Goodbyes and New Adventures

Photograph: Mood for Reflection by Priyanka Nayar

It is time for us to move again. Yes, I know, seems too soon to me too. We’re all packed and ready to push off to Porbandar for our next adventure. It’s been a good first stint in Kerala. The people, the food, the beaches and the wildlife have made their excellent first impressions.

It’s been just over a year since we came here, but we’ve travelled away from home so often, that we haven’t seen everything that there is to see and experience. We’ll be back some day. Maybe to another part of the state.

This has been the kind of sabbatical from normal life that only very few lucky people can manage. It has spoilt me, for now, wherever I go, I will miss the lush greens. The place where we lived afforded us a view of the Arabian Sea on one hand, and the beautiful backwaters that Kerala is famous for on the other. Will be hard to find something to beat that.

Am one fourth Keralite, but have been to Kerala only once, over two decades ago. I’ve learnt some local cuisine, picked up a few words of Malayalam, and bought my first ‘set saree‘! It’s been wonderful being introduced to my roots. I’ve floated through most of my life not belonging to a particular part of the country, I surely will continue to do that for the rest of my life too. But now I know a little more about where my grandfather came from, and perhaps a little about why I am a fan of curry leaves.

There are still a bunch of things that are on my bucket list – am yet to take a cruise on a house boat, live in floating houses and watch a Kathakali performance. I haven’t had a whole host of dishes that I dream about, haven’t caught a glimpse of Periyar, Thekkady, Kumarakom or Munnar and not even had fresh seafood by the sea in Cochin. So I am far from satiated and my heart wants to come back and complete the journey.

Au revoir Kerala and my lovely friends here. Unfortunately, I’ve had to use the farewell cards I designed a short while back. But like the card says, it’s goodbyes only until we meet again.

The picture above captures my thoughts as I sign off, and prepare for the train journey tomorrow morning. If you’d like to see the art print for this and other pictures by me, you can find them at my store. Some of them are available as iPad and iPhone skins too.

I may not be able to write again until we’re well and settled in Porbandar. But my head is all abuzz with ideas for DIY projects and cozying up the nest there. And I’ve been busy pinning inspiration on my Pinterest boards. So when am back in full swing, there will be loads to share. On our way to our new home, we’re spending a few days in Mumbai, I should also have some stories to share of my time at markets, old haunts and with dear old friends.

Have a super weekend yourself, and an even better week ahead. xoxo, Sunny Nomad me.

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This Time That Year: A Summer in Paris

The year was 2007. Three young students from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) were headed to Paris to represent India at the L’Oreal Brandstorm marketing contest. I was one of the three, we were up against teams from 36 other countries. This was the second time L’Oreal India was even participating in the global finals. We worked hard for six months leading up to this fabulous moment. We didn’t place amongst the top winners of the contest, but we sure came away with precious moments and memories.

It was my first trip out of the country. And that too to Paris, in June. The most glorious time of the year to be there. I was so kicked on so many levels. I was there to represent my country, to make new friends, to show what a good brand management student I was and to experience a culture I had only read about in books. I was on a high, as were my team mates.

For the first time, I understood what it meant when people said diversity. Up until now, the only diversity I’d experienced was that of the geography of states and languages within India. Here, 37 countries brought people of all colours, hues and tones. Of different races, languages and cultures. Though the conclave lasted only three days, the memories are burnt in my mind’s eye forever.

I made a lot of friends, some of whom I’ve managed to stay in touch with. Some others have faded away as part of a refreshing experience. My mind was not ready to absorb everything I saw, heard and smelled in those 9 days in Paris. After the conclave got done, we moved out of the trendy hotel the company had put us up at to a hostel on the outskirts of the main city. Clichy was far from all the important sights, and it gave us the chance to explore the Paris metro. It was lovely to hear the recorded names of stations in French, which sounded nothing like what they looked!

We took in all the tourist destinations, spent a good hour browsing through the Shakespeare Book Co.’s collection and wandered through Montmartre’s alleys. This was where artists like Salvadore Dali, Modigliani, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh worked. I was delighted to simply walk down the same cobble-stoned roads as these artists must have ages ago, gazing upon the beautiful city that may have inspired their work. I almost wished I could have a tiny little flat and live here forever.

We had some wine on a side-walk cafe beside the Seine, walked along the river by day and cruised on it at night. The air was filled with art, music, French and style. We toured the Louvre, I ran to catch a glimpse of Van Gogh’s work at a museum dedicated to him. Unfortunately, it was closed, but just outside, I met local artists and saw the work of the master replicated beautifully by them. I almost walked away with a oil on canvas, but alas, my meager budget allowed me only art prints of the originals. Sigh!

Apart from enjoying the atmosphere of the romantic capital of the world, Paris was a crash course in different kinds of personal style. Things that were on the ramps were on the streets in Mumbai too. But I had yet to see such clever mixing of colours and textures. I was a student, I couldn’t afford much, but I did come away with two beautiful and surprising pullovers.Those and a couple of berets is all I bought to keep the spirit of personal style alive for me. Even if I wear them at home, they make me happy!

My one regret is that I didn’t possess enough skill or capability to make the most of my borrowed camera. A cousin had lent me his point-and-shoot and now I have thumbnail sized memories to look at whenever am nostalgic.

I created this collage above by using some clever filters and effects in Coreldraw. It is a beautiful reminder of a wonderful time only four summers ago. I’ve made another version of the same photograph, and if you’d like to check it, you can head over to my store on Society6.com.

N and I plan to return to the city someday, together. He’s done a trip with family a year after I was there, we didn’t even know each other. I can almost see us walking along the quaint sidewalks and soaking in the Paris air. Of course, he will drag me to music shops. But I will tug at his arm as we cross Valentino. Who knows, we may just be able to buy me something gorgeous in Valentino Red. One can dream.

Cupcake Gluttony: Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon filling

A friend sent me a link to drop-dead gorgeous cupcakes (30 of them!) and thankfully the pictures were accompanied by recipes. The baker-writer has done a fabulous job, even though she claims to have never baked before, her cupcakes look like they belong in a cupcake shop. Her generous effort of cataloging 30 of the best recipes from friends and family is truly commendable. You must stop by here, even if to only indulge in visual gluttony of Ming’s creations.

I really wanted to try out a recipe, and from the long list, I picked Cupcake 23: Vanilla cupcakes with Lemon filling (there was no way I was gonna manage the meringue frosting) based on the access to ingredients and my desire to try my hand at whisking a lemon curd. Do you follow all those heart-wrenchingly lovable Masterchef Australia series? If you don’t, you must look them up. In India they are running the Junior Masterchef series, and it makes me feel quite ashamed, really. Am blown away by the sheer talent, technique and palate of the competing kids. Even though I can’t taste a single thing, I can tell how delicious those whip-ups are!

Lucy, who is a third generation cake queen and all of 11 years old, was whisking together a lemony yellow lemon curd the other day. And I thought, I must try this someday. Then, along comes Cupcake 23 and I have the chance to get my wish granted. I grabbed it with both hands, put pen to paper and jotted down the recipe in my lil recipe book (thank you Hammie for the Daydreams Nightdreams notebook. It is rapidly filling up at both ends).

Here’s a snapshot of what I attempted. If you read on, you’ll pat my back for the delicate choice of words.

When I tried my first batch, I wanted to cry. Mine came out too short to even peek above the cupcake wrappers! But they tasted divine. So I decided to give them another go (in any case, the 8 I made vanished before you could say Jack Sparrow and my craving wasn’t done yet).

No, I have no amazing story to tell of how I conquered a batch of cupcakes. The second time was only slightly better looking, however, I came nowhere close to the creation above. I bemoaned my ambitious spirit, wondering why I didn’t settle for some bun-butter-sugar (which is my go-to treat in times of sugary cravings) instead. At least that looks neat and edible.

But when they taste so good, who cares about how rustic they look, right? My story does have a happy ending after all. The cupcakes came out soft and fluffy, sweet and tangy, and we all lived happily ever after. Not the cupcakes, those were gone and the crumbs were dusted.

I urge you to give one of them a go too. They look deceptively difficult, but with a bit of patience, am sure you’ll manage a super yummy set.

P.S. You’ll thank me someday for sharing the link with you.
P.P.S. Try to send me some, when you try any of them. I have no favourites, or let’s say, they all agree very well with me!

Humble Beginnings: A new Store

Hullo everyone. Hope you’ve had a super weekend. The rains have arrived here with some serious gusto and they have kept me indoors all through it, but I’ve been busy.I’ve just set up shop at Society6, a wonderful place for creative people to collaborate, showcase and sell their art. When I first discovered it through a friend (thank you S), I was blown away by the great art that was so affordable. In the early days, I only ogled and spent several hours just browsing through the eclectic collection. Somewhere along the way, I plucked up just enough courage to think of actually creating something and putting it up there.

When I read this article on The NY Times website last week, it really inspired me, and I wanted to spread the message. So, I made this art print that captures Michael Pollen’s word of advice and it became the first art print to go on sale!

I silenced all my inner fears and took the plunge, and can now fancy myself a legitimate artiste, once someone actually buys a piece. I’ve been so excitable that I simply couldn’t sit still, and tapped away at my keyboard until the wee hours to share this news with you.

I hope you take the time to head over to my store and check out all the art prints and other goodies. You can find me at Society6.com/PriyankaNayar.

I’ve also added a new link in the right hand side column that proudly proclaims ‘My Shop’ ( I just couldn’t resist it). There, you will be able to buy copies of pictures I click and add a bit of Sunny Nomad to your life too.

Gleefully signing off, and wishing you all a wonderful week ahead! xo.

Infectious Creativity: Pinterest Delights

If you’re new to Pinterest, then let me shine the spotlight on this wonderful social sharing platform. It has tons of inspiration in the form of pictures and videos, all put up by people like you and me. You can create your own moodboards and go nuts (like I have done).

In all fairness, there is a bit of trend spotting on the agenda for about 20 of my Pinterest boards. Some of us at work thought, ooh, how do we make all this pinning of beautiful stuff legit. Bam. Our Signbanking boards were born.

But getting back to my original point, this is the place to go completely loony about everything your eyes desire. If you’re a closet hoarder, you can come out to the world here. After all, you’re only spreading some joy. It’s easy to sign up using your Facebook profile,Twitter handle or email id. Be sure to add the ‘pinmarklet’ button to your browser, so you can pin all the lovable things you see from any page online.

There is some gorgeous edible art that I have been pinning onto my Tuck Box board and thought it would be wonderful to give you a peek at it. Just looking at these creations makes me pine for delicious treats.

1. Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Mousse from The New York Times via Chloé Douglas
2. Mr. Egg from a bit of pilli pilli via Anne Louise
3. Van Gogh Cupcakes from Kate’s Cupkery via Akanksha Khatri
4. Dragonfly Cupcakes from Disney family.com via Brenda McGuire

If you’d like to see the rest of the drool worthy stuff I’ve been pinning, just head over to my Pinterest profile.

Vintage with a Twist: A Class Act

We’ve all heard the age-old wisdom of when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I thought of taking a shot at it, and came up with this art print. Why not be classy, stare life in the eye, and make some lemon tea? Surviving a challenge with grace, charm and style makes me feel much better while am trying to get through it. The key of course is to remember that you will get on the other side, it’s the middle that sucks, but is going to pass. Hang in there buddy, you’re gonna make it.