Memories – The Best Souvenirs

The dictionary meaning of souvenir reads thus:

‘A thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place or event.’

Very often, souvenirs are little objects or memorabilia that we pick up on our journeys or vacations to faraway places. Thinking of souvenirs, what comes to your mind? Gaudy-colored key chains, small teddy bears in miniature jars or the ubiquitous fridge magnets? Well, to my mind, souvenirs are all this and more.

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Shell” by Hope_first is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here are a couple of my most cherished and treasured souvenirs till date (all collected by my little one): a half-broken sea shell occupying pride of place on my writing desk (through which the daughter could hear the waves lashing the shore when she put her ear to it); a sturdy little pine cone up on the mantelpiece picked up on a random Sunday picnic from the side of a hill; the beginning of a diary entry written in scraggly letters on hotel stationery from one of our trips (abandoned mid-way) and a straw sun hat with a pink ribbon from one of our beach excursions.

Yes, our refrigerator too is home to a great number of magnets from many different parts of the world. But then, the best souvenirs are those that have a personal touch to them, like the ones mentioned above. After all, nothing can beat memories being the best souvenirs of all. Am I right?

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The Different Shades of Daddying

Am I a geeky, nerdy dad? Well, yes and no. Truth be told, fathers and the love for gadgets somehow always make for a picture perfect couple. Gadgets are fascinating and one of my favorite pastimes is finding out more about the newest gizmo to hit the market, even if it is way beyond reach (monetary-wise, ahem). Well, what’s wrong with a little day-dreaming every now and then, huh, if it gives one happiness? And in the love for gadgets and other latest multimedia gizmos, my daughter seems to have taken after me.

Video games are dad and daughter bonding times. We’re comfortably seated in our favorite squishy bean bags and playing car racing games, pet games like these ones, Super Mario Run or something totally fun like Just Dance, accompanied of course with squeals of laughter and/or accusations of “But that’s cheating!” or “But you’re supposed to let me win!”. At that precise point I patiently explain to my daughter that I used to let her win once upon a time when she was much younger, just to make her feel happy. Not any more, since she’s growing up fast.

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Game” by monikabaechler is licensed under CC by 2.0

Initially, I always thought I would be a ‘tough dad’ – a dad who firmly believed in a disciplined, regimented style of parenting. But then as time went by, I realized something new; to be a tough dad, parenting would mostly always feel like having to say a firm NO to your kids for this, that and the other. It’s not that I don’t say no to my daughter now. Eating a full bar of chocolate fifteen minutes after breakfast? No. Ignoring the day’s worksheets and homework and prancing off to your neighborhood pal’s place? No. Throwing a tantrum for a new dress just because you feel like having it? A big NO.

But then, there have to be yes’s to balance the no’s too. An extra ten minutes of bedtime reading because you want to finish an interesting story? Yes. Enrolling in a guitar class because you feel you’ll enjoy it? Yes (even if you realize along the way you’re not suited to it and decide to give it up). Going out with your best friend and her parents for a day’s picnic? Yes.

Kids going out remind me of this news piece I came across recently. A really brilliant dad has reportedly come up with an app called ReplyASAP, which could soon come to be counted amongst the best parenting apps in the world (my personal opinion). Apparently, the kids’ phone screens will go berserk and all the alarms will set themselves off at the loudest volume until he/she responds to the text from his/her parents. Sheer genius! Wish I was an app developer of sorts and had got the idea before this brilliant dad did.

And now, I’m afraid I must wrap up all my ramblings and head to the video gaming session my daughter has been waiting for. She’s been giving me those side glances sitting on the bean bag with the controls in her hand. Who’s going to win? Daddy of course!

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Arms” by OpenClipart-Vectors is licensed under CC by 2.0

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.’