6 Volunteer Services That Improve Self Esteem


No skill is too small to help others. There is probably a huge reserve of hidden talent in all of us, waiting to be tapped and channelized for a worthy cause. These activities will help others as well as improve our self esteem. If you have some spare time on your hands and are looking for interesting volunteer services to pursue, here are some ideas to explore…

Assisting senior citizens

Senior citizens are going through a very difficult phase in life. They are not so physically active nor are they confident enough to do even the small routine tasks on their own. Many times they are in old age homes and just want someone to chat with. Assisting senior citizens to use computers, going shopping with/for them, meeting them occasionally for a long chat, reading to them, playing chess, scrabble, bridge, rummy, etc are some of the activities. Just one hour of free time is all that’s needed.

Mentoring children

Mentoring a child would involve a little more time and a small expense as compared to seniors. You can mentor a child’s school education till he/she is able to earn a living. You can either teach the child or pay for tuitions. The aim here is to hone the existing talents of the child for financial independence. This activity would also include (in most cases) cost of basic necessities like food and clothing till they reach the age of 18 years.

Collection drives

What happens to the leftover food after a party, marriage, christening, and other social events? Are you aware that there are food banks in most major cities and towns across the globe? If you Google search you will find the nearest one in your city. Just ring them up once the party is over and their representatives will collect the leftover food to distribute among the poor while it is still edible. In a similar way there are NGOs collecting old clothes, blankets, woolen garments, footwear, etc for the poor. You can register as a volunteer with the NGO as a collection point.

Vocational training

Everyone is not cut out for a formal education. The challenge is in identifying the latent talent in a destitute child and converting it into a small business. For example, you can teach a child to make soft toys, gift wrapping, painted stationery, baskets, etc. These can then be sold for cash so that the child learns to earn through art and craft. Become a vocational training volunteer and help the child to attain dignity in life.

Counseling children/teenagers

Many NGOs need volunteers for counseling the youth in situations like school dropouts, substance abuse, violent behavior, emotional distress, depression, children with special needs, etc. You can conduct activity-based workshops for positivity, so that their minds are diverted from the cause of their distress. You can organize activities like sports, dance, music, dramatics, etc which help to improve the mood and encourage positive thinking.

Medical volunteering

This does not mean you need medical knowledge. Medical volunteering involves two types of activities:

  • Spending time with and counseling terminally ill cancer patients,
  • Activities like administration and computing, public relations, fund raising, organization of awareness drives, etc.

One such organization that has done really good work in the field of cancer treatment and support is the non-profit organization Max Foundation.

There is a phase in everyone’s life when you are fed up with the sameness of the office-home routine. When the mind becomes restless to do more, that’s the time to bring forth your hidden talent and use it for a social cause through volunteer services.




Easy Sweet Potato Payasam

Sweet Potato Payasam


Sweet Potato



If you are looking for comfort food, this is one of the healthiest and tastiest porridges you could ask for! Prepare this porridge or payasam, curl up with your favourite book and enjoy a relaxed weekend. So here’s what you need:


Sweet potatoes (pink variety has a fragrance) : 3 large

Milk: 1/2 litre

Coconut milk powder: 2 pouches

Coconut milk cream: 1 Tetra pack

Sugar: 2 tablespoons

Cardamom (elaichi) powder: 1/2 teaspoon (optional)

Slivered, toasted cashews or almonds: 2 teaspoons


Wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly.

Pressure-cook for 3 whistles OR microwave for 12 minutes till very soft.

Peel and pass through a sieve with the help of a masher.(the kind we use for mashing pav-bhaji or roasting parathas)

Add milk, coconut milk powder or cream.

Add cardamom powder if desired.

Garnish with slivered, toasted cashews or almonds.

Serve warm or chilled, as preferred.

Eat well, stay healthy and enjoy life…


20 Minute Chocolate Cake


Guests arriving in half an hour and you don’t know what to do!! Here’s a super quick, soft, spongy, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate cake that will definitely impress them. If you are short of butter, no issues. This recipe needs cooking oil, which has the double benefit that the cake remains soft even in very cold weather.


So here’s the recipe

Dry Powders

  • 3/4 cup flour (maida)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (Flour+cocoa makes 1.1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

Other ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1.1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cooking oil (use refined oil that doesn’t have a strong aroma of its own)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp yogurt/curd (take yogurt in a small bowl, add 1 tbsp water, mix well and keep aside)


In a blender, add sugar and oil and blend together for 2 minutes.

Add all 4 eggs and blend for 2-3 more minutes.

Add the dry powders, vanilla essence and yogurt.

Blend for another 2-3 minutes or till it looks homogenous.

**Transfer to a greased baking dish and bake at 230 degrees C for 15-20 minutes.

You can eat it hot from the oven, at room temperature or right out of the fridge with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy eating…

**The oven setting and time will vary according to the brand of the oven so refer to the manual for individual settings.


Savory Banana Pancake – unusual breakfast fare!




During the festive season, you often find your hands full of mithai plus fruits that are ripe at about the same time! At such time, my over-ripe bananas often end up on our breakfast table in this unusual yummy dish.

You’ll know it’s tasty when you try it!!


  1. Ripe bananas: 2-3
  2. Salt: 1/3 teaspoon(to taste)
  3. Sugar or Jaggery: 1 teaspoon
  4. Tamarind Pulp: 1/2 teaspoon
  5. Finely chopped green chilli(non-spicy variety): 1
  6. Finely chopped coriander leaves: 1-2 teaspoons
  7. Fine Semolina(sooji/barikrava): 3 tablespoons
  8. Ghee or oil for roasting
  9. Butter if desired: for serving


  1. In a bowl, peel/mash the bananas.
  2. Add ingredients 2-6. Mix well.
  3. Add semolina. The mixture should not be too dry.
  4. On a non-stick frying pan, put 1/2 teaspoon ghee or oil and spread all over the frying pan.
  5. Ladle a large serving spoonful of the mixture.
  6. Spread evenly- thickness of a crepe or utappa.
  7. Cover and brown on a medium flame.
  8. When brown, turn over and brown the other side as well.
  9. Serve hot with (optional)a small dollop of butter.

This recipe is really yummy. However, you may omit the green chilli if you are not used to its ‘spice’ quotient.

Using Hobbies For Charitable Causes

If you are a homemaker with a lot of free time or you are a retiree, there are some unique ways to use hobbies for charitable causes. Here are some ideas that will help you to socialize more, aid others and spend your time fruitfully:

Imparting Free Education


When you read the statistics given by UNESCO you will be horrified at the percentage of illiterate youth around the world. Nearly 67 million children across the globe do not have the benefit of a school education. But there are NGOs (Non Government Organizations) in most nations that deal with children’s education. You can work as a volunteer and teach the children whichever subject you enjoy teaching.

Yarn crafts for charity


Knitting and/or crochet projects sounds more like a fancy hobby. But when you knit or crochet blankets, shawls, monkey caps, rompers, cardigans, etc for the poor or underprivileged; the activity becomes more meaningful.



If you are fond of outdoor activities there is a plethora of volunteer work you can participate in:

  • Helping out at a departmental store during the festival rush,
  • Helping at a fund raising cultural/sports event,
  • Socializing at the nearest home for senior citizens,
  • Mentoring an underprivileged student (actually tutoring at home),
  • Helping at church events,
  • Spending time with terminally ill patients,
  • Providing free goodies for poor children/adults.

Making funeral arrangements for the poor using your organizational skills


This may sound morbid but here’s the harsh truth – there are many people in the world who can’t afford a decent funeral and coffin for their departed ones. In their time of bereavement a helping hand even from a stranger would be most welcome. If you are good at organizing things, you can use that talent and make funeral arrangements on behalf of a grieving family.

Making toys from recycled materials


Making toys is fun. It is a unique art. But making toys from recycled (throw away items) materials is even better. It serves many purposes:

  • It reduces trash,
  • It hones your creative and artistic skills,
  • It gives you pleasure and keeps you occupied,
  • It gives your fingers and hands exercise,
  • It gives pleasure to the children who receive free toys.

You can make toys with any throw away items like packaging material (bubble wraps, thermocol or cardboard boxes), leftover cloth, tins, bottles or plastic. These toys can be given away in charity.

None of the activities mentioned above will cost you much money. They are cheap to indulge in. Yet it will mean a better and happier life for someone if you utilize one of your hobbies for charitable causes.

Anti Ageing Cum Skin Whitening Cream



Wouldn’t it be just perfect if we could buy one anti ageing cream cum skin whitening cream instead of having to buy two separate jars? It can be annoying having to use two products when one would do. So I researched a bit and tried out this homemade anti ageing cum skin whitening cream that works wonders with my dry skin…

What you need:


You will need just five everyday stuff to make this cream:

1 tsp almond oil
1 capsule of vitamin E (cut capsule and remove oil)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp aloe vera gel
1 tsp milk cream

How to prepare the cream:

  • In a microwave-proof bowl heat the almond oil for 10 seconds.
  • Remove and add aloe vera gel and mix thoroughly.
  • Cut the vitamin E capsule and add its contents to the bowl.
  • Add milk cream, honey and blend it with the spoon so that it is homogenous.
  • Apply immediately.
  • Keep for 30 minutes and rinse with plain water.

Repeat this procedure once week for a wrinkle-free complexion.

Note: Do not use makeup or any other cream for 3-4 hours after this treatment.

Note 2: You can also mix turmeric in this cream with a little extra almond oil for quicker results.


Ayurveda Says Drink Water When Thirsty


Accordingly to Ayurveda you must drink water whenever you are thirsty and a fixed schedule is not necessary. Do you consciously drink 2-3 litres of water per day? Going by what we read online isn’t that what we are supposed to do? When I was told to drink plenty of water as part of my general diet (not specifically for any health problem) I read extensively online about the subject. And then I asked Ayurvedic doctors the right time to drink water. And you will be surprised with the answer – “Drink water whenever you are thirsty.”

What is the right time to drink water?

Many others (non-ayurvedics, if you permit the terminology) have given helpful tips on the right time to drink water, for example:

  • A glass as soon as you wake in the morning,
  • A glass of water half an hour before meals,
  • A glass of water just before bathing,
  • A glass 30 minutes before lunch,
  • A glass before sleeping at night.

These are just 5 that I have listed. There are many more suggestions about what is the right time to drink water.

Where are we going wrong?

Why is there an apparent contradiction in what most people say and what Ayurveda says? It’s really simple – our brain always gives us the right signal when we are thirsty. We don’t interpret the signal correctly.

In my mother tongue Konkani there is an idiom – “chor bhuka chor taan”. This translates as “false hunger, false thirsty”. What is our first reaction when we feel thirsty? Instead of drinking a glass of water we will have a cup of tea or coffee. Worse still we opt for a diet Coke! So the error is in understanding the signal either inadvertently or intentionally!

 What should we do?

Drink water whenever you feel like. It shouldn’t happen that in an attempt to keep to a fixed schedule you end up drinking less water than your body needs!

The only rule you really need to follow is drinking water with meals. Our stomach acids are made to break down particles so that the food is digested and nutrients are absorbed properly. If you drink a glassful of water just before meals you are actually diluting the acids that are essential for digestion and making the stomach work that much harder.

If you like having liquids with meals, substitute this with a glass of buttermilk (2 tbsp yogurt diluted with a glass of water) and drink it during the meal a sip at a time. This way you are having a pro-biotic along with the meal and digestion will improve. Secondly, we must drink buttermilk at room temperature not cold, and definitely no ice.

So as per Ayurveda understand your brain’s signals whenever you are thirsty. Substitute water with buttermilk (or lassi) during lunch for better digestion. Drink water when thirsty and enjoy good health.

How Cleaning Closets Improves Self Esteem


No, I haven’t lost it! This is a tried-and-tested theory and one which works wonders. When I was first diagnosed with osteoarthritis I asked the predictable question “why me”. Strangely, the journey from self-pity to being a happy blogger started with cleaning cupboards! Here’s how cleaning closets improves self esteem…

Activity improves blood circulation

The first effect of cleaning your closet is increase in physical activity. This naturally improves the circulation of blood, thus improving overall health.

Helps to develop positive thinking

Let’s say you have had an argument with a friend or family member. You will go on thinking about the tiff throughout the day and your anger will resurface. But as you begin cleaning the cupboard your thoughts are more rational. The entire argument will become a non-issue and your relationships will be more important.

Sorting out closets and trashing junk has a therapeutic effect. It’s almost like you are throwing away the anger.  

Encourages creativity

While cleaning the closet you will find answers to some housekeeping problems. For example, we had got our house painted recently but then the curtains looked shabby. While cleaning one of the cupboards I found some satin fabric pushed at the back which was long forgotten. It is enough to make some nice drapes for the bedroom windows.

Enhances the mood

Once you have cleaned and sorted the cupboard, it looks neat and tidy. You can now pat yourself on the back for a job well done because you know it is a sign of good housekeeping. This will definitely make you feel elated.

Reduces stress

Every time you need something from the cluttered closet you have the tedium of searching high and low. The urgency to find the item will lead to stress. Besides, you know you are solely responsible for the chaos. Once you have cleaned the closet the stress will reduce because there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place.

So when you sum this up, what do you get? You have an organized cupboard, less searching time, efficiency, neatness, creative ideas, better mood, and much more. So however corny it may sound, cleaning closets improves self esteem.


Cruises For Senior Citizens – Excellent Vacation Option


Why have cruises for senior citizens become so popular over the years? They offer the best accommodation and service at affordable rates, especially to senior citizens. Also, retirees have all the time on their hands to go on a slow cruise with a full gamut of fun-filled entertainment options. Companies owning cruise liners are vying with each other to offer the best discounted cruises specially designed for senior citizens.

Why are cruises a good holiday option for seniors?

Cruise ships offer you a memorable holiday by providing:


1.Accommodation that is very comfortable and comparable with star hotels. You will be staying on the ship so you don’t need to book hotel rooms at every place where the ship docks.


2.  Multi-cuisine dining which will leave you licking your fingers. Of course, you will not cheat on any diet restriction imposed by your doctor!!


3. An opportunity to make new friends

4. Besides, you can choose from a number of onboard activities like swimming, destination based activities, destination special festivals,  watching for whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures in their natural habitat. Or you can just sit back on deck chairs and enjoy the sea breeze, read or play board games with fellow passengers. You can also participate in a wine tasting and/or culinary demonstration fest on board the cruise ship. Different liners offers different forms of entertainment for senior citizens.


5. You can explore new countries and cities wherever the ship docks. Visiting the tourist attractions is usually part of the package.

Things to consider before you book a cruise

There is no limit to information online. Take your time and search for the best deals. There has to be a good balance between choosing a cheap cruise and coping through the voyage. So there are few things you need to keep in mind before selecting an option:

Itinerary – Check the schedule and itinerary of the cruise ship online. By definition a cruise is leisurely so a fast paced cruise that covers too many destinations is not a good idea, unless you are confident you can cope with all the sightseeing when the ship docks.

Secondly, lifestyle diseases like arthritis can be very painful in cold weather. So choose your cruise wisely so that you do not experience discomfort at any point and can enjoy every aspect of voyage. Why not try a tropical one?

Type of ship – There are small cruise ships with a limited capacity offering personalised service and then there are huge cruise liners with a capacity of nearly 6000 passengers. If you like families and youth around you, choose the latter. But if you are looking for a quiet, slow pace choose a smaller one.

Avail of senior discounts – Most cruise packages offer heavy discounts for senior citizens usually without compromising on the quality of their services. Check online which would suit your budget and still give you the best experience.

Travel insurance – Ships are at sea for days at a time and access to emergency medical facilities is a complicated issue. The cruise package includes insurance but the coverage is very limited. So it is always sensible to opt for comprehensive travel insurance. These policies cover the cost of urgent medical expenses, emergency evacuation, unexpected illness or accidental injuries during the period of the cruise.

Gather information – Whether you intend going on one cruise or more, it is worth subscribing to newsletters of a few cruise lines that you found interesting. They will email their special offers and you might get a real bargain next time.

So go ahead and add a cruise to your bucket list. Better still, book one today and explore the world. Enjoy your retirement.

9 Lifestyle Changes For Acne Free Complexion


A clear complexion contributes towards better self esteem. Acne free skin therefore spells happiness. Spending exorbitant amounts on creams and lotions may/may not prevent acne. But these 9 lifestyle changes for acne free complexion will really work wonders:

  1. Get adequate sleep

When you are sleeping, the skin cells have time to repair damage and regenerate. The longer you keep awake, the more you are denying the skin from producing new cells and preventing abnormalities like acne. Also, hot and stuffy rooms are a no-no. Cooler rooms induce deeper sleep patterns. So if you are not doing this right, now is the time to change your habits.

  1. Wash face twice daily

Wash your face thoroughly at least twice a day preferably with a citrus-based face wash. This will not only remove grime but will also get rid of the oiliness of the skin. Oily skin aggravates the condition of acne and pimples.

  1. Eat more fruits & salads

With our busy schedules we usually prefer quick-fix meals, especially during the day. A small filling meal is what we usually go for like a meat sandwich or burger. In this way we compromise on health and skin-health. Why not eat a meat + vegetable salad for lunch instead? And don’t overdo the dressing! Substitute your mid-morning coffee with a fruit.

  1. Sweat out toxins

Go out and get more exercise. It would be ideal if you could join a yoga class or a gym. But if you don’t have time to spare, walk to the supermarket at least once a week. Half an hour’s walking in a week is definitely not adequate but it is better than no exercise. There may not be medical documentation directly linking the accumulation of toxins with acne but removing toxins will definitely cleanse the blood.

One of the most enjoyable ways to sweat out toxins is to learn dancing. Search for a Zumba or belly dancing class in your locality and have fun while you cleanse your system.

If you are using public transport to get home from work, don’t alight from the vehicle at the stop nearest to your home. Instead get down at some point which is about half an hour’s walking distance from your home and then walk the remaining distance. This will get rid of the toxins through perspiration and cleanse the system.

  1. Avoid aerated drinks and liquor

An occasional drink, maybe at weekends is fine. But daily consumption of alcohol and/or aerated drinks will not hydrate the skin like water can. Instead, increase the quantity of water you drink during the day to keep your skin soft and healthy.

  1. Wipe your gizmos often

Every evening, moisten a ball of cotton with a few drops of hand sanitizer and clean your mobile phone once a day. This will get rid of the germs that are collected on the phone during the day.

  1. Keep your scalp clean

Wash your hair at least twice a week to keep it clean. If your hair is not washed regularly, the germs on the hair will get transferred onto the face when some strands come into contact.

Avoid using leave-on conditioners because they are usually sticky. When sticky tresses touch your face you are unnecessarily taking the risk of getting a fresh breakout.

  1. Eat foods rich in Omega-3

We have all heard the numerous benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating foods like oily fish (salmon, tuna), flaxseeds, walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds will keep the skin healthy and glowing without the help of creams.

  1. Exfoliate weekly

At least once a week you must exfoliate the face and neck to remove stubborn grime and dead skin cells. Dust and grime stick more easily on oily skin and if you don’t exfoliate for a long period of time, the grime will clog the pores and increase the chances of a breakout.

You value yourself and owe it to yourself to implement these 9 lifestyle changes for acne free complexion. So make a determined effort and prevent those distressing breakouts. If you already have pimples these changes will cure them too.