Bombay Burning

Friday, November 28, 2008


As we celebrate Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. with our families, like South Asians across the world, our television sets, radios and computers are tuned to the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Our deepest condolensces go out to those involved and affected.

The internet has proved to be an invaluable source of information. NDTV has live, round-the-clock footage of the sites. The South Asian Journalists Association is also hosting webcasts every 12 hours with key sources on the ground, analysts and others in the community. And for a more personal perspective, novelist Amit Chaudhuri has an introspective paean to Mumbai in today's Guardian newspaper.

We'll have more to say on this on Monday. Until then, people of Bombay, our hearts and minds are with you.

Friday Fun


Hope Turkey Day was splendid Devis, and hope you caught a viewing of SlumTurkey Millionaire??!

As any self-respecting-shopping Devi knows, today is Black Friday. If you are going to brave the stores, make sure to check out this site to get up-to-the minute tips on the best sales and bang for your buck.

If you're staying home and keeping your wallet closed, have a few laughs as these guys talk smack about Jen and Angie. If you're not addicted to "Get Your War On" yet--you will be soon.

Brown Girls: SlumTurkey Millionaire

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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How, and Where, to Give Wisely this Season

A friend emailed me the other day on the topic of Indians and charity. She said she has the sense that Indians give a lower percentage of their incomes to charity than other communities. We are one of the wealthiest communities in the U.S.; does that translate to us being one of the most generous? I don’t think there are any official numbers available on this, but I sadly have the feeling it's not the case.

Of course, in this economic climate, it’s not easy for a lot of people to give when they see pink slips, housing prices tanks, and the cost of just about everything get higher. (Except gas! I just paid less than two dollars per gallon, woah.)

But as countries around the world cut down on charitable donations and programs, it’s even more crucial to give to them. And it’s important to remember that, while we are feeling the pinch on our wallets, the poor around the world are feeling it even harder. When poor communities stop receiving aid, people in them die.

But whom to give to, and how do you know your donations are going to those in need -- especially when they're being used in far-away countries? Here's what I found out.

Charity Navigator is a great website that evaluates charities based on their efficiency. If you have a favorite charity, type the name in and see how financially effective it is. The website also has a few basic tips for charity-giving this season:

--> The most efficient charities spend at least 75% of their budgets on programs and services, with the remaining 25% or less spent on administrative and fundraising costs. They also don’t excessively compensate their CEOs.

--> Consumers that buy directly from their favorite, well-run charities, rather than purchasing cause-related products from retailers, make the biggest philanthropic impact.

--> Give to charities that help the less fortunate. Charities like food banks, rescue missions and utility assistance charities need an influx of contributions this holiday season.

With these tips in mind, here are a few charities that are worth giving to this season. We’re focusing on charities that help children, but this list is by no means comprehensive.In fact, if you have a favorite charity or cause that you give to, please tell us and our readers!

Adopt-A-Family by Brighter Beginnings
Brighter Beginnings is a United Way organization that provides resources and help for young children and their families in need. This rewarding charity program couldn’t be simpler, and it’s a little like becoming Santa Claus.


First, pick a family or individual online by reading about them. (For example, “Doria is a single mom of 2 boys, ages 6 months and 2 years. She comes from a broken home and grew up primarily in foster care. She is currently living in shared housing because she cannot afford her own place. She recently gave birth to a son and is unable to work due to health problems.”) You’ll see their wishlist, which often involves things like diapers, warm clothing, formula and toys. It’s up to you how much or how little you’d like to give.

Buy the items, or give unused items from your kid’s closet, and drop them off at a location near you. My friend who did this last year received a sweet letter from the family she had adopted expressing their appreciation. It’s a personal way of giving, you know that your entire gift will go straight to the person in need, and you can even involve your kids in it.

Kids for a Better Future
Every year at this time, instead of accepting gifts for his birthday, my nephew Akash asks for donations to his organization. Kids for a Better Future has funded organizations that helped build a girls’ school in Herat, Afghanistan, and that helped provide education, health care, and shelter to former child soldiers in the Congo.

This year, Akash is going to India to support the Sambhavna Trust Clinic in Bhopal, which helps treat victims of Union Carbide gas disaster, the worst industrial accident in history. He’s also received a challenge grant from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild that will double any contributions he gets from people who have not contributed to his birthday appeal before. I have worked at the Sambhavna Clinic before, and can attest to the important work they do in a community that cannot afford the care that the local hospitals give. 100% of all proceeds Akash raises will go to the clinic.

Asha for Education
A whopping 98.7% of Asha’s expenses go directly to its programs, making it one of the most efficient large charities out there. Asha provides education to the underprivileged children of America. Anyone who’s visited India, or even just watched the amazing, recently released movie Slumdog Millionaire (if you haven't seen this movie, go see it ASAP), knows how dire the needs of these children are. Asha has chapters throughout the world, and programs which make it easy to get involved if you have more time than money. Asha also has a great opportunity you can involve your child in: the Support a Child program, which allows you to support a single child in India for as little as $10 a month. You can receive progress reports, write to and receive letters from to the child, and even arrange to visit the child in India. How great is that?

Oxfam’s Health & Education Campaign
Among its many campaigns, Oxfam helps provide healthcare to underprivileged pregnant women throughout the world. That’s something to dance around about. In fact, check out the video below to actually see pregnant women dancing about it! (Don’t worry, the breakdancers are not actually pregnant….)



Let us know your favorite charity or cause this season!

What A Boy Wants, What A Boy Needs

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In the last week, I have received two emails from men I don't know. Much to the chagrin of my inner seductress, neither of them propositioned me, showered me with compliments, explained how they were erecting altars to my stellar wit and unmatched beauty (how come those emails are so rare?!?). Instead, they divulged secrets. The writers were different in tone, nature, and level of ability to spell-check, but they were both making confessions. You see, these men have a deep dark admission: They like to read "Devis with Babies."

I started to think about all the forums we have as women to communicate and learn about parenthood. There are countless magazines, tv programs, and movies centered around motherhood. The "Mommy blog" is an entire genre of web space. And of course there are the mimosa-sodden brunches and the into-the-wee-hours dinners with girlfriends over conversation about everything from "That Mom" at the preschool who bakes in her sleep; to how our breasts are never going to look the same; to how our relationships with our husbands seem to continually change.

What do our husbands have in the same vein? And, is it just me, or does it seem like they would benefit from more? Why were the two emails I received from the men who read this blog sheepish? I bet they aren't sheepish about reading Maxim.

It seems to be this great irony that, just as many of us Devis are taking lateral steps away from the rocket-ship pace of our pre-child careers, our husbands' jobs and work-related lives are moving into warp speed. The husband who isn't juggling a 10 hour day with various networking meetings, conferences, and client obligations is an exception at this point. While we the wives are slowing down, trying to learn how to "savor the moment," taking a page from all the books that tell us, yes, the first years of motherhood are difficult but blink and you'll miss them--our husbands don't seem to have time to blink. Some of my favorite moments of motherhood thus far involve sitting around with a bunch of friends and swapping stories about our kids. Like how my friend J's son is currently enrolled in a Jewish preschool and knows as much about the High Holidays as he does about Diwali. Or about how L's daughter is on a two-week strawberry-only-diet. How L's new little one's first smile was to his brother, who then proceeded to spit on him. Knowing these little nuggets constitutes part of the glue of friendship between moms, no? They are the stories I tell my husband when he asks how everybody is doing, what our friends' kids are up to.

The books, blogs, articles on fatherhood, as far as I can tell, present an anecdotal, post-modern approach to the topic. They aren't about great activities to do with your family, or, say, how to tell your son stories about your work--they are about how you can wear your rock concert tshirt and be cool while pushing the buggy, or how sex with your wife changes after a baby. There's a lot of "edge" but nothing...well...non-edgy at all. Do men always have to be snarky? My husband could probably win snarky competitions (except against me!) but he is also--in my absolutely objective and scientific estimation--the best father in the world...or at least in our household...! And I know for a fact that many of the dads I know love to talk about their kids and--quel horreur--have questions about them that, perhaps, could be answered, vetted, discussed. With other men.

Does this happen?? Should it happen?

Do we even care?

We complain about our husbands. Alot. But as far as I can tell most of us really love the guys--like really do. And sometimes I feel bad for them, collectively. Even amongst the closest groups of friends, there seems to be this extra zeal to the friendship between the women. At this point of our lives--the early motherhood years--I attribute this, at least in part, to the fact that we know so much about each other's daily lives--the minutia, the mundanity, and the wonder in between. I'm not sure our husbands can say the same. And it's easy to say that they never had friendships where they did know this level of detail. But you know what? Neither did I. Motherhood changed that and I'm wondering why fatherhood didn't.

The Loss of a Generation

Monday, November 24, 2008
My grandfather passed away about ten days ago. He was 93, and as Desis say, he lived a "full life." I spent last week on vacation with my family, and we all had the opportunity to mourn and remember him together.

Dadaji, as we all call him, moved from India to Kenya in his teens, taken along by an uncle who thought he could establish a good life and have more opportunities there. He was a businessman for most of his life. In his twenties, he went to India and brought back a wife, and together they raised five children, one of whom is my mother. His wife died before I was born, and eventually, he moved to London to live with his son.

My grandfather would come over to the U.S. for a few months every year and stay with each of his daughters and their families. In those brief months, we learned the meaning of the word "discipline." He was a deeply spiritual man. I remember him meditating for hours on end in my room. He would always be reading Krishnamurti, Rajneesh, Sai Baba. He had a lot of words of wisdom for all of us. He always emphasized how important it was to be content without always wanting more. He would meditate for hours each day, sitting in the lotus position in my room, not flinching as I top-toed in and out. He took long walks, ate healthy food (although he did love sweets and fried foods), and loved to laugh. He had the best sense of humor. I remember him laughing for hours one day at the "weird" English words Americans used: elevator instead of lift, bathroom instead of water closet.

I don’t have any larger theme or tie-in for this post. I just want to take a moment to remember him, and to mourn the loss of that generation in my life – he was my only remaining grandparent. My daughter never met him, and I will always be sorry about that. I am going to try to make a scrapbook of photos and memories of his life, contributed to by his family members. That way, maybe she’ll know just a bit of her great-grandfather. It won't be enough, but it will do.

Monday Musings: Can You Go Home Again?


"Home sweet home." "Home is where the heart is." " Life's a voyage that's homeward bound." What is home? Where you live at a this very second? Where you were born? The country your parents came from? Thomas Wolfe famously proclaimed that "you can't go home again," but Anand Giridharadas might disagree. In yesterday's New York Times, Giridharadas wrote about the phenomenon of second generation Indians moving to India--back to the place forsaken by their parents. The article explains the motivations of this new migration--the opportunities that India's "new economy" presents, the "post-American" world, the large-scale problems America currently faces--but underlying the article is an apologia of sorts to Giridharadas' parents, an acknowledgment of the irony of their sacrifice when, in the end, the author ends up returning to their homeland.

Giridharadas' story seems similar to lots of ours. His parents came to this country to give him opportunity. They lived the sometimes exhilarating and often lonely immigrant life that so many of us have heard tales about--first trips to the mall, our moms learning to drive. They excelled. They took their Indian-clothes-eschewing children to India every few years to visit family. As Giridharadas says: "It was extraordinary, and ordinary."

And it of course makes me think about my own life, my own kids. Only after I had children did I have any pure, articulated desire to make sure they knew "where they came from." Think about all the posts on this blog thus far about making sure our little ones are exposed to "Indian culture"--what does that really mean, as much as it indicates our desire to show our children where they came from? And yet. What would it feel like if, some fifteen years down the road, my children tell me they wanted to move to India. That they need to learn more about where they come from. That they think it would afford them a better life. I can't even imagine.

First I think of the comedy my children as "immigrants" brings to mind. Would they store favorite American foods in Indian yogurt tins (I cannot even recognize some of the stuff in my freezer, currently stored in Dannon plastic containers--mom please come dissect)? How would they respond to the rhetorical "isn't it" and the head nod "no" that means "yes"? Would they open up the phonebook (or the internet) and call up people who shared their last name, as my mother-in-law did when she moved to this country? Would they smile broadly at Americans on the street that they didn't know?

Then I think about that fact that, in this scenario, my kids would end up "more Indian" than their mother. At this point in my hypothetical head-trip, it would be third generation Indians returning to India and, in a way, it would amount to a brand new frontier of embracing Indian culture. And we can't even imagine what this culture is going to be yet. It seems like we are at some sort of pivotal juncture of Indian culture in which--forgive the hyperbole--the motherland is poised to take over the world. Giridharadas' article wasn't in the Styles section (A section of the Times that I love, don't get me wrong) or buried as a feature--it was on the cover of the Week in Review. Slumdog Millionaire is getting buzz as a possible best picture nominee. The brain drain is being reversed, jobs are moving to India, Indian artists and writers are returning to Mumbai while keeping pied-a-terres in New York, and didn't Reliance essentially buy Steven Spielberg recently? Something's going on. Obviously we can't forecast culture or world dominance by a snap-shot of time, but is it just me or is India everywhere right now? Maybe by the time our kids are deciding where to live, moving to India won't be "going home" as much as it will be travelling to the epicenter of something, much like many of us felt when we left the cities we were born in for New York, Chicago, San Francisco?

Who knows, right? Can't wait to see.

Friday Devi News

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hope you enjoyed Devi week-o-beauty ladies! Here are the winners of our makeup giveaways.

Winners: Please email your mailing addresses to deviswithbabies@gmail.com so we can get you your stuff!

Winner of the Cargo lip gloss duo: Meena, for her suggestion to make your own color palettes

Winner of the DiorShow mascara (courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue): Jyothi, for her myriad suggestions, including the Bliss Triple Oxygen Eye Mask (love it--thank you Jyothi!)

Winner of the Dior Airflash (courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue:): Tani, for her suggestion that you have a luxe foundation for special occasions and a different one to use as "tinted moisturizer."

Thank you everyone for your suggestions and stories.

And Now: Introducing Brown Girl Guide

If you liked what you saw this week, and want more beauty tips, tutorials, and give-aways, we hope you'll sign up for our sister-site, "Brown Girl Guide," launching soon. In addition to news and advice on all things Devi beauty, "Brown Girl Guide" will feature the "Brown Girls" comic, as well as exclusive deals just for our readers. It's the ultimate guide to style for Brown Girls everywhere. Sign up here.

A sneak-peek of what's cooking at "Brown Girl Guide":

-The best potions and serums for a common Brown Girl problem: hyperpigmentation

-Face masks for Brown Girls--and deals on where to buy them

-New ways to re-use your old clothes and makeup

-Where to splurge and where to save in your fashion and beauty routines

-How to break out of your beauty or fashion rut

-The latest and greatest in Indian-inspired apparel and jewelry

Sign up to get this and much more, delivered in a Brown Paper Package to your inbox, every week.


NEXT WEEK: Back to Devis with Babies regularly scheduled programing. We'll leave you with this compiliation of letters to God, (mostly written by children), which made us laugh. Have a great weekend Devis!

Brown Girls: Yo Momma

Thursday, November 20, 2008

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Devi Beauty: Foundation for Greatness


There's a reason it's called "foundation" ladies. The right foundation--in the right color, consistency, and overall appearance--truly provides the basic building block for your entire makeup routine. Wealthy Egyptians supposedly began using the prehistoric version of foundation--a yellow liquid colored by clay pigments--back in 5000 B.C. and in 1562, Queen Elizabeth is said to have made her own foundation out of white lead and vinegar, in order to cover up her smallpox scars. The stuff has been around. Many Devis I know have visceral reactions to the word "foundation" or--even worse--"base." One friend in particular still shudders in horror as she thinks about the Revlon "base" she had to wear for her Indian dance performances that was, she now realizes, at least 8 shades too light and 19 inches too thick. Luckily, foundation has come a long way and we all can benefit from finding the right formula for our needs.

Foundation isn't supposed to "mask" your face. It's simply supposed to give you a more consistent, even, and glowing complexion. It also provides the canvas upon which your other products--eye shadows and blushes in particular--will stick. It is absolutely essential when you are trying out foundations to see how they look in natural light (versus the din of a department store)--you will be able to notice maskiness (when, for instance, your face with foundation on doesn't match your neck--scary!) right away in the glaring light of day.

There is so much dialogue and jargon about foundation. "Yellow undertone" this; "luminated blue tones" that. The word that comes to mind is: Blah. You don't need to philosophize about foundation, you just need to wear it! So, without further ado, my top foundation picks for us Devis. Some of these are high-tech, with the newest ingredients on the block, and others are tried and true--what they all have in common is that I have personally tried and loved all of them, as have many fellow Brown Girls:

For light coverage: Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation or Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer.

I would apply to be the poster child for Giorgio Armani foundation. I wish they gave me referral fees I really do. For me, it is the perfect consistency, with just enough light-deflecting mica to illuminate and brighten. It somehow manages to provide radiance without slickness and this has been my tried-and-true foundation for five years now. It has its cons, most of all: The price. It ain't cheap, which is why I often go moonlighting. But I always come back. Also not especially cool is how it makes me feel like a snob--Armani makeup? Come on! But..wait a second...okay I'm over it! You gotta suffer for beauty right?? Ha. One more caveat: Some girls who have tried this foundation have found it to be too oily for their skin so you might want to skip this recommendation if you have particularly oily skin.

In general, I think that tinted moisturizers are a ruse--you can make your own by blending a few drops of your regular foundation with some of your moisturizer to make a foundation with less coverage. The exception to this is Laura Mercier's tinted moisturizer. It covers more than any other "tinted moisturizer" out there and truly does moisturize as well. Also, unlike many tinted moisturizers out there, it doesn't settle into your pores after a few hours on the job. Good stuff.

For medium coverage: Estee Lauder Double-Wear Stay in Place Makeup

They aren't kidding about the stay-in-place part—summer humidity, sweat, and even rain are no match for this long-lasting makeup with at least 5 different shades that flatter Indian skintones. And while it provides opaque coverage, it doesn't resemble a clay mask.

Word to the wise: Most Estee Lauder counters at department stores will give you a free sample of this that lasts almost a month--so try before you buy.

For medium-to-heavy coverage, and especially for Kodak moments: Dior AirFlash

This one is not for beginners but if you are ready to invest a little time in proper application of this aresol foundation, you will reap enormous benefits. You know the "airbrushed" and perfect look that models have on magazines? It can be yours and it resides in this can, making this particular foundation especially good for occasions when you're going to be photographed.

The reason this particular foundation is a little tricky, in my opinion, is that it is best applied with a sponge. Aka another item you need. (For all the other foundations here, you can apply with your fingers and get a beautiful finish.) Also, you just have to get used to the fact that the product is a spray/mist. But, after you get over these (not so difficult) hurdles, AirFlash will likely provide you with the most flawless face you have ever seen--and everybody will just think you have beautiful skin, that's how natural it is.

For seriously oily or acne-prone skin: Oil-free Make Up Forever HD Invisible Coverage

This stuff feels amazing--thin as air. And yet, it offers surprisingly thorough coverage and, yes, is completely oil-free. The range of 25 shades gives us many options--more than any other foundation listed here. Its "soft effect" finish is designed for people in the spotlight--and what Devi doesn't love the spotlight?!?

A note on application: The variety of tools out there to apply foundation is mind-boggling. I am here to tell you that if you apply your foundation with your fingers, you will be just fine (with the exception of the Dior AirFlash). There are many, many ways to apply foundation properly. Check this out for some great application tips, and see photos of a self-proclaimed Indian Make-up Diva applying foundation here.

A note: As with everything else this week, this just scratches the surface of this topic. We didn't even get started on cream and powder foundations! And, with almost any foundation, you will need "set" the makeup with powder. So make sure to check back in for updates on these foundations, the best loose powders for Devis, the best drugstore-brand foundations, and some options for foundations brushes, amongst other things!

Have any foundation tips to share, ladies? The best recommendation /tip/story wins a coveted Dior AirFlash, courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Next Up: Tomorrow is our last day of Devi Beauty Week! Check in to read about some of my secret "extras" that add a little bit of magic to your beauty regime, and find out about the launch of our new sister-site, "Brown Girl Guide," which will delivery beauty tips (and the "Brown Girls" comic) right to your inbox.

Also, we will be announcing the winners of the fabulous Cargo lip gloss duo, the DiorShow mascara, and the Dior AirFlash foundation--there's still time to post your comment/recommendation/tip/suggestion. Who can't use free makeup?

Devi Beauty: Getting Cheeky

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welcome to day three of Devi-Beauty 101! Today we focus on the apples of our faces--our cheeks.

Ah blush! Think about the times your cheeks get flushed naturally. At a perfect cabin in Tahoe. When you and your husband are in the middle of a magical night. When you are excited about a new adventure. Blushing is your body's way of showing freshness, vitality, health, joy, love. Why wouldn't we want to fake these things--especially after a few sleepless nights (aka life with kids)?

Many products compete to give us that "girlish glow." For me, the various formulas of blush are more complicated than any other makeup. How am I supposed to know if I want a powder versus a gel versus a cream versus a "stain"? With mascara it's like, what do you want, long lashes or longer ones? That I can handle. When asked whether I want a "bronze coral cream" or a "coral bronze powder" I used to run-- blushing (not in a good way)-- for the hills. But not any more. Here it is, ladies, blush simplified:

POWDER BLUSH

No lie, powder blush looks good on EVERYONE. And--shocking I know--the pinkest of pinks that you would imagine only flatter Malibu Barbie are actually almost universally amazing in creating a natural flush. Unlike with eyeshadows or lipsticks, the pink blush that works on your pasty white bff will often work on you too. Case in point? The oft-cited cult-favorite NARS blush in orgasm. After reading about it for the millionth time I had to give it a try, and off to Sephora I went. It's actually as good as "they" all say. It is a peachy pink, with a little bit of shimmer and--I wanted to be the skeptic, I really did--it is pretty universally flattering. I went with my dark Devi buddy and it looked as good on her as it did on me as it did on the paler than White-Out Sephora salesclerk. It's the Switzerland of blushes and, especially if you are a blush virgin, you gotta give Orgasm a try. NARS Blush in Outlaw is also really beautiful on Devi skin.

The absolute key to making powder blush work is the right brush. A large, full brush, plus a compact of powder blush, plus about 2 seconds: Wham, you're done. Sephora's in-house-label makes a great blush brush--the shape is perfect for hitting just the right planes of your face.

To apply: Swipe the brush back and forth once; then apply the powder onto the apples of the cheeks. If you don't know where these elusive "apples" are, smile really big into the mirror and apply onto the parts of your cheeks that are the most protruding. Blending is important to banish harsh lines and splotches, so keep burnishing the color until you can't see any noticeable brush strokes. It is usually best to keep brushing in only one direction to prevent streakiness. If after you have tried buffing the color into your skin, you feel too blush-y, take the same brush and swipe some of your regular face powder on over the blush to neutralize. (Make sure to wash your brushes every week ladies. Baby wipes do a helluva job.)

CREAM BLUSH

Cream blush is a little tricker to apply than powder blush, but ends up looking more natural (go figure). It gives you a more dew-y look (think J-Lo), and less of a matte, finished look (think MAC advertisements). If you have particularly oily skin you might want to stick to the powder blush as there is some evidence that cream blush lead to more break-outs, but unless your skin is extreme, this probably isn't a factor.

You are supposed to use a brush to apply cream blush, but I use my fingers. I apply a little bit of the blush to my pointer finger and start swirling away on my cheeks (in circular motions), kind of like fingerpaint, until I get the desired color. The reason this is more difficult than the powder brush is that it often seems like you are "going out of the lines" more with a cream brush and the color can be inconsistent from one area of your cheek to the next. But if you keep buffing the area with your finger, you will get a consistent, soft, and beautifully glistening affect. My current favorite cream blushes: Lancome Color Design in Chic Cassis and NARS in Turkish Red (warning: a little goes a long way).

BRONZER

Bronzers, too, are pretty on everyone, but sometimes it takes many, many layers for bronzer to even show up on Devi skin. Think about it: These products are marketed, by and large, to pale women who are trying to fake a "suntanned" look. Um--not so much for us. The real question, then, is when we would choose bronzer over blush. If you want a subtle accentuation of your cheekbones without a "flushed" effect, then bronzer is a good bet. But you have to be particularly careful with which bronzers you choose. The wrong formula makes us look like a Miama Beach fashion victim. Look for formulas that are a bit "golden" and not overly matte. Great options include: NARS in Laguna (yes yes, I know, I am a NARS girl), and Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder in #4.

To properly bronze, use a brush to apply the product on the apples of your cheeks, and also on your temples, as well as a little on the forehead, nose and chin. Basically, you are hitting all the places on your face that natural sun would hit. My secret trick: After you have finished gilding yourself, go back and apply a little pinky coral color (like the NARS orgasm blush) to the apples of your cheek. The reason to do this is because bronzer alone can often look a bit muddy, especially on darker skin, so the addition of the brighter color ontop clarifies the mudiness and gives your bronzer more of a glow.

Blushing can be even more complicated--you can use blush to narrow your face, fake higher cheekbones, solve world hunger (maybe one day). But simplicity is often best and, busy mommas, take heed: Most people will tell you that you should apply blush or bronzer over foundation to complete your total look...but I am here to let you know that a few swipes of blush and a bit of whatever Carmex substitute you have found (do tell!) will make even the most just-woke-up face more put together than most in the preschool drop-off line. Just another way to make those other moms jealous!

Your turn Devis! Any favorite blushes, bronzers, or other cheeky products to share?

Next Up: How to Set the Stage--The Best Foundations for Devi Skin.

Devi Beauty: I Spy A Beautiful Devi Eye

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Almost every Devi I know has beautiful eyes. And, even more tellingly, almost every Devi I know cites her eyes as one of her favorite features. For good reason. Though part of the deal of being Indian includes beauty horrors such as hairiness and hyperpigmentation, Indians, by and large, have gorgeous eyes. Bright, large, with thick rims of lashes--the windows to our souls are looking good! But we are Indians, we are perfectionists, there is always room for improvement...!

Make-up options for eyes could fill volumes. The basic 2 minute eye, the going-out eye, the smokey-eye, the "I'm gonna get you sucka" eye. They all can be yours! And, they all start the same way--with good, smooth skin. If you don't got it, fake it:

PREP


Maybe we didn't need eye creams when we were 18. But, ladies, we do now. I used to think that "eye cream" was just regular face cream in a smaller pot with a bigger price tag. "Get back consumer capitalist conglomerate, you're not going to fool me!" You're hearing it here first--my apologies to the CCC: Sorry Consumer Capitalist Conglomerate, I will take your eye cream, I will wear it, I will never doubt your powers again.

When it comes to eye creams, I am fickle and I have yet to find my holy grail. That being said, I do believe that this is an area where you can "save" (versus areas where you should "splurge"--like when you are buying foundation. More on that later this week). There are great brands available at the CVS. The main thing you need is a cream that softens the fine lines and wrinkles (wrinkles? who said wrinkles? none of us have wrinkles yet NONE OF US) in the delicate eye skin. To firm up skin, look for creams containing caffeine, retinol, or alpha-hydroxy acids. To combat darkness, look for vitamin C or kojic acid. I have had great luck (and saved a bunch of money) with the eye products made by Oil of Olay--check out its site for coupons and free samples.

The second step of prep is concealer. If I were stranded on a desert island and I could only bring one beauty product it would be concealer. The best smoky eye in the world will look like crap if you don't conceal under-eye circles and puffiness. You already know my gold-standard concealer: Cle de peau. It's just perfect. In my eyes, there is no other. It's one of my children. (Okay okay, I've gone too far). THAT being said, being the concealer junkie that I am, I have tried many other concealers through the years and have some runner-ups that other Devis swear by. In addition, Cle de Peau does not make shades for the darker end of the Devi spectrum, so we need some other options. Check out these picks:

-Laura Mercier secret camoflouge: A cult-favorite, now available in three shades for darker skin. Don't be turned off by the fact that you have to blend two different parts of the compact--there really is no "wrong" way to mix them.
-Amazing Cosmetics Amazing concealer in "Deep": Started as a company to provide makeup to the televion trade, "Amazing Cosmetics"'s concealer his a creamy consistency and stays on all day.
-Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer kit in "Honey": This kit contains a concealer and a powder to set the concealer. Don't opt for this particular combo if you have lots of lines around your eyes, as the powder can sometimes settle into fine lines. If lines aren't your problem, this is an amazing formula for full-coverage concealing. Also works marvelously on covering up blemishes.

Important tip: Many women dutifully conceal directly under their eyes, but forget to cover-up the corners of the eyes--nearest to the nose--where shadows pool the most. Keep on concealing ladies.

Covered-up? Check. Let's paint those eyes.

EYESHADOW

If you are going for an everyday look, I say skip the eyeshadow. Eyeshadow, for some reason, scares people. After giving it way too much thought, I trace this fact back to: Indian weddings. We have seen too many of our fellow Devis sit through eighteen hours of make-up, 17 of which are focused on the eye, in which some random Rajni or the other puts seventy five different shades of bronze onto our eyelids--only to eventually create a...bronze eye. It's intimidating. If it took Professional Rajni that much time and that many scary looking paletes of half-used powdery shadow to do this, should we even try? The answer is yes, and you know what? It's much easier than you think.

The simplest way to use eyeshadow is as an all-over "wash." You pick one color and put it all the way from your lash line to the crease in your brow. The reason so many of us tend towards metallics in this situation is because metallics look really great on our skin. For once, we have it easier than our fellow Janes and Bettys in making our eyes "pop." Check out these metallics, some of my current favorites for Indian complexions: DuWop ShadowLift in Sol (a subtle, bronze sheen), NARS Eyeshadow in Galapagos (slightly more pigmented than the DuWop, and with more gold), and Urban Decay in "Midnight Cowboy Runs Again" (a little drama--flecks of silver to make you stand out).

All of these are as low-maintenance as girls who don't blow dry their hair. Put your finger in the pot (or, in the case of the DuWop, squeeze some of the liquid out of the tube) and smear onto your eyelid. Done. Contouring is all fine and good--for later. And eyeshadow is one area in which I do believe that investing in some good brushes pays off but, baby steps, baby steps...!

Also, be told: The (eye shadow) world does not begin and end with gold, silver, and bronze. Though we all tend to reach for muted palettes and many-a-browns, contrasting colors can really make our eyes stand out. Contrast for most of us (with brown eyes) is--get this--almost anything! Dark, pigmented jewel tones (think lush purples, greens, and sapphires) look--yes, surprisingly--amazing on our skin.

One of the biggest problems eyeshadow presents migration--loose specks of it splattering all over your face and, in particular, under your eyes. To get rid of these pesky flecks, dip a sponge into some foundation and use it to wipe away the stray shadow--it's the perfect eraser.

EYELINER

I am a recent eyeliner-convert. I've always loved the look of liquid liner--so clean, so precise--but assumed it would be impossible to achieve, and pencil eyeliner tended to fade away faster than my youth (haha). On a whim I decided to give liquid liner a shot a few months back, thinking it could counter-act my absolute lack of sleep. It kind of worked.

What's the point of eyeliner you ask? I have asked the same thing. Simply put, liner enhances your lash line to frame the eyes. It draws more focus to your eyes and makes them look wider and more alert. (Alert=always good, no?). The closer to the lash line, the more natural the effect. Word to the wise: Only line the top lashes. Depictions of Bollywood starlets aside, rimming the lower lashes only accentuates under-eye circles...and we are tired mommas, of course we don't want to do that!

My favorite liquid liner is: CK Electric Edge Liquid Liner. It is foolproof and, believe you me, I am quite the fool. When only pencil will do (for instance, if you want to create a smokey eye and need to smudge the eyeliner), try Elizabeth Arden's Smokey Eyes Powder Pencil in Midnight. It "sticks" more than any other pencil I have found, and it comes with its own smudger. Another tip: When using a lining pencil, prep your lids with some powder before to make sure your liner doesn't fade away before the last dance.

Many a devi loves her kajal, and why not? The richness of the pigment is difficult to replicate. Just take note: More and more studies are coming out about lead content in kajul, and the state of New York recently issued a warning on the same. Darkly rimmed eyes are not worth lead posioning.

Watch this video for some good tips on how to apply your eyeliner. And check out this tutorial on how to create the liner and shadow looks of Miss Sri Lanka's look (courtesy of "IndianMakeUpGirl")

MASCARA

Who doesn't love mascara? The promise of a seductive, fringed frame; the way shadows of great lashes are photographed. Just thinking about mascara makes you feel sexy. And yet, the absolute schmorgosboard of choices quickly undermines that feeling of seductiveness and forces you to decide if you need to "plump" your lashes or "volumize"; "thicken" or "lengthen." DiorShow is my best pick for overall mascara and comes as close to"doing it all" as we all do...! Just one coat gives you a set of lashes that approximates the lushness of fakes. Layer on a couple coats and you have instant drama. There are many, many great mascaras out there (I am currently waiting to try a free sample of Givenchy's newest offering which looks like some sort of torture device but is supposted to somehow enable you to reach even the tinest of lashes on the edges of your eyes), but DiorShow keeps coming up on the top of the heap. It is rare that consumers, beauty editors, magazines, and shop sales all collide to show us a clear winner: Let's take our clarity where it lays...!

HIGHLIGHTER
And now: Drum roll please. Ladies, I want to introduce you to the secret weapon of almost every star you have ever seen on the silver screen, and the one product a litany of makeup artists won't live without. With the exception of one person (You know who you are JP), every single person needs this product and looks better with it (JP is just genetically blessed). The YSL touche eclat highlighter is not a concealer--the YSL marketing people waat to be sure you know that (as if there is something gauche? plebian? about being a concealer? I don't know.) It's also not a fountain of youth or a facelift. But it is subtle transformation. Apply it to any area you want to "lighten"--it's ingredients deflect light and softly illuminate the area you paint. It banishes shadows and signs of fatigue like a magic wand. When my full eye makeup is done, I put two dashes of this under my eyes and blend. I also put a little bit at the corners of my eyes. The effect is as if you are all of a sudden under the sort of flattering lighting that would make Michael Jackson look good and natural. Both shades 3 and 4 look fantastic on Devi skin.

Devis, all of this is just a primer (no make-up pun intended, I swear). But keep on the look-out for more. We are going to delve into topics such as the easiest way to create the smoky eye in all its glory, the pros and cons of vibrating mascaras, how to use certain products to make your eyes seem bigger or more set apart, and how one or two extra minutes can change your entire eye makeup look. Just to name a few. In the meantime, it's your turn: What are your favorite eye makeup products? Tell us your recommendations in the comments section below, and the rec we like the best will win a tube of the ultra-glam DiorShow mascara in blackest black.

Up Next: Keep On Blushing, Even After You're a Bride--The Best Blushes and Highlighters for Devi Cheeks

Devi Beauty: Lip Service

Monday, November 17, 2008

Welcome to Devi-Beauty-Week! Enough about the economy, forget doom and gloom, to hell with Proust. This week we are going to focus on putting our best faces forward, and working with what we have--namely ourselves, and our make-up bags. Who among us can't afford to look a little bit more put together? And how many times have you come back from Macy's or Walgreens, amped about a new lipstick or eyeshadow, images of the vixen/sexpot/angel version of yourself dancing in your head--only to try on said product and see that the color, consistency or over-all effect is completely wrong for you? Make-up can be transformative. It can be a passport to wonderful lands such as Faked-High-Cheekbones-stan and the island of Perfect-Complexion. It can make you stand up taller and feel more confident. But it can also be a huge question mark, especially when the vast majority of the products we see on tv, in magazines, and in the aisles of Sephora just don't suit Devi needs. So here, part one of Devi Week-o-Style: Let's pay some lip-service to our lips.

PREP


Like everything make-up related, a well-executed lip begins with a clean, smooth canvas. We forget our lips are skin and, just like our knees an elbows, they need to be exfoliated in order to get rid of the dead skin cells that tend to build-up over time. Many brown women have problems with "black" lips, or lips that tend to go from a natural pinkish color to a deeper, brown color. This "blackness" is often the result of built-up dead skin, so exfoliation can ameliorate the problem. (You can also try putting a thin layer of foundation over your lips, before putting any color on them, to lessen the darkness). Now, please, please: Don't go using the exfoliating products you use on your body on your lips--they are way too abrasive for the sensitive skin. Instead, twice a week, use a toothbrush (dipped in either water or water and a little bit of sugar) to gently brush over your lips, starting at the lip line and moving towards the center. If you aren't seeing softer, pinker lips, try this at-home treatment once a week: Put Vaseline or Aquaphor on your lips and massage gently with a nubby washcloth for 2 minutes. Afterwards, put another layer of Vaseline on before you to go sleep.

BEGINNER: LIP BALM, LIP GLOSS, and SHEER LIPSTICK


We're moms and we're busy. This is our mantra and I am sure some of us have it emblazoned on t-shirts. We don't have time for a 12 step makeup ritual in the morning. That's why many of us are Chapstick addicts. Well--that's why, in part. Some of us may ACTUALLY be addicted to lip balm, and it's not our fault. Many many lip products contain "phenol" an antiseptic that actually strips the upper layer of skin off of the lips. With this layer gone, you constantly feel like you "need" more of the lip treatment in question to get that supple feeling on your lips. The biggest perpetrator of this heinous crime is Carmex--a fact that truly breaks my heart, since I am never without at least 9 tubes of the stuff. Check the active ingredient: phenol. I am currently trying to wean myself off Carmex. It is not easy, and I feel like I am losing a best friend (or 9), but I have found some solace in this Nivea lip balm with SPF. I'm also doing a trial-run of this product from Tarte, which seems genius--a moisturizer and an exfoliator in one. I have only been using it for a week, but if I fall in love I will report back. Make sure your lip balm is phenol-free Devis!

I get the Chapstick brigade I really do--but tell me you haven't looked at photos of yourself with some lip color, versus without, and realized how much more polished you look. Sheer lipsticks are just as low-maintenance as chapstick but make it seem like you actually have a "look." The key is finding the right sheer for us Devis, because we tend to have darker lips and many sheers have so little pigment that they are essentially just Chapstick in fancy tubes. The hands-down best sheers I have found are from a little cult brand called "Lipstick Queen," created by Poppy Montgomery. This woman loves lipstick and understands women--which is why she has two lines of products: Sinners, with rich, 90% opaque coverage, and Saints, which are sheer with 10% color saturation. Both lines are luxuriously moisturizing in addition to being beautiful (thus helping me with my Carmex problems. Damn you Carmex.) "Berry" and "Wine" are my favorites of the bunch...and if you are my family, don't worry about buying these, you will be getting them for Christmas...!

EXPERT: LIPSTICK

Ah the full-on lipsticked mouth. The shellacked pout that greets us from glossy magazines and billboards alike. The close-up images of deep, lush tubes of magic pigmented bullets in jewel-box-like packaging. There is a reason Ben Stiller said that men have girlie mags and women have lipstick porn. We love the stuff, don't we? I've already given you my picks on the best reds for Devis (and update: I would now like to add Lipstick Queen Saint in Rouge to that list), but, Mad-Men fantasies aside, even I know that red lips, especially on a Devi, are not for every occasion. The best general advice I can give is to go to any department store and try on a bunch of lipsticks. Brands I have found that work well on our skin include: Bobbi Brown, Nars, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Every brand will have accompanying lip liner pencils, and they are worth the investment, mostly because they (1) define your lips; and (2) lock and load your lipstick, so that you aren't worrying all night whether it is running amok on your face. If the buiyng of coordinated lip liners for lipsticks is too much trouble, try a clear lip liner--it will prevent your color from bleeding and it works with every single lipstick you have.

One of the many lip products not worth our money? Lipstick brushes. I have heard every possible attempt to sell me these (and I have buckled before) but all the hooks and lines ("they ensure a smoother application," "they will make the shade last longer") have amounted to, ahem, lip service in my case. Save the $30 and buy another lipstick.

In terms of general color palette, obviously there is a cornucopia of shades available so let's focus on the no-nos: We should stay away from nudes, beiges, overly matte browns. Devi skin tends to get a little "ashy", which just means that when dead skin builds up on people with more pigment in their skin, the over-all skin tone becomes less bright. So-called "natural" lip colors have the effect of washing out our skin even more and, honestly, are not "natural" on Devis unless you consider cadavors "natural."

Like I said, you have to experiment with lipsticks. Plums, wines and deep reds work well on most Devis but, obviously, these are just labels which each contain an entire spectrum of shades. Ten thousand disclaimers aside, here are my top 3 current favorite lipsticks, which have been tried and tested on Devis of all shades:

Nars Vitamin-E Rich Lipstick in Tamango




YSL in Legendary Mocha




None of these lipsticks is overly shiny or overly matte. I find the overly matte look too severe for many Devi features, and shine I keep for special occasions. But those occasions do of course arise and, for extra shine, I turn to one of my favorite wonder-products. This lip gloss duo from Cargo can work like the Poppy Montgomery sheer lipsticks for daily use, but can also be layered on top of almost any more-pigmented lipstick you wear (including all of the three above), to give you glossiness without that my-lips-are-a-candy-cane effect (MAC lipglass anyone? I'm sorry, I know many people love it but doesn't your hair constantly get stuck in it? Death to MAC lipglass...). Apply a little bit of these glosses in the middle of your lips, either alone or over a lipstick, smack your lips and shine away Devis.

Any favorite lipsticks, lip glosses, or lip treatments you would like to share, Devis? Our favorite recommendation wins one of these Cargo lip gloss duos in "Santa Anna"!
Leave your recommendation in the comment section and we will announce the winner on Friday. Have a BEAUTIFUL week...

Next Up: The Eyes Take All...

Thanksgiving Recipes With a Devi Flair

Friday, November 14, 2008

Since Thanksgiving is coming up, it's time to start thinking about what to cook for the big day. One idea popular in many devis' homes is taking traditional Thanksgiving dishes and spicing them up with an Indian flair. Yes, we all remember our mothers sprinkling masala onto our french fries and baked potatoes, so why should we be any different?

While some recipes seem to go over the top (remember the giant red Tandoori turkey, much like the one above, in the movie Kissing Cousins?), here are some more subtle fusion Thanksgiving recipes that look and sound great. If you try any of them at your house, we're always available to come over for sampling!

The East Indian Turkey - The turkey recipe to make all other turkey recipes seem bland.

Turkey Tandoori Legs - From our favorite desi chef, Sanjay Thamma of VahRehVah.com.

Alu Gobi stuffing - Stove Top is still my favorite, but I'm willing to give this a try.

Indian Green Bean Salad - A perfect, easy take-along dish if you're invited elsewhere.

Indian Popcorn - Popcorn, chaat style.

Cranberry Chutney - This keeps in the fridge for two weeks, if you want to get an early start on cooking. (Wow, I really sound like my mother now!)

Indian Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
- Basic rule of cooking: cardamom makes everything taste better.

Indian Corn Bread Pudding - Looks super easy and super yummy.

Chai-Spiced Caramel Fondue - Warming spices make this sound like the perfect party-dish-in-front-of-a-fire.

Mango Rose Water Cocktail - We may not wait until Thanksgiving for this one.

Brown Girls: "WHAT WOULD OBAMA DO"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Devis: The New "Model Minority"

Move over Gisele: According to the the New York Post, Devis are poised to take over the ranks of the "It" models. Lakshmi Menon, Kangana Dutta, and Ujwallah Raut are some of the names to watch for, and high-end retailers such as Hermes and Givenchy are already snagging these girls up for their shows. Though these women may not be the best ambassadors of all things Devi (here is one of Dutta's more, um, profound quotes on her rising fame: "Indian women stand out, from the color of their skin to their features"), I, for one, am looking forward to seeing some of these next brown-skinned ladies on the covers of American fashion magazines soon, talking about the perfect red lipstick for our skintone, and how they dress their Devi hips and breasts...

One thing on this rise of the Indian model though: Check out this image from Vogue India's premiere issue. Doesn't the woman on the left (Bipasha Basu) and the woman on the right (Priyanka Chopra) look...well...like the same person? We already get messages that we have to look a certain way from fashion magazines as it is--are we going to get it from our own models as well? It is inevitable that when Menon, Dutta, or Raut makes it big, every successive Indian model will be heralded as the next so-and-so and constantly compared to her. As if there is only one way to be ethnic. But how can we get annoyed when people think all Indians--or all Indian models--look the same when, as in this cover, two of the supposed images of Indian beauty DO look exactly the same?!? And, please. Don't get me started on the whole "fair and lovely" thing, seriously. These women look practically white, no? Last of the random model thoughts: What is Gemma Ward (the blond, Australianmodel in the middle) doing on the launch issue of Indian Vogue?

To much mindlessness to ponder I know. Enough already. Here is some more Devi-model eye candy for you:



Porn for Devis with Babies

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Household chores are the number one thing that couples with children fight about, according to a survey I read recently. Indeed, in today’s society where gender roles have become largely undefined, it’s up to each couple to figure out the division of labor. Will you cook while your husband cleans, or vice versa? Who will do, fold and put away the laundry? How about the bills, the grocery shopping, the light bulb that needs changing?

You may have read Lisa Belkin’s New York Times article over the summer about couples who do everything equally. They "work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home.” This small group of people understand “that this would mean recalibrating their career ambitions, and probably their income, but what they gained, they believed, would be more valuable than what they lost.”

I read the article with avid interest, and then thought of whether I actually know any desi couples who practice “equally shared parenting.” You already know my answer, don't you?

The vast majority of Devis with babies still take on most of the housework. We usually cook and clean more, spend more time with our kids than our husbands do, and have more responsibilities around the home. Even if our husbands share the household tasks, we are still the proactive ones who know when the laundry needs to get done, what the diaper bag needs to be packed with, what’s for dinner. At parties, we're usually the ones in the kitchen, setting out the plates and making sure the food is warm. I also realized that among most of the desi couples I know, the husband/father spends more time working. So it could be argued that both female and male roles among second-generation desis are more traditional. Either way, we usually get stuck with the mundane daily tasks.

This may be an obvious observation, but it interests me nonetheless. What is it about us Devis that makes us more prone to embrace traditional gender roles? Is it because our parents were more traditional, and we’re just once removed from the homeland? As far as I know, we didn’t know when we got married, or had kids, that it would inevitably be this way. Many of us planned for it not to be so.

Also, it doesn't come easily: most of us go through periods of figuring it all out (a.k.a. fighting), and then arrive at some imperfect yet livable situation for awhile, until we get sick of it and try to find a better solution again. A friend of mine jokingly told me that while her husband uses porn to get off, all she needs is a house that he helped her clean to get her in the mood.

Why, all these years after women's lib and migrating from the homeland, are we still stuck with the housework? And, perhaps as a more productive discussion, what works and doesn't work with the division of labor in your home?

Brown People Join Obama's Team

Tuesday, November 11, 2008
President-Elect Barack Obama (I love writing that) is filling out his transition team quickly, and there’s already word of brown people joining his administration. Sonal Shah is the first desi officially named to be on Obama’s advisory project, and today, Nicholas Rathod starts as Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. Nick is the chief liason between the Obama team, and governors and mayors from across the U.S. (Full disclosure: He’s also my cousin!)

Others we should hear about shortly who are expected to be on Obama’s team are Preeta Bansal, Neera Tanden, Subodh Chandra, Kris Kolluri, Hrishi Karthikeyan, and Dave Kumar.

It’s electrifying to see South Asian Americans at the head of government during this historic time. At one point or another, many of these people probably sacrificed a crapload of money to go the public route. I know my cousin did. I am gratified to see his difficult choice paying off as he takes on a leadership role in the most exciting moment of our age, and becomes a part of history.

This is everything our parents worked and sacrificed for. They left their home countries, picked secure careers, so that their children could have more opportunity. So now, their children are not only making money and excelling in every field, they’re giving back. They’re sitting at the table with people who view them as equals, as every bit American as they are. They’re shaping the American narrative with their own voices. And they’re deriving from the histories of their immigrant parents and grandparents to make policies. That can only mean good for the country.

Under Bush, Indian Americans in politics haven’t had as many opportunities as they will have now (Bobby Jindal excluded). I predict a wave of young Desis getting involved in the public sphere, because they feel that they can actually have a voice now. The man at the top is listening, and he wans them to be a part of the process. It’s not just about our interests as a community being represented; it’s about us feeling like we can finally give something back to this country, which has given us and our families so much.

If he were alive today, Gandhi would be proud of these desis, who are living exemplars of his sage advice: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Baby, You've Got Mail

Barack Obama's election got me thinking about how we will all likely try, one day, to explain to our kids what a big deal this all is. My kids don't understand potty-training yet, let alone presidential politics. Will I be able to remember, by the time they are learning about the electoral college and race in America, exactly how I felt last Tuesday? The answer is patently obvious: No way man.

Watching my 10 month old these days, I am often stunned by the fact that, as he sits up for the first time and starts to crawl, I have very few memories of my older son--who is almost 3--doing the exact same things. I remember them happening, of course--it's not like I am surprised that my eldest now can walk so I obviously know that he took his first steps. But my memories are of the fuzzy, global variety. Like the way I remember that I went to elementary school. The nuance, the singularity that made these MY memories--that's what's missing. Moments I was sure were etched into my consciousness forever are--well--nowhere to be found.

I was not happy about any of this. Forget Obama, I want to remember the way my son says "good morning beautiful day!" every morning. And I want him to remember it too. Which is why I decided to turn to the place I often rely on for help in a crisis: Google. A few months ago I set up gmail accounts for my kids. Whenever I have that itch in my brain that says "will I remember this one day?" I write my kids a quick note. The results are pretty scattered--and equally amusing. I just looked at my eldest's account and there are messages about everything from how he calls going to school his "job", to how he likes to watch horrible tv (why oh why oh WHY did any sane person create the whiny horror that is Caillou??), to how I have never been so proud in my life as when he, unprompted and for no apparent reason, was sweet and kind to an old, lonely stranger at a party.

Email is far less daunting than the beautiful raw silk baby book you have yet to fill a page of. (At least mine is raw silk. And man is it gorgeous. Even with the 3 inches of dust it has collected thus far. Maybe one day I will donate it to a museum.) Just as quickly as your child can say or do something hilarious, you can forever enshrine it in an inbox! Nothing about recording your memory has to be "perfect" (and I know I don't have to introduce you to the Devi-perfectionist-complex do I?) and you don't have to do a dog and pony show with it--email is almost quaint in its simplicity and privacy. Moreover, something about this method makes it easier to capture all of the unique, silly, anachronistic, anomalously amazing things about our kids. When you don't have a set number of pages to fill, or somebody dictating to you that you should "place first birthday party here," the milestones arrive organically, and can include moments such as the first time your son was in a photobooth (which is a big rite of passage in my family).

Of course, in encapsulating memories for your kids, you end up encapsulating yourself too--providing glimpses of your thoughts and heart at certain moments. (I think with wonder about how cool it would be if I could have snippets of my parents' prose from when they were 31, 36, 42. ) Whether you are writing on election day or on Parent Teacher Conference day or on a random Tuesday--by writing you are giving yourself. My pro/con list to my son about whether I want him to grow up is--let's face it--a telling artifact about his mother. Writing this stuff in real time enables you to capture the wisdom, clarity of though, and foolishness that accompany everything we as mothers do everyday. And, rest assured: If, for some reason, you go back and read something too embarrassing one day--well that is what the "delete" function is for!

The last week has reaffirmed to me how rich our lives are. Not only for the big things, but for all the little ones too. Writing these seemingly silly messages to my kids gives me--and one day my kids--a way to remember some of these little things that make our lives ours.