Thursday, November 24, 2016

And it was time to ParTEA!

Hi there – in this post I want to bring you images of a merry summer afternoon spent with girlfriends. I know this post is a bit off season and perhaps many of you are already looking at entertaining for the holiday season. But I figured, you can always bookmark this post for next year's summer entertaining! By now, you know I love entertaining. My approach to entertaining is to create an artistic, fun and visually appealing experience that I hope my guests will remember.
 With everything else going on this year, I was not sure that I would be able to take on a full-scale party and so a tea party seemed an ideal summer socializing event. I am sure it gets equally crazy for many of you and catching up with friends is not always easy to accomodate in our busy lives, sadly!So, here is a quick and easy inspiration for your girls get together!
 I love my afternoon tea and I thought why not take the party outdoors and make the most of the Midwest summer? I am always looking for an excuse to hang out with the girls and this time it was a tea party in the comfort of my own home. Although mine does not have quite the Victorian fanfare that usually accompanies an afternoon high tea, it still has lots of color, and some fun elements and was a great way to spend a summer afternoon with my girl friends. 

This was also my little girl’s first girly party and what fun she had too! You all should get together and do something fun with your girlfriends, God knows we all need our sanity restored ever so often (!)– just make sure to add some beautiful blooms, a few pretty things and some mouthwatering snacks as that’s a sure fire way to ensure that the party is a success! I spruced up my backyard and added many tea themed accents such as paper napkins and tea spoons to tie it all together.

And one thing I have learnt over the years is that while it is o.k to learn/borrow ideas from whatever your favorite resource may be, always add a little personal touch - I think it goes a long way!! 

This party was a tribute to a great set of friends who have been an amazing source of support this past year as I have struggled with new demands thrown my way at work and at home. Again, reminding me that you always need to surround yourself with people who uplift you!

 I hope you enjoy these images from my Partea and I will see you around soon hopefully! Thank you for your patience with Aalayam's sporadic programming. Supriya and I filled our schedules to the brim this year and that's our excuse but we love our little blog very much and hope that next year allows us to nurture our blog a little more. We have no shortage of ideas, so check back with us in a bit! Also, a very warm welcome to our new members - thank you for joining the Aalayam family!
P.S: All images in this post are from my home and may not be reproduced wihout permission and without proper credits.

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.