Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Top 5 online tools to ease parental woes!

Technology has influenced every single aspect of modern life in the 21st century. It is almost impossible to think of life without technology in a device-driven world where the screen holds infinite power.

While parents may not entirely be happy with navigating the tricky by-products of technology like managing their childs’ screen time, most also acknowledge the way technology has positvely impacted their lives.

From helping with their child’s education to aiding parents to seek advice about the quandaries of parenting, technology is there for everything. It has helped organise things and schedules, save time, and answer essentially any question related to parenting (or otherwise). In moderation, the right tech tools can arm parents with curcial information, save time and money and, of course, give them a well-deserved break.

Here’s a lowdown on some of the best tech tools that have made life much easier for parents and have almost managed to change the parenting game.

1. For safe online usage

YouTube Kids:
If there is one place where kids universally love watching videos, it is YouTube. YouTube launched the app YouTube Kids three years ago to give kids around the world a platform to access videos that are enriching, engaging and which entertained them while teaching them new things. Last month, in a bid to give parents more control, YouTube Kids announced three new features around the content available in the app. The new features include ‘Collections’ that will allow parents to choose only the channel collection and subjects they want their kids to view. The ‘Parent Approved Content’ feature empowers parents to handpick every video and channel available to their child in the app while an improved ‘Search-off’ control ensures more contained experience. This way, parents can monitor what the children are watching in their absence.

2. For Finding reliable tutors & keeping a tab on children’s study schedules
Ed-tech or technology in education has created a major evolution in the field of education. One such tool is that has created tutoring space by facilitating parents’ search for a reliable tutor. GuruQ stands out as India's largest tutor community platform where one can pick quality-certified and user-rated tutors. It is a one of its kind digital integrated platform connecting tutors and students and addresses the need for a single, simplified and cohesive ed-tech solution that provides online and offline tutoring. Parents can use the platform to pick reliable ‘GuruQ Certified’ tutor options for primary, secondary, higher secondary and undergraduate courses. GuruQ’s unique dashboard reassures parents as it allows their wards to save valuable study time by managing timetables, schedule classes and assess self-progress. Its biggest plus is that students have the convenience of choosing whether they want to take the customised package sessions online or offline. Parents can also get a complete report on how the child is coping academically with just a click.

3. For child health and managing immunization schedules

Immunize India:
While everything else follows, it is the health of children that always bothers and worries parents. Often, it’s a tough task to keep a track of immunisation schedules for children. This is where platforms that tell parents when a vaccine is scheduled, give information on its efficacy etc and indicate the compulsory and optional ones are welcome. The Immunize India app is a straight forward app from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) that follows the IAP’s vaccination calendar. All parents need to do is feed in the name of the child and date of birth after which they will receive three sets of email and push notifications in the week that the vaccination is due. The app is available in 12 languages and takes the child through from 0-12 years.

4. For managing kids mobile screen time

It’s a routine scene in most households where children are stuck to mobile devices even if it’s time to eat a meal. An app called the DinnerTime app is a simple solution that helps parents who want to give their kids time-outs from their phones and tablets especially during meals or sleep hours. This is a parental-only app which lets parents connect the mobile device which the child is using to their own device. Once that is done, it allows parents to lock the child's device from their own for a 30-minute, 1-hour, or 2-hour break for dinner. The Bed Time break lets parents set a start and an end time when the device is locked for lights out. Lastly, the Take a Break feature lets parents start and stop a break without a predetermined time limit.

5. For keeping a tab on your child’s whereabouts

Find My Kids – Footprints:
For parents worried about their children’s safety, location tracking devices can be of help. Find My Kids uses GPS in real time to help parents keep track of and automatically locate where the child goes with his phone. Location info is never shared with anyone else beyond those who have permission to see it, and data is saved for later review. But giving a child a smartphone isn't always an option. Even then, technology can still come to the rescue with options such as Letstrack by a UK-based startup that sells location tracking based devices.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mother's Day Celebrations at Le Meridien Goa

Mothers day all my life has been a day I pamper my mom. Get her fresh flowers she likes, make a greeting or buy one if I'm keeping busy, spend the day with her and the sort. Only after I had my baby 3 years ago did I realize what being a mother really is. And my respect for my own mother only increased ten folds.

This mothers day, I was in for a surprise when Le Meridien invited me along with my son and husband to spend mothers day weekend at their Goa property - about which I have written here. In this blog I am going to talk about how they made our stay very special!

1. High-tea by the pool -

The awesome culinary wizards at Le Meridien Goa, Calangute set up high tea by the pool side, and the presentation was simply unique! All the food items broken down to their raw ingredients and presented - so that kids can know what's in the food they're eating. The samosas and chocochip cookie were the highlight for me. They were also sweet enough to send some to the room for the husband who was not feeling too well.

2. Dinner at Jazz & Grill -

Jazz & Grills is Le Meridien's and Goa's first "whiskey bar". The restaurant transforms you to another place with it's stage for live performances with the big screen, comfortable seating on two levels and a bar where you can sit if you prefer that. The decor has guitars and everything music too. We had our special set menu here and had such a great time with the great staff, awesome drinks and food! 

There was falafel in pita pockets, chicken burger, cottage cheese in thai green marinade, zatar spiced fish fingers. Also a special egg-bhurji that chef Saurav Chattoraj - that was the highlight for me. For drinks we had bourbon based drinks - one infused with honey another with apricots, both just amazing!

For the kids there was french fries, roasted papad and juices - which kept them happy too!

3. Mothers Day brunch at Latest Recipe -

Latest recipe is Le Meridien Goa, Calangute's buffet restaurant and that is where we had our Mother's Day brunch. A wide spread to choose from - I went for their recommended soup of the day - khau suey - had that twice, also tried other things from the spread and then jumped to dessert - the stawberry pavlova was just amazing - light and fluffy. Kings beer was relished along with the food.

There was a special activity set-up for kids where they could paint a Mother's Day card for mommies or have something painted on their face or hands. There were also lots of candies on display - jujubes, marshmallows and more - and the kids had a crazy time binging on them!

4. Goan thali dinner at Latest Recipe -

For the second day dinner we experienced local goan delicacies, again at Latest Recipe - but this was a thali. Lot's of unique vegetables and curries, served with pav and breads and also the local dessert - bibinca. We also tried the chicken zacuti gravy which was amazing too. Again, with Kings beer, the goan local beer.

5. Eclair making activity at Longitude 73 -

Every Le Meridien hotel has a signature dessert - The Eclair. And for each local hotel, they choose a third flavor (apart from Chocolate / Vanilla) that is known for it's local flavours. For Goa, it was mango and feni flavoured Eclair. Now just eating the dessert is so vanilla (pun intended), so they made us make our own eclair! It looks very easy, but isn't that easy. You have to make holes in the pastry to pipe in the cream all the way through - this is a real challenge. After that you decorate with cream, chocolate pieces and other garnishing and voila! Amazing and tasty!

I felt absolutely pampered over the Mother's day weekend, and the kiddo felt quite special too! It was definitely a stay to remember - and we made some new friends too! Kaavya, our awesome host for the weekend, Kuheli, Pawan and their son Shreysht with whom my son Panav absolutely had a blast! Also Ruchi and husband and her adorable daughter Ivanka.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

5 summer drinks for a cooling and healthy summer for kids.

Summer is at its peak and there is no surprise that we don’t feel like eating the usual roti sabzi dal rice anymore. It’s a fact that appetite can decrease and even more so for kids.

My little one also has become even more fussy and isn’t eating some of the things he earlier was. So it is vital that he stays hydrated and full and gets the required minerals and vitamins in form of liquid at least (not that it makes up for the solids). Here are some healthy summer drinks, after all we don’t want to feed our little ones flavoured, artificial stuff like colas or tetra packed treats.

1. Watermelon juice

Watermelons are quite in-season during the summers –atleast in Mumbai. So I make the most of it! Being a water content fruit – it can be had as is, but also is a great option and easy to make juice out of. Just make sure to remove the seeds or else if those get mixed in the processor the juice can taste bitter. I add a dash of salt, pepper and sugar to it to make it taste even better. You can add pieces of watermelon if kids like it (I used to love it as a kid and still do), or let that be.

2. Chocolate/Vanilla flavoured Enfagrow A+

Fussy eaters require other sources of nutrition. I know that because mine is the most fussy when it comes to food and hence giving him supplements has already been vital for me. Enfagrow is the World's No 1 in Children's Nutrition Brand. It contains Triple Health Guard a unique blend of DHA, prebiotics and various important micronutrients that supports your child’s ability to fight off infections in 3 ways, viz. supports Respiratory health, Gut health and resistance to other common infections. Available in Chocolate or Vanilla flavours. Travelling with a toddler and fulfilling their milk requirements can be quite a task – and Enfagrow A+ being a milk powder itself makes it so much easier – just need to add pre-boiled warm water and it’s ready! Available of Grofers: 

3.  Banana/Mango shake

The healthiest, filling option in getting kids to consume both milk and banana! I remember growing up having this in the morning or evenings. Add some sugar if required, with one banana and chilled milk and blend! And also the best of the summer season – king of fruits – Mangoes to make some yummy mango milkshake! Add smaller pieces of bananas/mangoes so that there aren’t any lumps remaining finally. Kid’s absolutely love it!  

4. Aam panna (kairi ka paani)

Raw mangoes or kairi not only give us tasty pickles and chutneys but also make a great raw, healthy drink – aam panna! This one takes a little more time to prepare as you need to boil the raw mangoes before mashing the pulp and diluting in water. But it’s worth it – add some sugar, salt and black pepper and enjoy the tangy drink with your kids!

5.  Shikanji / Lemonade / Nimbu paani

When nothing else at home, there always is good old nimbu paani! The best way to say goodbye to dehydration. Lemon juice, sugar and a pinch of rock salt mixed with chilled water! You can also store some lemon juice in a bottle so that it’s even faster to make this thirst quenching drink when kids come home thirsty after playing in the sun! You can have them help you make this as well and set-up a lemonade stall. So much fun!

Hope you liked all the different options, try them all so that the kids are not bored and have a variety! Happy summers!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Mommy Makeover – tête-à-tête with Dr.Sameer KARKHANIS

Before I dive into the conversation I had a few days ago with Dr.Sameer Kharkhanis – a leading cosmetic surgeon from Mumbai; let me clarify that I think pregnancies are beautiful. Being a mother myself, I know how much an expecting mother’s body goes through during and after the pregnancy. We go through a lot physically, emotionally and in every other way to bring that new person into our lives.

Pregnancy can leave you with a body that you don’t recognize anymore. Not fitting into pre-pregnancy clothes, loosing self-confidence, hair fall, wondering if your partner is still as attracted to you with all those stretch marks and loose skin – If you’re a mother too, you will definitely related to this. Exercise, proper diet and a happy state of mind can certainly help you lose the pregnancy weight and inches and maybe even go back to your pre-pregnancy clothes. But there are certain issues like sagging breasts, post-pregnancy abdominal pouch, fat deposits, stretch marks, and hernia in abdominal area making it protruding as if one is still pregnant – these need special medical attention and the answer is Mommy Makeover.

What is a Mommy Makaeover? I asked Dr.Sameer Kharkhanis when I met him at Currae Hospital, Thane –
A mommy makeover is a combination / series of aesthetic surgical procedures that restore the before-pregnancy appearance, typically (more popularly) focusing on the breasts and abdomen. So it’s cost effective because you don’t get admitted multiple times, and the results are long term and you can see a drastic change in your appearance! For eg. A breast uplift, tummy tuck and liposuction process can make you look and feel younger, more confident and positive – which will reflect on your kid and family too!

When is it a good time for a mommy makeover?
One should be fairly certain that they are done having children (if you get pregnant after having these surgeries done, then your appearance would change again). At the earliest, it is best done 9-12 months post-delivery and there is no age bar.
You will need to plan and take 2 weeks off work and have family support to look after your children/home. After that, you can return to desk work.

What are some myths related to cosmetic surgeries?
Though these surgeries are invasive, they are totally safe and do not cause any problem. Dr. Kharkhanis went on to tell how there are so many myths related to cosmetic surgeries and not a lot of information from credible sources to tell what the facts are.  For instance – breast implants now come in COHESIVE gel form WHICH DOES NOT LEAK INTO THE SURROUNDING BREAST TISSUE with time – as popularly rumoured. One can even breastfeed after getting a breast implant.

How much a Mommy Makeover would typically cost?
Depending on the problem areas treated together, typically a package would be from around 2.5L to 3.5L + 18% GST.

I personally know women in my family who have a stomach hernia post-delivery and lost self-confidence for life, such a makeover can be such a boon for the person! Women today are independent, earn well and can take such decisions for their selves. Also, many job fields require man or woman to have a certain external appearance. For eg. If you’re an actor or air hostess or a gym-trainer – it’s not that you would never have kids, right? Or have to sacrifice your career for that matter?

I feel once you’re done with your family planning and are ready to get your old self back, a Mommy Makeover is a great way to get that confidence and body back! Of-course, exercise and a good diet has to always be there – there is no alternate for that either. To know more about the services offered at Center for cosmetic and reconstructive surgery do visit their website.

If there are any questions you’d like to ask them, do comment away or contact them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Family Program at Le Meridien Goa

Goa is a place very close to my heart. After all, this is where I met my husband the first time! Now that we're a family of 3 after the arrival of our boy - we are still very much going to Goa but now more particular about where to stay. It has to be kid-friendly after all!

We spent the Mother's Day weekend at Le Meridien, Calangute, Goa and were so happy to know that North Goa finally has a hotel catering to kids and families and here's why -

1. Le Meridien Kid's Club -

A very few 5 star hotels will have a children's play area, and that too would be a really tiny area with a slide and some more toys. Le Meridien has a huge huge space (I don't know the square feet area now) but imagine 5x the size you would generally see. It has activities for kids of every age - plush toys, art and craft supplies (even glass painting, yes!), a chalkboard, slides, soft-play, a bed (incase the really small ones need to crash), a huge TV, couple of video games and more! They have 2-3 attendants present all the time to engage the kids in different activities and teach them some cool craft tricks! What's more? If your kid is old enough and comfortable, you can leave them under the supervision of the staff and step out. (Timings of the club are morning to 8.30pm weekdays and till 11pm on Fri/Sat). Imagine getting to have a drink or two with your partner at the bar while the kid plays here! One recommendation would be to have extended timings on Sunday as well.

2. Activities for the family -


Apart from the swimming pool (with a separate section for kids) and gym, there also are indoor games like foosball, carrom, snooker, table tennis, chess, air hockey for the whole family to play! Usually you'll find a carrom board and table tennis but I was delighted to find the air hockey machine and snooker table and we had fun playing all the games! The swimming pool is a 5 feet pool with bar-stools near the pool bar, some lounging seats where you can relax inside the water itself and a separate kids pool. We had a lot of fun in the pool, thought it would have been great if they also had floatees, tubes etc for the kids, since we don't have a pool near our home in Mumbai - we don't have those things yet and usually find them in the hotels.

3. Le Meridien Library Lounge -

This was my favourite I have to say! I used to love reading as a kid, as a teenager, as a young adult (still do, but don't get the time anymore so resort to sitcoms). Le Meridien Goa, Calangute has a library cum lounge on the first level filled with books for everyone. I just browsed and glanced through and I could find archie comics, tinkles, jeffrey archers, sidney sheldons and more. Even travel related books and more. Someone like me can spend all the time just lounging here instead of being outside.

Apart from these, the staff is very polite and courteous with the kids. On one instance during our stay, my toddler got cranky and was crying when a staff person walking by halted and directly spoke to my kid like he was a grown up (instead of asking me what's wrong) and enquired what happened, is there anything he could do to help. I was really touched at this! All the restaurants are very friendly to kids and you can order khichdi, fries or whatever else fancies the kids! We also called for hot cuppa milk on both days - I wouldn't be very comfortable to ask for that everywhere - but knowing how important the junior customers are for the hotel - I didn't have to hesitate once!

Stay tuned for my next blog on how we spent Mother's Day at Le Meridien, and till then do check out their Facebook and Instagram pages to know more about their offerings. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Our first selfie! #SelfieExperience

The term "selfie" was coined in the early 2000's and was officially added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013. I don't mean to boast, but I had been taking selfies way before they got popular in India thanks to my then boyfriend now husband Koshik!

We met in 2008 and started dating in 2009, and he was a selfie pro and most of our pictures would be selfies. Now you tell me, how many people were taking selfies then? Not many! At first I found it a bit weird to point the back camera towards ourself (front cameras were non-existent in phones back then, and even if there was one - it was a horrible VGA camera). But when I would see the outcome, I loved it!

So in this blog, I am going to share the very first few selfies we took together!

1. 7th Feb 2009

I had a exhibition stall at a mall in Navi Mumbai to display/sell all the paper quilling jewellery and cards/envelopes me and my friend had made. Here me and Koshik are celebrating that later in the evening. (P.S. I am wearing one the paper quilling pendants myself!). See the angle of the selfie? This is all Koshik's doing!

2. 29th March 2009

We took this one on our first trip together to Alibaug. Because we didn't know the term "selfie" back then, we would call it our own "classic pose". I have really fond memories from that weekend! And man I was so thin, have got such fitness goals when I go back and see these pictures. I do realize, that these selfies if taken now would be so much better. For instance, Mobistar's front dual camera captures a 120° wide-angle shot. So basically this picture would capture all the palm trees and greenery in the background! Such a wonderful selfie experience that would be. Technology has really climbed mountains in the last decade!

3. 27th & 28th Feb 2010

Over time, just like our relationship even our selfie game kept getting stronger! I absolutely love these we took on a trip to Goa. I don't remember which phone were we using then, but these memories are preserved both on the cloud as well as a print form! The creative person I am,  would even use the prints as greeting cards to give to him on birthdays and anniversaries. :)

4. 12th May 2018

And here we are, almost a decade later. Still going to Goa, still taking our selfies. How different do we look! But a marriage and a baby later, that's bound to happen. Haha. It was amazing going down the memory lane, thank you Indiblogger. :)

You can check out more about the Mobiistar phone here or buy Mobiistar on Flipkart.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Little’s Breast Pump – A Boon For New Mothers

It feels just like yesterday when I had my baby. 40 weeks and an emergency c-section later, my prince was there – on the auspicious day of Dhanteras. Recovering from a c-section in itself is tough, me and the kiddo also had nursing issues – unable to latch, baby going to sleep within a couple of minutes of latching, self-doubts of not lactating enough, not getting the kind of privacy wanted in the 8 days we were in the hospital, each nurse giving her own piece of advise on how to hold the baby or how to keep posture while nursing. In all – it was overwhelming.

I tried all the things, all the herbs & medicines there were, even got myself a manual breast-pump but it just didn’t work for me (too much pain and nothing to gain kinda situation). End result – baby was not exclusively breast-fed for the 1st six months and soon after that I resumed work and gave up.

We are all very well aversed with the many benefits of breastfeeding, but just to put it out there for you:
· It supplies all the necessary nutrients in the proper proportions.
· It protects against allergies, sickness, and obesity.
· It protects against diseases, like diabetes and cancer.
· It protects against infections, like ear infections.
· It is easily digested – no constipation, diarrhea or upset stomach.
· Babies have healthier weights as they grow.
· Breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests.

Mothers who breastfeed:
· Have a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes and certain cancers such as breast cancer
· May find it easier to return to what they weighed before they got pregnant
· Strengthen the bond with their children

So when I heard of the newly launched Piramal Little’s Breast Pump – that has five levels of suctions to cater to the needs of different mothers – I was like, why was this not there when I needed it! It is the perfect solution to the different problems faced by nursing mothers. Too much pain, decrease suction. No milk being released, increase suction.

It also has two modes of expressing milk – stimulation and expression. This helps mothers to express more milk naturally. The pump has silicone massaging pads which ensure gentle and delicate expression of milk. All breast pump parts are BPA free which make it safe for the baby.

So if you’re a new mom looking for options to express milk because you need to return to work, or because you want to rest a bit so that someone else can feed the baby the expressed milk or you’re struggling with breastfeeding, I really think you should give this manual breast pump a try. And also, don’t be shy of breastfeeding wherever you need to – remember your baby’s health and well-being is more important than what the society thinks.