The UnGlam Fam

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Pirate party on a budget.

I just hosted a pirate themed party for my 4yo and realized it can totally be done on a budget. Admittedly I didn’t have a super strict one, but all accounted for I could’ve done it for under a 100 dollars IF I hadn’t splurged on the cake. I did that, but someone who wasn’t too picky or had cake-baking skills could absolutely make it work without breaking (into) the bank. 4yos are easy that way.

I kept the decorations simple. A pirate banner ($5 for a 100 feet!), some flag toothpicks and cupcake wrappers (24 each for $2, on sale at Jo-ann), some red/yellow balloons, themed plates and napkins (if you check out the dollar store enough times you’re sure to find some cute designs), and you’re all set!

Piratey snacks and deco.

To streamline the party a bit I organized a simple treasure hunt for the wee guests. I made clues on recipe cards along with a picture of where the next clue was hidden (they aren’t reading yet), enlisted the help of parents, and let the little ones loose in the yard. The kids had a great time running from post to mailbox hunting for clues that culminated at a treasure chest piñata filled with loot – dollar store bead “jewels”, chocolate coins, confetti. There’s something visceral about breaking open a piñata, and I’ve never met a 4yo who’s not into showing off his or her muscles. What better way to let off some of that sugar steam than let them whack a cardboard box to shreds trying to get at more candy? Especially when there’s cake still to come?

Clue in the mailbox! Bat meets pinata!

Our cake wasn’t pirates (the birthday boy changed his mind when he saw a “How to Train Your Dragon” option available, but one could easily bake a customized cake if needed; there’s tons of inspirational images available courtesy of Mr. Google.

For goodie bags, instead of going the junk toy route I opted for a pirate book along with a home baked cookie for each kid. It cost about the same (about $5 for a hardcover from Amazon) as a bagful of plastic would’ve, and felt much more personal and useful. What kid doesn’t want to read a book before bed and what parent wouldn’t want to at least read them a new one instead of one they (parents) know by heart?

Top left packed and ready to go.

At the end of the day, the guests left happy, the birthday boy had a wonderful time with this pals, and all it took was a bit of planning and ingenuity on my part to make this one of the best birthday parties I’ve hosted. The props may not have been perfect but the day absolutely was.

Happy 4th birthday, R.


Birthday Preps.

I haven’t been writing much but I’ve been busy. R’s birthday was yesterday and in lieu of a present (that his nani bought for him nonetheless), the boy asked for a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese’s. For those in the know, kids ADORE this place as much as the parents dread it. Especially on weekends. More so because you end up spending $20 for less than a dollar worth of toys that end up in the trash before the day is out.

Oh, well. It was his birthday, and thankfully it happened to fall on a weekday. So off we went for this annual pilgrimage. I did end up forking out the requisite cash, but at least the kids didn’t have to wait in huge lineups to waste it.

The Mouse and the Boys.

Come to think of it, it wasn’t a total waste of money. The kids behaved as if they got to go to Disneyland. It was definitely way cheaper than that. So, I guess, thank you Chuck-E. When’s your birthday? Maybe I can invite you to my madhouse one time. Return the favor and all, y’know.

I’ve also been preparing for R’s party this weekend. Wrapping party favors, making grocery lists, cramming my brain with ever-changing, arbitrary timelines for the smooth running of the day, etc., on top of everything else. Everything else including making and decorating 30 cookies.

Superheroes & Pirates: 2 of R’s favorite things.

I’m quite proud of my effort. I’m even happier that I’ve been successfully able to keep the armies of ants that have invaded other parts of the house this season away from these cookies. Not to mention my own kids (I had to make another batch of cookies to foil their attempts at consuming these before they ever made it to their intended party!). So. It has been a busy few days of dodging obstacles while burning the proverbial 10pm oil. (Hey, after a full day, 10pm does feel like midnight.)

I’ve made a promise to myself: I’ll treat myself to an uninterrupted hour of TV on Saturday. While folding laundry, of course. 🙂

PS: If you’re interested (please be!), you can check out a detailed post about these cookies and more here.

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Spring onslaught.

The title of this post may have you believe that I don’t like spring all that much and that I’d rather live through a drab, grey winter all over again. Not so. After a delayed and particularly gloomy winter I just don’t want to jinx it. Spring has sprung in these parts, definitely, but I don’t want to talk about it and have the kids grumble about wearing their thick jackets again.

My mom’s visit has done more than provide me with free babysitting. She’s made me slow down and appreciate the things around me that I’d otherwise have been too jaded to notice. It’s not like I haven’t tried before. Whenever I’d point out a particularly pretty natural spectacle (like, say, the arrival of red cardinals) to my 7yo, he’d mumble a disinterested “So?!” I must have been discouraged enough to stop pointing it to him and eventually failing to notice anything myself. Since she’s been here we’ve been keeping track of which tree has new leaves blooming on which day and which blossoms are changing colours as days go by.

Sound impossibly yawn inducing? It isn’t! That’s what I’m trying to say! Here’s a few pictures from our walk around the neighbourhood this morning. And by neighbourhood, I truly mean it — a radius of approximately half a mile. Check it out.

Only missing a true white, perhaps.

I feel like I need to invent new names for some of the colours we saw in these tulips, especially for the purple-yellow shindig up there. Mammal blood tinged with marrow, maybe? 🙂

Notice the white bark start to be invaded by the brown. I’ve walked by this eerie, bare skeleton of a tree all winter marveling at the, well, starkness of it. And here it is now starting to gradually pull up its pants as if suddenly realizing that you’d better dress if you want to look presentable upon waking up.

Laden with pine cones

Notice the grades of pink — from blush to rage.

Whiter than teeth on tooth-whitening product overdose.

An owl house? A bird nest?

Spectacular, innit folks?

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My mom is here visiting and that’s one of the reasons why this blog has been slow. I feel bad not writing as often as I’d resolved to but, you know. Or maybe you don’t know, but I’ll pretend you do to alleviate my own guilt.

We’ve been chatting, gossiping about relatives we haven’t talked about in years, reminiscing about the years we spent growing up, connecting as mothers and adults, cooking together. Random people in the grocery store stop to remind you to enjoy this time with your maniac children wreaking havoc in the aisles because they won’t remain little forever, but no one tells you to spend time with your mother. My neighbor just lost her mom she was close to; I’m resolved to make this visit with mine count.

Because, the kids will only grow up but moms will grow old.


Nighttime Ping Pong.

I have a beautiful (not) accessory to show for the wonderful sleep (not) I get many nights — permanent dark circles under my baggy eyes. I have heard urban legends about parents whose babies have been sleeping through the night since they were 6 weeks old (the infants, probably not the parents themselves). I’m not sure what set of DNA my kids were born with, or if this is somehow my fault, but the marathon night nursing sessions of early babyhood have now been replaced by night time musical beds in our household. For those unbelievers among you, yes, my boys are now 7 and 4 and they still do not sleep through a typical night without some sort of half-waking game of ping pong. Except, our game is played between 4 players (2 unwilling) of varying ages spread over 2 bedrooms and 2 queen-sized beds. And there are no hard and fast rules; final configurations vary each night depending on who wakes up to pee, which parent is being favored at a point in time, and maybe the cycle of the moon. Here’s how:


We all start off sleeping in our own beds. The boys share a room and a queen bed. Their bedroom and ours are separated by a short corridor, all doors remain unlocked.


The reasons for the kids waking up remain unconfirmed. How they sense the requisite parent has moved from their vicinity also remains a mystery.


More often than not, UnglamPapa wakes up ALONE in a queen bed while I get to be the lucky recipient of morning hugs and kisses. Which wouldn’t be quite so bad if I hadn’t been pummeled by those same bodies ALL night. I also mostly wake up wedged between them ostensibly to avoid an even earlier awakening by the boys kneeing each other awake. So my subconscious probably doesn’t get much rest either.

As if just the stretch marks and wobbly bits weren’t enough. Maybe raccoon eyes will become fashionable one day, and then I’ll be top contender for a ramp model.


Of Quinoa Salad and Kale Chips.

Being a vegetarian I was under the impression that I automatically made and served mostly healthy meals to my family. We Indians have a tendency to be a bit supremacist about food matters. I can’t remember the countless times I’ve heard phrases like, “Oh, but we use turmeric in our cooking, you know, and that’s a natural antiseptic!” or “these Westerners eat so much refined grain; our roti isn’t constipating at least!” or some such. So. Not. True. Knowing about food as I do now, I’m fairly sure Indian cuisine is one of the most high-carb, high-fat cuisine there is. Delicious, yes no doubt, but not as foolproof as Indians would have you believe. Trust me, I’m one of them (you).

In an attempt to branch out of foods I’ve grown up on, I decided to give quinoa and kale a try. My ever resourceful neighbor E, a quinoa veteran, dropped off a cup of the good stuff for me to try before I went out and bought a big bag for myself. Googling recipes brought forth a large variety, but a recurrent theme of simplicity tied them together. Rather than assembling the ingredients called for, I just threw whatever I had in my fridge (including prepared italian salad dressing) to come up with this light, slightly sweet, nutty quinoa salad with kidney beans, broccoli, onion, cilantro and tomato. I’m not a convert yet but definitely eager to try this WonderGrain with a few tried-and-true Indian flavor combinations.

Kale is a relatively new addition to my cooking repertoire. This variety of greens (as opposed to collards, chard, etc.) isn’t known in the East. I didn’t know of it, at any rate, but with all the recipes we have for cooking with greens in India, it shouldn’t be too hard to incorporate into traditional Indian dishes like saag. This time however kale made an appearance on my plate in the form of chips and, in smaller amounts, as a raw salad veggie. With all the blogosphere brouhaha over these chips, though, I have to say I absolutely preferred kale in its raw avatar. I don’t care who says this but kale chips are NOT regular potato chips. Na ah. I wouldn’t snack on green chips when I’m in the mood for good ole Lays, and I will sure as hell not choose these over chips with my burger!

Kale chips with Tzatziki

Kale chips with Tzatziki

PS: In the book roundup, I got halfway through Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and no more. This is the first Tudor novel that I have ever returned unread to the library. I have gotten through Alison Weir in the past (Tudor non-fiction, for the uninitiated) but Ms Mantel’s had me. Maybe it was the back to back overdose with Bringing Up the Bodies or a simple case of dead ringer fiction, but in my opinion there are better novels out there for those wishing to get engrossed in a read rather than waiting to get it over with.