Thursday, December 11, 2014

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas! A post on adding a seasonal touch to your home.


Welcome to my (Deepa's) Holiday-ready home!
All images are from my home. Sign from here

Thank you all for joining me here as I take you on a tour of the little holiday touches I've added to the main living area of our house.What better way to usher in the magical spirit of the season than decorate for the Holidays? Have you started making your home festive for the season yet?
Our tree in all it's golden glory!

There is an abundance of pin-spiration and holiday eye candy on the Internet. So, all you have to do is yield to your inner creative restlessness and go for it! It is not too late!

I used a medley of bows, ribbons and ties in a complementary color palette for the gift wrap this year but the sign tag captures the spirit and steals the show!


I started way early this year. I had my family over for thanksgiving and I wanted holiday décor that would help create beautiful memories that we could cherish forever.
Twinkly lights and a warm fire  - bring it on, winter!

 So, I sort of fast tracked to Christmas.  With my entire family pitching in (love them for their enthusiasm!), outfitting our home for Christmas was in itself a very endearing homespun experience.  

The sign is a tribute to my brother who spoils my son rotten (he is fondly referred to as dhooji by his nephew)
Everybody had a say in the décor, the color scheme, the choice of ornaments and the overall look and feel and I must say I am glad I took them all into consideration despite my initial skepticism (All gold really?? - Was my immediate reaction when my husband suggested it but I am so glad I played along!)
I think this is my absolute favorite shot from this series. The ornaments this year righfully captures who we are and what we like and allows us to look back on the year that was!

 I think our décor this year has a classy elegance and the shimmery gold echoes the cheerful spirit of the season. It seemed like a difficult palette to work with given that I have a formidable blue on the walls but I think with our little personal touches it works and I am curious to know what you all think. I was gunning for magic and excitement – did I nail it or not?
Making sure our existing mantel decor could be tied into the holiday add-ons took some creativity!

What sophisticates the gold palette is the intentional splashes of cream in the accent pieces and the gift-wrap and the whole idea was to enhance the existing features of the family room – the hand-woven carpet, the beautiful wood trim on the fireplace and the windows and the color scheme. 

Aren't they dapper? The latest additions to my growing nutcracker collection!

This year, our mantel got a little holiday TLC as well. Perhaps, nothing resonates more with winter’s bewitchery than an intense fire.  We spend many cozy evenings by the fire sipping mulled wine, warm cider, ginger chai, hot cocoa and many more seasonal beverages and so I spruced the mantel to set the scene for some cozy winter nights!
Mixing in the new with the old and adding some DIY elements was all it took to jazz it up!
 I had so much fun educating myself on the stocking tradition and history. The monogram on the stocking was a DIY Christmas craft that my li’l elf and I worked on. A spray-painted wooden letter A adorned with some pearls was an easy way to personalize the stocking! 

A lick of spray paint and a few stick on pearls and voila! - we have a custom made monogram!
I have adopted and embraced the Christmas/holiday tradition and I am now making a sincere attempt at learning the essence so I can create a true and traditional experience for my child and that for me involves reading, learning and educating myself.
Add caption

 Over the years, we have picked up a few other holiday traditions that are now ours to keep and I talked about them in my holiday post last year. The season is just beginning and I hope to indulge in our favorite seasonal traditions again this year. How about you?
Group similar objects (metallic in this case) for a quick vignette. A few spray painted pine cones and twigs from the backyard adds texture and interest.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at the festive images from our home and I wish you all a very chic and cheerful Christmas! Hope you get and give all you aspire for this Christmas!
And this is how it looks a night!

Well, that’s it folks! I am signing off the year. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for another incredible Aalayam year. I had so much fun putting together the posts this past year! A special shout out to my dear hubby who seems to have mastered stringing the lights (no really, isn't our tree below gorgeous?!) And of course for these beautiful photographs! But wait, we are not done yet! We have one more true blue Aalayam post for 2014. Supriya via her powerhouse writing will bring you some year end thoughts to ponder. Stay tuned!

Also, make sure to read our Holiday posts from the past here, here and here. 

Cheers!
~Deepa

P.S: All images are from my home. Please do not use without permission.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holiday Gift Giving Guide!

Hello everyone!

I am back, after a brief, crazy action and drama filled, sabbatical from Aalayam! Thank you Deepa for holding down the fort in style, while I was away! I see that, we are 348 members strong now. I am looking forward to seeing the number of niche followers of the Aalayam family grow. Its humbling....and exhilarating at the same time to see Aalayam obtain critical mass in the blogosphere. 

Now that everyone is working off their Thanksgiving meals, perusing once more through their Black Friday shopping bags, sipping on mulled wine (or hot apple cider, with a sprinkle of cinnamon - try it, its the best!), listening to holiday music as they decorate their Christmas tree and finalize their holiday gift lists, we thought we had to bring you a list of our favorite gift ideas that we are loving this season! I myself have a houseful of people I am planning gifts for these holidays, not to mention co-workers, and best buddies from all over the world who deserve a lot of my love, fashioned as lovely gifts, hand-picked with love or handcrafted with endurance, packaged in style, and gift wrapped in timeless elegance! Now that's quite something isn't it! And we had to, had to, curate some inspiration right here in Aalayam!!

We've chosen an array of gear - home decor, fun accessories, jewelry and handcrafted chotchkies! Take your pick. Get inspired! I am sure there is something in here, that will excite you enough to either head to the store, or to your crafting table to create a unique giftable for someone you love!  


We've divvied up the curating into two lists: One from me - Supriya, and the other from Deepa. So here goes!


Supriya's gorgeous giftables!

Smart storage for the savvy shopper, and the modern day collector!


Here's a practical, modest, yet gorgeous gift to start your list off with. Stackable Sprout-City-Print-Cardboard-Cubby-Bins for your favorite family that well....collects the mementos of everyday life! (trust me, we do!). Use them to store kids toys, clothes, supplies or even your favorite books. You just cannot go wrong when there is pretty storage involved in your gift repertoire! Or go timeless with stackable Hadley boxes. You could use these boxes as fashionable storage, and double them up as wow worthy side tables! Amazing did we hear you say? Shop online at Wayfair.com to get cheap,yet beautiful storage options like these! 


Funky vintage locomotive ornaments for the fun-loving friend!

Bored a little of the shining tinsel, and glittering ornaments that are practically everywhere you see?! Turn then, towards some vintage story telling with these funky, tin car, firetruck, motorcycle and train ornaments to adorn your tree with. Perfect for all year around decorating too! Grab them quick, before they go away at Wayfair.com.


Ethnic decor (for me!) and for the design diva in your circle!

I will give anyone who'd give me a gift from World Market, the return gift of my lifelong friendship, and unwavering love! :) I absolutely adore these handcrafted ethnic decor items from World Market. I am currently coveting the elephant side table, and the gorgeous earthen urn, that can gloriously beautify any corner in any home! 

Consider a World Market giftable to someone who loves beautiful home goods, respects the concept of sustainable, handcrafted design, and appreciates world culture! Also check out the gorgeousness of the pillow covers, tableware, stemware and crockery! World Market has everything you need and more, for all budgets. A definite stop in my holiday shopping destinations! 



Eyecandy for the hostess with the mostess!

More fabulous finds from World Market! (or any artisanal store for that matter, Sunday Soul Sante anyone from namma Bengalooru?) These eye catching owl card holders will impress the hostess who is elegance personified, by adding a quirky touch of whimsy to her stash of dining and entertaining chotchkies! Pair these card holders with  handmade cards, and you have yourself a memorable gift option for under $20!

Don't forget the Nutcracker chalkboard ornaments that you can personalize for the dinner table, or a cool Chevre Cheesmaking Kit to amp up the adventure quotient of the yuletide season!


I also loved the Travel Spice Kit, and the Owl Brass Trivet shown below! The trivet specially oozes personality, sparks conversation around the dinner table, and you get bonus points for being the coolest gifter around! 


Vintage inspired games for the kids!

Pick some new "old" games for the kids you know. Like these "52 Fun Things to do in the Car", or the "Knitting Doll". These vintage board games will definitely be loved by the moms (I know, that works!), and therefore by the kids. The kids do need a break from the commercial merchandized junk that sells like hot cakes everywhere. Sorry, Disney, love your movies, but that's where it ends! Visit your local World Market store, or go online to WorldMarket.com, for more quirky, vintage games to keep the young uns satisfied these holidays


Jewelry and Personal Accessories for the cool fashionista!

Aaah....now we are warming up! Charlotte Russe, Target, Forever 21, Zara, H&M, Nine West and a other retinue of fashion retailers get a guaranteed visit from me every year as I get ready to welcome my sister, cousins, my husband's cousins, my friends to our home over the holidays. 

You see, I love baubles and accessories. I worship the way a statement accessory like a necklace or a scarf transforms an architectural piece in your ensemble (like a plain white shirt, or a black sweater) into a stunning outfit option! Giving you oodles of confidence and charisma as you sashay around the holiday party lineup!

Therefore, accessories are a MUST in my repertoire of giftables!



Feast your eyes on the necklaces, bracelets and bedazzled hats!! Every single item in the selection is less than $20, maybe even less that $10 in some cases. A sure fire way to score a fun infused, high-impact gift option, without breaking the bank!! Here's to girlfriends and sisters!!



Handcrafted with Love! For the connoisseur in your circle.

I realize some people LOVE to make gifts instead of buying them. I love that tradition too. But patience is a virtue, that is in short supply in my sizable list of virtues (ahem!), so I take the easy way out and shop!!!

But for those of you that love to make things, here are some cool ideas. Starting from gorgeous gingerbread cookies and peppermint hot chocolate, to a heart shaped wreath made of personalized wine corks, and hand-quilted home decor! Heart warming and soul nurturing...With all the options for instant gifting in the holiday season, some part of me would be charmed if someone took the time to make something for me! Wouldn't you?



Here's something more achievable. Semi-hand made if you will. This requires only assembly, no construction! Perfect for someone with limited patience like me! Consider putting together a bundle of love, a package of perfection for someone special in your life - mom, aunt, neighbor, husband! Like the adorable tea wreath, held together with love with wooden clips! Or the baking accessories packaged together in an oven mitt!

Don't forget Indian Spices, packaged together in a ethnic Masala box!(Labeled darlingly!) or a heavenly assemblage of hand-made, organic soaps! Consider this seriously for self-gifting!! Go on! You deserve it!!!


God is in the details! Here's to divine gift wrapping!!

Finally, do not! do not! forget to wrap your giftables up in style!! Gift wrapping does not have to be in traditional gift wrap you'd get from the store. Consider options like maps, crossword puzzles, posters, comics, and scarves as alternatives to traditional gift wraps! They are sustainable (read green!) ways to reuse, recycle and re-purpose beautiful stuff that is often lying around in your own home!


Deepa's delightful giftables!

Indian "Wow"spiration!

In true blue Aalayam style, Deepa curates some fantabulous finds for the world traveler, heavily ridden with Indian influences. I am deeply coveting the folk art inspired puzzles Krishna Leela in Madhubani from Jaypore, and the Chess set from World Market. 

These games are perfect for those cozy family evenings, where we get together around the fire, with  steaming mugs of hot chocolate (or any other beverage of your choice!!!) for memorable game nights! And the icing on the cake, or the cream on the hot chocolate, shall we say, is the quirky, ethnic glory of these games themselves. How about, we complete the montage with hand painted stacking tables from Signals.com, and a jaali patterened (bidri) tea cups in holiday colors from Good Earth India!! 

Resourceful, and colorful!! What more do you need from a blog post!? :) Let us know please if you need specific links to any of the items listed in this post, or help shopping for any specific special person in your life! We'd be happy to help!!


Tableware and Edibles for the Eclectic! 

What a sensational ode to the party host, best friend or eclectic foodie, if they received something like holiday chocolate squares  from Crate and Barrel, or gold toned baroque flatware from Hrochow!! Sublime aren't they? Also consider this option for tableware. Handmade Central American placemats from Novica. Arty, Timeless and Vibrant! The fact that they are handmade, is a HUGE plus!

Finally, to top off this round up for the eclectic, Deepa has handpicked Color me cookies from deandeluca.com. This decorating kit is a great option for a holiday party activity! Think, kids + fun + no clean up of messy icing later! Win Win Win!


                                                
Don't forget the men in the group!! 

And, Thank you Deepa for sparing a thought for the gentry in our midst! With gift options for the savvy sartorialist, and cool paisley stationery, we are letting our men embrace and exhibit their style quotient to the hilt! 

Here's a selection: A boyish lavender bow tie from One Kings LanePocket squares for dapper dudes from Nordstrom, and some fantastic looking kalamkari stationery from Etsy.com!




Finally, Delight the Diva (or practically anyone else) with chic couture for the home!! 

Don't forget coffee table books (or regular books, maybe even kindle versions) to inspire the divas (sure you can give books to bloggers!) all year around! 

Here's a coffee table book from Pottery Barn, for the design diva who has it all! And to top it all, for the love of writing, we proffer as a pleasant offering of Kate Spade pens. Funky, functional, and great for home and office. With color block and bling, these writing instruments are sure to be eye candy for the design queen in your life!


That was quite something huh! As I wrap up this post, and head to the stores (yes!!!!), I hope we have inspired you to spread some holiday cheer with these gorgeous giftables.

Remember, tis the season to spread goodwill, and love and friendship. So do consider spending time, and giving in kind to the needy and the lesser fortunate. 

But....... we also love splurging (albeit wisely) on unique, beautiful and global finds that make our homes and our lives textured, so...in true holiday spirit, we just wanted to share that excitement with you!!

Hope this curated inspiration helps you gift away this holiday season!!! Let us know if you need any specific links, have any questions or need any suggestions to help find the perfect gift for your special people!!! Happy Holidays!

Lots of love,
Supriya!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We are thankful for....




Life's little mercies.

how about you ?


1. Sign sourced from Pinterest 2. A beautiful midwest fall day (pic courtesy Uj) 3. Quinoa and corn lime salad from Deepa's home (pic courtesy Uj)


We wish our readers on this side of the pond a joyous day of feasting and fun!
Happy Thanksgiving!

For more thanksgiving inspiration, check out Supriya's previous post on thanksgiving decor

~ Deepa and Supriya 


Monday, November 17, 2014

'TIS the season - host a holiday hot chocolate party!


And tonight we bring you the first of our holiday season posts. We are getting a head start so we can share our holiday inspirations early and in time for you dear readers!  In fact, we will toggle between our holiday season and regular programming since we have so much to share!

Have temperatures dropped in your neck of the woods yet? We had our first real snowfall last night and this morning it was beautiful outside! Nature had painted an idyllic canvas in winter white! No, I don’t have a soft spot for winter. Not after last winter! And yet, there is so much to look forward to this time of the year – twinkly lights, sleigh bells, snowflakes and hot chocolate, it is hard not to get excited!

For those of you planning to host a holiday party – this post is essentially a Holiday how–to!  Here’s a fun idea for a winter party – a hot chocolate bar! Whether you want to include one in your holiday party this year or just set one up for a few friends on a cold wintry night – it is super fun and easy and as the host you can set it up without breaking a sweat. Of course, you can make it as elegant or as elaborate as you want or keep it low key, like I did.  With temperatures dropping, your guests will love a crackling fire and a mug of warmth and this is a great way to indulge in the spirit of the season!


Here’s what you need for your cocoa station!
1)    I wanted to use what I had and so I used my regular coffee cups (I know!) but I gave mine a holiday twist by embellishing it with holiday themed stickers (from the local craft store) and they worked perfectly. Alternately, you could just buy holiday themed mugs.

2)    Hot chocolate+ toppings + stirrers. Again, I kept it simple and stuck to the basics – milk chocolate, marshmallows, whipped cream, peppermint candy cane and dark chocolate pirouline. If you are setting up a fancier bar, you could offer your guests more choices with the mix–ins and the add –ons (sprinkles, coconut flakes, dried berries, flavored marshmallow, chocolate chips are all game!)
3)    You could even spice things up a little – no really! How about some cinnamon?

4)    Add a twist for some extra fun! A friend of mine baked some cookies and together we decided we would let all our guests wear their creative hats and decorate the cookies in holiday colors and what fun it was too!

5)   Get in to the holiday spirit– Write something fun on a chalkboard! I love festive signboards! I also used  red gingham ribbon on my mason jars and a matching runner to anchor the decorations. I also used a floral arrangement that included some red berries and pinecones for a seasonal feel. A shiny bauble in a gorgeous red and sparkly gold completed my décor!
6)   End on a sweet note! I included a heavenly chocolate butter cream marshmallow cake, which was a nice compliment to the hot cocoa.

And there you have it - a simple and easy holiday party idea! Well I hope this post makes transitioning into the colder months a little easy and inspires you to start planning your own fun holiday activities. As always, we love to hear from you and in fact if you know of any fun holiday party themes do let us know and we can share it with the Aalayam community.

And now, an announcement-We picked a winner for our TJ MAXX home goods gift card giveaway (which we had announced in our Diwali post). Initially, we were going to limit it to new members or existing members who introduced new members to the Aalayam community but since the response was limited, Supriya and I decided to include readers who commented in the last 4 posts as eligible entrants.

Congratulations, Radhika Thampuran!! You are the winner of our giveaway. Please email your contact details to aalayaminspiration@gmail.com so we can mail you the gift card.

  Cheers!

~Deepa

P.S: All images in this post are from my home and taken by my husband. Please do not use without permission.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

There is no place like home!

Have you been feeling like you need some downtime? I know I have! The frenzied pace of events of the past few months is finally catching up or so it seems. Festivities, changing seasons, social engagements, work, home and family priorities have all snowballed into a giant circle and I am constantly on the move! I know Supriya is swamped too and I offered to write all the posts for Aalayam this month. But for the past couple of days I have struggled to bring myself to work on a post and today I read this article in the WSJ blog titledFive Ways to Take Control of Our Runaway Lives” where the author was making a case for breaking away from the frenzied pace of life.  

One of the tips offered in the article was to do nothing and reflect and it got me thinking.  How often do we schedule a “do-nothing time” in our daily/weekly or monthly calendars?  Do we ever make time to “escape “ and I don’t mean a getaway or a vacation (believe me going on a vacation can be a lot of work too!). I mean escape  as in do nothing, look within, reflect, sleep–in, enjoy a long drive or  savor a steamy cup of chai. Simple things that let you take control and refocus..  


The year is coming to an end rather quickly and I know many of us start making plans  to nurture ourselves with healthy new year resolutions. Why not start early this year?  It is o.k to hit the pause button when you really feel the pace heating up. A little down-time can go a long way in recharging our batteries and helping us to become more productive in the next leg . And yet, I need to constantly remind myself that it is o.k to slow down . I guess, we all put self-preservation on the back burner. We get caught up in trying to keep everything at home and at work running smoothly. Supriya will be talking about work-life balance in a later post and therefore I will defer the discussion on “balance” to her. 


Here at Aalayam, we strive to bring you beautiful inspirations to lead a wholesome life and in line with that thought, I bring you images of Home (or I should say our former home) as a reminder that we all need to unwind and relax and make time to nurture ourselves.  And what better place to start than home? Cherish time with your loved ones,  sit by the window and pay attention to the pitter-patter of the falling rain drops, enjoy a good book by the fire  - things that will  rejuvenate you and help you move forward . The holidays will be busy for all of us too and that is when we will inadvertently be overextending ourselves and it may be well worth it to focus a little on ourselves.



I am sharing some images of our former home. It was our first home and  a rather modest home. But it was still a place where we cherished time with each other as a family, dreamt happy dreams and created warm memories.  Of course, I was not writing for Aalayam back then and  therefore I do not have a lot of pictures. But  this home was featured on Priya’s blog and this is what I had written about our home then-


“Home and entertaining are central to our existence and after a hard day’s work or at the end of a busy work week, we love coming to a home where we can relax and unwind. My husband and I have always taken pride in our home. Overall, our home is a reflection of our ethnic roots.  From art work in the Warli and Tanjore style to the foot stool in the Rajasthani patch work style, our home is filled with treasures that speak to our Indian origin. Even our choice of furniture was largely guided by our Indian aesthetic sensibilities. We reached for pieces with a lot of sculpting in it – columns and arches. We went for darker tones and solid wood but the challenge was to balance style and function. Also, you will see a lot of black pieces in our home and that was our way of adding a modern twist to the antique styling”

If you are a regular Aalayam eader, you probably realize I have carried forward the same accents, furniture and design sensibilities into my current home but the big difference is color. Yes, we did a dramatic 360 with color in our current home (intentionally)!

Home means different things to different people. To me- it means an oasis! A place where I can enjoy the simple pleasures of life like the warmth of a fire on a crisp autumn evening or a quiet conversation or soulful music with my family.

I hope as the year end approaches you all  will make the time to embrace what is important to you and find a happy middle ground as you strive to balance the various demands of every day life.


Pardon me as I turn down the frequency of our posts a little bit temporarily but  please note that we are working on some exciting posts for the holiday season!
I will also announce the winner of our TJ MAXX home goods gift card give away winner in my next post. Keep commenting, we are adding a surprise twist to the giveaway!

 Cheers!
~Deepa

P.S: All images in this post are from my former home and taken by my husband. Please do not use without permission.