Apr 7, 2016

How I stopped using white sugar

Around a month back, I waved a permanent goodbye to white, processed sugar from my pantry. That's the best decision I have made so far in 2016. "If sugar comes from sugarcane, why does it look so milky white?" - A question I was curious about when I was a kid. After reading up a lot about the kind of processing, bleaching and other processes that go into converting a sugarcane juice syrup into dry lump-free white sugar, I decided to put an end to it.

I use jaggery extensively for making Indian desserts like payasam/kheer. I also use it for baking sometimes. I use panankalkandu (palm sugar crystals) for adding to milk or to a porridge/kanji. The only purpose for which I was using white sugar was for sweetening my 2 cups of milk tea everyday. Though I reduced the quantity of sugar as I had written earlier, there was always a guilt feeling at the back of my head that I'm adding this artificial, chemical-laden substance to my tea.

I found the perfect alternative in the form of cane sugar. It's easily available these days. It's also perfect for baking needs.

Now if you are thinking "Why not sugar-free sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame etc?", these are again artificial, processed chemicals which I would like to stay away from. Stevia, being a plant-based sugar alternative seems okay but it's very expensive.

Ayurveda recommends that we include all 6 forms of taste in our everyday diet. So we don't have to stop indulging in sweet foods. Make sure you choose the "right" dessert to satiate your tastebuds - say No to sugar-loaded pastries, cakes, jams or spreads. Enjoy desserts made out of normal jaggery, palm jaggery, palm sugar, dates, honey, fruits etc but in moderation :-)

All store-bought packaged foods like biscuits, cookies, cakes, tetra pack juices, jams, sauces, aerated drinks etc are made with white sugar. Stay away from them as much as you can.

On World Health Day today (7th April), I highly encourage you to keep a distance from white sugar. All it takes is a little conscious effort for yours and your family's future wellbeing.

Apr 6, 2016

A relaxing long weekend at Mugilu, Sakleshpur

It's been more than 7 months since we took a trip outside Bangalore. That's so unlike me! Many changes in these past few months led us to settle into a routine. Now with one more change ahead of me, I felt it's high time we break out of this routine and head somewhere, up the mountains.

Once, I was having a conversation with a friend.
She asked me, "Are you a mountains person or a sea person? I'm a total sea person. Any holiday, I'll head to the beaches. What about you?".
I quickly responded, "I'm a mountains person always. Mountains and I share a special bond. They make me come alive. I'm so relaxed and at peace when I'm surrounded by hills, greenery, forests etc".

So when I plan a vacation, I always look for places surrounded by mountains. I had narrowed down on Chikmagalur and Sakleshpur. We had already drove to Chikmagalur (although way back in 2009). This place Mugilu came up a couple of times in my social media feed. What attracted me initially to this place was the vast expanse of open land, that would turn into lush-green meadows after monsoons. Bookings made, packing done and we started around 7 AM on a Friday morning. Unsure about good breakfast options in NH4, we stopped at A2B inside the city. After crossing NICE road and Neelamangala, it was a smooth ride to Sakleshpur. It was quite hot and there wasn't any breeze, even after reaching the Malnad terrain.

When we entered Mugilu, the friendly dog of the property named Shunti greeted us. She's such a sweet heart, always likes to lead the way when going for hikes, shows a lot of love and likes to be in the presence of guests, especially children. My daughter loved Shunti so much that she would hug her and cuddle her without any fear. Mugilu is a nice home stay amidst the coffee plantations that is run by a friendly couple, Sapna and Chandan. It has 4 cottages, each with a spacious bedroom and a balcony with a great view. We loved sitting on the relaxing chairs in the balcony and spent a lot of time, admiring the trees and mountains.

View from our balcony

One of the best things about Mugilu is the tasty home-cooked Karnataka style food. We loved every meal we had there, especially loved the saagu they serve with pooris, green tomato chutney and a capsicum sabji with peanut masala. Tasted amazing. The coffee was great too. The service was friendly and we also had some good conversations with Chandan during lunch.

The trek in the vast open space in the evening was awesome - great views, pleasant weather and a lovely sunset. We had a bit of rain in the afternoon the day we checked in, so that brought down the temperature. We met an interesting family there and we had some great conversations with them too. It was so nice to hang out with them. D also made a new friend with their 6 year old boy and so that gave us, parents, the time to have a chat :-)
The vast open-land / meadow

We drove to Subramanya temple on Saturday morning after breakfast. A smooth ride again, for around 1.5 hours. We luckily managed to get the darshan on time. The temple closed at 11:30 AM that day. After we came out of the temple, it felt so hot that we gobbled up glasses of nannhari juice, ice-cream, cucumber slices and tender coconut. We were told that the summer has already picked up in this part of the region and it's going to be a very bad summer this year :-(

We checked out on Sunday morning after breakfast and it was time to head home. The stay at Mugilu was so relaxing and rejuvenating, with no phone connection, 3G/4G, TV or Internet. I'm thankful to Vodafone for providing such bad connectivity :-) Folks who had Airtel were still connected and they were responding to their office emails on vacation ;-)

We have already made plans that we will visit Mugilu again in the month of Oct/Nov after monsoons. Would love to see the green meadows!

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