Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hatke Diwali With iDiwali - Your Learning Capsules - Review

Couple of days back, received one-of-a-kind kid's activity book in the mail, right in time for Diwali. It's called iDiwali and is by Vitamin Simple Unbox - Your Learning Capsules by Kajal Dharod. They're just newly into making activity books for kids aged 3-9, with the aim of educating kids and keeping them busy without the use of gadgets.

The cover design is smartly shaped like a smartphone/tab, probably to make the kids interested in opening the book. There are a series of activities ranging from stickers, colouring, etc in the order of Lord Ram's story. We all generally celebrate Diwali by eating sweets, bursting crackers, wearing new clothes and visiting relatives. But hardly do we ourselves remember and teach our kids the real essence of Diwali and story behind the festival of lights.

In-fact this activity book goes beyond telling just the story of Raavan's defeat and Lord Ram's winning, it starts from the very beginning when King Dashrath had 4 sons and goes on till Diwali celebration.

What I really loved about the book is that it is simple, engaging and a really great way to teach kids about our mythology. Imagine if this is how we could teach them history or geometry, they will actually enjoy learning.

The book captures the essence of Diwali really well, and is a great gift to your kids, niece/nephew etc. Specially in Mumbai the weather is so gloomy, it's raining and the kiddo is hence grounded at home - atleast he can enjoy the book! I also appreciate the small details like how there are extra stickers for every activity since kids could always make mistakes - so there won't be disappointments.
There are also extra activities like greeting cards, lantern, bow and arrow - which are great for some parent-kiddo bonding time!


You can purchase the book online, it's available at Rs.299 only! I am really glad that this is created by another mom, and a very much 'Made In India' product.

About the product - 

This Diwali, gift your 3-9 year old kids an enriching Diwali story experience with this new concept of an interactive story book. 10 chapters - Diwali interactive hands on story telling and eight Diwali experience activities - all packaged into one engaging book.

Engage with hands on activities - cutouts, stickers, coloring, flap cards and more...

PAYTM Rs 299 and your full name + contact number to 9819903276 and order today !

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fossil Hybrid Women’s Watch – Review

When I saw ads of the newly launched Fossil Q Hybrid series back in May-June, I loved the whole concept of a watch that looks like the good old analog but has features of the new-age smart watch. I told my husband jokingly to gift me this watch. Little did I know he’d actually do it! I mean it’s kind of expensive at Rs.13k something and I wasn’t celebrating any milestone birthday or anything.

He ordered it on Amazon and it was delivered a couple of days before d-day. The bracelet was a li’l too loose for me, and I found it difficult to get that fixed because I did not want to go to any random watch guy as I was scared the warranty will be void and the Fossil store closest to me didn’t have services after 6pm and I don’t leave work as soon.

Finally after my birthday, I went during my lunch break and got the bracelet adjusted to my size so that I could start wearing it. A lot of people have seen it and asked me if it’s worth buying, how it works as a smart watch when it looks so normal…so I decided to do a review on the blog.

1.  Aesthetics

Goes so well with my clutch-diary for meetings!

The watch is a gorgeous rose gold shade with a diamond studded round dial and diamond studded roman numbers inside. The bracelet already has scratches due to normal wear and tear like when I rest my hand while typing or writing, but that’s normal. The watch weights a lot more than a normal analog Fossil watch, due to the hidden mechanism to make it a smart watch. It will feel heavy on day 1 and then you get used to it.

2. Setting it up

Setting it up is easy, especially if you’ve used other smart watches. You need to first install the Fossil Q app on your smartphone and then pair the watch using Bluetooth. You can then set-up and customize as per your needs. The only flaw here for me was the sync time, it’s too slow…it can take minutes to sync or update changes. And what happens is that the phone sleeps before that, and on waking you need to start the sync again – so basically you need to keep the screen awake anyhow till the sync is done.

3.  Key features

The hybrid has 3 buttons which you can customize and set-up according to your preference. You can use these buttons to control music, click a picture, show the date, track goals and more. I use the camera, music and date features. You can also turn on notifications for calls, apps etc which basically make the watch vibrate. The more notifications you turn on, the more battery is consumed. I don’t like to be bothered by constant watch notifications, so I have it on only for calls, coz my phone is mostly on silent mode and I used to end up missing a lot of calls. (In the picture above we took this pic by keeping the camera and clicking a pic using the watch button).

What makes it special and why I love it –

Once you set a fitness goal, for instance 10k steps a day, and you meet the goal – it will vibrate thrice to inform you that you met your goal – it feels great to know that. I wish though they also had a notification when you have not met goals, to encourage you to push yourself. They also have a sleep tracker to tell you how much you slept, but I don’t use that because I remove the watch before sleeping. The most amazing thing though is unlike other smartwatches or fitness bands, you DO NOT have to charge this one daily/weekly/frequently. 

The battery lasts upto 1 year (depending upon your usage) and then you can visit your nearest store for a battery replacement, I am not sure if that is a free or chargeable service. After using it for 3 months my watch battery is at 70% (Indicated on my iPhone), so I am assuming it will last for 7 months more meaning 10 months in total. Also, it is water resistant (yes you can swim with it on) and you can also ring your phone to find where it is (for the endless times we don’t remember where we have kept it). It also has interchangeable strap facility, which I have not used yet as well.

Note – This is not a sponsored/paid review.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to prep for the festive season - Parenting Tips for Toddlers

This year’s festivities have begun on a special note for our family. The kiddo, now a toddler has started understanding more and hence enjoys the festivals. Starting with Janmashtami where he became a Krishna and went to school and followed by Ganesh Chaturthi where he had Ganpati Bappa at home for 11 days and kiddo thoroughly enjoys shouting ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ and singing along during aarti time. We also took him to see the visarjan and his curiosity was only at it’s peak.

Since it's the festive season I thought I should share some pointers and child care tips on how to prep yourself (as a mom) and your kiddo!

1. Educate them in their language -

He asked my to draw Ganpati Bappa... 
They still don’t understand the concept of God. Mine will see any elephant photo and say this is Ganpati Bappa. We should explain the festival to them nicely in a way they understand. For eg. Tell them there are 9 goddesses we celebrate during Navratri (and also teach them to respect girls), or tell them how good always wins the fight against evil hence Dussehra is celebrated (and they should always be good and do the right thing) or celebrate Diwali by giving to the needy and poor also, apart from buying stuff for self.

2. Decking up –
Garba time!
We love seeing our kids in adorable Krishna costumes or Garba costumes or ethnic wear, plenty of options are available online or offline. Or you can rent a costume. I purchased some comfortable cotton/cotton silk kurtas from Fab India and usually rent costumes because you use them only once. But don’t force them to wear it completely, mine didn’t want to wear the mukut and all necklaces, wrist bands etc. I let him wear whatever was comfortable. The day you need to get them ready, before that in advance show them the costume and prepare them mentally that they have to wear it to school/home. Give them positive reinforcement if they cooperate and wear the costume the way you want.:) Being a mom, I prefer wearing light-weight, comfortable sarees/anarkalis myself with minimum work so that it’s not an hassle to run around the kiddo while dressed up.

3. Healthy is happy –
Long weekend spent well!
Imagine festival time with a sick kid! Any mom’s worst nightmare, you’ll probably not be in a celebratory mood anymore. Hence all precautions should be taken, give them plenty of fluids (use boiled water), use mosquito repellents by Good knight. I use 4 dots of Good knight Fabric Roll-On for outdoors protection from mosquitoes, since its 100% natural. 

While indoors, I make sure I switch on the Good knight Activ+ & keep my house and neighborhood clean with no stagnant water. If you see any dengue symptoms, take your li’l one or other family members to the doctor immediately, there are also many other airborne diseases that the kids could catch at school or while playing – so it’s a must to build their immunity by giving a healthy diet and supplements (if required).

4. Safety first –
Ganpati Bappa Morya!
Festivals means firecrackers, diyas, fairy lights, candles, etc. Be very careful with these things around the kids as they may want to play with them in your absence. Specially around inquisitive toddlers. Keep them away from kid’s reach and explain to them how they can get burnt if not careful. If going to crowded places, always hold your child’s hand or carry them in a baby carrier so that they’re not lost in the crowd, and keep your contact details in their pocket/bag.

5. Enjoy this time –

Obviously, enjoy these precious moments with your li’l one and family – whether it is playing dandiya/garba together, or getting together for a family selfie or enjoying good food and fire-crackers. Make the most of the holidays, keep work at bay and make such amazing memories and capture them on your camera to see in the coming years! Happy festive season to all, do comment with your tips too!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A balanced diet goes a long way!

When it comes to our kids, we as parents, become over-protective. And it’s only justified for us to be that way, considering all the news, articles, google searches that make us paranoid. We keep a vigil on whom they’re playing with, what are they seeing on the smartphone or TV, what they should eat or not eat, which school to send them in, what extra-curricular classes to put them in. The list goes on. But sometimes, I feel, to be honest, the world wide web only gives us an information overload. Pushing news or information to our minds which may not be completely true. Speaking of children’s nutrition for instance, you will come across tons of articles, videos or ads that recommend or are totally against something else.

Tried to make bear shaped rotis to make him eat.
My toddler is an extremely fussy eater. He will drink his milk, but when it comes to solid food – he will say no to fruits and vegetables – which causes me to be stressed out 24/7. I do give him supplements in his milk so that he’s not completely missing out on the important nutrients. He is also quite thin; lean is the word, actually. So, being a worried mom, and being provoked by people at home, every time there is a doctor’s visit I ask the same question – "How do I make my kid gain weight?" And the doctor gives me the same reply every time – why would you want that? There are so many complications with obesity in children. As long as your child is active and picking up milestones age-appropriate, being thin or lean is no problem at all. And as far as fruits and vegetable intake is concerned, we need to try and try till we succeed, but not force them too much which would only make them more averse towards them.

He loves his cupcakes!
I am a real mom. I am a working mom. I’ll be honest, I do not have the time or energy to make 100 kinds of khichdi’s or fancy recipes for the kiddo nor do I have the privilege of hiring a full-time cook/help that would make ten different things for the kiddo to try, and most probably throw or go waste. So, I let him eat whatever he feels like, as long as there is a balance being followed. I feel he atleast is eating something – whether it’s biscuits, breads, khakhra, chakli, mathri, rice flakes, popcorn, Maggi, chocolate or cheese slice (most of his liked things).

Maggi time! (We share a portion)
No single food item is healthy or unhealthy. A balanced diet, moderation and an active lifestyle is the only way to ensure good health. A balanced diet should provide approximate 50-60% of total calories in a day from carbohydrates, about 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from fat. Lot of news articles have been circulating about how Maggi is unhealthy because it is fried before packing. I have been eating Maggi since I was a kid myself, and the kiddo likes it too, he obviously cannot have a lot as he has a small appetite; and I see no harm in him having it occasionally or me too, for that matter. I did a lil’ bit of research and got to know that –

MAGGI Noodles for instance, strikes a nutritional balance really well. The balance between Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat in MAGGI noodles is very similar to the recommendations made by Indian Council of Medical Research. This includes even the newly launched MAGGI Oat noodles provides energy in this recommended ratio –Energy from carbohydrates (56%), protein (10%) and fats (33%).
According to ICMR recommendation on Dietary Guidelines for Indians, the total fat in the diet should provide between 20-30% of total calories. The total fat intake in the diets can go up to 50g per person per day based on the level of physical activity and physiological status.

We're having a waffle cone here.
Maggi is made in a five-step process- it is steamed, baked, fried, dried and cooled. The frying process is important to retain a longer shelf life of the product as well as for its ability to get cooked in 2 minutes. There are a lot of debates similarly around other similar packaged food, I do think to myself that even the fruits and vegetables we get from our local market may not be healthy (paranoia again thanks to the videos seen of vegetables being injected artificially coloured). So then basically we should start growing them at home, right? Till then, eat everything in a balanced proportion. If your kid is having noodles or chocolate, make sure they’re also having greens or pulses. We’ve been brought up the same way, haven’t we? I don’t remember my parents being so fussy about what to make me eat and what not. 

Please note – If you kid is allergic to a particular ingredient then that’s a completely different story. You are the best judge to decide what’s good and what’s not for your li’l one. Try not to listen to each and every one out there, selective listening is the key.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My fav features of iOS11 !

The recently held Apple Event was most awaited by all apple geeks and fans, specially to see the announcement of the iPhone X. Though the phone looks awesome, is a beauty and well is a tribute to 10 years of iPhone and is claimed to be the revolution in's price (Rs.89,000 for 64GB and Rs.1,02,000 for the 256GB model) made my heart heavy and consider if it was worth selling both kidneys for a phone.

Anyways, I saw a couple of friends post on their social media pages that they're loving the updated iOS11 and I instantly downloaded and installed the update to see what the hype was all about. And my oh my am I impressed.
Let me give you a quick back-story. I bought my iPhone 6S in August 2016 (Yes, why did I not just wait a couple months and buy the 7 but my previous android broke, was shattered even after one round of screen replacements and hence I had to buy the phone). My 6S worked fine and smooth till about last couple of months when it started lagging and responding slow. I had exhausted 64Gb space (Half thanks to photos) and I thought maybe that's the reason the phone has become slow - coz otherwise iPhones never hang, that's the beauty about them. I deleted some useless apps, videos and other heavy files and made it a point that atleast 5GB empty space is always there, but I was still dealing with a slow phone.

Now after updating the phone to iOS11, my phone is working like a beauty! The update also gave me an option of having low-res versions of my photos available on the phone while high-res is on the iCloud, I turned on that option and instantly had 11GB of more empty space on the phone. Woohoo! Here are the most useful/awesome features I have liked with this new update, hope it helps -

1. Screenshot

Now I take a lot of screenshots, mainly for work. With the update, when you take a screenshot, it is saved and pops up on the lower left corner, and when you click on it you can then draw/doodle etc write there before saving! How cool is that. Makes it easy for me to put notes or show what I am trying to show in the screenshot with the use of arrows. You can add text, signature, magnify the image, add basic shapes or even share directly from right there! 

2. Sticker Apps

Now I am not certain whether these apps were available before the update also, but on updating I got a notification that sticker apps are now available where you can use your own selfies and other photos from the gallery to easily create stickers and use on iMessages and other apps. I downloaded & installed 'Sticky' on my phone, it's from the makers of Prisma and is free and easy! It removes the background leaving only your face, allows you to choose from a couple of effects and background colours and you can change the position or add text. Love it, and my only request would be to add more customization options. Yet to check the other two apps out - they're called Sticker Maker Pro and Sticker Boost (Paid).

3. Control Panel

Control Panel still opens with a down to up swipe - but looks different now. You can quickly toggle, hard press to see more options. But what I loved is you can change the brightness or volume levels right there, no need to click and go inside the feature like before. I usually lower brightness before giving the phone to my kid, so this feature is definitely useful.

4. Do more with LIVE photos

We all love the LIVE photos in iPhones, which show you what actually went behind the photo and captures every frame. You can now add effects to your live photos - choose from Loop, Bounce or Long Exposure. My favourite is Bounce, it's like Boomerang but for Live photos. Try them out!

5. Notifications

Notifications now have an option of view/clear, instead of just clear. On clicking on View, the text or notification opens as a preview for you read it completely, and if you then want to open the app you can do so by clicking once again. So if I get a notification for an email, I can click on view and then I get an option to archive or reply from there. The options will obviously be different for different kinds of notifications.

6. Files (File Manager)
I swear, I used to always wonder why iPhones don't have a simple file manager like android does. So this is definitely a plus - you can search or browse for recently opened files or files from iCloud or Google Drive too!

Overall, my phone is faster, I have more space and am loving the interface and frankly speaking am in no hurry to change my phone anymore! Guess I can now wait for the price of the iPhone X to reduce. Do comment with more features you've seen or loved, as I am still discovering


Clean Air, Beautiful Homes & Happy Us!

Clean air - an unknown, mysterious term for most of us Mumbaikars. The cleanest air we must have taken in would probably be in a garden or on one of our weekend trips to Lonavala/Khandala/Matheran.

In my family, my mother in law has acute asthma, and both her kids - my husband and my sister-in-law have allergic asthma meaning they get wheezy, breathless or catch a cold from dust, pollution or pollen. Visiting doctors is a normal thing in this household, when they ask the doctor if there is any permanent solution for this issue - the doctor said Yes, you should leave Mumbai. I am always worried, and hope that our son doesn't inherit the same from them.

Not once in all the years, did we think that there was unhealthy air inside our homes also, in-fact up to 5 times more polluted - until we saw the Asian Paints ad recently, where she is seen wearing a mask everywhere but her home thanks to Royale Atmos - a paint that helps purify air. Now why did I not think about that?

We take our walls or paint for granted. Whatever looks good or is reasonable, we're okay with it. I did know that leakage or dampness results to unhealthy air or cold/cough issues but I did not know that even otherwise, the air inside our home can be 5 times more polluted!

If I had to mention the steps we have been taken till now to ensure there is clean air inside our home -

1. Adding greenery to the home -
Though we do not have the luxury of big verandahs, we do have big windows and have plants outside the rooms and living room. There are some plants which specially help purify air - like aloe vera, peace lilies, bamboo palm etc. Even the holy basil (tulsi) which we usually have in our homes help keep air clean.

2. Regular servicing of Air Conditioners -
The AC filter get's dirty very fast specially if you stay in a polluted area. We do a dry/quick cleaning of the AC every month and a deep cleaning by professionals every 3 months so that we're breathing clean air.

3. Cleaning furniture -
Apart from the day to day dusting, sweeping, cleaning we get pest control and deep cleaning or beds/carpets/sofas done regularly because they accumulate a lot of dust and dirt otherwise. Having a vacuum cleaner also helps as it accumulates all the dust, while dusting will make the furniture look clean only for the dust to go settle elsewhere.

4. Salt Lamps -
Because of the chronic issues faced by husband and other family members, someone once advised him to get a Himalayan Pink Salt Lamp (you need to be careful to get the authentic thing and not rip-offs available online). Himalayan pink salt is a natural ionic air purifier that pulls toxins from the environment and neutralises them.

5. Choosing the right paint for your walls -
Lastly, and as importantly, using wall-paint that only helps compliment all the efforts you've been otherwise taking to make your home clean, pollution free and breathable! Like Asian Paint's Atmos - first of its kind paint that not only looks beautiful, but also cleans the air making it purer than before. It’s Activated Carbon technology reduces harmful pollutants from the air. Additionally, Royale Atmos also absorbs select household foul smells to make the air fresher.

Next time we're painting our home, I am totally suggesting Royale Atmos, specially because of the health issues, you never know it may just help them breathe so much better at home!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Golden House - By Salman Rushdie - Book Review

So used to reading casually written novels by upcoming Indian authors in the recent past, that The Golden House was a much needed break from those. The Golden House was definitely not a quick read you can just skim through. There are so many details on each page, to be absorbed. And I am no language expert, so quite a few new words too!

I always love novels which include real life incidents, like this book does - Like the terror attacks in Mumbai for instance or election of a new president of America. It makes you relate to the plot more somehow. The story of Nero Golden is one of a kind, all the past history and his and his sons' life is gripping and has such a movie feel to it!

I love the first person narrative of the neighbour René as he calls himself, and I think you need to grab a copy and read the book for yourself to know what it all really is about. The rave reviews for this novel is enough to compel anyone to read it.

I was one of the lucky ones to receive a copy before the official release of the book, and kudos to Salman Rushdie for this epic saga!

About The Golden House
A modern American epic set against the panorama of contemporary politics and culture—a hurtling, page-turning mystery that is equal parts The Great Gatsby and The Bonfire of the Vanities

On the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, an enigmatic billionaire from foreign shores takes up residence in the architectural jewel of “the Gardens,” a cloistered community in New York’s Greenwich Village. The neighborhood is a bubble within a bubble, and the residents are immediately intrigued by the eccentric newcomer and his family. Along with his improbable name, untraceable accent, and unmistakable whiff of danger, Nero Golden has brought along his three adult sons: agoraphobic, alcoholic Petya, a brilliant recluse with a tortured mind; Apu, the flamboyant artist, sexually and spiritually omnivorous, famous on twenty blocks; and D, at twenty-two the baby of the family, harboring an explosive secret even from himself. There is no mother, no wife; at least not until Vasilisa, a sleek Russian expat, snags the septuagenarian Nero, becoming the queen to his king—a queen in want of an heir.

Our guide to the Goldens’ world is their neighbor René, an ambitious young filmmaker. Researching a movie about the Goldens, he ingratiates himself into their household. Seduced by their mystique, he is inevitably implicated in their quarrels, their infidelities, and, indeed, their crimes. Meanwhile, like a bad joke, a certain comic-book villain embarks upon a crass presidential run that turns New York upside-down.

Set against the strange and exuberant backdrop of current American culture and politics, The Golden House
also marks Salman Rushdie’s triumphant and exciting return to realism. The result is a modern epic of love and terrorism, loss and reinvention—a powerful, timely story told with the daring and panache that make Salman Rushdie a force of light in our dark new age.