Indian food or non staple(in our house) Indian food and “simple” meals, which are my fall back Indian meals. For the past few days I had been making “special” meals but today I decided to fall back on a “simple” meal of fish and potato curry served over rice. They thoroughly enjoyed it, probably even more than any other meal this week. This just goes to show is nothing like simple, comforting food to bring a smile to one’s face.
This just like in life. It is always the simple things in life that bring us the most joy and comfort. The smile on their faces of a having enjoyed a satisfying meal is my greatest reward.
Here’s to a simple curry and a blessed life!

Simple curry recipe (made with ingredients on hand, no measurements and a lot of love):
Olive Oil
Onion
dried red chillies
jeera
turmeric
cloves
Indian Cinnamon
1 large tomato
fresh ginger (half-inch)
Tilapia filets cut into cubes
Cooked potato cubes (I had some leftover from Saturday)
Bay leaf
Salt to taste

In Olive oil, fry the first nine ingredients till the onion is translucent. Let cool for a bit. Grind into a fine paste adding water a necessary. Do not add too much water.
Add some olive oil into the pan along with the bay leaf. Once the bay leaf is slightly toasted add the ground paste prepared above.
Let cook for 5-10 minutes. Then add in the salt. Mix well.
Finally add in the fish and potatoes. Lower the heat and let cook till fish is thoroughly cooked.

Serve over white rice.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Dinner, Life size Bytes

 

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