Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lets get spooked!!

As an ode to Halloween, Aalayam brings you a favorite emotion, well plated and curated in cultural relevance - Fear!!

Spooktacular imagery! From Deepa's lens

Let's admit it, we like being scared, we like putting ourselves in those situations that cause panic, increase our heartbeat, make us shudder, and stretch our realm of imagination. We love gathering around a bonfire and listening to ghost stories. We love nuzzling close to our date as we watch a horror flick! Do we? Or not?

Of course we do! We love the adrenaline rush, the goose flesh, the thrill of being scared! Of vicariously experiencing what’s forbidden, bizarre or dark! Some people avoid that emotion altogether, but I know I love watching a good supernatural flick  or engaging in some "this happened to me" storytelling  that makes me wonder, if there are spirits out there, wandering around for deliverance! 

So, in the honor of Halloween (Oct 31st) here in the USA, lets get well and truly spooked, shall we?

First of all, the Halloween legend!

Halloween trivia! From Deepa's lens

According to my sources, Halloween is celebrated on the evening of October 31st, which is the evening before the Christian feast of All Saint’s Day. Halloween’s history goes back to the ancient religion of the Celtic tribes (circa 500 B.C.) from whom came the Britons, Scots and the Irish. Present day Britains, Scots, Welsh and Irish are all descendants from these ancient Celtic tribes.

The Celts worshipped nature and believed in the spirit world. They worshipped over 300 gods. Their chief god was the sun and they celebrated two festivals revolving around the sun: Beltane, to mark the beginning of summer and Samhain or Saman to mark the start of winter.

The Celts believed that at the end of summer, Samhain, the lord of death becomes powerful and overpowers the sun god. On October 31, Samhain assembles all the evil spirits who had died the previous year and allows them to return home to visit the living.

On October 31, after the harvest, the druids would meet under an oak grove or near large stone circles where they performed sacrifices. Some believe that the Stonehenge in England is one such druid circle. The priests would light great fires and offer sacrifices to Samhain to ensure that the sun returned after the winter.

What's the significance behind trick and treat? From Deepa's lens

During the night all fires except the sacrificial one to Samhain were extinguished. The Vigil of Samhain, as it was called, would keep the sacrificial fire on through the night and the next day embers from this fire would be used to light the fire in each household.

Villagers would try to appease goblins and demons with offerings of food and nuts. They would leave little treats that the household had to offer, to satisfy the hunger of these demons. If the demon was satisfied with the treat, it was believed it would not trick the person or cast an evil spell. Therein lies the origin of the present day trick or treat.

Guess who this is! Who is this man in Halloween costume? 

History & folklore is rife with stories about vengeful ghosts, good ghosts, and kindred spirits roaming around. Sharing this world with us. 

My favorite lore is that of "Mohini" or the Churel, a banshee ghost in the folklore of India—which is renowned for its scream. Usually taking the form of a woman, a Churel is said to be a vengeful ghost that returns to the land of the living as a vampire-like creature, bent on revenge!

Often found in the wilderness, a Churel has feet which are flipped 180 degrees, (ah, that was a detail, my grandmother never failed to mention in her ghost stories) allowing her to walk backwards while she mesmerizes the victim! If her gaze is not shunned, usually through a cloth or blanket over one’s own eyes, she will lead the victim to a secluded location and drain them of their blood!

I always wondered, why ghost stories were so sexist, growing up! But I guess that's a conversation for another day!!

Don't look behind you!!! From Deepa's lens

Well, I hope we got spooked enough in this post! Just enough for it to be thrilling! What are your favorite ghost stories? Do you believe in the supernatural? 

Lets talk!

Stay safe this Halloween!!

p.s. I hope I have not offended any spirits out there. Sorry guys, just talking about you...no offense intended! ;)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Deepavali Greetings

A last minute Diwali inspiration - group brass objects and place them at varying heights on a corner table or as a photo booth prop! Images from Deepa's home.

Dear Readers - A gentle reminder that our TJ MAXX Home Goods fifty dollar gift card give away is on till October 24th 10 pm Eastern time.  You can still enter to win!!!!
Those of you who joined the Aalayam family recently (after October 14th), please, please leave us a comment with your name as you are eligible to enter the giveaway. We don't want to miss anyone who is eligible.

For others who want to participate in the giveaway now (you still have time), here is the eligibility criteria.

1. Join Aalayam as a member and leave us a comment stating you are a new member. 

    2. If you are an existing member, you must introduce at least one new member to the Aalayam family and leave a comment introducing the new member. You and the new member will both be eligible!

    3. And finally! Increase your chances of winning by introducing additional new members. So, if you introduce 3 new members, you have 3 chances to win the gift card!

This giveaway is open to readers in the US. Readers in other parts of the world are welcome to enter on behalf  of friends and family here in the US.

The giveaway will close on October 24th at 10 pm eastern and the winner will be announced in a future post. Good luck!

Once again, we wish you a Joyous Deepavali! We will see you on the other side of Diwali with some bone chilling stories! 

Join us for our Halloween spooktacular then!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Diwali Tablescape and Diwali decor inspiration, the Aalayam way!

Add glitz and glamor to your Diwali tablescape - I've done it with crystal, color and metallic accents!
Aalayam's annual Diwali edition by Deepa + a Giveaway (for details scroll down)

As with every other festival, I am still finding my way around traditions and Diwali is no exception. I yearn to recreate the traditions of my maternal home and long for the Deepavali of my childhood. Lucid memories of facile traditions are rekindled - the oil bath at the break of dawn that heralds the onset of the three day festivities, the aroma of the delicacies prepared by mom, the stash of firecrackers painstakingly divided in 2 equal halves by us (bickering) siblings, earthen diyas awaiting to be lined in neat little rows, visiting aunts, uncles, grand parents in all our Deepavali finery, boxes of sweets and the glittery explosion of firecrackers! The magic of Deepavali beckons – after all it is the most adored childhood memory for most of us.

Nothing says Diwali like a traditional thali dinner!

Fast-forward to my expatriate life and Diwali is a weekend potluck dinner, rows of tea lights and maybe some sparklers! A far cry from Diwali’s of the past!

Italian etched goblets work great for serving mango lassi! Pair them with colored water tumblers!

But over the years, I have learnt to add the sparkle back in small doses via our own family traditions while ardently reflecting on past Diwali’s .  At the heart of our celebrations is a good Diwali meal and that is what today’s post is all about. I am passionate about my Diwali meals and many of my own festive memories are intrinsically tied to the food traditions – my grand mom’s rice appams (yele appa) were to die for and I long for it each Diwali. Talk about Pavlov’s classical conditioning! Living in America, I have come to appreciate Western holiday traditions that are strongly rooted in food and feasting and so I attempt to savor Diwali via a meal that promises to bring food, people, culture and tradition together. And hopefully, these meals will leave lasting impressions on my young one and conjure up fond memories of a radiant Diwali night.

Take stock of what you have and creatively work them into your tablescape

This year, I pulled out all the stops in creating a magical tablescape for our dinner guests. I will break this down for you step by step – stay along with the pictures and please do not hesitate to ask me any questions. Make sure to stay with me till the end of the post as I have a giveaway to announce! We also have more Diwali decoration inspirations in our previous year's post. Make sure to check out this, this and this!

Creating a beautiful Deepavali tablescape - made easy!
Add the layers one piece at a time - silver chargers are versatile decor pieces!

I love creating visually decadent tablescapes and I promise you there will be many more tablescapes on Aalayam. This year, I have combined my eastern heritage with my travel inspirations to create a tablescape that merits a distinction of its own. It all started with the crystal candle holders that I found at Home Goods this year – they reminded me of the crystal chandeliers that I saw in the Hall of mirrors at the Palace of Versailles (remember our trip to France?). That was my inspiration! 

Hall of mirrors- The Palace of Versaille!

I was blown away by the delicate beauty of the French chandeliers and swore to add a touch of French chic to our home. I was euphoric when I found these candleholders– they were definitely going in my Deepavali décor this year. 

A travel inspiration works its way into a tablescape at home- for the love of crystal light accents!

And then it quickly became a matter of adding things that would work with these focal pieces.  Colors, textures and patterns were blended in experimentally till I knew I had nailed it!

Lessons from my tablescape:

Paisley - the ultimate ethnic motif!

Create cohesion – by threading different elements with a common theme. In this case I used the Paisley motif to unite the various components and keep the eye moving. The block print paisley napkins, the hand made cards with the paisley stickers and the amber glasses with the paisley motif all work great together and add an ethnic charm to my tablescape.

Always buy enduring pieces and get more mileage out of them - gold toned flatware paired with silver charger and a steel thali - it works!

Use versatile pieces – the fabrics, the tray, the thalis (plates) and the goblets are enduring pieces that I can creatively combine to create an entirely different look next time. So, take stock of what you own and think about how you can use it before you go shopping. My solid blue cotton tablecloth will work well for a birthday or a tea party next time. By layering a saffron block print napkin on it, I have added a festive tenor to the base layer.

A fun conversation starter - the great Indian two-wheeler, move over elephants and peacocks!

Think outside the box. After all you are trying to create a memorable scene that can be remembered long after Diwali is gone. My steel scooter is a fun conversation starter and a fond reminder of home. Let the elephants and the peacocks be… after all there is more to India!

And it comes to life....

Indulge a bit - After all you will be adding a touch of sparkle to your wardrobe. So, why not add some glitter and shine to your home and your dinner table too? I love the sparkle emanating from the light reflected off the crystals in my candleholder. I love the colorful radiance of the rhinestones used in handmade Deepavali signage and my personalized greeting cards. I love the sheen on my gold toned flatware. There’s lots of ways to add sparkle and shine to your décor and here’s just a few ideas.

Make sure to let the flowers pop - they need not all match!

Stay away from faux flowers – please! My friendly neighborhood florist patiently replaced all the fall colored flowers with bright fuchsia ones to create this vibrant bouquet. I wanted the flowers to stand out and not blend in with the blue and orange background. In return, she got a one-one lesson on the splendor of Diwali. It was a win-win for both of us!

Hand made with love!

And lastly – add a few personalized touches for a lasting impression. A handmade Diwali sign and some personalized cards are sure to make your guests smile.  These cards can alternately work as menu cards if you are hosting your non-Indian friends for dinner.

Indian decor need not be tacky and gaudy - there I said it!

Indian décor need not be tacky and gaudy! Indian décor is elegant and beautiful and let your home and table speak for that! The warm glow of the candles will surely knock your décor out of the park!
Embrace the Diwali festivities with a piquant home cooked meal served in style. Once again, this post is about combining the Indian tradition of hospitality with the Western art of entertaining. I hope you all partake in a memorable Diwali meal this year and if you are hosting one - I hope I have inspired you to set a beautiful table!

Our home awaits its guests!

Let us also spare a minute to reflect on the spiritual traditions of Deepavali that bear significance to our every day lives. The killing of Narakasura by Lord Krishna symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. The waking up at Brahma muhurtha symbolizes the early to rise …..concept. The lighting of the diyas emphasizes the need for self-reflection and the need to move away from darkness and ignorance. I hope to be reminded of all these Diwali tenets as I look at the flickering glow of the candles on Diwali night.

Dear readers we wish you health, peace and lots of colorful memories this Diwali.

Now in keeping with the spirit of giving –Supriya and I want to giveaway a fifty dollar gift card of Home Goods and thank you all for your warmth and love!

Love my candleholders? They can be yours with the giftcard - see below for details!

 If you loved the crystal candleholder or the Italian etched wine goblets (they are perfect for serving mango lassi or badam milk this Diwali) I have used in this tablescape then here is your chance to buy it with the gift card we are giving away. This giveaway is open to readers in the US. Readers in other parts of the world are welcome to enter on behalf  of friends and family here in the US.

Here is how you become eligible

 1. Join Aalayam as a member and leave us a comment stating you are a new member. 

    2. If you are an existing member, you must introduce at least one new member to the Aalayam family and leave a comment introducing the new member. You and the new member will both be eligible!

    3. And finally! Increase your chances of winning by introducing additional new members. So, if you introduce 5 new members, you have 5 chances to win the gift card!

The giveaway will close on October 24th at 10 pm eastern and the winner will be announced in our next post. Good luck!


All images are from my home and shot by Uj. Please do not use without permission.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Home Tour - A Tropical Sanctuary!

Mishta's art work (that's right!) hangs proudly on her gallery wall.
Verdant courtyards, colorful Portuguese influences and the home owner’s discerning aesthetic strokes are just a few of the many highlights of Mishta and Anirudh’s cultured and curated home in the heart of a city that I fondly call home – Bengaluru, India. 

Tropical colors and spanish tiles greet visitors at the entrance!

Aalayam readers, it is with great pleasure that I bring you a home from home ! One that kindles the senses with its allure!

 It is a labor of love filled with Mishta and Anirudh’s globe trotting treasures and impeccable taste! One look at the luscious green spaces that blend seamlessly with the light 
and airy indoors and you will want to move in and call this your home! What can I say – this home is a  tropical sanctuary par excellence!  

Previously, the home has been featured on BBC Good Homes, Inside Outside, Deccan Chronicle, Good House Keeping, Ideal Home and Garden and Rang Décor Blog. Yes, it is that good! 
I love the play of light and shadows on this tiled porch - don't you?
Today, I am proud to tell Mishta and Anirudh’s home story - the Aalayam way! 

Thank you for sharing your jewel of a home with all of us. Thank you also to my dear friend Pooja for introducing me to Mishta and making this home tour possible!

House proud - Mishta and Anirudh!

Mishta was great fun to work with! I walked into her home (virtually via Facebook) and stood there with my mouth wide open! This is the kind of home that would totally engage even a stranger! I could not stop looking at the beautiful images of her home staring at me from my FB screen. And then, I sent her a mountain of questions! I had to! I wanted to know everything about how this beautiful home came to be! I am sure Mishta had no clue what she was signing up for when she agreed to do this for Aalayam but she obliged cheerfully. I connected with her warm and ebullient personality in an instant and I knew then that the home was an absolute extension of her diligence and energy. The time difference meant that we would catch each other at ungodly hours and anybody who can inject a little humor into a conversation even at 12.30 am when they are in the middle of a late night feed for their child is worth getting to know and I am glad I did! I deeply cherish the alliances that Aalayam allows me to make.
Layered with love!
Below is our conversation on home and décor with insights from Mishta's keen home making sense. Mishta and Anirudh share this space with darling daughter Mohini fondly called Mou and their furry feline! Mishta’s home has been featured in several print and online media before but Aalayam  holds the bragging rights for  being the first to share pictures of Li’L Mou’s room! Yay!!
Check out the French Calligraphy announcing Mou's Room - The devil is in the details!

 Sit back and let the images take you to a  kaleidoscopic tropical retreat. Diwali will be here soon and it is that time of the year when we all want to spruce up our homes and get into the festive spirit. Allow yourself to be inspired by this magical space!

One of the three courtyards in the house. Leaving the city behind.....

What makes your home "your home"?
M:  Our home is a home because we live in it :) !  We don’t believe in having a showpiece museum at the cost of living, but having said that, we’re naturally neat people and we take pride in our efforts to make the house look beautiful and lived in at the same time. Our daughter is being taught from a very young age to put away her toys after she finishes playing so no Lego underfoot here!

Global treasures find a place in their home and heart!

A lot of us stop at designing/decorating our interiors but you seem to have prioritized decorating your outdoor spaces too! Tell me about your love for the green spaces in your home.

M:  A few trips to Bali and Sri Lanka changed the way we viewed the outdoors in personal space forever, the blurring of the inside and the outside and to seamlessly blend the two. The sense of peace in the morning, sitting in the courtyard, looking at the plants and breathing in the fresh air is a luxury that we cannot do without anymore! The emphasis on the outdoors, and a laid-back approach to living is what defines our home.

Does the decor in your home fit the bill for any one particular style - if so, what drove you to that style?
M: ‘Tropical’ is what we are aspiring to…the cool shades of greenery and warm color schemes equate living in this space to living in a dream.  The design of the house really allows us to experience all of nature up close and feel at peace any time of the day and it reminds us of our beloved Bali and Goa at each corner.

Who calls the design shots in your home? 
M: We both do. Anirudh holds the rights to more practical solutions while I lean towards the more whimsical.

How does your personal decor style influence your work professionally or the other way around? 
Since we’re both visual/ergonomic designers, it has definitely affected the way we see spaces and colours. Tropical decor is vibrant with lively overtones and both our personalities resonated well with that. Mishta is a graphic designer from Central Saint Martins. Her company is called Drawater by Mishta Roy while Anirudh is an ergonomist from Georgia Tech; a technical design consultant for technology companies.  

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? 
M: We decorate our home with pieces we have purchased all over the world on our travels. We once shipped large Balinese doorway guardian statues all the way from Bali and enormous birdcages from another trip! We don’t ever shop for anonymous pieces. They have to mean something to us and be associated with an experience/memory/geography/childhood. 

Where do you draw your online inspirations from - any favorite resources that you can share?
M: Inhabitot for now for Mou’s room, Rang Décor, Indian Summer, Kaleidoscope.
Mou's room - Magical and merry!

 * My absolute favorite response – this to me sums up how and why this is such a gorgeous home *
Are there influences from your home state (west Bengal/Calcutta) in your décor or have you stuck to southern influences of your adopted state/city (Karnataka/ Bangalore)? How are the two different in your opinion? 

M: The house inadvertently has mirrored my grandmother’s house in Alipore, Kolkata. Three bedrooms in three distinct color schemes…pink room, green room and blue room. As well as the grandfather clock that chimes melodically every 15 minutes… we got a Seiko that sounds the same as my grandmother’s clock! The library was inspired by Anirudh’s grandfather’s extensive collection and we designed the floor to ceiling bookshelves to mirror that. So I would say that our home is not so much inspired by our cultures, but rather by our childhood memories of happy spaces.

How is your adorable daughter influencing your home décor process now – tell me a little bit about creating kid friendly spaces.
M: She is influencing us through necessary childproofing…so a lot of furniture has moved around and safety gates installed. The green room has been turned into her playroom which is circus themed. I wanted to give her an environment that was colorful, propagated a love for animals and strong women who fly(!), so no pink princesses here!

Pick one room and tell us how it came about – what did you buy first, how did you keep adding till you said this is it. Did you envision the look before hand or was it done on the fly?
M: How did it come together so well? It evolved...but was determined right at the beginning by the color of the wall..ie pink room has fabrics which are soft florals always so it compliments the color. The furniture too is delicate. So it is a fairly feminine, peaceful room and so my glass perfume bottle collection has a home here. Blue room is the master bedroom and has strong indigo flavors, so the furnishings and furniture compliment that.
delicate wind swept block print fabrics add to the romance!

What’s next for your beautiful home? 
M: A swing! The perfect indoor/outdoor swing has been eluding me for awhile!
And because I love this wall, her art work, that chest and those bird cages so much..... 

One simple thing – a swing, she says!  This is yet another reminder of the fact that it takes patience and perseverance to create the home of your dreams.

 Anirudh and Mishta, decided to build over Anirudh’s family home’s existing ground-floor bungalow and Mishta says “ We wanted something different, something that reflected our love for travel and nature and blurred the lines between inside and outside. A house that was inward-facing and left the city out,while creating a peaceful oasis that we could enjoy privately”
They have accomplished that and more, don’t you think?

Thank you for joining us on this home tour. Please leave your comments and questions for Mishta. Tell us if you are inspired by this space. Our home owners, who graciously share their homes with all of us, would love to hear from you.

Next up, the post that you and I have both waited for – Aalayam's Diwali post! Yes, it is now an annual Aalayam tradition and I am all excited to bring you sparkling inspirations to ignite your festive fervor! Join me next week for Diwali décor inspirations!


P.S: All images belong to the home owners – Mishta and Anirudh and may not be used without permission.