Why? Why? Why would I subject myself to the ketogenic woe…

And I mean woe…not way of eating.

Ha…I started writing this blog right in the middle of our 3-month ketogenic diet adventure. (I’m publishing this about 10 months later.)

For three straight months, we stuck to fat, veggies, and protein, with as close to zero carbs as we could do.

I hate diets. Why did I do this one?

I had never done a strict diet before. I prefer to eat in moderation. I don’t have an addictive personality prone to binge eating. But I do love food.

It had been 3.5 years since giving birth to my second child, and I still had some pounds to shed.

I had been reading so much about the ketogenic diet for a while, that I finally thought I ought to give it a try. And my sister-in-law Jolly operates a weight loss clinic and is a fan of the diet, so I have a built-in keto consultant!

Sajan usually tries out a diet at the beginning of the year, so I asked him – how about we both do this one together? And he was on board.

I became obsessed with reading up on this way of eating. There’s so much information and so many Facebook groups out there. I loved reading people’s stories about how it changed their life. There can be conflicting information and snobbery about what counts as keto and what doesn’t.

What I Did

My goal was to stay around 30 grams of carbs. I didn’t pay strict attention to fat and protein, other than to make sure my protein intake was moderate. An online calculator said I should consume 60-80 grams of protein and 100 grams of fat, though I rarely reached that level of fat intake.

I was more generous with butter, olive oil, and coconut oil in my meals than usual.

I actually looked forward to coming home and knowing a satisfying dinner would be waiting for me.

For breakfast, I would eat my usual two eggs, but for keto I added some sauteed greens. For lunch, we usually ate chicken thighs and salad, but for keto I added zucchini to the meal. Eventually I also added two cheese sticks.

Dinner had been our weakness before keto. We generally had avoided carbs at dinner, but on the weekends we would go out to eat and the carbs would come flooding in like a tidal wave.

So during keto, we carefully planned every meal.

That was the key.

We had a fear of getting hungry and making bad choices. So each meal, and even snacks, had to be scripted.

Every morning, I sit at the kitchen table with my tea and plan out my day/week. So during our keto adventure, I would write down exactly what we would be eating.

Just like lunch, dinners were meat with veggies. We kept cauliflower in good supply. We tried different sauces and seasonings. Spinach-and-cheese stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon and laid on a bed of cauliflower mash was a favorite.

Another key was logging every meal into MyFitnessPal. I upgraded to the paid version so I could see my macros. Just having to log my meals kept me mindful of what I was eating.

The good news is we actually stuck to our eating plan.

I had two cheats: I ate a small piece of lemon cake on my birthday (around day 45), and we had bananas foster on our 10-year anniversary (around day 65). And I might have eaten a chicken nugget on another day.

Seriously – I think eating the cake helped shake up my system and spur some weight loss.

The weight loss was very slow and overall, not more than 10-15 pounds, which was fine by me.

The value of the keto experience was learning how to live within constraints.

It was an amazing exercise in DISCIPLINE. In commitment and consistency event when it hurts.

For example — we went to Sajan’s aunt’s house in Dallas. She made some BOMB palappam. There was murukku and halwa. We had to say no to these things. How do you say no to an Indian aunty’s magical food? It was hard. We ate the egg curry.

We went to engagement ceremonies and birthday parties. It was all an interesting exercise in eating ahead when necessary or just eating whatever meat and veggies were around.

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I went to a crepes restaurant and had to eat this salad!

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Instant Pot chili with veggies became a staple.

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We tried crazy concoctions like keto crust pizza.

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Even though we had to pass up naan and rice at an event, we got to eat all these sides. That is non-keto friendly bean thoran in the corner, though.

This was very mentally draining for sure, but a great learning experience. What I appreciate is refining my ability to say “no” and permanently adding more veggies to our diet and routine.

I will say that about 3 months after completing the diet, I experienced a week or two period of having no self-control in my eating. One night I was very full but went ahead and ate five big cookies and milk! I think our bodies have a way of balancing things out. So I’m careful to be realistic and not force myself into a super strict eating lifestyle. For some, it seems to work. I think it’s good to test things out and see what works for your body and your lifestyle!

When we did keto, we looked forward to the good meals we had planned. We tried eating out once or twice and were miserable ordering salad and passing up the good stuff. Better to eat home cooked food.

Now that we’ve been off keto, we relish the carb moments! But sometimes we miss the clear boundaries keto gave us. Don’t be surprised if we try it again!

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Making a Compost Bin

Growing up, we always threw scraps into the backyard garden. When I got older, I didn’t continue the practice because I couldn’t always make time to head to the backyard. But I sure did feel guilty every time I threw an egg shell or fruit peel into the trash can.

Finally, I’m mentally ready to use a compost bin. So Sajan made one. I think if we would have used just wood, the construction would have been quicker. I wanted to try chicken wire (aka poultry netting), so it took a little longer to subdue the chicken wire and get all the wood properly attached.


Sajan worked hard on putting it together. Earlier that day he had mowed over our lawn full of brown leaves. He bagged all the leaves.

The next day, Ezra and I poured the leaves into the new bin. It was so fun! Layla had started to help. She asked me to watch the ground and make sure there were no ant piles. Unfortunately, she ended up stepping right into a small hidden ant pile. She didn’t get any bites, but she decided to stay on the patio.

Layla still helped by taking paper towel rolls she had been collecting and ripping them apart. Then Ezra delivered them in multiple trips to the compost. They both had so much fun. It was nice that as a family we could all play a part in bringing the compost together.

And it was refreshing for me to know I don’t have to throw precious things like tea bags and coffee grounds away.

I’m taking it slow. First I want to work with what we have, and at minimum, redirect a few waste items from the landfill. The kids and I have watched a lot of YouTube videos about composting, browns and greens, and different strategies to decompose the material.

At some point, we’ll get some worms and other items in there to make a real compost. For now, we are enjoying learning about composting little by little.

How I Take Notes & Plan My Day

Back in college, there was a time when I would take an extra 12-month calendar that was lying around, write notes on the dates, and use it as my “planner.” I would also find old spirals, like my second grade spelling notebook, tear out the used pages, and use the leftover clean ones to write notes.

At one point, I had been gifted a few different small blank hardcover notebooks, and I used those. I would write the date and my notes below. It’s still pretty helpful because if I’m looking for info, I can go back to an old notebook and flip to the right date to find it. But even this wasn’t quite organized enough.

I realized I don’t like small 5×7-inch notebooks. They’ve got to be blank, not lined, and 8.5×11. I can fit and view more information on bigger pages.

Lined pages mess me up. Here’s why.

  1. They darken up the page, fill it up, and make it boring.
  2. They make it harder for me to control which words on the page get the most attention and importance.
  3. They don’t leave room for drawings.
  4. They don’t leave room for varying layouts of info.
  5. I don’t want to write in straight lines — or even horizontally for that matter — all the time.

The Search for an Unlined Notebook

As 2017 was fast approaching, I looked everywhere for a blank journal/notebook larger than 5×7 inches. It was impossible to find. I had recently used a beautiful pink hardcover unlined notebook from Half Price Books, but I think the company that made it had gone out of business. I even asked around about a bigger unlined notebook in a Bullet Journal Facebook group. No one knew where to find one. There may have been a Leuchtturm brand available, but I didn’t want to spend that kind of money.

In a rush, I went to Target and bought a giant sketch notebook. It was about an inch think and a hassle to carry around. I loved the massive white space in the pages. But it said “SKETCH” in giant letters in the front and looked unprofessional. Eventually I found $4 unlined notebooks on Amazon.  They were perfect. Eventually, I switched over to dot grid. It has the same feel of being unlined, but I can use the grid to keep things looking nice and event.

I use notebooks for about six months at a time before I run out of pages or the book gets too worn looking.

What My Pages Look Like

My favorite way to take notes is inspired by Mathias Jakobsen. (See the video on this page at 0:47.) You first draw a rectangle at the top of the page to write in the day and date. Then you draw a box around the page, leaving half a centimeter to the edge of the page all around. At the bottom of the page, you write your current location.

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I tend to use colored pens because I notice I can retain the information better when it’s in color. It’s easier to take a photograph of it in my mind. Black is so neutral, and thus more forgettable. I tend to use TUL retractable pens.

I have two page styles in my notebook. One is to write my personal notes. The other is to write work notes. So for each day, I may have two different pages. I write the day in block letters on my personal notes page, so I can tell the difference. My personal page is for morning gratitude notes, prayers, thoughts, and a to-do list for personal and side projects. I like to record good quotes I hear people say that I want to remember and marinate on further. I also note what’s working well, what’s not working well, and other lessons learned throughout the day or past weeks. Continue reading

Fort Bend Discovery Center & Painting a Room

On Saturday the kids and I met up with Rayna and her grandparents at Fort Bend Discovery Center. Our last time here was the grand opening. It’s a lot of stimulation and activities in a small space. The kids had a great time.

The place was full of cool science lessons and hands-on experiments. I think the kids had the most fun at the mini H-E-B, where they did some major fake shopping, and the soda fountain restaurant, where they served up some fake food. They stopped by an animal hospital, city hall, and much more. Continue reading

Revisiting a Childhood Home in Eraviperoor

*I found this as a draft from November 2016 and thought I ought to finally post it.*

One day after my father’s funeral, my two uncles took us to go see his childhood home where my brother and I used to play. Now someone else owns it and rents it out. We hadn’t seen this place in a few years. Much was different.

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When I was five is when that stone moss-covered wall was built. It had been just a little bit of wire fence (if you could call it that) and open fields before. And of course, the customary gate with the family name was added when the wall went up. The new owners never changed the gate.

In the old days, there was a cow in that white barn, which has the clothes hanging from it in the photo. I always dreamed of petting the cow or riding on it, but no one ever obliged, wisely.

On the back side of the house were numerous cashew trees, with cashew nuts hanging from fruits. Sometimes we would collect the cashews and roast them. Too bad I didn’t appreciate the taste of cashews back then as much as I do now!

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Behind this grove of plants in the front yard was a rubber tree farm. I remember running through it at age 3. Now it’s overgrown and weedy. And behind that was a fence of bamboo plants, which separated the yard from the clean green rice paddies.

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This little puddly dip in the road, it used to be a huge gap that connected the rice paddies on either side. It was always full of water, like a big ditch but right in the middle of the road. Even when we drove over that road by car, it had to drive through the water to cross.

One night, in the pitch black, my dad walked my brother and I across this dirt road to go somewhere. We waded through the water. It was somewhere between ankle- and knee-deep. He shined his flashlight. Just a few feet from us in that water, was a skinny snake lifting its head six inches above the water and peering at us. And we kept on going.

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This is the well we got all our water from. It was blue when I was young. Now it’s painted pink.

After my dad died, we stood here by the well with my two uncles.

My dad’s older brother said, I remember when your dad fell in, and I had to get him out.

Then my brother said, He told me you fell in, and he had to get you out.

It’s amazing how stories shift depending on the storyteller. I think after my dad died is also when I first started to realize he was probably two years younger than I actually thought he was and than all his paperwork said he was.

I remember brushing my teeth on the kitchen porch by the well. We would yank on the pulley to get the bucket deep in the well until it dipped in the water and filled up. Then we would pull it up and pour the water into a small plastic bucket. We’d dip our hands in the water and splash it on our faces and use it to brush our teeth outside.

When I think of this house, I think of how big everything looked when I was 3, 5, and 9. I think of sleepovers with my cousins. My cousin Rolson once did pushups with his bare knuckles on the front steps. My grandma once held me, patted my back, and said, “Baboooh, Baboooh,” and that was the first time I remember hearing that word.

We had a pet monkey in the yard, in a cage. Her name was Seethamma, after a mythological queen. She was not happy in the cage, as you might imagine. That’s when I learned that monkeys had their own language to cuss in. It always sounded like she was screaming curse words. We fed her fruits. One time she reached out through the cage and ripped a part of my brother’s shirt with her claws.

I don’t think we had her for too long.

There are many more memories, and I hope my mind can hold on to them. It was special to go back and see this house at age 26.

A Weekend in Atlanta

On Friday we flew from Houston to Atlanta for our cousin Stan’s wedding. He’s from Chicago, and his wife Lisa is from Atlanta. This was the kids’ first plane ride since their India trip two years ago. They really soaked up the adventure of it all!

Sajan was supposed to catch a flight to Tampa to spend time with Jolly’s family after her dad’s funeral, but our flight landed late and took some time to get to the gate, so he didn’t make his next flight.

Our excruciatingly terrible car rental place did not have cars available, though we had booked a month in advance. So Sajan had to search around to finally find a place with a car available. The price difference was painful.

Finally, to hop in a car and head to our destination felt so good. We decided to get a taste of some Georgia ribs before meeting up family.

I had had the chance to try Cue Barbecue last year on an Atlanta trip, so we tried out a different Cue’s location this time. It was delicious!

We checked into our hotel, the Hilton Atlanta Northeast, then met up family at the rehearsal dinner. It’s always nice to have an occasion to see my out-of-town cousins and their kiddos!

The next day, the wedding and reception were beautiful. There were surprise songs and heartfelt speeches. It was kinda cool having the ease of going upstairs to our room afterward.

We decided to go to the Georgia Aquarium that afternoon with my mom, brother, and Houston aunts and uncles.

Continue reading

37 Years of Sajan-ness

Today is Sajan’s 37th birthday. 3 and 7 were Will Smith’s lucky numbers on episode 16 of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, so we’ll call this a lucky birthday.

I think we’ve known each other 19 years now! In honor of his birthday, here are 37 photos of Sajan being Sajan.

1. I think this is one of the oldest photos I have of him, circa 2004.

2. Sajan with his creative partner Josh.

3. Mexico mission trip 2005.

4. Morning meditations in Mexico.

5. Rapper Sajan Continue reading