Archive | August, 2013

getting started with gardening

31 Aug

I believe in holistic, wholesome experiences, and I am quite weary of artificial or commercial products. Based on that, I realized, it is time for me to learn gardening. I am the kind of person who is supposed to have a “black thumb”; I’ve killed almost every plant I ever received. So, I started small, and am trying bit-by-bit to ramp-up.

Here are some tips that helped me get started.

Pick hardy plants

Each geographical area in the US is assigned an agricultural zone. Find your agricultural zone. You can try this site for starters . Based on this, you can narrow-down the plants that will grow well with little care in your area. Local nurseries or master gardener groups can also help identify low-maintenance plants.

Saplings vs Seeds

I liked to start with bringing little plants, or saplings. That way, I can see the plants thrive, or not. And if they die, most sellers provide a replacement for free. With seeds, it was hard to know if some birds or insects ate them up, if they were sprouting or not, and, sometimes, I couldn’t tell if the sprouts were of the intended seed or some weeds :-p Yeah, I’m really a beginner!

Bring them in early in the day

Little plants were living in a different environment, and moving them into a new home can be stressful for them. (Who knew!) Apparently, it’s like bringing foster kids home. They are tender and shy, and don’t know what to expect. Bringing them into their new environment works best earlier in the day. It gives them time to adjust before they “sleep” at night.

Allow time to adjust

I bought some tiny strawberry plants with strawberries already on them. Once the “crop” was picked, they seemed to stop flowering, even though it was still their fruit-bearing season. A friend advised to wait  a year or two, because they need time to adjust. I stayed patient with them. Slowly, they started to flower, but with no fruits. Last week, I actually got some tiny strawberries! The whole process has lasted about 3 months, so I guess I lucked-out. This is the end of their fruit-bearing season, so I hope to get big strawberries in the next season.

Learn some plant language

Like pets, plants speak a different language. Learn to observe when they are asking for more/less water. They often die due to over-watering by zealous new gardeners. So, wait till the leaves begin to wilt/droop a little, (but not so much that they start to turn yellow/brown). Then, water them as gently as you can.

No splashing, and no watering with a strong stream of water, as it will spray mud all around, and valuable nutrients will be lost. Slow “drip-watering” is ideal.

Stop watering before water starts running out the bottom (if in a pot). That water is also carrying valuable nutrients with it.

“Poke” the soil occasionally, preferably just before watering, to aerate the soil, and for better absorption of water. Be gentle, to avoid damaging the roots.

Let sleeping plants lie

However tempting it might be, try to let plants sleep at night, and minimize poking and prodding at night. I even try to avoid watering them at night.

They’re not dead until they’re really dead

I had a fragrant Jasmine plant in a pot, which died due to extreme heat in my garden. I figured it was dead, and stopped watering it. I was also too lazy to uproot it or throw it out. My Dad visited after almost a year, and revived the plant! He trimmed all the dried, “crunchy” leaves and vines. And, he showed me the little speck of green still alive right at the bottom, near the roots. He watered it and moved it into a bit more shady area, and now the plant is thriving!

Be fearless!

Try-out different techniques and experiments. Use search engines generously to look-up care for the particular plants you have. Post pictures on social media accounts or gardening forums, and you will be surprised at the wealth of customized information you will be able to get. And if you kill a few, that’s ok. You can just start over.


how do i get my son to eat healthy

29 Aug

I get asked this question very often, and all I can say is “Well, mostly, I just lucked out.”. My son is an incredibly easy-going and relaxed kid. I don’t know where he gets it from, because both his parents are quite “hyper”, in different ways 🙂

Anyhow, I read all I could about parenting, and tried-out all the ideas I liked. Here are some that worked, and my son also agrees to share.

Tough Love

When my son was little, (read: couldn’t fend for himself), I offered him healthy, nutritious food. If he ate, I praised him a lot. If he didn’t, I took the food away, and didn’t offer him anything to eat until the next meal time. Yes, he got cranky. So, I cuddled and hugged and distracted him with games/nap and did a lot of deep breathing. My mom did not approve, but I stuck with it. Next meal time, I offered him the *same* healthy food again, even the container was the same. This time, he ate it up gratefully. (At that age, meal-times were about 2 hours apart, so I knew he wasn’t going to get sick or anything).

Update: Just wanted to clarify, If he asked for food in between, he did get food. Just the same healthy food 🙂

One weekend of this, and we were set. My son learned to eat whatever was on the table. There was no special meal being cooked for him, nor for anyone else.

It’s important to have consistent rules.

No temptations

When my son got older, (read: figured out the snack drawer and the refrigerator), I simply eliminated junk food from the house. Yup, none for me or the other family members either. All we had at home was home-cooked, healthy meals in the refrigerator. The only “quick snacks” we had were fresh fruits. Fortunately, they happen to be sweet or tangy. Both are flavors my son loves!

No deprivation, either

We have all kinds of rules at home. And all of them are thrown-out when eating out – at a restaurant, a party or someone else’s house. He gets to eat absolutely anything he wants. He can even drink all the soda he wants! Feasting on food once or twice a week never hurt nobody 😉

“One bite” rule

This is the most important rule in our home. Everyone needs to eat exactly one bite of whatever is on the table. No exceptions. If people like what they sampled, they can have more. If they don’t like it, they need not take more. Of course, he tested the rules and refused to take more of the new dish after the first bite. I always thanked him for trying out the dish, and let him eat something else, from the table. And of course, all the dishes on the table were “parent-approved” 😉

Teenage Years

Yes, these are harder than any other. Since he turned 12, he has decided to become non-vegetarian (we were a vegetarian family for past several years), and has become picky about what he will or will not eat. He is free to fix himself any alternate meals if he doesn’t like what’s offered. And he does that frequently. Usually, he sticks to making smoothies and eating fruits.

Going forward

I believe from this point on, my son is exploring being an independent person. He will make his own choices about food, and other things too. I just hope I have done my job as a parent, and shown him how to eat healthy vegetarian meals as a lifestyle. I continue to have the healthy foods at home, though I do bring-in some junk food on special occasions.

I remember how I wanted to do everything the opposite of what my mom did, for several years through my teens and early twenties. Eventually, when I wanted to return to a healthy lifestyle, I remembered how my Mom did it, and returned to my roots.

And I hope, when my son is ready to return to his roots, he will remember how I did it.


lean-in by sheryl sandberg

28 Aug

I just finished reading “Lean-In” by Sheryl Sandberg, and I totally loved this book! I only wish I had read it when I was starting my career, oh, about a dozen years ago. But I guess Sheryl was in her “not feminist” phase at that time :-p

What I loved about this book… a lot of common sense advice, in an easy-to-read format. The book is not too long, and she quotes extensively from latest research studies. There are about 40 pages of fine print foot-notes for those who are intrigued by the details of the studies.

I first heard Sheryl give a talk at some event, can’t remember where/which one. That was when I first heard the “Lean In” concept. It really spoke to me, and I started repeating it like my mantra. In my interpretation, it simply means to do more. And not let narrow imaginary walls hold me back.

A lot of my views around Lean In have formed through reading Sheryl’s interviews elsewhere. I think her views came out more clearly in those sometimes, when she could be more informal. Some of the great ideas she highlights in her book:

“Rubin likes gold” moment: 

Sheryl Sandberg talks about this incident in her book “Lean-In”. Secretary Rubin was appointed the co-chairman of the board of Goldman Sachs. At the end of his first week, he noticed Goldman Sachs was heavily invested in Gold. When he asked about it, he was told it was based upon his advice! Apparently, on his first day, he had commented “Gold looks interesting”. That got translated into “Rubin likes gold”, and someone down the chain invested millions of dollars in gold!

Mentors are not Prince Charming:

Sheryl has an interesting perspective on “mentors”. Women are often told, “Get a mentor, and you will excel.” That is another take on a Prince Charming coming-in to rescue you. Instead, Sheryl advocates “Excel, and you will get a mentor.”

I so agree with that. No matter what advice the mentors give, at the end of the day, we ourselves have to execute on them, and we are responsible for how it turns out.

Find a suitable partner:

Sheryl talks about finding a partner who will lean-in at home more, allowing you to lean-in more at work.

I can’t emphasize this enough. I think it’s very important for couples to support each other in their passions. Somehow, we never think about this aspect when dating or looking for a relationship. But it’s really important, right up along with their FICO score 🙂 (that’s from Suze Orman, and a future blog post)

Oh, and through-out the book, she refers to Dave as her “partner”, not as “husband”. I thought she was just being politically correct, being from California and all, you know. But a colleague pointed-out to me… that’s her “partner”, as in “equal partner”. Wow! What a thought!!

Lean-In when you are going to have a baby

“The best time for a woman to take-on a new and challenging job is right before having a child. If she finds her new role challenging and rewarding, she is more likely to be excited about returning back to work.”  Another brilliant idea!

“Career loving parent”, a nice alternative to “working parent”

Work-Life Balance:

If you’re getting burnt out at work, check to see if you have any vacation left. Why would you think about quitting a job if you’re not giving it a fair shot?

She also talks about going public with her policy of leaving work at 5:30 to be with her kids. Yes, I remember reading about that. And I remember thinking… if she can do it, and be successful, so can I.  Oh, and that’s a rant I have heard from many parents… even single dads, who felt compromised at their work-place because they had to leave sharply at a certain time, even in the middle of a meeting.

Final thoughts:

“We cannot change what we are unaware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”


“seek and speak your truth” ~ sheryl sandberg in “lean-in”

26 Aug

I’m reading Sheryl Sanderg’s  book, Lean-In. I have mostly agreed with her advice all along. Today, I read the chapter titled “Seek and Speak Your Truth”. She talks about being authentic at work. Encourage others to tell you when you are wrong, and thank them publicly for doing so. Let people know privately when something is not working for you. She talks about blurred lines between work and home, and how we cannot be different personalities from one to the other. So far, so good. Then she talks about crying at work.

Sheryl says she does not advocate crying, but if it happens, it happens. She says its ok to share your personal life. She recounts examples of people – make and female – receiving sympathy and support when they got teary-eyed at work. Here is where I disagree with Sheryl. In my empirical experience, extreme display of emotion do not bode well at work. I know one executive who became teary-eyed while giving a “kick-butt” talk to the team for meeting their goals. The team was all shocked about why this person was getting so emotional, they wondered if he had it all in control, and the executive was soon history.

There was another case when an employee let the manager know about an ongoing divorce. The manager, out of “kindness”, did not provide appropriate feedback during the focal, severely impacting the employee’s opportunity to grow within the company.

I think the only kind of “personal sharing” that works is “after the fact” kind. One senior executive publicly shared about his child’s severe illness in the previous year, after the child was completely cured. He overcame the challenge, and then shared.

Of course, neutral, everyday sharing of where you went for vacation or the next car you are planning to buy, will most likely not impact your professional life very much.

What do you think? Have you seen or experienced any instances where people shared their personal life at work? How did it turn-out for them?

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poll: summer vacations are too long

22 Aug

Answer the poll, share what you think

 teens kill out of boredom: summer vacations are too long.

Read the related article

teens kill out of boredom: summer vacations are too long

22 Aug

I read the above news article, and it brought out two of my pet peeves. Summer vacations are too long, and guns are too easy to access.

People, and especially teens, need to be busy. Idle minds with no direction don’t often do much good. Summer vacations in America are way too long. They probably made sense in the days of one-room school houses, when kids were pulled into farms, with adult supervision, during the summer harvest time. In Urban settings, there are no farms to work on. Adults are often busy, with both parents needing to work full-time. Summer jobs are scarce due to the poor economy. That leaves teens with all the time and energy on their hands, with no supervision/direction, and nothing to do.

In addition, there has been a steady decline in mentoring for the upcoming generations. In some parts of the world, there are  religion-independent “moral science” classes, which teach students about general moral/social behaviors – values like kindness, refraining from lying or cheating, and certainly, the sanctity of life.

With the long summer vacations, kids take longer time to get back into routine of learning and studying. Their learning days are cut short and they have a harder time keeping-up with the curriculum. As students begin to get frustrated and fail, the curriculum gets “dumbed-down”. This actually leads to minds not being challenged enough, and more feelings of inadequacy as they grow.

Schools need to be in session for longer periods of time. Instead of one big chunk of 8-9 weeks’ vacation, allow them shorter, more frequent vacations. Giving them more time to learn the materials at a steady pace would help bring-up their scores, and enjoy learning. They would be supervised for longer periods of time, and vacations would be just short enough to allow minds to rest before they start getting bored and seeking trouble. Addition of Moral Science classes, or some other equivalents, would provide guidance to teens who lack appropriate mentoring.

Take the poll, share what you think:

how Not to get friend-zoned

22 Aug

My new friend noahzukowski posted a blog about guys being friend-zoned here  That inspired some thoughts today.

I believe, you can move from being a great friend  to a potential mate “when you become more attractive as a mate than you are as a friend”. If she already likes you as a friend, chances are, she is willing to spend time with you and is not repelled by you. So, how do you get her to see you in a different light? Here are some ideas and tips. Try them out and let me know if they worked for you.

Act like a guy looking for a relationship. With her.

Don’t just “hang”, ask her out on an evening date. Plan something nice.  A place with good ambiance, where she will naturally have to  dress-up. Dress-up well yourself, too. Open doors for her. Talk about fun things. Flirt with her. Then take her to a naturally quiet place like by the seaside or a lake, watching the stars and the moon. And then, just once, towards the end, have a really intense moment with her when everything becomes really quiet, and its just the two of you.

Don’t let her talk about ex-boyfriends or other guys that are interested in her. Don’t give her advice how to deal with other men. Allow your mild jealously to show-up. No, don’t be controlling, but let her know you would rather talk about the two of you than any third wheel.

Take-on some “male” roles in her life. See where she needs help and offer your expertise there. Some ideas are to offer to pick her up and drive every time you have to go somewhere. Fix small things around her apartment. Help her figure-out her finances, Or whatever else you are good at, and she could use the help.

Enlist her help with some traditional “female” roles in your life. See what she is good at, and ask her help there. It could be to help you set-up your apartment, buy clothes for yourself, advice with kids/nieces/nephews, recipes for cooking etc.

Buy her flowers and chocolates. And when she asks, don’t say they are “just like that”, or “because you are a good friend” or “you did x for me”. Tell her you got them because you thought she might like them, or that you like to see her smile, or something like that.

Compliment her when she looks nice. Make sure she knows its a compliment coming from a guy, not “a friend”. For example, don’t say the dress looks good on her, or her new hairstyle is nice. That would be giving her advice as a friend.Tell her something like “Wow! You’re looking good”, like a guy who loves how she looks, regardless of details like her dress or makeup.

All the while, keep flirting and letting her know you want to cross your platonic boundaries. As a potential mate, you need to let her see you as a “provider and a partner”, and not just as a “nice person”.

Good luck!

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