May 23, 2020

Oleev Active Blended Edible Vegetable Oil Review

I came across this brand through Instagram sponsored ads this morning. The ad message makes it sound like this is olive oil for everyday cooking. On digging deeper, I realized this is blended oil - meaning it is a combination of two or more oils. I started looking at the product images shared on popular e-commerce sites but the photos were so blurry that I couldn't figure out the exact composition. In BigBasket, the proportion is listed as below:
Refined rice-bran oil - 80%
Refined olive pomace oil - 20%

Brand Name is Oleev. The word "olive oil" is clearly mentioned in the front of the pack. It is called out explicitly in digital advertising copy. BUT the percentage of olive oil is ONLY 20%

1 liter of rice-bran oil is around ₹125 whereas 1 liter of this blended oil is ₹185.

The brand makes a nice profit because we blindly fall for the name "olive oil" without looking into the finer print.

Now that online grocery shopping is on the rise, it is even more challenging to read the nutrition labels.

If the word "blended oil" is mentioned on the pack, do note the oils used and their proportion.

May 19, 2020

My all-in-one notebook (planner, journal, tracker)

I love planners and diaries so much. I love making lists. I had been a diligent list maker on Evernote for years. I had also tried a few to-do apps for managing my tasks, Google Keep to add random notes, Evernote for journaling etc. Sometime last year, after reading Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism, I felt I didn't want to be tracking everything online across a variety of apps and tools. There wasn't any consistency, my thoughts were dumped randomly without a proper system in place and most importantly, I had to use my phone/laptop often to track every little thing. I also realized a planner or a diary is too rigid and is meant only for handling one use case. I don't want to use 3-4 different notebooks - one for planning, one for tracking, one for journaling, one for note-taking etc. 
Since June last year, I had been maintaining this system and I'm quite happy with it so far. I call this my "all-in-one notebook". I got this 5-subject ruled notebook at a price of Rs.240 from a stationery store. No templates, no dates, no time blocks, plain simple ruled notebook with 5 partitions that I have customized it according to my needs. When I shift to the next notebook, I plan to get an unruled one. Ah, the pleasure of writing on a plain, white sheet of paper! Even if it sounds narcissistic, let me admit - I love my handwriting 🙂

The 5 sections of my notebook are allocated for the following areas:
  1. Reflection
  2. Journal
  3. Notes
  4. Goals and Lists
  5. ToDos
I use this section for two reasons:
  1. Habit Tracker - I had elaborated on how I track my habits in this post. Every month, I list down the habits I want to track. The number of habits could be anywhere between 8-10. At the end of each day, I put a checkmark against the items I had managed to complete. I find that I stick to daily habits when I put that checkmark using a pen. I have tried habit tracking apps earlier but I wasn't being consistent with my habits.
  2. Happiness journal - I had elaborated on this journal in an earlier post, which includes a video as well. At the end of each day, I think about 3-4 events/moments that made me happy and jot them down. Though I haven't been consistently writing on all days, it is such a warm feeling to read the journal entries from the past. Since I'm using an undated notebook, it is perfectly okay if we are not doing this on a daily basis. Even if I jumped off the bandwagon, I can easily get back without any feeling of guilt. With a dated diary, I used to feel so guilty when I had to leave blank pages on days I didn't feel like writing anything. A plain, simple notebook solves the problem 🙂

This section is a collection of thoughts/Ramblings from self. I don't write on a daily basis, though I wish to. Whenever an inspiration strikes/some issue is bothering me/someone made me terribly angry or upset, I pick up my notebook and pour out all my thoughts. At the end of the writing session, I feel so relieved. Sometimes, the solution unravels itself as I journal out the problem. I also use this journal section as a brain dump when I feel too overwhelmed or I find too many random ideas surfacing up.

This section is a collection of thoughts/quotes/writings from others. I consume quite a lot of content - from books, blogs, podcasts, videos etc. Not all of them are useful or relevant. But there will be some pointers/take-aways that resonate with me and I jot them down here. Currently, I have notes from varied topics - nutrition, health, wellness, growth, philosophy etc. I also note down inspirational quotes that I come across.

Goals and Lists:
I keep track of many lists here
  • My bucket list
  • Annual focus areas/themes
  • Monthly goals
  • Monthly calendar with important dates
  • Books to read
  • Recipes to try
  • Movies to watch
  • Places to visit
  • Blogposts to write
  • Courses to do
  • Topics to research/explore
I prepare the monthly calendar on the 1st of every month and track the important dates. Again, there are months I haven't done this - for instance, over the last 2 months, I was feeling overwhelmed with all that's happening around and I decided to take it one day at a time. I feel content to manage my daily responsibilities without planning too much ahead in the future.

Weekly Tasks - I used to track this in Evernote earlier. The approach is the same as outlined in this blog post. Every Sun evening / Mon morning, I make a list of tasks for the week - important as well as mundane tasks that I plan to do across various aspects of my life - blogging, professional work, cooking, reading etc. I refer to the "Goals and Lists" section to set my weekly tasks.
Daily ToDos - Anything and everything I need to get done for the day is tracked here -from "Make idli batter" to "Publish post on all-in-one notebook". I refer to this section multiple times in a day and add a checkmark once completed.
Timeboxing/Scheduling a day - I do this on a need basis, especially on days when I have too many things to do or when I feel like I need to allocate time for different activities. When I used to write in a daily planner, I didn't use this section very effectively. I was repeating the same task on every single page or I would end up not planning for days at a stretch which would result in empty, wasted pages.

There is no right/wrong approach to setting up your planning and tracking system. Pick the one that works for you. Customize it according to your needs. Love the whole process. Don't go on a guilt trip if you don't plan a given day or a week or even a month. Allow yourself the flexibility to get back whenever you can. Don't be too harsh on yourself when things don't go as planned.

If you love planning but not interested to spend a lot on planners/journals, I hope this post gave you a few ideas to get started with a simple notebook. Let's not wait for Jan 1st or even the 1st of any month. Today is all we have, let's make the best use of it.

May 15, 2020

Book Review: Ultimate Grandmother Hacks by Kavita Devgan

I stumbled upon this book in the "Read for free" collection on Kindle store. Kavita Devgan's Ultimate Grandmother Hacks was such an engaging and interesting read! The author has compiled a list of 50 lifestyle habits that our ancestors used to practice diligently which we have long forgotten. The content is similar to that of Rujuta Diwekar's but the writing style is slightly different. 

Kavita sets the context beautifully by narrating snippets from her childhood, her interactions with her mom and her food memories.

The first habit she emphasizes on is to understand the pH of our food. She elaborates on the acidic vs alkaline foods. One of the key take-aways for me is 
"When you exercise, the body takes in more oxygen, which helps to expel the acids from the body"
Next, she focuses on the importance of eating a balanced meal with all tastes including bitter tasting foods. A couple of points I learned from this chapter are
"The amount of nutrients you can squeeze out of what you are eating might just depend on whether your meal has a bitter component or not"

"Bitter foods help cut food cravings"
In the subsequent chapters, she highlights the importance of eating whole foods, nutrients present in the peels of most veggies and fruits, spices and herbs that are "adaptogens" helping us combat stress and fatigue. On explaining the importance of fats, she highlights the ratio of fats to be included - 1:1.5:1 (PUFA:MUFA:Saturated Fats). Using oils by rotation and ensuring our Omega 3 intake is good enough are some of the recommendations worth noting.

I liked the way she differentiates between comfort foods (foods that we have eaten as kids) and junk foods being used for comfort. 

Apart from foods and their nutrients, she also talks about our lifestyle. This statement sums it up nicely
"If you really don't have time to cook or to even sit down to have a meal, perhaps it is time to start questioning your lifestyle"
Cooking in traditional vessels like earthen pots, placing the food on a banana leaf, sitting down on the floor while eating - every such practice has a science backing which she has explained in simple terms. 

My most favorite was the chapter on how food impacts our mind and emotions. 

Totally loved reading this book. Lots of interesting tidbits and useful takeaways. Do check it out if you love to read books on food, nutrition and lifestyle.

May 10, 2020

Following a schedule during lockdown

A few days back, I had posted on Instagram about how my lockdown days are progressing. I had mentioned about following a routine - sleep by 10:30PM and wake up by 6:30AM, having a fixed time for sweeping/mopping the house etc. One of the DMs I received related to this post - "Aren't schedules boring? Life becomes so predictable and monotonous." 

It was an interesting question and I had been thinking about why I follow a schedule.

Firstly, I follow a schedule/routine during weekdays. I don't follow a similar schedule during weekends. For eg, today being a Saturday, I woke up only at 7:45AM, had breakfast at 11AM, ate lunch at 2:30PM etc. No exercise/Yoga. I spent the afternoon watching Mr. Family Man standup comedy and had a hearty laugh.

Now, coming to the question of why do I follow a schedule. This is my personal opinion. Yours might be completely different and it is perfectly okay. 
A schedule is required for anyone who has a responsibility - responsibility towards oneself, responsibility towards others in the family, responsibility towards professional work commitments etc.

The schedule sets a rhythm in our daily life. When we prioritize a few key aspects of our life and allocate a fixed time towards them, they are automatically taken care of, without much thought. During weekdays, I finish cooking breakfast and lunch by 9:30AM. This way, food is available and I don't need to step into the kitchen until evening. I can focus on my work without thinking about the dreaded question "what to cook for lunch?"

Having a schedule also sets the right expectations among the people whom we interact with - our family members and our office colleagues. For eg, my daughter knows that I do my Yoga practice between 7:30AM and 8:15AM. She wouldn't ask me to play with her during this time.

Scheduling a fixed time, also called as time-boxing is a sure-shot way of avoiding distractions. Most distractions of these days - be it social media, Netflix, watching the news, youtube videos etc can start off as a 2-min activity and can easily consume many hours if we are not mindful. So it is better to allocate fixed time for important work and necessary chores. If I don't fix a time for sweeping/mopping, I might just while away my time in the late afternoon and procrastinate the task at hand.

Having said that, it doesn't mean I schedule every minute of my waking hour. There are multiple unplanned time slots during the day where I watch a movie (20-30 min max), play with my daughter, browse or watch youtube or take a short afternoon nap.

Ironically, as I was writing this post, I came across this tweet
"This is a pandemic, not a productivity contest"

I totally agree with this point. I need a schedule just to get through my daily responsibilities. I seriously wonder how to make time for other "productive" activities like building a skill, reading books, taking online courses, trying new recipes etc, amidst the added responsibilities that the lockdown has brought down upon me. 

Let's not take additional pressure from our social media feeds that are filled with new recipes, interesting activities to engage kids, new hobbies etc. Each of our lives and situations is unique. We are doing our best we can, given the circumstances.

My only suggestion is not to expect too much from yourself or from others during these critical times.

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