Monday, August 30, 2010

Last minute packing frenzy......!

Ok so this is it....tomorrow this time I will be on my way to New York, and then on to DC for The Big son's wedding on the 5th of September, followed by a reception in Seattle and one in San Jose!! I am so excited, I am bursting out of my seams!!! Its been a chaotic week, to say the least....things always come down to the last minute no matter how much you organize and intend to get it all done ahead of time. For me anyway, I need the pressure of the last minute to get me moving!

I will be off the blog radar for a while, but hope to make up for it with gusto after I get back, with my new computer at my new blogging station. I will be reading YOUR blogs though...have to stay abreast of that! I am especially excited because I am hoping to meet Anu of My Dream Canvas in Seattle, and Priya of OUATT in San Jose! So wonderful to meet two people who were my very early inspirations to start blogging!

Here are some last minute shots taken over the past 2 days....the utter madness of packing for an overseas trip, and a wedding to boot!!!
Bearing gifts for all....

Trying to decide what jewellery to take....
Bangles galore....
And more....
And more...
Lucy trying to sabotage my packing
Aided and abetted by Junglee....
Travel documents
Medical insurance papers
Snacks, useful sustenance during those long layovers....
See you all back here on the 17th or soon as I get over jet lag, I'll be blogging again! In the meantime, have a fabulous awesome September all of you!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Saffron and Silk Headquarters have shifted!

The S&S HQ has moved, I have a new office space.....inspired by Priya's post, I was compelled to re-evaluate my official blogging HQ and make drastic changes! No more sitting on the sofa with the laptop perched precariously on my lap, and then it getting so overheated I had to move it to the coffee table before my insides got fried, and then sit on a pillow on the floor....then hunch over and type, ergonomic blasphemy!! Of course to make the move I needed my hubby's I had to convince him that a better blogging station would make for better blog posts, and consequently more satisfied readers, which would translate to positive comments and a happier me and therefore..a happier husband! OK, so maybe he didn't need that much convincing, but it did take a bit of pleading! And I had the perfect reason.....a new Apple computer (which should be waiting for me in California in when I get there in 2 weeks, yay!) needs a better home than a cooling pad on the coffee table! Plus, he has been wanting me to start a blog on his mother - who was an amazing woman...compassionate mother, singer, dancer, actress - which I said I could only do if I had a comfortable blogging station. I think all this perfectly logical reasoning touched his perfectly logical engineering mind and sort of clinched it.
So now instead of sitting here and blogging.....

I blog here...! Nice huh? Its a corner of our family room upstairs, but I have to be careful cos if back out of my chair too rapidly I will go hurtling down the spiral staircase into the library......!
The pic, jar of pens and pencils, moneyplant.....
A closer look
Some yummy almond anise biscotti....
....for the times when my sugar starved brain has hit a blogging wall!!

I admit, not as nice and fancy as Priya's, but slowly I plan to expand and steps, baby steps!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Golden Temple - the abode of God!

I am often asked what places I would like to vist in my lifetime. That would be tough for me to answer because the list is endless, but included in the top ten would certainly be the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Amritsar, the original name of first the ancient lake, then the temple complex, and still later the surrounding city, means "pool of ambrosial nectar." The Harmandir Sahib (meaning The Abode of God) or simply the Golden Temple, is the most sacred shrine of Sikhism. For the Sikhs, the Golden Temple symbolizes infinite freedom and spiritual independence.

It is a place of both stupendous beauty and sublime peacefulness. Originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest, the site has been a meditation retreat for wandering mendicants and sages since deep antiquity. The Buddha is known to have spent time at this place in contemplation.Two thousand years after Buddha's time, another philosopher-saint came to live and meditate by the peaceful lake. This was Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion. After the passing away of Guru Nanak, his disciples continued to frequent the site; over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs. The lake was enlarged and structurally contained during the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru, and during the leadership of the fifth Guru, the Hari Mandir, or Temple of God was built. From the early 1600s to the mid 1700s the sixth through tenth Sikh Gurus were constantly involved in defending both their religion and their temple against Moslem armies. On numerous occasions the temple was destroyed by the Moslems, and each time was rebuilt more beautifully by the Sikhs. From 1767 onwards, the Sikhs became strong enough militarily to repulse invaders. Peace returned to the Hari Mandir.

The temple's architecture draws on both Hindu and Moslem artistic styles yet represents a unique coevolution of the two. Within the sanctuary, lies the Adi Grantha, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. This scripture is a collection of devotional poems, prayers, and hymns composed by the ten Sikh gurus and various Moslem and Hindu saints. Beginning early in the morning and lasting until long past sunset, these hymns are chanted to the exquisite accompaniment of flutes, drums, and stringed instruments. Echoing across the serene lake, this enchantingly beautiful music induces a delicate yet powerful state of trance in the pilgrims strolling leisurely around the marble concourse encircling the pool and temple. An underground spring feeds the sacred lake, and throughout the day and night pilgrims immerse themselves in the water, a symbolic cleansing of the soul rather than an actual bathing of the body. Next to the temple complex are enormous pilgrims' dormitories and dining halls where all persons, irrespective of race, religion, or gender, are lodged and fed for free.

Here are some pics of the can see why its on my list of "places I have to visit in my lifetime" list!

 And here is a video from youtube where you can listen to a kirtan, or a chant, at the Golden Temple! Close your eyes and get lost in the music......!

Images via flickr and the Internet.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Happy Onam!

Happy Onam to all my Kerala friends! And since my ancestors are from Kerala too, but who moved to Chennai many many years ago, I get to enjoy this festival too in spirit!

Onam is the most popular harvest festival celebrated with pomp and grandeur by the Malayalee communities of Kerala to express their gratitude for the home coming of their benevolent king Mahabali and in memory of the happy days of his rule.
According to a popular legend, Vaman, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, asked as much land as he could cover in three steps from king Mahabali. Mahabali generously agreed to his request. Later, Vaman, in two giant strides, covered the earth and heaven and when asked where could he place his third step? Mahabali offered his head for Vaman to place his third step. Vaman then pushed Mahabali to the netherworld and granted him permission to go to his beloved kingdom of Kerala only once a year. Onam is celebrated to welcome Mahabali's home coming.

The rich cultural heritage of Kerala comes out in its best form and spirit during the ten day long festival. The most impressive part of Onam celebration is the grand feast called Onasadya, prepared on Thiruonam. It is a nine course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes. Onasadya is served on banana leaves and people sit on a mat laid on the floor to have the meal.

Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkali, the Snake Boat Race, held on the river Pampa. It is a colourful sight to watch the decorated boat oared by hundreds of boatmen amidst chanting of songs and cheering by spectators.

There is also a tradition to play games, collectively called Onakalikal, on Onam. Men go in for rigorous sports like Talappanthukali (played with a ball), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kutukutu and combats called Kayyankali and Attakalam. Women indulge in cultural activities. They make intricately designed flower mats called, Pookalam in the front courtyard of the house to welcome King Mahabali. Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal are two graceful dances performed by women on Onam. Folk performances like Kummatti kali and Pulikali add to the zest of celebrations.

In Kerala, it marks the end of the monsoon. The harvest has been reaped and granaries are full. At Shoranur, Kathakali dancers tell stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata through dance movements.

In Kottayam, boat races are held and the entire population of Kerala get together to celebrate the festival.

In other words, Onam in Kerala is like the Mardi Gras in New Orleans or the Carnival in Rio - a whole lotta fun! One look at these pics and you will agree....

Kerela is truly God's own country!

Images via flickr photo sharing!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The weekend song!

Have a great weekend everyone! I'll be entertaining some guests tomorrow and feeding them some good old fashioned South Indian soul food - Masala Dosas, Chutney and Sambar for lunch.....
followed by Kheer, (rice pudding with flecks of saffron and slivered almonds) for dessert!
That should put us all in a pretty soporific state, so to revive us, some South Indian filter coffee, or as we say "kaapi"!
Then if I have any energy left and the carb bombs haven't killed me yet, I may get on with my packing, printing, gift wrapping, note making, to-do list checking off...and then hit the treadmill, maybe.....

For those of you who need some inspiration to just take a break and let the housework be, here it is:

Tomorrow Can Wait/The Weekend Song by Anita Atina

Languid repose
Piled up chores
Everything’s waiting
For my cheery doze
The appointments, the laundry
The house is in a mess
Don’t want fresh clothes
Undressed is best
When the music curls up slowly
In a drowsy haze
Oh its so nice to lie down
Under the sun’s warm gaze
The rushing and the buzzing
For the week is done
And finally its the weekend
To soak up the sun!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My love affair with Morocco!

Morocco continues to beckon us bloggers and I am no exception! This is not my first and I guarantee, it will not be my last post on this exotic country! The rich colors, the blue sky, the ochre-colored sand and red-tinged mountains, the hospitality, the clamor of the fish markets and the silence of the inner courtyards all continue to hold their spell on us. And of all the cities, Marrakech seems to be the most fascinating! It is no secret that Marrakech is shopping heaven – crafts of every kind are there for the bartering in this timewarp city, almost unchanged for the last four hundred years - superb ethnic jewellery, rugs, spices, leathergoods, metalwork, camphor wood backgammon and chess sets, bizarre musical instruments, hubble bubbles, truly vile perfumes, dried hedgehogs – you’ll find them all in the souks. You can be pampered, have a massage, visit a hammam if you are brave, wander Yves St. Laurent’s fabulous garden, eat out in Djemaa el Fna for pennies, explore quaint museums and magnificent ruins, hire a car and be driven to the mountains or the sea, or just relax in this quiet hidden haven in the heart of the old Medina

Westerners are enthralled by Morocco all and more and more of them vacationing there have succumbed to its charms. Take writer Miranda Innes, who renovated a large, 200-year-old riad in 2001 and called it Riad Maizie! This is what she says about it...."I did not mean to buy a palace. I was on a routine shopping trip in Marrakech's medina with writer Maggie Perry when we passed the estate agent from which she bought her town house, or riad. I suggested we might just have a look. Once through those heavy wooden doors there was no going back and a serious shopping moment later, I was the stunned owner of a 19th century riad. Well, it was not quite so instantaneous, but it was a definite case of love at first sight."  Six months and $94,000 later she proudly opened Riad Maizie! The whole drama filled process is described in her book "Cinnamon City".

My short 3 day stay in Tangiers in the spring of 2008 convinced me that I have to go back for a longer stay and vist more of Morocco. That day cannot come soon enough and when it does come, I want to stay at the Riad Maizie. It is not one of those horrendously outrageously expensive places to stay, its very affordable, but every inch of every surface is embellished - the house is a sampler of traditional Marakchi decoration techniques, with tadelakt, mousharabi, Gibb’s frieze, doors painted in traditional Arabic and Berber style, intricately painted wooden ceilings and zellig fessi. Wherever possible they have retained the quirky hand-made original features – huge double doors with massive bolts, carved wooden shutters and elaborate wrought metal grilles. Prints and paintings adorn the walls, and an array of gorgeous locally-made rugs decorate the cool, tiled floors. The heavy cedar front door opens into a plant-filled courtyard with two fountains prettily carpeted with rose petals.

So if you ever go to Marrakech, this is how you get to Riad Maizie!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy Independence Day India!

We are like this only!

India - a country of teeming billions, 28 states, just as many languages, color, customs, traditions, family, villages, poverty, wealth, odd head gestures, inimitable hospitality, great food, uncontrollable traffic, reverence for cows and disdain for rules!
So on this Independence Day, I thought it fitting to post images of India....from the sublime to the ridiculous!
We like color!
We paint our trucks
We are curious!
We want to help.....even if it means giving you wrong directions. We feel that is better than not giving you any help at all!
Lines? What lines?
We love the jasmine flower!
We love our cheeky elephant God Ganesha!
Sometimes we don't make sense!
We pride ourselves on the fact that many of our children have won the Scripps Spelling Bees!
Either our roads are just not wide enough....or the load is too heavy!
And lastly, at least once in our lifetime, each of us HAS to visit Benaras and experience the evening Aarti on the bank of the Ganges!
Some images courtesy the web, some courtesy moi!