Monday, November 24, 2014

Kid's First Flower Plantation Experience

Recently Dubai is voted as best place in world to work and live in. There would many expats like me who would agree instantly. Winter in Dubai is already started and I could see many happy faces wherever I go.
Many interesting events are organized in Dubai for families and kids year round. Last weekend we visited Creek park and there world children's day celebration was taking place. There were exhibition, kids activities and some competitions. It was a cozy family show. Many families were picnicking around the show. My son loved some activities and ran all around in park.
But I would to share one specific activity I did along with Ruhaan. We planted a marigold plant and it was his first experience of planting and gardening! 'Volunteer in UAE' had devoted a special station for kids where they could plant a flowering plant and the fees collected proceed to a girl patients heart treatment. It was a very remarkable initiative by them. By doing this they were not just helping that girl but they were giving kids an educational and fun experience of plantation.
There was kids gardening set along with soil, water and packets of seeds. Kids were pouring soil in pot, then seeds, then soil again and finally water. The lovely volunteers were helping kids in a very friendly way. Such simple, pleasurable activity. After taking the planting pot home kids are going to water it and in few days they could see the growing plant and soon the flowers will grow too.

This experience is so easy and yet its very basic and necessary for our kids to know. It can teach them based on their age; concept if birth, how trees grow,  life cycle of seeds-plant-flower and seeds again, how to take care of their plant and how to be responsible towards nature.

After the seeds are planted in tiny container, the volunteers were writing kid's name on the pot and drawing cute things. After volunteer asked him what should she draw, Ruhaan said 'Bus' :).
Ruhaan is too young to teach him things which I want to tell him, but I can see the joy on his face when he waters the plant every day. He has sense of belonging towards this plant. I can't wait to show him how the seeds will sprout, the plant will grow and flowers will bloom.
But this activity made me decide to give this experience to Ruhaan again and again as he grows.
I personally congratulate amazing Volunteers in UAE, Lola Lopez and their idea of planting experience for kids. Hope the girl child gets well soon and let's all pray for her good health.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Eco Living in Bali

Touching lion cub!
Bali is a very beautiful place with fantastic weather year-round and has unique eco-system. Beaches, mountains, jungles what else you want for a perfect vacation? And if all of this comes serene eco living then it's a Big YES! It was my son's first vacation and he was thrilled to see big trees in rainforest. touching lion cub, orangutan and riding elephant in Bali safari and marine park. And seeing his favorite owl and hippo in their habitat in reality. It was a great opportunity for superfast development of a child's senses and wide realization of the surrounding and Nature in general. We can see big difference in him after just few days of vacation!

There are many famous beaches but we avoided them completely and stayed in mountains and jungles, and we are glad we did. It was the untouched Bali; filled with art, culture, village living and very close to nature, away from all commercial tourists things and parties. I read so much about 'Bali Belly' before going there, it is diarrhea famous amongst tourist who visit Bali. But from our experience I would say food of Bali is the most eco feature of Bali, if you stay away from commercial coastline, if stay in mountain where local stay. Because they grow almost all the vegetables, fruits and even spices in their garden. They also keep ducks and chicken in their rice paddies, which almost like a backyard! So there is very less chance you get Bali Belly, we never did.
One incidence I would like to share about how fresh the food stock could be. Being Indian we missed spicy, oily food and requested at a point turmeric powder to be added in our dish. After a little search they came back to tell us they don't have turmeric powder. We were totally surprised, be we had tasted traces of turmeric in their food (local dishes). But then chef visited us and told they don't have turmeric powder because they use fresh turmeric roots in their food. That was the point I fall in love with the freshness of the Bali food.

After visiting stone and wood carving places in Bali, one starts wondering how the art also could be  sustainable and green thing! In Bali I think they can making art out of anything, the rice terraces is the best example. Firstly how they thought of growing rice on the mountain steps? I haven't seen any green mountain more beautiful than those in Bali. And the most notable thing about those rice terraces is the water management system. For this same reason these rice terraces are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. Amongst all the rice terraces in Bali, Jatiluwih rice terraces are the widest.

Snake fruits on tree

Drying cocoa beans
On this tiny island they grow amazingly tasty fruits like Snakefruite, very delicious Mangosteen, Rambutan, Jeruk and many more and of course different types of coconuts. We were lucky and had chance to pick snake fruits from the tree during our rainforest stay. The spices like clove, cinnamon, vanilla are also grown in Bali. here is the picture of cocoa beans drying on roadside in interior village on mount Batukaru.

Tranquility is filled in air of Bali, once you leave behind coast and start going to mountain. Even in Ubud you can just seat back in your hotel balcony and hear the sound of nature; wind, rustling trees, chirping birds, ducks it's heaven! One morning I got chance to see and capture some interesting birds in camera, couldn't find names but you will enjoy the pics.

One of the best thing for any nature lover or animal lover in Bali will be Bali Safari! I won't talk positively  about the monkey's in the temples like Uluwatu etc. Because those monkey's are aggressive, sometimes they hurt people as well. But not because of their behavior, our local driver told us the Uluwatu area in Bali is arid, there is not enough food for these monkeys so they grab things from tourists hoping it is food and the worst is the Temple management who earn good money from entry/dance fees don't feed them. So it is definitely a very non-sustainable example.

Komodo Dragon
But animals in Bali Safari looked healthy and well cared. Elephants were so very well trained for the show, it felt as if they are acting with the actors too! I generally don't like the animals to be treated for commercial purpose or in captivity. But here I could see a positive example in Bali Safari. The theme of the show was about awareness of how elephant habitat is trespassed by humans. The treasure of Bali Safari were Komodo Dragons. They are the largest monitor lizard on earth. They are vulnerable species and are on IUCN red list. They are found only in Indonesia and very few are in wild on Indonesian islands like Komodo and Gilli.
Orangutan at Bali Safari
These kind of Safari park are very educational along with entertaining element. The animal human interaction like animal feeding is in way necessary in theses days, otherwise our kids will not learn about caring and loving even wild animal even after knowing all about them instead of developing fear. I remember when I was happily surprised to see my son holding orangutan's shoulder lovingly when I was still thinking of touching her :).

Highlight of our Bali vacation was the Sarinbuana Eco lodge! winner of 2013 Wildforest best Eco lodge. We never stayed this close to Nature in tropical rainforest before, the nights were so calm and still loud with all the natural sounds, it felt like an adventure (with all comforts ;D)! This lodge was truly an eco lodge, we could see so many sustainable features around us all the time. The wooden Balinese style villas and rustic furniture were made up of local timber. The washroom was covered but outside, it was an ecosystem in itself. Very intelligently there were plants on the side  and walls of shower, which were thriving on washroom water or rainwater. I saw few insects and snails thriving on these plants too!

Sarinbuana staff picking fruits from garden
There was a vegetable garden and almost all their food came from their garden. Every morning we had to give order of all our meals during the day so that they could pick raw food from their garden and then cook it. This is one thing I would love to do sometime during my life!

There was dedicated compost area, seeds area and recycle area, which explains how that vegetable garden must be working. There are organic, recycle waste bins are kept in all villas too. Linda, the owner of lodge showed me around for the sustainable features. The grey water from the washroom is taken to leach fields and on that water vegetation is grown for which doesn't required fertilization too. A fishpond is made near spa, which keeps control over the insects. There is lamp installed near the surface of water, the insects are attracted to lamp and the fish can eat them all.
Vegetated leach field
Few animals are sheltered in lodge, rescued monkeys, rabbit etc. The lodge follow green housekeeping. The sustainable features are used in building structure to reduce energy consumption. Sky light is used in restaurant and kitchen. It was pleasure hearing some interesting things about eco lodge from Linda. Sarinbuana eco lodge founder Norm and Lina are staying in Bali since quiet long years, they have developed some more eco resorts and are involved in environmental consultancy work. There environment oriented rich library could be a feast for any nature lover.

Treehouse terrace
Living in eco lodge, close to nature felt like a challenge to us on the first day, we are not used to having moths, geckos, spider, bees in the bedroom or banging of them on glass doors while we sleep. And then a good morning from a pet cat jumping in your bed :)! But this cat instantly became our favorite. My son woke up and started mimicking the meow cat, the morning was never this beautiful before!
We could not sleep longer after sunrise, but we all were very fresh, energetic and happy.

View from treehouse living room
Seeing a beautiful tropical rainforest, palm trees and lit up sky from our bedroom was ecstatic! The fresh smell of pure Nature is out of the world. Sometimes I feel, in these big urban cities where we stay, we kind of forget the fresh air, smell of un-spoilt jungle, trees. During the day we used to see top of mount Batukaru, which was just next to us but till the sunset clouds and fog used to gather to cover the mount and far away sights. We explored the surroundings of eco lodge, yoga barn, water whole down in valley, snake fruit plantation, rice paddy and at the day end I gathered all the treasures collected during the day on rustic table on the balcony hanging on tropical rainforest. The Bali orange blossom, smelling like Jasmine, snake fruits and a keepsake tropical forest leaf for my natural collectibles.

We went in valley during daytime, but the forest gets crowded with trees and we felt dark in the valley. We walked a lot and hiked back to our treehouse, but were not tired at all, we were fresh, energetic and tranquil; that's the magic of staying close to nature. It explains the fitness level and stamina of these mountain people. On last day from our treehouse to car, there is long uphill path, and one of the local average physique helper took our 30 kg bag on her head and walked up to the car!
Stay at Sarinbuana felt like a staying with local Balinese family. Those lovely Balinese ladies, from nearby villages made fantastic food, played with our son while we had dinner. An elderly lady was called from nearby village when we booked our Balinese massage. All the staff right from driver to caretakers and Linda made us feel at home! So I would say it was not just an eco lodge, but it was truly sustainable for the environment as well as for the people living in surrounding villages.
Road from Sarinbuana to Denpasar goes from mount to mount through crowded trees, rice terraces, beautiful villages and millions of village temples.

Eco living in Bali was so fantastic that I would have never left from there if possible.

Finally I would like to inform about Bali kids charity, this organization provide medical care for ill orphans in Bali. Here you could do donations or donate their wish list items. I preferred to buy medicines from Dubai, which were listed on their site and asked them to arrange pick up from my hotel in Ubud. If you can manage to spare some time, you can visit them and drop your donations.

Till next eco vacation, I need to start finding more ways to live Green at home!
Happy Green Living you all!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Magic of Lemon and Orange peels

Since few months I am trying to have Minimum Waste program at my household. It includes less shopping (which my hubby would say I am lying ;)) and reusing stuff instead of throwing away.
By not throwing things in second step, I tend to fill my home with clutter and then sometimes skip that step all together. For example, the empty tin boxes of my son's formula milk. They look amazing once the sticker is removed. But a home can have how many numbers of vase/cutlery holder/pen holder etc. So there is limitation on the number of tins I reuse in my home. I had a thought of saving such tins and making some artistic gifts out of it. But my store room is already about to overflow because of such 'would be reusable things'.

But I am happy to share one minimum waste success story I achieved with lemons, limes and oranges today ;)! After making roast chicken in orange sauce I left with orange peels. This time I baked the peels to dry them, stored in a bowl and kept it in book rack. Now my book rack is smelling amazing with natural potpourri.

Next I found few old limes and lemons at the bottom of vegetable storage container in fridge. I would have thrown those occur yellow limes otherwise but this time I decided to use them. Thanks to Internet, I found multiple articles about using lemon and lime peels.
First I cut all limes. Few pieces kept in different compartments of fridge for the deodorization purpose. Some peels I kept in kitchen corners, under the fridge etc to get rid of few ants I saw in these days. Other few I put in microwavable bowl along with water. Switched on microwave for few minutes till water started boiling, removed bowl and wiped all mess in microwave. My microwave was never this clean. All the sticky things, dirt, oil etc came out immediately. That hot bowl served as room freshener for a while. Then that water and peels in it, I used to clean stained steel pans.
Rest of the cut old lemon pieces I rubbed on clean chopping boards and I was surprised to see them even more clean after wash. All these used lime peels I threw in garbage bins and they deodorized the bins as well. I didn't just achieved minimum waste but I used a natural all purpose household cleaner too! Now no lime/lemon/orange peels would go to dustbin without using them in my home :)

By using these age old technics to reduce waste and make my home cleaner with just few old limes was a full filling experience which I couldn't wait to share with you all!
Enjoy living green and take care you all!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Babysafe Paints

Hello Friends! Summer is getting hotter in Dubai and we mums keep finding ways to keep our kids busy indoors during the day! Evenings are still good so we spend an hour or so outdoor. Ruhaan either plays downstairs trying to copy big children or loves splashing water in pool!

During day he likes to clean the house or cook LOL, no it is no way a help for me, but it is just a favorite role play with lot of added work for me ;). So I try to engage him in different activities and one 'my favorite' is coloring or playing with colors. And so I was on a big quest of finding baby friendly, chemical free, VOC free colors. Even before this, when Ruhaan was few months old and I was haunted by hand and foot print of him to keep in my baby memory box, But I couldn't find paints which could be safe for babies. You get so many organic baby products right from clothes, but organic paints are not easy to find. I remember how we dipped Ruhaan's hand and foot in turmeric paste and attempted to take yellow prints when he was 4 months old. It looked very funny. Then my husband wanted to play with beetroot in same way but I resisted (definitely in the fear of mess afterwards. But it could have been equally memorable too).

I used to check those footprint kits kept in baby stores, but it is never mentioned that the paints are chemical-free on that made in china products. My husband proposed the molds of hand but I am always partial for paints.

We Can Too Plant Based Crayons

You get lot of paints, like face paints etc which are safe for toddlers, 3 years and above but not for babies. On this background you could imagine how happy I would have been when I found crayons not just safe for babies but are made from fruits and veggies and the company claims they are edible. Of course I am not ok with edible part but I can now let my son have fun with colors.
And here is what he did more than painting,

Yes he loved the fresh fruity, flowery smell of these crayons LOL.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Healthy Home

Good Morning you all! Past few days I am on a quest of making my home healthy not only for my toddler but for all of us. We spend most of our time at home so it becomes necessary to keep Indoor Environment of our home healthy!

First the routine cleaning of AC filters to make sure we are not breathing air travelled through lot of dust or bacteria. The clean AC filters are most important factors in Indoor Air Quality of our home. So we get them clean at least twice a year.

Next came the issue of dust, dust-mites and bugs at home. In UAE though we are living in nice landscaped communities, this is a desert; so the problem of fine dust is unavoidable. Though we do dusting, vacuuming, moping everyday at home, this is not enough to keep our home dust free. The mattress, rugs, upholsters at our home becomes pool of dust, dust mites, bed bugs, bacteria, mold and fungi. These impurities can cause symptoms and diseases such as hay fever, coughing, red eyes, allergies and many more including even asthma.
The regular domestic vacuum cleaner is insufficient to thoroughly clean those mattresses, sofas and rugs. Frequent changing of sheets and covers is not enough to overcome this problem I can tell you from my experience. If you smell your mattress, which you used for few years, it doesn't smell fresh. You can almost smell the dust!

But since yesterday our mattress is smelling fresh and I got the peace of mind while sleeping that I am not sleeping on a mattress full of dust :). Thank you The Healthy Home guys!

They came with a kind of industrial vacuum machine which has 11 times the suction power of your regular off-the-shelf product. It also confines 99.97% of the extracted dust mites and other dirt particles through special Hypo Allergen High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, preventing them from spreading again in the room. They showed us the amount of dust they collected in just one patch on mattress and our eyes widen in shock!

After the removal of the waste particles containing dead skin, dust mites , hair, food and other dried bodily fluids from mattress and pillows, they applied their exclusive medical grade sanitizing device that uses powerful Ultra Violet light to destroy DNA, eliminating any remaining dust mites, bacteria, mould and other pathogens, leaving the mattress sanitized. They told me 10 second exposure to this machine is equivalent to 48 hours of direct sunlight!
This two steps mattress sanitising process was surprisingly very quick, just 15-20 minutes. But made sense looking at those powerful machines they used. The treatment was completely dry and chemical free. And good news is you don't have to do any preparation for it apart from clearing your mattress (if you tend to throw clothes and towels on it ;)). And nothing is required to do afterwards as well. I would recommend their service from my experience. This kind of service was not previously available here, so I appreciate Mr. Jaber for initiating this kind of service in UAE, which is necessary for keeping our homes healthy!

Please visit for more information or call them on 800 SANITIZE (800 7264 8493).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Green Birthday Celebration!

Hi guys, days passed quickly and my son is already 1. Like every parent we wanted to make his first birthday celebration a memorable one and of course I wanted to have it greener too!
While I was introducing Ruhaan to animals from Old McDonald's farm by visiting stables and farms around UAE, and looking at his amazing response each time, we came up with Farm theme birthday idea. Luckily his birthday falls in 'outdoor weather' of UAE.

So we decided to have actual animals for the birthday. The celebration venue was a Stable in heart of Dubai so there were lot of horses. A pony was available for pony-ride for kids and under petting farm there were animals like Chameleon, snake, duck, rabbit, turtle, dog. It was great enjoyment for not only Ruhaan but for all the kids and also their parents. Not only kids but all the adults touched, cuddled and feed the animals. Many of guests told me that they or their kids never experienced something like this before. To have this kind of interaction with animals in Dubai is a rare thing and I am happy we could have it for our farm party.

I still remember when few weeks back we visited this venue first time, Ruhaan heard a rooster's 'cock a doodle' do for the first time in his life, first he was startled but when he could see who is making this sound, he immediately started to imitate the sound :)

At every detail of party planning I tried to make party truly environment friendly. I made party invite on Microsoft office and emailed it to everyone. We didn't take a single print of it (though I felt like having one for keepsake). We kept party decoration to minimal, it made decoration part greener. One thing I would like to mention here is, I was looking for farm style wooden carton to keep juices, water bottle etc. We have friends who are in supermarket business, from them we could get the wooden cartons. We came to know from them that these cartons, they just throw and then municipality people collect it. There must be further system of reusing it, but I just thought why don't vegetable suppliers just collect yesterday's cartons in empty vehicles back and reuse it directly? It definitely triggered some interest in me, but couldn't manage to find out more.

Apart from few banners, which me and my husband made and some mini-black boards, which I can and would love to use at home, that's all in decoration. The venue itself was part of our farm theme and our minimal decoration blended well into the theme.

The greenest part of the party was return favours, which I made at home out of Ruhaan's baby food jars! In a year I had big collection of baby food jars, though I used baby food mainly during travels and when out. I used few of these cute jars to store spices, my mother in law used to do the same and I liked the idea since I saw it. But I still left with major number of jars, I thought why not to use them as Ruhaan's birthday return favours, it is like Ruhaan himself is giving these gifts. when I googled, I could find lot of ideas and it made me happy that many people are already doing this.

To match the theme of birthday I bought tiny farm animals, stick each on every cover of jar and then they were lying on top of table for many days, as I was on a mission to find a less toxic paint for covers. But Ruhaan had big fun all these days, my hubby who can do amazing mimicry, used to show him every animal and used to make sound of that animal. It was big entertainment at our home.
While I used to visit different stores to find my paint, I must admit that was not green and I used lot of petrol to drive around Dubai. I specifically wanted this paint low VOC or less toxic firstly because I was going to apply them indoors and secondly we were giving these favours to kids. So I didn't want Ruhaan and any of our friends kids to get exposed to toxins in paints.
At start I tried spray paint, which is generally used to paint these metal covers; but they were way too toxic and you can smell the toxins even after weeks. So finally with lot of discussions with hardware sales guys I could find the exact paint, less toxic, can be used on metal and green colour; just one small bottle, but that was enough for me. This paint is recommended for toys by manufacturer. The simple stickers on the bottle with hand written thank you message added personal touch to the return favours. I kept stone chocolates inside jars for more authentic look! Kids loved the farm animal bottle but all guests too loved these party favours.

What I loved the most about party was Ruhaan had great fun riding pony and touching and cuddling most of the animals! I hope when Ruhaan grows up and looks back at his first birthday party photos I can explain him all of this and will get opportunity to stress on Eco aspects of the party :)

Photo courtesy: Humza Nadeem

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Nature at your window!

In further attempt of introducing my baby to nature, I decided to take nature to our window so that he can see and observe it every now and then.
Unfortunately we don't have balcony. The space in our window is also very tiny, but then I decided to have tiny window garden, a tiny slice of nature for Ruhaan. So I bought smallest potted plants and placed them in the tiny space outside the window. To make sure, those light weight pots don't fall down, I fixed a ribbon outside of the plastic pots to secure them.

I am keeping grains in window since long time for birds. But these small plants added more food for birds. I could see more birds visiting our window than before. When more and more birds started sitting in our window and make noise (specially common myna, you can't call it chirping), Ruhaan started observing them, their behavior, what they do and how they fly away. He started pointing to window to make me show him birdies outside and also started waiting for them. Sometimes he wants to see them in our window at night, we then tell him birdies are sleeping.

His morning starts with looking out from the window. Now me and Ruhaan get quite big topic to discuss through out the day too. I have local plants in the pots, which get flowers in winter. I show Ruhaan new flowers, he likes different colours. It rained few times so I tried to show him rain from the same window, but he didn't understand much. But when it was too windy, our small plant were swaying vigorously and we could hear whistling of wind. After that we had a big discussion in some unknown language with lots of surprised expressions.

So I can see Ruhaan is learning about Nature, elements. He is now interested in knowing what is outside our home and he wants to observe it; explore it.

By the way, my favorite bee-eaters are vanished completely from our neighborhood. Actually in this season they are supposed to be here. But number of common myna has increased and sadly lot of crows took place of many different birds. One day I found a common myna eating one of our small plant, I had to shoo her away. Crow and myna are kind of kicking out all other smaller birds. But Ruhaan is very happy with them, his birdie friends :).


Monday, January 27, 2014

Baby's introduction to surrounding nature

A big hello to all my readers after a very long break and Happy New Year 2014! Past few months while I was missing (virtually) from my blog, we (me and baby Ruhaan) together learnt a lot about surrounding nature.

During summer, stuck at home and indoors in Dubai, I was trying to introduce Baby Ruhaan to many animals through 'Old Mcdonald's farm'. But on our big holiday in India he saw dogs and cows first time on street. Instantly doggie became his favorite street animal :). India is very stimulating place for babies, lot of colours, lot of people, lot of natural greenery and of course lot of animals too.
Till we came back to Dubai, awesome weather awaiting us so we started our outdoor and park days.

Safa park has been our favorite park so far, mainly because of the lake and birdies around it.  Kids love birds, Ruhaan was entertained mostly by noisy ducks. They don't fly away quickly and they run behind food making quack-quack all the time.
Very funnily Ruhaan prefers to touch the grass only in Safa as compared most of other parks ;). Still he tries to avoid to touch grass by hand taking lot of efforts, making funny face. He crawls and inspects grass and tastes the dry leaves (yuk). They say if you allow the touch of different textures on your baby's feet, they develop their balance better.

So I removed his booties and let him explore the surfaces right from slab flooring near entrance of our building, grass in park up to the sand. And I must say I can see the result.

On my Green Living front, I am trying different natural teethers for my baby, as it's his teething time. I include raw carrot, dried dates, celery, but always have to keep watch to avoid chocking. These teethers not only help babies for teething but also add some nutrition instead of polymer teethers. Thankfully Ruhaan's first tooth came out without much trouble !!! I hope same goes with rest, fingers crossed.

Another things I specifically do with Ruhaan is, let him smell different things. Vegies, fruits, plants, trees everything. Most of time I smell the food myself, before feeding him and then let him smell it. Unfortunately that does not create his interest in eating more than a spoon or two, but it helps him to learn new odours. He recognizes good smells, if he smells flowers (kept in flower shops in mall), he smiles. He likes the smell of carrot/celery/apple/mint too. But I always have to be carful that things are not entering his nose.

It is an amazing experience as mum to explore the environment, nature surrounding us. Taking all that in through our senses again with baby and teach him to do the same! If we make our babies aware of the nature from early on, it will be simpler to teach them how to live with nature in unison. They will definite develop caring for their surrounding!