New Year Resolutions for Families

A New Year means a fresh start. Come January and everything seems new somehow, at least that’s how I look at it. Talking about resolutions, they are something I try to make (and keep) every year without fail, notwithstanding the fact that it’s barely February and I realize that yet again, I have failed miserably at it. The longest I’ve ever managed to stick to a resolution is just over four months; two years ago, I decided to turn vegan and vehemently stuck to the resolution till after April. I consider that an achievement of sorts. :P

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New Year’s Day” by Snufkin is licensed under CC by 2.0

So this year around, we tried something different. Instead of keeping individual resolutions, we decided to zero in on three resolutions that we would keep together as a family. This way, if one or more of us begins to lose our way, the others will be there to hopefully help them back on to the right path. After much brainstorming on New Year Eve, here are the three resolutions on all our cards this 2017.

Unplugging – The new luxury

Post-dinner, it’s gadget-free time for the entire family (including the better half and me). It has always been an unsaid rule at our place that mealtimes are to be tech-free times – no mobile phones, no tablets, no television too. We’ve decided to take this a step further and do all our gadget/electronic work/play pre dinner time. Be it my writing on the computer, the daughter’s favorite virtual games, the son’s doodling on paint or their daddy’s never-ending e-mails and work meetings, all need to be over and done with once dinner is on the table. We might end up playing a board game, or reading an actual, physical book or even just narrating stories to one another. It will definitely be time well spent.

Kitchen – The heart of the home

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Food” by painteddreamsdesigns is licensed under CC by 2.0

Long ago, I once came across a quote that has somehow stayed with me till date; it said – ‘A kitchen is a place where memories are homemade and seasoned with love.’ Back in my childhood, I remember helping my mum bake cookies during holidays, but that’s about it. We never really whipped up an entire meal together as a family. However, better late than never; we’ve decided to change that. Every weekend, all four of us will decide on the menu for the day together, and prepare an entire meal from scratch. With everyone pitching in (read: the kids), it’s bound to be a messy affair. But, that’s (hopefully) the fun of it!

Gardening – Happily digging in the dirt

We have a small pocket square kitchen garden at the back of our house. This New Year we’ve driven in small signposts in each corner, with one corner designated to one member of the family. I love nasturtiums so obviously they are the first on my check-list of things to grow, while the little ones have their heart set on sunflowers since those flowers are ‘the brightest and the best’  (in my son’s words). Daddy dearest doesn’t remotely have any idea what plant or vegetable or flower will occupy pride of place in his corner, so he’s decided to set up a bird feeder as a beginning. Well, as long as we’re all happily occupied in making our corner the most beautiful, it’s going to be a resolution well kept! Also, here are a couple of interesting kids’ gardening project ideas for a start.

What do you think of our new initiative? Here’s hoping we stick to our unique New Year resolutions for a long, long time!

Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

Come December and you start to think about resolutions. Exercise regularly and lose weight or drink more water during the day, early to bed and early to rise or quit smoking, less television or more reading (or both simultaneously), learning a new language and so many more – we’ve all been there, done that. Made resolutions, kept them, broken them, all the works.

This year, I’m having none of that. None of that in the sense that yes, I definitely would aim to start the New Year afresh and try to lead a healthier lifestyle as compared to the year gone by. But then, my resolution would be different – to be happier. I am very happy now, no doubt – a wonderful family, great work and nothing more that I could ask for. But just to make myself happier and more thankful for all that God has bestowed upon me, here is what I’m going to do this coming year.

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Box” by Tabeajaichhalt is licensed under CC by 2.0

‘This January, why not start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen? Then, on New Year’s Eve, empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year.’

I came across this idea yesterday and was so taken in by it that I decided to try it out. Starting January 1, every weekend I am going to put a little handwritten note into the jar, mentioning something good that happened through the week gone by. And exactly one year from now, I’ll open that jar… and share the best of the lot with you all. Till then, Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

3 Inexpensive Stocking Filler Ideas for Kids this Christmas

‘Christmas is a stocking stuffed with sugary goodness.’

Or used to be once upon a time, to be more precise. When we woke up on Christmas mornings as kids, I remember the loudest squeals of delight being reserved for the cylindrical sticks of striped sweet rock candy curved like walking sticks, which were poking out from the tops of our heavily laden stockings. But today’s kids? Pop in a candy cane into their Christmas stocking and they’ll be ripping it out in a jiffy, more eager to see the heavy stuff underneath. Sigh! Talk about the smallest pleasures in life being the sweetest!

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Christmas” by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC by 2.0

Well, let’s come back to the present. Xmas is right upon us and you would have probably already thought up of gifts that your little ones are looking forward to (thanks to being privy to the ‘sealed’ letters to Santa Claus). Apart from these expected gifts which will occupy pride of place beneath the Christmas tree, here are a couple of fun yet inexpensive ideas for the stockings hung up by the chimney. After all, the Christmas stocking legend continues to live on!

Keychain – with a key

Something as simple as a keychain can be a great Christmas stocking present for your child – provided it has a key dangling at the key ring end of it! The key could be that of your child’s desk shelf, or that of a drawer in the cupboard, or even of his or her own room (of course, you will need to keep a duplicate key with yourself in this case). While the keychain could be your little one’s favorite cartoon – be it Mickey Mouse, Pokemon, Minions or even Batman, the fact that the child is responsible enough to own a key would be a big deal for him or her. In no time, you’ll see them flaunting their gift in front of their friends, boasting about the prized possessions locked away from prying eyes!

Movie tickets for the family

This is something my kids have come to expect every year in their stockings. They know that somewhere in its deep recesses there will be tickets for the whole family for a show everyone has been looking forward to since a while. The son is a fan of Charlie Brown, so last year it was The Peanuts Movie; before that it was my daughter’s love for her favorite dragon games which led us to watch the second part of How to Train Your Dragon. This year it’s probably going to be Disney’s Moana which we’ll all be heading to. Makes for a fun family outing on the occasion.

Fairy lights for their room

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Magical” by AllSimpleThings is licensed under CC by 2.0

Agreed, the Christmas tree is done up with fairy lights, and a real fairy with wings plus a wand adorning the top. But then, won’t your kids be super excited at the prospect of hanging a string of twinkling, colorful fairy lights against the curtains in their room, or on top of the frame of their bed? It’ll make Christmas all the more special for them! What’s more, a variety of LED fairy lights are available today which are perfectly safe with even the bulbs not heating up when lighted. Needless to say, when night falls, you will probably have no trouble at all tucking them into bed, with the star-like glow to keep them company!

May this Yuletide spirit bring an abundance of cheer in your lives… Merry Christmas!

The ‘Little Women’ in Us

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Image courtesy: QuotesGram

The oldest and most conventional March sister, Meg, who is always on the lookout to please the people around her with her good behavior. The headstrong and independent Jo, rebellious at heart and the most outspoken member of her family. Next comes Beth, the bashful and quiet girl, who unfortunately loses her life along the way. Then there’s Amy, the youngest sister who is akin to a perfect lady of sorts and has a mind of her own. And, of course, Mrs. March, without whom the whole family is incomplete.

Today, November 29, happens to be the American novelist Louisa May Alcott’s 184th birthday, the author who penned down the one novel which I have held close to my heart all these years – Little Women. This masterpiece took the author a mere ten weeks to write, and the words in it ring true till date. While Louisa herself was quite like the character Jo in the book, the other three sisters were characterized on her own real sisters. A great number of Broadway plays, ballets, operas, musicals, TV series and seven different movies – these are some of the ways Louisa’s outstanding work took wings in later years.

Why do I love the story so much? Because these lines from the book continue to stay with me even now:

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”

“Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

And last but not the least, this one:

“Let us be elegant or die!”

Here’s hoping that the Little Women in us continue to live on for eons to come!

How to Go Crafty this Thanksgiving

I like to call ours a crafty family of sorts. I won’t say we’re particularly good at it, but we try getting all messy and coming up with handmade crafts and painted stuff to put around the rooms whenever we get the chance. What with Thanksgiving right around the corner, it won’t be very difficult dragging the kids away from their favorite cartoon shows and dragon games in order to do up the house or bake some goodies for the occasion. Since the past few days, I have been on the lookout for fun crafts the kids could enjoy their hands at during the holidays. Here are a couple of ideas I came across which seem ideal for the festive season.

Hand-print Turkey Leaf Mats

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Image courtesy: Parenting

As a kid, I remember drawing the outlines of our hands on a large piece of cardboard, filling in color with crayons and marking an eye and a beak on the thumb part of the drawing to make a turkey which could be hung anywhere around the house. Don’t they say ‘old is gold’? This one is a tried-and-tested idea which can never go wrong. Let’s tweak it a little to make it more exciting. Ask your child to carry out the above procedure and then cut out the ‘turkey’, leaving around 2 inches empty space all along the borders. Now, use some big leaves pressed and preserved between the pages of a book to glue them around the edges of your turkey, just leaving the thumb part (where the head is supposed to be) to denote the feathers. If you don’t have preserved leaves, pluck some today and store them away in an old notebook – Thanksgiving is still a couple of days away!

This way, you can get ready some bright and colorful Turkey table mats for the much-awaited Thanksgiving feast.

Edible Fruit Turkey

Cut out a piece of cardboard the size of a bookmark and make two corners on one side of it curved around the edges using a pair of scissors. Stick on or draw eyes and a beak at the curved edges end.  Now take an apple or a pumpkin and cut about half an inch from the bottom. Now place the cut part upside down as a stand and prop the fruit on top of it. Add about 6-8 toothpicks (depending on the size of the fruit) at the back of it like the hands of a clock from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock. Add another toothpick at the front to pierce in the cardboard face. Add orange slices on each of the toothpicks in the clock positions and, lo and behold, you have a perfectly healthy, edible turkey sitting expectantly on your dining table!

Here are some more food craft ideas which are pretty easy to whip up.

Hand-painted Pine Cones

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Pine Cones” by bergblau is licensed under CC by 2.0

Young kids love nothing better than getting paint all over their fingers and toes, hair and clothes. My rule at home is: Get yourself as dirty as you want to, provided you do it outside the house. Hand painting pine cones is something which falls precisely in that category of activities which are allowed only outdoors. This can be done with both closed as well as open pine cones. As a first step, use an old toothbrush with hard bristles to remove any dust or dirt settled on the surface of the cones. Hand your kids an angled paint brush each and let them choose their favorite shade of acrylic color to paint the pine-cones. The cones that are slightly open would look better on your mantelpiece if only the tips of their scales are colored a particular shade. This is something which can stay on as a decorative accessory for many, many years to come.

If you can lay your hands on some pine cones, well and good; however, if there aren’t any pine cones in your area, most of the art and craft stores do sell them.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween Safety Tips for Kids

Halloween is fun alright, but amidst all the noise and excitement, one must remember to teach their kids how to keep safe while trick-or-treating, even if, say, it’s just in the near neighborhood. Tips for the same have been in the news lately and hence I decided to share some of the points which seemed very valid to me as a parent, here.

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Cat” by GraphicMama-team is licensed under CC by 2.0

Children should be taught to:

  • Cross over from one street to another only at corners.
  • Note the traffic signals before crossing a road at a crosswalk.
  • Be careful of parked cars suddenly backing out of driveways without notice.
  • Stick to the pre-planned route for trick-or-treating so that the parents are constantly in the know of their whereabouts.
  • Always be in a group of friends or people they know well.

Meanwhile, it’s the responsibility of us parents to make sure that:

  • The kids, if very young, are able to recollect the contact number and address of their parents in case they get lost.
  • Not talk to absolute strangers or follow their instructions, howsoever friendly or trivial they may seem.
  • Their costumes are fire-proof and preferably not flowing so that they don’t get stuck on objects along the way.

Keeping these things in mind, you can be rest assured and eat, drink as well as be as scary as you wish!

3 Fun Ways to Have an Eco-Friendly Halloween

Halloween has a ‘spooktacular’ history of its own. As legend has it, when a drunken farmer called Stingy Jack was turned away from both heaven and hell, he carved out a turnip to make a lantern out of it and find his way in the darkness; hence jack-o’-lanterns came into being. Then there was a myth among the Celtics that if one dressed up as a ghost, all evil spirits would be fooled into thinking the person was one of their own and would not take away their souls. Sinister yet fascinating tales, eh?

The excitement levels of the kids here at home know no bounds when Halloween is around the corner. They will eagerly give up their favorite virtual games to plan their costumes down to the last intricate detail (including the last streak of face paint!) and sometimes even forget to have their meals on time (if not reminded) in the entire planning melee with their neighborhood pals!

This year, I decided we should try and be more environment-friendly while planning the Halloween stuff, from the costumes to the decorations and everything else. Just a bit of extra effort on our part, that’s what it takes. Also, it’s all the more fun when you do things together as a family instead of buying stuff off the shelf.

Here are a couple of fun ways to have an eco-friendly Halloween this time.

Halloween Costumes

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Trick Or Treat” by Clker-Free-Vector-Images is licensed under CC by 2.0

 Scary, scary Halloween night…

Dress up in a costume and make sure it can fright!

Getting Halloween costumes ready every year wins hands down as the most entertaining and fun part of the occasion. It all boils down to how creative you can get – the possibilities are endless, especially when it comes to designing your own Halloween outfits instead of picking up a readymade one to be worn just once and discarded. Ghosts are an all-time favorite of kids and there are so many homemade costumes that can turn you into a terrifying one! Short on time? Go for an old bedsheet or a sack too big for you with holes cut out for hands and a cardboard headgear or mask with snake-like slits for eyes. Wish to be a groaning mummy? A dozen rolls of toilet paper to wrap you up will give you that eerie look. Thinking out-of-the-box and want to be a wicked angel with wings? Old wire hangers bent into the shape of wings can be attached to your back for added effect. And don’t forget the broomstick if you’re planning to dress up as a witch!

Halloween Food

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Sweet” by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC by 2.0

 Trick or Treat…

Give me something good to eat!

Say the word Halloween aloud and the first image to pop up in most of our minds would be – a spooky old jack-o’-lantern grinning away to glory. When we scoop out the fillings of a pumpkin in preparation for carving it, why unnecessarily throw away the seeds to end up in the dustbin? Roasted pumpkin seeds are nothing short of a delicacy; what’s more, they involve practically no cooking whatsoever. Simply preheat your oven to about 150-170 degrees C, mix the pumpkin seeds in a bowl with salt and a tablespoon of butter and bake till it turns deliciously golden brown. Carved a pumpkin or two too deep to make a perfect jack-o’-lantern? Turn it into a simple pumpkin pie – you just need milk, eggs and sugar to bake it like any other pie. Halloween flavors at their finest!

Halloween Decorations

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Pumpkin” by typopets is licensed under CC by 2.0

 Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen…

Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!”

Using natural, biodegradable items to do up your house will in no way make your home appear any lesser scary-looking than if you had used readymade plastic decorations from the neighborhood store.  Old cardboard egg cartons can come in handy – cut out 3 egg cups from the discarded carton, put them upside down, make zig-zag cuts in the bottoms of the two side cups and once you’ve painted them black, you just need to stick on the eyes to have a scary bat staring up at you! Watch this simple tutorial to have a better idea of how to go about it.

Old see-through containers, glass jars lying around as junk or unused mason jars can be a big hit too. Almost all kids have small animal specimens to play around with. All you’ve got to do is pop, say, a grasshopper or a lizard specimen into a jar and fill it up with colored water (use food coloring for the purpose). Broken eyeballs off an old teddy bear or a limb from a worn-out doll or two should be spooky enough too.

Also, scarecrows aren’t just meant to scare birds away from a field where crops are growing, are they? Go dig out clothes from the basement which everyone in the family has outgrown or will never wear (even dirty old ones with gaping holes and blotches on them would do) and get to work tying together bundles of hay to make the arms and legs of a scarecrow. Prop it up on a chair in your front porch, with a glowing jack-o’-lantern as a head and a straw cap on it and voila! No points for guessing whose porch would be the most ghostly of all once night sets in!

Have a good Halloween, folks!