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We have all at one point or another experienced oral health issues. Be it a cavity, or bleeding gums, bad breath or like me….the “geographic tongue“.

All the text on geographic tongue suggests that while it looks weird, it doesn’t cause any pain. I can say that that is not true. While initially, my tongue wouldn’t hurt, off-late it started bleeding while I brushed my teeth and would burn when I ate anything spicy. As far as bleeding gum and bad breath we all know the pains.

Having tried it all, from brushing twice a day Oil-Pullingto flossing and using a mouthwash (bad idea that last one), I finally was ready to give up. I even tried using a paste made using turmeric and coconut oil (this one was good in that it helped rid some coffee stains from my teeth).

Recently I read about “oil pulling”. This method is that of using a tablespoon of oil (coconut oil is best) to swish around in your mouth, thereby riding your mouth of harmful toxins. The process is simple, you take a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil (unrefined) and swish it around your mouth for about 20 minutes. This should be done as the first thing after waking, don’t rinse your mouth or brush your teeth before oil pulling.

DO NOT SWALLOW THE OIL!! – This is extremely important. Since the idea is to get toxins out of your system through oil pulling, swallowing oil that has pulled toxins is simply counter-productive. So if your mouth feels tired before the 20 minutes are up, that is absolutely fine, just go ahead and spit out the oil and rinse your mouth. Then brush as usual.

You do not need to oil pull daily. 3-4 times a week is just fine.

Both my husband and I have been oil pulling for a week now. I have to admit my tongue hurts a lot less, my teeth feel cleaner and seem whiter than before. Even my husband has commented on how his mouth feels fresh even at the end of the day. Bad breath is a thing of the past.

Give it a go, I may not be able to verify about the toxins being pulled out through your mouth, but I can definitely verify that your mouth will feel so much better for having oil pulled.

A doctor claimed that there are only 2 things on this planet that are digested right on the tongue – the first one is mother’s milk and the 2nd is coconut oil. Something to ponder about.

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Sabarimala Verdict – yay or nay?

At the onset let’s talk about the premise of the entire fiasco, shall we?

So for generations now the Sabarimala Temple has a few guidelines for devotees visiting the temple. I am going to bullet those here and if I’ve missed anything I do apologize:

1) prior to visiting Sabarimala Sannidanam, you have to maintain a ’vratam’ or period of fasting and penance. Fasting here refers to abstaining from meat and liquor and other such vices. Believers are seen to not wear slippers during this time, they are unshaven and many wear the black attire that is now associated with a Swami.

2) men and women are allowed into the temple, however women in the age group of 10-50 years are forbidden from entering.

As far as I understand that is pretty much what the temple traditions are.

Now people took offence to the fact that women in the age group of 10-50 years aren’t allowed into the temple. Court battles fought and won too and yet these ’so-called’ believers are fighters for women’s right fight their way to the temple barred. So what exactly is going on? What is all the hullaboo about?

If this ruckus had happened a few years back I too would have vehemently fought and said that the SC verdict is the right one. And sadly I would have been wrong. No I haven’t been brainwashed, the truth is that back then all I knew about the Sabarimala Temple was that women in a certain age group weren’t allowed in and that was because menstruating women are considered impure. That thought drives me up the wall even today. How can the ability to create and nourish new life be impure has always been beyond me. And the fact that a temple would allow such a norm to be practiced made my blood boil.

  • It wasn’t until recently that I actually started learning more about Sabarimala Ayyappa Swami. The avatar of Swami Ayyappa residing at Sabarimala is that of a ’Naishtika Brahmachari’. Someone who has removed himself from the world, practices celibacy and lives a life of abstinence. Devotees respect this life the Lord has chosen and it is for this reason that a fertile woman is not allowed in.
  • So what of this rubbish about menatruating women being impure? Well temple traditions say no such thing. Haven’t you heard of men and women taking something and completely twisting it around to make it offensive? Well that is exactly what happened. It’s the devotees who started talking the crap that has offended feminists all over. The temple and its traditions are paying the price for it.
  • Do I approve of that kind of thought process? Nope. Being someone who has been subject to being treated as impure while menstruating I can tell you there is nothing more insulting. And I realize that my reactions and absolute horror of the ’mandalam season’ was based not on the traditions but what people twisted the traditions into. My lack of knowledge also contributed to my angst.
  • A lot of women then question, so what if Sabarimala Ayyappa is a Naishtika Brahmachari? Is he not strong enough to stick to his disciplines? Well logically yes he should be. But this is faith, isn’t it? Faith isn’t logical. What everyone fighting for women of all age to be allowed to enter must remember that the women who actually have been Sabarimala Ayyappa devotees don’t want to go there if they are in the 10-50 age group. This is simply because faith and devotion is about accepting traditions for what it is.
  • Having said all of this, i’ll add that if it were a case of women being oppressed or treated inhumanely I would join the bandwagon before you could blink twice. However it’s the women fighting the SC verdict. Shouldn’t we refrain from belittling peoples faith just because our moral compass is suddenly out of whack?
  • Now just for argument’s sake lets say all of the above didn’t convince you, lets take a look at the trek to the temple itself. The Sabarimala trek even today tires out the most veteran pilgrim. It’s a long arduous walk consisting of uphill climbs to get to the Lord himself. Back in the day it was worse since most of this trek was done through a wild forest area abundant with wild animals. When someone got ready to start the journey to see the Lord, they were fed with a large spread of a meal consisting of the persons favorite dishes. It wasn’t uncommon to lose someone during these journeys. While the journey itself now is a lot less dangerous the sentiment remains. And why not?
  • The argument that change is inevitable and that religious beliefs should mould itself to the modern thought process is all good and I subscribe to it too. However, in the case of the Sabarimala Temple its 2 separate things. By all means, fight the insane normal that people have propagated about women being impure while menstruating (that’s a nation wide belief by the way). The temple not letting women in a certain age group enter has a totally different reasoning and that is based on faith and should be left alone.
  • And for all the super knowledgeable folks fighting for women being allowed to conduct puja’s or for people of lower castes being allowed to conduct puja’s here is a newsflash. I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but Kerala is already way ahead in the matter. We already have temples with women priests. We also have priests who are from the ’so-called’ lower castes.
  • On the topic of the caste system being the worst categorization of people within a religious sect. Here is another news flash, traditionally there was no such rules stating that you were a Brahmin only if you were born into such a family or a Vaishya if born to Vaishya parents. The division was based on the tasks a person performed. So a child born to Brahmin parents could eventually live out his/her life as a Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra based on what vocation he chooses. You want to blame someone for the way caste system works today, blame the British. And then blame the media houses for constantly reporting news based to caste and religious divide.
  • On that note, I take leave. Your views on the topic may differ. You may still strongly believe that women should be allowed entry into Sabarimala and that Hinduism is by far the worst kind of religion (you would be wrong because Hinduism isn’t a religion at all but a way of life) but here is what I ask of you. When you make an argument be sure that your only source of information isn’t the news reporters and channels of today.
  • Gardening with my toddler

    Plants are fascinating. Everything about them is totally exciting. I didn’t realize that I had a thing for gardening until after I got married. So many years wasted. There is a certain sense of accomplishment that comes from watching your plants thrive. And if you started from seeds….oh that joy is simply indescribable.

    Now getting into your garden with your little one, teaching him/her how to sow a seed, ask them to care for it and watch them learn and enjoy themselves all at the same time makes the entire experience so much better.

    Here in Michigan, we get about 6-7 months of gardening, the rest of the year is too cold for anything other than evergreens to survive. Back when I was in India, I never really gave much thought to the fact that container gardening and rooftop gardening was a possibility. Now that I know well its too late to do anything about not having done anything productive when in India.

    So last year, when my son was a year old, I planted a few tomatoes, peas, okra, beetroot and pumpkin. So due to the short gardening window where I live, I started the seeds indoors and then when spring arrived, I planted them outdoors. Sadly enough, a few days after spring arrived we got a few days of frost. baring the peas, everything else died. I did sow some tomatoes in again and got enough tomatoes towards the end of summer that I didn’t need to buy tomatoes for about 2 months. I got a decent amount of peas too. This was my first attempt at gardening and I was pretty happy with the results. My son was too young then to help with the gardening, but almost daily I would take him out to the tomato plants and talk to him about it. To date, he calls most plants tomato plants haha.

    This year, I had more room for gardening. But I decided to not have any vegetable garden this year, simply because the new yard needed a lot of work. But over time I got some roses, canna lilies, peonies, lavender, daylilies, Dahlia’s, geraniums, marigolds and some others that I forget the names of going in my garden. My son was an active partner in my gardening attempts this year. And now I find him going into the garden, caressing plants (sometimes he will tear the leaves, which annoys me but its okay). He can name a few of the plants too. Makes me so proud.

    I believe it is good to teach your child gardening. Let them play with mud, get dirty. I even caught my son putting some mud in his mouth and guess what nothing happened. Caring for a plant will automatically teach your child to be a caring person as they grow. It’s the same logic that applies with having pets around little children. It takes some patience and a lot of understanding but they get there. Show them how to sow a seed or transplant a seedling. Teach them how to water and care for their little plants. Teach your child about natural, organic fertilizers that can be made from kitchen wastes.

    For those of you living in apartments that don’t really have too much room for gardening, you could have a few pots placed outside of your window on a ledge. You may need to buy some quality soil from the nursery. As for seeds, you can actually get them out of your kitchen itself (if you are planning on a vegetable garden).

    A few easy to grow items would be coriander, mint, tomatoes, green chilies, bell peppers.

    A few easy fertilizing options are eggshells powdered, coffee grounds, tea leaves, banana peels. You can also make some compost teas which are pretty simple to prepare.

    For a banana peels fertilizer, collect some banana peels throw away the stalk and cut the peel into tiny bits. Put all the peels into a container, pour water until all the peels are submerged and cover with a tight lid. Leave this in a warm place for 1 week. After a week, strain out the liquid infused with the goodness from the banana peels, dilute this mixture with regular water and give all your plants a thorough soaking with it.

    You can make a similar liquid fertilizer with kitchen scraps (onion peels, vegetable peels, and wastes, etc). Just be sure as to not add any meat or bones to your fertilizer.

    Happy Gardening!!!!

     

     

     

    My son turns 2

    I’m sitting about 5 days from my son turning 2 years old. My mind screams “2 YEARS”!!!! When did that happen? I mean wasn’t it only last week that I brought him home? Obviously not, eh?

    Oh well, so yes he turns 2 and the question we get asked most is whether or not we are celebrating it in a big way. Well, I do not know what is considered “a big celebration”, but my husband and I have planned to spend the morning at the temple followed by “Annadhanam” at noon at the said temple. We may even head on over to Sri Kasi Viswanatha Temple at Flint, MI since it is after all the first Saturday of the month too. The family together spending time doing what we like, I think that is a good way to celebrate his birthday. I am not against parties, in fact, we had one for his 1st birthday. But the way I look at it, at his age when he doesn’t really understand birthdays or parties what is the point of celebrating it that way?

    Once he turns maybe 4 or 5, he will have friends, he will then want to get together with them on his birthday and that we will arrange for. For now, it will be a day spent visiting temples. Next weekend there is a plan to visit Holland, MI. That will be a continuation of what we start on Saturday.

    Having talked all about how we plan to spend his birthday, I am still struggling to wrap my mind around the fact that my child is turning 2. He speaks a few words, calls me by the name my husband calls me, same for my husband (cute until it isn’t huh?). He understands everything we say. Gets frustrated when we don’t understand his gibberish. Dances away to music and hums when he thinks no one is listening. He has finally begun to show a liking towards his toys. As it turns out, it his cars that have won the “favorite toy challenge”.

    He is everything one could hope for in a boy, including extreme levels of naughtiness. But he is growing up too fast for this mother to cope with. I never considered myself a very responsible person in the past, all that changed when he entered my life. A lot of people might call me detached, but I am so in love with this little baby of mine that it scares me sometimes. How do I keep him safe? In the world that we live in, is anything or any place safe? I have to keep assuring myself on a daily basis that I can do it, that we can do it, my husband and I.

    And so on that note, I will bake a cake and celebrate him completing 2 years of being the center of our universe.

    Quick Meal Tips

    Quick Meal Tips

    Hey…ever walk into your kitchen in the morning, knowing you have hungry mouths relying on your culinary skills, and realize that you have no idea what to make? Happens to me at least once a week.

    So usually I rely on the very dependable idli, dosa batter. This takes care of breakfast for 2 mornings a week, but then we still have 5 days more. Being a Malayalee I have the palappam or puttu in my magic bag of tricks. But here is the problem with batter based breakfast ideas, you have to remember to soak and grind the batter the previous day and then too, sitting here in Detroit MI, I find that my batter takes its own sweet time to ferment some days. So here are a few quick and yummy recipes for such mornings.

    1. Moong Dal Dosa (The green full lentil) – Soak a cup of moong dal and a half teaspoon of fenugreek overnight. Next morning grind it along with some ginger, green chilies, and salt to a dosa batter consistency. Leave it aside for 30 mins and then start preparing your dosa. Trust me it tastes good and is healthy too.
    2. Multigrain Dosa – Here you soak the different variety of grains instead of just the one. I use millets, chana (black and Kabuli), moong dal, urad dal, cowpeas (red, white), kidney beans & fenugreek. The millets I take about 1/2cup and the rest about a tablespoon each, except fenugreek which is just a pinch. Soak it all overnight and exactly like the moong dal batter you grind it with some ginger, salt, and green chilies. You can also add 1/2 cup of grated coconut to the mix.
    3. Lemon Rice – If you aren’t averse to eating rice first thing in the morning like I am, this one is a quick fix. Cook some raw rice and spread it on a large plate to cool down. Once it cools add some lemon juice and salt to it. Next heat some oil, throw in some mustard. Once that splutters add some chana dal and urad dal, be careful not to let these burn. Now add some split green chilies and some peanuts. Once the peanuts have roasted add some sliced onions and saute until translucent. Turn the gas off and add some turmeric to the mix. Let this mixture cool a little before you mix it in with the rice. Voila! Lemon rice ready!!!
    4. Medu Vada: This is another one of those recipes where the batter needs no fermentation. Wash and then soak 2 cups of Urad dal for 3-4 hours. After 3-4 hours, grind the dal using very little water. Add a tsp of water at a time if you find that grinding is difficult. You know your batter is ready when you get a small blob of it and put it in a bowl of water, it floats. Now transfer the batter to a bowl, add some salt and stir it vigorously to incorporate some air into it. Keep the batter in the refrigerator for about 30 mins. After 30 mins, heat some oil to fry the vada in, over medium-high heat. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and add some crushed black peppers, chopped chilies, finely chopped ginger and some finely chopped coriander. You can add all of the those or just whatever you like really. Now for the slightly tricky part of making the hole in the vada, wet your fingers, scoop a little of the batter using your fingers and use your thumb to poke a hole in it. Now quickly upturn your hand so that the batter drops into the oil. This is why you need to ensure the batter isn’t watery. A watery batter won’t hold its shape. The refrigeration helps with getting really crispy vadas. Another tip would be that if you have a wet grinder, use that to grind your batter as it gives you a really fluffy batter.
    5. Making curd at home: This tip is mostly for all those Indians abroad that cannot get their hands on some good culture to make curd at home. You can prepare the culture quite easily at home itself. Take a bowl of lukewarm milk; drop either 2 green chilies along with its stalk, or 2 dry red chilies along with its stalk, or 1 tsp of lemon juice into the milk and leave it in a warm place for 12-18 hours. The milk with form a curd-like consistency. You cannot consume this, however, what you can do is use a tablespoon of this in lukewarm milk and this will turn into an amazingly lovely textured curd within 8-10 hours.

    Hopefully, you find this post helpful. There are a lot more little tricks that make life in the kitchen easier and makes you the star with your spouse and children.

     

    No Knead Cinnamon Raisin Bread

    I don’t particularly enjoy cooking, never did. I cook now because well if I want my family and me to eat, I gotta cook 😂.

    A few year back I had a coffee mug that said ‘the only reason I have a kitchen is because it came with the house’, oh I loved the mug.

    Anyways, as much as I find cooking boring, I totally enjoy baking. Couple of reason, first of which is the end results are always so yum 🤤.

    Also when you bake your house smells wonderful!!!

    Cakes, cookies you name it. I enjoy baking them. Breads I like but oh the kneading always bummed me out. So after baking 1 loaf I just figured not doing it again. That was until I found a no knead recipe. And so of course I tried it and boy was it amazing. As per my husband, “the best bread he has had”. Now that’s something huh!!

    So I have to share the recipe. Here goes

    Ingredients

    All purpose flour – 3 cups

    Yeast – half tsp

    Salt – 1.5 tsp

    Sugar – 2 tbsp

    Cinnamon – 2 tbsp

    Raisins (nice and plump) – 3/4th cup

    Milk (room temperature) – 3/4th cup

    Water (room temperature) – 3/4th cup

    You start off by bringing all your ingredients together in a large bowl. We will be leaving the dough to rise in this bowl so make sure it is large enough

    Place the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, yeast, salt, sugar and raisin) in the bowl, now one thing to be very careful about, you put the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. If salt directly comes in contact with the yeast it will kill the active ingredients in the yeast, which means your dough won’t rise and in effect your bread won’t turn out right. So you mix the salt into the flour and then mix the rest of the ingredients into the flour.

    Make a well and pour in the milk and water. Use a spatula and bring it all together. You can use your hand too.

    You should have a wet kind of dough, something like in the picture below. Remember there is no kneading done here. You are just being it all together.

    Now cover the bowl with a cling wrap and then place a kitchen towel over it to keep the dough warm. Leave the dough to rise for 12-18 hours. Minimum of 12 hours is mandatory, although I usually leave it for about 20 hours.

    This is what my bread dough looks like after 21 hours. It has risen to almost thrice the original volume. And can you see those lovely air pockets….Check out the gluten strands. Simply amazing. Dust a surface with some flour, get the dough on it and press it down. You will be pushing out all the air bubbles but that’s ok right now. Fold the dough like you would a piece of paper or cloth and then shape it into a round mound or oval, whatever shape you like. At this point place the dough into the tray that you will bake it in.

    Cover this with a cloth and leave it to rise for 1 hour.

    After an hour,you will find the dough to have risen again. A good way to tell if your dough is ready for the oven is to poke the dough lightly. If it bounces right back leave it a little longer, but if it doesn’t then it’s all good and ready.

    Get your oven pre-heated to 200 C or 400 F.

    Dust the top of dough mound with a little flour and you can cut in a design if you like. Once your oven is ready, place your dough in and bake for 45-50 minutes.

    Fresh out of the oven Once done, take it out and let it cool around 15-20 mins. You should have a love hard crust with a soft bread inside. When you tap the underside of the loaf, it should sound hollow.

    Lather on some butter and enjoy!!!

    Be Kind – Every Journey is Different!

    “Oh that poor girl, she ended her life because her boyfriend cheated on her”

    OR

    “Oh the Chopra kid, he committed suicide because he was sure he was failing his boards.”

    These are a couple of reasons we hear when someone ends their life. We have all heard and some of us even believe that “suicide is the coward’s way out” and that might very well be true, however not everyone is born with the strength of warriors.

    A lot of times, a kind word, a little extra attention or even a few minutes of your time might be all that is required to shift a person from wanting to die to finding a reason to live.

    September 10th has been earmarked for World Suicide Prevention Day 2017. On the occasion let us try to be more vigilant, and keep our eyes and ears peeled, may you be able to save a friend from the brink of doing something stupid.

    Some warning signs that would indicate that a person is suicidal (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide/)

    • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
    • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
    • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
    • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
    • Talking about being a burden to others
    • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
    • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
    • Sleeping too little or too much
    • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
    • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
    • Extreme mood swings

    Everyone has a different story, every story has a different ending, but life is too valuable for a story to end in suicide.

    So what can we do to help a person who we think might be suicidal

    • Give the person your time. Listen to them. Talking often helps bring things into perspective, you may not have a solution to their problem but you might be able to help them find their own solution simply by listening to what they have to say.
    • Where talking isn’t helping, guide the person to the various suicide prevention help groups.

    The Indian Express published a list of all the suicide help lines in India back in 2016. – http://indianexpress.com/article/trending/this-is-serious/list-of-suicide-helplines-in-india/

    Wikipedia lists the help lines across the globe (I do not vouch for accuracy here but it might just be useful) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

    The difference between life and death for someone might be your attention to detail and the kindness of your heart.

    If you yourself are suicidal, please reach out to a friend or family member. Talk about what worries you and if no one else is available get in touch with the Suicide Prevention Help line and talk. Life is not as horrible as it feels in that moment, once the moment passes you WILL find your reason to live.

    Do not let a stumble on the road be the reason for the end of the journey.