Roasted stuffed pumpkin with peppers over spaghetti

So, I bought a pumpkin. It sat on the counter as a reminder to prepare it somehow. D kept insisting she wanted to eat it. For the last year she has been considered a picky eater. Now she points to everything saying she would like to eat it. Some actually go down and some are rejected by her. 

Part me is forever the optimist who gets excited and moves mountains for my daughter if she says she will try it and of course rejection is very crushing when it happens. Such is life I guess.

Yesterday was pumpkin’s day. Google was the savior and this recipe at looked delicious. Of course, I didn’t have most of the ingredients listed on it. Maybe one day i will try that out. But here’s what I actually did.



  • Pumpkin
  • half of red, yellow, orange pepper (adjust amount depending on size of pumpkin)
  • broccoli
  • some mushrooms
  • Red & yellow onions (already had some unused onions)
  • garlic clove (2)
  • tomato (from can, fire roasted) or fresh tomatoes roasted in oven
  • Carrot
  • Halapeno Pepper Jack cheese
  • Corriander leaves
  • Angel hair spaghetti


Preparation of pumpkin and peppers

  • Cut the top of the pumpkin, remove the seeds, oil up the pumpkin (inside up and out), the peppers, onions & garlic. Put it on foil/baking sheet and baked it in preheated oven at 425F. I turned the peppers after 20 minutes. 
  • I was going to make my own sauce, but I got pulled away by my daughter to entertain her. So, used whatever spaghetti/pasta sauce (tomato, basil, oregano) from safeway and added some yummy Arrabiata sauce from Trader Joe’s with the fire roasted canned dice tomatoes. How much of each, was really subjective. For this sized pumpkin I think I had 2.5 cups full of sauce.
  • I boiled broccoli & carrots, sautéed the mushrooms & grated the cheese.
  • In the same water later I cooked the spaghetti
  • Once the veggies in the oven were done (45 minutes), got them out, chopped them into small pieces. 
  • Mixed the roasted peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots in the sauce (1 cup of sauce). 
  • Stuff the pumpkin with the veggie sauce, add the cheese to the top, the remainder of the sauce and any additional veggies poured over and around the outside of the pumpkin, sprinkled parmesan cheese and back in the oven (380F) for 40 minutes.

And voila….pour sauce over the spaghetti and serve the pumpkin on the side!


D absolutely loved it (we didn’t give her the jalapeno pepperjack cheese (that’s why I didn’t mix it up with the sauce as I would have otherwise)! And we did too! 

Next time, I would bake the pumpkin with the sauce as the epicurious site suggested. I think the sauce would be better absorbed. It was great this way too – and I could bake all the veggies in one go. But probably give it a different kick. 

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Travel in the region

I have been programmed a certain way. It comes as completely natural now that I don’t need signs for instructions. After 20 years of trotting around the world, flying several different airlines, going through many different airports big and small; I stop at the security check and wait till my bags go through the X-ray machine before I go through the metal detector. This is what you are supposed to do. You are constantly reminded that your bags should not leave your sight. There are even yellow/green/red/white/whatever-colour lines to show where you are supposed to wait your turn.

Travel within the southern region of India (that includes Mumbai, although I know Mumbaikers like to think they are their own entity! ;P) has always amused me (well, at the moment in time, it annoys me but later I just laugh). My favourite is flying to Chennai. Ladies insist this rule is followed and remind the Mumbai security of this rule when they encourage to overlook it. Flying to Bangalore, the passengers couldn’t care less. Some wait behind the line, some think they are VIP and just move along ahead of you, or are busy tapping away on their smartphones to bother. They are probably dreading the traffic they will have to sit in once they land in Bangalore. It’s funny that flying to Bangalore from Mumbai is quicker than reaching home on the road!

But flying TO Mumbai always catches me off guard. Twice now, two different times of the year, two different women have asked me the same question, when my body comes to a halt at that line – at least I assume there’s a line on the floor. Once again, I am programmed. It’s hard to change that programmed self. The question is always, “are you next in line?” Last year I was speechless, I just pointed to the sign that effectively asks you to wait your turn. Again I assume that it’s also written in Hindi and other local languages. 

But this year I actually did ask the lady, as my one free hand (the other carrying D) automatically pointed to the sign – I really hope there was a sign, “do you really think I enjoy passing time at the airport security check point with a wriggling toddler in tow?!” She shut up and waited. 

I guess just as I am so programmed to do things a certain way, so are the people of this city that amuses me and bemuses me all at the same time!

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Go play!

I take every chance I get to share with friends what a wonderful childhood I had! How we could go wandering about without parents tagging along and just play with friends who were young and older than me! Most of our spouses are sick and tired of hearing all the wonderful memories. Anywhere we go where there are open spaces, greenery, birds, fields, anything that reminds us remotely of a childhood play triggers off the fond memories of freedom! My previous post shares a glimpse of one day in it!

Hubby grew up in Mumbai – big bustling city. He has fond memories as well of being out and playing with the neighbourhood kids without much worry. They might occasionally have a mother look over the balcony.

But mostly we went out and played! We fought over what to play, we argued over the rules, we laughed, and we cried over some falls. My first ride on public transport without adults was when I was 10 years old in India. I don’t remember the details, but a bunch of us campus kids wanted to go watch a movie. We were a group of ten maybe and the supervision we had was two older kids who were 16 & 15 years old.

When we moved to Rome, sis & I learnt to take the public bus from school, when we stayed back to take up various activities. I was 12 and my sis was 9. 765 was the bus number to get home! Mom came with us a few times to show the ropes. Dad had the belief that if we chose to do extra curricular activities we learn to get around ourselves. We don’t get chaperoned around.

Yet these days, more and more I hear youngsters not being able to enjoy such freedom. we are in bigger cities apparently, not as safe. There are a handful of families in the building where we stay. We often find the youngsters hanging out in the lobby with their laptops. That’s as far as they get without parental supervision. But who can blame them?! No one else is out and playing, unless they are part of some class, some organisation, some event.

I hope we can be in a place where D will be able to run about on her own. I am sure I will be nervous when D will take her maiden voyage to wherever without me. But it’s our responsibility to teach her how to handle the world. She now looks both ways before crossing the road (I carry her on the big streets & holds my hands on smaller streets), and you cross on a zebra crossing, and if there’s a traffic light wait till light is green! She is 27 months!

I believe though that there bigger lessons to be learnt and I hope I can teach what my parents taught me by letting me go out on my own – independence, confidence, and ability to deal with unknown situations.

And that’s why this is just silly (the charing part) – NYC Mom charging parents for unsupervised play! But concur with the concerns she brings up about the topic.

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Hot summer days of yesteryears…

Summers were/are hot in Hyderabad. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to go beyond 40C. There were no AC units back then. Although, our houses where we lived came with one in the living room. It was a huge box that we had to water to get it to work continuously. We were privileged to have this because we lived on campus of an international institute. But we hardly used it because we were hardly home.

Summer vacations were the best! The campus where I grew up had around 20-30 families. All around the same age group. So, almost every home had children of different ages. Because campus was a secured area, our parents hardly ever worried about our safety. We would run all about the playground all over the institute grounds (1,390ha). It’s an agricultural institute so there was/is a huge diversity of crops, trees, etc. Oh what fun it was!

A strange phenomenon would occur during the summer. Without a fuss from mom or dad, we would actually been up by 6am, brushed our teeths, got dressed and would run out the door to meet with other kids and take long walks around the grounds; coming home only for breakfast and be out again.

Most of the time, we would be at the swimming pool. If not the swimming pool, we would by the playground or just play whatever games. We would be out for another few hours. Around 11ish we would head home. Take baths. Have lunch. And rest at home in the afternoon. Usually my paternal grandmother would be staying with us. So she would tell us stories. If maternal grandpa and grandma were there, grandpa would give us some English or math lessons. Tata (grandpa in Telugu) also would teach us Telugu. Around 4 or 5pm, we would all go out again.

This time to the sandbox – yes, the one where you would practice long/short jumps. We didn’t know that it was for that. For us, it was a patch of beach that transformed into castles with moats and rivers and mountains. A completely different world! Or we would play a game of dodgeball on the parking lot – a cemented road. We would use our shoes/sandals/slippers to form the boundaries. Of course, when any mom came out, we would all run to wear our shoes/sandals/slippers.

Some days we would go pick fruits off of trees – mostly mangoes. One would keep a lookout for the security, and the others would throw their slippers at the targeted fruit. Most of the time the slipper would get stuck on the branch and so someone had to climb the tree to collect it. And often picked and dropped the mangos from the branch. If the security came by, we would be found to be picking mangos that fell to the ground – completely acceptable! :D

As the evening came, dads would come home from work. The “namaste uncles” would begin. And slowly mothers would venture out and the “namaste aunties” would commence. Uncles and aunties would go on their long evening walks, while we continued play. As the sun would set and they would return it would be time for us to head home too. But most of us didn’t. 

Around 7:00pm, all you would hear around campus are the moms calling out in all different Indian languages, saying the same thing, “come home now!” and slowly leading to, “come home now or else!”

Once we were home, all washed up, it was time for dinner. Maybe half an hour of TV and time for bed. 

That was our typical summer day. Once in a while my cousins would be over. But we would do the same thing with them. And on weekends, the exciting thing to do was go on a car ride!! and on the occasional Saturday or Sunday, we watched a movie! But otherwise it would be a lot of storytelling, lot of board games, lot of laughs. Good times!

A lot has changed since then. We forget kids adapt well to change, to whatever weather they grow up in. We don’t run the AC at home, only for naps and at night and the thermometer is set to 78F. D is great at keeping herself hydrated. We go play at the park – sadly we are often the only ones there!

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My name is Smitha and I am a shy person.

It’s an addiction. It’s a trait one can’t just shake off. It often leaves you putting your foot in the mouth often, being tongue-tied, awkward silences, misunderstood, and even seen as being rude. It’s got to do something with your genes/nature. Nobody in this world that I know of nurtures their child to be shy.

Some of you who know me well, are probably laughing at my admission, some who know me even better are probably picking yourself up off the floor. But most will probably not be surprised at all.

It’s a struggle. It’s like a disease. It has no cure. The Internet has been a boon but not a cure. You have to work at it on a daily basis. And no, it does not help when the other person asks you not to be shy, or prompts you to talk. In fact, you are only making it worse.

Shyness doesn’t necessarily mean you are an introvert. Funny, huh?! I love being around with people all the time. I enjoy the company. Yet, it takes such great effort to say a simple “hi!” I have always been shy, but I love the stage. My childhood dream was always to be an actress. I doubt I ever was good at it. But being on stage taught me many life-long lessons. It was a professor in college who pointed out that I do very well when I am playing a role.

Work or volunteer service has always given me something to talk about. I played a role and the role had to follow set of protocols and behaviours. It made it easier.

Many see shyness as a bad thing, as a negative thing; myself included. After all, I started off this post with calling it an addiction. Yet, it has its benefits. I believe shy people often make good listeners and great observers. You always appear calm, even in bad situations!

I see D and realize she has some tendency of being shy, especially of adults. I have heard many attribute that to her not going to daycare. I think it’s just her nature. At the same time, she is the one who reaches out to all the kids on the playground. She forces parents who are not in the mood to socialize to break out a smile.

As a parent, I am beginning to see some benefits of shyness. It can be frustrating when she is shy with family and friends but I know she will be heard loud and clear if a stranger approaches her in ways she doesn’t care for. Shy people are not shy to remove themselves from situations they are not comfortable with! She is observant and watches others before trying things out. Which means, fewer bumps and cries.

As for me, I miss having a role to play as now I have to face my shyness in its face. Of course, there’s the biggest role in life – parenting. However, I can’t use my parenting style of extended breastfeeding, bed sharing, etc. as topics of conversation as that seem to cause greater and bigger awkward silences.

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hand vs the little printer!

I caught my husband this morning in front of the computer, writing something down. He was writing for good 5 minutes. I got curious. He was jotting down addresses of the many people we are planning to visit on our upcoming trip to the west coast by HAND! I asked him why he was doing that and not just copy and paste it to a word document?!

And today in the paper I read this article promoting the little printer! My knee jerk response was of amazement! I am a gadget lover and would be the first to get this little gadget! But then, if I have a list already on my mobile phone, why would I want a printout? If I want to share the list with someone else, I just beam it to them! Ok..send it via a message or use bluetooth. And what will we do with all the notepads we have collected from the various conferences attended and all the pens?!

I see though a big advantage of the little printer. Going back to my hubby’s sudden interest in handwriting addresses and contact numbers. I can already foresee us driving on the highway and getting lost because I couldn’t read his writing and entered some wrong address into the GPS or google maps!

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Pediatricians and breastfeeding…

I left a play date with two other moms and their kids the other day with a screaming daughter in tow, mine in case you are wondering. She was enjoying herself so much, she didn’t want to leave. She was mad. She waved bye-bye, got into the stroller and was happy to see the elevator but she continued expressing her dismay that we had to go.

She screamed through the elevator ride, through the lobby, and passing two city blocks. She was getting to a point of losing her breathe. Usually children are soothed hearing their parents’ voice. Not my D. She screamed even louder hearing mine.

The other moms patiently waited. They understood and yet, they wished D quit her crying.

Right then and there, I stopped, took D out and nursed her on the sidewalk. She calmed down immediately. And following was the conversation between the two moms:

Mom A, “oh wow! She still nurses!”

Mom B, “I know some moms continue to nurse till 1 year of age!” (D is a little tiny for her age)

Mom A, “I wished I could, but dried up at 6 month! And D is almost two by the way!” I could only imagine the reaction of the other mom as there was silence after that.

I knew mom A from a previous meet up last year. She was struggling to BF her little one and was trying everything under the sun! It was such a normal thing to do in her culture and she was so very frustrated not to find enough help to get through it. For various reasons, visa issues, what else?! her mom couldn’t be here with her to guide her either. There’s only so much advice a mother can give over the phone/Skype!

So, one of the support systems we turn to in this country is the pediatrician from whom we solicit advice that sometimes goes beyond the medical realm. We often get questions and ask questions that enter the parenting realm of things. It would be therefore wonderful if these doctors were better equipped about handling BFing issues. The nurse at our Pediatrician’s office, is not a lactation consultant but she comes from a culture where extended BFing is a norm and therefore I get a lot of help from there and the pediatricians are also supportive to a point. And I can’t forget the wonderful support group at the hospital where D was delivered.

Someone shared this article today, what to ask a pediatrician about BF. A good list for anyone interested. I never imagined how strongly I have become opinionated on this subject. And yet, if a mother chooses to not BF, that’s her decision, I don’t judge nor jump on her. But I feel if a mom very much wants to continue to do it, we should provide her access to every opportunity for her to succeed. Be it, a good consultant, a support group, family support, and community support.

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