Saturday, April 2, 2016

Expanding the Aalayam repertoire: Sights, Sounds and Smells of a Place Called Home!


It’s been nearly nine years since we packed our bags and flew over the Indian Ocean down to the southern hemisphere to sunny Australia, now our home (away from home!). Over the years, we’ve created our own little comfort zone around us- a wonderful mix of the Aussie way of things and our very own Indian values and traditions. Nevertheless, the home we grew up in always stays very close to our hearts, like that first love. And there are certain things that always, always make me feel totally at home, take me back to the familiar warmth and comfort of my country. I think you would agree and nod knowingly at my pick of ‘Five Things that Instantly Take Me Home’. All I need to do is close my eyes J


1.     The Quintessential Pressure Cooker

“Shhhhhhhhhhh!” says the pressure cooker in my kitchen almost every morning and late evening, almost as if calming me down, bringing back memories of Amma’s mildly spiced sambar and soft fluffy rice. And it’s kind of incomplete without the stacking stainless steel pans which reassure me that they will take care of the dal and the rice and the vegetables, all at once! One of the many familiar sounds from the kitchens of India.



2.     Filter Coffee

Growing up in a traditional Kannada household, my mornings always had a hint of fresh coffee wafting through the air as I went on with the business of properly waking up J And even now, after all these years, as the kettle boils and I pour hot water into the coffee filter over a spoonful (and more) of ground coffee, my mind instantly goes all the way back home. It’s almost a ritual, as if to say “I hereby declare that this morning has begun!” With the latest addition of the traditional ‘davara-tumbler’, the very first sip of strong frothy filter kaapi keeps our Indian homes snug in our hearts.



3.     Indian Bedsheets

In a land of fitted sheets and flat sheets and doonas and pillow cases, my beloved ‘bedsheets’ and ‘pillow covers’ from India haven’t lost their place. Yes, those fitted sheets are a boon, like really! I mean, who wouldn’t like a sheet that stays put and doesn’t jiggle and shimmy and find a way towards the middle of the bed? But let’s face it, as fitted as they may be, they’re a tad too boring and plain for me. Maybe that’s why the patterns and colors and the little flowers so daintily embroidered on the bedsheets from India make me smile! Make that freshly laundered, sweet smelling, Bombay Dyeing bedsheets and I’m like a little girl running in a meadow, grazing my hands across flowering plants, soft breeze in my loose hair with the sun lending an angelic glow! Yeah! I go cuckoo for clean, fresh, crisp sheets!



4.     Nighty, Nightie Night!

I’m a plain Jane when it comes to bed time. No satin PJs for me, no siree! Don’t judge me now, but you know what I want to get into after a really, really, long, tiring day? The ever forgiving and ever comforting Indian nightie! When I slip that soft cotton, longish, flowy thing on, trust me, I (almost) attain nirvana! No, seriously ladies, what better to remind us of our mums, and aunties and pretty much all of our favorite women back home? It’s like they’re literally wrapping their arms around us and giving us a warm reassuring hug!



5.     Agarbathi

Sometimes, when I want to find my inner calm (or when the house smells kind of damp), all I need to do is light an agarbathi and a calming feeling pervades. It takes me back to the beautiful temples of India, brings back memories of my father doing the sandhyavandana (evening salutations) and my mother reciting prayers in the early evening. Such a simple thing, a slender stick wrapped in incense, but it has the ability to merge my Indian home and my Aussie home ever so subtly!



So, there you have it! Five of my favorite things that remind me of the home I grew up in. 

What are some of the quaint little things that remind you of your home? Share them here with us and take us back home with you!

Lots of love,
Divya

Here's more about me:

Typical Bengalooru Girl, with familial roots in Australia! Blogger, Mom and Artist! You may remember me from my guest posts in Aalayam! (www.creadivya.blogspot.com)




Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brand new Aalayam author tells all about the charm of Traditional Games!

Absorbed in Aluli Guli Mane (Mancala World) game

2016 seems to have started with a flourish and a bang. The holiday memories are long faded and relegated to a distant past. As we all struggle to achieve that happy medium of work-life, family, friends and kids, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if I am doing enough as a parent.  I am always comforted at the sight of my kids engaged in creating something (as messy as it gets afterwards!) or reading a book rather than with an IPad. Interestingly enough this year marks six years since the advent of the IPad - technology which was pretty much delivered into the laps of our babies.

Chauka Bara is a delightful throwback

I am all for Technology, Innovation and Science. I understand how this positively enhances and makes our lives so much easier; I also understand that the benefits of IPad are multi-fold. Kids obviously love them, learn new things quickly and tend to be absorbed and remain quiet while playing with them. IPads are now part of School Curriculum and are replacing textbooks. All this however, scares me a little. The fact that our kids now inhabit the virtual world more than we do. We now seem to be raising a generation of kids who are missing out on developing crucial social skills.  

Hop Scotch - or our very own Kunta Bille

I feel like our kids have forgotten how to write or enjoy a good old fashioned book. I will be the first to admit that I resort to my phone as a stress-buster or turn a blind eye when my kids have been longer on the phone or IPad than they should. 

Snake and Ladder - the traditional version


I remember some 12 years ago when my son was being raised in Bangalore (India), even regular mobile phones were a luxury and we only had a serviceable one for the family. He spent most of his waking hours exploring the neighbourhood, making friends creating crude toys with bits and pieces and generally enjoying his time out in the Sun. Our daughter born overseas was a totally different story. She could identify and sing-along to her favourite T.V characters before she turned one and she was able to nimbly swipe through games and apps before she was potty trained. The uncomfortable truth for some of us is that Technology is here to stay.

Carrom is an all time family favorite


Days when I can’t work something on my phone or my laptop, I run to my kids for help. I am happy that they are not fazed by technology as I am and can problem solve issues, if need be. However, I have to wonder sometimes, what tools I am enabling my kids with to jump-start their imagination and create a thirst to explore and invent. I sometimes go back in time to my memories when I was their age and wondered what I enjoyed the most. 

The gorgeous colors are a draw in itself


I remembered the endless days when we played kuntu –bille, Aeroplane or hop-scotch for some of you on the streets and spent hours scrounging construction sites for a perfectly smooth stone for the game. I remember how I spent a whole summer with my brother and cousins in the backyard trying to create scented erasers from pencil shavings and a rubber plant tree. 

I also remember how we scraped tamarind seeds (left over from mum’s cooking) to play Ali Guli Mane (Mancala World), Chawka Bara (Race game) with traditional bronze dices, Carom board and of course our all-time favourite Snakes and Ladders with a twist -  because back in the days some of them came as Ramayana and Mahabharata board games.




After all that reminiscing it was exciting to find some modern version of these games available at Ikea.  I am very thrilled to try these board games with my kids and re-live a bit of my carefree childhood days with them. My kids also came with an innovate idea to make the hop-scotch game work for them. They decided to paint some of our paved area to make up this game. 



This means a run into the local paint shop squabbling over colours and brushes and the dramas and some tears that I already anticipate; but I am quietly excited. This means another weekend where they will not feel the urge to resort to IPads to deal with boredom. I know that they will eventually tire out of these games. But I find that the challenge will be to just keep one step ahead of them and keep them guessing and keep them busy. As one mum rightly said – my child will take all of 5 mins to master the IPad but for me it’s important that she has memories of riding a bike, playing with her friends, getting messy, having fun and just enjoying herself. 

Indian version of Chess!

They don’t understand yet, but we are helping them create fabulous memories of their happy days that they can go back to when they are all grown up, that can hug them like a warm blanket on a cold winter day.

LOVE,
Smitha!

And here's a sneak peek into who I am: A mom, a fashionista, a career woman, and a newly minted blogger. Excited to be part of the Aalayam family.







Saturday, February 27, 2016

Aalayam is looking for Writers!!!





Aalayam is looking for writers!! 


One superpower both Deepa Uj and I wish we had is the ability to generate more hours in the day. Our beautifully and carefully curated baby Aalayam is sitting on the back burner of our super busy and multi layered lives. However, we both believe that we will make time for Aalayam, to continue to meaningfully and non-stressfully integrate into our lives. So, in case you guys were wondering, the blog is not going anywhere!

Now, what we are looking for is fellow bloggers! Writers! Creators!! Someone who can jumpstart our dormant blog with their creative vision and verbose talents! 

Any takers?! 

Write to us as aalayaminspiration@gmail.com if you are interested, and we can start a conversation!

Love,
Supriya & Deepa


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 2015: A Visual Anthology




As the glorious end to 2015 fast approaches, I'd like to take a self-indulgent moment to look back upon the year that was, and anticipate the year that will be...here's presenting to you, my dear readers, a visual anthology of my very interesting 2015.



Replete with travel across the USA, to beaches, conferences, theme parks, workshops and strategy sessions, I raked up some airline miles, and decided which were my favorite airports. Although faced with the awful conundrum of being away from my kids, I must admit I did have guilty pleasure in "me" time and room service.


I did have some culinary adventures (and misadventures) at home with Mexican, Thai and Italian food (my family and friends recipe book is growing now!!). Of course, I had fun whipping up some crazy heavy Indian desserts (Kesar Kalakhand anyone?) and signature family favorites.


Home decor and blogging took a back seat this year, with in-laws visiting and all the above mentioned travel. I chose to be at the beck and call of my husband's parents, be the traditional bahu that they anticipated me to be, juggling expectations, temperaments and temper tantrums. Primarily my performance anxiety gave me a hard time, as I was balancing my desire to be the best at the home front too, even under sub-optimal circumstances.


Parenting presented it's own challenges, with alternatively recalcitrant and angelic girls, who grew taller, more articulate, more well read and stylish as the year progressed.



Travel, culture, food and festival came in equal parts. 2015 was a salvation to my wanderlust and culture savvy!





I had the privilege of meeting my best and closest friends, catching up for laughs after a decade of being in touch only virtually. And we had not missed a beat!


Home became a sanctuary as Fall approached, as I got ready to get my almost 6 year olds into First Grade, breaking the State of Virginia September 30th school age cut off. And Yes, they made it to First Grade, although they were not 6 years old at that time!! (Woot Woot, Parenting win!). Who knew, First Graders had school readiness evaluations!


I had the amazing opportunity to meet my blogging partner in crime - Deepa! As you all know by now, she is the proud momma of a cute lil baby girl, who joined the Aalayam family in 2015. I had the privilege of being one of the co-hosts of Deepa's gorgeous baby shower! Fun times.


Oh, and we lost our first tooth in our household. Amidst much excitement, and joyful yelling (mostly from me!), the tooth fairy made her first visit to our home, and promptly followed up with many more!!





And of course, there were some bittersweet moments of Parenting..knowing what to say when kids win...and don't. Managing the fine balance of teaching kids a strong work ethic, but watching over them so they don't beat themselves up (too hard) if they did not do a good enough job. (Tiger Mom much?) 


Lots of Desi Chaat party hosting!


Some DIY Dasara decorating!


Some Butta chomping ! (look out for my Seattle Travel Ramble in 2016!)



Some controlled excitement and angst about my kids' first Bharatanatyam performance! (ever secured a long braid (times 2) on 6 year olds with really short curly hair? Now I am a pro at this! But it took quite a lot of bobby pins, some deep breaths and a few anxiety management lessons)




Lots of holiday baking! (pictured below is a birthday cake I baked for my baby sister, who joined us for the holidays from Germany!)



And uncontrollable family giggling! (Yaay, to my parents visiting in 2015!)



And the cherry on top of the cake - my closest friends and their families got together over the Christmas holiday in our home in Virginia!



Amidst countless selfies, dressathons, non-stop food, and oh-so-fantastic memorable gift exchanges, we got a chance to chill, be ourselves and get to know each other all over again, not just as friends, but as wives, moms and daughters-in-law.

Here's to evolving friendships!



As I wrap up this visual anthology, I humbly thank my people - my husband, my parents, my kids, my friends, my clients and coworkers, Deepa and you, my dear readers for a fantabulous 2015.


Here's looking forward to a gorgeous and stimulating 2016! Do share with us how your 2015 went. I am curious to take a quick peek at your year's highlights!

Love,
Supriya

p.s all pictures in this visual anthology are mine, and mine alone, so please do not bother copying/reusing it!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Aalayam's holiday editorial

Hello! Merry Christmas. Hope you are all having a lot of fun counting down to 2016. We wish you a Charlie Brown Christmas - wholesome holiday cheer and lots of good will as you revel in the Joy of the season. I leave you with some images of Charlie Brown's Christmas as well as our parlor decked for the holidays -our tree is swathed in pink this year and you know why!
Thank you for another great Aalayam year dear readers!



And with that, I am signing off for 2015. Have a very merry christmas and a happy new year!

All charlie brown images are from google images and the rest of the images are from my home and may not be used without permission.

Cheers!
~Deepa