Balcony Love: Hand Painted Planter

Auto Rickshaw paint

Balcony Love: Hand Painted Planter

 

Now that I’m on a break from paid work, I have some mornings when I need to get onto a project for the sake of staying sane. So, I’ve been trying to fix that cursed black thumb of mine…anything I tried to grow promptly died on me in the past. But I am so happy to see that some of my new green friends are positively thriving.

To break the jinx, I bought plants from my local nursery and had them potted by their gardener. A couple of palms, a fern, a native bush that has pretty peach blossoms and a lemon tree. As they began to thrive under the care of little K and me I began to dream of bigger things. I was bold enough to bring out two old tubs that had been purchased a couple of years ago with the intention of growing tomatoes.

I really wanted to add more colour to my balcony garden, so the pepper saplings (I grew them from seed. Hurrah!) were planted in a tub that I painted turquoise blue. I stencilled on a simple graphic of elephants and voila, I had a happy place to nurture my bright coloured peppers. (If and when they actually arrive, that is. Fingers crossed.)

The baby steps I took towards sprinkling some balcony love, have added a lot of happy mornings to our life. K and I spend time watering, pruning, weeding and learning about nature in the early morning sun. What a great activity for a toddler, which also gives him the daily dose of vitamin D.

So to add a touch of whimsy to our morning ritual, I decided to paint a plastic basket before I planted some basil in it.

Now, much to my dismay, my wee one is head over heels in love with vehicles of every kind. His love affair began with ‘bus’ and ‘auto’, and now has spun out of control. I’m dismayed because I didn’t want him to be such a boy. I do find some solace in the fact that he loves ‘cooking’ just as much. So to begin with, maybe I should try not to slot him.

I’ve been meaning to paint an auto rickshaw for a long, long time. With the renewed burst of optimism from nature, I thought I could do it this time. Or maybe it was just a case of too much sun, if you know what I mean. For over a week the poor basket had sat on my table painted a staid grey on white just crying out for some colour. And against my initial inhibitions against kitsch, I went for it.

I used acrylic colours for this planter since they hold up well to rain and sun. The simple joy those couple of hours brought me is something I will hold onto for a while. As K napped, I pencilled in the outline and went to work with the colours. It’s been a few years since I’ve held a brush, so I was thrilled with the final product.

 

Auto Rickshaw painting

Balcony Love: Hand Painted Planter

Hand Painted Planter with a polka dotted back

Hand Painted Planter with a polka dotted back

 

My special props assistant did a smashing job as I clicked these pictures. But by the end of his shift, he’d had enough and decided that the only way to stop his mad mum was to make away with the ‘ahtou’.

 

Props Assistant: Various Moods

Props Assistant: Various Moods

 

The results are here for you to see. What do you think?

DIY Handpainted planters1

The Makeover: a shabby plastic basket turns into a quirky, fun planter

 

 

Wanderlust: Ant’s-eye View of The Taj Mahal

In my short life, I’ve had two encounters with the Taj. While one was at that tricky age of 16, the other was at a slightly more befuddling 31 (does maturity really come with age?). Each visit is sharply etched in my mind, and I’m happy to see that by the second one, I seemed to have grown up a little. Or so I’d like to believe.

For most Indians, the trip to see the Taj Mahal is like a tiny pilgrimage. It’s after all the poster child of India, famed to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We grow up listening to the magical experiences of people who’ve been to this inimitable symbol of limitless love. On my first trip to the Taj, all of this was pretty much lost on me.

I recall being armed with a Kodak point-and-shoot camera, wearing a hideous blue tee-shirt identical to the ones worn by 40 other teenagers. It was a school trip with my batch mates. All of us had recently faced one of the biggest hurdles in our academic careers – the 10th standard board exams. We’d been slogging out butts off for over a year and now, were finally taking that well-earned break. The trip focused on a seven day trek in the Himachal hills and the visit to the Taj Mahal was just a tick on the North Indian itinerary.

And what a rotten time to pick for a trip to the Taj! It was the peak of summer, the sunlight glinting off the white marble made it difficult to see anything without squinting. People have to walk barefoot to get near the main dome but on this day, the tiled floor was so hot we had to make a mad dash for it. All we wanted to do was sprawl out under a tree and doze off in the gentle breeze. We weren’t interested in the back story; none of us had experienced true love yet. During the one hour guided tour, the only thing that made us pay attention was the barbaric folklore of how the hands of master artisans were chopped off so that no one could replicate the majestic Taj ever again.

We’d brought packed lunch from Delhi. It was made by our school cook at the crack of dawn and had been emanating promising smells on the four-hour bus ride. By the time it was lunchtime however, the food was stinking so ferociously that even rodents steered clear of the dustbin! The heat had been too much for the poor fried rice. Our fiscally prudent principal was in a fix, but made a stupendous, last-minute recovery with some packets of chips and flavoured milk.

As we left Agra, I felt a pang of dissatisfaction. I vowed to myself that I’d be back some day.

Taj blog 1

Now, almost 15 years later, I had once again come to Agra. This time around I was with family – N, his brother and my dear friend who’s married to N’s brother. We’re all shutter-happy people, so we had four cameras of differing capabilities to make some memorable pictures. We drove to the place where you have to park your cars, about 2 km away from the main grounds. From there, you can either take a ride in an eco-friendly electric rikshaw or ride along with an uber-friendly horse cart.

Taj blog 5

Is it a surprise that we chose the horse cart ride? Our awesome steed, Sajaan, was quite a cute fella. His owner claimed that Sajaan was super busy during the peak wedding seasons. North Indian grooms are notorious for riding up to the mandap on a beautiful stallion. Who can blame them? There’s probably no other way to match up to the gorgeousness of the brides. But I digress.

After a full-body search, we entered the sprawling compound. While my troops lingered around, I was impatient to get a first glimpse. When we entered the main archway, I remembered something the guide had told me all those years ago. If you stand directly facing the Taj and walk briskly towards it, the building appears to move back, and shrink in size. And, if you back away quickly while still looking at the Taj, it grows steadily and comes closer to you. This delightful quirk of the architecture was interpreted by our guide, “when you gallop towards it, the Taj bows and welcomes you but when you try to run away, it rushes forward and says ‘don’t leave me’!”

Taj blog 2

Over the years, Shah Jahan’s ode to his precious wife has turned a mild shade of yellowish-cream. Despite this unfortunate reality, it is one of the most enchanting buildings on Earth. When you see it across the water canals and lush green gardens, its hold over you intensifies. You cannot run away from it, if anything, you almost never want to leave.

The Taj Mahal’s beauty stunned me, I felt paralyzed. How do I capture an authentic bit of what I see and feel in a few photographs? How can I translate this inexplicable sense of wanting to get closer and yet being afraid of missing out on seeing it whole? Of wanting to touch the perfect reflection in the still water? Of being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the art that has witnessed the turn of over three centuries? How do I convey the delicate, gossamer dreams carved out of Makrana marble? The peace and serenity that I feel here?

Eventually, I realized it was my only chance, so I had to try my best. The pictures in this post aren’t entirely satisfactory, but someday I hope to get another chance to improve on my humble attempt.

Seeing the Taj with grown up eyes was a gift. Having lived through some of the highs and lows of love myself, I think I better understood the creation this time around. When you see the Taj, you can’t help but think about how deeply the emperor had loved his sweetheart, and how inconsolable his grief must have been to inspire this final resting place for her.

Tagore perhaps interpreted it best when he wrote, “let this one tear-drop, this Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, forever and ever.”

 

 

SEASON OF LOVE: FREE PRINTABLE VALENTINE CARD

I know it’s quite cheesy to say this, but am going to risk it – Love is in the Air! It is February after all.

While I believe that we don’t need a special day to tell people that we love them, I still like to indulge mildly in this month of pink and crimson. Yes, St. Valentine’s Day is a one of those hyper-commercialized days even in India. But, if we don’t give in to the hoopla, isn’t any excuse great to have special time together? To simply expresses how grateful you are that you found this person. To tell them you are the luckiest person alive to be with them. To just put all your feelings down on paper. And to do it in a fun and special way.

Each day of the year, we express our love through actions – by showing care, by tuning in to the other person’s needs and even by just lending a helping hand. On hallmark days, a simple gesture to express your love tells your partner that you have taken the time to think about them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be surprised with a love note yourself?

Ever since I can remember, I have never really obsessed about Valentine’s Day. That specific date. Back in college, we used to have a ‘Rose Day’ sometime in February. A day celebrating secret crushes and love (because you could send anonymous rose cards). When I started working, my agency used the same idea, but we didn’t make a day of it. A half hour after lunch was spent listening to poetic messages (most were anonymous, again) and swapping chocolates. All through my teen years, it was mandatory for girlfriends and boyfriends to give each other cards. So the point am trying to make, is that for me, the celebration of love is closely linked to messages on paper. An email will just not cut it.

All of this was running through my mind last week, and I wanted to create something that would let us say ‘I Love You’ without being predictable. I saw the abundance of flowers, cute animals, hearts and chocolates swirling around as tokens of love,  but my mind kept searching for more. Like most ideas that pop into my head, the one for this card popped in when I was engrossed in a totally unrelated activity. I was pickling! So bizarre. Red chilies being pickled led to me the image you see above. I refined my initial thoughts to craft a couple of messages that I think will work.

The picture above and a message variant is now available as an art print and on other merchandise like iPhone covers, totes and throw pillows in my Society6 Shop. And just for you, I have created a FREE printable card to tell your loved one that they are indeed the spice of your life!

To download your free printable click on this link: Only You Valentine Card

Can you think of a message that will go with this image? If there is something else that you’d like to say to your sweetheart, drop me a line in the comments section below and I’d be happy to work on a custom card for you!

Hope you have a lovely season of LoVe!

DIWALI DECOR: 25 WAYS TO LIGHT UP YOUR HOME

The first thing my mum does, when Diwali is just around the corner, is buy our big, fat Diwali lanterns. Over the years we’ve also made a few at home. One was always hung in the balcony of our apartment. A few modest clay diyas lined the windows and precisely two were kept right outside the main entrance. These little lights and a colourful large rangoli meant Diwali was here.

Now my parents live in a row house, which means many more windows and balconies. So there are three big, fat lanterns, string lights and hand painted diyas. My sister loves to do up the traditional diyas with glitter and colours. She’s super at it, maybe I’ll dupe her into doing a tutorial this time! So my point is, today, none of us can get away with the simple stuff we grew up with. Too much pressure, I say. As we amp up the celebration of the festival of lights, I thought of doing a quick round-up of excellent ideas to bring in the light all through the festive season.

I’ve pinned 25 lovely, DIY inspirations. Some of them can be assembled in 5 minutes flat while others can keep you busy all through this weekend. From the ever versatile tea lights to bare, naked bulbs, the possibilities are pretty much endless.Head over to my Pinterest board Diwali Lights Decor to take your pick.What do you do to light up your home for the festival?

BOOK HUNT FIND: HOME BY STAFFORD CLIFF

Have you ambled into a book shop without any particular title in mind? Just given in to the bookworm instinct, prepared to pour over book covers and blurbs, to discover a gem quite by chance? That’s exactly what happened to me a few moons ago on a trip to a mall in Delhi. They (Landmark) were having some sort of a sale, and books were piled almost from the floor to the ceiling. What joy!

I pottered about and found this simply brilliant book – Home: 50 Taste-makers Describe What it is, Where it is, What it Means by Stafford Cliff. I loved the cover, the title and a quick flip through revealed that this was worth having on my bookshelf. However, it has never made it to the bookshelf since I brought it home. I love having it within easy reach just so I can flip through the pages, stare into beautifully captured homes, get lost in childhoods and the different interpretations of a home.

It’s one of those books, that teach us so much about personal style, photography and the meaning of spaces we create. A home is so much more than a place to park your stuff. As my world-view evolves, I see my need for a place to call home change.

There are so many things that endear this book to me. As the taste-makers talk about their homes or special places they reveal so much about who they are, how they think and sometimes, it completely changes the way you have perceived them earlier. That is an exciting promise, don’t you think?

Kenzo Takada’s home in Paris

The photography is a different trip altogether. Some pictures add visual elements to enhance a narrative while some spin a new tale all by themselves. Designing is always subjective, but the sheer personality it imbibes from owners or designers is enchanting. Just looking at the pictures gives you so many ideas to transform your home into a reflection of its occupants.

Beautiful kitchens, the bottom one is Donna Hay’s. So very her, isn’t it?

A busy living room wall, with great character

What I have learnt, from this book so far:

  1. Things that endure through the years, the many abodes and phases of your life are the ones that serve some purpose with an element of delight to the eye. So I’d suggest you don’t buy things unless you see yourself living with them for a long, long time
  2. On the other hand, it’s perfectly okay to include a few things that aren’t functional, but have an emotional connection for you. So that recipe your grandma gave you, can be printed onto parchment paper and framed to inspire wholesome meals in your kitchen
  3. Experiment, blend, get inspired by the trends and the design rules of your era, but leave some room to add your personal touches. A bottle filled with sands from all the beaches you enjoy may not come for a heavy price tag, but is a delightful reminder of fun times
  4. Bring in the light, let it dance around. Most beautiful rooms become even better when you throw in a good mix of light, natural or arranged
  5. Find a place for things that you love doing, make time to personalise it. Enjoy the after-effects. Donna Hay’s kitchen, Paul Smith’s office, Kenzo Takda’s pool in his living room all inspire to carve out spaces where happiness is easy to find

I’d definitely recommend this fat little book of treasures, in case you like the stuff I’ve been raving about in this post.

If you have any thing to add to this list (whether inspired by this book or elsewhere), I’d love to hear about it. Share with us, your go-to inspirations for building a home that you love.

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.