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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Patanjali Body Lotion Review

Since it is winter, I thought of reviewing all the skin care products that I have been using to keep my skin from getting dry and itchy. While most people would be into body butters during this time of the year, I have decided to stick to the Patanjali Body Lotion instead. Actually apart from my sunscreen, night cream and lip balm, all skin care products are Patanjali ones . Read on for more -

A decent product at a reasonable price. What more does one need ? While I am ok with splurging on face creams and lipsticks, body lotions have to adhere to a stringent budget (Though I did spurge on TBS products during my pregnancy and a year after my baby was skin was very dry at that time). This one does its job fairly well and I love the subtle floral fragrance that lingers on my skin for a few hours after application. Moreover, it is free from any parabens/silicones or other chemicals (going by the list of ingredients).  Priced at Rs 60/- for 100 ml.

I apply it twice a day. Once on towel dried (read damp) skin immediately after a shower and once before I go to bed (and m not feeling too lazy).It gets absorbed immediately and my skin stays well moisturized. It does not stain my clothes nor leave behind any smell in them(have had this problem while I used body butters and some rather heavy lotions)

My experience with Patanjali Body Lotion 

Pros - 

1. Reasonably priced
2. Effective moisturization
3. Best option for folks who like herbal/natural products
4. Gets absorbed quickly
5. Small and sturdy bottle which can fit easily into a handbag.
6. Personally I love the flowery smell.

Cons -

1. May not work for people with very dry skin. 
2. Availability is an issue as with other Patanjali products.

Rating - 4.75/5. I would definitely repurchase this one.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Oats and Sweet Potato Cutlets

I do not believe in waiting for the New Year to implement any resolutions. So, after returning back from my Odisha trip I have been monitoring my diet quite strictly. This year it is not just about losing a few extra pounds but also getting back to a leaner and fitter self. And that requires a lot of mental discipline as well.

I have switched to cooking with very little oil and have bought a non-stick appam pan in which i toast the dishes which traditionally require deep frying. Vadas, cutlets, koftas are some of the examples. I am yet to perfect the oil-free/ low-oil gravy for my dishes but I keep experimenting with that as well. Have been thinking of investing in an air-fryer. Please leave behind a comment/suggestion below the post if you have had a good experience with it.

This recipe combines the goodness of Shakarkandi/sweet potato with oats. While I usually boil/roast sweet potato and have it with black salt, pepper, chili powder and optionally a dash of lemon juice, this one can also be served as snacks. And all those health-conscious guests out there are going to fall head over heels in love with it. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins ( including 15 mins of standby time)

Ingredients -

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes 
  • 3-4 tbsp masala oats (I used Saffola oats in Curry & Pepper flavour)
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/3 tsp pepper powder ( skip if using Pepper flavored oats )
  • 2 pinch black salt
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oil

Preparation - Wash and cook the sweet potato in a pressure cooker for 3-4 whistles.

Keep aside till steam escapes. Drain excess water, remove and peel the sweet potato .Transfer it to a mixing bowl.

Add all the remaining ingredients except for oil. Mash together. Divide into 10-12 equal portions and give desired shape (disc, oblong, heart or diamond). (Roll the cutlets over some oats spread out on a flat plate for a better presentation)

Cooking - Heat a non-stick frying pan. Grease with 1/2 tsp oil.

Place the cutlets and fry them on a low flame till small brown spots appear. Flip over and repet for the other side as well.

Remove from pan and serve hot with lemon wedges and sauce/chutney.

Note - Do remember to leave any suggestions regarding an air fryer if you have used one .

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kiddie Vacations Made Special

As parents, we look forward to taking our little one on that first vacation. As kids grow really fast and move away, it is these cherished moments that one would always remember having spent together as a family. And therefore it has to be extra special.

A lot of planning is required when taking the kids on a trip. First comes the destination. It has to be a place which engages their curious minds. A jungle safari or a gushing waterfall for example would captivate most of them. Visit to heritage destinations is also a good option once they are old enough to understand the importance of appreciating and preserving culture. Second comes the accommodation. It has to be safe and comfortable. Since most of them are fussy eaters, cottages with a small kitchenette that allow one to rustle up something healthy in no time are always welcome. Alternatively great room service that is available 24 X 7 would also do. Availability of an in-house doctor or someone on call is also something that I keep in mind while taking my kid for a vacation.

Since it is difficult to pack in too much in a day's span if you are tagging kids along, it is best to cover one or two places in a day. The rest of the day can be spent at the hotel or resort unwinding with the kids. Though most of them are powerhouses of energy, they tend get irritated if made to do too many things at the same time. So, it is best to take things at a relaxed pace.

Pools are always a great option for kids as they love to splash about in the water. Most resorts also have a play area with some swings/slides/etc and toys which is why many parents prefer them to regular hotels. While some resorts also host cultural activities during the evening hours, look for ones that have facilities for indoor games so that the kids have an alternative if they get bored. Pack a few books and board games or even an inflatable toy or two so that the kids stay entertained even if they have to be holed up in the room.

Even with the best of destinations and accommodation, some kids tend to feel homesick or insecure when removed from their comfort zone. As parents we can help alleviate such feelings by packing some of their regularly used items like a blanket or a stuffed toy, favorite chips/cookies/packaged juices and talking to them about the wonderful things they would see and learn. Buying small souvenirs so that they can gift it to a loved one or preserve it as a memory of the trip is also a good idea. With some planning and care, we can make the trip a memorable and enjoyable one for the kids.

This entry is written for Club Mahindra

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lakme Lip Love Lip Care Cherry Review

I love winters as it allows me to indulge in loads and loads of lip balms. But since I have pigmented lips just like the majority of Indian women, I prefer those with a hint of color. And the Nivea Lip balm in the shade 'Pomegranate' is by far the best thing that I have tried. However when Lakme launched these 'Lip Love Lip Care' beauties, I could not resist from trying them out. Got them from Amazon during the GOSF. But did they live up to the hype. Read on to find out more -

Lakme Lip Love Lip Care in the shade Cherry

The product promises -

  • Luxurious creamy core that moisturizes your lips
  • Swirl of color for a hint of tint
  • SPF 15* helps protect from sun damage
It comes in 4 flavours - Cherry, Peach, Strawberry and Vanilla. Priced at Rs 200 for 3.8 gms.

My take on the product - 

I picked up the most pigmented variant which is the shade Cherry. The balm leaves behind a light red stain on the lips which will not really show up on very pigmented lips. The moisturization part is ok though not the best. If looks unflattering if you apply it directly on chapped lips. Apply it after a bit of exfoliation for best results. I personally wear it layered under and over the Lotus Pure Color lipsticks which are quite hydrating during the winters. And I do need to reapply it every 3 hours.

Though it looks different in the swatches, I find it to be similar to the Maybelline Baby Lips Lip Balm "Cherry Kiss" when worn on the lips. 

Bottom one - Cherry(Lakme) : Top - Cherry Kiss(Maybelline)

Bottom one - Cherry : Top one - Cherry Kiss 

Pro's of the product -

1. Has SPF 15
2. Looks quite attractive
3. Nice bubblegum flavor
4. Quite moisturizing if one does not mind frequent re-application
5. Tube packaging makes it hygienic.

Con's of the product -

1. Does not really show up on very pigmented lips. 
2. Pricier than the Maybelline Baby Lips Color Balms which delivers similar results.

Rating - 3/5. If you are specifically looking for tinted lip balms during the winter months, buy Nivea or Maybelline Baby Lips. They are not only better but also lighter on the pocket.

Bathua Saag-Dal curry

Bathua Saag or lamb's quarter is a leafy green vegetable that is found during winters. It is quite easy to prepare as both the leaves and stem are edible. It is best to choose stems that are firm. Rich in iron and calcium, they also serve as a good source of vitamins and fiber.

Since I made this vegetable for the first time and was not so sure about the recipe, I decided to cook it along with dal, a hint of tomato and lots of onions. With just one teaspoon of oil going into it, this turned out to be one of the tastiest low calorie dishes that can be paired with rotis. Read on for the easy recipe -

Preparation Time - 15-20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 1/2 cups bathua saag (chopped & tightly packed)
  • 1/4 cup toor dal
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 small tomato
  • 2-3 garlic flakes
  • 1/2 tsp pancha phutana (alt - use a mix of mustard-cumin seeds)
  • 1-2 dry red chili
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • 1 tsp rice bran oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash the bathua greens in plenty of water. Drain excess water and chop into small pieces.

Chop the onion and tomatoes into small pieces.

Cooking - Transfer the chopped greens into a pressure cooker. Wash the toor dal and add to the cooker. Also add half of the onions and the tomato along with turmeric, salt and 1/4 cup water.

Close the lid and cook for 2-3 whistles. Allow steam to escape before opening lid.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the pancha-phutana and broken red chili. Once it gets spluttering, add the remaining onions and crushed garlic. Fry for a minute before pouring the contents of the pressure cooker into the same pan. Allow to simmer for 2-3 mins before removing from the flame.

Serve hot with rotis.

Note - One can also add one palak / amaranthus to the bathua greens to make it more nutritious. Usually people in Odisha use moong dal instead of toor dal for this recipe.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chilika Travel Diaries

Last week I realized my long cherished dream of visiting the Chilika lake. Had caught some glimpses of the vast expanse of this lake (the geographically correct term would be 'lagoon' or a area of sea water separated from the ocean by a reef/sandbar) during my train journeys on the Hyd-Bbsr route and had been mesmerized ever since. Though it is merely a two hour jouney from BBSR (which is my in-laws place), something or the other kept coming up during our Odisha trips and we could never make that trip. That is until last week when destiny finally smiled on me ( my husband has been there a number of times during his school days ). For the uninitiated folks, the beautiful Chilika Lake is the largest brackish water lagoon of India. Spread out over an area of 1100 square kms , it covers the Puri, Khorda and Ganjam districts of Odisha. It host a large number of migratory birds in the winter months and offers a whole plethora of scenic spots within the periphery of the water body.

We started off quite late from BBSR as we were in a big group and everyone took time to get ready and reach the starting point. It was almost 11:30 am by the time everyone got into the car . Though we had booked an Innova for the trip, it felt a bit cramped as there were 10 of us including the driver and two kids. Except for a 5 min halt to sip some sugarcane juice and sample dahi bara-ghuguni-alu dum, we travelled without any halts and reached Balugan by 1:20 pm. The trip was planned for a Wednesday as it is one of those days (the other being Friday) where everyone can indulge in non-veg food without offending any God or Goddess (strictly in accordance with Odia culture, others please excuse).

On reaching Balugan, we headed straight to the Chilika Dhaba, which is touted as the sea-food Paradise of Odisha. Though it looked quite nondescript, the sheer number of people who were having their meals here baffled us. There were different sitting areas designated for different sections of travellers or more importantly different budgets. The waiter guided us to a dining hall which was exclusively meant for families/couples. We ordered for crab, prawns, chicken and fish ("pohola", a local delicacy) along with rice, dal, papad and mineral water. The food was served in about 15 mins. Everything turned out to be delicious though the prawns were a bit overdone. To finish it off, we ordered for some masala cold drink. At the end of it, we were handed over a bill of Rs 1600 which sounded too good to be true.

Getting back to the car, it took us another 5-10 mins to reach PanthaNivas/OTDC, Balugan.  Walking towards the lake, I started to lose my nerves and was literally shaking by the time we got into the boat. Though there are quite a few kinds of boats to choose from, the elders decided to go for a old fashioned motor boat. It had no lights, no life jackets and some rod kind of thing which the old boatman used for steering the boat. Though I thought that it made more sense to go for one of the hi-tech boats, I was too scared to mouth any kind of disapproval at that moment. My fears kept rising as the boat moved away from the horizon and the likeness of any civilization grew increasingly smaller. After around thirty minutes we reached a point where we were completely surrounded by water and there was no sight of any shore. This was the point where I was so taken by the glorious beauty of nature that I completely shed any lingering fear and started to truly enjoy the sights. We saw quite a few varieties of birds like the sea fowl which was serenely sailing along the waters, some were swooping down to catch fish, a kind of crane/ergot standing on one leg on a protruding piece of rock and flocks of white,black and yellow birds (sorry but I am no good with those names) flying very low over the waters. We also caught a lone fish jumping out of the waters. The golden rays of the setting sun had colored the lake in beautiful hues of green, blue and red. No wonder that the beauty of this place during the dusk has inspired a beautiful Odia poem 'Kalijai re sandhya'.

We were headed to famed temple of Maa Kalee Jaee/Kalijai, the reigning deity of the lake. Legend attributes the birth of the Goddess to the appearance of the spirit of a young woman who drowned while traversing the lake to reach her husband's home situated on the other side of the lake ( a village by the name of Parikuda which still exists ). While her own life was tragically cut short by the cruel waters of the lake during a storm which suddenly engulfed the boat, she decided to save others from a similar fate. To this very day, people offer their prayers to the Goddess while boarding a boat on this very lake. Folklore depicts her as a 'pratekshya devi' or an omnipresent force who appears whenever her devotees are in distress and some people say that her cries are still heard on the island during the dark stormy nights.

Image courtesy - Wikipedia

We reached the island just as the evening prayer (or 'aarti') was about to begin. Though small, the temple has a unique charm of its own. There were loads of 'lali sankha' (or the red bangle that married women in Odisha wear) tied almost everywhere by the women folk who pray to the Goddess to keep their marriage intact. We also caught some friendly goats and chicken running around on the island. An elderly member in our group informed me that those animals had been gifted to the Goddess by the devotees whose wishes had been fulfilled. The most important festival here is the Makar Sankranti during which a fair called the 'Makarmela' is organised on the island.

I made the return journey in a great state of mind as a long cherished dream had been fulfilled. The Goddess had finally answered my prayers.