Category: Family

Missing Diwali in India? Celebrate NRI Style!

Diwali is in a few days and I can’t stop thinking about how the festival has evolved over the years. When I was a child, we used to go to our grandma’s house where our extended family would come together and celebrate the festival. The day would start with Ganga Snanam and prayers to God before we could even touch the sweets. I enjoyed watching crackers more than trying one by myself, but I had enough people around me who loved bursting crackers.

After moving to USA, Diwali had become so mundane and… blah. The first few years were tough especially when the Diwali day was nothing more than just another day. I missed my family more during festival times and Skype calls sometimes just made it worse.

After having kids, I realized that there is a reason why we decided to live in this country and, instead of cribbing, why not make the most of what we have? In the past few years, our Diwali celebrations have improved in such a way that my family was impressed when they visited us during one Diwali. Here are some ways NRIs can celebrate and enjoy this important Festival of Lights:

Send Diwali Cards to Friends and Family:

Receiving physical cards from our loved ones is much more exciting than an getting another email. When I was a child (yikes, am feeling really old when I say this J), I used to write greeting cards to my cousins and friends. I’d go to the store, pick the ones I like, write messages in my own handwriting, put a stamp and send it to friends and family.

People still do it for Christmas over here, right? Why not combine both and recreate the tradition for Diwali now?

Take a family portrait, print a Diwali greeting card with a family portrait and send to friends and family. If you have big kids, involve them in the process and make them write messages to their extended families. Post them ahead of time for them to receive it in time – hurry!

Take the Day Off and Celebrate with Close Friends:

For NRIs, friends are more of a family away from family. Not all of us are blessed with close families living nearby. Use this occasion to meetup with your close friends – even if they’re not Indian, why not introduce them? I still remember one special Diwali celebration couple of years back. One time, we all met at our friend’s house, cooked elaborate meals, played all day long and ended the celebration by watching an Indian movie in a theatre. If you have younger kids, it might be difficult to do all of this in one day, but at least meet with your close friends and celebrate in a way that works for you.

Remind them to Send Treats from India:

My family has been sending Diwali bakshanams (foods) from India and it’s something we look forward to every year. Not that we can’t get these things over here, but when we receive gifts from our loved ones from the homeland, it becomes very special. In my case, my whole family lives in India except me. We all miss each other and this package of clothes and bakshanams is something that makes my festival day brighter. Now even my kiddo looks forward to the package from his paati (nana).

Send Gifts to Family in India:

It goes without saying: send gifts to your immediate family to make their festival of lights even brighter. We all get excited and happy when someone thinks about us and sends gifts. Why not make our family happy by sending Diwali gifts to show them how much we still care?

You can find great deals on Diwali gifts over here: https://oxigenusa.com/send-diwali-gifts-to-india-2017 and you can use my discount code, “UMASGIFT”, for a 15% discount on Diwali gifts and instant gift cards!

Diwali Decorations:

In our house, decorations start from October. First Diwali, then Thanksgiving and it ends in Christmas. (Last year, our son wanted to keep the Christmas tree till February. That’s another story for another time.) Personally, I am all about DIY creations and Pinterest has lots of ideas on Diwali DIYs. Even if you don’t have time or patience, you can buy some Diwali themes decorations from ETSY. Even just artificial thorans that we find in Indian stores can give a festive touch to your home.

Nearby Diwali Events:

Nowadays, multiple Diwali events are happening in the city where I live. A regionally-specific one, Diwali Mela (search Diwali under Events section in Facebook) and Temple Mela are some examples. Almost all of the time, they end the celebration with fireworks. And these events are always during weekends. The good thing is, this event is for the whole family and no one gets bored by attending a Diwali mela. My personal favorite is watching dance performances, while my husband’s favorite is hitting all the food stalls 🙂

Although these ideas are not equal to celebrating the festival with all our extended family in India, we still can create some special memories with our own family if we plan ahead and try the above ideas. My first kid is 3 years old and is starting to understand festivals and special occasions now. I can’t wait to create some special memories again during this Diwali!

Wishing you all a wonderful Diwali, no matter where you are!

Note: this post is in collaboration with OxigenUSA.

An Easy Idea To Get Rid Of Shower Stains

An Easy Idea To Get Rid Of Bathroom Shower StainsDo you spend too much time cleaning the shower and still see some residues that are not going away? I came across this DIY cleaning hack around 5 years ago when I was trying to get rid of a hard stain on our bathroom shower. It’s super simple and doesn’t require any scrubbing or hard work.

Required:

Directions:

  1. Soak the cotton balls in bleach and cover the unclean areas with bleach soaked cotton balls
  2. Let it sit overnight
  3. In the morning, remove the cotton balls and wash with plain water

As I mentioned above, you only spend few minutes to prepare the cotton balls and few minutes in the morning to clean the area. Just make sure everyone at home stay away from the bathroom till you clear it in the morning.

This hack never fails and works every single time.

Minimalist Hospital Bag Checklist

Hospital bag checklist coverWhen we found out that I was pregnant with our first child, I started putting together a baby registry cehcklist right after I turned 3 months pregnant. Over the next several months, I started getting inputs from multiple sources such as from moms I know, Pinterest and forums etc for a comprehensive list of things I needed to buy for the child. Later I realized, no matter how many times you tweak the list and make it efficient, each baby is different. Even with our babies, one loved the bouncer and one hated it. So, some toys/items might not be used by your baby at all. For hospital bag checklist, however, we don’t have to worry about not using something. For sure every mom/baby use the majority of the same items as they go through the same things in the hospital.

I realized my hospital bag checklist was way too long the first time and I didn’t even use a lot of items I brought to the hospital. Can you believe I carried a 50 pounds suitcase as hospital bag for my first delivery? I didn’t use even 10% of the items I carried. Hospital carired and provided most of the basic things and I was way too exhausted (who knew you’ll feel like you’re hit by a car after delivery) to even open my big luggage.

The second time around, I reviewed my first pregnancy hospital bag checklist and cut unnecessary/not-used items from the list. As you can imagine, the revised checklist contains only basic, important things we have to carry and nothing else. I call it a minimalist hospital bag checklist. 🙂

I used almost all the items I carried to the hospital during the stay. My bag was also much lighter than the first time. I only needed a small backpack (+boppy pillow) during the second time (however, I needed a bigger bag when we left the hospital to carry the freebies from the hospital after delivery).

Although you can find some hospital bag lists in the internet that are practical, a lot of them have some unbelievable long list of recommendations. For example, I have no idea why they recommend us to carry diapers to the hospital. Unless you are particular about a specific brand or cloth diapering from day 1, there is no need to carry diapers in your hospital bag. For both of my babies, the hospital provided Pamper Snugglers until we left home. I even brought additional diapers from the hospital when we were released to go home.

Personally, Food is the primary issue when it comes to the hospital stay. You’ll be deprived of good food and it’s better you carry some snacks for munching during the stay. Also ask your family to bring lots of fruits. I remember not having any fruits (other than the ones that come with the meal) after my first delivery.

For Baby:

I only carried going home outfit for the baby. Until she was ready to go home, my baby wore only hospital onesies and blankets (for swaddling). So, the baby practically doesn’t need anything other than going home outfit that you need to keep in the hospital bag.

For the Mommy:

  • Make sure to take your prenatal vitamins every day
  • Makeup and toiletries such as toothbrush and toothpaste are a must. Even if you forget, do you know hospital does provide toiletries?
  • Electronics: Don’t forget to take all the necessary electronics and chargers
  • Clothes: Get your favorite pajamas for the stay and going home outfit
  • Folder for the paperwork: During the stay, you’ll receive multiple important documents. I’d suggest you carry a folder to keep the documents, as soon as you receive them, in the folder
  • Nursing cover and Boppy pillow: Nursing cover is optional. Boppy pillow is a must
  • Thank you gift for the caregivers: I can write a big essay on this topic. I did so much research on “thank you gift” when I was pregnant. Thank you gifts are completely optional and you don’t have to give anything to the caregivers, nor do they expect anything from you. However, if you do want to give them, make sure you have them ready in the hospital bag. 

Other Family Members:

Mostly clothes and toiletries are the essential items for the family members who stay with mommy and baby at the hospital.

For convenience, I created a checklist printable that you can print and keep it handy. Click the below image and save it on your computer. Click print this minimalist hospital bag checklist. Hope you find it useful.

Minimalist Hospital Bag Checklist

Life Lately

Life LatelyIt’s been minutes since I shared my life lately. Probably not after the baby was born? 🙂 You all know how the first few months after baby would be. Jeev was getting adjusted to having a sibling, sleepless nights, new place, and a lot more changes than we would prefer. We survived and finally, things are getting better.

about meera

About Meera:

Meera just turned 5 months old and she already adores her brother. She is sitting on her own and always looking to grab something to put it in her mouth. She is such a charmer and wants everyone around her. She gets upset even if one of her moves away from her. This girl is full of life and I’m already seeing her uniqueness.

hershey chocolate world

Our Trips to Chocolate factory and DC:

When Jeev was born, we started taking him out as soon as he turned 2 months. With Meera, we finally took a long trip only after she turned 4 months old. My husband has been working too many hours lately (not a happy wife here) and on a Saturday evening, we decided to take a 3 hours trip to Chocolate Factory in Philadelphia. The best part was, we finally traveled to someplace nice and enjoyed every bit of the experience. The worst part was, Hubby was on call all through the journey and we missed meeting some of the folks in PA.

Then, the week after, we took my mom to DC. DC is 4 hours away from our place and it only took us 7 hours to reach there after taking breaks almost every 30 minutes.

It’s our third visit to DC and a low key visit. We made the whole journey as simple as possible. Driving to DC was the hardest part of the trip. We stayed 5 minutes away from major attractions and took Uber everywhere. We came back to the room for kids nap time and went out again in the evening. It worked perfectly fine for us.

Back to work:

I was back to work from maternity leave from March. It’s been over 3 months and I should say life has been crazzaay over here. I’m not really complaining, I love what I do and overall I’m happy that I’m able to balance better than I expected. Big thanks to my family!

Meera’s 100 days and Anna Prashanam:

I’m someone who keeps looking for ideas to celebrate and create memories as a family. We celebrated Jeev’s 100 days and I followed the same tradition for Meera as well.

For Meera’s anna prasannam (first feeding ceremony), mom and I went to Jo Ann’s, picked material for her dress, and Mom handmade a dress for her first bite. I’ll treasure this dress forever. The day was, for sure, very special.

My YouTube channel:

I started YouTube channel a couple of months ago to share some of the things that work better when I show visually. I also realized I’m stressed out when I try to do everything. My initial plan was to post a video once every couple of weeks and I don’t think it’s feasible.

Even to take a video, I had to wait till the house is silent (is that even possible with an active toddler and a baby?), set up everything, take video, and edit. Man, it’s a lot of work and not doing something I planned stresses me out.

So I decided to take it easy and shoot videos whenever I feel like. If I post a video, I’ll share it on Facebook and Instagram.

The Bad:

In the last few months, we had to visit ER multiple times. By God’s grace, all are due to me freaking out over small issues (mom hormones, maybe?). But, this side of life is definitely stressful. I hope there won’t be any sickness for a while.

Did you have any big moments in the last few weeks/months? I’d love to hearing more about you.

Gifting Options to Family in India + $100 Giveaway

Gifting options to family in IndiaAs someone who is living outside of India, I miss the celebrations and special occasions in the family back home. Worst of all, they get used to us being away from them. For them, the first few years are hard. After that, they’re used to our online presence and don’t miss us like before. No matter whether it’s our own parents or distant relative we love, it’s important to keep the bond strong. It’s important to remember and wish on their special occasions.

Gifting Family in India:

People who are close to us, don’t expect gifts or anything from us. But, we know they will be very happy if we gift them something that they love. When the years pass by, I no longer know my family members wants and needs. For example, as long as I remember, my mom never wore makeup. She didn’t like to wear any big jewelry or anything, nor did she like to wear heavy silk sarees. So I assumed that my mom doesn’t like makeup and not much into grooming. She recently visited us a few months back. Even though it’s her 3rd visit here, only recently I got to know that she likes makeup. Well, now it’s my turn to find suitable products for her and help her learn to apply makeup.

Gifting Fail:

Finding and deciding suitable gifts for the family members is the most painful part of India trip planning. I remember buying vegetable peelers and handbags in bulk before one of our India trips. 😉

For birthday and other special occasions, our standard gift so far has been either booking movie or ordering cake. It’s so predictable that it’s no longer a surprise for our family in India. I remember buying something from Amazon for my nephew’s birthday hoping that he would like it.  We gift everything we thought they will like it, but in reality, they might not want to watch that movie we booked or play with that toy that we gifted.

In our defense, we have very limited options to gift from here. Recently, I came across Oxigen’s digital gift services and I ordered Levi’s gift card for my brother through them. The gift card was delivered to his email directly (I got a copy of that email as well. Sweet!).

My Brother’s Experience:

  • He searched the nearby Levi’s store from the list of exclusive stores where the gift card will be acceptable
  • He went to one of the stores from the list and checked in the billing counter whether they will accept the gift card
  • He selected a shirt and bought it using the gift card

I was not completely sure of using gift cards in an Indian retal store. I was so happy that he was able to use it without any issues. Maybe I should visit India often.

Some of the highlights of Oxigen’s digital gifts are,

  • They are great as last-minute gifts when you’ve almost forgotten an occasion.
  • It works when you don’t want to or can’t make a decision on what exactly to gift a loved one,
  • It also provide flexibility when specific preferences come into play (clothes size, material, color, etc.)
  • They offer a variety of gift cards for buying both physical as well as experience gifts. For example, they have gift cards even for restaurants, movie theater, spa, travel etc

Now that we are only a few days away from Father’s day, a gift card to your Dad in India might a good option. I’m sure he would be delighted to try Italian cuisine Spaghetti Kitchen or watch a movie through BookMyShow.

Note: 

  • Even though Oxigen’s online gift cards are instantly delivered to your email, the first transaction takes 2 days to complete. I ordered their gift card on Friday and both my brother and I received the email with gift card information only on Sunday.
  • When you receive the gift card over email, it also contains the list of stores where you can use the gift card. Make sure you use in one of those stores.
  • Certain gift cards, like Cleartrip, Makemytrip and BookMyShow can be redeemed online. It differs for each gift card/type of gift
  • For any issues: the email that goes out to the recipients of the gifts has a link to FAQs and the option to contact the specific retailer for the gift card

Finally, THE GIVEAWAY:

Before going to the giveaway, I wanted to clarify that I spent my own money to try Oxigen’s digital service and even though they are sponsoring the giveaway, all the opinions are my own. I value my readers and I would not recommend anything to you that I would not use/try.

Oxigen is giving away $50 gift card for 2 of my readers. Yay! All you need to do is share this blog post on your social media page with a hashtag #OxigenUSA. You can find a variety of social media share buttons available at the bottom of this post. Choose the one that you prefer and share it to the world with the hashtag #OxigenUSA.

The giveaway ends on June 28, 2017. I will randomly select 2 winners who shared this post on social media (it can be either on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter). Both of you will get $50 gift card that you can choose from Oxigen digital service options. Shower your family in India with gifts using the gift card.

Have you used Oxigen’s services before? What do you think of them? If not, share away this post for a  chance to win $50 gift card of your choice from their options.

If you have any questions, reach me at centsibleindian@gmail.com or leave a comment in this post.