Shutterbug's Blog

Living with Multiple Myeloma in Hyderabad , India . Random musings .


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Soapnuts:Eco-Friendly All Purpose Natural Cleaner

Hair shampoo , Detergent , Bath soap , Floor cleaner , Pesticide , Dish washing liquid , Jewellery cleaner , Mosquito repellent , Bath for Pets , Kitchen cleaner , using Soapnuts , an environment friendly and sustainable solution.

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My earliest memories of Soapnuts are from my childhood days when my Mom would give us (me and my sister) a hair wash using the liquid extracted from Soapnuts .

Soapnuts or soap berries grow in India , in the Himalayas and in South India. They are light to dark brown in color when ready to pick and one to two centimeters in diameter with a hard black and big seed. When dry they are shelled and can be used like soap as they give a lot of lather.

I remember my late paternal aunt used to get a big sack full of soapnuts whenever she visited us. She lived in a village adjacent to the Tirumala hills. The soapnut tree grows wild in the forests on the Hills.

Soapnuts for washing Hair :

Ok, So let’s go back in time, almost 3-4 decades ago , when shampoos were unheard of and the soapnut ritual took place every sunday at my home. Come Sunday morning , two big handfuls of soapnuts were broken by placing each one on the floor and breaking them open using a small round granite stone or placed in a Mortar and Pestle which was dedicated for breaking up the soapnuts. The big black seeds would be separated from the shells and the shells would be soaked in water .While the soapnuts were soaking , a copper water boiler would be filled with water and coals would be fired up at the bottom of the boiler drum.

The soapnuts would soften while the water got hot and they were squeezed with the hand to extract the juice from the soapnuts. The soapnut extract would be filtered into another vessel and more water was added to the remaining pulp. If required the soapnuts would be squeezed again.

This extract was the shampoo during those days. At times the liquid would get into the eyes and the eyes would burn and become red. We would sprinkle cold water on the eyes and get some relief. Very soon the eyes were back to normal.

After washing the hair , it was time to dry the hair using towels and letting the hair dry naturally in the sun. We let our hair down and stood under the sun. Mom didnt let us use the Hairdryer which Dad had bought from Italy when he went there on Official work. She felt that the heat from the dryer would damage the scalp and make the hair brittle.

Once the hair is around 70% dried up , Mom would comb our long hair to disentangle the knots and then braid the hair into one or two plaits. All our neighbours envied our long hair.

This was the morning routing every Sunday morning.

It was this ritual which helped in the growth of thick long and healthy hair , soft hair , no dandruff ,no loss of hair and no grey hair.

Very soon , we starting washing the hair ourselves and found a short cut to extract the soapnut liquid. We simply put the soapnuts in a vessel, poured water and heated the water. While the water cooled down , the soapnuts would become very soft and it was very easy to squeeze and extract the liquid. Mom somehow didnt like what we did, and complained that we were too lazy πŸ™‚

Soapnuts as a Body scrub :

I also remember Mom telling us to use the soft soapnut pulp to scrub the skin instead of using a soap. Good for the skin as they prevent/heal skin problems like eczema and psoriasis. These nuts have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties too.

Very soon we began hearing of shampoos and initially we used these shampoos once in a while when we were in a hurry and didnt have the time to soak and squeeze .

Didnt take very long for all to forget soapnuts and shampoos were here to stay. The comfort , convenience , instant solution for a hair wash was too good. What followed was dandruff, loss of hair, brittle hair , split hair and grey hair.

Having realised the benefitsand advantages of soapnuts over shampoos , we are now scrambling back to the traditional methods.

Since a couple of years I had been searching the shelves in the supermarkets for soapnuts and didnt find any. I was surprised that they had disappeared.

To this day , I dont see them yet in the supermarkets, but glad they are available online.

Washing silks and woolens with Soapnut extract :

For my wedding , I had several heavy silk sarees and maintaining silk sarees is an art . While discussing as to how I should clean and maintain Silk sarees with Mom, she told me to soak my silk sarees in soapnut extract diluted in a in a bucket of water and give them a gentle scrub with the hands.

Delicate and expensive garments can thus be cleaned using natural soapnut extract so they last long compared to using chemical based detergents.

Cleaning Gold jewellery with Soapnut extract :

She also once told me to clean gold jewelry with this extract. I just soak the jewellery in the soapnut extract for a while and use an old toothbrush to clean them.

Soapnut extract as an Organic/Natural Pesticide for Plants :

I have been doing some kitchen gardening using Organic fertilisers/pesticides since one year and I watch videos on youtube whenever I require some information. I then learnt how soapnut extract can be used as a pesticide spray for plants. This is a natural way to control pests.

Mother Nature’s Detergent :

Eco friendly products and sustainable solutions are the need of the hour and soapnuts are Mother Natures detergent given to humanity.

The soapnuts can be used as a detergent to wash clothes in the washing machine. Tie around 4-5 soapnuts in a cotton pouch or put them in an old socks and toss it into the washing machine.

How to prepare and use Soapnut extract :

Method 1 : Prepare soapnut extract by soaking the nuts overnight. Nest morning , squeeze the soapnuts with your hand for the best results and strain the liquid using a strainer.

Method 2 : Boil the soapnuts in water for 15 mins. Let the water cool down. Now you can squeeze the softened soapnuts and extract the liquid. Strain the liquid using a strainer.

The extract can be stored in a refrigerator. If left outside it will begin to smell and has to be discarded.

Fresh extract is recommended.

Other uses of the Soapnut Extract :

The extract can be diluted with water and used for all the following purposes .

  • Dish washing liquid
  • Washing Fruits and vegetables
  • Floor cleaner
  • Mosquito Repellant
  • Glass cleaner
  • Hand wash
  • Glass, Tiles, Kitchen counters
  • Giving a bath to your pets

The water that is left after all the washing can be let into the water harvesting pit or used for watering the plants in the garden.

I have begun using soapnuts for laundry, washing utensils, floor cleaner, as a bath soap, washing hair, as a pesticide, washing silks and also as a hand wash.

Laundry detergent , Dishwash liquid , Handwash liquid etc are available online.

While searching for good products to sanitize fruits and vegetables, during the ongoing pandemic , I came across one good product named Bubblenut Wash. Here it is –

There are other cleaning products sold by the same company. It is very convenient to buy and start using them.

I now prepare a batch of soapnut liquid by soaking the soapnuts overnight and use it the next day for all my cleaning jobs.

Old is gold !!


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Life during and post Covid-19 Lockdown

Had a brief experience of a slow paced life. However, it didn’t last very long and the usual hectic lifestyle is back.

No more stocking up on Groceries :

All of us had started stocking up on Groceries the moment we learnt that a Lockdown would be imposed. Everyone stocked up for a couple of months πŸ™‚ After 6 months of Lockdown , we continue to have some non-perishable food items that are unused as we were able to buy fresh groceries very soon. Now that everything is almost back to normal , there is no need to stock up anymore. Finally , Glad to free up some space in the Pantry and that’s a relief.

Maids are back inside the homes :

In India , most Urban population employ housemaids for doing the day to day household chores. During the Lockdown and also for a long time after the lockdown was withdrawn , everyone were forced to do all the household chores by themselves and everyone in the family contributed. This was one of the best things to happen because of COVID :). However, this didn’t last very long. The maids are now back inside the homes with Masks. Even during the lockdown , I continued to pay my maids/driver some amount.

Home Services are growing faster :

We were hesitant to use the services of househelp, plumbers, electricians, etc during the lockdown and learnt to do everything ourselves and also postponed certain activities. Now , we have House cleaning , Repairs , Beauty treatments etc. being carried out by professional agencies with all Hygienic practices and precautions in place. Organizations like Urbancompany , Housejoy , Quickr etc are growing fast.

Hubby and Son called up ‘Urban Company’ to get a haircut at home after 3 months of No-haircut. They didn’t want to visit a salon.

We also engaged ‘Urban Company’ for deep cleaning the home and they did a great job. These services are the need of the hour.

Shopping is back to normal :

During the lockdown , we started ordering everything online and avoided going to the stores. Everything , including vegetables were ordered online. Numerous makeshift vegetable vendors mushroomed everywhere by the roadside. People preferred to buy from them as they were in the open, rather than going inside a Supermarket. Supermarkets are now providing sanitizer’s and disposable gloves and visits to Supermarkets have increased. The makeshift vegetable vendors are not seen anymore. Not just groceries , but all kinds of stores are back in business. Festival shopping too has picked up and all clothes stores are doing well.

However, Online Shopping has increased and is here to stay. The comfort and options available are definitely more convenient.

Local transport like Autos, Cabs, buses, Metro :

For several months there was no Public transport. Public transport was permitted much later. Autos and Cabs installed a Plastic Sheet between the Driver and Passenger seats. I too installed a plastic sheet in my car as I have a driver. Initially there were a handful of passengers in Buses and Metro was not operational. I now see Buses are almost 50% occupied and Metro too is operational.

Takeaways , Restaurants and Tea/Tiffin stalls :

Eating out was a No-No for a long time. Roadside stalls selling Tea/Snacks /Street food were the first to make a comeback. Restaurants were later given the nod and instructions given to operate at around 50% capacity. Takeaways were permitted. People who were used to eating out on a regular basis in Pre-Covid era, were tired of eating healthy homemade food and are now glad they can enjoy restaurant food πŸ™‚ .Street Food is something which people cannot resist πŸ™‚ . ‘Panipuri’ carts are also doing good business. Few care about health/hygiene or they are confident of their immunity .

Visits to Religious Places :

The familiar sounds from Temples/Mosques/Churches are back and visitors have also increased.

Noisy world is back :

Loved the peaceful atmosphere during the Lockdown. The only noises that were heard belonged to the birds or someone who was selling their wares , mostly veggies , in a pushcart or a 3 wheeler. Whenever a Vendor was heard , I used to rush outside to see what was being sold and if we needed that item. Not just me but all our neighbors too would be out of their homes to have a look at what was being sold. These Vendors were like a boon and I would look forward to them πŸ™‚ . There were hardly anyone on the street. All the peace has now disappeared and noisy days are back with a bang. Grrr…brrrr…honk honk…

The Sky is BLUE !! :

Finally got to see the original ‘Azure’ Sky. Unpolluted air gave a glimpse of the beautiful Blue sky.

Clicked this from our Balcony , one fine morning during the Lockdown ….

Don’t get this view anymore.

Not much to Spend :

Didn’t have to spend for clothes , fancy stuff , restaurants , outings , attending events . We did survive but at the cost of the economy . Daily wage workers struggled to cope up.

Vacations and Holidaying :

Tourism continues to be affected , however post-Covid travel has just begun and I know friends who have started vacationing with family after being stuck inside the home for several months. Hotels and Resorts are taking all the precautions and giving offers to attract tourists.

Travelling by Air :

Air travel has resumed. Contactless Entry at the Airport , contactless Boarding and other Contactless services are in place. Social distancing in the Terminal and inside the flight is also being ensured.

Nature doesn’t need us , we are dependent on Nature :

Human greed is never ending and we want to show our superiority all the time . COVID-19 and the Lockdown made us realize that Nature is more powerful than humanity. It is now obvious that Mother Earth doesn’t need us and Humanity is the virus that is plaguing the Earth.


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Quick fix for Stretched EarLobes at home without Surgery !

Almost all Indian women wear earrings/ear studs on a continuous basis .We love to wear different earrings/studs on different occasions and also prefer stuff which matches our outfits :).

Over a period of time the ear lobe usually starts stretching .

I am a victim of this problem.

Story of my Stretched Ear lobes :

One of my ear lobe began to stretch after I did a big mistake more than two decades ago. I wanted to wear big and heavy Earrings for a wedding and noticed that my ear hole was too small for them . As I was in a hurry I used some force to push it through and there was some bleeding too. I just ignored and went ahead without realizing what was coming up in the future. That incident cut one important tissue in the ear lobe which actually helps in holding the earrings and prevents stretching and tearing :((

Slowly over the years the size of the hole kept increasing.

I soon stopped wearing earrings. For a few years I used earrings which can be simply pressed on the ear lobes , thanks to my sister who got these for me when she went to other countries on official work. These type of earrings were not available in India during those days , sometimes they were too hard and painful or too loose for my ear lobes.

Whenever I came across a jewelry store I would ask for this type of earrings and sometimes I was lucky. Soon I started wearing very very light earrings but I found it very difficult when I had to attend events and wanted to wear heavy jewelry. Tried using buttons at the back of the ear lobe but they didn’t help. I was unable to wear my favorite and expensive jewelry sets. Sometimes I would use ‘Champaswaralu’ to hold the earrings up.

What are ‘Champaswaralu’ :

Indian jewelry

Simple and Effective Solution for Stretched Ear Lobes :

I was very unhappy and discussed with friends and colleagues about how to repair my damaged ear lobe and they suggested to go for a surgery but I hesitated.

Couple of years ago , I started looking for solutions on the Internet as to how I can close my torn ear lobe ,without having a a surgery . Was looking for a way of just sticking up the hole using some special Medical grade adhesive which is similar to the one used for healing small cuts and wounds without stitching up by using sutures.

It was then that I stumbled upon ‘Ear Lift’ .

I was amazed at the simple solution.

More about ‘Ear Lift’ :

These are small oval shaped transparent stickers which has to be stuck behind the ear lobe over the hole and these are available in different packs with 30 patches or 60 patches.

I have been extremely happy ever since :).

Detailed instructions are mentioned on the package.

Advantages of ‘Ear Lift’ patches :

  • You can wear all kinds of Ear rings. Especially when wearing heavy jewelry for special occasions.
  • One can also have a shower without any problem. These patches are waterproof.
  • These stickers are transparent and invisible too.
  • Each sticker lasts for at least 10 days. The patch then slowly starts peeling off and then it is time to replace.
  • Very easy to fix behind the ear lobe. IT does take a few attempts to know where exactly to fix the patch. You can take the help of others to fix it.
  • Quality of Adhesive is very good. It does have a life , so they have to replaced once it starts to peel off.
  • This is an imported product.

Please change the sticker whenever you find that it begins to peel off or you find any discomfort.

Here is the product which I am using and is available on Amazon.

                                                             

Preventing Stretched Ear lobes :

Your Ear lobes may be perfect as on date , however , it is advisable to use these stickers whenever you are wearing heavy Earrings during special occasions. This will prevent any stretching of Ear lobes in the future.

Here are the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures of my earrings.

Before using Ear Lift

After using Ear Lift

                                                             

I am so grateful for this invention and for having stumbled upon this solution and so glad to share with you.


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One month to go before I Retire from my job – Retiring young

Taking the decision to Retire from work did not happen overnight.

I am working in a Government Company where security of the job is assured till Retirement at 60 years.

However, I had been mulling over this for the last few years and eagerly waiting for a VRS Scheme (Voluntary Retirement Scheme). The VRS Scheme would come with Medical Benefits after Retirement along with any additional Monetary benefits.

Several other Government organizations had declared a VRS scheme in the past. My own organization had one such scheme a couple of decades ago.

For some reason my company wasn’t coming up with any such VRS scheme.

Fortunately , an alternate Retirement scheme was declared few months ago called Pre-Mature Voluntary Retirement. This scheme is applicable for those who have crossed 50 years. Medical Benefits are provided after Retirement.

This was the final trigger for my decision.

I had submitted by application to the HR Department last week. There is a one month Notice period and I am coming to work. I am also using up some of my leaves .

News spreads like Wildfire isnt it πŸ™‚ …. Life was very hectic before I applied for Retirement. Once the News spread all over the company , things have changed drastically :)) ….I get very few phone calls, very few mails are addressed to me directly , no meetings , hardly anyone dropping into my cabin….hmmm getting bored while in the office.

Started cleaning up my drawers , physical files and sorting out all the information in my System and my mails.

Planning for handing over all my work.

Expecting to complete several formalities required by HR, Finance etc.

Feeling relieved alreadyΒ  πŸ™‚ and looking forward to be at home.

…and much much more :))

~ Love you Life !! ~


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Electric Grill : Easy to Barbeque at home

Whenever we like to have grilled food we usually head towards a BBQ restaurant. Grilled food is everyone’s favorite that everyone loves. So, we had this idea of having a grill at home.

Due to the Covid pandemic ,visits to Restaurants or takeaways have completely stopped. But ,the cravings for restaurant style food has not reduced isn’t it :).

Also, there are times when we wish to have our own outdoor grill in the comfort of our home.

Gas Fired Grill Vs Electric Grill Vs Charcoal Grill :

After considering all the pros and cons of different types of grills , namely Coal fired , Gas fired and Electric , we decided to get an Electric grill.

Arranging gas supply at the place of grilling , especially if it is to be placed in the balcony and may not be easy. While coal fired grills generate a lot of smoke and takes a while to get the coals hot.

Whereas an Electric Grill is easy to assemble and it compact and smokeless.. Grill your favorite veg and Non-veg food . Easy to grill in the balcony or in the garden or indoors too. This is a smokeless, no hassle way to have a great time with your near and dear ones.

Choosing an Electric Grill Online :

After checking Amazon website for various Electric Grills, I placed an order on ‘Clearline BBQ and Electric Grill’.

This is how the package looks-

Here is the unboxing and Assembling video . Do watch the video for detailed instructions on how to assemble this Grill and I will also demonstrate cooking some grilled chicken. Took around 20 minutes to cook one batch of grilled chicken.

Hope you found the video useful πŸ™‚

The oil drip collection tray is not strong and has to be handled and cleaned carefully. Fixing this tray is a bit tricky , but once put in place it doesn’t move . To clean the tray easily , just pour a little water to soak in all the dried stuff and then it comes of easily.

For the ease and comfort of grilling with your family at the convenience of your home , I found that price is quite reasonable.

Here is a pic of the heating Element when it is ready for Grilling –

Enjoy the experience of Grilling and having a party in your Balcony , patio or garden using this simple and easy to operate grill.

~ Happy Grilling !! ~


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One Pot curry in a Clay pot using Brinjal in Nellore style , in 15 minutes~Vankaya Bajji / Pullagura

Here is another simple One pot recipe which is populare in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh.

All the Ingredients are added in the Clay pot and cooked till they are soft.

The curry is then mashed using a ‘pappu gutthi’ and then given a ‘Tadka’.

Check out the video –

Very quick and easy to cook.

Can be prepared in 15 minutes without much effort.

Make this when you crave for a simple traditional dish and are in a hurry. Especially suitable for those who are new to cooking , for Bachelors, for working professionals who prefer to eat homemade food.

Similar method can be used for different vegetables like bottle gourd, Ridge gourd, Sorrel leaves (Gongura) , Spinach , khatta palak etc. Just replace Brinjal with any of these veggies.


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Gongura Pullagura in Nellore Style – One pot recipe in a Clay pot

Uploaded a Recipe on my Youtube channel a few days ago.

This is a One pot traditional recipe that I made in a Clay pot.

This type of curry is popular in Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh.

Can be easily prepared by newbies , bachelors , working professionals, students in 10-15 minutes.

The ingredients are very commonly found in any typical South Indian kitchen.

Here is the video –

Hope you liked the recipe.


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21 Oct 2020 – New Phase in my Life !!

After my BMT , I continued to work and felt quite strong , Mentally as well as physically and I wanted to complete a few tasks and reach a few milestones.

Among these Milestones are :

-To see my son settled down in a job

-To complete the contruction of our house which we had got designed by an Architect just before I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma.

-To do my best in the organisation that I was working for

I had decided then that I would quit by job once the above were achieved.

I am currently at a stage where I am happy that I was able to achieve all of them. I feel very contented now and hence decided to take ‘Pre-Mature Voluntary Retirement’.

Submitted the Application form to HR Department. I will be relieved on 30 Nov 2020.

The rest of my life I will be able to do a lot of stuff that I was unable to do till now.

I am extremely grateful to the Almighty for getting an extension to my life.

I am also very thankful to all my near and dear ones who have supported me in various ways.

Looking forward to a new Phase in my Life !!

~ Sarve Janaja Sukhino Bhavanthu~


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My Ayurveda Doctor, to me: According to me, you are Cancer Free !!

I have been taking Ayurveda Medication for Multiple Myeloma from my Ayurveda Doctor every month. I have been prescribed several types of medicines with different dosages during the day .

This month too my medicines were delivered , but I opened the parcel only after a few days of receiving it. You know the virus thing and not to touch parcels for a few days and leave them outside the door thingy πŸ™‚

When I opened the parcel I found that the required dosage of tablets/capsules was missing from a couple of medicines. I then messaged my Doctor informing the same. He said I should be reducing the dosage of medicines. I refused to accept what he said and said that I prefer to continue the same medication for ‘some more time’ .

He then said that I should reduce my dependence on Medicines and that I should be more confident and do meditation also.

I said OK and then …..

My Ayurveda Doctor : According to me, you are Cancer Free !!

I couldn’t believe those words. Those were some very precious words that any patient would love to hear from a Doctor. I was feeling overwhelmed and my eyes were welling up.

While it is true that my last test reports , few months ago , were all normal , I didn’t want to rush and reduce the dosage.

I do believe that my new ‘Natural Lifestyle’ along with Ayurveda is doing wonders for my body. I do feel good and able to manage most stuff on my own at home and at work too !! . I do get a lot of help from hubby and son πŸ˜›

Its been more than 5 years since I started taking Ayurveda Medication and No chemo since then.

And its been 5 months since I started following the Diet prescribed by ‘Natural Lifestyle’ . Surely the combination is working for me πŸ™‚

Thanks to the Almighty for showing me the right path.

I hope and wish more and more people give up wrong eating habits and spend more time on improving their health by eating wholesome food that comes directly from Mother Nature, by exercising, Meditation and most important to have a free mind by letting go , being grateful, by forgiving self and others , giving up resentment and being compassionate to all .

~Love U Life ~


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First COVID +ve case confirmed in my company followed by panic

The first COVID +ve case in my company was confirmed yesterday.Thousands of Employees and Non-Employees work in our company. The news spread like wildfire within minutes in all the different whatsapp groups. All the primary contacts of this person have been told to quarantine themselves at home.

Our HR department immediately convened a series a meetings and formed a few committees which will oversee such cases. Procedures to inform HR regarding sysmptoms, going for the test , quarantine for self and family , referrals to Panel hospitals etc were quickly decided and circulated on our Intranet.

Senior colleagues in my department met this morning to decide as to how we can restrict movement of others coming into our building. It was decided to put up a barricade at the Main door of the building and have the door manned so as to stop others from entering our building. The decision was implemented immediately and we heaved a sigh of relief. Glad that we have reduced the probability of the virus sneaking in.

I had always been wondering as to how people are get infected , in spite of taking all possible precautions. I got my answer today when I observerd a colleague taking of his mask while talking on the phone. I noticed that he touched his face several times during the conversation. After his talk ended , I told him my observations and he was surprised. I now have a clue as to how we are committing blunders …. purely by ignorance. Even the so called educated are not exempt from such blunders.

All my family and well wishers are worried for me and have been suggesting that I work from home . Unfortunately our HR doesnt permit WFH , as we are a manufacturing company. The maximum possible is to work in Shifts , so the workforce is staggered. But with thousands of people it is not practical.

The best we can do it to limit meeting coworkers , have very short conversations, not to remove the mask at any cost and keep sanitising the hands.

The Enemy has surrounded us. Have to be very cautious at every step. Quite possible that I might have touched the virus and then gave it a nice wash with the sanitizer πŸ™‚

Have to be overly cautious as I have comorbidities.

I still feel confident that I can defeat the enemy πŸ™‚