The Sunshine Blogger Award And Meme

So, I was bestowed with the Sunshine Blogger Award by Reena a while ago. Thank you, Reena, for considering all that I ramble about here worth reading and commenting on!

The award came with a set of questions by Reena, which I have answered on my blog. Check them out!

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Bhoger Khichuri| Bhaja Muger Daal Khichuri| One-Pot Bengali Khichdi

Last year, around this time, I was in Calcutta, in the thick of Kali Pujo. It was there that I fell in love with the beautiful Bhoger Khichuri, the Bengali khichdi that is offered as prasad to Kali Maa. The bub fell in love with the sweetish khichdi, too. When I returned back home to Bangalore, I began craving for the khichdi all over again, and learnt how to make it too. Today, it is a much-loved dish on our table, especially on winter evenings like this one.

Since this khichuri is commonly prepared as bhog, it is usually strictly vegetarian (niramish), with even onion and garlic being excluded. The moong daal is dry roasted till it emits a gorgeous fragrance, which is what gives this dish the name of Bhaja Muger Daal Khichuri (fried moong daal khichdi). Vegetables that we commonly use in pulao – carrots, green peas, potatoes and cauliflower commonly – go into the making of this Bhoger Khichuri, which has a sweetish tinge to it.

I love how this Bhaja Muger Daal Khichuri is so very simple to prepare, a one-pot dish that takes just a few minutes to put together. I love how it is so hearty, so very satisfying, so very rich, thanks to the addition of the ghee and various spices in the garnish. I love how life enabled me to permanently bring home a slice of Calcutta with me.

Now, let’s see how to make Bhoger Khichuri aka Bhaja Muger Daal Khichuri, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4):

Ingredients needed for tempering:

  1. 1 tablespoon ghee
  2. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  3. 2 dry red chillies
  4. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon (dalchini), broken into two
  5. 4-5 cardamom (elaichi)
  6. 2 small bay leaves
  7. 4-5 cloves (laung)
  8. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

Veggies needed:

  1. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  2. 2 medium-sized potatoes
  3. 1 medium-sized carrot
  4. A handful of shelled green peas
  5. 4-5 large florets cauliflower
  6. 6-7 green beans or 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum
  7. 2 green chillies
  8. A 1-inch piece of ginger

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1/4 cup split yellow moong daal
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Red chilli powder, to taste
  5. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste

Method:

  1. Dry roast the moong daal in a pan, on medium flame, till it emits a lovely fragrance. Transfer to a plate and keep aside.
  2. Now, prep the veggies that you will need to make the khichuri. Peel the carrot and potatoes and chop them into cubes. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Chop the coriander finely. Chop the large cauliflower florets into half. Remove strings from the beans (if using) and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop the capiscum into 1/2-inch pieces (if using). Peel the ginger and chop into small pieces, then pound them with a mortar and pestle. Keep the shelled green peas handy.
  3. Wash the rice in running water a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water, and place aside.
  4. Heat the ghee and oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the dried red chillies, bay leaves, cinnamon pieces, cloves and cardamom, along with the asafoetida. Let the ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds, taking care to ensure that they do not burn.
  5. Now, add in the carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, green peas, capsicum and/or beans, along with the slit green chillies and pounded ginger. Saute on medium flame for a minute.
  6. Add the dry roasted moong daal and washed and drained rice. Saute on medium flame for a minute.
  7. Add in 6 cups of water, salt and red chilli powder (if using) to taste, turmeric powder and sugar. Mix well.
  8. Mix in the finely chopped coriander leaves.
  9. Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles.
  10. Let the pressure release naturally, and serve the khichuri hot.

Notes:

1. Traditionally, Gobindobhog rice is used to make the Bengali bhoger khichuri. I didn’t have any, so I used Sona Masoori rice instead.

2. Carrot, potatoes, green peas and cauliflower are commonly used in this khichdi. Potatoes are an absolute must in Bengali khichuri. I usually add in some capsicum and/or beans as well.

3. I use a mix of ghee and oil for the tempering. Feel free to use only ghee, and vary the quantity depending upon your family’s taste preferences.

4. Omit the sugar if you want to, but I personally wouldn’t advise it. I think the sugar adds a beautiful flavour to this khichuri.

5. Bengali bhoger khichuri is traditionally made without onion or garlic, and I tend to omit these ingredients too. Feel free to add them if you want to.

6. Traditionally, almost equal quantities of moong daal and rice are used to make this khichuri, but I have used only 1/4 cup moong daal for 1 cup of rice.

7. Skip the red chilli powder if you think the heat from the green chillies and ginger would be sufficient for you.

8. If you want, you could soak the rice for about 20 minutes before setting about making the khichuri. I usually omit this step.

9. Whenever I can lay my hands on it, I use Jharna ghee from Calcutta to prepare this bhoger khichuri. That gives the dish an even more beautiful taste.

9. Traditionally, it is a must to dry roast the moong daal before making the khichuri. However, I often make the khichuri without roasting the moong daal, and it still turns out fabulous.

10. You can cook the khichuri with the veggies separately, and then add the tempering at the end.

You like? I hope you will try out this khichuri too, and that you will love it just as much as we do!

Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us Comes To Bangalore!

Renowned international toy brand Toys’R’Us made an entry into India last Saturday. The brand launched its very first outlet in India in Bangalore, at the Phoenix Marketcity mall in Whitefield. I was thrilled to be invited to the launch with the husband and the bub – a grand affair, with a number of fun activities for kids and adults alike arranged all day long.

The Bangalore outlet has two sections – Toys’R’Us, which stocks an unimaginable array of toys meant for children up to 11 years of age, and Babies’R’Us, which offers everything related to infants, from clothes and diapers and formula to breast pumps, potty seats, high chairs and princess beds.

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The entrance to Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us at VR Bengaluru, beautifully decked up for the launch

The store is huge, huge, huge and the three of us had a gala time walking through the aisles. We admired this and that, reminisced over the times when the bub was a little babe we could carry in the palms of our hands, had a fun time watching the magician’s performance, wishlisted a number of toys for the bub (and me, of course!), and even bought an early birthday present for the kiddo.

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Some of the stuff I loved at the store – a doll with a darkish skin tone; a doll that eats, drinks, poops and pees (yes!); the huge range of moisturisers for babies and moms alike; cutesy bows and hairbands on sale; a mermaid doll; and a pink princess bed that was straight out of a fairytale

There are a whole lot of toys available to the kids of today, I realise, a lot more opportunities to create memories and happy moments, for better or worse. Yes, there are a lot of toys and appliances that aren’t really necessary for the healthy upbringing of a child, and neither do they really help the child in any way. That said, there are a whole lot of toys out there that not only help keep a child engaged, but also help in developing creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and decision making, aid eye-hand co-ordination, and help in the development of motor skills. As a parent or a loved one, I think it is you who need to choose wisely, select the right kind of toys for a child. A walk through stores like Toys’R’Us act as an eye-opener to all that is available to a child today, allowing you to make an informed decision.

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More stuff off the shelves of the store – baby hand-print kits; travel pillows; feeding bottles by Dr, Brown’s (a brand that isn’t easy to come across in India); and cute, cute, cute clothes

I love how the store has a huge array of products for infants, toddlers and children, at different price points, from both Indian and international vendors. There’s something here for everyone, I am sure. You just need to take your time checking out different things and choosing what works for you.

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Some more stuff that caught my eye at the store – a Freddie the Firefly high chair toy; Superbottoms cloth diapers; a little piano; and a baby-proofing kit

Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us plans to open more stores in India in the near future, at Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.

If you are in Bangalore, you must surely visit this pretty store!

This post is in collaboration with Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us. The views expressed herein are entirely mine, not influenced by anything or anyone, and completely honest.

 

Product Review: Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Baking Kit

Baking with the bub has always been a dream of mine. Ever since I became a mommy –Β  even before that I think – I would dream of, one day, standing alongside the bub in our kitchen, measuring out ingredients, mixing them up, placing a cake or cookies in the oven, letting her lick the last of the batter from the mixing bowl, waiting for the oven timer to go off, and laughing at the look of awe on her face on watching the finished product get out of the oven..Β  all of this and more. You get the drift, right?

I never actually attempted anything like this, though, till very recently, when I won a Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Baking Kit on an Instagram photo contest.

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The Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies baking kit that I received!

About Bake Me India

Bake Me India is a New Delhi-based business venture that offers kid-friendly baking kits – brownies, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops and the like. The kits contain all the dry ingredients that would be required, as well as handy equipment such as a tray, rolling pin, piping bag, butter paper, and even a wee apron and chef’s cap!Β  The kits also come equipped with cards that outline in detail the steps in the baking proceedure.

Through these kits, Bake Me India aims to promote fun family baking times, especially by encouraging parents to bake alongside their kids. These kits are simple enough to be used by even very young kids (under adult supervision, of course!), and the parents need not be expert bakers themselves to use them. The use of good-quality ingredients and equipment is assured.

The kits (available in both ‘with egg’ and ‘egg-free’ versions) make for wonderful DIY gifts. You could opt to buy them individually or on a subscription basis, for as many months at a time as you desire. Prices range between INR 499 and INR 1699 per box, depending upon the nature of the product within. Home delivery across India is free, as of now.

Our experience with the Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies kit

~ The kit I received included cookie dough, chocolate chunks, vanilla essence, powdered sugar, colourful sprinkles, instruction cards, cookie cutters, a little apron and chef’s hat, a tray and rolling pin, as well as butter paper. I loved how every possible dry ingredient and little tool that we might need for the baking process had been taken care of. I didn’t need to go looking for much.

~ The kit could, really, have done without the sprinkles and the apron and chef’s hat, but I loved that these things were thought of and included. Little stuff like these are just what kids love, right? The bub loved the multi-coloured sprinkles and donned the chef’s hat and apron as soon as they were out of the box!

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What was inside my Bake Me India kit! Don’t miss the little apron and chef’s hat in there!

~ I loved the detailed instructions on the cards, which told me every single we needed to do, to bake the cookies. There were explanatory pictures as well. The instructions were simple and clear enough for even a child to follow. Thanks to them, the baking process was a breeze.

~ The cards clearly stated the other ingredients and tools I would need to make the cookies, apart from the stuff already included in the kit – just some butter and an oven, in my case.

~ I loved how all the ingredients were packed really well, in Ziploc pouches.

~ The quality of ingredients and equipment provided was really good, and I loved that about Bake Me India. There was nothing sub-standard about the kit.

~ The bub and I loved, loved, loved baking the cookies together, though she mostly just watched, excitedly. It was messy, it was chaotic (with the bub wanting to put everything into the mixing bowl at once!), but it was so much fun! The husband was pressed into action as official photographer for the ceremony, and, all put together, it was just the break we needed, perfect family bonding time. And, as always, it was magical to watch dough go into the oven and come out all transformed into beautiful cookies!

~ All the ingredients (flour, powdered sugar, chocolate, sprinkles and vanilla essence) had already been measured out carefully, and included in just the right quantities that would be needed for the recipe. I didn’t have to do any measuring out at all, and could concentrate on just the fun part of the baking process!

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The finished product – the scrumptious vanilla shortbread cookies!

~ We chose to do away with the cookie cutters and shape the cookies with our hands, as rustic as it gets. I am so glad we did that – sensory play and all that!

~ The cookies turned out absolutely scrumptious and were gone within a day of the making!

~ I still have the rolling pin, cookie cutters, apron, chef’s hat and tray in the kitchen. I love the fact that I can get them out and use them again, whenever the bub and I fancy a bit of baking. I can clearly see this becoming a habit!

~ At INR 1499, I think the price of this kit is on the higher side. That said, I’m not sure how much it would cost me if I were to put together all the stuff that was part of the kit – the dry ingredients and reusable kitchen equipment included.

~ I didn’t spot a ‘best before’ date on the kit. Ideally, it should be included.

In conclusion…

I think the concept of the Bake Me India baking kits is absolutely lovely. The kits, albeit priced a tad high, make for a fun baking experience with your family, creating loads of fond memories in the process. They are great rainy-day DIY activities, and lovely gifts as well. This is, surely, something I would encourage you to pick up, for yourself and for your loved ones.

Find Bake Me India online: Website| Facebook| Twitter| Instagram

I received the product free of cost, because I won it in a photo contest. I was requested to do a review on my blog, and I obliged. The views expressed herein are entirely honest and completely my own, not influenced by anyone or anything.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Frank Goes To The Market

  • Genre: Children’s book, Kiddie book
  • Age group: 2-4 years

Frank Goes To The Market, as the name suggests, is the story of a little boy named Frank who visits the market with his mother. His mother has a lot of shopping to do in the market, and tells him to stay close to her, without wandering off anywhere. Soon, though, Frank notices a cow with bells around her neck and, attracted, starts following her. It doesn’t take him long to realise that he is lost, alone in the bustling market. As the book progresses, the author reveals how Frank tackles the situation, calmly and without panicking, thinking hard about all the stalls his mother might have stopped at. Finally, Frank does manage to find his mother at the lemon stall (Frank deduces this because his mother had promised to make him lemon juice once they got back home). Relieved, the duo return home together.

The story, by CG Salamander, is sweetly and simply told. The narrative is in the form of easy-to-follow rhymes, which I think is a great way to keep kids engaged. I loved the very Indian context of the story – the story is set in an Indian bazaar, which all Indian kids would have visited and can easily relate to. I also loved the way the book acts as a learning aid, teaching kids what kind of stalls to expect in a market, the importance of staying close to one’s parents in a crowded place and, most importantly, how not to lose one’s calm when put in a situation like Frank’s.

This book, by Ms. Moochie, is meant for children between 2 and 4 years of age, and my 2.5-year-old daughter enjoyed it immensely. We have already read the book several times over, and it has just been a week since we received it!

The illustrations in the book, by Chetan Sharma, are simply brilliant, I must say. The pictures are so colourful, so vivid, so realistic, I couldn’t help but fall in love with them, and neither could my daughter.

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Picture 1: The cover page of Frank Goes To The Market; Picture 2, 3 and 4: Samples of the brilliant illustrations within the book

What I felt could have been better is the language used in the book. I understand that the book is meant for beginner readers and that the language has to be simple, but I kept feeling that the choice of words could have been better. Also, the story could have been made a little more intriguing, with a few twists and turns thrown in, to keep children better engaged. Language- and story-wise, in my humble opinion, I felt the book ranked a couple of notches lower than the amazing Tulika and Pratham books that I am used to reading with the bub, many of those set in Indian contexts too.

Frank Goes To The Market is priced at INR 200 which, I felt, is slightly on the higher side. A price range of INR 120-150 would have been good.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely, for the illustrations and the important life lessons that it holds.

I was sent a copy of this book, free of cost, to read and review honestly. The thoughts expressed herein are entirely my own, completely honest, and not inspired by anyone or anything.

Saragva Ni Kadhi| Gujarati Drumstick Kadhi

Saragva ni kadhi, a Gujarati dish made using curd and drumsticks (‘saragva’ is Gujarati for ‘drumsticks’), is a hot favourite at our place. One of our Gujarati friends taught us how to make this kadhi, years ago, and I have been making it ever since. The husband loves it, the bub loves it, and so do I. This kadhi is something I prepare often at home, whenever there is sour curd left over. Hey, sometimes I even set extra curd just so I can make this! πŸ™‚ Beloved as this dish is, it was only natural that I chose to make it recently, on the OH’s birthday.

It is a commonly held myth that all Gujarati dishes are sweet, that they have at least a dash of sugar in them. That is SO not the truth. There are a whole lot of Gujarati food items that do not contain any sugar at all. This saragva ni kadhi is one such no-sugar preparation.

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Saragva ni kadhi or Gujarati drumstick kadhi

This Gujarati drumstick kadhi tastes absolutely delish, and is a delight to eat with rotis and rice alike. It is a great way to get those super-healthy drumsticks into your diet, and to make use of any excess curd lying around in your kitchen. What’s more, it is fairy easy to make too, a matter of minutes.

Now, let’s find out how to make saragva ni kadhi, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the garnish:

  1. 2 tablespoons oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 2 dry red chillies
  4. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  5. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

Other ingredients:

  1. 2 medium-sized drumsticks
  2. 1 medium-sized serving bowl of thick curd
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Red chilli powder, to taste
  5. 2 green chillies, slit length-wise
  6. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  7. 3 tablespoons gram flour (besan)
  8. A few fresh curry leaves
  9. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Remove the ends of the drumsticks, and chop them into 2-inch pieces.
  2. Heat some water in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add a little salt to it. Drop in the drumstick pieces. Cook them, covered, on a medium flame, till they are tender. This will take 4-5 minutes. You will need to keep checking on them in the interim, adding more water if required.
  3. While the drumsticks are cooking, get the curd ready to make the kadhi. Take the curd in a large mixing bowl, and add in about 1/2 cup of water. Add the gram flour, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, slit green chillies and curry leaves to it. Mix well, ensuring that everything is well incorporated together.
  4. When the drumsticks are cooked, add the curd mixture to the pan. Keep the flame on medium.
  5. Stirring intermittently, let the curd mixture come to a boil. At this point, turn down the flame to low.
  6. Let the kadhi simmer for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, get the garnish ready.
  7. For the garnish, heat the oil in a little pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add in the fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, and then switch off the gas.
  8. Add this garnish to the simmering kadhi. Mix well. When the 2 minutes of simmering are up, switch off the gas.
  9. Add in the finely chopped coriander leaves. Mix well.
  10. Serve hot or warm with rotis or rice.

Notes:

  1. Use curd that is slightly sour, for best results.
  2. You may add a dash of sugar or jaggery to the kadhi if you want, but that is purely optional.
  3. I sometimes tear the curry leaves, using my hands, before adding them to the curd. This way, I make sure they are consumed along with the kadhi, and not left on the side of the plate.
  4. Add more or lesser water to the curd, depending upon how thick you want the kadhi to be.
  5. Make sure the drumsticks are just about cooked, and not overcooked.
  6. Do not cook the kadhi for too long after it has reached boiling stage. Overcooking might cause the kadhi to curdle or lose its taste.

Did you like the sound of this Gujarati drumstick kadhi? I hope you will try this out, too!

If you make this kadhi at home, I would love to hear of your version!

 

 

Mango Kesari| Mango Sheera Recipe

Mango kesari aka mango sheera is yumminess personified. If you like sheera, you must absolutely try out this particular variation. Oh, even if you don’t like sheera all that much, do try this out – you might fall in love with the sweet dish after all! Yes, it is that delicious.

The ripe mango used in this dish lends it a beautiful flavour, the slightest of tanginess blending with sweetness. All of us at home love mango kesari – even the bub slurps it up happily. Eat it piping hot, straight off the pan or warm or chilled, it tastes delicious every which way.

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Mango kesari aka sheera

Here is my mango sheera recipe.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 1 medium-sized ripe mango
  2. A pinch of salt
  3. 3/4 cup semolina (rava aka sooji)
  4. 1/2 cup sugar
  5. 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons ghee

Method:

  1. Dry roast the rava on medium flame, till it emits a nice fragrance. Remove onto a plate and let it cool down.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the mango. Remove all the flesh from the peel and seed. Discard the peel and seed, and chop the flesh into cubes. Puree the flesh in a mixer. Keep aside.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add the rava. Fry on medium flame for a couple of minutes, or till the rava reaches the consistency of wet sand. You should get an even lovelier fragrance by now. Transfer the fried rava onto a plate.
  4. In the same pan, on high flame, heat 1-1/2 cups of water with a pinch of salt added to it, till it reaches boiling point. Then, lower the flame to medium, and add the fried rava to it, little by little. Stir constantly, making sure there are no lumps.
  5. Let the mixture cook on medium flame till it thickens slightly. Stir intermittently.
  6. Now, add the sugar, the mango puree and the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee. Mix well. Stirring intermittently, cook on medium flame till the sheera reaches a thick, but still partially liquid consistency. Switch off gas at this stage.
  7. Serve the sheera immediately, after letting it cool down a bit, or after chilling in the refrigerator – that is up to you.
  8. Add more ghee, if you want it that way. I restricted myself to using 4 tablespoons of ghee in total.

Notes:

  1. Any variety of mango that is not too fibrous will do. I prefer using Banganapally mangoes to make this dish.
  2. The mango lends a slight tanginess to the sheera. The pinch of salt is added to counter this.
  3. Use a ripe mango that is sweet, fleshy and juicy, but one that is firm and not overly squishy.
  4. I double roast the rava before making the sheera, so that it cooks easily.
  5. Use rava that is fine for best results.
  6. Adjust the quantity of sugar that you use, depending upon your taste preferences.
  7. The mango sheera thickens further upon cooling, so it is best to stop cooking when it has reached a semi-solid consistency. However, if you like your sheera to be quite solid, cook it a little more on medium flame.

You like? I hope you will try out this mango sheera recipe too, and that you will love it as much as we did!

A Lego Kiddie Workshop In Bangalore + Product Review: Lego Duplo’s My Town (10832)

I am sure the name ‘Lego’ needs no introduction, especially to the parents of young kids. Lego is known for its good-quality building blogs that are believed to stimulate creativity, and are coveted by children and parents alike. So, a while ago, when I was invited to attend a workshop for kids by Lego, at Orion Mall, Bangalore, I readily accepted.

Lego’s Build Amazing Workshop For Kids At Orion Mall, Bangalore

At the workshop, I saw first-hand how impressionable, creative and unfettered young minds are, and how moulding them the right way helps. The kids were offered a whole lot of Lego pieces in all imaginable shapes and sizes and colours, and were asked to create various thingsΒ  – ‘Make something that flies!’, ‘Build something beautiful!’, ‘Build something using only red Lego tiles!’ – and I was constantly amazed by all that they came up.

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Something that flies… who’d have thunk?!

At the workshop, I learnt that Lego is presently on a year-long campaign called ‘Build Amazing’, wherein it aims to introduce kids and their parents (from different walks of life, in different parts of the world) to its toys, educating them on how to use these toys to promote children’s natural creativity. To make Lego toys accessible to parents of all income groups, new and affordable Starter Sets have been introduced. These Starter Sets come in different styles and for different age groups, all priced between INR 399 onwards.

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Mr. Amit Kararia, Sr. Regional Sales Manager, South Asia, Lego Sinagpore PTE Ltd., speaking at the workshop at Orion Mall, Bangalore

Great initiative, this!

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A review of Lego Duplo’s My Town (10832)

Post the workshop, I was sent one of the new Lego Duplo Starter Sets to use in play with the bub and to review honestly. The product that I received was called My Town, numbered 10832. (There are other Lego Duplo ‘My Town’ products available as well, with different numbers.)

About the product

Lego Duplo’s My Town (10832) is meant for children between 2 and 5 years of age. As the name suggests, it includes blocks that represent ‘town’ life aka urban life, like balloons, a bespectacled lady, birthday cake, see-saws and presents. The package also contained a little chequered carpet that can be used wherever and whenever the child’s imagination dictates. The toy is meant for the kid to help create scenes from modern-day life.

Within the package, also, was a leaflet about the other Starter Sets I could buy to supplement these blocks, to create a bigger, more extensive collection.

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Left: The package that was sent to me for review, Centre: The contents of the box, immediately upon opening, Right: A close-up of some of the building blocks from the package

Price

This set is priced at INR 1299.

Availability

Lego Duplo’s Starter Sets are available in most toy stores, as well as on Amazon.

My impressions about the product – Low-down on the good and the bad

  1. I love the fact that there are no sharp edges or tiny pieces that I have to watch out for, constantly. The product is meant for little kids who would be sorely tempted to put things into their mouth, and I am glad this thing has been taken care of.
  2. I love the product quality. Every block has great quality, meant to last long.
  3. I am thrilled with the fact that this is such a gender-neutral toy. There are all colours in there – not only pinks or blues! The types of building blocks provided are such that be enjoyed both by little girls as well as boys.
  4. There are some really unique building materials in there – a bespectacled lady and balloons, like I said before, for instance. The materials are something that a kid living in a city like Bangalore would easily be able to relate to.
  5. I felt the number of building blocks are quite less, considering its price. In fact, when I opened the package, I wondered for a while whether I had missed receiving some blocks – there were too few of them! I would have liked for the product to have come with more blocks. There are just a limited number of permutations and combinations that you can (easily) come up with using the few blocks that have been provided. Eventually, one would have to scale up by buying other sets to supplement this product.
  6. I loved racking my brains and coming up with different ways to use the building blocks. I built a birthday party scene, then a garden scene, then one where two kids and their mother was decorating the terrace for their dad’s birthday – all pure imagination. The bub loved watching me building these scenes, and listened intently while I explained them to her. I am an adult with a creative bent of mind, and was still finding it tough to come up with more than these scenes – so I cannot fathom a very young kid (like my daughter) doing a lot of imagining and building using these blocks. Building with these blocks is, to be honest, sort of abstract and requires colourful imagination. Maybe, when the bub is a bit older – say, 4 or 5 – she will be doing a lot more with the blocks – for older kids, the limited number of blocks might actually force them to think out of the box and come up with extraordinary creativity. Maybe, for now, I should teach the bub other activities like counting, identifying colours, and so on, using these blocks.
  7. My 2.5-year-old daughter finds it a bit tough to join two or more blocks together or dismantle them, so she lets me do the job and just watches on. I am guessing more motor skills are needed to be actively involved and playing with these blocks.
  8. I felt the package lacked a guide of some of the things that can be built using these blocks – that would have been lovely. I mean, the box does have some illustrations depicting what could be built, but everyone knows that boxes aren’t for ever. A descriptive booklet indicating the various ways in which these blocks can be used would have been a great help.
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The three scenes I could imagine and build – Left: A kid’s birthday party, Centre: A park, with a see-saw, Right: A mother and her two kids trying to decorate the terrace for the father’s birthday

My verdict

Overall, I feel this is a good product, one that will endure for at least 3-4 years. However, I felt the price does not justify the limited number of blocks provided. I would probably look for discount bargains on this one, or try to buy a bigger product which has a more reasonable price.

Disclaimer

I received this product free of cost, in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed herein are completely my own, not influenced by anyone or anything.

Have your kids played with Lego? Which are their favourite Lego sets? What would you think of this particular product?

 

Travel Shot: The Man And His Friend, The Beast

When you are travelling, you sometimes walk into moments that touch something deep within you. You instinctively know you have got to lift up your camera, and commit the frame in front of you to eternity.

For instance, this picture of this man and his friend, the elephant, both of whom we met at the Adi Kumbeswarar temple in Kumbakonam. Note how I don’t use the word ‘mahout’ here, but ‘friend’. These two are, really and truly, good friends.

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The elephant, a baby actually, was handing out blessings to passersby, and accepting gifts of money or bananas in return. We watched as it placed its trunk, gently, on people’s heads.

The husband wanted the bub to have the experience of meeting an elephant up close and personal, but I resisted. I was super scared to do so. The daughter was neutral, but I knew, deep within, that the experience would only enrich her. We held back for the longest ever time, just watching the elephant and the man do their jobs.

We noticed how the elephant was unchained, dangerous probably, but no aura of fear emanated from it. Instead, it radiated peace and joy. It was, in fact, dancing, shaking one leg after the other, the bells around his neck jangling merrily. The man kept up a steady stream of chatter with the elephant, his tone sweet and friendly, and it seemed to talk back to him, equally lovingly. We watched as the man fed the elephant a couple of bananas, and then went on to peel and eat one himself. He proceeded to take a few sips of the filter coffee that lay beside him, then got up and asked the elephant to open his mouth. The elephant obliged, and the man poured the rest of the coffee into little one’s mouth. It slurped all of it up, happily.
Meanwhile, passersby continued to visit the elephant, bearing little gifts for them. We watched the gentle manner the elephant had in blessing them. We have had some rather harsh whacks from temple elephants elsewhere, so I know just how gentle this one was.

By then, I was okay. I had observed enough, relaxed enough. I was ready, poised with my camera, for the husband and the bub to go get their blessings from the jumbo. And they did, very, very gently. The bub absolutely loved the experience, and still talks about it excitedly. I am glad I let go of my own fears, and let her have the experience.

I’m not here to talk about animal rights or the injustices meted out to temple elephants. All I can talk about here is the beautiful bonding between these two friends that I witnessed, and how I conquered my fears for the bub. I understand I might be judged too, for letting my daughter go through a seemingly dangerous experience, but then, isn’t parenting all about letting go and not allowing our fears to interfere with our children realising their dreams? Parenting is also, I believe, about following your gut instinct, letting your heart decide what feels right at the moment. That is just what I did.

The Bub’s Formal Initiation Into Education…

… happened today.

In a temple that I have come to like, sitting in front of the beautifully decked up idol of Lord Ganesha, wearing a ghagra choli, my little girl wrote her first words ever, first on a plate full of rice and then on a slate, with a piece of chalk. Not before trying to make a grab for the bananas that the priest had laid out on a plate nearby, though. πŸ™‚

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This day of her Vidyarambam, I am feeling a mixture of things. Emotional, happy and proud, mostly. Today feels like a sharp reminder of the fact that the little bub I used to cuddle and coo to has really, truly grown up. She did remind me that she is still a child, too, by making ‘Can we go home?’ faces at me every now and then, through the ceremony, and asking when she would get to eat those bananas. Thankfully, she did sit through most of the ceremony, mainly because she was too intrigued by all the paraphernalia that was laid out in front of her.

And to think that we almost missed this beautiful experience this year! I knew that yesterday was Basant Panchami, but wasn’t aware that a lot of temples conduct ceremonies to formally initiate kids into the education process, the Akshara Gyaan or Vidyarambam. The husband got super busy at work yesterday, I took the bub to a nearby park to play and we returned with a lost (gold) earring. The lost earring, one of my very favourites, almost had me in tears (on such an auspicious day, too!). We went back to the park and looked, but, came up with nothing. 😦 Then, thanks to a telephone call by a relative, we realised we had missed doing the Vidyarambam. It was already late in the afternoon, the bub was getting sleepy and cranky, I was tired, and none of the temples in our vicinity seemed to be conducting the ceremony in the evening. Next year, then, maybe, we told ourselves. We just happened to visit this temple in the evening, had a chat with the priest, who told us today would be a better date for the kiddo’s Vidyarambam, considering her nakshatra.

To be honest, we had never really considered a formal ceremony like this for Bubboo, but when I heard about it, I wanted to do it. It seemed like a beautiful rite, a sort of passage from childhood to school-time. I am glad we got the chance to do so, today.