Friday, November 29, 2013

The Snack Buffet Lunchbox

Last week, Ayaan's school announced an outing-cum-picnic to a nearby deer park. This is pretty much the event of the year in the school calendar as far as he is concerned and to say that he was excited would be an understatement. He was also bursting with ideas for a 'special' lunchbox for the special day. He requested that he get a variety of snacks rather than his regular lunch, or as he put it 'a kind of snack buffet'. 

I could see that some fantasies of junk food like chips and store-bought cookies were flitting around in his head. Now, I have cracked down on processed foods in a big way over the last couple of years and I wasn't about to go back on this. So while I agreed that his idea was good, we negotiated on the actual elements of this 'snack buffet'. After a quick brainstorming session, we arrived at a plan that we were both happy with. 

This is what a delighted not-so-little boy finally got to take on his picnic:

  1. Baby carrots with sunflower sprouts (I get the sprouts bi-weekly from here)
  2. Fresh strawberries, cut and sprinkled with a wee bit of icing sugar
  3. Cookie jam sandwiches, with extra to share with friends (cookie recipe from here)
  4. Peanut butter mini-sandwich in sunflower seed bread (bread recipe from here)
  5. Sundal made with small chickpeas (from this recipe)
  6. Boiled egg wedges arranged around a cherry tomato to look like a flower
  7. Mixed nuts and dried fruit
He also wanted to carry a big bottle of home-made lemonade to share with his friends. He was keen to make this himself and was up at 6.30 a.m. and down in the kitchen to do the needful. This is the same boy that I have to drag out of bed kicking and screaming (or grumbling and groaning, depending on the mood of the moment) at 7 a.m!

The only real cooking that I had to do that morning was the boiled egg and the sundal. The bread and the cookies had been made earlier that week and all the other fruits and vegetables were foraged out of my refrigerator. Overall, I think I managed to meet his brief while still giving him a healthy, fresh and mostly homemade array of food. It was actually easier to assemble than his regular lunch and I am actively thinking about making this a fortnightly affair. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Toy Review: Hello Kitty Market Stall

Disclaimer: The toy reviewed in this post was sent to me gratis with the expectation that I would review it on the blog. To that extent, I guess you could consider this a sponsored post. But the views I shall express, I would like to think, are objective and my own.

The other day, I was asked if I would be interested in receiving and reviewing a toy, the Hello Kitty Market Stall set. I have never done this sort of thing on this blog before so I was in two minds about it. But after checking that they would be okay with me posting my honest opinion, be it negative and positive, I decided to go for it.

I decided to open it when Ayaan was still at school so that I could let Tarana enjoy it for a while before the inevitable sibling turf wars began. She insisted on opening it herself and was all set to start playing with it when she realised it required installations and Mama's help would need to be solicited.

There was no manual inside the box so we assembled it via the trusted but time-consuming trial-and-error method only to realise later that pictorial instructions were printed on one of the flaps of the box it came in. Grrrrr... how was I supposed to know to look there?! Anyway, here is what it looked like when it was just set up. It was missing a couple of pieces compared to the picture on the box but most of the crucial stuff was there, so we are not complaining.

Given that most of her toys tend to be shared with her brother or are his hand-me-downs, Tarana was absolutely thrilled to have this to call her own. It was practically her third limb for the first few days. Here's a picture from later that day, where madam insisted that she would only go to sleep if her shop was parked next to her bed!

It has been almost three weeks since we got it and she continues to enjoy playing with it. She is constantly on the lookout for people to play customer to her shopkeeper. Just yesterday, she found a captive audience in her aunt and grandmother on Skype. She tried to get her brother to play with her but since his idea of fun was to have an earthquake hit the shop, she soon gave that up.

Overall, it is a nice, well-designed toy. The plastic is good quality which makes a good change from the made-in-China stuff that seems to be the norm these days. It has a decent range of produce, a calculator panel, weighing scales and a shopping basket. I like that it is self-contained and compact and takes up very little space in the toy room. For kids into pretend play, it is a source of hours of fun and entertainment.

My only major complaint with it was the colour. I am not a big fan of the pink overdose that seems to be swamping the girls' toys aisle. I guess one can't entirely blame the manufacturers - I am pretty sure the chances of being picked up by a girl must be substantially higher when the toy in question is pink. But still... Also, I suspect that is one of the big reasons why Ayaan won't play with it, because 'Mama, pink is for girls.' Grrr...

Another thing that is missing from this set is play money. It's a shop so it would have been a logical conclusion to have some to go around. I gave Tarana some coins and that really upped the fun quotient. It is also a sneaky way to build early Math skills :-)

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Meeting Ranganna

Last month, Ranganna came to town. The book, written by friend and blogger Arthi Anand Navaneeth and published by Tulika, was launched in Hyderabad by the team at Treasure House.

The event was great fun for the kids. In addition to the book being read out in English, Hindi and Telugu, there was lots to keep the kids entertained and engaged. They talked about elephants and favourite colours. They did a Ranganna-inspired elephant dance and a maze puzzle. There were also some optional Rangana-themed craft activities and Tarana had fun painting her very own elephant. (Ayaan, of course, thinks libraries are strictly for reading and settled down with a stack of books to entertain himself while his sister painted.)

The book itself is very cute. It narrated the story of a colour-loving elephant who lives in a dhobi ghat and loves to seek out colours in his surroundings. When he meets two girls sporting nail polish, he naturally wants some for himself and is thrilled when they oblige. It is just right for the 3-5 age group with an easy-to-follow yet engaging plot and eye-catching illustrations on every page. Tarana enjoyed it very much.

Like most Tulika books, Ranganna has been published in English and also in multiple Indian languages. I bought the English one for Tarana and the Hindi one for Ayaan since he can now read the language independently but needs to build his vocabulary. Thanks to books like Ranganna and many others published by Tulika, our kids have the opportunity to explore beyond Blyton and Dahl and read books written in familiar settings and languages.

To know about the book, its author and her inspiration, check out Arthi's interview on the Saffron Tree blog.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the book, you can buy here over at the Tulika website.

*Event pictures courtesy the Treasure House Facebook Page