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October 29, 2018

Croatia.

It was Destination Croatia during the fall break earlier this month. I don’t think I have ever visited a country and then not rave about it! So Croatia was no different. In fact, it will easily be in one of the top spots. What a spectacular place! We had a fantastic week and came back glowing! We landed in Split and rented a car and drove straight to Plitvice National Park. On the way, we made an unplanned stop at Krka National Park and one look at the view, the walk and the waterfalls and I was in love. I was wondering how Plitvice could be any more beautiful than this! But I was so so wrong! The next morning, we left early for the Plitvice lakes. Parked our car, bought our tickets and ventured inside. It was quite chilly until the sun came out. It is a huge park with 16 lakes and hundreds of waterfalls. Theres a wooden boardwalk all around the park. Short hikes. Caves. Stunning views. Boat rides. We spent about 8 hours there, walked about 12 kms and with barely any lunch as the choice of food inside the park was not great for vegetarians. But we did nt mind. It was a magical place. A slice of heaven on Earth. I was telling HD “Lets go back home now. Nothing else we see in Croatia is gong to match this!” Famous last words!


The next day we drove back to Split stopping in Zadar for lunch. It was a quaint little port town. We found an amazing Italian place for lunch. Then we reached Split, chucked our luggage in the house we were staying and walked to the Diocletians Palace. We spent some time at the sea side, walking around and then called it a day. The next day, it rained in the morning. So we left late and drove to Trogir. Thankfully, the sun came up and we had a great time in Trogir. Its a small town by the Adriatic coast. The historic centre of the town is part of Unesco world heritage sites and it was pretty as a picture. Small alleys, cute shops, loads of restaurants,… We explored a bit and found a nice place for lunch. Then we drove back to Split and walked to the palace again, visited the city museum and hiked the Marjan hill before stumbling into a vegan restaurant for dinner.


Day 5 was the highlight of the trip. Giving stiff competition to Plitvice was Brac Island. We took a ferry from Split to Supetar and then drove to the Bol beach. I swear that that was the most beautiful beach and the most beautiful spot in the world. White pebble beach. Bluest of blue water. So calm like a pool with no waves. Absolutely no crowd. Water was warm enough to go for a swim. And the most interesting fact is that the beach is V shaped with the Adriatic Sea on both sides and I have never seen anything like this in my life. I was going round and round like a dog exploring the small stretch with pine trees on one side, beach on either side. We swam for a bit and then I sat and kept looking at the water in a trance. I never wanted to leave. Hd and Antu had to be dragged out of the water too. We had a blast. Ashu was happy that she found a crepe stand and was stuffing her face with a nutella crepe. Not wanting to miss the ferry back, we drove back with a small detour for a breathtaking view of the beach from a cliff! The ferry ride back to Split with the spectacular sunset would be etched in my memory forever.

Day 6 we drove to Dubrovnik and usually I am not impressed with hyped up places and I was like “bring it on”! But clearly I don’t learn a lesson. After a pizza lunch, we walked to the old city and it felt like we walked into a movie set or went back in time! I also realized why Plitvice and Brac Island were almost empty. Everyone was in Dubrovnik! It was mad crowd everywhere. We explored a bit and then walked back to our house. Though it was about 15 mins walk, we had to climb like a million stairs! Every side street is  a staircase, I tell you! Am glad we went when we went. I don’t think my knees would take this in my old age! Which is not very far!!! On the next day, Hd and I woke up early and walked to the old city to look at the sunrise. With no crowd, the place was even more beautiful. We came back after breakfast with the kids and visited the Fort Lovrijenak, Rectors Place, a few churches, went for a walking tour inside the city and had lunch at another nice Vegan place we found. We also bought tickets to walk the city walls and it was a stunning stunning view from the walls. By the end of the day, we had walked 16 kms and climbed 78 floors. Kudos to the girls!


Our last day, we drove back to Split from Dubrovnik. We decided to drive via Bosnia and make a quick stop in Mostar to see the pictueresque medieval old bridge. The drive was long in narrow roads with no village or town in sight. And hardly any cars. Finally we reached Mostar, grabbed some lunch and took a few pics and were on our way to Split. There were like a million Pomegranate trees lining the road and a kind man gave me two for free! They were yummy! Our flight was early next day and I don’t know how one week flew by. For the first time, we stayed with Airbnb for the entire trip. Usually I hate to make beds and fix our own meals in vacation because thats all I seem to do in my life and always prefer hotels. But this was a pleasant experience. Lots of friends have warned us about food in Croatia. So it worked out well that we managed lunch outside and fixed ourselves a simple dinner almost every night. There was more space and character and it was nice to talk to the local hosts. So thats that! Croatia - I will be back!

 

June 27, 2018

27.06.2018

Dearest Antu,


You are 10 today. I feel like I am 100. People we meet in the parks and on the street used to give a big smile when you were a toddler with your chubby face and curly hair. And I did nt have eyes for anyone but you. And now I am longingly looking at other peoples babies and sighing. How did this happen to me? What is your hurry to grow up? It has taken me three years to accept that your sister hit double digits and before I could digest the fact that she's a teen now, you have to go and grow up on me. Not fair! And as if to make things worse, you have a sleepover tonight at your school and even your teacher said you don't have to stay since its your birthday. But NO!!! Whats a silly mother compared to a school sleepover?! Traitor!

This year was a big change for all of us with the move to Basel but you were the one who truly took it in your own stride and has already made a beautiful life here. Friends in the neighborhood - check. BFFs in school - check. Ballet class - check. Piano lesson - check. Playdates and birthday invites - check and check! And we also found a carnatic music teacher for you and you are enjoying the lessons quite a bit. You have a sweet voice and a good musical sense and memorize songs so quickly. Its amazing to watch your progress in the last one year. I have zero knowledge in this subject and your father is worse than me so good job overcoming our genes. We celebrated your birthday last weekend with 4 of your school friends. Thats 4 more people than what I had on my birthday, so good job there as well! 

You still love traveling and the great outdoors. You enjoyed your London trip last year. And every park and every museum. I love your company and picked you to go with me when I got two tickets free for the Foundation Beyeler Art Gallery recently. Not that I had anyone else to go with! (Monet was good Amma but I did nt like Bacon. Why is his self portrait so ugly? He does nt look that ugly in his photo!) We have an ongoing bet in our house that you can't last longer than a minute without laughing! You laugh all the time. Everything is funny. You find mundane stuff hilarious! Please don't ever change. And your love for animals is ever growing. You would do anything to get a dog. The other day we found a small dead bird in our balcony and Ashu would nt even step into the balcony and I was feeling very weird too. But you were the one who moved it into a bag and threw it away. My big little brave girl!


One day you decided you were going to cook an entire meal and baked bread. Made soup. Cooked pasta. And made these pretty little dessert with puff pastry. Only with little help from me. Another day you saw the yoga mat on the floor and created this elaborate set up with all your stuffed toys and we were nt allowed to move anything for a week! Like I need an excuse not to exercise! For your sisters birthday, you decided you wanted Harry Potter decor on the cake and did all the research. Shopped for the decor items and patiently decorated it too. Your sister who is not that easily impressed was simply stunned. And you were so happy that she was happy. Yet another day you decided you were going to be a part time DOG and named yourself Yoyo and would answer me with a bark whenever I called you. How can you be so annoyingly cute? Keep enjoying your life, Kannamma. Happy 10th Birthday!

Love,
அம்மா.


May 08, 2018

Gopala Gopala...


Antu and her Perippa FaceTiming.

Antu - Did u see the chicks? 🐤
Perippa - Cakes aa?🍰
Not cake! Chick! 🐣
Check aa?🤑
NO! CHICKS!!!🐥
What?🤔

Me - *singing* kozhi kunja thedi vandha gopala? 🎶
Perippa - Oh!! Chicks aa?? 🐤🐣🐥
Antu - 😡

Antu's class is raising chicks. The eggs hatched last week. Highlight of her life!

April 27, 2018

27.04.2018

Dearest Ashu,

13. 13. 13. Give me a second. Let it sink. THIRTEEN. Fine. I have officially a teen living in my house. There. I said it. You are celebrating your birthday in Basel for the first time after you were born here so I am extra nostalgic and emotional this year, if thats possible. We both went shopping yesterday to get you some summer clothes and when we got back home late evening, I had this acute deja vu. How thirteen years back, your grandma and I were coming back from grocery shopping and I was lunging a heavy bag and Paati said I don't look like I will deliver anytime soon. But of course, you arrived the same night proving her wrong. This wee little thing I was expecting to meet. I get the possessive mothers and the arrogant fathers now. How this little thing we gave birth to can make independent decisions? How can they talk back to us? How can they tell us what to do? How can anyone be more important to them than us? I am so glad I don't have sons. I would make a horrible MIL. Just keep me in check and warn your future partner, Ashu!

This year was very hard for you since we moved to Basel from Zurich and you hated us for that. You have not made a single friend here in the last 9 months and it is very worrying. When I bring up the topic you have a very clear answer. "I have friends. They are in Zurich" and of course the eye roll and the groan and the accusing glance all accompany that statement. Sigh. But you say you are happy and ask me not to worry. So I won't for now. You have become super independent.  You wake up on your own, dress up and do your hair, pack your snack and your lunch and cycle to school which takes 6 mins. You take trams and go to your various classes. You even took a tram and went to a shopping mall to buy a gift for your friend (zurich friend, of course!!) when I did nt have time to take you. You really wanted to go to the USA on your own and see your uncle and aunt. But baby steps, ok? 

Even though you hate to step out of the house, you like to see new places especially the food! When I was looking for photos of you from last year, the only photos you let me take of you were the ones with food! Crepes with nutella and banana, Ice cream sundaes, cakes, any dish with paneer in it, nachos, pizza, pasta,... Now that the summer is almost here, I am making banana milk shakes for you every other day and sometimes I feel the only reason you even tolerate me is because I cook! You have this fiercely independent streak right now and you can't bear it that I am bossing you around and you have to be dependent. That you can't binge watch season 2 of series of unfortunate events. That you can't eat read all day and all night long. That you don't have a mini fridge in your room!!!!! Slow down dude! I would like to be alive and kicking at the end of your teens too, ok?

We made a big deal this morning. You got a denim jacket, the harry potter illustrated book, cash, your father made you nutella crepe for breakfast and I made you lunch and dropped you at school. You were all smiles and thanked us so many times and looked so happy. It pains me that you are so grumpy most of time and thats mainly because of all that we expect from you. Growing up sucks. One wants all the freedom that comes with it but not the responsibilities. When I was a teen, I remember all I wanted to do was skip physics tuition and watch Doogie Howser MD (from Doogie to Count Olaf, I see a pattern here, Neil Patrick Harris!) But now that I am the parent, I have to police you. Its hard for me too. I hate to have become this monster mom. I will try to tone it down though. I promise. Anyway, welcome to your teens! Happy 13th Birthday! Enjoy the best years of your life. You will always be my baby girl, Kutti!

Love,
அம்மா.

April 10, 2018

Antu's First School Trip.

May 2013 - Ashu went on her first school trip. I worried about it for a month. Wrote a blogpost how worried I was. Hd, my dad and I walked to her school and sent her off and came back home with a heavy heart.

Today - Antu went on her first school trip. I kind of remembered about it only this weekend. Hurriedly helped her pack last night. Forgot to even mention about the trip to important family members like my dad! I walked her to school this morning and said goodbye and left even before she got into the bus. The only consistent thing was my question to her if she really wanted to go on the trip. And she consistently rolled her eyes and walked off!

March 05, 2018

Solo Trip to Iceland.

A solo trip before turning 40 has been in my bucket list for the last 5 years and finally it happened in the nick of time. Even though I have lived alone for a while during college and later for a couple of months when Hd was abroad, I have never traveled to a new place and stayed in a hotel all by myself. I was a bit scared and kept putting it off and there are not many options in winter and I decided to do a trip in spring or summer. But the trip was meant to be, I guess. The dear husband thought he can't miss this opportunity to get rid of his wife and surprised me with flight tickets to Reykjavik! One week in Iceland in February! Any more proof needed for his evil plan? I shopped for new hiking boots, new winter jacket, new cap and new gloves. I even practiced taking a good selfie! I was like a kid on first school day! I was also extremely nervous and the thought that I have to take decisions on my own without consulting another adult was petrifying. I never realized how dependent and spoilt I am! Not to mention, I can't use my kids as shields! Wont have parents or friends or sister as buffer. Who am I going to be on this trip?

I planned and planned and decided to do Reykjavik on my own for two days and a 5 days trip with a tour company. Booked hotels after double checking with the husband. Booked the tour after triple checking with him. Found out that I have forgotten to book hotel for one more night and did that after talking to him. Currency, R? Do I need to take the big suitcase, R? Should I buy a sim card there, R? Airport shuttle bus, R? Im sure Hd was extremely confused at this point on how his super independent, bossy wife has turned into this scaredy cat! I even tried to bribe the girls to come with me but they would nt fall for it. Oh yes, about the girls. A cousin of mine asked how were the girls reacting to my solo trip plan and thats when I realized there was no reaction! Hd and I kept talking about it and planning and the kids knew about it but did nt really say anything. Except that I saw Ashus eyes gleam with happiness whenever I mentioned how I am going to be away for a week! With a family like this, who needs enemies? 

9th February arrived and Hd dropped me at the airport at the crack of dawn and then I was on my own. I had this huge smile on my face during the flight sitting in my window seat without the girls on my either side. It felt like I was out of prison on parole! Reykjavik was fantastic. I could walk everywhere and see everything and the walking tour was the best way to explore and to get an idea of the city and what interests me. Had an early dinner and went to my hotel. The next day was the beginning of the 5 Day Tour with the Arctic Adventures travel company. I had a great time with the other people in the group and we all had dinner together every night and got to know each other. And this was so refreshing for me since we never do that when we travel as a family. And the whole point of going solo is to go through these new experiences. Day 1 of the tour was excellent. We visited the must see in the South coast including a lava tube and it was total winter wonderland and freezing cold!

A storm hit Iceland the next day and all plans were cancelled and we reached Reykjavik by noon and I spent the day watching 3 movies on TV and stepping out only for dinner. It was extremely windy and I could nt walk more than 5 minutes. The next day was was the beginning of the SNAEFELLSNES peninsula tour and a few new people joined the group and we also had a new driver/guide, Maria. She was amazing and I would strongly recommend this company to everyone. Thankfully the weather was nt crazy that day and we could do the Golden circle, black sand beach, see icelandic horses upclose and also two stunning waterfalls. I might have lost a few fingers and toes but it was totally worth it! Going from Swiss, I had completely under estimated how cold it would be in Iceland. Its never this windy in Swiss thanks to the mountains and since Iceland is completely open to the elements, it was crazy windy with snow flying everywhere and theres no way in hell a tourist could drive in such conditions. Renting a car in Island is perfectly safe and a great idea in summer but extremely dangerous in winter. 

The sun was out the next day too and it was the best of all days! I fell in love with the diamond beach and the glacier lagoon and the Glacier cave tour and the monster truck drive in the glacier. It was like being in a different planet. The black sand and the ice crystals shining like diamonds. The bluest of blue glaciers. The stunning views. I did nt want the day to end. It kind of did nt because two girls in the group and I stood out for 3 hours in the freezing cold that night to look for the northern lights as it was the first clear night sky since we got there and though we saw like a million stars, the aurora forecast was nt great for that day and we finally gave up around midnight. Every night before and after were cloudy or snowy and that was a little bit upsetting that I could nt see the northern lights in this trip since I was so looking forward to it and believed that I will get lucky at least once in an entire week. But Ms.Aurora had other plans. But I should nt complain. Iceland is amazing in winter and jaw-droppingly stunning!

Day 5 of the tour hit bad weather again and the roads were closed. We waited the storm out and started driving towards Reykjavik around 2 pm only and reached around 9.30 pm and I said good bye to the group with a heavy heart. The next day went in walking around Reykjavik and catching the sights I did not see the first day, shopping and ending the day relaxing in a thermal bath. The next day on 16th Feb, I had a morning flight back to Basel and when I got home at 4 pm, the girls opened the door for me with a huge bouquet of flowers and also yelling at each other for some random thing, so it was straight back to reality! I heard from Hd, my sis and my mom at different points of time that Antu was uncharacteristically quiet and that she missed me. At least, some one still needs me! And when I asked Ashu if she missed me at any point of time, she answered "only this morning, Amma. When I baked a cake for you and it got stuck in the tin!" My poor little darlings!

* Iceland is SO expensive. And thats saying something living in the Swiss! Everyday, I ate the complimentary breakfast and packed a fruit and 2 slices of toast for lunch. And carried some snacks. Dinner was the only meal I spent on and that too only because it was nice to meet new people and also I was really hungry!

* Reykjavik is the northern most capital city in the world and street art was quite big there. The streets were so pretty. People are extremely nice and kind.

* Except in Reykjavik, all the other hotels I stayed in were in totally remote places in the middle of nowhere and the views were fantastic. 

* Theres this one ring road which goes around the island for about 1300 kms and the only way to explore the country is by driving on our own or through one of the travel companies. Theres no public train system.

* I created an Instagram account finally before this trip to upload photos and keep in touch with folks. Heres the link -  https://www.instagram.com/mail2subha/ All the white, grey and black photos are taken in Iceland. A good friend who visited Iceland last summer refused to believe my photos were taken in the same places she went to!


* This trip was so liberating for me. I did nt wake up in the morning with the list of things to do. I was not charge of anyone but me. When I wanted to step out, it took 5 minutes from the the time I had the thought to actually get out. Every meal time was so peaceful and in the moment and every time I was looking at a spectacular view, I was nt worrying if the kids are enjoying it the way I want them to! Its very difficult to explain in words. I actually wanted to go for a 3 or 4 days trip and when Hd said one week, I was shocked. But it was a perfect week and I could nt have asked for more. Thank you my dear husband for the greatest birthday gift this stay at home mom could ever have, whatever your intentions may be! :)

January 16, 2018

Madras, Margazhi, Music & More.

Hope 2018 is going good for everyone. We were in India for two weeks for the christmas holidays. The day we landed, we attended the Ranjani-Gayatri concert at Narada Gana Sabha and nothing we did in the rest of the trip matched that high point. Antu and I had the privilege to sit in the very first row and completely drowned in the duos music. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks during "charnam charanam Raghu Rama". Something totally magical happened the entire 2 hours 45 minutes and I can't put it in words even if I tried. Just a heartfelt thanks to the Universe.

The kids had a blast though Ashu never wanted to leave the house even there! Was hooked to the star movies and HBO channel and she watched like 4 movies a day! I kept my mouth shut. We went to Kumbakonam for two days and the kids were so upset that we were nt staying longer. It was good to see my grandmother who is 101 years old now. Good and heart breaking at the same time. Antu sang a few songs to her and it was such a sweet moment. It was so strange to go home when my mom was nt there. (She's in Canada.) I felt grown up finally! Adulting is hard.

Otherwise, the entire trip was one Food Marathon. Hd came with us on an India trip after like 5 years so we made the most of it and ate our weights worth! We also went for morning walks in the beach to balance it out a bit. New years eve dinner at Rain Tree was fantastic. Nothing like Indian hospitality. We were waited on hand and foot and the staff were so thoughtful and nice and surprised the kids with a gift, it was a memorable dinner! Hd and I left the kids and managed a dinner at Hamsa, which was out of the world! The decor, the plating, the staff,.. everything was extraordinary. The food was heavenly! But I don't understand the appetizer portion sizes in India. They are huge! Hd and I got greedy and ordered three starters and we could nt even finish them between ourselves and went straight to dessert after that. I think I have to go again next time to try their main course. But the Raw banana and pomegranate tikki and the apple jalebi (again 4 huge pieces which we could nt finish!) were sublime! Its best if we are at least a group of 4 people to go to any restaurant in Chennai. However do lone diners manage?


Wishing everyone a belated Pongal and hope 2018 brings all things wonderful!