Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Indian Sprinkle!

A friends mother stands in for my mom and does the honors.

Modern day obstetrics guides the medical model of childbirth yet ancient traditions, intriguing rituals and cultural beliefs follow mothers-to-be and with good intent too. Every country approaches motherhood and the arrival of a new life uniquely.  The contrasting beliefs, taboos, rituals, the art of gifting and naming the baby across the globe makes for an interesting read. 

Cultural and social norms play into many of these beliefs and yet they are all unified by a common goal – safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Hello and welcome and incase you missed our previous post, I suggest you start there. Last time, I shared our big news with you – the birth of our little girl. In anticipation of her arrival we celebrated with two showers this past summer and in today’s post I bring you images from the Indian version of the baby shower or as it is known in our neck of the woods (bale shastra).  Although, Indian customs do not necessarily call for a ceremony for 2nd births – I say don’t let the etiquette sticklers change your plans. If you want to celebrate your second, third or even your fourth child – I say, go for it! If an actual second shower seems a bit excessive, you could trim the celebration and downsize to a “Sprinkle” instead of a shower!
Supriya lovingly packages sweets and savories with other goodies in this beautifully adorned basket!

Also referred to as Godh Bharai, Seemantham, Valaikaapu or Shaad in different parts of India – this ceremony essentially celebrates motherhood and showers mom and the unborn baby with many blessings via simple rituals. For me, celebrating baby A’s maiden voyage with traditions as old as the hills not only created a sense of festivity but the symbolism was a great way to keep tradition alive and reconnect with my roots.

The girls create an adorned space for a simple backyard  Sprinkle

While I sorely missed the presence of my family, my dear friends once again stepped up and made sure that everything was planned and executed to perfection. In a small, serene and private event at home, my girl friends showered me with affection and I am grateful for their love and support. While there are territorial variations in the actual ritual itself, the central idea remains the same. Our Indian sprinkle was inspired by traditional customs but tailored for a simple backyard celebration and resonated with my own personal beliefs without being overtly ritualistic. 
The girls created an adorned outdoor space for all of us to gather.

Haldi, Kumkum and flowers - ceremonial essentials!

 The ideas presented here can easily be incorporated for other Indian/ethnic celebrations especially with Dussehra and Diwali on the horizon!

An unquenchable pregnancy longing- bale yele oota (banana leaf meal). Thank you Ma for making it happen!

I have enjoyed sharing these celebrations with you. Giving birth to a baby is a fiercely gratifying personal experience and I never felt more excuberant than I did immediately after the birth of my two children (and I know every mom feels that way) and yet for many of us the pregnancy itself can be a difficult journey. I want to use this post as an opportunity to remind any expectant moms among our readers to enjoy your journey and to take care of yourself as your prepare for the arrival of your li’l one.  Of course, once the baby comes your life is going to revolve around the baby! Have some fun during your pregnancy and create your own beautiful memories that you can one day share with your child.

Dear Aalayam family – the going has been a bit slow at Aalayam these last few months and now you know why – we have had our hands full. But we are now stepping into our most favorite time of the year and we are looking forward to bringing you some great seasonal posts! Are you ready for some fun??
Supriya is up next with her signature Dasara post and you don’t want to miss that!

And before I sign off, here is one final image as always!



Friday, September 18, 2015

Shabby Chic Paper Doll Baby Shower

Here is what kept me busy this summer- prepping for a new addition to our family! For the last 9 months I have held a secret from you and it is now time to share that little secret! We welcomed our li’l princess into our home a few days ago and we feel truly blessed!

It has been a journey of sorts doing this all over again after 12 years – that’s right! Our older one is 12!  Taking a second stint at parenting after a super long gap, defying societal stereotypes in the process has been a unique experience to say the least.  Sleep deprivation and diaper fiascos were a thing of the past. We were in cruise control parenting mode and now, it starts all over again! My personal journey of pursuing a higher education, a meaningful career, discovering myself and mothering a second child close to 40 has been nothing short of an adventure - one that I have embraced whole heartedly in spite of the struggles! I am loving every minute of it – despite the exhaustion! Baby A has all of us wrapped around her li’l fingers!

A medley of pastels to start us off!

We celebrated this joyous event in our life with an intimate celebration this summer and I bring you images from the baby shower in this post. 

At Aalayam, we take pride in our parties and this one was no different! 

Custom made goody bags - shabby chic paper doll all the way!

Every detail was well thought out and I hope you enjoy this recap.

I am doing a two part –to showcase both the American and Indian versions of the shower. So, join me this week and next as I look back fondly at both the celebrations.

Keeping mommy-to-be stylish!

 A big shout out to all my girl friends that helped to put the events together and indulged mama-to-be! 
These girls know how to run a show!

Supriya and a few other friends flew in to celebrate my little girl and it meant the world to me. My girlfriends and my two boys left no stone unturned in making this event one of the best days of my pregnancy!

Inspirations: Style me pretty living, Kara’s party ideas, babyshowerideas4u and the hostess with the mostess
Desserts: Fate Cakes
Photography: Uj
The hosts- my dear friends Supriya, Ruchika and Shilpa graciously indulged me and allowed me to have my say and customize the theme and the décor. 

Cookies and cupcakes- all dolled up!

 You know my penchant for all things décor! I have always enjoyed styling personal events at home. What fun it was too- trading ideas and brainstorming with this enthusiastic team of girls to style the shower! I am truly grateful for their time, effort and energy and for making it such a special occasion for my entire family. I had an amazing time!

Game stations - let the party begin!

I fell in love with the location, the minute I saw it. The local conservatory had a great indoor-outdoor space that was ideal to host an intimate group of friends for a summer shower.

 The event coordinators at the location worked with me patiently as we arranged the space to fit our theme – shabby chic paper doll. 
and 'coz li'l girls fancy a touch of pink!

The venue enhanced the décor with its great outdoor areas and gardens.
Leading up to the event, we had a few themes in the running – Alice in wonderland, vintage alphabet and shabby chic paper doll. In the end, fun and feminine won and “shabby chic paper doll” was a perfect way to welcome my sweet bebe into this world!

Etsy was a great place to find printable templates for the party and the rest came from local craft stores. 

But mind you, not everything came from the stores. My friend Shlipa put in tons of DIY time customizing the goody bags, the cupcake toppers and other details. 

We layered and mixed in the vintage paper doll elements with shabby chic décor items such as burlap, paper doilies and birdcages for a touch of whimsy. And we topped it off by integrating delightful fresh flowers in our color scheme. Everything had a delicate and feminine flair- just the way I had envisioned
Shabby chic centerpieces

We intentionally mixed in some vintage blue with shades of pink and white for a non-traditional color scheme for a baby girl.  As Supriya pointed out we were getting away from gender stereotyping. After all, nothing about this pregnancy thus far fit into any stereotype and we wanted the shower to reflect that.  
A li'l pink and a li'l blue - no gender stereotyping here!

The dessert table was a fabulous display of white, pink, and blue and housed our gorgeous cake (with the damask and ruffle detail) elegantly. Marie from Fate Cakes went all out to create my custom doll dress cookies, cupcakes and the two-tiered cake enabling us to put together this perfect dessert table. 

As an extension of the color theme, the girls were told to dress up in pastels too! Don’t you love our gorgeous palette?

And here's one with momma-to-be!

The lunch tables were a picture of style and elegance – dressed in baby pink linen and shabby chic décor pieces. The colors and theme flowed subtly through the space and everything came together beautifully.  

The caterers at the conservatory did a marvelous job of cooking the menu to perfection with fresh homegrown ingredients.

We played up the festivities with lively music and lots of fun games. Thanks again to my gorgeous hosts for thinking through every detail. 

The rustic outdoor tables and the string of globe lights was the perfect blank canvas to host the games- cake boss (where teams were asked to make diaper cakes), pin the pacifier on the paper doll, guess the number of baby items and drink from a baby bottle were some of the games that amped up the fun factor that afternoon.

As I look through the guest book now, I am nostalgically reminded of how much I loved that afternoon. 

I cannot wait to share these pictures with my little girl one day! In the meanwhile, I am sharing it with you – my dear Aalayam family.

Next up, the Indian equivalent of a baby shower or bale shastra (bangle ceremony). Join me again in a few days as we take a look at the symbolism and visual splendor of the Indian ceremony and as always, I will sign off for now with one more image of this dreamy dessert table !


p.s: All images in this post were shot by my husband and may not be reproduced without permission!

Friday, September 11, 2015

It's Habba Time!! So why all the fuss?

Its Habba (Festival) Season in India. And for all the Indians living abroad, it’s a throwback to tradition, good food and celebrating with friends and family!

There are said to be more festivals in India than the days of the year, celebration for every religious occasion, change of season and every harvest. For occasional traditionalists like me, this serves to be an issue. 

Yes, I blog about culture and leaving a footprint of our tradition for our kids and all, yet, I drag my feet to be obsequious to every cultural shindig that we, as Indians are required to partake in. Maybe it is the rebellion of being the married woman who has to adhere to the traditional boundaries and expectations put forth by her married home – husband, in laws, yada yada yada. Maybe is plain curiosity of why we do what we do.

 I am arguing with myself, if I have God and good in my heart, why all the show? As I said, I feel like I am trespassing in the realms of the pure traditionalists. Yet, as my good friend, and Aalayam co-host Deepa put it, we embrace festivals with fervor and enthusiasm because it is a part of our identity. And of course purist celebrations and altruistic thinking need not be mutually exclusive. 

Deepa, in true-blue modern day traditionalist style has embraced tailored hybrid versions of Habba – and has managed to retain the spirit and intent of the festival! Here are some pictures of her Varalakshmi Vratha and Krishna Janmasthami this year, and also a sneak peek at her preparation for Ganesha Habba!! 

What are your thoughts? Have you faced a similar cultural conundrum? Let’s discuss. I’d love to hear from you.


p.s. Here’s wishing all the Aalayam readers a Happy, Peaceful and Doubtless Habba season! 

Also, do not use any of these images without permission. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Great Aalayam Rendezvous!

Hello Dear Readers!
Today, we bring to you a special summer treat. The much awaited rendezvous of the dynamic Aalayam duo, replete with brainstorming, creative sketching and glamorous posing (of course). 
Deepa and I are delighted to bring this special edition to our dear readers. Hope you enjoy perusing through this post, because let me tell you, we sure enjoyed putting it together!

It was serendipity at best, after 3 years of working together bringing our brainchild – Aalayam to life, it was quite a joy to plan a trip to meet Deepa. Two style and design stalwarts meeting face to face could only mean one thing – more Aalayam awesomeness.  And awesome it was, starting with planning for what accessories and goodies to take on the trip, to helping plan the minute design details of the party Deepa was hosting, up in her home town for her gal pals. It was turning out to be a girlie vacation for me as I was traveling alone, without the husband and the kids. And I planned to maximize it. 

You see, when I go on family vacations, I barely get a couple of minutes to slap the makeup on my face and pull the first outfit that's accessible in my closet (it’s the same story when I go to work every day), but girlie vacations…ah..they are a treat. Cos, that’s when I get to apply the mascara and style my hair…and not pretend that my messy bun is a style trick! And the biggest decision I have to make that day is what to wear! And I wanted to take full advantage of this girlie trip for that very reason. And just thinking of all the photo opportunities we’d get..thanks to the magic lens and creative photography of UJ, had gotten me sartorially prepped!

The trip was sublime. I rarely say this about my air travel. I am one of the unlucky few who always get stranded at airports, lose their luggage or get rerouted for unfathomable reasons. But this trip to Ohio was relaxed, with no nasty surprises, and chockablock with pretzels and tomato juice. The flight even landed early at my final destination! 

See, I had a feeling this trip was going to be awesome. 

When Deepa and I finally met, it was like no time had passed since our last conversation. 
It became easy to understand why we worked so well together, respecting our creative differences, giving each other artistic latitude, yet believing in the common ethos of perfection and detail oriented dedication. It’s hard to run into someone who understands your neuroses like that! And when you do, you hold on to them! J

The first few hours were a flurry of "oohs" and "aahs" over accessories, carefully thought out gifts for each other, plans for the weekend, party planning details, catching up on the local news (who’s doing what these days!) and of course lots of pictures! 

Walking through Deepa’s home was like traversing through a well loved, and familiar terrain of design delight. Most of her rooms have been featured on Aalayam and other design mags, so seeing these rooms in live splendor was delightful. 

We got to work right away, planning our upcoming line up, tweaking our authoring strategy, working through our repertoire of topics and brainstorming on how we could make the content more meaningful, the format more engaging and the outcome more creative.

We talked through the work life balance conundrum that we both were facing – with  both of us being superlatively busy career women with full families to take care of, but both with compelling visions for what our stamp on life had to look like. 

Through Aalayam, we realized, we’d reached that common ground of evocation, or leaving a lasting footprint in this fleeting world (even though we had 48 other things to do most days before finishing the blog post we were working on!)

But we could not work for long, as scenic vistas had to be explored, and party fun had to be had! So off we went to don our ensembles, and meet the other gorgeous divas from all over the world, dressed to the nines in pastels (you know who you are!) for garden party extravaganza!

It was sensational partying during the day, and even more fun hitting the Ohio party scene as dusk approached! 

And just when we thought we were done with playing dress up, we decided to treat ourselves (and our readers)  by dressing up (again) in our favorite wardrobe choice and all its glorious accouterments – the Saree! 

The rustle of the silks, accompanied by the clink of the bangles, the heady perfumes in combination with the brilliant Ohio weather, transported us back home to an Indian wedding, where damsels flamboyantly don the Saree and give the celebrity red carpeters a run for their money!

In all seriousness, this trip was long overdue. And it was total paisa vasool! Stay tuned for the exciting line up of posts coming up – ranging the spectrum of cultural inconveniences, fashion choices done right, culinary shortcuts and parenting woes..we are going to continue to write about topics that speak to us, and resonate with you...and give us something to leave behind for our kids.

After that whirlwind weekend, we bring to you this post - fun, festive and forward looking post! And with this post, Deepa and I both want to take a moment to thank you, dear readers for all the love, support and patronage you have given us for the last 3 years, and anticipate that you will continue to stand by us, as we continue this creative journey.

Lots of love,

Supriya and Deepa