Saturday, November 29, 2008


Sis-U pointed me to Sathyanarain's and Sanjay's blogs, and I've blacked out my header condemning the Mumbai terrorist attacks...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Silk, Linen or Pearl or will it be Japan??

According to, you traditionally celebrate the twelfth anniversary with Silk, or keep it Modern with Linen/Pearl, or...Travel to Japan!

Interesting! There is a good possibility that we may go to Japan next Summer, and since we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary today, that's perfect!!
Todays's family celebration included Madagascar-2 and a quick dinner at Uno's. Tuesday was a Holiday for both Pup and me. So we had a nice breakfast together after dropping the girls off. We Yoga-ed a 30 minute routine from on-demand, and went to the mall and shopped to re-stock our closets with clothes a size or two lesser - YAY!!

12 years together. Actually more than 17 if you start counting from the time we started having a "thing" for each other.

Most of my friends tease me as having had a "child marriage" or at least one that was decided when I was still a kiddo! That's what happens when you have aunts who have nothing better to do :)
Sorry athai (aunt)!
But in your defense, it did work out well...

So one day, when I was supposedly studying for upcoming exams, I overheard a conversation between my aunt and mom. My aunt was suggesting that Pup and I will be a good match for each other! What the??? Did I hear it right through the closed door?
I leaned closer...and much to my surprise, it was true!
How was I supposed to react? I was only 15! I assumed they were casually talking and disregarded it, even though conversations like this did not happen casually in our house-hold...

I had forgotten all about it with the craziness of my 10th board exams. And, with no more such talk, I didn't think much of it. But I started checking Pup out everytime he visited, or we visited them.
Our families have known each other forever. My mom and his mom practically grew together, AND, pup's brother was engaged to my cousin (said aunt's daughter) at that time.
So our families met often, and more checking out and unconscious flirting happened...
Hey! That's what all 16 year-olds do anyways! I just happened to focus on the one!!

So, how did this casual flirting develop into a 12th anniversary?
Stay tuned for the story of us...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Living with Food Allergies


This is part of the chain of posts to raise Food Allergy Awareness, started by Tara of Winkie's Ways.

T1 was barely a few days old when we noticed patches of dry, red skin caused by eczema. Our pediatrician, Dr.N suggested that we try and keep her skin as moist as possible with a topical application of Eucerin or Cetaphil. We did as we were told. But her eczema was only getting more rampant. That's when Dr.N suggested that I avoid milk, nuts and eggs, since I was exclusively nursing her. I did that. We did not see a dramatic difference, but I continued to follow the restrictions in my diet...
She also suggested we do a skin test to check for food allergies before starting solid food. There can be many causes for infantile eczema, food allergies being just one of those. In our case, that WAS the reason as we soon found out. When T1 was 7 months old, we did a comprehensive food test on her tiny back, since her arms were not big enough. She tested positive for Wheat, Oats, Potatoes, most Tree Nuts (including cashews, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pecans) and Peanuts. We were naturally devastated as much as we were terrified.
Fortunately, she outgrew most of these (except nuts) by the time she was 2.

To-date, we are thankful to Dr.N for suggesting the test. With food allergies, the smartest thing to do is to stay away from the allergen as long as you can. Had we not tested and learned of her allergens, I am sure we would have made things worse for her. Especially with wheat! There is no way I'd have otherwise known to avoid wheat and oats!

Until we tested her, the eczema probably never got better because I'd been eating different forms of wheat when nursing her almost exclusively.
Sometimes I wonder if nursing her really helped her immune system, or if it made her immune system so powerful that it started treating even normal food as allergens, and basically making matters worse??!! Your two cents??

If an allergen triggers an anaphylactic reaction, it starts right away. But other symptoms including hives, rash, or stomach disturbances can start 2-3 days later. So, as much as we were excited to try out new foods, we waited and went by the book.
We were very, very, very particular when trying any new food. We started in small doses and continued for a whole week. No less!
As a matter of fact, we kept with this trend even after her first year. We had the food allergy results with us, so why did we do this? Because all of these food tests have false positives and false negatives. JA!!!
Usually, treenuts show better results with the skin test, peanuts with the blood test. Elimination and Re-introduction with careful supervision is probably a good way to test for food allergies.

We've learned a lot of things about managing food allergies and being on top of it. A lot of posts in this chain have listed a bunch of DOs and DONTs, and TIPS and TRICKS from Dottie, PG, Sue, Kiran, etc...
I have myself written a few posts on T1's allergies - here, here, and here.

So, for my part this time around, I'll primarily write about Reading Labels. While some Food Allergy labels are informative, some are very, very confusing and seem like they've been added as a "cover your a$$".
There are so many different variations of the same disclaimers. Some of the popular notes include -

"Manufactured in the same facility that uses nuts"
"Manufactured in shared equipment that uses nuts"
"May contain tree-nuts or peanuts"

"Manufactured in the same facility that uses nuts" makes a lot of sense because some people can have react to an allergen if it's "In the air."
So these folks have to really stay away from such products.

"Manufactured in shared equipment that uses nuts" is another of the informative messages that I did not know the real meaning for a long time. The possibility of contamination from shared equipment is exponentially more when they are "Dry-cleaned" as opposed to being rinsed with water.
If they are "dry-cleaned" there is a good possibility of nuts sticking in those unreachable corners. Especially Chocolate!! It may take a few batches to absorb all those remnant nuts before making totally nut-free chocolate. Ever since I learned that, I've completely stopped taking chances with chocolate.

In a FAAN meeting with Anne Munoz-Furlong (The founder and then CEO) as the Key-Speaker, she mentioned that if enough people call and request for nut-free chocolate, the manufactures will pay heed - apparently that's how you get disclaimer-free M&Ms in Canada!! The power of consumers!

"May contain tree-nuts or peanuts" is just too vague. If you've noticed, even Maggi has started adding these labels on! How frustrating! T1 loves Maggi, and I continue giving it to her, but I'm so scared and watchful each time. I should probably stop!
What's the deal with Trader Joe's?? As much as I love the store, I hate that they add these "You Can't Sue me Now" disclaimers! I mean from sandwiches to broth, their products May contain Shellfish and Nuts!!!
What next? Bagged spinach that May contain nuts?

I decided to keep a positive tone, and will stop my frutstration with labels at that!!
Oh, while I'm talking about Disclaimers, I'd like to add that this post is completely based on my experiences and to be taken with a pinch of salt (Hopefully we'll continue to find Salt with no nuts).
The other thing that I want to mention is being a member of an Allergy Network.
Being a part of my county's chapter of FAAN has helped us a lot. With regular meetings, we get to learn from other people's experiences. It's a good support group for each other. The founding members have worked VERY hard with the school board to stream-line rules and bring about a scripted "Health Plan." It's still in baby stages, but at least there is something in the works. We have had two amazing Halloween parties with completely safe food (aka none). They have also organized many play-groups, which I never had a chance to be a part of. But my point is that a support group like this has helped us in many ways. I learn something new every time I attend a meeting. There is a whole bunch of people who go through so much more than I do and have done it wonderfully so!

Finally, a note about treatments. There is no proven allopathic treatment on record. Yes, there are allergy shots for seasonal allergies, but they are so intrusive, and not even reliable! There are remedies that contain the symptoms, but nothing that really claims to cure - EXCEPT when you take the Alternative Route, that is!
Again, these are from my own experiences -
We have been treating T1 with BioSet for about 2 months now. As far as BioSet practitioners are concerned, they use intolerences and allergies interexchangably. The practitioners check the energy flow of any susbstance using its unique wavelength (Pup's Quantum Mechanics ken agrees with that logic). They sorta create a "circuit" using the substance they test against. If there is a block, the circuit is not complete. That's how they decide if must be treated.
Sounds far-fetched? We decided to try it nevertheless.
My niece, D took the treatment from the same doc and her Wheat allergies just went from +ve to -ve in a week, leaving her regular Allergist totally perplexed!! That's when I became a believer.

Both the test and the treatment are totally non-intrusive. All T1 has had to do is hold this metal rod wrapped in a wet paper-towel and chat away to glory for 15 minutes! Wait! The chatting away is nothing new to her!

We have so far attempted to treat outdoor allergens like mold, weed, pollen, trees etc. I do not know if this Fall's outdoor allergens were mild or if the treatment is working - but we haven't used a Nebulizer for T1 ALL season (Casting Anti-jinx Spells). She still has an itchy, runny nose...but nowhere close to what she endured last year!!
We've just started with foods this past week...
At the end of it, even if we do not have a cure for her food allergies, we are hoping that accidental exposures will not harm her much. That's good enough for us.

I'll end this note with this link to Dr.Sears' notes on Food Allergies.

Monday, November 3, 2008

How cool is that??

I was in Chicago last week for a couple of days to attend an Oracle Developer User-Groups conference. Apart from running from one session to another, and trying to cover more than one session at the same time, I got to meet some Oracle Gurus up close. I've been commenting as GND in the PL/SQL Evangelist, Steven Feuerstein's blog, and had mentioned that I'd stop by and say hello. Which I did.
Later during lunch, he occupied an empty seat in the same table as mine. So we got chatting, and I found out he's a vegetarian too, for different reasons though. He sticks to a vegetarian diet more for health, and I'm one cos that's how I've been raised. And, its one thing I haven't been able to change...
Anyways, had this conversation -
Me: "Steven, Whatever your answer is, please say Yes."
SF: "OK!"
Me: "Have you ever stopped by my blog?"
SF: "I'm sorry, No! But that's because I only read 2-3 blogs on a regular basis..."
Didn't you hear a word I said?? You could've just humored me and said 'Yes' like I requested...Sigh!!

I do know his time is more valuable than reading my rants :)

The next day, I stopped by to ask him a question on one of his sessions. After answering my question, he told me -
SF: "Oh, by the way, I took a look at your blog yesterday. So, you have two girls, huh?"
I was bowled! How cute is that?? In the midst of prepping for a whole slew of 1-2 hour sessions, he took the time to visit my blog!
I don't remember what I said to him, but I hope it was not something stupid!!!!

Belated Wishes

Here's wishing everyone a long-overdue "Happy Deepavali"!!

I remember a few years ago, even before kids, I told Pup, "This coming so-and-so day is Deepavali." He said, "Oh? OK!"
And that was it. Most years, a quick prayer, and some fruits took care of most of our festivities, including Deepavali! Not very proud of slacking in our traditions, but come to think of it, I think I lost interest way back...When we all started growing up and moving out!

In our younger days, Deepavali used to be such a grand affair. My mom and grandma with some help from my 2 aunts (dad's sisters), made enough "bakshanam" (a.k.a. goodies) and "marunthu" to last our huge families for weeks - 10 kids and about 8 adults. The shopping for clothes, the crackers, the obscene amount of bakshanam we ate without a worry about loading carbs, calories, or fats...sigh! Fun days they were!!
All of my cousins came over to our place and we had a blast! Literally, during Deepavali...I'm just going to say "Diwali" now - easier to type ;)

Slowly, everyone started growing up, out-of-state colleges happened, then weddings happened and it was simply not the same anymore!!

That is really not an excuse for not having the Diwali spirit, I know! When either set of parents visit us, we do celebrate very well. By celebrate I mean eat a lot, buy new clothes, and eat some more.

I did buy new clothes this year, for the girls at least. It was Sunday before Diwali, and we went to I-HOP for breakfast, like we do every few weeks...On our way back, we decided to celebrate Diwali. When we got back home, made a paste of "nalangu", applied it on the girls feet and then applied some oil while murmuring a "Thank-you God for Everything" prayer. This was really exciting for the girls...

While T1 and T2 were having a bath, I attempted to make the ever-popular 7-cup cake, which turned out to be neither 7-cups nor a cake :)
I decided to reduce the 3-cups of sugar to 2, reduced 1 cuppa ghee to a little less than 3/4, added maida and besan in my own quantities...
The only thing that was true to its measure was the milk.
Oh, and my cups were not really "Cups"...they measured maybe 2/3 of a cup, so I made just enough :)
Could I change the recipe anymore???
I know it all right?

But the joke was on me. The 7-cup cake turned out to be a Whatchamacallit Halwa. I was too scared to let it sit on the stove for too long. So I promptly removed it right after the concoction stopped sticking to the sides - hence the halwa consistency. But it tasted pretty good! T1 "tried" and finished one, which is great - she is very resistant to trying new things. T2 gulped most of the 20 or so pieces over 2-3 days, and against our will, so did Pup and I.

I must have sounded totally obnoxious to a few people by how I shuddered at adding all that ghee! Really!! Come to think of it, over the past few years, I have either made Kheer or chakra pongal, or those quick n easy microwave-cooked halwas (carrot halwa, beetroot halwa, chikoo halwa...), neither of which really require more than a teaspoon of ghee...
Or I've conveniently used store-bought goodies and ignored the fact

Bygones..cooked and eaten! Enjoyed while it lasted!

So ya, that was our Diwali this year.

Happy Halloween!

I'm always running behind on posts that I want to it's no surprise that I'm wishing you now, few days after the fact...
Happy Halloween!

Ours started off a week before the Big day with a no-food, no-candy Halloween Party organized by members in our county's chapter of Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). The main idea was to enjoy Halloween without having to stress about allergic reactions.
I offered to volunteer, though for the most part all I did was read emails going back and forth.
It was amazing to see the spirit some of these people have.
One had ordererd 50 medium-sized pumpkins and 50 sets of glue-it pumpkin decorations, another made 50 goody bags that kids could decorate,
one had put together a ghost poop race using packing peanuts (that's the only kind of nuts we'd see in our Party :)
and so much more!!
We decided to bring in something to drink - water, apple and grape juices, which were my contribution.
The venue being a Public library, all the children quietly paraded around before picking out their "Treats".
Again, no-food treats...but such amazing stuff, including halloween pencils, stickers, tatoos, straws, skeletons and so much more!
Over all, it was a wonderful 2 hours of fun...

I was in Chicago for a couple of days last week for a conference.
Busy (fun-busy) two days! Got to meet some Amazing Gurus in my field, up close!
The girls were completely co-operative and made it easy for dad to have a smooth sailing.
Dad outdid himself and held the fort effortlessly.
Mommy's now thinking she should do these things more often ;)
Seriously, I think it did us all some good and has made us appreciate each other more.

But I got back in time for the big day!

I was quite excited too, to get dressed up and all...
I was this witch-dracula person...or whatever it is you call someone with a cape and an evil-eye make-up!!
T1 and T2 were Minnie-mouse at the Allergy Network Party.
T1 changed her mind at the last minute and wanted to be like mommy.
So we put together a costume using a dupatta as a cape, a black velvet dress and some glittery make-up.
T2 remained as Minnie mouse, although she was Ariel at her school's Halloween party.
Yeah! We are big on Disney!!

So we paraded around the Court with Chip, Dottie and a few other kids in the block, while Pup stayed home distributing (no-nut) candy to our neighborhood kids...
We ended the evening playing (Pup and me struggling, actually) Rock Band at Dottie's.

That was our Halloween 2008.