Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Fathers Day

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Fathers Day,  a day set aside to honor and acknowledge fathers. It is a joyous occasion to celebrate fathers. Yet this day sometimes sparks sadness for those who do not have dads  that are active in their lives.  This may be due to death, divorce, abandonment or other reasons. It may also be a hard day for dads, if children are estranged and no longer in their lives.   Such occasions usually spark feelings of sadness and regret. It is a bittersweet day for many.

There are also many fathers  who may not be biological fathers, but fathers nevertheless for the time  and care they provide to children. I believe that a supportive, caring individual who makes a difference in a child’s life, in the absence of a biological dad, is a father in the true sense of the word.

For those who mourn the loss of a father on this father’s day, I am sure your fathers would want you to be joyous and not sad. Try and think of the good times you had with your dad and talk about that. If you want to honor his memory,  visit a senior citizen who may be yearning companionship, or a child in need of a loving family. Make the best of the day.

My father passed away many years ago.  I wish to honor his memory with this article.


My Father:  Rughunandhen Sewpal:   26th September 1906-13th August 1989

My father was the eldest of 8 children.  He grew up in Stanger, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa on a sugar cane farm. His grandfather had who had been an indentured laborer from India, came to South Africa in the 1860’s.  After serving his indentureship, and working for white farmers, he managed to save money, purchased land, built a school and provided for the less privileged in the community. This school still exists in Nonoti, and the land was distributed to his descendants. 

My father was a school principal. He began his teaching career at the age of 14, when he was in standard 4.  We were told that since he was one of the smarter students, he was asked to teach the lower grades, while he continued to be a student as well.

My father was not a perfect man and he had his share of family upheavals and conflicts. These differences eventually resulted in my father leaving Stanger and donating land that he had inherited, to the community, to build a school in Lot 14, Stanger. He settled in Durban, beginning, a new life with his wife, my mother, and his children. Years later the family did re-connect, and we all enjoy a great relationship with the extended family.

When he was around 50 years old he became deeply religious and tried to spread the Hindu religion far and wide, by delivering talks, slide shows and volunteering hours of his time to the spiritual organization. He also supported this organization financially for many years.

There were also other interesting characteristics about my father.  What I remember most about him was his wonderful sense of humor. Although my father passed away in 1989, for my siblings and me, this facet of his personality, stands out the most.  He was sort of lackadaisical about discipline, strong in some areas and none in others. His daughters were not allowed to have short hair styles, wear pants or shorts.  Yet we could read comics or books that many parents objected too. In fact my father himself used to read comics.

He was an avid story teller and often told us stories that were really funny and often related to someone who had to pee very badly or had to crap urgently, the circumstances around that and what happened afterwards. They were always hilarious.

My younger brother and I were also told that we had “big fathers” who were very wealthy and had huge farms. We were told these tales separately, with details of the adventures of these big fathers. We always listened intently. 

He did a similar thing, when he was much older, with 2 of his grand children, my brother’s sons.  When they asked where this person lived, he would point with his hands, and say, “over there.”  A few years back when I asked my nephews about their big father, Haria, they laughingly said, while pointing, “He lives over there.”  The “there” was sort of stretched to indicate it was far away.

When we recall these big father stories these days, my brother and I both said that in our minds, as children, we accepted this as reality and had visualized this vast land that belonged to our respective big fathers. I don’t think my father realized that we children took all of that literally.

Another thing that I remember was his clever response to me.  When I was in high school, I really wanted short hair, and thought I had the perfect argument for making my case. I told him that the prime minister of India, at the time, Indira Ghandi had short hair; therefore I could have short hair as well. Without a moment’s hesitation, he told me that when I am prime minister, then I can have short hair as well.  I could not respond to that.

When I was in the first and second grade, I used to attend the Manor Gardens School in Cato Manor where my father was principal. A few years later, my younger brother did the same.  Both of us recall that when we arrived home after school, the other siblings asked for sweets or some kind of treats from him.  He never had any. But he told them, that all the shops were burned and he could not buy any.

None of us questioned this. I knew that I did not see any shops that were burned and my brother reports thinking this as well. He used this excuse all the time and even my siblings, who expected the treats, did not question this.

He was also an expert at organizing arranged marriages because he knew the community so well. Our house was often the venue for prospective brides and grooms to meet and do the traditional serving of tea, giving the couple an opportunity to view each other.  A cousin, whose marriage was arranged this way, celebrated her 50th anniversary in January 2013, acknowledging my father as the person responsible for her marriage. Unfortunately none of his children met their spouses in this style.

My father was special to us. I wish we had asked more questions, but we also grew up in a time when children were seen and not heard. I hope to record some of his stories so that future generations will remember his comedic side.

He will always be remembered with love.

Wishing all fathers everywhere a great Fathers Day.

Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I believe that taking one’s own lunch to work is a really good idea. This way, you choose the ingredients for your lunch, you are aware of how the food was prepared and how much of oils etc. was used. You know that it is fresh and wholesome.

Another huge advantage is that you will be saving money. The ingredients that are used to make one set of sandwiches can be used for several sandwiches. These include, bread, tomatoes, gherkins, jalapenos, cheese and so forth. You can add to savings by carrying your own water and soft drinks and not be from vending machines.
When I saw this article that follows,  I thought it had very useful information to ensure that the food you carry to work remains fresh and wholesome.

Do check it out.

Safe Food Handling

Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe

Whether it’s off to school or work we go, millions of Americans carry “bag” lunches. Food brought from home can be kept safe if it is first handled and cooked safely. Then, perishable food must be kept cold while commuting via bus, bicycle, on foot, in a car, or on the subway. After arriving at school or work, perishable food must be kept cold until lunchtime.

Why keep food cold? Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” — the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F. So, perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long. Here are safe handling recommendations to prevent food-borne illness from “bag” lunches.

Begin with Safe Food

Perishable food, such as raw or cooked meat and poultry, must be kept cold or frozen at the store and at home. Eggs should be purchased cold at the store and kept cold at home. In between, transport perishable food as fast as possible when no ice source is available. At the destination, it must be kept cold. Food should not be left out at room temperature more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).

Prepackaged combos that contain luncheon meats along with crackers, cheese, and condiments must also be kept refrigerated. This includes luncheon meats and smoked ham which are cured or contain preservatives.

Keep Everything Clean

Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils. Keep family pets away from kitchen counters.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate

Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. Always use a clean cutting board. When using a cutting board for food that will not be cooked, such as bread, lettuce, and tomatoes, be sure to wash the board after using it to cut raw meat and poultry. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry.

At lunchtime, discard all used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Packing Lunches

Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunch. That way, there won’t be a problem about the storage or safety of leftovers.

It’s fine to prepare the food the night before and store the packed lunch in the refrigerator. Freezing sandwiches helps them stay cold. However, for best quality, don’t freeze sandwiches containing mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomatoes. Add these later.

Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food. An ice source should be packed with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box.

Keeping Cold Lunches Cold

Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, ahead of time to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use. Keep cooked food refrigerated until time to leave home.

To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box. Of course, if there’s a refrigerator available, store perishable items there upon arrival.

Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don’t require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.

Keeping Hot Lunches Hot

Use an insulated container to keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot — 140 °F or above.

Microwave Cooking/Reheating

When using the microwave oven to reheat lunches, cover food to hold in moisture and promote safe, even heating. Reheat leftovers to at least 165 °F. Food should be steaming hot. Cook frozen convenience meals according to package instructions.


Sunday, May 9th, 2010

A day meant to celebrate mothers all over the world. Many mothers receive flowers, gifts, cards and messages of love and appreciation. Mothers are treated to breakfast, lunch and other treats as they bask in the attention lavished to them on this day.

For some children, a day like Mothers Day is difficult day when they have lost a parent. If a father has died or is absent due to divorce or separation, and is no longer part of the celebration of that day, Mothers day is never the same again. The celebration that day is always tempered with loss as well.

Children also face a different Mothers Day when they lose a mother to death, or other circumstances, including the intervention of child protection services and are separated from their mother. Such a day brings back memories of good times as well as the bad. It can be a relief, being removed from a place of danger, yet to others the loss of a mother, no matter what the circumstances is painful, sad and upsetting.

These children seek answers. Hopefully the children are with adults, sensitive to their emotions and can assure them that they are children worthy of love and attention and it was poor choices on the part of the adult that lead to their separation. They are not to blame.

For many mothers, there is a tinge of sadness, regret and disappointment when a child does not visit or acknowledge the parent anymore. The majority of mothers have every good intention to love and care for their children, but unfortunately, through ignorance and a lack of understanding some mothers inadvertently harm or hurt that their children.

For children too, taking such a stance to willfully cut themselves off must be hard, but see this either as punishment or a way to free themselves of more of the same pain and disappointment.
It is my wish that on this Mothers Day that mothers and children work towards strengthening their bonds, forgive and start afresh.

For those facing the loss of a parent gone forever, I hope that the memories of good times sustains them and for them to know that a loved one will not want his/her family to be sad. The best way to honor that parent is to make the very best of that day, trying not to dwell in sadness, but lift your spirits and celebrate Mothers Day.

Are Bath Toys Safe

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

All kids enjoy bath time in the tub and  playing with their favorite plastic toys.  Well this could be a source of bacteria which can lead to serious health problems. This is particularly a problem when the toys have holes in them.

The water collects in the toy and although it is squeezed out at the end of the bath, not all the water escapes.  This  moist environment promotes the growth of bacteria.  When children suck onto the toys they are taking in the filth from the innards of the toys. Tests done on toys that were thought to be safe showed E.coli and other bacteria.It is recommended that if toys are used, do not get those with holes. Do   watch the clip below. This was featured in the Today show on 03/03 /2010.

Flexibility of Food Patterns for Varied Food Preferences

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan are flexible to permit food choices based on individual and cultural food preferences, cost, and availability. Both can also accommodate varied types of cuisines and special needs due to common food allergies.  Two adaptations of the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan are:

Vegetarian Choices

Vegetarians of all types can achieve recommended nutrient intakes through careful selection of foods.

These individuals should give special attention to their intakes of protein, iron, and vitamin B12, as well as calcium and vitamin D if avoiding milk products.

In addition, vegetarians could select only nuts, seeds, and legumes from the meat and beans group, or they could include eggs if so desired.

At the 2,000-calorie level, they could choose about 1.5 ounces of nuts and 2/3 cup legumes instead of 5.5 ounces of meat, poultry, and/or fish. One egg, ½ ounce of nuts, or ¼ cup of legumes is considered equivalent to 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish in the USDA Food Guide.

Substitutions for Milk and Milk Products

Since milk and milk products provide more than 70 percent of the calcium consumed by Americans, guidance on other choices of dietary calcium is needed for those who do not consume the recommended amount of milk products.

Milk product consumption has been associated with overall diet quality and adequacy of intake of many nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin D.

People may avoid milk products because of allergies, cultural practices, taste, or other reasons. Those who avoid all milk products need to choose rich sources of the nutrients provided by milk, including potassium, vitamin A, and magnesium in addition to calcium and vitamin D.

Those who avoid milk because of its lactose content may obtain all the nutrients provided by the milk group by using lactose-reduced or low-lactose milk products, taking small servings of milk several times a day, taking the enzyme lactase before consuming milk products, or eating other calcium-rich foods.

Some vegetarian calcium enriched foods include, soya products  like tofu, & soya milk. Vegetables, like spinach, kale,  several kinds of nuts, artichokes,oats, bulgur and some cereals also contain calcium.

Estimated amounts of calories needed

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This guideline from the USDA website explains how to estimate the number of calories that we need.

Estimated amounts of calories needed to maintain energy balance for various gender and age groups at three different levels of physical activity. The estimates are rounded to the nearest 200 calories and were determined using the Institute of Medicine equation.

Activity Level b,c,d


Age (years)


Moderately Activec




















a These levels are based on Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrients report, 2002, calculated by gender, age, and activity level for reference-sized individuals. “Reference size,” as determined by IOM, is based on median height and weight for ages up to age 18 years of age and median height and weight for that height to give a BMI of 21.5 for adult females and 22.5 for adult males.

b Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.

How To Prevent The Spreading of ‘Flu

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

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CDC Health Alerts

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

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Pregnant Women and Food Safety

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Festive Times

The holiday season is a very exciting time of year filled with parties, family gatherings and lots of food. From turkey and dressing to every type of dessert imaginable, there is never a time of year when food is more of a focus. While it is important that everyone keep food safety in mind during this season, it is especially important for pregnant women to do so.

Pregnant women should keep the following food safety tips in mind as they celebrate the holidays:

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when

  • Touching raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
  • Preparing food
  • Before eating or drinking
  • Try not to share forks, cups, or food with young children.
  • Wash your hands often when around children. Their saliva and urine might contain a virus that could be harmful for you and your unborn baby.
  • Cook your meat until it’s well done. The best way to tell that food has been cooked is to use a food thermometer.
  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot. These undercooked meats and processed meats might contain harmful bacteria.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it. Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and queso fresco unless they have labels that say they are pasteurized.
  • Unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria and can cause infections such as Listeriosis which can be very harmful for both you  the mother and your unborn baby.
  • Be aware of holiday beverages. Watch out for alcohol-containing holiday punches and eggnogs. Avoid eggnog entirely unless you know it was made with pasteurized eggs and contains no alcohol.
  • To learn more about food safety and/or infections during pregnancy contact CDC-INFO at or 1-800-CDC-INFO 24/7. Or, you may visit CDC’s Pregnancy Information gateway or

Storage Times for Food in the Refrigerator and Freezer

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer



(40 °F or below)

(0 °F or below)


Egg, chicken, ham, tuna & macaroni salads

3 to 5 days Does not freeze well

Hot dogs

opened package

1 week 1 to 2 months

unopened package

2 weeks 1 to 2 months

Luncheon meat

opened package or deli sliced

3 to 5 days 1 to 2 months

unopened package

2 weeks 1 to 2 months

Bacon & Sausage


7 days 1 month

Sausage, raw — from chicken, turkey, pork, beef

1 to 2 days 1 to 2 months

Hamburger & Other Ground Meats

Hamburger, ground beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb, & mixtures of them

1 to 2 days 3 to 4 months

Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb & Pork


3 to 5 days 6 to 12 months


3 to 5 days 4 to 6 months


3 to 5 days 4 to 12 months

Fresh Poultry

Chicken or turkey, whole

1 to 2 days 1 year

Chicken or turkey, pieces

1 to 2 days 9 months

Soups & Stews

Vegetable or meat added

3 to 4 days 2 to 3 months


Cooked meat or poultry

3 to 4 days 2 to 6 months

Chicken nuggets or patties

3 to 4 days 1 to 3 months


3 to 4 days 1 to 2 months