For Chef Daddy

The daughter and her mom pulled off nothing short of an extremely clever coup this Father’s Day. I got a gift, oh yes, and a very, very thoughtful one at that. The dictionary defines it thus: ‘A protective garment worn over the front of one’s clothes and tied at the back’. I define it thus: ‘An excuse to trick dad into entering the kitchen’. Yes, I got an exclusive, personally customized apron as a gift last weekend.

The hand-painted message on the front of the apron read: ‘Love is sweet. So are you.’ Sweet, both literally and figuratively, I thought. And hence, out came the non-existent chef in me and I decided to take the family by surprise (that they were no doubt, expecting!).

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Afters” by Meditations is licensed under CC by 2.0

The microwave came to my rescue. Sugar, cocoa and cornstarch went into a bowl, accompanied by whisking in a little milk. Approximately four minutes on high in the microwave, then stirring every 90 seconds and again microwaving for 3-4 minutes. One teaspoon of vanilla extract to the hot mixture and the ‘dessert-a-la-daddy’ went into the refrigerator to get chilled in time for dinner.

Agreed, the chocolate pudding (if you can call it that) wasn’t exactly lip-smacking but near enough. And the looks on the faces were of pure awe, if you know what I mean. After all, I lived up to the challenge. Needless to say, the apron stayed on my person for the rest of the evening!

3 Mother’s Day Ideas for Dads

Now that I come to think of it, the title to this post does seem a tad confusing; after all, Mother’s Day should ideally be for mothers, shouldn’t it? Well, let me explain what I meant when I wrote ‘Mother’s Day Ideas for Dads’. Mother’s Day is an occasion to be celebrated at home to make mums feel special. And in order to make the day extraordinarily special, dads need to lend their kids a helping hand with stuff. Hence, the title in question.

Here are three Mother’s Day ideas to be given the finishing ‘Dad-touch’ along with the kids’ help.

Picnic day

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Hat” by ki-kieh is licensed under CC by 2.0

Simple enough, if you think of it as a series of steps. One, zero in on a place that is clean, green and relatively noise-pollution free. Two, ask your little one to create a handmade picnic invitation card to be presented to mum with a flourish. For instance, it could have a scenery drawn and colored by mom’s pet on the cover, addressed to ‘Mom’ inside with the time, location and mode of travel all mentioned point wise. Next comes the food part. It need not be anything very elaborate; easy-to-munch fruits that are not messy such as apples or pears, cucumber and tomato sandwiches, cookies or chips and a bottle of lemonade are good enough (just make sure mum has no access to the kitchen while you are packing the food with your kids since it is supposed to be her special day). Ditch your tablets and virtual games, laptops and work emails for a day, shove in a football or a Frisbee into the car instead and you’re all set for quality family time mom would love!

Family picture

We hardly ever get family portraits clicked. I recently came across an article in a magazine in which a mom talked about how it was an annual family tradition of theirs to get family photographs clicked on a designated day every year, and how she treasures all the pictures now years after they were actually taken, now that her kids have moved out of home and are busy with lives of their own. I thought it was a very good idea. So this Mother’s Day, we’ll get out the tripod along with our camera, dress up in our very best and click away. The kids are already working on a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ streamer to be put up in the background, on the wall behind the sofa. Getting the picture all nicely framed to be propped up on the mantelpiece is their dad’s responsibility.

Handmade happiness

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Girl” by kaboompics is licensed under CC by 2.0

Something that is handmade is so much more meaningful than something, say, that is just bought off a shelf. If mom loves reading, make her a handmade bookmark – it could be cardboard painted with water colors or even a photograph of her along with the kids stuck onto hard paper. If she loves gardening, dads could help kids paint terracotta pots in vibrant hues and present cheerful potted flowers to be kept on the window sill of the kitchen. If she enjoys baking or cooking, a hand-print apron (marked with fabric paints) could be a good idea. Or else, have a look at these handmade gift ideas. The possibilities are endless.

Dads, remember – Father’s Day is just around the corner too. Why not set a good example and wait for what comes your way next month in return?!

Toilet Rolls, Easter Chicks & Bunnies

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Easter Nest” by suju is licensed under CC by 2.0

Weird-sounding title to my post, eh? Well, I’m into one of my ‘temporary phases’, as my wife likes to call it. This time it’s all to do with recycling. So in my daily reading time when I came across some ideas for crafts fashioned out of discarded toilet paper rolls, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here’s how it goes. You need pretty much the same supplies for both the chicks as well as the bunnies – toilet paper rolls (equal to the number of chicks/bunnies you want), buttons (if you can’t lay your hands on googly eyes), some paint or crayons, glue and orange/yellow colored cardboard along with a pair of scissors.

The first step is a messy one (and hence, your kids will love it). Ask them to paint the outer curved surface area of the rolls in the shade they want; yellow works for chicks but it is up to them. Once the paint is dry, stick on the buttons and an orange-colored triangular beak, stuff in some colored tissue/toilet paper haphazardly onto the open top of the roll as feathers and you’ll find your bright little cheerful chick staring back at you.

Easter bunnies are a bit more elaborate to work with. You need to cut out long, bunny rabbit ears to stick on to the top open end of the roll, black colored whiskers (three on either side should do) and a buttony nose, with eyes made of different colored buttons to differentiate. There’s your cuddly little bunny all done up!

Happy Easter, folks!

Three Useful Objects Kids Can Make Out Of Lego

‘Eat. Sleep. Build. Repeat.’

There was a time back as a kid when holidays from school were spent like this, with those little colorful plastic construction Lego blocks strewn all over the place, much to the chagrin of mother who, inadvertently, had to step on one of the pieces every now and then, leading to a never-ending tirade unleashed on us (to no avail, if I may add). We made houses and cars, animals and dinosaurs, but my all-time favorite was making firemen. Nothing could beat that thrill.

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Fireman” by HeyouRelax is licensed under CC by 2.0

Thankfully, Lego (like play dough) has turned out to be something that has not gone out of fashion, as my kids seem to love making things out of it till date. However, their ideas are very different and much more elaborate than what we made back then. We used to make things for fun; but kids today make things which can actually be used. Here are the last couple of things my kids (with a little bit of help from me, occasionally) fashioned from those evergreen building blocks.

A Phone/Tablet Stand

Okay, I admit I found this idea online last week and held on to it as my own in front of the kids. We designed a tablet holder for the study table, which is such that the tablet (or phone) can remain propped up in a standing position. It can be charged like that and the kids can even lie face down (their favorite position while playing virtual games on the internet) and play on it without the need to hold it aloft.

A Button/Jewelry/Key Box

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Building” by Efraimstochter is licensed under CC by 2.0

Albeit quite a small one, to store ear-rings or finger rings or keys or even buttons. It even has a lid made out of the Lego pieces which can be taken off and fitted on perfectly. My wife has one on her dressing table, I have one on the mantelpiece in the living room and from what I overheard last, the kids are hard at work making a ‘bigger’ box for their own use, to store I-know-not-what. Pretty handy and cheerful looking, these bright boxes.

A Sign Board

I guess the kids wanted to actually write ‘Enter at your own risk’ or something of that sort, but couldn’t find enough Lego pieces to go ahead with that plan. Hence, their Lego signboard now reads ‘Knock!’. Don’t miss the dangerous exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. This warning sign occupies pride of place on a small cabinet just next to the door of their room.

I did suggest a pen/pencil holder to them as a new project but it was turned down without further discussion – apparently they think it to be too simple a thing to be built. This made me do a wee bit of research online to discover the marvels that can be built out of Lego – and it surely did not disappoint. For instance, have a look at this video which talks about the ’10 Most Incredible Lego Creations’. Unbelievably creative. My idea of a pen/pencil holder seems more ridiculous than ever. Sigh.

Judge this book by its cover

They say, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, except perhaps in the case of this brand new, smartly jacketed first book of the Harry Potter series. Believe it or not, ‘The Boy Who Lived’ actually came into our lives a whopping twenty whole years ago (feel like a fossil, anyone? Because I definitely do)! And hence, to celebrate the never-ending success of Pottermania, Bloomsbury has decided to come out with four never seen before hardcover and paperback editions of the first book. Have a look.

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Image courtesy: Entertainment Weekly

Gryffindor signifying military strength, purity and courage in a vibrant red; Slytherin epitomizing glory, honor and endurance of sorts albeit in a slightly poisonous green hue; Ravenclaw all about brilliance in academics replete with owls, books and spheres in a brighter shade of azure; and the friendly, gentle Hufflepuffs in a soothing yellow.

Going by the news reports, the editions are slated to hit the shelves June 2017, to coincide with the completion of 20 years of Potter love in our lives. Why my immense love for the magical series? Well, because of thoughts like these, from the mighty Albus Dumbledore:

‘Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.’

 

3 Interesting Handwriting Activities for Kids

‘I don’t have a bad handwriting. I have my own font’.

I was thrilled when I came across this piece of writing the other day. This was so me! Now I have this really witty one-liner to say to any random soul who goes so far as to comment on my own ‘font’ of writing. Not that people get a fair chance to do that too much in present times, thanks to us typing away on a computer keyboard rather than weaving magic with pen and paper, like the yesteryears gone by.

For those of you not in the know (I was also a part of this group until today), January 23 is observed as National Handwriting Day. There is something known as the WIMA, short for the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, that was set up back in the year 1943. Its mission: ‘To bring together the voices of the pen, marker and mechanical pencil industries’. It is this WIMA which came up with the idea of what we know today as the ‘National Handwriting Day’.

Why not use the occasion as an excuse to introduce our kids to some interesting handwriting activities? Here goes.

Handmade Cards

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Day” by DWilliams is licensed under CC by 2.0

A clever way to get kids to do a bit of writing, sans writing worksheets or actual cursive writing practice – handmade cards. Simply ask the kids to do a bit of art corresponding to their ages – multicolored thumbprints or handprints for younger kids, or a paper pumpkin craft for an occasion like Halloween (our kids’ grandparents are absolutely ecstatic when it comes to anything handmade they receive from their grandchildren) for older kids who are adept enough to handle a pair of scissors. Now where does the handwriting part come in? In the messages that accompany or form a part of the art/drawing! Kids who are still learning their words can copy out messages whereas older ones can get to work composing their own greetings and wishes, making sure they write it out in neat cursive handwriting. We made handmade New Year kids this year and sent them out to loved ones.

Typing and Copying

Most young kids love tapping around on the keyboard and watching the characters appear on the computer screen. Ask them to copy out a fun short story word by word on a Word document. Then, after checking for any spelling errors, get a printout of the same and ask the kids to draw pictures alongside and copy out the typed story on a lined sheet of paper. This way, the little ones will get all of the below – computer keyboard typing practice, reading and drawing practice, as well as handwriting practice too.

A New Way to Write

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Office” by stux is licensed under CC by 2.0

The key here is to do something different from what your child usually does. For instance, if he generally uses a pencil to write, hand him a bright colored sketch pen; if she usually writes sitting down at a table on a lined sheet of paper, try handing her some post-it notes to be put up on the refrigerator for the menu for each day of the coming week; if she has always written in notebooks, hand her a spiral bound diary with speech bubbles (see how you can make them in a Word document here) drawn on pages to pen down her thoughts at the end of a day (I did that at home and now it has become my daughter’s prized possession). Try your hand at coming up with a handmade calendar with your kids, with the days of the week and the months of the year listed down in neat cursive letters with markers or sketch pens on each page of the calendar. The ultimate aim should be to get the kids to pen down text neatly, copied or otherwise, and eventually they’ll learn to form their alphabets the correct way with constant practice.

Do share your handwriting activity ideas too, would love to try them out as well.

The Great Outdoors

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Boy” by tookapic is licensed under CC by 2.0

It won’t be wrong to call our kids ‘robo-babies’. Robo-babies as in not exactly robot babies; more like a ‘multimedia generation’ that would prefer spending hours curled up indoors in some remote recess, glued to their tablets, laptops or iPods. My kids are no exception – in fact, they are very fine examples of this new ‘multimedia generation’ of sorts.  I know for a fact that I can’t wean them off from the gadgets which form a part and parcel of their daily life and neither do I wish to do so. But what I do wish is that they venture outdoors, even if it is for as little as a couple of minutes a day, away from their screens and video games. Even if it entails playing something like Pokemon Go. It would do for a start at least.

So, in the season and month of New Year resolutions, my sole resolution is this: I’m going to show them and not tell them. Show them the joy and exhilaration of jogging along a grassy track, cycling on cobbled paths and sitting on grass damp with dew in the early morning sunshine. It is easier said than done. But then, children learn from what they see. The key here lies in introducing the outdoors as a fun activity – be it a beach picnic coupled with a barefoot run in the sand, skate-boarding with helmets on in the evenings or just a daily ritual of a ten minute jog in the park, with their favorite music plugged in. My resolution is that I’m going to lead by example, and run alongside them. What’s more, I am quite sure that once these young, digitally controlled minds start, they will never want to stop. And that’ll hopefully be one resolution I won’t have to give up on as the New Year sets in!