Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy First Birthday, Leela!

Photo by Asiya
On your first birthday, I can't help but reflect on the past year and think about the endless joy you have brought me. Everything in our life is sweeter because of you. Before you were born, I could not imagine that my heart was capable of so much love. When Jiya was born, she made me a mother. But when you were born, you made us a family. 

I cannot believe a year has already flown by since you first came into my arms as a chubby, beautiful baby doll. And today, you are turning one. In the past 12 months, you have grown from a round and sweet baby, with juicy cheeks and sweet little lips, into a walking, climbing, fiesty little toddler. As a newborn, you were cuddly, laid back and adorable. You loved to nurse and be carried, you hated the car and stroller, you loved listening to your sister chat away, or look out at New York City with your daddy. You loved the carrier and it always helped to soothe you. You refused all pacifiers, loved to roll around (even in the middle of the night), started sitting up very early, and right from the start, you became engaged in the world around you. We enjoyed many songs, baths, late-night snuggles together, just you and I. I will always cherish those moments, especially as you will inevitably grow up and become more and more independent. 

Photo by Melanie Rose Photograpy
You make all of us laugh every single day - whether it be because you are trying desperately to climb into the tub or shower, or because you are scrunching your nose and making a funny face. You display incredible focus when trying to accomplish any task, and you are so ambitious when navigating your way around safety gates, up stairs, through cabinets... we love your mischief! You astound us with your intelligence... from mimicking Jiya, to kissing on demand, you are a quick learner and so curious about everything around you. You love to eat. You chase after anyone with food, point and yelp until you get some in your own little hands. You love walking around with a cracker in each hand, gumming  both while you wander around and explore. You also love to nurse, and I am so grateful for the time we've spent together nursing and cuddling. You are picking up new skills every day. You can already walk, climb stairs, clap hands, blow and give kisses, even dip a spoon into food and feed yourself! Although you can't speak words yet, you can always get your point across. You bring over your shoes and point to your feet, you lead us to the stroller, or push your way through the dining chairs to the little toy car... somehow you can always let us know what you want to do next! I cannot get over how quickly you are growing. I often want to freeze time to keep you small, innocent, mine forever. 

Photo by Asiya
Photo by Melanie Rose Photography
You wake up smiling! You are very happy and very naughty. There is always mischief in your eyes when you climb into the toy chest or pull out the bow from your hair. You never stop moving! You hate to sit, but you love to be held while walking around. You have amazing hair and everyone stops to comment on how much of it you have! You've already had 5 haircuts and can make pigtails. You've acquired so many nicknames in just a year! Leels, Leeli, Leelu, Leeli-ki-my peels, and Kimi - are just a few of the names we love to call you. You especially love to play with and annoy your sister. You love to follow her, copy her, and you always try to have or do exactly the same thing as her. In the double stroller, when she is minding her own business, you often pinch or pat her so that she gets annoyed (or maybe you are seeking her attention!). We love watching you two interact. She loves to hug, kiss and squeeze you, and although you often tolerate it - more often, you like to look at one of us and complain. In those moments, I can almost picture the eye-rolling teenager you may become. 

Photo by Asiya

Photo by Melanie Rose Photography
Your smile and giggles took my breath away and you stole all of our hearts, especially your big sister's. Jiya was enamored of you from the first day she saw you in the hospital, saying things like "She's soooo cute," or "I love her so much" or "I need her, I need to be with her." In fact, Jiya was able to use the potty successfully after you "helped" her by sitting in the bathroom with her. She often talks about you when you're not around or asleep, mentioning your "adorable chotis" or sweet face. She is still working on sharing her toys with you, but everyone can see how much she adores you and how protective she is of you. My biggest joy is watching your relationship grow, and I hope that one day you will see each other as a gift - that you will encourage each other's hopes and dreams, share and keep secrets, watch out for each other and grow together to become best friends.

Photo by Melanie Rose Photography
Although you look like many of our family members melded into one, I see a lot of myself and Naveen in you. You are determined and athletic like your daddy, fiesty and a foodie like your mommy, and energetic like both of us. Leela, we wish you all the happiness this world has to offer, strength to face challenges, and adventure throughout your journey. May you always be fascinated by the world around you, may you always be blessed with health and luck, and may you live every year of your life with as much joy as your first. 

Photo by Asiya
With all my love today and always,

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trendy Tuesdays

 I hope you all enjoy this series as much as I do. I love to find new and relevant mom and baby products that bring smiles to all of our faces! Here are a few great finds:

Talk, Read, Sing
I'm currently obsessing over these adorable onesies that remind parents and caregivers to talk to their babies! And since holding one-sided conversations can get a bit monotonous, these adorable illustrations are filled with prompts and ideas to get you going...

Talking to your baby, pointing out everyday items and singing songs or telling stories can significantly improve their vocabulary, boost brain development and give them important basic skills for life. These are smart clothes. Literally. Perfectly educational and equally cute!

A Little Bundle
If you're looking for a new baby or baby shower gift, check out A Little Bundle, a wonderful subscription to mom and baby products that are unique and high-quality. Some of these beautiful pieces are exclusive and most are necessities! This will be a fun surprise for any new mom.

Dinner: The Playbook
I have been a long time follower of the amazing food and family blog, Dinner: A Love Story, so naturally am stoked for her newest book which comes out today! Dinner: The Playbook is filled with 80 family friendly recipes that I can't wait to dig into. Happy kids, happy husband, happy mommy!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

If you liked Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, you will love Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight. It is similarly mysterious, addictive and gut-wrenching, but I loved the added dimension of it being set in NYC, that it is mostly about a grieving mother, and that it unfolds somewhat more naturally and realistically (somewhat!).

The book starts out with a young, intelligent teenager's apparent suicide at her elite prep school, Grace Hall. Amelia Baron, a beautiful and somewhat dorky teenager, seems to have jumped off the roof after being accused of plagiarism. Her overworked, distraught mother, who is a brilliant lawyer at a top firm in NYC, is overcome with grief and regret. Until she gets an anonymous text - "Amelia didn't jump."

And so begins this clever story that reveals Grace Hall's secret societies, Amelia's secrets and her first love, and the general angst and anxiety of the teenage years. Kate, as single mom, is consumed by guilt but struggles to understand what was really happening in Amelia's life. In the end, her own secrets are wrapped up with Amelia's. Excerpts from Amelia's texts, facebook updates, and emails make the writing very fresh and modern, and add a layer of mystery.

I don't want to say too much more - it would ruin the book for you all! But this is certainly a quick, engrossing novel. Parts of it are heavy, especially for a young mother to read about the loss of a child, but other parts are fun and gossipy. Well written, light and engaging for sure. 

If you're looking for a few more summer reads for Labor Day weekend, check out my other favorite summer books here (summer 2014) and here (summer 2013).

What have you read this summer? Anything you loved and would recommend? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trendy Tuesdays

Just stopping in to share a few finds that make parenting just a little easier (and even cuter)...

Emily Press Preschool Shoe Labels

Jiya is becoming more and more independent every day -- from using the toilet on her own, to using her imagination to play with her dollhouse to working on a puzzle by herself, she is certainly ready for pre-school to officially begin. One of the things she loves to do every morning is to put on her own shoes! While its super-adorable to hear her say "right or wrong?!" every time she tries to put her left shoe on her right foot, I love that there is an effective and cute solution to this problem via this ingenious shoe labels!

They are so cute and easy to affix, and help pre-schoolers determine which shoe to put on what foot. I can't wait to use these with Jiya -- she will feel so grown up when she can properly put her shoes on for herself!

 Zip Pouch Squeez'Ems

Now you don't have to compromise home-made purees while on-the go. This re-usable pouch stores food in a easy to clean, easy to use and fun to eat out of zip pouch. Great for babies and toddlers alike.

Pink Chicken's Maya Dress

So sweet for fall! This is going to be on my back-to-school must have list :) I love Pink Chicken's soft and durable cotton clothes... perfect for passing on to the little one!

Totally Pregnant App

This modern, user-friendly app tells you everything you need to know from pregnancy to conception, linking you with other mom-bloggers, answering your crazy questions, even offering in-app purchases like instructional yoga videos! Almost makes me wish I were pregnant again. I said almost!

What have you been loving lately?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Baked Falafel with Sides

I wanted to try my hand at baked falafel, which came out surprisingly moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. Falafel is an incredible vegetarian staple -- ideal for sandwich/pitas, but also so tasty in salads. Made out of chickpeas, it's wonderfully filling and protein-rich. When it's baked instead of fried, it's the ideal light and healthy dinner.

The chickpeas have to be soaked overnight, then processed finely with parsley, garlic, onions, and spices to taste. This mixture is easy to mold into round balls, and pop into the oven at 400 degrees for twenty minutes.

While I've been successful at making falafel balls in the past, I've never got the tahini sauce down pat. I'm so pleased by how it came out this time -- I just pulsed (for a long time) the sesame paste with lemon juice, garlic, sea salt, a dash of olive oil and water, along with fresh parsley. I also made a side of mint-yogurt sauce, using greek yogurt, avocado, fresh mint, chopped onions and some water.

To mix things up a bit, I made an Indian style "tabbouleh" using diced cucumbers, onions, tomatoes  and jalapenos marinated in some lemon juice with cumin, turmeric and chaat masala. Instead of parsley, I used a ton of fresh cilantro which brightened it up so nicely.

While I served this with whole-wheat pita, it is just as delicious to have the falafel balls over the tabbouleh, dressed with the sides.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stitch Fix

For a busy working mom that has little time to shop in reality (thank goodness for late-night online shopping sprees!) or keep up with current trends, create outfits and keep her professional and weekend wardrobe up to date, there's nothing better than a personal stylist. And when that personal stylist only charges $20 to come up with five unique, personalized and stylish outfits... its a win win.

That's the concept behind Stitch Fix, an amazing, cost effective service that sends you five clothing items at a time (you can choose weekly or monthly subscriptions), that are tailored to your personal needs and style choices. Through an in-depth questionaire, the stylists at Stitch Fix get to know your budget, taste and clothing needs very well, and I was so surprised by the very on-point outfits they created just for me. 

I loved the little outfit cards that came along with the clothes in my box, with ideas of how to dress up or down each item with pieces and accessories that you probably have in your own closet. Even if you don't keep all or any of the items, these little style cards will teach you a lot about putting together a great look. 

I really did love everything that was sent to me, but ended up keeping the striped skirt and amazing tank top that I've already worn so much. If you choose to keep any of the items in the box, the $20 fee is waived. Score! If you choose to keep all five of the items, there's a 25% discount on all of them. Double score! I found the items to be very reasonably priced (between $40-$100) and I loved that there was no committment. I already can't wait for my next box! 

Such a fun way to "shop" -- try it sometime!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review: Americanah by Ngozi Adichie

“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. 
We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. 
I came from a country where race was not an issue; 
I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America." 

I've always been keenly fascinated by issues of migration and dislocation, while studying these themes in my college literature classes, or encountering them in many favorite novels by authors such as Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lisa See and Arundhati Roy. Perhaps that's why Americanah, by Ngozi Adichie, spoke to me so profoundly. This is a smart, engaging novel about being non-American black in America, living with racism, struggling with identity issues, coping with loss and finding love. It is so beautifully written and so moving that I found myself devouring the pages even way past my bed time.

At the heart of this daring commentary on racism, is a sweet and simple love story. Ifemelu and Obinze are childhood sweethearts - their passion is both comfortable and consuming. “She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself.” Obinze is the strong and silent type, with perfect manners and a calm, even-tempered nature. Ifemelu is the more outspoken of the two, with more guts and gusto, and she is the main character. We follow her journey as she moves to America to make a better life - "conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else." At first she is lonely, poor and desperate... which leads her to make decisions that estrange her from her love, still back in Nigeria. When she gets back on her feet and finds some stability and strength, it's fun to experience her different relationships and learn alongside her. She encounters ordinary things like kindness, romance, friendship -- but also things that are unique to America, like diversity, wealth, and abundance. “If you don't understand, ask questions. If you're uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It's easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard. Here's to possibilities of friendship and connection and understanding.”

As a South Asian-American who is a 1st generation immigrant as well, I could really relate to many of Ifemelu's innocent observations, which she tells with so much wit and humour, it feels like you're her friend. The narrative shifts between her perspective and Obinze's... it is told mostly in flashbacks, while Ifemelu is getting her hair braided at a salon. To add even more depth and a modern perspective, excerpts from Ifemelu's blog, Raceteenth, are included. They are at once refreshing and thought-provoking, and I really enjoyed the writing there.

Ifemelu has finally integrated and is seemingly doing well in America, but “...there was cement in her soul. It had been there for a while, an early morning disease of fatigue, shapeless desires, brief imaginary glints of other lives she could be living, that over the months melded into a piercing homesickness.” When homesick Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, she re-meets Obinze, who is now married with a daughter. What unfolds is not only a love for each other, but also for their shared homeland, childhood, and all the memories. There is so much nostalgia in these pages, it is almost tangible. Parts of this book are heartbreaking, others are incredibly heartwarming.

THIS IS A MUST READ!!! I loved it so much.