Saturday, August 6, 2016

Home Tour: A journey into a Texas Home...with a Uttar Kannada Influence!!

I am happy to be back Aalayam!! 

It's been a long time and we have not featured a Home Tour in this space in forever! Deepa had a baby, board exams and a new career happening to her, and I just got sucked into the world of corporate America, business school student consulting, and some trailblazing Ted Talking! 

In order to bring balance to our lives, both Deepa and I realize that being invested in the rich cultural fabric Aalayam has woven already, is imperative! 

A sun kissed living room, with bamboo drapes, deep rich tones and lots of style!!

So, here I am, privileged and pleased to be bringing to you a Home Tour, featuring the home of my friends Mallika and Vinayak, a fun couple who, growing up, set the example of what falling in love, and getting married really should look like..and feel like! 

Mallika and Vinayak are new parents, who have recently moved to the Houston, United States, from Sydney, Australia. They have lovingly decorated their new, modern Texas home with it's signature wide spaces, sunny living areas and high ceilings with generous touches of rustic splendor, that speak to their roots in India..and of course, the resplendence of Mallika's native Uttar Kannada origins!!

A delightfully welcoming entrance to a gorgeous home!

Join me, as I virtually traverse through this loving abode. Partake in my excitement as I make interesting connections between the Boppanakeri (Mallika's native village) vistas and vintage bungalows, to this fabulously classy Texas home! Replete with the "bring the outside in" mantra, you will see lush green potted plants bringing in the reminiscence of the coastal foliage of Uttar Kannada. 

Color, deep rich color! Roof top drying of local produce in Mallika's native village, back in India!

You will also see rustic red splashes and deep burgundy wood tones that render your heart aflutter, making you fondly recall the terracotta terraces, and deep red chillie carpets from your native locales!!

An aerial shot of Mallika's family home in Boppanakeri, Uttar Karnataka, India!

Mallika and Vinayak have subtly adorned their home with all the right touches.... imperial looking wood chests and ornate carved mirrors, masks and gilt edged accessories, intricately woven baskets, mats and blinds that bring in a delicious throwback to traditional textures, and instantly invoke flashes of "Ajji Mane" or "Halli Mane" decor! 

Mallika and I playfully pose near a enchanting little pond, in her family home!

So, without further ado, I will present to you Mallika and Vinayak's home, and their delightful journey to make it their own cozy abode! 

In their own words!

Wood tones and furniture bring about a solid sensibility to the home, played up by colorful and meaningful accessories!

First of all, thank you for letting me and Aalayam readers take a virtual tour of your home!! Tell us a little bit of your story - how did you meet? How did you imagine your home is going to be when you "grew up"?

Vinayak and I have known each other for almost 14 years. We met in Bangalore where we used to work together. We were dating for a few years during which time Vinayak decided to move to Sydney, Australia to pursue his studies which led to 2 years of long distance relationship! We then went on to live in Sydney for almost 10 years after marriage before making the move to Houston in Nov 2015 for Vinayak's work. We now have a little boy who is almost 2 and keeps us on our toes! We always imagined having a beautiful spacious house with a big backyard and a dog. Most of it has come true other than a dog :-) 

Woven bamboo textured planters, and gorgeous tropical foliage, bring the outside in!

What makes your house "your home"?

Our family makes our house a "home". People ask me if it has been a tough move from Australia to the States and I tell them not really. Of course the way of life is different and sometimes challenging but my home is where my family is. We brought with us all the things that we have collected over the years and it now adorns our home and the familiarity of it all gives us a lot of comfort.

The combination of the ornate carved mirror, the golden urn and the textured planter, work in a sublime fashion in this sunny fireplace!!

Does the decor in your home fit the bill for any one particular style - if so, what drove you to that style?

We think our style is mainly contemporary with spots of Indian, Balinese and Moroccan pieces. Vinayak likes modern sleek comfortable furniture and I on the other hand like ethnic, colorful, rustic items so we have made a home with a combination of both modern and ethnic pieces. It's true that opposites attract :-) 

The dining room gets the balance of modern and traditional, just right!!

How does your personal decor style influence your personality or the other way around? 

Our personality influences the decor in our home. It reflects our passion for travel. It reflects modern and comfortable living but reflects our roots, where we come from and where we have been.

Adake (Betel) trees  in the backyard, from back home! A inspiration!!

Where do you draw your online inspirations from - any favorite resources that you can share?

I really like Pinterest and I also really like a FB page called Home decorating mummas. Vinayak and I watch a lot of home renovation and makeover shows. These truly inspired us and we bought our first home in Sydney as a renovation project. For a year, we worked on the house every weekend while living in it. We are really proud of how the home and the garden was transformed by us. This is a true passion for us and we are looking forward to our next project.

Lounging in style...!

Are there influences from your home state  (Karnataka/ Boppanakeri) in your décor? How do you balance the modern, clean convenience of the western decor to the intricacy and nostalgia of Indian decor? 

There is definitely an influence of my home state and my native place. Whenever i am shopping for the house, I tend to get attracted to items that are colourful, rustic and remind me of home. I have too many Ganeshas and elephants around the house  All our big furniture is modern  but is surrounded by decor that reminds us of home.

Strategically placed art work adds color and character, while traditional textures add visual interest!

Masks from wanderings around the world! Bringing back influences of "Yaksha Gaana" or traditional native Uttara Kannada dance dramas, where ornate painted faces form the visual cynosure of the drama.

What are your favorite places to shop for your home? Are you budget savvy or would you rather own pieces that truly strike a chord with you even if they are expensive? 

A lot of our decor items were collected during our travels mainly from local artisan markets and our furniture is mainly from Australia. 

Can you tell, Mallika is an accessory enthusiast, just like me!

Here in the US, we go everywhere..Ikea, Target, Pottery barn, Home goods, World Market. As for being budget savvy, if the both of us truly like something we usually go for it as long it is does not cost an arm and a leg.

Traditional accessories pepper into this modern Texas home!

Finally, what is your favorite place in your home to relax, recharge and rejuvenate?

We love our kitchen. When we entertain, all our guests just hang out in the kitchen as there is heaps of space around the kitchen island. But our favorite has to be our living room. We spend most of our time here as a family. It is cozy and has big windows which brings in a lot of light and you can see the whole backyard through it. 

Mallika and her beautiful family!

Thanks a ton for sharing your home and your perspectives on what Home means to you, with the readers of Aalayam! I personally loved the peek into your beautiful home, and cannot wait to come and luxuriate in its beauty in December!! And to the readers of Aalayam, feast in this glorious Texas home tour and let us know what you think of Mallika and Vinayak’s soul refreshing journey!!

Until next time!
Love always,


Throwback to 2006! Mallika and me in her Boppanakeri family home, surrounded by smiling faces and verdant landscapes!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Aalayam goes on a trip (to The East Coast Desi)!!

The East Coast Desi, the vibrant home decor blog around the block has featured "Deepa's extraordinary outdoor-tablescape that orbits around jewel tones, pattern on pattern, textural layering and nonconformist décor choices that rightly connotes the free spirited Bohemian style but with an Indian twist." 
Here's an excerpt...

I cannot thank Sruthi enough for allowing us to bring an Aalayam offering to her fantastic blog. I love The East Coast Desi. It is simply my all time favorite design/décor resource. Kudos Sruthi for this beautiful and inspired blog that you have worked so diligently to create and maintain! And as always, it is fun to bring our collective audiences ideas and life style inspirations that we know will be appreciated! Thank you.

Have a wonderful summer everyone!

Head over to The East Coast Desi blog for an explosion of color and bits of bohemia taking center stage in Deepa's backyard.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Food Tales: The Mouthwatering Summer Reading List for your Kids!!

Hello Aalayam!!

Summer’s on in full swing in our household. The hustle of the week day has not stopped, of course! You see corporate consulting has no summer break! We are still getting out of the door with hurried breakfasts and Nutella laced kisses. Okay. We do get to sleep in for 30 extra minutes, and we do get to roller blade and ice skate, all in the same week!  And it’s easy to relax too much – without the pressures of homework and school!

That’s why we are planning our healthy mix of productive and wasteful activities for the Summer to balance fun and learning! Summer Slide is a real thing folks. Summer Slide, as you probably are aware, is the tendency for students to lose the achievement gains they’ve had during the school year during the Summer holidays. There are dangers of losing a whole grade level worth of reading and math proficiency if children do not read and practice their math skills regularly over the yawning Summer holiday! So armed with a Summer Planner (see picture on Facebook!) and a library of books, we get set to tackle the Summer adventurously, and culturally. 

Yes, we want to embed culture into our reading list. We want to cook, we want to read about food, we want to embrace food acceptance, and expose ourselves to the culinary and literary joys of food tales!

Do you remember food being part of the Amar Chitra Kathas, Chandamamas and Tinkles we used to read? The ladoos, the jalebies, and the pakoras ? How about the immediate hunger pangs they generated for us during the Summer Hols? Stretched out under the fan, with curtains breezing gently, a food tale would send us on multiple trips to the kitchens to pester our moms or grandmoms for a thindi or two.

I don’t want my kids to miss out on the joys of thindi, and Summer reading. So, what better way to combine both joys other than by getting them to read food themed books! After all, you have to taste a culture to understand it!

I had my parents visit me this year. In anticipation of their trip, I made a list of all the food themed  books I wanted for my girls from India. Of course, I could have tried to shop for these books online, but why rob the joy for my Dad? You know all grand dads love to shop books for their little ones, don’t you?

Featured here are some of the books my Dad got for the girls, which we are having a blast reading, and eating our way through! Also, are some books which we intend to pick up and read, during our weekly sojourns to the library!

We begin with The Silly Story of Bondapalli, a story about a prince who hated food. One day the royal cook gave him something new to eat... a hot golden ball, crisp outside, soft inside... a bonda! After that there is no stopping either the prince or this mad tale that rolls its jolly way to an inevitably happy, bondaful end. The jaunty illustrations pick up all the comic clues along the way, to make it a truly 'silly' story!

And just because we love Priya Kurian’s illustrations so much (read the artiste feature on Priya Kurian here!), we stop to read Colour Colour Kamini. A story about gorgeous chameleons  and the feisty Kapila Aunty who is teaching the little chameleons how to change colour, one at a time. But Kamini gets excited and goes red, purple, green, yellow . . .she can’t stop! 

Then, slurp!, we stop by to Jalebis! Jalebi Curls. The story of the raja who loves jalebis. He even dreams of them. Then the dream becomes a nightmare. The brief text of this mad little book is dramatically set off by illustrations that play with curls and colors!

We have some fun with books about Dosas and Idlys. Just so my kids understand how ingrained these “tiffins” are in our households, and in our cultures.

Then, off we head to the library, to arm ourselves with more food themed books! Check out more food themed reading suggestions here and further below in the blog post!

Also, do you remember my blog post about food acceptance, and the story time I did in my kids’ school to promote food acceptance (read about that here!). Rosemary Wells, award-winning author/illustrator of over 50 books for children, illustrates her story of learning tolerance for difference in her signature charming style with the book "Yoko".  I had a blast retelling the story of Yoko at my kids' school, and how Yoko's sushi was made fun of during her class lunch break, and how Yoko's class room had a great food experience, thanks to the efforts of a sensible and adventurous teacher, who noticed how the kids were  making fun of something they did not know about!!

We wrap up our reading repertoire with Tsomo the Momo, a delightful story about the delectable momo, that flavor-filled savory that travelled to India from Tibet, Nepal and beyond

Also part of our Summer Plans is reading recipes, and going on gastronomic adventures together in the kitchen. We are reading, spending time as a family, and enjoying our foodie culture! Win, Win, Win!! And while you are at it, checkout Devdutt Pattnaik's Pashu!

So, that’s it my friends! My grandiose Summer Plans! Have fun reading, and partaking in the delightful food culture that books can bring us. 

And pass on the good word, if you know of any good food themed books I can add to our reading list!!

For after all, you have to taste a culture to understand it!



Sunday, May 29, 2016

Reflections over a cup of chai

Hello and once again my sincere apologies for posting so sporadically. It is hard to believe that we are almost in June and this is my first post for the year – surely, I could not have been that busy ?! Well, it is what it is but I miss contributing to Aalayam regularly. I have to thank our guest authors for keeping us afloat in the interim.

I hesitate to apologize prematurely because I am not sure if I have the bandwidth to get back to regular programming just yet. “One day at a time“ has been my overarching mantra this year and I am sticking with it.  I finally found myself limping back to Aalayam this weekend for a  (much needed) creative break and it feels good to be back in my home away from home – so let’s enjoy our time together, shall we?  Join me for tea dear readers for I’ve missed you very much.

I am turning 40 this year and I find myself being reflective often – I suppose it is the thing to do as this milestone b’day approaches. Seems like I am required to look back and ponder before the next chapter begins.  Here’s a few life lessons I have learnt along the way,  (nothing ground breaking) and yet I am sure the wisdom will resonate with all of you.

-     -  Put your family first. It does not come easy, because I take mine for granted all the time and I have to intentionally re-learn this ever so often but I am getting better at it and at the end of the day, there is nothing more important than FAMILY- the folks that see you at your worst and still stick around!

-       -Know your passion and your purpose. Again, this has not been easy and I have had to take several detours career-wise before I could course correct. My struggles have filled me with immense gratitude and almost ironically I feel more fulfilled because of how hard the road was. I hope I have taught my kids what it means to persevere- because the only thing to do is to keep going and I live by that.

-       -Develop an identity and by this I mean know who you are, what you like and what you don’t. I have struggled with this – I have tried to fulfill other people’s expectations and allowed myself to become emotionally spent. I am slowly learning that I am my only locus of control and it is freeing in many ways to say yes and even more so to say no. It has been liberating to know who is actually worth it and respecting myself has meant  learning to let go and be o.k with it.

-       -Self care is important and I SUCK at it! I do. At least I am acknowledging it and I hope that’s a start. I have pushed my health and fitness needs to the side and I really have no excuse and that’s all I have to say about that. I hope I can come back soon and say that’s changed and I have a sacrosanct fitness regimen, till then I will have to live with this awareness of what I am not doing!

-       Do not apologize for who you are - People often remark at my perfectionism. For the longest time I did not know how to react to that word. Now at 40, I have learnt to own it and happily acknowledge that I am a brand!  Yes – I know that if I take something on willingly, I will do it well and I do not feel guilty about that. I’ve realized that it is not so much about a perfect outcome as it is about wanting to give my 100 percent and I take pride in that!

-       -Write down your goals. I have never done it – yes, never! But I do to-do lists all the time and things get done! So, why not write down your goals, dreams, wishes – things that you want to accomplish someday – even if it is something as simple as buying those red stilettos! I am going to do it- because every once in a while, I hear that inner voice ask me if this is it –a fiercely demanding job and an equally onerous role as a mother?  Maybe I need a to do-list for the next chapter, to keep me on my toes and silence that inner critic?

-       -Help others. I don’t think I need to say anything else about that at all.

-      - Live for today! I guess all these midlife reflective moments sort of have me in panic. As I reevaluate priorities and transition into being a real grown up and reflect on raising kids, saving for retirement, staying healthy I feel this uneasy feeling wash over me but my husband calmly reminds me that life is all about living in the moment because that is all you are guaranteed- the present moment! And nothing can be a greater exercise in mindful living than savoring the cup of chai (or your favorite beverage) in front of you. And this is my biggest lesson as I head into the next decade – to savor in quietude!


p.s: all pics are from our home and may not be reproduced without permission.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day Musings!

This Mother’s Day, the Aalayam authors got together to muse about the real  gripes and gushes of Motherhood, and to candidly chat about what Motherhood (round 2) looks like in our households!

Cliché? Not at all. It is only fair that we take a moment to acknowledge the one job that defines our identity, takes over our life, and generally drives us nuts! (and yes of course, the job that is the most fulfilling one in the world!) 

And what better day to take a bow to the job itself, than today! So here’s Deepa, Divya, Smitha and Supriya’s renditions of Motherhood. In their own words.

Deepa says: "This mother’s day is special – I am a mom, again!......after 12 years!  There’s another tiny being in the house that makes our life so much more meaningful – she truly does and I am often amazed at how my heart has expanded to accommodate all the love I feel for this little girl when I could never imagine being able to love anyone else as much as my first born. I am a different kind of mother now – there is so much demanding my attention – my older boy, a super stressful job, the house and the husband and somewhere in the shadow of all this chaos, my little girl is growing - every day and silently. I have accepted that this second stint is going to be VERY different She is going to be 8 months soon! And of course, there is a tiny hint of motherhood guilt as well. I was at home with my boy for 6 years, cherishing, documenting and celebrating every milestone but with her my break barely lasted 6 weeks and then there is also the guilt of focusing mostly on our little one these days making me wonder how my older one is handling all this.

 Being an older mom and a veteran (if I may call myself that) has its advantages too - I am not as jittery this time around, there is much less hysteria around feeding and nap times. There are fewer pictures too. And it seems o.k. This little girl is loved and she knows it and has adapted to the cacophony of the household well.

There are days when I am completely stretched thin and her little coos and my older one’s warm hugs bring me back to the present. These two ground me and help me keep my priorities straight and that is the best thing about being a mom! Our family is different and our struggles are different and yes, there are times when I wish we had handled late night feeds, diaper fiascos and teething tantrums for both kids in one fell swoop. The age gap between our kids defies convention. None of my friends have kids this young and some days I wonder if I will have the energy to keep up with a feisty toddler. But as a family we have always embraced our challenges and this one is no different!

And at the end of the day I am having a lot fun raising a beautiful daughter – she is my latest fashion partner, my dolled-up diva! And I look forward to the challenge of raising a self -assured young girl and encouraging her to grow up into the person she wants to be!"

Divya says: In the last four and a half years, I've been puked on, sneezed at, had my hair smeared with gooey baby food, even had the occasional poop explosion all over my clothes!

As any other person, I have all these naturally strong feelings about not wanting to have another (little) person's snot all over me, or wanting to be able to wee in peace, and you know, just being me.
There are two sides to it, though. The slightly challenging, testing my nerves, make-me-want-to-scream-like-mad side. And then there's also the other side. The beautiful, dreamy side where I've been hugged by tiny warm hands, smiled at like a gazillion times, been kissed by Nutella-smeared lips and been showered with the happiest giggles. The joys and woes of being a mother! The happy things far outweigh all the small inconveniences. Yes, there are times when I secretly wish someone would take them for a day, a few hours, a few minutes so I could actually finish my cup of coffee while it's still hot. But that isn't a real wish, no. It's just some weird chemical reaction in my mad-mommy brain sometimes.

I want their playful presence, the constant chattering, and the never-ending inquisitive questions. I want my Little Miss to tell me all about how she made a picture for me at preschool, I want her to plead me to paint her toenails (with all the colours of the rainbow!), I want her to kiss me goodnight every night. I want my Little Man to hum nursery rhymes all day, I want him to ask me to help him tow his toy truck, I want him to scare me with his loud dino roars.
I want it all. I want all of it, I want every bit of being a mum :-)

The difficult bits, the happy bits, the challenging bits, the fun bits; the love, the laughter, the tears, the frustration; the quiet times, the noisy times, the hunger tantrums, the nap times - I love them all. Because I'm a mum! And because I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Happy Mothers’ Day to all you beautiful and loving mothers!”

It’s Smitha’s turn:Being a mother is learning about Strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed “

Flash forward my life to baby number 2, she was as unexpected as she was a blessing.  Although I was miles away from my mum and loved ones, I took this experience in my stride and didn’t stress about the small stuff; gone were the first time jitters. As there was no one else telling me what to do, I pretty much did everything to my heart’s content.  I stayed out late, I partied hard, and I might have even downed a glass or two of champagne once the trimester had passed. I didn’t play the recommended music to my in-utero baby nor did I read to her. I was so exhausted from working full time and keeping up with an overactive 4 year old that the days rolled into weeks and months very soon.

My only concession to my pregnancy was that I ate out every day. I always chose to eat healthy and funnily enough the smell of curries actually put me off.  So I had to figure out different types of food that I could actually keep it down; eventually I alternated between Korean food and Subway. Today my daughter can demolish a half foot subway in the blink of an eye. Once I introduce her to Korean food no doubt it will be the same. My point is our state of mind during our pregnancy has a direct impact on a child’s personality. No doubt the external factors will also have bearing in a child’s formative years. I always tell where Google fails, a mother’s intuition comes very handy.

Of all the different hats that I wear every day, none as proudly as that of being a mum. Now that they have both grown up a bit, the monologues in my head have converted into fun conversations. I am enjoying their thoughts and their reactions on sports, sex, politics, food, clothes, privileges, gifts and so on. Not every day is like that though; there are days when I just want to be left alone and let them know in not so uncertain terms; it seems harsh but the no-nonsense attitude works for them.

I remember talking with my hubby recently and he was teasing me about the fact that our son is now the same age that I was when I attempted to run away from home with my cousins.( Almost 2 and some decades later, I am still unable to live that incident down!) I was amused at the comparison but I also knew that kids these days wouldn’t give up the luxury of an air conditioned personalised room with unlimited data time on their iPad for a small matter of having an adventure. As funny as the comment was I was also struck at the fact that kids at a certain strata of the society are hardly exposed to the harsh realities of lives. I highly doubt if my kids understood what poverty or homelessness entails. I have since made it my mission to tell my children that I live an ordinary life so that they could do extraordinary things with theirs. I feel passionately about everything in life. I feel like all wrongs have to be righted. This might sound unrealistic to some of you, but we forget that one  day one of our children will rise to lead a nation, be a sporting legend, be a music maestro, be a dancing sensation or a movie star or a celebrated writer or an Astronaut…or whatever their little heart desires. They are only limited in the extent that we let them dream. I have made them promise me that in their lifetime they will work to eradicate hunger - once again I can dream can’t I? and who knows?

It’s that time of the year to take stock of the brave mums who sacrificed their sons and daughters just like ours, so that many others could be safe within their homes. My mother’s day musings are incomplete if I don’t shed a tear to all those mothers and their families who have been cruelly, barbarically and systematically decimated in recent times in the name of religion.
The journey of being a mum is a lot of hard work, loads of fun and infinitely rewarding. Being a mum to two kids’ means that I am constantly performing a juggling act between, work, home and family.

However, as someone rightly said Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own; to teach the hard lessons to do the right thing even when you are not sure what the right thing is….and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.

Once again to all the beautiful mothers everywhere you are what makes the Earth and the Sun move and don’t you ever forget the strength you have to never give up, despite all the struggles”

 And all Supriya has to say is “Motherhood  brings out the worst in me. It brings out my obsessive need for control, my itching compulsion for order and organization, my panicky fixations at the responsibility of shaping two little girls’ futures, my dire impatience at child-like curiosity and pace when we are running against the clock, my competitive fervor that raises my expectation of myself and my kids to the zenith, and of course, my apoplectic rage when my twin girls gang up on me to push all my buttons at the end of a long, invested day at work. 

Motherhood also brings out guilt. Tons of it. It manifests itself as self-doubt at my parenting philosophies and shortcuts, serious contemplation at my purported inadequacy in comparison to my self-imposed high standards (and of course, the standards established by society, and it’s expectations from moms, who are supposed to be the paragons of patience and tolerance and values!), and paranoid musings about a million “what-ifs” because I am not spending every minute of my kids’ free time with them.

But you know what, Motherhood, albeit with stretch marks, that have only slightly faded, grey hair that are sprouting in the earnest, and love handles that do not go away, stubborn, stubborn, is not that bad. 

Actually, it’s pretty awesome. What started as a never ending saga of giggles, cuddles and canoodles with my chubby little ones (why do those cheeks go away!!), who used to hang on to my every word, listen to my fashion advise, and laugh at all my jokes, now has turned into a slightly more mature, and roller-coasteresque relationship, full of candid conversations during bath times, serious confessions during our walks to the park, impromptu sing-alongs during car rides, and  mild wardrobe wars and existential arguments on life, love and ladybugs. If this is what Year 6 is like, God give me strength for the teenage years.

As the days progress, I am seeing that Motherhood is bringing out the best in me too.

Happy Mother’s day to all the brave and tireless moms and mom-like figures in your lives. 

Mother's Day may not be the same in many households and we recognize that there may be some who are not as blessed as we, or our kids are. 

Celebrate Motherhood nevertheless. It’s the most difficult job in the world”